Locust and Marlin

Nominated for the 2014 Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year Award.


‘The slings and arrows of life are challenge enough and Williams celebrates all of our strengths in her poetry. Just as her words are rich with life and love, they’re also critical, and address the harsher blows of living. The poet refuses to shy away from the realities of life and instead accentuates their role in shaping us, and gives time and focus to the processes of recovery. Williams channels a sense of everything having a purpose in her poems, and she closes her collection with the haunting, thought-provoking return of the Heron.

The heron has a dream of blindness.

He starves, but it is beautiful;

the feeling of the fishes brushing his legs.

Locust and Marlin has many fine, lingering images, and the review could finish on any one of them. What a beautiful book…’  Lydia Praamsma, DURA, March 2015

‘It’s the real thing I like it a lot! … So many different kinds of poems— “Learning to Love the Present” and “Blinding” and “Isn’t the Start” and the very last poem (such an emblem of poetry-in-general there) are by the same author! I liked reading your earlier work but this…. Just this.’  Stephen Burt

‘…this is a collection of grandiose, visionary poems about the nature of life and death.’  Greg Thomas, Hix Eros 5, September 2014

‘If Locust and Marlin were a house, estate agents would describe it as ‘full of character’. Some of its rooms are cluttered with possessions and photographs, each with their own story to tell, while some are clean and full of light. The corridors that link these rooms are ones we all walk down, deciding how and where to live, and who to share our lives with. Edinburgh-based poet, JL Williams, asks us to consider these questions in a beautifully structured second collection which, before we even get to the poems meets us with its gorgeous matt cover, a lino-cut I think, by the printmaker Anupa Gardner, which is soft to the touch and introduces us to the sensuous world Williams creates.’  Gutter, The Magazine of New Scottish Writing, August 2014

‘The star of the evening was JL Williams, with a pitch-perfect delivery that had the audience hanging on every dreamy word.  Her poems were beautiful and mythic, conjuring evocative imagery that filled the room with magic.’  Ever Dundas, The List, February 2014

‘There’s a refreshing brevity to Williams’ work, splashes of life and colour that aren’t afraid to let themselves stop ahead of schedule… A quiet confidence permeates the collection, in which the poet taps us on the shoulder to ask what we’re doing.’  Russell Jones; Poet and Editor

Locust and Marlin considers how, in lives bright and brief as a candle’s burn, we tell our stories and locate the places where we live and love. Where is the origin, our point in space from which we view the world? How much control do we have over who we are and what impact we have on the territory we inhabit? In a world whose boundaries and pathways are increasingly difficult to define, how do we find our way home?

Listen here to a Scottish Poetry Library podcast about Locust and Marlin.

JL Williams reading at Main Point Books, August 2014.

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Cover Image by Anupa Gardner, with many thanks.

Published by jlwpoetry

Books by JL Williams include Condition of Fire (Shearsman, 2011), Locust and Marlin (Shearsman, 2014), Our Real Red Selves (Vagabond Poets, 2015) and House of the Tragic Poet (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). A collection exploring the fine line between abundance and apocalypse, After Economy, was published by Shearsman Books in May 2017. She is interested in expanding dialogues through writing across languages, perspectives and cultures and in multimodal and cross-form work, visual art, dance, opera and theatre. Published widely in journals, her poetry has been translated into numerous languages. She has read at international literature festivals and venues in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Cyprus, Canada, Hungary, Romania, Montenegro and the US. She wrote the libretto for a new opera, Snow, was Writer-in-Residence for the British Art Show 8 in Edinburgh and plays in the poetry and music band Hail of Bright Stones (

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