Geraldine Monk: The Unquiets

Unquiet Stirrings

In a small Staffordshire village there is a pub with the disquieting name ‘The Quiet Woman’.  On the outer wall is a painting of a woman daintily carrying a tray of drinks and pub grub in a perfectly normal manner except for the disturbing fact that she is headless. Across this image  is emblazoned Proverb 15: ‘Soft Words Turneth Away Wrath’.  The whole effect is sinister and menacing especially on finding out it is based on an actual woman called ‘Chattering’ Charteris the lady of the inn who was decapitated by her landlord husband for talking too much. The landlord was apparently much applauded for his actions by the locals. It’s not clear exactly when this happened as the truth is hard to ascertain but it is a local legend too close to the bone of reality to hold much merriment.

The victim’s name ‘Chattering’ Charteris’ immediately evoked for me the matriarch Mother Chattox  last seen in my Interregnum and Pendle Witch Words as one of the Lancashire women hanged for witchcraft in 1612. The Quiet Woman pub is the catalyst that has thrown me back into my favourite territory of language, or to be more exact, the suppression of it. And I needn’t trawl the past for examples as it is still ongoing from the women of Afghanistan having their mics turned off when speaking in parliament before the easier solution of silencing professional women by simply shooting them dead in the street to the American politician Ben Carson. He requested the male co-presenter of the British journalist and news anchor Katty Kay to turn off her mic when Carson objected to her questions.

And so I now begin another journey into the realms of the silenced, disappeared and dispossessed dealing not just with historic cases but contemporary ones and the poem presented here is my first completed poem for this prospective collection. For the record an  ‘unquiet’ is a synonym for a ‘nag’ or a ‘scold’ so this is going to be a very unquiet volume indeed.



The Unquiets


Let fly the unquiet tongue

on the tip of their wagging

wisecracks champing at the

raw bit a metal fisted  in the mouth.

Between the teeth a harrying of the

buds over which words slew.


Slewed with lewd and metaphysical.

Startled points of view rarely reaching

beyond the reach of breath. Far too startled.

As if wonder is gendered. Or political. Just saying.

Just saying a weave of stem-sprouting visions are

visions to share. Break bread.  So why the brank?


Brank: the very sound hurts flesh.

Brank. Clamp. Cramp.  Crude

battered  iron pressing head so steep it

mashes mouth meat. Spikes the tongue.  Spiked.

The journalists curse. Impaled articles withering on

the branch. Your you obliterated. Read all about it.


About it: on my bottom lip a venous lake

has formed where words must swim or

drown. The just so bon mot as deep as

marrow purples on my bottom lip a venous lake

has formed in the after-dark of forethought a moat

in which to sigh and sink. Diving into silence.



Geraldine Monk’s poetry was first published in the 1970’s. Her major collections include Escafeld Hangings, West House Books 2005  and Interregnum, Creation Books 1995 with a rejigging of the monologues in Pendle Witch Words, K.F.S . 2012. Her Selected Poems was published by Salt Publishing, 2003 followed by The SaltCompanion to Geraldine Monk, edited by Scott Thurston, 2007. In 2012 she devised and edited Cusp: Recollections of Poetry in Transition, Shearman Books. Her latest book They Who Saw the Deep was published in 2016 in the United States by Parlor Press/Free Verse Editions. 

She lives in Sheffield and is a founding member of the Sheffield based antichoir Juxtavoices for which she has composed several pieces including Midsummer Mummeries, Up & Down at Bishop’s House (with Alan Halsey) and We Talk Through Walls

In 2014 she became an affiliated poet to The Centre for Poetry and Poetics, University of Sheffield.  





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