Los Alamos Mon Amour

Los Alamos Mon Amour is my debut collection and was published by Salt Publishing in 2008. It was a finalist in the Forward Prizes that year for 'Best First Collection', which was a real honour. 

Some reviews

"To turn to Simon Barraclough's Los Alamos Mon Amour is to re-enter the world in which I and most people live ─ urban, filmic, provisional, political. The title poem with its echo of Resnais' film establishes his style like a thunderclap, describing the world's first atomic explosion with details both horrific and credible ...

Many of the early poems respond to the experience of cinema, including 'A Tall Story about a Pushover' which consists of lines from posters advertising movies ... There are powerful descriptions of depression ('Seroxat' and 'Celestial Navigation'); a snuff poem about trapping a childhood friend in a disused fridge ('Frigidaire'); and accounts of particularly modern experiences such as waiting outside a changing cubicle while the woman tries on clothes to wear for another man ...

Some of the poems are directly about London, such as 'London Whale' featuring the whale that died in the Thames last year, ending "Look how sentimental you make me: / we're a city of visitors, you see." ...

Barraclough may see himself as travelling lightly through the world, but he catches the sense of what it's like to live in the modern city more astutely and more often than most other poets. Salt is to be congratulated on investing in his first collection in hardback."—Laurie Smith in Magma

"Any poet from Huddersfield must be within earshot of Simon Armitage and there are familiar elements (not least a torrential energy) in Simon Barraclough’s first collection ...

'London Whale' shows how it should be done, with fluidity, delicacy, and tonal variety ... There are several shorter (often sonnet-length) poems which balance everything successfully ... and ingenious miniatures.

This is very good writing ... a beautifully produced highly readable collection."—John Greening in The Times Literary Supplement

"... simultaneously assaults and seduces the senses with an understated charm ... If it is Barraclough's broad palette of subject matter that draws the reader in, it is his attention to the craft of poetry that will endure."—Chris Horton in The London Magazine

"I liked the unforced modernity [of Los Alamos Mon Amour], the way it seemed as natural as breathing, to take a subject and illuminate the readers’ and writers’ thoughts about it."—Ian McMillan on The Verb, BBC Radio 3


Los Alamos Mon Amour 

The second before and the eternity after

the smile that split the horizon from ear to ear,

the kiss that scorched the desert dunes to glass

and sealed the sun in its frozen amber.


Eyelids are gone, along with memories

of times when the without could be withheld

from the within ; when atoms kept their sanctity

and matter meant. Should I have ducked and covered ?


Instead of watching oases leap into steam,

matchwood ranches blown out like flames,

and listening to livestock scream and char

in test pens on the rim of the blast.


I might have painted myself white, or built a fallout room

full of cans and bottled water but it’s clear

you’d have passed between cracks, under doors,

through keyholes and down the steps to my cellar


to set me wrapping and tagging my dead.

So I must be happy your cells have been flung through mine

and your fingers are plaiting my DNA ;

my chromosomes whisper you’re here to stay.


Fusing the Braids 

Three times a year you overhauled your hair,

firing the helical fuse that transformed

tightly-raked rows into electrical storms

of static and dandruff and ionised air.

Then, your black nimbus would radiate past

the edges of photos, pillows on beds,

reducing your face to a shrunken head,

leaving you other, untethered, distressed.

So for a weekend I became taboo

while expert fingers, with love, rebraided

the separate warring strands within you,

so I could return, all conflict evaded,

to pass a candle flame from tip to tip,

fusing hair and plastic, lip upon lip.


Celestial Navigation 

Days adrift, waiting for the horizon,

waiting for a fix. The edge of the world

has been rubbed away by the clumsy thumb

of this depression. Isobaric whorls

weave an ancient tale of serial crimes

as the ocean takes the prints, rolled in and out

of the ink of this pitching sky.

My scattered charts have grown cataracts,

protractor and dividers sprout

crabby limbs and scuttle across the cockpit sole.

My sextant wilts, a spider plant starved

of light, starved of familiar sights.


I bailed my supplies overboard :

bloated macaroni and risotto

sloshed out to sea with my spices, herbs,

freeze-dried coffee and tea until there spread

from the stern a salty paella

of foamy food. I know I haven’t drifted far

for I sometimes taste my old provisions

in the long drafts of water I drain from

my bailing bucket. Poseidon has so much

to offer, but I have no horses to drown

and I pray the ship’s cat passed muster,

mewing bubbles as I held her under.


I sheeted her to the mast instead of reefing

in the mainsail and there she bids me,

claws rising and falling. The black Polaris

around which this vessel swirls under the sightless

cloud. She spits S.O.S. in the teeth

of the storm, but the radio mike

is a showerhead that spatters white static

and I don’t know which way round S.O.S. goes.

I clip myself to the jackstay and curl

myself around the cable, wait

for this to pass, my spine against the mast.