The European Eel

These eels were born in a continent of ocean
and their parents carried into that vastness
on mindless, reliable, pot-luck currents
from Iceland, Belgium, Tunisia, Spain.

‘Steve’s research of the eel’s complex life history is reflected in this incredible long-form poem – anything shorter would not have done this fish justice.’  Dr Matthew Gollock, Marine and Freshwater Senior Programme ManagerZoological Society of London.

Longbarrow Press is delighted to announce the publication of The European Eel, a book-length poem by Steve Ely.

The European Eel is a long poem that imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish of the poem’s title. Based on Ely’s in-depth engagement with the scientific literature, discussions with leading eel researchers and conservationists, and hands-on experience with the eel in river systems across the country and abroad, The European Eel is unique not only in its sustained birth-to-death focus on the eel, but in the vivid way the eel’s riverine and marine habitats are evoked and articulated—and in its portrayal of the daunting array of anthropogenic threats that are currently threatening this once common species with extinction. Although a poem first and foremost—an Expressionistic epic monology that transforms its natural history into a quasi-gnostic affirmation of the persistence of life in the context of the Anthropocene and the Sixth Extinction—the poem’s rootedness in research enables it to transcend its status as art to function as a credible piece of informed nature writing capable of shaping ecological debate. Seventeen pages of illustrations by the award-winning artist P.R. Ruby complement and interpret the text, and detailed notes provide context that further opens up the astonishing world of the European eel.

A beautifully produced 80-page hardback, The European Eel is available now from Longbarrow Press. You can read an extract from the book here, and order it by clicking on the relevant PayPal link below (major debit cards accepted – no PayPal account required).

The European Eel

UK orders (+ £1.99 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5.25 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £8.25 postage)

‘Because so much of the lifecycle and ecological context of the European eel is unknown or merely hypothesised—that is, as much defined by absence as by presence—it leaves lots of space in which the imagination can roam. In The European Eel I have created a ‘Body of Dark’ for the eel and projected the species into it.’  In a new post for the Longbarrow Blog, Steve Ely recounts the origins and development of The European Eel, in which months of scientific research, conservation work and field studies create a space for ‘the transformative imagination’. Click here to read ‘Body of Dark’.


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Blind Skies

Somewhere in Tethys’ salty darkness,
in spurts of milt and billowing roe, eels
are birthing their posterity, a spore-storm of eggs
in uncountable centillions, each buoyed
on its micron of oil. 

Steve Ely’s The European Eel is a long poem that imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish of the poem’s title. Longbarrow Press is delighted to announce its publication as an 80-page hardback, with illustrations by award-winning artist P.R. Ruby, on 12 July; click here for further details and to order the book. You can also read an extract from The European Eel here.

‘Sheffield is a central character in Little Piece of Harm. The city is a palimpsest that provides texture and depth to individuals’ comprehension of place, and to the overall narrative of their lives. My characters’ ‘views’ are configured, metaphorically speaking, by the patterns of house lights across the hillside, and the street lamps that thread the midnight plain.’  In the last of three short essays reflecting on the themes, forms and narratives of his recent pamphlet, Little Piece of Harm, Chris Jones discusses the ‘creative variations’ that arise from revisiting ideas and tropes over the course of a writing life, and how ‘this clustering of motifs’ acts as ‘a positive organising principle’ in the new sequence. Click here to read ‘The Long Goodbye’ on the Longbarrow Blog.  ‘Whether or not you know the geography and landmarks of the city, this narrative sequence of 14 poems vividly captures that sense of how familiar surroundings can suddenly seem strange and unsettling, even threatening at times. It’s a feeling that certainly resonates after a year of lockdowns, closed public buildings and empty city streets.’  Emma Simon’s review of Little Piece of Harm is among the features and reviews gathered in The Friday Poem’s online magazine; you can read it here.  Click here to order Little Piece of Harm from Longbarrow Press.

‘To climb is to ‘place’ – very carefully – one’s feet & hands & body. This placing of parts of one’s self so as to fit stone holds or tree branches makes a series of very small but intense places. Such holds are places in miniature, and because they are miniature they are condensed.’  Our current post on the Longbarrow Blog is by Mark Goodwin, a short prose reflection (and accompanying poem) that juxtaposes memories of ‘miniature landscapes’ with an unresolved quest for ‘Crag X … a crag of the imagination’. Click here to read ‘Oak & Stone’.  Finally, Rob Hindle is Daniel Blythe’s guest on The Blythe Tapes, in which Rob discusses the themes and development of his recent Longbarrow Press collection The Grail Roads. Click here to watch the interview on YouTube.



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