Tuesday Poem: Ode to Twining by Katie Hale

The week summer slammed the door so hard the valley
rumbled from its leaving, you couldn’t move for moaning.

Not fat complaints dropping powerless from lips,
or torrents gossiping and coarse – up here,
our words are leaner, tighter… Here we twine,

unwinding our moans like wool
festooned between us. When the weather
rocked the windows and swept away the bins,
we twined till twining became
entwining, till we had twilled ourselves
in the warp and weft of our words –

the way we were that other winter, when water
rose through the town and the roads were a maze,
when the rain was a blank wall
wetting our backs and the wind was a wild thing,

when our words unravelled and all we could do was follow them
like string – till together our twinings wound thicker,
were rope, and we bound ourselves together like love
as the floodwater billowed and swept –
and we stood fast in our twining and we waited, and we won.

Copyright Katie Hale 2017
Reproduced with the permission of the author.

This poem, by Cumbrian poet Katie Hale, was commissioned by the BBC as part of a series of  poems about dialect words on the BBC website during National Poetry Week.  Katie was given a collection of Cumbrian words and chose 'twining' which, up here in the Lake District, means moaning or complaining.  If you're 'twining on' you're being 'a right pain'.  Whining might be nearer to the actual meaning as alternatives sound too polite!

You can hear Katie reading the poem here on the website. 

Katie Hale photographed by Sepal Desai

Katie Hale is one of the young northern poets taking over the poetry scene.  Her name has featured often in the lists of prize-winning poets, including the prestigious Ballymaloe International prize. She co-authored an award-winning musical at the Edinburgh Festival in August, the Inevitable Quiet of the Crash, and is being mentored by Penguin with her first novel. She is a name to look out for.  Her first pamphlet was published this year by Flap. It's called, appropriately, Breaking the Surface.   It's contents are sometimes dark.  Eat Your Heart Out is a graphic riff on a saying we use without thinking about its literal meaning.  The wild is never far away - there are wolves and ravens, mermaids and sirens, things concealed that can never be told.  There are echoes of old mythologies, fairy tales (the ones without fairies) and a constant reminder of the dark side of human nature.  One of my favourite poems is Secret.

Against all odds, we keep her
locked in the dark space under the house.
It's a joint effort.
You bind her hands in complex knots
(it has been suggested she has the ability to pick locks),
chain one ankle to the ground.
I cover her with a blanket
to muffle her tinny, mewling sounds.
We feed her as seldom as possible.
We stop inviting the neighbours round,
change all our privacy settings to invisible.
We cut the phone line, lock the door,
nail the floorboards over our mouths.

Copyright Katie Hale 2017

Find out more on Katie Hale's website
and buy Breaking the Surface here.


  1. Loved them especially the one about twining. I found it joyful.

    1. Turning moaning into joy is quite a feat!
      Fine wordwork.


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