Sunday 22 November 2009

Linda Saunders' The Watchers

Linda Saunders' second collection, The Watchers, has just been published by Arrowhead Press. I must admit in this case to a personal bias: Linda has been in my private Poetry School seminar, meeting at my home once a month through the academic year, since 2005.

"Sideways" brings together Linda's principal strengths: a distinctive, precise visual perspective, arising at least in part, I assume, from her former career as an art critic; pleasing wit; a tightly-focused lyricism; and an abiding interest in the philosophy of language. It makes me eager to read the entire collection.

poem starting with a line by Jack Gilbert

We use them sideways.
Words, he meant, that will do for now,
slipping them through or between
to prise a way towards
what we don’t know yet how to say.

My mother cut sideways through water –
she’d swim in any weather, any sea,
her right cheek pillowed on the waves.
Once she hooked back a man from drowning,
brought him to shore on her strong sidestroke,
legs scissoring the undertow.

is a strategy of cunning,
making headway in adversity,
catching the gale sideways
and using it.

After the stroke, she was often lost
for a word – she the linguist who loved a cryptic
crossword. I took the slant of her meaning
and how she strove by indirection
to arrive at it, like a small craft
in a contrary wind.

Some things, faintest stars, we see more brightly
if we just look
so a mist, a smudge, resolves
into points of light, sidereal
in the corner of the eye.

It’s the way our eyes are made,
near the edge more densely receptive,
so we always have this sense of what escapes
our scrutiny,
a truth askance and facetted,
a love so far unsaid.

Using them, even the blanks in her mind –
“Almost...” she said once, exhausted,
gripping both my hands and waiting
like the poet for the word that will tend
his passion, then hooking the prize at last
with an intake of wonder, “...inexhaustible.”
Which was about the size of it.

Linda Saunders' The Watchers can be purchased from


  1. Linda is the best poet in Bath has been my motto for over twenty years.

  2. Anonymous7:51 pm

    Yuri says, 'And not just in Bath!'
    Sad about Edwin Morgan, memorable sound poems.

  3. A deep-bevelled poem, lovingly cut to catch reflections.

    1. Thanks for the response--I recommend the book.

  4. I'm trying to contact Linda Saunders to seek permission to use one of her poems in an anthology of tree poems I am editing. I guess from this you maybe able to help me to contact her! My email address is I'd be very grateful if you could let me know her email address or ask her to contact me.
    Best wishes
    Mandy Haggith

    1. I've forwarded it accordingly. I'm glad you're interested in her work.