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last update:

25 Jan24

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Gill Learner at Second Light

poetry favourites:
Two Rivers Press
Poets’ Café, Reading
(& on Facebook)
Second Light
Grey Hen Press
The High Window
Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre


and in the shop…
collections –
“Chill Factor”
“The Agister’s Experiment”
Two Rivers Press



this poet is taking part in the poetry pRO project


Gill Learner lives in Reading but was born and grew up in Birmingham. She moved to London, met and married Trevor and they moved to Berkshire in 1966. Since Trevor’s sudden death in July 2018, she has lived alone but is sustained by her two offspring, Bruce & Emma, her two grandchildren, Eva & Jay, her garden, plus poetry friends and exercising mates.
On retirement from teaching Printing Studies at Berkshire School of Art & Design in 1999, she returned to an early love – creative writing. Prose came first but then she discovered poetry and this has been a defining part of her life ever since. For many months she submitted to competitions and journals, was depressed by rejections, recovered and eventually began to find publication in respected journals, and also to win prizes. She has had three collections published by Two Rivers Press, Reading: The Agister’s Experiment (2011), Chill Factor (2016) and Change (2021); all have had positive reviews.
When a Reading Stanza was suggested, she was delighted. Its main focus now, as well as monthly workshopping meetings on Zoom, is running the local Poets’ Café which meets on the second Friday of each month with a guest poet plus open mic. She enjoys reading her work at the Café and other events.
Some years ago she took over the co-ordination of a long-established, twice-monthly poetry workshop and finds the thoughtful and rigorous criticism of its participants invaluable. It converted to Zoom when the pandemic banned live meetings and has remained online.
Radio 3 provides her favourite listening, and gardening gives her much pleasure if, sometimes, backache! Her idea of a perfect day is writing in the morning, tending plants in the afternoon and listening to music or watching TV in the evening.
Reviews of Change:

The fifty-five poems which lie within are well worthy of their home. They’re grouped into six sections – each prefaced by a quote which hints at the theme for the poems which follow; these are helpful and sometimes inspiring. The whole collection is dedicated to Gill’s husband Trevor Learner: poems in the third section concern their life together and her experience of life alone.
There are good poems throughout and not enough space to do justice to all that I enjoyed, but I’ll single out a few. From the opening section, which relates to war, I will always carry the images painted so simply and vividly in Hastings Leave. In fourteen lines there was enough practical and emotional information for this reviewer to create a whole new episode of Foyle’s War.


Chrissie Williams, South 65


Change is a joyful and indomitable work from a poet who only started to write after her retirement in 1999. The poems are assured, full of energy, well-crafted and unfussy. They grip the reader immediately. They repay re-reading and reflection for their depth and subtlety.


Bill Jenkinson, The London Grip


Change… struck me as her richest book to date. She is still a poet of feet-on-the-ground, her ‘level gaze’ quite often fixed on ordinary people while highly aware of their potential for extra effort, for example in war, or dealing with its aftermath, “Befuddled with scented smoke / and organ-roar, like guns, which shook the slabs, / he knelt: Santiago Matamoros, give me peace”, Great-grandad’s journey. One outcome of ‘telling things straight’ is the iconic poem How it was, taking us through the poet’s so-ordinary evening and morning before finding her husband, Trevor, dead in bed, “I set the mug beside your bed, slid // the curtains wide, and found without a word or sign, you’d gone.” In a following series of poems about grieving, there’s much that is insightful and moving, but How it was stands out with its restrained touches of dramatic irony.


Dilys Wood, ARTEMISpoetry


Reviews of Chill Factor:

Chill Factor, is a worthy successor to her impressive debut, The Agister’s Experiment (Two Rivers Press 2010), and gives further evidence of her wide-ranging interests and sureness of touch.


David Cooke, London Grip


Her expertise with the unexpected twist, with the concise and pertinent phrase or image is brilliant.


Mandy Pannett, South 55


Her second collection … is robust and clear-sighted, conveying a refreshing, lively independence.


Dilys Wood, ARTEMISpoetry 18


The Agister’s Experiment:

This first collection from Gill Learner displays a confidence usually seen in a much more experienced poet … The poems here fizz and crackle while exploring the vast range of humanity – they are by turns funny, chilling and angry, but are all diverse in form and content. A strong sense of loss pervades these poems, too, and this nostalgia for times past, reflected in poems about motherhood and legends retold, leave a lasting impression on the reader in this excellent debut.


Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2011


It is rarely that a first collection hits the nail on the head as accurately as [this]. The image is apposite. Key poems relate to the world of small workshops and men working at their craft, an unusual terrain for a woman and one aspect of the impressive universality of her writing. There is a tight focus on concrete detail. She revels in the activities of ‘making’ and carrying out technical operations. … In Myra Schneider’s words, these poems ‘lift off from a base of precise knowledge into the imagination’. They have ulterior motives, drawing us into large topics and feelings which run deep.


Dilys Wood, ARTEMISpoetry 6