New Voices First Pamphlet Award winner
Imogen Osborne won her Award in our New Voices competition in 2021. Her first collection, New Year published as a pamphlet by Frosted Fire, is now available for delivery from 30 September. Orders may be placed here or through your local bookshop.
Imogen will also be acting as a triage judge in the New Voices First Pamphlet competition 2022. Details of the competition are here.
Imogen grew up in a haunted house in Bristol, then studied English Literature at Cambridge. She now works in London. Her writing has been published in Aurelia Magazine, Porridge Magazine, Perhappened Mag and elsewhere.
Reviews of New Year
Reading Osborne’s poems feels like peering through a crack in the wall into someone else’s childhood. With a precise and quiet beauty, New Year glows, crackles, shimmers and leaves you with a feeling of deep nostalgia for memories you’ve never had.
Ella Frears, author of Shine Darling (2020)
In New Year we witness the birth of a poet like a small bird coming to life, testing its voice, testing its wings, experimenting; and getting bolder, questioning where it has come from and where it is at. These delicate, saturated poems contain all the wonder of a bird taking its first flight.
Jane Feaver, author of Crazy (2021)
We stand at the hem of the world’s robes but I want to kneel‘ writes Imogen Osborne in her remarkable, New Voices award-winning collection New Year. This is a wonderful collection, full of a true artist’s sense of awe. The poet’s masterful ability to witness, celebrate, and recount is beautifully sustained. Even that which hurts is a source of beauty and music; ‘the foxes worship plastic now the woods have gone’ Imogen writes, and there are ‘souls flying through like dead rabbits’, ‘magnolia bruising itself to bloom‘ and ‘fruit singing to rot’.
Every poem is multi-layered, lush and richly lyrical. Imogen’s voice is magical, transformative, a poetic landscape where ‘angels murmur in the garden, embraces unfold from books’, ‘attention scatters like birds’ and ‘daffodils open their faces to the horizon’.
This is potent and affecting writing from a highly gifted poet who runs an electric charge through every line. ‘Where is the root of the thunder’ Imogen asks, and I would answer – in this very book.
Anna Saunders, Founder & CEO of Cheltenham Poetry Festival
Review from the awarding judge
David Clarke, lead judge for the New Voices competition, explains why New Year‘s award was well-deserved:
Imogen Osborne’s pamphlet New Year is full of deftly crafted and quietly powerful poems that evoke moments of transition and renewal. This is work that inhabits thresholds: between the land and the sea, the animal and human worlds, sleep and waking, the road and the horizon. Osborne is particularly attuned to the intensity of sensual experience in these liminal moments. And just as she is a writer fascinated by our capacity to open ourselves to the world and be changed by it, so Osborne is equally a poet of intimacy, which she understands as another opening of the self, the crossing of another borderline.
Below are poems from New Year
Until the stone cools,
becoming heavier as light drops from its centre
until the sound of water rises
higher than the lines that marked the ancient floods
until the quiet of your voice has hushed its way
out of existence, through
a chapel packed tight with stones
until you turn, hair blowing like a painting
strands of aloneness reckoning with the sky
until the candle melts its wick to muteness
and the day reverses itself
and our names are nothing more than
the memory of a roadside
lapping against the skyline
that held a place to go.
time is coiled tightly within its helix
in the very deepest core of an apple,
deep in the cracks of the
tree that birthed it.
This world is ours –
until your touch reaches through my voice
and I do not
Foxlike, forward without reason
I wake to the sound of foxes holding sermons in the dark,
a scraping noise: they are dragging dregs of day
towards the motorway
worshipping plastic now the woods have gone.
It’s all out there swaying, the new streets
in their unbound form.
Knowledge is the houseboats smudged
black against night. I think if you looked now
the swans would be there still, bleached like bone,
for those who care to look over the edge.
They are two lucid white blurs set against a darkness curled in coils,
bleeding the river of its light.
All image is sonic here;
memories in their precedent form,
undulate through dreams of
and forest paths and maps wearing voices.
Oldness bristles when I call it new.
In the morning my room is bright.
A hungover sky swoons from pink to grey
barely able to stand above us all.
It’s morning and life erupts from cracks
in the concrete like foam spilling through rabid teeth,
slowly at first then multiplying
beyond my imagination.
I arrange shells in a circle
and the sea pours through, responding as I
reach outward, silencing everywhere I ever knew.
The river Lea is choked with green.
This is Autumn where I live now: foxlike, forward without reason.
I am with you when I think all of my thoughts,
I am with you when I think all of my thoughts,
or perhaps you cause them. Here’s one –
Pursuits of attentiveness:
 Etymology; a heavy-headed flower falls towards its root
 Orgasm; speechless reaching towards a stillness, until
unborn over and over and
We are on the bed counting upwards
throwing numbers at the sky after every rite
of thunder drops from heaven like headlights. We are
even if it’s the dreaded breaking of the earth.
The storm meets our numbers midway:
above insects, below clouds,
distance tapered to our mouths.
I think about how we love
to trace meaning down a word’s spine,
as we chase pleasure down our bodies,
all towards the root of something
or its end.
The storm presses in like a thumb against an eye socket.
Arriving, no longer a direction but a thing itself
An intake of breath before lightning.
Where is the root of thunder?
Another thought rises and
a willingness hovers between us.
How we got here
I’m standing in the park, not even looking at the sky
on purpose, but you can’t not look when blue rolls over green like that.
Today is a day when horizontal seems to win.
It’s all I can see: the leads pulling the dogs sideways,
the clouds thinning left to right, contrails tallying it all up and
I swear, even the daffodils open their faces to the horizon
more so now than yesterday. And I’m no longer standing
but leaning towards last October, when we lay sideways and uncertain,
right here, twisted together like coughed-up branches. The dog walkers
averted their eyes, you draped over me with that same deep sky density
where the tossed-up grass meets the path. That day
you were illegible and everything surged forwards and
out of view, like the lengthening neck of a horse at speed;
like the tunnel-making rabbit, digging with muddied feet towards
its own instinct. We were warren-bound but now I stand at the tail-end
of a long road.
The same sky wavers but the world reads differently. There’s nothing clearer
than morning, you flinging the curtains aside to let the day in,
no longer a window but a voice saying Your turn.
And now, the wind pushes us all upright and the park,
with a sideways glance, says look
how we got here.
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