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


68 pages


£8.99 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-32-9


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.'

Matthew Francis


'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 ’.

Zeeba Ansari


'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'.



Playing Alice


Jenny Hamlett

The Grey Mare's Waterfall



Discovered late evening

           the fall

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,

            hurling it

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

at Lairigmor.




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

    like flowers

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.








Village Scene



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.




Playing Alice


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


    Furniture belonged

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

    without resistance

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

JH amend

Graham Burchell