Tag Archives: Salt Publishing

Emily Hasler’s Natural Histories

  
 
Emily Hasler was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk and studied at the University of Warwick for a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in Romanticism. She now lives in London. In 2009 she won second prize in the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including The Rialto, Poetry Salzburg, Warwick Review and Horizon Review, and have been anthologised in Dove Release, Birdbook, Clinic 2 and Herbarium. Her poems also appear in The Salt Book of Younger Poets and The Best British Poetry 2011. She is a regular poetry reviewer for Warwick Review.
 
 
 

  
 
“Nature is not so much the subject as an unavoidable force in these poems, providing space and fodder for meditations on our knowledge of self and other. Here, the small histories that complement or contradict grand narratives come to the fore. Hasler adopts the stance of the naturalist, seeking to observe and collect, but with the imagination working alongside the eye. Along the way these poems confront questions of naming and categorising, and ask how our environments and our past affect us, and we them. How did we become? Change and adaptation are the keys here. The manner of investigation never shies away from the fact that nature can be both deeply personal and unfamiliar. Rather it embraces both of these aspects and uses them to construct its own narrative, one of shaping and discovery. Much like the subjects contained within them, poems have their own organic forms, adapted to purpose. It is this adaptation combined with precision and sentiment that give this debut force and vitality.”
 
 
 
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“Hasler has real gifts: her observations are sharp, her language is crisp, and her music is beguiling.”
 
– Paul Batchelor
 
 
 
“Hasler is one of those poets: her tender, intelligent eye illuminates the real. I always read her work with pleasure.”
 
– Emma Jones
 
 
 
“There’s a wonderful exuberance about the poems in Emily Hasler’s Natural Histories. Her joy in language is as clear as her pleasure in her encounters with animals and birds, whether existing or extinct. Her creatures resist being held by simple definitions as she strives to glimpse new truths, extending the confines of purely scientific research. As nature writing redefines its parameters, Emily Hasler is an exciting poet for the future.”

– Andrew Forster
 
 
 
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Rhododendron
 
for my father, who is usually right
 
 
It was named for Cecil Rhodes, you said,
may have had other names on other tongues.
But I have since found that it means ‘rose-tree’.
They need acidity in the soil, you told me.
 
The mulch of old leaves and earth we walk on
is enough. The chance or thought that made this be
is irrelevant here, where conditions are right
or else there would not be this full colouring.
 
Every bloom now is a massive cupped handful.
There is a pink so deep it could be called everlasting.
You wonder, still, how it got here. And how did we?
Arise, tree. The roots are Latin, the original Nepalese.
 
 
 
First published in the Wordsworth Trust newsletter.
 
  
 
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Maldives
 
for Phil
 
 
It was there you first had Bacardi,
and now it takes you back.
That first sip is the sun on your face.
The last is your foot in the road; unsteady.
 
The rains brought the toads.
They must have always been there,
but now they made your path
a creaking, slippery bone-mash.
 
Big Kev hated that, his weight being
an inglorious, crunching death to toads.
One day he painted each amphibian
white, so they showed in the dark.
 
A kindness. Unable to bear, like the little
glinting bodies, the knowledge drawn from
the sole of the shoe, foot, and its
connected parts’ cumulative pressure.
 
The lacquer, or something in it, killed them.
They littered the street like crumpled tissues.
No crunch. As though their clockwork
had wound down, they stayed stopped.
 
 
 
from Natural Histories (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Order Natural Histories.
 
 
 
Read three poems from ‘The Safe Harbour’ in Horizon Review.
 
Read five poems at Days of Roses.
 
Read Emily’s poems about Wild Bergamot, Tea Tree and Curly Parsley. They’re included in the Herbarium anthology edited by James Wilkes.
 
Read ‘Wet Season’.
 
 
 
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Mark Burnhope’s The Snowboy

  
 
 
Mark Burnhope was born in 1982. He studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. His poems and reviews have appeared in a variety of print and online publications. He currently lives and writes in Bournemouth, with his partner, four stepchildren, two geckos and a greyhound. The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) is his first book of poetry. 
 
  
 
 

  
 
 
“Mark Burnhope’s poems present a generous but moral quizzing of the world. Peering out over disability, faith and the host of prejudices that spring from such ground, they negotiate a path through lyricism and music, didacticism and narrative, comedy and confession, slang and slur in their search for a voice with which to speak. They visit town and sea, husband and wife and monuments to grief built of snow, steel, stone. They take us to a hydrotherapy session, a talking tree and an outcast crew including Pinocchio, Queequeg and Quasimodo. But at their heart, there is great warmth. Burnhope asks uncomfortable questions of the rhyme or reason for loss and healing, even as he challenges received perceptions of disabled life with wit, verve and an inclusive imagination.”
 
 
 
 
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“Mark Burnhope’s work is concerned with the physical – how a town is a physical place, how we live in a world of machines, our bodies among them. Many of the poems address disability, not only in the narrow sense our culture understands it but also in the wider sense that our physicality acts as a pathetic curb on the life of the spirit. The poems (which are machines themselves, we’ve been told) shake with the joy and frustration of living.”
 
– Tony Williams
 
 
 
“Imagine Zaccheus turning tables at the Internet Café, Paul turning back into Saul, confuse dying with flying, imagine a wheelchair recast in a pastoral landscape. Burnhope speaks movingly of human weakness and physical frailty, of strength and lightness of spirit.”
 
– Helen Ivory
 
 
 
“This debut pamphlet introduces a serious and playful, tender and ironic, strong and coherent new voice. A definite talent to watch.”
 
– Andrew Philip
 
 
 
 
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To My Familiar, Queequeg
 
 
I too am tattooed.
I too tap away
nightly at an idol.
 
Show me a sailor who
hasn’t savaged himself
and I will anchor a cyclone.
 
Our ink speaks
in skin: spins tales
of speared fins;
 
sirens found by fingering
tracks of sultry song
and then defiled.
 
The world turns
over like a novel
sex act requires
 
of a woman. I often
trail the geography
of the tethered body.
 
Once, I woke to find
your tentacles tightly
wrapped around me.
 
I wished to be tangled
safe, like Ishmael
finding in you his wife.
 
I wanted to compare
tattoos, remove tops
and trousers, and trace;
 
laugh at lines
blown out from excess
force by the hand, and time,
 
designs that lighten, slowly,
like flints in the sea.
For a while, Quee, we’d find
 
a world where the whale
is not white or dreadful. It’s
a pale vessel, drifting, singing.
 
 
 
 
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To My Best-kept, Quasimodo
     
          ‘When you’re standing by the roadside
          and it’s a long way to go, I’ll carry you’
                                           — The Levellers, ‘Carry Me’
 
 
Like you, I have one eye
which is good, my other
a glossy, pussed growth,
a tumour. I would pluck it out,
say, I have sinned, Father—
seen far-and-away
the best of Esmeralda
through blue, stained-
glass panes: her sleight
of foot, bangled wrist,
Notre-Dame de Paris drowning
under her deft Paparuda.
But my better eye has seen us,
cliché cripple and Romani
gypsy, run to escape the flash-
storm of rain and paparazzi
curiosity forward-slash greed—
and so many spine-twisting stairs!—
to roost in my stone belfry:
feel the pull, hear the toll
whose light spell whispers
in the ear of a seed, makes
straight once-wasted bone.
 
 
 
 
from The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Order The Snowboy.
 
Visit Mark’s blog, Naming the Beasts.
 
 
 
 
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Agnieszka Studzinska’s Snow Calling

  
 
 
Agnieszka Studzinska was born in Poland in 1975. She came to England in the early 80’s. She studied Cultural Studies at Norwich School of Art & Design and has an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. She has previously worked as a freelance researcher in broadcasting and now teaches and lives in London with her husband and two children. Snow Calling (Salt Publishing, 2010) is her debut collection and was shortlisted for the London Festival New Poetry Award 2010.
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
 
Snow Calling is Agnieszka Studzinska’s debut collection, examining the fractures, the breaches of things, bringing a narrative meditation on the entity of displacement, whether in a relationship, ancestry or with oneself. The poems trace the delicate journey of transgression and coming together of family and history in their lyrical and elegiac styles, capturing the contradictions of what is whole and what is left behind. The poems show the equivocal nature of an ordinary moment, opening that ordinariness into something much bigger than the actual, the specific. These poems explore what it means to be human and question silently the unanswerable. 
 
 
 
 
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“Agnieszka Studzinska’s poems are at once delicate – in their use of subtle language, sparse form and precise image; but also emotionally powerful – in their strong evocation of the lives of women, love affairs and illness. These qualities are reminiscent of the work of poets such as Mary Oliver and Louise Glück, and are not common in British poetry today. These are brave and beautiful poems which will remain with you.”
 
– Tamar Yoseloff
 
 
 
“Agnieszka Studzinska’s poems convey the strangeness and freshness of the world, as if it were inscribed on memory or out of memory onto language sharp enough yet transparent enough to let us see and feel it.”

– George Szirtes
 
 
 
“In Agnieszka Studzinska’s spacious poems, the precision and uncertainty of nature invoke the fragility of what it is to be human, what it is to love.”
 
– Anne-Marie Fyfe
 
 
 
 
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Language
 
She speaks rain to launder daylight, to be green—
decipher the relationship of light to half light,
 
liquid to stone, to herself, the unspeakable
alphabet of someone’s escape into more light.
 
She listens to the measure of a fall, lilt of its travel,
the rhetorical pattern it cuts—She is untold.
 
She speaks rain with rain slipping
on a pavement’s tongue into a pavement’s throat,
 
swallows the deception of this lightness
mouths its bleached ambivalence
 
as it descends between territories—
the discomfort, a wet splinter in skin.
 
 
 
 
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Fish
 
The fish like limp flowers in her salt eaten hands
rubbing flakes into fish skin, as if to awaken them
from a bottomless sleep, eyes sea-black summoned
in shock, jolted into absence with a glutinous glare
or troubled by one action leading another:
like kissing for instance—an intrusion of tongue
through a backstairs world—the fall which follows,
like a gust of breath alloyed in its own loss.
Growing older is like this—
watching two carp swimming in the bath
from a child’s horizon, in awe
of their synchronised flow of love,
their ugly, dun beauty unaware, just swimming
together in the stark water knowing only how to be—
I wonder if we can ever be them, so complete
and unhinged by fear of being lonely—or losing
the other in the life we’ve driven—
if I too will stand in a kitchen, years from now
with death in my hands elegantly held
and think of skinning fish,
desiring to return them to water.
 
 
 

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Wolf
 
Rumours like rain fall on a meadowland
in a village, in a country, in a town, a house
 
on a plot of earth—an ear drum
pressed to the ground
 
the landscape flat enough to fold
into an envelope like a letter
 
bearing what you didn’t want to hear—
people shredded like wood,
 
the wolf howling for his pack
as his teeth sink further,
 
printing new borders with his paws
licking his fur in the coppice of snow.
 
 

 
 
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Calling
 
She kept calling with all her breath thinning
like a brook downwards until we surrounded
 
her—drifting clouds across the spine of its
bearer, you call this living? she would say,
 
gesturing to the stucco walls of the self.
You showed us solitude—
 
it’s pattern of waking to the drift of yourself
in a distant room where you watch the trees
 
no longer weaving the open space,
leaves unravelling nothing short
 
of their own mysterious descend
as each one drops, you sink further
 
into their meticulous world of camouflage
and steal your own memories—
 
a fox in the tulip darkness, her call
is the shrill that wakes what’s human
 
muffles this hearing with feathers
brings all that is free, all that is particle
 
through the pores of midnight.
 
 
 
 
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Solanum Tuberosum
 
Tonight is a boiled potato, indefinable sweetness covered in salt.
Tonight the potato is in the womb of our palms.
Tonight she delivers lines of our descent.
Tonight is a root dug from soil by hands moulding burrows.
Tonight is the dearth, a near divorce in the bootlicked air
of the 40’s, it is all the stories you have hidden
in the peelings of all the things you have lost.
Tonight is a liver-spotted hour on a plate,
or that apparition through a window
that opens a decade like earth or a meditation
which flits like a wing, resting long enough
to catch the colour of white.
Tonight, around this table I am digging potatoes for her.
 
 
 
 
from Snow Calling (Salt Publishing, 2010).
 
Order Snow Calling here or here.
 
Read Ken Head’s review of Snow Calling on Ink Sweat & Tears.
 
Visit Nisia’s website.
 
Visit Nisia’s blog.
 
 
 
 
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Simon Barraclough on poetry and planets

   
  
 
 
How has the process of writing and arranging the poems in Neptune Blue compared to that of Los Alamos Mon Amour?
 
It’s been very different for several reasons. Los Alamos was a debut and took about seven years to come together, to reach that instinctive ‘critical mass’ at which point a book starts to ‘feel’ like a book rather than a growing collection of poems on your hard drive or in a box file or wherever.
 
Neptune Blue took just under three years. Also, I didn’t know the poems in Los Alamos would be published in book form and I didn’t know that book would be called Los Alamos Mon Amour or have the cover it eventually had. With Neptune Blue I was a little more certain that the book would exist and the title came about eight months ago, as did the cover. I’d say the final 15 poems I wrote for the book were written after I had a title, a cover and an agreement to publish.
  
Also, while Los Alamos has a sequence of five St. Paul’s sonnets and some overlapping themes, Neptune Blue has two longer cohesive sequences that form a kind of helix, or ‘twin backbone’, which made it easier to arrange. The sequences are the nine planet poems that sit side by side and the 11 ‘_________ Heart’ poems, which are distributed among the other more ‘standalone’ poems.
 
 
Did you begin writing the heart poems with the idea of creating a sequence?
 
Not at all. The first poem was ‘Starfish Heart’, which came directly from a dream and was written down within ten minutes of waking. I dreamt that my heart was a starfish and I could feel its light rubbery limbs tickling over and between my ribs. It was quite a startling, very physical, dream and I didn’t even think about whether it would serve as a poem, I just wrote it down.
 
A few days later I was reading at an event celebrating food and thought it would be nice to take along something new and I thought maybe this short ‘Starfish Heart’ poem would be a good model. I’m a bit obsessed with pizza, so I worked on the title ‘Pizza Heart’ and then ‘Celeriac Heart’. I chose the latter as, like the human heart, celeriac can be an odd, puzzling thing: ugly beautiful and in need of care and attention.
 
So then I had three short poems with ‘Heart’ in the title and they were going down well at readings and I thought maybe I should add more. I was going to pick random nouns from the dictionary but in the end the defining nouns chose themselves over the next few months. They were very enjoyable poems to write and in fact I’ve written more since the book’s deadline passed.
 
 
Tell me about the planet sequence.
 
That’s a wide open question. Let me see … My interest in the solar system and all things astronomical goes way back into my childhood. I don’t know what triggered it. Maybe a glimpse of the beauty of Saturn on the BBC’s The Sky at Night or the overwhelming vastness of the Milky Way as scrutinised, on my back, lying in the unlit field in front of my childhood home?
 
But there was something else as well: Holst’s The Planets. My father was a composer and the house was full of music and on Saturday nights, when my parents went out and my big sister and I had the run of the house, we used to play ‘Mars’ and ‘Jupiter’ at full pelt and perform silly little ballets to them. I’ve always thought what a fantastic, coherent project Holst’s was and sometime last year I realised there was nothing stopping me from writing my own planet suite.
 
I’d already written a poem for the new book called ‘We’ll Always Have CGI Paris’, which begins just outside the galaxy and zooms past our ‘local planets’, so it felt natural to go back and take another look at our neighbours, including the recently demoted Pluto. The first poem I wrote was ‘Jupiter’ and I wanted the poem about the largest planet to be the smallest in the sequence. So I was off to a relatively playful start and I just filled the rest of them in over the following nine months or so. The second poem I finished was ‘Pluto’, which is a one-word poem but, I hope, meaningful and a shade tragic. So this is really the shortest poem in the sequence, not ‘Jupiter’. But is it even a poem? And is Pluto a planet?
 
Since the Seventies we’ve gone so far and learned so much more thanks to things like the Hubble telescope, which can see 13 billion years back into time and space, and amazing techniques like helioseismology. In an odd way our local planets feel almost quaint now, even though we’re still learning new and important things about them. For that reason I wanted to linger on them a while, get up close, treat them with affection and a little mischief.
 
I tried to pitch the poems somewhere between fact and fantasy; between the anthropomorphised and the inanimate; the comical and the poignant. I wrote ‘Earth’ last and I was surprised at how tender I felt towards this old muck ball and how much more difficult it was to write because we know so much about it compared to a planet like Neptune. Write what you know? Sometimes that’s the hardest thing of all.
 
 
“We gorge on your gorgeousness/ but there’s icy music buried/ in your spiralling grooves.” You’ve dedicated ‘Saturn’ to Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous who took his own life last year…
 
Mark Linkous was a musician whose work I’ve always loved (I swear I was in love with Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot when it first came out and listened to little else for about a year) and I was very upset when I heard he’d taken his own life. It was the grief a fan feels, nothing like the pain a friend or family member goes through, but it affected me more than such tragic things usually do.

I wanted to write some kind of tribute to him but couldn’t find the ignition key. I was tinkering with my ‘Saturn’ poem when I came across a lyric of his from ‘Sea of Teeth’ that goes: “Can you feel the rings/ of Saturn on your fingers?” and I realised I could make the Saturn poem the one. And it felt right. So I sent an old bakelite spacecraft to the rings to drop a stylus onto them and listen to Mark’s songs out there, circling forever.
 
The fact that Holst’s ‘Saturn’ is subtitled ‘The Bringer of Old Age’ and Mark left us at 47 is a painful irony. But the music, for me, and I’m sure many others, is timeless. 
 
 
Aside from providing a means of exploring themes that might otherwise be too multi-faceted to consider in single poems, how do you think sequences can contribute to the sense of continuity and cohesion in a collection?
 
A sequence is a juicy bone for the dog of your mind. You can take it into the yard, trap it between your paws and gnaw on it. You can bury it for a while and dig it up to see if it’s still worth a chew and when you’ve nibbled all the meat from it you’re ready to hunt for new quarry.
 
I never intend to write sequences but they suggest themselves sometimes and it’s interesting to follow them to see where they take you.
 
In terms of making a book feel more cohesive, yes, I think that effect is inevitable. I don’t think they’re essential but they can keep a collection from feeling like a bolt of material which, at a certain point, you’ve decided is long enough and have guillotined off. A sequence gives you a little extra something to hang on to, almost like a guided tour through a large exhibition.
 
Neptune Blue has two sequences. This may be something to do with Brecht’s line from Baal: “Vices have their use once you see it as such, stick to two for one will be too much.”
 
Then again, there are things going on with dogs and birds too … Maybe a book is just a larger sequence; one’s entire output ends up being a sequence of sorts I suppose.
 
 
There’s an international flavour to the collection. ‘The Dogs of Trieste’, ‘Due Cinghiali’, ‘St. Francis of the Boston Hilton’, ‘SoBe It’, ‘The Dogs of Sri Lanka’, ‘Mr. English at Home’ and ‘The Remote Island of Schalansky’ are some of the poems set in foreign locales. In what ways do travelling and exploring different cultures nourish your imagination and writing?
 
All poets are continually on the lookout for ideas, stimuli, strong impressions, connections and spurs to writing. You do this at home and away, so it’s natural that if you travel at all you will end up with some poems taken from those experiences. At the same time I also think it’s important not to travel with the thought, ‘This place will lead to some good poems’. You don’t want to force anything or go anywhere predisposed to writing about some amazing feature you’ve heard or read about already. You need to let the place take you by surprise.
 
In terms of exploring different cultures, I’m sure I do no more than skim the surface when I travel, so I don’t know how nourishing it’s been in that respect. Oddly enough, the foreign place I travel to most often and know best of all is Rome and I don’t think I’ve written a word about it yet. Maybe I love it too much to subject it to one of my poems. Although I’ve had the title ‘The Dogs of Circus Maximus’ in my thoughts for a while now.
 
Most of the ‘travel’ poems I’ve written come years after the event. I spent a month or so in Sri Lanka in 2003 and it took about seven years before I wrote anything about it. And the Miami poem took 11 years to see the light of day and was prompted less by memories of the trip than the notes I scrawled inside the dust jacket of Glamorama, which I was reading at the time.
 
I do remember as a teenager I was very impressed by the exotic place names beneath so many of D.H. Lawrence’s poems. I still want to see Taormina.
 
  
A number of commissioned poems appear in Neptune Blue. How do you approach a commission?
 
There are many things I like about commissions: a new subject is dropped into your lap; you get a guaranteed reading or publication; you get to work with interesting people; and you often get paid!
 
But the thing I really like about a commissioned poem is the curious way it is both indisputably your own but at the same time it wouldn’t exist if the cuckoo commission hadn’t smuggled it into your nest to hatch and feed. They’re like foundlings for whom you’ve kept a room and a crib spare on the off chance. They’re both random and inevitable somehow.
 
In terms of approaching the writing of a commission, I’m not sure if I do so in the same manner each time but it’s generally a process of allowing the imagination or the unconscious to start doing some groundwork. Maybe there’s some research to be done, some viewing, some reading of other poems on similar themes. Always on the alert for that trigger idea or image that lets you know it’s possible.
 
Some are easier than others, of course, and it’s often the ones you think will be relatively easy that prove the most stubborn. I’ve already written about the first atom bomb test and I’m interested in the history of nuclear science, so a poem about the double survivor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should not have been quite as difficult as it turned out to be.
 
I only had a few days to write it but it was far trickier than I’d expected. This is partly due to the weightiness of the issues involved and my desire to treat Tsutomu Yamaguchi with the respect he deserved.
 
In the end I drew on my knowledge of the Manhattan Project and its key players and mixed in a little of John Adams’s opera Doctor Atomic with its stunning setting of Donne’s ‘Holy Sonnet XIV’ (‘Batter my heart, three-person’d God’). But the poem really grew from the phrase, “the luckiest of luckless men” and the image of the skin togas, of citizens, city dwellers reduced to this hapless state.
 
The poem originally had a different ending, which wasn’t working, so I told the producer at Radio 3 that I didn’t want to air the poem as it didn’t do the subject justice. They understood but suggested that all I did was lop off that finale. I did and suddenly it seemed to work. Another case of trimming to improve.
 
A commission like ‘Incorrigibly Plural’ was just terrific fun to write, once I realised there was comedy to be had in privatising snowfall and inventing ridiculous franchise names for clouds.
 
 
Do you enjoy exploring different forms?
 
Years ago I used to practice form for the sake of experience and to test myself. It’s good to become familiar with rules and restrictions and to submit your urge to express to the pressures of formal rules. I enjoy sonnets, there’s a villanelle in Bonjour Tetris and some formal quatrains, rhyming couplets here and there in the new book too.
 
These days I think I work more instinctively. I let formal patterning season a poem if I feel the music or the narrative or the accumulating sounds respond to it. Neptune Blue contains my first and so far only prose poem: ‘The Remote Island of Schalansky’. I chose the form as I wanted to be free of line breaks entirely for one poem and to concentrate on the internal patterns needed to lift it from being merely prose to something approaching poetry.
 
I’m no expert on the form but I’d like to explore it more. It suited the homage to Judith Schalansky’s wonderful prose work Atlas of Remote Islands as it mirrors her style and form to some degree. I love reading about the intricacies and rigours of forms though but these days I allow myself to play with them a little more loosely.
 
 
In his Paris Review interview with Clive Wilmer, Thom Gunn said: “Sometimes when I haven’t written in some time, I really decide I’m going to work toward getting the requisite fever, and this would involve, oh, reading a few favorite poets intensively: Hardy, for example, John Donne, Herbert, Basil Bunting—any one of a number of my favorites. I try to get their tunes going in my head so I get a tune of my own.” Which poets would you read?
 
That’s a great question. I have poetry books all over the place and pick them up at random to read one or two as I’m moving about. Most recently I’ve been dipping into a collected Auden, Chris McCabe’s The Hutton Inquiry, and some Valerio Magrelli.
 
In terms of reading certain poets to ‘get the requisite fever’, I often dive back into Berryman’s The Dream Songs and I never like to be too far away from a collected Edwin Morgan. I think it was Morgan’s brilliant and frequent sequences that convinced me I should develop mine for this book.
 
When I was writing ‘Being a Woman You Will’, I had a mass of ideas but no form or structure and I felt that reading some James Dickey (which I hadn’t done for years) would help, and it did. I needed something with a light narrative pulse, a whiff of Americana and a kind of steeliness. I think he helped me find that.
 
There are so many, it’s hard to know when to stop. Clampitt for her serene, luscious playground of vocabulary; Ashbery to ward away too much neat, contained lyricism; and the background radiation in my head is always full of Shakespeare, Beckett, Milton and countless others. I’ve also just realised that there’s a touch of Rebecca Elson in the planet poems too. And I haven’t read her in years. But some voices go in and just … stick.
 
 
I’d love to hear about Psycho Poetica and your ideas for the next project.
 
Psycho Poetica is a poetic recreation (or ‘faithful distortion’ as I like to call it) of Hitchcock’s classic thriller, written and performed by 12 poets accompanied by a rather unconventional string quartet (one violin and three cellos). I gave each poet a slice of the film to write a new poem about and Oli Barrett of Bleeding Heart Narrative and Petrels composed the music, which pays deft homage to Bernard Herrmann’s original score. The piece is performed in sequence without titles or introductions to the poems and each poem has its own mini score. It’s quite an intense experience.
 
I’ve always loved Hitchcock and Los Alamos actually contains a short poem called ‘Psycho’ but the 50th anniversary of the film’s release gave me the impetus to mount something more ambitious and collaborative. We performed the piece at the British Film Institute, the Whitechapel Gallery, the Latitude Festival and the Royal Festival Hall. We have another performance coming up at Stanza in 2012 as well, although it will be a ‘light’ version featuring only three readers and pre-recorded music.
 
I’m now working with Isobel Dixon and Chris McCabe, who both took part in Psycho Poetica, to develop a multi-media show commemorating the centenary of the loss of the Titanic in April 2012. The hour-long show will feature poetry, live music and film and we hope we’ll be able to take it to several key venues and cities with links to the construction and loss of the ship.
  
 
  
 
Read four poems from Neptune Blue
  
Pre-order Neptune Blue here, here or here.
 
Visit Simon’s website.
 
 
  
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Simon Barraclough’s Neptune Blue

  
 
 
Simon Barraclough was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, but has lived in London since 1996. He won the poetry section of the London Writers’ Prize in 2000 and his debut, Los Alamos Mon Amour (Salt Publishing) was a finalist for the Best First Collection in the Forward Poetry Prizes 2008. In 2010 he published a boxed ‘mini-book’ of commissioned poems, Bonjour Tetris (Penned in the Margins). His work appears in the anthologies Identity Parade (Bloodaxe, 2010) and Poems for Love (Penguin, 2009). In 2010 he devised Psycho Poetica, a collaborative celebration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was performed at the BFI, The Whitechapel Gallery, Latitude Festival and the Royal Festival Hall.
 
 
 
 

  
  
  
“Simon Barraclough dazzles with his luscious iconography, his intriguing observations, obsessions and predilections. These poems are complex, acrobatic, inventive, intelligent, exuberant, funny, tender and … bloody marvellous.”
 
– Annie Freud
 
 
 
“I read it as though I’m reading a phrase book from a new country called Barraclough, a country we should all discover. An excellent book.”
 
– Ian McMillan
  
  
  
*
 
 
 
 
We’ll Always Have CGI Paris
 
Open on the galaxy, dolly zoom
through Doppler shifting stars, leave the local planets
in our wake, brush off the moon
and rummage through the clouds to find
the crouching continent where Paris piggybacks.
Pinpoint the pyramid, dogleg along the Seine
until the camera starts to weave between the struts
of youknowwhat and youknowwhere
to finish on us kissing in the festive, fireworky air.
 
But we were never there. My sitcom kept me
in LA, your slasher movie debut
saw you junketing in hotel rooms out east.
We shot green screen on different days: my face
a balloon taped to a broom, your waist a tailor’s dummy;
our foggy breath was lifted from Titanic;
the cutaways to clasping hands were cut in
from a jewellery ad as all of Paris waited
to be pixellated, cut and pasted.
 
But we’ll always have Paris,
although our eye lines never matched
and everything we tried to hold onto
our phantom fingers passed clean through.
 
 
 
 
*
  
  
  
  
Saturn
    
Solar system’s undisputed supermodel,
moon-mad, sixty satellites and counting,
Saturnine werewolves howling for a night off.
 
Snapped from every angle
by NASA’s paparazzi,
it’s well you have no flaws for the gawpers.
 
We gorge on your gorgeousnes
but there’s icy music buried
in your spiralling grooves.
 
They sent a crew in a Bakelite spaceship,
the Anglo-Russian Dansette Conquest,
to lower a stylus onto your discs
 
and ever since they’ve been gliding
towards your spindle, listening
to ‘Cruel Sun’, ‘Box of Stars’, ‘Chaos of the Galaxy’.
 
 
 
          i.m. Mark Linkous 
  
  
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Pizza Heart
 
Squat ellipsoid of dough.
Yeasty, pummelled, elastic.
You knuckle into it,
it takes the dimpled kneading
of your need,
you twirl it thin and wide, ridiculous dervish.
Into the fire with it.
Delicious.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Sol
  
          Et ellu é bellu e radiante cun grande splendore
                    —
St. Francis of Assisi, Cantico delle Creature
 
  
I heard of one who thought himself too much i’the Sun.
I had to laugh. And blast a billion lethal particles
across your path. You say you want your place in the Sun,
so be it, but know that I am Heaven and Hell in one,
your saintly haloes and your branding tongs,
an inquisition which no atom can resist,
a thirteen million Kelvin kiss. I must admit
I’m one that loved not wisely but too well.
 
Consider my poor off sprung offspring;
there’s one that’s just been taken into care;
two cold and gassy monsters so remote they never think
of picking up the phone or sending me a probe;
a starlet sucking up my limelight, barring me from all her shows;
a bully bending comets on his knee and tossing them my way;
a red-faced tin pot despot sulking in his rot;
a hellish vixen boiling off each residue of love;
an iron bullet—kryptonite to any star—poised above my heart.
 
But here she comes: my one success, the fertile fluke,
dreaming in her just-right, just-so, bed,
her arm thrown back across her brow.
I mustn’t get too close. I mustn’t be so ardent.
I’ll learn to keep my distance, for now.
 
 
 
 
from Neptune Blue (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Pre-order Neptune Blue here, here or here.
 
Visit Simon’s website.
 
 
 
 
*

Katy Evans-Bush’s Egg Printing Explained

  
 
 
Katy Evans-Bush is the author of Me and the Dead (Salt Publishing, 2008), Oscar & Henry (Rack Press, 2010) and Egg Printing Explained (out today from Salt). She also writes the blog Baroque in Hackney, edits Salt’s online magazine, Horizon Review, and is a tutor for the Poetry School.
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
In a world where everything has more possible explanations than ever before, where no experience seems real unless it is refracted, this book examines love, loss, and time itself under a variety of lenses: these poems are made from other poems, from paintings, from songs, from spam emails, snapshots, jokes, dreams. We are the experts on our own existence, but what does it all mean?
 
Katy Evans-Bush has been praised for situating poetry in the heart of daily life, and her second collection is written in deep engagement with the sounds and colours of real and imaginative worlds. The French writer Nerval’s pet lobster takes us on a vibrant summer’s outing in nineteenth century Paris. Two playwrights in two centuries ponder happily on their unseen downfalls. A child dithers on a hot day, and a lover resorts to pure tactile expression at the moment it means the most.
 
A sharply-lit American childhood is seen as if through a telescope, from amid the mists of London and its layered lives. Ordinary objects act of their own accord; art speaks to us more than the person standing beside us; and the core of love remains the same while everything around it shapeshifts. One thing is certain, though: an egg is never just an egg.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Egg Printing Explained is an immediately likeable, lively and readable collection. The poems crackle with invention. The book is a dance of language: dramatic, comic and exuberant. What is especially dazzling is the cavalcade of forms and registers. The poems shift in mood and music from plain song to baroque, from chant to rock, from blues to opera. Her phrases surprise and delight and no reader will ever forget the exhilarating and brilliantly sustained ‘The Love Ditty of an ‘eartsick Pirate’. This is a sharply-written book from one of our sharpest wits. But it is also one of the most generous and melodic books of contemporary poetry I’ve read in some time.”
 
– David Morley
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
The Fabiola
 
Francis Alÿs, National Portrait Gallery
 
 
The day she has bitten her nails she goes to the Fabiola.
She is distracted and not inclined to look at pictures.
But imagine! When she arrives. A city in a room,
a whole city of similar sainted matrons,
all but a few faced in the same direction.
The same the same the same the same the same —
but with those minute variations,
such as being different, that get your attention.
Happy Fabiolas gaze doll-like all around: some luminous
in oils that sing like the dark that shines
through trees, conferring
a numinous seriousness. Stern, frowning
Fabiolas may be only confused, knitting their brows
in a variety of clumsy media.
About a dozen really are in stitches.
Fabiola is young and beautiful, or pretty or plain.
Seen from her good side, her eye
looks straight ahead into the future,
or down, or if poorly painted then nowhere:
a proper old-fashioned saintly gaze, or else
a bit cross. But then who wouldn’t be cross. O Fabiola,
whose headscarf is red, except for where it is green,
she whispered secretly among the scented patrons,
read to me the deepdown vertical
that folds like a waterfall down the side of your veil,
implacable as a wall, with the knack for shadow.
Beside, in front of, above, behind each other,
but anyway together, they face the future,
or was it the past? Where one is in reverse
she looks to another who faces her, and asks
the question. (Oh, do not ask what is it.) Look:
the fabulous Fabiolas in their red riot are minutely
different different different different different.
She speaks, but silently. Listen to the veil.
Observe like a ritual the careful dab of white
on her pupil. You see what she
would do. Not one,
not one Fabiola must be forgotten.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
from Hammershøi
 
 
i
 
Portrait of Ida
 
Attentive and green, she sits alone,
wife of the painter,
daughter of the blue and the rose:
their ghosts. She immerses her spoon
and stirs her coffee, watching
her husband, the painter, paint her. Her cup
gives a glow with its pink palette.
 
 
ii
 
Interior, With Coffeepot

The other chair is pushed away
as if the artist had been sitting on it;
a coffee pot hovers on the table.
There is a woman there, and one cup.
‘Not only is the artist,’ he says, ‘a child.’
‘He is an only child.’ His wife sits by herself.
He sits by himself. They are joined together
by the two ends of the brush.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
On a Note by Louise Bourgeois

My memories are moth-eaten.
 
 
My memories are things I remember.
Things I remember are half-eaten.
My memories are the things I don’t remember.
The moths are full of my memories.
My memories are my mind.
The moths have eaten my mind.
My memories clothe the stomachs of the moths;
The moths’ wings are decorated with my memories.
My memories are infinitesimal tapestries:
My memories are the sails on which the moths fly.
My memories billow and stretch.
My memories are muscular against the wind.
My memories are of a green luna moth on the doorframe,
My memories sit like moths in a green doorframe.
Melodies of moths like butterflies all summer:
I remember the moths like butter, flying all summer.
My recollections are quiet as Melmoth in a brown garden.
Do you mind the moths like memories in the summer?
My memories are browbeaten as a moth garden.
I mind the moths, like mother flies they shimmered.
My memories are mouths. Mined.
My mammaries are lost in the
Mastery is my myth.
More enemies: clutter, Eden mirth.
My mystery is a moth.
Mrs Mary Morrie is a stitch in nine.
More mummeries than ever are mostly mime.
More trappists than moths have recently dined.
Monsters are loosened easily with sophistry.
I must get the sofa covers cleaned this summer.
My butterbeans are beaten oh travesty.
 
 
 
 
from Egg Printing Explained (Salt, 2011).
 
Order Egg Printing Explained.
 
Visit Katy’s website.
 
Visit Katy’s blog, Baroque in Hackney.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Launch with Tamar Yoseloff’s The City with Horns
 
Date: Thursday, 2 June 2011
 
Time: 18h30 – 20h30

Venue: Purdy Hicks Gallery, 65 Hopton Street, London SE1 9GZ
 
 
 
 
*

J.T. Welsch’s Orchids

  
 
 
J.T. Welsch grew up in a small farm town near St. Louis, Missouri, but lives and teaches in Manchester, UK, where he completed a PhD this past year. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbox Manifold, Stand, Boston Review and Manchester Review. Orchids (Salt, 2010) is his first book of poetry. Another pamphlet, Orchestra & Chorus, will be published by Holdfire Press later in 2011.
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
Orchids springs from the margins of contemporary masculinity. A rich undercurrent of melancholy and desire seethes beneath the cool rhetorical playfulness of these monologues, as anguished speakers face the unfeasibility of confession. Beyond their fantastic flights and metamorphoses, these poems remain most troubled by the everydayness of their melodramas.
 
 
 
“Rapid, surprising and unlikely, J.T. Welsch’s poems spin brilliant variations on the recession, translation, gender studies and war. Strangely and completely convincingly, these subjects are refracted through the love poems which comprise this pamphlet. Hammered out in stanzas which show an inviting formal authority and are a pleasure to read, Orchids re-routes the work of his great St. Louis predecessors for the 21st century.”
 
– John McAuliffe 
 
 
 
Orchids is a distinguished debut: clever but emotional, ingenious but affecting. The poems are a self-sufficient pleasure, and promise very well for the future.”
 
– Andrew Motion
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 

Coppice
 
Yes, it’s cutbacks time. This winter,
the planet is in brilliant recession.
Contemptible new lines of sight are
daily being opened up and up and up
for sinners in the hands of an angry Dow.
 
No one’s buying any solution back home.
No one will see the copse for the corpses.
When they cleared along the mill path,
my own gut-of-guts’ reaction was that
we shouldn’t see our house from here.
 
The sign calls coppicing an ancient art,
but that doesn’t make it common sense.
Cutting back to help grow? Admit it,
invisible hand: Diversity’s a hard sell.
If nothing else, who’s your target audience?
 
If it were natural, the argument goes,
Miss Nature would regulate herself.
But nature isn’t rational, not like a soul!
So, we’ll wager the organic, working body
against an otherwise uninsured salvation:
 
A penny saved qua a penny earned.
Substitute your paper currency of choice.
You don’t understand: It’s in my blood.
My forefathers and foremothers robbed
Indian graves to get through their winter.
 
So what if the Mayflower is a barn in
“Buckinghamshire”? Recycling’s cheap.
Cut the canopy, let the underwood breathe.
God can whip up a zillion new trees.
I’ll bet none of them come with poems.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Meditation on Washing Up
 
 
I.
 
I feel no duty toward these dishes, even if
I’ll be the last to read them, or their splotches,
and quickly, till each re-surfaces,
more complete than I ever hope to be.
 
 
II.
 
It’s not like what we do with a gentler sponge,
uprooting whatever’s been determined
(in this circular way) to be outside us.
Nothing outside us makes us dirty, says Jesus.
 
 
III.
 
Who’d believe it’s invisibly small creatures
eating and shitting dead skin that does it?
Uncleanliness is a feature of neither dirt nor thing,
but teeters between, like any other fornication.
 
 
IV.
 
Absolution is an endless archaeology.
Every plate you bring into our home is held
to its inscription, waiting, or jumping the queue
to don the colours that say Mine or Hers.
 
 
V.
 
I know I’m clearing what can’t add to our re-births.
That’s why I like washing you even more
than dishes: insane jealousy of your microbes.
Unlike food’s, I savour their downfall. Plus…
 
 
VI.
 
If my own troops have more spunk, so to speak,
they’re only half me, and equally erasable.
Mark 7:19 – What goes down identifies
temporarily with body, not the soul.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
He Do Star Wars In Different Voices
 
The facts. No dirty talk. No reference,
no puns. Would it be easier
just to watch the damn things?
Maybe, sweetheart, it would’ve been.
We’ll agree it’s too late now.
 
To spare my nostalgia for some
pure edition no one has ever seen,
I shield you, in turn, with these hours
and awful English accents, a bed sheet
for an all-purpose prop and costume.
 
For you, we take as much time
doubling back for Kurosawa,
or Joseph Campbell, for Ben Burtt fun-facts
and the truth about Han and Leia’s kids
as we spend lost in headlong exposition.
 
If that sounds oppressive, I can’t help it.
I’m ready to fall on my light saber
belaboring the elegant structures
of the Expanded Universe,
expanding on it until it includes you too.
 
 
 
 
from Orchids (Salt, 2010).
 
Order Orchids here or here.
 
 
 
 
*

John McCullough’s The Frost Fairs

John McCullough © Morgan Case

  
 
John McCullough’s poetry has appeared in publications including London Magazine, The Guardian, The Rialto, Poetry London and Magma. He teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Sussex. His first collection is The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
 
 
 

  
 
 
The Frost Fairs is a compassionate book with a global and historical scope, tackling science and city life from a range of surreal yet poignant angles. It explores love in many forms, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay and cross-gendered lives from the past. The pieces travel from ancient Alexandria to twenty-first century bars and council estates, behind everything the vastness of the sea and sky. The array of voices here is striking: taxi drivers report their most outlandish fares and hermaphrodite statues flirt with observers; abandoned lovers watch frost fairs melting on the Thames and drag queens revel in the freedoms afforded by the Blitz.
 
Formally deft and carefully crafted, this diverse range of poems uses language that is always musical and alive. Surprise and the uncanny are cherished as ways of returning to us the strange leaps and enduring power of our deepest yearnings. In this collection, longing and losing condition all we see and hear, making the impossible suddenly plausible. Whether exploring Brighton seascapes or questions of empire, there is always in McCullough’s writing an openness to seeing the world from an alternative point of view. At once bold and haunting, The Frost Fairs opens the door to a new country in the reader’s imagination in its exploration of the possibilities of the human heart.
 
 
 
*
  
   
 
“In this immensely enjoyable collection there is an immediacy and tenderness that is outstanding. These vivid moving poems have such a sharp eye for those telling daily details, the particulars. All of this, plus their humour, creates poems that are so solidly tangible and believable. The title The Frost Fairs tells it all. The vulnerability and changeableness that threads our lives, the shifting ice below our feet.”
 
– Lee Harwood 
 
 
  
“John McCullough’s poems are never far from wonderful. He shows a lovely mixture of ease and energy, so that there’s a feeling of improvisation even in closed forms. Unpredictable, tender, resourceful – why shouldn’t Wallace Stevens hold hands with Tintin?”
 
– Adam Mars-Jones
 
 
 
“John McCullough is a poet for whom language is a flexible gift. He can be formal and controlled, colloquial and intimate, sensuous and saucy. He enjoys risk-taking in his work, forging unusual juxtapositions of images and ideas, and it’s this playfulness and humour which makes his work, like a stiff sea breeze suddenly hitting you in the face, so refreshing and invigorating.”
 
– Catherine Smith
  
 
 
“I’ve been reading John McCullough’s poems for several years and never saw him as ‘promising’, rather, as a verbal magician who had already performed, with a sureness and brio anyone might envy. The startling range of subjects can be partly accounted for by his ability to enter the imaginations of personae from odd walks of life or curious moments in history. He is even able to work out what Michel Foucault’s spoons might have thought about their owner! In poem after poem one senses the encroachment of an exalted vision held at bay by this poet’s commitment to conversational tone and offhand irony. I don’t want to round up the usual superlatives, but I do urge you to read this landmark first volume.”
  
– Alfred Corn
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Motile
 
What sticks is the hum
of the fridge in your basement,
a plane ticket lying flat on one chair.
The way, fag in hand, you order me to stop smoking:
you’ll damage your cilia
 
and you conjure those tiny threads stroking together,
pushing wayward particles where they belong.
You drain a glass of vodka,
write my name in your diary on the page
where you’ll wake in a new country.
 
You keep your promise:
two hours and twenty dollars on a dodgy line
from a city without Marmite
where you tussle with silverfish
and baseball shirt slang.
 
O much assailed friend,
in these fathomless times
I walk down to the ocean at night
to set my hand on its skin
and my mind on rowing, rowing, rowing.
 
 
 
*
  
   
 
Night Writing
 
In humid months, at the estate’s unwatched edge,
the boys gather for an after-hours cigarette
 
before trashing field gates. All boast Reeboks, earrings,
their honed geezer-laughs rev-revving
 
with the engines of graffiti-tagged bangers.
Customized stereos thump out speed garage,
 
the race kicking off in a blizzard of chalk dust,
their bouncing charge towards a crooked iron post.
 
Death and dew ponds can’t stop them while they swerve
past quivering teasel, conquer the bone ridge’s turn,
 
skeins of wool lifting from gorse as banners
for the night’s whooping, fist-raising winners.
 
Further off, the crews unite for a slow drift, melt into hills
but leave the empty sky with headlamp trails:
 
blazing ghosts still performing their necessary work,
still scribbling their names on the dark. 
 
 
 
*

 
 
The Disappearance of St Anthony’s Church
 
Hard to tell exactly when it vanished –
local rumour says late or early summer.
They stole the thing discreetly, brick by brick,
an anti-miracle. Curt officials blame
the village but no infidel’s been punished,
the two best clues a chisel by a tomb,
a distant maze of tyre marks from a truck –
though some insist that these came later.
 
They left behind foundations, one unwanted wall
and a different view of pines, the snaking river.
Next spring the first grass sprouted in the nave,
the chancel’s earth disturbed only by lovers
and the odd partridge hunting for snails
or a place to rest in silence for a while.
 
 
 
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
 
Order The Frost Fairs here.
 
Visit John’s website.
 
 
 
*
 
  
  
Launches
 
 
Brighton launch

 
Date: Wednesday, 27 April 2011
 
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
 
Venue: The Red Roaster, 1D St James Street, Brighton
 
There will be readings by John and guest poet Lisa Handy.

This event is part of the e.g. poetry series. Entry is £5/£4 conc. 
 
 
 
London launch
 
Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2011
 
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
 
Venue: The Phoenix Artist Bar, Phoenix St (Off Charing Cross Road)
 
There will be readings by John and guest poet Sophie Mayer, author of The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011).
 
Entry is free.

Sophie Mayer’s The Private Parts of Girls

  
 
Sophie Mayer currently teaches Creative Writing at King’s College, London, and is the author of The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love (Wallflower, 2009) and Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009). She won an Eric Gregory award in 2004, and is included in Andy Brown’s lyric anthology The Allotment (Stride, 2006) and in Carrie Etter’s Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). As well as writing regularly for Sight & Sound and Horizon Review, she blogs about books as deliriumslibrarian. She is a Contributing Editor at Hand+Star, and Commissioning Editor at Chroma.
 
 
 

  
 
The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011) follows Alice down the rabbit hole, Kassandra onto Agamemnon’s boat, and Red Riding Hood into the forest: it conjures the most mysterious landscape of all, the mind of a girl – a girl who might be a dancer, a warrior-bride, a transatlantic traveller, the Messiah, sick of being compared to Sylvia Plath, airborne, born in space, or lost in a sunlit feld, discovering love. From Battlestar Galactica to The Clash, the poems mix tart, smart pop culture goodies into the dreamspace of fairy tales, as they take us on a journey – hallucinatory with culture lag – through the mind and body of a modern girl. This is poetry for Buffy fans (and Twilight haters), for readers who grew up with Angela Chase’s voice-over for their lives and Air’s soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides on their iPods, for everyone who ever wondered if Beauty secretly was the Beast.
 
 
 
Previous review quotes

  
“[Mayer’s] non-sequiteurs arrest you by their very strangeness, then draw you into a sensory chain where they seem just … true. Brilliantly disconcerting.”
 
– Luke Kennard
 
 
 
“Full of zest, variety and intellectual ambition. There is no such thing as a typical Mayer poem, diversity being her great strength. Dazzling.”
 
– Jane Holland
 
 
 
“Sensual and vivid, exploded erotic imagery rewrites the love poem in new terms, reinvigorating our restrained and anecdotal poetic moment.”
 
– Wayne Burrows
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Trial Proof for The Blue Feet (Kiki Smith)
 
Lysa has stars tattoed on her feet. Did it hurt, that
art made scintillant point by point. I don’t
ask. Flexing its paleness against red tiles,
her foot says ‘no.’ She’s a dancer, after all,
always has been: her feet are an earthquake-
buckled landscape — somewhere beyond
pain or trapped eternally within it. Pushing up
on bruised pad and ball, she perches between
the toast crumbs and the broken tap. A spring,
and those toes — étoiles — are pointing out
towards me. Black painted nails, cracked beneath
(I’ve heard the stories). The stars pulse over
roped veins, startling calluses like galaxies
formed from the dust of grinding the self
into grace. Into light. Over the doorway
of the main room, there’s a photo that I love:
half-naked against the lens, bride-tulled, pale
breasts a blur — meteoric streak of her slanted
through silver and emulsion. Falling hard
into the black holes of her eyes, I almost
don’t hear her graphic yes to my unasked. Of
course it hurt, and what hurts more: wearing ink
away beneath tap shoes and cowboy boots,
fading in sunlight from midnight to twilit
blue. Her feet ache with dawn, she says:
dew cold under her skin. Old bones turn out
fossils of past leaps, seamed with bright striations.
En pointe, arabesque. These carbonised remains
of what once took to the sky, one part
rock to one of fire, and fell to earth, blue into blue.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Easter Parade
 
Careful now. All the knives must be aligned
or the city falls. Twitch and wake. Rain
 
arrives with dawn — season out of time,
no butterflies or moths. Squirrels hunt cats,
 
cats shelter with foxes. The girls lounge
in the fallen blossom of cigarette ash.
 
They are more beautiful than they can
imagine, and not only to the low-slung
 
driver thumping bass like a blood-thrum.
In the doppler of his wake, they roll
 
their skirts up higher, compete to see who hates
their legs most. At night, they twitch, restless
 
with nicotine and vague desire (indeterminacy
is its nature) (and its power). They want
 
the world, those girls, and stickily compete
to see who hates it most. That’s how bad
 
they want it, with its extinctions
and expulsions, evasions, invasions and
 
evaporations. With every crack
that doesn’t break their backs, luck flips
 
them past the row of knives, the low-slung
bass, the sullen sky. Newly-hatched,
 
like rain at dawn, they glisten cold.
Cold, and ashing into beauty.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The Cantor’s Daughter
 
Her dress is alight with
          god particles
and gematria, her velvet is night;
her brilliance as impossible
 
as a talking cat. Her name
          is Córdoba,
is heart-flowering jasmine
and the lovers celtic-knotted
 
beneath its fragrance. She is
          berenjenas, honeyed
gazelle-golden plazas at prayer-time:
bimah and medina, heart centre.
 
In the guitar’s blue voice
          she mourns
the grafted rose, the drying-up
of the courtyard’s fountain,
 
the closed gates of paradise; these
          her poems,
woven in gold thread on scraps
of leather, inscribed (right to left)
 
on flyleavs, and worn around her neck:
          gold coin
to buy her passage, a house-key
carried in the skin-fold of her generations.
 
 
 
Previously published in ouroboros review.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
On Being Dismissed as ‘Plathlike’
 
She rose at nine that December night; above the horizon I saw her come. She could shine yet with pale grandeur and steady might; but that star verged already on its judgement day.
 
— Charlotte Brontë, Villette
 
 
She rises, at once inside and out, twig
fingers at the window; wraithlike,
she could haunt the moon. She is nothing,
and nothing is like
 
the breath that steams through
what is said of her — it flits, mothlike,
spectral. His words. Her words.
Annotations cross and writhe like
 
thrown punches. His hand. Her hand.
Nothing could be less lifelike
than this — this throwaway. This
trashing. It leads us false, a marshlight
 
wisp of a will not her own rewriting
her flight into myth. Like
the many she stands for, one more blonde
American. Stepford wifelike,
 
you domesticate her, canonised
and tamed so we cry for her strife like
she was directed by Sirk. Come,
critic, this is fat that your knife likes
 
to cut through. Cast aside. Who needs
fat? And so she is waiflike.
Her body, her work: hysteria,
anorexia. She eats herself. Like
 
it or not, that’s your thin
volume. Your scorn is like wrath, like
envy, perhaps. Perhaps
incomprehension. Or fear: stealthlike,
 
the ghosts you invoke will show
your thinness, waft like
breath through you. Discard you, a worn sheet.
And rise, then. Plathlike.
 
 
 
from The Private Parts of Girls (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Pre-order The Private Parts of Girls here or here.
 
Visit Sophie’s blog, Delirium’s Library.
 
Visit Sophie’s website.

John Siddique’s Full Blood

Author photo © Jojo Stott

   
 
John Siddique was born in 1964. His discovery of his local library when young began his life-long love affair with what words mean and how they sit together. He is the bestselling author of Recital – An Almanac, Poems From A Northern Soul, The Prize and now Full Blood (Salt Publishing, 2011). He is the co-author of the story/memoir Four Fathers.
 
He has contributed poems, stories, essays and articles to many publications, including Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review and The Rialto.
 
The Prize, published to wide acclaim in 2005, was nominated for the Forward Prize. His children’s book Don’t Wear It On Your Head was shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award in 2007. On publication in 2009, Recital was described as “one of the most important British poetry books of the last twenty years” by Lauri Ramey of CSULA. Jackie Kay describes Siddique’s writing as “A brilliant balancing act”.
 
Siddique is admired for his captivating readings and his infectious love of literature. He teaches poetry and creative writing in the United Kingdom and abroad and has worked with the British Council, the Arvon Foundation, the Poetry School and the Poetry Society. He has a website at www.johnsiddique.co.uk.
 
 
 

 
 
 
Full Blood is John Siddique’s fourth full-length collection of poems for adults. Erotic, physical, completely open and fully engaged with the moral urgency of life, Siddique tackles his themes robustly and yet with great sensitivity, constantly defining and reimagining what it is to be a man in today’s world, living full in the moment. Marking a serious development in the writer’s work (as well as the mind of this significant British poet) this is Siddique’s most emotionally charged work to date.
 
 
“John Siddique’s new collection takes the reader down the street and round the world. This is a brave and a bold book of linked poems whose subjects range widely from love to hate, from war to peace, from childhood to adulthood, from the real world to the world of myth. Siddique is interested in everything. Tender and open-hearted, these poems are full of wonder at the power of love. Dreamy and yet direct, this is Siddique’s most powerful collection yet.”
 
– Jackie Kay
 
 
“In this beautiful new collection John Siddique seduces the reader with his life-affirming reflections on our mortality and a profoundly moving poetic interplay of tenderness, love and eroticism.”
 
– Dr. Claire Chambers
 
 
 
Love Poem
 
(for A.G.)
 
 
I will take you strongly in my arms,
sky over my earth.
 
I will leave my burdens down,
earth over my core.
 
I will love you as
the sun lights a bird’s back.
 
I will stand with you as
we give our hearts to life’s great keeping.
 
Sky over my earth.
Lay your burdens down.
Earth over molten core.
Sun of a bird’s back.
 
Keeping our promise to live by living.
I will take you strongly in my arms.
 
 
 
 
Thirst
 
Imagine thirst without knowing water.
And you ask me what freedom means.
Imagine love without love.
 
Some things are unthinkable,
until one day the unthinkable is here.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.
 
Some things we assume just are as they are,
no action is taken to make or sustain them.
Imagine love without love.
 
It is fear that eats the heart: fear and
endless talk, and not risking a step.
Imagine thirst without knowing water.
 
Fold away your beautiful thoughts.
Talk away curiosity, chatter away truth.
Imagine love without love.
 
Imagine believing in the whispers,
the screams and the gossip. Dancing to a tune
with no song to sing inside you.
Imagine love without love.
 
 
 
from Full Blood (Salt Publishing, 2011).
 
Order Full Blood.
 
 
 
Launch details
  
 
Date: 5 May 2011
Time: 18h00
Venue:  Manchester City Library, Deansgate, Manchester

Date:  22 June 2011
Time:  19h30
Venue:  Poetry Café, Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London
 
 
Dress code for both events is ‘sexy with a touch of red’.