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'Thrift' published by Palewell Press 2024

Review of Thrift by Sue Proffitt.


This is poetry of the wild, but not a wild untouched by humans; Lock’s poems traverse coastline, wetland, marsh, estuary, woods, fields, always with an eye for witnessing the complex, changing relationship between human and more-than-human, and how the impact of humankind is imprinted on the earth, for better or worse. Troubling themes such as climate change are touched on lightly: in ‘Melting Iceberg’  she sees something too enormous to contemplate .... as white space slides from frame to frame. In many of these poems life is lived on the edge, survival is not guaranteed, and the poet doesn’t shy away from bringing to our attention the many ways human beings threaten and abuse the natural world, as in ‘The Cruelty’ and, more obliquely, in ‘The final item on the news’ where a saw-whet owl is displaced from a felled Christmas tree in New York and, at the same time, the poem describes a little owl found in a chimney at home. In the final part of the book, Lock expands her poetic lens, and explores mythological landscapes embedded in our collective memory. 


The ancient lineage of the land surfaces in these poems, both in terms of its geology and the ways in which humans have exploited the landscape in the past, such as Devon and Cornwall’s mining history. Bright vignettes of wildlife surface too: fox, swans, owls, roe deer, wasps, magpies, tracing their tracks through poems. Plants, too, bring their distinctive presences into poems; in the title poem, a child of nine wants her world only to be her and cliff and sky, and this deep empathy with the natural world defines Lock’s poetry; fragility and resilience are held in fine balance, beauty is tough, and nothing exemplifies this more than thrift, which clings to cliff-edges and brunts the gales and salt of the sea. Displacement, entrapment, extinction: none of these themes are far away but the poet writes about them with great emotional containment, never lapsing into diatribe or sentimentality. People are displaced and abused too, as in ‘At the Foundling Museum’ where the poet imagines the thoughts of a mother having to give up her child.


Thrift is full of stylistic diversity; Lock sculpts her language to mirror her subject. There are stanza poems, prose poems, sequence poems and poems of patterns and shapes.  Experimentation with white space seems to be a defining feature, as in ‘Haar’, where words float down the white space of the page, held in suspension, just like the sea-mist being evoked. This is someone who loves words that wind round her tongue and her pen:  poems that beg to be read aloud. 

Sphinx at HappenStance Press, Review by Anne Bailey.

'It is as if the writing itself becomes a potent agent of healing.'

Review article: 'Our bodies, grieving with nature'

Lure – Alison Lock (Calder Valley Poetry, 2020) ​Dr Jonathan Purkis

...'it is this primal deep ecological relationship that this remarkable work of poetic self-healing seeks to convey. It speaks to those who have known trauma, to those who fear the loss of connection to the natural world and to those who shudder at what we are doing to her as a civilization. Above all, it speaks to those who believe that what revitalises the human spirit in nature is how we negotiate and learn from its unforgiving realities as part of a greater personal and societal transformation.

Read the whole review here

Lure: Alison Lock, Calder Valley Poetry

by Greg Freeman

...'a tour de force; of drama, pain, near-death, survival. Lock has entered a world of membrane, humus, mulch, sediment. You wonder about the collection’s title, Lure. A lure helps catch a fish. Has Lock been somehow lured into the pond? “I am back to that moment, / lured / as if my reflection has slipped, sideways / in time / and I am falling into the unretrievable.” I view this collection as an act of exorcism.'

Read the whole review here.

A Witness of Waxwings, Cultured Llama Press 2017

Longlisted for the Saboteur Awards 2018.

'Each story offers a transformation, sometimes literally, where a main character has to accept and understand their past and its effect on their future. Alison Lock brings a poet’s eye for details, offering sparingly, which enable a reader to imagine the scene whilst leaving the reader enough space to engage with the story. Each bears re-reading too. “A Witness of Waxwings” is a skillfully crafted collection of engaging short stories.'

'There are elemental forces writ large in Alison Lock’s collection of short stories, especially the sea, and the tides which turn, inexorably. And fluidity is sewn through these stories, in terms of memory and meaning as well as water.'

'Alison Lock’s A Witness of Waxwings is a tantalising collection concerned with metamorphosis and reminiscence. Age, retrospection and transformation emerge time and again in these brief narratives which spool imaginatively across time and place, frequently shapeshifting in form. Selkies and ghosts spook the pages, there are fast-forwarding clocks and masked villagers, there are ancient children, houses choking on secrets. Whilst Lock keeps one foot firmly on the living room floor in terms of coastal landmarks readers can identify with, including deserted beachscapes and idle rivers, these are stories shot through with the unimaginable. Sharp-edged turning points knock the familiar right out and take the reader’s breath with it. At times it feels like Lock is blowing the torch out with a dark fluidity and speed that makes the skin damp.'

Revealing the Odour of Earth, Calder Valley Poetry, 2017.

‘This is visceral writing; she captures the precise way lichens clings to stones, and the feeling of nutshells crushed underfoot. For all its focus on rural aspects of nature, this is also intensely human poetry. The poet involves companions in her journeys and invites the reader to join them, leaving spaces for reflection.

Revealing the Odour of Earth is no Arcadian idyll; there are hints of challenges in her themes, too; borders to be navigated against the odds; the cataclysm of the American political scene; risks, dangers. The peat bog refuses to give up its ancient inhabitants. Familiar lexical fields are redrafted to highlight ‘the wing of a grouse … stitched to the tarmac on a weft of bronze plumage.’

Maysun and the Wingfish (2016) MothersMilkBooks

There's a lovely review of Maysun and the Wingfish from Our Book Reviews Online.

Here's an excerpt:

'In Maysun and the Wingfish, Alison Lock has conjured up an extraordinary world - one in which fish can fly, trees can trap people, and eco-systems change almost overnight by the passing of the planet Ares. The people living there are, not surprisingly, struggling to survive, and it's only by a change in their thinking and moving forward through cooperation that they'll survive.

This isn't though just a book preaching about the dangers of ecological disasters. There are certain magical or fairy-tale elements to it - the dancing flying fish who respond to Maysun's song or the Ruba trees which snare victims in their sticky goo - and most importantly a good story-line following the adventures of Maysun and Barco, a Peakerfolk boy who in his stumbling way helps to bring about reconciliation between at least some of the members of each population.

I'm not sure what age group I'd recommend it for - some of the words would suggest an older readership of maybe 10+, but I think younger children would enjoy it being read to them, and even adults may appreciate this fantasy adventure.'

And a 5* one on Amazon:

Wow! Just finished reading Maysun and the Wingfish by Alison Lock - I couldn't put it down and read it in almost one sitting...but what I really want to know now is what happens next? The book is beautifully written, as I would expect having read Alison's poetry collections previously, and so I found myself torn between savouring the prose and rushing to follow the twists and turns of the plot. Alison Lock has created an incredible fantasy world with Maysun making a perilous journey to once again establish harmony. to her world. The book has a strong female lead, which is refreshing, but also features another prominent character , this time a boy. I think the book would appeal to a large audience ranging from 10 years to a 100years and I shall take great pleasure in sharing it with year 6 (10- 11 years) students next week. It is an absolute delight to read - that rare combination of complete originality, prose to die for & a plot that keeps you turning the pages!

There are others - do take a look here.

Beyond Wings (2015) Indigo Dreams Publishing

Reviews of Beyond Wings

'Alison Lock's beautiful and finely crafted Beyond Wings rings with the strangely strident subtlety of a Philip Glass symphony. A kaleidoscope of ecology and the search for inner peace, it casts an eye both across the vast trajectories of natural history and life, and on the foibles of human behaviour and emotional fallibility'. Simon Zonenblick

'In Beyond Wings, Alison Lock doesn?t merely reveal her versions of the world, she walks us through them. Indeed, with each poem I read, I was conscious of her steps and via the immediacy of tone and image she employs, at times I felt I was accompanying her on her journeys. This is quite a feat to pull off for any poet, and, with one so adept at bringing landscapes and wildlife to life so vividly, it?s a joy to walk beside her.' Mark Connors

Sentinel Literary Review - 'Alison Lock has a sure grasp of poetic forms and techniques and there is a richness of detail, stunning in its simplicity, and a love of language in all its wealth and subtleties.' Mandy Pannett.

Emma Lee blogspot - 'The human condition is firmly linked to nature, which, closely observed, can offer us lessons in dealing with obstacles and problems. Alison Lock shows a knowledge of words worn lightly, choosing familiar vocabulary to introduce and communicate ideas whilst also being mindful of the potential interpretations of each word chosen.' Emma Lee.

Review in Reach 205 by Bernard M Jackson. 'Prepare to meet an artist who paints with word and phrase, and combines subtlety of description with a charming sensitivity of presentation.' Bernard Jackson.

Amazon reviews. 'Beyond Wings, Alison Lock's second poetry collection, sees her flexing her poetic muscles and experimenting with a wide range of forms, styles and themes: from concrete poetry to rhyming stanzas; from travelogue to religious experience. She handles this diverse challenge with skill and insight, and the variety makes for a collection that often surprises and never grows stale. She is perhaps at her very best in delicate, evocative nature poetry (Oystercatchers) and in bringing out the human significance of objects (The Sundial, Her Watch). Overall, this is an impressive and rewarding collection, full of deft use of language and vivid images.' Tim Taylor.

Reviews from feedback forms, Cleckheaton Literature Festival 2015 - re my Life Writing workshop:

(Came to Martyn Bedford, Who-ology, Justina Robson, Joanne Harris and Alison Lock) Brilliant, diverse workshops and authors. Female 25-34

(Andy Kershaw and Alison Lock) Inspirational and professional both. It is the water for a year. Very professional. Female 45-54

Review on Amazon: 'Full of subtle twists and delicate juxtaposition, even the poetry tackling difficult subjects has an airy, uplifting quality.' 

Short Stories

A collection of short stories, Above the Parapet, in paperback and e-book.

Sabotage Review -

' a series of evocative, emotional vignettes about a variety of (mostly) interesting characters, told with painstaking, utterly engaging attention to detail.'

Reviews by Iain Pattison

Ethereal, oppressive, playful, savage, chilling and haunting - Alison Lock's short stories are an unsettling journey into the unknown. Each weaves a magical and mesmerizing spell, each keeps the reader tense and unsure in a world that seems to shimmer between reality and ominous fantasy - some teasing and whimsical with a gleeful, misanthropic Roald Dahl humour, others more sinister and threatening.

This 20-strong collection certainly impresses but it's a far from easy read, and not just because of the undercurrents of darkness. The tales - although lyrical and beguiling - often seem more like poetry than prose, challenging readers to bring their own interpretations and meanings to the sparse, cryptic storytelling. I liked many of the narratives - in particular Dancing With Sylphs, The Inventions of Mr Pitikus, Ashes for Roses and Erthenta but found others less satisfying as I yearned to have more explained to me; to have to do less guesswork. And that's the reason why I've given it 4 stars and not 5.

Above The Parapet won't appeal to everyone, but it's definitely worth checking out as an intriguing showcase for a talented writer with a unique, powerful and fearless voice.

5 star reviews:

  'This collection has a strong Eco-message. But the learning and the enlightenment is so far removed from the `Go Thou and Feel Bad About Thy Way Of Life.' Alison has a wicked sense of humour - no better displayed than in `Poetic Licence' where a local postman takes the moral high ground - far, far above us all (and didn't we always suspect that this kind of thing occurs...?)

`Above the Parapet' achieves an unusual balance - subtle and witty for those who are familiar with Alison's previous work - and true, pretty, genius eco-enlightenment for those of us who have only just discovered the Talent Of Lock.

Her stories have an uncanny knack of imprinting themselves upon your brain. But in a positive and uplifting way. Read 'Above the Parapet' and especially 'The Mission'... and I defy you to think of a local village or town sponsored event in the same, 'same old' light..

Single Stories

 'Swarm' and 'Where the Blue Line Fades' in Sentinel Champions #10

Swarm and Where the Blue Line Fades won both 1st and 2nd prize in the Sentinel short story competition: judged by Adnan Mamutovic. These are his comments:

The first prize goes to 'Swarm', because it manages to tell a large story through attention to small things. Everyday work of a family becomes a metonym for the mundane lives of a larger population. It is highly suggestive and simple. It gives a sense of both personal intimacies and historical urgency.

The second prize goes to 'Where the Blue Line Fades'. This story takes place at a threshold for the characters. It holds back a great deal of detail and thus creates a sense of the forgetting of the past, while at the same time the memory of it is quite potent and important.

'Run Boy Run' in Sentinel Champions #7.

'Erthenta' Momaya Annual Review

 'Apple Tree' - Onward Anthology I

''Eggshell' - Onward Anthology II

'The Cemetery Bus' - Journeys and Places, York St John University 2010

REVIEW of The Apple Tree

I love the subtly of this piece, which doesn't spell out events but allows the reader space to imagine them.

A beautiful and powerful story of loss.

 by Shirley Golden 

I was Poet-in-Residence for the Holmfirth Arts Festival 2012 and performed a long poem, "eye of the heron' for the launch of the 2013 festival with musician Robin Bowles, and visual artist Richard Raby. 

Eye of the Heron - commissioned poem for Holmfirth Arts Festival 2013

Links to Anthologies

Soul Feathers - An Anthology to aid the work of Macmillan Cancer support - includes poems from Carol Ann Duffy, Leonard Cohen, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, Bob Dylan and many more. 

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