What Penelope Shuttle is reading


In a recent interview with Brian Lewis, Mark Goodwin says….

‘I make my poems with a close awareness of the substance of sound, but also with an awareness of space, texture, shape and pattern. So the blank paper is just as much a part of the poem as the darkness of the ink.’

In his collection Steps Mark Goodwin draws on his experience as walker and climber. There are two presiding spirits in the long poem From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny, a Walk in a North Cornwall – Thomas Hardy and Peter Redgrove. This is a walk I know well, from my visits to North Cornwall with Peter Redgrove. The poem travels from inland St Juliot to the coast. Along the way we encounter the affinities and interactions between the human dimension and the earth – stones, lichen, snail, viper… An integral thread in this poem is the radical interweaving within the text of passages by Thomas Hardy, as in this very brief extract –

set hundred
rime starlight set hundred

drawn from Hardy’s Lyonesse. Hardy, as is well-known, wrote a number of poems about Boscastle, Tintagel and the surrounding area.. After the death of his first wife Emma, this coastline inspired the extraordinary elegies he wrote for her. The embedding of cut-up extracts from Hardy’s work within Mark’s journey poem is radical. Mark disassembles and reassembles the Hardy, giving an epiphanic resonance to his own work and to the quoted material. Mark draws Hardy (and Redgrove) towards our present moment of reading. Another exciting, strange and compelling factor is the way Mark takes (mostly) end-words or words from the beginning of a line and sets them out as a ribboning echo down the right hand side of the page. These strips of words (set free from the coherence of the poem) take on new meanings and nuances, acting as chorus or living marginalia to the poem. Scrupulous response to landscape, adventurous ways of using the white space of the page, observational energy and tactility in the language combine to create an authentic sense of place, vital and transformative.

Penelope Shuttle



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.

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.