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The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead
Bestselling debut collection by
This exceptional collection of poems explores ways the living and the dead meet – for lunch , in an artwork, on an allotment plot, in the city. We meet poets, artists and others engaged in the struggles and contradictions of their own times, and encounter challenges from our own.
The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead preview
Professor Richard Lance Keeble said; “This is an outstanding collection of 53 poems by a writer with a distinct, compelling voice. Fisher is clearly fascinated by how opposites are really so close to each other: the living and the dead, work and play, the rural and the urban, the ordinary everyday and the complex.”
Don’t believe him? Read a sample of Dominic’s poetry here.
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Born in Frome in Somerset, and growing up on a hill just south of Bath, I went to secondary school in Bristol, and wrote poems and climbed trees instead of playing football. After falling off my bike a lot I studied Keats and Coleridge, the blues and psychedelia, the repeal of the Corn Laws, and William Turner. Then Aberystwyth University unwisely let me in to study Art and English. For a time I lived on on the Dyfi estuary in a green railway carriage with a dog called Biggles. In an attempt at adulthood I trained to teach, though continued writing.
My first teaching job was in Turkey, in a munitions factory in Kirrikale then in Ankara. I left in 1980 just in time to miss a coup d’etat but catch an attempted one in Spain. While this was happening I met my wife, a New Zealander, in a small town near Barcelona. She reads my poems to this day. We moved to the Bristol area and between us produced a Bristolian who achieved adulthood more convincingly than I did. On our allotment (heavy clay, hard work but fertile) we see foxes, goldfinches in the summer, and sometimes a sparrowhawk. All these creatures get into the poems along with the leeks and beans.
I published poems in magazines in the 80s and 90s but it wasn’t until I left teaching that poetry got the attention it needed. In the last three years or so I’ve published in Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Magma, Brittle Star, Raceme, South Bank Poetry, The Interpreter’s House, and Under the Radarand a poem has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I was the winner of the international Bristol Poetry Prize 2018, and my collection The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead was published by The Blue Nib in March 2019.
Fisher is clearly fascinated by how opposites are really so close to each other: the living and the dead, work and play, the rural and the urban, the ordinary everyday and the complex. In the first section, ‘Allotments’, closely observed animals (a fox, crow, grasshopper, blackbird, magpie, sparrow, bee) and the human world collide. My favourite here is ‘Firming the soil’, the tight rhyming giving the poem both an elegance and a sense of deliberateness: ‘You’d get the drinks in, ask what took so long/so I’d explain about the beans and peas/and you’d concede you wished that you were strong/then we’d discuss the course of your disease’. But the allotment is also a place for learning. As ‘Final allotment’ ends: ‘Sometimes you think you see a way/Other times you start to understand/that all the hardest things are here/stubborn, tangled, close at hand.’
Fisher’s range is impressive: Rainer Maria Rilke, Alexander Blok, Jorge Luis Borges, Jackson Pollock, David Bowie, Osip Mandelstam, Alberto Caeiro (the much-neglected Portuguese poet), a Grayson Perry tapestry all inspire him. At one time he can dare to say ‘the small grasshopper on a pumpkin leaf/is a grasshopper on a pumpkin leaf’. At another time, he imagines a friend having lunch with Borges, and writes: ‘Both are students of philosophy, Borges albeit/as an existential paradoxical fabulist/while my friend is mainly a logical positivist.’ This ability to capture both the down-to-earth and the complex in such an assured yet light tone confirms Fisher’s wonderfully rich talents as a poet.
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