A Sky Full of Strange Specimens is an exploration of restraint and freedom, and emotional upheaval and uncertainty. The surreal title of the pamphlet comes from a line in my opening poem, which tells about a great storm in Ireland in 1839, where entire houses were blown away, and there are storms and tremors to be found throughout the pamphlet.

Life in lockdown confined our lives within four walls, so perhaps it is not a surprise that much of my collection recalls and imagines different domestic settings, and the emotional stories connected to them: bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, caravans all become rich ground to reflect on the minutiae of how we live. Some of my work is autobiographical, but there are many different female figures from history and literature - from Anne Bonny to Miss Havisham - who make an appearance.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about riotous excursions into the human heart and I find it fascinating that however we live our lives and whatever we do (or don’t do) we can’t ever avoid these strange, sad and wonderful journeys, without going anywhere at all.

Olga Dermott-Bond

Olga is originally from Northern Ireland. She studied English at the University of St Andrews and is an assistant head teacher at a secondary school in Warwickshire. She has always loved reading and writing poetry, and over the past five years has been dedicating more time to her writing. She has two daughters, and motherhood has shaped and influenced many aspects of her work. Memory, social and political history and female identity spark her interest as a writer and are prevalent themes in her work.

A winner of Candlestick Press’ competition for 10 Poems about Breakfast in 2019, the BBC Proms poetry competition in 2019 and Poetry on Loan competition in 2020, Olga enjoys experimenting with different poetic forms, and has collaborated with a range of local artists as part of Warwickshire Open Studios to create ekphrastic poetry in response to their work.

She was selected as one of the emerging poets on Radio 4 for Bedtime Stories for the End of the World, re-telling the Irish myth of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, working with Natalie Linh Bolderston and Malika Booker. She is a commissioned artist for Coventry City of Culture 2021.

Olga has had poetry and flash fiction widely published in a range of magazines including: Under the Radar, Magma, Rattle Magazine, Butcher’s Dog, Cordite Review, Strix, Paper Swans Press, and anthologies including; The result is what you see today (Smith / Doorstop) and Beyond the Storm (Write out Loud). Her first pamphlet apple, fallen is published by Against the Grain Press.

Oíche na Goithe Móire

The night of the big wind, Ireland, 1839


You don’t believe me when I tell you

some of my children flew away, bodies

scattered far, first found by crows,

shaken from their cauldron nests. You don’t

believe me when I tell you I stumbled over

broken bones of branches, when I sing

of the dead shaking loose from their graves,

each body sifted through shallow soil.


You don’t believe my eyes stared at a sky full

of strange specimens. The awful darkness.

Have I told you how the moon lay on her back,

full to the brim of great lakes? Have you heard

how the air bent beneath heavy emptiness so still,

I could hear the whispers between walls of farmhouses?

I tell you, again, the priests wept inside churches

with no roofs, prayed while the skin of the earth


split open. You don’t believe me, but I tell you,

I could not have dreamt such a night as this.

What I mean when I say I can tell a hawk from a handsaw

After Eve L. Ewing


I mean the sun was in my eyes for too long,

each wall a washed out headache when I went


back inside, my room buried in damp-soil-quiet. 

I mean I had glimpsed myself for a moment,


high above the earth, my body ruthless, expectant

so much of my energy and strength to stay where


I was, watching, still watching from a distance,

blown like ocean waves of wheat billowing


in high summer while I circled, strained –

I mean it was like finding a feather, feeling


its sieved-flour softness against my fingers,

oiled lightness of something that had flown,


its flimsy strength ancient, primal, a warning. 

I mean how easy it was to sense a closeness


hovering over my skin, a thin-milked arrow,

an opaque muteness that had been shot too far,


until it stammered and flinched in a wet tangle-

heavy weave, that couldn’t be straightened out


afterwards. I mean I had caught myself between

fickering hedges, smaller than you would think


and not so easily tamed, a creature that didn’t

understand all there was left was a stomach full


of stones. I mean there is a tiny part that can’t

ever be caught, the trick of your absence a hood


that has turned my heart into sudden night.