Paul Farley


Griffin Poetry Prize 2007
International Shortlist

Book: Tramp in Flames

Poet: Paul Farley

Publisher: Picador

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.



Paul Farley won the Arvon Poetry Competition Competition in 1996. His first poetry collection, The Boy From the Chemist is Here to See You (1998), won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection and a Somerset Maugham Award, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. He was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (1999). He received an Arts Council Writers’ Award in 2000. The Ice Age (2002) won the 2003 Whitbread Poetry Award and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. In addition to being shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, Paul Farley’s Tramp in Flames won the 2006 Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem for ‘Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second’. Paul Farley currently lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. He lives in England.

See also: Paul Farley, 2007 International Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlisted Poet, Opens the 2008 Awards Ceremony

Judges’ Citation

“Paul Farley is a poet of wit, sensuality and warmth. His work engages with the commonplace and the overlooked, the absurd and the catastrophic, the scientific and the mythic, in ways that make us stop and think again about what it is to be living in this particular world, at this particular moment in our history. Though he wears his learning lightly, Farley draws upon philosophy and natural science, as well as a deep, occasionally elegiac affection for the streets and fields and hillsides of the places he has called home, to create a poetry of exceptional formal skill. What makes his work so remarkable is that, whatever his subject matter, from the city of Liverpool to an old Ovaltine tin, everything is transformed by his imagination and his formal gifts, making us think again about what we know, and what we think we know. That said, however, what comes across most vividly here is the sheer music of the writing: every line sings off the page, and there can be few poets whose work is so memorable. If the best poetry aspires to the condition of music, as Mallarmé suggests, then this is poetry of the highest order: melodic, humane and intellectually engaging, Tramp in Flames renews our contract with the given world, yet challenges us to think again about what we see, and what we take for granted.”


Paul Farley has been widely and justly praised for his extraordinary knack of casting the contemporary experience in an almost mythic and historic light, and following the exceptional acclaim for his first two books, Farley might have been forgiven for resting on his laurels for his third. Tramp in Flames, however, finds him pushing his imaginative daring and formal ambition to the limit. A book of astonishing variety and range and no little emotional bravery, Tramp in Flames shows Farley rapidly becoming one of the most unfailingly interesting writers of any genre, and a definitive voice of the age.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

Paul Farley reads Tramp in Flames

Tramp in Flames, by Paul Farley

Tramp in Flames

Some similes act like heat shields for re-entry
to reality: a tramp in flames on the floor.
We can say Flame on! to invoke the Human Torch
from the Fantastic Four. We can switch to art
and imagine Dali at this latitude
doing CCTV surrealism.
We could compare him to a protest monk
sat up the way he is. We could force the lock
of memory: at the crematorium
my uncle said the burning bodies rose
like Draculas from their boxes.

         But his layers
burn brightly, and the salts locked in his hems
give off the colours of a Roman candle,
and the smell is like a foot-and-mouth pyre
in the middle of the city he was born in,
and the bin bags melt and fuse him to the pavement
and a pool forms like the way he wet himself
sat on the school floor forty years before,
and then the hand goes up. The hand goes up.

From Tramp in Flames, by Paul Farley
Copyright © Paul Farley 2006

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Photo credit: courtesy of Picador

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