Lesley Saunders

poet and educationalist

photo: Dwain Comissiong


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‘She shares with fine poets like Jane Draycott and Charles Tomlinson an incredibly clear-eyed perception in language which is as musical as it is exact… Lesley Saunders is a very exciting and interesting writer who deserves your closer attention.’ David Morley

‘I knew that Lesley Saunders was on to the real right thing the moment I first read a poem of hers, In Praise of Felt Tips, back in 1987… She is an exciting poet.’ Anthony Thwaite

‘“Cloud Camera” is the most intelligent and thrilling book of poetry I’ve seen in several years...’ Michael Hulse

I have six published collections, The Dark Larder (Corridor Press, 1997); Christina the Astonishing, with Jane Draycott and Peter Hay (Two Rivers Press, 1998); Her Leafy Eye (Two Rivers Press, 2009), a collaboration with artist/horticulturalist Geoff Carr; No Doves published by Mulfran Press; Cloud Camera, published by Two Rivers Press in May 2012. The Walls Have Angels, published by Mulfran Press in autumn 2014, was 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.  My latest book is a chapbook called Periplous, published by Shearsman Press in 2016 - details on a separate page.

See my Reviews page for reviews…

Dark Larder’s title poem won first prize in the George MacBeth poetry competition and Christina was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read’. Her Leafy Eye was inspired by Rousham Gardens in Oxfordshire, landscaped in the 1730s by William Kent.

I’ve also had numerous individual poems published in, for example, the London Review of Books, Arete, Ambit, PN Review, Poetry London, Scintilla, Mslexia, Rialto, The North, Envoi, Staple, Writing Women, Spare Rib, The Warwick Review, The Poetry Business anthology. My poem ‘The Uses of Greek’ was shortlisted for the Best Single Poem in the Forward Prize 1999; and in 2008 I won joint first prize in the inaugural Manchester competition for a portfolio of poems.  My work is featured on various websites, including Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.  I have broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and performed at The Voicebox, South Bank Centre, London, as well as many poetry venues.

I especially love working with other people:  I’ve performed my work over many years with The Bloody Poets, sharing a stage on different occasions with Paul Foot and Tony Benn; and in partnership with dancer Liza Wedgwood in the shows Golden Dance, Silver Words, Miniatures and Some Languages Are Hard To Dream In, and with dancers Nicola Taylor and Jenny Coxwell-White in The Red Scarf.  The singer-songwriter Bobby Patrick has set some of my poems to music, and I participated, with the composer Dimitri Scarlato, in the John Armitage music and poetry collaboration 2013.

I’m a member of Anne Stewart’s 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 a featured poet on Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed.

By the way, if you like the photo on my website, visit Flotion Photography to find out more about Dwain Comissiong’s wonderful portrait and event photography.

Some projects

I was commissioned to act as poet-in-residence at a three-day international health and social care conference in 2006:  the resultant collection, Islands into a Continent, can be viewed at: http://www.health-disciplines.ubc.ca/intered/

The sound of violets, with Alison Phipps (poet and academic), a dialogue in poetry for policy - see academic publications list below

Castings, with Malcolm Rigg (photographer), a sequence of poems to commemorate the centennial exhibition in 2007 of the Royal British Society of Sculptors at Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury - contact me to receive a zip file or a pdf of the poems and photos.

in 2008-10, I was awarded a Visiting Scholarship at Murray Edwards College (formerly New Hall), Cambridge, to create a poetry project about the gardens, which are sustainably managed as well as being excitingly designed: New Hall Gardens.

in 2010-11 I had a writing residency at Acton Court, a beautiful and atmospheric Tudor house built for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  As well as being inspired by these historical associations, I wrote poems that responded to the extraordinary paintings of artist-in-residence Lisa Kopper (website currently unavailable).

in 2013 I had a residency at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science.

I am an experienced editor and poetry mentor; and I have also written several academic publications on the theme of poetry:

SAUNDERS, L. (2003).  ‘On flying, writing poetry and doing educational research.’ British Educational Research Journal, 29, 2, 175–187.
Read the paper [pdf]

SAUNDERS, L. (2006). ‘”Something made in language”: the poet’s gift?’, Management Decision (Special Issue), 44, 4, 504–11.

SAUNDERS, L. (2007). ‘An alternative way of responding to powerful ideas:  a poem entitled “Five Principles of Quality in Narratives of Action Research” plus notes’, Educational Action Research, 15, 1, 33–40.

PHIPPS, A. and SAUNDERS, L. (2009). ‘The sound of violets: the ethnographic potency of poetry?’ Ethnography and Education Special Issue, 4, 3, 357–87.

SAUNDERS, L. (2010). ‘The language of flowers? “Voice” in the garden’.  Paper presented at Poetry and Voice: a creative and critical conference, University of Chichester, Chichester, 27 June.