Helen Burke was born in Doncaster in 1953. She started writing poetry in 1969, and amassed an impressive record of competition victories, including the Manchester International, the Suffolk Poetry Prize, and the Ilkley Literature Performance Poetry Prize (twice). Her work has been published in Rialto, New Welsh Review, Northwords, Dream Catcher, as well as in innumerable anthologies and pamphlets.
Her full-length collections of poetry are The Ruby Slippers (2011), and Here's Looking at You Kid (2014), both published by Valley Press. July 2017 saw the release of Today the Birds Will Sing, a definitive 'collected' edition including all the poetry Helen published in the past fifty years.
Helen passed away at her home in York on the 20th April 2019. You can read Valley Press publisher Jamie McGarry's tribute to her here.
Paperback currently unavailable. The full text of this book is included in Helen's Collected Poems, available here.
The Ruby Slippers was nothing less than a poetry landmark, collecting thirty-one of the finest poems from a remarkable forty-year poetry career, in which Helen – the toast of her native Yorkshire – has won more competitions and prizes than you can shake a stick at.
This sparkling selection tells the story of her journey through poetry, from her early poems applauded by 'a very young Simon Armitage' to her recent work with the Origami Poems Project. The reader is transported through these years at a pace, with help from a selection of extremely red shoes and a fair number of animals.
The poems, uproariously funny and deeply touching (sometimes both within a single line), are complimented by a charming introduction, 'Why I Write', and extensive notes on the creation and publishing history of the poems. Any poetry lover will treasure this collection, and anyone with a soul will find much to love in this 'magnum opus' from one of Yorkshire's most valuable poets.
“Witty, vibrant, joyous, funny (her mother, though unlike every other mother, will remind you of your mother) and hyper-attentive to everything that makes us human, The Ruby Slippers is a wonderful book.”
— Thomas Lux
“A poet with verve, wit and humanity.”
— Ian McMillan
Helen Burke is a poet constantly on tour, and at each stop she makes time to take requests from the audience, for favourite poems from her vast back catalogue. These ‘requested poems’ have been brought together for Here’s Looking at You Kid, the long-awaited follow-up to Helen’s much-loved first collection The Ruby Slippers. Like its predecessor, this new book includes notes on each poem, a generous sprinkling of Helen's unique illustrations, and an introduction by the author.
Readers will at long last discover the secrets of ‘hospital lingo’, find out why dogs are so especially kind, learn how to handle mothers who are at ‘that difficult age between 81 and 81-and-a-half’, and the lurid details of ‘what they found in the poet’s stomach’. These are poems selected by the public, and tested on audiences all over the world. Each one is someone’s favourite – but which will be yours?
Since the late 1970s, Helen Burke’s poems have appeared in pamphlets, on greetings cards, on pieces of origami, on radio, on tape, on CD, on the side of stray dogs and in a million other places – including, more recently, two collections from Valley Press.
After a year’s work tracking them down, typing them up, and putting them into a sensible order, we’re delighted to present Today the Birds Will Sing; a comprehensive, exhaustive treasury of Helen’s writing. Besides the poems, these 300 pages are filled with Helen’s illustrations, family photos, and reams of notes explaining where on earth all this came from.
We feel it’s no overstatement to say this is the one book that everyone should own; an unprecedented and unexpected treat that should entertain Helen’s fans, new and old, for the next few centuries at least.
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