Publication date: 7th July 2022
If you’d like a signed copy, you can get one direct from me here. I have a limited number of bundles of both my new books at a special discount price of £20. If you’d like the books signed, please let me know who to sign them to! You can watch the video of the online launch on my Watch page.
Available from all good bookshops – ask your local bookshop to get a copy! If you’re near Ilkley, the wonderful Grove Bookshop has copies in stock. Or online, you can get it direct from Nine Arches Press, or from Ben Rothery, whose illustration is featured on the cover, Bookshop.org or Hive, both of whom donate a percentage to local book shops.
Tania Hershman’s Still Life With Octopus is an exquisitely-attuned second collection, a philosophical and poetic interrogation of the boundaries of animal and human worlds and the intimate nature of time, being and joy. Exploring the slippage between the life of the mind and the life of the body – in particular, those belonging to women – Hershman wonders what might happen if we let go of our preconceptions of both reality and language, taking nothing for granted and starting again from first principles, with fresh eyes.
While trying to fathom our physical and metaphysical existence, Hershman doesn’t ignore the other forms of intelligent life we share our planet with; her octopus is envisioned both as a creature within and alongside us and as a way to consider our place as humans within a greater chain of co-existence. Still Life With Octopus is a precisely observed and open-hearted gift of a book.
Thank you to Elizabeth Kemball for a wonderful, thoughtful review of Still Life With Octopus in the July 2023 issue of Poetry Wales: “Tania Hershman’s second collection of poetry is a wry, observant, and intelligent exploration of the boundaries between humanity and nature. The collection itself feels almost like a natural history museum of both people and animals; where mundane human acts, from bus rides to sewing, or dancing to piano playing are crafted into poetry, and artfully contrasted with the exotic creatures of the octopus and the Australian Splendid Tree Frog. This juxtaposition poses humans as animals on display, and the subjects of the poems become spectacles in their own right.”
Mab Jones reviews Still Life With Octopus for Buzz magazine: “Many of the poems take abstract concepts as their subject – time; thought; goodness; wrongness – showcasing the poet’s interest in the metaphysical and the philosophical. Still, there’s a tonguing wit, here and there, a playful cheekiness, which flashes out in some pieces – “I am Catherine the Great / and I seize this jetty, this / is my section of the lake”. Whilst there’s depth of enquiry, there’s also fun, thanks to a sparkling bright mind at the helm, and that is what makes this collection such a joy to read.” Read the full review here.
Over on Instagram the wonderful writer Claire Fuller (whose own octopus novel is out shortly) says of Still Life With Octopus: “I don’t read a lot of poetry and I review it even more infrequently, but I loved Still Life With Octopus… 51 short poems including Still Life with Octopus from I to VII. Witty and poignant they’re the kind of poems you can read just one of and get a daily satisfaction of images, ideas and thoughts. Just wonderful and deserves to be much better known and read.”
Ellora Sutton reviews Still Life With Octopus in the Winter 2022 issue of The Poetry Review: “These are poems that enable curiosity. I found myself asking: how is a poem like an octopus?” Thank you for such a generous review, Ellora.
Thank you to Martin Reiser for a lovely first review in print in The Alchemy Spoon of my new poetry collection, Still Life With Octopus: “The playfulness of the poet’s language is refreshing and immediate…” Read the full review in the new issue here.
Aug 5: The wonderful poet Clare Shaw says of “Still Life With Octopus”: Oh my God, what a collection. She dances all the huge questions and makes it effortless. How can a book ask the big questions and still make you happy?” I can’t imagine a better response!
July 15th: FC Malby says: “Each poem shifts the way an octopus changes its colour, reflecting its mood, yet there is a thread that connects many of the poems – the nature and shape of the heart, all that is hidden, the confines of space and the way that some things need to be released, or remain hidden.” Read the full review here.
Praise for Still Life With Octopus:
“Tania Hershman’s new collection is a fascinating shapeshifter like the octopus herself. Who is human, who is animal, what is heart, arm, brain? Let these wonderful poems take you along on their journey yearning to be free of hard parts and you will be transformed.” – Anja Konig
“What better creature than the Octopus to stand in for what poetry might be? Alien and earthly. Depth dwelling and fluorescent. Legs and organs, at once. This too is Still Life With Octopus, a book of powerful paradox, and a collection as distinct, brilliant and vivid as you will come across this year. Hershman’s poems are wonderfully deceptive, observant, affable, hiding within them hearts of ink, images of the unseen and unknown. Today, these poems are your back pain. Tomorrow, they are the fathomless seas. This is what poetry might be, and this is to be celebrated.” – SJ Fowler
“Wry, witty and sometimes artfully camouflaged, Tania Hershman’s poems in Still Life with Octopus reach out in many directions with an octopoid grace and attention to detail. They quickly escape the inky confines of the page to take up residence in the deeper crevices of the reader’s mind, where they begin the necessary work of unscrewing all kinds of lids.” – Adam Horovitz