The Interpreter’s House – review of Drawing a Diagram by Aoife Lyall

Issue 65 of The Interpreter’s House has an amazing review by Aoife Lyall of Drawing a Diagram

Edit: I’m delighted to be able to publish the review in full – many thanks to The Interpreter’s House.

‘Drawing a Diagram’ review by Aoife Lyall in The Interpreter’s House, issue 65, June 2017

Rosemary Badcoe’s debut collection, Drawing a Diagram, is meticulous and multifaceted, creatively engaging with intricate scientific concepts and theories from utterly original and thoroughly satisfying perspectives.

The first of three sections, ‘The Wiring Plan speaks to the essential. ultimately hidden, components of things. ‘On the Movements of Bodies’ is a sentient exploration of the difference between fact and truth, between plan and finished product. The facts tell us that the dodo is unviable as a creature,’how its sternum lacked the strength’ and `that gravity would… dislocate the stubby wings’. And yet, truth will out and life will and a way. ‘The Star Goat Reaches for the Earth’, is a playful and profound consideration of a constellation and its earthly namesake; demystifying the heavens and elevating the animal, it creates something both fantastical and homely as `His limbs of hydrogen and nebulae/ twitch to learn of trees and growth’.

The section finishes with ‘My Arguments; skilfully high-lighting the human disposition to compartmentalise troublesome truths. The speaker laments that their belief  ‘for consciousness in cephalopods/ won’t prevent you from slicing and frying’, and petitions for recognition that ‘its preoccupations are yours’. Her protest resonates beautifully in the final lines, ‘I write you a note, and like squid/ use the ink to depart’.

Following from this, The Director’s Cut’, is built upon the twinned ideas of revelation and change. ‘Please Hold’ speaks to the quagmire of inessential tasks we accept and perform with a ritualism bordering on the perverse. The poem reads not as the options on an automated system, but rather the reactions to those options; and just as stars are composed of disparate particles of matter, so the poem works two ostensibly disjointed concepts together to create a sublime celestial ending, ‘You’ve higher things to do than listen here./Go fulfil your destiny. Press star.’

Likewise, ‘Nocturne for Suburbia’ is an invocation to the reader to take their children `to the woods where the birch and the bilberry/ drift, half-aware, in the low-lying mist’, away from a restricted, controlled life where things happen, not like clockwork, but according to it; ‘You can hear last Tuesday, the way it bent/ Four o’clock back and forth till it snapped’. The observation is sharp, and sharply felt. The same may be said of ‘The Minoans’, in which we are told `We do not hand our fate to those we cannot touch’. Our life is ours to claim and control, Badcoe reminds us: too often we are guilty of handing it to a higher power; too often we let someone else call the shots.

With this is mind, ‘The Last Act’ delivers poems that are raw and unapologetic. Where ‘Wake’, is unsentimental and unequivocal, informing the reader that ‘others spin the pattern built by cogs/ in their internal worlds and have no time for yours’, other poems in this final section are purposefully ambiguous. In ‘One Down’ a mental mis-step causes the speaker to see ‘from the corner/ of my sight… a tartan slipper droop from a foot’ that isn’t there. The poem is not about the absence itself, the nature of which is undetermined, but rather how the brain habituates to the point of fabrication in order to protect itself. The final poem, ‘The Last Act’ speaks to a sense of having missed out, the feeling that all great things have happened and passed the speaker by, as they wait for someone else to pass judgement. A resignation against the defiance of earlier years perhaps; perhaps the regret that we have not done enough, seen enough, understood enough, in our lifetime.

This is a collection to be read wrapped up in blankets and silence and time. With each poem standing up to robust analysis and dissection, be it crossways in sections or lengthways across the book, they invite and reward serious consideration.”

I shall now stop gazing at it in delight and read the rest of this great publication. I’d urge you to do the same – TIH is a well-established, beautifully produced publication that always contains work of value (and this issue has their competition winners too, so extra good!) Many thanks to editor Martin Malone and to Aoife Lyall for taking the time for such a careful read.


Orbis review

Very pleased to have a review of Drawing a Diagram in the new issue of Orbis, #179. The review is by DA Prince, whom we have published in Antiphon, but I don’t know her – it’s lovely to see that she very much enjoyed the book!

Edit: I’m taking the liberty of reproducing the review here. Orbis is a beautifully produced magazine that’s been going for ages, with a wide variety of poetry. A great feature is the reader awards – subscribers write in and comment on the poems they like best in each issue. Find out more here.

SCIENCE ISN’T SO FRIGHTENING: REVIEW BY D.A.PRINCE Drawing a Diagram by Rosemary Badcoe, 80pp, $14,  Kelsay Books (Aldrich Press),

This debut collection brings together poems which circle in various ways around the ever-engrossing theme of time. More than most poets, Rosemary Badcoe is willing to tackle scientific and astronomical aspects but, helpfully, she knows how to keep readers on side. The book is divided the collection into three sections: The Wiring Plan; The Director’s Cut; and The Final Act. This last is a nod to the way in which the on-line magazine Antiphon, of which she is co-editor and designer, is elegantly arranged into a series of acts and intervals. In her writing, diagrams feature as metaphor and as a way of comprehending how human lives fit into the larger scale, with the title rising from the terrifyingly-titled ‘′. – ‘… the brain that peers inside itself, / sees life happen, and draws a diagram.’, an abstract idea made accessible. Besides, we’ve already encountered diagrams in the opening ‘On the Movements of Bodies’, eased into the science almost without realising it:

About the time that Newton wrote Principia
and every spinning object settled down
to orbit in its newly designated way

the dodo died.

Her science isn’t so frightening after all. Instead, it brings an energy and fresh intelligence to a theme that can often be predictable. The examinations of where we, as humans, stand in relation to the timescale of our own planet and the solar system are inventive, always keep human comprehension in the foreground. All the information readers need is in each piece: she doesn’t weigh down the final pages with notes but takes our language, our knowledge, as starting points. In ‘The international Celestial Reference Frame’ she shows us how a quasars are part of how we live –

We map our satellites against their constant spin.
Their distant calls become the frame
for knowing where we are, like crickets form
the soundscape for a poem of the moon.

She has a lightness, too, and with a pleasingly metaphysical approach. ‘Please Hold’ takes the form of a telephone automated menu: ‘To hear this message again, press one.’ It’s not an obvious starting point for a poem but the language of machine guidance is used to map our human needs: ‘Press four to indicate you’re searching for a meaning.’ And I defy any reader to stop reading at this point. At the end, it jumps free of the constraining form, and affirms that ultimately, we have choice:

… Press hash to indicate that that

is what you’ve made of things. Now cease
to give a toss. You’re born of stellar nucleosynthesis.
You’ve higher things to do than listen here.
Go fulfil your destiny. Press star.

Jumping, affirming: that’s what these poems do, adding up to a very enjoyable collection. The USA-based Kelsay Press, an enterprising publisher, with a website well worth a visit; is lucky to have this title on their list.


Book launch of Drawing a Diagram

Drawing a Diagram was launched at Blackwell’s bookshop, Sheffield on 6th April.

My great friend and co-editor Noel Williams gave a brief and very kind introduction, and he and another dear friend Kate Rutter also read a few poems just before the interval.

Some of my poems are not the easiest to grasp on first hearing, so I included some visual aids to illustrate some of the poems – here’s me with a dodo reading ‘On the movements of bodies’, the first poem in the collection. I think it was particularly useful for the poem entitled !

Noel Williams introducing me
Kate Rutter













Look at this marvellous hand-painted silk scarf! My wonderful husband Ian Badcoe had it made to celebrate the launch of the book – it illustrates part of the book cover, one of the exquisite drawings of Radiolarians drawn by the naturalist Ernst Haeckel.






Readings from Drawing a Diagram

I thought potential readers (or even actual readers) might like to hear me read a few of the poems. So here we are.

(Drawing a Diagram available on Amazon UK for £11.48 and Amazon US for $14.00 or directly from me)



On the Movements of Bodies


Please Hold


Whitby Gothic


Drawing a Diagram – available directly from me

I now have copies of Drawing a Diagram available to purchase directly from me, ahead of the official launch event.

If you’d like a copy in the UK, it’s £11 including p&p (£10 if I can drop it off to you personally). Let me know if you want me to sign it!

If you use paypal you can pay directly and easily via and send me an email via the form. If you don’t like paypal, drop me an email and we’ll arrange something – cheques, cash and barter are all possible. See below for full book contents.

What do you get for your money? 7131 words, arranged in the best possible order in 55 poems, including this one, published in Oxford Poetry:

Please Hold

To hear this message again, press one.
To scrunch the phone between your ear and shoulder
while leaning sideways, pulling on your boot

and not have the door swing wide to dump you
on the floor, press two. To have a rest from
Dolly Parton crackling down the line, press three.

Press four to indicate you’re searching for a meaning.
Press again for a selection of solutions we’ve prepared,
running all the way from fundamentalist

to a neo-atheistic multiverse where you can
revel in the expectation that the other yous
are making love to [insert idol here].

If you’re able to explain, defend or merely
grant that you were wrong, press five.
Contrition will reduce the length of time you spend

on hold. A signed confession (pressing six)
means you can skip directly to the sentencing
and miss out seven. Never go for eight.

There is no number nine, no nine-nine-nine.
We’re not up to handling crises at this
time of night. Press hash to indicate that that

is what you’ve made of things. Now cease
to give a toss. You’re born of stellar nucleosynthesis.
You’ve higher things to do than listen here.
Go fulfil your destiny. Press star.


I     The Wiring Plan

On the Movements of Bodies
A rainbow is not an object and cannot be physically  approached
Shooting the Breeze
The International Celestial Reference Frame
Arm’s Length
The Star Goat Reaches for the Earth
The Last Fig Tree
It Must be Science
My Arguments

II   The Director’s Cut

Please Hold
Extended Version
Dialogue I
Carpentry at Midnight
Dialogue II

Whitby Gothic
Dialogue III
Nocturne for Suburbia
Elementary Catastrophe Theory
The Minoans
DisclaimerIII   The Last Act

Happy Enough
Remind Me
Fall of the Cards
One Down
Tollund Woman
Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
Waltzing Without Music
The One That Got Away
The Last Act



Drawing a Diagram – published!

ISBN-13: 978-1945752391

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my first poetry collection, Drawing a Diagram, from Kelsay Books.

It’s available on Amazon in the UK for £11.48 and on Amazon in the US for $14.00. I’ll be selling copies myself shortly, when they arrive from the US, and will also be organising a launch in Sheffield.

I’ll post some extracts and readings from the book shortly, but here are the very kind and generous comments made by three poets I greatly admire. I’m very grateful to them for agreeing to read the draft publication and let me have their thoughts.

“Rosemary Badcoe’s first collection is about time, in both senses. It is overdue and testament to a subtle poetic intelligence deserving of a wider audience. It is also about how we quantify the revolutions of light and space, and those isolated moments when scientific enquiry and individual experience interact. For all the coolness of Badcoe’s work, its poise and measure, there is huge intensity beneath its surface, and sly humour, and much beauty.”
– Conor O’Callaghan, author of four collections of poetry published by Gallery Press in Ireland and Wake Forest University Press in the US, including Fiction and The Sun King.

“On reading Rosemary Badcoe’s Drawing a Diagram I am reminded very much of the poetry I meant to write, but was rarely able to. I am also convinced that hers is an intellect worth getting to know. To be more specific, I find in her poetry, more often than not, the same juxtaposition of the intimate and the infinite that I find in that of Stephen Edgar, which comparison, I hope, speaks for itself. This is poetry which is considered, without being overcooked, and language which is precise, without being precious. Overall, Drawing a Diagram is an extraordinarily mature body of work for a first collection. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to publish some of her work in Angle, and look forward very much to being able to again in future.”
– Philip Quinlan, poet, Co-editor, Angle Journal of Poetry in English

“Here is a strong, substantial, even at times startling, first collection. It’s full of intellectual and emotional stimulation, the cerebral and the intimate sparking off each other as the many different discourses do. Badcoe ranges over time and space, science and art, the personal and the global. She surprises us with imaginative revelations, but never dictates our responses to them. The poems and the images are very much open to interpretation, always a strength in poetry. We can see her as a descendant of the Metaphysical poets, offering us poems that make us think and feel, appreciating both the wit and seriousness of this work. However, this poet clearly lives in and speaks from our own world with all its confusions, from how to cope with romance to global disasters. All these materials are woven throughout the collection but perhaps the most important question that arises from this work for me is that of perception. How do our minds work? Badcoe asks this brilliantly but we must answer – “cast off”!”
– Harriet Tarlo, whose publications include Field and Poetry 2004-2014, Shearsman Books, and behind land: poems and paintings, with Judith Tucker, Wild Pansy Press. She is editor of The Ground Aslant: An Anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry, Shearsman Books.

I’d also like to record my thanks to Karen at Kelsay Books for her care and attention.


First collection – Drawing a Diagram – out in early 2017

haeckel_stephoideaI’m thrilled that Aldrich Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books, has agreed to publish my first collection, Drawing a Diagram, in early 2017. It’s a US small press run by the redoubtable Karen Kelsay and publishes many poets I admire, including Christine Klocek-Lim, C Wade Bentley and Jean L Kreiling.

It’s been fun selecting the poems and shuffling them into some sort of order, and then sticking my neck out and asking people if they’d be kind enough to write a short blurb for the cover. I’m deeply gratified that three poets I’m very fond of agreed immediately!