Karen McCarthy Woolf

Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to English and Jamaican parents. Her book, An Aviary of Small Birds, was nominated for both the Forward and Fenton Aldeburgh first collection prizes and was a Guardian/Observer book of the year. She holds an Arts and Humanities Research Council doctoral scholarship at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she is researching new ways of writing about nature and the city in the face of climate change. In 2015 she was poet in residence at the National Maritime Museum, responding to an exhibition on migration.


To Dover from Calais, A Landay

After midnight we drive through Sangatte
on the outskirts, where teenagers rush to the tunnel

In the big-cat gleam of our headlamps
the boys pause for a heartbeat—disappear in a flash

If you’re not really a Syrian
is it safer in the Congo, or Afghanistan?

While we all fiddle with our smartphones
sniffer dogs inhale the articulated lorry

Two ferrymen tell me how they feel
okay because they pull up the bridge and sail away

It’s only a joke if it’s funny
so I don’t laugh at ‘they weren’t exactly invited.’

Tell me, if Great Britain is so full
why is this middle-of-the-night-crossing so empty?

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