edible by Jane Ayres

Winner of Laurence Sterne Prize 2021

About the author

UK based neurodivergent writer Jane Ayres re-discovered poetry studying for a part-time Creative Writing MA at the University of Kent, which she completed in 2019 at the age of 57. She is fascinated by hybrid poetry/prose experimental forms and has work in publications including Confluence, Lighthouse, Streetcake, The North, Crow & Cross Keys, Kissing Dynamite, ubu, (mac)ro(mic), Sledgehammer, Selcouth Station, Crow of Minerva, Acropolis and The Forge.

She was longlisted for the 2020 Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize. In 2021, her poem neurodivergent cake dream was nominated for Best of the Net by Streetcake and she was shortlisted for the 2021 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.

Website: janeayreswriter.wordpress.com   Twitter: workingwords50


Putting together this collection, I was gobsmacked to discover how my anxiety about hunger, appetite, food and eating (in various forms) popped up (or stubbornly insinuated itself) in my work, even when I thought I was writing about my hysterectomy / female ageing / relationships / loss / childhood memories. That’s what I love about poetry – themes hiding and manifesting unconsciously, creating emotional connections, revealing things that were always there, you just didn’t see them. I’m fascinated by the freedom of experimental writing and hybrid forms, the way words sound and look on the page, playing with juxtapositions. I used to compose music and for me writing poetry is like writing music. I am naturally drawn to the beauty of dissonance – both smooth or jagged – so perhaps this reflects my dyspraxic brain.    

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with food, which feeds (ha!) into every aspect of my life. Writing helps me process and explore my dissonant thoughts, which lend themselves to experimental forms. 

I’m grateful I continue to be hungry for words.

neurodivergent cake dream

last night I ate chocolate without washing my hands first which was a mistake something that rarely happens so I dreamed I went to your house & you had a committee meeting about something or other but we were all outside (chairs socially distanced) so I sat on the hill apart from everyone & you’d made cakes which you never do & wanted me to try some but I’m anxious because I don’t usually eat food I haven’t prepared myself unless it has labels I can scrutinize but the Victoria Sponge looked tempting & I should try to eat out of my comfort zone (people tell me) not let my issues get the better of me so I say do any of them contain nuts & you reply no except that one & point to a round cake that doesn’t look like a cake that would contain nuts but I never know these days as they put nuts in things I don’t expect but then you add well I think it was that one & now I hesitate over the Victoria Sponge because if you aren’t sure I don’t think I’ll take the risk

butterfingers / the girl who      

somewhere in-between
i dreamt all the lights went out 
& a group of us sought a safe space 
(but how do we know it will be a safe space?)

a fifty/nine-year-old child
my head is cabbaged
my hair blood
secreting guile
mossy teeth & spongy gloss
shredding word blossoms
my undone heart on a plate
speaking to bones

pay attention
everything you thought you knew is rooted 
in sand           that shifts
undulates        joining the creeping shadow path
nip / tuck / stitch / cut
joining up the disembodied

do what makes the world feel better
re-plant   (rainsong spraying words)
because it will be marvel-less & no-one just wins
we are all de / tached 
(anon-stick life - it’s amazing what they can do nowadays)
but i’m sick of folk urging us to leave our comfort zones
we are not all the same    & fear is the thing with nettles

somewhere in-between   all the stories in my head
you shimmer again      mending us   
your voice sugarsweet   honey & blood       harvesting a cluster 
of soiled memories    the girl who (talked)
a surge / a trickle / a malignant sigh
there’s blood on the floor (yours or mine?) 
does it matter?     there was a time when 
one by one
i nearly wrote a poem


I am deeply grateful to Beir Bua Press editor Michelle Moloney King for believing in my work. Thank you so much. 

Some poems in this collection were previously published as below:  

playing name games, Streetcake, November 2021

sugaring snow, Half Empty Magazine, October 2021

rewilding, Crow of Minerva, September 2021

no resurrection, Words & Whispers, September 2021

my shiny shoes are bleeding, Selcouth Station, September 2021

private view, Full House, August 2021

Nothing Personal, Honeyfire Lit Mag, August 2021

you &, Margate Bookie Zine: Reset, May 2021

we all want a happy ending (without jagged edges), Postscript, March 2021

neurodivergent cake dream, Streetcake, January 2021

neon lullaby, Dissonance, July 2020

swallow, Thanet Writers, August 2020

dirty love (edited version), The Agonist, April 2020

Praise for the Author

“Edible slivers into our relationships with food, masterfully evoking memories and challenging expectations of society and humanity. This collection explores life in a distinctive, striking tone, utilising a myriad of vivid abstract pieces and free-falling prose, boldly delving into themes of childhood, hysterectomy, mental health, hope, loss and otherness.”- Louise Mather: author of The Dredging of Rituals (Alien Buddha Press, 2021) and founding editor of Acropolis Journal.

“Jane Ayres’s work is an intimate conversation with the body in all its gruesome glory, and connections with the act of eating. I love the interjections of inner thoughts, asides, absurdity and playfulness amidst the stark realities of pain, truth and recovery. Ayres presents tender poems with a sharp edge which might leave you bleeding, but you’ll feel more human as a result.” – Nikki Dudley: novelist, poet, streetcake editor, facilitator. “This captivating collection is a breath of fresh air. Jane guides you on an incredibly powerful journey with innovative writing so raw and real you feel like you can reach out and touch it. Everything you could hope for within a poetry book, edible will forever have a place on my bookshelf.” – Leia Butler: poet and head editor of Full House.

Background, cover image and cover design by Michelle Moloney King.
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