Fairies Frequented Several

Adam Warne,

Performing Fairy. Guest editors Fay Hield and Kevan Manwaring. Pages 58 – 66 Download as PDF

this happened in the

old house and

behind the hop

garden and on

Tavern Street near

a former inn

along Bury Street by

the new bridge

over the steep

bank at the stroke

of midnight in

the early morning

when the sun was

beginning to set

about eighty years

ago and a couple

of months since and

just the other day


there was a

special way we

were taught by

those who know

who told us what

to look for if

we were well behaved

and didn’t speak

to earn coins

we used to lie

hid on the floor to

see between the

comings and goings

of the people


and some have seen

near the estate where

the new homes are

tall and handsome

in the nineteenth century

it was green fields

in the sunshine stood

a pair of gates that

would open though

bolted and locked

when taking his dog

my father had

to restrain him


either herself or her sister

she forgets which

kept the secret for

forty years and

every morning

on getting up with

a feeling like

pins and needles

the light was

for a crucial moment

a milky mist

she would find

a gift in

her pocket at

the foot of the bed


the bed in which

old nana now lives

who always muttered

how she was a

fool to marry

another fool for

months after

hoarding broken shoes

and this and that

under the pillow

he always

when asleep

found it made

mended and cleaned


as sure as you

are reading this

he told me

as he heard tell

in the perishing

winter evening in

his cottage by

the fire when the snow

came down thick

his father when

a lad would

often expect

drumming his fingers

in anticipation


for some days I

was not alone

toiling with a heavy

load on my back

that I could

not account for

in another time

after a stroke

I could feel

a sensation by

my face I am

sure I knew

it was better

to keep my

eyes closed

but I opened them


I had such

a sense of joy

for about a

minute as I stared

and a feeling

of the loveliness

of being alive

I have all

kinds of experiences

that other people

aren’t alert to

it was the

summer solstice

I am healthy and

I never take drugs


all the grass

in a circle

had been burnt

where my mum

and sisters had stood in

the meadow and

I took a photo

with the flash

a little way

beyond the spot

we didn’t notice

anything until

I blew it up


there are few who

haven’t heard of me

I linger among ancient

books to rekindle

the sacred fire

that helped me see

to the north-west

of the island

far from the rocky

inlets and sea-birds

where the pine

forest in summer

was made famous

after I told the

papers and people

still come having

heard my story


a man alone

across the moor

absconding from

the barracks about

to drink from

a well or a peasant

was ploughing

on examination

he found the furrow

already done

soon after a

hot cake appeared

as plain as can be

in the furrows

near him

which he ate


we had parked

the car and were

walking up the hill to

the ruins of the

abbey when all of

a sudden

I had to stop

I pinched myself

and my husband

says he made

a wish then insisted

we drive home

in a distant voice


speaking in songs

or rhymes was

a child’s thing

the frightened men

threw down the sack

yellow and pink

you mustn’t blink

yellow and pink

pick me, pick me

don’t pinch, don’t pinch

but nowadays

or during a picnic

I don’t give

too much thought


but one Thursday

at the market

not to tell

anyone of it

the whole place

seemed to shiver

as if shaken

in a mirror

and she dropped

her basket

into the rut

from that time

she never

had the good luck


whereupon much

surprised I took

to my heels

and ran

the way home



One of the key qualities of a story about encountering fairies is that we, as the audience, are never there to see the fairies ourselves. They are always out of sight for us. ‘Fairies Frequented Several’ is a poem that focuses on this absence. Fairies are never explicitly mentioned except in the title of the poem. Instead, the fairies are a palpable absence as the poem describes elements such as when and where the fairies were seen, how the person or people reacted, what their emotions were, or how the experience changed their perception of the world around them. Such details can tell us important things about belief in fairies. For example, Francis Young has argued that in the nineteenth and early twentieth century most tales of fairylore were projected back into the past due to the tellers feeling ‘reluctant to share it with educated people (including folklorists) in case they were met with ridicule’.i  In contrast, after the First World War, encounters with fairies were ‘more often reported as personal experiences, and seem to be situated with specific mystical, Theosophical, Spiritualist, Neo-pagan, or ‘New Age’ frameworks of belief’.ii ‘Fairies Frequented Several’ does not offer a systematic account of such differences, or offer interpretations of them, but aims to find something interesting and moving in the way people use differing conventions and frameworks to position themselves in relation to the story and the experience described while the fairies themselves are always just out of reach for us across the various tales and anecdotes.

The poem draws on various accounts of fairy sightings. These include historical accounts from books such as Walter Evans-Wentz’s The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (1911) and A. G. H. Hollingsworth’s The History of Stowmarket (1844) and modern sightings reported in newspapers or collected in Simon Young’s Fairy Census, 2014-2017 (2018). To produce the poem, I rewrote, rearranged and mixed together accounts to create a montage of encounters, maintaining the diction and perspectives of the different encounters, but using various techniques to counter this continuity with ordinary language so that the way these stories are told no longer seems completely normal or natural. As Andrew Duncan has argued, ‘Montage can act like the conscious artificiality in Brechtian plays, anti-realistic gaits and gestures, which make us conscious of the rules of genre, directing attention away from the poet and towards the way social institutions and symbolism are constructed’.

The poem also uses other techniques to further foreground the artifice of the tales of fairy encounters. John Wilkinson has argued that ‘poetic identity increasingly is composed of multiple pronouns, of part-people whose intersection and interaction develop a populace, deposing both the regal author and the puppet persona’.iv The pronouns in ‘Fairies Frequented Several’ have shifting referents, so that there is no consistent ‘I’ or ‘he’ or ‘she’ that exists as a recognizable character throughout the poem. Instead, the reoccurrence of these pronouns acts as a structural device, allowing for a range of different perspectives and experiences to be placed in succession without centering any one voice.

Another way in which the poem foregrounds how the tales are told is through the use of jolting short lines to disrupt the flow, a technique that draws on the short vers libre lines of William Carlos Williams. The short lines of ‘Fairies Frequented Several’ slow down the poem and fragment the reading process, a process aided by the lack of punctuation. This hinders the reader from smoothly and clearly seeing ‘through’ the language to some world external to the words of the poem, but without making the language impenetrable or abstract.




i Young, Francis, Suffolk Fairylore, Norwich, Lasse Press, 2018, p3.

ii Ibid, 101.

iii Duncan, Andrew, The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry, Cromer: Salt, 2003, p86.

iv Wilkinson, John, The Lyric Touch, Cromer: Salt, 2007, p166.


List of References

Duncan, Andrew, The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry, Cromer: Salt, 2003

Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling. The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries: The Classic Study of Leprechauns, Pixies, and Other Fairy Spirits. Citadel Press, 2003 [1911]

Hollingsworth, Rev. A.G.H., The History of Stowmarket: the ancient county town of Suffolk, Stowmarket: F. Pawsey, 1844

Wilkinson, John, The Lyric Touch, Cromer: Salt, 2007

Young, Francis, Suffolk Fairylore, Norwich: Lasse Press, 2018

Young, Simon, Fairy Census, 2014-2017, 2018. Available from: http://www.fairyist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Fairy-Census-2014-2017-1.pdf

About the author

Adam Warne,

is a poet from Suffolk. His debut pamphlet Suffolk Bang was published by Gatehouse Press in 2018 and was shortlisted for the East Anglian Book Awards. His poems have also appeared in magazines and journals such as The RialtoZarfBlackbox Manifold and Wild Court. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and recently completed a Creative Writing PhD at the University of Roehampton. His PhD research focused on mental illness and Will Kemp’s “mad” morris dance from London to Norwich.