Kay Cotton was born in Portsmouth in 1945, daughter to an Admiral’s steward and a Wren cook. While raising four children she worked as a teacher, a Psychiatric Nurse, an Educational Psychologist in London and Dorset.


Writing came early, publishing late - workshops in Winchester and beyond led to wide networks within the poetry world. After moving to France in 2003 and providing a decade of courses and retreats for poets, she’s now concentrating on her own work.


She has poems in Anthologies: ‘A Speaking Silence’ edited by R.V. Bailey and Stevie Krayer, ‘Her wings of glass’ edited by Myra Schneider, Penelope Shuttle and Dilys Wood, ‘The Book of Love and Loss’ edited by R.V. Bailey and June Hall, in magazines including Acumen, Artemis, Envoi, Scintilla, The French Literary Review, The Rialto, Under the Radar and on-line.


She enjoys the combination of rural living in a ‘petit coin de paradis’ in Normandy with frequent visits to events and festivals in the U.K. as well as friends, children and grandchildren.











138 x 216mm


34 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-910834-70-1












These poems began during the last years of my friend Elizabeth Bewick’s life,

2nd May 1919 - 23rd March 2012.  


As she fought to maintain her independence despite decreasing mobility and

life-threatening illness, her vitality and indomitable spirit shone through.


After she died, I soon realised this was not a monologue but an ongoing conversation.



'Kay Cotton is a poet firmly located in the realities of the world yet open to and at home with inward experience. We learn how the pain of loss can be transformed into the rich articulation of poetry, in poems where grief is handled with the energy and power of Cotton’s very individual imagination.

Form and fluidity of language shape these

poignant disciplined poems - a memorable and assured collection.'

Penelope Shuttle


'Everyday things evoke the character of the lost loved-one, like the elegiac resonance of that ‘long-winded Scrabble game/ I cannot lose, you cannot win’. They are a fitting tribute to a respected poet and an exceptional woman.'

R.V. Bailey






Kay Cotton


The Key to Number Three









Number Three is empty


Carrying sorrow up Hyde Church Path

my feet rise and fall

in time with the rocking wheels of my bag.



I hear a child say

‘Dada, did you see the moon last night?’



At Number Six, where the door is always open

I accept a glass of wine,

allow my sorrow to lie down.




The Key to Number Three

‘Bewick Cottage’



Inside the house that is not your house,

the walls are stripped back to brick and flint,

pale ribbed timbers; royal oak, recycled

from ships floated at Chatham in Nelson’s time.

Beams that have tilted for centuries are offset

in lime plaster, bringing the house to life again.


The metal windows have gone to the tip. No jasmine

taps at the purpose built frames. Lavender doesn’t

seed itself in the cracked tarmac  by the railings.

A black R.S.J.  holds up the kitchen extension. Bricks              

from the garden privy curve behind  a new fireplace.

But you know all this.


You displaced the heart-topped cork from its niche

in the wall where your sister’s woodcuts hung.

You made the gas clicker for lighting candles disappear,            

reappear in the cutlery drawer that closes on silent runners

without the need for a jolt from a hip. They do know.

Nothing is misplaced by accident in this house.  


And I still have a key, come and go

as it pleases me; as it pleases you.



‘How like a hooky rug a life can seem,

in trust renewed

watch as the colours gleam’





Taking care


I take your hands, manicured

hands you rub together recalling

when they held a pen.


No sore cracks on your fingertips, no ink

beneath these pink varnished filberts,

no stain of work to show who you are.


I try to warm them, missing you, let my face

rest against yours;  you stretch out your arms

and bring me in.








Emptying Number Three


I rescued an angel,

a snowman and a plastic

penguin from the dark icing

of last year's Christmas cake,

wiped out the pale blue tin,

left the kitchen window open.


Not quite asleep, I hear

the rattle of the sneck.

My heart begins to thud.

The end of the world’s coming

through the creeping door.

Tick, tick, tick, the red drumstick

of the second hand beats time.

I reach for the light, find

the petals of your pot-pourri :

gold, Elizabethan burgundy,

lavender, spilling over

the chipped rim of the bowl.



‘How short a time it takes to clear a life’





The Bookcase from Number Three


Papers fall out as I lift them

from cardboard boxes. Letters, poems

in response to yours, articles about you;

friends in the news, tributes, reviews,

Christmas Greetings, photos of a launch.

Your life unfolds in my fingers. I shelve it

as you showed me, each slim volume        

in its proper place.


I muddle Mac’s and Mc’s,

stop to read what people said to you,

never heard you boast: friendships

you kept close to your heart, acquaintance

you claimed, reputations, all the names

you could have dropped are in Dewey’s hands

set in the bookcase your father made,

square now against a different wall.




St. Bartholomew’s Churchyard



A knapped flint wall, headstones too worn

to be read, a great conifer we had to cut back,

snowdrops - your mother’s birthday flowers -


shape the space by the path where your ashes lie.

There’s no sign, no mark in the grass,

no settled dip in the earth:


Next year, I’ll plant heartsease.





9781910834701 Kay 2 web



‘Sing no sad songs for me’ –

you borrowed from Rossetti.


You stole my tears.

I laminated those words,


carried them for years, but now

the taboo is leaking out of me.