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Kate Noakes on her new collection: Goldhawk Road

Goldhawk Road front coverI started writing this collection in 2017 as I transitioned from living and working in Paris, where I had been for six years, back to London. There are poems from both cities. I found myself bidding a fond farewell to France, as well as looking at home with fresh eyes. The collection has had to wait a while due to the pandemic, but that is no bad thing.

Opening with ‘Flat holm/Steep holm,’ a poem about cultural identity, where home is is to the fore when you have lived in different places. I’m Welsh, but don’t live in Wales, and British too when living outside the UK. It’s confusing. But what are solid and tangible are the things around us. Hence London in all its colours, seasons and histories. There are poems from Mayfair to Hammersmith Bridge, and an eponymous long poem, well, long for me is if it goes over more than one page, which mines my immediate neighbourhood in Shepherds Bush.  A separate section sings of some of the notable trees of London and other trees important to me.

Home is also the place of my concerns about freedom, the lives of women and my daughters. My thoughts range more widely on these topics too. Trump was U.S. President during my writing of the collection, busy attacking women and the environment. There are poems reflecting these important issues, such as ‘Her name is Margaret Paxton’, ‘Badlands become Badasslands’, ‘Edward’s memory is a hard disk’, and ‘Just not beautiful enough’.

Climate change is ever in my concerns. New poems here concern themselves with birds and insects (‘One thing I meant to do with the girls’ and ‘The curators’ lunchtime game’), sea level rise (‘Gulls perhaps’ and ‘Spring 2042’), and the way we think and write about the natural world (‘Old nature writing’).

And there is always art. I have been looking at painting, prints and sculptures and thinking seriously about art for over forty years. I make art myself as a printmaker. Not surprisingly it makes its presence felt in my work such as poems amongst other things after Georgia O’Keefe (‘Morphology of the black/white places’), Damien Hirst (‘Your table will be about ten minutes’) and Richard Long (‘Explain yourself in 120 miles’). British colonial history pops up in art in ‘Heritage 2020’ and BLM in ‘Season of goodwill,’ and there’s one sly swipe at Brexit.

Place and considerations of otherness are reflected in poems from my childhood in Australia like ‘The Wendy House and ‘Collected in 1968.’ A wonderful visit to Japan in 2018 occasioned a number of poems, and I often turn to the two years I spent in the US, some twenty years ago now, for inspiration from the landscape of its South West, as well as a more recent trip to New Orleans in 2019. As with the art inspired poems, these are, of course, about other things – climate change (‘Learning bottlenose’), homelessness (‘Brown anole lizard on a fence post, watching’), environmental destruction (‘Earth surface sediment transport’), and failed relationships (‘Voodoo to cast away pain and devastation’).

This all sounds rather serious, and it is, but I hope my tone, a kind of sarcastic wit, does not make it overly so. My work is meant to be an entertainment. Having said that, just because it sounds jokey, does not mean it is.

Kate Noakes

January 2023


Buy a copy of Goldhawk Road here

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Mint tea is no cure ~ a poem by Kate Noakes


The art trail enlivens proceedings by inviting
poets to read in artists’ garden, where bees
work for pollen on lavender and valerian.
I choose a few poems that may chime
with the work of potters, painters,
printmakers and jewellers, but
this year I’ve not shaken off winter’s grip

and my chest is a squeezebox with loosed ties,
tumbling to the floor from careless hands.
Discordant and groaning I’ve wheezed my way
through weeks of heat, so find some quiet shade
away from the studio and watch bees
working for pollen on lavender and valerian,
but it’s hopeless, I can barely give breath
to one whole line let alone the next.

A friend offers to read every alternate stanza
for me to catch my breath, or try,
and we manage like this, but every muscle
of my ribs pulls. My lungs are more folded back
than when I began, and the fresh-picked
mint tea offered by the host is no cure –
I can barely stop straining long enough to drink it
as bees work for pollen on lavender and valerian.


Kate Noakes’ Two Rivers Press collection from 2009 is The Wall-Menders. Her most recent is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian, 2019). She lives in London, where she acts as a trustee to writer development organisation, Spread the Word.

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Poet of the Week – 17: Kate Noakes


Kate Noakes is a poet and non-fiction writer now living in London, previously resident in Caversham, Reading, for over thirty years. Her seventh and most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian, 2019), which received enthusiastic reviews in Poetry Wales, Poetry London and from the Poetry Book Society. Alumna of Reading University, she reviews poetry for The North and cultural website, London Grip, amongst others, and acts as a trustee for London writer development organisation, Spread the Word. Real Hay-on-Wye, her personal take on that famous place, is forthcoming from Seren this year. She is widely published in magazines in the UK, Europe and beyond, and has been asked to read at festivals and reading series all over the country, most notably Poetry at Aldeburgh in 2019. Her content-rich website, which is archived by the National Library of Wales, is at Her poetic subjects vary from the environment, to contemporary culture, and autobiography.

Kate Noakes writes:

The Wall Menders was published by TRP over ten years ago. That doesn’t seem possible, but it is. The theme of this collection is the destruction of the planet, and hopeful suggestions for how to live harmoniously on it in the future. The volume is organised in two distinct sections: the worrisome and the positive. Distressingly, the topic has not gone away, in fact things have become a great deal worse, and my latest manuscript, entitled Goldhawk Road, and which I am busy editing, is threaded with rather bleaker poems on climate change, pollution, species loss and the like. It is hard to remain hopeful a decade later, but I try. My next poetry project concerns the lungs and breathing. I started work on this about a year ago, long before anyone had heard of Covid 19, but not before the BLM quote: ‘I can’t breathe’ came into common parlance as a protest slogan. This book focuses on my personal experience as a lifelong asthmatic and more recently a Covid sufferer (don’t worry, I’ve recovered, or at least I think I have). It’s not as depressing as it sounds, I promise.

The poem I have chosen from The Wall Menders is the title poem. The scenario is a former miner and his son building a drystone wall; the father being glad his son did not have to follow him down the pit. It is a father doing the speaking and not a mother as several critics have mis-interpreted it. That pesky ‘I’ in poems always causes trouble. I have not read this poem for years, until asked to write this piece. I am still rather pleased with its music and description.


I see him now as a man:
my boy and I work together
making music of boulder and grit,
passing stones over this growing wall.

We fill the brief space between us
with small notes, flat, sharp,
coming closer in building a barrier
that forgets the contours of the fells.

I see him now in the air
and never-harming rain, a man spared
the heat of the pit. We make
our own small monuments.

We were here and we thought about
scored coping, lunkies for sheep,
made stiles and badger smoots
and paused for breath on the mossy clefts.

I might hear the gush of water
pumped from galleries and shafts,
whispers of re-hiring. But I’m too old
and spoiled by the open.

My boy lacks the skills of prop, board
and pick, spends his days
in this uplifting labour, his voice
quavering between whistle and hum.

[from The Wall Menders]


Thirteenth March, a Friday with which comes
a most lauded play, Stoppard’s last contract:
Vienna, and a family succumbs,
fortunes and losses in Leopoldstadt.

I am treated to the stalls by a friend
of a friend, a nice man I do not know.
His cancelled cultural holiday ends
with a short email critique of the show.

I give him scenes, chronology, pictures,
timings avoiding history’s clichés;
how I stepped into busy Leicester Square –
with foreboding that hurried me away.

And how I scurried home to a semi-death:
headache, sore throat, cough, and struggling for breath.