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Jean Stevens is a poet and playwright. Her poems have been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She has won the Yorkshire Post Poetry Prize and Leeds Libraries
Writing Prize. Her previous poetry collection Undressing in Winter was launched at Ilkley Literature Festival.
Her plays have been performed at Derby Playhouse, the Edinburgh Festival, Harrogate Theatre, Leeds Grand Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, etc. Her play Twockers, Knockers and Elsie Smith was a prizewinner at the London Festival and her stand-up comedy script won the Polo Prize at London’s Comedy Store.
She has taught English Literature and Creative Writing in colleges, schools, and top security prisons and at present teaches both Creative Writing and Poetry Appreciation for the U3A.
She has also worked as a professional actress on stage, radio, film and television with credits for Brazen Hussies, Cold Enough for Snow, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, Ruffian on the Stair, The Three Sisters, etc.
She has two grown up children and lives in the Yorkshire Dales.
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£7.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 4 JANUARY 2016
All Week We’ve Waited
All week we’ve waited on the edge
of the Moray Firth – seen tides recede
and surge, endured a blowtorch sun,
sandpaper winds, and lightning flaring
across black skies – watching,
watching, desperate to see dolphins.
Our final day, for five more hours we stand
then, as the tide churns between ebb and flood
and swirls up tiny fish that lure the salmon,
children’s voices call – and, look:
tail and dorsal fins dip and rise along
the coast and in their element they come
easy riders of the waves, till more than
twenty breach the sea, bottle-nosed streaks
of white, dove grey and wetly shining black
who leap, fly, plunge, then soar again,
twisting high above the firth, clear against
the northern sky here on the slope of light.
We’re tied to earth, part of a jockeying
crowd ankle deep in waves united in our need
to get nearer to this show of grace.
An hour or more the dolphins stay, then one
by one they lift through waves and air
in a last display of dark then light then dark.
I lift out an intricate nest
woven from twigs and grass
to find tiny featherless bodies
huddled among the moss
scraps of raw flesh
that scarcely cover fragile
bones and purple veins.
As I hold the never robins
and plan their burial
I remember the two begun
children who never quite were
and the year a fledgling
fell and I lay on the lawn
close to the shivering creature
offering drops of water
on my outstretched finger.
Clumps of resilient grass
the chattering wind, the trusted stranger
an underground passage to somewhere else
a place to scatter what’s left.
I walk back down the hill
carrying her dust on heather I picked
remember her greaseproof packages
of cheese and oven bottom cake
and, as the years collide,
hear him when he sang for her.
Midnight in Cheddar Gorge
Rumbles disturb us
We unzip flimsy canvas
inch outside to mayhem
overhead - a force between us
and the sky -
and stand, wordless,
in that narrow valley
where trapped thunder
ricochets one side of the gorge
to the other and back
colliding with new stampedes
of sound that roar non-stop
off the rock among
and rain that flattens
our hair, seeping
through to skin.
We gaze upwards
tiny figures exposed
in more than daylight.
Christmas Island and Cambridge
We saw a brilliant light
as if a radiant firebar had been
switched on in our heads. It grew
bright upon bright and in front
of closed eyes we saw the bones
in our hands like pink x-rays.
Our eyes glowed in sunlight
as we lounged by the Cam
then laughing piled into a punt.
With expert hands my lover steered,
crystal drops fell among willows,
and my fingers idled through water.
A mushroom cloud arose,
glass shattered, palm trees shook,
we were knocked clean off our feet.
Salmon, cucumber, strawberries
spilled from the hamper,
our glasses foamed with champagne,
while we lay in the green
orchard of Grantchester
looking up at unclouded blue.
And that was the day
when the blinded birds
fell from the sky.
A low sun dazzles
through trees stripped
back to tracery
dripping with rain
yellow and red against
drystone walls and across
Nothing so cosy as a rainbow
but still a procession of light
where the farmer grinds
his rusty tractor over earth
and landlocked seabirds wait.
Jean Stevens’ poems range from the lyrical to the colloquial, from the moving to the witty and, although her work is rooted in her response to the Yorkshire Dales where she lives, her writing embraces the world from Australia to Zimbabwe. She displays a passion for words from the powerful to the subtle and gives expression to the experiences that mark our lives.
“Jean Stevens focuses deeply on a theme until it resonates with jewel-like clarity. She is an exciting, contemporary voice full of warmth and charm.”
“A sure hand with form, imagery and rhythms.”
“Stuff you can sink your teeth into.”
Jocelyn A. Beard
Miró ripped canvas
threw bombs of paint, railed
over the death of his friend
by torture and garrotte.
He splashed scarlet
created room-sized paintings
crawling with bodies
and scattered entrails
a journey to the edge
of madness, kicking
everything on the way,
an attempt to speak.
What he painted finally
is a line that judders, curling
again and again where the wrist
made painful turns
then stops abruptly:
into one thin black line
tight as cutting wire.
I strayed from the known route
into a dark street,
a different world of scary
shadows and black corners.
Already off balance, I stumbled
into the glaring light thrown
from a thrusting bay window.
There on display a woman
looked out on the city,
her perfect curves visible
under whispers of chiffon.
Even in that cruel light
she glowed – unbelievably beautiful.
Her eyes flashed me a message
and, though foreign to each other,
a shared language passed
between us – that knowingness
vis-à-vis men. But her smile
shook me as thread by thread
her gaze unravelled my disguise.
Encased in my tourist clothes
I was the one who seemed naked.