Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly is a freelance journalist and Chair of Magma Poetry. Her first collection, 'A Map Towards Fluency' is forthcoming from Carcanet this summer. 

This poem has a title
Tuesday, 14 May 2019 10:40

This poem has a title

Published in Poetry

This Poem has a Title

by Lisa Kelly

This poem must take medication in order to be read

at any future event. It has been found that this poem

has an unfair natural advantage which makes it stand

out at festivals and open mic spots, and streak ahead

of its competitors. In order for the competition not to

feel demoralised, this poem must take aural contraceptives

to suppress its innate ability to propagate and inspire

other poems to try as hard as this poem. This poem

must be sterilised, and wake up lethargic and drugged,

so it becomes a non-starter and will be stripped of its title.

This poem has too many phonemes which must significantly

be reduced to sub-haiku levels. However, if this poem

refuses to subscribe to its prescription, it may be allowed

to focus on becoming a long poem of 5,000 lines

where new rules regarding the phoneme levels do not

apply. It is accepted that this ruling is discriminatory,

but is necessary, reasonable and proportionate

to ensure fair competition for all poems that are just not

as good as this poem. Any argument that this poem

should be celebrated, not regulated, will be ignored.

The future of this poem has been brought to you by

a panel despite its serious concerns about this poem

having to take frequent medication, absence of evidence

and potential harmful side-effects of phoneme treatment.

This poem has promised to fight. This poem will be heard.

A Bar at the Folies Bergere
Sunday, 06 March 2016 10:37

Still Boiling: Two Poems for International Womens' Day

Published in Poetry


Your gob packed a punch like a fist –
any opponent floored by a come-back.

Like Ali, your one-liners would float then sting
until you punched above your weight;

and were punched by my fist for your gob. Ali,
my girl, it’ s time to knuckle under –be a butterfly.

You talk gobshite, need a jab to stop your jabber.
You’re inside my ring now: I watch you twist it

around your third finger, trying to box clever
staying silent, but I know your twisted thinking

as you watch Countdown – other contenders’
way with words. Face it: you were never one.

But now you’re up and spitting blood,
saying, inside of a ring or out,

ain’t nothing wrong with going down.
It’s staying down that’s wrong. And I’m dumb.


Death Certificate, Burnt Oak

Dealing with the paperwork of dying,
the registrar looks dead bored, and, sighing,
he asks for my dad’s place and date of death
and birth, job, names, and last usual address.
As he writes it down, his signet ring gleams
on his little finger. He looks up, leans
towards my mother, and his pen is poised,
as he asks her, as wife of the deceased,
her name, and, at last, her occupation.
‘Housewife,’ she says. A hesitation,
he wrinkles his brow, and, again, he sighs,
taps his pen. ‘Is that all?’ ‘Yes,’ she replies,
and in her voice, there’ s no hint of recoil,
while I said nothing, but boiled. And still boil.


Death Certificate, Burnt Oak, was first published in the anthology The Book of Love and Loss.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 10:10

Two Poems by Lisa Kelly

Published in Poetry

Last Man to Leave the Ice Factory

Ice was no chin-chin thing to keep a drink cold;
ice was business, titanic big, tonnes crushed
for the trawlers to keep fish fresh in the hold
tides away from land. Now machines are hushed;
then, up at four we were, 20 waggons waiting
for 20 tonnes of ice each. You’d eat off the floor
it was so polished. Pans of water chilled in a freezing
pool of brine, sliding out in slabs. No more;
now there’s pigeon shit on machines, copper wiring
ripped. Can you fathom this was progress?
No hacking ice from frozen ponds, nor importing
ice from Norway. Ammonia compressed
in the machines meant man-made ice on demand
for the biggest fishing fleet afloat. Cod wars, and fishing
was dying. I stayed on as gallons of water drained.
No shame in admitting to a grown man crying.

The Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust was unsuccessful in its recent bid for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund, despite being on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, a worldwide list of cultural sites at risk of being lost forever. The Ice Factory was built in 1901, and closed its doors in 1990. Mike Sonley, former chief rigger, was the last man to work there.


Workers’ photos are erected on posts around the local pond in Asserac, France

Valérie Touya, Coiffeuse
A big silver hoop dangles from one ear,
her T-shirt says, come from the moon.
To the man in the chair,
steel blades grazing his neck hair,
she is a luminary: a goddess in her sphere.

Claude Lelecque, Paludier
He is fierce in the face of the lens – caught
with a stash of the finest white substance
in a basket by his bare feet: harvested salt.
Behind him, his wooden hut is a treasure vault
for shovel; bucket; wooden rake, the long-handled sort.

Chantal Caba, Boulangère
From the interior of her stretch white
van, she smiles at her queuing fans.
‘Let them eat bread, baked on-site
and delivered first thing for their delight.’
Every inch a diva, after being up half the night.

Olivier Bertho, Charpentier
Not a cigar rolled for a star clamped in his teeth –
but a pencil. He will use it to mark his place,
of which he is sure, but now his focus is on the lathe
and the wood. His work will bequeath
craftsmanship for generations: a kind of belief.

Jean-Marc Lecam, Plombier
His rolled up sleeves, deadpan
stare straight to camera as if he means business.
He does. A hero, a leading man
who prevents floods, makes a plan.
A man of few words, whose catchphrase is I can.

Patrick Lecarff, Pompier
His uniform is not a costume. It is no act,
entering a burning building as the camera rolls.
Saving lives is not a drama; but matter-of-fact –
what he does for his community, backed
by a crew of solidarity: a fireproof pact.

Maxime Pierlo, Monteur de Kitesurf
This is his beach, his turf.
He is half man, half Poseidon,
half in his wetsuit, half out. King of the surf,
he harnesses the wind, cuts up the sky, can morph
from man to immortal. The title of his biopic: Sail Forth.