Denise Riley has pursued her singular path with a determined disregard for poetic fashion: a poet of immense musical gifts and formal skill, as happy in traditional forms as experimental, her non-alignment with any ‘tribe’ has led to a rich and various poetry that, while densely allusive and intellectually uncompromising, remains emotionally open towards the reader at the most profound level. Say Something Back, her lyric meditation on bereavement, won Riley universal acclaim – and a wide and long-deserved readership. Her Selected Poems offers a generous overview of a working life which has taken in philosophy, feminism, literary history, song and aphorism – and within which the old certainties are interrogated and shaken at every turn. Hers is a voice through which we come to better understand one another, the meaning of our time here, and the nature of human communication itself.
‘Wide-ranging, sometimes anguished, her poems are fascinating and often beautiful, and certainly more than usually thought-provoking.’ - Guardian
It sometimes seems that contemporary poetry divides into two sorts – those poems that did not need to be written and those written out of necessity. Denise Riley belongs to the second category – her writing is perfectly weighted, justifies its existence. It is impossible not to want to “say something back” to each of her poems in recognition of their outstanding quality. Her voice is strong and beautiful – an imperative in itself . . . remarkable
She's one of the best poets around.
Andrew Motion, Guardian
Denise Riley’s collection Say Something Back . . . includes her heart-piercing elegy to her son Jacob, “A Part Song”: the most powerful contemporary poem I’ve read in years.