About Tracey Herd

Tracey Herd is a poet who is concerned with perception and memory – in particular, how our subjectivities warp and magnify specific elements of our experiences over time. In her poem ‘Archive’, ‘the past’ appears ‘scattered and miniature’, while the speaker of the eminently touching ‘What I Remember’ observes that what she recalls ‘is not the race itself but the evening’ – ‘I hugged myself,/chilled, and waited for the starter, bent/forward, the tang of mown grass’ – affirming the psychological principle that what is often remembered is not the punctum of the memory, but its sensorial frame. Other poems of Herd’s are surreal and dream-like, suffused with symbolism, as with ‘Glass House’, where the speaker, ‘standing in the grand hall of mirrors’, observes how the ‘stars stare blankly’ at something just out of sight.

Born in Scotland in 1968, Herd began publishing poetry as an undergraduate at Dundee University, perhaps most notably in New Women Poets (Bloodaxe, 1990), a ground-breaking anthology edited by Carol Rumens. A few years later, in 1993, Herd received an Eric Gregory Award, and, subsequently, in 1995, a Scottish Arts Council bursary. Her first collection, No Hiding Place (Bloodaxe, 1996), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. In 1997 Herd took part in Bloodaxe’s New Blood tour of Britain, and in 1998 she was the youngest poet to take part in the British-Russian Poetry Festival, when she gave readings in Moscow and Ekaterinburg, and her poems appeared on the Russian metro. Dead Redhead, Herd’s second collection with Bloodaxe, was published in 2001, when it was named a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In 2002 Herd collaborated on a short opera, Descent, with the composer Gordon McPherson for Paragon Ensemble – it was later performed at the Traverse Theatre in Glasgow. Herd’s most recent collection Not in This World (Bloodaxe, 2015) was named a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

In addition to their engagement with apparently personal recollections, Herd’s poems are also clearly concerned with a cultural memory, with the ways in which the latter occasionally seeps, or indeed bursts, into the former. In ‘Not Fade Away’, which borrows its title from the well-known Buddy Holly song, the figure of the 1920’s actress Clara Bow – the world’s first ‘It Girl’ – manifests eerily but vividly during a visit to an ornate, overgrown cemetery. In another poem, ‘Louise Brooks’, a seemingly ekphrastic piece perhaps written after a photo of the iconic flapper, the final lines – ‘The eyes are cool and sane./The mood is violent’ – are strikingly visual.

Herd’s distant, detached speakers and her unusual use of the second person in her work – their address of an enigmatic ‘you’ – along with her more surreal phrasings, prompt a comparison with another contemporary poet, Selima Hill, though her tone – direct, assured – recalls an earlier poetry, more like that of Hilda Doolittle or H.D. (known as one of the imagists). In these recordings, Herd’s voice is rhythmical yet delicate, further embellishing her words with a haunting and lucid quality that is already present on the page.

The recording took place on 7th June 2017 at The Tun, BBC, Edinburgh

Not In This World, Bloodaxe, 2015

Dead Redhead, Bloodaxe, 2001

No Hiding Places, Bloodaxe, 1996

Prizes

Eric Gregory Award (1993)

Forward Prize for Best First Collection (1995)

Recordings

Tracey Herd Poet Downloads

1What I Wanted

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2What I Remember

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3Glass House

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4Archive

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5Memoirs

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6Brigadoon

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7Louise Brooks

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8Not Fade Away

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9The First Blonde

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10Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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11Bombshell

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12Black Swan

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13The Living Library

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14Sheep

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15Not James Dean

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16The Buddy Holly Trilogy: Near Clearlake, Iowa

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17The Buddy Holly Trilogy: Five Seconds

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18The Buddy Holly Trilogy: The Music Men

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19A World with Only One Song

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20Dreams of Lost Summers and Found Lines

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21The Survivors

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22The Bathing Girls

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23Just One Request

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24The Siege

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25The Fortune Teller

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26Happy Birthday

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27The Unicorn Seat

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28Coronach

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29Sir Ivor

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30Ruffian

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31Lyric Fantasy

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32Spring in the Valley of the Racehorse

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33The Afternoon Shift are Leaving the Port Talbot Steelworks

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34Calling Card

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Books by Tracey Herd