Stephen Willey

Stephen Willey lives in Whitechapel, London. His poetry has been anthologized in Dear World and Everyone In It (Bloodaxe, 2013) and Better Than Language (Ganzfeld Press, 2011). His long-form poem Elegy was published by Veer Books in late 2013. 

Stephen enjoys working collaboratively, and has worked with numerous composers including Edward Nesbit and Richard Bullen, as well as with the post-rock band Rumour Cubes on pieces that have been performed at the Wigmore Hall, Dartington International Summer School, and at Glastonbury Music Festival, respectively.

In August 2013, Stephen traveled to Palestine on a grant from the International Artists Award (funded by British Council and Arts Council England) to develop his long-form poem Living In. In collaboration with the Palestine Writing Centre and the Lajee Centre, a community-based grass roots creative cultural center with NGO status, he also ran a series of poetry workshops with residents from Aida and Jalazone Refugee Camps. 

Stephen has taught in the English Department at Royal Holloway, University of London and the English and Drama department at Queen Mary, University of London, where in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive, and with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council Beyond Text project, he undertook doctoral research on the relationship between 20th-century poetry and performance with specific focus on the work of British poet Bob Cobbing. 

During this time he was also the co-director of the Archive of the Now, an online audio archive of poetry, and ran, a poetry website with an associated London-based reading series. With Tom Bamford he now runs the Benefits event series in London.

Since January 2014, Stephen has been working at the Commonwealth Foundation as part of the Commonwealth Writers team supporting the implementation and development of a range of Commonwealth Writers’ initiatives including the announcement of the winner of the Short Story Prize, 2014 and Commonwealth Shorts. Stephen is very grateful to both the Commonwealth Foundation and to Commonwealth Writers for allowing him to take up the Summer Residency at the Arizona Poetry Center. 


Living In
(Excerpts from books 1-3)


                           Aida circles scars of unions
                                  nineteen eighty seven vent
                            riloquising torture sponged
                                           dialed in coffee’s sorrel cheek
                                 scrawled bars made tones
                            quarter us or Abu Dis.


'Signals: Letters To Palestine'

Mile End Road
23 June 2011


Tried, and if you were truly recipient I would silence my surprise at your arithmetic, for I have tried to imagine what, and where your numbers actually turn: perhaps the twist in green weeded tiles – seedlings, grouting, black lines – no grandness, only disuse. Three iron cisterns watch, and above the ferrous corner, the aquifers, lie, under a high jarred skyline, and there all about you are a bricks your labour knuckles. Here, the meters of water ghost above three childish brunette heads to fill up mouths. There, there is no plain disuse. Tried, a sun-silhouetted bird is the boy's arms spread, in disease, condemned to rest itself in the furred lamb's tongue. Occupied in glistening hell for an afternoon with her, and here I hold your awkward, abstract form, and from this distance it looks 'about', in endless meters, and the solar flare is probable, and you are reduced to numbers, and I am reduced to this: pool of glee. It happened. You are right to ignore me. I happened to see the plastic cup crease, your commitment, to feeding us, with hot coffee, and that memory might as well have been love, and if it isn't, I tried to make it so, and try and write and write, to pretend. There is no choice.



‘On the Insufficiency of Documentation’



what do I want you to. feel.
the absurdity of that.

for I have wanted
you to go. go,
go into the immediacy
of Hebron’s lilac

into the star-plash
of the summer-heat

but to what, then?


to go as what, and for what?
when the poem defeats itself,
effaces its thought
and the need for it

by its coming after
and before,

in this land of eyes, rain
and turned

towards some heavens
there interposed
an iron 


where ideas are wrought in metal
where we are not is Hebron
the clouds descend in squares.



Arizona Board of Regents