Launched at Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2015, Hearth is a collaborative poetry pamphlet by Sarah James and Angela Topping.

From the back cover: “In Hearth, prize-winning poets Sarah James and Angela Topping join forces for an exciting sequence of paired poems which echo and interrogate each other, finding shared ground and surprising connections.

“Home, memory and commonality are explored through objects that often surround our living spaces, our hearths, our hearts. Opening and closing with collaborative poems, the poets’ two voices come together, part and come together again.

“From old fires that ‘spark and flame’ to ‘the heart of a secret’ and ‘silenced tongues’, the sequence picks out the people, places and things that shape our lives. The dialect of everyday jostles alongside the influences of Shakespeare, Ted Hughes’ Crow and Mrs Beeton. There are shared words, music and dancing, but beware also of the sharp sting of pins, ‘shadow wolves’ and falling.”

ISBN 978-0-9573858-5-6, RRP is £5, available from the poets directly or from Mother’s Milk Books and is a 2015 PBS Autumn Pamphlet.

Use the paypal link below if you want to buy a copy now.

Hearth with P&P


“…What follows are songs, sung from the heart. None of the lyrics are over-complicated with flouncy language, as it’s never needed. Sometimes the simplest lines can sing the clearest tune…

“This is skilled poetry, crafted with years of expertise. Classical, and timeless.”

Caroline Hardaker, full review of Hearthhere

“…achieves considerable breadth and grace…The two poets manage that rare thing, looking back to childhood with feeling but not sentimentality…the echoing topics (including fires, pianos, pins and buttons, music, and, most importantly to the English, tea) fit snugly as good dove-tail joints…an ideal gift…” Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Under the Radar, issue 16

Hearth is almost a lost book, merging nursery rhyme, folklore and homespun tales of tea and china: a fable of flickering coals, to be read aloud on a winter’s evening. All the poems are written by poets at the top of their game, maestros of their art. I cannot recommend this book enough.” Grant Tabard, Sabotage Reviews [Full review with detailed quotes and comments here.]

“Only the first and last poems are collaborative; the others retain each poet’s highly individual voice, yet harmonise effortlessly. The end result is a pleasing, synergetic narrative, which speaks to the reader from every page.” “Hearth is a timely nod to mortality, and a stunningly heartfelt collaboration from Sarah James and Angela Topping.” Sandra Ireland, Dundee University Review of the Arts [Full review here.]

“Sarah James and Angela Topping have created us a bright circle to huddle around. “All these hearths live in me,” one writes. This book builds a history of houses and families as richly as a novel…
“…not a single tale that emerges form the sequence but many, generations seen from both ends, people loved and people lost. Whether one grandfather in a blanket who needs oxygen is the same as the another who builds his clock is not what matters. The stories told here are bigger than individuals — archetypal, even as they are immersive. This is poetry performing at its best, when the texture of, perhaps, a doorknob (known deeply by the fingertip) expands into a lover’s whole person brushing past it, and ultimately into an experience to share.
“…the description is alive with choice words, and full of movement…This book ranges so deeply it can be returned to many times, each one a new, full experience. Hearth is alive — not shy of bitterness, abandonment or age — alive in close-ups of toy skaters or flannel pajamas. It’s a book built to last. It’s homely.” Gram Joel Davies, The Lake [Full review here.]


The Washing Line

The sister I never met hangs out my sheets,
pairs socks, dries my husband’s shirts
— sails smoothed towards the sun.

Sleeves brush against sleeves;
their unfleshed white flutters free.
Dropped pegs scatter on the grass.

I clip three together: a plastic family.
That’s Mum, Dad and me;
pinched tight without her.

She has polished the kitchen surface.
My unwashed potatoes
are peeled moons in her hands.

Her cheese soufflé rises from liquid velvet.
Always ready, the ghost of her absence
blurs my face from our photos.

Her dead baby lungs filled with water,
my chest aches where they buried her smile;
its sickle scrapes my ribs.



Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!
Thomas Hardy

Me mam’s clatterin in ower kitchen
me dad’s at work. Am on me tod
playin in living room. Fire’s in.
Ah sit on floower, spread farms
on carpit, cows n pigs n sheds
all mine t’ rule ovver an all.

Now ah’m grown, owen haaus to rule ovver
me dad’s gone, so’s me mam.
Bring em back, yem days, gimme back
yon carpits, gawdy nick-knacks,
an brassoed stuff, fireplace an all.

Gimme dem days back, ‘ow it was
an me not seein it were passin.