GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Born and brought up in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, R. V. Bailey was educated at Cambridge and Oxford. She lives in Gloucestershire.
For most of her life she has been an academic, ending her professional career as Deputy Dean of Humanities at UWE. She was the extra voice in the late U A Fanthorpe's poetry readings; together they read throughout the UK and overseas, jointly led poetry courses, and judged poetry competitions. She regularly reviews poetry.
"I never intended to write poetry. It was during a job interview (I was keen to get the job) that I heard myself abjectly agreeing to anything the interviewing panel said. Despite the fact that 'Creative Writing' was pretty well unknown at that time, there I was, rashly saying yes, yes, I'm really keen on teaching Creative Writing. I got the job; and reality entered into the situation. As a lecturer in English Literature, one of the modules I was required to teach was – 'Creative Writing'.
With some fast footwork, I somehow got away with it, but it wasn't long before my charming insubordinate students went on strike, insisting (quite rightly) that I should do all the tasks I expected them to do. Seminars became lively.
One thing followed another. Caught in the world of poetry, in the slipstream of my distinguished partner U A Fanthorpe, I have never escaped."
Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer at Indigo Dreams from Les Fauchiers by Julien Dupré
138 x 216mm
£8.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 28th NOVEMBER 2016
This is R.V. Bailey’s fifth collection, following publication of her moving and powerful poems of remembrance in The Losing Game. Here she shows that, strong as those poems are, other scenes and themes also claim her attention.
The poet’s preoccupations include the use of language and play on words, the unforeseen consequences of small actions, the countryside with its local life and characters, and illness, faith and truth, and family.
These and more personal perspectives sometimes come wrapped in a gently shocking tone or a self-deprecating form of humour. All are tackled in a typically understated way – yet with great perception and generosity of spirit – in a voice which is uniquely her own.
'RV Bailey's poems brim with warmth, decency, humour and intelligence- documents from an England we would all love to live in if we could only find it.'
Carol Ann Duffy
'A hugely worthwhile gathering-in of later makings. Here are wry observations of occasions and situations, celebrations of people seldom praised and clear-eyed visions of griefs that are faced up to and faced down.
As we read, we are at ease in the company of the poet, now laughing at her exposure of pretension, now smiling at the recognition of our own reflection and sometimes moved a little nearer to tears by her unadorned honesty.
These are skilfully-made, manageable poems and there is joy in the reading of them.'
'In A Scrappy Little Harvest, Rosie Bailey has sown a collection of poems of celebration, memory and delicately illumined grief that continue to sprout in the mind of the reader long after the book has been put down.
This is a book full of tenderness, wit and acute detail that one can reap and reap again, and always find that it yields some surprising new flavour in amongst the harvested poems."
A Scrappy Little Harvest
R. V. Bailey
A Poetry Kit 'Book of the Month'
An Old Inn Kitchen
(Frederick William Elwell, 1870-1958)
He says us girls’ll be the death of him
But that’s not true. I seen the way he looks at us.
He’s like my Dad was once, before
He went away to war and lost his wits
And Ma left home and all of us split up
And lucky me the only one of all of us
To get a berth like this. Me only twelve
When he took me on, that scared I was,
Homesick for Ma and all. He might of took
Advantage. There’s many does.
They keep me young,
These Yorkshire lassies. Feather-headed,
Flighty, forgetful, the lot of them. But then:
They keep me on my toes. If Effie hadn’t died
My own girls might have been their age.
I worry like a father. This place – I’m settled
Here, I like it. But there’s dangers for a lass.
It’s up to me to see they don’t get into trouble,
To keep them safe. And train them up.
They’d get a place in service any day
With what I’ve taught them.
What happened to them once,
What might have happened since –
This moment on a sunny afternoon
Is all we have. And all we have
Is now – our past, like theirs,
Past, our future as unreal. Only
This moment, these friends, this sunshine,
This happiness. Now.
(for Mary and Frank)
Outside, the daughters stand in cold sunlight.
We all get hugs. Thank you for coming.
Muffled in miscellaneous grief we trail inside;
Stand, when her coffin comes, then fold ourselves
Quietly back, watching our shoes, or closing eyes.
At the back, somebody gets up and speaks.
I’m lucky to have known them.
Somebody reads a poem by MacNeice.
The old man clambers upright, wheezing,
Handkerchief, glasses, white stick
Clutched like resolution. Important things
Are trying to get said through a voice
On the edge of howling.
I miss them...when my wife died...
Tears are winning. He won’t let them.
They came every day...one or the other
Choke. We wait, out of our depth.
Came to see me...kept me going...
Latecomers as we were, we didn’t add our ha’porth:
Long before we knew her name, and after, too,
Between ourselves we called her Celia Johnson.
For her beauty, wit, and a kind of shining.
Considering free love on St Mary’s Island
– Would I talk about this with Dad?
You're joking! He wouldn't have a clue.
Seventeen, free-thinkers, sophisticated, us:
Love? Free love? Of course we knew.
On the island’s springy turf we lay
Interrogating Life. We’d read such a lot:
We understood what was what.
How romantic it was; how inspiring the sea,
As twilight fell and the tide came in.
Going home, we were soaked to the knee.
Forty years on we begin to see
What we talked of then –
It was not love. And love is never free.
The little wood
There’s always a little wood somewhere
Where you think of what lies ahead:
Meeting the hostile client;
Chairing the difficult Board;
Breaking the dreadful news.
You wonder how you got here,
When almost anyone you've ever known
Would do a better job; you think
How very much you’d like to get away.
In the wood, you seem to have a choice.
Briefly you're Machiavelli.
Strategic illness calls.
In the little wood you learn the cost,
And why you're there. And who
You are. And what, in fact, you'll do.
Words, words, words
The neighbours are kind, and relieved
That I wind the clock and feed the birds,
That I’m clean and respectably dressed,
And not at a loss for words.
Shyly they ask how I’m feeling.
Oh, better, you know, getting there.
(Out of the question to speak the truth:
Damaged beyond repair.)
Words have lost their piquancy,
They’re treacherous as weather;
Ours, for instance, or yours and mine,
Or happy. Or together.