Kitty Coles lives in Surrey and works for a charity supporting disabled
people. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and
anthologies and have been nominated for the Forward Prize, Pushcart
Prize and Best of the Net. Her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife (2017), was joint
winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize. Visiting Hours, her first
full collection was published by The High Window in Spring 2020. You can order a copy on the High Window’s Press page. For more information on Kitty and her work visit: www.kittyrcoles.com
This is what reviewers have been saying about Kitty’s poems:
‘The ‘Visiting Hours’ here comprise Kitty Coles’ visits to a friend in a psych ward and the visits to herself as a patient post-surgery. Which banal description goes nowhere near saying how wonderful these poems are … I so want to enthuse about Kitty Coles’ work that I almost don’t know where to start. Many of the poems here edge towards the surreal, with the description of the slightly threatening, which seems to give them authenticity. Concepts and sensations depicted and conveyed brough smiles of recognition and/or grunts of admiration for their novel expression. And for their simple beauty. Her ‘Child’ for instance is simply wonderful.’
– Sam Smith in The Journal
‘This is a confident poetry, dextrous in its unforced appropriation of allegorical and mythic tropes for the purposes of finding contemporary resonance in material which, simultaneously, works hard to feel ancient and beyond the everyday. Not unlike Ian Duhig’s ‘The Lammas Hireling’, ‘Seal Wife’ achieves a powerful lift-off into the strange, the occult and the preternatural. Never less than convincing, this is an impressive debut highly worthy of our attention.’
– Martin Malone
‘Her style is cool and controlled, even if the subject matter is the darkness on the edge of town. They are poems that are outside the comfort zone; that is their point…We will be hearing more from her, and about her…’
– Greg Freeman in Write Out Loud
‘The language is rich, the images from myths and folk tales unsettling, and the overall effect is captivating.’ It certainly made a huge impression on me and I can see why it won the Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition… (Kitty’s) debut book should be considered for your Christmas list.’
– Algebra of Owls
There are echoes of Freud, Kafka and Bettelheim in Kitty Coles’ remarkable debut collection, which won the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016. The imagery is frequently startling, the undercurrents frequently dark and unsettling. A memorable and impressive debut.
– The Frogmore Papers
‘…These are indeed sure-footed poems, exploring ideas of transformation, loss and longing, and they work together as a particularly unified pamphlet…’
Kitty Coles: Four Poems from Visiting Hours
VISITING HOURS (BETHLEHEM ROYAL HOSPITAL, 1997)
There are always people tramping the corridors here.
They look me up and down: I’m intruding here.
I put out my arms to touch the air near your body.
I can’t yet trust myself to touch your body.
You package yourself in layers to hide your shrinking.
I have felt, at a butterfly kiss, your instinctive shrinking.
It always seems to be dusk here, always cold.
From under your layers, new hair, you emanate cold.
Your silence seems to demand I respond with silence.
I wish to imply the crudeness of words by my silence.
We walk the grounds and keep silent. Your hem collects mud.
Your hair, in its beauty, burns. I turn to the mud.
Why do we keep, so neatly, to the paths?
I would run, if you led, through damp grass, disregard the paths.
We return to the door: we pause to wipe our shoes.
‘If I could walk a mile in your shoes’…
A GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR
Tonight, you walk across my mind’s surface,
in stockinged feet to keep the carpet clean.
Your fingers drip ash like the fronds of a weeping willow.
In your flat, precarious towers
of books screen the walls floor to ceiling.
I perch on the sofa between two further mounds.
Diffidently, you exhibit the pot you made at the day centre,
round as a globe, with the lustrous smoothness of marbles.
You offer me raspberries, tasting of scent and summer.
You discourse on opera, the architecture of Rogers.
Your suit is faintly grubby at the edges.
When I bring up the past, you say you can’t remember
your mind puncturing itself
like a pelican feeding its brood, revolving
in its own foxfire of suffering.
Twelve years since I saw you, you still
pad my memory’s confines. You surface often,
haloed with smoke, old paper.
Fat bulb, I will follow you into the ground when you are buried there.
If I cling close enough will you warm my skin
with your crepey rags? Will you feed me with your
seal-like layers, your onion blubber, miraculous reserves?
My flesh is scant. I lack your wealth, your curves.
When snow covers the earth, I will suck like a child
on the firm heft of you, your globe of gold.
The frost will lie above us like a sheet.
We’ll clasp each other, host and parasite,
in the earth’s torpid bed, its beetly stink.
When you put out your root, I’ll put out mine,
its hairy fingers stretching through our sleep.
Our organs will birth stems and leaves and flowers.
My ribcage holds the expectation of roses.
When we emerge, the bees will tread our pollen.
How far will it fly, what stigma will it light on?
Waiting for me there in the garden,
your small palms, blameless, extending and,
as I near you, you approach me also,
with your marionette bounce,
your flat nose puggishly furrowed.
Your weight on my lap is hot.
You are gummy with summer
and the grass clippings stuck
to your calves transfer to my clothing.
Your hair is thin like mine
and, in the sunlight,
I see your scalp beneath it, illuminated.
Kitty Coles: Four New Poems
The white doves murmur like lovers,
crooning their nothings.
They are tiny things,
with narrow and blameless bodies.
They walk the lawn in great numbers,
nibbling and digging.
The grass, against their pallor,
flares fierce as a jewel.
The greylags lie with their legs bent out behind them,
the rubbery corrugations a virulent orange.
Their young lie among them,
shedding their feathers zealously.
They are strewn like confetti,
fawn curls of shivering softness.
The black swan moves on the lake,
a solitary creature.
She arcs her neck to bring her face
to the water.
She lowers it under the surface.
She makes no ripples.
Her red bill slices cleanly as a knife.
My skin ripples
in sympathy with the tides:
their lift and wash
carries me up and down.
My gooseflesh rises
with the coming storm
and when the sea is flat
I sleep and wallow.
Some days, the roar
of the waves
drowns out my pulse.
Shells press themselves
through my surface,
cracking its dryness.
through the fronds
weaving within my belly
and stir its sands
with their clammy little fins.
There are corals there,
thriving on some dark matter
and pearls fold sleekly
round internal scars.
IT’S WINTER AGAIN
I don’t think I’ll see you again.
Your ghost isn’t the same as you at all.
He’s thinner than you are
and his hands are cold.
When he borrows my gloves,
he returns them starchy with frost.
They drip on the radiators, dispirited.
Today by the pond at dusk,
late afternoon, he was stalking between
the birches. I thought he was you
so briefly my heart leapt up
before I knew why.
We are readying ourselves,
like animals, for the centremost
part of night, laying stores in,
heaping up blankets,
sleeping until noon.
He lounges in the bath
till the mirror fogs
and calls for coffee, which you never drank.
THE MOON IS THE SUN OF THE DEAD
she ferries them over,
solicitous, from this bank to the other.
The souls of the dead abide in her watery haven.
they thrive in her image, illusory and fickle,
sustained by nothing more than her numb pallor.
Two-faced, she turns her complete beam on them
while we are kept in darkness; then reverses,
bending her bright on us while they are lightless.
The drowned have a taste for washing in her glow,
under the willows, combing their hair like mermaids,
gurgling their senseless gurgles, blue and bulgy.
Her glimmers sip up the life of incautious sleepers:
set a glass of water on the sill to catch her.
Make it so deep she can’t crawl her way out.