Published by Valley Press
Couples is a new poetry publication from award-winning writer Michael Stewart; a blackly comic sequence of poems that explore the nature of co-dependency, of two people who want to be together, but at the same time cannot help but push each other away.
The layout of the book is itself a commentary on the phenomena: the poems are placed in their own 'couples', eleven pairs that face each other across the page. Sometimes they exchange a glance, sometimes they stand side-by-side, staring out into the abyss; only when the book is closed, and they are in darkness, do they truly come together.
"Bleak but wonderful... familiar and of course funny."
"As a writer, Michael Stewart is perhaps best known for his 2011 novel King Crow, a searingly honest and beautifully written book about a young birdwatching lad growing up in a mean and violent city. It was compared in some quarters to Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave, but where Hines’s default mode was realism and if he tried for poetic prose you could feel the language starting to strain, Michael Stewart is a natural poet. Couples is Stewart’s new collection of poems from the ever-enterprising Valley Press and, interestingly, his skills as a creator of fiction are evident here. The premise of the book is simple and could have been gimmicky but isn’t. Poems face each other across the page like couples in a café or on a settee; different points of view are expressed, different ways of speaking are explored.... Couples does what very good writing can: it makes you look around you, see things differently. Once I’d read the book I couldn’t take my eyes off that older pair on that bench in the park in the drizzle. Was he chalk, or cheese? Was she? Maybe, in the end, that’s what these poems do; they successfully creep inside peoples’ heads and let us know what’s going on in there. Many poems are, necessarily, written from one point of view; this book gives us another angle, another way of looking, another way of listening."
Ian McMillan, Yorkshire Post
"A unique, yet authentic Northern voice... I am excited and intrigued about what Michael Stewart will write next."
"A fascinating new voice."
"Dark, funny and twisted, but surprisingly tender."
Michael Stewart was born in Salford in 1971. His debut novel King Crow (2011) won the Guardian's 'Not the Booker' Prize, and was the only debut novel selected as a 'recommended read' for World Book Night 2012. He was writer in residence at Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, from 2005-2008, and is now senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield. He is also the director of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, and editor of the celebrated series of Grist anthologies. Couples is the first solo outing for Michael's poetry, which has previously featured in a range of magazines and anthologies. He lives in Bradford.