Two New Poems by Helen Mort


We are very excited today because the lovely Helen Mort has sent us two new poems from her forthcoming collection No Map Could Show Them.  Helen will be launching her collection at the festival, and we asked her to say a bit about the two poems she has sent through.  She says:

“Over the past few years, I’ve been writing a sequence of poems addressed to pioneering female mountaineers from the late 1800s to the present. As I wrote, I became interested in writing to other inspiring women too and these poems come from a sequence dedicated to the memory of Hull’s Lillian Bilocca, the subject of a brilliant book called ‘The Headscarf Revolutionaries’ by Brian Lavery.  In 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fishing fleet sank in rapid sucession in stormy conditions.  Fishwife Lillian put down her filleting knife and embarked upon a campaign for better safety, marshalling support from the docks of Hull to Downing Street.  She succeeded in changing the legislation, but along the way she was sacked from work, blacklisted by the fishing industry, mocked for her accent and sent death threats.  The second poem tries to send up the way the newspapers treated Lil, emphasising her weight rather than her actions.  The sequence about Lil appears in my new book ‘No Map Could Show Them’ which I’ll be reading from in Kendal.”

Big Lil
i.m. Lillian Bilocca and the Hull triple trawler disaster, 1968.

Lil’s dream

I dreamed Hessle Road was a river
thundering by night to the North Sea

and all the men I’d tried to warn
were channelled from their pubs and houses

fists still clutching glasses, papers,
kitchen knives. I lay down in the waters

like a boat, but I was buffeted,
I zig-zagged after them, face-down,

my body bloated in the stream. I could still see
and knew the shoals beneath weren’t fish

but scraps of hulls and decks,
dead radios. The riverbed was lined

with messages, scribbled goodbyes
to everything we’d not yet lost

to all we could not carry, would not need
where water planned on taking us.


What the papers said

We’ll fight for our lads said 17-stone Lil,
proud on the docks like a 17-stone anchor.
Each ship needs a working radio, said the fishwife,
raising herself to her full height
and full 17 stone.

Lil is meeting Harold Wilson next week
and at 17 stone, she’s bound to make an impact.
The 17-stone Hull woman has called for a reform
of fishing laws in her distinctive Yorkshire accent,
standing at 17 stone and 5 foot 5.

With 17 stone behind her, she’s looking squarely
to the future. I’m proud of her said her husband
10-stone Charlie, gazing out to sea.


Helen will be reading on the 24th June at 7.30pm with Mir Mahfuz Ali and Dove Cottage Young Poets Chimwemwe Chirwa and Emily Humble.  For tickets, please ring The Brewery Arts Centre on 01539725133 or go to The Brewery Arts Centre website

We’ve got about a month to go before the festival begins, and preparations are going well.  There are just 2 Weekend Passes left for the Festival.  A Weekend Pass is £33 and will get you into four Main Readings and three Talks/Discussions at the festival, saving you a total of £11.

The Poetry Business Workshop on Saturday morning has now sold out, but there are four spaces left on Hilda Sheehan’s free Sunday morning workshop, which will be based around the Laura Ford exhibition at Abbot Hall Art gallery.

Spaces are limited at the gallery, and although we have plenty of tickets left for individual events, it would help the organisers and the gallery hugely, if you are able to buy tickets in advance.  If you would like to come to the launch on Friday evening, please book a free ticket.  This will really help us with knowing how many people to cater for.

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