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The Thousand Natural Shocks


Char March


ISBN 987-1-907401-45-9


£8.99 + P&P


100 pages


Publication Date 1st September 2011




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Char March is a multi-award-winning poet, playwright and fiction writer. Her credits include:  four poetry collections, six BBC Radio 4 plays, seven stage plays and numerous short stories.  She is a highly-experienced tutor in creative writing, and is Creative Writing Lecturer at Leeds College of Art & Design.  


Char has been a Fellow at Hawthornden Trust twice, and has won many regional and national awards for her writing.  She was Writer-in-Residence for Leeds Hospitals Trust, and for Ty Newydd (the National Writing Centre in Wales), and she is currently Writer-in-Residence for both the Pennine Watershed Initiative and Hull University Business School.  


Char grew up in Central Scotland and loves playing with different accents and dialect words in her writing and performances.  She now lives happily in the Yorkshire Pennines as well as spending lots of time up in the North West Highlands.  


Char worked for 20 years in a range of equal opportunities jobs before turning to fulltime writing – the experience of her own disabilities, as well as all her contact with disabled people throughout her work has given a truly vibrant tang to this powerful new collection.  


She has worked as a writer everywhere from bus stations to Opera North, and Literature Festivals to café-bars.  She loves mashed potato, laughing, kite-flying and sea-kayaking.


For information on the full range of Char’s work, please see:






Char March delights in the hidden strengths of words, her poems have a healthy toughness at their heart – the ability to surprise the reader with a candour that forces us not just to feel but also to think.”    Philip Gross (2009 TS Eliot Prize Winner)



“This collection (The thousand natural shocks) is wonderful:  so perfectly balanced, the emotion, the right amount of distance, the voices so individual, the language so rich in so many registers, but all of them hers... the images so telling, yet so lightly placed.”

Valerie Laws

97 ways to be Scots


be chieftain o’ the puddin’ race

be Soor Plooms;  be tablet

be peat-smoked wild salmon;  be deep-fried Mars bar

be tartan;  be leather-mini-kilt;  be bunnet made o’ the pie-crust

be clarsach;  be bagpipe;  be crack pipe

be Kelvinsidey;  be I’m-proud-to-be-a-Scot bumper sticker

be Castlemilk;  be East Windy West Endy;

be Dunblane;  be Lockerbie;  

be Bannockburn;  be Culloden

be clearanced;  be Wallaced and Bruced;

be Margo MacDonald;  be canni-agree-oan-the-colour-of-shite

be Gay Gordons;  be Glasgae kiss;  

be Mod;  be acid house

be Bay City Rollers;  be Annie Lennox;  be Shooglenifty

be heedrum-hodrum;  be Kenneth McKellar

be Gael;  be Sassenach;  be Doric;  be reiver;  be teuchter;  be Lallans

be Local Hero;  be Braveheart;  be Trainspotting

be Black Watch;  be Cameron Highlanders

be Islay single malt;  be meths and a gas canister

be Old Firm;  be shinty

be a high heid yin;  be a heidcase

be a stoater;  be a hoor

be a jannie;  be a jessie

be a Wee Free;  be a Piskie

be a Fenian bastard;  be a Proddy bastard

be a lad o’ pairts;  be a lang-luggit

be a pan-loafie;  be a numpty

be auld claes and parritch;  be in the Cabinet

be anti-English;  be European

be abroad;  be The Caledonian Society of Eastern Samoa

be Daily Record;  be Scotsman

be Oban Times;  be People’s Friend

be Monarch of the Glen;  be Rab C Nesbitt

be Jamessh Bond;  be Gordon Brown;  be The Broons

be laird;  be gillie;  be Oor Wullie

be having a wee dram;  be puggled;  be well on;  be pished

be fou;  be guttered;  be miraculous;  be wellied;  be steamin;  be fleein

be stoatin;  be honkin;  be stotious;  be blootered;  be steamboats;  be plootered

be paralytic

be plans ganged agley



Teenage son eats honey


A veiled man stole it

in the choking confusion of smoke;


cut waxy chunks heavy with scent

from the clagged ochre of the frames;


whirred them with the steady sound

of pigeon wings in a steel drum;


ran the amber into each fat jar.



You sit picking at yourself


with stubbed fingers that smell

of Marlboro and your last wank.


I spread pupae-fuel on your toast;

the thrum of a thousand insects.


Behind your blank eyes fizzes

a furious hormonal hive.








The Rex


It was 1962, in Anstruther,

with Auntie Eileen who snorted

when she spoke.  I wore my floppy velvet

hat that I refused to use fleaspray on

and she had on her dung-yard wellies so

not many sat near us.  And the rest

moved when we brought out our sardines

and started cracking the boiled eggs

on the armrests.  And the place emptied

when she opened up in her opera baritone

about cunnilingus not being great

when Morag had just done an all-nighter

in the lambing shed.  I slept through the film

– something with David Niven in, as ever –

my head cushioned against her missing

left breast, the armrest welding in

like another rib.  Barbour was embossed

backwards on my cheek when I woke – her

carrying me up the back-lanes home.





















We were parents


You played hide and seek

through our dreams for years

before you arrived.


Then, once we’d tigged you

– that squirm of blur

inside that pulsing screen –


we lay at night trying

not to giggle; straining

to hear your heartbeat.


You made us laugh a lot,

and disagree, and talk till 3am

of names, and whose nose you’d get.


And then you, who had lived

with us such a blink of time,



And we are left, holding

onto nothing but naming books,

and our lurching world.


For you braced your whole

6cm self, and threw our

planet off its axis.





I was writer-in-residence for Leeds Hospitals for 18 months and, while there, I worked a lot with parents who had had miscarriages, stillborn babies or disabled babies.  As well as being a writer, I also take Humanist funeral ceremonies.  I wrote this poem for the parents of a stillborn child whose funeral I was taking.  The parents had not only lost her, but they’d also had to go through several miscarriages.  My mother had 5 late miscarriages before she was able – after taking an experimental drug – to have me.  (The drug was later banned because they found it wrecks the foetus’ immune systems.)  My story in Some Girl’s Mothers (Route; 2008) more fully explores the impact of my Mum’s miscarriages.

By Janina Holubecki By Janina Holubecki By Janina Holubecki

I wonder what the Japanese for Top Withens sounds like


Today a 67-year-old woman

from Nagasaki wept


on my shoulder, sobbing out to me

her longing to stand here since,


age 13, she had devoured

Wuthering Heights, hearing


the moor wind, and Cathy’s longing,

in the sound of Shinto temple bells


and the parping traffic

on the Shianbashi road.


We stand today, my arm around

her tiny waist, as she dabs her eyes


and smiles and smiles

and we listen, together,


to the bubbling trills of curlew above

and the heavy breath below of


The Keighley and Worth Valley steam train

and to Kate Bush warbling from the Bronte Balti House.



I pull my blissed-out companion

onto the narrow gritstone pavement


as gaudy mountain bikers judder

down the cobbles where cholera flowed


in Branwell’s day, and the apothecary

didn’t sell retro pinnies,


but raw opium to ignite his dreams

of knocking his sisters’ talents


into an early grave.

9781907401459 9781907401459