Jacob Polley

As a little boy, he was a listener and a reader. He loved fairy tales on cassette tape and the gluey crack when he opened a Ladybird book. He loved story and story’s textures: the wool of a cloak, the fur of a slipper, the warty skin of an unkissed toad, the flash of the tailor’s needle, the wooden slats of the bridge clattered by the hooves of the goats and then their cunning voices heard from the chiming, watery darkness below. Three goats, three caskets, three nights, the same question put three times, which was ritual, order, a means to sift the mutable from the immutable, the straw from the gold, the false from the true.

When he grew up, he became a liar, a spreader of lies and a gleeful propagandist. The outrage he set off was not only beautiful, like flames in the distance licking a quadrant of sky, but also served to distract from those who exerted real power. It was they whose minds were the wells into which children dropped wishing coins, only to find as adults that their senilities and cancers were caused by the corrosion of the coins’ base metals in the water they’d had to draw from the wells and drink all their lives.

Jacob Polley has published five books of poems with Picador, UK. His fourth, Jackself, won the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize, and his fifth, Material Properties, was published in February 2023. His novel, Talk of the Town, was also published by Picador and won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2009. He teaches at Newcastle University and lives on the northeast coast with his family.


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