About Pauline Stainer

Pauline Stainer is an English poet, born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. After attending St Anne's College, Oxford, she moved to Essex, where she raised four children. After several years on the Orkney island of Rousay, she moved to Suffolk, where she lives now. Since the publication of her first volume of poems, The Honeycomb (1989) she has published 7 further full collections, including The Wound-Dresser's Dream (1996), for which she was nominated for the Whitbread Poetry Award, The Lady and the Hare: New and Selected Poems (2003), and her latest volume, Tiger Facing the Mist (2013). She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the King's Lynn Award for Merit in Poetry, a Cholmondeley Award and a Hawthornden fellowship, and was selected for the Poetry Book Society's New Generation Poets promotion in 1994. She is also an artist.

Stainer is an unusual contemporary poet in that she has a highly developed sense of her lineage within a specifically English tradition, one which originates in Anglo-Saxon riddles and extends through the highly allusive work of David Jones to the powerful natural imagery of Ted Hughes; but is equally at home engaging with Mallarmé, Lorca, or Wallace Stevens. Her extraordinary facility for describing sensory phenomena in vivid detail is always substantiated by a complex historical, ethical or philosophical context, resonating beyond the vividly realised scene presented to us, as in “A Litany of High Waters”: “Everywhere, the colour of exile – silica, sulphur // arctic foxes in their mottled summer blue, / ashes white unto harvest.” Her poetry collides language from myth and legend with that from science and the contemporary world, creating landscapes in which several temporal periods become startlingly coeval, as in “A Kind of Quickening”, in which a medieval church emerges from its contemporary surroundings to produce a series of anachronistic visions:

St-Mary-at-the-Quay
in her field of windscreens,
where crane-drivers
glide over the hammerbeams
as if sighting eternity
seawards.

In recent work she has exhibited a refreshing poise and restraint in her language to create scenes of startling power and strangeness, as in “After the Ark”, in which the disembarked pairs of animals, “long after landing”, would “watch / for the waterspouts / and that mysterious fall / of fish from the air”. The miraculousness of the natural world is registered throughout her oeuvre, as in “The Ice-Pilot”, which asserts that “One waterfall is extraordinarily like another”. Yet in Stainer's work nature is never idealised, glibly communicant or itself invulnerable, and an acute ecological consciousness is present throughout, as in the strange and oblique poem “Thaw”, which describes how “The bodies of Victorian climbers / are recovered / as the glaciers retreat”. In the space of a few short lines, Stainer alerts the reader to environmental disaster, evokes the ecological time which dwarfs human history, and also recalls the Norse creation myth alluded to elsewhere in her work: “as on the evening / of the first day / a man's hair / comes out of the ice”. It exemplifies this poet's ability to charge every line of her work with compacted meaning and various resonances, effects only heightened by her reading style, the care and precision of which allows her readers to appreciate to an even greater degree the intensity and control she exerts over every word and phrase.

 

The Honeycomb, Bloodaxe Books, 1989.

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The Ice-Pilot Speaks, Bloodaxe Books, 1997.

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Parable Island, Bloodaxe Books, 1999.

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Crossing the Snowline, Bloodaxe Books, 2008.

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The Wound-Dresser's Dream, Bloodaxe Books, 1997

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Sighting the Slave Ship, Bloodaxe Books, 1997.

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Tiger Facing the Mist, Bloodaxe Books, 2013.

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The Lady and the Hare: New and Selected Poems, Bloodaxe...

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Prizes

Hawthornden Fellowship, 1987

The Skoob / Index on Censorship Competition. 1992 First Prize for 'The Ice-Pilot Speaks'

Whitbread Poetry Award (Shortlist), 1997 Shortlisted for The Wound Dresser's Dream

Cholmondeley Award, 2009

King's Lynn Award for Merit in Poetry, 2000

Recordings

Pauline Stainer

Pauline Stainer Downloads

1A Haze Held by Thorns

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2Border-crossing

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3Bystander at the visitation

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4Caliban and the Blue Moon

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5Coleridge goes scuba-diving

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6Finisterre

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7Flora in Calix-light

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8Gyrfalcon

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9Holy family with three hares

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10How the snow-leopard became

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11Insight

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13Lepers at Dunwich

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12Landfall

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14'Mantegna's Hares

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15Mountain Bikers

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16Mozart at the Falconry Lodge 1763

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17Mrs John Dowland

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18Onsen

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19Outsleeping the Monsoon

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20Peregrini

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21Prima Nix

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22Quandal

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23Reading by snowlight

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24Reading the Light

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25Rimbaud in Zanzibar

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26Scarecrow

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27Shibui

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28Sighting the Slave Ship

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29Sourin

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30Swans alighting

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31The Blessing

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32The Colony

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33The dislocation

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34The Druids of Primrose Hill

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35The Falconers Bride

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36The Honeycomb

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37The Ice-Pilot Speaks

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38The Infinite Act

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39The nature of the game

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40The Queen of Sutton Hoo

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41The Yew Walk

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42Thomas Traherne in the Orient

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43Tiger facing the mist

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44The Crossing

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Books by Pauline Stainer