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Nigel Wheale


Born 1950. Educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and Gonville and Caius, Cambridge. Taught at Southampton University, 1976–1978, Cambridge Tech/Anglia Ruskin University 1980–2002. Moved to Orkney, 2003.

With David Trotter, founded infernal methods in 1976, publishing Peter Hughes, Mark Hyatt, R. F. Langley, Rod Mengham, Peter Riley, Geoff Ward, John Welch, John Wilkinson, among others.


British Library Sound Archive, 2008

This recording was made by Steve Willey on 25 November 2008 at the Sound Archive at the British Library.


  • Raw Skies. New and Selected Poems (Shearsman 2005)

  • 'Uttering Poetry: Small-Press Publication' and 'A Curve of Reading', Poets on Writing. Britain, 1970–1991, Denise Riley (ed.), ('Language, Discourse, Society', Macmillan 1992).

  • 'Lynette Roberts: Vision and Form in the 1940s', Critical Quarterly, 'Poetry and Poetics' (36/3, 1994).

  • 'Beyond the Trauma Stratus: Lynette Roberts' Gods with Stainless Ears and the Post-War Cultural Landscape', Welsh Writing in English (New Welsh Review 1997).

  • Writing and Society. Literacy, Print and Politics in Britain, 1590-1660 (Routledge 1999).

  • The Postmodern Arts (ed.) (Routledge 1995).

  • Shakespeare in the Changing Curriculum, co-edited, with Lesley Aers (Routledge 1991).

  • Currently reviewing for Use of English and contributing, mainly on Shakespeare, to emagazine.

Sample Text

Fulmar Egg

Deft cliff-hanger, relative newcomer,
pawky stiff-winged tube-noser,
you are sparing of cries,
not much of a singer,
more a croaky chuckling cackle
as you hit me dead in the eye
with a fragrant squirt-stream of fish guts.

Mallymack, sea-maa, sea-dustbin,
who can live a human span,
but now nine-tenths replete
with plastic strands and shards,
mermaid's tears of resin
from the product-laden Firth.

You close mate-guarded
this only, tapered egg,
written in a single day,
now rocking gently on the blank cliff face.
Within, a new bird-dot forms inwith the sun yoke,
hanging in clear protein on twisting ropes of chalazai.

Endless curve of shellsphere,
Strengths to be taken in frail colour.
How did you sign this womb of cryptic tints,
who writes this fluent shell-script,
your gull's hymn to the ovular bird therein?

In Tsinghua an old man
is washing pollution
from the fine granite steps
that climb to Party Headquarters.

He moulds his mop to a brush point
and signs his labour secretly
with three lines of characters,
a mop calligraphy writ in water

That will evaporate before
the morning operatives arrive,
this writing as covert, fragile and muted
as blank signs on eggshell.


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