GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Kerry Darbishire poet and songwriter has covers including Elkie Brooks and Hazel Dean, ‘They Say It’s Gonna Rain’ was a hit in the mid 80’s.
She grew up in the English Lake District where she continues to live on a Cumbrian fell side with her artist husband Stephen.
Since her mentorship with Judy Brown, poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust in 2013, her poems have appeared in many anthologies and magazines and she has won several competition prizes including shortlisted Bridport 2017. Her first poetry collection,
‘A Lift of Wings’ was published in 2014 by Indigo Dreams. Her biography, ‘Kay’s Ark’, the story of her mother, was published by Handstand Press in 2016 and has been very well received in Cumbria.
You can follow Kerry on Twitter: @kerrydarbishire
Cover artwork by Stephen J. Darbishire, RBA: When Spring turns to Summer
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 17 AUGUST 2018
Distance Sweet on my Tongue
The Beautiful Village
after Sean O’Brien
The village where everyone knew everyone’s business:
hens lost to foxes, the heaviest fish escaping
once more under the bridge, the little girl
who died from meningitis and my mother
placing snowdrops on her grave
for forty years. Folk clustered like midges
on the corner by the bus stop breathing in
and out chilled air to the rhythm of the river
their bent backs silhouetted against the sun
sliding tangerine light behind the pines.
I’d skirt by unnoticed to catch the crack of lives
I knew, but always too young, the newcomer
amongst real locals whose fathers worked
the quarries and farms that turned into my hoard
of adventures and freedom. At dusk
like woven threads unravelling
they’d slip off round corners through doors
painted green, to suppers ready on the table, nightcaps
by fires. I come back sometimes to hear the river,
see the cottage lamps flick on and off for strangers.
is the slow fell path we climbed
on honeysuckle evenings
when blackbirds and pipistrelles
scratched the orange glow off a night sky
your married hand
knuckled warm in mine
etched with land weather sheep trails
threading Beacon larches –
those low implicit trees
clinging to acid soil that knows
the distance roe deer run
shelter to shelter
in storm and snow.
And on that white-still morning I came here
two buzzards wheeled and cried
and I could see all the salt way
to Black Combe Hoad Heysham
clear as bird wings
pausing on the tide.
Where the fold breaks your face from head to chin
sea swells to a rocky shore below Connemara.
A pink skirt drips thrift and shells listening
to skylarks above a deep porch
where you stand arms wide as a sail
hugging me in to search
for tobacco-thick jumpers, letters unsent, tea cold
and staining the kitchen table.
This is not just a photograph
my father’s smile, me running to the swing
of big bones honed by the bay, his eyes
wise as harvest moons pitched in waves –
summers rolling out rolling back
on the mantelpiece – filling a gap.
Wind on Kitmere
You hoof a track through rhododendron hills
and stride crack willow, untie the harnessed reeds
about my throat then ride roughshod across
my flimsy skin. Even the Howgills stand back
and bare disturbed at how you trample through
peat-land and hurl the softly flowered path
to tug and hack my sullen grey with silver,
rip moorings from their slimy poles, whip summer
from my bones. Fore-rider of the rain
you breathe like Odin’s steed the way you kindle
northern trees and gap the land I sink
to feed. You steal safe shelter from roe deer
who stop to drink me year on year.
There are no other days like this
when the first swallows
fly in from Africa.
Oceans, forests and night storms
tugging at their slight wings
like the moss on my steps,
how it clings in rain,
trips me when I least expect.
Woken by insistent bells
we lay close as we could
that first morning in Milan.
May-warm, café tables dazzled
like pigeons soaring
into a seamless
We tasted everything in the window:
squid, mondeghini, almond pannacotta,
learned to eat artichokes in butter,
drink limoncello iced and exotic, oblivious
to imperfection. These days
I notice things – the easily broken,
these travellers appearing through mist
the distance sweet on my tongue.
Summer of ‘63
I never got the job in the coffee bar
to earn enough money for college.
You didn’t walk in wearing denims
and a suede waistcoat. I wasn’t swayed
miming the words to Hit the Road Jack
tapping my fingers while no-one
dropped a coin in the jukebox that jammed all the time.
I didn’t blush or splash sour cream
across the tatty melamine counter when you
weren’t watching me – watching me the way
snow falls in the night. I didn’t spill
the plastic jug of diluted orange juice
which you didn’t want anyway. No.
I wasn’t nervous, dry-throated as the rivers
that summer, my long hair backcombed and wound
in a French Pleat, in my tight checked pencil skirt
I didn’t think you noticed.
‘These poems deeply rooted in Cumbrian ground, grown over with a cornucopia of mosses and flowers, buth which reach out to the wider world.
In her attention to detail, Darbishire presents a landscape and community moving to their own timeless rhythms. The poems are heady with scent and colour, guaranteed to be sweet on the tongue.’
‘Darbishire’s narrative takes us on a meditative journey from Mallerstang Moors to Connemara, from cobwebbed lives and lost lives, to ones she heaves from the very rocks she stands on. Here, human love is cleaved into bedrock, runs like striations caught in time, and Darbishire deftly unravels them before our eyes.’
Distance Sweet on my Tongue garners a past childhood, people and places from the rivers and mountains of Cumbria to the shops of Milan. Kerry encompasses the sounds of wild geese, scents of Spring and Autumn, young dreams, a love of paintings and her taste for life.