Noel Williams has published poems widely in the UK, in many magazines (such as The Rialto, The North, Wasafari, Interpreter’s House, Envoi and many others) and a dozen anthologies, as well as in poetry journals in the USA, India and Mexico. With more than sixty prizes, commendations and shortlistings in poetry competitions, he’s also been nominated for the Forward Prize four times, and for the US Pushcart Prize. He’s also published a few short stories and is currently working on a book for developing poets.


He edits the online magazine Antiphon, is Associate Editor of Orbis, and reviews for The North, Envoi and other magazines. His collection Out of Breath was published in 2014.


Noel has collaborated in several exhibitions, linking poetry to art or to music (or both), and has twice held poetry exhibitions of his own work, the most notable of which was “Exploding Poetry” in 2010. He’s run many workshops and poetry events for community groups and schools, and mentored several other writers to help them publish.


He’s lived in Sheffield most of his life. His mother made steel cans for Batchelors Peas. His father serviced printing machines for the Sheffield Star. As a scholarship boy at Magdalen College School in Oxford, he published his first poems, then took a 1st in English at King’s College, Cambridge, twice winning the James Prize. His PhD at Sheffield University examined the work of William Blake, and supernatural names in literature and oral culture.


Over an academic career of 38 years, he’s published in many fields, including fairy tales, artificial intelligence, computer games and human communication, with national recognition from the ISTC. He’s now Emeritus Professor of Communication at Sheffield Hallam University.











138 x 216mm


36 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-72-5


PUB: 11th December 2017










‘Point me at the stars’ is a narrative sequence of twenty eight lyric poems telling a story of loneliness, ambition, love and loss. A lonely child grows up with promises of glory, and craving love. But he equates love with his idealistic, perhaps selfish, ambitions. In aspiring for the stars, is love inevitably lost?



“Noel Williams’ collection harnesses the mysteries of space with an admirable lightness of touch.  Poised between stars and flowers, the poems tease out the lonely hesitancies of childhood, memory and love with precision and a heartfelt lyric intensity.”

Katharine Towers

The Floating Man and The Remedies, shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize


 “As someone whose first collection was a sequence of nocturnes, I warm instantly to the title of this one and the honesty of the poems within, which surprise and delight with their range of images that convey the scale and mystery of that dark world beyond our own, distant but close at the same time.”

Will Kemp 

The Painters Who Studied Clouds, Lowland, and Nocturnes, winner of the Keats-Shelley prize


 “Laced through with questions around loneliness and the darkness that can exist in families, these are searching and restless poems, constantly looking upward to the night sky for answers about the self, what it means to love and how to make sense of the world.”  

Kim Moore

The Art of Falling and If We Could Speak Like Wolves






Noel Williams


Point me at the stars



A sedge of herons


I walk the hill. Barracking clouds

toss and snatch at Rigel.

I’m roofless as the dark.

Nudges of streetlight shuffle me along.


I’m in no hurry. It could be any night.

Following the shadowed flit of a bird

under a dogtooth holly,

I’m steered back to a blood-black lake.


I’m tempted to jump. To startle that lacquer

with stupidity. But I’m in mind of two herons

book-ended at each tip of the lake,

silver as memory on the shadowed water.


Not ghosts, each stands a caryatid

pewter-feathered, stretched

deep in unseen mud,

certain that fish will come.


I kneel at the reeds, reach to ripples almost seen.

They roll from my touch, cold

in long curving slides, shivers of water.

Birds sleek, severe.



Appreciating physics


A grey voice, tight-collared tells us again

how for a micro-second everything

that would become the universe inflated

faster than light.

    I don’t see it.


Across the benches there’s the murmur

of hangovers and exam nerves.

Quick as a predator her thin arm rises,

nails glinting the zodiac, as she asks:


So all laws came from nothing?

Through a mystery outside understanding,

creation created itself,

immutable in white and black?


Something like that. In an interval

smaller than can be counted

absence of faith expands to starlight

every galaxy unfolds around her.


I see it.





The river slopes so one stroke

deep in Grantchester poles us

all the way to Newton’s perplexed bridge,

past meadow floods of cabbage whites,

past the millpond where we skated without skates.

Time moves more slowly than the land

stretching sunset to a week.


This dilated summer

elides us bridge by bridge, swan

by swan, slow willow by willow.

I steal dark chocolate, Caerphilly, tangerines.

Act out Othello. A splinter pricks your wrist.

You watch the welling blood

slide to your elbow, a prescient lake.


On Gogmagog we lie

to plot the sky’s lines. We’re each

the other’s eiderdown and pillow.

When the Perseids descend

you draw their starfall on my hand.






Like a carrier bag caught in a tree

all the words fall out

so its shapes are made of wind,

breathed by passers-by, greyed

by frost and the depredation of crows

until shreds of polyethylene

tickertape the path with plastic autumn

where it’s scuffed underfoot by children with sticks

shouting their borrowed language.

9781910834756 author amend



Do not point me at the stars.

What’s there to hear?

Their music groans with every spark

a tinkling of the spheres,

tarantellas for the mad.


Do not point me at the stars.

What’s there to say? She is drowned

by the lake that drinks all words.

The sky is empty. Stars are not tears,

not stories. We’ve been had.




Fire garden


Where she walks

roses turn towards her.

If she smiles,

they burn.


When she bows or bends

to tap the soil around tinder,

flame fingers its way from the earth.


She buries cinders for seeds,

harvests an orange too gold to peel,

bites a peach of ginger snow,

spits stones of fire melting.


The breeze from the west lifts sparks from the thorn

scattering on the neighbours’ sky.

As she waits for her man of rime,

at her feet a tortoiseshell flares.




Mothballing the observatory


Confronting the attic

where only scraps of light remain

among the carrier bags and fairground toys,

I imagine planetoids of circling dust

massed at the pull and push of her heat

spun to her rays that burned through rock.


We’d taken slates, slashed the roof,

half-built a cantilevered frame. Sunlight’s

now irony, recolouring snapshots,

the astrolabe, backgammon pieces

stained with nail-varnish, unread Spenser,

Tarot cards, a dress faded as a burnt moth.

This press of objects and heavy time

that stoked desire, maps emptiness.


Our prismed vision bent all light.

Now memory’s fantastic as her heron ghost,

a tawdry gaze dazzled by fireworks,

startling and sparking and here and gone

whilst nothing happens on the ground.


The secrets I searched for lie here

in plain view. The sky’s not blue.

There is no sky. The stars long ran

from where we put them.

The fires of Venus, ice of Mars, steel clouds of Jupiter

and Saturn’s ring of knives are tricks I’ve played

to hide my accidental birth.


My mother left me staring at the sun.

My father stuffed night in his pillow.

And when a silver bird stooped to me from her sky

that was no syzygy but a casual touch

swapping moments of loneliness,

children’s marbles spinning in a hole.