May 20, 2022, by Kathryn Steenson

Poetic Responses to Editing DH Lawrence

On 5 May 2022, 14 writers from the Writer Highway group, led by Cathy Grindrod, were invited to respond to our exhibition Editing DH Lawrence, running at Lakeside Arts until 29 May. Here are the poetic responses, check our other blog post for prose responses!

Many thanks to all involved.

Man looking in exhibition case under the 'Editing D H Lawrence' title on the wall.

Reflections on Editing DH Lawrence by Denise Morton

I scrutinise his thin, drawn face
half-hidden behind a beard
of russet red, neatly trimmed.
Restless eyes, troubled, steely,
searching for something.
Success, fulfilment, truth?
Hard to tell.

I contemplate how this man,
so quiet, so sickly
aroused such passion,
devotion, disgust, outrage.
Creator of obscenities
with pen and paint.
Careless with friendships.
Wife stealer.

I applaud his ingenuity,
his determination to defy
dogmatic disparaging critics
with fake covers and foreign printers
who could not read English.
Limited editions. Signed too.
Must have been worth a bit.
Clever that.

I notice a postcard.
Frieda and Lawrence together.
Co-conspirators. Captured mid laugh.
Living, loving, flouting convention.
Leaving behind a discarded husband,
children, lovers, reputations.

I wonder would he have been amused
or puzzled to see his banned books,
his letters, his photos,
his poncho and sandals,
his painting with bottoms in,
carefully curated in cabinets and cases.
The temperature cool, controlled.
The lights soft, atmosphere hushed.
Celebrated in the university
where he first met Frieda.
Where he is now so revered.


A Unique Bond by Susan Byrne

Black-eyed Susan swings her tail
into the bearded writer’s eyes.
He contemplates his next word.

A mysterious cowy friendship
develops, while ruddy udders
squirt milk into a tinny pail.

Frothy milk, cozy-warm;
rubbery teats pulled rhythmically;
comfort the-hands-that-write.

Twice daily, cow and man
sway to the milky beat,
at one with the others’ being.

"Susan, the cow" by D.H. Lawrence in 'Laughing Horse, no.15'; 1928 (Ref: PR6023.A9.Z4.L28)

Changing her Mind by Trish Kerrison

 ‘She did not want him to wake, to speak.’
You’ve made your decision.

She’s having none of it;
in the rustle of your curtain
the scratch of your pen,
the rattle of your teacup
she is there,
insisting that you listen,
like her husband never did.

You change her mind.


‘She wanted him to wake, to speak.’
Even as you write she slips
from your grasp. Is this love,
does she simply wish
to hear his voice once more?
Or does she wish him awake
so he will know his own suffering,
as cruelly as she knows her own?

She whispers her answer,
your pen falls from your hand,
she wants him to wake, and not wake,
to speak, and not speak.

She is her own woman.

You cross the line out.

Inspired by an edited line from ‘The Odour of Chrysanthemums’, from the DH Lawrence exhibition. After being edited, the line does not appear in the final version of the story.


D.H. Lawrence writes a love poem:


(for Frances Maud Haynes)

Yesterday, amongst the bluebells,
you, a few steps in front of me.
I saw the light in your dress,
whilst overhead the chiff-chaffs sang
and Greasley church clock chimed the half-hour.

Sitting together
you watched as I threaded daisies,
laid the chain upon your head
and together we lay, and looking up
saw, beyond the canopy of leaves,
a blueness deeper than the blue of bluebells.

We did not speak of love
but love happened,
I a poet, you my landlady –
if a lodger can call the lady of the house
his landlady.

Last night you served me stew in a blue dish
and before I slept I penned this.

When I leave
I will leave it for you.
Treasure it,
as I will always treasure that day we lay amongst the bluebells.


Book on display in the DH Lawrence exhibition, in he background a person is looking at an exhibition board.

At the DH Lawrence Exhibition by J Filimon

Beneath glass you are close and distant,
intimate lines, neat and wild, are rewritten
with confidence and doubt.
The self-portrait is you, but I see Vincent,
van Gogh without the bandage,
unrevealed behind your eyes is there inner damage?
Misunderstood or understood too much,
I cannot tell encased in glass
with friends and lovers,
some artefacts, some detail

but here we recognise the landscape,
your characters, the voices of the people
and are grateful
that the genius escaped the bottle.


Country of his Heart by Margaret Leigh

Glimpsed in the rise of a hillside,
or the distant air-borne image of a church tower.
Lay your hand on the roughened redness of old bricks,
small and round–edged, of a cottage stranded
between more brutal builds.
A patch of ramsons seasoning the air in High Park Wood,
or pay your fiver to see the bluebells at Felley.
Always the motorway’s  low roar
threading through.
The history breathes in the names,
Strelley, Cossall, Beauvale , Balloon Woods,
clues in a closed book.
My father would tilt his head, his eyes slightly misted,
‘you could walk for miles’ and I imagine him striding out,
into the fields edging his part of Radford,
out from the bleach works,
the pit, the corn mill,
towards the country of his heart.

View of the lane at Beauvale with a tree in blossom. The photograph was taken from opposite Beauvale Abbey (Beauvale Priory), possibly taken c.1920s-1930s.

‘I will sit and wait for the bell’
from Last Lesson of the Afternoon by D H Lawrence

 Last lesson of the OFSTED visit by Tony Challis

He decided to sit and wait for the bell.
Yes, they chattered.
Yes, they were off task.
No, they were not analysing the metaphors in a poem
written beyond the ends of their earth.
No, they were not expressing themselves.
No, they were not accustomed to being creative.
Yes, he pretended to be inspired by the dross
they had to know for their exams.
Yes, they could see he was pretending.
Yes, they knew there was work
he would much rather present to them.
And yes, sometimes
he opened the door to imagination a crack,
connected to them,
had them write about what was inside them.
But not at inspection time.
Then he had to scratch his head
and differentiate between the Aims and Objectives he had to post up.
Run every lesson like a restaurant meal
of starter, main course and plenary.
Not dessert – that would smack of indulgence.
And sweet might seem common….

There was a knock at the door.
It opened, and an Inspector entered.
The class paid no heed.
He stood, and knew he had to speak.


D H Lawrence exhibition, Lakeside, May 2022
Found Poem using words from Visitor Post-It Notes by Cathy Grindrod

Bert would have approved.
He was a cool guy.
A man before his time.
A complex character.
What a rascal!
It’s quiet and spooky in here.
I feel like a ghost.
My favourite word is cockapoo.
I don’t know what D H stands for.
Thank you.
It was lovely seeing this explosion.

The exhibition runs until 29 May at Lakeside Arts, and a virtual version is available here.


Posted in Exhibitions