Poetry by Cora Greenhill

Cora’s poetry has been published widely in British poetry publications such as Tears in the Fence, Staple, Cadenza and Fire and American publications such as The We’moon Almanac and Writing for our Lives. She has also been anthologised, most recently in My Mother Threw Knives (Second Light Publications 2006) and Into Further Reaches ed Jay Ramsay (PS Avalon 2007).

For a publishing CV click here.

New Poems: read some of my recent poetry here.

Collections: read examples from my three books.

[ Only In Crete | Deep In Time | Dreadful Work | Return to menu ]

Only In Crete

Only In Crete is a 42 page self published stapled booklet of poetry Cora has written in and about Crete.

The full colour cover is an intriguing photograph of the sea taken in Loutro, where several of the poems were also written in summer 2006. Others were written in the winter of 2005/6 from our new house in Aspro, Apokoronou in NW Crete. Many reverberate with the sense of layered time in the Cretan landscape. Some reflect the new experience of domestic life in Crete. The last few reflect my experience of losing both my parents 2005-6.

Two poems from Only in Crete

The Doves of Aspro

Some evenings you can see them
on the ledges of old houses
gilded like closed eyelids
praying westwards

before they rise as one
into a wide parabola:
all their curved breasts
on fire.

Above the village church
the high aloni,
the hidden donkey trails
and gold-tinged terrace walls

flashing like foil
in aerial meanders
backlit against storm clouds
they seem to silence

the stuttering rock breaker
the rumbling of rubble
being dumped on new slag heaps
the drone of the digger.

Some evenings you can see them
on the ledges of old houses
gilded like closed eyelids
praying ...



In search of peace ... or something
I drive without a goal
take the road that rises up
through Gavalachori.

Seven Venetian wells
stare up at me
with olive eyes
open to drowning

and another seven concrete-capped
like bunkers.

Roughhewn stone drinking troughs
flecked with yellow lichen
hold water alive with spawn

and the great platanias
branches wide as a people’s exodus
rushing outwards, shedding skin like snakes
from roots as deep
and trunks as wide as wells.

On higher ground
a church the pink of germolene
decked with marble tombs,
plastic flowers and photographs:
moustachioed Tassos
black-scarved kyria
smiling through parched-earth skin.

Outside the concrete churchyard wall
I find a steeply winding donkey-trail
stones worn smooth by carriers’ hooves
and thorns that snag like spite

Among the secret angles of the boulders
bared by February rains
traces of something recently abandoned
then further up
a tiny corbel-vaulted shepherd’s hut
and the threshing circle
clean-rimmed with weathered stone
drifting anemones
violet, magenta, indigo, cerise.



Deep In Time

78 page book, perfect bound with spine.
Cover art by Cora, inside art by Cora Greenhill and Pauline Rignall and others.

Deep in Time represents nearly a decade of the poet’s best work, is beautifully illustrated and was described by one critic as ‘gift quality’. It was received to enthusiastic critical acclaim. Read reviews.

Available from the author, or Amazon or pbs website.
Cover price £7.50
Author’s price £5 + £1 pp, less for 2 or more.

Four poems from Deep in Time


I crawl in fields of clay among the legs of men
lifting nests of purties* clean as eggs.
The boys get half a crown and I get sixpence.
I don’t understand the difference. It isn’t fair.
And the men set snares for rabbits and boys know where.

I ride in front of farmers’ sons on tractors.
My arms are smooth but their’s are rough with hair.
I feel their squidgy things through overalls:
I’d always known they’re different down there.
But men set snares for rabbits and boys know where.

We climb the high-stacked hay bales to the rafters.
The barn is dark but streaked with gold up here.
We make a nest and hide, trapping our laughter.
No fur is silkier than this new hair.
In here with me, you are not one of them:
Our fingers feel each other on a softly swelling stem.

But still, out there, when men set snares for rabbits
you know where.
(Previously published in Writing Women Vol 11, no 1.)




He breathes his songs through a short reed pipe.
There is no knowing
What is his voice, and what the sound of the pipe.

“We don’t have a word for music
in our language.
Music is the same as life.
We don’t speak of playing the mbira,”
(stroking the silver keys as voices fill the air)
“We touch its sounds.
Now, I like you to sing with me.
Na tonde wa. It means I love you.
We sing it to our children.
No, not like that. We sing it with a smile.”

He does not smile, he is smiled,
and the light shines from us all.

I am drawn to a space on the ground
danced by the songs
and the big moving airs of morning.

For Frances Bebey, Womad, 1995.


Dancing in a Place of Power

I step onto a silent stage
an airy space above the stretching sea
strong boards, new wedged
take all the weight
take all the weight of me
beneath the mountains
and above the stretching sea

beyond, steam veils the morning-watered furrows
of compost quickening
in the crumbly earth

a yeasty brewing stirrs
in the sticky dough of me
pulls in the leavening air
to lift the limbs of me
the squat square shape of me
the old straight tracks of me

skin pricks with sweat like fur
I feel the turf of me
tough pads of hands make fists
the roughened rocks in me
hurl a stamping rage
for power snatched from me
the power of growth in me
the space to be in me
the place that gives in me

I lift my eyes and see
steam veiling morning-watered furrows
and oh! that never-ending stretch of sea
the ceaseless sweep of waves
draws great draughts of breath to me
quenching an ancient thirst
till sobs and groans are song of me
streams of tears pour from me
the sweet salt snot of me
the strong long song of me

anchored in the old straight tracks of me
arms wingspun in dance
breaking the postures of apology.



Under Mt Shasta

I could come clean
living in this lake-water

just floating naked,
towards the sacred mountain.

Could grow old
here, suspended in silence.

Words would rise sparely
from the depths of me.

A pattern might sometimes
like this breeze silvering the surface

cause someone’s skin to shiver
or like a fish on a line

the flashing life of a phrase
might arrest a breath

or my toe in the sand might startle a crab-
like habit of mind.



Dreadful Work

Cora’s first book, published in 1989, is perfect bound with spine and beautiful original artwork cover. Inside are two sections, Dreadful Work, ranges over areas of women’s life and work, and This Dance contains intimate love poetry.
Both sections are finely illustrated by original ink drawings by the artist Rose Rose.

The few copies of this book left are only available by personal application to the author.

Poems from Dreadful Work

Women Artists

(after a visit to a country museum in France)

Huge families, frowning in photographs -
big women, grim girls
and boys, bitter men.

to tear open the earth
meaning massive muscles
the injuries of labour.

and irons for carved carcasses
mean instruments of slaughter
for beasts
weighty tables for bread.

Coarse hose, and clogs
for feet in fields
where black-shawled women worked with men
hands hardening
knuckles shining
from the washtub, the butter churn.

they worked too, those women
quilts of the softest stuff, so
as they ploughed with the men,
grew wide, grew loud, grew hard,
cursed and

the artistry that minds
and marvels at the varied leaf
the cobweb

in a case
gossamer lace
delicate and different
intricacy whispering of
intimacy in candlelight
finely inspired webs
to span, sparkling,
dark lives
deep wells.

To the Poetess on her Book Cover


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