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Primers Shortlist: Geraldine Clarkson

Welcome to the first in a series of sneak peeks at the Primers candidates. The shortlist has been announced and the judges, Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press and Kathryn Maris, are busily reading the full submissions to decide which three poets will receive mentoring and publication in the inaugural Primers: Debut Poetry Shorts.

We’re eager to find out more about the 10 poets shortlisted for the scheme, so we’ll be featuring each poet on CAMPUS in the build up to November’s big announcement, giving us all a chance to read of a sample of the poetry that stood out to Jane and Kathryn.

First up, it’s …

Geraldine Clarkson

Geraldine Clarkson was born and lives in Warwickshire, though her roots are in the West of Ireland, and she spent time in monastic community in Peru. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and she is preparing her first collection.



She and three men-friends picnic at the edge of a podcarp forest: hot syrups and soda, blue
cheeses, orange pickles, pink hams and oatmeal pancakes all set out on gingham. Paper
napkins stick like dove-feathers to fingers as she turns to pore over a basket of photographs
one of m-fs has brought, sepia specials, seasoned and see-through, seeing through them into
childhood rooms left ajar and chilled, seismically unaltered, the piano grinning and childless,
the round table like a butterscotch pool, surrounded by plastic-topped stools, a world-weary
stork beaten into their faces. That room’s function was grieving, knitted into the carpet,
preserving its gold and blue swirls like miracles, your one wild and precious life pressed into
it like underlay. All generalisations are inane, especially this one. The three chaps were bored
now and role-playing like a story of Bold, Squat, and Quaking.  Bold and Squat just in from
the country, Quaking wanting to go to Mass before the Ball. The forest too ancient to be real.
Her poring spent, pores enlarged, Bold and Squat pawing the remains of the food, mucky
rainclouds stealing west, loved ones loving and sleeping far away. Of all the edible beds in
this place, the one growing dandelions is the most healing. She lets her girl out at night to go
gathering, as free and clear as a girl is, when not pressed on by a man or a mother. She drags
things home in hessian, turns a burly sack on the windowsill to the watery dawn. Writes up
notes and invigorates her enquiries with the sucking of chlorophyll into a fountain pen. She
asks for photos, photos, photos, and fills the basket, placing them in layers to weather. Blue
matures to mildew-mauve and the forest prepares to sleep, chanting. Everyone loves and
leaves except her.


Stay tuned for features on all the shortlisted poets over the coming weeks, and find out the full Primers shortlist here.


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