Tracey Herd is a poet who is concerned with perception and memory, in particular, how our subjectivities warp and magnify specific elements of our experiences over time. In her poem ‘Archive’, ‘the past appears ‘scattered and miniature’, while the speaker of the eminently touching ‘What I Remember observes that what she recalls ‘is not the race itself but the evening’, I hugged myself,/chilled, and waited for the starter, bent/forward, the tang of mown grass’ affirming the psychological principle that what is often remembered is not the punctum of the memory, but its sensorial frame. Other poems of Herd’s are surreal and dream-like, suffused with symbolism, as with ‘Glass House’, where the speaker, ‘standing in the grand hall of mirrors’, observes how the ‘stars stare blankly’ at something just out of sight.

Born in Scotland in 1968, Herd began publishing poetry as an undergraduate at Dunee University, perhaps most notably in New Woman Poets (Bloodaxe, 1990), a ground-breaking anthology edited by Carol Rumens. A few years later, in 1993, Herd received an Eric Gregory Award and. subsequently, in 1995, a Scottish Arts Coucil bursary.  Her first collection, No Hiding Place (Bloodaxe, 1996) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. In 1997 Herd took part in Bloodaxe’s New Blood tour of Britain, and in 1998 she was the youngest poet to take part in the British-Russian Poetry Festival, when she gave readings in Moscow and Ekaterinburg, and her poems appeared on the Russian metro.  Dead Redhead, Herd’s second collection with Bloodaxe, was published in 2001, when it was named a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.  In 2002, Herd collaborated on a short opera, Descent, with the comoser Gordon McPherson for Paragon Ensemble.  It was later performed at the Traverse Theatre in Glasgow.  Herd’s most recent collection, Not in This World (Bloodaxe, 2015) was named a Poetry Book Society Choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

In addition to their engagement with apparently personal recollections, Herd’s poems are also clearly concerned with a cultural memory, with the ways in which the latter occasionally seeps, or indeed bursts, into the former. In ‘Not Fade Away’, which borrows its title from the well-known Buddy Holly song, the figure of the 1920s actress Clara Bow ‘the world’s first ‘It Girl’ manifests eerily but vividly during a visit to an ornate, overgrown cemetery. In another poem, ‘Louise Brooks’, a seemingly ekphrastic piece perhaps written after a photo of the iconic flapper, the final lines  ‘The eyes are cool and sane./The mood is violent’ are strikingly visual.

Herd’s distant, detached speakers and her unusual use of the second person in her work, their address of an enigmatic ‘you’ along with her more surreal phrasings, prompt a comparison with another contemporary poet, Selima Hill, though her tone – direct, assured – recalls an earlier poetry, more like that of Hilda Doolittle or H.D. (known as one of the imagists). In these recordings, Herd’s voice is rhythmical yet delicate, further embellishing her words with a haunting and lucid quality that is already present on the page.

The recording took place on 7th June 2017 at The Tun, BBC, Edinburgh

Poems by Tracey Herd

Tracey Herd in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.

Books by Tracey Herd



Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

Scottish Arts Council Bursary

Prize website

No Hiding Place shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection

Prize website

Dead Redhead Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Prize website

Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Dundee University

Prize website

Not In This World shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize

Prize website

Not in This World Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Prize website