Sally Richards, a Shropshire poet who lost a limb to cancer, has now published her fourth poetry collection - and says the 'vicissitudes' of life help inspire her work, along with the beauty of Shropshire countryside.
Having come in the top three of a national poetry competition as a child, Sally Richards always enjoyed writing, but for many years her poems sat in a box as she went on to forge a career in early years care and education.
She was encouraged by a fellow poet to begin to write again, and submitted poems to anthologies, journals and magazines. Many were published, in local newspapers and magazines, and other poetry publications including the international literary magazine Orbis.
Sally had a regular poetry slot in County and Border Life, and was made Poetry Champion for Shropshire libraries in 2007. She has given readings across the county at poetry festivals- including Much Wenlock Poetry Festival as well as in the Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden. Sally was also commissioned by Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery as part of a mixed media exhibition in 2012 and by Shrewsbury library as part of The Darwin Centenary, when she read her poetry aloud to invited guests.
Together with partner Steve, in 2005 Sally published a coffee table book: Waiting for Gulliver (Caradock publications) with illustrations by a local artist. They were both individually accepted on the Survivors' Poetry National Mentoring scheme, and Sally was assigned to Alan Morrison (nominated for the T.S. Elliot prize) who she describes as 'a prolific and brilliant poet'. (Steve's mentor was established poet Phil Ruthin).
The resulting collection, Stained Glass, was published in 2007 by Survivor's Press and launched at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, London. The collection includes poems about depression, the natural world, humanitarian issues, her time in harsh convent boarding schools, natural spirituality, and other subjects.
She continued to write and brought out her second collection Through the Silent Grove in 2008, inspired by her Bardic Studies and a love of the natural world.
"It was during the mentoring scheme that I began to be referred to as a poet, and first felt 'worthy' to call myself one, but I feel that the poet was a part of me from a very young age!" Sally says.
Sally suffered from depression and anxiety linked with M.E. which struck in 1999 while she was working as a pre-school leader. She was plagued by extreme fatigue, muscle pain, memory problems, and concentration difficulties, and was ultimately forced to give up her career.
She switched to a career in holistic and complementary health, studying Reiki to Master-Teacher level, after finding it helped relieve her symptoms of M.E., as well as helping her Reiki clients. She later graduated with a degree in complementary Therapies (FdSc Hons.) in order to add reflexology and aromatherapy to her skillset.
Difficulties in her personal life inform her work: the loss of her father in her early 20s and her mother to cancer in her 30s (Sally was her carer) as well as the sudden death of her dear and closest friend, have been hugely influential. Sally unfortunately had her own cancer diagnosis in 2015 with soft tissue sarcoma. A subsequent Sarcoma recurrence in 2017 resulted in Sally losing her leg above the knee at Gobowen hospital, which has seen her having to learn to walk again using a prosthesis.
Her most recent poetry collection, Emperor Dragonfly (Caparison, 2023), was commissioned by her mentor, Alan Morrison, at first as an eBook. It is a compilation of poems from both Stained glass and Through the Silent Grove, as well as containing ten new poems.
Sally now lives in the Southwest of Shrewsbury, but she grew up in Hopesay, South Shropshire. She said "My love of nature, especially trees, flowers, birds and hills, flourished there surrounded by its unspoiled beauty. I continue to be inspired by the Shropshire landscape, the natural world, humanitarian issues, my love of family, the planet, spirituality, and things which evoke strong emotion in me. I like to tell stories through my work."
Sally sadly had to give up her therapy practice, but she keeps busy- helping to look after her “adorable” six year old grandson Edison, painting watercolours for friends and family, and writing when inspiration strikes. Family is very important to Sally, with her two “much loved” adult daughters, Gemma and Katie, as well as their respective partners Nathan and Jimmy.
Sally is now hoping to do more readings in the Shrewsbury area, as opportunities arise.
Emperor Dragonfly is available from Waterstones online, and Caparison books.