Sue Boyle & Safe Passage

Sue Boyle is the new Featured Writer. Her latest book, Safe Passage, published by Oversteps Books is heart-achingly beautiful, from the shadowy, sparse lines of the cover (a wood engraving by Aldo Patocchi) to all the poems in the collection. She examines both safe and unsafe passages in this book that is filled with compassion and exquisite phrasing.  These poems seem to suggest we are all enacting ancient myths and also that we are all as important as gods and goddesses. Language is both lyrical and devastatingly precise. So many poems reach into the very quick of me. Here’s the opening of ‘the portraits at montacute’ –

From the long gallery they look down on us
two friends who had believed each other lost

or the ending of ‘at the hospital’-

We are deep voyagers to them
already on our way
to a distant world.
A nurse brings tea in a fat mug
two shortbread biscuits
wrapped in cellophane
and checks your drip.
She knows. Our friends know.
Everybody knows.

This book seamlessly sews together personal recollection with poems about others so that you are drawn into the many narratives as if they are your own as we find our way through the tangles of life. I heard Sue read from this book at Ways with Words at Dartington this year when Oversteps introduced their new writers this year (and what a fantastic line-up it was). I noted she had an impressive way of introducing the poems by starting with the poem of the honey-coloured girl at the swimming pool (which is on the school curriculum) and letting the other poems that followed suggest what might have happened to her. I met her also at Teignmouth Poetry Festival: such a lovely person she makes you feel like an old friend!

She has a deft eye for a clever title that really works: you have only to scan the contents list to be intrigued and see how she uses humour.


I found this review of Safe Passage and I do suggest you get this book before stocks run out! I read from it often.

Sue kindly sent me this poem when she heard about my recent health crisis and it really reached the spot where I was at the time:

We talk about the snow leopard
who has come to the end of her species’ time on earth
but still extends herself on the mountain ledge
as if this one cold day in this one cold sun
were the beginning of the world.

She has grown from this rock
and still belongs to it.
She is our model how not to be afraid.

I couldn’t live up to being like this snow leopard but I am out of hospital now after curative surgery (hopefully) and recovering at home which is how, after a longish silence while I was on the equivalent of a mountain ledge, you are receiving this blog today!  Safe passage to one and all.

safe passage cover one  copy




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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10 Responses to Sue Boyle & Safe Passage

  1. mavisgulliver says:

    Lovely to read this, Rebecca. Well done for getting back into writing after all you’ve been through – safe passage and a good recovery. x

  2. Thank you v much. And also for good wishes.May all your passages be safe.

  3. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Enjoyed reading your post and finding out more about Sue and her poetry. I agree with what you said about her titles – it was fun reading through the table of contents 🙂

    Wishing you all the best, Rebecca, as you recover from your surgery.

    Elly xxx

  4. www thanks Elly, so glad you liked the titles… I thought they showed how she isn’t deadly serious by any means and this all adds to the power of the book.

  5. Reblogged this on Sue Boyle Poetry and commented:
    Amazed, humbled and so privileged to have such a reading from a person of such courage and such warmth. If ‘Safe Passage’ were only to have one reader, I would wish it to have been Rebecca.

  6. Better late than never! I have just managed to catch up with this very enticing introduction to Sue Boyle – I so want to read more. The universal message of the title and the poems you have quoted from immediately draw the reader in. Good to see you back and blogging with your own tempting touch Rebecca – stay well X

  7. THank you so much for your enthusiasm, Valerie. SUe Boyle’s poems are right up your street, I think.

  8. great blog, desperate to read Sue Boyle now!

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