Tony Earnshaw’s poetry

Tony has been writing poetry for all of his adult life. He has had a number of poems published in magazines, both haiku and longer poems. He was runner up in the Birds on The Wire collection competition with Wood Pigeons, his poem ‘Views’ was included in the anthology ‘Poems to Keep’  and ‘Beyond‘ was included in What the Peacock Replied’ (both Dempsey and Windle).  His haiku have appeared in Time Haiku and BHS publications and he has collaborated with Surrey Hills Arts in projects which include Inspiring Views and featured on line and in the special National Poetry Day video of Surrey Libraries.

Tony’s latest collection, from specialist poetry imprint Vole, is Paths and Digressions, an exploration of modern life, of faith, of coping with Covid and climate challenges, and of the humour and love to be found in everyday life.

Many of the poems included have been published elsewhere. Now they are together as a coherent body of work produced over the last few years. Expect to find laughter and tears and much to provoke thought.

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Poems from 2020



After so long it was perhaps not surprising
that the move to touch met with some resistance,
permission was a while arriving,
and cautious habits proved quite persistent.


Old friends who had hugged without thought,
shaken hands, slapped backs, kissed cheeks,
had shrunk to images on a screen
and retreated over isolated weeks

till distance as a habit began to form
and many feared returning to old norms.

So many times they’d told each other
they longed to touch their friends and their relations,
but now each one came to discover
a reticence, a terror of contagion

so, like a recovery from any estrangement,
they were cautious, took their time
as if by tacit, pre agreed arrangement –
no words, a dance, a mime,

and slowly distances were breached,
hands extended, approaches made,
agreements on behaviour, on protocol, were reached,
assurances given, fears allayed,


till friends could greet the loved ones that they’d missed
with shake of hands or even with a kiss.




The Angels guided them.
Used commands more familiar
to their lips than ears
‘Come by’. ‘Away.’
And so they came, these hill folk,
to where the baby lay.

They leaned on staffs,
not much given to speech.
A look, a nod, said ‘Here
is what we seek’.

One of them had brought a lamb,
not long weaned,
for no particular purpose that he knew,
looked suddenly at the bairn,
proffered it, said ‘’It’s for you’.

Afterwards they ribbed him,
said it made no sense.
‘None of it does’ said the shepherd,
and that was his defence.


Back with the sheep, they wondered,
trudging up another hill,
if what they’d seen had changed them.
The world is wondering still.


Lessons learnt


These are the things that must be done
Leave oil in the ground, use the wind and the sun
Hold onto improvements so hard won
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
End the daily commute, the drive through the rain
The strap-hanging tube, the crowded out train
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
End our reliance on factory farms
Live light on the earth, do no harm
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
Pay the true price for the use of flight
Sustainably source our power and light
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
Walk or cycle down the street
Respect and honour all we meet
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
Require all corporates to respect the earth
Stop confusing wealth with worth
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done
Value those who heal the sick
Care for the elderly, make things tick
These are the things that must be done

These are the things that must be done

Poetry collections

From Cradle to Grave, 1996, including:

Teen Love
Holmwood Common
Consider the Lilies
Five Senses

Bull Run, 2001, including:

Bull Run

Kenyan Journeys, 2004, including:

The Land of the Black Elephant

From Cradle to Grave, 1996

Tony’s first collection, From Cradle to Grave, reflected the fact that much of his writing was then focussed on life events, on ‘hatching, matching and dispatching’, but the collection also dealt with work, faith and a range of other subject matter. This collection included Holmwood Common.

Holmwood Common
A grey sky,
the ground soft underfoot,
head shielded from the wet
by last year’s cap.

The dog a flash of white among the trees,
bounding and scurrying after a squirrel.

The wind cold,
penetrating, persistent,
mild weather clothing inadequate
for a sharp, cold, snap.

The dog, whistle summoned, returns, panting,
droplets of moisture shaken from its coat.

Browns and golds
of autumn strew the path,
strut, pirouette, subside
onto the damp earth.

A rustling in the undergrowth,
clink collar accompanied, a rabbit gone to ground.

Pocketed hands
retain valued body heat,
booted feet stride firm across the turf.

Home to warmth and comfort,
the dog relaxed and exercised,
the man to run around, chasing his tail.

Bull Run, 2001

Tony’s second collection, Bull Run, continues with the sense of place found in Holmwood Common, and deals with matters of love, faith and whimsy. It also draws on the financial world within which Tony has spent his career, as seen in the title poem, Bull Run.

Bull Run
It’s a bull run
and power is in the air
as rising prices, top sliced gains
and wild eyed hope
free financial fantasies
and mere momentum moves us on
to that pinnacle where we start to slide
and what we knew, though some denied
hits with the force of insurrection.
The end of each red boom we name correction.
The values fall down out of sight
and shambling, happy, from his lair
self satisfied,
we see the bear.

Kenyan Journeys, 2004

The third collection was a departure, literally a departure for Kenya where Tony spent a week raising money for the charity New Ways by cycling the rift valley. The experiences of that week, including the visit to some of the projects supported by New Ways, are chronicled in a short collection which also features photos taken by another cyclist, David Wilkinson.

The Land of the Black Elephant
After the fertile fields and red earth further south
Turkana hits you with a blast of desert air
and yet this too was fertile country once.

From the air the paths of dried up rivers can be seen,
tree lined, with water holes along the way
for this land gave easier grazing once.

This is a lifestyle very hand to mouth,
animals need grazing, no-one with whom to trade;
yet this too was fertile country once.

And yet within this land there is a dream.
Drill for water, conserve, use and grow.
Use the run off as a place to plant and sew.

Build dams and use machinery
easy to maintain
until the land of the black elephant
shall see green grass again.

Wood Pigeons, 2008

In the Spring of 2009 he was runner up in the Birds on The Wire collection competition with a collection which included Wood Pigeons.

Wood Pigeons
Wood pigeons would cause havoc making love
in any confined space
the perpetuation of the race demanding
much beating of wings
much chasing, swooping and diving
much competing for the prime position
much batting of wings against foliage
so the trees shake
and the branches sway
and the race survives another day