Gillian Henchley was brought up in Scotland, and had the dislocated life of a child sent away at the age of ten to a school in the south of England.  


She read Classics at Cambridge, specialising in classical art and archaeology, then settled for England, married and had a family.  


Gillian worked in industrial relations in the coal mining industry and subsequently as Director of Personnel at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


She now lives in the heart of Bloomsbury and overlooking the sea in Kent.


Gillian came late to poetry but from a life-long relationship with words.   She says that ever since she could hold a torch and spell out words she has been a secret under-the-blankets reader for half the night.  


Now, instead of crafting words to negotiate deals, she is able to spin them for herself, to tell a story, convey relationship or emotion.  

She acknowledges a considerable debt to her classical education, especially the great Greek playwrights.










138 x 216mm


70 pages


£8.99 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-26-8



PUB:  19th AUGUST 2016










“Gillian Henchley’s poetry confronts unpalatable truths of illicit affairs, loss, age - all processes that ravage the human condition. However, her deft touch ensures engagement with poems which are both personal and philosophical and which create an emotional space into which we are all invited and in which we find an emotional congruence.”  

Ruth O’Callaghan





Both personal and universal, these poems engage the reader into reflecting upon their own lives:


the love affairs that last and those that don’t,

the language employed in the transaction of love,

the circumstances and compromises that shape and change us.  


Gillian Henchley’s imagery is illuminated by her Scottish childhood, a classical Cambridge education and a professional life as disparate as the coal mining industry and the iconic V&A Museum.

Grazes on the Skin


Gillian Henchley

Truth and Lies


We lived in rumpled sheets of small hotels;

it seemed enough to taste the smells,

to trace your spine on every sort of bed,

then, waiting, float the empty voids. And yet

you never said you’d sever any ties,

no promises – and summer?  Most unwise.


So each July you paid another’s dues

in Tuscany amid the cypress views,

with relatives to dilute the stress

of truthfulness in every small caress.

Autumn then, in secret, all off piste

you said, as if I’d understand at least


the chanciness this simple phrase implied.

Yet even in Zagreb you couldn’t hide –

winter coming, a blight of dying leaves,

a leaching frost, that cold I now perceive

rising like a tide into your eyes.

But you never told me any lies.




Isola Bella


Mistletoe.  Each table has a spray

of holly amid the perfect spaced array:


Venetian tumblers, green and red

partnered with the slender reeds


of thin spun goblets, folded napkins

shaped like swans, cutlery in silver lines.


The voices tune to his respectful calm

measuring the menu, solemn as a psalm.


No fluster when the uninitiated fail,

prefer poussin to his corn-fed quail.


There is swing in this balletic mime

the kitchen corps, the steady rhyme


of plates processing garlanded with jus

in complementary tastes and hues.


He signals to the players on his stage

allowing each a starring role, a phase


of prominence, savours all he loves

before slow folding into coats and gloves.


The robes of white go in the laundry bin,

the floors are swept, tables set, nothing


left undone: outside bruising ice

street rubbish, squalls, north wind bite.


No use to linger, one key clicks, the other

opens to an island world, moist smother

of blankets, a spread of pills like shot,

each colour in its pot, Bella’s cough


catching at the air, drag of hair tangled

on the pillow’s sweat, food barely touched.


What makeshift care, while he is out –

a mess of lipsticked stains rim that cup,


staleness curling sly round kitchen corners,

a smear of ash unwiped upon the drainer.


He watches frowns chase across her face

imagines endings for this year, this place,


picks up a cushion turns down the light

and silently begins to set the room to right.

The Importance of Chagall


There seems to be no sequencing to days:

    they float in space, comets whose time

          has gone beyond remembering, foretelling.

              Now Tuesday drifts her skirt across

                   a Sunday, tangles tea with Friday lunch.  

                   And then – his name begins with C – that man  

              whose horse leaps joyful as a nursery rhyme

         across a midnight sky, his bride engulfed

    in thickets of white flowers splashed red

for future grief. The painter?  Russian.


That’s all the brain retrieves, although

an aftertaste like chocolate hits the tongue.

In some abandoned parking lot my mind

has dumped the furnishings of life, the lists

of English Kings and Queens, their dates.


Rows of useful facts are derelict now

    as if their fuel has suddenly run dry,

         or they have withered in an autumn wind,

              swept away as last year’s waste.

                   Does it matter yet that streets have lost

                   their place upon a map, sink nameless

              down a Council drain? That yesterday

         I asked a passer by directions home

    close by my own front door?  Called Persil

Omo like my mother fifty years ago.


There’s fur around my feet, curled comforting,

a purr vibrating up my cold pyjamas legs

I thought I’d fed him but he says not.

He is the darling of my days, Chagall,

his striped perfection and his tiger ways.






I watch you at the morning kitchen table,

unbuttoned, coffee mug in hand, at ease,

shaded like a feral cat with rings

of crudely drawn racist tattoos.


You take scrambled eggs

without thanks, eyes track

the Kempton card, fist nailing

fancied runners with a cross.


I heard you last night in bed,

those grunts, my mother’s cries;

the skin thin walls cannot conceal

that crack upon the lino floor.


I wonder which of you I hate the more.




Knitting wire


Greenham wire is meshed with tokens

– a boy’s first floppy winter hat,

stripy Babygrows, hands tied in knots

that cannot easily be undone. Pennants

dressed with flying doves and curving

lime green trees are celebrating

slogans of no great subtlety.


Arms embrace each flinching soldier

as if they were his Mum’s at home.

Gawky lads, instinctively polite, avert

their eyes from shaven heads (that leave

no hold for cops), fatigues and combat boots.


Today we organize like flocks of geese,  

without the need for loud command

into a loving deep embrace from which

the world may change or not; but I cannot

undo the changes stitched in me.  

GH amend front for web