Naomi Woddis has featured at the O2 Wireless Festival, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the London Literature Festival. She is Poet in Residence at Culpeper Community Garden, Islington. Her innovative collaborative online invention, Poetry Mosaic, is gaining in international popularity. Her pamphlet, Life is Music, was published in 2007.
This is the hour when a lip
tells half-truths in the un-lit
dark. Your name’s a tug
on my slip-knot self,
your words what I miss
the most. I make tiny airborne
stabs at truth; there is no us.
I miss the tips of our tongues
touching, the lisp of our kisses,
a gulp of too few days together.
Bricks shudder in their sockets, spoilt
by windless nights, the waning moon a slit
in a frozen sky. The walls groan as you
are left wondering what rage will come
on this sullen night. You’ve lost all sense
of what is real – only the haunting, this storm
rising and you hungry for sleep. Alone
on this abandoned evening; a poet,
fists like a boxer, fighting your own ogre.
This oil is slick and immovable, grabbing
at each tide, just ask the seagulls. They talk
of the scar this black sea leaves. The salt trace is a halo
in this jigsaw desert, each footstep almost holy.
These are what tears feel like underfoot, a rhyme
of broken vowels, the breath snuffed out, some
one’s voice hanging in the elevator shaft. Hourly
the visitors come to claim what is not theirs. Sly
as dogs on the hunt for their supper, their calm
persuasiveness is a lie. They take and take, macho
and unapologetic. Meanwhile the gulls cry, wet as clay,
a brand new ocean of sadness weeps. Coal-hard
voices, slick as chrome will wonder why they came.
Visit Poetry Mosaic, an online invention.
Visit Moments of Chaos and Nostalgia, photography by Dan Wesker and poetry by Naomi Woddis.
Monthly Archives: September 2010
David Caddy: Four Poems
David Caddy is a poet, critic and editor of Tears in the Fence. He has been described by John Kinsella as ‘a true maverick in both his poetry and critical prose’. His most recent poetry books are The Willy Poems (Clamp Down Press, USA, 2004) and Man in Black (Penned in the Margins, 2007). His collection of critical essays So Here We Are is due from Shearsman in early 2011.
I will my snake belt today
its interlocking boar buckle
as a gesture before Domesday
until the cows leave the parlour
the last thinning of birdsong.
I hold this against the man
who wanted to put his hands
around my neck by the gravel fields.
I hold this against speedcore
the numbed silence of arrest.
I hold this to sun’s constancy
the wet field spread pelt
where consciousness is a path
away from intrusions, charges
I pick at a buried politics
on the edge of belonging
white knuckle scrag
in darkness that smothers
with its ruptures and smears.
You know the yew is transparent
and the raven problem solves
waiting for pliable alphabets
in emergent gullies,
and birthing pools,
where a damselfly
away from the golf course
needs one good eye
as distance rims the vanishing,
one good eye.
This Giddy Bevel
Shrew’s nest left of terminus
three feet south south-west
and two feet left of outer ring
by footpath, other rodent prints,
next to barbed wire fence.
Prostrate found sixth spider
among assorted debris, thorns
decomposed clippings. Flints,
axe heads, juniper berries,
bottle, large worn pebbles.
Signs of fox or badger digging
disturbed remains of capsule
medium and small flints three
to nine inches below Oxford
clay, sandstone stresses.
Four inch skull ten inches below.
Assorted small animal bones
within disturbed remains,
twill, gut, indeterminate
deposits, cloying soil texture.
By boundary ditch, second pit
dug in sixteenth century dated
by bottle, cock pheasant. Pale
ash. Gulls above. Tangible
niche of foe and alloy.
Upright, my back aches.
Oft mentioned animals
impinge, smudge, mix
lure, stir in this shaft,
in this giddy bevel.
A Severed Head
Wood vetch, yellow archangel,
grizzled skippers in search of bramble,
scattering of flies, coursing breeze-up.
To the left corner a no-nonsense broiler
solid, no windows, minimal ventilation,
stifling heat, intense spatial allocation.
Some celandine, campion beside a fallen
branch, near the rutted track and fresh
scratchings, revving skid marks.
A severed head
Yet no body to be seen
some fizz and filter,
cardinal and stag
not a bluebell in sight
A severed head.
A severed head.
The owner is said to speak pure pidgin.
His entrails must stink.
Yet the activists are as much hunters
as keepers. This step and clearing has no
shame for the voyeur to glean.
Crab apple denoting age, boundary,
deserted apart from a wild service.
A severed head.
Young Paul Hart
Full of passion Mississippi Paul Hart
Shunter Smith And His Boogie Train
brashly erects his first art poster in Stur
and the locals are ecstatic at the Biba hint,
there is a clap of praise and we are
moved to believe in the divine again.
At the Fiddleford, cold on the table waiting, two pints of 6X.
A ritual, man to man, glass by glass, until chucking out.
LA Woman in the air. Paul’s declarative. Art portfolio.
MG parked askew. He’s got two women, the fuzz on his trail.
He’s a Friend of the Devil. He’s my friend. He’s maybe your
friend too. He knows Matisse, chords, runs thirty miles daily,
will help you if you ask. His smile does not lie. We lie under
its gravitas, alive in the valley and try to be the best that we can
and not some shady agent who hides words under the spit of
He slumps down, covering the table with papers, and says
without vision, we only see parts, we are pistils and stamens.
from David’s forthcoming collection, The Bunny Poems.
Order Man in Black (Penned in the Margins).
Bruce Covey’s Glass Is Really a Liquid
Bruce Covey lives in Atlanta, GA, where he teaches at Emory University, edits Coconut Poetry, and curates the ‘What’s New in Poetry’ reading series. Glass Is Really a Liquid is his fourth book and second (Elapsing Speedway Organism, 2006) from No Tell Books. His fifth collection, Reveal, will be published by Black Radish in 2011.
“Material (as in ‘concrete’: glassine — O liquid!) but abstract, says Miro in dialogue with Picasso. That is they’re pretty painterly, the poems, with images that flow past one changing into words … pixels … serifs. Domestic, lyric, amorous — well why not? “Cracked, however, like the liberty bell”. One can actually read them and be there, just reading, seeing (like you’re really there, really really there. You get to stay yourself). Steinlike (as in glasses), stained. Stunning. His best book yet.
– Alice Notley
“Glass Is Really a Liquid implicates more than one common substance in its continuous, polymath-eyed onslaught of negotiations of weird space: he unmasks hidden kitchens, pistols in napkins, a lurking way of “progressive sleep”. Gestures and feelings in these indexed syntaxes turn to colors, shapes, ideas. “It’s the new year, so everyone drives in the wrong direction”, a poem intones just before its speaker gets shot at by a helicopter “ammo pulsing 3 or 4 or 5 or blue”. In the hypercolor wake of all its gunfire, left wide open, the book still carries on, magnetizing in the same breath as its syllabic destruction a new Bruce Covey skinsuit around the reader’s body, equal parts Holy Shit! and Ouch!”
– Blake Butler
“In Glass Is Really a Liquid, Bruce Covey presents puzzles in poetry so perfectly constructed so that we may come to find that things are not always as they seem. The ways in which he uncovers and recovers discovery and loss allow us to see as he sees and, like him, “hope the clouds have / Answers hope the clouds have”. To read these poems is to embark on a “a beautiful visit, a beautiful injection” of playful artifice but also heartbreaking insight. These poems are so much about this world; they are so much about the next one, too, where “all the little / Animals might congregate after”. It’s sure to be a lovely affair because Bruce has taken us there.”
– Jenny Boully
“Bruce Covey’s Glass Is Really a Liquid begins in the aftermath of a catastrophic loss, in a vivid state of stunnedness not unlike that of shock. Poignantly and precisely, Covey catalogs the indefinable aftermath, of what remains for the thwarted left-behind: “a cardboard city full of weeds…” or “stale bread…” [with] “…Marshmallow Fluff on it”. These are poems are expansive, passionate, instinctual, intelligent and funny—crafted as tightly as ski mask.”
– Jennifer L. Knox
“”Three ice tea & the wave of the future” is a fair example of the things to be found in Bruce Covey’s ‘Restaurant’, and throughout his poetry. Or how about “buttonholes / & boxes, stomachs & teeth, awaiting / Fulfillment from a good marketing plan”? Everything in the universe is getting along with each other, or maybe not, but somehow moving forward. “Touch it & burn, but be saved”.”
– John Ashbery
It is about daisies, yes, and narcissus
& iris & the fallen cherry petals
Cascading across the grass like snow.
I just wish, for once, that underneath was
Only a series of horizontals & verticals,
With a little dot in the center of each square,
Rather than these 30,000 ton prickly atmospheres
Poking their way between each blade
& aerating the flesh, thus initiating
The final degradation. My superpower
Is the ability to stop time. My limit is
I can only use it once.
It’s all the same whether you or me’s
The one who lifts it. Ten pounds
Of feathers or ten pounds of dimes—
The one who weighs the more
Will ring a bell of jelly beans.
Yup, a circus theme: The five ways
The stilt man walks, his balance the key
& answer to over 500 questions.
Or the wolf that claims to be
A bearded woman. Fear of being
Torn, howling at the camera’s
Flash & brighter than the moon.
Or, shutter speed slow, a record-
Setting lifter, five small & full of aim,
Cigarette-smoking paper bag:
Redeem your tickets here! Skeeball
Or no, the capital of Tennessee’s
Root beer is the national bird,
The state bush, the first one to appear
On the 41-cent postage stamp.
from Glass Is Really a Liquid (No Tell Books, 2010).
Glass Is Really a Liquid is coming soon from No Tell Books.
Read more about Elapsing Speedway Organism
(No Tell Books, 2006).
Visit the No Tells blog.
Visit the No Tell Motel.
Visit Coconut Poetry.
Matt Bryden: Six Poems
Born and raised in Beckenham, Matt Bryden is an EFL teacher whose work has taken him to Tuscany, the Czech Republic and Poland. His poems have appeared in New Welsh Review, The Reader and The Warwick Review among others. His pamphlet, Night Porter, was one of the winners of the Templar pamphlet competition 2010, and will be published in November. Boxing the Compass, his first full collection, follows in 2011, also with Templar.
A new face at half six.
I was manning Reception
when he came through the doors.
On a couch he told me about the kitchens
in Scotland. His uncleaned teeth
smelt earthy as sweat.
‘I came to England to get a break. That’s a joke.’
He showed me bank statements
of when he was £10,000 in the black.
First published in Seam.
Should the People But Come Above Ground
In Quebec, the snow-clearing machines are known
as hiders, the packed ice compacted into bricks
and stacked at the side of the road.
In the morning, the streets are clear.
In the underground malls, high ceilings
approximate sky; hats are worn.
Because of the cost of lighting each subterranean city,
ice is translated into power
through a system of hydro-electric mills.
Steam, a by-product, hangs in the air,
making it impossible for insects to fly.
Butterflies and moths move entirely on land.
Due to the absence of public parks, dogs
are a rare sight below ground. Above, caged sections
are allocated; their etiquette is pronounced.
Butterfly cages the size of basketball courts
occupy a square in each district, as pristine in the light
as the rows of empty ropes in the schools’ unused gyms.
Below, fountains flicker with thin blue strips of silk,
blown into movement by air currents.
In an atmosphere so heavily permeated with water,
water itself does not flow.
A cup of tea, while warming above ground,
can chap the skin of an ungloved hand beneath.
For this reason only warmed apple juice
with cinammon is served.
Each Canadian souterraine will tell you,
in her icy Quebecois, that men are available
should one only take a look. They joke,
‘Not one of us would say winter is our favourite season.’
The streets empty, the city is art.
The nightcleaners hose the base
of the butterfly enclosure through wire mesh,
scourge the chalky residue.
The underground populace thrive.
A nightcleaner kids himself
that his foot feels the faintest thrum,
a cricket’s fibrillation in a sound-box, from below.
First published in Magma.
If People Think
this Czech girl is weak
because she keeps her own counsel,
they don’t factor quite
how tough it is to be that quiet.
Everyone wants your contribution.
She chooses London
over returning to her mother’s home –
a timber-frame construction
near a forest,
her sister across the hall.
Her money gone,
she resorts to the word
of an older man with keys
to a car and a flat in Edinburgh
and escapes a month later,
the split ends of her hair
dropping below a bruised shoulder.
After class, she catches herself
turning her chair onto the table, and laughs.
First published in Smiths Knoll.
The Night Sky
Who brings these star- and crescent-
shaped pastries, each filled with vanilla
or jam, to my bed each morning?
Such nursery shapes are clearly beneficent,
like knowing which berries are sour
and which are ripe by sight.
I stare past my desk to the window
and wipe my dreams like a slate.
First published in The Warwick Review.
As you urinate, or bathe, a blur
against the glass.
The bubble bath, never lush, thinned to air
we see each other just by looking down.
I cover your mouth.
Your desk is propped
against the scrape
of butter across toast in the mornings;
evenings, the lift pulley sounds in your bricks.
I can’t sleep for being hugged and held,
I rise, shower an alertness and am gone.
Always the promise of closeness.
Cold streets, shared meals.
I talk until I realise I don’t have to.
Rock until our legs fall in place.
First published in Orange Coast Review.
An exhibition match at Beckenham Public Hall;
you lent your arm out of a fondness for the locale
and familiarity with his name in the Embassy final.
Down there, on the floor, the fall-out
of your recent breakup didn’t register.
Attempted reconciliations after nightfall,
rushing home to neck fistfuls of Kalms – all this
evaporated with the first hit. Jimmy split
the pack. You took it slow; lined that red up till
it was almost gone, it had to go.
‘Can you put our pocket back please, Jon,’ cracked the emcee.
The crowd were rigidly attentive of that slab of green
from their place in the hard seats. And you were on the black now.
Another red sank. From Jimmy: ‘You know it’s winner
stays on?’ Applause. And in that pit,
you wiped your blade at twenty-six.
Jimmy didn’t give you another sniff.
He kept you off the table
and gave you his chalk by way of memento
on the way back up to your seat.
It rankled not to get back in the game.
And that, Jon, was the mending of you.
First published in New Welsh Review.
Visit Matt’s blog.
Visit Matt’s Templar Poetry page.
Caroline Carver: Six Poems
Caroline Carver lives in Cornwall, after alternative lives in the West Indies and in Canada. She is a National Poetry Prize winner and has published three collections: Jigharzi an Me in West Indian dialect (Semicolon Press), Bone-Fishing (Peterloo Poets), and most recently Three Hares (Oversteps Books). A number of her poems have been translated into Romanian and Italian. Caroline is a Hawthornden Fellow and currently poet-in-residence at Trebah Gardens in Cornwall, and revels in living in a place where there are so many poet friends.
Unpredictable as my sister’s shadowed face
the clouds are playing house again
building castles for giants;
there’s a beach framed by mansions
of extraordinary beauty the sun plays hide and seek
among Roman villas in terminal decline
and the giants are planning a ball –
soon the great yachts and cruise-ships will come
dispense their passengers at the doors
of these dream palaces
although the coastline has already moved crab-ways
into new countries new continents;
oceans puff and fill
perhaps dragons are stirring underneath
as we enter a world wrapped by Christo,
(to this day I have a small fragment of cloth
clipped from the Pont Neuf) But look!
The cloudsea is no longer calm
the tumbler of gin in my sister’s hand
clicks its castanets of ice;
our pilot acknowledges turbulence;
the plane begins its slow measured descent
Previously published in Artemis 4 (May, 2010).
The Empress stops at the Crescent Moon spring of Dunhuang
She settles her head carefully onto the stone pillow
which will give her the last dreams of childhood
before she takes the western route to a new life
the Silk Road waits in the evening sun
She has left her camels with their heads down
drinking as if they would like to drain the oasis
their babies with soul brown eyes and soft muzzles
already nestled into the cupped palm of the desert
waiting for the latest fall of sand
to fly back to the Mingsha Mountains
The Empress lies in her silken tent
surrounded by treasures
placed there by her ladies each night –
a trunk filled with gold and silver
a glass jug engraved with flutes
a delicate ivory comb for her long black hair
She fingers the red dress embroidered with a thousand butterflies
sings to the caged canaries twelve, for each of her twelve years
strokes the statue of the flying horse
which will one day carry her to heaven
but best she loves the moths of the second moult
in their large wicker basket
she likes to stir the tiny black hairs on their backs
with her polished forefinger
She doesn’t dream of the coltish young camels
the gold and silver and glass and ivory
not even the shimmering red dress or the twelve canaries
but mounts the flying horse, beautiful as a God
clutching his mane, whispering into his soft ears
turned back to catch her voice
When she wakes and tiptoes out into the cool desert night
to dip her hands into the magic spring,
curved like a crescent moon
she is surrounded by moths
Previously published in Agenda and Three Hares.
Sedna the Sea Goddess
The bird turned into a man
snow lay on his shoulders
was he petrel or fulmar?
he didn’t say
At first he came
only in dreams
one summer night
lay with her
at dawn she left her house
to marry him
Who could explain
her father’s rage?
The storms of Anguta
reached across oceans
she knew full joy
only six days before
he killed her husband
threw her in his umiak –
pushed her overboard
when winds frightened him
she wouldn’t give in
gripped the boat so hard
he had to chop her fingers off
one by one
did not know
that in her new Kingdom
they would transform
into narwhals seals walruses
singing humpback whales
sailors who hear them
believe in mermaids
Previously published in Acumen and Three Hares.
“long-eared owls roost secretively in willow thickets”
They hide their secrets
in willow baskets
which my grandmother has woven for them
I saw her down by the river
picking withies and long reeds
to be bleached by an autumn moon
her fingers curved
by the slow separation
of knuckle and joint
and spindled, like the twiggy legs of owls
under their brushed fur feathers.
Orange and yellow eyes catch light
as they fall from the branches
into a long slow arc of flight
oo – ooh – ooh they say to my grandmother
and she smiles to herself
unlike her they do not show their age
and she is not telling oo – ooh – ooh
as their wings beat deep and slow in the slow night.
Previously published in Bone-Fishing.
Leaving the Ice House World
Like preCambrian rocks
which have finally mastered the art of standing still
Gaia turns quietly on her axis
continents stirring contentedly at speeds perceptible only to her
the fires in her belly feeding fantasies of a domestic hearth
where she’ll sit with her feet up
flicking the channel switch of her Big Brother creator
watching herself in all his mirrors at once
sometimes wearing dust-brown rags of famine
sometimes her favourite Snow Queen outfit
with icing borrowed from Neptune
but the devil’s in the detail she likes to make herself invisible
listens eagerly as poets struggle to describe love
scientists talk through the night in space laboratories
measuring differences in ice
Wait! another space ship has just gone up
carrying items of immense importance –
radio recordings of 21st century music
a speech from the greatest of all presidents
sealed canisters filled from Pandora’s box
Gaia shrugs tectonic plates grind their teeth
as always in times of doubt
she reaches for her pack of Tarot cards
Previously published in The Wolf magazine and Three Hares.
Song of the Ash Tree
like Yggdrasil the great ash
with her snake coiled at the root
we are bound by water and hope
roots reaching deep into that kingdom
of ferns and wet darkness
where past present and future
water each life from the sacred well
Did you know – in those high days of summer
when shadows retreat into the forest –
and the wind rustles our leaves
till we burst with love
male female or androgynous
we are always the wild ones of woodland
wrapped in ivy dancing with Satyrs
Seize the day pretty child Seize the day
when you are matronly
bunched keys at your thickening waist
every leaf you grow
every kindness every point of suffering
will be carved into your face
unless you have gazed nightly through shy leaves
dreaming of both water and fire
the milk soft bloom of stars
lambs in their brief dance of spring
Visit Caroline’s Oversteps Books author page.
Order Three Hares (Oversteps Books, 2009).
Read more of Caroline’s poems at poetry pf.
Marion McCready: Four Poems
Marion McCready lives in Dunoon, Argyll, with her husband and two young children. She holds an MA in Politics and Classics and an MLitt in Philosophy both from Glasgow University. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including Poetry Scotland, Edinburgh Review, The Glasgow Herald, and Horizon Review. Calder Wood Press will be publishing a pamphlet of her poems in 2011.
The waxy strap leaves supplicate
beneath each black cup.
even on this day,
I can taste the night air
on my breath.
Have you ever seen such dark gloves
cupping the heart of its sex?
The red-edged wings
of a butterfly burn
against the coal-dust tips.
Black tulips rise,
green stems slicing through the earth.
They bear the weight of dusk
on their heads,
each one a silhouette,
a burnt-out sun.
This bed of Persian bells
on the garden of my eyes
while these ripe petal trinities
brush against the cream
of my legs.
First published in the Edinburgh Review, Issue 128
They ripen to mosaics,
sweet stains hanging mid-air.
Then one by one
like a family of suicides.
And when we pass
we pick the plump thumbs
that are left,
colour our teeth, our tongues
with their grief.
Yet no son has died here,
no father’s arms burn
with the weight of the dead
on Bramble Street.
First published in Poetry Scotland (December, 2009).
Hoar frost trembles
at the edge of bramble leaves,
love letters to birds
“In another life
they ate my house with fire.”
a sort of music, under my feet
and the white hills rise
“You were my body armour
most of the night.”
The sun glows
through layers of cloud-dust.
Tree stumps flower
“They came while we were eating,
they came in twos and threes.”
The river pulses
drowning these mysteries in eddies;
the voices, the words,
my muddied feet.
First published in Anon Magazine, Issue 7 (June, 2010).
The Red Road
The morning scent of spring
colours the sky
above the Red Road.
close your eyes.
Swallow this bitter butterfly,
let its wings expand in your throat
(as we tie ourselves together with rope).
the clouds form crosses in the sky.
God will catch us.
The frost-thumbed grass will cry
with our broken bones alone
(the furniture of our souls),
for we are citizens of the sky.
First published in Poetry Scotland (June, 2010).
Visit Marion’s blog.
Read Marion’s ‘The Cockle Picker’s Wife’ in the second issue
of Horizon Review.
Visit Poetry Scotland’s website.
Visit the Edinburgh Review’s website.
Visit Anon Magazine’s website.
Rik Roots: ‘Portsmouth Thoughts’
Rik Roots is an internet poet who likes to do things his own way – you’ll not find his poems in magazines as he much prefers to publish them on his own website.
Rik’s major claim to ‘proper’ poetic fame is being part of the group that established Magma Poetry – he even edited Magma 6, for his sins. The magazine’s subsequent success has nothing to do with Rik; he left the Management Board a few weeks before Magma 7 was published.
The poem ‘Portsmouth Thoughts’ comes from Rik’s latest chapbook, To Posterity, which he released into the wild of the internet in September 2010. The chapbook can be downloaded (at no cost) as a pdf, which should be viewable on most eReaders. Rik’s previous publications can be discovered on his publications page.
With the marksman’s lead threaded
in his spine, they took him down
to settle in the rocking dark, alert
to the cracks of battle: splinter spars;
powder pillows heft from copper store
to cannon; sharp wine in water; shouts;
sweats. He bled in his ship of skin,
three hours to reach death’s dock.
Another man has no plaque, nor grave
beyond a weight of water. He has instead
a glass display, labels to mark him:
“barber-surgeon drowned with his chest”.
Here are his knives, his herbs, a leather
of shoe, some dice, some coins, a bone
nit-comb. He has no face; his blood
rusts in Solent muds. Still he was here.
This boat is all lignin bone in mist,
a preservation of what was once great,
and lost, and rescued. I pay good coin
to view her – for she is my history
as much as the bricks and stones
of the town surrounding us, the heroes
who watched these docks slip past,
a clinch in our tide’s slow pulse.
Ingrid Andersen’s Piece Work
Ingrid Andersen was born in Johannesburg, read for a degree in English literature and film and theatre criticism at Wits and is presently completing her Masters. Her work has been published in poetry journals for 16 years. Excision, her first volume of poetry, was published in 2004 and her second, Piece Work, was published by Modjaji Books in September this year.
Her influences include the French Romantic poets, Imagism, Ted Hughes and the writings of Bashō. She is the founding editor of Incwadi, a South African journal that explores the interaction between poetry and image. An Anglican priest, she works in human rights, healing and reconciliation.
Andersen’s work has been published in local literary journals including Imprint, Slugnews, Carapace, Green Dragon, Botsotso, Incwadi and New Coin, as well as internationally. Her work has been anthologised. She presented her work at WordFest at the National Arts Festival in 2004 and 2005, as well as at the Hilton Arts Festival in 2009. She contributed the libretto for a musical which was produced twice in the early ’90s. Her creative writing workshops focus on allowing creativity to overcome disabling self-critique.
She worked as a theatre publicist in the 1980s, the days of political protest theatre, at the Market Theatre and PACT, amongst others, working with some fascinating people.
As South Africa began to rebuild after the first democratic elections, she became active in community activism and development, at The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters, as CEO of the Rosebank Homeless Association and then as Community Engagement Manager at Rhodes University. She works presently at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in human rights, peace building and reconciliation, with a particular focus on the Alternatives to Violence Project. Ingrid was nominated for Rhodes University Amnesty International ‘Woman of the Year’, and was awarded Honorary Membership of the Golden Key Society.
Ingrid has lived most of her life in Johannesburg, worked in Grahamstown for five years and relocated to the KwaZulu–Natal Midlands in 2007. She lives with a cherished Persian-Siamese cat called Dickens.
“Andersen’s poems fuse the best of Imagism with a heartfelt compassion; with a few well-chosen words, she can turn the rawness and imprecision of emotion into poems that reach simultaneously for clarity and for the reader’s heart. She is generous, careful, passionate – all these qualities make her work profound and accessible. Each poem is a self-contained loveliness.”
– Fiona Zerbst
“Ingrid Andersen writes poems for an ‘age of loneliness’. With words of powerful simplicity, this book cuts open the heart and mind of the reader, stitches and sometimes mends. Darting lightly in and out of life’s small and lonely spaces and places, her quiet truths offer respite from the world’s noise.”
– Tania van Schalkwyk
Amongst the whirled cones of small shells
and fractures of molluscs and pieces of stone
between my young fingers,
a tiny fragment
startling blue on clean white,
thrown up on the beach by a storm.
There were more over time,
gathered and treasured,
Some rounded, worn,
Once, the whole
bottom of a bowl.
As a child, I’d imagine the sea drawing
back from the shipwreck.
Risking the water’s return,
I would glean what I could.
I haven’t been back
for more than ten years.
I still have them. Now
I know how
to pattern my own.
Meditation – First hour
I began the Good Friday meditation:
“Imagine Jesus walked into this church today.
What would he look like? How would you respond to him?”
Heads bowed, they didn’t see Monica,
church cleaner back at work
her CD4 count up,
slip quietly in and take
Eucharist – Second hour
You’d known that your
would need blood and pain
Your time must have drawn inexorably near:
the suffering, then the triumph.
Easter bells – Third hour
Good Friday’s solemnity
draws to a close.
And the sacred
of the stone cathedral
is suddenly broken, from the back
by peals of bells
as an acolyte swings into the air,
at the end of the rope.
Burning the Fire Break
I’m called from my books,
this peaceful space
away from you.
The wind has whipped
the fire out
of control, it threatens the farmhouse:
all hands are needed.
I stand, armed with beater,
upon the border of veld and garden.
I think of National Geographic,
of fires in Australia, California –
I’ve not done this before.
Smoke burns bitter in my throat.
There. In the haze,
flames at the base
of the khakibos
in the close-grazed stubble
five strides ahead of me.
The wind behind them
The fire flings up,
longer grass nearby:
an angry wall that
spits and roars
I face the flame,
You shall not pass.
from Piece Work (Modjaji Books, 2010)
Visit Ingrid’s blog at Book SA.
Visit Modjaji’s blog at Book SA.
Ami Kaye’s What Hands Can Hold
Ami Kaye’s poems have appeared in various journals. She has also written features, reviews and articles. She is the author of What Hands Can Hold (Xlibris, 2010), and her new poetry collection, Singer of the Ragas, will be released later this year. Ami Kaye is the publisher and managing editor for Pirene’s Fountain, a journal of poetry. Visit her website.
“What Hands Can Hold is a luminous collection with compelling emotion and insights. Some of the poems exude softness and beauty, and some like ‘Elegy of Complaint’, grit and blood, “We walk the shores / to bathe feet / that have trampled / fossils and bones”. The poet shares her inner self without angst or contrived embellishments. She does it with such lyrical grace and lack of pretension, you forget how intelligent and well constructed each poem is. She draws the reader into her poetic world to be absorbed by the nearly physical touch of her language. These revelations are a magical gift, and once you begin to read, you think, “Ah, yes. I understand, I have felt that, and here in these words, I feel it once again!”
— Julie George
“Kaye’s writing is fertile ground for a deeply sensory experience in which the reader absorbs the “constant stories in (her) eloquent language”, the curves of the letters “yielding a voluptuous sound”. Kaye is not afraid to tackle any phase of life. The wistfulness of a grandmother whose swelling heart knows both pride and anguish as she poses with her brand new grandchild for a photo, aware it is the only tangible evidence this child will have left of her (‘Through the Lens’), is contrasted with the ravages of illnesses and broken hearts (and bodies) so many of us will deal with at some point in our mortal travels. In fact, Kaye’s work is a deft and subtle portrait of humanity in all its various incarnations, back dropped through different cultural ventures. She treats us to a gorgeous, sumptuous piece that ties in the entire book and anchors its endpoint, in ‘Henna Stories’.
… She writes, “as you grow accustomed to the dark, much that was hidden becomes visible … What can we see/ from such a tiny aperture?/ The image is sharpest/ when the pinhole is small”. Kaye sharpens the readers’ focus, leading them to a point of entry into a world saturated with both reality and revelry.”
— Karen Bowles
when the call
the scrape of wood
tiny and fragrant,
white bone china.
She stared into liquid interiors
—a cloudy divination—
hoping not to leave
drenched the air.
of how he had
she felt the
blossom of that kiss,
pale as the faded imprint
of her ring.
the strains of Paganini
flow into the heart.
As the bow pulls a rippling
swell from the strings
in each passing,
power runs up the arms,
shifting the weight of lyric,
a flourish of ornamentation.
Who knew the curves of
polished maple could
yield such voluptuous sound?
holding your breath
as you tiptoe past
the weeping willow.
Her sleeping hands can’t
capture you anyway,
one hand is tucked under
the kimono you softly blew
open last night, the other
is tangled in her long, black hair.
Go quickly, then.
like the wind,
you kiss many mouths
and keep moving on.
from What Hands Can Hold (Xlibris, 2010)
Order What Hands Can Hold here and here.
Read Scott Owen’s review of What Hands Can Hold.
Read Jeffrey Side’s review of What Hands Can Hold.
Visit Ami’s website.
Visit Pirene’s Fountain.