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Anna Saunders

the poet

CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Anna Saunders has been described as a poet 'of quite remarkable gifts' (Bernard O’Donoghue) and 'a modern myth maker' (Paul Stephenson) who 'surely can do anything' (The North ). She's the author of five collections – including Communion, Kissing the She Bear and Ghosting for Beginners – with her sixth, Feverfew, due out later in 2020.

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the poems

In the Flooded Woods

00:00 / 01:23

It's not as if we were together long, I tell my heart,
but it isn’t listening.

In the flooded woods long blades of garlic
have been crushed by the storm
and water lilies float like white crowns
knocked from sunken kings.

A bough drips ivy, clings to another tree,
like a drowning man grasping his rescuer’s arm.

The pine tree is full of goldfinches, their metallic chatter
a teasing squabble. There is a dove, fluttering to a settle.

A male bird flies down and lands on its back.
There's a fury of pearl and platinum,
a flourish of wings like skirts billowing up.

The coupling is brief, but beautiful,
and in the spring light, the birds resemble angels.

I have all the symptoms of grief.
I am wide eyed at night, and my heart races.

But oh – the memory of two creatures colliding,
that airborne heat,
before they both flew off into separate skies.

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I am pedigree I am snow fox
I am Siamese

00:00 / 01:36

In the asylum they shave off my fur
so they can electric me.
When I mew they show me a clump
of blond in a flat palm and I say
I am pedigree I am snow fox I am Siamese.
At night the janitor creeps into the ward
where I sleep without blankets – tells me
I should be on all fours. I used to lie
in a man’s lap, my belly rising and falling
like a swelling tide, my pink tips like
tiny gems. I’d try to sew myself
on him – my claws, glinting stitches.
When my warmth sent him under
I’d creep back out into the dusk,
bring back bloodied gifts
that I ripped down from the sky.
I brought a rat once, its entrails ribboning.
They say I have a severed self –
as if to love the warmth
of a soft cushioned room
and the spiky and musky dark equally
were an aberration. In the asylum
we are given cold meats.
I do not hunt because I am hungry.
He hit me when I brought the first mouse,
kicked me for the blackbird.
It’s not out of love
that I lay these trophies at his feet,
but I let him think so.

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What I Learnt from the Owl

00:00 / 01:05

What I learnt from the owl


how to hunt in silken plumage
tooled up with talons and hooks

how to split the seam of the night
with saw-tooth wings

how to consume all I kill
yet stay hungry.

What I learnt from the owl

how to haunt sleep
my head – a phantom full moon

how to be outcast and avenger
spectre and seraphim, winged god and ghoul
bladed angel dropping from the sky.

What I learnt from the owl 
how to voice my darkness 
in hisses, in shrieks
how to drop from the heights,
heart-shaped face falling to earth
as if love itself were plummeting.

Publishing credits

In the Flooded Woods (then titled In the Drowned Woods):

  As it Ought to Be

I am pedigree I am snow fox I am Siamese: Iceflow

What I Learnt from the Owl: Dear Reader

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