Sometime, in a Churchyard by Louise Warren
Paekakariki Press £12.50
(16 pages of poetry, 17 illustrations by Charlotte Harker)

If you wander a short way from St Pancras International, you’ll find Old St Pancras Church nestled in its small envelope of land – easily overlooked, yet full of history. Sometime, in a Churchyard is a cunningly simple title, because on one level that’s exactly what Warren and Harker conjure up – a meditative experience of an ancient graveyard.

But Warren’s poetry is so much more than this. ‘Sometime’ is an elastic word which allows her to move across time, both in terms of historical figures such as Mary Shelley (who lost her virginity on a gravestone here), and Warren’s own mother, whose death inspired this series of poems.

“My mother is everywhere this evening.
Mopping up the spilt lemonade,
before running water into the sink,
as the last of the yellow light drains from the sky.”

In these poems, Warren is “trying to remember the patterns she made/ in the dimming of things.” Not only her mother, but non-sentient things are given a voice. Here, the stones of Old St Pancras Church speak about congregations long since dead: “. . . my spine bent into many flights of steps,/ I towered over the trees, the small churchyard. / I entered their fevered dreams/ as they lay in their sickbeds . . . my eyes followed them down the road.”

In one poem, the dead are likened to a ghost hive of bees:

“The moon is their Queen, waxing.
I fill my hands with her pale honey.
I thin myself beside her,
to the blade of a wing, to gold until I am all bee
flying in the shadow of a gravestone . . .”

None of Warren’s poems carry titles. Occasionally, this caused me slight uncertainty as to whether the next page was the start of a new poem or the continuation of the previous one. Its testimony to the sweep of Warren’s voice, that such confusion is even possible. Her lyrical cadences, tone and texture never falter, and in the end, I felt I’d experienced one continuous expression of poetic insight. Harker’s images provide valuable space to absorb how Warren is “sculpting a story/ out of this dusk”. All the images are black and white line drawings which complement the imagist poems by offering a more solid counterpoint.

Sometime, in a Churchyard is a slim volume, but poetry should never be weighed by the pound. Warren’s language is inventive, at times playful and surreal, often moving and rarely wrong-footed. Only one poem, about a crocus, felt like a filler. This is a pamphlet worthy of its place on anyone’s book shelf. I intend to take myself off to Old St Pancras and read the poems there. I won’t be alone for long. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, and Warren is a master conjuror of atmosphere and emotion, who has “. . . arranged the headstones/ like volumes of verse.”

Sometime, in a Churchyard is published by Paekakariki Press and available here.


Claire Booker lives in Brighton. Her poems have appeared most recently in Agenda, The Dark Horse, Magma, Mslexia, The Spectator and Under The Radar. Her poetry collections include A Pocketful of Chalk (Arachne Press, 2022) and The Bone That Sang (Indigo Dreams, 2020). More information at