Penelope Shuttle

Penelope Shuttle: Featured Poet

                                                           Photo: Jemimah Kuhfeld


I’m writing this letter
in a garden shut-fast to us back in the day,
hungry glances over the high wall
our only chance

of glimpsing the old poet’s
courtship zone…we longed to be ushered-in,
made welcome, but previous owners
guarded their privacy…

Nowadays the place does B and B.
At last I’ve crossed the threshold
on a July afternoon
when grumpy cool wet summer

throws off its doldrums, shells out
sunshine unlimited, on tap…
…so I can tell you all about
this long-hidden garden,

bird-wild, bird-quiet.
There’s a green ha-ha,
we didn’t suspect that,
a monkey-puzzle tree the poet liked

and the pine he called ‘scorpion-tail’,
a fruit cage big as a row of cottages,
and a run of hens so smartly turned out and buffed
each one must have her own personal groomer,

apple trees, of course, and lime trees,
and twist paths,
one of them brings me to the look-out platform –
beyond fields and Valency valley, the sea’s soft blue tread…

That’s all I have to tell you
in this unsendable letter, written
while a busy-bee recording angel,
in a brighter higher garden,

writes our story,
weighing every word,
forgiving us our trespasses
and leading us from (or into) temptation…

And perhaps, to carry a theme
beyond its natural span,
you’re already reading both my letter,
and, over a feathered shoulder,
the angel’s edict and amen…

Penelope Shuttle has lived in Cornwall since 1970. She is the widow of the poet Peter Redgrove, (1932-2003). A biography of Redgrove, A LUCID DREAMER, authored by Neil Roberts, appears from Cape in January 2012, alongside Peter’s COLLECTED POEMS.

Her most recent collection SANDGRAIN AND HOURGLASS, appeared from Bloodaxe Books in October 2010, and was a Recommendation of The Poetry Book Society, and a poetry book of the year in The Financial Times.

A NEW AND SELECTED POEMS is forthcoming from Bloodaxe Books in Spring 2013, and UNSENT is taken from that volume.

In 2007 she was awarded a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry.

Shuttle’s 2006 collection, REDGROVE’S WIFE (Bloodaxe Books) was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best Single Collection, and for the T S Eliot Award.

She is a Poetry Tutor for The Arvon Foundation, Almaserra Vella in Spain, Le Moulin in France, The Poetry School, Second Light Network and Ty Newydd, etc.

She has been a judge for many major poetry competitions.

She is currently taking a ‘gap year’ from her tutoring work, but will continue to give readings.

7 thoughts on “Penelope Shuttle: Featured Poet”

  1. This is a beautiful poem from one of the few poets who can make me cry. It’s very moving – that last stanza in particular. Even the title brings a lump to the throat. I love “grumpy cool wet summer throws off its doldrums”. Thanks for a great read.

  2. Another wonderful poem from Penelope. Her poetry is always deeply moving. I have Redgrove’s Wife, Sandgrain and Hourglass and some of her earlier work and I dip into them again and again. I’ve been on residential courses with her and not only is she one of our greatest contemporary poets but very generous with the way encourages others to write.

  3. This is a gorgeous poem. I’ve been watching Penelope read on the DVD that came with the Bloodaxe anthology ‘In Person.’ That prompted me to re-read Redgrove’s Wife which I am dipping into on a daily basis. So this is a lovely surprise, and a wonderful read!

  4. Lovely. Thank you. I’ve just finished reading it for the third time. Like Valerie, I loved the line about the “grumpy, cool wet summer”.

  5. Thank you all for your comments, which are much appreciated. The poem remembers Boscastle times with Peter, and so is close to my heart! Very best, Penny x

  6. It’s lovely to see this sad poem up here, sad but celebratory. I’ve heard Penny read it, seen it on the page, but every time it appears somewhere else it acquires a new shining, like those buffed-up hens …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s