Not for the faint-hearted, these poems highlight the harsh realities of the lives of sheep. They contrast starkly with the popular image of sheep as fluffy and sweet – rather, sheep become the starting-point for our own humanity, and the take-off point for some unexpected fantasies too.
“For all that English literature has a centuries-old pastoral tradition, very few poets actually write about sheep, the beasts themselves who live out their short lives so we can fleece them of their flesh and wool. … I do hope that these ten poems about sheep will give readers a greater understanding and sympathy for a poorly understood and too often maligned animal.”
Neil Astley, Introduction to Ten Poems about Sheep
“The mothers have come back
From the shearing, and behind the hedge
The woe of sheep is like a battlefield…”
from ‘Sheep’ by Ted Hughes
Neil Astley is editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978. His books include many anthologies, most notably the Bloodaxe Staying Alive trilogy, as well as two novels featuring sheep, The End of My Tether (Scribners), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, and The Sheep Who Changed the World (Flambard), about a cloned black sheep who defeats the forces of international terrorism.
Poems by Ruth Bidgood, Gillian Clarke, Josephine Dickinson, Ted Hughes, Christina Rossetti, David Scott and Jo Shapcott.
Illustrated by Beth Krommes.