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Showing posts from 2011

Spring Journal

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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

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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 P…

Short Bee Poem

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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

Featured Poet: Alan Morrison

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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 me…

Featured Poet: Martin Mooney

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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 au…

Featured Poet: Claire Trevien

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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 y…

Beholding Fanny

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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…

Even More Haiku: The Smell of Old Books

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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

More Haiku: Blue Doors

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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…

Haiku: The Tomatoes of Worthing

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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

Poem: Summer Fete

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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!

Featured Poet: Patricia Ace

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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 th…

Montale's 'Il Balcone'

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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 Sheffi…

Matthew Stewart's 'Inventing Truth'

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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.

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.

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.

Eyewear Review

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'Waiting for the Sky to Fall' reviewed by Maureen Jivani on Todd Swift's blog Eyewear.

New Poem by Naomi Foyle

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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 h…

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 b…

Two Poems by John Clegg

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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 contempor…

Esther Morgan

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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…

Guardian Review

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

The Suitable Girl - Michelle McGrane

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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 fract…

Two poems by Mark Burnhope

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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 b…

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'.