‘Lines off’ is a term used for lines spoken from the wings of a theatre, or off-camera in a film. It was while Hugo Williams was out of circulation following transplant surgery that he wrote the poems for this new collection – the first since I Knew the Bride (2014), shortlisted for the Forward and T. S. Eliot prizes. From youthful days ‘upside down in the Crazy Room, / rising and falling on the Haunted Swing’, he takes us to distant countries, both actual and metaphorical; participates in the ‘mortal pantomime’ of the hospital ward with humorous frankness; and offers a percipient account of growing older, with all its attendant doubts and disturbances. Autobiographical, psychological, remedial, Lines Off heralds the return of this acclaimed poet, back to the stage of the page, offering us ‘the performance of a lifetime’.
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