Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury

b. 1953

Alison Brackenbury loves, lives, hymns and rhymes the natural world and its people like no other poet. – Gillian Clark


Alison Brackenbury


The Trent rises, 1947

Alison Brackenbury



Alison Brackenbury



Alison Brackenbury

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About Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury was born in 1953 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. She read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and has worked as a librarian in a technical college (1976-83), then as a part-time accounts and clerical assistant (1985-1989). From 1990 until her retirement in 2012, she was a director and manual worker in the family metal finishing business. She is married, with one daughter, and lives in Gloucestershire.

Her poetry collections include Dreams of Power (1981), Breaking Ground (1984), Christmas Roses (1988), Selected Poems (1991), 1829 (1995), After Beethoven (2000) and Bricks and Ballads (2004), all published by Carcanet. She has received a Cholmondeley Award and an Eric Gregory Award, and her poems have been featured many times on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Singing in the Dark, Brackenbury's seventh book of poetry, was reviewed by Charles Bainbridge in The Guardian, who wrote that her work "is characterised by a concern with stillness and natural detail, by a closeness to the ballad form, and, most of all, by a quiet lyricism and delight that is constantly being challenged, constantly under threat." Her later poems are deeply influenced by an amateur passion for Britain’s folksongs – She has scripted six programmes for BBC Radio 3, including Singing in the Dark, a celebration of the stubborn survival of Britain's traditional songs. Her eighth collection, Then, was published in 2013, with Vidyan Ravinthiran writing of the collection in Poetry London that "the delicate particularity…of her style chimes with that of the world. ….One hopes that Brackenbury’s kind of distinctive formal sensibility won’t disappear any time soon."

While this formal sensibility is certainly a defining aspect of Brackenbury's poetry, it is not what is most striking about hearing her recite her work. These poems find their resonance in a clear plain-spokenness, their unhurried and careful construction revealed as the product of an unusual, close attention, which intensifies over the course of a poem, becoming rapt, and through their joyful watching and listening developing a power capable of astonishment and self-revelation. It is the centred and watchful outward gaze of Brackenbury's poems that make their subjects such vivid presences, and has caused Gillian Clark to comment: "Alison Brackenbury loves, lives, hymns and rhymes the natural world and its people like no other poet."

This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 28 August 2013 at DB Studios and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Alison Brackenbury's favourite poetry sayings:

The angel appeared to shepherds, and to poets. – William Langland

Selected bibliography

Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1991


Afer Beethoven, Carcanet, 2000


Bricks and Ballads, Carcanet, 2004


Singing in the Dark, Carcanet, 2008


Then, Carcanet, 2013



1997 Cholmondeley Award

1982 Eric Gregory Award


Alison Brackenbury

Alison Brackenbury Reading from her Poems



3On The Aerial

4At The Beginning


6After the X-ray

7At Eighty

8Dickens - A Daydream

9In The Black Country



12Rented Rooms

13The Beanfields Scent


15The Spring at Chedworth

16Edward Thomas’ Daughter

17Xerxes, an Opera

18Yesterday Vivaldi visited me, and sold me some very expensive concerto’s



21After Beethoven



24The Nymph Considers the Garden

25The Trent Rises, 1947


27On the Move


29The House

30Apple Country

31Robert Brackenbury

32High Notes

33Hill Mist


35Christmas Roses

36December 25th, 12 noon

37Bath Cubes

38The Blue Door

39At Needlehole




43Wilfred Owen at the Advanced Horse Transport Depot, 1917

44On The Boards

A tour of the Archive with Clive James

The writer and broadcaster Clive James introduces a few of his favourite poems in the Poetry Archive.

Featured Guided Tours

Books by Alison Brackenbury