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Poets

Helen Burke

Helen Burke has been writing poetry for the last thirty years. She's had a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival in recent years and has been a regular reader at Literature Festivals and events in the U.K.; her work has appeared in numerous poetry magazines and anthologies.

She has also had short stories published, written for and performed on radio as well as working as a visual artist. Winner of the Manchester, Devon and Dorset, Norwich, Suffolk and Leslie Richardson (Yorkshire) Prizes, amongst other awards. Ian McMillan has said of her work – “This is a poet with verve, wit and humanity.”

Her collections include: Poetry – Helen Burke (1997), Island of Dreams (1997), Gift (2001), Zuzu's Petals (2009), The Ruby Slippers.  All of these chapbooks are available at Krazy Phils.
 
 
 
Her latest collection, The Kindness of Dogs, is available from Krazy Phils Shop at:  http://www.krazyphils.com/
 
 
Listen to Helen's radio broadcasts on ELFM (East Leeds UK). One program is Word Salad's, 'The Dance.' Enoy the many performances, songs, readings by various artists along with her story, "Meringues" about Helen's early dance life.
December 2013 Update:  Helen's poem, 'Visiting the Parrot,' was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the Origami Poems Project.
Also in 2013, Helen learned that she won the Torbay Prize for her poem, 'The Old Pig.'
 
June 2016 Update: Helen learned that she is made an Honorary Member of the Ocean State Poets. 
 
 
Winter 2016 a comprehensive collection of her poetry
is being published by Valley Press,
Today the birds will sing.
 

 

 

Read Helen's adventurous tale of attending an Irish Poetry Reading:  Impressions of an Irish Evening

The title poem from Helen's "The Healing Pool" has been put to music by Kevin Keough on YouTube
 


Helen's books & selected poems are available below. Every micro-chapbook can be downloaded as a single-page PDF. All cover artwork is by Helen (or a collaborative with Phil!). (Visit her Artist's page, Here.)

Origami Micro-Chapbook

Selected Poem(s)

Kidnapping the last happy day

 
Cover: The Green Piano
by Helen Burke
Every Origami Micro-chapbook
may be printed, for free,
from this website.
 

My Name is Still Available

Let me be clear, my name is still available
For hurricanes.
But I fear it will never be used.
Because
All I will insist on is  calling it Poetry.
And Evenings of Wild Flamenco ..
And perhaps a Little Night Music..
And some decent Chinese Food..
I can sense my removal from the “List“ already
And the box next to Hurricane Norma
Gets ticked.
What can I tell you ??
The woman wears beige and reads romance…

You’ve only yourselves to Blame.
 
Helen Burke © 2016

Climbing Trees

 
 
Cover: Sketch of Helen
by Phil Pattinson
over photo by Jan Keough
 
Every Origami Micro-chapbook
may be printed, for free,
from this website.
 

If I had never seen a butterfly

 

The world would be broken and smaller
My one only flight would be baffled and weary
My own wings hanging unused
My own soul held under water by a dark stone
The scent of jasmine gone from my hair
The wild lilac no longer adrift
The crushed butterfly  at my parents grave
A mystery of remembered truth
A bell that does not sound
A cloud whose name is freedom
Left to languish in my heart
A burden begun when there was none
A mountain top and no way to ascend
A lover’s picture speaks to myself
But the language and the words undone
If I had never seen the butterfly
What reason to say the brutal act of wisdom
That greets tomorrow…
As if I were a bird of wonder
Of innocence, of captured joy
If I had never seen the butterfly
I would with my whole heart
Invent
Helen Burke © 2016

Kaleidoscope Life

 

Cover Art by Helen Burke
 

The Valley of Happy Songs

The valley of happy songs is where I want to live
The valley of happy songs is all that Wales can give
When the midnight Curlew sings
When the Sloeberry blossoms
The valley of happy songs is drifting and a dreaming
The valley of happy songs is where I want to live
The valley of happy songs is a cadence
That I have never heard before
The valley of happy songs overwhelm, overcome me.
The valley of happy songs is where I’ll walk one day with you my love
The valley of happy songs is in my heart and in my head
The valley of happy songs is where I’ll walk one day
The valley of happy songs is beautiful, so beautiful I cannot tell you
The songs you sing there you’ve never heard before
The songs that were sung there were with you when you were born
Will be with you when you leave
The valley of happy songs is where I’ll walk one day
Helen Burke © 2016

 

Ringo's House

 
 
Cover: Drawing by Helen Burke
- Painting by Phil
 
 

Ballad of Penny Lane

I remember the first time
I heard Penny Lane
We sang it at school, we sang it in the street
We sang it anywhere we could -
Wherever young people meet.
I saved all me pocket money
To go to Liverpool to take the Ferry across the Mersey
And seek that Lane out.
Everyone had their favourite Beatle
Stuck the pictures of them from Jackie magazine
Up on the bedroom wall.
They were what life in the sixties
Was all about.
*
Helen Burke © 2016

A Certain Kind of Mist

 
 
Cover: Startled Flight
by Helen Burke

 

A Certain Kind of Mist

Has arisen this morning over the field .. and
It is blowing away our walk amongst the bluebells.
Sometimes mist takes ..sometimes it gives.
Mist reaches out into the soul.  Entwines itself there
Like brambles on the open road ..like a lost child ..
Like a star unknown on the way to being a comet.
On our bluebell walk there were hills and valleys
And a strange bright creature that walked with us ..
It changed into a bird and then a tall rugged foxglove.
It had a story in its soul that was my own.
I said to you – how good it is to walk here
Where my footsteps can echo the earth’s heart once more..
And the bright creature smiled and shone the mist away.
And the mist she did not mind .. and the song she sang
Was the song of all good peoples as they walk
Upon the earth, leaving only kind words and deeds.
That is the mist I dream of.. hope to be
Until the bluebell wood is come again, my love.
Helen Burke © 2015

Corfu Town

 
 
Cover Photo: Corfu Patio
by Phil
 

Under the Old Tree, Corfu Town

Here we sit, and are happy.
Here, where the old lady goes through the bin,
Where the old man sits next to us
With the worry beads.
Where the thin grey cat eyes up your doughnut
With sudden magnolia eyes.
Where the café waitress with caramel skin
And cookie dough arms smiles across.
Where the elegant blonde lady walks her poodle.
Also elegant and happy.
Where the two Greek dancers (brothers)
Kick their heels and slap their thighs
And make the world more joyful.
Where the lemon tree shudders in the heat
Where the fig tree sighs like a gentle breeze
In the shade
And has the best of it.
Where the jewish boy’s sunglasses reflect the world
In the huge saucer mirrors..
Where a tray of melons is delivered,
Each bigger than the world..
Where you and I say –
THIS then is the moment..
This is the moment to remember
Like a ripe kumquat
And this is the place to return to
Under this benevolent tree
That ask for nothing from us ..
This is the place to return to, I say,
When all is over, all is ended.
Just the scent of bougainvillea and gardenia
And you will find me my love ..
Under this good hearted tree and in no pain.
Rested and all is well.
You will find me.
You will find me.
Helen Burke © 2015

Once I Knew

 

Cover "Degas-esque"
by Helen Burke
 

Man Sweeping Leaves

So, it’s like this.
A man is sweeping leaves in the garden.
He sweeps all the troubles of the world away.
I ask you what you are sweeping and you say
World peace into that corner
And against the flower border, an end to famine.
And in the centre, I say… where all the leaves are piled like
A mountain of souls??
That is all our happy days piled up together... lest we forget them.
And you sweep for another hour.
A man who understands the art of leaves
Is a man amongst men.
And myself behind the glass reaching out to you,
To the air that swirls around you and speaks of an end to winter.
And the snowdrops by the door cheering you on.


Helen Burke © 2015


Inside a Dog's Head

 

Cover design by Helen Burke
 

Inside a Dog's Head

(For Wendy and Pixie)
 
There are three words
Inside a dog's head.  Walk.. Friend and.. Sausages.
 
Throughout the day when they are not
Devising a better philosophy for the world
These words run in tandem up and down
The field and in and out of the woods.
By the stream when they stop and give you that quizzical look
They are unlearning all that jeopardises and intimidates Happiness.
 
A dog always hopes that we will see sense and undo
All the harm we somehow inflict upon each other.
They explain the word friend while chasing their tails
Or running for a stick.
 
But even while they spell it out
We walk back to the car .. not seeing autumn under our feet
In need of scrunching.  Not seeing the trees so fearful
Of the white world that soon hangs on the branches.
 
But inside a dogs head – there will always be another Spring.
Sausages for tea.  And.  Another friend to make.
Another walk to take – down to the silver stream.


Helen Burke © 2014


The Healing Pool

 
 
Cover design by Helen Burke
 

Different Snowdrops

Different snowdrops
Different snowdrops, different lives
Outside my window , a snowdrop is singing.
It is brave , so I am brave.
You say – lets go down to the woods
And see the snowdrops, the bluebells.
I don’t even know where the woods are, except
The ones I’ve been living through all my life.
For you, the woods are just somewhere you visit
With picnic laughter and bright star feet.
For me, the woods are what I wake into each day
And try and crawl out of, make my way home.
But, just this snowdrop has come today – to say
One day, for you, there will be no more woods.
I could not explain this to you – how myself and this
White guardian sing out our hearts under the snow
That would bury us, crush us.
Just to stay alive. This is our aim.
And this cannot be explained.

Helen Burke © 2014


Visiting the Parrot

 

Cover design by Helen Burke

Visiting the Parrot

Through the window I could see the small cage,
And his shape clutching at the edges of it.
She made us tea – the woman.
I have saved him, she said, from definite destruction.
If it weren’t for me, she said – where would he be?
She let him out and he climbed sideways down to have a good look at me -
Leaning a little breathless (that being the two of us)
I sensed a fellow clown, an acrobat – squawking –
Only let them see what we want them to see.
Chintz wallpaper. Earl Grey in perfect white porcelain.
And the sky outside – beckoning.
And our two hearts like defused weapons.
He went a little dizzy with the sweetness of the air
(much as I do myself on good days)
Tell me how goes it? we asked each other.
His head leaned on my shoulder before he climbed back in.
And the teacups rattled and through the window,
I swear I saw and heard the sky itself –
I could feel the two of us – clutching at the edge of it.

Helen Burke © 2013

The Leaves of Dachau

 

Cover design by Helen Burke

Two Dreams



Two dreams I had, and not sure which to believe.  
In the first I am in a dungeon.
No way out ever, and can’t get home.  
There is the sound of my own blood being drawn
And metal in the air, a smell of sulphur.  
The feeling I came there on a horse – and he too
Has not escaped.  
I am in white and wield great power and all of this
Has been my downfall.  
In the second dream – I am a dancer again, waiting
For my turn in the wings.  
A blue billowing curtain stands before my face
And while I wait I write my name
Over and over in the sand with my ballet shoes.  
The music is sublime – and two old friends arrive
And argue as to who will dance with me.  
They both say they will come back later,
But I know this will not happen.  
This dance I wait to do is mine alone, a thing apart.  
A lonely eagle calling out to air from the mountain
I have called my heart.  
(There are promises we keep & cannot keep – even
In our dreams.)  
Two dreams I had, and not sure which to believe.

Helen Burke © 2012


Let There Be Chocolate

 

Cover design by Helen Burke

Chocolate Credo



I believe in chocolate.
I believe that chocolate is a gift from the Gods and should be used accordingly.
I believe in hundreds and thousands being sprinkled on it
And bars of it being eaten all of a piece.  No messing.
I believe that chocolate is the giver of life and a happy soul.
I believe that chocolate is what they made Christmas for and that
Chocolate bunnies had it coming to them.
I believe in chocolate.
And that it preceded human beings is obvious.
There has always been chocolate since cave man times.
Chocolate was brought here by another race called the Deliciosa’s.
They were small and friendly and had chocolate buttons on their coats
And saw how Earth was struggling and so.
They gave us chocolate.  
They left a large cocoa pod for early man to find outside the cave
One Christmas morning and we have never looked back.
I believe in the Deliciosa’s and all they stood for.
They knew we just might make it through if we had chocolate to fall back on.
Whole mountains of it; whole babbling brooks of it; whole fountains of it.
I believe in the truth of the crispy caramel bar and the hope hereafter
Of always having a tube of Smarties or a Dime bar somewhere in easy reach.
I believe that there is a good tomorrow for you and me, as long as
We clap our hands – all together – and continue to believe in chocolate.
The Holy Grail of it – the Swinging my legs on a Gate of It –
The Deliciosa legacy of CHOCOLATE!

Helen Burke © 2012


The Other Side Of Midnight

 

Cover design by Helen Burke
 

The Moon is Crying



It seems a strange sort of night to any other.
A night when friends can call to each other and remember,
Hold each other close.
We notice the moon is crying, tear by tear.
The tears fall over the castle and down the hill.
My eyes cannot see all of the picture, though the moon hangs low obligingly.
Someone brings out the wine, we stir it with jasmine stems.
The picture almost complete.
Only my heart hangs back. Only my heart says wait.
There are two moons tonight (the one watches the other).
We bring nothing but ourselves to this silent space, why, the moon herself
Has brought no more.
She is a silver guardian, a panther that walks before and behind us.
Which moon are we to believe ?
Which moon is real?? -  for,  the moon never lies.
We follow the braids of her long black hair.
We ascend star by star, following her panther stride.
We take each separate moon as we find her – in the root of a tree,
In the hoot of an owl,  in the thumbprint of dawn.
This crying moon is the moon in truth – and tonight as ever –
The moon never lies.

 
Helen Burke © 2011


Drawing Dogs

 

Cover design by Helen Burke

 

 

Drawing Dogs



I have taken to drawing dogs.
They have begun to seem more like people
Than people.
I feel more certain that they will
Inherit the earth.
I feel safer when a dog snarls
Than when a person smiles.
I can see them deciding not to think of all the answers
Before they’ve eaten their dinner.
I can see they’re not bothered if the post is late
Or if they miss the bus to Fulham Broadway.
Their faces do not pose when you look at them.
(And then try and pretend that
They’ve just seen you.)
If they’re happy, they’re happy – and sad if they’re sad.
If they got begging letters –
They would answer all of them.
In their heads, all of them are riding motorbikes
Across France
Without a cur in the world.
And most brilliantly of all –
they do not write poetry.
I like dogs.

 
Helen Burke © 2011


ALL Of These Poems Are Edible

 

 

Cover design by Helen Burke

 

The Russian Doll that was My Mother



Like the Russian Doll we kept on the sideboard –
That was you, mam.
Foreign, exotic, that mysterious smile, unfathomable.
Your exterior of certainty, so hard won, over years.  
(How many dolls since I saw you ?)
 
For everyday, you used the first doll – she is tough and gruff.
Sometimes on birthdays and at Christmas
A second doll appears – kinder-eyed and softer.  
Then once — walking home – myself falling on the ice –
A further doll still – one who held me tight and said –
“My Lass.  My Own Lass – You They Must Not Break.”
And so we walked together on – through the dark-eyed storm.
(How many dolls since I saw you?)
 
That last doll, mam – her I never met nor even knew.
But what strange mystery she had – I know I learned the trick from you.  
Dangerous the doll that gives too much away.
How many dolls since we walked through the storm??  
How many?  How many dolls?

Helen Burke © 2010


The Whisper of Birds

 

 

Cover design by Helen Burke
 

 

Owls



Tonight,
the moon is a river.
A silver shadow whose face we admire.
The moon turns the rivers pages
like a book.
Softly, the page turn, one by one.
In the river ourselves, our faces, turning.
Here, where the edges of trees
frisk our shadows
and trace the night shapes of houses –
we are watching for owls.
I am convinced they are near.
It is only that the dark trees are hiding them
It is only that the old boats are hiding them.
The owls fly inside my own eyes – in and in,
flying lower and lower.
My thoughts become feathers.
My dreams have no edges.
Flight swallows me.
I am owl and moon and river and night.
The stars watch over me – the pulse of the water
greets me, keens for me
that I must watch here, so late.
It is the hour for owls.
I hear the slow beating of their coming.
A train passes, holds the moon
in each of its windows.
Myself, I am held by the promise of owls.
My throat holds a shadow, it grows and grows
and from it
flies the first of them.

 
Helen Burke © 2010


 

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