Naomi Foyle’s The World Cup

Naomi Foyle was born in London, and grew up in Hong Kong, Liverpool and Saskatchewan. Having written a chamber opera libretto, Hush, while an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, she started writing poems while backpacking through Europe in 1991 with a copy of the Collected Rimbaud. She has also travelled in North and Central America, Asia and the Middle East, and she is currently living in Brighton while completing her PhD in Creative Writing at Bangor University. Her first poetry collection, The Night Pavilion, was an Autumn 2008 PBS Recommendation, and she intends to develop her ballad pamphlet, Grace of the Gamblers, into a live literature production. In December 2009, Naomi travelled to Cairo as a member of the Gaza Freedom March, and in April 2010 she co-founded BWISP (British Writers In Support of Palestine).
About The World Cup:
Naomi Foyle’s The World Cup (Waterloo Press, 2010) is simultaneously the Holy Grail of a female football fan; an oceanic chalice of tears; and a brimming goblet of history, culture and myth. In a kinetic sequence of poems that journeys from Mexico and post 9/11 New York, through the conflicts in Ireland and the Middle East, to a no-holds barred game of love thrashed out in London, Brighton, Amsterdam and Greece, Foyle amply displays not only her abundant lyric and narrative gifts, but also a winning warmth and humour. Though its honest brew of self-reflection is at times almost painfully intimate, The World Cup comes laced with astringent socio-political comment, and is stamped with the trademark Foylean wit.
“Subtle and wild, passionate and wise, Naomi Foyle’s second collection will bring her yet more admirers. Whether she is writing of the indigenos of Mexico or the state terrorism Israel practices on the people of Gaza; whether she writes of love and its mazes and despairs; the mishaps of a gangly footballer; or the free spirits of her home town Brighton, Naomi Foyle shoots both from the heart and the head. A vivid, pacey raconteur, with a sharp eye for satire, unusually, she shines at the longer narrative poem, burnishing a minor crisis into something wondrous, always with a relish for the pleasures of life whether serious or absurd. Warmth, curiosity, human sympathy are the base notes of a poetry commanding dramatically different themes and settings, and a variety of forms.”
– Judith Kazantzis
“Naomi Foyle’s brilliantly detailed, sensually absorbed, light-saturated mix of personal findings and their extension into the political, make her poetry my sort of poetry. Naomi is her own subject, whether swimming in a scarlet two-piece at Land’s End, sitting in a restaurant window, arriving at Brenda and Isabelle’s object-littered flat, or acutely noting how ‘The sound your swollen finger makes/ plucking at the mouth/ of the soda water bottle/ gives my cheekbones definition.’ Naomi Foyle injects concentrated visual imagery into re-casting a world in which ‘men are sharp as lemons; women sting like limes.’ I go to her poems to see things shine clear as the light in a diamond.”
– Jeremy Reed
Postcard Sent By Someone Else
I would have called last week, but
there was a riot at a football game, the police
shot a woman and her child, then the crowd
set fire to the post office and ripped
all the phones in the zocalo
out of their sockets …
I would have told you that this jungle
is the maw of the world—its hot breath
steams you open in your sleep, then, like
a trickle of army ants dismantling a palm tree,
a screech of howler monkeys shaking
the afternoon rains from the canopy
above your hamaca,
                            its enzymes
start breaking you down …
Poem for a Greek Anarchist
So, Yannis. Democracy is a joke
unworthy of your swift laughter. Peace
is a euphemism for lobotomising the First World
and starving the Third. Arthritis
is an degenerative disease
my mother tells me strikes young people
too stubborn for their years. Patience
is the most infuriating quality
of ‘grounded’ men,
and when we eat in your Dad’s pizzeria,
my facial muscles feel compelled
to comment on your every move.
The sound your swollen finger makes
plucking at the mouth
of the soda bottle
gives my cheekbones definition.
Your saliva falls
in a long slow arc to the patio
like an egg
cracked open by a skyscraper chef
hitting the fry pan
without breaking its yolk
― and my jaw follows
with its own moist curve.
And if my brow gathers
when you stroke
those pomegranate lips with your collar,
it’s not because I’m plotting
to overthrow the State. No,
I’m only involved with that soft cotton,
echoing its furrows
above the night vision eyes of ‘Naomi the Cat’ —
eyes that look at your lap
and see a bomb
in my bed.
[and 13 Israelis]
‘In 23 days: over 1300 Palestinians were murdered (over
400 children and 100 women) and 5300 were injured.’
Donate your status:
Donate your status.
Donate your despair.
Donate your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, your wife.
Donate your children.
Donate a hospital.
Donate one thousand three hundred and thirteen candles.
Donate a match.
Match a donation.
Donate the fine line between you and your neighbour.
Donate a bucket of soil, a packet of seeds.
Donate a truckload of doughnuts.
Donate a moment of doubt.
Donate your most sophisticated haircut.
Donate a crate of sophistry-detectors.
Donate your will to survive.
Do not do nothing.
Donate your body temperature.
Donate your kidney.
Donate your library.
Donate your deepest desire.
Do not fear ridicule, rage, isolation.
Donate a kilo of rice.
Donate a tenner.
Donate a round table.
Donate the freedom you’d forgotten you had.
Donate your shopping list – your love of avocados, Sharon fruit
     and dates.
Donate the sweater your grandmother made you.
Donate a winter of warm, sleepless nights.
Donate a new notion of ‘nation’.
Donate a persistent belief that, despite all evidence to the
     contrary, everyone, everywhere, is extraordinary.
Donate an hour of your day
to stand up and demonstrate
peace is a process of learning to listen,
and giving is not ‘giving in’.

God Save Our Noble Team
It’s not just the wiggling hips of the Nigerians,
the young dog stamina of the South Koreans,
the street urchin haircuts of the Irish,
the sultry glowers of the Azzurri’s finest,
or the pristine thighs and jaws
they all possess by right.
Nor is it all down to Beckham’s honeyed torso,
Quinny’s height and lilt,
Rivaldo’s shark-like teeth,
Rio’s languid flair —
or even Fabien’s bum being spritzed with cold spray
during a particularly constipated bout with Italy back in ‘98.
It’s almost but not quite the Argentines’ black socks,
long locks and grizzled chins,
and it just, just barely isn’t the passing fancy
of being hired to alleviate Harry Krewel’s groin strain
with Tantric warm-up exercises
that traps me in front of the telly
each time a World Cup football match is played.
Yes, footballers are sexy.
Some are compact and keep their shape
—except in the second half—
some have ‘individual skills’ to die for,
others keep clean linen sheets.
And even though their shorts were shorter
back in Guadalajara,
their kit is really cute and shows off their physiques.
And yes, they run around in the heat and wet,
stripping off their shirts
every time they score.
But truly, it’s the game they play that turns me on.
It’s the time football takes,
the beautiful, agonising length of it—
two or three hours prone on my futon,
waiting, wanting, yearning for one elusive goal,
never knowing how or when
the next stroke of panic, misery or euphoria will fall:
all attention focused
on the flickering of the screen, the flicking of the ball.
It’s the lull of knowing there is nothing more
and nothing less important than the voyage of that ball,
hurtling like pleasure, like pain,
from player to player,
down the electric green grass
in search of the back of the net
one goal
being sometimes technically sufficient,
but never quite enough.
Yes, football is sex.
And with its side netting, woodwork and offside traps,
it can get pretty kinky.
But it is also love, history, religion, commerce, politics, art,
     war, dance,
and a way — for now — to keep the Americans in the dark.
A sport so simple little plastic men can play it,
so epic that every four years it hurls nations into riots
of bloodlust, revenge, inspiration, celebration and bitter cursing
     of the gods.
Football gathers up like sweaty rags
the orgiastic revelry of the fans,
the irrevocable decisions of the referees,
the irreversible moments of good or bad luck —
and on the solipsistic reverie of the screen
wrings out a passionate meditation upon fate.
Football is a bad marriage in a Catholic country.
Football is the sanctity of human error.
Football is the tedium of the commentators’ inane obsessions
crowding out one’s own.
Football is a game played on dirt in the townships
the temporary triumph of the immigrant labourers
and the brutal crush of the media machine.
Football is a gladiators’ ring of fancy boys and immortals.
Football is NAFTA with cleats.
Football is a rum-soaked trifle,
a Christmas tin of Quality Street chocolates,
lobster and champagne.
Football is Seaman’s tear-stained sheet.
Football is Escobar’s own goal.
Football is the letter you shouldn’t have opened.
Football is the speed at which you realise
your entire life has been undone.
The Pablo Neruda Barbeque
Poets, singers, newly weds,
gather on the beach,
share olives, wine, guitars,
books and bits of Spanish,
poke sausages with skewers,
orchestrate umbrellas.
Softly rumbling clouds,
charcoal, seared with gold,
fill their bellies with our smoke.
And when the sky splits open
a tender ray of sunshine
warms our faces as we read
poems of love and tomatoes,
elemental odes ―
the white lips of the sea
sucking at the stones.
from The World Cup (Waterloo Press, 2010)
Order The World Cup.
Read more about Waterloo Press.

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