Jenny Elliott, 2016 Recipient

Jenny-ElliottJenny Elliott was born in Edinburgh and her family are from the Shetland Islands. She studied chemistry to PhD level at the University of St. Andrews and worked for some years as an environmental chemist. She has also worked as a free-range egg farmer, a hand knitter and as a teacher of hearing and visually impaired teenagers. She currently teaches children in hospital, while tending a small farm and writing poetry. Over the years her poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies and have often featured in exhibitions as a result of collaborations with artists. She has also been involved in the running of StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, since 1999 and in 2007 she set up The Shed Press, a small press producing handmade poetry pamphlets and other poetry gifts. The pamphlets One Old Onion & Other Stories and Seeing the Wood for the Trees were shortlisted for Callum Macdonald Memorial Awards in 2014 and 2015 and her pamphlet Makkin-wires won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2016.



And So the Stories Were True ( illustrations by Jude Greibel, The Shed Press, 2007)
Preparing to be a Beautiful Lady (collaboration with HappenStance Press, 2012)
Farmer Brown Fights Again (illustrations by Martin Elliott, The Shed Press, 2012)
The Doctor Shop (photography by Andrea Sinclair, The Shed Press, 2013)
One Old Onion & Other Poems (etchings by Susan Wilson, The Shed Press 2013)
Seeing the Wood for the Trees (photography by Alistair Kerr, The Shed Press 2104)
Makkin-wires (The Shed Press, 2015)


South Bank Centre Digital Library (2003)
National Poetry Anthology, United Press (2004)
Borders Book Festival Anthology, Scottish Borders Council (2005)
Skein of Geese – The 100 Poets Gathering, The Shed Press (2007)
Blame Montezuma, HappenStance Press (2014)
Scotia Extremis, Online (2016)


Seeing the Wood for the Trees: photography by Alistair Kerr and poetry by Jenny Elliott, The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews (Dec/Jan 2008/9)
Preservation Studies; photography by Andrea Sinclair and poetry by Jenny Elliott, Art in the Park Open Studios, London (June 2013)
The Roots: collaboration with Southwark Community, The Pullens Centre, London (Nov 2013)
The Doctor Shop: collaboration between Andrea Sinclair and Jenny Elliott at the StAnza Poetry Festival, St.Andrews (March 2014)
Visual Verses: collaboration between Andrea Sinclair, Bill Hudson & Jenny Elliott at the Roman Road Art Café, London (June/July 2014)
Baroque: collaboration with artists from London (Andrea Sinclair & Bill Hudson) and Barcelona (Ana Novella & Anna Claret), Can Castells Centre d’Art, Sant Boi, Spain (Sept/Oct 2014)
Portable Exhibition: collaboration based around the theme of ‘Ports’ visiting La Coruna (Spain), London (England) and Ullapool & Uist (Scotland) and involving artists and writers from the three countries (June 2015 – March 2016)
Year of Scotland’s Food & Drink 2015: vegetable poem table displays at The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews (March 2015)
A Shed Load of Poetry: display case for Stanza Poetry Festival St. Andrews (March 2016)


Selected Poems from Recent Work


So smooth the path, so bare,
that the bride, the beautiful bride,
slipped off her heavy dress
and danced
                  light foot
                                into summer.


Let me tell you about my other Granny,
the quiet one who never made a fuss,
who travelled far from home to another port
and lost her husband to the sea, a death
with theories and three children left
to visit him in a silent front room
in black and white.

I am only learning now. I see the tiny garden,
the make and mend of it, smell the apples
and every kind of fruit so hard to grow
at home; the winter stews of earthy veg
and mutton from a parcel, or salted fish;
the pigeons in the doocot were for the boys,
their island’s greys and greens and blues, 

a hint of pink. I try to catch her voice,
its soft click and lingering hush,
but only hear my Aunt rocking on her chair,
her voice and anxious rhythm drowning out
her Mammy. There were flowers though, violets
and geraniums of darkest purple, her sweet
curl dodies, giant daises from the Neapoback burn

and all the while she’d knit their colours,
smiling, not looking up. She knitted for a
little extra money, but most of all it was for us:
tammies, mittens, scarves, socks and sweaters
with yolks of stars and trees of life; a hap shawl
for each new grandchild, little vests
in garter stitch all silky white.

They grew with us. It was what she gave,
a lamb to hold, a comforter in hard times, the way
of island people. She was the quiet granny
with silver hair and knitting pins.
I didn’t think I knew her.
My shawl is gone; it fell apart from wear,
I don’t remember when.





A brief comment from Jenny Elliott about being in Greece, in 2016

To describe my stay in Greece as one of the best experiences in my life is no exaggeration. I would say that I came home full to overflowing with the joy of all things Greek: the sun, Nafplio, swimming in bright blue waters, delicious seafood, intriguing vegetables, fresh melon, ice-cold frappes, clean white stone, the anonymous feeding of tiny cats, long conversations, local poets, powerful poetry, live-wire taxi drivers, late night music, a lady in the foyer who had played piano for (and been kissed by) Winston Churchill, iconography, Byzantine churches, ancient worlds, historical drama, live theatre, Athens, Evzones, fighting spirit, face a crisis build a library, treasured books, scholars, contemplation, gods, more gods, dogs, heroes, graffiti with everything, art, the body beautiful, Olympia, Olympians, oracles… as I said, overflowing! Our hosts from CHS pulled out all the stops, they gave us friendship, knowledge and a passion for their country. I can’t thank them enough.