Jennifer Copley

Jennifer Copley was born in Barrow-in-Furness in her grandmother’s house. After living in London and Oxford, she returned there to bring up her three children and has no intention of leaving.

She began writing poetry in her 50s, completing an MA at Lancaster University in 2001 and winning the Book & Pamphlet Competition the same year.

In 2005 she was South Cumbria's Poet Laureate. In 2006 she was the national winner in the Ottakar's/Faber Poetry Competition. In 2007 she was awarded 2nd prize in the Academi Cardiff National Poetry Competition.

She has published four pamphlets including Ice (Smith Doorstop 2002) and House by the Sea (2003) and three full-length collections Unsafe Monuments (2006), Beans in Snow (Smokestack 2009) and Sisters also by Smokestack in 2013. Sisters sprang from a photograph of two unknown girls she saw on a post-mortem website. The poems in the first half of the book imagine the lives of these two motherless girls brought up in a strict Victorian household. The second half explores the nature of sisterhood, the predicaments that siblings face, in life and in death.

Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Forward Prize Anthology 2008.



'Jennifer Copley writes with a spare, uncompromising directness, her subjects parents, children, and all the intimate strangenesses of family relationships. She writes about the curiously alive power of clothes, and about the mysterious interpenetration of animals and humans, landscape and nature. Death and life, loss and fear leave their mark, but the borders between them merge.

Though there is an immensely insightful poem about a cat, this is not poetry for the faint-hearted. It is urgent, visceral work, written out of a fierce commitment to truth. Copley's collection deals with strange territory in a memorable and disturbing way' — U A Fanthorpe


Mondays, in the kitchen, her arms all suds.
I peer through steam but she’s disappeared
till I see her in the yard, pegging sheets.
Later she’ll be upstairs, taking off her wet blue dress
or coming out of the bathroom saying,
Don’t use too much paper. We’re quite low. 

In the dark she’s in different places:
the end of my bed, the space by the wardrobe,
picking up my clothes.
Fuzzy yellow light runs in ribbons
from her head to her heels.
Her footprints glow for ages after she’s gone. 

Today she’s in the greenhouse
wearing gloves that are far too big
and the old straw hat.
I tap on the glass but she looks right through me.
I wish she’d smile, come close,
stroke back the fringe from my forehead. 

Sundays, I see her under the earth,
peacefully asleep, her mouth slightly open,
but she comes to when I start arranging flowers.
Going home in the car, she sits beside me
folding the cellophane to use again,
winding the string round her little finger.


(First published in The North )

Titles by this author


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