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Herd Queen

by Di Slaney

Second collection from the poet and animal sanctuary founder.

Since 2005, Di Slaney has been filling her ancient Nottinghamshire farmhouse and its land with more livestock than is sensible: Manor Farm Charitable Trust is home to over 170 animals at the last count, many of them with special physical or behavioural needs. Herd Queen boasts eloquent animal sketches including Mayhem the Herdwick sheep and the tale of a nocturnal poetry slam run by mice; sea-salt childhood memories – taste the rain – and an exuberant riff on Christopher Smart that serves as a hymn to manure, ‘Jubilate Excreta’. (‘For when you fall in it you will always find the biggest pile.’) Di has produced yarn from her rare breed and rescued flock and, from a tangle of folkloric witch-wool to a jumper-bundled British childhood, wool threads many of the poems together.

But Di is acute and affecting on human relationships, too, granting vivid windows into richly imagined lives both contemporary and historical. Love letters come from Libya and desperate postcards from Powys; Lord Byron puffs and preens at his reflection; Elizabeth Broughton defends herself in an eighteenth-century courtroom; village characters are skewered with wicked wit. Her deeply moving collaboration with composer Omar Shahryar is based on his family’s experiences of evacuation from Saudi Arabia in 1990. Herd Queen’s heroines remember teenage trysts, do battle with the slings and arrows of ageing, collage a poem from Prince lyrics and dream of achieving Shirley Bassey-hood in their seventies. This is a constantly surprising, deeply satisfying book from a writer at the top of her game.


‘Wherever she goes in this wide-ranging collection, Di Slaney’s sophisticated, ambitious poems take the reader – moved, enthralled – right along with her’ 
— Jonathan Edwards

‘A tender and tactile collection from a poet who writes with a full and joyously mud-splattered heart’
— Seán Hewitt

‘Robust and earthy, subtle and direct by turn… often witty and sometimes wicked’
— Paula Meehan


Di Slaney is a poet, publisher and animal sanctuary founder who lives in Nottinghamshire. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University and owns Candlestick Press (famed for 'poetry pamphlets, instead of a card'). Her poems have been published in various magazines including Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and Brittle Star, twice shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and winner of the 2022 Plough Poetry Prize. Her debut pamphlet Dad’s Slideshow was published by Stonewood Press in 2015.

In 2005, Di and her husband moved into a Grade II Listed four-hundred-year-old farmhouse, populating it with livestock and eventually starting Manor Farm Charitable Trust. The house, the animals, and the surrounding village of Bilsthorpe became the subjects of her first full-length collection of poetry, Reward for Winter, published by Valley Press in 2016. A second collection, Herd Queen, followed in September 2020.


Edition: First

Date Published: 2020-09-10

ISBN: 9781912436415

Catalogue Number: VP0161

Number of Pages: 100

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover photograph by the author

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