The Black Cab

Poetry Salzburg, 2017

“John Challis’ imaginative dashcam crisscrosses the A-Z, shuttling between the haunts of Hansard and the vast penumbra of the capital’s lay-by-lands. These poems are richly inventive, assured and charged with the mysteries and excitement of the initiate. Their knowledge will work its way into your hippocampus.” – Paul Farley

“The poems in The Black Cab show John Challis’s increasingly confident handling of a rich seam of material in which several subjects combine, including family his-tory, work, class, and the larger social and political history by which they are all shaped and which they in turn illuminate. Challis is able to explore this terrain in ways at once lyric and dramatic, with a rich human sympathy and curiosity, and with a powerful sense of the unceasing competition between memory and mortality. His world is at once material and in a sense metaphysical: beneath its streets the underworld stands open. It’s an exciting debut.” – Sean O’Brien

“Fittingly, The Black Cab opens with an epigraph from Dante’s Inferno, at the moment of the poet’s encounter with the ferryman, Charon. With this as our trail-head marker, Challis becomes our Virgil, guiding us from his father’s black cab through the urban dystopia of our moment. The journey is well worth the fare, as we are in the hands of a young poet whose mastery of his art is already apparent, just as much as Seamus Heaney’s was when he began. Challis is gifted with an abundant capacity for meditative attention, a command of strenuous diction, an unerring ear for the deep music of place and labor. Read for cotchel, dog’s muck and cindery slag, for the slack sail of the sickbed sheet and the spade striking a seventeenth-century plague victim’s skull. You will not soon for-get these poems, nor soon encounter a début collection as impressive as this.” – Carolyn Forche

“The collection has the three dimensions of a nice, neat, narrow focus – London, black cabs, the poet’s own immediate heritage; then he, himself, growing up instead to work ‘in the light of a desk lamp’ (‘Blood’) – but it also probes deeper into the foundations of what shapes us, including before our lifetimes. In so doing, it maps out a whole recent-history of England, as poem after poem chronicles and celebrates, for instance, ‘the country’s near forgotten maze of beta roads’. […] Above all, I think I found this an affectionate collection – one born out of a passionate preoccupation with all that surrounds and passes him.” – Charlotte Gann, Sphinx Reviews

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Articles and Reviews

‘Kingdom of Gravity by Nick Makoha’

The Poetry School (online, 2017)

‘Alarum by Wayne Holloway-Smith’

The Poetry School (online, 2017)

‘The Fetch by Gregory Leadbetter’

The Poetry School (online, 2016)

‘Noir by Charlotte Gann’

The Poetry School (online, 2016)

‘Paul Farley and John Challis on mentoring’

New Writing North (online, 2016)