Guppy Primer
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Guppy Primer

32  |  9781910367803

Price: £5

Ruth McIlroy was a winner of The Poetry Business International Book and Pamphlet Competition 2016/17, judged by Ian Duhig and Mimi Khalvati


This debut by Ruth McIlroy ranges between poems of fierce lyricism, off-kilter observation and deadpan humour. From the sinister comedy of the title poem, Guppy Primer, to the startling strangeness of 'after a dream', and the savage wit of 'I am not honest', these tender, hard and amused poems are an uncompromising celebration of ardency and badly-behaved language.


"Guppy Primer’s distinctive humour triumphantly demonstrates the fallacy of the notion of a “competition” poem with its daring and originality. By turning her collection’s themes and motifs through fresh new language, narratives and scenarios, Ruth McIlroy proves that originality, not formula, mean that we can expect to see her name on more prize lists in the future." – Ian Duhig


‘Fresh and striking… hard to believe this is a debut pamphlet’ – Jane Draycott, PN Review


‘These are poems of the cleverest order… astute, wry, and nudging you to an unusual sort of truth’ – Sabotage


‘Effective and moving… the inventive upward thrust seen throughout this debut collection’ – Stand  


'Guppy Primer is instructive in showing us how not to play safe with language and voice, to

invigorating effect' – London Grip

'Ruth McIlroy offers up a set of irresistible poems, full of warmth and humour….McIlroy has an
insatiable appetite for language…vibrant and memorable' – Denise Saul, PBS Winter Bulletin 2017

‘It’s pretty easy to see why Guppy Primer by Ruth McIlroy won the recent Poetry Business
Competition - It’s a bundle of sharp, perfectly weighted poems….playfully attractive
intelligence…there is depth here too, a copper-bottomed profundity that is likely to last and
suddenly spring to mind unbidden…another of McIlroy’s strengths, a graceful musicality that
makes you aware of its presence but never in an overpowering way. This underlying music grounds what in lesser hands might be poems that live solely in the head, and brings them to life with delightful effect.’ – Rishi Dastidar, Magma 70




Ruth McIlroy grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and in Edinburgh, and now lives with her family in Yorkshire where she works as a freelance psychotherapist. She’s a Quaker, and loves the idea of her literary forerunners stomping the North of England declaiming the vital necessities of silence and right speech. She does the Endcliffe parkrun most Saturdays and sometimes a 10k. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, The North, and the Templar Poets Anthology. In 2015 she was highly commended in the East Riding Philip Larkin Poetry Prize, and in 2017 she gained second place in the York Literature Festival Poetry Competition.

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