Featured Poet #4: Hayley Shields


Hey guys - you may have noticed that there was no Featured Poet last week… I was busy busy busy and events overtook me! ONS was generally rather dull last week, but fear not, I am back with renewed vigour, and a brand new gorgeous Featured Poet for you all to check out! Read on…

Hayley Shields was born in 1986 in the Northeast of England, but currently lives, works and writes in Edinburgh. She works part-time as a ghostly tour-guide in Edinburgh’s haunted catacombs, but also recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in English Literature, and is now working towards an MSc in Creative Writing from the same institution. Hayley is a close friend, but I promise I am not biased when I say that she is also a brilliant poet - her work is vivid, unflinching and undoubtedly female! Hayley is one of the poetry editors at Read This Magazine and her work has now appeared twice within its hallowed pages, but she’s beginning to spread her wings and find fame elsewhere, too. During the Edinburgh Festival she was invited to read at the Blackwells Best of Scottish Writing event, and she has also recently read at the presitious members-only Scottish Arts Club. Hayley is currently working on a series of poems inspired by fairytales and folklore, entitled Cautionary Tales. The poem below is a recent addition to that series — enjoy!

…From “Cautionary Tales”

The Nameless Mermaid’s Revenge:
A choose-your-own-adventure poem.

I.
For you I sacrificed. I endured.
I saved you from the cold snatches of the sea.
For you the sea-witch sliced me to silence.

In the storm the ship creaked and it cracked,
but I saved you. In the sea I lurk. Unseen
I watch you. For you I sacrificed. I endured.

I made my way to a house of bones. Built of human bones.
Her croaking voice simmered, her bosom bled black,
for you the sea-witch sliced me to silence.

I came to you, though every step prickled with pain.
I danced for you, though the floor was paved with shards of glass.
For you I sacrificed. I endured.

For nothing.
You married another.
After all I had sacrificed, all I had endured.
Screaming was futile – the sea witch had sliced me to silence. For you.

II.
With no tongue to tell my tale
it is left to another.
I gave my tongue for one male
and it is held by another.
Speechless, he paints me selfless.
Forced to watch complacently as my Prince
weds and fucks another.
Then, helpless, would you believe,
I kiss their sticky foreheads,
bless their damp marriage bed,
and hurl myself to the sea.
Dashed to foam.
This was not my ending.

Forgive my bitterness, Hans,
But this is not the ending
I want.

If either he or me must die
Before the sun rises
It won’t be me.

III.
I take the knife of the sea-witch.
I take my sisters’ sacrifice.
I drive it through his flesh.
I wake her with the warmth of his lost blood.
I stand over him with a cruel silent laugh.
I let his last sight be the rotting stump of my tongue.
I hurl her to the foam instead of me.
I wait until he leaves me for the last time.
I cast the knife back to the sea:
The blood bubbles and fades.
I leave the scent of flowers behind,
leave the stale half-promises
of clichéd souls and immortality
and return
down. To the deepest place of all.

“with a last glance at the Prince from eyes half-dimmed in death she hurled herself from the ship into the sea…”

Want to be the next Featured Poet?

Check out the last three Featured Poets: Chris Lindores, Heather Schimel and Eric Hamilton.

(Photo by The owls go)

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2 Responses to “Featured Poet #4: Hayley Shields”

  1. Ho Way race Says:

    The ratio of this first person nameless narrating mermaid to the other unamed thrid person pronooun, is w hopping 19 - 9 and though it is excellent a piece, written by a clearly talented 22 yr old, the 19 references by the narrator to herself, some reader/s may feel exellent, but with the caveat, that the piece-as-text alone, aside from the genius othat just is Shields, maybe s/he an anonnymous neutral eye, could loosen up the halt start properties of this piece, with minimal excision of a few of those me i my appearances.

    For example, i am now going to sensitively demonstrate what i mean for the selfish purpose of showing off the seven yrs 12 hour a dau l;earning programme i have been on since 2 januarty 2001, four yrs out the grove, in a bedsit in Dubbers, for the purpose of professional Love for poetry we all gotta have to be love adn peace moguls like John was back when he was Lennon, and not an absent force for love and peace flippin away his two fingered salute to the world of scouse loving ppl the planet over..and will also change the me to them and you to us and introduce as much as sytactically possible, an even tatio of the indefinite and definite articles/s the/a the a the a kind of carry on reader/s mates.

    me - them — you - us
    For us they sacrificed, endured
    saved us from the cold snatches of a sea
    we sea-witches sliced them to silence

    in the storm a ship, creaking and cracked,
    saved them. In the sea they lurk, unseen
    watching us, for we sacrificed, endured

    madetheir way to a house of bones, built of human bones
    croaking voice simmering, our bosom bled black,
    for us a sea-witch sliced them to silence

    came to us, though every step pricked with pain

    they danced for us, though the floor was paved with shards of glass
    for us they sacrificed. We endured.

    For nothing we married another
    after all they had sacrificed, all they had endured.
    Screaming was futile – the sea witch had sliced them to silence.
    For us.

    i mean, i didn’t have a clue how it would be, just did it and there is deffo a tension there now innit? Hayley, you are very talented, take no notice of anyone who sneers, especially older women who are not exciting in the flesh reciting their work which, Shields, trust one who is just an am-drammer and big girls blouse with four sisters, seven neives and three rent nephews competing to take the heart of their granny away from their uncle, absent in Dublin being rubbish at poesy, take it from a bitter troll who has no chance of being published, that the more senior some female editors get, the more they hate the kids, and will try to say you’re crap, when actually Shields, stand up straight, look em in the ye, and repeat after me. I can be whoever i wanna be oldsie eds, so up yrs dearie, do stop hectoring me, can’t you see i am a poet learning and neeed not yr advice, elder female with being-happy-around-talented ppl issues. grow up is aint my fault yr broomstick..’s bust.

    gra agus siochain (trans. love and peace) the goal of any real poet is to find and speak it from within, so go girl you are ace.

  2. One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » Things I Love Thursday #29 Says:

    [...] was up next, and really got into the performance element, verging on some shape-throwing at times! Hayley was less physical, but didn’t hold back with her set-list, picking poems that were seriously [...]