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About Sam

Sam Gardiner (1936-2016) edited and produced the Poet’s Yearbook, and had poetry published occasionally and to some critical success, in the 1970s. His poem Protestant Windows won the National Poetry Competition in 1993, after which from 1996 until 2016 he published prolifically in a wide range of poetry magazines, newspapers and anthologies. 

He was born in Portadown, Co Armagh and attended Portadown College before training as an architect. Sam worked in Belfast before moving to London and Birmingham then settled in Grimsby. Following retirement in the1990s Sam was able to concentrate on writing poetry.  

He reviewed poems for David Lightfoot’s Louth-based Seam magazine and was a regular at poetry gatherings in Lincoln’s Drill Hall and at Grimsby’s Nunsthorpe poetry group, which he founded with Phyll Smith and Rob Etty. 

Sam's poem Showing Me, discussing Grimsby housing estate Nunsthorpe, was selected as The Guardian's poem of the week by Carol Rumens in 2011.


Accessing Sam's Work



Black and white photograph of Sam Gardiner in tweed suit jacket


See a selection of Sam's Work.

The Lincolnshire Poetry collection is currently available to view on an appointment only basis. Please contact the Special Collections Librarian for more information and to discuss your research requirements.

Search the Special Collection catalogue by an individual poet’s name or using the word poetry.

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David Wheatley’s obituary in The Guardian describes Sam Gardiner as a

 “distinguished member of the generation of Northern Irish poets that also included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon... Gardiner’s wit was detached and quizzical, but hard-hitting too, especially when trained on the province of his birth."  

 Rob Etty penned these words in New Walk, ‘Remembering Sam Gardiner’:

“What Sam Gardiner often said was that you should do exactly as you like, the rules are there to be broken, it’s your poem so you can please yourself … To the world of poetry, especially Irish poetry, he was an important figure, and his work has been published widely.  Perhaps, in the ironic way of these things, it will now gain greater recognition.  None of the writers who were privileged to know him will forget him.  Everyone is fortunate to have his poems to go back to.” 
Rob Etty, Remembering Sam Gardiner, New Walk, Autumn/Winter 2016-2017, 13, pp.6-7

Phyll Smith’s tribute in The High Window in 2017 describes Sam's poetry:

“its creative intelligence, the satisfying way that an argument, a comparison or a sentence would twist, turn and resolve itself, playfully toying with the reader.  At the same time this was a puckish humour which was not at all safe, and could be flattering and caustic at turns.” 

Sea Coal


Down first thing for a breakfast of air
by the sea where far off oilskinned
figures dig for lugworms, while here
a long black tidemark defines
the sea’s jurisdiction on land.
An old couple, long winter coats
thrumming in the wind, trudge the line,
bent double for nuggets of coal
no bigger than Oxo cubes. Finally
in a plastic bag slaked with sand,
they have amassed a shovelful.
I hope they get their drudgery’s worth:
A firelit hearth, perhaps: warm hands
at bedtime to touch each other with.

From Lincolnshire’s Millennium Poet, Imp-Art Publications, 2000

Pure Wool


Well known for her serial Aran pullovers,
Aunt Ethel knitted them straight from the sheep,
for Christmas and birthdays. And for Wednesdays.

Wearing an Aunt Ethel pure wool pullover
ensured instant recognition by sheepdogs
all the way from Galway to Donegal.

Wily, ground-skimming, sheep-seeking missiles,
they hurtled out of farmyard gates and leapt
From distant shepherdless hills to home in

on my blurred pedals and invisible spokes turned
shining discs of speed. Bleating with terror, lathered
in lanolin, I broke several land-speed records

while they tried to pull me over, round me up
And add me to their flock, to re-emerge,
in time, as one of Aunt Ethel’s Aran pullovers.

From Lincolnshire’s Millennium Poet, Imp-Art Publications, 2000

Thinking of You


I spent last night burning all your letters.
Today I stray from room to room and try
to remember your last address, and whether
I promised your faithful hamster would die
smashed against the walls, which incidentally
  are magnolia now, magnolia all the way
because you loathed it. And environmentally
sound, undyed toilet rolls have had their day.
My trolley shrieks with rolls of every hue:
apricot, strawberry, peach. I like to think
that when, in your memory, I flush the loo,
  gradually a warm, suggestive pink
will spread across the long cold miles of sea,
And you will look at it and think of me.


From Southumbrian Tidings, Nunny Books, 2008

Symphonie Concrète


A force 8 in Grimsby sends me drinks cans,
plastic bottles and beakers bounding
along Freeman Street in a rush of sound.
These hollow receptacles do not play
until they are swept along striking kerbs,
bins bollards lampposts, and the music
is beaten out of them. Recognisable notes -
an E, a flat C and a definite F sharp -
drunk with freedom, change pitch and jostle,
drum and sing along in riotous ensemble,
a disorderly orchestra playing potholes
above a muted obbligato of blown grit.


No musician is more gifted than a wind
force 8, even when graced or disgraced
by an operatic seagull turning a small
lungful of air into shrieks of laughter,
and a tartan coat ballooning along behind
a shopping trolley also in tartan, crying
“Dry land’s the place on a day like this”
before being blown away. This morning’s
concert is finished, the symphonie concrète
unrecorded and irreplaceable, but further
performances are planned throughout the year.


From Southumbrian Tidings, Nunny Books, 2008