The PK Featured Poet 10 – Louise Wagener

"Most people see people who use a wheelchair to help them be mobile, or people who look different, or have a different sexual orientation as something to be avoided, inconvenient, or downright strange, I see it as my job as a writer to try and put the other side of the coin..." - Louise Wagener

Louise writes with a style that is so direct and immediate that it can at times be incredibly painful, but there is a truth and honesty in her work which has always impressed me. She speaks for many people through her stunning poetry and in doing so speaks to and for us all. (Jim Bennett)

Featured Poet 9 – Louise Wagener


I was born in Maghull a suburb of Liverpool 27 years ago and lived a fairly normal life for someone with hydrocephalus until I was 14 when I was diagnosed as also having Motor Neurone Disease. My parents panicked and as my condition destabilised they had me put into a long term hospital. I managed to escape from that very restrictive regime by being accepted at Liverpool University where I became part of the writing group. Unfortunately I got a cold in my second year and it just kept getting worse until it turned into pneumonia. This illness caused me to some serious health problems, so I was unable to continue at the University and have been in sheltered accommodation for the past six years in the Aughton area near Ormskirk. I expect to have to move into a hospice in the next few months, which will seriously affect my sex life.

I am still able to get out and about with some help and my quality of life is good. When it stops being as good as I want it, then I will have to take some decisions which are some way in the future at the moment. I have no intention hanging round to be a bed shitter. I picture myself as a beautiful young woman in the style of Drew Barrimore - though the truth is a bit different.  I gave the following description of myself in a mail to the PK List earlier in the year.

"If I was walking along the street (something I cannot do alone) you would notice, I have a head which is too large for my body and arms and legs which are spastic and do what they want, I am as I like to say a "mong", I say it before anyone else and if anyone else said it to me they would see how able I can be when I get angry, and it does not stop me getting "company" when I want it. So as you see I have a few problems, none of which I hope makes me any different from any of you, but it does give me problems in other ways."

My condition is a deteriorating one and I like to explore these changes in poetry and in my diaries which will be Jim Bennett's when I am unable to write them any more. I used to write to the list (a few years ago when I still had access to the University computers) as Terry Skelton, which was a name I picked because I like the sound of it and I was doing a bit of stage work and stuff for JJ, but I was forced to give up for a while when I was being hounded by a pervert. I have returned to my birth name because social services can't cope with people who change their names.

How/when did you start writing?

I don't really remember, I always seem to have been writing. My mum told me that I was always to be found either reading or writing. I was asked to write an essay in school about a poem, and I eventually used nearly two thousand words for was intended to be a 300 word report. The point was that the essay had inspired me to see what the poem was about, and the effect of realising how powerful poems could be was life changing. I think I was about 9 when that happened, but even before that I had always read poems through choice.

 Was there anything that particularly influenced you?

Being from just outside Liverpool, a small place called Maghull, I was influenced by all that was happening in the City. Although, when I started to notice, the Beatles and the Liverpool Scene had already split up. I was born when punk was having its day and grew up with music playing constantly. Because I was quite ill as a child I spent a lot of time out of school and in care centres where the staff let us do what we wanted most of the time. I drew, painted and wrote poems. My poetry tends to be about my life as a person who, because of health and mobility problems has to deal with lots of issues which are slightly away from most peoples experience.


 Do you have any strong influences on your writing?

Relationships and TV are my preoccupations so I suppose I am strongly influenced by those and I do read a lot.

I have some poets who I really admire and who have influenced my style. Jim Bennett is without a doubt a huge influence on me and I am fortunate that he regularly gives me help and advice, he is also the editor for my poetry collection and will be my literary executor. Dave Bateman's, "Curse of the Killer Hedge" is a great book. All of the Beat writers and poets and good anthologies, I have a very well thumbed copy of "Other" for example.

How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing - time of day?

I have never been able to get into a particular habit of writing at set times because I am sometimes physically unable to sit and write. Even when I can I have to limit it to a very short period, but I do carry a small tape recorder with me and I use that to record ideas or lines or even complete poems which come into my head.

 Why do you write poetry?

Poetry enables me to communicate ideas and emotions about issues which are important to me. It is one way to ensure that some issues which would otherwise be ignored reach a wider audience.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I guess I have to thank some people who have made life a lot easier for me. Jim Bennett, who I love to pieces, I have already mentioned, John (JJ) Howard who helped me to get onto a computer and who in maintaining the PK LIST has made it possible for me to share my poetry with an audience. John Cooper Clarke has also been a real friend and his poetry is inspiring. Most people see people who use a wheelchair to help them be mobile, or people who look different, or have a different sexual orientation as something to be avoided, inconvenient, or downright strange, I see it as my job as a writer to try and put the other side of the coin and perhaps to make sure that people realise that those who are les able have lives to.


I do not write a lot because the action of writing is difficult for me, I have a tape recorder which i dictate my poems into. I am working on a collection of poetry from which the following are all taken.

This first poem is about an early relationship.

He was a gentleman
I was told by my parents who'd been taken in
by a style designed to echo other days,
but they did not know the anal
fantasy and dirty pissing sex he craved,
or see him eyes wild wanking,
smelling dirty knickers
he had made me wear too long.
He knew pain
could use it in excruciating ways
then make you feel bad
because you didn't want to play,
wouldn't lick his smelly arse again,
or tongue and scratch at sweaty scrotum
to please and have him squirm
before sucking him to come.
There was no making love.
The part of me that craves affection
and subordinates itself to male demands
was left to rot.
The closest thing to sex
was his finger pumping in my bum
while teeth gnawed at my tits.
That other part
the warm female place shared by
lovers, was left to bleed.
He frightened me when
he walked in
with his pants erection stretched
and I could see his throbbing need
To everyone he was a gentleman
and when I told my mother why
I was leaving him, in graphic detail
"you won't find another one like him."
was all she said
and how I hoped she was right.


I wrote this about my first experience of real love.

First time
this is like my first time
I don't know what to expect
as I roll across a mirror
of my body
reach up into your T-shirt
see my hands
like naked puppets
reach your tits
and I wonder what they will feel like
Your baby bra eases up
I hate that when boys grope me
strangle me with pulled up cups
I reach round release the clasp
your little tits fall free
nipples grow under my fingers
you pull me up
face to face again
kiss and lick me
I reach down and feel the wetness
of your pants\par I smell you on my hands
and my middle finger finds a way into you
wet and supple
you groan and then I feel it
your hand clawing at my tits
then down undoing my jeans
pushing them down
now your hand in my pants
through my hair
and I explode as fingers lightly brush clitoris
not like the boys who
pull and pant this is gentle
and I want to come for you
and make you come for me
and you can smell yourself
on my mouth
as you lick and shriek and cannot stop
I don't want you to ever stop
and now all the words like fuck
and cunt and tit and shag are something
done with men and this is
something else
some would want to label it
label me and her
but this defies labels
this is love
and gender is irrelevant
juice drains from us
as we hold each other
waiting for the moment
when time starts up again


This in my manifesto and the title poem from my collection.

I guess I was
no neck to speak of
broad shouldered
from the wheelchair
tits like udders
dangling bags of fat
useless legs
and a working twat
men still want to fuck me
not the gentle or the kind ones
never them
only those with strange ideas
who want to fuck a cripple
strip me naked
clean me
take out my catheter
weird bastards
I shut my eyes and fuck
George Clooney
I guess I was
I try hard to look nice
to be grateful for kind acts
even the stupid ones
though I'd rather kids shout cripple
and be honest
than to see a flash of pity
a month ago in Ormskirk
a man
stood in front of me
while I was parked outside a shop
opened his mack
to reveal his flaccid wrinkled dick
and tried to wank himself
"maybe it's to cold"
I laughed
"fucking bitch
you should be grateful"
he screamed
before he ran away in tears
I do that to men
before they
could no longer cope
mum would say smile
and tell me how much she loved me
but a night I'd hear her crying
her wordless pleas to god
to make me whole
or take me from the world
she could not live with the
short life she had bequeathed me
but never once did she ask
how I could cope with it.
I guess I was
but isn't everyone

A poem about the early days in my new home alone. When you are told you won't live past 30 then every day takes on a different priority.

Saturday morning
I woke up with a strange guy
I sort of vaguely remember
poking me in the back
slipped out of bed
on his oily greeting
pulled on last nights crusty knickers
asked him if he wanted coffee
before he left
my tits must have been waving
some sort of sexual semaphore
he grabbed them
sucked my nipples firm
tried to pull me back to bed
want one in the poop chute
he asked
why - I asked - do you
come on lets mess about a bit
this one tastes of mint
he said
tempting - I said - but no
I'll make the coffee
step over two used condoms
on my way to the recovery room
three pills two spoons of coffee
rehearse a goodbye
I wonder why I bother


This was written for Jim Bennett because

somewhere in
your finger tips
the nerve ends spark
I feel them
when you touch me


This was for Angela Duncan who is an angel now.

I love the way you used to touch my breasts
cup them in your hands
and move them gently
make circles
until I was nipple hard
I love that more than anything
your cool hands
on bra free skin
now I have only the memory of touch
I know I told you to go
I know what I said
but oh
your hands I miss them so
sometimes I close my eyes
and touch myself the way you did
but something is missing
perhaps it’s you


I think this will be the final poem in my collection.


I am so busy living now
it is odd to think that some time
there will be an end to it
a final moment
a conclusion
when all my life
will be resolved
and I will start the journey
back to dust
oh I know it comes to us all
and I am not worried
well not now I’m not
I just don’t want to be the one led
shitting and pissing to the
I want to be the brave one
the one who smiles at the last
but when the moment
is the last one
the final one
there’ll be nothing much left
just hacked out poems
and my biggest fear
is that there will be
a moment
when there is no time left
for one last revision


I hope I have not depressed you all too much or left you feeling sad or despondent, or believing I can only write poems about sex. I don't see it that way. I live every day as if it was my last and I find this works for me. And that is what I write about the ups and downs, when I get it right and when I get it wrong and I am much more fortunate than a lot of people in the world, in fact I am more fortunate than a lot of the people who live in this building with me. Thanks for reading.

Thanks to the PK List for the opportunity of being a Featured Poet, (when I see the other Featured Poets and read their features I know I do not deserve to be in this company really) and thank you for reading.