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Tess Jolly’s first full collection, Breakfast at the Origami Café, slides beneath emotional surfaces, the painted veneers we artfully create for ourselves, and enters the heart of darkness: loss, violence, trauma, recovery – delivered with a forensic eye for just the right amount of detail. This is art which is bold and yet vulnerable, precise in its use of language and yet passionately engaged, a book where shadows – both living and dead – are weighed, and found accountable, by an unflinching sun.


By force of imagination, these exacting poems make for a sophisticated debut which reconfigures experiences of family history, violence, illness and loss into rites of passage, charm or prayer. With a highly original gift for language, Tess Jolly's work comes from the place where storytelling meets poetic revelation. – Rachael Boast


Subtle and daring, Tess Jolly’s poetry finds language for those who often ‘vanish through the cracks’ or fold themselves ‘smaller and smaller’. Her phrasing captures the elusive, the unspoken trauma and tenderness that inhabit everyday silences. Whether teasing back the layers of family relationships or joining the adventure of a woodlouse scurrying across a page, these poems surprise yet are always deeply humane. – John McCullough

Breakfast at the Origami Café by Tess Jolly (ISBN 978-1-9164051-4-1)

  • Breakfast at the Origami Café


    Blown like leaves through the open door
    the regulars settle to ambient music
    as waitresses bring coffee and pastries,
    hot chocolate frothing with cream.
    A mother tenderly folds her daughter
    at the waist, demonstrates making a swan.
    Her husband invites her to crease
    the dotted line of his spine, butterfly-paint
    one tattooed side of his back to the other.
    In her practised fingers he’s transformed
    to an intricate bloom, a keepsake held
    in the box she’s flexed from her body.
    Scars speckle the exterior; her navel
    is pressed into the lid like a rose in paper.
    An elderly man sipping peppermint tea
    watches her work, then slowly gathers
    his skin into the snapping mouth of a fox.
    Businessmen put away their phones,
    collapse to a fleet of shining airplanes.
    Soon turtles, stars, dragons, hats decorate
    vacant tables while, outside, the wind
    flays trees, warps lamp posts, drags bins
    to different places. Nobody notices the girl
    sitting alone by the window has vanished.
    She must have folded herself smaller
    and smaller until there was nowhere left to go.

  • Tess Jolly has a degree in English Literature from the University of Roehampton, and a Masters Degree in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex. She lives on the South Coast, where she works as a library assistant and facilitates creative writing workshops for children and young people. Breakfast at the Origami Café is her first full collection.

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