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Claire Askew


Claire Askew has been featured in many past issues of Poets' Letter Magazine. She became Poet in Residence at Poets' Letter, January 2008 and then became one of the six Poets in Residence at the 4th London Poetry Festival 2008. It will take a while for us to get all her published works together in one place. Please bear with us.

Coming Together: Claire Askew

Poet in Residence at the 4th London Poetry Festival 2008

In the early days, when your feet still struggled,
each morning, to find themselves, you inhabited a city
that only made sense on paper. I, the flitting
white cane that guided you, steered us
through espresso daydreams on yawning streets,
beneath bus-shelters – we were both blind –
doe-eyed and awe-full among stricken gallery frames.

I remember you burning curls of incense
in a paper cup, scrawling on yourself –
your veins seemed to run on the outside of your skin,
liquidising your heart into the palm of your hand.
It was from there that your ash fell in the rain –
you started to smoke like an army man, that night,
as we sheltered against the steel doors
under scaffolding.

We took turns at artistic hysteria. I was your
Dorothy Wordsworth, your emotional proof-reader –
a writer of long-winded, comforting notes; a patient,
smiling model for myriad screwed-up sketches. In turn,
you suggested adjectives from behind newspaper folds;
filled the bathtub with autumn leaves – you fitted
stubborn typewriter ribbons, cursing, and blackened
to the wrist.

Soon, you solved the conundrum of your new
existence – turned correctly at the lights
without my prompt. Just like your escape from a life
lived between the pages of an A – Z, you began
to solve me; recognised my bad traits in the identity parade
of our love. Stupidly, I never thought to try
and trick you; simply buttoned you up with revelations –
talismans for the expedition ahead.

And so, we find ourselves cover-snatching under the jaws
of the night – I wear your shirts, confuse you
with my inexplicable scent. You read aloud to me,
memorise the poetic names of the beers I drink, insist
on paying for groceries. Somewhere, it seems, between the lost
and the finding, we scooped out a mould for ourselves
where the sky touches ground; a groove in the wood –
and somehow, with hands locked like puzzle-pieces, unnoticed,
we fit.

: This poem was included in the London Poetry Pearl Anthology, published in celebration of the fifth year of The London Poetry Festival 2008:

Claire Askew has been nominated to be The Best New Scottish Writer 2009 but she needs your votes! To vote











Claire Askew at the 4th London Poetry Festival: Anxious waiting for the Festival to start:  2008


Claire Askew was born in Northallerton, North Yorkshire in 1986. Her mother works in childcare regulation, and her father in various kinds of PR – his writing skills have been one of her major inspirations since childhood. During her early life, Claire and her family moved around a great deal – she attended four primary schools in around five years, and has lived in North Yorkshire , Worcester , Herefordshire, the Scottish Borders and Midlothian . As a result, Claire does not really call anywhere ‘home,’ but she currently lives in the centre of Edinburgh , and has done for the past four years. The city is one of the great loves of her life, and she is deeply attached to its cultural diversity and creatively charged atmosphere. Claire is soon to graduate from her final year of a Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh , reading English Literature. Over her four year degree she has studied with the likes of multi-award-winning Northern Irish poet Alan Gillis, and has also attended weekly creative writing workshops with Brian McCabe. After graduation she intends to enrol on an MSc course in Creative Writing – specialising in poetry – with hopes of a PhD to follow.

Claire’s writing ‘career’ began in 2004 when, as part of her high school’s competing team, she won both writing prizes in the annual Bar National Mock Trial Contest at Edinburgh ’s High Court. Realising that writing was something she wanted to take seriously, Claire went on to write a three-act play for children, On A Wing and a Prayer, and the Kelso Young Players performed it on a sell-out run in 2004. Since, Claire has concentrated on honing her poetry, and her work has appeared in various magazines. She appeared in two consecutive issues of New Leaf, the creative writing magazine of the University of Bremen , and then made successful submissions to Open Wide, The Beat, the Round Table Review, Brittle Star and Pomegranate.

Claire was also recently awarded the Grierson Prize 2008, the Sloan Prize 2008 and the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry 2008, the proceeds of which she plans to invest in “a big trip somewhere,” which will allow her some free time to produce more work.

Claire is part of a five-piece writing group, consisting of young poets from Edinburgh University , and named “The Blind Poets,” after their favourite local pub. In June 2007 the group published a collective pamphlet, Type


Dreams, through The Forest Free Press, and in November of that year, went on to establish the literary magazine Read This. Assisted by The Forest, and printed by the University of Edinburgh ’s English Literature department, Read This aims to provide a platform for young and emerging writers from all walks of life – a subject Claire, herself the Editor In Chief, feels passionately about. Read This is in print monthly and online  and has so far produced six successful issues, and held two full-house poetry events.

Claire Askew: Why I write poetry

I have been reading literature – and poetry in particular – for as long as I can remember, and even before. As a small child, I would apparently like nothing better than visiting the library, and sometimes demanded to be taken every single day. My Dad used to read poetry to me, because I preferred it to bedtime stories – things like ‘Jabberwocky’ and (a particular favourite) Patrick Barrington’s ‘The Diplomatic Platypus.’ By the time I was seven or so, I was addicted to TS Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,’ and loved DH Lawrence’s ‘The Snake,’ and ‘Night Mail’by Auden – I can still recite chunks of these poems by heart. I think I must have started writing at around this time. At seven I wrote a short story for the local fete, and won a silver spoon, which suppose you could say was my first writing credit. I also wrote various little animal-stories, and adventure-stories in the style of the Famous Five – which often involved my younger sister and I being captured by pirates, and so on. We lived in a very rural area when I was that age, and as I was always a bit of a loner, I found that I liked writing stories better than doing real-life things.