On Sylvia Kantaris and Kirsty Karkow

Before 2021 ends, there’s just time to note the passing of two fine poets.

Sylvia Kantaris, who died in November, was a poet whose name I’d long been aware of but whose poetry I hadn’t read until recently. I bought a copy of her 1985 collection The Sea at the Door in Nottingham in August and I’ve enjoyed many of its poems; for example, her colourful character study of her grandfather, ‘William Yates’, which opens thus:

Elbows stuck out like a Toby-jug,
thumbs in the belt strapped
under his stomach as if to hold it up,
Grandad stood between Margot Fonteyn
and us, and paused
before delivering the verdict:
‘Bloody bally!’
At one flick of the wrist
the swan gave up its ghost.
Grandad walked out
We knew he wasn’t really a poet.

Bloodaxe recently released a statement about her, containing a tribute to her by Philip Gross, which is available here.


I was sad to read that Kirsty Karkow had died, on Christmas Eve. She was a fine haiku and tanka poet. I had some correspondence with her twenty or so years ago and had been in online kukai groups with her in the late ’90s. She’d lived in Maine for many years but was born and educated in England. On Curtis Dunlap’s old ‘Blogging Along Tobacco Road’ blog, which was always a pleasurable read, you can still find Kirsty’s admirable contribution, here.


Finally, a thank you to everyone who’s read, liked, commented on, shared any of my posts this year. Happy New Year to you – here’s hoping it will be a happier year than 2021 has been.

6 thoughts on “On Sylvia Kantaris and Kirsty Karkow

  1. Dear Matthew, thank you for this. I only saw it by chance and I had not realised that Sylvia Kantaris had died. This is very sad news. I included one of her poems in my book A Commonplace and we had some correspondence. She was so overlooked, as so many poets are. I will continue to recommend her work and share her poems in workshops. Very best, Jonathan

    1. Thanks for this, Jonathan. On reflection, I think it must’ve been because of your inclusion of ‘After the Birthday’ in A Commonplace that I became aware of her poetry!

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