December poems part 3: Jo Hemmant, Penelope Shuttle, Margaret Beston



Artwork: Jenny Meilihove

The winter I understand

The long trudge across slaked fields,
soil weights on our feet, wind at our hats

and hoods, drenching us with sidelong rain
and already night has leached into the cloud

so by the time we turn into the lane,
the white house is the last of the light.

You help the boys shake off their boots, hang up
wet coats, I put the kettle on, stoke the damped stove

then we pull up chairs
and as the apple-wood smokes and spits,

the first wicks of flame take hold,
we wait like held breath

for it to burn through the week behind us,
the path it clears a salve.

Jo Hemmant      

Jo Hemmant is a poet and director of Pindrop Press. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies, won prizes in various competitions and the opening poem from her first collection The Light Knows Tricks (Doire Press, 2013) was highly commended by this year’s Forward judges. She lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and two sons.


Artwork: Sandy Dooley


Winter Journeywater lane snow1sm


Valleys full of mist,
hard at work
five minutes past dawn

Fields dip and tilt
towards a
low bright sun

Bare hedges
pluck strings of light
on a day
not quite
the shortest


Carry the misty forest
in your eye
all the way to the city

across wide grey rivers
and iron bridges

a misty multitude
of tall evergreens

so that the forest comes to the city
but the city
doesn’t suspect a thing

Penelope Shuttle


Penelope Shuttle has lived in Cornwall since 1970. She is the widow of the poet Peter Redgrove (1932-2003). 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. Her latest book, Unsent: New & Selected Poems 1980-2012 (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), is drawn from ten collections published over three decades plus a new collection, Unsent.

Landscape Winter


Artwork: Lena Kurovska

Locked in with Dylan Thomas
I lift the open book from your lap.  You point at pictures –
boys pelting cats with snowballs, the smoke filling
Mrs Prothero’s kitchen. I read, you nod at familiar
phrases: the carol-singing sea, the harp-shaped hills.
We flick the pages to Uncles snoozing after lunch,
Auntie Hannah lacing tea with rum.

But you’re keen to turn back to Mrs Prothero’s fire,
as if you’d like to capture that heat, pack it inside your head,
defrost the words from the fish-freezing waves in your brain
until ice melts and the first few letters emerge, shuffle
into groups, build sentences to circulate the room.

As more flood out, swell at our feet, we’re ankle deep
in nouns and adjectives, dictionaries spilling their contents
for us to catch, cram in our mouths, roll on our tongues,
sound out loud, like Dylan’s bombilating gong –
revelling, like children in Christmas snow.

Margaret Beston

Margaret Beston has run poetry workshops and is the founder of Roundel, a Poetry Society Stanza, based in Tonbridge, Kent, where she lives. Her collection, Long Reach River was published earlier this year: “Delicate and echoing in its imagery, and above all humane, Margaret Beston’s poetry is as fluid and graceful as it is searching” Jane Draycott.

8 thoughts on “December poems part 3: Jo Hemmant, Penelope Shuttle, Margaret Beston”

  1. Three more wonderful poems – with lines to stay in my head ……..

    “we wait like held breath

    for it to burn through the week behind us,”

    “Bare hedges
    pluck strings of light”

    “you’d like to capture that heat, pack it inside your head,”

    Thank you, all of you – you help lighten the darkest winter and the choice of illustrations is perfect.

  2. Delighted to be here with Jo and Penny and love their poems. Thank you Abi, and for the wonderful artwork.

  3. Each of these poems is absolutely wonderful – and they also complement each other – something about the tone of all these poems: making the most of things, perhaps – and a feeling of awareness and companionship and gratitude. The poems and the artwork all come together and make me feel good 🙂

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