Shipley Art Gallery Writing


A Disaster Glass was new to me;
but I saw one on display,
pressed to raise a few shillings
for widows, orphans and survivors.
Made of the thinnest glass,
fragile as those left behind.

Suspended above me a chandelier,
a hanging garden of glass.
Making a few a multitude, refracting
infinity from candlelight.
I saw a firmament of droplets,
thought nothing of function.

In a cabinet sits a Pyrex plate.
A special mix of glass,
before each bubble and flaw
was burned away. Heating and cooling,
heating and cooling: tested
to extremes, made to last.

Ruth and Harvesters Resting

(after Charles Landelle  and Thomas Sheard )

Ruth has gone out to glean
in an autumn evening, golden
with ripened corn. Her dark-eyed gaze
meets ours.  Close by harvesters rest,
look the other way, while the future
works behind them, cuts
away the past.  Ruth
will ask Naomi for counsel,
and save them both.

Side by side, mother and daughter,
stitch a patchwork of existence.
Quilting is a bird with a white
outstretched wing and a black body,
lace is a thread of artichoke seeds,
fine as a thousand filaments.
Needle and bobbin move
as though of their own accord,
binding past and future together.


Every piece is labelled and numbered.
It may not see daylight for another
fifty years but has its place.
Amidst ornate sideboards and rescued shop fronts,
oil and watercolour choirboys,
Flemish peasants, lace-decked women,
stare, frozen, into darkness.
Any picked from obscurity, placed
where their gaze is returned, are art again,
like the medieval White Queen bright
in luminous Victorian paint.
While cold marble constrains
a lithe tiger and a god, a maquette
is a trial run for wingspan and place
and freedom is a bronze hawk
launching into flight.
Every piece stored, concealed from ourselves,
awaits new light to fall, new eyes to see.


Originally from the Marches, Olivia Gwyne is a poet and prose writer who has been based in the North East for over a decade. Currently a studying for a MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, her principal interests are identity, representation and art.  Olivia’s writing is concerned with how we construct our identity as individuals within our own lives and within wider society.