Tag Archives: Angela Topping

Whitby Folk Week Summers

The first time I ever went to Whitby Folk Week, in 2003, the very first artist I ever heard perform was Gordon Tyrrall, in the 3pm concert at the Metropole Ballroom. I was very excited to hear he had set John Clare poems to music. And then he sang this, entitled Song, by Clare, but known by its opening line, Sweet the Pleasures I do Find. The song is to be found in A Midsummer Cushion. It remains one of my favourite songs ever.

Last year I wrote this poem using some of the phrases from it as hooks. Whitby is now a regular feature on my calendar, and I now run the poetry workshops (and have for about 8 years). Being a very small thread in such a rich festival feels wonderful. Already looking forward to seeing the friends I’ve made and welcoming people to my writing poetry sessions. And of course, hearing Gordon Tyrrall again. I wrote a book about John Clare, which is available from Greenwich Exchange publishers.


Whitby Folk Week Summers

after John Clare

Sweet the pleasures

Turkish delight ice-cream

Gin and tonic on the balcony

Scented pink roses in damp gardens


When every green is fresh with flowers

                        Spice of earth after summer rain

Cut grass on evening air

Walking back from concerts


And linnets sing to cheer me

                        Seagulls screaming

Sailing ships in the bay

Fish and chips in Royal Fisheries


Heaven to be near thee

                        First sight of the sea from the moor road

Golden hours with special friends

The heather song on the closing night


Banished to some barren isle

                        Warm afternoons of sea swimming

The last sweet notes of every concert

Bunch of heather drying on the window sill



Angela Topping




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Hygge Feature 33 # Against the Horror

When I started this feature my aim was to let poetry shine some light into the darkest time of year. 2016 was a very difficult year on the world stage. We are all aware of the results of two very important votes which rocked the fabric of society as we know it. The sense of hopelessness has been hard to cope with. Protests and anger have their place become exhausting. Like many people I personally am affected by cold, dark days both physically and mentally. I would like to thank the many poets who submitted poems for the feature, whether I used them or not. I was amazed and very grateful for the interest in this feature which some people have shown. It has been a lot of work to put it together but when people tell me it has helped them, that makes it all worthwhile.

I have been saving this poem by Sally Evans for the last day, because it expresses exactly what I was hoping to do. Sally was attending a Very Peculiar Burns Supper. organised by Ian Maxtone. Surrounded by friends, sharing poems, in difficult times – that is the notion of hygge I have been working with.

My own poem  shared below, is a fairly recent one, which was first published on I am not a Silent Poet. I too was sharing a meal with poetry friends, but it was a different kind of anniversary, one of war and death. It reflects on Brexit and Trump, and has no answers. Art provokes questions. And sometimes all we can do is hunker down with our tribe and practise a little kindness.


Photo of Sally Evans by Sweet Pea photography


“I don’t want to read a poem”

I don’t want to read a poem
for the simple reason I don’t want to write one.
I want to sit quietly watching
this part of the world go by
because it is hygge and simpatico,
complex words I have collected
for a warm presence of people
in a room that does its best
against the winter, against the horror
we have mostly experienced
in the past weeks,
the political maelstrom
that all deplore except those
who run with it,
crying Amen to decisions
we cannot countenance.

I want to sit among cheerful friends
looking across the tables
at broken crackers and candles,
tumblers with orange juice,
and the rich coffee we have ordered
but has not yet come –
writing away in a notebook
someone has actually given me –
they are these sorts of friends –
writers and those who understand them,
protesters and analysts,
recorders and accepters,
while windows onto the darkened winter trees
are ranged round the room between paintings,
bold coloured, abstract posters,
brightening this troubled time,
consoling the old, encouraging the young
and holding its own, this room
in a world of fascism and illiberalism
out of tune with our writing,
a world neither the old nor young
expected or deserved.

I have written so many poems
and this is where it brought us
so I do not want to read a poem
but to sit here and be content.


Sally Evans



Remembrance Day 2016

The train manager requests two minutes silence
as benevolent morning sun touches
middle England’s fields with gilt
while across the Channel, the Somme’s
sweet rolling hills are healing over
despite zig-zag trenches and craters
where paper poppies decay and fall
like blood-stained confetti.

Leonard Cohen has sung his last gravelly elegy,
so long Marianne and all the rest of us.
Obama leaves the White House,
Britain turns its back on the EU.
What vultures are hovering we do not know.
Over Mexican food three poets
talk passionately of politics, uneasy isms.
The papers continue to report things we cannot stomach.


Angela Topping



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Hygge Feature #29 Grandparents lost

Following on from yesterday’s post about grandparents, here are two of my own poems about my maternal grandparents. I never met them because they both died of cancer long before I was born, nursed tenderly by my mum. But I was told many beautiful stories about them, and they lived for me through those stories. I even felt my grandmother wished me into being, because mum told me she was watching my big sister playing with the handles of the dressing table, pre-school age, and from her sick bed she said to my mum ‘have another little girl, because little girls are lovely’. My mum was an only child. Her parents longed for a houseful of kids, but they only had the one. This photo is of my mum as a little girl, with her parents. Her father was Peter Coyne, her mother Margaret (known by some as Annie, nee Lawler)

If your children never met your parents, as mine never did, at least give them stories and show them photographs. Thankfully, for me the cycle of loss is broken and I have my delightful granddaughter.



Granny Coyne

My granny’s a whispering woman,
her stories follow me down the hall;
hang, half-told, in the corners of the kitchen
above a tut-tut of metal knitting pins.

My granny’s a soothing woman,
smoother of brows with a cool palm;
polisher of brasses; igniter of fires;
she picks up babies before they cry.

My granny’s a loving woman,
shoes clucking on tiles when I call.
her eyes laugh at me in photographs.
She’d have loved you, my mother says.

Little Dishwasher

You wanted a houseful of children,
sons. When your only daughter
made a polite appearance, you said
a little dishwasher. You didn’t mean
any disrespect; a boy would have
carried the family name, been a modest
pride for you. Through two world wars –
you serious in your uniform, did
the thought of her sustain you?

And when you lay dying, cancer
robbing you of all your fight,
you said to her as she washed you
how glad I am of my little dishwasher.
She who could shape a story
gave me this memory, a gift passed down
like a brassoed medal, to me,
your granddaughter, the one you never met.

Angela Topping

Both poems appeared in Letting Go (Mother’s Milk Books 2013)


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Hygge Feature #22 Pregnancy

What could be more appropriate to hygge than the womb? It’s surely the hyggekrog we all wish subliminally to return to, where we were warm and cosy, could dream our own dreams while hearing the sound of the world through a soft wall, with all our food delivered.



Soon Song
for Ethan

I’m joy-struck, dumb,
not numb, wee bun.
I couldn’t be fonder of you,
wandering sun of her
humming circumference,
drumming the tum of her,
more than the sum
of her and him.

Wee dove, wee chicken,
wee bun in the oven,
they haven’t a clue,
in the world how you
will sing them a song
that they never knew,
that they never sang
till they sing it to you.

O, you’ll have the run
of them soon, wee bun,
soon, when they cling to you,
drink in the skin of you,
soon, when you come,
wee bun, come new to them,
come to them soon,
wee bun, new kin to them.

Linda Goulden

First published in Magma 58 March 2014


Describing to my daughter how it feels when her baby quickens

Over and over, you ask yourself if
that’s it, or that …?
a feather might’ve touched you
but perhaps it was a digestive juice…
It feels like your imagination at work
but maybe it’s an intelligence …
Is it something you’ve swallowed?
Or are you just feeling nervous?
From inside a finger is stroking you
or a toe is reaching out to you
filling its universe of your interior space –
already a future tense has begun,
so close to your heart
you know its beat is being heard  –
your insides, your bones and sinews
are containing a presence,
so closely enwrapped together
but not yet feeling like touch.

Rebecca Gethin


We were spies on her world –
her safe house of skin. She
was etched in silver: moving, human.

She swam in a booming cave,
fathoms down. Heavy rope mooring her.
Round face, round eyes, ooh of mouth.

Gingerbread baby, currant eyes.
At home, I twist wool around needles,
craft garments, every stitch a wish.

Angela Topping

First published in Dandelions for Mothers’ Day (Stride 1988) and reprinted in Letting Go (Mother’s Milk Books)


A note on today’s artwork: The artist’s website is here: https://marijasmits.wordpress.com/

This picture is one of several made into cards and on sale at http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/index.php/shop

The Mother’s Milk Books poetry and prose competition closes today (31st January 2017) and the entry fee is a purchase from the website.




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Hygge Feature #19 Love Tokens

Following on from yesterday’s post, here are some more precious objects, but this time very personal love tokens, which take on a special significance to the receiver and become  small treasures which bring comfort in dark times of loss and fear.


There is Only One Now

He’d fashioned two love tokens
and placed them by the bed before he left.
I saw the gleam reflected in those fireballs
as I turned to the morning light, four
tiny globes on the table. I stretched out
to stroke the mercurial forms suspended
on silver lace bobbins, lifting the finials
to my tongue, rotating them gently
in my mouth, lips encasing, caressing
their compressed Jurassic warmth.
Then held the crook, letting them swing,
their slight comforting, consoling.
The combined weight was a gentle pull
on my lobes, the swing reassuring.
I noticed the inky refractions
whenever I lay them in my palms.
In summer the globes swung untrammelled
on their finialled shafts. In cold weather
and muffled against the numbing cold
of a rural parish church concert
I left with shoulders hunched, shuffling
through the congregation to the welcome
night crunch of gravel and smell of privet.
Unmuffling later I searched in vain
for the slight my one lobe missed.


Years later I roll the one remaining jet
in my hand and let my lips close again
over dark warmth and cool silver before
once more replacing it in the typesetter’s
shelves alongside other singles.

Faye Joy


Jet Heart

He chose me in secret
hoping to please;
To sit in the hollow of her throat,
warm black against the pearl.

When he is not near
her fingers stray
caressing me, drawing comfort
from the smoothness of my skin.

Once a chunk of Whitby jet –
I’ve become her amulet.

Angela Topping

first published in Dandelions for Mothers’ Day (Stride 1988)


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Hygge Feature #16 hyggekrog

A hyggekrog is a small nook where one can feel safe. Maybe a window seat or a cosy reading corner, an inglenook fireplace or a small room. My study at home, for example, is quite a small, book-lined room with a real fire and a sofa to snuggle up on. It’s a burrow for humans, and may go back as an instinct to our cave-dwelling days where ancient humans were safe from wild beasts. Small children, and I was one such, love to make tents from blankets indoors, or play under the table, hide under the bed.


Photo by Angela Topping, of the wonderful lounge at Gladstone’s Library. There is a window seat in the bay to the right, and a bookcase full of books to the left, and in the winter, they light the fire. I loved this room when I was Writer-in-Residence in 2013. Cosy up with these poems:

Places to Run Away to Without Leaving Home
Leave Sunday-afternoon homework,
stealthily climb the stairs.
Snug into the linen cupboard, pull the door to.
Leave just a crack of light to pierce the cosy nest.
Daydream in muted light of burrows and bunnies,
hedgehogs and birds, under pillows and quilts
like warm snow, become a forest creature.
Snuggle in and doze.
Steal into your big brother’s room.
Sit in silence, touch hands-off things:
Delve into that realm so different from your own.
Gain clues from LP’s. Aftershave, big shoes.
Make roars through a black -rocket clarinet
Become a jazz man in a sleazy dive.
Read his diary, gather ammunition
for when blackmail might be a good idea.
Lean back against a fence, under a hedge,
where fairies flit and their mushroom tables
rise from dark soil beneath.
Catch flickers of sky from leather –shiny leaves,
spin dreams of adventures to come.
Smell sunshine on your tucked-up knees.
Let a caterpillar walk your finger.
Ignore Mum’s call, stay quiet and hidden.
 MIki Byrne
Lydia heard the wind outside.
It roared too loud; she woke and cried.
The great ash rocked, the clouds raced by;
how dark, the February sky.
Night and north wind rage around.
Sleep tight, Lydia, warm and sound.
No wind shall ever breach this wall.
The bough won’t break, your cot won’t fall.
Merryn Williams

My Own Address

This oak roof comforts me whenever
Mother drives the hoover monster close;
I see its snarling metal teeth. The house is
my own address, my damask walls.

Under this table, I have kissed feet:
they are gone now, these people I love.
It‘s just me and my doll, and she
is no company at all. Her eyes are empty.

When my mother’s house is full again
I will emerge, be given sweets. My daddy,
home from work, will invite me
to sit in my other place, the house he makes

between his back and his chair’s back.
I do not know why hiding is needed
or why when I‘m sad I go under the bed
where balls of grey dust scut like rabbits.


Angela Topping


from The Five Petals of Elderflower (Red Squirrel Press 2016)


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Hygge Feature #15: The Goodness of Fruit

Today’s photograph is of a painting by Gloria Jeffries, used with permission from the artist. It made me think about the goodness of fruit. It’s simple food, often used as a winter treat, and so has cosy connotations. 16252022_10158125653360274_7108546111645859513_o


There were never oranges
like the one you peeled for me
that first night, paring the rind,
removing with a surgeon’s skill
every trace of white.

Zest filled the air.
You watched me sink my teeth in,
laughed as I posted a segment
into your mouth. Afterwards
you lit one of your father’s cigarettes.

I closed my eyes and breathed in
smoke, the scent of oranges, you.

Carole Bromley


Poem with a Satsuma in it

There is no sunset can rival
the particular shade of its skin

no sunrise the pimpled texture
no noon-glow the zing.

There can never be too many
satsumas in poems,

each segment a stanza,
every metaphor a pip.

I open a book of them
and my mouth waters

even before I’ve tasted
the opening line.

My grand-daughter
can’t say the word,

just points
more, more, more

 Carole Bromley

first published in The Stonegate Devil (Smith/Doorstop)



For Jan Dean 

Five pointed star, my pentacle,
how I would lift your jewels
from their case, one by one
on the pin’s point, before
I found a better way.

Now I bite into your leather
with greedy teeth, devouring
your firmaments, your rubies.
Time’s a thief and so am I,
seizing everything I can.

Time enough for picking out
your treasures one by one
when days begin to bleed
one into another like washed
watercolour sunsets.

Even Persephone could not resist
your glowing fairy-lights.
I garner your seeds for my journey,
draw on clean parchment
my pentacle five pointed star.

Angela Topping

First published in Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012)


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Hygge Feature #13 Domestic Delights

The simple joys of home: a bunch of daffodils, a bowl of hyacinths, blue and white pottery, candlelight and starlight, all can lift the spirits without expense. Today I have chosen one of mine, previously unpublished, because it goes so well with this photo and Maureen’s hyacinths, and Brian Johnstone’s meditative poem rounds off beautifully.


Photo Credit: Lucy Byrne


Midnight Robin


While the sky shimmers like shot silk,
chimney pots a toothy smile,
I count the pots, 1 2 3 4 5.

On my kitchen table, sheets and sheets
of screwed up poems,
I will flatten them tomorrow
for shopping lists.

While perfumed smells of hyacinths
bring memories of my mother:
‘they make lovely Christmas presents’
she would say, as she potted and tended …

The evening moves along
as evenings do…
The moon a half golden bracelet.
The sky cluttered with stars.

All is still, no cars, no trains.
And in this stillness
the midnight robin sings.

Maureen Weldon

First appeared in her pamphlet Midnight Robin, published by Poetry Space (2014)



This is the still time of year.
The snows have gone,
melting back into the atmosphere.
Not even snowdrops dare to break
the frosty earth. Indoors in their china bowl
paper-white narccissi sail like stars
against the window’s glossy black glass,
unnatural, forced from the bulb too soon.
The new year’s bombs lie undetonated.
Storms must be weathered.
This is the still time of night.
I am trying to unbury the past,
to find flowers still hidden in the bulb,
this time to nurture them.

Angela Topping


Mrs Baxter’s Lang Rig, St Andrews

The sense of habitation
this stone-built structure gives
has married three to one,

placed human souls
between the meat and wine,
with fire to warm and candlelight

to talk or dine by, here
where garden gives to orchard
and the walls protect.

This simple grasp of needs sets
pigeon boles in tiers to fill
the attic space with burbled song,

the while to raise
as fowl. The table waits below.
Beneath its feet the vaulted cellar

houses vintage upon vintage
labelled, racked, awaiting hands
to pair them to the meal,

to light the wick and kindle flame,
to feast on what this space
has stored against

the cold of winter, summer heat,
the fuss and bustle
of the house and its affairs

all left behind, deferred
to this retreat inhabited by ghosts
conversing, raising up a glass.

Brian Johnstone


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Hygge Feature #6 Making


Photo by Gill Lambert

Hygge is all about home-made.What could be cosier?

Strands of blue, a coat she made when you
were a grainy photograph, palm-sized and puny.
Rows and rows of rainbow, from the blanket
that your little brother sat on, crawled on,
slept on; the orange matched his hair.
Three hundred stitches wide, a thousand lines,
the leftovers of clothes that fit in other peoples’ lives:
baby socks, football hats, her own soft shawl.
The browns and greys that kept it all together,
the wash-well, hard-wearing functional
she could knit with her eyes shut.

The delicate filigree in white
to wrap a bride, her shoulders sheltered
from the spring wind, there
without an invite. Twists of cable
worked with Aran from the sweaters
made for others. Mohair flitting in and out
of rows of Fair isle. Traditional
and trendy; different generations.

When you and she are of an age
to be at separate ends of life,
when your shadow passes hers
and her hand knots inside the warm ball
of your palm; you will press the edges
round her knees, your fingers finding bumps
where she sewed the ends in,
the tell-tale lumps from mended holes.
And though you’re each as different
as garter stitch or purl,
you’re made of the same ritual;
that sacred act of wrapping yarn.

Gill Lambert




Happy Hookers
It is late afternoon
and the sun slips in
to fondle our winter-pale skin.
We are pleased to see him
so like happy hookers
we make our eyes wide
and we smile.
O how we smile
as we bait our hooks,
laying out our shapes
and brightest colours.
Where there is such work
there is a mystery
attends it.
Then the sweetness
of creation
is ours.
Abigail Wyatt

Kitchen Kitsch

Grandma tying on a pinny for me.
Rough squeak of cotton strings, the pull
around my middle like a hug.
I’m dressed in 1950s kitsch.
a weird print not unlike a paper bag
to measure out the currants and the flour
the relatives look down benign for once
a lass dressed and employed in fruitful work
in patterns they’d remember
Grandma smooths the weave,
her cold hard fingers skating on the cloth.
Later I get four to take away.
I fetch a paper bag from the soft drawer,
the pattern on the paper
a weird print like a kitchen pinny
50s kitsch.


Rachel McGladdery

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Call for Submissions: Hygge Poems for January and February 2017

IMG_0788.JPG I have become very interested in the idea of Hygge, the Danish term for cosiness, intimacy and taking pleasure from simple things. It’s about candlelight and cosy throws, knitting, sharing comfort food with good friends, reading, country walks,and enjoying everything in the present moment. It’s a hug for the soul. With all that happened in 2016 on the world stage, and the consequences we might face in 2017, we need this concept just to keep going through the drear months. The poems don’t have to be all sweetness and light. I am interested in the darkness and how poetry can shine a light in dark corners.

So I have decided to do a blog feature of hygge poems and am seeking contributions. You can email them to me on anji.topping@gmail.com. I can’t pay you anything but my blog does have a good following. I am looking for poems in any style, that speak to me about hygge, and the things it represents. If you have a photograph that you own copyright for and would let me use, do send those as well. Credit will be given for any images I use. Please include your name at the bottom of your individual poems, as that really helps.

I will reply to everyone who submits, and I aim to start posting poems very soon. I don’t mind poems which have been previously published, but please include a credit to the first publisher. If the poem is in a collection, include the publisher’s details – they will appreciate that.

Here is one of my poems from The Five Petals of Elderflower, first published on InterlitQ, which expresses the concept of hygge (though I had never heard of it when I wrote the poem). The collection of the same name was published by Red Squirrel Press in September 2016.


The Glass Swan


January midnight, a numbness of winter,

not for the first time, I am last awake.

The house is silent except for the hum

of the coal fire, the blue song of the fridge.


All the winters I have been alive, the weather

has been teaching its hard lessons:

those who lived so intensely are gone.

I shall not see them again, though I speak with them


in all the aching chambers of the mind.

Ice has hold of the earth, as those things

which are true but unwelcome, grip memory.

Look at this fire in the hearth, feel it.


Bank it up against the night. It is all we have, these

corporeal things: these candlesticks, this glass swan.


Angela Topping

Photo credit: artwork by Maria Walker

Submissions for this feature are now closed.


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