Sue Proffitt – www.sueproffitt.com – lives by the coast in South Devon. Her poetry explores the beauty and mystery of the more-than-human world, and of our complex human relationship with it. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Bath Spa and has been published in a number of magazines, journals and poetry competitions. Her first collection, Open After Dark, was published by Oversteps in 2017. In 2018 she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship and it was during that month, in a snow-bound castle outside Edinburgh, that The Lock-Picker was born.
The Lock-Picker, published by Palewell Press in 2021, is about living alongside her mother, Jeannie, who was suffering from dementia. Sue's poems explore the nature of self, memory, identity and what it truly means only to exist in the present moment. Sue is currently working on her third collection. Our photo is of Sue and Jeannie together.
In October 2022, The Lock-Picker was long-listed in the Poetry Book Awards - a well-deserved recognition of Sue Proffitt's moving poetry collection.
Greta Stoddart's commendation of The Lock-Picker:
This is a poetry of learning in the best sense, learning through disassembling, through picking the lock: through opening a lock by using something other than the key - suggesting as it does an unusual, even defiant, method, unexpected and improvisatory as it proceeds; what will I see when I crack this, will I break or open it, what in the end will I see ? Sue Proffitt is a poet of compassion which expresses itself in poems that move continually towards understanding and connection. Nowhere is this more clear than when she ‘with one finger, gently’ peels back the eyelid of her dead mother to see what it is she sees. And it is this unflinching gaze, this clarity of vision that is both unsparing and merciful, that lends this collection its sense of solace and acceptance. These poems also show how coping with illness can be a fine balance of drudgery and insight. What the poems are so good at is lifting the moment of reveal from the everyday to ask what - in the positive sense - can be taken from it. Essentially what one receives from these poems is how we might learn from what we have to endure. There is a great physicality in this collection that seems to run alongside or lead to the spiritual; an interweaving of physical and metaphysical, presence and absence then back again, hope to despair then back again. Proffitt experiments with form in often surprising ways that present the disorientation and effects of the mind battling to express itself in the breakdown of self. Mother and daughter find themselves on two sides of an ever-widening gap but still, despite the eventual chasm of mental or relational affinity, there is nevertheless a deep, subconscious bond between them that offers moments of solace and defiance in the face of this overwhelming illness. A lyrical, tender collection that manages to counterbalance all the strange and difficult truths of witnessing dementia with a certain tough acceptance.