Author Feature - March 2022

Yorkshire writer, Helen Shay, has work published in various print/online publications - mainly literary and small press, with the odd short story in national women’s  magazines.  She has a Creative Writing MA from Manchester Metropolitan University  (Distinction awarded) then tutored by Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press. Helen  has taught creative writing part-time at York University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning. 


Helen has two non-fiction books published by an Oxford publisher (now part of Little Brown).  She has also had one full-length play performed in the studio of Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds and has taken three short dramas to Edinburgh Fringe, with others performed locally and in new writing festivals. She has been a winner in various competitions including the Kenneth Branagh Windsor Fringe Award (that year judged by Hilary Mantel).  


Helen is a member of the Society of Authors, currently serving on their Poetry and  Spoken Word Group Committee. She has performed her poetry at various venues,  including at Glastonbury Poet’s Tent (mud stains still engrained). Her poetry collection  with Irish-American poet Bee Smith, Binary Star, won an IL Convivio prize.  She has a  solo collection ‘Scop’ and pre-pandemic hosted the long-running monthly spoken  word event Poems, Prose & Pints in Harrogate.  Her work has appeared in various  anthologies e.g. Bloody Amazing and The View from Olympia.


Helen Shay 88.JPG




(who used to be a weirwolf, but is alright nowooooo!)

She says, ‘I’ll show you a photo’.
So there on a tiny screen, decades on
you pounce upon me once more,
tearing off my hardened skin -
the suited and booted workwear -

so I’m squeezed back into black cords,

zippy top and first love. Exposed over-

believing, over-dreaming teen punk self.

She says she found you on a website

but I’m back to when TV had a test card,
back to your endless stupid jokes
and those closed mouth kisses
we were too young to know
weren’t that cool 

and I liked anyway.

Today your face is still smooth

and your hair is still there.

‘Bastard!’ Even middle-aged 

spread suits you. Laughter 

in your eyes brings back

tenderness of your mouth, 

soft skin like rabbit’s flesh 

melting off the bone.

And now I get the punchline 

of your crappy weirwolf joke.

It’s true. You are alright now. 

And in this moment, 

so am I.



(with apologies to W H Auden)

Tell me it’s honey-sweet and consistent,

and it went and fell for me at first sight.

Tell me it will love me forever,

and doesn’t just think that it might.

Tell me it’s tall, dark and Italian,

and sings La Traviatta down the phone.

Tell me it will love me forever,

and call me when it gets home.

Tell me it’s not just out for a quickie,

and that I can believe all that it says.

Tell me it will love me forever,

in its many heavenly, eternal ways.

Don’t tell me it’s blind and fickle,

and won’t leave the single life.

Tell me it will love me forever

without hint of marital strife.

Tell me no profound truths,

write me no scientific proofs.

Turn instead deceit and paradox

into deep belief and orthodox.

Tell me it will love me forever.

O tell me the lie about love.



It’s not supposed to be like this
year after year, time after time.

It’s supposed to mellow,
fade to yellow, graciously grow
into some gaga granny, grateful

for the odd peck on the cheek.

But here you are, throwing me
anew, like clay on a potter’s wheel
round and round, cast further
into that damn swirl-whirl
of creation–smooth and ceramic
like a cup from which we drink,
molding me from hell to heaven.

With one drop, deified as if Lucifer 

could never fall at all and no darkness 

could ever again be without light.