Clare Crossman 1954 – 2021

It is with great sadness that we share the news of Clare’s death. Clare — who was born on 17th November 1954 and died on 7th April 2021 — will be sorely missed by all who knew her and her work.

The Guardian’s Other Lives section published Clare’s obituary by her brother, David Crossman, and The Poetry Society published this tribute to Clare from her husband, Iain McPhee. And in this London Grip review of The Mulberry Tree (Shoestring Press, 2021), Mat Riches takes a thoughtful look at Clare’s final collection: it’s tempting to read it as a book of looking back, of setting memories in order, and … it certainly succeeds. It travels across time and memory, achieving what the last lines of the epistolatory poem, ‘Two Letters’, describes as

Part of us folded between the pages,
like calligraphy as we talked
across distances in a slow hand.”

Clare’s headstone — which is placed in the St Thomas a Becket church graveyard in Kirkhouse, the parish church for Farlam near Brampton — includes an extract from ‘Crossings’, one of her poems. You can find the full text of ‘Crossings’, together with a recording of Clare reading it, on the new Poem Readings page on this site. We will be adding more readings.

Not only her poetry and other books but her work with writing groups and on many projects, such as the Waterlight Project in Cambridgeshire and the River Gelt Project in Cumbria, all demonstrate Clare’s deep engagement with people and with the living world, and offer a lasting legacy and much to celebrate. You will find much of Clare’s work and character represented here on her site, including poems that she selected especially for this site, and the welcome page where she introduced herself and her work.

Before her illness, Clare had completed the manuscript for her new book of poems, The Mulberry Tree, which has since been published by Shoestring Press.

Included in our Poem Readings page, featuring some of Clare’s recordings, is ‘A Swallow’s Flight’. This was one of her last performances, in November 2019, and is set in a special video from Phil Furneax and Penny Callow. Clare worked with Phil, Penny and Rosh Singh (RedStone Trio) on their Gelt River project in Cumbria (see Clare’s Projects). The video, ‘Reeds in the Wind’, was filmed by Phil while on holiday in Blakeney, North Norfolk. Penny composed this beautiful cello ensemble which inspired the lyrics of Phil’s saxophone. They were deeply touched by the loss of their friend and collaborator and hope this tribute is worthy of Clare’s work and life.

Phil remembers Clare in this tribute on his blog, describing her involvement in the project: “I feel very privileged to have collaborated with Clare on the Gelt River project where she contributed by writing poems to accompany a film of the river from source to confluence with music from the RedStone Trio. The performance took place to a full house in lecture theatre in Tulley House, Carlisle on 29th November 2019.” The blog post also gives links to three short films from the project, with music from RedStone Trio and additional poem readings from Clare.