Jean Bleakney Poems

Jean Bleakney is a Northern Irish poet whose work engages deeply with the natural world, as well as themes such as memory and urban life. Since her debut collection, The Ripple Tank Experiment, was published in 1999, Bleakney has become one of the most respected poets in Northern Ireland.


by Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney’s ‘Consolidation’ is a deeply personal poem about the act of rearranging the cowry shells that the speaker and her children gathered in the past.

Published in Bleakney's second volume of poetry, The Poet's Ivy (2003), this piece helps us know how the poet feels nostalgic about her past memories of collecting cowrie shells with her children.

Some sunny, empty afternoon

I’ll pool our decade’s worth

and more of cowrie shells

gathered from that gravel patch

Explore more poems from Jean Bleakney


by Jean Bleakney

‘Nightscapes’ beautifully captures the feeling of being isolated from nature that is common in urban environments.

This poem is archetypal of Bleakney's poetic interests and gaze.


by Jean Bleakney

‘Winterisation’ subtly weaves the processes of preparing for winter and steeling oneself for news of bereavement.

'Winterisation' is an archetypal Bleakney poem as it explores her native Northern Irish landscape with her usual poise and precision.

Donegal Sightings

by Jean Bleakney

‘Donegal Sightings’ explores how elusive the natural world can feel, even when we are immersed within its beauty.

The poem is typical of Bleakney, insofar as it obfuscates the natural world through classical allusions and technical vocabulary to unsettle the reader.


by Jean Bleakney

‘Spring’ is an unsettling poem that explores the dangers of devotion and deferring happiness instead of living in the present.

The poem displays Bleakney's usual attention to the detail of the natural world, as well as her ability to weave its symbols into her work.

A Watery City

by Jean Bleakney

‘A Watery City’ engages with themes of friendship and journeying, significantly how they are affected by the passage of time.

Whilst the poem contains many of Bleakney's tropes, the poem is set in Cork rather than her native Northern Ireland, where most of her poems are set.

Breaking the Surface

by Jean Bleakney

‘Breaking the Surface’ by Jean Bleakney is about the “art of skimming,” an extended metaphor for the art of writing poetry.

How Can You Say That?

by Jean Bleakney

‘How Can You Say That?’ is a humorous and thoughtful rebuttal of belittlement which reflects the struggle of women in the twentieth century.

Out to Tender

by Jean Bleakney

‘Out to Tender’ explores the uneasiness felt by many during the 1994 ceasefire in Northern Ireland and expresses their fear and doubt.

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