The importance of family connections prevailed in voters’ minds and the wonderful ‘Eagle’ by Joanna Nissel is our Pick of the Month for July 2020, but it was an extraordinarily tight race with only a few votes in it.

Voters commented again and again on the beauty of Joanna’s writing and imagery and the poignancy of the poem, how it felt very personal and how they kept going back to it.

Joanna is a Brighton-based poet. She was the runner up for the 2018 New Poets Prize and has been published widely, including Tears in the Fence, The Fenland Reed, Eyeflash, and Atrium.


After Kathryn O’ Driscoll

Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?
Wasn’t it the yellow-joy chirp overheard
on the dawn walk to work

–a reminder of the things in this life
that are delicate and made of more
than the hollow-boned expanses
between their filaments of cartilage?

These days I break over a disapproving glance,
forgotten change, the endless endlessness
of doing a little better every day.
But I remember when,

before his heart stopped, my father
and I used to sit on the flint wall
in the garden and listen to the gurgle
of wood pigeons he swore were eagles.

I raised an eyebrow; he snorted, smiled,
and told me he pitied the man who married me,
this great, wise queen to whom he offered his arm.
I took it and rose, stood on the wall’s flinty precipice

and under the glow of moonlight
I could almost see the feathers sprouting,
their glint of gold so bright against the garden
and my legs, wings, ready to kick off, to dive.


Other comments included:

I loved the imagery and delicateness of the piece.

So beautiful, and resonates on many levels

It’s beauty and originality

‘Yellow-joy’ along with many other stunning uses of imagery will always get my vote. Joanna is an incredible writer.

As feel part of your life, and current to whats going on. It’s a very personal touch to real life.

Poignant and moving, I really love the imagery this poem evokes.

When I read Joanna’s poem this morning I didn’t think much of it, but throughout my work day it kept popping back into my head and made me think more and more about it. I’m a fan of things that get me thinking about them and when they make me come back and read them I really enjoy them.

Because it shows the humorous and loving relationship between father and daughter. Wonderful

Emotional and evocative piece.

I was moved by it. The expectant paternal love that has resonated through this poem brought me to tears.

Beautifully delicate and calming

Love the way it’s written you almost feel in the moment there with the author

Beautifully written, felt completely captivated by the prose

Its beautiful, powerful, and skillfully written

A beautiful snapshot of a child’s memory of her father and the mystery of nature we can’t quite see but know is there.

Captures the emotion of a loved one in a beautiful and elegant way.

it reminds me of the moments with my grandparents, filled with the imagination they induced into my childhood mind; the journey and language within the poem was really resonant and it flowed really well to the pay off of becoming an eagle to the backdrop of pigeons!

The emotional narrative compels immersion, with the writing being truly memorable.

Beautiful imagery and perfect pace. The poem has a strong sense of humanity and juxtaposes sadness & hope most effectively.

It just had me enthralled from ‘Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?’ The images of fragility are so compelling and the way she relates it back to ‘stronger’ times with her father. The woman he saw in her and how she has become a little broken. I just love this.

Jo’s relationship with her father is beautifully described and brings a tear to my eyes.