Poetry Book Society Summer 2022 Pamphlet Choice
‘Helen Bowell drinks language pitcher perfect at the contemporary bar of the absurd’ - Ambit 246
‘A must-have for relationship junkies.’ - Friday Poem
‘Helen Bowell’s The Barman is as funny and good as it is precise, at home in the interstices between cultures and TV channels, chips and chip grease, romance and boredom.’ - Will Harris
Helen Bowell and The Barman are a relationship from which you won’t easily look away. This debut pamphlet is a sharp, witty exploration of the nuances of a sometimes reluctant codependency. At times it feels like you are the third housemate, unashamedly pressing your ear to the wall to hear conversations as intimate as they are absurd. Bowell deftly interrogates what it means to feel both othered and adored, comfortable and wary. The Barman is an introduction to a poetic voice unique in its ability to subtly express its desires, leaving enough room for the reader to find parts of themself in the world it creates.
Note: this pamphlet was rigorously and thoughtfully edited by Gboyega Odubanjo, who sadly passed away in August 2023. For the foreseeable future, I will be donating all profit on any copies of The Barman bought directly via me towards the Gboyega Odubanjo Foundation to support emerging Black poets in his name.
‘This is a unique collection of poems so full of heart, humour and ache.’ - Rachel Long
‘With tenderness and an uncanny directness, The Barman seems to capture how it feels to be alive here and now, as we go about our days “not letting the news in”, “signing petitions between gulps of tea”. The poems are spacious enough to hold this unnamed strangeness, these slippages and gaps, heartbreaks large and small.’ – Nina Mingya Powles & Nick Makoha