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When auntie was a crow
by Jo Haslam
£12 (pub. 2024)

The milestones of life – birth, love, relationships and death – are the subjects of this simmering fifth collection by Jo Haslam. Compassion and clarity are brought to experiences including the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s, the trauma of a loved one’s mental breakdown, and the challenges and joys of connecting with other cultures. Underpinning these concerns are poems which illuminate the strangeness and complexity of the natural world. Birds, beasts and water in all its diversity, from moorland streams to the hidden rivers of the author’s Manchester childhood, are filtered through the sensibility of a writer who is also a visual artist, with passion and precision.

Praise for When auntie was a crow:

“I cannot think of another poet who shares the imaginative momentum of Jo Haslam. Fluid and tumbling, rooted in daily life, her poems suddenly take off for other skies. (No wonder she is so in tune with birds.) Even at their tenderest, her clear lines compel, in the music of flight.”

Alison Brackenbury

“It is hard to imagine any reader, much less any poet, who will not be awed by the scope and sensibility of this powerful collection. Haslam invites us into her personal world to disclose the loves and trepidations we have in common, while springing linguistic and perceptual surprises at every turn. The result – a deftly modulated sequence from the thick of life, by a poet at the top of her game – is an absolute joy.”

Julia Deakin


“Tender, moving, lucid and deeply felt, this rewarding collection is Haslam at her best. Among the many delights of her poetic skill are her subtle use of internal rhyme and assonance, so that her poems resonate in the mind and draw the reader back again and again. Whether she is writing about family, the natural world or the moorland landscapes in which she is so at home, the light she sheds has a softness and strength like that of the moon who appears in different guises throughout this book. One to treasure.”

Joy Howard



Who makes each night from our low roof his rapt
disclosure to the sky and through our open window.
Each season a new song; he’ll practise till he gets it right.
Listen how it comes and goes through house and garden, woods,
the hills beyond. At each pause we wait
as if our lives depended on it. And if I said flute
or pure, it wouldn’t mean a thing. But come
into the evening quiet; he’s perched as high
as our roof will allow, his beak is open, lifted up,
its yellow deep as the sky is fathomless,
his note cool as its far-off blue,
as clear as this unclouded moon
that comes up pale and new, as single as its silver rim,
as round as any coin you’d take into your mouth to test.


(from When auntie was a crow)

The Sessions

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