Adrienne Silcock

Adrienne Silcock

Born in the South of England, Adrienne Silcock has lived in France, Yorkshire and Lincoln. Her first novel Vermin (Flambard) was published in 2000. Her poetry has appeared in Ink on Paper, Other Poetry, Psychopoetica and Miracles and Clockwork (Other Poetry Editions, 2005) in Prole and Dreamcatcher magazines.

Adrienne was involved in the 2003 Voices of Women performance poetry project in conjunction with Wicked Words Poetry, Leeds, and won the 1998 Old Meeting House play-writing competition. Her second novel Controlling Aphrodite was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize 2009. Her third novel, The Kiss is available on Kindle. After a period of travelling in Europe she has written a series of short stories, Tales from the Continent and produced two poetry pamphlets Flight Path and The Fibonacci Sequence. She has just finished writing her fourth novel, The Banning of Mr Bray, which was also inspired by her European travel.

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Winter Solstice on the Ria Formosa

Tide swamps sand-flats,
pools heather, shrinks land.
Egret, spoonbill, avocet
line salt-pan’s edge
wait for waters to recede.
Shy heron hesitates
spreads heavy wings,
slowly levers air.
In a corner, water eddies
we toss sticks in,
watch inevitable draw
downward suck and spill
minutes passing into years.

Trou de la Bombe


The walk in: tunnel of pine and rocky outcrop
imperfect walls the goal –
jagged peaks, devils fingernails
scratch and claw the sky;
snow rests in creases
while summer listens…

Trees display courage
if we anthropomorphise –
struggle for the heights, force thirsty roots
into semblance of pure stone
toward hidden trace of soil and moisture –
even at the summit,
leaves proud against the sky

we gaze through this angular hole
where other eyes and arms have stretched
reach for satisfaction or an answer
this octagon of light a door
through which many aim to pass.



We watched the quarryman cleave with brutal skill
a block of stone from Talyotic land,
its leaving more reluctant still than ours;
we were blown here by our forebears, as others were,
from all directions, like the winds
– Tramuntana, Migjorn, Llevant, Ponent.

Our roots forced their way down, down
amongst rock, grew gnarled and dry
pleaded moisture from parched crust
red as dried blood of centuries past
and our goats grew bony in the scrub.

Perhaps we should have stayed
emulated stubborn trees that stood angled with the ground
or echoed invading crush of wave against cliff
forced land to yield to us
or, like red kites against fierce Tramuntana speed
circled steady above the hills.

We loaded our limestone block and sailed away
hoping it would store our luck, remind us who we were –
it held the breath of horses, music of cicadas’ wings;
no matter where those winds took us now
we believed we would find somewhere
to lay our foundation stone, re-build
a permanence that was fleeting in our hearts.

Dancing at the Uffizi with the Virgin Mary

(a maid’s homage to Artemisia Gentileschi)

I will bring yellow mimosa poised to flower
entreat you to lay aside your brush and dance
into the bustling street. We’ll make our way together
past Cattedrale di Santa Maria in search of corridors
and high ceilings, we shall spread our arms like wings,
laugh, defy the man who violates your dreams.

And even though suicide asp and Holofernes haunt your dreams
and Tassi laughs, paying lightly when he plucked that flower,
even though your hour is dark, you can wear an angel’s wings,
invite, too, the Virgin Mary to step in and dance
past grooved pillars, council chambers, through corridors;
with yellow mimosa in our hair, we shall laugh together.

Past Titian, Michelangelo, Raphael, together
with Ognisanti’s great works that inspire dreams
past frescos of many hues, ceilings in wide corridors
past bureaucratic doors, like buds in spring we’ll flower
offer wisdom and tenderness as we dance
through the Uffizi, wearing angels’ wings…

And though Tassi, and now Pietro, try to clip your wings
prefer to gamble not paint or spend hours together
allow debt, like sundown, to creep in, and will not dance,
although they try to sap a young woman’s dreams,
and talk is not of art but a case in court and that lost flower
we shall be bold, like Judith, not shun these corridors…

Through intimidating and majestic corridors
with Mary, Judith and her maid, we’ll spread our wings
we’ll combine brushstroke, light and hue to grow a flower
and with vitality and warmth we’ll mix together
a palette rich in reality and dreams,
round pillars and through ancient doors we’ll dance.

Watch our feet tremble and our pulse quicken as we dance
the galliard and canario through shadowed corridors
and when at last it’s time to leave, don’t leave those wings
rather, let’s continue through the streets together
past the Duomo, scatter a trail of yellow mimosa flower.

…and now you truly dance, dispense with those wings
sing through corridors and laugh together
unfurl your dreams from bud to flower…


Artemisia Gentileschi, artist, lived 1593-1652/3, was raped by the tutor her father engaged for her, Agostino Tassi. The case was brought to court, after Tassi refused to marry her, to save her “honour”. Tassi was found guilty but although banished from Rome, returned within four months. There was subsequently more interest in Gentileschi with regard to the rape, than in her art, though she was already an accomplished artist. She married Pietro Stiattesi in 1612, but he gambled and the marriage eventually ended.

Much of her subject matter represented strong women and challenged mainstream attitudes towards women.

Holofernes was an Assyrian general who besieged Bethulia where Judith, a Jewish widow of a nobleman, lived. She and her maid murdered him by posing as emissaries at a feast and encouraging him to become drunk, then decapitating him with a sword.

Poetry in this post: © Adrienne Silcock
Published with the permission of Adrienne Silcock