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Poem of the North

Fifty years of the Northern Poetry Library

Examples of the 821 poetic form

Gateshead 1973

The cold is a killer. It lurks in the shadows, hides
on every corner with the skinny dogs. We play house
in a freezing attic off the Coatsworth Road. Hunched
in my useless London coat, I cry for spring, let
Steadmann’s challah soothe my chilblained hands.
Inside, an East Yorks seam unworked, until,
at last, I leave the south behind, hack a place
for us to breathe in this resistant world. I summon up

my granny’s grit, the straight-faced wit of aunties
smart as paint, their lipstick left on just smoked cigarettes.

In time, my flesh turns granite, my soul is northern rock.

By Jo Colley

A genealogy of loss

When all along the family line there are smudges and
oblique turnings, junctions missed in the dark of minimum
wage and day-rates, the leafy roads that diverged (but not for us),
pinned tight in our trajectories of powerlessness and inability.
When all along I’ve held the image of my grandfather slashed
by grief in so many places that he wore his soul like a net across
his shoulders; shoulders that carried bricks for half of his life,
on a hod not even his, calloused hands that landed on the eldest,

and the others. When I read the census, head of household –
a cross where his name should be, and remember his first wife

and first child, both dead within minutes, in the front parlour bed.

By Lisa Matthews