Vane Women: The Writers
Lindsay Balderson | Sheila Binks | Joanna Boulter | Diane Cockburn | Julie Hogg | Pru Kitching | S.J. Litherland | Dorothy Long | Marilyn Longstaff | Felicity Manning | Pat Maycroft | Chris Powell | Annie Wright
loves words and the intimate relationships they form with one another. Being a typical Piscean, she has a deep interest in the mystical and magical and these often weave spells in her writing. Born in Darlington, Lindsay lives there still. In 2005, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle.
Her work has been published in various anthologies; Northern Grit, Rewriting The Map, Collecting Stones, Love in Vane (Vane Women Press), Newcastle Masters (Newcastle University), A Sudden Clatter of Voices (Ottakars). Her first collection Stripping the Blackthorn was published by Vane Women Press in October 2008. A concoction of love, torture and reflection.
Stripping the Blackthorn
In October, take your man, making sure he's tall,
and lead him up some winding country path,
which you've sworn by oath never to reveal,
though you will when the need arises.
Here, find the fruit left by previous pickers
high on the blackthorn, just out of reach,
or on the wrong side, away from the track
where others have not dared venture.
With his long arms, have him pull down
branches and hold them while you take the berries,
plump, bitter, with a cloudy bloom, belying
their depth, their sweet purple-blue richness.
Scale a dry-stone wall together,
entangling yourselves in the barbed-wire fence
meant to keep the best inaccessible,
but embrace the danger, relish the risk.
Throw scorn on the thorn, welcome the scratch,
be not deterred by surface snagging,
nor troubled by bruised shins and knees,
your sloe harvest is well worth the wait.
has never lived more than 10 miles from Mordon in Co. Durham, the village where she was born. Her first collection of poetry, One Hand Waving Free (Vane Women Press 2009) was written from happenings and observations throughout a sometimes troubled life. She used roadmaps and dreams of the USA, a country she has never yet visited, as momentary escape from raising four boisterous sons. She is fiercely proud of her northern roots.
Ooh, and she does love Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, west coasts, maps and map-books, history, sweets, karaoke and reading her words to people.
Lessons Learned at 15
We bike to a quiet place,
leave friends playing football
between seesaw and swings.
Sun burning sweat-stained t-shirts,
we kiss with tired mouths
where no-one can see us.
He smells different, sweet and spicy.
His lips taste of plum.
We smile the same sad smile,
sleep secretly under hawthorn,
his Sikh head on my stomach,
tears against a young girl's flesh.
I share his sorrow.
He should not be touching me,
my breast the wrong colour
against his beautiful hand.
His future is chosen, not by him,
and it won't include me.
Instead, I'll carry the blame,
dragged from a classroom,
pinned against a corridor window,
branded a temptress and whore.
He runs from his family,
disappears into a distant memory.
is a founder member of Vane Women. Ill-health means that she can no longer take an active role. Joanna is now a lifetime honorary member. Her first full collection Twenty Four Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich was published by Arc in 2006, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2007. This followed three pamphlet collections: Running With The Unicorns (The Bay Press 1994), On Sketty Sands (Arrowhead Press 2001) a long sequence of poems, based on her maternal family history (right back to the ancestral Welsh pirate), and The Hallucinogenic Effects of Breathing (Arrowhead Press 2003).
Her second full collection Blue Horse was published by Vane Women Press in 2014.
Joanna grew up in Wiltshire and sampled several countries in the Far East and Middle East before moving to Darlington with her family in 1989. Her work has appeared in many magazines and she's had several competition successes including First Prize in the Poetry London competition. She has a distinction in her MA, The Writing of Poetry (University of Newcastle).
The Nightingale in Love
(Le Rossignol en Amour - after Couperin)
"I'll play this one
for you," you said, out of the blue.
No prelude, then; simply, a private hearing
at a public concert. The sopranino,
smallest of the recorder family,
warmed in your breast-pocket while I sat
anonymous in the hall, schooling my face
to purely musical response.
I watched you lip the pipe
before me, breathe life into it,
tonguing the phrases into flowing shape
as underneath your hands the music grew.
Oh, the roulades, the liquid melismatic
tremblings of sound, the fainting ecstasies,
bravura passions! mellifluous risings and fallings!
The craft of it! Seduced by a vibrant column of air!
And dared I trust
such practised trillings, as bird, composer, player
poured out his heart with that consummate skill?
I thought I heard
the plangent note of genuine artistry;
but only know, every performance since
borrows your breath, your lips, to tell again
those passionate promises.
work is dark, witty and wicked. She is published in a variety of anthologies, in verse and prose. Her first pamphlet collection, Under Surveillance, was published by Vane Women Press in 1999 and she completed her MA in creative writing from Northumbria University in 2002. Her first full collection, Electric Mermaid, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2011 and the title poem was highly commended in the Forward Prize.
Originally from Belfast, she has lived in Durham since 1988, where she writes and teaches. She is currently working on her next poetry collection and first novel.
Electric Mermaid in Bell's Fish and Chip Shop
She's glowing puffed up neon in the batter tank,
frying light bulbs,
fusing fluorescent tubes
and screwing eyes round in sockets,
giving customers electric shocks.
Flicking her tail in and out of batter,
she hot hisses
into the vat of mushy peas,
her hair a scurrying mane
of current blips.
She's flirting with fresh haddock,
experimenting with crispy breadcrumbs.
Regulars settle for chips.
Owner, closing early,
shifts his cod pieces and twitches the rubber apron
to protect his assets.
Down on the docks men snigger,
well shot of her, mending
their scorched nets, nursing
fourth degree burns.
At midnight she breaks free in a shower of sparks.
Electrocutes a Tesco trolley and is away down Silver Street.
No one stops her, as she plugs into the River Wear.
Touch me baby. Touch me baby blue eyes shrivelled burnt eyes if you dare!
Turning water into fire,
she will make contact with submarines,
using radar love and no earth.
Her electric tattoos sparkle messages to divers.
debut pamphlet, Majuba Road, was published by Vane Women Press in 2016. Following an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, she has written extensively and has work published in many literary magazines and anthologies, been commissioned by the BBC to write for Teesside for National Poetry Day and is featured in a chapbook, Dark Matter 2, Black Light Engine Room Press. Julie’s poetry often escapes into flights of fancy, however never fails to come back home to her roots, the North East coastline she inhabits and loves.
I’d reached my destination,
so I continued just a little
bit further, while the sea slid
back and forth and a stationary
black bird of paradise watched
me pass along this hairline
fracture between lonely and
alone, as if the mass of a single
woman was never enough in a
utopia lacking muliebrity, I
trespassed, like a truant who
knew that life was long and
studied afternoon bronzed sky,
surreal thick and thin reeds of
steel, incognito ghosts in the
dunes, understated ochre sand
and soot all drenched in solid
golden modesty through an
apocalyptic internal monologue
of lost horizons into another era
and a cadencing feminine ending.
born in Sunderland, schooled in North Yorkshire and County Durham; wrote a lot; trained in theatre in Manchester; wrote a lot; married a painter and was widowed; didn't write; ran away to Copenhagen; travelled a lot; came back to Weardale in the North Pennines; writes a lot again.
She has had poems published in several anthologies and was longlisted for the 2007 Bridport Prize. Her first poetry pamphlet All Aboard the Moving Staircase was published by Vane Women Press in 2004. She joined Vane Women in 2006. The Krakow Egg, Pru's second poetry pamphlet, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2009, the same year that she was awarded a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North.
He uses his thickest winter brush
to paint the aurora borealis.
With one high pounce he pins down
the shifting colours seen only at night;
blacks flashed with navy blue and iceberg grey,
silver fur and tundra green. With his sharpest claw
he carves the stars in thick, sticky oils
and his moon is a bas-relief of gold.
His fast green eye misses nothing.
His second palette is earthy, dug from the roots of trees
and mixed with the colour of sweet white musk.
It is softly swept with his finest red hair to mark
the delicate lines of a worm or a mouse.
He protects his canvases by washing them
with urine. Keep away, he barks,
at nightly prowlers, sensed
through the whiskers on his legs.
sixth poetry collection The Absolute Bonus of Rain was published by Flambard Press in 2010. Recent books include The Homage (Iron Press 2006) a cricket saga about former England captain Nasser Hussain and The Work of the Wind (Flambard Press 2006) about her turbulent years with fellow poet Barry MacSweeney. Other poetry collections: The Apple Exchange (Flambard Press 1999), Flowers of Fever (Iron Press 1992) and The Long Interval (Bloodaxe Books 1986).
Born in Warwickshire, she has lived in Durham City since 1965 and has a daughter and a son and four grandsons.
Anthologies include New Women Poets (Bloodaxe) and the Forward Book of Poetry 2001. She has received two Northern Writers' Awards and twice won Commendations in the National Poetry Competition, 2003, 2012.
The Homage was nominated for Cricket Book of the Year 2006. The poem 'Bad Light' from The Homage was selected for Radio 3 Words and Music.
for Derek Walcott and Ian Bell
Sea manes toss in sympathy with his decadence
in old age, but his lack of prudence and his infatuations
comb the beaches for a clean page to write his guilt. The sea
will wash it every day. I applaud his groans and his romantic
fires ever seeking a new muse and half wishing like Yeats
to be redeemed from the last desires. He pursues, or not,
the young and lissom and hides his lust in despair, while I
greet the start of the season and watch young men play
cricket standing like narcissi in the grass/ without regret
I love beauty from a distance, at the boundary edge.
And today my muse marries his bride, his bat put aside
that delivers an electric shock, brilliant and precise,
scorning the need to run, his wrists twist in rhythm
to hold the flourish. The pleasure in his graceful pas
de deux at the crease, for he is wed to cricket and
dances at his own wedding. Today he takes another bride.
My sea is calm and untropical. I salute the great master
whose egrets arrive like fresh hopes, and still arrive,
his heart still an apprentice and innocent. I am wise.
I have written in the sand my signed resignation.
I have been writing for about twenty years, mostly poetry with occasional forays into short stories and memoir. A tangible result has been my pamphlet No Random Loving published in 2013 by Vane Women Press.
My work is usually reflection on relationships, exercises in memory, and occasional attempts at polemic. Having gained confidence through this first publication, I am now encouraged to develop my writing, particularly in exploring varying styles and form. When less distracted from my work as a local councillor - next year - there will be head space and I hope time, in every sense, as I approach my seventieth birthday, to write poetry I am proud of.
I knew where I’d left it
the cigarette case,
Eau de Nil, acid cool,
Art Deco green.
I knew where I’d left it.
Did I say it was green?
Jealousy green, bitter green
green as my chagrin.
I knew where I’d left it
and there was no request
to send it on,
no words, just an escape
on a summer morning.
When I remember, I think I may find it
Among some bric a brac
At an antique fair or boot sale.
It was my mother’s after all.
is an accomplished poet. In 2003 she received a New Writing North Promise Award, and in 2005 completed her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She is published in a range of magazines, in anthologies, and on the Web. Her first pamphlet, Puritan Games, was published by Vane Women Press in 2001. Her full collection, Sitting Among the Hoppers was published by Arrowhead Press in 2004. Marilyn’s second full collection Raiment, poems based on the theme of how we clothe our physical and spiritual selves, was published by Smokestack Books in 2011 and was selected by New Writing North's Read Regional in 2012 as one of the featured books. Her latest full collection, Articles of War, was also published by Smokestack Books, in 2017. Her new pamphlet The Museum of Spare Parts was published by mudfog press in June 2018.
After reading Philip Larkin's 'Water'
However angled light may be,
no glass of water would suffice
to capture faith for me;
perhaps for those brought up
in English Anglican ways,
of calm reflection and the nuances
that tolerate so many points of view.
Even the thought of sousing
in a furious devout drench requires
passivity, the notion of a shepherd god,
cleansing his flock with disinfectant
in a springtime rite.
The Yorkshire beck outside my window
captures more, running down steps
of unforgiving limestone bedrock.
On quiet days,
its dissembling trickle whispers past,
suggesting possibilities of safe crossing.
the gale-blown, fell-side rains
blast down this narrow gorge
and the stream rises, gushes,
roars. They knew,
those non-conformist refugees,
who hid out in these upland fells,
that their jealous God
would thunder down the valleys,
everything in his wake.
born in North London and brought up in its suburbs. Rejecting the metropolis she studied dairying at agricultural college, worked for the Milk Marketing Board and moved to Swaledale.
Between children and work as an accountant’s farm secretary she wrote poems and articles for the Dalesman magazine and wrote-produced a community play in 1987. Her forays into community writing appear in Shared Writing: Renga Days published by Morning Star.
Long Held Notes – poems of Swaledale was published by Mudfog in 2011. One of its poems was selected for a Michael Brough commission for piano, clarinet and voice and premiered at The Swaledale Festival with a second performance in Notting Hill.
Spending more time in Brittany since retirement her second book Skeins - a bilingual collection - was published in France by Editions Vagamundo in 2016.
August heat shimmers above golden maize,
fattening bullocks seek shade under the elm,
tails switching in desultory half circles.
Inside, memories are dismantled, only days
to disencumber the years, to lighten a life.
To relinquish with pain gives its own relief.
Loden-skinned walnuts will drop to the grass,
unpicked apples and plums held in suspension.
Blanched petals of wisteria fall as burnt snow.
Boxes of geraniums remain on the granite cills,
old lace curtains to defy an interior void.
The house looks unchanged and untouched.
Deadline reached, it is time for departure,
traces of blood fleck the wayward terrace vine.
Not saying goodbye, walking away.
is a visual artist who writes about the history of place, the events of daily life, of death, and of the after life.
In 1998 she gained a first class Hons Degree in photography and has since recorded some of the Nation's listed buildings for a website created by English Heritage. This work and the discovery of ancient parish boundary stones inspired Pat to write some of her best poems. A major selection of her photography and her poems appear in Northern Grit published in 2002 by Vane Women Press.
More recently, Pat has returned to swimming; not for the faint hearted as she swims in open water whenever she can! Lakes, rivers and the sea are her new inspiration for writing.
Saying Goodbye to Marjory
(In memory of my Mum, Marjory Ayres)
Through the window the
daffodils have long gone
and bluebells are thrusting their
way to bloom again
a blackbird rests at the tumbling water,
a feature in the garden where three
buckets spill from one to another
feathers flutter in a frenzy
he stands still and
then is gone.
Carers pop in to say "Goodbye"
kissing Marjory gently, one after another.
I settle to sleep as best I can
on a recliner, fit for the purpose.
lives in Weardale, so she has to do a fair bit of travelling. On her journeys she composes fragments of deathless prose in her head, and then forgets most of them.
A number of the stories she has managed to recall have been published in various magazines and anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4 in the afternoon reading slot. Her first collection of short stories Burning the Blue Winged Boys was published by Vane Women Press in 2005.
Chris joined Vane Women in 2006.
Diagonal Flight (story extract)
Win inspects her meagre wardrobe, selects black cotton trousers and the red silk jacket with gold frogging. A layer of buttery fat coats her hips after years on a western diet, but her arms still slip easily into the sleeves of the silk jacket, so all is not lost. She runs a comb through her ridiculous spiky hair, eases her feet into a pair of black slippers and bows to herself in the long mirror on the landing. Today, she is Chan Jing Wei: Chinese grandmother.
She finds a note from the daughter-in-law on the kitchen table. Win, charity bag in hall - please leave by front door when you go out. Debx. Win is her adopted name, Nana Win, for the sake of the grandchildren. She makes tea in her special blue and white china beaker, carefully replaces the lid and carries it into the front room.
This time in the morning, when she has the house to herself, is her Tai Chi Chuan time. Not so much a spiritual discipline now, but the exercise keeps her joints pliable and her back strong. She must complete a set routine before she will permit herself a sip of tea. She positions herself a few steps back from the bay window, centres her weight over her feet, breathes down to the tan tien, fixes her gaze to the roof of the house opposite. Diagonal flying: keep the weight on your left leg, turn the hips. A pair of jackdaws sidestep coquettishly along the ridge. The rain doesn't deter them. Each new year, find a mate, build a nest, rear your young and teach them to fly.
hot pamphlet collection Including Sex was published by The Bay Press in 1995. An original and scrupulous writer, her work is rich in sexual lyricism. The poems are sensual, and often frankly sexual, full of taut phrases and energetic explosions of imagery.
Her first full collection, Redemption Songs, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2003. The poems bristle with nervous energy. They make a style out of vulnerability... the book is a testament to poetry as discovery and surprise. She makes it hard for her reader to look away. (Fred D'Aguiar)
Annie's work has also been published in anthologies, including: Short and Sweet (Penguin Books), Northern Grit, Rewriting The Map, Collecting Stones and Love in Vane (Vane Women Press), North by North-East (IRON Press) and Ink on Paper (Mudfog Press and mima).
Annie is working on her next collection, Dangerous Pursuit of Yellow, inspired by the interplay between the visual arts, music and writing.
After consuming three hundred lychees
Su Dongpo is ready to compose a poem.
He unrolls paper across the floor,
takes up brush, ink, inkstone - the four
precious things - lifts brushfuls of water
onto stone. He grinds the ink stick in smooth
circles into the water. A black hole swirls
and thickens. Su Dongpo thinks of the moon,
of biting into the milky cheeks of concubines
and his long dead wife steps into the room.
The ink releases its particular fragrance -
autumn smoke from pine wood mingling
with soot, feathered from funnels
of lamps, deer horn boiled to rancid glue
overlaid with musk and crushed jade.
The moon has not yet risen. Shavings
of lychee shells, stippled pink, gleam
by hearthlight, littering the floor. Ebony beans
reflect the night. Su Dongpo's wrist flows
wanting to let a poem bubble out from a hole
in the clouds, cascade down the mountain
but the worthy subjects have left. His gut
is seized with dragons of fire in combat.
Almighty rumble. Ignoring the cloud head brush,
he chooses the axe-head for cutting strokes
swings the brush and chops. Characters tumble
and stack up into A Lament for Lychees.