Eleanor Rees

- United Kingdom -

Eleanor Rees’s visionary poetry immerses you in another world from which you leave transformed. A hypnotic reader, her poems beguile you with sound patterns and vivid imagery. Folklore, myth and metamorphoses are recurrent themes. She is, rightly, a distinctive and admired voice in contemporary UK poetry. Her pamphlet collection Feeding Fire (Spout, 2001) received an Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and her first full length collection Andraste’s Hair (Salt, 2007) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, UK and the Irish Glen Dimplex New Writers Award. Her second collection is Eliza and the Bear (Salt, 2009). In 2015 she published a long pamphlet Riverine (Gatehouse, 2015) and Blood Child (Pavilion, 2015). A fourth collection of poems is underway.  As Nicky Arscott writes in Poetry Wales, ‘Rees has an outstanding ability to act as a conduit between past and present. It is as though she has tapped into an ancient reservoir ‘remarkable and unsung’, and stepped aside in order for the reader to experience the torrent of its mysterious element uninterrupted by poetic ego or personal agenda. She slips like silt between and into different forms: seagull, mineral, light. A diver into – and retriever of – other realms and substances, she is made of mud ‘so otherly, otherly’.  

In the words of Carol Ann Duffy, poems by Eleanor Rees reveal “ … an ambitious, experimental voice vibrantly charged with the energy of city life.”


Eleanor Rees is an acclaimed poet who has published three full-length books, Andraste’s Hair, Eliza and the Bear and most recently Bloodchild and experimental works including a pamphlet A Burial of Sight and a newspaper Arne’s Progress illustrated by Desdemona McCannon. Her poems are often written with a specific context in mind and this coherence heightens the impact of each collection. 


Writing about Andraste’s Hair in The Guardian Sarah Crown, a leading poetry critic in the UK says “Eleanor Rees’s debut collection offers up a heartfelt hymn to her native Liverpool. Her dense, textured renderings of its landscapes are eloquent, but it is her importunate, ambiguous relationship with the city that provides these poems with their drive. She is at once possessor and possessed: bestriding the rooftops like a descendent of Whitman one moment, breaking “the top from the cathedral … oozing steam/ cream”; diminished and vulnerable, “tarmac … biting at my ankles”, the next... in other poems the city is “ruled by wolves” or devoured by its citizens, “gnawing at bricks … /Gobbling cornice like icing”.


Andraste’s Hair was shortlisted for Best First Collection in the 2007 Forward Prizes and for the 2008 Glen Dimplex Poetry Award. In her second full-length collection she continues to play the role of mythologiser and tale teller, moving away from her previous subject, the imagined city, into the magical psyches of changeling creatures. Michael Symmons Roberts writes, “This is a strongly contemporary voice, but always on the edge of myth, dream, fairy-tale. The title sequence is remarkable: a sustained piece of dramatic-poetic writing, a tour-de-force”. Eliza and The Bear “relishes the chaotic and magical; trees and plants abandon gardens and start to move down the street, humans give birth to animals, houses come alive. Eleanor Rees’s language is sensuous, unpredictable. The materials of folktale and border ballad are never far away.” Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian


Eleanor Rees’s most recent collection Blood Child is published by Pavilion Poetry, a new series of poetry books that celebrate risk-taking in the form while aiming to both challenge and delight readers. Series Editor Prof. Deryn Rees-Jones writes, “The poets we are publishing ask important questions about the contemporary world, and do so fearlessly and movingly.”Blood Child hones and extends Rees’s startling use of language and imagery to enact the many aspects of change – fleeting, elusive or moored in a negotiation of the material world as she roams through the landscapes of self and city. The idea of generation is explored in all its possibilities, the ‘child’ and the ‘girl’ are recurrent motifs, immanent and on the threshold of a magical or imaginative transformation. Landscapes are crossed, swum, burrowed under or flown above; skins and edges are sheared or lost, new coverings found and remade. Rees’s poems ask how new routes can be forged across shifting terrain and she offers the emergent space of the imagination as the only answer.


'These poems are an exquisite unearthing of meaning in nature.  They trace metamorphosis, find mind in everything, and suggest not so much what things look like to humans but what they feel like to themselves.' Jay Griffiths


Eleanor Rees works extensively facilitating creative writing workshops in community settings and schools. She specialises in poetry writing and creative processes with an interest in environments, place and heritage projects. Notable venues include a disused steel works in Germany and a cemetery in Blackpool. She has worked with many high profile organisations including Tate Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Maritime Museum, Liverpool City Council


Commissions and participatory projects include Water/Creature, a collaborative poem for performance on a barge on the Thames. High Tide: A lyric Rees wrote for folk singer Emily Portman was performed at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Saltwater: A short film of the poem by Glenn Emlyn-Richards was selected for Zebra Poetryfilm Festival 2012.


Eleanor is an experienced and powerful reader. Her poetry is written to be heard; the dense sound patterns and textures of her poetry fully coming to life when spoken aloud. She is keen to create a intimate and compelling relationship with an audience. She has performed widely, at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Bluecoat arts Centre, The Poetry Society in London and more unusual settings.