Hugh Venables

While I wait to publish my first collection, here is just a taster of my poetry. Please share your thoughts, questions and comments.

And please revisit – I will be posting more poems, some with commentary on how they came about. Thank you for reading.

The detectorist writes...

It is a well ploughed furrow thisRich brown soil overturnedFrom underneath the heavy sodsOf root-twined turf, like soft damp tombstones

Or to fettle out some dubious artefactFrom earthy aromatic loamOr cloying clay - a stone, a coinA brooch, an heirloom, cocooned

All equal in dark mysteryUntouched, dormant, impotent, inertYet more alluring for the enticingUncertainty of being.

These unmined trinkets, treasures, minePerhaps? At first still swathed and swaddledIn protective shroud they each lack lustre,Lie incoherent, indistinct, devoid of shape or form.

Unearthed they implore caress, seek the sensuous brushOf revelation to gently touch away time’s long deceitReveal for good or ill the inexorable weightOf memory forensically laid naked, bare.

There’s no return. The truth is now held firmIn unforgiving light - a button, casket, die-cast toy A telling glance, a harsh remembered wordThe unspent bullet, its polished glister waiting to explode.

Black dog

Silhouetted photograph of a black dog on a beach, amidst dimming evening light

Black dogliquid silhouetteviscous shadowapparitional chicwhose shape materialises from darknessonly when the light from some random streetlampor the moonripples silveron its undulating silken sheen.

Don’t confuse mehis doleful eyes implorewith that other beastwhich hounds and gnawsat souls

I reach downdeep to strokethe lustrous coattake comfortfrom its soft familiar touchits pungent warmth, the smell, the taste of dustor some paincaressed beneaththe sacred folds of flesh.

Ghost train

Beeching takes the blame; a nameforever blighted. But these sameforgotten lines branch out, new roots through timeand sinewed coarse cut cuttings, fineembankments of foxgloves and cloverthe fading ramparts of a conquest overarteries lush with ferns and grasseswhere gorse domains and blackthorn passesfor upholstery. And sleepers, fox or rabbits, stiramidst the haunting echoed blurof passing steam, the scented whispered trailof ghost trains carrying vital mailcrossing northwards the imaginary borderbut eclipsed now by a natural orderthe gilded liveriesof softly falling leaves.

The 1963 Beeching Report recommended axing about one third of the nationalised rail network – 5,000 miles of track, including hundreds of branch lines, 2,363 stations and tens of thousands of jobs. Nature has reclaimed many of the closed lines.

Those at school in the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s will be indelibly imprinted with the rhythm of W H Auden’s Night Mail (1936 – revised 1966).

Gannet at Aberdaron

Photograph of a gannet in flight over the sea. Credit to Brian Crosby (@briancrosby163)

He must have chanced upon a shoalhis crucifix of black-edged wingsspread wide in exaltation. Thenarched and twisting he tucks themtight as quivers, piercing firstthrough strident breezethen cutting sharp, obliqueinto a fleck-capped azure bluehis incision leaving only plumesof pure white spray.

He clips the spume across the folds of seawhile brilliant sunbeams tip each crease of wavewith dancing shards of dazzling light.He soars and glides and soars againand dives and feeds and banksagainst a Wedgwood sky while I

stand still, beached,the inexorable advance of tide and timeshuffling a shimmer of shingle beneathmy earthbound feet.

Hugh Venables Poetry · Gannet At Aberdaron

Photograph by Brian Crosby.

Waiting For Desserts

It’s the well-to-do elderly walking York’s drizzled streetsthese December dank days, warmed by triple-lockand fleeces, where sensible soft grey shoe meetsthe wet brown litter of mouldering leaves that block

the gutters’ grillslike a timely reminder.

Whilst in steam-stifled tea rooms and stuffy cafeswearing inscrutable smiles and camouflage grinsestranged pale youngsters work away their blank dayswaiting to see where their future beginsmortgaged by those on whose bidding they waitserving coffee that’s bitter as they contemplate

just when they’ll be servedtheir own just desserts.

Hugh Venables Poetry · Waiting For Desserts

Winter arrives

Momentarily soft blue sky pours pinkbehind a latticeworkof bared and tangled branches.

A magpie silhouettes.Frost spreads its brittle spellwhite across the acquiescent grass.

Still and sharp, the air coldholds its breathexpectant as Advent.

December 2021

"The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Homage to Swaledale

No mobile signalBrings to here its strident sound.No anxious tip-y-tapNo squinting downturned headsAs fingers paw on faceless screensNo needless platitudes exchangedNo selfies interrupt the continuity of timeless space.

Here tweets make sense.One hundred and forty characters compriseThe curved beaked curlew’s drawn out callThe shout of jackdawsOystercatchers’ vibrant screech in flightWhilst silently the wagtails strutIn fresh mown meadows’ dew.

And sheep, communing, tangled, ambleAstride steep-sided hillsBetween stone walls whose grey mosaicsConnect much more than they divide;A landscape shaped and smoothed as one by time.It is this open reach, these verdant viewsWhose connectivity I choose.

June 2016


In the thumb-smudged darkness of the tablet’s screenWhile the system loads, like some fifties’ valved TVThere, backlit, bearing shadows of a misjudged Hamlet scene,His jowly cheeks, his sweeping mane of greying hair, I seeMy father.

Type, promoting brand, self-forming through the blackness, can’t concealThe thoughtful studious frown, the earnest gaze, the furrowed browThe hint of puzzled anguished pain he can’t confess to feel.The folds of flesh, grey too, hold creases of familiar strain somehowReflecting me.

Too late. Familiar icons don’t erase the image truth revealed,The discomfort of the past disturbed, the flickering turned to fade,The undeleted cached refrain of matters not resolved or healedOf moments never lived, connections never made.I turn away.

From ‘Coronavirus Diaries’

Beyond days like these

Still only February he cuts the grassthe lazy hornet’s buzz of mowermarking arcs in two-tone greenwide around the cricket squarewhilst in his wakea scented ribbon trailsthe welcome breath of spring.

And walkers escaping lockdownpromenade in rhyming pairs preoccupiedcouplets whose singing conversation floatsso lightly on the warming breeze.

Days like these I cherish nowbefore the rising thrum of trafficfrom the nearby road intrudesbefore imperceptibly the worldslips slowly backinto before.

On writing...


It keeps reappearing like a tired clichéas timeworn as an over-laboured simile.I skirt it coyly. Wary of its lustre and allureI grub around the lexiconfor something else to take its place.

Please, I wonder, for what the words are worthhow often William recollected in tranquillitythe same phrase and breezed it quill in handonto a host of parchment pages.Or if Thomas Stearns, repeating Shantihthree times in a single line, sensedthe cold coming of it and dared to feelin any way the cruellest hollowof a whimpering guilt.

Still I find myself turning and turning to Yeatsto source the inspiration for that opening line.

Enough. Tenaciously, this fustyancient ivy of a word clingsyet sings the rhythm of a songbirdundulating, ululating, rollingits melodic way to nestle snuglyinto comforting verses, hopingin its timeworn way to hideinconspicuous betweenthose warm familiar sheets.

The fickleness of seeing

A time for reflection. I reflect upon a timewhenyou strained to hear; your frown Iread as angerpain in your eyes bled sorrow, yet I recoiled at your disdainheld still now falteringly in recollectiona broken palindromean errant Rorschach inkblotasymmetrical as a butterfly whose fragile tender wings flakeagainst the inexorable forceof strivingto survive

Notdeifiedinstead defilednever odd or eveneven oddlyI mistakeshadows for reflectionssee only the monochromed outline of the things that I recallwhere mirroredblack and whiteright where everything is held in fragile and uneasy balance, lefttruths turn to mythsdivideacross the tightrope of memoryblur like raindrops out of reach through misted panesof glass poisedto splinter into brittle shardssharp to pierce a tender woundwherein liesthe germ of failing to recognisethe truth before my very eyes.

The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in cases where patients are reluctant to describe their thinking processes openly.