One of our voters when asked ‘Tell us why this gets your vote’ after selecting Mary Ford Neal’s poem simply replied ‘Jane’ and that really sums up this poem of the same name being chosen as May 2020’s Pick of the Month.

We all know Janes; we might be a little in awe of them but we love them as well. And they are the kind of people that we need in the health and social crises that we are currently going through.

Mary lives in the West of Scotland and is an academic based at the University of Strathclyde. Main themes in her poetry include the physicality of emotion, sacredness (in all its forms), and the intersubjectivity of human life. She has asked that her £30 prize be donated to the Beatson Cancer Charity.



Jane shapes the town to herself. Of the spire, the pond,
the iron bridge and the bandstand,
she is undoubted queen.

She cooks and eats, she feeds and clothes the world,
folding bodies and souls into comfortable communion.
She is a ladle, stirring.

She brings back treasures from sun-hardened places,
gives them up to the damp fingers of grass-stained children.
She is a shell haircomb.

She plays cards, quickly. She smells of cocoa powder or of lilac
and vaporises priests with a raised eyebrow.
She is a raised eyebrow.

She hardly writes at all, but when she does
the lines she makes go through to the pages underneath.

She fixes herself to the spot; she pitches tents for the lost. Are you lost?
She is a compass, pointing.

And then she moves away.

She moves away in all her beauty, in all her how-dare-yous.
She moves away in all her certainty, her life its own eloquence.
She moves away in all the crimson of our still-warm love for her.



Voters comments included:

There is a real blend of ethereal mystery but real power and physicality mixed in this – especially the first image of the ladle. That is one I think I will come back to and by voting it and leaving this comment, it will help fix the source in my mind

The vivid imagery and rhythm brings the character so strongly to life. I was moved to tears the first time I read it.

It is a moving and thought provoking poem

Lovely poem with great imagery.

The personification of place draws out aspects of self in a surprising way!

Astute yet approachable

Strong imagery, relatable, best of the bunch

Love the characterisation. Drawn into the narrative.


It was usefully described as “formidable” – I agree! 

‘Jane’ reminds me of the women in my family.

I really enjoyed the imagery used. Jane is a relatable figure. Also the poem has a strong underlying spirituality.

We all know a Jane ! Strong yet fragile, always strong.

Line by line, Jane becomes more alive in the reading. I found the poem so readable and the character relatable. It was, for me, a very moving poem

Powerfully moving and well-written. Simply beautiful.

“She is a raised eyebrow” deserves a vote in itself. Paints a great image of something so personal to Mary yet that seems so familiar.

A sublime, evocative and awe-inspiring piece.

Strongly evocative, familiar and accessible, emotional yet grounded and concrete.

I thought the poem created a clear, beautiful image of ‘Jane’ and that the final lines were very poignant.

great images, strong woman, the eyebrow!

Often repetition in poetry does not work, but here the attached imagery makes the pattern unique. She is a ladle, stirring. This set the tone. Wonderful poem.

I liked the rhythm, the pattern and the story this tells.