Lesley Saunders

Lesley Saunders: Featured Poet

Adjudicating this year’s Frogmore Prize was both a privilege and a daunting task. The poem that remained at the top of the pile all the way through and took first place was Torc. Here’s the poet it belongs to…


Photo: Dwain Comissiong

and here’s the winning poem (and another for good measure!).


When they came to the place again, it was not itself,
the road had been camouflaged with bines: soft April
explosions of cress and hogweed and oxeye, a bunker

for muntjac and boar. Perhaps, as they said, the hare
had really leapt out of her breast, screaming as it went,
its huge flamey ears ablaze in the sun: London

razed, the emperor’s brazen head lolling in mud,
run hare run. But the field here’s too narrow, the road’s
heaving with iron and leather and sweat – the hare

zigzags in front of the eagle, wooden wheels trundle
hopelessly forward. (A hail of wild blossom shook
from the trees as the teeth of the harrow bit gold.)
Tilapia Nilotica
’Tis all one to lye in St Innocents Church-yard, as in the Sands of Aegypt – Sir Thomas Browne, Urne-Buriall

A soul swimming towards the afterlife
like a glint of sun eeling through reeds
is NebAmun
NebAmun the official
NebAmun in his papyrus skiff and great bead collar
heading for the lightwells the deadhouse

Hidden in the sleeve of his tunic is a glass fish
he will sometimes touch to remind him
(NebAmun the husband)
of the teeming tilapia pools
the pleasure-gardens of the reed-marsh
the blue lotus-lilies their juice

He will weigh it in his dry palm
this ripple of light with the desert at its core
and in the vial of its striped belly
a mist of sandalwood cassia cardamom
to scent the nostrils of the dead

First published in The Interpreter’s House Issue 56 (June 2014)


Lesley Saunders lives in Slough and Malmesbury. Her poems have been widely published, including in Areté, Frogmore Papers, London Review of Books, Mslexia, Poetry London, Poetry News, P N Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, The North, Warwick Review. She has published several books and pamphlets of poetry and performed her work at festivals and on the radio. Her poem ‘The Uses of Greek’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem, and she was joint winner of the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize in 2008.

Lesley has worked on collaborative projects with artists, photographers, sculptors, dancers, and a composer and choir; her poems have been set to music by various musicians. She runs occasional writing workshops, and has held several residencies, most recently at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science. Her new collection, The Walls Have Angels, is based on a residency at Acton Court, a beautiful house near Yate built for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Lesley serves on the anthology editorial advisory board of the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association. She works as an independent researcher in education and is a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, Lond

Poetry publications:

The Dark Larder (with images by Peter Hay). Reading: Corridor Press (1997).

Christina the Astonishing (with Jane Draycott and with images by Peter Hay). Reading: Two Rivers Press (1998).

Her Leafy Eye (with images by Geoff Carr). Reading: Two Rivers Press (2009).

No Doves. Cardiff: Mulfran Press (2010).

Some Languages Are Hard To Dream In (with images by Christopher Hedley-Dent). Cardiff: Mulfran Press (2010).

Cloud Camera. Reading: Two Rivers Press (2012).

The Walls Have Angels. Cardiff: Mulfran Press (forthcoming).

Academic publications on the theme of poetry/creativity:

SAUNDERS, L. (1987). (ed) Glancing Fires: An Investigation of Women’s Creativity. London: The Women’s Press. 

SAUNDERS, L. (2003). ‘On flying, writing poetry and doing educational research.’ British Educational Research Journal, 29, 2, 175–187.

SAUNDERS, L. (2006). ‘”Something made in language”: the poet’s gift?’, Management Decision (Special Issue), 44, 4, 504–11.

SAUNDERS, L. (2007). ‘An alternative way of responding to powerful ideas:  poem entitled “Five Principles of Quality in Narratives of Action Research” plus notes’, Educational Action Research, 15, 1, 33–40

PHIPPS, A. and SAUNDERS, L. (2009). ‘The sound of violets: the ethnographic potency of poetry?’Ethnography and Education Special Issue, 4, 3, 357–87.

SAUNDERS, L. (2012). ‘Silence and silences in “creativity”’, London Review of Education, 10, 2, 21525.

SAUNDERS, L. (2012). ‘The Language of Flowers? “Voice” in the Garden’. In: NORGATE, S. and PIDDINGTON, E. (eds) Poetry and Voice. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

SAUNDERS, L. (2014). ‘Do poetry and science have interesting and important things in common? Some thoughts on “parsimony” and “provisionality”’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 39, 1, 6–20.



2 thoughts on “Lesley Saunders: Featured Poet”

  1. Congratulations to Lesley on her winning poem, and to Abi for her role as judge.

    “Torc” is a fascinating poem which has the tone, wording & rhythms of a bard’s oral story-telling (or a how I imagine it  I like how we’re told specifics, but much is also left out – so there’s the feeling of an archeological dig and the assembling of pieces, when so much can never be known for sure. I now know what a torc is!!

    And I like very much also how you show us ancient Egypt in the second poem. Love that image of “A soul swimming towards the afterlife/ like a glint of sun eeling through reeds”, and your eerie repetition of “NebAmun” – and again, the tone and syntax recreates the inner talk of another place & time.

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