Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2021: Mr Else

I remember the stale smell of the air

in that room, where we couldn’t see sky.


And the people who breathed there, had

relinquished outside, time passing slowly,


their skin, that particular pallor, so each face

matched the distempered walls.


If they came in quietly, anger was seeded

by random shouting or key bunches rattling.


They called me Miss and in turn they were Mr.

And I made it my rule not to learn any ‘labels’.


I remember a tall young man, his head

like an icon, whose surname was Else.


Once, he demanded I write to his wife, I refused;

explained if I did, it would be like a letter


from him to my husband. ‘Lady’, he said, calmly

before that flash when he took up his chair


and hurled it. ‘Lady, in here I feel nothing.

I might just as well write to your husband.’


Then he quietened and opened the file he always

carried. It bulged with his writing, his drawing


and cuttings. On the cover, its large-lettered title:

A Better World for My Children.

Poem recorded as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2021. Used by permission of author.

Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2021 Winners

Poetry Archive Now! was established in 2020 to enable us to gather recordings from a much wider pool of talented poets from the UK and ...

See the collection

Josie Walsh

Born in Cambridge , I have adult children and nine grandchildren. I read and listen to poetry and often write in the mornings before others wake. On retirement in 1994, I sent 8 poems to Fighting Cock Press, these were accepted and I was invited to join Pennine poets. Pre-Covid, for the last decade I hosted the Pennine meetings. I've had poems published in magazines and anthologies and have plans for a future collection.


A special thank you to our WordView 2021 poets.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Imtiaz Dharker, says: "An idea that began as a response to the world shutting down has, joyfully, become a way to invite the whole world in. It has been exciting to see the entries come in from different countries, from marginalised voices, from people of all backgrounds who now know this space belongs to them. My fellow judges and I were struck by the immediacy of experience and commitment to language in the winning entries. It's also good to think that the rest of the entries will continue to be seen as an invaluable record of our times."

See the collectionWatch the full Wordview 2021 playlist