Hi there

I’m Jo Somerset.  I write stories, poems, nonfiction and results of my experiments in life – for adults and children.  I’ve even had something translated into Catalan.  Here’s the latest from me.

Mugshot 2019

Autumn Voices Guest Poet

Autumn Voices Guest Poet

This month I’m honoured to be the guest poet at Autumn Voices creative community in the UK. Five of my poems appear weekly through October:

Millennium Bug  

As the clock displayed 00.01 am on 1st January 2000…………CLICK HERE

Lesson from Lorraine

Lorraine’s imagined voice speaks to us, reflecting on her life as a polio survivor and disability activist.………..CLICK HERE

Love Rising

Oh, the yeasty smell from the pizza shop……….CLICK HERE

……and next week…….there’s more

Leanne Bridgewater Award

I’m honoured to have received the inaugural Leanne Bridgewater Award for Innovation and Experiment from the University of Salford. Leanne was a well-known poet artist, aged only 29 when she died.

“I’m proud to be following in her footsteps,” I told Write Out Loud.

Different eras, unique voices. Both of us were born in Birmingham, both migrated to Manchester as young adults, both got a distinction (brag, brag) in our creative writing MA at Salford.

Leanne Bridgewater in 2015, shortlisted for Melita Hume poetry prize
Jo Somerset (me) when she found she’d won the award

Now there’s only one path to take, the one forged by Leanne and which I will follow: creative as I can, daring or bust.

A slice of queer history

Dear Jay,

You’re telling my childhood story except it’s 40 years later and it’s not mine, it’s yours. In grown-up words you describe how your three-year old self realised about gender restrictions,

I’ve experimented with format in this piece – contrasting my experience as a young lesbian in the 1970s with someone working through gender issues in the 2020s.

Click to read the full version Jo and Jay: a conversation across the generations

Clavmag is ‘something new and exciting and very very gay’ according to its founders, Gab and Frey.  It’s a digital lit mag publishing creative writing from queer, trans + non-binary people.

Bugs in our lives

It seems a long time since February, when I wrote this poem about bugs. In 2000, the Millennium bug (computer virus) never materialised, whereas now……

Millennium 2000

The dark sky crowded into our city streets.

No rain (thank you, gods), not freezing (nine degrees),

just clouds and stars peering down on

children pouring beer into the gutter then, with assumed bravado, holding up a near-empty bottle.

It was all fireworks and damp squibs and a few Cava corks popping

and my neighbour being hit by a rampaging Catherine wheel that flew off its nail.

 

The bug never arrived

and anyway it would have been sterile, computer-housed,

not a killer like the bugs to come.

Not like polio-malaria-AIDS-foot’n’mouth – funeral pyres consigned to memory thanks to intelligent-progress-scientific-advances

but SARS-Ebola-Coronavirus, science fiction-like, not a reality for our generation,

just what we were about to bequeath.

 

Sorry.

 

 

5th February 2020

How to think about VE Day

As a pacifist, it’s important not to glorify war.  But I don’t want to be a killjoy.  Just as the coronavirus crisis is leading to more questions than answers, VE day heralded hope laced with uncertainty, which the jigsaw pieces observed in this poem.

JIGSAW: VE DAY

I

An extraordinary day inside the jigsaw box.  Feelings ferment, pieces panic, rebellion rises from the ranks, jokers juggle and jumble, all descends into disorder.

A human opens the lid.

“Hmmm, grey, I don’t like grey.”

“Nor do we,” says a tiny voice.

II

The parts ask the whole:

“Why are they dancing, flags flying?”

750 pieces.  Is that all it takes to dispatch and dispel six years of death and destruction?  Dancing on the cobbles, forgetting that life is grey.  Shades of.  They say it’s black-and-white, but it’s not.  Yesterday they died, today they dance. Piecing together the future.

New Year Cheer

A new poem to get the juices flowing in 2020

QUEUEING FOR PIZZA

What a difference a dough makes.

Kneading her as if they’d never had that scorching row,

hoping she’ll rise

                                    and rise again after the next punching down,

this time playful,

grabbing by the handful, her giving way to

sinking fingers plunging stickily

and being shaped and rolled

and tucked into lightly greased pans,

Dough
Image: Detail from the toilet at Siop Shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter

eased in by loving hands,

and oh, so delicately rising once more

– some call it proving –

before the heat’s turned up,

 

a gaze at her perfect dome,

and sliding her in to bake.

What a difference a dough makes.

Buzzin Bards

 

Buzzin Bards 1I was delighted to read my poem Sixty at the launch of Buzzin Bards: A Manchester anthology.  It was great to feel the power of the spoken word as poet after poet read to a packed audience at Gulliver’s bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.  Here’s the first verse:

Buzzin Bards 2

Poem: The Winner

BIke Jo 2019

I was so impressed by Fiona Kolbinger, winner of the Transcontinental Bike Race, that I copied her and climbed a mountain myself (Mont Ventoux), then wrote a poem.

Here’s the first stanza.  You can read the rest at Dear Damsels 

 

THE WINNER

Fiona Kolbinger won the Transcontinental cycle race 2019 from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Brest (France) – 2,500 miles – in August 2019

“My sights were set on the women’s podium,”

said Fiona, the winner,

finishing her first ever ultra race, finishing first.

She pushed, she trained, she aimed to be the best

(woman).

Success surprised her,

Victory caught her out.

She aimed for the women’s podium.

The one behind her, runner up,

a man called Ben from Bristol,

ten hours, a hundred and fifty kilometres behind,

didn’t aim for the women’s podium.

He aimed to be the best

rolling into Brest.