Sarah Wimbush (British Working Class Poets)

Sarah Wimbush

Sarah Wimbush’s poetry is rooted in Yorkshire, England, with tales of childhood, colliery villages and Gypsies and Travellers. She is the recipient of a Northern Writers' Award and has published two prize-winning pamphlets: Bloodlines (Seren, 2020) and The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster (Smith|Doorstop, 2021). Her first collection, Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands, was published with Bloodaxe in 2022.






                                        In the Bloodlines

                                           there's a hooped earring.

                             In the Bloodlines there’s an open vardo

                        door, ramsons on the other side. Songs and seasons

                   wave at you from the Bloodlines, atchin tans watch you

                 fly. In the Bloodlines there’s an acorn of swagger that

               inflates into a barrel wearing a vest. In the Bloodlines

             there is nothing to offer up to the Old World except

           a pair of shammy bootees -

          your past, their past.

         Bloodlines stare,

        bemused by the

       chant of Tables,

       a company car;

       lunch. Bloodlines

       hoick slingshots at

       woodcock and snipe.

       Damp earth is a must

        as you lie with the Bloodlines,

        some scratch the name of the wind into elm with a crotchet hook,

         others chor lollipops from children. Bloodlines can’t hear you but

           they follow you in a handful of photographs and crumpled vowels:

            the shortening clay pipe; gorgio fowki. In the Bloodlines you make

               yourself make steamed pudding, then eat salad. In the Bloodlines

                 there’s a long blue thread. In the lea and the lanes there must be

                              someone who can tell you about the Bloodlines; about

                                       the rhythm of your tongue, your flying fox glare,

                                                          the need to set curtains ajar at night.

                                                          What are you searching for

                                                      in the darkness? Why are you?

                                                  And yet, it’s the Bloodlines

                                                 that murmur on the barval,

                                                     Bloodlines that understand

                                                     the spell of a campfire,

                                          your attraction to gold,

                                        how if I shuck my paleface

                                 from gullet to hairline,

                              the world would turn

                     scarlet and all that pours

                      out will be road.


atchin tans stopping places;   chor take/steal;   gorgio fowki non-Gypsy/Traveller folk;   barval wind



Won 2nd prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2019

The Pencil Sharpener


Fridays were pencil sharpening.

Like a bus conductor’s ticket machine

clamped on the teacher’s desk –

that squeeze to uncurtain the cavity,

insert a stub, then turn the lever with a whirr

until out came a skin-fresh pencil,

pastry skirt, the point a tack;

all the pencils in the pot

uniform-striped red and black.


Our pencils were oddments drawn

from Argos and Mum’s work. Spelling nights


Dad would shear the carving knife

with a steel: once, twice, a third

to set the edge, then slicing forwards

peel a pencil like a pear. He’d blow

the ice-pick tip and jab his thumb

to test for firmness, then

above the whiteness he’d excite the air

with tiny circles. I imagined words

like: daughter, sharpen, write.



First published in The North

Our Language


This is the voice. This is the sound of the broad and gubbed, the Undermen; the too-young, the faced-up, the midnight-blue tattooed. These are mouths fit to bust with faultlines and deputy sticks, the crackling of airlocks, motties, cages and tubs; throats riddled with methane and headstocks, gob-stink and dog-ends, of nights and days and afters, and the short walk home as dawn spills over the tip at the end of the houses. This is the language of the pony riders and jumped-up checkweighmen, of Davy lamps and Dudleys, the oncostlads and gaffers, of black-nails and snap-tins, and names like Arthur passed down through time until it’s more than a name, it has new meaning like the word GIANT or STONE. It is not dole-wallahs, nor the never-never, nor the light-fingered, nor more to be pitied than talked about, although talked about all the same, it is making your mark with a cross and having faith in what’s beneath. It’s friendship. It’s xxxx the bastards. This is the tune of haulage boys and shot-firers and Elvis impersonators, their legs smashed to bits at the bottom of shafts and the women who feed everyone’s children. Sometimes the words speak for themselves at galas or picket lines, or not at all, on those rare rest days, by a well-stocked lake, where men of rock are silenced by a distant horizon.        I could catch this language and write it out for those who want to know, I could place it in their palms to hold like a squab and watch it swell with all its ‘boot rooms’ and ‘slack’, because our language still exists. It roars by gas fires, and at the far table in the Club, and in the living museum beside the image of a man digging forever through a coal seam two foot thick.  It is black lung and unwritten songs. It is soup kitchens, work vests, hewers. Picks.


First published in The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster (Smith|Doorstop, 2021)


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