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Sunshine combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision.
Includes ‘i am very precious’ – Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2016.
I feel I need to take a deep breath before trying to describe Melissa Lee-Houghton. The poems in Sunshine, written after two and a half years in psychiatric hospitals, out-Plath Sylvia – they are harrowing, raw and so charged with pain that at the end of each poem, literary comment seems beside the point.
Kate Kellaway, Best Poetry Books of 2016, The Guardian
Stunning … Lee-Houghton’s poetic world is the underside of mass culture – the black economies of porn, child abuse, prostitution and drug use, and the hidden economy of institutionalisation … Sunshine thrills, and sickens.
Ailbhe Darcy, The Poetry Review
Anthemic and surprisingly glorious.
Claire Trevien, Poetry London
Distilled and achieved … There’s a sense that you’re always teetering right on the edge of something but Melissa pushes you a little bit further than most writers would. And yet the writing always feels very controlled.
Helen Mort, Five Books
Sunshine isn’t always an easy read. It’s heart-breaking, visceral, often sordid or hurtful … But it’s also a life-affirming book, open and freshly honest about the mess of being human, about female masturbation, about self-harm and cold unloved dingy rooms where women find themselves.
Angela Topping, Stride Magazine
Brilliant, alarming, and as funny as it is sad.
Holly Powis, Disclaimer
Simply astonishing … it overflows with expansive, intense and troubling poems that leave a lasting impression.
Andrew Parkes, The Poetry School
Sunshine reaches deep into the part of us we don’t want to look at and is all the more powerful, gut-wrenching and vital because of it.
A wry, unflinching and knowing voice that collects the pieces of the torn-up world and brings them together in such a way that something is assuaged.
Sunshine is a beautiful, brutal book. [...] but also wry, funny and self-aware.
17 Sep LONDON Poetry Book Fair
20 Sep LONDON Royal Festival Hall, Forward Prizes
28 Sep MANCHESTER Anthony Burgess Centre
8 Oct MANCHESTER Literature Festival
9 Oct CHELTENHAM Literature Festival
15 Oct DURHAM Book Festival
Cover design by Penned in the Margins
Published 5 September 2016
Powerful, gut-wrenching and vital
Melissa Lee-Houghton was announced as a Next Generation Poet in 2014. Her first and second collections are published by Penned in the Margins. Beautiful Girls was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her poem ‘i am very precious’ was shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She has received a Northern Writers’ Award for her fiction. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire.