Colette Bryce was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and lived in London for many years before moving to Scotland in 2002, where she held a fellowship in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee. From 2005-2007 she was North East Literary Fellow at Newcastle and Durham, and she currently works as a freelance writer and editor in the north of England.

Bryce’s first published work was included in Anvil New Poets, (1995, ed. Carol Ann Duffy), which also introduced the work of Kate Clanchy and Alice Oswald. Her first collection, The Heel of Bernadette (2000), won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize and the Strong Award for new Irish poets; the title poem of her second book, The Full Indian Rope Trick (2004), won the National Poetry Competition in 2003. Her other collections are Self-Portrait in the Dark (2008), and The Whole & Rain-domed Universe (2014, all Picador). The Observations of Aleksandr Svetlov, a pamphlet, appeared from Donut Press in 2007. She has also received an Eric Gregory Award, a Cholomondeley Award, and was winner of the 2007 Academi Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Bryce has taught for various organisations including the Arvon Foundation, The Poetry School and the University of Newcastle, and from 2009 to 2013 she was the editor of Poetry London.

Part of a new succession of Northern Irish poets, whose presence has continued to predominate poetry in the United Kingdom, Bryce’s at times virtuosic engagement with traditional forms has contributed to her becoming one of the most praised and recognised poets of her generation. Often her poems are built around a single conceit, an image or idea which is elaborated and stretched until we end up somewhere unexpectedly distant from the poem’s beginnings: the disappearance of the speaker of ‘The Full Indian Rope Trick’ is at once inexplicable and completely believable, and raises the question of what might be meant by (and what role poetry might have in) an escape act that ‘was painful’ and ‘took years.’ The use of rhyme is often picked up on by listeners of Bryce’s poems: indeed, her rhymes are heard more then they are seen, and provide a song-like patterning to the developments of her narratives. Her poems very often appear like collapsible stories, and increasingly it is Bryce’s imaginative gifts that set her work apart: at its best her poetry is experienced like a secret detour through contemporary life in which the everyday becomes suddenly transformational, whether this is a story of a romantic encounter in a car wash, or of poetry potently imagined as a parasite that preys on its carriers. Full of speculation and invention, her poems might be most usefully understood as a set of necessary, hard-won, and thoroughly secular myths for the present day.


Colette Bryce’s favourite poetry sayings:

‘It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes.’ – Flannery O’Connor

‘It is fatal to decide, intellectually, what good poetry is because you are then in honour bound to try to write it, instead of the poems that only you can write.’ – Philip Larkin

‘Poetry is about the grief; politics is about the grievance.’ – Robert Frost

‘Art is a guarantee of sanity’ – Louise Bourgeois

‘Silence, exile, cunning’ – James Joyce

Poems by Colette Bryce

The Full Indian Rope Trick - Colette Bryce
The Poetry Bug - Colette Bryce
When I Land in Northern Ireland - Colette Bryce
Colette Bryce in the Poetry Store

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Books by Colette Bryce



Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize for 'The Heel of Bernadette'

Prize website

Strong/Shine Award for 'The Heel of Bernadette'


National Poetry Competition for 'The Full Indian Rope Trick'

Prize website

Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee

Prize website

short-listed for the TS Eliot Award for 'The Full Indian Rope Trick'

Prize website

Christopher Ewart-Biggs Award in memory of Seamus Heaney for 'The Whole & Rain-Doomed Universe'

Prize website

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