Kylie triolet

Photos taken from ‘An Intimate Tour of Breasts’ part of Walking Women festival, Somerset House, July 16 (credit: Clare Qualmann)

After reading Penny Rutterford’s write-up of my walk: An Intimate Tour of Breasts in the Huffington Post blog , as Penny begins and ends with Kylie, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote about Kylie (a triolet, no less, which is, IMHO, a thankless form).

When I was told I would be having chemotherapy, I was desperately seeking some positives – role models, or even women who hadn’t died. Enter Kylie. I found an interview with her, in which she described her trips to swim in the ocean between chemo sessions. Armed with this, I informed my surgeon and consultant that I too would be swimming between my chemo sessions in the lido, ‘like what Kylie did.’ They didn’t contradict me. When it came to it, on my very first chemo, unable to locate a vein after seven attempts, I was given a Pic-Line, which, on the positive side, meant no more needles for either taking things out or putting them in – a boon for the needle-phobe. On the downside, it meant I had to keep dry for the entire hot summer. Not so lucky.

I later heard Kylie on Desert Island Discs, where she spoke of the responsibility of being a role model for other women with breast cancer. It is a tough and unasked for role, and I think she has handled it with dignity and sensitivity.

Kylie (I should be so)

I looped your song inside my head

and held your legend to my breast –

in order to soak up the dread

I looped your song inside my head.

Lucky, you chirruped; Lucky, I said.

They tapped my vein, you know the rest.

I looped your song inside my head

and held your legend to my breast.


An Intimate Tour of Breasts is available as a guided walk – in London, or other venues by commission. Please contact me for further details, or if you would like to book.

About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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