The Odds


Publication date 2020-02-01.

Winner of the 2018/19 International Book & Pamphlet Competition
Judged by Neil Astley, Michael Schmidt and Amy Wack

The Odds is a collection of poems about how we are all juggling with fate, or luck and chance, both good and bad — and sometimes grab the wrong end of the lighted torch.


Read a Sample


What Writers and Critics Think

  • Emma Simon is a versatile poet, drawing on a wide range of subject-matter and making use of an impressively handled variety of forms, including her own energetically updated version of Anglo-Saxon stress metre. Throughout the collection her working of the line is impressively tuned to what she evokes, from one poem’s staccato measure tracing the thoughts racing through the mind of a disbelieved Harvey Weinstein victim to another enacting the hopping and sliding of a frog, from couplet to couplet. These two examples show something of the breadth of range in The Odds: in-between we meet a latter-day Lady Macbeth, visit a poisonous laboratory (a tour de force, this one), walk on water, break down on the motorway, and find ourselves descending through space as earth-bound astronauts. All in all, a collection celebrating what MacNeice called ‘the drunkenness of things being various’.

    Neil Astley
  • Alive to the complexities and contradictions of the world, this acute and musical collection celebrates the quotidien alongside the mythical, the natural world alongside the human one. From 'The Dissolution of the Libraries' to a 'PIndaric Ode to Robert Smith of The Cure’, Simon skilfully navigates between the humorous and tragic, the philosophical and the entertaining, moving between voices and registers with pleasure-inducing panache.

    Jacqueline Saphra
  • A wordless grief lives beneath the startling language of these poems. Like bouquets hung from railings, her images express what we cannot say.

    Caroline Bird


“By focusing on the small concrete details of modern life, Simon is able to reach some incredibly important places in her poetry. Her ability to do so might remind us of the work of Kathryn Simmonds. Simon’s first full collection – surely hurtling towards us now – is going to be really something.” – Jonathan Edwards, The Poetry School (read full review here)


“Emma Simon’s imagination draws equally on enclosed darkness and lovely moments of opening … There is a fierce physical awareness in her writing, [which] shows a vital inventiveness … A talented and distinctive writer” – Alison Brackenbury, Under the Radar Issue 26 (see here)


“Emma Simon’s Smith|Doorstop pamphlet competition winner The Odds (2020) imbue[s] the everyday with a shining radiance. The juxtaposition of the quotidian and the fabular recurs throughout this impressive collection, whether in a lexically-dissolving library, an astral fun-fair, or the liminal world of a car break-down on a motorway hard-shoulder. There is a grace of restrained emotion in these poems, though heightened emotions break through the conventions of this suburban milieu where the work deals with the loss of a close one. ‘Bears’ is both an ode to the delightful, multifarious oddity of words, and a recognition of their limitations when dealing with loss. Words are, ‘difficult to hold – like knives and keys… Nothing will make this better. So we stick/to this week and the next… enjoy the unreasonable sun.’ These are knowing poems, name-checking the canon at times, while adding something fresh and vital.” The Manchester Review, 2020 (Read full review).


“Emma Simon’s range of themes is compendious yet finds a common link in absence, in anxiety, in enforced redundancy, as if obsolescence before maturity were humanity’s best endeavour. And what a disposition of standpoints: Simon’s poems are backward glances, forward leaps, jaundiced examinations of a desiccated present, whose use of language and formal arrangements exactly mirror her open-eyed preoccupations. The dexterous ‘Dissolution of the Libraries’ takes a scalpel to a landscape where ‘Words (are) whirled away’, where libraries dissolve in a pro-active measure of economy, and, in terms of the immeasurable loss, irresponsibility. Her skilled use of Old English alliteration and neologisms delivers an erosion of cultural will as figuratively destructive as the burning of an illuminated manuscript, leaving the memory of language’s fire in its wake:

‘Gone all the idolgold: the glimmerings
on paperthick and parch, that flare, facelit,
matchbright – magick as moonglare
suddenly uncloudclothed – picking out a path.’”The Yorkshire Times, 2020 (Read full review here)


The Odds examines how we are all juggling with fate, luck and chance, both good and bad — and sometimes grab the wrong end of the lighted torch. Peopled with odd characters: psychic bookies, vicious magpies, a modern day Lady Macbeth, some miracle frogs, and the owner of a dark laboratory; the poems remain rooted in friendship, family and sense of how important it is to make the most of what we have.


Emma Simon grew up in Northamptonshire, but now lives and works in London as a freelance journalist and copywriter. She has been widely published in anthologies and magazines including The Rialto, The North, and Under the Radar. She has won both the Ver Poets and Prole Laureate competitions and her debut pamphlet, Dragonish, was published by The Emma Press in 2017.