Image by Andrew Crowley

Helen Mort

b. 1985


I’m drawn to what you might think of as traditional lyric poetry; it’s an enduring, effective, powerful means of expression.

Pit Closure as a Tarantino Short

Helen Mort

The French for Death

Helen Mort

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About Helen Mort

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield, grew in Derbyshire, and studied Social and Political Sciences at Christ’s College, Cambridge. She has published two pamphlets with tall-lighthouse press, the shape of every box and a pint for the ghost (a Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring 2010). Five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, she received an Eric Gregory Award from The Society of Authors in 2007, and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. In 2010, she became the youngest ever poet in residence at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere. Her first full collection, Division Street, was published by Chatto & Windus in 2013, and shortlisted for both the TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize. She is studying for a PhD at The University of Sheffield and writes a blog, Poetry on the Brain, about her research into the connections between contemporary poetry and neuroscience. In October 2013, she was appointed as the 5th Derbyshire Poet Laureate.

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:

‘A poem is a smuggling of something back from the otherworld, a prime bit of shoplifting where you get something out the door before the buzzer goes off.’ – Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, RTE 1, July 1995
 

Selected bibliography

The Shape of Every Box, tall lighthouse, 2007

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A Pint for the Ghost, tall lighthouse, 2011

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Division Street, Chatto and Windus, 2013

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Prizes

2008 Manchester Young Poets Prize

2010 Norwich Café Writers Poetry competition

2010 Picador Prize shortlist

2013 TS Eliot Prize shortlist

2013 Costa Prize shortlist

A tour of the Archive with Julia Copus

I've avoided poems that other writers here have recommended, but which otherwise would certainly have been on my...

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Books & cds by Helen Mort