Lesley Saunders

poet and educationalist



photo: Dwain Comissiong

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I’m delighted beyond measure to be one of the four prizewinners of this year’s Susan Adams, at whose exhibition launch at The Hours Bookshop in Brecon I’m reading on I June. Our collaboration took the form of a research project, funded by Creative Wales, to explore the possibilities of narrative.  Susan says: ‘The initial dialogues with writers will coincide with an intense period of time expanding on the idea of drawing as a voice of the unconscious mind, the part of the mind that loves story and the ludic, possessing crescive powers wherein one image pushes forth the seed of the next.’

However, not even this honour can obscure my pleasure at winning the Schedule of readings

I’ve become a member of poetry p f, a website which features a wide range of established and new poets, with details of their publications, events, competitions, etc. 

I’m also working on a joint project with artist and calligrapher, Philippa Dow.  Philippa is using several of the poems I wrote whilst poet in residence at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, as the subject of a cycle of ‘word paintings’: the lettered text is being beautifully incorporated into sensual evocations of the poems. We hope the paintings will be exhibited in Cambridge when the cycle is complete. Philippa and I are also planning workshops on creative writing with lettering.

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I was very pleased, and surprised (given the quality of the shortlisted poems), to have won the Live Canon competition 2015. Live Canon is an ensemble of actors - under the inspired direction of Helen Eastman - who bring poetry to life on the stage; they run courses too. The poem, ‘Asylum’, was performed by Eva Traynor for International Women’s Day 2016.

Live Canon also performed an amazing marathon of poems in response to all 154 of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, on 24 April at the Victoria and Albert Museum - I’ve written a poem in response to Sonnet 118.

It was my great privilege to work with a number of highly-regarded poets who have written poems in response to the exhibition of 20th century landscape paintings Sense of Place (featuring works by Joan Eardley, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, John Piper, Eric Ravilious and many others) which were on display at Reading Museum ear;lier this year.  The poets involved were Adrian Blamires, C. L. Dallat, Jane Draycott, Claire Dyer, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Philip Gross, A. F. Harrold, Ian House, Anna-May Laugher, Gill Learner, Peter Robinson, Declan Ryan, Susan Utting and myself. There was a private view and launch performance in October 2015, with another poetry event on Saturday 23 April art-inspired poetry event

I acted as Poetry Adjudicator for the Creative Writing competition in the 2016 Berkshire Music and Arts Festival, and did the same for
Slough Writers’ Group in early summer.

My most recent full collection, The Walls Have Angels, was published by Mulfran Press in autumn 2014.  The poems were inspired by my residency at Acton Court, a hauntingly beautiful Tudor manor house and its summer visitors in 1535, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  Buy from: Mulfran Press; Foyles; Waterstones; Blackwell

In 2013 I was one of six poets working with six composers and six Oxford choirs to produce choral pieces for performance - a brilliant idea made possible by the John Armitage Memorial Trust and Britten in Oxford.  I was working with the composer Dimitri Scarlato and the Oxford Pro Musica choir.  The project culminated in a performance at St Mary’s University Church on Saturday 9 November 2013, and excerpts were broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir. 

Some commissioned poems - on the subject of slide-rules - have been published in an innovative, illustrated book of essays, poems and explorations The Rules of Form edited by Kelley Swain and published in a limited edition by the Whipple Museum, Cambridge