Writer Helen Mort, 28, was born in Sheffield and grew up in Chesterfield. After spells living in Cambridge and Cumbria, she moved back to the area in 2011 to start a PhD in English at The University of Sheffield. The city has always been important to her work - Helen’s new poetry collection ‘Division Street’ is inspired by Sheffield history and geography and features a long sequence about the Battle of Orgreave. She now lives in Hathersage.
The Fat Cat
Quite a few of the poems in my collection feature Sheffield pubs (Fagan’s, the bars of Division Street), but The Fat Cat is my favourite watering hole – I’m often found there with my whippet, Charlie and a pint of Easy Rider. We’ve got some of the best (and some of the most dog friendly) pubs in the country round here, but for me Kelham Island is an especially friendly, atmospheric place to be. Don’t forget to try the pork pies – Charlie never misses a falling crumb.
Just next door to the Kelham Island pubs, The Foundry is the perfect place for rock climbers like me to test themselves when it’s too cold or wet to venture outdoors. I learned to climb on Stanage Edge when I was a teenager and I’ve had the bug ever since. There’s nothing more beautiful to me than the view from a belay stance on top of Bamford Edge of Burbage, or from between the trees at Rivelin. But there’s something different and just as exciting about trying new problems on the walls at The Foundry, climbing until your arms turn to jelly.
I write best when I’m on the move: halfway through a fell run through the heather, or taking the dog out for a muddy walk. I often write poems by sound, hearing a line in my head and then trying to develop it. It’s a very physical process. By the time I get home, the lines that have stuck with me are the strongest ones, the ones that should go in the poem.
We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to green spaces in Sheffield, but Encliffe Park and Whiteley Woods have a kind of privacy you don’t expect in the middle of the city, no matter how many other people are there.
Rare & Racy
When I was a teenager, I’d come into Sheffield on the train and spend afternoons browsing the records and secondhand poetry books in this brilliant, fit-to-burst shop off Devonshire Green. I’ve not stumbled on anything racy in there yet, but I’ve picked up plenty of rare finds! The pictures that line the walls are mesmerising – I remember studying an old map of where bombs fell on Sheffield for hours. If my book ends up in the shop one day, I’ll be proud… There are plenty of other great independent bookshops to support in town too, including Rhyme & Reason on Ecclesall Road.
Unless they’re the Bukowski type, running on whisky, writers tend to thrive on a constant supply of caffeine. When I need a fix, I go to Tamper on Westfield Terrace for some of the strongest coffee in town. It’s small but perfectly formed - great for hiding in the corner with a book.
1Helen’s book, Division Street, is published by Chatto & Windus. She blogs at www.poetryonthebrain.blogspot.co.uk.