Michelle Cahill

Michelle Cahill’s poems appear in The Kenyon Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Review, The Australian and Meanjin. She has won the Val Vallis Poetry Award and the Hilary Mantel International Short Story Prize, and her collection Vishvarupa was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. She was a fellow at Hawthornden Castle and at Kingston Writing School, and was a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her most recent books are Letter to Pessoa (Giramondo) and The Herring Lass (Arc). She has received grants from the Australia Council and the Copyright Agency Limited.

Through their support for Michelle Cahill's travel to Scotland, this project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Photo: Nicola Bailey


Past & Present »

Jackie Kay on Nan Shepherd
Michelle Cahill on Judith Wright

Sat 4 March | 11:30 - 12:30 | £4.00/£3.00 | The Town Hall, Queens Gardens, Council Chamber

Border Crossings »

Reading: Michelle Cahill, Tess Taylor

Sun 5 March | 14:15 - 15:15 | £4.00/£3.00 | The Undercroft, St John's House, South Street

Breakfast at the Poetry Café: On the Road »

With Michelle Cahill, Matthew Caley, R.A. Villanueva and David Evans

Sat 4 March | 10:00 - 11:00 | £4.50/£3.50 | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Studio Theatre


The Herring Lass

Not far from the stone harbour, herring kilns
pump wood smoke, smudged into an enterprise of masts
and the hemp rigging of a whole fleet, outward bound.

Her knife flashes in four-second strokes,
her wet hands never stray from a salted barrel.

There are knots in her scarf, the size of a child’s fist.
She counts each silver piece, tossed over the shoulder.
Eye, hand and index finger outwit the boundless sea.

All day, men bustle in the courtyard, children stray.
A blacksmith smites metal, fishermen wait on a shilling,
whittle a stick along the wall, no word exchanged.

She tramps from port to port, from Crail to Pittenween.
The day unfinishing, her children yet to be fed,
the sailmaker, cooper, boat builder have all prospered.

She stands by a trough in the dark, guttering cold.
Black hulls heel under press of lugsails, foremasts low.
They drift with shoals of migrant herring the sea returns.


Michelle Cahill

From The Herring Lass (Arc, 2016)