Bethany W. Pope was born in North Carolina. She has lived in five countries and six American states.


She lived in a South Carolina orphanage from the time she was twelve until she was fifteen.


Bethany has an MA in Creative Writing from Trinity, St David's and a PhD from Aberystwyth University. Bethany has won many literary awards.


Her poetry collections include: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014) and The Rag and Boneyard (Indigo Dreams 2016).


Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016.


Bethany, now a British citizen,  was named by the Huffington Post ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’.






Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer, IDP




138 x 216mm


64 pages


£7.99 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-40-4


PUB: 11 May 2017










A message from Bethany...



“In ‘Peer Gynt’ Henrik Ibsen wrote ‘To live is to war with trolls in the vaults of heart and soul. To write is to sit in judgement of oneself.’ I have found that, in order for life to have any meaning, both sides of that prescription must be thoroughly fulfilled.


This book is the result of my own battle with the trolls, and the years of careful self-analysis which came after.


My fight took place in the antiseptic halls and

silage-scented barn of a South Carolina orphanage. Clarity came much later, once that story was focused through the crystal lens of form.


Another great writer, Margaret Atwood, said that in order to become a writer a child must be given 'solitude and books'. Loneliness, isolation, and imaginative food are required for the creation of an inner world that is strong enough to draw from.


In many ways, this collection is the record

of the space where mine grew.”


Bethany W. Pope





Bethany W. Pope

The Penalties of Bad TV


The day my father dropped me off I stole

two greasy quarters from my roommate's desk.

They were sitting, face up, in the pencil

slot and I remembered an episode

of Hey Dude which featured the mystical

Native-American character (who

was played by a Mexican) saying that coins

found face-up signified good luck for the

finder. Being twelve, and objectively messed

up, I had a loose definition of

‘finding’. But then, so did every other

kid locked behind those walls. Of course, they caught

me before my father pulled his champagne-

coloured van out of the driveway. Mrs Scott,

my new social worker, ran out and slapped

her fat palms against the dented driver’s-

side door so that he could witness my pockets

being roughly turned out. Twin bicentennial

quarters danced in her finger-cage. My father

sighed in that way he had which made my guts

clench with the knowledge of what was coming

and so I felt relieved that I would not

have to be alone with him any time

soon. Of course, I couldn't read the future;

how that small, impulsive theft paved the way

for greater ones when that same roommate reached

for me in the dark and tore me from the

inside out. Two quarters bought my father’s

disbelief forever. Fallon found a

two-bit whore and, like most cheap prostitutes,

the profits were never really mine.




Market Day in the Children's Home


There was a room full of donated clothes

sticking out from the Admin Building’s gray

stone sides. It resembled a garden shed;

cheap vinyl siding and a rickety

plywood door pointing to the parking lot.

Local Presbyterian churches sent

black plastic garbage bags full of worn shirts,

high-waisted, stone-washed jeans, and disjointed toys

which were sorted into piles according to kind.

We called what we did there shopping, as though

we had a choice beyond approximate fit,

as though we were not picturing the groins,

the breasts, the lives of the bodies who filled

these forms before us, breaking them down.




The Language of Flowers


My mother lied, saying yellow roses

were her favourite flower because jonquils were

out of season when she married in June

and she didn't want my father to know

that not everything about their wedding

was perfect. My father was in love with

the idea of perfection. He hated

everything that did not fit. A June-baby,

out-of-season, inappropriately

sexed, I could never be perfect. I loved

roots more than blossoms, and soil more than scent.

When I was twelve, I woke in the orphanage.

In early spring the garden-plots bled white-

and-orange daffodils, so flawlessly

formed that it hurt me to look at them. I

couldn't ever look away. Crouching down

between fleshy green stalks and the icy

stone wall of Siliman Cottage, I breathed

the scent of stem-sap, cedar, cow manure,

remembering the feel of my mother’s hands,

how she’d stroke my hair when she was in pain

and we’d lie there together in the breath-

moist dark. I found out today that jonquils

and daffodils are both members of the

Narcissus family; emblems of dangerous

self-absorption. My father cares nothing

for either of them. My mother convinced

herself that yellow roses are what she

wanted all along. The bright bell-mouths of

daffodils peal echoes through the folded flesh

of my brain. I see them and remember

that cold stone wall, and the terror behind it.

I feel my nails scraping a nest of white roots.










Hippocampus and Amygdala


The water of Lethe is clear and sweet —

You don't need to remember the barn, or the closet.

A draught of the past will reduce you to meat,

Pounded blood-and-bone, steaming on hay. Treat

Trash like trash. Sweep it away. Don't let it set.

The water of Lethe is clear and sweet —

It comes bottled in an orgasm; great,

Shuddering relief, followed by sleep. Pet,

A draught of the past will reduce you to meat.

Avoid things you once liked — a cow's sour-sweet

Breath, the liquor-stench of silage. Forget it.

The water of Lethe is clear and sweet,

And it comes with a price. A terrible heat

Spreads out from the almond and seahorse. Regret's

A draught of the past. It will reduce you to meat.

Grown-up little-girl, what on earth do you want?

Paradoxical erasure, your life; incomplete?

The water of Lethe is clear and sweet;

A draught of the past will reduce you to meat.




Killing Me Softly


The inmates of the younger houses ate

in the large campus cafeteria.

Older children progressively took their

meals in their cottages, learning to cook

so that, the theory went, they could function

in the world after their graduation.

By the time I reached that phase there were padlocks

on all the cabinet doors. In Brophy,

the cottage where the newest orphans were

stashed to adjust, the only in-house

food consisted of Sisco-company

off-brand rice crispy treats and nacho chips.

Sisco is a major supplier to

prisons and every morsel we ate came

either from the on-campus farm or their

warehouses. Every evening we’d gather

outside of the dark, stone-walled living-room

(the only part of the house that did not

smell like industrial cleaners — the room

the rarely-visiting parents saw) and

flock onto the back porch, into the shade

of a sprawling, spindle-limbed live-oak. Moss

flapped against the roof when the wind blew. Red

mites rained down to burrow in our naked

pores. We stood in a circle and held hands,

bowing our heads for our mandatory

prayers. One day, when it was Fallon's turn, she

squeezed my hand (my hymen-blood still drying,

dark, beneath her nails) and said, ‘Dear Lord, please

help Bethany to be less stupid, less

bad.’ My eyes snapped open and she smirked, ‘Help

her to listen to our House-Mother and

her Student Supervisor. Lord, make her

be better. Let her be quiet and good.’ I

could hear a radio playing somewhere,

at a distance; it was something I knew.

The Fugees, singing the song I was raped

to. I felt something hard and cold slide into

my guts. The world wavered, and then (praise God)

I felt nothing at all. Fallon traced her

red nail across the blue veins in my wrist.

Dinner that night was fried chicken, soggy

and cold along the pinkish bone. Dessert

was a Snickers ice-cream bar. I held it

in my lap until the vanilla warmed.

I sucked the sweet slurry heart from the milk

chocolate shell, pretending

all the time that I was pithing something else.

9 crop

'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.'


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