I have published three collections of poetry. The first was Misprint (Carcanet, 2012).
Not many people wrote about it, but those who did were complimentary enough. Sean O’Brien reviewed it in The Sunday Times here (behind a paywall): ‘On the evidence of Misprint Womack has scope, curiosity and a refreshing sense of not having foresuffered everything he encounters.’ Heidi Williamson wrote in Eyewear here: ‘Weighty subjects are frequently treated with a wryness that both undercuts any of charge of pretentiousness and lets the reader in a little closer to the narrator’s perspective. Often I felt as if I was being taken aside and told a joke that’s ridiculously funny at the same time as being deadly serious.’ And Rory Waterman in the Times Literary Supplement here (behind a paywall): ‘these often playful, teasing poems’. And Thomas White in Stride Magazine here.
A second collection of poems, On Trust: A Book of Lies, came out in October 2017. Chad Campbell in The Manchester Review calls it ‘a beautiful collection’. Terence Dooley at Write Out Loud said among other things that it has ‘lightning-flash changes of tone and register that sometimes remind one of Ashbery’. Rory Waterman in the Times Literary Supplement (paywall), said that ‘the poems are often unsentimentally detached, light-footed, anecdotal, and sometimes fashionably surreal’. I like that ‘fashionably’. It was longlisted for the 2018 Dylan Thomas Prize and has recently been shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for Second Collections (update: I didn’t win. The winning book was A.K. Blakemore’s wonderful Fondue.)
A third book, Homunculus, came out in the middle of the pandemic, September 2020 (maybe this is a hostage to fortune, and in a couple of years I’ll revise this sentence to read ‘in the first year of the ongoing pandemic’). It was in some ways better received than its predecessors, certainly as far as word-of-mouth is concerned, but that hasn’t yet translated into vast numbers of extremely positive reviews. However, small and select is the way forward. The first review was from the Dundee University Review of the Arts, which highlights its ‘serious and subtly bitter tone’. I think I like that as an analysis, even though it makes me sound a little bit like a jar of posh marmalade. Then there was the Morning Star, calling attention to the fact that without the jokes, the book might be ‘unbearably painful’.
I have contributed to a couple of anthologies. New Poetries V (Carcanet, 2011) contains ten of my poems, and led Poetry London to say that ‘James Womack writes like a photojournalist in some parallel universe’, which I liked.
Some of my poems are available online, at The Guardian, The Wolf (I), The Wolf (II), the New Poetries website (I), the New Poetries website (II) and Poetry Proper. I also participated in June 2017 in an interesting study day / seminar at the Institute of Advanced Studies at UCL, called Poets Poets. If you follow the link, you’ll be invited to download a selection of poems by the participants, including five by me.