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Jenny Hamlett is a retired teacher of young children, and began writing poetry in middle life. Her writing later became part of her work when she facilitated creative writing workshops for dyslexic students and those in recovery from mental illness and drug or alcohol abuse, helping to develop confidence and an enjoyment of life.
She has always loved the sound and rhythm of language, and combines this with an interest in landscape and the relationship between the human and natural worlds, particularly people from the past.
Jenny was poet-in-residence for Cassies, an Isle of White garden which held a Quay Arts exhibition. She worked as part of Carn to Cove, a team taking stories and poems around village halls in Cornwall, and organised Penzance Poetry Society Stanza.
She is the current treasurer of Moor Poets in Devon.
Jenny has an MA in creative writing, and has published two children's stories and two poetry pamphlets.
Her first collection, Talisman, was published by Indigo Dreams.
Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer, IDP
138 x 216mm
£8.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 17 March 2017
In Playing Alice, her second collection, Jenny Hamlett takes as her guiding inspiration a sense of place and the people who inhabit it. She gives emotional depth to their hardships and sufferings; from Yorkshire to Cornwall, Dartmoor to the Scottish Highlands, their voices speak clearly. Into the contours of lost lives she folds her own experiences; through the book runs the thread of time and its passing, both elegiac and life-affirming. Clear-eyed and warm-hearted, these poems are written by someone who understands the nature of loss and the wonder of being alive.
'Jenny Hamlett understands that our landscape is much more than its geographical features. She evokes not only its natural beauty but also the lives of the people who have lived, worked and sometimes suffered there in poems that are both atmospheric and precise.'
'In Jenny Hamlett’s second collection landscape is her continuing inspiration; she writes with graceful clarity about hardship and care in a language of compassion uniquely her own. She understands the grief of loss and the gift of the present moment; she knows, too, the transforming nature of love, as she comes to her own hard-won understanding of ‘all the conjugations of the verb / to forgive ’.
'These are very British poems with a deep sense of history, open space, closeness, atmosphere and resignation to the vagaries of our weather. With wonderful concision, Jenny Hamlett invites us to meet family, friends, strangers and historical figures in a church, a pub, a rustic hut, a bothy, or be close by in wonderfully interpreted landscapes from Cornwall to Scotland, where, a waterfall ‘is the colour of a woman’s hair as she strides her last few years'.
The Grey Mare's Waterfall
Discovered late evening
is the colour of a woman's hair
as she strides
her last few years.
This sheer beauty
offers no pulling back
from the uninhibited
down vertical rock
a snatching of time,
into the pool.
If seconds were iron bars
she could jam
in the cog wheels of a mill
she could not keep them
against this grey fall.
Better to turn away
one slow, hard step
after another towards
the winter pass
How to Make a Dress Out of Stars
You need a clear sky no moon
or maybe the thinnest crescent
Go out on to the lawn stand
with your back to the town Listen
to the night murmur of waves
letting them drown
chatter traffic Now
is the moment for separation
Remember to pick your stars
from where the Milky Way is thickest
Even stars are not forever
Go for variety crimson gold silver
Do not spill them
Shake them gently on to the table
their fall your future
You need not be a seamstress
skilful with thimble
or swift with a needle Examine
each star minutely
You are ready Join them
into your chosen pattern
a dress radiating light
as you step out
into the forest of the dark
Honister Slate Mine
We run for the mine, escaping
a rain-soaked sky, a harsh landscape.
Little grows at the hause except slate.
Inside, in drained light, we hear
rain tattoo the thin roof.
We read notices and shiver.
Lives are resurrected in sepia photographs
docking with chisel and mallet –
riving, as slate is split down the grain,
dressing as it's shaped into roof tiles.
Old men in grimed trousers and work-boots
spent rigid-hours leaning into the task.
Ten minutes with the slate dust
in this bleak shed and we start coughing.
A wick burns in an empty house,
the flame thin and faint in daylight.
The hearth is full of soft grey ash.
A man stands in a deserted street
arms limp at his sides, face pinched white.
A wick burns in his empty house.
He sees wind breathe life through beech leaves.
The wind can't help him. He's given up the fight.
His hearth is full of soft grey ash.
With aching limbs he struggles to his beasts,
unties their halters, sets them free.
A wick burns in the empty house.
There's the green barley he planted in spring.
He'll not reap it. The fever's at its height;
his hearth is cold with soft grey ash.
Evening shadows creep across the graves.
Prayers won't work. The priest was first to die.
A wick still burns. Back in his empty house
a man kneels beside a heap of sticks
without the will to light his fire.
A wick burns in the empty house;
his heart is full of soft grey ash.
At home my long-time-ago home
replaying the same scene
again and again in my head
I can't forget a convex looking-glass
stretching my face sideways
playing games with size and shape
not to the sitting room
but to the Red Queen's domain
Surrounded by a heavy gilt frame
the mirror hung
above the piano To touch it
I climbed like a steeplejack
on the red carpet piano-seat
and with one foot on the closed lid
of the keyboard
squeezed myself into the space
between piano top and low-beamed ceiling
where longing to escape
my mother's voice
I breathed on the glass
watched it mist over and soften
until I believed
I could push the flat palm of my eager hand
through it and slide
into Looking Glass House
Now I stand on the opposite side
wanting to climb back
from Humpty Dumpty the White Knight
a shop-keeper sheep knitting
with eighteen pairs of needles
to descend from the piano
back to the sitting room
where my mother is waiting