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Poetry of place: Gaia Holmes wins £10,000 Arts Foundation award

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Popular Yorkshire poet Gaia Holmes has won a prestigious £10,000 Arts Foundation Future Awards fellowship for Place Writing, for her poetry collection Where The Road Runs Out (Comma Press). The collection charts the story of Gaia’s journey to Orkney to provide emotional and palliative care for her father.

Discussing Orkney, Gaia has said that it is “not for everyone. It has a shady magic which you have to befriend. You have to learn the language of its tides, its myths, its elements. You have to get used to the constant screech and keen of the wind and in the dark half of the year you have to learn to milk the light and use it quickly before it curdles.

“My father loved Shapinsay. He called it his ‘paradise’ and knew how to deal with its mischief. He didn’t want to leave it. During the 16 years he lived there he only came back down South twice. Before he became ill, the place used to scare me. Almost every year I’d go up and stay with him for two weeks. Generally those two weeks would be shot through with anxiety … But lately, after spending lots of time up there I have seen how my father and the island are intertwined and I have come to love the place.”

Reviewing Gaia’s collection in Write Out Loud we said: “The poetry of Gaia Holmes …  often takes you further than you had first expected; her language and images can be full of surprises. Readers should feel all the better for sometimes finding themselves in unfamiliar territory.” 

Gaia has written two other poetry collections, Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed, and Lifting The Piano With One Hand. She has been a gallery attendant, a cleaner, a lecturer, a lollipop lady and a busker and has lived in churches, caves, deserted beach houses, tall terraces and caravans. Now she is a creative writing tutor and pet/house sitter and lives in Halifax in a flat on the top floor of a ramshackle Georgian mansion that Dorothy and William Wordsworth used to visit. She is currently working on a debut collection of short stories.

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