Places of Poetry: The Haruspex by Neil Rollinson

Places of Poetry is a project which aims to use creative writing to prompt reflection about national and cultural identities by inviting contributions to the website, until 4 October. The project is open to all writers. This summer Places of Poetry will hold events across England and Wales, each site hosting a poet-in-residence with each poet contributing a poem from their residency to The Clearing. Neil Rollinson’s poem, The Haruspex, was inspired by the Roman Baths at Bath.



He misses the heat and flies,

the scrum and scurry of the Palatine.

He warms his hands in the entrails, probing

the will of god, the shifting fates of men.


Some fools ponder the leaves of tea,

or study the flight paths of birds,

others look into buckets of eels,

or map the shape of a lunatic’s head.


These are the guts of a beast.

They steam on a frosty morning

in Mensis Martius.  On studying the liver,

the portents are clear.  A child could see:

none shall prosper.  All will fail.





Neil Rollinson has published four collections: A Spillage of Mercury (1996), Spanish Fly (2001), Demolition (2007), and Talking Dead (2015). He is a winner of the National Poetry Competition (1997) and received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors. Until recently he taught creative writing at Bath Spa University.

The illustration is by Benjamin Bowen of Union Studio.


Places of Poetry is led by the poet Paul Farley and the academic Andrew McRae. It is based at the universities of Exeter and Lancaster, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England. It is underpinned by national partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society, and National Poetry Day.


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