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Julia Bell
Julia Bell

Julia Bell is a writer and Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck and Course Director of the Creative Writing MA. She is the author of three novels, most recently The Dark Light to be published in May 2015 by Macmillan, the co editor of the Creative Writing Coursebook, as well as three volumes of short stories most recently The Sea In Birmingham. She also takes photographs, writes poetry, short stories, occasional essays and journalism, and is the co-curator of spoken word night @InYerEarLondon. Twitter: @juliabell.

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Julia Bell Poetry

The Golden Record


And here are all the things we are:

Brandenberg and Java and Whale Song

Bach and Beethoven and Johnny B Goode

Bagpipes and Nose Flutes and Ragas. Guitars, Violins.

We say hello in fifty-five different languages: are you listening?


We pressed it in gold especially,

like the three kings we know which gifts to bring.

How many light years spinning out from world to world

before you hear us? Or are we alone?

And which is worse?


To know that you are out there, somewhere, behind a moon

or tearing up a galaxy with your fingertips.

Or you are not, and all we are is here distilled,

a lonely thirty three, playing out its mysteries on repeat

to the massed, indifferent stars.



(Read more about it here:

French Exchange


Of course we go to Brest.

The only kind of foreign suitable

for a preacher’s daughter.


Je m’appelle, comment allez vouz?

I slide my tongue inside the language

thinking it will make me cool,


like red wine and cigarettes.

Here, there are supermarkets big as sheds,

Nutella, smoking, a whiff of sex,


the vinegar of table wine. Old ladies show

their lace, cheese smells like feet

and there are snails.


In the French house with the French

people the house is foggy with Gitanes

and the dark of the French father


who, after fighting with his wife,

cuts the lawn in a thunderstorm.

I watch him from the bedroom window,


churning grass to silage,

swearing blue merde, electricity

simmering in the foreign air.


In the morning,

I have my ears pierced

in the market in Quimper.


Two golden studs gleam

all the way home.

My souvenir, my Jezebel ears.

Armour of God


Come on then, suit me up. Give me the breastplate

of righteousness, the codpiece of chastity,

the shoulder pads of self denial, the visor of victory.

Let me brandish my sword of truth and smite

mine enemies with the vengeance of testaments.

After all, the gates of heaven are like the eye of a needle

it takes serious commitment to be accepted up there.

The wife has to help me put it all on,

it’s hot and heavy and the leg braces chafe

in all the soft places.

But at least there’ll be no getting out in a hurry,

and even though my field of vision is narrowed

to a sliver the size of a child’s letterbox,

I have to say, I feel very safe in here.



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