Melissa Lee-Houghton

14. Melissa Lee Houghton

BEST SINGLE POEM SHORTLIST

Melissa Lee-Houghton (b. 1982, Manchester) publishes her third collection, Sunshine, in September 2016, following a book of essays An Insight Into Mental Health in Britain. She was selected as one of the Next Generation Poets by the Poetry Book Society in 2014.

Lee-Houghton says she sensed as a child that contemporary poetry went ‘against all the ideas I was being taught that as a human being we must be sensible, limited, in control of our feelings’. Something of this remains in her impetus to speak out against stifling consensus, and she describes writing ‘i am very precious’ the poem for which she has been shortlisted partly as a way to ‘express my outrage at the continued oppression I experience as a woman who both enjoys and fears sex’.

‘i am very precious’ features passages of rough acceleration and dizzying handbrake turns. The energy of the poem’s sex-and-death abandonment drives it through its range of scenarios, fantasies, terrors, political broadsides, confessions, self-confrontations and redemptions. It is a work that meets face-to-face the subjects it insists cannot be separated cleanly: pornography, mental health, sexual desire, misogyny, maternity, pleasure and loss.