Iohanna of Sprotburgh

Lord, saue vs; weperischen.

Matheu, VIII: 25

Drowned thieving from fish-traps.
Gaffed to the bank
by punting bargees –
glass-eyed, gaping.

Swan-complected, scabbed with leeches,
oozing like the fen.
Maids tore weeds
and wailed to Richard.

She hiccoughed a frog;
eels squirming from her petticoats.
In Hampull’s chapel,
her guttering candle flared.

by Steve Ely

Last Friday (and as promised in last week’s Weekly Poem!), the Poetry Centre announced the launch of its new pamphlet press, ignitionpress. If you missed the announcement, you can read about the new press here , and find out about the three poets we will be publishing (Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington) here . We look forward to sharing more details about the press indue course.

On Sunday 15 October, local poets Dorothy Yamamoto and Sarah J. Bryson will be running a poetry workshop in Kirtlington Village Hall entitled ‘Terra firma, or all at sea?’ The workshop will feature writing exercises, writing time, sharing and discussion, and runs from 10-3.30pm. All are welcome, and the event costs £25. For more details and to book a place, contact Dorothy on

‘Iohanna of Sprotburgh’ is copyright © Steve Ely, 2017. It is reprinted from Incendium Amoris  (Smokestack Books, 2017) by permission of Smokestack.  

Notes from Smokestack:

Steve Ely’s new book takes its inspiration and its title from Incendium Amoris (‘The Fire of Love’) by the fourteenth century saint and mystic Richard Rolle, ‘the hermit of Hampole’. The book offers a vision of pre-Reformation and post-industrial England through the eyes of the trespasser, the poacher, the recusant and the revolutionary, in solidarity with the swinish multitude against the landed power. Contesting language and landscape and addressing issues including carnality, class, scepticism and belief, Incendium Amoris is a peasant’s revolt against the accelerating cultural, social and environmental devastations of globalising capital, a guerrilla-pastoral prophecy of a yeoman-anarchist utopia. Read more about the book on the Smokestack website.

Steve Ely’s previous works include Oswald’s Book of Hours (nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and for the Ted Hughes Award), EnglalandWerewolf and Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire; Made in Mexborough (2015). He lives in the Osgoldcross wapentake in the West Riding of Yorkshire, close to Richard Rolle’s Hampole. You can read more about Steve’s work on the Poetry International website, and follow him on Twitter.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.