Gaskell House Blogs

A Tradition of Poetry

1st May 2019
in blog, Events, Literature

Read on for poems from the writers from the creative writing programme currently running at the House. For more of their work and to read about the background to these workshops, click here. Elizabeth Gaskell herself wrote poetry – one of her earliest published works was a poem she’d written with her husband, William  called ‘ Sketches among the Poor, No 1′ which was published in Blackwoods’ Edinburgh Magazine in January 1837. And please note, Olive and Ben’s poems don’t appear in their correct format – I can’t make the formatting work! If you would like a correct copy, please email and I’ll forward one to you.

All of these I own    Marsha Myers

Top Hat
Baker Boy
Russian Army


Vanity, Insanity
Yes maybe

But I am she
And ever will be
The one in the hat
And that is that!

Warming Pan    Philip Lloyd

i watch the yellow and red
flames leaping in the fire and
later when they have stopped their elegant dance
i gather up some of the hot ashes
to place in the handsome copper
warming-pan buffed by me
to a gleaming shine
earlier in the day

i carry the heavy pan
to my master’s bed and
slide it between the icy sheets
soon they will be warm enough
for him to consider ending his evening
of fine port and witty conversation
to ascend the wooden hill

he sleeps soundly
untroubled in his complacency
thinking little if at all
of the effort that has gone into achieving his comfort
comfort that has been at the expense
of the blistered hands and aching backs
of those whom society has ordered
to exist only for his enjoyment

his halcyon dreamstate
will soon be interrupted
by shock and terror
followed by pulsating pain
blood gushing from the wound
where i have raised
the still hot warming pan
high above my head
and brought it crashing down onto him

his last thought will be
the sight of me through
rapidly opaquing eyes
as i smile at him

bed warm enough for you sir?

The Dolly  Olive Powell

Not what you think: hip height and solid wood,
smoothly yet clumsily crafted,
a hole at top for missing crossbar,
a fan of rounded pegs at base.
Abstract sculpture: tottering, skirted, headless?
Sadly not: a real tool stood in a giant bucket.
Can you guess? Before domestic automation:
when women’s bodies toiled beneath regard,
labouring backs irrelevant till they broke
adding to the town’s unmentioned scrap heap.

Hint: Mondays dawn as, out from a sooty backstreet,
let into the gleaming villa by the back door,
she’s down below stairs, dark and already humid.
”Here’s your first beer. Get to it!”
So swizzle, swizzle all the sweltering day:
the water darkening from their bleached
through their patterned to their deepest dyed,
her own dull fustian saturated more and more.
The next beer and the next: don’t stop, don’t stop
till, heaving out the last pummelled mass,
a gin-and-water finds her hand with half a crown,
and Dolly, sodden, drops.

Top Hat  Benjamin Francis Cassidy

Extending upwards, long like
a factory’s great smokestack,
the oval crown stands blacked
as new tar. His thick loveliness,
is adding to the length of him.
And the coal-toned slight shine
captures a vital differentiation.
A Darkened ribbon cast
all around material darker still
The plain, wide. band, wrapped and stitched in deeply
A shade lighter, the charcoal circle, careful adornment


This project has been funded using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, The Granada Foundation and The Duchy of Lancaster.



To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood…

Wives and Daughters