Some Prose Pieces


With the time afforded by enforced leisure during the pandemic, I tried my hand at some creative non-fiction. Here’s an extract from an essay, ‘Creative Frailty: some thoughts on global catastrophe, the gift economy and the third age‘, which appeared in the online journal Axon in 2020 (

… it is impossible to know what the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be, especially on the environment, as humans urgently re-build their societies and economies. Because there is evidence that the chain of virus transmission involved bats, pangolins and ‘wet markets’, there will no doubt be talk about the need to remake our relationship with animals; but whether and how far this will translate into large-scale action on behalf of the world’s fauna and flora is doubtful. What is clear is that the climate crisis and its associated harms are primarily a political catastrophe: anthropogenic climate change and other environmental damage have been known about, reported on and campaigned against for at least four decades. The current scale and pace of destruction and the despair it trails in its wake have been brought about because governments and big business have so far taken little or no action proportionate to the need. What to do? I have no answers beyond the obvious, that a sea-change is needed in our politics and economics as well as in our policies…

And here’s an excerpt from an essay, ‘A Guest in My Own Home?‘, which will appear in an anthology edited by colleagues at the University of Lisbon. The collection is provisionally titled Representations of Home, and will contain short fiction and creative non-fiction on the topic of ‘Home’ and the challenges of belonging; each essay and short story will appear in English and Portuguese.

… Our bodies are dark to us, dark matter; dark meat. We cannot see the inside of ourselves except by the intervention of machines or weapons. We cannot see the microbes that live on our skin, in our gut; we cannot see the bacilli and viruses, the gamma rays and neutrons, the toxic microparticles in lingering smoke, that make us ill. We cannot even see our own faces, features, expressions of surprise, joy, terror, agony, without the help of mirror-glass or still water. And yet our bodies are where we live. They send us pain and pleasure from the invisible interior, they bring us flavours and fragrances from beyond. We sweat and shiver. Tickled, we giggle; tortured, we scream; in ecstasy, we sigh and moan. So we must imagine and speculate; we palpate our lumps and bumps, pinch the flesh on our waists – how much more body we’ve acquired these past few months of confinement – scrub the skin off our hands, take our temperatures and smell our breath behind our face-masks. In times of widespread contagion, the commonality of our corporeal being makes us sympathetic and fearful, public-spirited and selfish; heroic and timid. ‘Viral’ describes psychological as much as physiological pathogens: we have learnt about collective hysteria, panic disorder, acute stress disorder and pervasive hopelessness – the miasma of disquiets and despairs. We do the dance of ‘social distancing’ with grace or silent disgruntlement. So far, so animal…


Blog, Poetry

I have an article published here: which arose out of a panel discussion in which I participated in spring 2023.

I also have a chapter in Chris Brown and Graham Handscomb’s book, The Ideas-Informed Society: Why We Need It and How to Make It Happen, published by Emerald Publishing in September 2023. My chapter is called ‘A little conceptual housekeeping: ideas and their contexts’.

Two Rivers Press have re-issued Christina the Astonishing, which Jane Draycott and I co-wrote back in the 1990s – the beautifully re-designed edition has some newly-discovered artwork by Peter Hay:

My full collection, This Thing of Blood & Love, came out in February 2022 from Two Rivers Press:  The journal Raceme recently carried a review of the book that called the title poem (which was inspired by a response to Cy Twombly’s sketch ‘Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus’) ‘powerful and highly accomplished’, ‘a storm in twenty-two lines… which seems to me to manage in language what Twombly and others of the mid-late twentieth century did in paint… Saunders delves under the skin and into the heart.’

I am very touched that Professor Clementina Mihăilescu of Sibiu University, Romania, has produced a book, An Interdisciplinary Approach to Lesley Saunders’ Poetry, in which she adopts an approach using ‘the latest tendencies in criticism, sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis’, which include Jung’s archetypes, Bakhtin’s chronotypes and Bachelard’s aesthetic theory.

I was delighted to be awarded third prize in the 2022 Rialto RSPB poetry competition for my poem ‘Ghosts’ and first prize in the Winchester Poetry Festival prize last autumn for my poem ‘The Starlings’ – both poems are elegies for the grievous loss of wildlife in our islands.

In 2021 I took part in an online conversation with Yan Martell, The Art of Fragments, about how the fragments of text and artefact have shaped and informed our work; watch here:

My poetry collection, Days of Wonder, created in collaboration with artist Rebecca Swainston during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, was launched on 6 October last year:

For Rebecca’s startling and beautiful work, visit