Reviews of Isn’t Forever

From Claire Crowther’s review in The Poetry Review:

The structure of the poems, their forms, are so varied that each page hits you almost before you read the poem: gappy, slashed, sectioned, a long drop of short lines, prose. Key’s downtrodden unsure personas hold tight to a strong technical hand-up from the mother poet, their emotional frustration rescued by formal dexterity. It is safe to regress among such grand and measured lines as these from ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’:

I have forgiven the lies I’ve been told that were intended to soothe me.


My enterprise has been: an attempt
to force emotion from things.


Feelings often lack structural integrity –

we’re all falling into each other.


My feelings can’t afford the plans I’m making.


Another hour wasted in compassion
for the screws in the bedframe.

Isn’t Forever is a PBS Wild Card Choice. Sad and sunny, tightlaced and funny, you have to like Amy Key’s poems.

From Melony Bethala’s review in The Compass:

Isn’t Forever is compelling because of Key’s determination to voice the chaos that girls and women live through. Women are bombarded by images that prescribe limited standards of feminine beauty, and Key captures the need to live with those experiences while also defying them.

[   ] poems draw from the cultural influence of fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Coco Chanel, musicians Lana Del Ray and Kate Bush, and long-time Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown. Key also pays homage to the feminist Denise Riley and even Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘who died / in a fire while awaiting electroshock therapy’. Invoking legends in fashion, music, art, and literature, Key asserts her own feminist voice in the canon of contemporary poetry.

From Jenna Clake’s review in Poetry London:

‘The collection captures how the very experience of being alive – of noticing things – can become the exact point and celebration of our existence, something to retreat to in the face of shame and trauma…Key writes about the ‘powerful alliances of women writers and artists’ which make her feel ’emboldened’, and this declaration of feminine power is felt throughout.’

From Steve Whittaker’s review in The Yorkshire Times:

‘The reader is continually astonished by the outrageous acuity of Key’s use of imagery; she persuades, utterly, on the most unlikely ground.’

From Amy McCauley’s review for The Poetry School:

Isn’t Forever is a moving and sincere song of mourning; a song which gathers impetus not through showiness but via a slow accrual of raw, untheatrical and many-layered sadnesses…[……]

This question of how women are viewed, surveyed and assessed – both from ‘without’ and ‘within’ – is central to Key’s restless, agitated ‘I.’

The ‘I’ and the eye which observes are atomised and adopt many different positions: thus, many performances for many audiences must be assembled simultaneously. Yet the impossibility of this task leads to a double-bind situation, in which the pressure to perform multiple selves summons stasis through self-interruptedness. The poet’s achievement lies in bringing performativity and inwardness to bear on both ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ stages, and in speaking through many strata of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ voice with great success.

Part joyful, part melancholy; part ‘here’, part ‘not here’, the women in Isn’t Forever are ensnared in a kind of mourning trap. Key’s articulations of the mechanisms of this ‘mourning trap’ represent a moving, authoritative contribution to our contemporary poetic landscape, and this is a book I will return to again and again.’

Reviews of Luxe

From Katherine Angel’s review in Poetry Review:

Key takes seriously that which often gets dismissed as the frilly froth of femininity. She gives plenitude to what is cast as fragile, forgettable, contemptible. There’s gravity, moreover, to taking the world of fragile things seriously: glass, dust, and ornaments conjure evanescence and decay as much as frivolity or joy. Key is a poet refusing to dismiss the seriousness, fullness, and depths of surface, glamour, glitz.

From Jemma L King’s review in Poetry Wales:

I’ve underlined so many lines in this book with utter enthusiasm I’ve nearly torn pages through…Part of Key’s immense likeability arises from her fallibility. Sometimes this takes the form of the anti-love poem, the broken-hearted poem, but often, she laces such moments of human-weakness with humour…This book, essentially, ticks all the boxes for me. It’s experimental, imaginative and romantic and there are even references to Smiths’ songs. Key’s is indeed, ‘all texture’ and I’d urge poetry lovers to invest in this one.

From Stephen Whitaker’s review in The Warwick Review:

Key’s chocolate shop of locators is a place where cocktails are flippant and jacuzzis audacious, where windows “rattle discontent” (‘Interiorana’) and pipes crack their knuckles (‘Fox’s Eye’)…The hidden truths between words, or the truths of emotional inquest alternately concealed and revealed in that reflective space, seem to be Key’s modus, and she finds a paradoxical poetics of unity where a sense of self struggles to be affirmed…This poet of the amniotic, of wide-eyed submarine colour, is coming up for air, and her emergence yields corrective balance.

From Clare Pollard’s review in Poetry London:

This is a swoony sort of book, full of longing and lusciousness.

Dai George writes in the Boston Review:

More than most poetry collections, Luxe takes to heart the advice of its epigraph, anaperçu lifted from Preface 1 by Chelsey Minnis: “Poetry should be ‘uh huh’ like. . . ‘baby has to have it. . .’” This is poetry impatient with the vague, well-mannered pleasures of the average modern poem. Most at home with American influences, particularly Minnis and Brenda Shaughnessy, Key’s work knows its own pleasure points and wants to hit them as often as possible. Sometimes the pleasure will be a queasy and synaesthetic one, shadowed by the dark, transitory thrill of erotic love. But at other times, the poems sing of the purer, enduring pleasures to be had in platonic friendship.

Judi Sutherland reviews Luxe and Letters to the Sky by Camellia Stafford on Dr Fulminaire’s Irregular Features:

Key and Stafford present us with two uniquely feminine poetic voices. Their work is beautiful and stunningly original…The poems capture something brittle, flashy, a beautiful feu d’artifice, a Belle Époque theatrical performance.

Mark Burnhope reviews Luxe for Elsewhere – a review of contemporary poetry:

[That’s] Key’s power; the ability to paint a nuanced, controlled self-portrait (or gallery of self-portraits) using the materials of her psychological, social and physical environments.

Reviews of Best Friends Forever

Fiona Moore reviews Best Friends Forever on Sabotage Reviews:

Here we find passion, the circus, celebrity emulation, shared rites of passage, domestic interiors, heartbreak, escape and much else.  There’s refreshingly little irony but plenty of love, excitement, sadness or disillusionment for any reader to empathise with, not to mention all the nearly-shared experience. As Amy Key says in her heartfelt introduction, the “magic force” of empathy is at the heart of the best friendships.

Penelope Price reviews Best Friends Forever on For Books’ Sake:

What Amy Key and The Emma Press have done is to shine a light on a vital and sustaining part of women’s lives, and an often undocumented one. This anthology would make a great gift to a good friend, but it is also a valuable aid in considering the importance of one’s own friendships, past and present.

Reviews of Instead of Stars

Julia Bird reviews Instead of Stars in Poetry London:

Poems that might be called unashamedly beautiful, if it made sense to think that beauty was something to be ashamed of.


3 thoughts on “reviews

  1. And thanks from me too, Amy. I only wish i’d had the space to give a more comprehensive impression of your work.

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