Monthly Archives: November 2010

Happy holidays and a call to publishers

Peony Moon is on holiday until January.
To all readers, thank you so much for your support this year.
To the poets who have contributed their fine work, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Publishers, if you’re interested in having a collection featured on Peony Moon next year, please contact me
Happy holidays and keep safe.

Difficult to Explain, edited by Finuala Dowling

Difficult to Explain (Hands-On Books, 2010) is more than just an anthology of highly accessible, striking, funny, quirky, tender and moving poems. It is also a much-needed companion for poets and teachers, offering a series of inspirational exercises as well as memorable reflections on the art of teaching creative writing.
Poet and creative writing teacher Finuala Dowling has put together a collection of the best poems that have emerged from her current and recent poetry workshops. The collection includes a new, unpublished poem by Finuala as well as contributions by established writers who have attended her classes.
Contributors include Sally Argent, Leila Bloch, Melissa Butler, Margaret Clough, Kerry Hammerton, Colleen Higgs, Jordan Kantey, Michael Keeling, Pam Newham, Dorothy Paramore, Lara Potgieter, Angela Prew, Cornelia Rohde, Consuelo Roland, Beverly Rycroft, Karin Schimke, Annette Snykers, Heather Tibshraeny and Winifred Thomson.
Lijiang River
Dorothy Paramore
The ukai cormorant
dove deep, brought in the day’s catch,
flew rockwards,
stood statuesque under a fading sky,
wings hung out to drip dry.
The Gulls
Cornelia Rohde
The old men wait in the boathouse,
no longer fishermen, skippers, carpenters.
They laze around in greasy overstuffed chairs,
groan about their bones,
gossip about who is
sporting a gold chain,
who lurches down the road
drunk at dawn,
about Jock’s boy
high on crack, totalling his Jag,
about Millie who shot straight off
the dock when her brakes failed on the curve.
Around them, gulls cluster and squawk
amplifying the vacant clack of old men blind
to the hull silently poling towards them.
Joy Ride
Pam Newham
When you’re old enough we’ll go on a trip.
Just you and me.
We’ll pack boiled eggs and sandwiches
and tea in a flask.
(You have to have a flask)
And we’ll mark the route on a map in pen.
(No, let’s just go)
We’ll set off while everyone else
is still asleep.
And we’ll take our time
and sing our favourite songs.
(Singing loudly’s a must)
And when we stop for fuel
we’ll buy ice cream
and let it drip through our fingers.
We’ll see places with names like
Katbakkies Pass and Krokodil Port
and Bibby’s Hoek and Bela Bela.
We’ll stop for timid tortoises
and to watch dingy sheep.
Then, at night, we’ll find a B&B.
(A farm would be good)
And we’ll make a fire
and lie on our backs
and smell the curling wood smoke
while we count the stars.
Or we’ll take a torch
and hunt for nagapies in a tree.
(There and there and there)
When you’re old enough we’ll go on a trip.
Just you and me.
And no matter how many times you ask,
“Are we there yet?”
I will say,
“Yes, we’re there.”
To adventurers, as far as I’m concerned
Finuala Dowling
There is a climber on TV dangling
from a rope about to die.
He reminds me of the stranded balloonist,
parched in the desert, about to die
who reminds me of the solo yachtsman with broken arms,
4000 kilometres from anywhere, about to die
who reminds me of the men who tried to play
Scott-of-the-Antarctic Scott-of-the-Antarctic
and who ended up hating each other and about to die.
Oh misled, unfortunate adventurers: stay home!
What would it take to make you stay at home?
There’s so much to do: Make tea! Clean out the shed!
Find your inner mountain and climb it
Find your inner sea and chart it
Find your inner arid plain and trudge across it
as we all do, daily,
harnesses in the canyon
crampons in the glacier.
Imagine how much we’d save on search and rescue
if you would only stay at home
Imagine how many we could save
if you would only cease this quest for accidental death
and talk about your feelings; or clean the shed.
from Difficult to Explain, edited by Finula Dowling
(Hands-On Books, 2010)

Matt Merritt’s hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica

Matt Merritt

Matt Merritt was born in Leicester in 1969. He studied history at Newcastle University, and has worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Cardiff, Leicester and Peterborough. He currently works for Bird Watching magazine, and lives near Leicester. His chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, was published by HappenStance Press in October 2005. Troy Town, his first collection, was published by Arrowhead Press in 2008. His second collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is published by Nine Arches Press.

Matt Merritt’s second collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, is alive with a rare frequency all of its own – it is a precise and rewarding music for the soul, the heart, and the head.
These are poems that take a distinctive route through landscapes rich with legend and wildlife, finding elegies written in the night sky on the way home from the pub, or quiet epics raging in the pages of memories and neglected histories. Matt Merritt has an ear for the exact notes, be they in a major or a minor key, and these gently insistent poems continue to resound long after their first reading.
Praise for hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica:
“In Matt Merritt’s finely honed new collection, lives are lived in liminal spaces, shadow selves are reconstructing history and time is no time at all. These are quick-witted poems, made of toughened glass and ground-down clocks.”
– Helen Ivory
“Matt Merritt’s new book is a cracker – technically adventurous and thematically cohesive. His work is based on a close attention to the world and a scrupulous approach to getting that world into verse. His subject is landscape, the rural and urban landscapes of the Midlands, which he uses as a cipher to talk about personal and community life. We see the surfaces of the contemporary, but also the deep presence of the historical poking through – the planning of new towns and the persistence of floodplains. This is the psychogeography of modern Leicestershire. Reading these poems I felt my own consciousness calming and concentrating – which is as good a way as any of saying that they are beautiful.”
– Tony Williams
This evening, a call I don’t know,
and will never know, perhaps, drowning
the lisp and whisper of goldcrests
at the edge of the new plantation.
Something hard, metallic, insistent,
but quite distinct from the blackbird,
hammering chinks of light from the dusk
to ward off darkness at this time each night.
Across the street, somebody is yelling
you don’t listen. You never listen,
a door’s half-heartedly slammed,
and a car radio plays to no one,
but still the unseen bird sings on,
that urgency pitched above
and beyond the background clutter.
Its only sense is now. Is this. Is gone.
The Ends Of The Earth
for S.M.
At first sight
          a ruin, a menhir, a town, a harbour.
Arrive behind the grey tide of dusk,
pale local stone still softly luminous
with the heat and glare of the day,
this whole scene almost monochrome
but the scent a vivid green, guttering streetlamps
igniting moths on their way to the moon.
Woken at four by the singing
of unfamiliar birds, or the farm dogs startled
by the passing of some solitary creature,
hunting or hunted.
Everything moves by night. Up and out
before the lark                  before anything
with the sky only just thinning and coloring
a slow warming
like a black and white TV set
the hillsides almost bare                but look
they’re spackled with pebbles
a scatter of sparrows here
and there                two wheatears
listening for what
(I don’t know what)
still                        a ring ouzel
struggling to swallow
a crescent of daylight moon.
Eight miles out before the sun
fizzes above the rim. Each smudge of colour
trails its own festoon of gulls. Others spiral higher,
higher, until the sky heals over them, and you
screw your eyes up against the spray
and dazzle of it all.
          promontorium sacrum
                                                   land’s end
                                                                        a life beyond
New-minted day behind us,
          plunged towards the quench
                    of the unmapped ocean
showering terns everywhere.
Everything still unsaid.
Warning Against Using These Poems As A Map
No scale is provided.
You are being left
to guess the exact distance
between what’s said
and what was,
between a mere projection
onto the flat page
and a curved plane,
constantly in motion,
spinning through nothingness.
You are your own key.
Assign the appropriate value
to each symbol, and allow
the wide white spaces
to fill up with invisibles,
bloom with the language
of implication. Wait
for the words to accumulate
the sediment of meaning.
Not the sparrowhawk’s dash
to catch it, unwary,
and snatch it from
out of the everyday
or the cormorant’s
relentless pursuit of what flashes
gleaming and silvered
somewhere in the murk
but the sparrow, oblivious,
caught up in the business
of being. Only
the smallest troubling
of the fugged, flickering air
between two doors leading
to one idea
of the dark.
from hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica (Nine Arches Press, 2010)
Order hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.
Visit Matt’s blog, Polyolbion.
Launch details
Sunday 21st November 2010 from 7pm onwards
At Jam Cafe, 12 Heathcote Street, Nottingham NG1 3AA
Free entry. Sign up for open mic on the door.
Nottingham Shindig! and the launch of Matt Merritt’s
second collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.
Join us for open mic readings and special guest poets
Robin Vaughan-Williams, Matt Merritt, David Morley
and Sarah Jackson.
Co-hosted by LeftLion Magazine and kindly sponsored by
Writing East Midlands.

Matt Bryden’s Night Porter

Matt Bryden

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 Stand, Poetry Wales and The Warwick Review among others. His pamphlet Night Porter was one of the winners of the Templar Pamphlet and Collection Prize 2010. Boxing the Compass, his first full collection, follows in 2011, also with Templar.

Stemming from Matt Bryden’s experience working in a Yorkshire hotel, Night Porter portrays life in the small hours among guests and staff, a life that steadily becomes more about witnessing the lives of others than the speaker’s own. With each new glimpse into the interrelationships at the hotel, the mood deepens with new emotional tensions and an overriding sense of alienation, and creates a compellingly layered portrait of ordinary lives.
I turn off the outside lights
and slip on Easy Classics,
roll circular tables –
wagon wheels at chin height –
into the dead hollow under the stairs.
I place the toast under the grill,
pour milk into a jug, slice grapefruit,
load the tray and balance its weight.
I prop the papers against the doors,
smell the cologne, hear the pour
of the showers.
Seven-fifteen, eight hours on,
I stand suitcases by the coach. The light
is thick as the smoke from burning leaves.
The entire dining room glows.
Two gantries re-warm sausages, eggs.
Three months in, I ask for some breakfast.
He whistles
to the three Dutch girls
hovering down the road,
and I watch them pour
inside, hushed and uncertain.
One is blonder and taller
than the others. I recognise
them as housekeeping,
around seventeen.
‘Anke, Karin and Maria,’ Simon says.
I move them out of sight, into the bar.
I nod. I don’t know how to use the till,
or even the cost of drinks.
They hand me a grab of change.
In the half-light they sit and talk quietly.
The slight, brown-haired girl drinks a juice on her own.
‘Anne told me she checks all these cameras,’ I tell them.
They drink up. I see them out, watch
them cross the road.
I allowed the barman’s mopped floor
five more minutes to dry, let Lucy slip to the Ladies
to change into her jeans.
The chef bid me adieu
through his crash helmet, prime steak packed
under his leathers.
Then I bolted the doors and locked them out.
I walked along the racecourse
to reach the hotel. At times, it was illuminated
by funfair, circus tent, a dance
and dinner at the grandstand, but most often nothing.
The public could still graze animals, but
since foot and mouth the horses had gone –
sheep grazed too close.
Some mornings, wreaths lay covered in dew
or frozen to the steps where the gallows
had stood, the ink of the dedications rewet.
I crossed the road
and went up the rise.
Walking home, I passed the newsagent’s
before the paperboy could overtake me on his cycle.
I let myself in, filled the kettle,
closed the curtains, waited for post.
When I drew them, the lawn
could be damp with dawn or dusk.
Hoovering, filling jugs with water and juice,
laying red velvet table cloths,
loading fresh paper onto the easels.
Ascertaining which guests are in
and which to expect, their keys
hanging from hooks.
Checking the toilets, the back door,
patrolling the halls’ creaky landings,
looking down onto the lounge,
the armchairs
before the fire with ash
to be brushed off the arms.
Assessing the dining rooms –
glasses to be washed, cutlery laid,
food cleared from beneath tables.
Spelling the names of expected parties
on the board, in gold plastic letters.
The woman I showed around
a quick tour one Sunday
the Albemarle and Mural rooms.
The women I befriended
before overstepping the mark:
‘No, stay,’ I asked as they made to retire.
The woman I made laugh
after she asked me the size
of the sausage rolls.
The woman who asked for details
of the mural, then turned to her partner –
‘He doesn’t know.’
The tipsy woman – ‘Haven’t we met?’ –
who had interviewed me
for a librarianship the month before.
The ex-night porter from Chicago
who offered me drinks, saying,
‘I’ve been there, it’s a terrible job.’
The two men with a woman
who, as I complained about the noise,
beckoned me into their room.
School Party
Already, one of the boys has been to hospital,
a bag of sweet-corn from the kitchen
draped over his ankle.
A teacher assists him up the grand staircase
to his room and calls, ‘Lights out!’
I go to vacuum the conference room.
As I cross the lounge
a boy on the balcony freezes
as if caught in a searchlight.
The full hotel is like a dovecote –
cooing and adjusting and shuffling in the straw.
I feel the need to oversee my charges.
I fill jugs with water and juice,
lay red velvet table cloths,
load fresh paper onto the easels.
Glass shatters and the lawn is sprinkled
with yellow kernels. I take the stairs
to a doorway crammed with bodies.
Downstairs, the boy, bag of sweet-corn gone,
sits with his head in his hands
as the teacher phones his mother.
I go for a bag of peas.
from Night Porter (Templar Poetry, 2010)
Order Night Porter.
Launch details
The London launch for three pamphlets: Matt Bryden’s prizewinning pamphlet, Night Porter (Templar); Claire Crowther’s Mollicle (Nine Arches); and Carrie Etter’s Divinations (Punch Press).
Wednesday, December 1 · 7:30pm – 9:30pm
The Lamb
94 Lambs Conduit Street
London, United Kingdom

Martin Figura’s Boring the Arse Off Young People

Martin Figura

Martin Figura was born in Liverpool in 1956 and works part-time at the Writers’ Centre, Norwich and as a photographer. He is a member of the poetry ensemble The Joy of 6. Boring the Arse Off Young People, a pamphlet of amusing poems, is published by Nasty Little Press. He is Chair of the Café Writers Live Literature organisation in Norwich. 
In Boring the Arse Off Young People Figura turns his wry humour on the middle-aged people who “should be occupying their time with: / jigsaws, / the litter problem, / gravy, / coach trips to the Norfolk Lavender Fields.” But who are instead “doing degrees / with no possible practical application” or having glorious, celebratory sex – “and when we’ve finished / doing what we want to, this flesh will keep moving still.”
Midnight walks where “the moon snags on the cathedral’s spire” rub shoulders with nightmares in which an ex-lover squeezes “the creams / for my skin diseases into the bag where my favourite cheese is” in a collection of poems guaranteed to warm the heart and tickle even the most grumpy of rib cages.

I just talk too much I talk too much
never shut up if you cut me in half
with a spade I’d continue to talk
for up to an hour from both ends
I’m more send than receive have never
had an unexpressed thought in my life
the path behind me is littered
with the hind legs of donkeys
those times when you should just shut up
that’s when I talk even more let it tumble out
no matter how incriminating
there would be no need to tie me to a chair
and slap a rubber hose into the palm of your hand
for I will sing like a canary at the politest enquiry
tell you more about myself then you ever wanted to know
give up my own children just for a chat
in fact I can guarantee that the most hardened torturer
will soon be sewing up my mouth
to stop me telling him what I know
but I shall only rip my mouth open
spit out my broken teeth and carry on talking
through my tattered bleeding lips
and what I don’t know I don’t let worry me
for I never let lack of knowledge get in the way
of giving an opinion why should I
I’ve a habit of repeating myself
I’ve a habit of repeating myself
that was pretty obvious right,
but you try talking non-stop
and not saying something pretty obvious along the way
and if you’re one of those quiet people that just looks
then you’re just asking for it without actually asking
if you see what I mean but you can’t just stand
and look at each other right
and if you’re not going to say something then I have to
simple as that simple as that so it’s your own fault
don’t glaze over when I’m talking to you
if you want this poem to stop sometime
in the next hour then for God’s sake
do something useful
go and fetch a spade.
Published in Boring the Arse Off Young People
(Nasty Little Press, 2010).
Order Boring the Arse Off Young People.
Read more of Martin’s work.

Ruth Larbey’s Funglish

Ruth Larbey

Ruth Larbey was born in Cyprus, and grew up in Nottingham, Hong Kong and rural Cumbria. She has spent her last two years working at an international development charity in London, after completing her MA at Warwick University in 2008. She has been published in various magazines, and organises music and art performance events in her spare time. Funglish (Nine Arches Press, 2010) is her debut pamphlet of poems.

Ruth Larbey’s debut collection, Funglish, is a maiden voyage alive with the simple thrill of exploration. Arriving in the big city for the first time, and encountering love armed only with the crackle of language, she re-imagines liminal spaces into new territories vibrant with possibility. With Funglish, Ruth Larbey has began to write the first chapter in the history of the new romantics.
Praise for Funglish:
“There’s a drastic incandescence to Ruth Larbey’s syntax which pulls you into her poetry. Writing with an edgy control reminiscent of Emily Dickinson, her poems create exacting ‘electric constellations’ of vision and nerve in which no word is wasted, no darkness left unexplored. As Dickinson wrote, ‘A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.’ Ruth Larbey’s language is alive and gravid.”
– David Morley
in beaks, in coats, on the air,
the spores of funglish
broadcast a persistent contagion,
a black-market pestilence –
the beginnings of our sentences          die in the middle
we hatched out those poisons
that stunk in the mud,
scratched our dreams into songs,
blind in the dust –
unseeming, unstitching –
whilst a post-mortem shock registers:
we knew none of the secrets
coming out of our mouths
and still don’t
we stole those words
that congealed with meaning,
(bubbled heavily)
went bad on the inside –
sick; rank and wicked,
our mouths mildewed and wanting,
with the spores of a funglish that’s
hard to
The Secret World of Orchids is
demanding like viscous saliva on a jutted lip
and a specific fungal entourage,
seasonally employed
theophrastos uprooted the clever lump
potatoesque; testicular
eggs of a bird, a bog-adder’s mouth, coconut pie
Ophrys Bombylifera:
a bee sotted on a curious idol,
the image of his maker –
(a flower feigning lust
with peculiar silks
immoderate smells)
– is disappointed
snake-mouth, tangleroot, flower of the dead
this heavy, rumbling sky may fall on our heads but
the rhizome remains
all tongues and no mouths
all mouths and no eyes
keeping sacred fires alight
in notable greenhouses,
acolytes tamper with ties and rods
the mysterious irrigation mist:
droplets, gifted from god
from Funglish (Nine Arches Press, 2010)
Order Funglish.

Kerry Hammerton’s These are the lies I told you

Kerry Hammerton

Kerry Hammerton is a poet, writer and alternative health practitioner. She is a graduate of The University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) and The College of Integrated Chinese Medicine (Reading, United Kingdom). Her poetry has been published in South African literary journals such as Carapace, New Contrast and New Coin, online at Litnet, Incwadi and iTCH. She has also been a contributor to The Empty Tin Readings (May, 2010) and The Poetry Project. These are the lies I told you (Modjaji Books, 2010) is her first poetry collection. Kerry has fewer wrinkles than she should have at her age – or so her friends tell her.

“Kerry Hammerton is an anatomist of romantic love, from the rumpled hotel sheets of lust to the shared tattoos of intimacy. With its roller-coaster ride of erotica, sensuality, heartbreak and laugh out loud hilarity, These are the lies I told you is a debut volume destined to break sales records in this country. The Marian Keyes of poetry has arrived.”
– Finuala Dowling
Once I knew
A porky-pie, a flirst,
a man whose appetite was bigger than his thirst.
A smargy-smark, a flowel,
a man who couldn’t pick up a towel.
A dringy-drogue, a cheddle,
a man who really liked to meddle.
Once I knew
a spreaky-spreck, a growlth,
a man who couldn’t shut his mouth.
A reepy-rost, a jost,
a man who was always lost.
A marfy-makker, a mhale,
a man who confessed and went to jail.
Once I knew
a peedle-pudum, a shile,
a man who couldn’t smile.
A hirgy-hattle, a brister,
a man who was all a pister,
a fleety-fluster, a basfitter,
a lespy-lerper, a verter,
a crutter, a creter,
a werter.
But worst of all, once I knew
a mishy-mashy, welljuten,
a zandripertosster.
Planting olive trees
When you plant an Olive Tree
don’t sing to it,
don’t sing songs of stars and moons
and distant galaxies, don’t lean
into its leafy ears and whisper
honey words, don’t even mouth
‘I love you’, don’t recite poems
of open valleys and journeys,
don’t talk.
When you plant an Olive Tree
plant it away from other trees
and then: don’t visit it,
don’t entwine your arms through
its branches, don’t place your
face against its patterned bark
or reach out your tongue and taste,
don’t rub your back against its trunk
don’t stroke it.
When you plant an Olive Tree
don’t water it or shower it
with drops of dew, don’t sprinkle
it with the watering can of your
love, don’t pray for rain,
don’t snake a hosepipe
over sheer mountains or
climb treacherous rock
to bring relief.
When you plant an Olive Tree
find the stoniest ground, don’t
prepare the planting with
fertilizer and soft soil, don’t mulch,
let its roots feel the harsh bite
of the earth, let it scrape
against jagged rocks, don’t dust
rose petals on fresh white linen
before you bed it down.
Let it lie in sharp gravel.
When you plant an Olive Tree
don’t cover it,
let it bend in the wind,
let its leaves crackle in the sun,
don’t build a boma of comfort,
don’t try and protect it with
your manly intentions,
let it struggle to find its own shade
let it shrivel.
Then it will bear fruit
for you.
I am not
an Olive Tree.
from These are the lies I told you (Modjaji Books, 2010)
Launch details
Monday, 22 November 2010
The Book Lounge
cnr Roeland and Buitenkant
Cape Town
17h30 for 18h00
Visit Kerry’s website.

Milorad Krystanovich’s Improvising Memory

Milorad Krystanovich

Milorad Krystanovich was born in Croatia and has lived in Birmingham since 1992. He studied Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham and is a member of Writers Without Borders, Cannon Poets and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Milorad works as a language teacher at the Brasshouse Centre in Birmingham. Improvising Memory (Nine Arches Press, 2010) is his sixth poetry collection, and follows on from The Yasen Tree (Heaventree Press, 2007).

“You don’t need to imagine me – a man with his photo camera hanging from its strap on his shoulder. For you, I would describe myself as a photographer whose hobby was not a simple black and white technique of evidencing the elements of everyday life … Later on, instead of developing films in a dark-room, I used my notebook and pen and exposed my hands to the lamplight.”
– Milorad Krystanovich
“In Improvising Memory (Nine Arches Press, 2010), Milorad Krystanovich releases the characters trapped in the tableaux of negatives, and breathes into them a remarkable life of their own. Portraits step down from their frames and exist amongst us; before our eyes they age and alter, ponder their own flaws, confines and mysteries.
Krystanovich’s beautifully-detailed series of poems explore the spaces between images and populate them with a patient and delicately-balanced language that moves in circles and echoes, creating a lyrical resonance in the act of both observing and being observed. Freeze-frame fragments become striking and graceful poem-scenes, alive with moments tangible and fleeting, just out of reach or coming into focus at the edge of sight.”
Inside Out-casting
There on the silhouette of this city,
not only the air is bearing
the sign of dusk:
the streetlights cannot turn
their cones upside down
to floodlight the lower sky,
the moss hangs from these street lamps
and expand its shade
but I am missed from that line of green.
There is no division between the evening’s
drama and its denouement
in the dark over the hilly outskirts:
the cat’s eyes are glowing
between the cars on the motorway
where the noise cannot settle down.
Staring at the moon’s capable ascension,
my dog is no longer my companion.
I am left alone in the myth of the earth.
Out of Darkrooms
The lady and the castle-builder
walk along the beach,
a camera hanging around her neck,
his shadow slipping away.
Are you listening to me?
Taking the photograph of a trough,
she cannot hear her own voice
or his reply – yes, if you are the sea.
Wave after wave feeds the moats
around the sand castles,
the breeze creeping across her hair
but not blowing it across the lens.
Are you following the boat?
He paddles in the shallows
and cannot hear himself or her response –
yes, if its sail matches my skirt.
The summer air laces to its frame
in the picture of the low sky:
coping with the sound of water,
the afternoon is their only burden.
Magic Lantern
She is a photographer of happy faces,
her eyes can see
above the surface of objects:
the sails of her images are anchored
in the place alighted on the glitter
rocking in the fluid for processing films.
She is a darkroom magician
who takes photographs of wakened vases
and new flower pots
but roses, blossoms, wild flowers
appear on the white walls of her studio.
The light of her pictures is brighter
than daylight from the sky’s cupola:
to benefit from her album-niche
he has to shape his sight less carefully,
so as to collect the scattered details of life.
Improvising Memory
Ripe fruits fall from the branch
as the orchard fears itself
alone in the autumn avalanche:
          the quince could not stain grass,
          its new home beneath the tree.
In the house full of reflecting objects
only the tongue of a grandfather clock
moans for the past:
          as no-one throws earth into a grave,
          the echo grows from a coffin.
Whoever consumes air now
between the farm and the graveyard
ruins the arch of stillness:
          no-one comes to this empty room
          and gathers the quince’s smell
          by the fruit basket.
Joined-up Writing
The nightwear folded on a bed
and the note with the marks
of his finger-bones jointly bear silence.
Frost peels birches outdoors,
as he journeys by his hand –
the ink-thread tracks the changes of address.
Recycling moonlight is set
to the letter of bloodlines in an envelope,
the silence runs among the cold interior.
Ash has lost its warmth,
the fire-place knows of other flames
where he can lay his breath.
Two Figures
Not the bird in its cage
but the love-song still haunts her:
each breath struggles –
melting the snowflake
of his kiss on her lip.
Even the word never appears
to be made from ice –
the frozen feather
like a hand-wave flies
over the iron fence:
Is your hand yours
as you wave from the park?
Though he is a birdwatcher
he cannot listen to the bird’s notes:
Iron is iron as cold is cold,
two sides of the iron are
the same colour of cold.
The gate bars are painted
in green from his side,
in yellow-brownish from hers,
and the sliding gate is still between them.
from Improvising Memory (Nine Arches Press, 2010)
Order Improvising Memory.

Mimi Khalvati: Five Poems

Mimi Khalvati

Mimi Khalvati has published six collections with Carcanet Press, including Selected Poems (2000) and The Chine (2002). She is the founder of The Poetry School, where she teaches in London, and was the Coordinator from 1997 to 2004. He most recent collection, The Meanest Flower (Carcanet, 2007), was  a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, a Financial Times Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. In 2006, she received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
On a Line from Forough Farrokhzad
It had rained that day. It had primed a world
with gold, pure gold, wheatfield, stubble and hill.
It had limned the hills as a painter would,
an amateur painter, but the hills were real.
It had painted a village lemon and straw,
all shadow and angles, cockerel, goats and sheep.
It had scattered their noises, bleats and blahs,
raising a cloud, a white dog chasing a jeep.
It had travelled through amber, ochre, dust
and dust the premise of everything gold,
dust the promise of green. Green there was
but in the face of a sun no leaf could shield.
It had rained that day. It was previous,
previous as wind to seed. O wild seed,
as those words proved. ‘The wind will carry us’
bad ma ra khahad bord – and it did.
from The Meanest Flower © 2007
Forough Farrokhzad: foremost Iranian woman poet (1935–67). Her poem, ‘The Wind Will Carry Us’ (bad ma ra khahad bord) inspired Abbas Kiarostami’s film of the same name, which in turn suggested the imagery for this poem.
Dedicated to Aamer Hussein.
Ghazal: It’s Heartache
When you wake to jitters every day, it’s heartache.
Ignore it, explore it, either way it’s heartache.
Youth’s a map you can never refold,
from Yokohama to Hudson Bay, it’s heartache.
Follow the piper, lost on the road,
whistle the tune that led him astray: it’s heartache.
Stop at the roadside, name each flower,
the loveliness that will always stay: it’s heartache.
Why do nightingales sing in the dark?
Ask the radif, it will only say ‘it’s heartache’.
Let khalvati, ‘a quiet retreat’,
close my ghazal and heal as it may its heartache.
from The Meanest Flower © 2007
I have landed
as if on the wing
of a small plane.
It is a song I have
landed on that barely
feels my weight.
Sky is thick with wishes.
Regrets fall down
like rain.
Visit me.
I am always in
even when the place
looks empty,
even though the locks
are changed.
from The Chine © 2002 
No one is there for you. Don’t call, don’t cry.
No one is in. No flurry in the air.
Outside your room are floors and doors and sky.
Clocks speeded, slowed, not for you to question why,
tick on. Trust them. Be good, behave. Don’t stare.
No one is there for you. Don’t call, don’t cry.
Cries have their echoes, echoes only fly
back to their pillows, flocking back from where
outside your room are floors and doors and sky.
Imagine daylight. Daylight doesn’t lie.
Fool with your shadows. Tell you nothing’s there,
no one is there for you. Don’t call, don’t cry.
But daylight doesn’t last. Today’s came by
to teach you the dimensions of despair.
Outside your room are floors and doors and sky.
Learn, when in turn they turn to you, to sigh
and say: You’re right, I know, life isn’t fair.
No one is there for you. Don’t call, don’t cry.
Outside your room are floors and doors and sky.
from The Chine © 2002

Picking Raspberries with Mowgli
It was when he leant close to me,
his little naked torso, brown and thin,
reaching an arm into the cage
of raspberries, that I snatched a kiss.
The raspberries smelled of rosemary
and among them grew the odd sweetpea.
Do you know why they’re called sweetpeas?
Mowgli asked – No, I said, why?
Because look, he said, fingering
a thin pale pod, this is the fruit
and this is the flower and inside the pod
are peas. Mowgli looked inside things.
Inside the sieve, a baby spider
trailing a thread his finger trailed
up, over, under the mounting pile
he prodded. Inside the fruit, the seed.
Don’t pick the ones with the white bits,
Mowgli ordered, they taste horrid.
Sun tangled in the row of canes,
cobwebs blurred the berries. Mowgli
progressed to the apples – small
bitter windfalls. I’m going to test them,
he said, for smashes. And again,
I’m going to test them for bruises. Mowgli
throwing apples against the wall,
missing the wall, high up in the air;
Mowgli squatting, examining
for the smallest hint of decay
and chucking them if they failed the test,
healthy raspberries; Mowgli
balancing on a rake, first thing
in the morning, grinning shyly.
Read Mimi Khalvati’s author biography on Carcanet’s website.
Order The Meanest Flower (Carcanet, 2007).
Order The Chine (Carcanet, 2002).
Visit Mimi’s website.
Read Mimi Khalvati’s interview with Vicki Bertram.
Read Mimi Khalvati’s interview with Mary MacRae.
Read Mimi Khalvati’s interview with Christina Patterson.
Visit Mimi’s author page at Contemporary Writers.
Listen to Mimi reading her poems at the Poetry Archive.