Valerie Morton: Handprints

A bit later than normal but the new Featured Writer is Valerie Morton, an old friend of mine from early days on Bill Greenwell’s Poetry Clinic.   Handprints is Valerie’s second collection with the energetic and dynamic Indigo Dream Publishing which is available here.  I was fascinated to learn that, as a child, Valerie’s reward for finishing her homework was to have poetry read to her by her mother.  How amazing is that? What a gift Valerie received from her mother.

I really loved her first short collection, Mango Tree, for its enigmatic and delicate qualities. Those poems were set in India.  Handprints is a fabulous follow-up  and has a wider scope, covering a range of times and places.  Valerie gives nothing away and in all her poems you are left with a sense there is much more than meets the eye.  Accomplished and polished these poems shine like gems you can’t quite get hold of and the more you see their glimmers the more fascinating they become. Here is love, anger, reconciliation, fear, disappointment, sorrow: big events that take place in the small moments of everyday life. The personal and the universal are balanced perfectly in every poem. They appear almsot effortless but such apparent simplicity is hard-won.

Here is one of my favourites for its sensory detail and for the chill that runs down my spine:

You’ll have to go outside; your father’s in the bath

Only need took me
through the green door, away
from the apple-pie kitchen
to a porch trellised by spiders.
Goosebumps rose on my skin
and mice scattered under
the wavering light of my torch.
Stray cats tapped across the roof
and from the coal-hole
came faint echoes of men
buried in airless places,
as lamps faded on sooted
faces. What I dreaded most
was the chain, its grab-handle
like a hanged man swinging
in the draught, snaring
my feet in shadows
on a cold floor, banging
on hollow walls like Marley’s
ghost pleading to be set free.


Bill Greenwell wrote of her poems, ‘These little incidents and images are rarely explained, so they have a special, extra force. This might be the writer’s life. By the end of Handprints it will be yours as well.”

I agree with him. Beautifully put, Bill.



About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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7 Responses to Valerie Morton: Handprints

  1. Thank you so much for this – what a special surprise to wake up to this morning. And your choice of poem with its goosepimples. Thank you!

  2. mavisgulliver says:

    What a wonderfully evocative poem, if this is typical of Handprints it’s definitely a collection to seek out.

  3. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Last week, I just finished my reading through my copy of Handprints for the second time. I highly recommend both it and Mango Tree, which is also in my library. The comments by both Becky and Bill are insightful. Valerie’s poems are personal and clear-eyed. And very, very good company. And I love the cover 🙂

  4. Thanks for your perceptions, Elly. Must make sure Valerie sees what you say: she will be thrilled. yes, the cover is very lovely.

  5. Thanks everyone for comments here – I like the thought of my poems being ‘very good company’ Elly. Hope they may continue to be.

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