Suzannah Evans

"The graffiti said:
Welcome to Leeds, Now fuck off, thank you."

At the age of nine Suzannah Evans once wrote sponsored poetry for 50p a go. Since then she has had poems featured in magazines including Magma, The Rialto and Horizon Review.

She now lives in Leeds, works as a debt counsellor and is Poetry Editor of Cadaverine, an online magazine for writers under 30.

She runs writing workshops at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery and is studying for a Masters' degree in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.

Suzannah was a winner in the New Writing North Northern Writers' Awards. Her pamphlet, Confusion Species, was a winner in the 2011 Book & Pamphlet Competition, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy.




'Tough/tender lyric poems in which the language crackles with life whether addressing the urban or the rural and possessed of a truly exciting inventiveness.' — Carol Ann Duffy

'Confusion Species by [another] Poetry Business winner, Suzannah Evans, creates a world of slippage and double exposure in which familiar outlines are subtly unpicked to allow the conflicting categories of everyday life to overlap: “A chestnut snorts, stamps / metalled hooves in the bus shelter / boards the 91 after a man / with a flat cap and a pale face”. The faint uneasiness of these displacements makes the idea of home even more attractive although, Evans shows, the best place to find this is in our imagination,  “a place our feet had never touched”.' — The TLS

'Her eye wanders found subjects (a vandalised swimming pool, graffiti on a bridge, a group of grazing horses) but she pushes out from these accidental subjects imaginatively, moving from the descriptive to the inventive. Sometimes this leads her to surrealism ... Sometimes she finds dark terrain ... Sometimes she simply ends at a place she didn’t know she was going to when she began: ‘a place our feet had never touched.’ (‘Leeds International Swimming Pool’).' — Noel Williams, Orbis



There is a wall near my house where someone has assembled a collection of apple cores. I notice a new one most days. They are of varying ages and conditions and have been left to disintegrate over time. I rarely eat apples but I did once contribute a banana skin which was removed by the artist.


There’s a troll that lives on my route to work. It lives on a bridge that crosses a ginnel. The ginnel is long and I would not go that way at night. I dread seeing a figure behind me silhouetted in the streetlamp, then turning to find the same figure in front of me, a magic double opening its mouth to show pointed teeth.


I sometimes imagine that Leeds University auxiliary car park is the frozen waste of the Antarctic. The first time I did this was when it snowed in January 2010. You have to work quite hard at imagining as you can still see the trees and the university clock tower.

In February 2011 I noticed a shoe on the frozen wastes, just after the departure of the Valentine’s Day fair, which comprises waltzers and a stall where you can win a goldfish for your beloved. Since that day the shoe has migrated north across the tundra and the canvas upper has disintegrated.

Other objects on the frozen wastes include a nappy and a cigarette lighter made from clear red plastic. The lighter was crushed by another polar explorer and the nappy was recently investigated by a rook who pecked it to bits, which have now been blown away.


Under the statue on Woodhouse Moor a man feeds the birds every day. He stands there with an old Hovis bag of crumbs, throwing them in a circle until pigeons, magpies, starlings and jackdaws surround him. If the sun is out it catches his yellow hair and when it gleams he could almost be He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.


I have been finding photographs in the woods. The first was of a Yorkshire terrier in a box with a litter of puppies. The second was a woman in an evening dress with an '80s perm and large, gold, rhomboid earrings. Several others appear to be of a naked body, taken at such close range that body parts are indistinguishable. This elbow, for example, could also be a buttock or a knee. Last week it was a dead pike, photographed beside a matchbox to give an impression of scale.



Suzannah on her work

My introduction to poetry came from my grandmother, who loved poetry and used to read me bits of the Odyssey as bedtime stories, leaving out the sex and gore. I loved English at school and studied Keats, Carol Ann Duffy and Ted Hughes. When I was 17 I went on a school trip to Tŷ Newydd and at some point must have looked at what I was writing and thought it wasn't too bad. I've had gaps in between where I've written very little but I think that was the starting point.


One of my favourite poems is Richard Price's A Spelthorne Bird List, a couple of lines of which are below:

Mandarin Duck
The box of a frozen-food tiramisu misfolded into a crumple. Looking for its reading glasses. Feral in Surrey.


I am a big fan of the unexpected and mysterious; I love poems that make the everyday strange, particularly when this is coupled with a sense of humour. Other favourites include Roy Fisher and William Carlos Williams, Paul Farley and Tomas Tranströmer. More recently I have discovered Valerie Rouzeau, Carola Luther and Ian McMillan's pamphlet This Lake used to be Frozen: Lamps, all of which are fantastic.  


I write almost anywhere, particularly on trains between Leeds and Sheffield. I try to resist having too much of a poem written in my head before I start; I tend to find that my better poems come about when what I am writing completely surprises me. If I'm finding it hard to write I read, walk or make cake and hope the ideas will come back. They always have so far.


Confusion Species came together over several years. Looking back on the pamphlet there are certain common themes that hold it together but they didn't seem obvious at the time of writing. I am fascinated by the relationship between humans and animals; we continually anthropomorphise creatures and at the same time use our own animal nature as an excuse for our actions.

Place is another interest; 'Guided Tour' for example is about my walk to work. Over years of repeating that same journey the physical landscape has been enhanced by my own stories and memories. It was written very much as a stream of consciousness and it started life as something quite mad and rambling, but I also found it truly surprising and kept working on it until it took shape.

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