Karen Dennison

Poet and artist


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Two more poems from Still Born

In my previous post I shared the first two poems from Still Born, the collaboration of response poems by Valerie Morton and me. Valerie and I each had a poem ‘in waiting’ – here is the poem I gave to Valerie and her response. For each copy that we sell we are giving £5 to Sands, the still birth and neonatal death charity. You can buy a print or pdf copy at Still Born by Valerie Morton and Karen Dennison.

Rosemary for Remembrance by Karen DennisonRosemary

Rub this rosemary between finger and thumb
to escape the walled garden where you walk
the same path. Do not cling like dead roots
to these crumbling bricks. There is more
than one sun. Listen. The river is calling,
rocking the empty boat. There is more
than one heart. I know you’re lost in the lyrics
of don’t be cruel, that each verse for you
is a windowless room. But there is more
than one song. Remember the girl setting out
in the dark, how the moon was an oyster
to be shucked, how each day slid down
your throat. There is more. There is more.

Lost by Valerie Morton

That girl has been lost for too long – singing
the same song, brushing the same path,
wearing out shoes on gravel that crunches
with the memory of feet that will never return.

Today she’ll pluck the last stem of rosemary,
suffocating amongst ground elder, crush it
between her palms, and leave behind that garden
strangled by neglect. I’ll dig deep, pull her out, drag her

along the river path, following the sun, my pace
quickening at new horizons. When I can bear
to let her go, I’ll not look back to where she sits –
but forward, where each turn in the river is a new song.

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Poetry Competition 2019 – What’s the judge looking for?

Against the Grain Poetry Press

Sarah James or Leavesley colourWe are really lucky to have the very talented poet, short story writer and editor, Sarah James, judging this year’s competition. Check out details of entering HERE.

We want to pass on some top tips to help you on your way for entering our competition and any others you fancy this year. We posed a few questions to Sarah to find out what a judge wants from a poem and also what the poet can do to ensure their poem gets further and further up the shortlist pile.

What do you look for in a poem?

I try to come to poems openly and with as few expectations or pre-conceptions as possible, particularly as a competition judge. In terms of what I’ll be looking for in this competition, I’m only really going to be able to answer that afterwards. Things that I might anticipate finding in a poem I’ll love include striking imagery and…

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Two poems from Still Born

HandsStill Born is a collaboration between Valerie Morton and me where we responded to each other’s poems. Here are the first two poems – the one Valerie gave to me and my response. For each pamphlet we sell, £5 will go to Sands, the childbirth and netonatal death charity and can be purchased at Still Born by Valerie Morton and Karen Dennison

For a Short Time by Valerie Morton

We might have held hands, danced
around each other, toes touching
in the liquid ballroom of a womb.

Thirty years too late I learn of you –
that I needn’t have feared
my shadow or frowned when mother

looked past me at something I couldn’t see
but felt I should.
I’ve sensed your presence many times –

now I know you are the song
on my pillow, the sudden
streak of light that warms my cheek,

the hand I often feel in mine –
and I wonder would you
have chewed your nails the way I do?

 

Still Born by Karen Dennison

I never got to breathe
even though I was born into air.
My pulse was quiet but you heard,
listened for it in liquid darkness.

The beat of yours lulled me to sleep,
woke me from dreaming.
When I opened my eyes I found you
crying in the shadows, suspended:

so close I never saw you whole.
I touched your face, reached
for your hand, knew we were the same
except for the puzzle of my heart,
its missing piece.


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The Paper House by Karen Dennison – Hedgehog Press

The Poetry Shed

the paper houseKaren Dennison’s second collection, The Paper House, (The Hedgehog Press) is an exquisite exploration of the landscape of childhood and childlessness, of memory and loss, of time and timelessness. Karen previously won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011 and her first collection, Counting Rain, was published in 2012.

About The Paper House:

‘Bright with startling sensory details, these are poems in which bodies, buildings and lives stand in for each other; poems of sheds, outbuildings and the paper houses of memory. Karen Dennison’s writing is playful with time, speaking the voices of those who were never given the chance to speak, mining the depths of family and inheritance as well as the brutality of loss. These are moving, wise poems, poems in which the reader becomes “a traveller / returning home to find a house familiar / yet strange.”‘ Suzannah Evans

The Paper House is available HERE and

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Karen Dennison reviews Andy Armitage’s Letters to a First Love from the Future

The Poetry Shed

aaaaaaLetters to a first love from the future by Andy Armitage charts the birth, life, death and aftermath of this first relationship that begins at school and is a heartfelt, honest and moving memorial of words.

The speaker’s love is portrayed as a form of religious worship which is betrayed by doubt and throughout the poems there is a foreshadowing of the relationship’s end and its psychological wounds.

The collection begins with Snapshot, a blurred image of which is also included before the contents page, where the couple are in the playground “heads leant together in idiot hope”. The speaker describes his hands at his sides “like the hands of a stopped clock”. Here is a longing to stop time and preserve this moment, not just its image.

The next poem, Sally, begins “on the last day I didn’t love you” and takes us to a specific moment of…

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