Everything All At Once


Everything All At Once‘ is a wave of feeling, stepping through the doorway into school. The size and spectre of the building that ‘looks like it fell/ like some alien planet‘ is enough. There is the obstacle course of the morning to dodge and judge- who to see, who can see you- ‘it’s just the standard/ morning state.’

With ‘D4L’ we follow a potential wave of gossip that runs through the book, and through the school day-.‘Lisa…/ Lisa and thingy’/’/People are talking.’ 

I love the poetry islands. Poems like ‘Gazelle’ where the poet describes how he feels when he runs- ‘I am peregrine falcon/ and phoenix from hell’. Steve Camden offers a comparison of ‘Snow’ with the fresh pages of a new exercise book- ‘I want to stroke it like a cat/ and make it purr for me.’ 

There are descriptions of places, as in ‘Staffroom‘ and people, like ‘New Guy’. I love the shy tone and careful message of ‘Something Starts‘- ‘He handed me a book he said he thought that I should try’

There is fear and pulsating vulnerability as in ‘Fraud‘ and ‘Science Block Toilets’ and ‘Cracks’. The two poems, ‘Vending Machine‘ and ‘It Happened This Morning, Now Everything’s Changed‘ describe an interaction from two different sides. It is so personal and lingering.

Despite Steven Camden centring his poems around an institution with which we are all familiar, there is something deeply personal. In ‘Dear Mum, BTEC‘ the poet offers… ‘Sand. Repeat. Sand. Repeat./ Touch. Feel, Smooth. Complete// It’s a language that I speak/ one that’s disappearing/ in the forest of the school/ my favourite lesson is a clearing/ Everything else feels like shoes/ that don’t fit./ I can’t stare at a computer/ I can’t scribble while I sit// I have to be in it.’

‘Everything All At Once’ is an outstanding collection of poetry. They are personal, real, empathetic and hurting. These poems move me with their truths.


Everything All At Once

School. Heaven, hell, waiting for the bell

Steven Camden aka Polar Bear

(Pan Macmillan)

‘What is it about then?’ It’s about thoughts and feelings, fears and encounters. It’s ‘Everything All At Once’, the wall of school, friendships and expectations. All of this is told through poetry. It is ‘Everything All At Once’. 

Winner of  the CLiPPA Award 2019


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