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Sudden Collapses In Public Places

Julia’s first full-length collection of poems, Sudden Collapses in Public Places, was published by Arc in 2003 and was awarded a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Julia explained that the poems ‘are about my relationship with my body and with hospitals and doctors.

ISBN 1-900072-91-2


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Julia explained that the poems ‘are about my relationship with my body and with hospitals and doctors. In them I am trying to explore metaphors or to find a way to describe how it feels to have advanced breast cancer, and to let the body rather than the head be in charge. I am conversing with myself, trying to make sense of things’.

Jackie Kay wrote: ‘Anyone who has ever spent anytime in a hospital or in a hospital waiting room will love these poems, anyone who has ever been to the doctor or felt ill or had to fill in a form will love these poems. That covers everyone. Here are poems about a difficult, scary subject, cancer, that circle around it lightly, on light dancing feet, and every so often whack you on the head. Oddly enough, Sudden Collapses is compulsively readable. The poems are funny, irreverent, moving and never sentimental. You can recognise yourself in them, recognise your family. They are warm, full of compassion; Julia Darling’s imagination is a shining bright light.’

Julia wrote about the launch of the book in May 2003 on her blog

A selection of poems from the book

Read 'Sudden Collapses In Public Places' →

Sudden Collapses In Public Places

like buildings, people can disintegrate
collapse in queues, or in a crowded street

causing mayhem, giving kids bad dreams
of awkward corpses, policemen, drops of blood

but I’m stood here, a miracle of bones
architecturally balanced in my boots

I feel each joint, each hinge and spinal link
jolting to the rhythm of my breath

aware of every tremor in my joists,
and yet I’m scared I haven’t done enough

to be re-enforced and girded, Christ, I fear
those flowers tied to lamp posts, dread the crash

Read 'Too Heavy' →

Too Heavy

Dear Doctor,
I am writing to complain about these words
you have given me, that I carry in my bag
lymphatic, nodal, progressive, metastatic

They must be made of lead. I haul them everywhere.
I’ve cricked my neck, I’m bent
with the weight of them
palliative, metabolic, recurrent.

And when I get them out and put them on the table
they tick like bombs and overpower my own
sweet tasting words
orange, bus, coffee, June

I’ve been leaving them
crumpled up in pedal bins
where they fester and complain.
diamorphine, biopsy, inflammatory.

And then you say
Where are your words Mrs Patient?
What have you done with your words?

Or worse, you give me that dewy look
Poor Mrs Patient has lost all her words, but shush,
don’t upset her. I’ve got spares in the files.
Thank god for files.

So I was wondering,
Dear Doctor, if I could have
a locker,
my own locker
with a key.
I could collect them
one at a time,
and lay them on a plate
morphine-based, diagnostically,

with a garnish of
lollypop, monkey, lip.


  • "It is observant, inventive, witty, wildly funny at times and wholly unsentimental. The sternest curmudgeon will be hooked by her blend of pragmatism, romance, anarchy and art…She can also write with beautiful plainness about ordinary life."

    —Sean O'Brien, writing in the Sunday Times
  • "In its courage, originality and steadfastness, this book consistently transforms ‘the art of losing’ into an art of finding – an intense and moving exploration that the reader is privileged to share"

    —Carol Rumens
  • “Julia Darling’s poetry is one of those rare cases where everything fits: voice, form, subject are all pulled into an apparently effortless, highly accessible harmony. The poet seems to be telling us nothing we suffer is beyond our humanity, and our pleasures only increase the stock. It’s extremely unusual to recognise an actual individual in his/her poetry, but not only does Julia Darling accomplish this, I think she manages an even more unlikely feat: she makes her experiences knowable to us as an ordinary part of life. That kind of contact, that kind of intimacy, is a precious resource. Don’t pass it up.”


Sudden Collapses In Public Places Song Cycle

The entire poetry collection was set to music by musicians Dave Scott and Neil Blenkinsop collectively know as F, and sung by Zoe Lambert. It was performed at the Sage Gateshead in 2004. The CD is still available.

Buy the CD from New Writing North