Helen has been writing poetry for many years and has had work published in several poetry magazines including Staple, The Interpreter's House, Other Poetry, The Frogmore Papers and The Glasgow Review as well as in the anthology Seeking Refuge published by Cinnamon Press. Her first collection Inscapes & Horizons is published by St Albert's Press and her second collection Thumbprints is published by Oversteps Books.

Thumbprints booklaunch The book launch for Helen Overell's second collection 'Thumbprints', published by Oversteps Books, took place at The Queen's Larder, Bloomsbury, London on 25th February 2015.


Poems by Helen Overell

Beit Hanoun, Gaza, 19th April 2001
Charity Shop
Filton 1977
Platform 2 - Southbound
Visiting time
In tune


asthma - the word brings you to mind,
gaberdine coats, satchels,
clangs from the hand-
swung bell

you were in a much younger class,
your clothes had outgrown you,
cuffs were turned back,
hems drooped

you'd be sat on a wooden chair
in the empty playground,
your squeeze-tight chest

you'd be hunched in a gasp of air
that trickled like treacle,
your scrap-thin face

you'd be tear-stained, your skimpy hair
tangled into fluffed knots,
your sky-blue eyes
puffed shut

you'd ease up, breathe wafts of chanted
tables, well chorused rhymes,
your black-dapped feet
tapping time

Helen Overell
Published in Other Poetry, Mar 2005.
Inscapes & Horizons, St Albert's Press 2008.

Beit Hanoun, Gaza, 19th April 2001

the scent of crushed oranges masks
the dank rubbled odour of crumbed
concrete, pounded doorways, ghost rooms
open to the sky, walls folded
in shocked despair around clothes drowned
in mud, broken bedsteads, blankets
counterpaned with taut twists of steel

the juice of cropped oranges dries
on dulled leaves, ripped branches, tree trunks
prone on matted earth, roots dazzled
with daylight, water wells silted
to choked silence, men stood bone struck
on trampled tank tracks, women dazed
statues in stone staggered nightmare

the skin of scrapped oranges curls
to dark ribbons, pith heavy, weighed
into spirals with dust gritted
remnants of pulped fruit, withered years,
children occupied with land rights,
lost harvests, sling shot skirmishes
with soldiers in ear defenders

Helen Overell
Published in Magma 32, Summer 2005.
Inscapes & Horizons, St Albert's Press 2008.


The world has shrunk to a feather edged
forest of pastel petalled flowers -
crumpled tissue paper hollyhocks,
hellebores in leaf green camouflage,
overblown roses on spindle stems -
there is no horizon to think on.

The world has filled with a moth mottled
planting of shadow shifted blossoms -
dappled tawny tinted wallflowers,
sweet williams in lace trimmed pink velvet,
jostling bluebells in ground-hug mist -
there are no edges to steer by.

The world has dimmed to a thistledown
veiling of cobweb stranded seed heads -
rippled whorl ridge spirals, bead bold pods,
papery cases full of whispers
laden with bright coloured memories -
all finger fumbled now, like faces.

Helen Overell
Published in Other Poetry, No 32, 2007.

Charity Shop

It was the candlestick first caught my eye -
Glazed earthenware - nothing grand - spiralling
Upwards from a rounded base in mute
Appeal for a lighted candle. And then,
Amongst the odds and ends of peoples' lives,
I saw a cup, goblet shaped, an almost
Match, a receptacle for wine. Time paused,
Swung, I was again seated at table
In an upper room, with everyone still,
And bread for breaking, waiting for the words
Which knit the bones of time. I fought to hold
The sense of peace unfurling. I struggled
To hear again the measured tones and longed
For those people long dispersed. Thirst engulfed
Me, fathoms deep, unassuaged. Memories
Sifted through my mind, feather soft - shadows
Danced, candlelight glimmered. Did those moments
Hold for all time? The till jangled. I left
The candlestick, wandered on distracted,
Dazed with grief, having nowhere now to still
My silence, no sense of place, no refuge -
Surrounded by strangers always, alone.

Helen Overell
Published in Bishop John Robinson Fellowship Newsletter, Issue Number  9, February/March 2000.
Inscapes & Horizons, St Albert's Press 2008.


The tired old fern by the back door
knuckles deep into the earth,
half-hidden by skeletal fronds
wintered to tattered bronze;

neat shepherds' crooks push up - straw-bound
spirals balanced on green stems -
reach lanterned light from daffodils
tugged, twirled, spun to nimble

bleat-loud sheep, tangled wool tousled
by wind, rain, sky to corkscrew
curls on felted fleece, heads down, grass
cropped by day, stars by night.

Helen Overell
Published in Acumen, May 2008.

Filton 1977

Windswept - more sky than ground,
the elbowed concrete posts on guard
along the road, the chain-link fence
anchored by couch-grass, the airfield
stunned by hook-nosed takeoffs one third
the speed of sound, flight at Mach 2,
delta-winged, the Earth seen as curved.

The bus-stop's partner stands aloof
across the way, flanked by brick-built
houses all alike - the school bell
clamours out of sight, my classroom
waits. My desk holds chalk, pencils, pens,
the pale beige rough-edged register
with names as cargo, a washed out

ketchup bottle filled with murky
water For you Miss my puzzled
smile lets loose a flock of winged words
A puddle full of rainbows Miss
the rain scooped up, the thin oil film
that splintered light dispersed, bright
swirls lost; my task to tell them this.

Helen Overell
Published in Other Poetry, No 30, 2006.
Inscapes & Horizons, St Albert's Press 2008.


You were not always a ghost
haunting the chair in the corner
behind a rustle of newsprint.

You used to scrutinise news,
fill in the crossword with rounded
capitals from a blue biro.

You did not always drift so,
unable to take part, simply
making a token appearance.

You used to have views, fill spare
time with wash loads, clothes billowing
on the line playing at people.

You were not always wraithlike
woolgathering, thought wisps twining
to yarn on a broken treadle.

You used to sit, elbows in,
bright wools flying through your fingers,
growing blankets soft as rainbows.

You did not always swallow
words as though they were too priceless
to squander on everyday talk.

You used to tell of your life
airing the days of your rationed
youth alongside the ironing.

You were not always a ghost
haunting the chair in the corner
behind a drawbridge of silence.

You used to reach out with gifts,
flowers picked from your garden, now
you are lost in a leafless maze.

Helen Overell
Published in Bishop John Robinson Fellowship Newsletter, January 2009.

Platform 2 - Southbound

Invest in the world's number four announced
the hoarding in bold black on flat white,

the rest of the board glistened, a man climbed
up a wooden ladder, held a broom

that dripped, a paper scroll that he unrolled,
brushed into place, abutted edges,

economy; down at ground level, words
wrinkled, bubbled, were eased away, coaxed

smooth, before it becomes, the stopping train
obscured my view, asthmatic doors urged

the carriages to trundle on, the world's
number one economy,
the clue

italicised in leaf green, lower left,
China, - I saw tea, porcelain, silk,

factories peopled in bruised tunic blue,
students mown down in a city square.

The man could have stepped back, read the writing
on the billboard, his eyes growing wide,

he might have scratched his head, thrown up his hands,
turned on his heels, faced the passengers,

looked them over, played to the gallery -
head caught between rungs, cue for Hardy,

playing to his Laurel, to lumber on,
in gray-scale, bowler-hatted, tackle

the predicament, swing round, trip over,
arms flailing, wedge him across the track,

railroad blues, honky tonk loud, played full speed,
quick wit combined with muscle power

just enough to avert catastrophe,
dusting down, bear hugs, back slaps, deep bows -

instead, he shouldered tools, grabbed his bucket,
made for the exit, played it dead straight.

Helen Overell
Published in Staple, August 2009.


The ropes lay dormant half the year,
each hank an elongated eight

wound thumb to elbow, shoe-horned free,
the knots at either end tucked in.

Some signal woke them - tag, two-ball,
counting out, vanished overnight -

the playground filled with twirling arcs
that hissed the air to stand-still blurs -

caged spaces, curved, in rope-turn glass,
bruised by the slap of gray asphalt.

Footwork was everything - each skip,
rope-clear, defeated gravity,

kept the chanted rhymes in step, held
the whirling pleated world at bay.

Helen Overell
Published in Magma 38, Summer 2007.

Visiting time

my name had slipped beneath the floorboards
of your memory though your welcome
was as warm as always - both your hands
outstretched to clasp mine in a formal
intimacy ringed with deep delight

my voice echoed within the bare walls
of your aphasia though your small
talk was bold as always - all your words
reached out to meet mine in a formal
intimacy tinged with bafflement

a whole new lexicon turned talking
to an acrobatic game of hide
and seek as pen became scissors, comb
stood in for flannel or maybe soap,
and my everyday queries were met
with blank looks or parried with backhand
strokes of some entirely separate
topic as though a roller coaster
held your phrases and spilled them over
only on the downward run so that
the few you fielded were out of phase,
too late to volley, merely drop-shots

so much has slipped beneath the floorboards
of your memory - old photographs
full of faded strangers, diaries
meticulously kept in long hand,
relationships forged from life-long dreams

so much echoes within the bare walls
of your aphasia - messages
riddled with missed meanings, loose ends grown
ragged with endless repetition,
relationships charged with loss of self

Helen Overell
Published in Bishop John Robinson Fellowship Newsletter, Issue Number  18, April 2007.

In tune

The flower, golden as the sun, opens
only to the sound of Middle C

and so is wooed by wing-beats –
each bee that settles, whose hum

strikes the right note, drinks deep,
and his furred, striped body

blurs in a cloud-burst of pollen
that is carried onwards, brushed

into other blooms nearby, until,
sated with nectar, the worker

zig-zags home to his brothers,
dances his day, and in this way

seed sets, ripens, falls to earth
and so awaits our tomorrows.

Helen Overell
Commended in the Poetry Society Stanza competition in October 2012


Tumbled walls, the drizzled sheen of scattered
hand-hewn stone, thistles as flame in the hearth,

troubled sky for a roof, the door that kept
outside from straying in, skim-thin imprint –

all those faces and footfalls, outstretched hands,
that ever passed through to bring news indoors,

handfuls of kindling, gleanings of oatmeal,
or else, caught fast in that threshold, sob-tight

under a flock of stars, bairns hugged and held,
rifle-butt stumbled out onto turf track.

Helen Overell
commended in the Poetry Society Stanza Competition in 2014


The beat of an African drum reaches
out from the bridge on the Thames,

one man stands on the downtrodden kerb,
the palms of his hands a resonant blur,

and the pulse is picked up by girders,
gray in the pearled autumn light,

and resounds from the long slow river,
rolls low and clear to the shore,

seawards the call is carried
and up to the muffled sky,

and the rhythm speaks of sunlight
raw as a mango-heart

and the thud of elephant-hunger
in the slop of a half-full gourd;

an ache in her bones tells of solace
in words that are lodged in her throat.

Helen Overell
published in Orbis June 2014


for VS

And, on a beach in Spain,
you watch a trio hone skills
exact as the angle of a wrist,
handclasp, foothold, the pivot
and strength of a leap, the grace
and poise of sprung resolution;
and the young man, exuberant,
breaks away, steps out onto
the strand in a blur of green,
blue, red – a catch of skittles
plucked from the sky, twirled,
spun into an arc about his head
bright as the scrolled tattoos
on his arms, his face, his back;
and the older one re-aligns
breath with bone, the woman
gathers dance to ease of still,
both sit on the sand, warmed
by the sun, lulled by the sea,
glad to rest – his distant gaze,
her deep dark eyes, from a place
far off beyond reach of time;
and then the routine begins
over again, until the three
think as one, each foot, hand,
step, grip belongs to them all,
no drum rolls, just the moves
they live by, their daily bread.

Helen Overell
winner of second prize in The Enfield Poets International Poetry Competition 2015