Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire’s latest book is The Stories of Bill Manhire.

Poem: ‘Election Address’

Bill Manhire, 28 July 2016

I expect you know why I have asked you here at this late hour. The stars, gentlemen, the stars! They shine as ever, here at End-of-the-line. Do sit awhile and admire the heavens. I have robes and a chain, and I have power in useful ways: your electricity is mine, as is the public swimming pool. I license the posts you hope to score beneath. I can require the trams to go more slowly, for as...

Three Poems

Bill Manhire, 22 May 2014


The window waits for light. The path to the river waits for twigs and stones and feet. The day hopes to be successful, a prose day really, nothing untoward, and so it, too, waits. Also, the car waits. But I suppose the car is not waiting, it is simply taking the corners at speed – it is the gorge that is waiting. The family waits up all night. Sleep is useless. We say time is...

Two Poems

Bill Manhire, 30 August 2012

Old Man Puzzled by His New Pyjamas

I am the baby who sleeps in the drawer. Blue yesterday, and blue before – and suddenly all these stripes.

The Question Poem

Was there a city here?

We were sitting with friends. It was a sunny day. We were boasting about the local coffee. Strange self-congratulations, flat whites. These were friends we had only recently found our way back to. For a long...

Poem: ‘The Oral Tradition’

Bill Manhire, 25 June 2009

The oral tradition tore us apart. It sang in the heart, it chanted of the sun. It knew the attributes of gods, naming their triumphs one by one. We looked far out: that ship was like a bird! Its sails were wings beneath the stars. And kennings like swans would visit from afar to teach us to be travellers.

Such noise, so many voices! The oral tradition was absurd. It knew where killings had...

Three Poems

Bill Manhire, 19 June 2008

The Victims of Lightning

A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.

Randall Jarrell

Often they are naked; clothing is scattered across a field; or trousers and shirt appear in some nearby village – a little tattered, waiting to be folded. Sometimes with...

Poem: ‘An Inspector Calls’

Bill Manhire, 17 November 2005

We tiptoed into the house. The neighbourhood was quiet as a mouse.

I felt very on edge. The money was in the oven, not the fridge.


I glanced at the note on the piano. Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh.


There’s always a point at which a routine enquiry turns into something else entirely.

I had to shoulder my way in. The bathtub was simply full of the victim.

Poem: ‘Dogs’

Bill Manhire, 3 March 2005

I tried to work up a little poetry – ‘the ever-restless spirit of man’ – ‘the mysterious, awe-inspiring wilderness of ice’ – but it was no good; I suppose it was too early in the morning.

Roald Amundsen, The South Pole

‘What do you think? Shall we start?’ – ‘Yes, of course. Let’s be jogging on.’

So many dogs! And...

Two Poems

Bill Manhire, 2 December 2004

Across Brooklyn

This is the street where they still make coffins: the little workshops, side by side. I pass them with my daughter on our walk to the river.

Are we seeking the bridge itself, or the famous, much-reported view?

A few planks and nails lie around, and each of the entrances seems to darken. Far back, out of sight, someone is whistling.

Yes, I suppose we do walk a little faster....

Poem: ‘Death of a Poet’

Bill Manhire, 18 December 2003

i.m. Charles Causley

Between the Tamar and the tarmac, Beneath a tangled sky, I saw the Cornish poet Walking by.

He went where wind and water Will not be overthrown, Where light and water meet Boscastle stone.

It was a day in deep November When the cold came. The cold sky squandered Inside his brain.

Who knocks at Cyprus Well? Who knocks again, again? ‘I think it is the visitor We must...

Two Poems

Bill Manhire, 9 May 2002

After the Movie

A cry comes again from the pavilion. I was that nurse and that civilian, I was the song in the carillon. She sat on a tree trunk; no, a boulder. I was the heart inside the soldier, that broken arm – that hand, that shoulder. Night which is moonless, melancholy. I was the man who was extraordinary. But who really knows the real Billy Connolly?

Creative Non-Fiction


Poem: ‘The Adventures of Hillary’

Bill Manhire, 8 February 1996

Hillary frowned impatiently. He’d go ahead with his own plans! Apricots, dates, biscuits and sardines: then he donned his three pairs of gloves.

He stamped around muttering feeling his heart lurch like a vehicle halfway down a crevasse. ‘If, if, if,’ he added grimly to himself.

So December came in a rush; the dog teams fanned out across the snow barking a bit at the short...

Poem: ‘Moonlight’

Bill Manhire, 11 May 1995

Kate Gray (1975-1991)

I start up a conversation with occasional Kate. Too late, too late, but with a big sigh she appears in the sky.

I tell her the home doesn’t forget – her mother’s lullaby step still reaches the chair where her father sits deep in the forest.

I hear myself saying please and please and please; I want to go back to the start of the Nineties.

Sleepless night,...

Poem: ‘Colloquial Europe’

Bill Manhire, 6 April 1995

Mr Sharp gets out of the taxi. He doesn’t smoke but lights his pipe. His various friends walk up and down. ‘And this? What do you call this?’ says the driver. ‘In the land I come from,’ says Mr Sharp, ‘it is called a taxi.’ Then he waits on the quiet platform.

‘Good seats but a bad train. Don’t you think?’ Someone is speaking....

So for six days he crusadedand on the seventh he flew to Australia.

Athletic Park, April 1959: a southerly straight off Cook Strait, the microphone bandaged in gauze.

Here in Balclutha there is quiet sunshine and we sit on the grass, waiting for the voice over the landline.

Our togs are back on the bus. We have been promised a swim afterwards.

Come forward. You come.


Thus in the capital...

Two Poems

Bill Manhire, 11 June 1992

Doctor Zhivago

The big stage and golden curtain, stars high up in the ceiling: one of the few films I think he would have seen.

The sound of violins, then darkness about the wide, white screen. I can hear the sound of my father coughing.

My Sunshine

He sings you are my sunshine and the skies are grey, she tries to make him happy, things just turn out that way.

She’ll never know how much...

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