About Helen Mort
Mort has said that landscape is an important presence in her writing, and many of her poems were composed while walking or running in the Cumbrian fells. This may account for the metrical steadiness of much of her work: a basis for the sophisticated play and patterning of sound, which honours a lyric tradition perhaps most familiar from 20th Century Northern Irish and Scottish poetry. The evocative potential of sound appears to be a guiding concern for Mort’s writing process, resulting in tightly structured, memorable lines whose musicality and precision remain rare among poets of her generation. Throughout her highly praised first collection, this technical mastery gives an illuminating power to subjects including the miners’ strikes of the 1980s, which form a disruptive backdrop to accounts of adolescence and young adulthood; a self in composition is recognisable in these poems’ sense of hesitancy and unsure boundaries. But it is Mort’s imagistic leaps that are perhaps the most consistently impressive aspect of her work, her assured handling of how an image can quickly reorganise our everyday perceptions: ‘there are deer in the woods I’ll never see.’ For their clarity, their awareness of the past as a sustaining influence on the present, and their skill in listening and careful observation, her poems continue to gather an appreciative audience.
This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 19 November 2013 at The Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.
Helen Mort's favourite poetry sayings: