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Tenement Press is an occasional publisher of esoteric,
accidental, angular, & interdisciplinary literatures.

My head is my only house unless it rains

Don Glen Vliet

Were a wind to arise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sailI’d make one of canvas and sticks

Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’
(Bucknow Elegies)

The Limbourg Brothers,
The ‘Anatomical, Zodiac Man,’
the Très Riches Heures

a great shaking
the soft hands of autumn
the gloved hands
of spring
Edwina Attlee

Tenement Press #12
120pp (Approx.)


£16.50 / Forthcoming July 1st 2024

For an excerpt, ℅ the Poetry Foundation, see here.

For an excerpt, ℅ the Hotel Archive, see here.

For an excerpt, ℅ Tenement’s Rehearsal, see here.

A table can be overturned and a window can be smashed. However, those who believe that the state is also a thing or a fetish that can be overturned or smashed are sophists and believers in the Word. The state is a social relationship; a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by creating new social relationships; i.e., by people relating to one another differently.

Gustav Landauer

Edwina Attlee’s debut collection, a great shaking, is a triptych of works—a gathering of songs, days, and hours—that detail the ways in which ‘a table can be overturned,’ an idea can be tilled, an hour can turn from something germinal to a quiet object of attention, an oblique artifact, a talisman for change. 

Gustav Landauer wrote that ‘the State is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition’—something impacted by the weather of our moods, by the small winds of our behaviour, by way of human contact and a romance of interrelation. In these poems, Attlee antagonises our consent to be governed, our will to be moved (in terms either emotive, temporal, or meteorological) to consider our ‘condition.’ ‘I want to tell you about the time conversations started to happen / and how it was the beginning of the room,’ Attlee writes. Caught within an architecture wherein chance and design go bet on the horses, where we lose step with the gamble of a metaphor, Attlee segues her way through these collated hours and days to distil a poetry that is not about (or of) revolution, but about conditions. Hers is a poetry about steam; about diction; about how, to depict ‘the beginning of the room,’ you need question the porousness of its boundaries.

(Left) Edwina Atlee, © 2024
(Right) ‘Labours of the months,’ 
February, the Très Riches Heures

Selected from Tenement’s first open submission window by Lucy Mercer and Vanessa Onwuemezi, Attlee’s collection is divided into three parts. The first, ‘The Book of Days,’ is written to (and from) the months of a year [Condition № I, our calendar]. The second, ‘Nursery Songs,’ leans into a child’s language and its intuitions [Condition № II, our slow sophistication]. Third, and final, we’ve ‘Archive Songs,’ a suite of experiments in appropriation and found text [Condition № III, our age of excess and privation].

Wheeling between voices and buildings—animals and animus alike—Attlee writes with a crow-like conviction to the tune that every conviction is liable to shift and change. To better consider the ‘beginning of the room,’ here we’ve a struggle, at the site of the speaking self, as to what it means to speak in a world warped by the weft of conditionality.

For the attention of ‘brick & mortar’ bookshops,
preorder copies of Attlee’s a great shaking via our
distributor, Asterism Books.

Attlee, reading at Presse Books / Forma HQ

(November 2023)

In which Attlee reads at the launch of Seven Rooms (edited by Dominic J. Jaeckle & Jess Chandler, Tenement Press & Prototype Publishing, 2023), an anthology collection of selected materials from across the Hotel series.

Echoing the tales and mysteries that were once our way of apprehending the world, Attlee's a great shaking allows one to feel close to the earth and the rhythms that govern it. It envelops you in its world with the steady confidence of a poet in full use of her powers. Both intimate and vast, A great shaking is like a skyline touched only by trees, land, and the stillness of forgotten time.

Vanessa Onwuemezi

a great shaking is such a rich gathering: endlessly surprising, bold and inventive. ‘Book of Days’ offers a fascinating riddle and rhyme of the seasons; the ‘Nursery Songs’ are full of secrets and vibrant flashes; while the ‘Archive Songs’ are curiously alluring. All together, they show undoubtable imagination and skill. 

Lavinia Singer

In mediaeval manuscripts, engravings of the steps of life from birth to death often omitted women completely. In this fascinating collection, Attlee talks to them directly, making them entirely visible as she explores the legacies of indentured labour, the toils of women and the mythologies of motherhood, all in real time: the crows eat up the corn / the baby is back / and the women open their legs to the stove / pushing soft porridge into his mouth / like companionable silence. This empathy and companionship are the backdrop to her own negotiations of work, family and political activity, and expose how impossibly intermingled these are. She weighs the magical thinking of folktale and childhood against the real world to expose the gap between there and here, while continuing the ancient task of trying to find a way to make it all work. Her language is present and exact, and razor sharp: my mother is here / laughing like a broken plate. Throughout, there is love and wry humour: You are the word I will use to call the cows home at night (‘Old English love song, Traditional’). This is a deeply affecting collection; these poems come from a very genuine sense of communion with all those semi-visible individuals who labour and have always laboured for love, family and fairness. Forgive us this standing. Forgive us in strength. / Unforgive if forgiving undoes sorrow. Do not unstep your step.

Lesley Harrison

‘Labours of the Months,’ 
March (the Château de Lusignan),
the Très Riches Heures

Edwina Attlee is the author of two pamphlets, Roasting Baby (if a leaf falls press, 2016) and the cream (Clinic, 2016). She teaches history to students of architecture in London.

Atlee’s A great shaking was selected
as a ‘work-in-progress’ following Tenement’s
first open call, 2023, by guest readers
Lucy Mercer & Vanessa Onwuemezi.


Tenement Press