Thursday, 29 December 2011

Spring Journal


My new pamphlet 'Spring Journal' has just been published by Rack Press and will be available to order on 9th January from the Rack Press Poetry website or to buy directly (at a later date) at the London Review Bookshop, Bury Place, London WC1.

Other poets published in Rack's latest series of pamphlets are Denise Saul, Martina Evans, and Michele Roberts.


The launch is on Thursday 26th January, 18.30 - 21.00 (readings from 19.00), at The Marchmont Centre, 62 Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1AB. Admission is free and refreshments will be provided.

Haiku: Issa's Untidy Hut





Monday, 19 December 2011

Poetry Reading List 2011

January

Tony Hoagland, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty
Gillian Clarke, A Recipe for Water (reread)
Sinead Morrisey, The State of the Prisons (reread)
Tony Hoagland, What Narcissism Means To Me

February

Ian Hamilton, Collected Poems
Jo Shapcott, Of Mutability
Stevie Smith, Selected Poems (reread)
Jo Shapcott, Electroplating the Baby (reread)
Robert Hass, The Apple Trees at Olema: New & Selected Poems
Adam Zagajewski, Mysticism for Beginners (reread)
Adam Zagajewski, Canvas (reread)
Robert Creeley, Collected Poems 1945-75

March

Robert Hass, The Apple Trees at Olema: New & Selected Poems (contd.)
Robert Creeley, Collected Poems 1945-75 (contd.)
Robert Wells, Lusus
Geoffrey Hill, Without Title (reread)
Adam Zagajewski, Eternal Enemies
Adam Zagajewski, Without End: New & Selected Poems
David Harsent, Night
Charles Simic, A Wedding in Hell

April

Christopher Reid, A Scattering (reread)
The Best American Poetry 1998, ed. John Hollander
Charles Boyle, House of Cards
Charles Simic, Selected Poems 1963-83
Elaine Feinstein, The Magic Apple Tree
Alison Brackenbury, Breaking Ground
Cavafy, Collected Poems (reread)
Elaine Feinstein, Collected Poems and Translations (reread)

May

Oktay Rifat, Collected Poems
Charles Wright, Bye and Bye: Late Selected
Michael Longley, One Hundred Doors

June

Matthew Stewart, Inventing Truth
Leontia Flynn, Drives
Jean Sprackland, Tilt
Oktay Rifat, Collected Poems (contd.)
Jack Robinson, Days and Nights in W12
Michael Donaghy, Collected Poems
John Burnside, The Good Neighbour
Billy Collins, Horoscopes for the Dead
Louise Gluck, Averno

July

Ten: New Poets Spread the Word, ed. Evaristo & Nagra
Tomas Transtromer, Collected Poems (reread)
Lavinia Greenlaw, Minsk (reread)
Louise Gluck, Village Life
Hilary Menos, Berg
Paul Henry, The Brittle Sea: New & Selected Poems
Charles Simic, Master of Disguises
Charles Simic, The World Doesn't End
Charles Wright, Bye and Bye: Late Selected (contd)
Charles Wright, Sestets (reread)

August

Basho, On Love and Barley (reread)
The Haiku Anthology, ed. Cor Van Den Heuvel
The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (reread)
Stephen Dunn, New & Selected Poems 1974-1994
Stephen Dunn, Loosestrife
Anvil 3

September

The Haiku Anthology, ed. Cor Van Den Heuvel (contd;reread)
The Penguin Book of Japanese Poetry (reread)
Anvil 3 (contd)
Mary Oliver, Swan
Charles Simic, Night Picnic (reread)
Stephen Dunn, What Goes On Selected & New Poems 1995-2009
Deryn Rees-Jones, The Memory Tray (reread)
Seamus Heaney, District and Circle (reread)

October

The Best American Poetry 2006, ed. Billy Collins
John McCullough, The Frost Fairs
Mick Imlah, Selected Poems
The Best American Poetry 2007, ed. Heather McHugh
C.K.Williams, Collected Poems

November

C.K.Williams, Collected Poems (contd)
The Best American Poetry 2008, ed. Charles Wright
Leontia Flynn, Profit and Loss
Tomas Transtromer, New Collected Poems
The Best American Poetry 2003, ed. Yusef Komunyakaa

December

A.R. Ammons, Collected Poems 1951-71
Basil Bunting, Briggflatts (reread)
Sam Willetts, New Light for the Old Dark
Lavinia Greenlaw, The Casual Perfect
Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees
The Haiku Anthology, ed. Cor Van Den Heuvel (reread)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Short Bee Poem



September

I sit in the kitchen,
under a thinning calendar.
At this time of year
I’m always too tired to write.
Outside, the weak, midafternoon sunlight
balances on shadow-stilts.
A bee – perhaps the last – passes slowly
over the dried out honeysuckle; lands.
Stumbling from stamen to stamen, it adds,
even now, bullion to the panniers
strapped to its sides.


©2011 Dan Wyke

Monday, 17 October 2011

Featured Poet: Alan Morrison



I am delighted to be able to post two poems from Alan Morrison's latest book, Captive Dragons/ The Shadow Thorns - Poems from the Mill View Residency 2008-11 by Alan Morrison. This book incorporates an epic poem on the subject of mental illness and its perception throughout the ages, tackling thorny issues such as psychosis and suicide through a series of 35 Cantos exploring different periods, persons and approaches to the psychiatric and social treatment of mental illness. A Laingian sensibility drives towards some uncomfortable speculations as to 'mental illness' as, in part, a socio-political construct. The Shadow Thorns (from which these poems are taken) is a sequence of smaller poems, each a study of composites of various inpatients encountered by the author during his three year voluntary poetry workshop residency at Mill View psychiatric hospital in Hove.


Flo of the solitudes

Flo’s patron of the moment’s immersion,
Timelessly lit in a pool of her own
Out-pouring, her melting-clock comfort zone
From the scotched tick-tock of Cronos; thrown
Onto absorption’s potters-wheel so
Fast-spun she changes shape without motion,
Her forehead pressed by thumb and forefinger
Imperceptibly sculpting each curvature
And groove of her temples’ wet-clay gesture —
She’s lost to her process, the epicentre
Of her head’s magic lantern waxing a-flicker
With lit silhouettes, phantasmagoria
Cavorting around her rapt cerebrum,
Shivering her tapped oblongata stem,
Her eyes synchronised hypno-pendulums
Chasing empty pages with mesmeric pen,
No chore in the pull of inspiration,
Her whole body clutched in concentration,
A twitching statue that has to be inched
Out of its trance with a soft verbal pinch:
Flo, our hour’s up now, thus lowers the winch
That hoists up the spell prior to its clinch
Of gathering magic; with slow-motion flinch
She comes round again, then slips from her plinth.


Robert of the clocks

Robert’s scared of cats, apples and clocks,
Occasionally jerks in his seat to shoo off
Cobwebs or shadows from his shoulders’ rock —
If spoken to, Robert jolts as if shocked
By voice, as if you were an animal who talked;
His itching eyes can rub away the crock
Of our badly dyed bodies: limpid skins
Reveal astral colours exclusively to him,
While our heads leak tulpa illustrating
Our morphing thoughts, embarrassing
For him, as if each person is flashing
Their private parts: his clairvoyant chagrin;
He appears inhibited by some obscure
Obsessive-compulsive nomenclature
That impels him to avoid things that aren’t there,
Or optically scour their ghosting structure
To anticipate particular threats in their nature —
His mouth retches mutely as if the pressure
Of a transparent hand smothers its words —
But he howls in his sleep, so some have heard,
During the grip of his night-horrors’ gird,
He howls like a dog torn by wolves, the curd
Of his strangled tone prowls the gloomy ward,
Owls on their night shifts dimly disturbed.
Robert can only compose words with Os —
Cosmos, osmosis, Osama, morose
Might form his typical spasm of prose,
Orotund aphorisms, round symbol rows
Of circles, omicrons, open mouths, pose
Compelling emptiness through hollow crows.

from The Shadow Thorns sequence

The author adds: 'The poem portraits in The Shadow Thorns sequence are each loosely based on a combination of individuals encountered by the author during his time as poet-in-residence/voluntary workshop facilitator at Mill View; none of these are intended to focus solely on any one individual, therefore if any reader feels a particular poem may be specifically and solely describing themselves, the author maintains this can only be coincidental.'

Alan Morrison is author of critically acclaimed volumes The Mansion Gardens (Paula Brown 2006), A Tapestry of Absent Sitters (Waterloo 2009), Keir Hardie Street (Smokestack 2010), and of the much-praised verse play Picaresque. His new volume, Captive Dragons/ The Shadow Thorns – Poems from the Mill View Residency 2008-2011, is now available from Waterloo Press www.waterloopresshove.co.uk. He is editor of the widely respected literary and political webzine the Recusant, and of the Caparison imprint which produced the polemical anti-cuts anthology Emergency Verse - Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (2010/11). His fifth volume, Blaze a Vanishing, is due for 2012.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Featured Poet: Martin Mooney



A Question About Fog

Did it drive the cattle down from the hill in search of a visible world,
or did they use it for camouflage, for this infiltration

of our human terrain, these gardens and metalled roads on which they’ve appeared
by surprise this morning, sudden, unblinking, innocent, burly,

a sign of what’s kept on the outskirts, what’s never discussed,
silent apart from the hoof-falls, the muffled flop of their dung?


Martin Mooney was born in Belfast and has worked as a civil servant, creative writing teacher, arts administrator and publican. As well as poetry, he has published short fiction, reviews, critical articles and cultural commentary in Irish and British periodicals.

Mooney has collaborated with visual artists on a number of site-specific projects, and with composer Ian Wilson on Near the Western Necropolis for mezzo soprano and chamber orchestra. He has also adapted texts by Shakespeare, Sheridan and Ionescu for physical theatre companies in the north of Ireland.

Mooney is the author of four collections of poetry - Grub (1993), Rasputin and his Children (2000), Blue Lamp Disco (2003) and most recently The Resurrection of the Body at Killysuggen (2011), poems from which can be found on the blog of the same name.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Featured Poet: Claire Trevien



To help cope with the post-NPD comedown, I'm delighted to be able to post two poems by Claire Trevien.


Love from,

On my wall I pinned
the postcards you sent me from
Malta, Ibiza, Gomera, Greece . . . My fingers
jumped from pools of fluorescent water
to cats haunting

crusty archways. I used to pine
at your absence — an idea — as I fingered
those battered papers haunting
my wall. Each picture was your face watered
down by time, even the stamps smiling from

their contained box. My fingers
would trace the images from
the cards until they unpinned.
Once, you gave me Madrid, a water
fountain, but your words failed. My haunt

would always be wrong: you’d pinpoint
a boulevard rather than the street it was (or water
it down to a lane) and your signature varied from
“your father” to “Joel”. I sent its crumbs to haunt
the wind, but eventually my fingers

chased those scattered scraps pinned
inside bins, imprinted, or sailing watery
grass. I rescued my wronged address from
the pond and the litter man’s fingers,
though your signature is still out there, haunting.

My fingers stopped trying to pin you down,
you sent no more hauntings from over the water.


Ties
for Paul C.

My coat wipes against unripe
blackberries, his fingers ride
the brambles for berries fried
by too much sun; my stick bites

through the grass a path, stinging
nettles rub his thighs; flies sing
and the skies are caught licking
corners and bony treetops . . .

*

He finds the conkers too damp,
or thieved by squirrels; he finds
them too small to use, I find
their shape can fit in my palm

wholly - they captivate me
as if the key to all is
in their shape, their solid brown
arabesques, tied forever.


Claire Trévien is a Franco-British poet. She has published an e-chapbook of poetry with Silkworms Ink called 'Patterns of Decay' and a pamphlet with Salt Publishing called 'Low-Tide Lottery' from which these poems come. She is the editor of Sabotage Reviews.

Beholding Fanny



I don't often have enough time to update my blog, and today is no different, but I can hardly claim to write a poetry blog and not post an update on National Poetry Day.

For some poets NPD is no more about poetry than any other day. I woke up in the early hours with an image on my mind but didn't want to lose any more sleep by getting up to write it down, and so it slipped back into the realm of dreams. It was a good one - they always are! - and I still feel satisfied by the way it had enough energy to carry on into a second line.

In the morning I deliberately avoided Radio 4 since I generally dislike listening to actors reading poetry. Even if a poem is being read by the poet, I'm usually not in the mood to stop what I'm doing and give it my full attention in the way I would if I had chosen a book and set aside time to read it. Actors can get in the way of a poem - they perform, and fail to realise the poem, if it's doing its job, will speak for itself. In the worst cases, the poem is completely eclipsed by the thesping actor.

I was looking after my daughter all day so I didn't have the time to find out what other poets were up to on Facebook. Neither was I able to attend any of the many NPD events being held around the country, but not, alas, in Worthing.

Actually, I'm not sure I would have wanted to participate or attend even if there was something happening closer to home. I'm aware that many fine poets were participating in events that no doubt many people found interesting and innovative, but I don't often feel the same way about off-page poetry activity. I prefer to read and write - that's all, and there wasn't even time for that, today.

Aesthetic interest was engaged, however, by a visit to an antiques shop selling lamp stands and pieces of furniture painted in the style one sees in every room at the Bloomsbury Group's country home Charleston. Nearby, I bought some bacon from a hostile butcher who clearly had me down, correctly, as a supermarket customer, then drove back over the Downs on what fifty years ago would still have been a chalk track used by farmers.

A trip to the library to renew First 1000 Italian Words brought about the unexpected pleasure of finding Mick Imlah's Selected Poems. I am the first person to take it out. Although I haven't read any of it yet - I'm trying to get this done first - I have given it a long, loving sniff. Heavenly.

To eek things out a bit longer we stopped off at the museum. Isabella likes sharpening pencils and I like to see the Stone Age skeleton and a medieval green glass goblet with a hare running round the side.

Waiting while she magnified a selection of echinoids and trilobites, I noticed the display on sheep farming. Of particular interest was a poem, written in 1883 by the shepherd Michael Blann. Its first lines read:

'It was on the green where they all danced
There I beheld my fanny'.

On the way home I nipped into Lidl for some milk and noticed a Christmas advert for gingerbread. The text claims that 'the great playwright William Shakespeare once exclaimed, Had I but one penny in the world, thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread.' I wonder if anyone can verify that or are the marketing people indulging in a bit of brazen bullshitting.

So, another NPD has been and gone. John Burnside has finally won the Forward. One of my favourite poets Tomas Transtromer has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. My daughter sleeps contentedly, leaving her father too knackered to do much more than finish this and call it a day. And the ghost of fanny-loving Michael Blann walks on Downland tracks white in the moonlight as the Stollen on display in the supermarket window.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Even More Haiku: The Smell of Old Books




The Smell of Old Books


Wind in the leaves –
my daughter turns over
in her sleep.

*

Rainy afternoon;
inside a second-hand bookshop
the smell of old books.

*

Siesta-time…
my neighbour and his girlfriend
at it again.

*

frost on windscreens
walking home alone
the night my mother died.

*

Dead.
Starry night –
no help there.

*

Swimming in the rain;
a glimpse of a rat
slipping off the riverbank.

*

my grandfather
facing the setting sun
eyes shut

*

time for a talk
staring at the fireplace
no fire

*

mountain forest
morning mist drenches
the tree-trunks

*

She holds back the duvet –
the world
is born again.

*

plums in a bowl –
changing colour as the sun
moves around the house

*

after arguing
kept awake
by her stillness

*

Snow on the window-sill;
her toes sticking out
from under the duvet.

*

A dog farts:
they all suffer
in the lift.

*

Broad river:
boats travelling
tied together.

*

At the optician’s:
through each lens
the world looks different.

*

throwing pebbles
into the sea
still unhappy

*

Snow by the side
of the tracks –
back to work!


©2011 Dan Wyke

Monday, 5 September 2011

More Haiku: Blue Doors



Blue Doors


Boring meeting…
I doodle a spiral
inwards and inwards.

*

The smell of toast
reaches me upstairs:
winter morning.

*

Whoa!
What’s the hurry,
speeding hearse?

*

Indian summer…
listening to football scores
in the back garden.

*

Midnight, 25 degrees –
showering
under the stars.

*

Friends round for dinner…
the dog breaks wind silently
under the table.

*

locking the door
a quick look
the stars out

*

Pissing in the dark –
birds singing through
an open window.

*

heron by the lake
stillness
looking at stillness

*

old pond
blue plastic drum
no frogs

*

Moth on a pink shirt:
the whole department store
to itself.

*

warm night
my feet search
for a cold spot

*

on the shore
a pregnancy test –
positive

*

The path to nirvana
lost again –
chocolate ice cream!

*

Two brown horses –
red horses,
my daughter observes.

*

Insomnia…
long silence, then,
a cough.

*

snowy morning
two horses nose to nose
in a white field

*

A beach ball floats
across an empty swimming pool –
end of summer.

*

grey afternoon
a rock-dove tops
a telephone pole

*

Weeds
have cracked open
the tarmac.

*

summer night
the sound of plants
growing

*

The children’s playground
empty –
first day of term.

*

picking raspberries
spider’s web backlit
by the evening sun

*

My leg
brushes against
the lavender.

*

The carousel
closed –
the sound of waves.

*

Star-gazing –
yep,
still lost.

*

First hot day:
barbecue smokes drifts
across the gardens.

*

Floating clouds;
facing upstream
a lone trout.

*

Distant thunder,
fresh air…
end of summer storm.




©2011 Dan Wyke



Saturday, 20 August 2011

Haiku: The Tomatoes of Worthing



The Tomatoes of Worthing


Even the peaches
in Sainsbury’s have ripened –
summer’s almost gone.

*

Autumn morning chill –
the walk to the train station
leaves me feeling sad.

*

Frost in the country;
the first football coach is sacked –
must be haiku time!

*

Do not forget the
abandoned spider’s web on
the kitchen window.

*

These small fruits
exploding with sweetness –
Worthing tomatoes!

*

Garrulous on Guinness,
I seek out an old friend –
poor moon!

*

Thwack!
Howzat!
Applause.

*

Sudden downpour –
scent of pavement
and tomato plants.

*

A swan honking overhead
disturbs
my morning rest.

*

A car door thuds shut,
someone hammers, a child laughs –
everyday jazz!

*

Deadheading roses
is like pruning a poem
of redundant lines.

*

Evening sunlight on
the back of my neighbour’s house –
open-air cinema!

*

Moonlit banana trees
fringe a sandy bay –
some window display!

*

The skin on your knees –
notice its resemblance to
the grain of the trees.


©2011 Dan Wyke

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Poem: Summer Fete



The summer's a washout so enjoy a day out with my poem 'Summer Fete' which was published in the last issue of New Walk Magazine and was reproduced last month on Declan Ryan's blog daysofroses. And yes, I couldn't find the circumflex key!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Featured Poet: Patricia Ace



This week I am really pleased to bring you an award-winning poem by Patricia Ace. So far Patricia's work is most extensively gathered in her HappenStance pamphlet First Blood, and her poem 'Neighbours' was the stand-out poem for me in the latest issue of Poetry News.

Sixteen

You weren’t the best-looking boy at school;
not the brightest or the funniest or in the First Fifteen.
You hated cliques. I’m not sure I even remember your name,
though it could have been Alex.. I remember plump lips,
long lashes my friends would have killed for;
a shock of black hair, gelled and spiked.
And I remember that windy September afternoon
we bunked off from Games and hid in the woods,
smoking and talking beneath the susurrus of turning leaves
until conversation lulled and you looked at me.
Roughly you pinned me against the trunk of the tree,
so close I could smell its sap, its bark biting my back
through my thin school blouse, streaking the white with green.
The surprise as your flesh sprang against my thigh,
your mouth covering mine as though saving my life.


(First published in Orbis #153)

Patricia Ace has been writing and publishing poetry for 20 years after she was encouraged in her writing by Philip Hobsbaum at Glasgow University. Her poems have been commended and placed in several national poetry competitions, including those run by Mslexia and Aesthetica magazines. Patricia’s pamphlet First Blood was published by HappenStance Press in 2006. In 2009 she was awarded a Distinction from Glasgow University for her Mlitt Creative Writing. Recent poems are appearing in The Shop, The Rialto, Gutter, Poetry News and the North. Her poem ‘Papa Joe’ won the Plough Poetry Prize in January this year and ‘Sixteen’ is currently featured, alongside her portrait, in photographer Chris Park’s exhibition, Dualism: Portraits & Poems at venues across central Scotland. Patricia lives in Crieff, Perthshire, with her partner and teenage daughter where she works as a yoga teacher.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Montale's 'Il Balcone'




This week I'm really pleased to be able to reproduce Ben Wilkinson's version of Eugenio Montale's short lyric 'Il Balcone'. The poem is a favourite of mine and one which I've tried translating before, though never as well as this.

The Balcony

after Eugenio Montale

Remember those nights I’d linger below
as you stood in the stars and we’d talk
of leaving, as if auditioning for the part
of Romeo and fluffing my lines as usual?

Now on the opposite side I lean smoking
and think on that handful of chances.
The latticework of some distant tower block
a chessboard that’s cleared after stalemate.

Somewhere beyond a long flight’s expanses
you spark a Zippo and light one up. Here
it starts raining as I hang in the moment,
turn towards this window’s squaring of dark.


© Ben Wilkinson, reproduced by permission of the poet

Ben Wilkinson was born in Stafford, Staffordshire in 1985. He read English and Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, and was awarded an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University. His pamphlet of poems, The Sparks, was published as part of tall-lighthouse’s Pilot series. He regularly reviews new poetry for the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, and he was shortlisted for the Picador Poetry Prize. He lives and works in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Matthew Stewart's 'Inventing Truth'



Extranjero

Ten years on and perfection's lost
its distant lustre. My accent

seeps away. Every few minutes
I let some vowels tug me back home,

back towards the cadence of who
I am or was or was and am.


'Inventing Truth' is available from HappenStance Press. Matthew Stewart also blogs at Rogue Strands.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Poem: Almost an Elegy

Almost an Elegy

When you died
Enoch Powell wasn’t there to greet you,
nor were there as many Germans
of your own age as you’d hoped.
But your husband was there,
who you loved now for his calm, rational manner,
and of course your daughter –
though you wanted to cover all the children
with wet, hairy, horse-like kisses.
It was incredible that everyone managed
without mortgages, gardeners, and shares.
When we think of you,
you are being taught how to by an angel in drag
eating thick slices of your delicious sponge cake.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Poem: Life and Art

Life and Art
after Cavafy

In truth, he never had the energy required
to pursue a life of pleasure.
Despite the odd chance fling
and the amount of time he spent
vividly imagining erotic encounters,
he generally preferred to pleasure himself,
thus avoiding the bother of meeting other people
and giving him time to concentrate on his art.
Now he is friendless
and has no pleasant memories to sustain him.
What’s more, his poems aren’t that good either.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

New Poem by Naomi Foyle



Climate Change

Spring, and I am nothing but weather.
The logic of squalls, piercing traffic
and hills. Cold cheeks, fresh as milk
on the doorstep. Sunshine, wholly other

in the sky’s shifting calendar
where days drop from November into March,
or steal into April from August, then scarper,
leaving me tending the faint threat of fire,

warming the perfume of earth-nurtured pearls.
And if my scarf is still grey, the shades
are milder now, their iron jaw-lines shaved
by the soft edge of a feather as it whirls

on your lambkin-scented breath into my hair,
whispering of downy winds, the skinning of the year.


Naomi Foyle’s first collection, The Night Pavilion, was an Autumn 2008 Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It was followed in 2010 by Grace of the Gamblers, an illustrated ballad pamphlet, and The World Cup, all from Waterloo Press. Naomi has collaborated with artists and musicians on projects including the award-winning videopoem Good Definition and the Canadian chamber opera Hush. Her short prose has appeared widely, and her first novel, Seoul Survivors, is represented by John Parker of Zeno Agency. She is currently living in Brighton and has just completed a Creative Writing doctorate at Bangor University.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cyndi Lauper "True Colors"

To the Reader

Last night I whittled down more than 16 lines of a draft to a four line poem. In the end the draft was waffle and the quatrain captured exactly what I wanted to say. It didn't need to be said again.

I jotted it down between checking my emails and putting some chips in the oven. I was also listening to a pre-match report on the radio. My wife was upstairs putting our daughter to bed.

The revision took place on its own in my mind throughout the day, and perhaps longer, and the actual jotting was spontaneous. It felt good to write though I barely knew I had written it. Momentarily I felt lighter and whole, whatever that means. A number of things coming together, perhaps. Then I left it and got on with making dinner.

More recently I am letting myself write the poems I am able to write rather than the ones I want to write, or which I've learned to write. I could write a lot more this way, and feel more authentically myself, though I worry about finding a place to publish them. Might be a blog's the best place for them, at least until I find the right magazines to place them. Suggestions welcome.

The poem is my contribution to the 'to the reader' poems that many poets get round to writing. I'm often struck by their length and that they come from the poet's frame of reference. (In the back of my mind is an admirable Billy Collins exception.) I thought it important to think about where the reader might be coming from, and if I was being honest, ultimately turn them away. Not much of a strategy for developing a readership, but it does express something of the importance I attach to autonomy in personal development.

Anyway, that's enough about a four-liner so here it is.

To the Reader

Whatever you want
from this poem
you already possess
yourself in abundance.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Two Poems by John Clegg




Sauna

Lie still. This is the cusp of comfortable.
One thin towel can’t muffle the hot slats
and a mist is pressing on you like cement.

You’ve become the confluence of two rivers,
one of liquid salt and one of steam, which
pour over your bones and work them edgeless –

and the tiered box is so crisp and angular,
it carves up even light like church windows.
You lie perfectly still. You are what flows.


Dough

A silent accordion
she cools her hands to play
in the kitchen corner.

I try and it seems
to writhe against my grip.
In her firm press

it doesn’t struggle,
it flows through the shapes
she offers it: she leads

but makes the dough
an equal partner. Hard stem
of the palm is what she

works with. Sometimes
you can see a medic working
to restore a heartbeat:

bread needs breath,
unspooling yeast needs air.
I need that strength

of touch, that medium
which yields as it strains
to rise. So I kiss her hands.


John Clegg was born in 1986 and is studying for a PhD at Durham University on the Eastern European influence in contemporary English poetry. His e-chapbook, Advancer, was published in 2010 by Silkworms Ink, and other poems have been published in Magma, The Rialto, Succour and Pomegranate, while others are forthcoming in Horizon Review and The Salt Book of Younger Poets. He is currently assembling a first collection.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Esther Morgan



Grace

You’ve been living for this for weeks
without knowing it:

the moment the house empties like a city in August
so completely
it forgets you exist.

Light withdraws slowly
is almost gone before you notice.

In the stillness, everything becomes itself:
the circle of white plates on the kitchen table
the serious chairs that attend them

even the roses on the papered walls
seem to open a little wider.

It looks simple: the glass vase holding
whatever is offered –
cut flowers, or the thought of them –

simple, though not easy
this waiting without hunger in the near dark
for what you may be about to receive.

(From 'Grace', due to be published by Bloodaxe in October 2011.)


Imperative

This morning don’t go down to the kitchen
in bare feet. Put on your gardening gloves,
fetch the dustpan and brush from the cellar
and sweep these pieces up quickly but carefully,
making sure you get every last sliver
from the darkest corners of the room
(later they may be held against you).
Wrap the fragments in newspaper
so no one cuts themselves.
Put back the dustpan and brush, the gloves’
upturned, amputated hands.
Make yourself a large mug of tea
with six sugars and a nip of whisky.
Stop shaking – he’ll be down soon –
you can hear his alarm going off,
heavy footsteps above your head, thudding down stairs.
Stop shaking I said. Swallow this note.

(From 'The Silence Living in Houses', Bloodaxe, 2005)


Bubbly

I want to go to your head tonight,
shake you up like a grand prix winner,
rocket to the ditzy stars,
set the moon's mirror ball spinning,
lead you on a merry dance.
I want to fizz right past your brim
and keep on fizzing.
I want to get the wolf in you to whistle,
the world to wobble
God to get the giggles.

Tonight I'm Marilyn
lying in this bath
of creamy magnolia.
I'm just dreamy,
blowing frothy kisses,
flirting in my foam bikini.
Can't you see
I want you in a lather?
Darling I'm your upper.
Pop me.

(From 'Beyond Calling Distance', Bloodaxe, 2001)

Esther Morgan studied at UEA and received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. She edited the poetry magazine 'Reactions' for four years during which time her first collection 'Beyond Calling Distance' was published by Bloodaxe (2001) and was awarded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival First Collection Prize. Her second collection 'Silence Living in Houses' (Bloodaxe, 2005) enhanced her reputation and among other things led to her tutoring for the Arvon Foundation. 'Grace' is her third collection.

All poems reproduced with the permission of the poet.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Guardian Review

Delighted to get a review in Saturday's Guardian. Archiving it here.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Suitable Girl - Michelle McGrane



I'm delighted to be able to post a poem from Michelle McGrane's recent collection 'The Suitable Girl', published by Pindrop Press.

Princesse de Lamballe

He skewers my matted, blonde head on a pike,
shows me the city's less-fêted sights:
growling alleys and ravenous back streets
guttered with urine, nightsoil and vermin;
toothless, frayed women queuing for bread,
each coarse, weevilled loaf fourteen copper sous;
the Hôpital des Quinze-Vingt's shuffling inmates
tapping for alms amid the stalls of Les Halles;
Saint-Marcel tanneries' frame-stretched hides
kneaded supple with beef greaves and brains;
the Seine choked with debris and tangled milfoil,
a carcass sliding into the Pont Neuf's shadows.

The Queen's playing tric-trac in the tower,
twenty guards flanking the Temple's iron portal.
She's raised the stakes, the bone dice clattering
across the pearwood and ebony board.
The scrofulous sans-culotte belting Ça Ira
braces my face to the crosshatched casing,
my fractured cheek arch, bloodied tongue,
smashed teeth, splintered jaw.
Remember Petit Trianon, ma chérie,
the dovecote and mill, cherry orchard and lake.
Remember the hyacinths we planted last autumn,
how we split our sides milking the goats.


This poem first appeared in Horizon Review, Issue 4.

Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg and blogs at peony moon.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Two poems by Mark Burnhope



Our Jonah of Boscombe Pier
after Z. Herbert


We will say this for him: at least
he had enthusiasm. That whale
was beached for so much time,
signs were raised. Keep off the rough
barnacled blubber. Those are teeth,
not baleen for benign filtration.

I can only speculate: he walked
Leviathan’s crash-mat spine, nearly
plugged the blowhole with a boot,
for he wished to re-enter into
those magisterial tales of whales
and the men who swallowed them.


Animal Studies

Taxonomy

We used to call bits of our house
by collective nouns –
idle of sofas, gleam of lamps, tinkle
of teaspoons – as they do for animals.

When she left, I willed every evening
to scuttle back under the gravel,
one day gathered a grief
of takeout leaflets, flung my fold
of furniture into the van,
moved to a one-man flat
in a town overrun with one-man flats

and released the whole – idle,
gleam, tinkle, grief, fold – resolved to call
them all by brand-new names.

Habitat Destruction

I walked the town’s greed of brick
and stone, its slip of malls
with their brush of clothes, its fill
of bins, its silver glitter of pigeons.

I watched a girl walking her dog.
His nose poked among the birds.

As I wheeled the lanes
the question came: we’d waited
for our wedding night, for what?
My Eve found her Adam
one rib down, and fell

for the dog.

He can have her greed, her slip, I said.
He can have her brush, fill, silver glitter.
He can bury his nose in the entire bird.

Conservation Effort

There was this song that Andrew sang:
One for sorrow, two for joy, and all
the rest till a secret never to be told.
He played guitar but wrote no songs.
A channel of voices drowned his out.

Nick, Greek, crossword king:
never without a paper, always without
a pen. Anyone go one? No-one?
Fuck. He was large as Greece,
his grin a curling postcard coast.

Then the brashest of us, John:
here for losing his wife,
mother and son in one year,
first to have us bandy about
doolally amount awarded us,
discuss the snuffing of Mind
charity meeting spots,
smack fists on tribes of tables,
reams of myths in our fingers, such as
Anne, who raves ‘Rape!’ at every man
she hates; Bob, who swears
the corner shop’s poisoning all the pop.

Our Findings

We smoked all day, rope-smoked,
once, on a whim, smoked The Sun
ablaze; daily brayed beneath the café
canopy. Some of us grazed grass.
Junkies got on our backs for a fee.
John kept watch us as we picked
ticks and crumbs from our coats;
kept the jest of junkies away like one
who was, to all intents and purposes,
okay, but one day lifted her lid,
laced her coffee with a Bacardi shot,
the local rag under her fag fuming
about the packs we’re allowing in.
John was barred, and all of us after him.


Mark Burnhope studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. Some of his poems have appeared in Magma and Nthposition. He lives, writes and paints in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Monday, 17 January 2011

December Poems

A belated round up: One poem included in Ink Sweat & Tear's The Twelve Days of Christmas, alongside such great poets as Penelope Shuttle, Simon Barraclough and David Morley; and another in the same webzine a few days earlier titled 'The Downs'.