John Siddique

Sacred teacher and writer John Siddique has dedicated his life to honouring the authentic in our human experience. He is the author of six books ranging through poetry, memoir and non-fiction, with two new books to be published in 2021. His meditations and teachings are listened to by millions of people around the world. His writings have appeared in the Guardian, Granta, Poetry Review and on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Siddique is the former British Council writer in residence at California State University. He is an honorary fellow at Leicester University, and currently serves on the editorial board of WritersMosaic for the Royal Literary Fund. The Times of India calls him ‘rebellious by nature, pure at heart’ and Scots Makar Jackie Kay speaks of Siddique’s writing as being ‘a brilliant balancing act’.

John Siddique

Photo: Lucy Cartwright


Poetry and Meditation »

Readings and meditation to start the day

Sun 7 March | 10:30 - 11:30 | Free/Ticketed | StAnza Zoom


Another Somme
For my Great Grandfather John O’Neill
who died at the Somme 5th September 1916

We use the quiet before Stand To for shaving.
Before the fixing of bayonets, we make
ourselves clean. No mist this morning,
in the mud, barely a blade of grass to be seen.

Last night we moved from up from reserve,
a quiet procession, though the new lads puked
their guts from the stench. A lot of us here
from back home, from Lurgan and Portadown.

Sharpening my razor at the communal strop,
Sticking a bit of mirror into the mud.
Cold tea reheated in a canteen to use for hot water,
and a bit of soap saved in my pocket.

My hand shakes so much I think I will cut
my own throat. Standing in my vest, arms
by my side. It’s going to be a clear day.
The first morning in a while where I can see
more than a few feet in front of me.

My face in the mirror, eyes do not dare
look over the parapet. Tom says he’ll shave me,
shows me his steady hands. This is how you stay
a man here: be clean, mind your language,
look after your things, be a brother.

I’m unable return the kindness
of his brotherly gift. My hands, my hands, my hands,
just won’t stop. I squeeze them into my armpits.

An old chair appears from somewhere,
Tom finds himself being the village barber
for an hour to the boys around us.
An officer gets the word and comes down too.
I’ll not see that bit of soap again.

John Siddique

From So – Selected New Poems 2011-2021 (Crocus, forthcoming in 2021)