Ruth McIlroy

Ruth McIlroy was a winner of The Poetry Business International Book & Pamphlet Exhibition 2016/17

She has been commended or highly commended in the Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition, the Lancaster Literature Festival Competition, the Ver Poets Open Poetry Competition and the Templar Iota Shot Competition. In 2015 she was highly commended in the Philip Larkin East Riding Poetry Competition, and in 2017 she gained second place in the York Literature Festival Poetry Competition.


Ruth on Writing:


'Finding your voice - it's the kiss of death, isn't it.' Paul Muldoon

C K Williams (‘In Time’) wants poets to take for themselves –
the right not to know what they’re doing
the right to prepare a space for inspiration to occur
the right to blunder towards where they’re trying to go
the right not to concentrate
the right to shilly-shally or to wobble
the right to be wrong.

And Seamus Heaney talks about poems as 'stepping stones in one's own sense of oneself. Every now and again you write a poem that gives you self-respect and steadies you going a little bit farther out in the stream'. The act of writing is 'to conjure a stepping stone that carries you forward'.

"Guppy Primer’s distinctive humour triumphantly demonstrates the fallacy of the notion of a “competition” poem with its daring and originality. By turning her collection’s themes and motifs through fresh new language, narratives and scenarios, Ruth McIlroy proves that originality, not formula, mean that we can expect to see her name on more prize lists in the future." – Ian Duhig


‘Fresh and striking… hard to believe this is a debut pamphlet’ – Jane Draycott, PN Review


‘These are poems of the cleverest order… astute, wry, and nudging you to an unusual sort of truth’ – Sabotage


‘Effective and moving… the inventive upward thrust seen throughout this debut collection’ – Stand  


'Guppy Primer is instructive in showing us how not to play safe with language and voice, to

invigorating effect' – London Grip

'Ruth McIlroy offers up a set of irresistible poems, full of warmth and humour….McIlroy has an
insatiable appetite for language…vibrant and memorable' – Denise Saul, PBS Winter Bulletin 2017

‘It’s pretty easy to see why Guppy Primer by Ruth McIlroy won the recent Poetry Business
Competition - It’s a bundle of sharp, perfectly weighted poems….playfully attractive
intelligence…there is depth here too, a copper-bottomed profundity that is likely to last and
suddenly spring to mind unbidden…another of McIlroy’s strengths, a graceful musicality that
makes you aware of its presence but never in an overpowering way. This underlying music grounds what in lesser hands might be poems that live solely in the head, and brings them to life with delightful effect.’ – Rishi Dastidar, Magma 70

A winner of the Book & Pamphlet Competition 2016/17, Guppy Primer ranges between poems of fierce lyricism, off-kilter observation and deadpan humour. From the sinister comedy of the title poem, ‘Guppy Primer’, to the startling strangeness of 'after a dream', and the savage wit of 'I am not honest', these tender, hard and amused poems are an uncompromising celebration of ardency and badly-behaved language.


Will you be my bridesmaid


think happy thoughts!

because you are best over the other ones ha ha

making the world a more cheerful place
one colourful accessory at a time

shall we call the bestest man 'waspish'
or 'of a certain age',
let's maybe also call him 'formidable'
ha ha

don't be dull
join your random load of bollocks with mine
our girlish secrets

and if you are unwilling
I will leave you alone at a different table
and I will laugh with my mates
and you will have no mates

you are
the jewel
in my





settle the poem it is not going anywhere
the moon is a harvest moon and therefore or also red

the moon is out of reach being outside, whereas inside one can settle

inside the capacious house I settled
paid obeisance to my footfall around the planks look   look
at the path taken between my door and my table

taken up space

albeit extraneous factors arise   that is
outside, a horseman and his gallant nag ‘ride towards Death’

ah duende

why does the man go forward
why does he not settle?

give up little horseman it is better to hunker
the little black pony needs to be settled

settle the pony, it is not going anywhere
stable warm coat muzzle.


after a dream


in which I was getting caught out leaving something innocuous
in a strange woman's house
I woke up with a German accent
and it had snown.

Titles by this author

Tweets from the Poetry Business

poetrybusiness Thank you @ukcatholicpress for a lovely article on Fr Michael McCarthy and his final collection, 'The Bright Room'.…

about 24 hours ago via Twitter Web Client

Poetry Business mailing list
Your cart is currently empty
Arts Council England - National Portfolio Organisation

Inpress Books