Reviews

Praise for Zebra


‘In all of its magnificent bounty Zebra must be one of the poetry collections of 2019.’

– The Yorkshire Times, June 2019

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‘In the funny and tender Bad Fruit a fashionable cologne smells of “over-ripe” pears or possibly “unbottled men” – a brilliant phrase. Oscar Wilde is an important figure, but a melancholy and distant one who “sang his ballad / from a mauve cage”, in a lovely image from Another Boy’s StoryBare Branch is beautifully precise and balanced, exquisitely weighted, full of delicate exactness, poignant, deep and free of cultural cliché … with a clever image of mah jong tiles “clattering like tiny feet through the house”, it is an extraordinary feat of tact and complexity.’

– The Poetry Review, Vol 109, No 2, Summer 2019


‘The closing sentence of Under the microscope, about a laboratory dissection, reads “Art too wields the knife.” Confident, incisive, tender and sensual, Humphreys’ voice is leavened by a Puckish wit … Zebra reads not like a debut, but the virtuoso singing of an assured voice.’

– Orbis (No 189, Autumn 2019)


‘Ian Humphreys’ Zebra has come out to a deluge of praise and it’s easy to see why.’

– The High Window, Winter 2019


‘Humphreys’ poems have deep emotional capacity… (His) dislocation is twofold, as he is both mixed-race and gay; his poetry weaves these two strands together with great humanity and good humour… In Bad Fruit, a short series of vignettes capture the confusion and joyousness of being young, which will feel familiar to many of us, straight or gay, and absolutely true to life.’

– Poetry London (Spring 2020 Issue 95)


‘The poems take us on a seamless journey from Manchester’s gay scene in the 1980s, to London and Hong Kong, and to rural and semi-rural settings such as the telephone box “stranded on the edge of town / open all hours for the disconnected”. They juxtapose light and dark, humour and grief as they explore coming of age, sexual identity and otherness … A wonderful debut and I look forward to reading more of Ian’s work.’

– The British Council (Literature Team, April 2019)


‘One major strength of the collection is that although the story of Humphreys’ gay evolution forms the backbone, it is given greater depth and scope by the inclusion of many fine poems on other aspects of his experience, such as childhood adventure and risk-taking (‘Coalscar Lake’) and a sensitivity to nature that brings to mind early Ted Hughes (‘Stubborn cow’).’

– London Grip (August 2019)

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‘A beautifully written collection about exploration, observation and acceptance.’

– About Manchester


‘Humphreys’ wonderful collection has been feted as an elegy for the gay club scenes of the 1980s and the beautiful lost boys who inhabited them. It also nails the homophobia that persists in today’s cultural mainstream, explores contrast and otherness more widely, and records the humble minutiae of urban and not-quite-urban dereliction. I love it.’

– Sheffield University, LGBTQ+ Poetry Recommendations


‘Haven’t heard enough about it. Absolutely love it!’

– ‘Black Voices for Pride Month & Beyond’ (YouTube review), Simon Savidge


‘Glorious in every sense of the word, this is an important book, and I am very grateful for it.’

– Clare Shaw


‘A powerful, moving, original body of work.’

– Jean Sprackland


‘Ian Humphreys has an enviable gift of finding final lines of poems, many of which are seared on the surface of my memory.’

– Mona Arshi


‘One of the best poetry books of 2019.’

– Bad Language


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