Posted on

Elaine Beckett

“The great French cinematographer, Robert Bresson, wrote: ‘What I reject as too simple is the thing that is important and that one must dig into’. I find that a very helpful idea; that a poem can start from anywhere. It is the journey it goes on that’s important.”

Elaine Beckett was born in London. She trained as a musician and worked for many years with children with special educational needs, also as a theatre and TV composer.

Elaine holds a degree in Architecture from UCL and a PhD from the University of York. Her debut pamphlet Faber New Poets 13 was published in 2016. As part of that scheme, she was mentored by Professor Sinéad Morrissey.

Her work has appeared in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The North, The New European and numerous anthologies. In 2019 her poetry was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, and in 2020 longlisted for the National Poetry Competition.


The title of Elaine Beckett’s debut collection suggests a process of unstoppable change. Moments of personal and global crisis are juxtaposed, examined from different perspectives, so that her poems show humanity in a constant state of flux. This is ambitious work, acute in its commitment to the truth of lived experience. Beckett’s watch-maker’s eye for detail, impeccable ear, and intricate use of poetic form, reveal truths with a compassion that moves her work way beyond the confessional.

Arranged in seven short sequences, that spiral round themes of loss, betrayal, delight and re-birth, this is a beautifully wrought collection; at times hard hitting and painful, yet witty and moving, and always surprising.


Calais, or Part of me is at the Opera

A boy dares to leap,
higher than expected with no hand-holds,

the roar of a truck drowning the crack
of the crush of his leg against steel

while I sit watching Carmen.
She has a lot to do:

breathing in, and breathing deep
to last this phrase

and the next, and the one after that,
pitching on towards the final act.

It is breath that we all have in common.
The boy has a life to live,

given all of it again
he still would not have chosen death.

'Occasionally a poet comes along pretty much fully formed. That is what I felt when I first read Elaine Beckett’s poems. Not only her voice -brazen, tender and undeceived - but how it’s held in structures of great poise and resonance.Revelatory poems to be read, and read again.’ 
Greta Stoddart


'Laconic, undeceived, brilliantly evoked.'
Sean O'Brien
The Guardian

Funded by Arts Council England, Faber New Poets aims to identify and support emerging talents at an early stage in their careers. Through a programme of mentorship, bursary and pamphlet publication, the scheme offers four poets a year the time, guidance and encouragement they require to help in the development of their work in the longer term.

In 2016, Elaine’s work was chosen to be published in this neat pamphlet to a (well-deserved) great reception.

'A captivating fusion of poems, by turns witty, satirical, and melancholic.'
Chloe Stopa-Hunt
The Poetry Review

More from Elaine

More Verve Poetry Press Authors