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06 | 16 : Helen Mort


Photo by Paddy Symons

Helen Mort strikes an arborial note for the fifth poem from the 16 August Fruitmarket readers:

Grasmere Oak

Since there’s no blind, the tree outside’s
a curtain on your room, the yolk-bright mornings
breaking through. Last night, its shadow seemed
the only thing between you and the leaking dark,
the rain set loose and needling the bark.
Look close. Its leaves direct the wind.
Your world’s veiled by a moving thatch –
this is the way a hunter squints through grass,
a hide-and-seek cheat peers over their hands,
a girl looks up from underneath her fringe.

This is the landscape’s hidden hinge
where all things start and peter out:
the summers you were blind to, winters when
the tree gave back the tin-roof coloured sky,
the small, white knuckle of a distant farm.
These branches force the valley’s arm,
pin down the light, headlock the air
until there’s nothing left of it at all.
Watch how the leaves balance the sky,
then let it fall.

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985 and now lives in Cumbria, where she is poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust. She has published two pamphlets with tall-lighthouse press, the shape of every box and a pint for the ghost and her first full collection is forthcoming from Chatto and Windus in 2013. Earlier this year, she published Lie of the Land with The Wordsworth Trust: a series of poems written during her residency in Grasmere. A previous winner of the Foyle Young Poets competition, Helen received an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer prize in 2008. She was also commended in this year’s Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/08/2011 14:38

    Cracking poem. Helen’s a real talent. Though shouldn’t that be a pic of her latest pamphlet nestled in with the biog, rather than Rob’s “The Opposite of Cabbage”?

    • Andrew Philip permalink*
      03/08/2011 18:09

      It should indeed, but we’ve had trouble getting our hands on it. And damn that otherwise ever so useful “copy post” function on WordPress!


  1. 06 | 16 : Andrew Philip « Website and blog of the Scottish poet Andrew Philip

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