Denise McSheehy & The Plate Spinner

Denise McSheehy with her remarkable second collection, The Plate Spinner, is this month’s Featured Writer.  I’m really pleased that Denise is Featured Writer as I have known her for years and value her distinctive and highly unusual poetry.  She is a very private poet and you won’t find her on social media or online.  (But I just hope I can do her justice as I am recovering from flu which has knocked out my brain cells.)

This book was published by the always-industrious Oversteps Books at the end of last year and the cover shows this wonderful installation created by Caitlin Heffernan called We could have been anywhere which to me perfectly complements how Denise finds the extraordinary in the ordinary, in domesticity, in family ties, in the smallest details which she draws for us again and again with insightful and painterly accuracy: caitlin-heffernan-tree-166215_large

The sun brightens into the wide circular mouth

of the fruit bowl

a glass pane mists

and the floor, plain blocks

of honey coloured wood

and brown tiles, records

the movements of the day.

                                                     You know this

by the deepening of a shine.


(from One Sound Playing)


The poems Denise has chosen to send are possibly among my biggest favourites in her new collection.  I love Alchemists’  short lines and their surprising endings, the observed details, the way the simple language carries so much and then opens out into richer diction, erudite in the vocabulary of inflexion….Their narrative – the human heart.   Shelter is an extraordinary work, very finely wrought, not an extraneous word.  Like a drawing by Durer.  She is a master of the unspoken, of white space, of perfectly judged shifts of tone.

Her poems are both sharply defined and honed for she is a true draughtsman and this leads to their  feeling so warm and breathing on the page.  It looks effortless but can’t be.  Among other themes such as light and form and colour she explores time and memory in several poems but often these themes inform on one another,

All the things he didn’t

do don’t matter now.

And all the things he did

(from What is there to be afraid of?)


Inner and outer landscapes continually converge – the empty shell of a snail, a dried-out orange, bottles bulging in a plastic bag, the small sounds of drinking,  the short days of winter, the layers of winter colour on the sea, the secret pleasure of ear wax all stitch together the rich tapestry of this book.  Here’s a memorable modern take on The Listeners. It perfectly demonstrates her poetic powers…  better than I can explain.


The middle of the night and the phone rings.



But someone is there.

We listen to each other


In the dark and quiet we listen

there is between us not even breathing.


Yet I know the moment

 I’m released


What could be said

will now not be said.


A click;

the neutral purr


and I wonder who was out there

at five in the morning


who’d listened unknown as I had listened

listened to my silence –


Then quietly gone, cut off

blipped out in to the darkness. 


 You can find the book here as this book deserves careful reading and re-reading and you will need your own copy, believe me.   


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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One Response to Denise McSheehy & The Plate Spinner

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    What wonderful poems by Denise! They help us look and listen closely, and imagine what lies beyond. And your introduction does a fine job of preparing us for the poems. Thank you both. p.s. And what an inspired cover for the new collection!

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