This is a wonderfully eclectic collection that draws its inspiration from sources at once historical and contemporary. Dramatic monologues, knee plays and intertextual responses to other poets are juxtaposed with lyric poems that constantly surprise and delight like ‘a surreal fruit.’ Mary Jean Chan, poet, editor and academic, on Ben Ray’s winning collection in the 2019 New Poets Prize
Ben Ray’s new poems have the gleam and muscle of the river fish he writes about with such feeling. They are story-telling, risk-taking and exact in all the right ways. Professor Fiona Sampson MBE FRSL, poet, editor & biographer
A fresh and original poetic voice – full of wit, twists, surprises, echoes and challenges. Alan Rusbridger, author, journalist & former editor-in-chief of The Guardian newspaper
These poems reveal a canny understanding of life and language – and the landscapes that give rise to them, from northern no-man’s-lands to the circuitous path of the Pacific island exile. In his engaging first collection, Ben Ray has built a fascinating ‘future library of shades’ which will haunt the reader long after the book has closed. Nancy Campbell, 2018 Canal Poet Laureate
Ben Ray is a poet who is closely in touch with the landscape, and is particularly powerful in poems where he writes to a loved ones, enhancing the natural tenderness of his work. Here is a wide-ranging and distinctive poet who has already marked out his territory – a writer to watch.
Jonathan Edwards, winner of the 2014 Costa Book Award for Poetry
‘What I heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World’ is a raw and intimate collection that moves with tenderness and humour through politics and war, land and love. Ben Ray has a unique ability to look at the complexities of the human experience with precision and distance, intimacy and removal, creating something that seems to both expand and enclose the human heart. Rebecca Tantony, poet, author & performer
‘Pure, bloody twenty-four carat gold’ poetry of substance and huge variety ranging from words crafted like beautiful pieces of porcelain to laugh out loud punchlines. Wonderful stuff full of imagination and insight, tenderness and wit. Elvis Mcgonagall, poet & stand-up comedian
Touching and heartfelt, disarming; Ben Ray’s poetry rings like music, chimes of place, quavers in passing time – and lets one feel the world anew.
Rory MacLean, author & historian
With poems inspired by pottery and places, history and holy isles, language, conversation and current events, this is a collection with great breadth, width, depth and height! The sheer range of subject matter is reflected in the forms of the poems, which are sometimes solid, and other times less so, with pieces splitting, or seeming to spool across the page. Always clever and consistently insightful, this is a cool as well as brilliant book. Ben Ray is a writer with time on his side, yet already with talent to spare. Mab Jones, poet & presenter
Ben Ray’s poetry has a finger on the landscape’s pulse. Here are poplars that keep your best secrets, meanings that leap like salmon, and ‘watch-tower words’ that stand guard over familiar terrain. It’s a gift to write about what’s always there with such persuasive urgency: read this book, let it’s words transport you. Theophilus Kwek, poet & editor of Oxford Poetry
Playful but profound, poignant yet humorous, vibrantly experimental and singing with lyricism, Ben’s new collection is intoxicating. A joy of a book throughout that made be gasp and lose a breath or two – with startlingly original ideas and luminous language. Anna Saunders, poet, author & director of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival
These poems are elegant as if hewn from marble, delicate and refined, cut by a master of his craft. Z.D. Dicks, poet, founder & director of Gloucester Poetry Society & Gloucester Poetry Festival
Ben always manages to please at Gin & Phonics. His performances have a passion and a style that speak to people on a very human level. As a crowd favourite, we have had to ask him back a few times!
Rich O’Grady, founder & director of Gin & Phonics events
Ben Ray uses modern events, in this case decimalisation, to develop parallels in modern poetry, especially within the second stanza when he harks back to the old coinage/sounds. Yet the new ‘decimalised’ generation of poets, with their crisp and new words, often find older poems did have a symbolic naturalness. When re-read, they often produce a nagging nostalgia when looked at now in this Brexit era. Torbay Poetry Festival, on Ben’s award-winning poem ‘The day they decimalised the words’
Ben has visited us twice, and both occasions will live long in the memory. All of us being poetry enthusiasts, our best hope is to be a good audience – and that, for those few hours, is what Ben made us. He did that wonderful thing for an audience – did it constantly – he surprised us, so we were always on the edge of our seats, not knowing where the language would take us but loving the journey. It felt as though the words had a life of their own and from the first line took off and we had no idea where they would land. As an audience of poetry lovers – plus some who thought that they were ‘not too keen on poetry’ but found grounds to think again – it was just a delight from start to finish. John Livesey, founder and director of the Mitcheldean Poetry Festival
Ben is a natural teacher and was very engaging. He managed to create so many opportunities for the students to write, compose and create their own poetry, and considering they’d all just finished their GCSEs, it was wonderful to see their insights and creativity coming out. Ben was able to connect with the students on a very personal level, and it was wonderful to see Ben’s passion for poetry inspiring the class. We can’t wait to get him back again! Isha Wheeler, Head of English at Wynstones, a Waldorf Steiner School
What the students most enjoyed, I think, was that this was a young man, not much older than them, who had an engaging, open manner. There was a lovely informal atmosphere, which meant they could ask questions and share their own thoughts. The most satisfying outcome for the college was that immediately after the reading, two students came up and said they wanted to start a poetry society! Fabulous!
Lesley Bagshaw, English teacher at Hereford Sixth Form
Really appreciated Ben’s oversight on poems I’m preparing for magazine submission: some thoughtful ideas on punctuation and a keen understanding of what makes a poem work on different levels. Cheers Ben.
Vicky Hampton, poet
I heartily agree with the writer himself and cannot enthusiastically praise his work enough! Let me say that his ability to communicate through his poetry is so incredibly effective for readers of any age that I use his book to teach poetry to my students, ages 12 to 18. I read his work to inspire me in my writing, as well!
Bill Stevenson, teacher
Ben is always entertaining and thought provoking – and has a wonderful connection with local landscape which I think is rare in such a young poet..
Clare West, librarian
It was wonderful to see a young poet engaging with our teenagers. Poetry is just what they need! Alexander Murrel, Physics teacher at Wynstones, a Waldorf Steiner School
students and audience members
- Wonderful, very natural and enigmatic young poet who is destined for greater things.
- Great evening Ben. Thank you for the thought provoking and entertaining content, and the warm and engaging delivery.
- Accessible, interesting, beautiful.
- Outstanding as a poet and communicator with the audience. It is marvellous to see and hear how has developed his style, depth and wit. Largest audience yet in our library – such is his drawer already. More to come – hooray.
- Ben has a lively, fresh informal approach but the poems he presents are thoughtful, illuminating and beautifully crafted. An excellent event.
- Warm and welcoming atmosphere, Q&A much appreciated.
- A great talent the link between history and poetry is fascinating. A genuine and careful voice.
- Great crowd for a wonderful poet.
- Really excellent thanks Ben. Your poetry is at once simple, funny warm and insightful.
- Fascinating, entertaining, uplifting, joyous.
- His work was fresh, appealing and erudite.
- Ben was excellent I look forward to buying his next book.
- this guy is too talented not to be a sell out.
- Ben’s poems were mesmerising, covering a huge range of topics from the familiar to the completely unknown. Regardless of the subject matter, we were instantly transported to the world he had created, and became completely immersed in the vibrant imagery, the rhythm and the mood of the piece. These magical voyages of the imagination on which he took us will stay with us for a long time to come.
- I saw Siegfried Sassoon read his work at Oxford in the 1960s – you perform poetry far better than him!
- Ben really inspired me to think of poetry not just in an analytical way for GCSEs. – NC, Class 10 Wynstones student
- Ben was great – really friendly and helpful! – CB, Class 10 Wynstones student
- It was really inspiring… it freed me up to think about poetry in a new way. – BES, Class 10 Wynstones student
- Ben inspired me to write the most awesome poem ever! – Anon, Class 10 Wynstones student
- Cool dude! – Anon, Class 10 Wynstones student
- Really inspiring! – JC, Class 10 Wynstones student
- Loved it! Great workshop, and great poetry – thanks! – RG, Class 9 Wynstones student
- Poetry’s so cool! – LB, Class 9 Wynstones student