Christy Ducker

‘fat with the chance of tipping up / but always rocking back true’
– Grace Darling’s ABC

Christy lives in Northumberland. She recently completed a PhD at Newcastle University, researching and writing poems about the Victorian lighthousekeeper, Grace Darling. Christy works as a teacher of creative writing. Her poetry commissions include residencies for Port of Tyne, English Heritage and Northumbria Police.She was a winner in the 2010 Book & Pamphlet Competition with Armour, which was also named PBS Pamphlet Choice for Autumn 2011. Her first full-length collection, Skipper, is published this year.

‘Skipper is concerned with human vulnerability, and with how we keep our balance in an unstable world. In the midst of writing these poems, I had a lot of surgery which sharpened my interest in survival as a theme. There are plenty of poems about identity, health and hospitals here, but there’s also a strong historical inflection: what can survive of past lives? Skipper explores our relationship with history, and opens out into a long sequence about the Victorian lighthousekeeper, Grace Darling.

I’ve been intrigued by Darling since childhood as I grew up overlooking her lighthouse. Also, I come from a trawling family where there’s a high regard for those who save life at sea. When I began to research Darling’s letters, I found she wasn’t the sweet heroine of myth. I was suddenly chasing someone eccentric, scientifically expert and fiercely literate. Like many working-class women, she broke the mould in ways that went unnoticed. Skipper aims to ‘rescue’ aspects of Darling’s strange, secret life into poems. By extension, Skipper asks us to question our own sense of self: how precarious it can be, how precious it is, how quick history is to re-write us.’

Winner of the 2010/11 International Book & Pamphlet Competition


"Unsettling and edgy, these poems have the strangeness of myth and the zany logic of nursery rhymes, but for adult ears. A real zest for language and startling imagery.' - Simon Armitage


'Christy Ducker’s poems are intriguing, skilful and musically alert. With a light touch she performs the difficult feat of writing convincingly and unsentimentally about happiness. After this collection so rich in pleasures, we should be hearing more of Christy Ducker.' - Sean O'Brien


'Christy Ducker’s Armour is formally adept, musically attuned. There are some lovely loose sonnets here, especially ‘One Who Adds’. And it is worth buying this pamphlet just for the brilliant pantoum, ‘Journey’.'  - Andy Croft, Morning Star


'Christy Ducker's Armour contains an irreverent take on religion: "Mention God and I think of the nit nurse / who sailed on a cloud of pink mohair / above the cheese polish floor of the Hall …" The shift from lofty concept to felt experience is characteristic: Ducker is fascinated by people and by the human body, and Armour introduces an unusually sociable poetic sensibility, full of warmth but never sentimental. This is a poet in the swim of life, her eyes wide open for everyday wonders. Here she is presented with her new-born baby: "I am astonished / by the way you smell of bloody bread".' - Paul Batchelor, The Guardian


'Armour deals with the deeply personal, and yet extends its vision to a more historically engaged set of poems. Her delight in the twists and turns of adult experience, whether they be the release of ‘one kilo of ladybirds’ in ‘Getting rid of Aphids’, or in the ‘bloody bread’ smell of a ‘purple’ newborn child in ‘And’, are expressed in a voice that manages to avoid over-sentimentality, whilst still finding constant surprise in the world, and in the people and history which surround her.' - The Stand


The Poetry Book Society on naming Armour Autumn 2011 Pamphlet Choice:

Christy Ducker’s poems celebrate and surprise with their precise and vivid imagery, whether speaking in the voice of a mother describing her newborn —

your self-startled arms flung wide
proclaiming your tiny chimp gums

— or in altogether stranger pieces, such as the title poem ‘Armour’ with its arresting

I’d rather be a lobster
in pre-op, not knowing
whether I’ll fail
on the surgeon’s table.

Clearly someone who likes to experiment with form and subject, she also gives herself free reign to write seriously or humorously as the mood takes her, deftly changing register to suit. The tender poems of memory and motherhood are offset by a more playful sequence which hops and gallops over the page, using dance as inspiration. ‘Skeletons’ contemplates the point at which we might leave historical grudges behind, and concludes poignantly “perhaps it’s the point at which I might learn / to love the present flesh that softens bone”, while the monologue on the facing page – irresistibly titled ‘The Working Woman’s Right Breast is Not Amused’ – has very different concerns.

What connects the seemingly disparate subject matter is the confidence and clarity of the writing, and this collection of twenty-five poems showcases an intriguing and extremely readable new voice. The jacket copy tells us that Ducker is working on a collection of poems about the Northumbrian heroine Grace Darling, and if Armour is anything to go by, there’ll be plenty to enjoy.


I’d rather be a lobster,
in pre-op, not knowing
whether I’ll fail
on the surgeon’s table.

The lobster has plans:

he can tear away
a limb in battle,
scrinch off home
and await new growth.

I’ve no such armour

only this ape’s design
that frees my arms
to hold onto people
who’ll shield my heart.

Madness, to a lobster

who keeps his head down
the shape of him claiming
that meat appears
that fight happens

miles from the ape

with her brain a fruit
in the treetops seeding
chatter and quips
while her fingers crack lice.

I wake up later

stitched into myself,
embracing the nurses
embracing you
making light

— From Armour (2011)

Titles by this author





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