Peterloo Poets

Poetry Publishers 1972 - 2009




MAY, Julian

The Earliest Memory



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Poems by Julian May


Julian May was born in Plymouth in 1955. He lived in Cornwall, near Truro, until going to university in Wales to study English and Drama. In 1981 he went to live in China where he taught English for two years in Xinxiang, a small city in Henan Province, and travelled widely in the People’s Republic and South East Asia. He now works for the BBC External Services.

Julian May’s poems have been published in Other Poetry, Outposts, Poetry Review, Thames Poetry and other magazines. Some of his short stories have been broadcast by Radio Four and BBC English  by Radio and others have been published in Panurge  and Poetry Matters. He has also written some short radio plays for English by Radio. In 1985 he received an Eric Gregory Award. The Earliest Memory, is Julian May’s first full collection and includes poems deriving from his Cornish childhood and from his more recent experience of China and South East Asia.


The Earliest Memory

A room lit by Rembrandt
where a family sits
around the year’s first fire.

Two sisters at a table
that dissolves into the dark;
one draws the other while she reads.
They avoid each other’s eyes.

The father is absent, yet
his nearness weighs;
across silence he commands
from the farthest room
the red scratching of his lamp-lit pen resounds

but is muffled by an armchair drawn to the hearth
where the mother quickly knits
a pair of orange mittens
on her feet, warming her shins,
he young son sits.

Between the dying blaze
and the twitching fire
she knots between her fists,
he shares his shadowed gaze

feeling, already, the mittens cling
to his clawing fingers burning in the snows,
considering their mystery of warmth
cast in that colour
set fast by glowing coals.


Price 4.40 per copy post free
Cover illustration: Alison Seymour Williams
Publication: December 1987 (64 pages laminated paperback)