Seven Conversations with the Undertaker



You turn the lights on when you come home: tobaccoflame, click, spark.



You put splinters in your hands at work again, shutting the lids one by one. You close your eyes. I ask about tetanus jabs. You put your green thumbpalm on my blue wristvein, stifle the pulse.



you touch my hand/my bones fray/your bones touch/my hand is frayed/you fray my touch/my hand bones/hands on bones/you fray me/you fray me



We turn our backs in bed. Your fingertips leave cysts, hiving up my breast. I count them one on one on one.



At the dinner table, you fiddle with your fork. I send you smoke signals. You lick out the ashtray.



i dreamed my lungs – grew little trees – within each alveoli – which grew and shed – and split out through me – slid right through my ribs   –   my god just watch me grow a headdress headstone headpiece over this



At the twelve week scan, doctors slam out cardiacspeak. You send a text: don’t wait up.




Seven Questions


1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)

I mainly write in my bedroom with the curtains closed, sometimes in the absolute dark. This can make it very hard to see what I’m doing. I also have to have black tea, no sugar, preferably by the gallon.


2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)

I always write onto a computer. I’m a big fan of the delete key. My notebooks are just lots of lines crossed out for the first three pages and then blank, because the mess has upset me so much I’ve been forced to abandon the notebook.


3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)

I’d like to say I try for at least seven hours (an hour a day) but that might be a lie. Sometimes lots more, sometimes lots less. It depends how much tea there is in the house.


4. What time of day do you usually write?

Any of the times during which I can wear pyjamas. I’d like to say that means either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it’s more likely to actually be halfway through Sunday lunch. I like pyjamas.


5. What does it feel like to write?

Like a cross between a massive relief and a massive panic attack. Exactly like falling into a fast flowing river and simultaneously remembering that you’re both an Olympic standard swimmer and hydrophobic.


6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?

If I could pinpoint that, I’d be a much better writer! Or at least a more prolific one. I tend to be in the middle of something completely unrelated and just find myself playing word games in my head. If I find them acceptable, I write them down.

7. What are you working on now?

A poem for the Writers’ Centre Norwich 26 for Norwich project about the writer Amelia Opie. Unfortunately, all of the poems I’ve tried to write about Amelia Opie recently have ended up being about something completely unrelated, such as the Apocalypse, which is a bit daunting.


This annual Scholarship is available for students wishing to study for the MA Creative Writing: Poetry degree course and will contribute to the recipient’s full course fees for one year. Established by Kate Birch, a friend of the University, the Scholarship is named after Ink Sweat & Tears – a creative writing webzine run by Kate and edited by Bloodaxe poet Helen Ivory – which celebrates poetry, prose poetry and short fiction and promotes work that combines word and image. The Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship will be awarded by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) on the recommendation of a Selection Committee from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.  Find out more about the IS&T Scholarship here.