Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week: Day One


The Children’s Heart Federation is the leading children’s heart charity and direct service provider as well as the umbrella body for voluntary organisations; working to meet the needs of children and young people with congenital and acquired heart conditions and their families.  Their vision is one of ‘a society in which all children with congenital heart disease have both their medical and social needs met so that they can live life to the full.’ You can find out more about them at www.chfed.org.uk  Twitter: @CHFed and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chfed

Strong Heart Songs
By Jo Bell

When their men rode off in warpaint
the women of the prairie tribes
stood tall to sing Strong Heart Songs.
They sang the strength into their men:
You must be saying all the time to yourself:
I must be brave. I must not fear anything.

Even when the fight came to the camp itself,
a tumble of hoof and promised pain,
the women of the prairie tribes stood tall
in blankets stitched with scorpions
and sang of heroes, battles won, brave deaths.

Our tribe is daily gathering itself for battle.
One standing up to nightmares in the classroom;
one is harried in her genius by disbelief;
another, back-to-back with all the clan;
one, racing with his life against a wily horseman.

Braves, as you go to hospital or courtroom,
as you start that meeting with the twinset London girl
who thinks that Birmingham is in the North;
the doctor drawing up the battle lines;
the midwife still insisting that you’re not in pain;

stand tall and listen for the tribe.
draw round the scorpion-stitched blanket,
listen past the bow and battle cry
and hear us singing Strong Heart Songs:
You must be saying all the time to yourself:
I will be brave. I will not fear anything.

Jo Bell is an award-winning poet. Formerly the director of National Poetry Day, she is now the UK Canal Laureate for the Poetry Society and CRT. Find out more at jobell.org and on Twitter: @Jo_Bell


The Break-heart
by Jacob Polley

I was a worker, am a worker, I’m at work
so I don’t have to be at home.
And still I will not speak.

I want to tell, but how to tell? I was a mother.
What more is there to tell or know?
How can you tell a mother?

A mother has a child. My motherhood is done.
No one can see my motherhood.
No one can see my son.

The grief I swallow, grief I will not wallow in.
There’s nothing to me, not a thing.
All I am is losing him.

I’m not a mother, I don’t show, nobody knows
I had a son. And now instead
of him his absence grows.

Jacob Polley has published three books of poems with Picador, The Brink, Little Gods and, most recently, The Havocs. His first novel, Talk of the Town, was published in 2009. His work has received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and Somerset Maugham Award, and he lives in Fife, where he’s a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Andrews. Website: www.jacobpolley.com  Twitter: @ExeterTwiddle  A longer and musical version of this poem was created as part of London Sinfonietta’s Blue Touch Paper programme.  See more, including an interview with Jacob here.

by Mary Robinson

In spring the garden fills with hearts:
Ranunculus ficaria – leaves cordate,
lesser celandine. Tadpole tubers
spawn underground, and for a week or two
those heart-shaped leaves award,
in school-room yellow, unmerited gold stars.


Mary blogs at http://maryrobinsonpoetry.blogspot.co.uk  Her first full-length poetry collection The Art of Gardening was published by Flambard Press in 2010.Her poetry pamphlet Uist Waulking Song is with Westward Books 2012. www.maryrobinson.org.uk  Twitter @LMERobinson

The Discovery
By Harry Man

Flight of Saturn V SA-511
Apollo 16, CM Callsign Orion, LM Callsign Casper Command Pilot: John W. Young,
Command Module Pilot: Thomas K. Mattingly II, Lunar Module Pilot: Charles M. Duke Jr
16th April 1972

This Saturn V sheds her heavy feathers
in the smoke, a rising asterisk of light,
the tank, pencil-slim, gimbals
twisting through the portal
between us and the airless shallows
of our immediate orbit.

The second stage too falls away,
and, for a split second
the pilots are blinded
by a vapour hotter than lightning
only to open their eyes
in the uninterrupted night.

It is so very still up there;
mission control becomes wind,
your own hands the horizon,
the difference between day and night
in the humming of lights,
a sense of home
nearer than a fireproof flight plan,
nearer than freeze-dried blueberries,
the sound of your own heart
in the night-time
a picture in crayon
from your son
which says ‘Daddy’
with the Moon
drawn in purple
and an arrow
for guidance.

(First published in Elbow Room, 2012)

Harry Man was born in Aylesbury in 1982 and lives in South London. His pamphlet ‘Lift’ won the Bridges of Struga Award 2014 and is shortlisted for the ‘Best Pamphlet’ in the 2014 Saboteur Awards.  His work has appeared in Poems in the Waiting Room, Astronaut, Battersea Review and Elbow Room among other places. www.manmadebooks.co.uk  You can read another ‘heart poem’ by Harry here: https://andotherpoems.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/harry-man/


The Susceptible Heart
by Amy Key

Nothing to be done about the sky, its early fall.
You give me match-strike, candelabra, chandelier.
This year, autumn doesn’t matter.
                                             If lit by dawn,
my mind will clamour to recall how our kiss left off,
how the evening’s talk – steeped in dramatics – set off
that wordless flourish. But tonight pours
into your absence. Take this half of ale,
sipped with one eye on your tastes and just now
my fringe swept away with your imagined hand.
Our romance, tracked by a fling of mill-town
horns, an elementary fiction of sweethearts.

Amy Key’s collection Luxe was published by Salt in 2013. She is co-editor of Poems in Which. Website: amyvkey.com  She tweets @msamykey.


(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)




8 thoughts on “Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week: Day One

  1. Reblogged this on Josephine Corcoran and commented:
    A wonderful initiative by poet Rebecca Goss in support of Children’s Heart Week. Rebecca has transformed her blog into an imaginative anthology of heart-themed poems. Show your support by reading and sharing the posts and find out more about the work of the Children’s Heart Federation. Day One: Poems by Jo Bell, Jacob Polley, Mary Robinson, Harry Man and Amy Key. Follow the blog all week for more poems.

  2. Extraordinary poems, and poets on day one of Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week. Thank you. Am reading Rebecca Goss’ own book “The Anatomy of Structures” at the moment. wow.

  3. Reblogged this on Jayne Stanton POETRY and commented:
    You can follow Rebecca Goss’s wonderful poetry initiative, ‘Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week’ via her blog. Read five heart-themed poems each day. Share to show your support for the work of the Children’s Heart Federation.

  4. Pingback: Saboteur Awards: Best One Off Event | Sabotage

  5. Pingback: Saboteur Awards 2015: Best Spoken Word Show, Regular Spoken Word Night, Spoken Word Performer, and One Off Event | Sabotage

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