Frances Sackett: Cradle of Bones

Frances Sackett was born and grew up in North Wales. She spent some time working in London before moving to Shropshire where her two daughters were born. She has now lived in the North West of England for over thirty years. Jobs have included working in a bank, a bookshop and, after completing a degree in Literature at Manchester University, she tutored Creative Writing and Poetry Courses for Manchester University. She has had successes in major poetry competitions such as the  Cardiff International Prize and the Pre-Raphaelite Society Prize. Her debut collection, The Hand Glass, was published by Seren in 1996.

Copies of her long-overdue second collection, Cradle of Bones. are now available here on THW Press page. (Copies of Janky Tuk Tuks by Wendy Holborow are also now available here).


Gail Ashton on Frances Sackett

Sackett’s poems ‘live in another world’ where nature slides into Vienna, night gardens slip between comets, and the dead sit ‘in the heart of my shelves’. Their range of reference is the Brontes to Beethoven, Larkin to Lorca, Chagall to Matisse, even as they look to lived experience, to moons, constellations tuning up, a ‘bird’s throaty vibrato’, a brother making a bonfire of clothes, or someone’s voice on a recorded message ‘like a poem’.

Sackett’s own voice is cool, restrained, with a painter’s eye for simple yet exquisite detail. Achingly lovely, these poems know what it is to be human. They take us to ‘mornings of such blue vividness’, fling open doors to let in the light and we are all the richer for it.

Gail Ashton is a poet, author of Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture(Bloomsbury), and editor of meet me there, an anthology of writing & place (Cinnamon).


Frances Sackett: Four Poems from Cradle of Bones


Early morning
the valley is a waterscape,
without its teeming underwater life;

a tranquil blend of moving mists
with stills of lakes,
smoke that drifts so slowly.

On one promontory
a city sleeps,
walled and silent.

The sun keeps heating up –
developing the negative,
evolving realism.

Yet, you cannot say
this is not real:
the mystery of the fusion,
of light and water –
its morning consummation


On sudden impulse
he went to the car –
took out black bags
that had been there for weeks;

clothes that the police
had returned: designer shirts,
jeans, quirky caps, shoes
he had bought for his son.

The trees were the first to burn,
a mingling of pine and old apple,
their essence filling the garden,
then the wood and the clothes

burning together, flickering
and dropping their ash:
the trees he had climbed
as a child, now felled

for a view of the hills –
the healing dawn light.


Enter the boarded walkway
canvas screening your view
and the tap, tap of stone masons
echoes around the vast nave.

Men in hard hats pour over measurements,
white dust blooming their clothes,
stone window frames up-ended around them
like awkward aliens.

Then, soaring for the light,
stone columns throw out cactus flowers:
oasis from a century of craftsmen’s toil,
where cranes and scaffolding and long trapezes

mingle with this masterpiece of stone;
the piles of smashed ceramic
waiting to be jigsawed into bosses,
where sun illuminates their lapis/turquoise colours.

In this medieval workplace you wonder
if religion cowers in shadowy corners,
or floats above, where
sky and stone converge.

But in this noisy hub, where shawls
of dust and heat weave round the masons,
the faith is in the ongoing work;
the toiling for a vision of sublime.

Self Portrait, Aged 27

Does my past show in this one uncovered eye
and sad, still lips?
Did my mother die

for a reason, leaving me gripped
with this passion for art,
even when my heart was ripped

with her loss? I paint myself remote
from others – in sepia tints;
the trappings of my trade denote

me well: the glint
of ink bottle pinned to my buttonhole
like a badge, the shaded eye; thumbprints

of an artist show in each stolen
look in the mirror that will not console.


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