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CHRISSIE GITTINS’ first collection is 'Armature' (Arc) – ‘Gittins’ deadpan tone and skewed perspective mark her out as a true original – she has a genuine gift', Jane Yeh, Poetry Review. Her second is 'I’ll Dress One Night as You' (Salt) – ‘Restless intelligence and a distinctive voice characterise this collection of shifty perspectives and disturbing juxtapositions. A triumph.’ Peter Bennet, Other Poetry.
Her poems are widely anthologised and appear in 'A Poem for Every Day of the Year' (Macmillan), 'Poetry for a Change: A National Poetry Day Anthology' (Otter-Barry Books), and 'She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful' poems by Women (Macmillan).
Chrissie was awarded an Authors’ Foundation Award and travelled to India to follow in her father’s R.A.F. footsteps from WW11.
She subsequently wrote the sequence of poems 'Dancing in Silchar' which opens her third collection Sharp Hills.
Three of Chrissie’s children’s poetry collections were chosen for the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf and two were shortlisted for the CLiPPA Poetry Award.
Her poems feature on the Poetry Archive and have been animated for CBeebies TV. Her new and collected children’s poems 'Stars in Jars' (Bloomsbury) is a Scottish Poetry Library Recommendation.
BBC Countryfile featured her fifth children’s poetry collection 'Adder, Bluebell, Lobster' (Otter-Barry Books).
Chrissie’s four plays broadcast on BBC R4 received critical acclaim and starred Patricia Routledge, Jan Ravens and Bernard Cribbins.
Her second short story collection 'Between Here and Knitwear' (Unthank Books) was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards and reviewed in the TLS, and the Sunday Times – ‘exceptional’, Phil Baker. Helen Dunmore chose it as one of her top two collections of 2015.
Chrissie has read at the Hay, Edinburgh and West Cork festivals, at the Aldeburgh, Ledbury and StAnza poetry festivals, and at the Poets House in New York.
She has run workshops in schools, libraries, prisons and at Buckingham Palace; she tutors for the Arvon Foundation, Authors Aloud, the Poetry Society and Newcastle University.
She has received two Arts Council Grants for the Arts, is a Hawthornden Fellow and a National Poetry Day Ambassador.
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
A set of black and white photographs taken by her father in 1940’s India was the impetus for the sequence Dancing in Silchar which opens Chrissie Gittins’ third collection. Memories searched out in India are brought forward to the attentive present. Past and present continue to collide in poems which witness loss and change. Other poems reflect on historical figures. Imagined lives are examined and pinned with details to the future.
“Chrissie Gittins’ poetry is a vivid engagement with life at every point of contact – whether in travel, art, reading, family, friendship or memory. First, you are charmed by the sheer interest and observant detail of its surfaces… then gradually you sense the grave and graceful business being done with the deepest things – loss, love, time passing – underneath.’
Prayer Flag, Nainital
My prayer flag is a bed sheet
billowing from the balcony above,
it frames the lake, lifts and curls,
hides ruffled trees lining the horizon.
I have my father’s legs,
I have his willow hands,
I have my father’s Celtic skin,
I have his hair of sand.
Diwan drives, his mobile phone
fastened to his hand.
He talks and texts, looks up, looks down
as lorries haggle round the hair pin bend.
I look up, not down the valley drop,
or sideways at the daisies on the bank.
Monkeys sit there two by two –
as they did for you in 1944.
My father rowed against the wind,
he tasted cold milk at the bar,
he saw arms of Himalayan peaks –
so near they surely couldn’t be that far.
Back home a tea towel is my prayer flag,
a gamchha spreads across my table as a cloth,
a Kashmiri shawl – dry cleaning recommended –
lies unopened in the hall.
Dancing in Silchar
In the Hotel Riya Palace goldfish swim around reception,
resting in the creases of the red leather sofa.
I show the manager my father in black and white –
here he is with a Vultee Vengence in Alipore.
In 1942 he liked to photograph the sharp hills of Chakrata,
his friends hold pineapples at Kumbhirgram –
a mere ten miles from here.
Does he know the Retreat Club here in Silchar
where his squadron came to dance?
Its new name is the Cachar Club,
but still my father is waiting,
his epaulets lying flat against his jacket,
two scalloped pockets at his chest.
He takes my hand, rests his other on my back.
My palm absorbs his warmth, his shoulder’s strength.
As we spin across the polished floor
by turn I glimpse
the fronds of palms, and violet hills applauding
through the open door.
The Dilruba Player and The Boy
A blind musician plays the dilruba,
sad sounds come from the strings.
A boy in a wheelchair appears in the audience,
his chest is congested – he wheezes and cries.
He cries and he wails –
the musician can hear him.
Moving his bow over the strings
he echoes the cries of the boy.
The boy cries once more, the musician replies,
the boy silently smiles.
So You Think You Killed Your Daughter
but here she is gathering sea lavender in the mist,
her damp curls blow into the corner of her mouth,
she stretches her arm towards the sea,
gulls circle overhead before making for the forest.
She walks the sandy path barefoot,
her bangles dangle round her wrist,
she sees her childhood friends
waiting in the dunes and breaks into a run.
You did not kill your daughter – she’s here,
cutting through a piece of silk, winding it
around her waist, striding over the kitchen floor
catching shafts of light.
And if you think you killed your daughter
why is she here, packing a suitcase
with folded cotton skirts, slipping
new lipstick into a satin purse,
re-charging her camera and her phone?
She’s looking through her window
at trees with leaves to give,
she’s breathing in this certain air
and choosing when to live.
The Unseen Life of Trees
for Esther and Jess
When the fraying skeins of silver birch
sway in the wind they think of
lulling water in the floating harbour,
the dried out plants on a deck,
the bespoke barge door cut to close
on a trapezium.
A sparse beech globe of yellow
holds an afternoon with two young friends,
who will walk through their vivid lives
beyond the end of mine.
A ball of mistletoe hangs
way up in spindle branches balancing
a trowel, a ginger cake,
and a framed copy of Jessop’s 1802
‘Design for Improving the Harbour of Bristol’.
Umber banks of oak climb the hillside
dragging children by the hand.
‘There will be time,’ they whisper,
canopy to canopy.
‘There will be time, before
all our leaves stretch out across the frosted ground.’