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).
Visit Ahren’s website.