Carole Coates

Photograph © Carol Scowcroft

Dead Letters
Shoestring Press 2023

'In Dead Letters, Carole Coates goes beyond elegy to communicate in poetry with her dead husband. The past they shared is reclaimed and celebrated, particularly through their mutual love of words - "both to see and say the hugger-mugger. muddy/ shining world, the shit and silver of it... Such magic luck." But Coates is philosopher as much as poet, building her letters to the dead into a subtle meditation on body and soul. This is a quietly heroic project where death, gracefully, is not permitted the last word.'
Carol Ann Duffy.

Review by D A Prince in The High Window Reviews for Autumn 2023
Review by Steven Lovatt in The Friday Poem




You can read two poems from the collection here

Available from Central Books Ltd  (
or Shoestring Press

When the Swimming Pool Fell in the Sea
Shoestring Press 2021

"In this totally absorbing and moving collection, Carole Coates uses language as both reincarnation and elegy in a visceral exploration of illness, bereavement and widowhood.  Her poems are a brave and beautiful confrontation with loss which triumph in a lyric addition to the world."
Carol Ann Duffy

London Grip, Review, July 2021

The Friday Poem, Review, September 2021

The High Window, Reviews for Spring 2022

The scope of Carole Coates' poetry is satisfyingly wide and well-illustrated in her fifth full collection When the Swimming Pool Fell in the Sea… In total these poems illustrate the realist and mistress of detail; the humourist (satirist at times); the deeply thoughtful, imaginative writer who finds ways of saying the unsayable, “a featureless dark plain/ continent-wide and no one there but us/ the two of us, with not a tree, just earth/ so flat – so flat”
Dilys Wood, Artemis, May 2022, Issue 28

As I have tried to suggest, the arrangement of the collection is intricate, but it is a clear progression, and I find that the individual poems all bear reading and re-reading. Though intensely personal they are accessible and have considerable emotional scope. Though learned, allusive, and often told obliquely, they are acutely observed, shot through with humour, and moving. It is difficult as a reviewer to convey the effect and power of the whole…
Dominic Fisher, Raceme, no. 12, Autumn/Winter 2021

The Stories They Told Her
Shoestring Press, 2019

'"The giant's eaten all the soap". Carole Coates' pamphlet is all about questions never answered truthfully. The child at the centre of this quirky set of poems lives with a grandmother who uses giants to explain away worrying things in a time of war'. Jennifer Copley

This is an extraordinary sequence. In a series of prose poems Carole Coates communicates a child's eye view of wartime, with so many essential things – fresh bread, soap – and people missing, not least, parents whose obvious absence isn't even mentioned. And the house nest door is empty. It's painful and sad and immensely evocative, conjuring the hunger – the bubble of want in her stomach grows larger – confusion and vulnerability of this child, living alone with her grandmother – until even that protector disappears. She lies under the table waiting. An unforgettable sequence. Charlotte Gann
The Frogmore Papers, No 94, Autumn 2019



Shoestring Press

An extraordinarily riveting narrative poem on the pain of childhood and its long reach, written with forensic care and heart-stopping empathy.
Carol Ann Duffy

Coates understands the unevenness of growing up, those lurching emotions that follow no predetermined pattern, the way childhood perceptions are patchy and how this unique mix of understanding and guesswork continues to exert its influence on family relationships. She can see the chaos of detail that is family life when some elements are unspoken, disconnected; she takes the reader straight into Jacob's view of a disordered world that is his only world…

Only a poet in perfect control of her material can achieve this, a fully inhabited narrative that is also, ultimately, a mirror. In Jacob the form and content are a unity…

D.A. Prince

This is a book-length sequence of poems following the life of a little boy called Jacob. The collection is as readable as a novel and I read it cover to cover. I think Carole is a real one-off - I can't think of any poets that are doing quite what she's doing – her work is always ambitious and pushing at the boundaries of not only what a poem can do but what a poetry collection can do.

Kim Moore

Coates (in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Toni Morrison ) uses the language of poetry to take us into the subjective world of her main character so that we experience his curiosity, disorientation, anguish, pain, love, terror, disgust or delight from inside his head or body.

Ian Seed PN Review July 2016


"When her life was inexplicably thrown into turmoil, Carole Coates had both the presence of mind and the skill to record the experience and in so doing has produced beautiful examples of how personal difficulty can transform itself into art.  With candour, compassion and wit, her common-sense and intimately pitched voice manages to convey, in a deeply affecting way, the confusion and pathos of the situation she and her husband struggled with."

Mike Barlow, editor, Wayleave Press

"This is an important piece of writing"

Dilys Wood.

Carole Coates reading from Crazy Days:


Crazy Days

Wayleave  Press, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9928946-4-1


My third collection Swallowing Stones was published by Shoestring in June 2012.  It's a verse narrative, set in the far-off, imaginary, but very real country of Kor which explores the relation between individuals and the culture in which they have to live, through a range of different voices, incidents and landscapes.


Swallowing Stones book cover

ISBN: 978 1 907356 53 7

"Carole Coates's Swallowing Stones is dedicated to i.m. Nadia Anjuman, an Afghan poet and mother who was beaten to death by her husband for writing poetry about the oppression of Afghan women. It's about women, it's about religion, and it's about the treatment of women by religion and, if I'm to declare an interest, on some days I can't see very much else worth writing about.

The book is a sequence of fictional monologues – extracts from speeches, letters, songs, proverbs, sermons – all relating to Kor, the mythical lost city fictionalised in Rider Haggard's She. This (more geographically correct Middle Eastern) Kor is ruled by a misogynistic fundamentalist Christian cult where salt is God's sweat, men ascend to the Salt Room, and women suffer female circumcision, have mud helmets wired over their heads at the age of ten and are occasionally sent to the Pebble House where they “attempt perfection” (are incarcerated and starved to death). The world Coates creates is coherent, plausible and quite terrifying, and her characters are convincing. The sequence is beautifully constructed, and the events unfold with an awful inevitability; Coates has really found her form here. it resembles Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in being a sort of dystopian warning, but it's also about the shallowness of politics, the power of global capitalism, and the way in which fundamentalism continues to work in the modern world....

And always the question, asked by a dead woman “What is there in Nature.../ that makes these stone hearts?”"

Hilary Menos Warwick Review, June 2013.

"This is Carole Coates' third collection and very different in scope and execution from her other books all published by Shoestring. It is set in an imagined country she has named Kor. She references Rider Haggard and Elizabeth Bowen who both used Kor in their writing. This collection also could be used as a verse play..... This is an admirable collection, erudite and using creative imagination of a high order. It consists of songs, letters, extracts from sermons, the internalised voices of imagined characters, found manuscripts..... The voices are brilliantly imagined using various language registers with use of vocabulary to convey each persona..... She has used an invented language of another culture.....  The book benefits from  a slow attentive reading, letting your mind become familiar with Kor and absorbing the experience of a different imagined culture."
Margaret Speak

"Carole Coates is a fine poet with a novelist's eye.  In Swallowing Stones she creates an utterly convincing world and peoples it with vivid characters whose voices - sometimes shocking, sometimes lyrical, always perfectly judged - are woven together in this powerful and moving sequence." 
Elizabeth Burns

"I have never read anything like it. It is an outstanding combination of imagination and intellect."
Neil Curry

"I found it enormously impressive – as rich and inhabitable as a full-length novel. It made me think of Pound's remark that poetry should be as well-written as prose. I never for an instant had that slightly dutiful or worthy sense one often has while reading an extended poem – though it was rich poetically it was a real page-turner ..... so well-realised, both geographically and dramatically. I thought it an immense creative and technical achievement to simultaneously render those varied voices so convincingly while also evoking the landscape and culture which enveloped them."
Richard Francis


My second collection Looking Good (published September 09 by Shoestring Press) examines the experience of anorexia endured as a student at a time when the condition was not diagnosed, discussed or even named.

ISBN: 1 904886 91 4

“A troubled young woman, viewed through the lens of maturity, suffers, grows and emerges as her older and wiser self; a fragile reconciliation is reached. These poems revisit intense experience with painful honesty and wry humour.”
Jean Sprackland

“I like the ease of the literary and historical reference, the sense of learning lightly worn, naturalised in fact to the poetic texture. The poems are free of self-pity and have vitality and energy though dealing with the loss of both. They create a social world and the others' “characters” are an important part of this vitality.”
Carol Rumens.

These are some comments on my first collection The Goodbye Edition published by Shoestring Press (2005).

“If there is any poem of the last ten years with which I am proud to be associated it is "Because I Know So Many Dead People". It has a feeling for the numinous which has faded for many but which still lingers. It shows a combination of wit and deep feeling….. This is a new and original voice which I find exciting”
John Lucas, editor of Shoestring Press.

“…. this challenging and fascinating collection……This group of poems is very strong, demonstrating Coates' delicacy of movement between images and her pared language, creating an elusive musicality. At times it is Metaphysical in its intensity and in its references…. Coates' range of subject matter is considerable as well as her technical ability…. This is a volume that excites and challenges.”
Other Poetry

“ …. shiftiness of perspective: an almost-seeing, a glimpse-of-the-ghost, in her work… it's robust words from the land of the healthy living about things that fascinate all of us, that none of us can understand. This unsteady ground lies under all her poetry…. all offer her vertiginous viewpoints that both startle and satisfy the reader. The Goodbye Edition lies in the territory of magic realism, but with a very particular map. It's an unusually powerful and interesting collection by a reliably accomplished poet. Don't miss it.”

“"Leaving the Job" an excellent little poem about the difference between drudging for money and being busy at tasks you believe in, as well as the bemused attitude of the institutionalised worker to the active free spirit, is typical of Carole Coates's easy, familiar style. She can be sharp and not-to-be-messed with too, as in "The Bad Sex Gallery".
The Penniless Press

The Goodbye Edition

ISBN: 1 904886 18 3

Reading at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Carole Coates reading at the Brewery
Photograph of Carole Coates courtesy of Martin Copley - for more photographs of this event, visit Martin Copley's Photobox site

Other Publications

The poem "HOSTILITIES ON A TRAIN TRAVELLING THROUGH YUGOSLAVIA, AUGUST 1973" won second prize in the Mslexia Poetry Competition 2017. Read it here.

I have been published regularly in the literary press (The Rialto, London Magazine, Smith's Knoll, Other Poetry, Acumen, Staple, The Interpreter's House, Envoi, Scintilla, New Welsh Review, The Frogmore Papers and many others). My poem “Daughters” is in The Forward Book of Poetry 2005. I've been placed in competitions such as The Peterloo Anthology and The Arvon Poetry Competition Anthology and other anthologies. My poems have appeared in The Daily Mirror in Carol Ann Duffy's poetry column.. I was given a Yorkshire Arts Award.

I've also published critical writing: John Cowper Powys in Search of a Landscape (Macmillan, 1982) and a students' edition of Lyrical Ballads: Wordsworth and Coleridge (Heinemann 1996).

Last update September 19, 2023