Monthly Archives: February 2011

News and a special offer

The Suitable Girl in Atlanta with a Californian Cabernet © Christine Swint

Some good news.
Independent publisher Modjaji Books will be bringing out a South African edition of The Suitable Girl in April.
You can see from the photograph that she’s made her way to Atlanta in the United States. Thank you, Christine Swint.
And Julie Buffaloe-Yoder writes about the collection at
The Buffaloe Pen:
The Suitable Girl has many faces. Sometimes she whispers her stories. Sometimes she speaks with her tongue in her cheek. Sometimes she screams.”
If you’re interested, The Suitable Girl can be ordered via Paypal from the Pindrop Press website (see details at the bottom of my author page).
And, if you’re in South Africa, Modjaji Books is offering a fabulous deal:
R300 – Any 3 poetry books – if they have to be posted – add R20, will wait till the last one is out before posting
R50 – Whiplash, add R30 for postage
Any 5 Modjaji Books for R500, add R30 for postage
All of these amount to huge savings for you, compared to regular prices of between R135 and R190
For more information about Modjaji Titles:
Modjaji Books 2010 Catalogue  
Recent and soon to be released books can also be bought as part of this offer.
Wame Molefhe Go Tell the Sun (short stories) (Feb 2011)
Modjaji Books
Colleen Higgs Lava Lamp Poems (Jan 2011) Hands-On Books
Alleyn Diesel (ed) Reclaiming the L-Word
(stories by different authors)(pub date March 2011) Modjaji Books
Sarah Frost Conduit (poems) (pub date March 2011)
Modjaji Books
Dawn Garisch Difficult Gifts (poems) (pub date April 2011)
Modjaji Books
Michelle McGrane The Suitable Girl (poems)
(pub date April 2011) co-pub Modjaji Books/Pindrop Press (UK)
Robin Winkel-Mellish Leading the Lioness (pub date April 2011)
Hands-On Books
Email Colleen Higgs at if you want to take up this offer.

Sally Douglas’s Candling the Eggs

Sally Douglas was born in Cornwall in 1962. She read English and European Literature at Warwick University, a course which involved a fair bit of Latin and Middle English poetry, but nothing more contemporary than Yeats. More recently, she has been awarded a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing with Distinction from the Open University. She lives in Devon.
Sally has been widely published in magazines including The Rialto, Smith’s Knoll, Envoi, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Acumen and South. She was a prize-winner in the Challenging Poverty Competition and was awarded joint first prize in the Cinnamon Press Poetry Awards.
She will be reading (with Anne Caldwell) at Lumen, Tavistock Place, London, WC1 on 15 March 2011 and will be featured poet at Uncut Poets, Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter, Devon on 28 April 2011.

Candling the Eggs (Cinnamon Press, 2011) explores the ways in which we both hide and reveal our experiences and perceptions of life, the ways in which we are able or unable to speak. Images of water, birds, paper and dolls, and allusions to myth and history, thread their way through the collection illustrating fragmented stories in a landscape of light and dark, of silence and sound.
The poems in this collection are precise, lyrical and beautiful, sometimes disquieting and strange, often pushing at the boundaries of language and into silence. This is a mesmerising and accomplished collection.
“Sally Douglas’s poems are disturbing and beautiful; broken, elliptical narratives, monologues from subtle, unpredictable perspectives. There’s a sense they are written from a place of loss, or damage. She’s a poet who can evoke, and conjure, who understands the power of what is left unsaid. At the same time her poems sing, and it is precisely this pervasive, darkly lyrical tone that allows them to be heard, and felt, with such emotional and dramatic force.” 
– Greta Stoddart
If you had done what you say you have done
you would have scars.
If this had happened as you say,
someone would have noticed.
If he had done this thing you say he has done,
you would have spoken then.
If what you say is true, there would be records,
not poems.
We have looked for records.
There are none.
If what you say is true, the dark would be spooling out
behind you.
But all you have done is create these things,
opaque as swans.
There is a silent line
under her skin.
Trace its route from earlobe, neck,
down to the margin of breast,
skimming the border between front and back
where she is always cold.
Sweeping, silver, to the groin,
and down like a pungent trickle
that dried many years ago,
then kissing the braided cavity of knee
and the ankle’s egg-like bone.
It’s all that’s left from when
he stitched her with harebells
culled from the verges of the Wissenweg –
the thread so fine
it hardly hurt at all.
Adam’s task was the invention of language,
to name each thing.
Because they do not dazzle her,
she gets to name the white things.
Teeth, feathers, bandages, the old man’s beard, bones.
Plaster casts, the face in the river, the sand.
She can feel their shapes with her tongue.
Ointment, ghosts, marble, snow, paper, kaolin, milk.
Tissues, tampons, sanitary towels, lies,
the small round pills, the sheets, the suds.
The Robe
She threads her warp on a strange loom:
weaves red symbols through the white.
               Ovid: Metamorphoses
You swaddled me with furious proofs,
wrapped me in cloths bleached brightly with rage.
And as I grew, I joined you at the loom:
wove shadows of the things I’d never seen.
Now I prowl the riverbank,
dragging the robe like broken wings.
I can’t unpick this history you’ve stitched to me.
Candling the Eggs
Carefully as a jeweller – fore-finger to apex,
thumb to base – she holds each one close
to the forty watt bulb set up in the corner of the barn.
Leans forward, as if to an airless bell-jar
in an eighteenth century study, assaying
futures as the egg inhales light.
There are three possible conclusions:
fertilised, edible, bad.
She thinks of how these dark trawls
are cloaked in words of light.
Last night, for instance, lamping in the fields –
rabbits, frozen in the rapture of the beam;
the shotgun’s long pragmatic aim.
Tomorrow, it won’t be light that candles
her, but slender waves of sound.
Carefully she holds each one, as if it were
a tiny skull: thumb to occipital crest,
fore-finger to unclosing fontanelle.
Role Play: Therapy in Three Parts
When you’ve left home,
they said.
So he left home.
When you’ve got children of your own,
they said.
So he built a house on salt-drenched sand.
When they’re both dead,
they said.
So he waited till they died.
But it all still flickers like a broken film
strobing at the corner of his eye.
He starts like this:
Leichner 5 and 9, slick as butter,
skating the planes of his face.
28 for the shadows.
Black around the eyes.
The flick of a match:
lit, spent.
Then to brighten himself
in that bleached bowl of light:
he takes a cocktail stick
to gouge out carmine, white;
stabs careful dots
tight in the eye’s soft angles.
Fossil Hunter
He stumps over the shale beds
which slump from the undercliff,
that brink where land falters,
loses balance.
He picks over spoils
like a crow at road-kill.
Places the shapes of the dead
in a red plastic bucket.
When he gets home, he’ll grind them to powder
trying to find their hearts.
from Candling the Eggs (Cinnamon Press, 2011).
Order Candling the Eggs.
Visit Sally’s poetry-themed blog.

Kobus Moolman’s Light and After

An award-winning poet and playwright, educator and editor, Kobus Moolman teaches creative writing in the Department of English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. He has published five collections of poetry: Time like Stone (UKZN Press, 2000), winner of the 2001 Ingrid Jonker Prize; Feet of the Sky (Brevitas, 2003); Separating the Seas (UKZN Press, 2007), recipient of the 2010 South African Literary Award for Poetry; Anatomy (Caversham Press, 2008), winner of the 2008 DALRO Prize for the best poem to appear in New Coin magazine; and his latest, Light and After (deep south, 2010).
His award-winning play, Full Circle (dyehard press, 2007) premiered at the National Arts Festival in 2005 and had a successful run at the Market Theatre, before being produced at the Oval House Theatre in London, and in the United States. Kobus has also published a collection of his radio plays, Blind Voices (Botsotso, 2007), featuring a CD of the BBC production of his play, Soldier Boy.
He was editor of the literary journal, Fidelities, from 1995 until 2007. In 2010 he edited and published, Tilling the Hard Soil: poetry, prose and art by South African Writers with Disabilities (UKZN Press). He has a PhD in English Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Deeper and richer than before, Kobus Moolman’s voice in the poem cycle Light and After gathers strength to climax in the third section ‘Anatomy’. Sometimes terse and astringent, sometimes luxurious, the poems are always specific, rooted in the cycles of earth and body. This is a beautiful work, distinctively South African in its imagery and diction.”
– Joan Metelerkamp
“Moolman’s strengths as one of the leading voices in South African poetry come through when he’s most vulnerable – when he battles the varied manifestations of ordinary life.”

– Mxolisi Nyezwa, reviewing Separating the Seas
“Anatomy is searing, honest and brave. It opens to the reader in progressively intimate revelations that enable one to experience the narrator’s visceral reality.”
– Liesl Jobson, judge’s report, DALRO Prize awarded to Moolman’s ‘Anatomy’ for best poem in New Coin 2008 
Light and After is published by deep south. It is distributed by UKZN Press. It can be purchased from Love Books, Protea Boekhuis, Exclusive Books or direct from the distributor on ISBN: 978-0-9584915-7-0 
deep south publishers and dye hard press together with Love Books invite you to the joint launch of Light and After by Kobus Moolman and pushing from the riverbank by Alan Finlay.
Date: Tuesday 22nd February
Time: 17h30 for 18h00
Venue: Love Books, Bamboo Centre, 53 Rustenburg Rd., Melville
RSVP: 011-7267408 or
The house was empty. In his dream.
          A modern house. Large rooms. Polished tiled floors.
          The house was empty, except for a green plastic table in the dining room. The garden furniture variety. A plastic table only. No chairs.
          And he was sweeping the floor. In his dream. Because there were hundreds of small dry seeds all over the floor. Small white seeds. Just like you might find in a pepper. And he was sweeping them up with a grass broom into a pile underneath the table.
          From all over the house.
          Sweeping. Sweeping.
          And the more he swept – fetching them now from the shiny kitchen, now from the cold bedrooms – the more he found.
          It was night. The doors were open. Big glass sliding doors. He could hear the crickets or the frogs in the dark garden. As he swept.
          It was their new house. With all the lights on. Their shiny, new, empty house. With large rooms. And that peculiar, slightly sinister, echo that all empty houses have. Houses that have not been domesticated yet.
          The untamed silence. Of the new.
          And then it happened.
          The electronic motor-gate suddenly opened. All on its own. Suddenly. The large metal gate just trundled back slowly on its small metal wheels. Trundled along its metal track. Open.
          And slowly shut. All on its own.
          And opened again. With a life of its own. Open and shut. Slowly. Open and shut. In his dream.
          Because something was coming in. Which he could not see.
          Something was coming in. And going out again. Coming in. And going out again. Unable to make up its mind. Something he could not see. Of unrecognisable shape. Something he sensed only. With the hairs on his skin.
          The way animals sense danger.
And God gave the man little wingless birds,
small as a shock,
to eat while He was away.
And a cup the size of a scab,
in case His return was delayed,
and the rain ran out.
But the man ate all the birds on the first day,
he was so hungry, and by
the second, the scab was picked raw.
Now the man has nothing left
to live on except
the dirt under his fingernails
Yesterday he could easily still believe
that getting to the top really amounted to something.
That if he had a goal, he would ultimately reach it.
Today he woke up
and saw himself in the small mirror behind the bathroom door,
and saw the cuts under his eyes,
the holes in his hands.
And at that moment he knew
that the body is not flesh, it does not feel.
That it is made of sand instead. And it runs out.
We who accept survival as our password
accept incompleteness as our blessing.
We who dress in blindness and in faith
do not know the colour of our palms
nor the weight of our feet upon the water.
We who have dust in our mouths all day
have stones on our tongues instead of songs.
We who quench fire with fire all night
know that wings are not the only ladders
to the dark, that heavy wood swims too
in the tide of the wind.
We who accept survival
accept survival as our curse.
The Foot
The foot is a hole.
A stone.
A black stone.
A hole made by the stone
before the hole was made.
A hole that the stone cannot get out of,
no matter how black, and blacker still,
its skin goes –
Until its skin begins to crack, and
pieces flake off.
Chunks of rock falling into
the black hole that the foot grows
beneath its shadow.
The foot is a stone.
Underneath the stone is a hole
that spreads and shrinks and
spreads again as the wind blows.
The hole smells like words left a long time
in the crevice between two teeth.
Like words that have been closed up
too long in the dark pit of the mouth.
Sweating all night. And sleepless
in the day.
The foot is a hole made by a shard
of memory.
It walked through black mud
one morning on the edge of a brown lake,
where the birds waded deep up to their cries,
up to their blue wings.
It walked through the black mud and
into the lake.
And the water was not cold,
the foot said.
Come in, the foot said. The water is warm.
And it bent and scooped up the old skin
from off the surface of the lake and
threw it up into the air.
And the flakes of water flew.
And the flakes of water fell.
And the foot came up out of the water
and it was red.
It was red where the flakes of water
had fallen upon it and cut it –
called out to it its new name.
Its new name was loss.
And rot.
The foot remembers the brown lake
always, and longs to return
to the warm water, to the impenetrable depths,
lurking with the voices of fishes.
It remembers the brown lake
with its long waving hair and its green eyes,
and it wants to laugh again, loudly,
the way the long grass does.
It wants to laugh again.
But there is a hole.
There is the hole made by the red stone
that does not heal. Ever.
The hole that never closes over.
Even when it seems to.
I hold the foot in my hand every night,
spit onto it.
I spit into its red hole and
mix the spit with sand and honey,
and pack it full. I pack the hole full
every night, and when I go to sleep
I dream that the hole is growing a skin over it.
That a wide bridge is falling out of the sky,
and that it lands on the foot,
and that it covers the deep distance
between the edges of the red hole.
The foot pretends that it has something to say.
That the fishes in the brown lake and
the birds in the air and the stones, too,
in the black desert
want to hear what it has to say.
But to be honest,
it has all been said before.
from Light and After (deep south publishing, 2010).

Jon Stone: Six Poems

Jon Stone was born in Derby and currently lives in Whitechapel, London. He’s the co-creator of Sidekick Books, a publisher of collaborative poetry collections, as well as underground arts journal Fuselit. He was highly commended in the National Poetry Competition 2009 in the same month his debut pamphlet, Scarecrows, was published by Happenstance, and has just finished exhibiting poems alongside the work of artists and architects at The Gopher Hole in Shoreditch. A full collection, School of Forgery, is due from Salt in early 2012.
Christina Lindberg: A Collage
from the trailers for The Depraved, Maid in Sweden
and They Call Her One Eye
When waiting and wanting aren’t enough,
you’ll see scenes of a girl – young, frightening,
growing up. Previously only whispered about.
She’s not a little girl anymore. She has
new interests, her own terrible kind of body.
You’ve seen her in 23 nightmares,
alone on a motion picture screen, everything
there is to know about love. Her nudity
is a weekend you are urged not to attend.
Her speech is unpromotable, a film
of feeling and sexual activity. If you are
embarrassed, put on a new awareness.
Forget revenge and the hard, naked truth.
She has so much to give: mercy, cruelty,
beauty that would make a shambles of you.
In the clutches of her, disaster is experience,
Stockholm a penthouse, the 1970s innocent.
There has never been another coming.
When waiting and wanting aren’t enough,
you’ll see what was left of every blow,
every cut. Shameful, you’ll see all of her.
from Scarecrows (HappenStance, 2010).
I’ve come up his hill’s knobbled back.
Wise Kuebiko sees everything from here:
the red kites over the fringes of motorway,
the red kites over the soft skulls of foxgloves,
the teaspoons over the soft skulls of breakfast eggs
the yolky mouths over the remains of breakfast eggs.
Kate and I have come up his hill’s clammy back.
Old, wise Kuebiko hears everything from here:
the rill and trill of skylarks at Grimes Graves,
the long, sure breath of flint mines at Grimes Graves,
the long, sure, breath of the coffee machine at regular intervals
the unwrapping of plastic packaging at regular intervals.
Kate and K and I have come up his hill’s saurus back.
Bent, old, wise Kuebiko puts up with everything here:
the plague of Cinnabar caterpillars on the burdock,
the plague of joyless coupling in the bedrooms,
the grind of screw-tops opening in the bedrooms,
the grind of steady sunlight in his straw hair.
from Scarecrows (HappenStance, 2010).
Egon is “wolf-handsome”, “young”, “a talent”.
Everything he’s done tonight was bought
with borrowed crowns – Burgtheatre, billiards, restaurant.
He’s broke now but surviving on a current
of affluence. He is no sansculotte;
his manner is too grim, his clothes too decent.
Those skinny things he lures in from the street
fixate upon the steep expanse of brow
and beneath it, all his features in a knot,
while his hand, on its lunge, reels wildly about.
He seems designed to intimately thaw,
then braise like so much meat the homeless heart.
Who, then, is this contortionist who’s packed
his shoulders in, drawn up his hips’ ridge and climbed
into the canvas, this shock of half-stick-insect?
Whose body is this, remote and derelict?
Who is this wastrel, hook-spined, puppet-limbed,
this goblin who ogles a girl’s near naked act?
Could be they were him but he, hating them,
cut everywhere their bodies joined to his
and banged them up in his sanitorium,
these sheets being windows into each white room,
and each day does his rounds, surveys each face
to make sure all that’s left in him is him.
Could be all he sees each morning, shaving,
is Egon – up-and-comer, friend of Klimt –
and, traumatised by, ultimately, nothing
perfects the mirrors that will hang like dinner gongs,
ringing with the proofs of inner torment,
and lets them enter him, scantling by scantling.
from Scarecrows (HappenStance, 2010).
“Interestingly, while males are the main consumers of commercial manga, females – particularly ones in their mid-20s – dominate the market for dōjinshi … ‘When the characters are a man and a woman, the whole thing becomes too much like reality,’ explains 28-year-old dōjinshi fan Kazue Kobayashi. ”
          Eric Prideaux, writing in The Japan Times
We came to. Nanao had slipped off her waspish disregard,
letting Shunsui scoop her up and tell her: “Nanao …”
Off came her glasses. Down came the rude disguise
of her hairpins, his hairpins, her hakama, and how.
We came to. Soi Fon, prostrate before Madam Yoruichi,
was tensed for the smack she’d been earning, slump
by slump. Madam let the promise hang like a cherry
then lit the nervous bulb of her protégé’s rump.
We came to. Love had broken out in the Seireiti,
sloshed into the parched alleys as if from an overturned
vat or cauldron, a broth once-stirred here to stir
the phalanxed hearts until each was hopelessly churned.
What had always bubbled now shook the saucepan lid
but more than that, what was never ever on the cards
came following fast. Everything male and supple snared
in everything supple and male – shinigami, arrancar, vizards,
captains and lieutenants – as naturally as Rangiku
finally spilling from her top or Kurotsuchi hauling
his daughter by her braid, a mass baptism or curing
in salt sweat that our mirror-world would find appalling.
We came to in a sprawl of books and pamphlets
that had poured on us as if they were one hotly flung,
intricately patterned haori. There in that flotsam,
we at last knew what to do with the other’s tongue.
Beach Swifts
know of nothing beyond the deep blonde flannel
stretched out and somewhat play-rumpled,
one edge sodden, one smudged with growth –
only the tunnels and tracks in Abergele’s
hot salty lip, or Rhyl’s, or Westward Ho’s,
the polished or pickled head-size stones
heaped, sometimes scattered, the beach
hoisting its seaweed skirt about itself
as waves scrum, bundle and dogpile, until,
spurred by some inkling, they loop
or scoop or jink degrees too far,
face down new winkle and limpet beds
oddly cluttered with chimney pots,
while their brothers and sisters steer
into a blue map that never stops unfolding.
Cloud Swifts
know of nothing beyond the Iguazu Falls,
whose 88 metres of halberdhead are planted
in a gorge called the Devil’s Throat –
only the cliff-face whose vertebrae
are bright with mist where they hook to it,
their scraped together saucer-nests,
the bubbling green grasses like hairs
in the oxter of a colossus, the whole high cove
where they’re safely sealed in until,
obeying some principle, they fall, coming
to equal the water’s velocity, to turn it
from sheer wall to stitchwork of scissors.
Then, with a pulse of will, each might
pass through, into the white, white cloud
breathed from a deepening wound.
Order Scarecrows (HappenStance, 2010).
Read more about Jon here and here

Days of Roses Anthology

About the anthology
Editors Declan Ryan and Malene Engelund have chosen to focus on poets who have read at the series and who are at an early stage of their career. Many of the contributors have released acclaimed pamphlets, but most are not quite at a full first collection stage. As such, the anthology is intended not only as a memento of the highlights of the first two years of the event, but a showcase and calling card for some of the most gifted up-and-coming poets in the country.

About Days of Roses
Days of Roses began life as a monthly literary event, starting in January 2009 at Filthy McNasty’s in Angel and going on to hold nights as part of the Oxfam Bookfest at its flagship Marylebone store as well as readings at 3 Blind Mice, The Camden Head, The Book Club and The Rugby Tavern. Initially an off-shoot of the Royal Holloway Creative Writing MA, a writing programme run by writers including former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Head of the Poetry Society, Jo Shapcott, the evenings quickly evolved into a place for guest writers to showcase their work alongside new voices from the Royal Holloway MA, past and present.
Date: 23 February 2011
Time: 18h30 to 23h00
Location: 3 Blind Mice, 5 Ravey Street, EC2A 4QW, London
The launch of the first Days of Roses anthology will feature readings from the contributors: Jo Shapcott, Christopher Horton, Declan Ryan, Dominic McLoughlin, Gareth Jones, Liz Berry, Lydia Macpherson, Malene Engelund, Marianne Burton, Maximillian Hildebrand, Robert Selby, William Searle and music from Fiona Bevan and Mr Dupret Factory and friends.
Copies will be available on the night with 15 different signed and numbered covers created by Ross McNicol and Amelia Newton Whitelaw. The anthology will be available on Amazon after the launch.
Till dawn
Lydia Macpherson
They say it’s harder for those left behind,
so why do you keep trying to get back?
These days I’m sleeping with the lights on,
expert in the phases of the moon,
the early morning train times, the taxonomy
of moths. Even with my eyes screwed shut,
I note the clock’s red flick as if you’d passed
a hand across my face. The milky drinks
in the small hours of the kitchen,
lit by the fridge’s cinema glow, the burbling
background of the World Service,
its RP reassurance giving way to patriotic
music, weather continents distant,
the far flung potential of the shipping forecast –
nothing drives you off. How many years was it
before the ground had settled back to make
a headstone worth its while? That rose
your mother threw must have joined
you long ago in a slow dance of rot and growth.
It seems just yesterday that staying up till dawn
was all we wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
The chink of milk bottles, the baby’s cries,
a two-tone siren streets away, all mark
the daily absences of life.
Previously published in Magma.
Baking with Kathryn
Declan Ryan
Two halved eggs are brittle castanets, their parted shells
at no risk in your hands despite their bloom, calcium crystals
thick, a liquid line slides, one to the next.
Dark chocolate snaps into splinters beneath your thumb,
between pinning your hair with a grip and miming drums,
two clean whisks your soft jazz brushes.
When the machinery stops we hear the start of Beeswing,
of work next to a laundry girl, animal in her eyes, a rare thing
then as now to find such fineness stilled.
While we wait you play Debussy’s Sarabande, with élégance
grave et lent
, and I watch your fingers in a practiced dance,
forgetting what we have left to the heat.
Previously published on Eyewear.
Trucker’s Mate
Liz Berry
The A1 is the loneliest. Four hundred
and nine miles down the spine of the country,
only the firefly of a fag tip to keep you steady.
A man needs some company,
an eye on the map, a hand on the radio.
Ten four, hammer down, breaker breaker.
He made a man of me, rubbed me
smooth with engine grease, taught me how
to pull a flatbed, take an unsigned route,
draw the curtains against the prying eyes
of headlights. As other lorries trundle home,
we push onwards, the road a romance.
I was a kid that first night. Birmingham
to Folkestone. The junctions looping
and racing above us, his hand on my leg.
In the woods beside the layby, I pressed my tongue
into the sap of a pine tree as I pissed,
already half in love with him.
Now belly to back in the cab, his vertebrae
like cat’s eyes guiding me down,
I think of the M6 Toll, lined with two million
pulped Mills and Boons; how love is buried
in unlooked for places, kept secret like us.
In the darkness his breath hums like an engine.
Previously published in Magma.
The Singer and The Catch
Marianne Burton
It was not straight doing.
A witch told him how to hold me, to throw
his shirt over my back when I surfaced,
pulling up on the boat’s side to hear him sing.
He was a small man, not much to look at,
with a black tooth and a short beard,
brown and white, the plumage of granite.
He caught me fair in my woman’s shape
and I lay in the shell of the boat winded,
caught on the turn, my legs still legs.
The next night he came in from fishing,
I was sat in the kitchen, bemused by the pots,
the fire too hot, the cutlery too reminiscent
of fish hooks to keep me comfortable.
Where’s my supper then? he said, woman,
as if to emphasise I was woman now for him,
fleshed and flayed. He hit my face, lightly,
a caress, a joke, but the intent was serious,
and the men in the doorway jeered,
and a woman laughed. One I said.
Two months later the village had a wedding.
Not ours. Still, he was singing in the evenings
and each time his voice sounded the spell held;
I couldn’t move from the room it was so sweet.
The men stared at the dust on my black coat,
the woman raised her eyebrows at my clogs.
I’d never tasted wine and after a time
I spun and laughed, then wept at the sorrow
the bride would know. He slapped me hard,
weeping at a marriage. Two I said.
Shortly after, but a long time it seemed,
one of the men was trapped in the nets,
turned up bloated and still on the beach.
Not my man though. At the funeral
they poured an oily orange water which bit;
and after a glass I threw back my head
and laughed at all the pain he was spared,
the dead man. A great blow he dealt me
this time to the side of my head. The eyes
of the woman danced as she watched. Three I said.
I was out of his home then in my black coat
and away that night.
But his singing would carry down to the beach
and I’d crawl through the graves to peer in
where he sat in the firelight with his one candle;
fire and cat hissing at my face at the window.
The woman lay across his lap and laughed,
and he – he turned and pointed at her,
separated her long fingers, not webbed
at all, drew her skirt up above her knees
and pointed to her feet, real feet with toes,
and he opened his mouth and sang.
I did not want his coarse beard, his bruises,
his black greasy kitchen, or the sweat of his bed,
but I wanted the music and that they knew,
as their faces hardened into spite, and I slid
from the sill, across the pebble shale, back
into the sea where the music doesn’t hurt.
Previously published in Chapman.
from the first Days of Roses anthology.
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Ross Sutherland’s Twelve Nudes

Ross Sutherland was born in Edinburgh in 1979. A former lecturer in electronic literature at Liverpool John Moore’s University, Ross works as a freelance journalist and tutor in creative writing. He is a member of live literature collective Aisle 16. His first collection, Things To Do Before You Leave Town (Penned in the Margins), was published in 2009.

In this limited edition, signed mini-book, Ross Sutherland presents the poem as honed, stripped and exposed. With trademark wit, Twelve Nudes (Penned in the Margins, 2010) interrogates the failures of love, exploding the dynamics of text, voice and body. In this elegant but uneasy satire, ‘to be naked is to speak without footnotes’.
Each book is packaged in a gold cellophane bag and comes with a special gift.
Our fear of public speaking began in childhood, when public speakers burst into our living rooms and murdered our families.
Those articulate bastards left us with nothing, just a handful of cue-cards escaping across spearmint lawns:
How we swore vengeance on those public speakers! Quiet, incoherent vengeance; the best kind, muttered inside cupboards.
Ever so often we attempted to tell people the story of our lives, only to discover that they had already heard it, with smarter punch-lines and less insincere flippancy. Word came that someone had sold the TV rights to our fear of wasps.
In nightmares the public speakers appeared to us as demonic, fifty-foot rainbows. “We shall now say a few words on emptiness,” they chimed, their mouths descending like Tetris onto our beds, finishing our sentences.
We followed them through the periodicals, hating them so. Rain fell in perfect fallacy onto their palladiums. “My plus-one is this sniper rifle,” we said in unison.
Behind the red curtain we could hear them rushing about, becoming more and more eloquent as their entrance approached.
We sat there in silence, frantically inventing opinions that our biographers had no use for. But it was too late. They were already imagining us naked.
from Twelve Nudes (Penned in the Margins, 2010).
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Visit Ross Sutherland’s blog.


Steve Spence’s Limits of Control

Steve Spence © Alan Munton

Steve Spence lives in Plymouth and co-organises live poetry group The Language Club. His reviews and poetry have appeared in Great Works, Shearsman, Stride, Tears in the Fence, Tenth Muse and The Rialto. He was assistant editor of Terrible Work magazine for four issues and in 2007 completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth. His debut book, A Curious Shipwreck (Shearsman, 2010), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

In this extraordinary sequence of prose poems, coral reefs fall from the sky, volcanoes smoulder and pirates come to power in Britain. Combining montage techniques with reckless interventions, Steve Spence mashes up the worlds of robotics, banking, fishing, optometry, entomology, climate change, speech synthesis and meteorology to create a dizzingly contemporary poetics – and a new form of nonsense. As entertaining as it is politically engaged, Limits of Control (Penned in the Margins, 2011) speaks to the challenging predicament we find ourselves in: ‘Things cannot go on as if nothing has happened yet the events which follow are even more strange.’
Voices of the dead
Knowing how to feel is more important than what you feel.
This surely depends less on the robots than on the quality of
the humans who design them. Should beauty be painted with
her head in the clouds? She still has occasional mood swings
but they’re nowhere near as severe. From the water everything
looks different yet most learning happens casually and without
programmed instruction. A system of uncertainty has entered
our daily lives. Pollack like a slow-moving bait and for that
reason the action of your rubber eel is important. As mutinies
go this is a very laid-back affair. Some scientists say that our
planet is running out of platinum. This may or may not be
true but every cloud has its moment in the sun. During the manic
phase there can be feelings of inflated self-esteem verging on
grandiosity. Do you have the ability to spot the next big thing?
Whether it was actual bravery that kept him
there or extraordinary arrogance is open to
some debate. “Ask Nigel how ‘industrious’
sounds,” she said. It’s all very vigorous and
virile yet this thin-lipped variety has sturdier
jaws and more teeth. What are the roots of
altruism? “We’ll end with a pepper but we’re
going to begin with porn.” He emerges here
as a global softie with no time for oppression
and all the time in the world for the oppressed.
Lavish eating and drinking was a key element
of the Roman world yet even now the city
seems incapable of self-regulation. This causes
an intense acoustic ripple to propagate across
the plane of the surface.
from Limits of Control (Penned in the Margin, 2011).
Order Limits of Control.
Launch details
Join Penned in the Margins to celebrate the launch of two new collections:
Limits of Control
by Steve Spence
Love / All That / & OK
by Emily Critchley
with readings from Emily and Steve, plus Chris McCabe and
Sophie Mayer
Date:  Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Time:  19h00 to 21h00
Venue:  The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street E1 7EX
(Nearest tubes: Liverpool Street / Aldgate / Aldgate East)
Free entry

Matthew Caley’s Professor Glass

Matthew Caley lives and works in London. Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011) is his fourth collection of poetry. His first, Thirst, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 1999.
Professor Glass is Matthew Caley’s ‘lost’ fin de siècle concept collection. Its eponymous, transparent persona can barely hold his life together, never mind the narrative the reader might want to intuit between the lines of the text. He may be a professor in some unspecified subject, in some un-named university in central nowhere, caught between a loathing for his subject and his salary; between modernist certainty and postmodern doubt; between every academic / pedagogic argument going; between his wife and his nubile charges, between the body politic and a disembodied discourse; or he may only be a spectral creature forged out of the curious mix of languages found in academia. If Jean Baudrillard was right in saying reality no longer emits enough signs to guarantee its existence, the Professor’s text might represent the last, saving sparks of his own being.
“Formally outrageous, culturally light-fingered … Caley is a rare beast, an important poet yet to be discovered by his true readership, which is to say everyone.”
– John Stammers
“At last, somebody with intelligence, wit and a vocabulary who can crack open a cultural canapé and lay out its extravagance for us …”
– John Hartley Williams
Satyrs and nymphs in the foam. A spume of fire,
the wicked glint of nails and razors.
The slyest reference to the slyest reference
of Peter Greenaway. Pinhead
from Hellraiser.
Some oddbod with a head shaped like a coracle.
Choreography by Michael Clarke and Salome.
‘Venus in Furs’ by The Velvet Underground
[out of, yawn, Warhol, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,
The Factory, Edie]
Sacher-Masoch, The Marquis De Sade, Artaud,
Terminator 1, Skin 2,
fetishists [make a long list of list
poems for a very long
shades of a Kurosawa battle,
George Bataille and the Story of the Eye,
Dominique Aury and the Story of O.
Futurists fist-fucking history.
Get in. Turn the key. Test the ignition. Drive carefully.
Who thinks it outré
to disturb the equilibrium
of my in-tray and my out-tray
to take the Balm of Gilead
or Librium
into my head, to take the lead
and kneel down at my feet
with the softest kiss. To think it neat
-er than any metaphysical conceit.
My lark, my sparrow,
I’ll let you know
what the heart is for,
the heart is made for the arrow,
the arrowhead, the pain,
ask anyone, ask Saint Sebastian.
No qualms? No doubts? No fears?
No points to prove?
To do all this yet not remove
the Discman from your ears.
Would anyone attack you?
Would your friends sing?
In the fish bowl of autumn
their faces are
fresher than the sun.
Sweet thing,
the world’s queuing
up to fuck you.
Sinsemilla Lullaby No. 1
Sleep, little pill head, sleep
so I can take a toke
on your neat pale whirlpool navel,
its turquoise and jasper
scarab-beetle brooch
and you, so beyond reproach,
inhaling deep
inside the blue-billowed smoke
as you apply
a shivery taper to the roach
and scrabble for more Rizla paper –
roll it carefully out on a Jamiroquai
12-inch single cover. A-grades for you, my dear.
Sleep, little pill head, sleep.
Undressing Kristeva
Apparently ‘the speech of the depressed
is like an alien skin’ is what she said
and, scattering petals aside, undressed,
leading me through my skin to the tousled bed.
This could have seemed somewhat heavy
for a first date
but in fact was as light as petals or duvet
feathers. So light that I lost weight
on the journey from the door to the divan.
So light that when she played upon my ribs
like a melodeon, she played on them an even
-song. From that, to go on to describe,
with a clarity that still alarms me,
how the ossified cries of a child
become the poems of a Mallarmé
or Nerval – it was as if she had willed
these words like birds from the trees.
Then she took me, took me like any lover –
elbows, eyelids, earlobes, ankles, knees –
as if none belonged to one, or to the other.
from Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011).
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Ahren Warner’s Re:

Ahren Warner was born in 1986. His poetry was featured in City State: New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins, 2009), Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe Books, 2009). His first full collection, Confer, will be published by Bloodaxe Books in autumn 2011. He is a doctoral student at Queen Mary College (University of London) and divides his time between Paris and London.

Re: is Ahren Warner’s much-anticipated debut. Featured widely in recent major anthologies, he is quickly emerging as a notable voice within a new generation of British poets. This slim selection reads like a series of postcards sent from, or touching on, a variety of locations – Nuremberg, Dachau, the Carolinas – but most often the streets of his home cities, Paris and London. While Warner engages boldly with art and philosophy, poetics and history, these poems are always alive to the light and heat, the sights, sounds and multitude of the contemporary city.
Having always thought someday I’d burn that bed,
I left with nothing but a cold bologna sandwich,
a borrowed suit, pockets full of dust and found myself
a thousand miles away, amongst the mountain dew
and, later, amongst smokey mountain eyes
in a crowded back-room, where every look was thrown
like a knife and I thought the game was over, but
sitting on three queens I made a train at sunrise.
That night, I swallowed liquor and a lighter
and found her like moonlight falling on a bed.
I could have swore her hair was made of rayon
and when we kissed she tasted like a loaded gun.
The sound of bluegrass and southern words
wove their ways to an old Sandlapper tune
between Palmetto trees and geese in flight.
Wearing a Milton-Bradley crayon, she whispered
something warm about the height of cotton,
asked if I could feel the moon shine
and beneath the silver sun I asked her
what she’d say to setting out for getting lost.
She sent me to the milkman, looking for the truth.

Note: This poem is a rough collage of lines from songs by Frank Zappa, George Gershwin, The Raconteurs, Counting Crows, Claudia Church, Alabama, Bucky Covington, Sheryl Crow, Brand New, Mary Black, James Taylor, Jo Dee Messina and Josh Turner. All songs cited contain ‘Carolina’ in their title, with the exception of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ which is from Porgy and Bess, the state opera for South Carolina. The poem was commissioned for Broadcast’s 50 State project in 2008.

About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters …
Though, when it comes to breasts, it’s a different story.
Cranach, for example, never seems to have progressed
beyond his pubescent attempts at apprenticeship:
tennis balls sewn to a pillow of hay, fingers coming
to terms with the concept of foreplay. So too
with Titian, whose Venus bares handleless plungers
or the fruits of a template mocked up at Bellini’s.
For breasts, you want Rochegrosse, his Chevalier
surrounded by breasts real enough to have men
gripping their gallery plans discreetly; or Picabia
at his most garish: his naked, peroxided blonde
stretching to coddle her slavering mutt. Her breasts
impress their tender weight upon us, and though
not as lofty as Pieter would have liked, she too
knows something of our weakness; that we fall
and are floored as much by the salt lure of skin.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Here, all parks are masculine, grammatically so,
I mean; le jardin, le parc, never a la.
Planes defined by avenues, circulars,
lines on the maps labelled with saints, saintly
politicos: Saint Michel, Kennedy, Jacques.
Even the flowers, here, are masculine,
reminding us of the season, a year or so back,
Gucci, or some such, had men preening
in powder-pink shirts; strutting their cocks
down the Strand, Bishopsgate, Bank.
Here, there are no pink shirts, hardly any
shirts at all. Just men, reclining in the bronze
of their estomacs; the vague swell of their guts
rising to the heat. There are women too, of course,
mostly with tops, but tops rolled up,
estomacs bared to the sun. We are reclining too,
squinting at the sky – as electric, if lighter,
than Klein’s – swallowed up or slipping in
to an igloo of sérenité, the gender of which
I’ve had neither the time, nor desire, to look up.
from Re: (Donut Press, 2011).
Order Re:
Visit Ahren’s website.

Emily Critchley’s Love / All That / & OK

Emily Critchley was born in Athens, Greece, and grew up in Dorset. She studied at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge. From Cambridge she gained a PhD in contemporary, American women’s experimental writing and philosophy, and was the recipient of the John Kinsella & Tracy Ryan Poetry Prize in 2004. She now lectures in English and Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.

Love / All That /& OK (Penned in the Margins, 2011), an anti-confessional by experimental British poet Emily Critchley, brings together a diverse range of work previously published in chapbooks since 2004, and includes new material from the sequences ‘Poems for Luke’, ‘The Sonnets’ and ‘Poems for Other People’.
“Really intelligent, coquette, fuck-you work … a space for a new kind of anti-misogynism in poetry.”
– Marianne Morris
“I think the project is high electrics and considerable. I particularly care for the frailty and edges of coherence loss. It’s the intelligent frays that push under my thought and matter most.”
– Allen Fisher
“Her formally adventurous poetry implicates its author in, then deftly upends, the conventions – political, sexual, intellectual, and emotional – that threaten to diminish the purview of any fierce, bright, 21st-century female. Critchley practises a brisk vernacular anti-lyric, often in the name of love and always in a language that (pounding Pound) ‘hath ‘ham’ innit.’ As an antidote to a future that ‘may be very wrong,’ these poems are absolutely right.”
– Jean Day
from ‘The Sonnets’
I took it for a “door” because that’s what
the man told me. Tried to walk
through it. Couldn’t
take your time, couldn’t
take mine. Unannounced.
While the arch leans bilingual
& equivocal.
Not backed by police
or any kind of force.
So B’s furry but not all that ‘cute’
no more ~ an intellectual thing ~
Like small & pointy, but lacking
brightness, see? & I like buildings
that match structural intent wth design
In summer. Flotilla of scraps
pulled into remnants
by a dead pulley system.
B is right, straight, & points (i)
his dick into the crowd.
Don’t hype up sympathy
for laughs, we cld do this
feelingly if our guts were only
in it, not the cat.
Well, hey, who’s counting
whose failure to be integral, honest,
whole. The sign said
for belief go right
& right again

(i) ‘I’m free, right, and point a gun,’ Catherine Wagner, ‘everyone in the room is a representative of the world at large’
from Love / All That / & OK (Penned in the Margins, 2011).

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