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Hampshire Cultural Trust

Hampshire Poet for National year of Reading

Wendy Cope and Alison Orlowska

Poet Alison Orlowska from New Milton was appointed to this honorary title at an official launch of the National Year of Reading in Hampshire.

Just under 100 local poets entered the competition from all areas of the county, from writers aged 18 to over 80, submitting two poems from their portfolio and a personal statement. The poems were judged by poet, performer and playwright Keith Bennett who short listed 25 entries. Keiren Phelan, Literature Officer for Arts Council South East and Wendy Cope, acclaimed poet and Hampshire resident, then chose the winning poet.

The other short listed poets that performed at the launch were David Hellens of Basingstoke, Enid Hughes of Aldershot and Julian Stannard of Winchester.

The winner, Alison Orlowska, went on to produce four paid commissions to commemorate local activities and projects promoting the importance of literacy throughout the campaign. Commenting on her role the Hampshire Poet said "I am in no doubt that a passion for reading nourishes and broadens horizons. Over the years I have developed an exciting relationship with language through books and writing. I thrive on being able to share with others my enthusiasm for the possibilities inherent in reading and writing." Alison also ran workshops in schools, libraries and other venues, enthsusing young and old to pick up a pen and enjoy the pleasures of writing.


Right of Access

is to get the earth under the fingernails,
letting ancient ores seep into the skin.
The forest talks to itself in private vernacular,
platitudes in the patter of raindrops.
Off camera, a small copper flurry detaches, silent,
without warning, carrying out a discreet business.
Scarlet berries flung promiscuous among the litter,
unstrung beads from a discarded necklace.
Air stained ochre as autumn leaks its colour
at the edges, and broad-leaf boulevards
stride russet to the vanishing point.

A sudden stream of fallow deer, startled by
their own intent, hurtles from a spinney.
Sighting of an elephant through the holly, trunk
extended, snuffing, foreleg raised - unbelievable -
resolves to tumbled branches huge enough for ships’ timbers.
The oaks lean inwards, waiting only to catch the noon
sun’s eye as it checks each bole for just a second,
leaving me, uncertain settler, in this country
that is not mine, that knows itself alone, a wildness
that has been new for a thousand yesterdays.
But this morning I throw wide the eastern skylight
and call the forest home.

Alison Orlowska
8 December 2008



We read to know we’re not alone,
a well-respected writer said.
I sigh and disconnect the phone.

The right encounter with a book
ensures the mind is fully fed.
We read to know we’re not alone.

Sure, when I take the time to look,
the answer’s underlined in red.
I sigh and disconnect the phone.

Such pages, like a crochet hook
re-work the patterns in my head.
We read to know we’re not alone.

Much conversation I forsook
with other brains now left for dead.
I sigh and disconnect the phone.

And thus become an ideas crook
must creep away to feast in bed.
We read to know we’re not alone.
I sigh and disconnect the phone.

Alison Orlowska
31 January 2009


Changing Room

This dress takes care of me,
cushioning, folding up frailty.
Duvet to hang around my neck,
hand-me-down swooning,
lower me gently to sleep safely
hiding in your feather puffery.
Swaddle me.
Buffer me.

My dress has a neckline
to be drawn tight to the throat
and tethers my arms to its sides.
Ribbony tapes stitch wrists to fabric.
I wear it in private to stop bits of me
flying apart; you’re holding me in.
Hoarding me.
According me


As it sways heavy, silent,
at my ankles, swings with a will of its own,
I wonder can it trip me, trim me down,
sizing me to the measure of itself?
I am human and remember my scars,
but they only remember themselves.
The dress won’t let them forget.

I am more; more than my bruises,
my dislocations, and I crave curing,
quickening from a deeper source.
And this, after, all is only a garment.
Untie me.
Uncry me.


Object as Muse

Our Hampshire Poet for the National Year of Reading, Alison Orlowska responded to the Object as Muse exhibition at the Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre with the following poem.

This thought provoking exhibition explored differing responses, using a single object – a dress. Responses presented were from a range of creative disciplines, including photography, installation, ceramics and poetry.