Natalie Crick: On writing ‘The House Where Love Boy Lives’

An image by Joelle Chmiel
An image by Joelle Chmiel

This week I was excited to learn that one of my favourite literary journals, ‘Visual Verse: An Anthology of Art and Words’ has published my poem, ‘The House Where Love Boy Lives’, in response to a beautiful work of art by Joelle Chmiel. You can read my poem in full on the Visual Verse website at:



I wrote ‘The House Where Love Boy Lives’ following a workshop by David Spittle delivered as part of my MA Writing Poetry Summer School 2018 module at Newcastle University. I’ve provided an insight into the thoughts behind my writing process and inspirations for the poem.


This poem is inspired by themes of collecting from David Spittle’s session.


Theodore Roethke’s evaluation of his collection, Words for the Wind describes ‘poems of terror, and running away – and the dissociation of personality that occurs in such attempts to escape reality’.[1] Boy too dissociates from humans into a world of dolls, clocks and paper angels; his only joy is in collecting obsessions inside ‘this House of things preserved and kept’. The line: ‘dwindlings in a doll’s house’ in Amy Clampitt’s poem ‘Winter Burial’ made me imagine Boy to live without structure, time and routine amongst his collections. [2] Indeed, Jean Baudrillard states that ‘the setting up of a collection itself displaces real time’.[3]


I feel that Judith Willson’s poem, ‘Common Things Explained’, also has the atmosphere of a doll’s house. Like Boy, who collects clocks, Willson’s narrator ‘winds the clocks and waits’. Willson continues: ‘she walks through the dark house, lighting a trail of moons’[4] which perhaps mirrors Boy’s mannerisms as he ‘glides through the hall’ before ‘extinguishing a graveyard / of candles’ though, whilst Willson’s nameless girl fills her house with moonshine, Boy’s house is a sad place ‘where light no longer lives’.


Robert Pinksy explains that ‘units of varying lengths’ can give ‘movement or dynamism’ creating an ‘emotional release’[5], a technique I adopted in the fifth stanza by following a longer sentence with the shorter line: ‘Mum nods, agrees’. This creates tension and contrasts with the gravity of Boy’s delirium, as he sees ‘lungs, necks and eyes in the House’.


During the Summer School week, poet Helen Tookey explained that unsettling images are created through distance and lack of personal eye, influencing my decision for Boy and Mum to remain mostly nameless.



[1] Theodore Roethke, ‘Theodore Roekthe’, in Don’t Ask Me What I Mean, p. 247

[2] Amy Clampitt, ‘A Winter Burial’ in Westward (London: Faber and Faber, 1991), p. 46

[3] Jean Baudrillard, ‘The System of Collecting’ in The Cultures of Collecting, ed. by John Elsner and Roger Cardinal (London: Reaktion Books, 1997), p. 16

[4] Judith Willson, ‘Common Things Explained’ in Crossing the Mirror Line (Manchester: Carcanet, 2017), p. 43

[5] Robert Pinksy, The Sounds of Poetry (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), p. 110-111



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