top of page

Rachel Deering    
In the Shadow of Gods

Rachel book cover.jpg

In this Forward Prize-nominated work by Bath-based poet Rachel Deering, we are drawn intimately into the fabric and the liquidity of nature. Mythology and folklore are part of the delicate weave of Rachel Deering’s poetry, which feels like half a breath away from the teeming life in streams and rivers, the haunting beauty of moonlit woods, the mythical mysteries of wild places long after venturing humans have retreated. Many of these poems are spellbinding in their wordplay and the atmospheres created. We hope that these poems travel far and wide and inhabit readers’ memories, long after reading. 



Advanced Praise:

‘Deering’s powerful chlorophyll- and clay-dipped collection shows us how to read the leaves and the ripples, how to speak with feathered and tree-abiding lives, to see, almost as if with the lightning rod of divine inspiration, that ‘it is always about love’. This is a book to surrender to. In the hands of a master word-conjurer, you will be carried by its ‘watermagic’. This is poetry as theophysics, rendered with the precision of a scientist and the furor of a visionary. A tremendous and vital collection from a breathtakingly skilled and assured voice.’

Chris Laoutaris, Associate Professor at The Shakespeare Institute and author of Bleed and See (Broken Sleep Books) and Shakespeare’s Book (William Collins)


‘Deering’s poetry displays a deep knowledge and understanding of mythology and the natural world. She uses the minutiae of nature to skilfully dissect the human condition, addressing the subjects of life, death, love, despair and hope through the powerful lens of her original verse. In the Shadow of Gods is a highly accomplished, multi-layered collection in which ‘…hidden truths/can thrive in the very depths/of lies, amphibious, cold; alive/amongst a community of bones.’


Kitty Donnelly, author of In Dangerous Hours.


‘Rachel Deering writes with scalpel-sharp precision, penning one of the finest poetry collections I’ve read in a long time. Like a seer, she draws from a historic understanding of language and spirituality, boiling them down to the letters and casting them into work like runes. There is an ancient mysticism that bleeds through this book, but the work is not outdated – far from it. Everything about this book is considered, down to the last comma, imbuing the poems with fresh images and ideas at every turn. In the Shadow of Gods is the future of poetry.’


Briony Collins, author of The Birds, The Rabbits, the Trees.


‘Reflecting our journeys and departures, Deering’s imagery and language sings of the growth replicated within nature and humanity offering a reclamation of our landscapes through deft metaphor and an inventive perspective conveying the dangers and delights of daring to live within life’s contradictions. Each piece creates a sensory realm exploring our bodies and desires, our weaknesses and will for agency; the power of the feminine threads itself through each section with Deering’s inimitable ecological voice. And, while ‘everything has a conclusion,’ from these ends come beginnings – there is a true sense of hope vibrantly alive in these necessary poems.’


Louise Machen, award-nominated writer.


‘In the Shadow of Gods transports the reader into a wild and wonderful world seeped in myth, fairy-tale and folklore, where trees stand as equals to humans, and the voices of the more-than-human are many. The pages of this collection are peopled with toads, hares, crows, salamanders… with both real and fantastical creatures. Here are poems that walk a tightrope between light and darkness, between life and death, but although the speaker ‘buried the light’ in ‘The Dead Want Their Moon Back’, it is never completely lost; we are reminded that ‘the pain of living is also its ecstasy’ (‘A Salmon is Willed Onwards’), and hope can be found ‘in a seed or the black tips of a hare’s ears’ (‘Lammas’). Deering leads the reader masterfully through five intricately painted tableaux, when we reach the final poem, we are reluctant to leave.’


Corinna Board, author of Arboreal.



There is a timeless, folkloric quality to these haunting poems. And yet, whether concerning a tree, a bird, a season, all feel fully grounded in real-world emotion and experience. Throughout, Deering brings her mostly natural subjects to multi-dimensional life: weaving mythic, cultural, landscape, scientific and historic elements together to create often stunning thoughts and images that linger. 


Whether the poet is addressing, or giving voice to a silver birch, a toad, a valley, a salamander, I find the poems share a delightful sonic quality, that compels certain lines and phrases to be read out aloud, so they can be experienced on the tongue and heard in the room. 


A beguiling collection, infused with a sense of great depth and age, often tinged with the darkest of shadows, but also lifted by the beauty of a multitude of fleeting moments; as light beams pass, questions are asked, or plants flower briefly into season. Walk into this wood of words, you may find yourself reluctant to step back out.'


Matt Gilbert, author of Street Sailing.



An interview

with Rachel Deering

Rachel, a stranger asks you what your poetry collection 'In the Shadow of Gods' is about. How would you explain the book, in it a nutshell?


I would tell them that it is a book rooted in a love of nature and how I see myself and / or human beings within it, reflected by it, disconnected from it, in the shadow of it. I would also say that the book expresses my love of folklore and language. 


Would you say the book is a continuation or a departure from your first collection, Crown of Eggshell?


I would say it's both. In one sense, I think you could say it's a continuation because my love of nature and folklore are still clear themes. However, I would say it's a bit of a departure in that I think it's a little less viscerally personal. I think, also, that my experience of writing Crown of Eggshell and the editing of it, in particular, made me a better writer. In that sense, I think (I hope) that this book is more confident.




In these poems, you seem to fuse some of the language of modern sciences into the mystery of the English woodland. Was this deliberate?


I'm not sure if it's deliberate. Which might sound odd, but I think I don't see the two as separate things to be brought together. Possibly because my reading is a hotchpotch of folklore, myth and fairytales alongside books about the biology of trees or insects. Perhaps they are already fused for me. And I think science is as deeply poetic and mysterious as any talking tree in a woodland. 


Describe one of your target readers, if you have any?


I don't think I've ever considered a target audience! I think I always just feel very grateful that anyone has taken the time to read something I've written. It's an honour, when you think about it, for anyone to give their time to read your words, to consider them, let alone buy a book of them. 


What compelled you to explore the lives of trees, birds, fish and other wildlife in such a close-up manner?


I am deeply moved by them, for one thing. I am fascinated by them, I find so much to learn in exploring them. I like researching something in all its guises and intricacies. 


What inspires your writing?


My feelings and thoughts interwoven interchangeably with my reading. I'm either inspired by something I'm reading and that takes me off on an exploration of that thing or I have a sense of something and it sparks an exploration of that thing. 


Rachel, we've nominated your book for The Forward Prize. How important is recognition for you as a writer?


Hmmm. It's very nice to be put forward and recognition helps many creatives. Obviously, I'm very chuffed about it. We all have egos; it feels good to get recognition in any field that we've put effort or work into. But I also know it's ok if we don't always get recognition, accolades or acceptances. Poetry is a very human pursuit and for everyone, it's also very subjective. And I'm just as happy sharing a poem on ABCtales or Twitter, I'm pleased that some people read them and enjoy them. I'm always thrilled if someone bought a book and said they liked it. But again, I also know it's also ok if they don't.


May 2024. Interviewed by Matthew M. C. Smith



bottom of page