Learning to be Very Soft


Published 1st June 2020

Winner of the 2019 New Poets Prize judged by Mary Jean Chan

How do we confront childhood shame? These poems explore both the childhood moments that never leave us, and the hard exteriors we build up as we get older. When our vulnerability is so often at stake, learning to be very soft becomes vital.

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What Writers and Critics Think

  • This is a collection suffused with vivid imagery, with various forms of water ("the pool", "the floods", "the river" and "the sea") occurring throughout the text. I admired Waldron-Hall's ability to hone in on the complexity of relationships through verse at once startling and tender.

    Mary Jean Chan
  • In these tender, gently surreal poems of boyhood, and brotherhood, and son-hood; Callan Waldron-Hall takes us into the intimate spaces of the body and the sore spaces of shame. There is such care with language here, such stark observation of truths, it’s as though this pamphlet were a lifeguard, jumping in to save us from the mundane horror of our ordinary lives.

    Andrew McMillan
  • Unsettling, vivid and acutely observed, Waldron-Hall’s poems explore the ways in which a body, a self, can become ‘less than solid’. With tenderness and precision, Waldron-Hall shows us the embodied self learning to inhabit both its vulnerability and its potential, its ‘untouched places’.

    Helen Tookey


“Written in clear, unadorned language with gentle, fluid rhythms, the poems use everyday experiences – a car journey, a visit to the doctor, winding in the lane ropes at a swimming pool – as windows into the inner world of boyhood with all its vulnerability, awkwardness and shame.” – Marian Christie (Read the full review here).


Callan Waldron-Hall grew up in Leicestershire and now lives in Liverpool where he works for an arts organisation. His poetry has appeared in Magma, Orris Root and In the Red. His project ‘more concerned with feeling than sense’ exploring ASMR was featured in Post-it: Liverpool Independents Biennial anthology 2018. He edits Independent Variable, an online space championing science and poetry. He’s interested in writing to explore shame and how we carry it with us from childhood.

Additional information

Weight 0.067 kg
Dimensions 21 × 14.8 × 0.6 cm




Publication Year