In Jane Clarke’s third poetry collection A Change in the Air, voices of the past and present reverberate with courage and resilience in the face of poverty, prejudice, war and exile and the everyday losses of living. Across six sequences, these intimate poems accrue power and resonance in what is essentially a book of love poems to our beautiful, fragile world – and to those who matter most within it.

Her first

The sun tries to shine
through narrow frosted windows,

while we wait with the other births,
deaths and marriages.

Close to lunchtime
the registrar ushers us into her office;

stacks of files on every surface
look set to topple.

She murmurs You’re my first,
and reads out the regulations,

then shuffles through papers,
studies the stapler on her desk

and reads them again.
When we tell her

we’ve been together twenty years
she stops searching for a biro,

meets our eyes and smiles
It’ll be a beautiful day.


Strange to use this word
for the woman I love –

is she my wife
when she lays her head on my shoulder,

when I whisper her name
in the morning to see if she’s awake,

or when we plant bluebells
under the oak

where we buried one dog, three cats
and a handful of dreams?

I practise saying Isobel is my wife
and it sings to the tune of my life.

Jane Clarke grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon and lives in Co. Wicklow, where she combines her own writing with her work as a creative writing tutor. Her first collection, The River (Bloodaxe, 2015) was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. All the Way Home, her illustrated booklet of poems in response to a First World War family archive in the Mary Evans Picture Library, London, was published by Smith|Doorstop in 2019. Her second book-length collection, When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe, 2019), was shortlisted for the 2020 Pigott Poetry Prize, the Irish Times Poetry Now Award and the Farmgate Café National Poetry Award 2020, as well as being longlisted for the Ondaatje Prize. A Change in the Air is out now in paperback from Bloodaxe.
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