Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch has published two collections of poems, the latest of which, Not In These Shoes (Picador, 2008) was short-listed for Wales Book of the Year 2009.
Her work has been published in Poetry Wales, Poetry London, Poetry Ireland, the Independent and the Forward Anthology 2002 and 2009 as well as broadcast on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Scotland. She has read at the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, the University of Ottawa, Concordia University Montral, the Jagiellonian University Krakow and for the Arvon Foundation.
Samantha studied Classics at Cambridge followed by an MA in Writing at the University of Wales Cardiff. She has received awards for her work from the Society of Authors (2007), the Hawthornden Foundation (2005) and Academi (1997 and 2002). She is currently an Affiliate of Birkbeck College London (Research in Representations of Kinship and Community).
When you dropped the plate, the bridge broke
in two and the tiny blue ferns were torn.
Like us they would not mend. They spoke
in their dismembering; we could not mourn.
I wrote your name in willowy
handwriting on a scrap of paper, dropped
it in a jar of jasmine tea
which three hours in the freezer turned to rock.
On our first walk I plucked a fern,
arranged it in a cast full of hot wax.
Now the candle is almost burnt
away, a hard miniature pool acts
as evidence on a plate, a spell
cast and lost on a pagoda shell.
Above the stove his longjohns hang
where he pegged them on June 10th 1911.
A pin-up of a girl’s naked back
beside his bunk is curling up to his
spilt shelf of charts and logs, the diary’s yard
of ink. Frozen to death, outside,
the remains of a dog, chained in ice.
And here, Ponting’s darkroom, reliquary
of vials and plates splayed like cards.
On the table where Scott raised a final
birthday glass, a visitor has tried a slice
of a hundred year-old ham. Tins
of boiled mutton, brawn, Tate & Lyle
syrup lie thick and slow as the snow’s
drift, preserving an era’s hour.
And what of the women they left behind,
pausing each night on the stairs
to wind the heart of a clock,
folding and unfolding clothes, reading
and re-reading letters, weighing
each word, like a body?
Brighton West Pier
Last week I saw it again, staggering
like a shot beast in the high tide,
the pavilion a skull half sunk, gnawing
at its stilts. A telephone receiver swung
from the tangled guts of the bar.
Of course I have witnessed dereliction before:
mantelpieces three floors up,
the remnants of passion fluttering
in the torn wallpaper of virtual rooms,
the cross-section of intimacy.
But this reclaiming by sea of our
tentative steps leaves me
precarious: those Saturday nights
when I would catch my breath outside
its stuccoed façade, stilettoed,
tiptoeing between strips of sea foaming
below, a note from a saxophone
thrown to the wind, hearing his voice
on the line half a century ago,
still swaying there.
For once I wasn’t in love with the auctioneer.
I put my hand into your side, long and polished,
felt your entrails sleek through my fingers
like an anchor, your deep-throated tick
that stopped the day my grandpa died.
Your face was worn out, the inscription eroded
below the holy-eyed lion, the anvil lavishly
black. I raised a glass to you, tick tock,
the day you were carried off.
Take this one for instance from her own album:
Crown Duchess Tatiana rollerblading flirts
across the deck of the royal yacht, Standart
or even in this one whilst under house arrest,
Anastasia, planting cabbage seeds and cress
is radiant in muslin, surrounded by guards.
May 4th, 1917: all five over
the mumps now, so my darlings had their heads shaved,
then were photographed in a line all in black!
The Execution Archive for that year states
the bald facts: at twelve the Romanovs were told
to dress, stand in a row. It was necessary
to finish off the girls with bayonets – their corsets,
laced with diamonds had turned the bullets back.
Come to think of it, in a certain light
it looked ochre, all down the staircase,
marking the site of some terrible accident,
except that we all knew it had been tea
and that it was me who had dropped the tray,
collecting every fragment before an audience
of twenty in the hotel lobby, going to pieces
but acting like it was a regular clear-up.
The interior scar I lived with for months
like your death at twenty-one. Six weeks
before you jumped, you gave me your old desk –
but it was only after you’d leapt that I found
the inkstain in one of the rosewood drawers
and thought about the colour of the stones on the shore.
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Read more about Samantha at Contemporary Writers.
Order Rockclimbing in Silk and Not In These Shoes.