Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Potters in Limpopo
I wonder if I'll ever stop writing about South Africa. Two books, particularly Party and Fever Tree were filled with the place. Much of Party documents my first trip there with a new baby, toddler and their father - a visit in 1994, the year of the first South African elections, when we stayed in his mother's corrugated iron house, drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town, were refused a room for the night (police with guns were called), visited his old friends and more family in Soweto. Fever Tree shows a gentler, rural side of life in South Africa and in Commandments, the village of Mashau in Limpopo I have come to know so well is in the background of at least two poems, with the vastness of the Kruger national part stretching into the distance of another.
On a hillside in Mashau, Limpopo

Then in the summer of 2012 I was back there with Giya for her 18th birthday. We stayed at Risenga's place in Johannesburg but mostly in Mashau where he has built two round houses on the side of a hill. I didn't expect poems to come from this trip, but they did, inevitably because South Africa's like that - it throws images at you so fast, generously, sometimes alarmingly that some of them have to evolve into more than a transient impression.
At the Phiphidi Falls outside Sibasa

I thought two of these poems - Axes and Leaving Orange Farm - would fit in Woman's Head As Jug. Because when I trace the central image in the title poem of course it comes from South Africa, from the village of Mashau, from the sculptures of Noria Mabasa, from the co-operatives of women potters we visited, from all the women carrying what is needed for life. But the poems didn't fit anywhere, so they came out of WHAJ. One of them - Axes - found a place in Mslexia's winter 2013 issue, selected by Pascale Petit. Others are waiting to be sent out, others may yet be waiting to be written.
Leopard  mother (her cub's behind)

Monday, December 30, 2013

End of year book lists

Poets Anthony Howell and Naomi Foyle have included Woman's Head as Jug in their end of year round ups. Anthony for the Fortnightly Review: and Naomi for a list on Charles Boyles' CB Editions blog:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How it's been so far

Flu - my throat started to feel it as I packed up my books at Hornsey Library in London on October 26 and went for a peppermint tea with Kate Miller, a friend made at Local
Government Chronicle, a fellow journalist and an accomplished playwright. By the time I arrived home I was ready for bed. 
But whatever residual blues came with being out of action and staring at the sky from my high bed were dispersed over a weekend at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival from 8-10 November - two and a half days of listening, absorbing and wondering at the scope of contemporary poetry, starting with Grace Nichols' poems for children on Friday night, catching up with Peter Sansom who runs The North and The Poetry Business, and failing miserably in the poetry quiz! 
The energy that Aldeburgh generates was welcome as both trains to Hebden Bridge the following Monday were late. I arrived feeling the miles. At the Crown Inn I was reading with young Polish writer and artist Jacek Dehnel, smart, modern, intense. His writing and mine are very different, but seemed complementary. It was a chance, too, to thank Ben, Angela, Sarah and Tony from Arc Publications for doing such a good job on Woman's Head As Jug.
As we were leaving for aTurkish restaurant, a woman standing on the step outside said to me she never read poetry, never thought she'd like it, but as she listened she realised the poems were little stories and they made sense to her. 
In moments of doubt, when I wonder where this book will go, how far it will travel for readers, that was the greatest reassurance. She heard the poems and she heard herself in them. That is what I want - so far, so good. 
And the collection's now also available as an ebook on Kindle:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

London launch

I'm running a two hour poetry workshop on ancestors at Hornsey Library in London on October 26. It's £10 or £6 concessions, starts at 1.30 pm. 

Think of all the ancestors that populate your past - all the people you know nothing about. I'll share some of the techniques I've used to try and get closer to them. And we'll explore others. A flyer for the event is attached. 
Please pass on to anyone who might be interested. Booking is essential so please email Sarah Hymas for a place:

Woman's Head As Jug has its London launch at 4pm in the library with Katherine Gallagher. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

She's launched!

Yes, the book and me met at Kings Lynn and it's now officially launched. Here's me with CK Stead and Kit Wright just before the reading on Saturday 28 September at Kings Lynn Poetry Festival.

Left: CK Stead from New Zealand, right: Kit Wright
Karl Stead's poem about being examined by a female doctor gave me the boost I needed to deliver the menopause poems. Kit read a poem about plague horses and I read Funeral horses. 

But what was also particularly striking this year was the number of women reading including a Saturday afternoon all-woman line up: Carrie Etter, Caroline Gilfillan and Rhian Gallagher. On the Friday night, Helen Ivory shared the stage with Michael Hulse and John Fuller. 

Yep. It was a good launch with plenty of sun in between.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two weeks to launch

Two poets whose work I respect enormously have provided fabulous comments for the cover of Woman's Head As Jug.

“Jackie Wills should always be named with the most resiliently earthed and imaginative of living English poets. Her understanding of her own life, the lives of women, and the life of the world around us, is rich with intuitive rhythms and insights – Woman’s Head as Jug sparks poetry into new, crackling life.”

“In this new collection Jackie Wills approaches a shared female experience with impressive imaginative seriousness and a new confidence. Simple words and daring metaphors add up to something both old and new, disorienting and familiar as a spell.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Three poems go live on Vimeo

Pighog's mission
John Davies of Brighton's successful independent publisher PigHog is building up a fine digital archive of poets reading at the Red Roaster cafe. Aside from live streaming of events - cutting edge stuff - his expanding team of interns and employees are steadily uploading singe poem clips to Vimeo.

Three poems from Woman's Head as Jug are now on Vimeo: The kitchen floor, Sheepcote Valley and Gyratory.