Monthly Archives: October 2009

Sophie Mayer’s Her Various Scalpels

Sophie Mayer

Sophie Mayer by Lady Vervaine

Sophie Mayer writes passionately and politically about poetry and film anywhere and everywhere she can, including Horizon Review, Esprit de Corps, Blackbox Manifold, Sight & Sound, Little White Lies and Artesian. She blogs about reading as Delirium’s Librarian, and is a regular contributor to the review blog for Chroma journal, where she is commissioning editor. Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009), her first solo poetry collection, was the auspicious start to a very exciting three-book year, followed by The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love (Wallflower, 2009)and (as co-editor) There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond (Wayne State University Press, 2009). Her next collection, The Private Parts of Girls, will be published by Salt in 2011, and she has future plans for encounters between poetry and film. Visit Sophie’s website.
Rearranging the Stars
Sophie Mayer
after Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient
Lost you. Out here, where a call to prayer shivers
stone into song, where night falls like knives,
there’s a trick to the sky, how you see it, smell
what’s coming. It is like reading. It’s so small
at first, and granular, then overwhelms: eyes,
mouth, hands, hair. You cannot possibly sleep.
But you do, lulled by wind and waking. Stories –
his stories, more stories than there could be stars –
breathe around you with their shine, draw hearts
on dirty glass. You know what they find in deserts:
fragments. Texts under sand winds, brilliant disasters.
And you, in secret, on fire with new constellations.
Previously published in Staple 71: The Art Issue (Summer 2009).
Her Various Scalpels

pieuvres / lèvres (lilies / lips)
Sophie Mayer
Did I realise then that I would spend my whole life
with their lipstick on my face. Other girls and their kisses
goodbye. I know that now, having watched soft asses
walk away from me, having been paid my tithe
for watchful quiet. For the flattery of desire. Ingrown
hair, that’s what it’s like: turning against the razor
blade and on itself. Like my toes, curled mazily
through each other with waiting, waiting that flows
up my calves and out my mouth. A shower in reverse:
a fountain, inwards out: And what was in her,
I felt that too. All her hardness in my fingers
rattling her stem. All those flower words, perverse
euphemisms for a force like an ocean
in a swimming pool. Did she not see
what poured out of (her into) me? Salt of her sea,
stick of her sap. And it’s not the explosion
that I’m talking about, her wet cunt a concrete
underpass around my hand. It’s the light that thrums
from her lily-mouth, her pollinated tongue
extended like a stamen. Like a beesting hot-sweet
under the skin, a tear oozing from an eye. An ingrown
hair turning outwards against skin tough as petals
under drops of rain. The pain of it like cold metal,
like waiting. The stem of spit plunges down
and you wonder that such softness does such hurt.
No softness in the doing: spit’s active as a limb,
a cock, a race, a city street. It dances itself thin.
The stem of things. Wet birth. My first.
Buy Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009) here.

Michael Swan’s ‘comb’

Michael Swan

Michael Swan

Michael Swan works in English language teaching and applied linguistics. He has been writing poetry for many years, driven no doubt by an unconscious need to prove that grammarians have souls. His poems have been published widely in magazines, and have won a number of prizes. He clings to the belief that it is possible to write good poetry that is neither difficult nor boring, and he often finds humour a useful tool in dealing with a seriously confusing universe. Michael’s first collection, When They Come For You, was published by Frogmore Press in 2003 and was very well received. He is now looking for a publisher for his second collection.
Michael Swan
I was sure
it was her comb
lying on the pavement.
And I ran after her
‘Excuse me
but you dropped your comb’
and she turned
a woman I had never seen before
and she told me
it was not her comb.
She seemed unwilling
to discuss the matter further
and walked on
rather quickly.
She had hair like yours
and the comb, too
was like one of those
you used to leave everywhere
on tables, shelves, windowledges,
in the car, on your pillow.
I was sure it was your comb.
© Michael Swan 2005
Read more of Michael’s work at poetry p f.

Karin Koller’s ‘Bikes’

Karin Koller
It was a time when children free-ranged on pavements
binding friendships based on games and pecking orders
and bikes. My big sister leading the way
on her green two-wheeler, stopping to pass orders
back down the convoy: Roger with his stabilisers
who grew up to run a coat-hanger company
and become the most boring man in the world to all
except his wife who had a long history of forbearance –
followed by Roger’s brother Martin on his large red trike
Martin who was hopeless at maths
but opened a shop called Belt & Braces
and ended up a millionaire, and then Tony
on his silver scooter pushing dreams of fame
till his one-hit Under the Smile of Love
reached number 56 in the charts for a week
and at the end of the line my little sister pedalling skew-whiff
on the broken metal trike, the one with tiny wheels
and a single right handlebar – the bike which lasted
forever, and which we all loved best.

Ruth McIlroy’s ‘Just Idiot Talk’

Just Idiot Talk
Ruth McIlroy
“Hey, Sassenach! Ye gie me the boak,
Yir patter stinks; youse’ll get it noo,
Ye cannae say a’thing, ya muckle-face numpty”.
But, ya wee keelie, I’ll jist dae it efter.
Missed yersel’ there now, eh no, hen?
Ken, this’s barry, nae tother a ball.
Just Idiot Talk
Just an idiolect consciously employed to gain acceptance from a dominant social group
Excuse me, English person
ye gie me the boak
you make me feel nauseous
Yir patter stinks
your way of presenting yourself to the world is fundamentally flawed
youse’ll get it noo
you (singular or plural) are about to experience retribution
ye cannae say a’thing
I would advise you not to answer me back
ya muckle-face numpty
you ill-favoured person of limited common sense
But, ya wee keelie
But, you young person from a challenging home environment
I’ll jist dae it efter
I’ll just do it later
Missed yersel’ there now
you didn’t see that one coming
eh no, hen?
did you, my friend/acquaintance
ken, this’s barry
you know something, I feel a lot better
nae tother a ball
no bother at all
© Ruth McIlroy 2009

Vicki Feaver’s The Handless Maiden reissued

Vicki Feaver lives in South Larnarkshire in Scotland and divides her time between painting and poetry. ‘Marigolds’ is from The Handless Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 1994) which won a Heinemann Prize and a Cholmondeley Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. The Handless Maiden has recently been reissued by Jonathan Cape.
Vicki Feaver
Not the flowers men give women –
delicately-scented freesias,
stiff red roses, carnations
the shades of bridesmaids’ dresses,
almost sapless flowers,
drying and fading – but flowers
that wilt as soon as their stems
are cut, leaves blackening
as if blighted by the enzymes
in our breath, rotting to a slime
we have to scour from the rims
of vases; flowers that burst
from tight, explosive buds, rayed
like the sun, that lit the path
up the Thracian mountain, that we wound
into our hair, stamped on
in ecstatic dance, that remind us
we are killers, can tear the heads
off men’s shoulders;
flowers we still bring
secretly and shamefully
into the house, stroking
our arms and breasts and legs
with their hot orange fringes,
the smell of arousal.
Published in The Handless Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 1994).
Read more about Vicki and her work at Contemporary Writers and the Poetry Archive.

Ian Duhig’s ‘goths’

Ian Duhig has written five books of poetry. The last two of these, The Lammas Hireling and The Speed of Dark (both from Picador) were PBS Choices. His last published short story appeared in Comma’s The New Uncanny, which won the Shirley Jackson Best Anthology Award for 2008, while his most recent musical collaboration, a contrafacta with the Clerks called ‘After the Mass’, appears on their CD Don’t Talk – Just Listen, from Signum Classics, 2009. His next book of poetry is forthcoming from Picador, with the working title of Jericho Shanty.
Ian Duhig

I love them. They bring a little antilife and uncolour
to the Corn Exchange on city centre shopping days
as if they had all just crawled out of that Ringu well,
so many Sadakos in monochrome horrow, dripping
silver jewellery down flea-market undead fashions.
They are the black that is always the new black,
their perfume lingers, freshly-turned-grave sweet.
Black sheep, they pilgrimage twice a year to Whitby,
through our landscape of dissolved monastery and pit,
which they will toast in cider’n’blackcurrant, vegan blood.
They danse macabre at gigs like the Dracula Spectacula.
Next day, lovebitten and wincing in the light, they take
photographs of each other, hoping they won’t develop.
Previously published in Stand.
Read more about Ian at Contemporary Writers, the Poetry Archive and PIW.

Roy Woolley

Roy Woolley has had poems published in The Wolf, The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Poetry News and the anthology Saturday Night Desperate from Ragged Raven Press. He also compiled a pamphlet celebrating ten years of the Gay London Writers’. He recently graduated with distinction from the Mst in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
from The Pasiphaë Treatment
Roy Woolley
Scene 1. An open field. A white bull grazing.
Haunches muscular and clean.
Pasiphaë is helped from the carriage by a servant.
Close-up. Her face as she studies the bull.
The rope in her hands. Fade-out. Country sounds.
Scene 2. Flashback to the cord she wears at her wedding.
Brassy light. Crowds in the forecourt. The tinnitus
of instruments being tuned. Soft snowfall
of flowers at her feet. Her husband’s backward glance
as a bridesmaid leans over the balcony.
Scene 4. The present. Her room in the palace. Night.
Her face in the mirror. The stars above Crete.
Close-up to the costume Daedulus made –
a white sheet to cushion her body.
The horns for her temples. The cool felt mask.
Scene 9. She’s in the mirror again, facing herself
sideways, tracing the shape of her belly
with the palms of her hands. Night songs.
The city shutting down. The sound of the sea.
She feels her child move when she looks at the stars.
Scene 15. Fade to the balcony spyglass. A room
draped in black. Mirrors facing the wall.
The scars on her hands. Her bandaged breasts.
Her deep set eyes. The camera pans across the city.
Construction sounds grow louder. Our first sight of the maze.

Semyón Isaåkovich Kirsánov

“Poetry, if it’s genuine, is not a racing car rushing senselessly around and around a closed track; it is an ambulance rushing to save someone.”
– Semyón Isaåkovich Kirsánov

Horizon Review: Issue Three

I’m very pleased to have two poems and an interview with 
Pascale Petit in the third issue of online literary journal,
Horizon Review
The issue is filled with good writing:  poetry, fiction, reviews,
interviews and articles.
Read more here …

Janet Sutherland’s Hangman’s Acre

Janet Sutherland was raised on a dairy farm in Wiltshire, lived twenty years in London and now lives in Lewes. Her second collection, Hangman’s Acre (Shearsman Books, 2009), is to be published on 15 October 2009. Of her first collection, Burning the Heartwood (Shearsman Books, 2006), reviewed in Poetry Review, Judith Kazantzis said the “poems are questioning, tender, guarded”. Her work has appeared in many magazines including Poetry Review and Poetry Wales and in anthologies including The Virago Book of Love Poetry and The New British Poetry 1968-88. She has read widely including at venues in Brighton, London and at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. Read more about Janet and Hangman’s Acre on her Shearsman author page  and website.
Assemblage des Beautés
Bone monkey has set up shop in the airing cupboard.
It’s warm in there. Silverfish take refuge in his skull
and slide around his ribs. Worn sheets have ruched between
his bones like the petals of old roses – Assemblage des Beautés
for instance – so cherry red and full it almost seems
there is blood again and a heart beating like crazy.
Previously published in Poetry Review (Volume 99:2 Summer 2009).
rain is falling under sodium lights
the municipal toilet roof is bathed in gold
up station street the tarmac shines and little rivers
writhe and coil along the roadside gutters
it’s late     the traffic light in broken pieces
scatters across the deserted lane
in amber, red, red and amber, green
in all the houses darkness slowly deepens
in this town on a night like this     my heart
glitters     each footfall takes me nearer
to your bed   and to the dark where I will
lie with you this little time     I thought
it could not be like this   but I was wrong
walking on light and water     coming home
Published in Hangman’s Acre (Shearsman Books, 2009).
Bath launch of Carrie Etter’s pamphlet and Janet Sutherland’s second book
Monday 26 October, 6.30pm, Carrie Etter and Janet Sutherland launch new collections at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, 14 – 15 John Street, Bath, BA1 2JL. Phone: 01225331155. Email:
Shearsman Books December 2009 Reading
Tuesday 1 December 2009, 7.30pm, Alan Wearne and Janet Sutherland at Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way (entry on Barter Street), London, WC1A 2TH. Email: