Jo Brandon was born in Essex in 1986 and is now based in West Yorkshire. Her working life has been varied, including roles as a domestic for the Royal Household, a tour guide, Creative Writing Coordinator for the Koestler Trust and an administrator for the Poetry Society and Poetry School.
Jo graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from Bretton Hall, University of Leeds in 2007. She now works as a freelance poetry editor, librettist and literary events host. In 2018 she was Bradford Literature Festival’s first Digital Poet in Residence. Her poetry is widely published in magazines and anthologies including The North, Poetry Review, Butcher’s Dog, Magma, Popshot and Brittle Star.
Jo’s debut pamphlet of poetry, Phobia, was published by Valley Press in 2012. Her first full-length collection, The Learned Goose, followed in 2015, and a second, Cures, in January 2021.
Paperback currently out of print.
Phobia was the first solo publication from Jo Brandon, who poured years of study, contemplation and poetic endeavour into her pamphlet-length debut.
The poems are skillful examinations of fear and hope, vulnerability and strength, nature and industry; and particularly what it means to be a female in the 21st century, with ancestors peering over your shoulder and contemporaries urging you forward. Experimenting with form and language throughout, whilst never compromising on emotional impact and intrigue, this is a book to delight on first reading, and return to year after year.
“I like Jo’s sharp observational eye ... whole worlds and lives are conjured in the spare but overflowing stories of poems like 'These Bones' and 'Kathy, GSOH, likes long walks'. These poems of vulnerability are brave, bright and true, and mark Brandon as a poet to watch.”
— Kate Fox
“Brandon shape-shifts between subject and observer, illuminating and enlightening. These are crafted, intelligent, challenging poems, revelling in an imagistic sensuality, a passion for detail and narrative discovery.”
— Rommi Smith
“Brandon has the gift of making one stop and think ... light-hearted and sparse with her language, but also eloquent and serious, with a quiet beauty to her words. A thought-provoking collection.”
— Ciara Hegarty
The 'learned goose' was a touring sensation in the 18th century: a goose that could predict the future, tell the time and read you like a book. Confronted with such a spectacle, a crowd's reactions would be a mixture of hope and cynicism, suspicion and wonderment, with a healthy dose of knowing wit and humour thrown in for good measure.
Jo Brandon's first full-length collection of poetry, named after the infamous goose, argues that these are the ideal attitudes to take when viewing our world – both as it is, and as it was. From the garden of Eden to the summer of '56, from the courts of Ancient Greece to those of 19th-century Britain, each poem places the reader somewhere unexpected, and proceeds to show them wonders; with unrelenting perceptiveness, empathy and intelligence. A must-read volume for all fans of contemporary poetry.
“Picture the masked reveller at the start of the ball, not knowing what adventures or catastrophes the long night will bring. This is the world of The Learned Goose, whose poet slips on fancy dress the better to disguise her investigations into matters of the heart, those both personal and historical ... a smart and sumptuous first collection.”
– Julia Bird
“There is something of the fairground sideshow about this delicious cornucopia of twisted tales where the lustful, lovely and grotesque gather together to intrigue and disquiet us with their stories. Here is a collection that leaps across time and space, between the domestic and mythical, with a fearless and lyrical grace.”
– Jacqueline Saphra
“A bewitching collection containing the sensual and the witty, the sacred and profane, and glorious language with profound psychological insight. Jo Brandon is a very fine writer indeed.”
– James Nash
Click here to read a poem from the collection (with our publisher's introduction), and here for a video of the author performing these poems (with an interview).
From a sapient pig to human extinction, syphilis to broken bones, a woman who births rabbits to changelings in the crib, this collection explores the full range of human fallibility as well as the eternal quest for hopefulness.
Cures is filled with strange characters: volcanic women, a rat catcher on the brink of retirement, a bonesetter, a drunkard, a mermaid; the collection is brimful with both the uncanny and the familiar, exploring the joys of parenthood, the folly of dissipation and reflecting on lives lived – mixing words in search of a tonic.
From the author: "I think we are all driven by the quest for cures, things to make us feel better, stronger, younger and happier; I also think we can all be a little misguided sometimes in our search. This collection contrasts human folly with positive and meaningful elements like family, feeding a curious mind and expressing our creativity. The collection combines the personal with the universal, the historical with the present and asks you to explore the strange and the familiar in equal measure.
On a personal note there are poems about my journey as a new parent and transitional aspects of my own life. I have a love of history and am passionate about rediscovering forgotten voices, particularly women’s voices. I wrote a collection stuffed with all the characters and stories that interest me and that I hope will be of interest to others."
Praise for Cures:
"There are poems here of gorgeous imaginings where Jo Brandon shakes out the clothes of historical characters and wears them with conviction and poetic truth; there are also poems of personal experience where she charts what is important and what will be remembered. A brilliant and heart-shaking collection from a poet who just gets better and better." — James Nash
"Jo Brandon creates more evocative and delicious worlds in her wonderful second collection. These are poems of the mind and of the body, gloriously fusing wisdom and craft. In her poem 'How To Be a Hermit' she says 'Your mind should be/as filled with curios and keepsakes/as a Victorian drawing room', and it feels like this collection is itself that drawing room, filled with character sketches, ventriloquistic feats and slices of real and surreal life. It is rich and clever and filled me up. I had to stop halfway reading it to send one poem to somebody because it summed up my year ('We Are Volcanoes'), wanted another to be a historical novel I could read immediately ('Bonesetter') and fought the urge to make one of many quotable lines my Facebook status or a poster; 'You smile while you talk so it can’t be knowledge'. Women and times and places come to life in these pages of down to earth lyricism, in a way that both shows their wounds and heals them – and us. Cures indeed." — Kate Fox
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