Saturday, 30 May 2020

Poems from the Backroom 76: Chrys Salt

Chrys Salt is cultural royalty down our way. The Bakehouse, her Scottish headquarters in Gatehouse and Fleet, is a home, exhibition space, mini theatre, and the venue since 2007 of world class reading events. It is now also the focus of an expanding regional Arts Festival called Big Lit. Everyone should visit the Bakehouse, as Chrys' hospitality is legendary.  

Chrys Salt has a background in drama. She was an actress, and still writes for and about the theatre. She has been a producer and impresario. She has won a Fringe First, and her organisation of a series of world class performances by Globe Touring in the grounds of the Crichton Campus  in Dumfries left a lasting impression on me and many others, particularly young folk who had never seen such stuff before.  In 2014 she was awarded an MBE for services to the Arts.

She is, however, primarily a poet and, as you would expect, an excellent performer of her own work. She has published five full collections and five pamphlets, had her poems published in magazines and anthologies and broadcast on Radio 3 and 4. She has performed world-wide, most recently at the Tasmanian Poetry Festival. Her latest collection, 'Snookum Jim and the Klondike Gold Rush', the product of a visit to the Yukon sponsored by Creative Scotland, has just been published and you can buy it from the link below.

Chrys' poetry ranges far and wide and she doesn’t shy away from very big topics like ageing and war though her stuff can be powerful and personal too. sometimes both: the poem she reads below was written in response to her son's service in the army in Iraq..

Here she is reading 'Seascape':

Her website here:

A recent interview here:


There are no maps for poets in this country.
The compass finger, mindless on its post
will not direct us on this dangerous journey.
An unfamiliar landscape tells us we are lost.
Above the bramble and the rambling wood
the technicoloured dragons wheel for bones
of luckless travellers who have misconstrued
the alien symbols on the milestones.
We have nowhere to go but where we are,
our options closed, the exit double locked.
We may not take direction from a star.
The stars are out and all the roads are blocked.
How can we dare this nightmare territory?
the shifting contours of the hills and coasts.
the gibberish signposts and the season's enmity.
What hand our touchstone in this land of ghosts?

Hymn to Mastectomy

Here’s to the woman with one tit
who strips down to her puckered scars
and fronts the mirror – doesn’t give a shit
for the pert double breasted wonderbras
sneaking a furtive gander
at her missing bit.

‘Poor lady,’ they are thinking
‘can her husband bear to touch her?
Will she ever dare to wear
that slinky low-cut sweater’?

Here’s to the woman with half a bust
who wears her lack of symmetry
with grace and moist with lust
offers a single nipple like a berry
to her lover’s tongue.

Here’s to the single breasted ones
come home, victorious from their wars
wearing their wounds
as badges on the chests
of Amazons.

‘She ought to cover up
its embarrassing, its shocking.
I’m sure she thinks she’s very brave
but everybody’s looking’!

Here’s to those wondrous affrontages
out on the scene in sauna, pool and gym
those who when whole were dying –
now less than whole
become themselves again


  1. Heartbreaking. Heart aching . . .

  2. Stunning writing. Very memorable and powerful images, and so much beauty, of feeling and depth of feeling. I'm now a Follower :) a happy poet following