Tuesday 1 January 2008

The Tethers (Seren, June 2009)

Winner of the London New Poetry Award 2010, sponsored by Coffee-House Poetry and Cegin Productions, for the best first collection of poetry published in the UK and Ireland in the last year. Judge Daljit Nagra commented, "It’s rare to find a poet having quite so much fun with language and life as Carrie Etter. The poems perform acrobatics with forms as they are driven by the possibilities of words so each piece seems to arrive at its own unexpected and surprised ending. What’s most impressive is Etter’s restless mind that fetches odd allusions or steers off into tangents in a way that always compels us to make the journey. It’s also rare to find a poet who can persistently find joy through suffering with such an assured lightness of touch which defies its lucid surface. A persistently witty and beautifully moving book that is carefully themed and linguistically patterned so that it feels more like the collection of an experienced poet." You can buy it from Foyle's (UK) here or from The Book Depository for free delivery anywhere else in the world.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009, 7 p.m. London launch! Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW. Come to enjoy some wine and a short reading.

Thursday, 11 June 2009, 8 p.m. Bath launch! Bath Spa University Reading Series, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, Queen Square, Bath. Reading with Lee Harwood.

Saturday, 20 June 2009. The University of Warwick, Coventry. Day event featuring The Warwick Review in conjunction with the university's alumni day. Claire Crowther and Tiffany Atkinson will also read and talk about their work.

Sunday, 23 August 2009, 7 p.m. Myopic Books Poetry Reading Series, Chicago. Reading with James Shea, author of Star in the Eye (Fence Books, 2008).

Wednesday, 9 September 2009, 4:20 p.m.. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Student Union, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Thursday, 10 September 2009, 6 p.m.. Rachael's Cafe, 300 E. Third St., Bloomington, Indiana.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009. Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Illinois.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009. The Weston-super-Mare Arts Festival, Heritage Cafe, 3 Wadham Street, Weston-super-Mare. Doors open at 7 p.m., dinner begins at 7:30.

Thursday, 24 September 2009. Salisbury Poetry Cafe, Salisbury Arts Centre. The event includes an open mic session.

Friday, 9 and Saturday, 10 October 2009. St Helier, Jersey. A reading on Friday night followed by a workshop on Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 2 November 2009. Alchemy Reading and Performance Series, The Globe Cafe, Prague. I'll also run some writing workshops at The English College in Prague earlier in the day.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009. Marlborough College, Marlborough. A workshop with students, a reading, and a dinner.

Thursday, 3 December 2009, 7:30 p.m. Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. Reading with Vuyelwa Carlin, followed by an open mic.

Thursday, 4 February 2010, 8 p.m. Fire River Poets, Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton. Includes an open mic. £5.

Monday, 8 February 2010, 7 p.m. The University of Plymouth's Peninsula Arts literature series. Reading with Jane Griffiths. £5, concessions £3, students, friends and faculty free.

Monday, 22 February 2010, 8 p.m. The Coffee House Poetry Series at The Troubadour, London. "Escarmouches II: War of Independence" with Alan Jenkins, Roddy Lumsden, and Molly Peacock. Reading and discussion of the poetries of the US and UK, how they interact and differ. £7, concessions £6.

Saturday, 27 February 2010, 4:30 p.m. "New Narratives," Annual Academi Literary Conference, Pontfaen, Wales. Reading with Gillian Clarke, Joe Dunthorne, and Kathryn Gray, followed by question and answer session.

Thursday, 11 March 2010, 8 p.m. International Women's Poetry, Lauderdale House, London. Reading with Annie Freud and Shanta Acharya. £5, £3 concessions.

Thursday, 25 March 2010, 8 p.m. E.g. poetry, The Red Roaster Cafe, Brighton. North American poetry night with Naomi Foyle and Todd Swift, with open mic. £5, concs £4.

Saturday, 3 April 2010, 2-3:30 p.m. The Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, New York City. Reading with Molly Peacock. $8.

For further readings, please see Readings & Events.


"The Tethers marks the arrival of an original talent and is surely one of the most ambitious and accomplished first collections in recent years."

Ben Wilkinson, The Times Literary Supplement

"Carrie Etter is an American expatriate, and her poetry is rootless in the best sense: it moves over wide-ranging territory and seems able to make itself at home anywhere. Although The Tethers is her first collection, Etter fully possesses her material," evincing "intelligence and authority."

Paul Batchelor, The Times (22 August 2009)

Carrie Etter's "marvellously pithy and eloquent collection bursts with repressed urges and shudders [...]. There is electricity in these poems, and a tactile, nervous energy. [...] The writing is keen and intimate, tainted with incipient regret, and more than a hint of the terrible power of recollection to distract and distort."

Richard Gwyn, Poetry Wales

"Etter's neat, tight free verse holds back from expressing explicit emotion, letting the reader feel it instead. [...] The best poems try to pinpoint consciousness changing moment by moment, and have their own integrity, as in 'Crowd of One':

For minutes, sometimes hours, a single tap
deftly splits the egg, yolk and white slide out,
the shell closes on air and arcs
in its flight to the bin. Synapses fire palpably.
Regret is elsewhere.
Light suffuses the room,
without any discrete source.

Meditating on this, the reader summons images of fertility, of Annunciation. You have to listen very hard to Etter's subtleties, and then your own answering imagination repays you."

Michele Roberts, The Warwick Review

"There is much to admire in Carrie Etter's The Tethers too. [...] hers is an assured, confident voice. There is a wide variety here in both form and subject matter and I particularly enjoyed the many pieces with a literary flavour; the prose poems, those which put a new spin on relationships and the ones which display flashes of wit. I also admired the range of shapes on the page and the spareness and economy."

Carole Bromley, The North

"In remarking the constancy of water, Etter overturns Catullus' cliché: that the words of women should be written on water, because both are untethered and trustless. Like "Millais' Ophelia" (another fine observational poem), Etter knows the weight of water, its bound composition. In "The Bonds", where the poem's title resonates through multiple discourses from chemistry to "the -ologies of more elusive chemistries", water reflects back history's constancy in mutability, coded through language's adaptable clarity, words like water's surface revealing hidden treasures in their depths. Findings rich and strange arrive with each re-reading."

Sophie Mayer, Delirium's Library blog (10 June 2009)


"Many contemporary poets blow away in the gale of nihil and nonsense that life is becoming, but some still try to weather it – Carrie Etter is one of the few to have found strong roots to cling to, and one of the very few in whose lines one can discern the flesh-and-blood figure of a witness wholly alive, alert to the evidence, unsparing but unjudging, getting it down by heart. Sorrowing, glad, graceful, The Tethers is a rich and significant debut."

Glyn Maxwell

"The Tethers is full of highly intelligent, often finely cadenced and in the best sense measured poetry. Carrie Etter deftly fuses accents of modern America and England with a strong sense of the Classics. Nuanced, lyrical, occasionally humorous, these poems reveal time after time an acute sense of 'the rise and fall of what we cannot moor.'"

"Terse, wry, discreetly metaphysical, Carrie Etter's poems have the economy of good jokes. She touches her subjects obliquely, with tact: the fury and the mire are acknowledged but held at bay by this art of highly intelligent suggestion. A first book to be remarked."

"There is a fierce Gothic energy behind the determined and deceptively suave tone of these poems. Imaginative in language, setting and character, their humour alone entices us into however fragile a world."

Sample poems

Poems in The Tethers first appeared or are shortly forthcoming in Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, Leviathan Quarterly, The Liberal, Meridian, The New Republic, New Welsh Review, New Writing 14, Poetry London, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Stand, Thumbscrew, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Warwick Review.


At the question
of lung capacity,

the radiator pops
and hisses, a fox

can only be metaphor.
You and that hunk

of metal wheeze.
Sixth floor, Manhattan,

six a.m. winter dark
looks like so much

air to be had.
The fox is stealth.

I almost miss it.

Magnum Opus

Bracken, brambles, and bindweed obscure my castle
that would otherwise gleam in the midday sun.
I hauled the rock hither. I carved it into blocks.
I studied the history of architecture before I set a stone.

Perhaps gleam exaggerates the image.
Perhaps the walls’ pallor appears a sheer white
under the encroaching summer, and the buttresses
bear few but portentous fissures.

The castle also lacks a good bed, which is to say
that once I hack through this derisive vegetation,
I will mount the highest turret and wave my arm in grand sweeps.
I may hire some extras or bribe my friends to stand below.

I may drag the miles of bindweed down the corridors,
up the stairwells, and burn, burn, burn my fortress through.
Then may the pundits come and mourn.
Then may I lie on a kind mattress and dream of bungalows.

Both poems originally appeared in The Times Literary Supplement.


  1. Hi Carrie,

    It was nice to meet you the other night in Weston-super-Mare. I enjoyed your reading and the start of an interesting discussion afterwards. Maybe next time we meet there will be more time for that.

    Jim Barron

  2. Anonymous11:52 pm

    Hi Carrie,

    I've really enjoyed reading your blog posts here; they're definitely inspiring me to write more poetry.

    I think I saw on Twitter that you were looking for flash fiction that had been published already. Are you still looking for some?

    Also, I really hope to buy The Tethers one day soon - it's my birthday coming up soon, so I think I will have to treat myself!

    Best wishes, and let me know if you do want some flash fiction. Thanks!


    1. Hi, Marija. I'm glad to hear that. Yes, I look for previously published flash fiction and prose poems for the Sudden Prose Reprints series on http://suddenprose.blogspot.com--take a look.

      All best,