Wendy Holborow: Janky Tuk Tuks

In our upcoming supplementary posts we will be featuring the new books that are scheduled to be published with our winter issue. It is good at last to be receiving submissions from some fine women poets and we will be publishing two of them in December.

Today it is the turn of prize-winning poet, playwright and story writer, Wendy Holborow.  Though born in South Wales, she lived in Greece for fourteen years where she founded and co-edited Poetry Greece. Poetry Salzburg published her collection After the Silent Phone Call (2015). This was followed by Work’s Forward Motion (2016) and An Italian Afternoon (Indigo Dreams, 2017), which was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2017. Her most recent collection, Ghosts before Breakfast, is inspired by the classics of European cinema.

Janky Tuk Tuks, her new collection, is in three parts, the first section written after the poet’s trip to India, the second after her travels in Africa, followed by an African short story. This is the poet’s eighth poetry collection, details of which can be found on her website:  https://www.wendyholborow.org.uk/books


Here are what  people have been saying about Wendy’s work:

‘Wendy Holborow has done it once again with a splendid new collection, her most ambitious yet, based on her recent visits to India and Africa. It contains a ‘fabulous rabble’ of rattling good poems, and a chilling short fiction, ‘Ngozi’, which has a twist guaranteed to shake us out of our habitual complacency about the endemic refugee crises not only in Africa, but around the world.’ Professor John Goodby.

I am always a bit hesitant when someone from a different background attempts to grasp a very ‘foreign’ subject matter, but Holborow’s poems are open and true and have simply connected. Not many people have an intuitive understanding of the culture, yet Holborow’s poetry has an instinctive grasp of the intrinsic in the face of the sometimes absurd.  This collection is brilliantly portrayed and entertaining. Sarada Thompson 


Wendy Holborrow: Four poems from Janky Tuk Tuks


peacocks herald monsoons
elaborate tails grow & spread
discerning a difference in the air —
the land astir, xxxxxxxxxxxrouses
xxxxxxfrom a prolonged sleep

yellow skies & the sun shifts
to shades of lavender

lightning xxxxxxxxxxxxxxthunder
a leaden band of louring clouds
like a dam       primed      to burst
& rain like chair legs
lashes the land
cries in every crevice
crushes scent from flowers

people vacate houses
step out of cars                lift faces
to the pelting rain, relish every drop

rain triggers lush new growth
fresh pastures for wildlife
cows & dogs & pigs no longer
scrabble the streets to drink.

The Yamuna river swells
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxpurls away
xxxxxxxxxinto purple dusk
as water buffalo cross in the shallows
where            displaced         sandbanks
have changed the contour
of the river & the land.

In the morning margin of sky
a blush dawn           bursts on the warmth
xxxxxof swarming-insect buzz
wild boars wallow in accumulated mud
but the onslaught of floods        is feared.


They have their own agenda
these birds we watch
have no awareness that we are charmed
by their presence.

Take the ubiquitous black kites that throng over Delhi
and above the Taj Mahal in all its glory
oblivious to my feeble attempts to film them,
my excitement counterbalanced
by their swoop on a mazy flight
of plum-head parakeets
the kite’s quiddity that of a predator nonetheless.

I hear a wing-beat symphony of discordant calls,
could tell of the dazzling flock of golden oriole
in the Ranthambore reserve,
or, at the watering hole, late afternoon
as a chirr of water murmurs over rocks,
cattle egrets that change their hue,
large egrets, cormorants,
redshanks, red water lapwings,
sunbirds, crested bunting,
myna with bright yellow legs and bill

crepuscular brown-faced and small spotted owls
waiting in trees for dusk,
the distinctive hoot of the scops owl,
heard not seen as the dark is opening wide

and everywhere, India’s national bird, the peafowl
males displaying tails to attract a mate
females drawn to the best array of fans.

I could describe how the colours of birds
saturate into a saffron sunset
as the sun slips away from a tie-dyed sky
and how they retreat

into their own secret world
incurious               oblivious.


Tyres claw at nothing, clods of mud
spatter windows opaque with dusk,
vegetation takes on monstrous shapes.

Night descends on this rarely used track
a short cut, we supposed, signposted
The Honeymoon Route that loops a U
back to where we started, if we can survive
a night spent in this National Park
patrolled only by ferocious creatures.

I could embellish this scenario
tell how a pride of lions surround us
how a lioness graces the bonnet,
paws at the windscreen as we huddle,
terrified, while the others prowl
and settle down to wait outside,
and how we see a leopard sprawled
along a branch of the tamarind tree
that overshadows the jeep,
how unrecognisable eyes glitter
in the now absolute dark.

Shapes smudge to warn us –
a herd of elephants approaches
and although they scatter the lions
and the lioness vacates her warm spot
on the bonnet, and the leopard
scales back his presence, one shove
from an elephant and we will overturn.

Our driver refuses to exit the jeep
to tie the winch to the tamarind tree.
He turns the engine on again, manoeuvres the jeep,
back and for, back and for, the engine screams
while we push the backs of seats
as if this could help.

Eventually, the jeep heaves out of the quagmire
we drive away in exultation
yet not knowing
if a deeper morass awaits
or the imagined elephants loiter
around the next bend.


Razor sun scrapes the sand
where the dead horse sinks
like the carcass of a wrecked ship.
Desert dogs shelter in the shade
of the cave of his skull –
they have picked him clean.

The second horse
dead a day or two,
legs stiff and straight.
His death so public.
No pyramid grave for him
just the great waves of sand
and the fearsome sun.

I thought I saw him tremble –
the membrane of his eyes moved,
the dogs already eating a trail
to their new cave.

Ridden hard
by men with shipwrecked minds
who scuttle souls.

The diabolical howl
was me, crying black tears
as the sand ached yellow.

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