‘The ability to combine scientific with poetic forms of knowledge is precious and rare, and Kelley Swain possesses it in abundance.’ – Ann Fisher-Wirth
Darwin’s Microscope, Swain’s debut collection of poetry, was published in 2009 by Flambard Press. It sold out before going out of print when Flambard closed its doors in 2012, when the Independent on Sunday wrote that “over the 22 years of its existence, Flambard has grown into one of the finest small publishers in the UK”.
In October 2019, Valley Press issued a 10th anniversary edition, with cover art by Katherine Child. This was launched at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, in conjunction with the debut of a song cycle inspired by the book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, written by composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad. The piece was performed by Carola Darwin and The Gildas Quartet in partnership with the Oxford Lieder Festival, and received 4/5 stars in The Times.
In the original book tour for Darwin’s Microscope, Swain gave readings across the UK for the 2019 ‘Darwin 200’ celebrations, particularly at the University of Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen.
The collection has been hailed as “beautiful stuff. I was left with the absolute conviction that, with young Kelley entering the field, both natural science and poetry are in good hands.” – Ann Drysdale, Envoi 154, October 2009.
“One poem cannily includes an extract from Emily Dickinson, and there is an elegy for a father told – with an admirably Dickinsonian ‘slant’ – through the mating habits of a sea turtle. Bravura!” – Anna Woodford, Mslexia, Issue 41.
“With quiet authority, these poems situate our lives in the geological and biological unfolding of the ages. The ability to combine scientific with poetic forms of knowledge is precious and rare, and Kelley Swain possesses it in abundance. Darwin’s Microscope is a splendid debut volume from a very promising poet.” – Ann Fisher-Wirth