Sunday Poem: Niall Campbell

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Niall Campbell.  I met Niall in 2011 at the Eric Gregory Award Night when we all went to London to the Calvary and Guards Club to collect our cheques and swan about being posh.  The winners of the Eric Gregory Award that year were myself, Niall, Holly Hopkins (who has a Sunday poem on here), Tom Chivers and Martin Jackson. 

I still keep in touch with them all – I bumped into Tom the other day at the Inpress Poetry Garden Market and had a nice cup of tea with Holly on the same day. 

Niall is a lovely guy – originally from the Western Isles of Scotland, so to fully appreciate this poem, you need to hear it in his accent!  Niall studied English Literature at Glasgow University and completed an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews.  In the same year he received an Eric Gregory, he was also awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship.  He’s currently living in Leeds.

Even before he won the Eric Gregory, Niall’s first pamplet had been accepted by the wonderful HappenStance press.  Why wonderful?  Well, firstly, the pamphlets are really stunning.  My copy of Niall’s still has the cellophane wrapper that it came in.  They are a lovely cream colour but the first and last page of Niall’s has a dark blue thick card insert.  Secondly, the Happenstance editor is Helena Nelson. 

Helena is a great poet in her own right – she came to read for ‘A Poem and A Pint’ in Water Yeat, Cumbria a year or so ago, and she was great fun.  The night she read, I was doing the music with my friend Liz Wiejak – I played The Trumpet Shall Sound, Carnival of Venice – can’t remember what else.  Anyway, she has a fantastic website and produces wonderful pamphlets. 

I think Niall’s has sold out now – but it would be worth checking the website for this, but I would also recommend Helena’s ‘How Not to Get Your Poetry Published’ if you are looking into publishing a pamphlet or a collection.  She gives great advice in this and it is well worth a read.  The website is

Anyway, here is the Sunday poem


I never knew old rope could rust, could copper
in its retirement as a nest for rats.

The frayed lengths knotting into ampersands
tell of this night, and this night, and this,

spent taut between the surface and the sea-floor –
the water coarsening each coiled blue fibre

and strained, one strand might snap, unleash its store
of ripples to be squandered in the dark

though thousands would remain still intertwined
and thousands do remain, but frailer now.

These hoards, attached to nothing, not seen since
the last tight-rope was walked, the last man hung.

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