Monday, December 30, 2013

End of year book lists

Poets Anthony Howell and Naomi Foyle have included Woman's Head as Jug in their end of year round ups. Anthony for the Fortnightly Review: and Naomi for a list on Charles Boyles' CB Editions blog:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How it's been so far

Flu - my throat started to feel it as I packed up my books at Hornsey Library in London on October 26 and went for a peppermint tea with Kate Miller, a friend made at Local
Government Chronicle, a fellow journalist and an accomplished playwright. By the time I arrived home I was ready for bed. 
But whatever residual blues came with being out of action and staring at the sky from my high bed were dispersed over a weekend at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival from 8-10 November - two and a half days of listening, absorbing and wondering at the scope of contemporary poetry, starting with Grace Nichols' poems for children on Friday night, catching up with Peter Sansom who runs The North and The Poetry Business, and failing miserably in the poetry quiz! 
The energy that Aldeburgh generates was welcome as both trains to Hebden Bridge the following Monday were late. I arrived feeling the miles. At the Crown Inn I was reading with young Polish writer and artist Jacek Dehnel, smart, modern, intense. His writing and mine are very different, but seemed complementary. It was a chance, too, to thank Ben, Angela, Sarah and Tony from Arc Publications for doing such a good job on Woman's Head As Jug.
As we were leaving for aTurkish restaurant, a woman standing on the step outside said to me she never read poetry, never thought she'd like it, but as she listened she realised the poems were little stories and they made sense to her. 
In moments of doubt, when I wonder where this book will go, how far it will travel for readers, that was the greatest reassurance. She heard the poems and she heard herself in them. That is what I want - so far, so good. 
And the collection's now also available as an ebook on Kindle:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

London launch

I'm running a two hour poetry workshop on ancestors at Hornsey Library in London on October 26. It's £10 or £6 concessions, starts at 1.30 pm. 

Think of all the ancestors that populate your past - all the people you know nothing about. I'll share some of the techniques I've used to try and get closer to them. And we'll explore others. A flyer for the event is attached. 
Please pass on to anyone who might be interested. Booking is essential so please email Sarah Hymas for a place:

Woman's Head As Jug has its London launch at 4pm in the library with Katherine Gallagher. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

She's launched!

Yes, the book and me met at Kings Lynn and it's now officially launched. Here's me with CK Stead and Kit Wright just before the reading on Saturday 28 September at Kings Lynn Poetry Festival.

Left: CK Stead from New Zealand, right: Kit Wright
Karl Stead's poem about being examined by a female doctor gave me the boost I needed to deliver the menopause poems. Kit read a poem about plague horses and I read Funeral horses. 

But what was also particularly striking this year was the number of women reading including a Saturday afternoon all-woman line up: Carrie Etter, Caroline Gilfillan and Rhian Gallagher. On the Friday night, Helen Ivory shared the stage with Michael Hulse and John Fuller. 

Yep. It was a good launch with plenty of sun in between.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two weeks to launch

Two poets whose work I respect enormously have provided fabulous comments for the cover of Woman's Head As Jug.

“Jackie Wills should always be named with the most resiliently earthed and imaginative of living English poets. Her understanding of her own life, the lives of women, and the life of the world around us, is rich with intuitive rhythms and insights – Woman’s Head as Jug sparks poetry into new, crackling life.”

“In this new collection Jackie Wills approaches a shared female experience with impressive imaginative seriousness and a new confidence. Simple words and daring metaphors add up to something both old and new, disorienting and familiar as a spell.”

Friday, August 30, 2013

Three poems go live on Vimeo

Pighog's mission
John Davies of Brighton's successful independent publisher PigHog is building up a fine digital archive of poets reading at the Red Roaster cafe. Aside from live streaming of events - cutting edge stuff - his expanding team of interns and employees are steadily uploading singe poem clips to Vimeo.

Three poems from Woman's Head as Jug are now on Vimeo: The kitchen floor, Sheepcote Valley and Gyratory.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


This poem from Woman's Head As Jug seems to go with a dramatic, anonymous memorial I spotted in a London cemetery.


My mother’s hair – so thick
her eyes deep set,

unpierced ears
and small, square fingernails,

big toes pointing north-west, north-east,
a weakness for clairvoyants.

She has my mother’s need
to push her hands in soil, believes in hauntings.

She wears scarves in navy and green,
a knotted rope of pearls.

What do I call her? Will she hear her name
if I list what’s in this window –

sycamore, dog rose, nettle, pigeon,
the damselfly hovering round the stream?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The meaning of jug

Covering all eventualities I thought I should know all I could about the word 'jug'. I've been deceived by its simplicity, since it turns out to be rather more mysterious than I could imagine.

Jug has no clear etymology and a variety of meanings, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

So, the noun was once a pet name for a woman called Joan or Joanna. Jug was used as a common noun for a servant, mistress, sweetheart or 'homely woman', as well as a term of disparagement. These uses are now rare.

The commonest meaning of jug is the word for a vessel with a handle and a spout. However, it is also, rather delightfully, a word used to describe the notes a nightingale sings: "jug, jug". It's a place where partridges 'jug' or nestle. It's slang for prison and in the plural is Australian slang for breasts. 

The etymology of jug is uncertain. It is "possibly, as suggested by Wedgwood, a transferred use of jug n.1, the feminine name, for which there are analogies. But no actual evidence connecting the words has yet been found."

I looked for some images:

Face jugs and slavery: Columbia Museum of Art:

Egyptian jugs for breastmilk: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art:*&pos=17

Greek wine jug: Rhode Island School of Design museum

Double jug of women's heads, Mangbetu, Congo: American Museum of Natural History

Pablo Picasso: Woman's head crowned with flowers, 1954

Pablo Picasso: Wood-owl woman 1952

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I have read from the manuscript a few times but until recently it's always felt like work in progress. This event at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, organised by Dr Sue Eckstein and Prof Bobbie Farsides made Woman's Head as Jug feel imminent.
Menopause is such a taboo that this event could have gone two ways - the seats might have been empty, the conversation limited to the four of us.
As it is, loyal friends turned up as well as the curious, drawn I'm sure by the chance of asking a senior consultant questions. 
What I enjoyed about the event was how well the poems integrated with the medicine and Julia's explanations about how a woman's body changes. 
I unearthed poems from outside the Sweats sequence, that showed me that many others in Woman's Head as Jug are about change and then I rediscovered an outrider that made it into Commandments, published all those years ago in 2007: Concerns of a mature woman. 
Funny how these poems exist - premonitions almost or soundings. Anyway, that was the poem I ended on, a good companion.