Monthly Archives: February 2010

Writing Morocco

“In 1931, without any preconceived notion of what I should find there, I paid a visit to Morocco. Two months, I thought, would suffice for seeing the place. And so they would have if what I saw had not awakened a wish to see more, a wish which seemed to grow even as it was being satisfied. At first it expressed itself as a desire to wander over the surface of the land … After the War I returned to Morocco and bought a home there. This time I became aware of the fact that it was not the landscape I wanted to know, but the people.”
– Paul Bowles
Read more about Paul Bowles.

“The … endless banquet at which course succeeded course – spiced chickens and pigeons, kous-kous, and whole roast sheep and kebab and almond pastries and sweet mint tea … lasted all through the night. Swaying lines of women danced to the music of their own wild chant; the traditional boy dancers with painted faces and white robes drawn tight at the waist by gold-embroidered bells, danced to the tambourines and the clicking of the copper castanets on their fingers; in the courtyard a huge fire of juniper logs lit the battlements of the castle; outside the Kasbah wall … the night was loud with feasting.”
– Gavin Maxwell, Lords of the Atlas
“With the afternoon heat too suffocating in the square, the light too bright for any but a Marrachi’s eyes, I slipped into the labyrinth of the medina. Cool vaulted stone, courtyards latticed with bamboo staves, casting zebra stripes across the merchants and their stalls. What an emporium – mountains of tumeric, paprika, salted almonds and dates, yellow leather slippers laid out in rows, ostrich eggs and incense, chameleons in wire cages, and beef tenderloins nestled on fragrant beds of mint.”
from Tahir Shah’s introduction to Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes
Visit Tahir Shah’s website.
“… I wish I could tell you the wonder of the souks and marketplaces; the brilliant overflowing of spices, olives, fabrics; the witchcraft stalls; the fishmongers; the piles of mint and thyme scenting the air . . . and even more than this is the wonder of its becoming familiar, the sufficiency and contentment in knowing the names of things, the words to tell the taxi drivers, the sense and reason behind the lives of Moroccans …”
– Melissa Manlove, ‘Letter from Morocco’, Travelers’ Tales
(Editors’ Choice)
Visit Travelers’ Tales website.

“Inside, the ceiling is low, cobwebbed, and the shelves beneath it cluttered with treasure. There are ancient Berber chests, silver teapots, ebony footstools, and swords once used by warring tribes, and cartons of postcards left by the French, Box Brownie cameras, candlesticks, silk wedding belts, and camel headdresses crafted from indigo wool.”
from Tahir Shah’s introduction to Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes
“Crisply geometric patterns of blue-and-white zellij, sun-bleached panels of carved cedar, rhythmic arcades of white plaster, sinuous lines of wrought-iron balconies: each reveals the hand of a master craftsperson and the beauty of refined materials.”
– Susan Sully, New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living

“I stand in a portico hung with gentian-blue ipomeas … and look out on a land of mists and mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts.”
– Edith Wharton, In Morocco
Read more about Edith Wharton.


“From far off, through circuitous corridors, came the scent of citrus-blossom and jasmine, with sometimes a bird’s song before dawn, sometimes a flute’s wail at sunset, and always the call of the muezzin in the night …”
– Edith Wharton, In Morocco

“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”
– Edith Wharton, 1927

“The sight of books removes sorrow from the heart.”
– Moroccan proverb
Some reading suggestions
The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
Let it Come Down, Paul Bowles
The Spider’s House, Paul Bowles
A House in Fez, Suzanna Clarke
Hideous Kinky, Ester Freud
Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua,
Gavin Maxwell
Marrakesh: Through Writers’ Eyes, edited by Barnaby Rogers
and Rose Baring
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, Tahir Shah
In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams,
Tahir Shah
New Moroccan Style: The Art of Sensual Living, by Susan Sully,
Jean Cazals and Meryanne Louw-Martin
Valley of the Casbahs: A Journey Across the Moroccan Sahara,
Jeffrey Tayler
Morocco: In the Labyrinth of Dreams and Bazaars, Walter M Weiss
In Morocco, Edith Wharton
Read the work of some Moroccan poets.
Links to Moroccan poetry organisations and websites.

Kona Macphee’s Perfect Blue

Born in London in 1969, Kona Macphee grew up in Australia. She flirted with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic. She took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995.
She now lives in beautiful Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company. She has been writing poems since 1997, and received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe in 2004. Her second book of poems, Perfect Blue (Bloodaxe, 2010) is now available. Visit Perfect Blue’s Bloodaxe page, Perfect Blue’s dedicated website, Kona’s professional website and her personal website (which includes her Poem of the Week).
Kona on writing:
“For me, writing is about communication: conveying the emotional state of the writer by recreating it in the mind of the reader. I value the way that good writing can sneak in under the most entrenched defences and unlock an emotional response.
I write poems because I love words – playing with them, building complex interconnected structures out of them, and most especially making music with them. The aural qualities of a poem are always important to me, and I’m only properly happy using a word if both its meaning and its sound are right.
I often use rhyme and strict forms; the artificial constraints they impose can actually free up the creative process and let the truth out. They’re also good for provoking that delicious sense that you’re not making something new so much as uncovering something that has always existed, word by tantalizing word.”
from The Book of Diseases sequence

“It is alleged that the gangster Al Capone contracted syphilis in his early life, and that mental confusion in his last years was due to the tertiary phase of the disease.”
Kona Macphee

Al Capone in three manifestations
Primary: New York
What was the first site of the infection?
Was it his beefy face, the slashed left side
he turns away in photos? Something else is marred
by scars he paints in not-quite-outright lies
as war wounds, but not anything
the Five Points Gang would recognise; besides,
what prickly truth could vaccinate against
the dark concealed beneath the underground?
Secondary: Cicero
Within the gilded fortress of the Lexington Hotel,
no skin will speckle with the backspat residues
of gunfire, rented muscle will not flex,
blood will not spill, unless he orders it.
Outside, there’s jazz and moonshine flaring up
in speakeasies: contagious rhythm, bouts
of drunkenness and whoring. There are bars
that no-one sees, but everybody knows.
Tertiary: Alcatraz
In Cicero, a page of winter snow might blot
the ledger of the streets, collude in brief
with whitewash and denial, filling in
the bullet-pock stigmata, sheeting-over sin;
but here in Frisco Bay there’s just a fog
that rolls in from the sea and hangs
a muggy drape of bafflement: at last
he’s fingered by the one that got away.
Read Kona’s online commentaries for The Book of Diseases and ‘Syphilis’.
View from a window
Kona Macphee

the birds pass –
the robin and the finch, the sparrow and the crow
they come, they go
the hours pass –
in carnal cells their winkling fingers soon unlock
they tick, they tock
the hurts pass –
as do the joys; in joint or alternating reign
they wax, they wane
the clues pass –
these smatterings, these prickled inklings from the deep
they wake, they sleep
the days pass –
and though I scrape their marrow or refuse them all
they rise, they fall
the birds pass –
wild shadows, gifted that they live but do not know
they come, they go
Read Kona’s online commentary on ‘View from a window’.
Read more poems from Perfect Blue. The companion website also provides author commentaries on each poem, intended to provide a friendly accompaniment to the book (particularly for readers who are new to poetry).


Kona Macphee

“Kona Macphee’s poetry has a genuine lyricism and mystery, together with a bold experimental diction”
– John Greening, Poetry Review
“Kona Macphee’s finest work presents a perspective whose detachment is rooted in genuine care for what it sees, as though the refusal to centre the poems in personal subjectivity will provide the most intimate connection to the world. Add to this meticulous attention a lyricism based on compressed syntax and skilful consonance … an impressive range”
– Carrie Etter, Poetry Review
“Poems of elegant gravitas, terse yet lyrical”
Independent on Sunday
Kona is selling copies of her first collection, Tails (Bloodaxe, 2004), to raise proceeds for UNICEF.  Please help by ordering a signed copy here.

Waterloo Press: A Brighton Launch

Waterloo Press
cordially invites you to
the Brighton Launch of their
European Programme
Maria Jastrzębska
reading from her new poetry collection
Everyday Angels
Emily Jeremiah
reading from
Bright, Dusky, Bright
her translations of the work of
Eeva-Liisa Manner
and music from
the ‘passionate and gutsy’
Sarah Clarke
7:30 for 8pm / Tues, Feb 16th / £5/4
Iambic Arts Theatre
above Bell Book & Candle on Gardner St
** Entrance is behind the shop, on Regent St
and will be signposted with balloons **
Cash bar
* * * * * * * *
Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to England as a child. Previous collections include Postcards From Poland (Working Press), Home from Home (Flarestack, 2002), Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004) and I’ll Be Back Before You Know It (Pighog Press, 2009). She was a co-editor of Forum Polek – Polish Women’s Forum, Poetry South and Whoosh!- Queer Writing South Anthology. Her work appears in many anthologies including See How I Land – Oxford Poets & Refugees (Heaven Tree Press, 2009) and Telling Tales About Dementia (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). Her drama Dementia Diaries was premiered in April 2009 by Lewes Live Literature. She was 2009 winner of the Off_Press international writing competition. Her work has been translated into French, Japanese, Polish, Romanian and Slovenian.
Eeva-Liisa Manner (1921-1995) was a central figure in Finnish Modernism. Her breakthrough collection, This Journey, was published in 1956, and was highly acclaimed. Manner published eleven collections of poetry in all, as well as prose works, plays for stage and radio, essays, reviews and translations. She was awarded numerous prizes for her work, which has been widely translated.
Emily Jeremiah is a lecturer in German at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of an academic book, Troubling Maternity, as well as of fiction, articles, reviews, and translations. In 2006 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, and in 2007 she was awarded a grant by Arts Council England to complete her first novel, Blue Moments. She was awarded joint third prize in the 2008 The Times Stephen Spender poetry translation competition. She lives in London.
Sarah Clarke mixes her own heartfelt songs with classic covers from Edith Piaf to Marc Bolan. Her voice is at the same time powerful but delicate, husky and honey-toned. A definite must-hear!

Midsummer Valentine’s Concert for Charity

Pack your picnic basket, uncork your bubbly and share a romantic evening of musical brilliance at the Midsummer Melodies concert, to be held on Valentine’s Day (Sunday, 14 February) in the gardens of the Main House at De Grendel Estate in Plattekloof.
The internationally acclaimed Cape Town Opera will be performing together with the talented young voices of the Hout Bay Music Project under the musical direction of celebrated local songstress, Aviva Pelham.
The Midsummer Melodies concert is being held to raise awareness for the Montrose Foundation and its two main initiatives for this year, the Montrose Equine ‘Youth at Risk’ Program’ and the ‘Find Help Find Hope’ awareness campaign. The aim is also to recognize the plight of addiction amongst poorer communities in South Africa, which is linked to the break-up of communities, families, and homes.
The Montrose Foundation was set up in 2008 by Johnny Graaff, founder of Montrose Place, an extended care facility for the treatment of addiction, chemical dependence, and compulsive behaviors. The foundation aims to set up a local community infrastructure whereby people can learn about addiction and seek help through various outreach programmes.
The Montrose Equine `Youth at Risk’ Development Programme (YARD) helps young individuals grappling with life issues to be transitioned back into society through equine-assisted therapy and the healing power of horses. The internationally-recognized therapy is especially helpful in addressing low-self esteem, poor communication skills, behaviour regulation, and problem-solving and coping skills. Montrose Equine has just graduated a group of 15 youths from Beth Urial through the program, and other organisations enrolled in the programme this year include Ons Plek and The Homestead.
The `Find Help Find Hope’ campaign is a media and awareness campaign which through various media aims to encourage addicts and those affected by addiction to join 12-step groups and seek outpatient treatment at NGO’s. It also intends to diminish the stigma around addiction by introducing the disease model to the public.
Tickets are R300 per person, and guests will receive a complimentary bottle of De Grendel bubbly and Lindt chocolates with every two tickets purchased.
There is also the option to pre-order a picnic basket for an additional cost of R114 per person, and there will be De Grendel wine, mineral water and gourmet pizzas for sale. Guests also stand a chance to win prizes from Mont Blanc and PUMA.
For information and ticket bookings please visit the Montrose Foundation or call 082 877 1777 or 021 797 9270.

Maggie Butt’s petite

Maggie Butt’s petite (Hearing Eye, 2010) follows her first full collection, Lipstick (Greenwich Exchange, 2007). Maggie’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and on the internet. She is an ex-journalist and BBC television producer, and is currently head of the Media department of Middlesex University. She lives in London and is chair of the National Association of Writers in Education.
Ant Life
Maggie Butt
Scurrying in and out of readings
lugging our self-important words
like leaf-clippings half our own size;
busying ourselves with so-and-so’s review,
award, obituary. Coming and going
going and coming, weaving through grass
stalks as if they were forest giants
gazing up at the jack-booted humans
and higher, to the birds, longing to fly.
Maggie Butt
This Rue is where my daughter plans to live:
a tattoo artist yelling at a drunk;
three old men sun their leathered chests and give
her leering looks; a flame-haired punk
holds fresh baguette and tiny dogs on leads;
a corner bar boasts cross-dress cabaret;
the scent of urine rises; heat forms beads
of sweat – a spring Parisian bouquet.
But strangers share their picnic in the park
and she will climb five flights of champagne night
where rooftops of Montmartre after dark
gleam with reflected gold and ruby light,
throw wide the shutters, sip the air’s rich wine,
intoxicated, think, “All this is mine.”
from petite (Hearing Eye, 2010)
Purchase a copy of petite from Maggie by emailing her:
£5 (incl. p & p) will get you a signed copy.

Maggie Butt

Pocket-sized poems from the author of Lipstick.
“Maggie Butt’s miniatures are witty, wise, original and compassionate, with a vision which ranges from the mundane to the sublime, and a concern for the language and craft of poetry which is apparent on every page.”
– James Aitchison
“Here are poems that are lyrical, highly-visual, and that dance off the page with delightful immediacy. In exquisitely-framed cameos, Maggie Butt explores relationships and events with an eye to the paradoxes and ironies.”
– Katherine Gallagher
“These small poems are tender, hopeful and unreasonably delightful.”
– Helena Nelson
“Maggie Butt is a poet with a supple intelligence which joins neatly with her sense of music. This makes her take on reality a pleasure to read.”
– Sebastian Barker
Visit Maggie’s website,
Read more of Maggie’s work at poetry p f, including Lipstick’s title poem.

Taste and Smell

“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
– Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (Volume 1)

Naomi Foyle’s The Night Pavilion

Mademoiselle Mal Chance
Naomi Foyle

A secret of eyelashes;
       a daisy dipped in pitch;
             a delicate brooch
pinned to the side of the tub ―
                    until I approach
with my plundering streams,
my inveigling finger:
a menace,
              a moment,
                             a flood.
Where is your fine lifeline, spider?
Where are your eight water wings?
You sprawl, a legless gamine.
I share a hot bath with your corpse.
It clings to my skin like a mole.
My mascara runs in the steam.
The Angel of Anarchy
Naomi Foyle
after the bust by Eileen Agar
The night you wrapped my head
in a Wake knot of silk scarves,
clipped chains around my thighs,
pressed your cheek against the feather
inked into my breast —
that night I almost felt your breath
warmly puzzling my flesh.
You could have been a robber,
an artist, or a god. But from your smell
of pepper, mixed with baby mouse,
I sensed that who I was
beneath the mask, and why I stayed
a pinioned herald on your bed,
you were too afraid to ask.
Miss Dickinson Regrets
Naomi Foyle
Blandishments and tourniquets
won’t stem the Surgeon’s gash —
I left my Ribcage on the Beach,
my brain Pan in the wash.
My Heart I folded in a cloth,
and placed it in a Basin,
with my Skin I stitched a cloak —
no Sleeves to slip your Ace in.
I left my Flesh so far behind
your Love to forage for…
Now, with ancient Teeth I munch
Starry porridge raw.
My face remains in Lockets
you lost inside a drawer.
Be careful turning back your Clocks —
inside their slow, infernal Works
I spat one sharpened Claw.
Your Summer Arm
Naomi Foyle
Was it an odd sort of cricket
climbing my oak dresser? No ―
an emerald shield bug, you said,
watching as I tried to slide
a piece of A4 paper
beneath its crooked legs.
When a foot caught, and tore,
I thought we both might cry.
Where is grass to comfort that green?
Those sweet, young shoots
I slipped from their sheaths
and chewed with wobbly teeth?
Now, as we curl into bed,
outside in the whistling damp
the husk I dismembered today
begins to decay in the leaves.
This whirring of thoughts,
rustle of pages,
mean nothing to you
Your breathing is so quiet,
I’d hardly know you were there
if it wasn’t for the glowing limb
buried in my hair.
from The Night Pavilion (Waterloo Press, 2008),
a Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Carol Rumens blogs about ‘Your Summer Arm’.

Naomi Foyle

“Truly original new work in verse and prose, as well as some adventurous, idiomatic translations, unsettle complacency and challenge expectations. Ostentatious, flirtatious, sometimes witty, technically ambitious and expansively sensuous, these poems push boundaries of form, genre and manner. At the same time they are highly approachable. Discerning readers will be delighted to discover a poet whose work is innovative but far from obscure, entertaining but never escapist.”
– Carol Rumens
“Naomi Foyle’s The Night Pavilion, her superb and startling first collection, glories in “needles, nettles, splinters” but it is the hard forms of those unlovely things, as much as their power to sting, which she celebrates. For all their mastery of form, these are poems that prowl, poems with whiskers, alert to “the tender tips of words.” She has an eye, and a nose, for unseemly contrasts—not only “cock” and “cunt” but the sexiest “crop circles” on record—and yet, out of these rude collisions a difficult beauty takes shape … Even so, just when you begin to think that Foyle is a lineal descendant of the Three Weird Sisters, all packed into one “pink hovel” of a mouth, you detect the sadness beneath the fierce aplomb.”
– Eric Ormsby
“No stranger to the intricacies of pain or the mystery of pleasure, in which both men and women are ‘blindfolded’ and bound – whether in ballads or prose poems – Naomi Foyle writes with elegance and wit, while never pulling any punches.”
– Maria Jastrzębska
Read more about Naomi Foyle and The Night Pavilion.
Order The Night Pavilion.