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Poem by Helen Mort

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Helen Mort (pictured) this Friday.

Mort comes from Sheffield, but lives in Cambridge. There she runs a Poetry Society Stanza and helps organise CB1 Poetry nights. Her pamphlet, the shape of every box, was published by Tall-lighthouse in 2007. That same year, she received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors. She is also a past winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year prize.

Mort wrote a lot of the poems in the shape of every box between shifts or at work in a nightclub, and is currently writing a long sequence, God of the Gaps, about Sheffield nightlife. Most of her influences are drawn from contemporary Scottish and Irish poetry. She is not to be confused with her uncle, Graham Mort, also a poet - though his work continues to be an influence.

I've known Mort for several years now, and she strikes me as one of the most assured, and promising, of her emerging generation of 21st century mainstream British poets. She has a finely-tuned ear, often seemingly composing for the music, as much as the meaning, of words; but establishing a strong, emotive mood in the work. At once modest, instantly likeable, and serious, she's also refreshingly concerned with the world beyond poetry, as well (notably, her long-distance running). Her first full collection is something to look forward to.

Travelling north

with a borrowed rucksack,
an empty hip flask stowed
on the table to spare me
conversation, I am carried
at speeds no longer thought
remarkable. The carriage
moves through flanks
of brick or lucent woods
where banks formed walls
before we even dreamt
of fences, through scrap yards
and outskirts, blanked
by windows where kids once
gathered to chuck apple cores,
through the backs of new estates,
where egg-box houses
press the tracks between them,
and the flowerbeds
are furled, red handkerchiefs
for bidding leave - I wish
I knew how many of us
have passed through home
this way; close-mouthed,
fast, crossing the street to dodge
old friends we’re in no mood for.
The town’s retreat, that glimpse
of shoulder blade through doorway,
the craned necks of the beech trees
and beside it all,
our colour supplements,
the studied backs of hands,
a woman cradling
her mobile phone,
struggling to catch
some parting word
who only says
I’m losing you,
I’m –

poem by Helen Mort
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