Jess Mookherjee’s The Swell – Telltale Poet Sarah Barnsley tells of its creation

I asked Telltale Poet Sarah Barnsley to give me a bit of background to this poetry collective and tell me something about their latest publication, The Swell from Jess Mookherjee which is being launched on October 5th at the Pitcher and Piano in Tunbridge Wells.


“Telltale is a poets’ publishing collective specialising in first, short, high-quality pamphlets. Telltale poets are equal members of the collective and play a part in running the Press. Poets share and learn skills (such as editing, print production, promotion, event organising), take part in regular readings and have a say in the Press’ direction. New pamphlets are published by invitation only. One of the Telltale poets suggested Jess and sent around a link to her work on the Clear Poetry website – and we all loved them! They possess an enticing blend where chattiness meets emotion, images of menace and transcendence meet the ordinary and the commonplace. The resulting pamphlet, The Swell, operates on many different levels, reflective of the multiplicity of meanings in its title – it suggests motion and fluidity, violence, maternity, growth, intensity and, of course, idiomatically, a kind of coolness – you want to hang out with it.

As well as offering a distinctive voice Jess exudes the kinds of qualities essential to a not-for-profit collective: collegiality, enthusiasm, a willingness to network, and a much welcome ‘can-do’ / ‘get-on-with-it’ attitude. She also has the credentials that we especially look for in a Telltale poet. Not only had Jess been shortlisted earlier this year for the Fair Acre pamphlet prize, she had also chalked up a strong publishing record (in Jess’ case, in a very short amount of time). And there’s clearly more to come from Jess, which is exactly what Telltale was set up to do: create stepping-stones to larger projects for exciting new poets. We’re delighted to have Jess on board.”

Sarah Barnsley



Dawn Chorus

He saw me in a late night shop
buying Marlbro’ Lights.
I only remember his beard – nothing else,
I didn’t think about how
he looked at me.
He asked me out for dinner –
what went through my mind
was did I look like I needed feeding
or just like someone who’d say yes
to a chicken dinner.
I didn’t know then, that to all men
a seventeen year old girl is beautiful –
even with ample flesh,
spiked purple hair
and art school clothes.
I can’t remember a single thing about him,
just the taste of the chicken fricassee,
the cushions of the limousine
and the dawn chorus, before light
as he drove me home.

First published in Ink, Sweat & Tears 2015
Also in Chronicles of Eve Anthology ( Paper Swans Press 2016)

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