JoAnne McKay

We feature work by poet JoAnne McKay to mark National Poetry Day 2011.

Cover of book 'Venti'

JoAnne McKay is an Essex native who has lived in Dumfriesshire for the past 14 years. She grew up in a slaughterhouse in Romford, and her first career was as a police officer in Bristol.

JoAnne published her first poetry pamphlet, 'The fat plant', in 2009.

These two poems are taken from 'Venti', runner up in the 2011 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. The pamphlet features images by Matt Kish.


The Magdalene Fleur-de-Lis

Call me Iris. Call me Lily. Your flower.
I'll keep the boys' chins up in wartime,
French letters and kisses a lover's mime
that only costs them three francs for an hour.
It's memory of me that lends them power,
yellow flag on an azure bed through time
of all the symbol whores I reign sublime;
meanings bloom with every passing shower.
Bas-relief in Babylon, carried by kings,
my spear-head as sceptre shines divine right,
the splayed sepal structure inside me cries
to the Three-In-One whose salvation sings
from within to those who can hear the light;
I split as prism before your rainbowed eyes.




for a heartbeat there is no heartbeat
between the hominid and me
she holds it steady hand like mine
I hold it steadfast in my gaze
and will not look away till I can bear the weight
for this is it this rock
the birth of homo habilis who bears me
these two million years past imagine
what happens in her mind that makes her reason
if I hit this with that then other will result
and I can use it glass-cased before me
is the Olduvai Core of Prehistory
and I can't use language in order to grasp
this the moment of the start of our past

Olduvai Core: Africa: The Art of a Continent
Royal Academy, December 1995


National Poetry Day 2011

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