Denise Bennett has an MA in creative writing and has taught this subject for Portsmouth College for twenty five years. She also runs poetry workshops in community settings.


Her work has been widely published in poetry journals. Her first pamphlet collection American Dresses was published by Flarestack in 2000 and her two full length collections, Planting the Snow Queen (2011) and Parachute Silk (2015) were published by Oversteps Books.  


In 2004 she was awarded the inaugural Hamish Canham prize by the Poetry Society for her poem Changing Shape and short listed for the prize in 2014 with her poem The Ring. In 2012 she won the Hasting poetry prize with her poem The Foundling Hospital and in 2013 Parachute Silk won the Havant Literary Festival poetry competition.

She has co-edited This Island City, an anthology of poems about Portsmouth and also written a sequence of poems about the loss of The Royal George, which foundered at Spithead in 1782 with the loss of nine hundred lives.


Much of her work has been inspired by local history. In 2005 she was involved in poetry workshops in the National Museum of The Royal Navy and produced a series of poems about the  H.M.S. M33, the only surviving gunboat from the Gallipoli Campaign now displayed next to HMS Victory. Water Chits, a poem about the lack of water at Gallipoli is one of a set she wrote in response to a letter written by a bandsman/medic in 1916.  


Denise regularly reads her work at Tongues and Grooves poetry and music club at The Square Tower in Portsmouth and continues to teach for Portsmouth College. She also facilitates writing and poetry U3A groups in Havant.  In summer 2016 she ran a poetry workshop as part of the Southdowns Poetry Festival.













138 x 216mm


36 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-35-0


PUB: 6th JANUARY 2017










Water Chits is a compassionate window on the world, which deals with war, love, grief and loss. It  embraces art with poems written in response to the work of Marc Chagall, Jacob Epstein and Stanley Spencer and echoes history though words about life on board the Mary Rose.

It also draws on personal experience: rejection as a child and the care of a parent in extreme old age.



“Denise Bennett is one of Portsmouth’s best loved poets. Her gift is the ability to recreate the private and public past with sensibility. These poems, often the result of careful research, teem with vivid detail and rarely fail to hit the spot.”

Maggie Sawkins


“Denise Bennett takes us on carefully researched imaginative journeys, where much of the initial interest resides in discovering who is talking and in what situation. Whether it’s Cassandra Austen writing to her dead sister Jane, Edward Thomas writing from the trenches to his wife Helen, or men depicted in Stanley Spencer’s World War 1 paintings, the poems work through dynamic trajectories. Their conclusions are deliberately understated – and poignant.”

Joan McGavin






Water Chits


Denise Bennett

Water Chits

Gallipoli 1915


I joined the band to play the flute

to chivvy the men to war –

but mostly I was lackey to the medic,

sent out with the water chits;

scraps of paper with the words,

please let the bearer have some drinking water;

sent out to the lighter

to fetch the water shipped from Egypt.

Even in dreams I can hear

the medic’s call –

water, water – we need more water –

as if by magic, I could conjure up

eight kettles of water to wash

the wounded, to cook the meal,

to clean the mess tins,

to give ten dying men a drink.

In all this dust and heat, no one

said we would have to beg for water.




The Sadness of an April Afternoon

for Ada aged 101


I remember

the shine of her

forget-me-not blue eyes;


her hair

a tumble of burnished

auburn leaves,


lips slicked

holly-berry red,

her creamy skin


the colour

of cow-parsley

waving in the lane.


In old age

she folds her spotted

lily hands


smelling of soap.

I rub honeysuckle

into petal palms,


pin thin wisps of  

dandelion-clock hair

with a clip,


lift the cup

of water to the closed bud

of her dry mouth.




The Master Carpenter

Found on The Mary Rose


They found him on the orlop deck,

tools next to him,

his dog alongside.


Five foot seven, late thirties, they said –

poor teeth, a muscular man

with arthritic rib and spine.


And from this nest of rag and bone

they saw how he lived below the weather

by the way he’d cut a hole

in the side of the ship to let in the light.


And after they’d dredged him up,

dressed his numbered bones with flesh,

created his face, coloured his hair, his eyes,


they opened his sea chest to find:

a gimlet, a pewter plate, his back gammon set –

and piecing his life together


they boxed him up in glass,

brought him here where I stand

and imagine him holding his precious

pocket sun dial in his strong hands.














Mrs Edward Thomas Speaks


Edward spent most of his life

listening for the thrush in the lane,

the pewit’s cry or watching the tall

nettles grow around the harrow;

talking to the ploughman about the war.

I once caught him up by the barn

counting cherry-blossom petals,

one for each of the dead –

spent blossom of youth, he said.

Then there was that time he fancied

himself a rook, looking down

on the land after snow, watching winter thaw.

When Merfyn was born he bought

me sweet, white violets, laid them

on my pillow. Always his love letters

lifted me to heaven – but

there was a dark side, a time

when he took a gun and went into the woods…

That last Christmas we had was

so unexpectedly wonderful.

I dug a tree from the garden,

bought a new red dress, presents

for the children – we sang Welsh songs

by the fire. He wrote a poem for Myfanwy

about the fallow deer which began

Out into the dark and over the snow.

Those last days, we could not

look at each other, the snow lay deep –

and at our parting, when I let him go,

he went singing into the frosty air.





Fourth Portrait of Leda 1940, Bronze Sculpture of grand daughter – by Jacob Epstein


She’s coming along

from pencilled sketch to shaped clay.

Each day her head grows.

He’s twisted her coxcomb curls,

caught her smile,

captured her fat, milksop cheeks,

the song on her lips.

Tomorrow he’ll pour the molten bronze

into the mould.


When she shrieks Eppy Daddy,

he lifts her from her mother’s arms.

Her soft, petalled limbs

smelling of crushed roses.

Later he’ll show her how to loop

a daisy chain,

blow a dandelion clock

and he’ll sing a Yiddish lullaby

and rock her, rock her.








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