Get to know… Jehane Markham

Kate Pemberton who set up Writing Room believed in me and in 2013 suggested I run a poetry course at the Chocolate Factory in Wood Green. I was very nervous at first but I got used to it and then really enjoyed it. We ran the course for a number of years. Now I’m in the role of student, doing Paul Lyalls’ Monday night poetry course as a way to generate some new material. I recommend it!

I started my writing career writing for BBC Radio and wrote several adaptations of novels and my own original plays. From then I started to write my poetry and wrote musicals with great musicians, Pete Letanka and Orlando Gough. I met Orlando at my primary school and then he wanted me to write new songs for a musical called On The Rim of the World, which toured from the ROH and went to Wales and Scotland.

When I had my children I could not write plays any more – I wanted to be with my boys when they were growing up and then I went to a poetry class ran by Diana Livingstone and that is where I met Martina Evans and we did readings together. I was chosen for Virago’s second anthology of poetry, called Wild Cards.

I wrote one Play for Today – called Nina about two Russian refugees that my father had helped which was directed by the late great Alan Clarke.

I have been published in quite few anthologies and magazines of which I am very proud. I have published five volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Forty Poems which came out this year in 2022. I have made an audio recording for Electric Medway, called Above and Below the Water Line and also a short film with cellist Natalie Rozario called My Life in Five Poems in 2021. In 2019 I was on Maritime Radio talking about poetry and songs and life for 6 weeks. I also ran poetry classes in North Norfolk in the village hall for two years but the Covid put a stop to that.

I am a widow now. My husband, the actor Roger Lloyd Pack, died in 2014 from pancreatic cancer. It is tough being on your own but I have my poetry and that keeps me going. We made a CD after my husband died called Sixteen Sunsets which was a collaborative effort involving my sons and other young musicians. We gave the profits to Pancreatic Cancer charity.

I am running a Writing Room Masterclass on Sunday 4th of December from 11am to 1am about poems in the city and then one in the Spring about poems in the country. I look forward to welcoming everyone who wants to come.

This is one of my poems featuring in my latest book, Forty Poems, which is to be found in the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town or ordered online here.

The Sofa

A woman full of hope comes home

She puts her bag on the sofa

Her bag spills open and out tumbles her phone.

She puts down the shape of her step-daughter asleep on the sofa

The night her daddy died.

Then she lays down the feeling of arms around her

While Liane Carrol sings the blues.

She smells aftershave on the cushions.

She puts down the anguish of loss and the enclosure of family.

Her book falls open on the sofa.

She puts down forgetfulness and erasure.

She wishes she could dance all night

And sleep like a baby in a goose feather bed.

She adds up 30 plus 9 and puts 39 on the sofa.

She puts down all her favourite songs

And hears them singing in her head.

She crumples a photo of herself looking at him

While he holds the baby.

She lays down the ghost of the man

Who said he never stopped loving her

Though sometimes it felt like he did.

The sofa is feeling the weight

Of all this emotion

It sinks a bit but it doesn’t give way.