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Lindsay Balderson Lindsay Balderson

Lindsay Balderson 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 now divides her time between there and the City of Newcastle where, in 2005, she completed her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

Her work has been published in various anthologies; Northern Grit, Re-Writing the Map, Collecting Stones (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.

Follow the links to read Lindsay's pieces on this site:
Fortune Teller, Kyoto
The Devil's Sonnet
Tea and Puns
The Night Before the Morning After
High Force to Low Force

Joanna Boulter Joanna Boulter

Joanna Boulter grew up in Wiltshire and sampled several countries in the Far East and Middle East before moving to Darlington with her family in 1989. She's been writing poetry forever, but in common with many other women wasn't published until she was 40. Since then her work has appeared in many magazines and she's had several competition successes. Her latest is to win First Prize in the Poetry London competition.

Her first collection, Running With The Unicorns, was published by The Bay Press in 1994. In 1997 she won a Tyrone Guthrie award from Northern Arts, enabling her to complete a long sequence of poems, On Sketty Sands, based on her maternal family history (right back to the ancestral Welsh pirate!), published by Arrowhead Press in September 2001. Her third collection The Hallucinogenic Effects of Breathing is from the same press, published May 2003. She won a Northern Promise Award this year to continue research into her sequence of poems on the composer Shostakovitch. Joanna received mentoring, as part of the Award, from David Morley of Warwick University.

Follow the links to read Joanna's pieces on this site:
A Visitation
The Might of a Pig
I Could Bless This Secluded Island
If I Were a Giant

Diane Cockburn Diane Cockburn

To say Diane Cockburn has an unusual view of life is an understatement. Her style is black humour with a slight bias towards vegetables, moths and assorted toothed creatures. She was brought up in Belfast during the Troubles, so Death regularly appears in various guises: sometimes as a potato, sometimes as a mound of saturated fat. Her first collection, Under Surveillance was published in 1999 by Vane Women Press. You can also seek her out at the sign of the sanctuary knocker . . . She is to be found on Durham Writers.
Diane joined Vane Women in February 2001.

Follow the links to read Diane's pieces on this site:
Advice On Being Offered Hawthorn Blossom
Hair Today
Do You Fancy a Paddle?
Growing Green
Following Tradition

Anne Hine Anne Hine

Anne Hine is a poet who thinks deeply, unafraid of questions of spirituality in a world often violent and uncaring. A love of language, sensual word-play and humour make her poetry speak as it enlightens. She has lived in the North for the last twenty years and has used her many life experiences as material for her writing. Her first collection Dark Matters was published by Vane Women Press in 2001.

Follow the links to read Anne's pieces on this site:
Out of Whom Seven Devils Were Cast
Female am I
Sea Offerings
Blank Page Syndrome
Pink Pebbles

Pru Kitching Pru Kitching

Pru Kitching: 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.

Follow the links to read Pru's pieces on this site:
I Am

S.J. Litherland S.J. Litherland

S.J. Litherland's work encompasses love, politics, loss, and philosophy. She has five published collections of poetry, The Long Interval (Bloodaxe 1986) Flowers of Fever (Iron Press 1992) The Apple Exchange (Flambard 1999), a four-part book, The Work of the Wind published by Flambard in July 2006, and a sequence of poems about former England cricketer Nasser Hussain The Homage from Iron Press, nominated for Cricket Book of the Year 2006. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, New Women Poets (Bloodaxe), Forward Book of Poetry 2001 and North by North-East (Iron) She has received two Northern Writers' Awards for her writing. Originally from Warwickshire, she has lived in Durham City since 1965, bringing up a son and daughter. She has four grandsons. Her sixth collection The Absolute Bonus of Rain is forthcoming from Flambard Press in Spring 2010.

Follow the links to read her pieces on this site:
Aneirin and the Sea
Fears at Fourteen
Sonnet 61
Enginehouse near Burnthouses
XXXI Durham Bus Station
The Quartz in Your Valley for Barry MacSweeney

Dorothy Long Dorothy Long

Dorothy, Dot to her friends, is wife, lover, mother, grandmother, ex-teacher, borough councillor and for one year only, Mayor of the Borough of Darlington.

Her work, mostly poetry with the odd short story reflects this varied world. Family, friends, loves and irritations, politics and prejudices are her subjects and to write a novel is her ambition. Domestic in scale, though varied in style, her poetry demonstrates an interest in pattern and form, repetition of sound and rhyme.

Follow the links to read Dorothy's pieces on this site:
No Random Loving
One Lamp Louie
Betty Blue
Big Top

Marilyn Longstaff Marilyn Longstaff

Marilyn Longstaff 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, will be published by Smokestack Books in 2011. Most recently, she has been part of a group Stemistry which has been working with the poet Lisa Matthews to write in response to stem cell research.

Follow the links to read Marilyn's pieces on this site:
Tea and Puns
Engine House (Burnthouses)
Promoted to Glory

Pat Maycroft Pat Maycroft

On the fells of the upper Gaunless Valley in the wind, rain and snow is the place where Pat feels at home. A visual artist who writes about the history of place, the events of daily life, of death, and of the after life. In 1998 Pat gained a first class Honours Degree in Photography at Cleveland College of Art and Design. As a member of the Royal Photographic Society she recorded some of the Nation's listed buildings for a website created by English Heritage. Through this work and the discovery of ancient parish boundary stones, Pat has been inspired to write some of her best poems, appearing here. A major selection of her photography appears with poetry from Pat and Vane Women in Northern Grit (Vane Women Press 2002). Why not take a look at some of her other photographs on the Royal Photographic Society website. More recently, Pat has returned to keeping fit by swimming. Not for the faint hearted as she swims in open water whenever she can! She has raised 2000 swimming for charity.

You can also find her photographs here on

Follow the links to read Pat's pieces on this site:
Inglenook II
Thought for the Day
Eggleston greets Marwood
Traffic Choked City

Chris Powell Chris Powell

Chris Powell lives in Weardale and teaches performing arts in Sunderland. On her journeys between the two 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.

Follow the links to read Chris's pieces on this site:
Extract from Adele's Amazing Electric Shepherd

Annie Wright Annie Wright

Annie's hot first 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 long awaited first full collection Redemption Songs from Arrowhead Press, published April 2003, was described by Fred D'Aguiar as "unabashedly erotic".

She is literacy consultant to Darlington LEA's primary schools and loves working with teachers and children on effective ways to develop and improve their creative writing. An experienced workshop leader, Annie has led writing sessions with writers aged four to seventy plus!

Her current obsessions are with the interplay between art, sculpture, landscape and male/female relationships.

Follow the links to read Annie's pieces on this site:
The Night is Holding its Breath
Dog days
Star Man
Resting Place

Back to the button boxHOME PAGE You've read the biographies of our articulate laureates,
now continue to read a selection of their work.



The still, jasmine-scented evening air hangs heavy.
With nervous anticipation, she slowly approaches
the low, white building which lies ahead, fists clenched
in quiet determination.

A white-barred grille partitions house from street.
Hands, slick now with cold perspiration of anxiety,
pull tentatively at the chimes which herald her arrival
with jangling insistence.

Screens slide, a glance of wisdom takes an instant snapshot.
Deep, brown wells of eyes betray a flash of 'knowing',
Eastern mysticism meets Western scepticism
in shared curiosity.

With an incline of the head and a sweep of the arm,
the Fortune Teller of Kyoto bids her enter the silent room.
By moonlight and flickering lantern-light, they sit at the low table
in focused collaboration.

Haunting, oriental music, steals in through an open skylight,
as the Japanese seer, hand upturned, reaches out in invitation.
Her client, no longer afraid, offers her deeply-etched palm, exposing
her life's blueprint.

Lindsay Balderson



How to respond? when an angel comes tobogganing

whee down over the arch of a rainbow
(leaving a snazzy multicoloured trail)
and ends up tumbling heels over halo

to land thigh-high in a stand of lilies?
What to do? You brush pollen
from his white nightie, find your comb for his wings;

but this isn't what he came for. His narrow feet
grow restless as rollerblades: now he's dangerous,
a grounded comet. The air fizzes round him.

The lake is lapis, the trees are all enamelled
in emeralds, the courtyard gravelled with diamonds.
But his ruby lips are tight buttoned.

There are angels who bring messages, who ask riddles -
but this one has skied down out of heaven
to perch precarious as a rocket in a milk bottle,

ready to explode the everyday. He's waiting.
You have to take a chance. And what you do
is write him a flower, pick him a bunch of poems.

Joanna Boulter




Hawthorn sprigs shimmer pink, shimmer white.
Scent strong as butter, intoxicating as burnt feathers.
Do not pick the Fairies' flower! It leaves
black luck, slams hedges shut,
sours milk and steals babies, it leaves
changelings mewling in other-world falsettos,
blasted crops, twisted faces.

Hawthorn trees glow with caged light,
feeding off moonbeams.
Branches are Fairy fiddle-bows,
bluebells cluster like courtiers,
farmers plough round them, turn a blind eye, as
Little People burrow at their roots for suck.

Blackthorn knobbles are their runic notches.
Petrified bones stained black with bog juice,
demon faces peep out of knot holes,
black as pitch, black as pickled hearts, their
hidden power crackled into blossom.

Guilty bumble bees cross themselves in flightpath,
as they carry back
unfortunate pollen to hives, and their babies grow
fairy faces and lap honey with furry tongues.

Not knowing, I pick a tight bunch for my mother,
her face lets me know, barely concealed superstition
fumbling with the cross at her neck.

It sulks outside on the windowsill,
tiny eyes watch from their bushes,
daring us to take it in.

Diane Cockburn




I am she, yes the one
Out of whom seven devils were cast,
Only seven?

Now know myself a free woman
No more a slave, a pawn, a plaything.

Liberated from lust
I honour my being
dress my hair, clothe myself decorously
Cease provoking, alluring and sly looks.

I have found my centre,
My anchor,
My still point,
A new trust.

For a compassionate heart loved me
With an unconditional love.
Did not ask my body in return,
Or my kisses, entanglements, or services.
Saw through my treacherous insecurities
And brought to life the "who I am".

You can say what you want.
Mutter darkly in your hearts
- we know who she is -
No, No, I say:  who she was
who she was.

Keep your purses closed
There's no gold can buy me now.

Anne Hine




one who thinks too much
and drinks too much

one whose blue eyes blink too much
and whose pale skin pinks too much

one for whom politics stink too much,
who thinks there's a nod and a wink too much

one who is on the brink too much,
whose heart is prone to sink too much

one whose ego shrinks too much,
whom life will always jinx too much

one whom the gods think out of synch too much
and one who is destined to flinch too much.

Pru Kitching




He is singing his world into existence,
the baby is crooning, not simple agoos
but a long discourse, his eyes, the first eyes
of addressing the audience in waiting.

He has learnt people croon these sounds
to each other, these long singing phrases,
and nod and smile and gesture. Not only people
he speaks to in their first language before

words, he is changing his world into sound.
This first ever naming, trapped in a baby's
mouth in fossil crooning, halfway between singing
and talking, this Ur-language faithfully

kept in the books of his body, encoded,
recorded. Aneirin sings of the world and sings
to the world. Next day we present him to the sea.
The sea is casting noises on the shore, crunching

water with a heavy beat, returns and lingers.
The sea a melody, the first music, the crooning wind
talking as wood talks, the pram on the sand
hushing, hushing, and clicking and clicking,

the dog rustling his paws, air thinly vibrates
with gull swoops and gull call, we are chatting and
laughing, catching words in a ball and tossing
back, the world is ariel, aural, all spaces

resounding. I show Aneirin the sea constantly
moving itself, and think the ancients were right,
stars must be singing in the high register
of light. At home Aneirin reports to us,

translating his three month old world, his eyes
concentrated on this, his first poetry,
for poetry it is, half talking, half singing,
a reincarnation of first sounds

in the first people, the world emerging
into words not yet words, phrases not yet phrases,
yet phrased and strung, this precious necklet
not yet a necklace, and wonder catches us

wonder catches people, So young and he sounds
as if he's talking. Aneirin is crooning of the sea,
of paintings on the wall, of floating
conversations, of the inborn when it was born.

S.J. Litherland




No random tracing, this,
Fingers framing tacitly
The words we needn't say.
Fingers, merest breath of hovering air,
Claiming, learning again
This line from hip to shoulder.
Words and bones articulating,
Back and belly undulating.

No random murmuring, this,
These words breathed softly, lip to lip
The words we want to say.
Mouth, merest breath of hovering air,
Stroking, loving again
This line from neck to knee.
Limbs frame thoughts intently
Bodies moving gently.

No random coupling, this,
Movement forming, making
The words that ever say,
My dearest, this caress of hovering air
Tracing, reading again
This line from hair to toe,
Is passion's expression
Of a love, an obsession.

Dorothy Long




after the title of Naomi Dum Blake's sculpture.This is in the garden (at Beth Shalom Holocaust Memorial Centre) which she has dedicated to the Dum family's ten grandchildren, who perished in Auschwitz.

It's important that there is a record
in the heart of the English countryside.
'Out of the depths have I called thee, Oh Lord.'
'Why do you forget us? Where do you hide?'

In the heart of the English countryside,
Beth Shalom - I assumed was run by Jews;
Why do you forget us? Where do you hide?
In undertaker's suits and unbrushed shoes?

At Beth Shalom, which I assumed was run by Jews,
two Christian brothers, trying to make amends,
in undertaker's suits and unbrushed shoes.
For those who never returned - families and friends,

two Christian brothers trying to make amends.
Formal rose gardens, in memory
of those who never returned - families and friends,
honour 'their courage and their dignity'.

Grandchildren's garden. In memory,
Naomi Blake, sculptress, moulds sadness and rage,
honours 'their courage and their dignity'.
For each, a red rose, a plaque with name and age.

Naomi Blake, sculptress, moulds sadness and rage
for millions who died, those dying now,
for each a red rose, a plaque with name and age.
From Rwanda, Auschwitz-Birkenau,

for millions who died, those dying now
it's important that there is a record.
From Rwanda, Auschwitz-Birkenau,
'Out of the depths have I called thee, Oh Lord.'

Marilyn Longstaff




In silent significance
she stands waiting
clothed in black
windowed to invite you in.

Mounted on ancient bricks
thumbed by men, she
beckons for a light.
This Flemish tart kindles well.

Illuminated in waxy sweetness
she draws in and exhales
with smouldering eyes.
Candles flicker.

Backed onto warm stone
surrounded by pine timbers
she lays out her stall.
An array of trinkets.

A smooth pebble lifted
from the beach.
A flat iron without laundry.
An Arabian coffee pot to simmer.

Embrace her now as the glow
fills her cheeks.
The silence is significant.
She lies waiting to pleasure.

Pat Maycroft




She wore a white blouse, a white gathered skirt she made herself in sewing classes, white pumps and a silver cross, engraved with fleur-de-lys. The cathedral roof swam with angels, the air cracked and spat out blue stars. Each precisely parcelled and shrink-wrapped movement of muscle took her closer to the sunburst of splintered ice through the eastern window. Every marble-flagged footstep, bone-cold through the thin soles of her shoes, cancelled out a sin. She knew that as surely as she knew about French irregular verbs, how electricity was conducted and that the nave, built in the fourteenth century, was the longest in Europe. Stone bishops skulked in the shadows, she recited their names like a protective credo: Walkelin, Wayneflete, William of Wykeham, Beaufort, Langton and Fox.

When she neared the end of the line she heard the flesh and blood bishop saying his words over and over again. This was nothing like all those practice sessions with shavings of water biscuit - how to let it lie on your tongue, how to swallow without biting or choking, how to generate enough saliva so it doesn't cling like ripped nylon to the back of the throat. The swallowing was always so difficult. She was thirteen years old; she hadn't eaten for six days, saving herself up for Jesus, serving herself up to God and it didn't matter that this was the wrong religion, in matters of salvation, it would do.

'Poor Adele! It's such a shame your family couldn't come,' said Mrs. Bates, 'I always think Confirmation is so special.'

Adele looked out of the mullioned window of the Chapterhouse Cafe, at the teenagers sprawled over the Buttercross amid the paper bags and bird-shit, smoking cigarettes. 'My parents had a prior engagement,' she said, mashing a slice of pink and yellow Battenburg into tiny pieces with her knife, although, actually, she hadn't told them.

Chris Powell




I gaze into the pond, wander over the grass
to the apple tree, before I realise I've not breathed.
I let it out, a telltale trail on chill air,
afraid it might be discovered, bagged,
assigned a code and used in evidence.
Trying to be normal, not to arouse suspicion,
I am eaten up with fear. I lean against
the firm back of the apple tree. It upholds me,
lightly, easily, unjudgingly. It does not harm
or bully me, blackmail or provoke. It does not
resent me, hate me or condemn.
It demands nothing from me, although it could,
as I stand here looking for stars, taking its support.
Through its upthrust arms I saw the comet,
heard the urgent message to flee.
I have climbed, hugged and harvested this tree.
I have watched it bleed sweet plasma while I wept.
Now your new leaves tremble as I say goodbye,
tomorrow, when I've run, it's you I'm going to miss.

Annie Wright


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Biographies last updated on 03 November 2018 and the selections from their work on 02 June 2013.