Esther Morgan

Image by Caroline Forbes

Esther Morgan

b. 1970

I'm interested in the power mechanisms, personal and political and sometimes a combination of the two, that prevent people from speaking. Esther Morgan

What Happens While We Are Sleeping

Esther Morgan


At the parrot sanctuary

Esther Morgan

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About Esther Morgan

Esther Morgan was born in 1970 in Kidderminster. After reading English at Newnham College, Cambridge, she worked as a volunteer at the Wordsworth Trust, which is where she started writing poetry. Being exposed to Wordsworth's manuscripts gave her the confidence to develop her own poetic practice: "I began to understand that writing is a process in which the initial inspiration is worked on and developed, that even a poet as great as Wordsworth didn't always get it right first time."

Morgan gained an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia under the tutelage of Andrew Motion, and in 1998 won an Eric Gregory Award. After teaching at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, she returned to UEA to edit four volumes of the poetry anthology, Reactions(2000-2003).

In 2001 Esther Morgan's first collection Beyond Calling Distance was awarded the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her second collection The Silence Living in Houses appeared in 2005 to much critical acclaim, and as John Burnside commented "Esther Morgan's first collection promised that there was a significant poetic talent in the making. The Silence Living in Houses makes good on that promise…This is poetry of the first order by a poet who really knows how to sing."

The themes running through both collections are loss, loneliness and what remains unspoken. Many of the inhabitants of Morgan's poems are alone because they have chosen to be, such as the man in 'The Reason' who lives his life close to the land he was born from, out of earshot of an external world. The Silence Living in Houses is a book of interiors partly inspired by her time caretaking an Edwardian house in Oxfordshire . The house, which had never been renovated, provided a setting for some of her abiding concerns, such as women's place in society - although Morgan wears her political views lightly; she describes her subject matter as being "family and ancestry, the domestic space, the secrets of hidden lives."

Esther Morgan's voice on this Archive recording is musical and lulling so one doesn't at first see the dark corners of these deftly crafted poems, thus actively demonstrating what TLS reviewer Stephen Knight means when he says "…erasure, absence and isolation are explored in a voice so ingenuous, its language and syntax so plain, that it takes a while to notice quite how disturbing the poetry is".

This recording was made on November 17th 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Grace, Bloodaxe, 2011

The Silence Living in Houses Bloodaxe Books, 2005

Beyond Calling Distance Bloodaxe Books, 2001


2001 Aldeburgh First Collection Award 2001 Aldeburgh First Collection Award

Prize website

1961 Eric Gregory Award 1961 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

2001 (shortlist) John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize 2001(shortlist) John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize

Prize website


Esther Morgan

Esther Morgan Reading from Her Poems

1The Reason



4Out of Season

5Images on Glass


7Industrial Light and Magic

8Hints for Outback Motoring


10The Cows


12The House of


14Self Possession

15Bone China

16The Ghost of This House



19House Rules

20Her Given Names


22Balancing Act

23The Ring Hand

24Why Don't You Just Leave?

25Safe House

26Are You Homesick for the House of Cards?

27Growing a Girl

28British Winter Time

29At the parrot sanctuary


31Waiting Places

32The Long Holidays

33Spare Room in Summer

34The Messengers

35Among Women


37What Happens While We are Sleeping

38Summer Storm

39Garbo Among Us

40Hide Nor Hair

41Five Easy Pieces

42The China Mender's Daughter


44After Life


A tour of the Archive with Helen Gray

As a secondary schoolteacher in London for the past thirty years, it has been my privilege to have had a job which...

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Books by Esther Morgan