Allison McVety

Allison McVety’s first collection, The Night Trotsky Came to Stay (Smith/Doorstop, 2007), was the overall winner of the 2006 Book & Pamphlet Competition, and was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize 2008.

Her poems have appeared in The TimesThe GuardianPoetry Review and Poetry London, have been broadcast on BBC radio and anthologised in the Forward Poems of the Decade 2002-2011 and The Best British Poetry 2013.

A second collection, Miming Happiness, was published in 2010 and a third, Lighthouses is due in 2014. In 2011 Allison won the National Poetry Competition and in 2013 was recorded at the Southbank Centre for the Poetry Library’s 60th anniversary.

See here for details of Allison's forthcoming readings.




'The title poem is more than ‘one of those poetic re-workings of a minor historical event, in Allison McVety’s hands we’re in an entirely different, witty and weird world.' — Anne-Marie Fyfe

'Sensuous detail, intellectual curiosity and an echoing, confident music all make this a fully-imagined poetic world.— Jane Draycott

'An impeccably clear and sculpted collection. Allison McVety’s first book shines. It signals the opening of a career of a writer from whom we can expect wonders— David Morley

'Well wrought and distinctive, the personal made universal par excellence.' — Susan Utting




‘Vivid and sensual’ — Vicki Feaver

‘Allison McVety seizes the reader’s attention. Partly it’s a narrative talent, but her particular skill is in converting the feel of the day-to-day – whether ordinary, intriguing or alarming – into genuine poetry’ — Alan Brownjohn

‘Here is a poet who excels at making longgone everyday objects like ration books at once endearing and remarkable. An exhilarating follow-up to her outstanding collection, The Night Trotsky Came to Stay. So clear is her voice that we can hear “a pin drop from a milliner’s grip some ninety years/away”.’— Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

'Miming Happiness’s final section is collected into almost magical intensity. McVety’s long lines describe her sister’s mysterious illness, with lovely glances of sound, and the energy of verbs: ‘on she swims, a shiver/ a shine, surfacing for air; slip-streaming the light’. Closing rhythms pulse with a town’s life: ‘the factories [..] breathe out, breathe in, go on’. McVety, the poet of solid things, reveals the wish ‘to crumble away’ into the ‘infinitely small’. Her final poem is a vision of inwardness: ‘the atom/ cracking with the thunder of a goldcrest’s heart’. It is an astounding line. The best of Allison McVety’s collection reveals the uncontainable power of poetry.' — Alison Brackenbury, PN Review



Allison McVety’s third collection is built around her National Poetry Competition winning poem, ‘To the Lighthouse’, an account of the poet’s revisit to Woolf’s text after her mother’s death. Lighthouses, then, is a book of new clarity and revelations, mothers, fathers and ghosts of the past. McVety’s talent is for sensuous detail, meticulously crafted moments and a grasp of rhythm that makes her work begin to read like memories of your own. Prize-winning poems aside, this collection is packed full with beacons of light. — Poetry Book Society

Allison reading at the Poetry Library



when you were a tree you were one tree

in a row of trees – a beam of dark light

reaching from a fixed point far across the snow

and when I was a bird I was one bird

in a flock of birds – parcels of night


folding unfolding – I added data to the air

the air was a white noise of many voices

all who looked saw the pulse of my wings

saw the world grown bigger


the trees were lighthouses swallowing the sun

asking the birds to come home and when their leaves arrived

when they spoke they were persuasive –

all calling out to the birds and the birds

were sky-ships answering back


build your nests in the crooks of our arms

sang the trees let us keep you from hawks and kites


the air lifted to the swoon of their song

we listed to their flightless words

but we were something more than ourselves

by then and – no! – we didn’t want to land







you can hear the sea. And in this noiseless place,
a pin drop from a milliner’s grip some ninety years
away, or a wren caught in the eaves of a sudden thought.
There’s a finger, sweat greasing its trigger at dawn
as it eases back to join the volley of twelve Enfields
in the yard, dust falling from the walls as we all
fall in time. A rage of sound exalted to stillness
and it carries down the decades. Even after-hours
the librarians whisper here, afraid to weigh their loss
or private joy against the din. As though one
misplaced word could creak like a nightingale
on a parquet floor, jar like a note in a symphony
of counted bars at rest, could make you miss the atom
cracking with the thunder of a goldcrest’s heart.

— From Miming Happiness

Titles by this author


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