Angela Topping is the author of three poetry collections and one children’s collection (The New Generation, Salt 2010). She has edited two books and is the co-author of several GCSE English Literature textbooks for OUP. She has written two critical books for Greenwich Exchange, with a third in the pipeline. After a career in teaching she now writes full time. Married with two adult daughters, she lives in Cheshire.
Angela Topping’s poems are full of joy, tempered by sadness and unflinchingly honest. She writes in a range of voices, always concentrating on the human experience, sometimes through unusual routes, like bricks, shoes, a single glove. These are poems in which the senses inform the striking imagery, where love is measured in actualities, and observation is close and truthful. Her feet are firmly rooted to the earth, though her head may be full of dreams and memories. Her working class childhood combined with her subsequent immersion in Literature, and passion for writing from an early age, combine to make her work accessible as well as poetically exciting. I Sing of Bricks (Salt Publishing, 2011) is her fourth book for adults.
“Angela Topping has the knack of making the reader see things anew, of reinventing lyrical forms, and of disarming sceptics like myself with the ‘unexpected love’ which occurs throughout this carefully ordered and original work.”
– Rupert Loydell
“These are poems that come alive as they negotiate the small details that make meaning in a life, meeting the end of love and lives with compassion and feeling.”
– Deryn Rees Jones
“Angela Topping sings of bricks and cups and perfect grapes. She sings of the concrete, the power of objects, like a spell to ward off loss.”
– Helen Ivory
i.m. Matt Simpson
A poet dies. Or not. Words
He wrote resonate somewhere.
— Edward Lucie-Smith
There should have been a wake for you,
a night of howling, whisky-soaked farewells,
a chance to steal a lock of your white hair,
recite your tender poems about death.
Not these jumbled words in Rosemary Chapel
where death is made polite and funeral guests
are silent in stiff suits, while some of us,
your dearest ones, imprison sobs in throats.
And there’s your photograph, with teasing eyes,
always game for laughs, or some daft pun.
It can’t be right that you have gone and yet
the phone is quiet now, the emails stopped.
Your image watches over us, as if
waiting for the punch line, the reveal
when you’ll jump out and giggle ‘gotcha’. But no.
You stubbornly insist on being dead.
Now the wake begins. We have to believe
you’re never coming back, except in dreams
or in the echo of a melody you loved
and finished black words on a white page.
How to Capture a Poem
Look for one at midnight
on the dark side of a backlit angel
or in the space between a sigh
and a word. Winter trees, those
elegant ladies, dressed in diamonds
and white fur, may hide another.
Look for rhythm in the feet
of a waltzing couple one, two, three-ing
in an empty hall, or in the sound
of any heartbeat, the breath of a sleeper,
the bossy rattle of keyboards in offices,
the skittering of paper blown along.
You could find a whole line
incised into stone or scrawled on sky.
Words float on air in buses, are bandied
on street corners, overheard in pubs,
caught in the pages of books, sealed
behind tight lips, marshalled as weapons.
Supposing you can catch a poem,
it won’t tell you all it knows. Its voice
is a whisper through a wall, a streak of silk
going by, the scratch of a ghost, the creaks
of a house at night, the sound of the earth
vibrating in spring, with all its secret life.
You have to listen: the poem chooses itself,
takes shape and begins to declare what it is.
Honour the given, else it will become petulant.
When you have done your best,
you have to let it go. Season it with salt
from your body, grease it with oil from your skin.
Release it. It has nothing more to do
with you. You’re no more its owner
than you hold the wind. Never expect gratitude.
from I Sing of Bricks (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Order I Sing of Bricks.
Read Mark Burnhope’s review.
Read Afric McGlinchey ‘s review.
Angela Topping draws her inspiration for her children’s poems from her bookish childhood full of make-believe and fairy stories, her work with children, both as a poet-in-schools and an English teacher, and as a mother of two lovely daughters, now grown up. The New Generation (Salt, 2010) is her first collection for children, however, she is the author of three poetry collections for adults. She is also known for her educational resources, critical books and as a reviewer.
“A lively collection that will capture the interest and imagination of young readers.”
– John Foster
“To quote one of her poems “It’s kids stuff – but I like it”. Except it isn’t just for kids. Rich in language, tone, style and voice, the variety of subjects that matter ensure that adults and children alike will find much to delight in.”
– Paul Cookson
“Among the whimsy that sometimes passes for children’s poetry, Angela Topping’s new book stands out. It is witty and technically inventive. Like most of the best poetry, it stands at a slight angle to the world.”
– Fred Sedgwick
My Auntie Jane is a funny old stick:
She’s been alive for ever.
She likes to wear a long black dress,
a hat with a raven’s feather.
Her skin is pale like marble,
her teeth are gleaming white,
her eyes are hard to fathom
She’ll go out only at night.
She chooses crimson lipstick,
pointed shoes upon her feet,
her hair is swept up high.
I’ve never seen her eat.
I’m not allowed to visit her
without my mum and dad:
she has some quaint old habits:
my friends think she is mad.
Her house is quaintly spooky.
It’s old fashioned, dark and cold.
She hugs me very tightly,
I can’t escape her hold.
She always keeps the curtains drawn
and does not like the light,
there’s not a mirror to be seen
for she claims she looks a sight.
She tells me how she loves me
She’ll eat me up, she cries,
What pointed teeth my auntie has
What terrifying eyes!
My parents say it’s time to go
And wrap me in my coat
They take such special care to tie
my scarf around my throat.
They say Aunt Jane’s eccentric
and is better left alone
with her spooky castle of a house,
her bed carved out of stone.
He was a tall black Arab,
She was five years old,
the first black person
she had ever seen.
It was love at first sight.
He was big and gentle,
sat her on his knee,
called her a little lady,
taught her strange new facts.
His list of continents began with Africa.
They were always together.
In his home he was a teacher.
She loved his beautiful skin,
his soft curly hair.
Now she knew the world differently.
Walking in the garden
she only reached his knee,
Her small hand resting
in his huge strong fist.
He sent her postcards for years.
Only later did she know
how her father had
defended him from
people in the street.
How could anyone not love
Nasr Hassan Abbas?
His very name was a poem.
A shelter from any storm.
Now she knew the world differently.
from The New Generation (Salt,2010)
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