Featured Publication – Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands by Sarah Wimbush

Our featured publication for May and June is Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands by Sarah Wimbush, published by Bloodaxe on 26th May 2022.

In Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands Sarah Wimbush journeys through myth and memory with poetry rooted in Yorkshire. From fireside tales of Romany Gypsies and Travellers, through pit villages and the haunt of the Miners’ Strike, to the subliminal of the everyday – including poems about typists, pencil sharpeners and learning to drive in a Ford Capri. This highly accomplished debut collection explores what it means to belong, what it means to be on the margins. This is poetry written in praise of family and community and those qualities which make us human: love, language and, most of all, resilience.’ Bloodaxe

The Bittern

After the glut of soft fruits,
and oat cakes toasting on the griddle,
and the deluge of Cox’s,

it’s the wintering-over
in two-up two-down cottage,
vardos stored on Big Frank’s piece,

a squall of pheasant and quail
bartered for a tail-end of hogget,
mother schooling us by the range:

how to baste the skin to gold,
how to skim the fat for rushlights
and axels, how to eke the meat out

from pink to grey to dry; scraps
for soups, bones coddled to slate
in washday broth. All cushti scran.

And the hardness of spring.
Bitterns nesting in reed beds,
sweeter than heron –

the male’s deep whoohu-whoohu
like a breath blown over a bottle.
On a still day, I feel that call for miles.

cushti scran: good food
Previously published in Bloodlines (Seren 2020).

A Sund’y in Worksop

That morning, we pitch our caravans on Joe White’s,
somewhere on Sime Street. Mother scrubs vardo floors
with washday waste, singing Paddy McGinty’s Goat or maybe

I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen. Daddy has a bloke to see
at The Old Ship Inn or perhaps The Robin Hood, God’s people
blinking as they enter daylight. I stay with the tub cart

or was it the dray, water Plunk our dapple pony, or was it Spike
or was it Pluck? A school of men march into the yard, keen to win
a fortune with Pitch and Toss. From a corner the look-out boy

watches me. Beneath the sign, ‘No Gambling Or Spitting’,
the chuckers bless a fat penny each and bowl against the wall,
or could it have been into the air? Metals wield and thud.

Hoots and oaths. The men drift away, one lad left on the floor
or maybe leant against the wall, says over, fot in’t war, I did
and he has no hat. Or was it boots? Or was it both?

vardo: horse-drawn caravan
Previously published in The Interpreter’s House


I wait outside my daughter’s boyfriend’s house.
Ignition off. Radio low.
I rarely feel my hackles rise
at my desk, or in Tescos, but here

a flicker creeps into my peripheral vision –
fire on black – a comet’s trail, then
a head that oscillates; her upturned snout.
I switch the radio off. Watch from above.

She paws the tarmac, bows to me – but no,
slides her jaws around a roadkill squirrel,
its compressed plume tail.
Slinks off to where the foxes go.

Previously published in Ink, Sweat and Tears

Near Extinction

No otters in the River Don.
No rest for Sylvia Grant-Dalton
upholding Brodsworth Hall: subsidence
scribbled on the wall –
the roof a drain, gardens besieged.
A losing battle.

Down the lane, Brian
at Brodsworth pit
with his mullet and denim jacket:
windswept, sun-kissed – convinced
they can turn the tide
in landlocked South Yorkshire.

Rossington. Like Beirut,
says Mrs Selby, watching ghosts
of picket line past –
burned-out cars,
burned-out hearts.
Mr Selby in his chair,
waiting for the snowdrops.

An action shot of Lesley Boulton:
camera in hand, the raised baton –
a pin-up girl at Highfields Welfare.
Wives on battle stations
in the soup kitchen.
Men fed first.

Outside the new Frenchgate Centre –
a band of brothers riddled with badges,
rattle buckets – ‘Miners Children’s Xmas Party’
all around the world turned
outside in.

Paul, just nineteen, marching back
with the shift and his Grandad
to Markham Main: end of the line,
final man down, under that headgear –
the last dinosaur in Doncaster.

Previously published in The North

Sarah Wimbush’s poetry is rooted in Yorkshire with tales of childhood, colliery villages and Gypsies and Travellers. She has published two prize-winning pamphlets: Bloodlines (Seren, 2020) and The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster (Smith|Doorstop, 2021). Her first collection Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands is available from Bloodaxe in May 2022. @SarahWimbush

All poems above are taken from Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands, published by Bloodaxe on 26th May 2022. For more information, and to purchase a copy, please visit www.bloodaxebooks.com. https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/shelling-peas-with-my-grandmother-in-the-gorgiolands-1296