Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tamar Yoseloff’s The City with Horns

Tamar Yoseloff was born in the United States in 1965. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Fetch (Salt, 2007) as well as Marks, a collaborative book with the artist Linda Karshan, published by Pratt Contemporary Art in 2007. She is also the editor of A Room to Live In: A Kettle’s Yard Anthology. She lives in London, where she is freelance tutor in creative writing. Her blog, Invective Against Swans, explores the intersection between poetry and visual art.

“Every artist paints what he is”, said Jackson Pollock, the iconic figure of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. His tumultuous life and his revolutionary vision provide the storyline for the main sequence of poems in The City with Horns, Tamar Yoseloff’s fourth collection, in which Yoseloff plays ventriloquist to the voices of Pollock; his wife, the painter Lee Krasner; and his mistress, Ruth Kligman (who survived the car crash that killed him). The characters of James Dean, Frank O’Hara and William de Kooning are also woven into the narrative. And it is Pollock’s dictum that provides the departure point for other poems which chart the attempt to find hidden meanings – whether through driving blind on a road at night, reading James Joyce in a Japanese restaurant, or gazing at a concrete wall. In The City with Horns, you will find journeys through the poet’s adopted city of London and through turbulent weather, on trains, into fields that conjure up the past, and around junk yards where treasure can be found. This is Yoseloff’s most challenging collection to date.
“In the title sequence of this collection, Tamar Yoseloff breaks new ground with poems that flow and rush and fizz in ways reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s paintings. From the turmoil of Pollock’s life, Yoseloff powerfully re-creates a vision in which everything knots together, a way of seeing that is intoxicated. But if the central sequence overflows with plenty, then the outer sections of the triptych speak of emptiness and pain in a poetic voice more familiar, curbed and astringent. Here, Yoseloff continues to explore territory she has made her own in earlier collections: snap-shots and “little fables” of up-rooted individuals whose tokens, found objects and souvenirs struggle towards articulacy. These are poems offering few consolations, but the strength of The City with Horns lies in its chastening honesty, its ability to evoke a sensibility that feels never less than modern.”
– Martyn Crucefix
“Tamar Yoseloff’s Fetch is a delicate book of haunting strength, of strangeness uncontained. These poems are irresistible.”
– Alison Brackenbury
[Speaking of Fetch]: “These are dark poems in the best sense of the word, edgy, unnerving, but glittering, too. Tamar Yoseloff can make a visit to the dentist or a lamb curry sexy and sinister. I’ve followed her career from the beginning; Fetch is her most ambitious book yet, and her best.”
– Matthew Francis
Cedar Nights
Kerouac baptised the ashtray with his piss,
Rothko gazed into his glass, lost
in a haze of smoke (later he would slit
each arm, two razored lines, maroon on white),
while Gorky picked a fight with every stooge
who strayed within his reach (his wild eye,
hangdog face, peasant hands, the dreams
he couldn’t shake). De Kooning pontificated
over water (bastard) and by his lead
women shattered into pieces, all lips
and tits. Klein splattered the bar in black,
while dizzy Ginsberg’s angelheaded hipsters
swore, and sang, and toppled off their stools,
then hurled themselves into the negro streets;
Frank was brashly erecting something new
from shreds of Rauschenberg and Lady Day.
And Jack? He was painting up a storm,
(when he was sober), admiring his fame
from the summit of the Gods, until the night
she breezed into the Cedar, all ass
and attitude, looking for a guy,
and there he was, the prize, the mark, the Jack
of Hearts, the cover boy. She sidled over:
what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink?
Guggenheim Museum, Venice
Just when I think nothing can move me,
room after room of Tintoretto, Veronese, Bellini,
the Virgin granting me her doleful eyes,
her pearly tears,
I enter a cool white palazzo,
find his huge canvas, which shows me the truth
of water and fire, in this place
of canals and candlelight, a city he never saw.
What he made was a world
in perpetual swirl, violent red, yellow bile,
the way the galaxy might look to a man stranded
in space, before science and logic takes hold.
And I stand before this picture,
the man who painted it
dead, like the masters shut away
in these palaces of art, their works their tribute;
wanting to pin beauty to the canvas,
dusty and flightless. But this picture lives, black
against the midday sun, legions of day-glo tourists
bobbing along the canal,
and I feel tears
welling up before I can make them stop.
I don’t know why; I’m tired,
vulnerable in my light summer clothes,
he and I foreigners to a faith
which isn’t ours: Christ on the cross,
the martyrdom of the saints, spelled out in
blood and gold.
Reading Ulysses in the Teri Aki Sushi Bar
He would have liked the concentric circles
of the California roll, whorls of salmon and avocado,
brightwhite rice, the ginger fanned
across the plate – like Molly Bloom,
her legs apart – the saki hot
in his throat, a trill of syllables.
He would have admired my discipline,
my quiet journey with Leopold
and tuna maki – squintyeyed
over the page, the words
running away from sense.
The Dublin streets swell with rain,
delicate perfume of dung, and
there’s a man hurrying home,
brown eyes saltblue, with no umbrella.
          I will know him, oh yes, by the shrug
of his shoulders, hunch of his coat,
the way he looks up, suddenly,
               that somewhere a girl, pretty,
captures a fishy gobbet in her chopsticks,
raises it to her lips, that first bite releasing
brine, bladderwrack, the green rot
of the ocean floor.
                           If only he
could sit across from her, worship
her perfect little teeth.
He will pass me on the street
one evening when the rain
smells like the ocean,
          flame memory for an instant
before we turn our separate corners,
pull our collars to our throats.
Previously published in Shearsman Magazine.
Mannequins on 7th Street

for Robert Vas Dias, after Anthony Eyton
We desire them to be perfect:
limbs without blemish, Malibu-bronzed,
robed in fuchsia and gold, smouldering
goddesses in a city leached to grey.
We, merely flesh, race past, hail cabs,
jump buses, never to strike
their timeless pose.
We must embrace the gift of the street,
the glare of chaos, of things being various.
The frail instant needs us to record it;
the mute made audible, still life animated.
They keep watch from their temple
of glass, stranded in silence, all dressed up
and nowhere to go.
from The City with Horns (Salt, 2011).
Order The City with Horns here.
Visit Tamar’s website.
Visit Tamar’s blog, Invective Against Swans.
Launch with Katy Evans-Bush’s Egg Printing Explained
Date: Thursday, 2 June 2011
Time: 18h30 – 20h30
Venue: Purdy Hicks Gallery, 65 Hopton Street, London SE1 9GZ
For other readings, please check Tamar’s website.

John McCullough’s The Frost Fairs

John McCullough © Morgan Case

John McCullough’s poetry has appeared in publications including London Magazine, The Guardian, The Rialto, Poetry London and Magma. He teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Sussex. His first collection is The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).

The Frost Fairs is a compassionate book with a global and historical scope, tackling science and city life from a range of surreal yet poignant angles. It explores love in many forms, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay and cross-gendered lives from the past. The pieces travel from ancient Alexandria to twenty-first century bars and council estates, behind everything the vastness of the sea and sky. The array of voices here is striking: taxi drivers report their most outlandish fares and hermaphrodite statues flirt with observers; abandoned lovers watch frost fairs melting on the Thames and drag queens revel in the freedoms afforded by the Blitz.
Formally deft and carefully crafted, this diverse range of poems uses language that is always musical and alive. Surprise and the uncanny are cherished as ways of returning to us the strange leaps and enduring power of our deepest yearnings. In this collection, longing and losing condition all we see and hear, making the impossible suddenly plausible. Whether exploring Brighton seascapes or questions of empire, there is always in McCullough’s writing an openness to seeing the world from an alternative point of view. At once bold and haunting, The Frost Fairs opens the door to a new country in the reader’s imagination in its exploration of the possibilities of the human heart.
“In this immensely enjoyable collection there is an immediacy and tenderness that is outstanding. These vivid moving poems have such a sharp eye for those telling daily details, the particulars. All of this, plus their humour, creates poems that are so solidly tangible and believable. The title The Frost Fairs tells it all. The vulnerability and changeableness that threads our lives, the shifting ice below our feet.”
– Lee Harwood 
“John McCullough’s poems are never far from wonderful. He shows a lovely mixture of ease and energy, so that there’s a feeling of improvisation even in closed forms. Unpredictable, tender, resourceful – why shouldn’t Wallace Stevens hold hands with Tintin?”
– Adam Mars-Jones
“John McCullough is a poet for whom language is a flexible gift. He can be formal and controlled, colloquial and intimate, sensuous and saucy. He enjoys risk-taking in his work, forging unusual juxtapositions of images and ideas, and it’s this playfulness and humour which makes his work, like a stiff sea breeze suddenly hitting you in the face, so refreshing and invigorating.”
– Catherine Smith
“I’ve been reading John McCullough’s poems for several years and never saw him as ‘promising’, rather, as a verbal magician who had already performed, with a sureness and brio anyone might envy. The startling range of subjects can be partly accounted for by his ability to enter the imaginations of personae from odd walks of life or curious moments in history. He is even able to work out what Michel Foucault’s spoons might have thought about their owner! In poem after poem one senses the encroachment of an exalted vision held at bay by this poet’s commitment to conversational tone and offhand irony. I don’t want to round up the usual superlatives, but I do urge you to read this landmark first volume.”
– Alfred Corn
What sticks is the hum
of the fridge in your basement,
a plane ticket lying flat on one chair.
The way, fag in hand, you order me to stop smoking:
you’ll damage your cilia
and you conjure those tiny threads stroking together,
pushing wayward particles where they belong.
You drain a glass of vodka,
write my name in your diary on the page
where you’ll wake in a new country.
You keep your promise:
two hours and twenty dollars on a dodgy line
from a city without Marmite
where you tussle with silverfish
and baseball shirt slang.
O much assailed friend,
in these fathomless times
I walk down to the ocean at night
to set my hand on its skin
and my mind on rowing, rowing, rowing.
Night Writing
In humid months, at the estate’s unwatched edge,
the boys gather for an after-hours cigarette
before trashing field gates. All boast Reeboks, earrings,
their honed geezer-laughs rev-revving
with the engines of graffiti-tagged bangers.
Customized stereos thump out speed garage,
the race kicking off in a blizzard of chalk dust,
their bouncing charge towards a crooked iron post.
Death and dew ponds can’t stop them while they swerve
past quivering teasel, conquer the bone ridge’s turn,
skeins of wool lifting from gorse as banners
for the night’s whooping, fist-raising winners.
Further off, the crews unite for a slow drift, melt into hills
but leave the empty sky with headlamp trails:
blazing ghosts still performing their necessary work,
still scribbling their names on the dark. 

The Disappearance of St Anthony’s Church
Hard to tell exactly when it vanished –
local rumour says late or early summer.
They stole the thing discreetly, brick by brick,
an anti-miracle. Curt officials blame
the village but no infidel’s been punished,
the two best clues a chisel by a tomb,
a distant maze of tyre marks from a truck –
though some insist that these came later.
They left behind foundations, one unwanted wall
and a different view of pines, the snaking river.
Next spring the first grass sprouted in the nave,
the chancel’s earth disturbed only by lovers
and the odd partridge hunting for snails
or a place to rest in silence for a while.
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
Order The Frost Fairs here.
Visit John’s website.
Brighton launch

Date: Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
Venue: The Red Roaster, 1D St James Street, Brighton
There will be readings by John and guest poet Lisa Handy.

This event is part of the e.g. poetry series. Entry is £5/£4 conc. 
London launch
Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
Venue: The Phoenix Artist Bar, Phoenix St (Off Charing Cross Road)
There will be readings by John and guest poet Sophie Mayer, author of The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011).
Entry is free.

Bobby Parker’s Ghost Town Music

Bobby Parker is 28 years old and lives in Kidderminster, England. He has been published in magazines such as Agenda, Antique Children, The Argotist, Iota, Orbis (as featured writer in issue #147) and Outsider Writers Collective. In 2008 he was selected as Small Press Poet of the Year by Purple Patch magazine. Ghost Town Music is his first book, with another, Digging for Toys, due for release later in the year from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Bobby edits a magazine called Urban District Writer. His first issue as editor included George Szirtes, Ben Mazer, Luke Kennard and Salena Godden.

“The words ‘irreverent’ and ‘anarchic’ are often used about things which really aren’t either. This is both … The trick would wear off if Parker wasn’t multi-talented – with text and image, found and made – but he is, so it doesn’t.”
– Mark Burnhope
Madness Letters
Elizabeth was bored so I made
a dream catcher out of her old knickers.
Never heard a scream sound like sickness.
It was time to give up smoking dope anyway
and since she left it keeps the flies
from dancing on my eyelashes.
Elizabeth calls me, she says she’s
‘Bored of being a stuck up bitch!’
I cough. From the swing in my garden
the clouds over the allotment
look like three witches fighting
over who gets to sleep with the sun.
I kick the phone into the pond.
Tell the cat on the fence to kill something.
Elizabeth is long gone, she doesn’t call
any more. I wonder if she still brushes
her teeth after sex. Once, we tried to alleviate
her boredom by getting freaky in a tree
but I kept dropping the bananas.
Elizabeth is on my mind each time
I feel boredom on my shoulders
like giving a fat child a piggy-back.
I write her name in ketchup on
the fridge, then lick it off.
Doctor’s appointment Tuesday.
Elizabeth called! ‘Did I leave my diary
under your bed?’ I stuttered apologies
like a dog choking on a plastic bag;
the pages I didn’t burn I taped to my
mirror, all that melancholy bitterness
and hatred for men, especially male poets.
I wonder if she has ever chipped away
the Hughes from the Plath stone …
Elizabeth stood in the doorway
dripping with rain – I was so bored
I invited her in. We ate chicken.
We danced the funky chicken with
bellies full of chicken. We both kinda
missed the way we frighten each other.
Elizabeth turns to me after the sweat
has dried and our pillows have tangled,
‘What happened to that nasty dream catcher?’
I pinch her cute little nose, pull a funny face,
keep her distracted. When she’s in the bathroom
I dismantle the shrine in my wardrobe.
Elizabeth doesn’t get bored any more.
I don’t get bored any more; we don’t
get bored together – it sounds like
laughter before it reaches high pitch,
a gasp, a wheeze, a phlegmy gargle …
At night her bra moves across the floor,
whimpers to go out for a wee.
Elizabeth says I’m so crazy she’ll never
get bored of me; I am constantly creating
weird situations. She wants to have crazy
babies with me. When she pops to the shop
for cider and crackers, I fall to my knees
and pray to the light-bulb. Sometimes
craziness is a choice, then it takes over
and changes colour, constantly, like a British
sky or a pair of white boxer shorts.
Today I am grey with exhaustion.
The tablets worked. And the cannabis
is well out of my system – I can’t tell her
I’m better now, she’d get bored of me.
If she catches me watching a documentary
on Gothic architecture, I leap into the air
and declare war on the curtains.
If she catches me reading a book
on the industrial revolution, I jump up
screaming, ‘It’s dirty time! Quick,
grab the spade!’
It gets easier, you just let go. Let go, listen
to the singing colours. Make her happy.
Loneliness is worse, no one to grin and make me soup.
It’s quite comfortable, this kaleidoscope …
I smile, lick my moustache and close my eyes
like Nietzsche playing the piano with sticky fingers.
from Ghost Town Music (Knives Forks and Spoons Press).
Order Ghost Town Music.

Sophie Mayer’s The Private Parts of Girls

Sophie Mayer currently teaches Creative Writing at King’s College, London, and is the author of The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love (Wallflower, 2009) and Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009). She won an Eric Gregory award in 2004, and is included in Andy Brown’s lyric anthology The Allotment (Stride, 2006) and in Carrie Etter’s Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). As well as writing regularly for Sight & Sound and Horizon Review, she blogs about books as deliriumslibrarian. She is a Contributing Editor at Hand+Star, and Commissioning Editor at Chroma.

The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011) follows Alice down the rabbit hole, Kassandra onto Agamemnon’s boat, and Red Riding Hood into the forest: it conjures the most mysterious landscape of all, the mind of a girl – a girl who might be a dancer, a warrior-bride, a transatlantic traveller, the Messiah, sick of being compared to Sylvia Plath, airborne, born in space, or lost in a sunlit feld, discovering love. From Battlestar Galactica to The Clash, the poems mix tart, smart pop culture goodies into the dreamspace of fairy tales, as they take us on a journey – hallucinatory with culture lag – through the mind and body of a modern girl. This is poetry for Buffy fans (and Twilight haters), for readers who grew up with Angela Chase’s voice-over for their lives and Air’s soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides on their iPods, for everyone who ever wondered if Beauty secretly was the Beast.
Previous review quotes

“[Mayer’s] non-sequiteurs arrest you by their very strangeness, then draw you into a sensory chain where they seem just … true. Brilliantly disconcerting.”
– Luke Kennard
“Full of zest, variety and intellectual ambition. There is no such thing as a typical Mayer poem, diversity being her great strength. Dazzling.”
– Jane Holland
“Sensual and vivid, exploded erotic imagery rewrites the love poem in new terms, reinvigorating our restrained and anecdotal poetic moment.”
– Wayne Burrows
Trial Proof for The Blue Feet (Kiki Smith)
Lysa has stars tattoed on her feet. Did it hurt, that
art made scintillant point by point. I don’t
ask. Flexing its paleness against red tiles,
her foot says ‘no.’ She’s a dancer, after all,
always has been: her feet are an earthquake-
buckled landscape — somewhere beyond
pain or trapped eternally within it. Pushing up
on bruised pad and ball, she perches between
the toast crumbs and the broken tap. A spring,
and those toes — étoiles — are pointing out
towards me. Black painted nails, cracked beneath
(I’ve heard the stories). The stars pulse over
roped veins, startling calluses like galaxies
formed from the dust of grinding the self
into grace. Into light. Over the doorway
of the main room, there’s a photo that I love:
half-naked against the lens, bride-tulled, pale
breasts a blur — meteoric streak of her slanted
through silver and emulsion. Falling hard
into the black holes of her eyes, I almost
don’t hear her graphic yes to my unasked. Of
course it hurt, and what hurts more: wearing ink
away beneath tap shoes and cowboy boots,
fading in sunlight from midnight to twilit
blue. Her feet ache with dawn, she says:
dew cold under her skin. Old bones turn out
fossils of past leaps, seamed with bright striations.
En pointe, arabesque. These carbonised remains
of what once took to the sky, one part
rock to one of fire, and fell to earth, blue into blue.
Easter Parade
Careful now. All the knives must be aligned
or the city falls. Twitch and wake. Rain
arrives with dawn — season out of time,
no butterflies or moths. Squirrels hunt cats,
cats shelter with foxes. The girls lounge
in the fallen blossom of cigarette ash.
They are more beautiful than they can
imagine, and not only to the low-slung
driver thumping bass like a blood-thrum.
In the doppler of his wake, they roll
their skirts up higher, compete to see who hates
their legs most. At night, they twitch, restless
with nicotine and vague desire (indeterminacy
is its nature) (and its power). They want
the world, those girls, and stickily compete
to see who hates it most. That’s how bad
they want it, with its extinctions
and expulsions, evasions, invasions and
evaporations. With every crack
that doesn’t break their backs, luck flips
them past the row of knives, the low-slung
bass, the sullen sky. Newly-hatched,
like rain at dawn, they glisten cold.
Cold, and ashing into beauty.
The Cantor’s Daughter
Her dress is alight with
          god particles
and gematria, her velvet is night;
her brilliance as impossible
as a talking cat. Her name
          is Córdoba,
is heart-flowering jasmine
and the lovers celtic-knotted
beneath its fragrance. She is
          berenjenas, honeyed
gazelle-golden plazas at prayer-time:
bimah and medina, heart centre.
In the guitar’s blue voice
          she mourns
the grafted rose, the drying-up
of the courtyard’s fountain,
the closed gates of paradise; these
          her poems,
woven in gold thread on scraps
of leather, inscribed (right to left)
on flyleavs, and worn around her neck:
          gold coin
to buy her passage, a house-key
carried in the skin-fold of her generations.
Previously published in ouroboros review.
On Being Dismissed as ‘Plathlike’
She rose at nine that December night; above the horizon I saw her come. She could shine yet with pale grandeur and steady might; but that star verged already on its judgement day.
— Charlotte Brontë, Villette
She rises, at once inside and out, twig
fingers at the window; wraithlike,
she could haunt the moon. She is nothing,
and nothing is like
the breath that steams through
what is said of her — it flits, mothlike,
spectral. His words. Her words.
Annotations cross and writhe like
thrown punches. His hand. Her hand.
Nothing could be less lifelike
than this — this throwaway. This
trashing. It leads us false, a marshlight
wisp of a will not her own rewriting
her flight into myth. Like
the many she stands for, one more blonde
American. Stepford wifelike,
you domesticate her, canonised
and tamed so we cry for her strife like
she was directed by Sirk. Come,
critic, this is fat that your knife likes
to cut through. Cast aside. Who needs
fat? And so she is waiflike.
Her body, her work: hysteria,
anorexia. She eats herself. Like
it or not, that’s your thin
volume. Your scorn is like wrath, like
envy, perhaps. Perhaps
incomprehension. Or fear: stealthlike,
the ghosts you invoke will show
your thinness, waft like
breath through you. Discard you, a worn sheet.
And rise, then. Plathlike.
from The Private Parts of Girls (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Pre-order The Private Parts of Girls here or here.
Visit Sophie’s blog, Delirium’s Library.
Visit Sophie’s website.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Inroads

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Inroads (Seren, 2010), described by Ambit as “a first collection that does all the things a good debut … should do”. Inroads was shortlisted for the London Festival Fringe Prize for the Best First Collection of Poetry 2010. Her novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, earned her the title ‘the new Audrey Niffenegger’ by Company magazine and was described by Living North as “a powerful novel from a talented new voice … hotly tipped to be one of the biggest books of 2011”. The book has has just been published in America and the United Kingdom and is being translated into 20 languages. Carolyn is 32, has three children, and lives in Gateshead. 

This debut collection from Seren, Inroads, showcases a startling new talent. Carolyn Jess-Cooke has a sophisticated poetic intelligence as well as a great sense of fun.
The opening piece, ‘Accent’ where “stowaway inflections and locally-produced slang/have passports of their own” is a praise poem for the versatility and joy of language, “The way sound chases itself in tunnels and halls, the way senses fold memory …”. This verbal fluency and dexterity are employed to offer us poems that are multi-faceted and often paradoxical. ‘Aeneas Finds Dido on YouTube’ is part satire, part tender re-enactment of the myth, featuring the most up-to-date media platforms.
After this playful start, a difficult childhood is evoked through metaphor in poems like ‘Music Lesson’,‘One Thousand Painful Pieces’ and ‘Bitten’, all the more heartbreaking for being indirect. Other high points are ‘Newborn’ with the apt description of a babe in arms being a “zoo of verbs/mewling, snuffling, pecking …”. This sweet realism again gives way to metaphor, in the strangely evocative ‘Dorothy’s Homecoming’ in a brilliant take on the classic film ‘Wizard of Oz’, the power of maternal love has turned into a ‘twister’. 
“This first collection is a sparkling variety-act, choreographed with a strong but daring sense of form. There are subversive triolets, an air-borne re-invention of Larkin’s poem, ‘The Whitsun Weddings’, and poems in experimental ‘field’ layout. Some are almost surrealistic, as memories get up and perform karaoke-songs, or brutal beating becomes a music lesson. In others, Greek myths may be modernised and filmed, haunting landscapes captured, young motherhood described with witty realism and sensuousness. While memory at times traces darker inroads among the glittering, high-wire acts and comic cadenzas, the imaginative movement of the collection is outwards towards celebration. Jess-Cooke is a poet who revels in the magical pleasure of language, and readers will enjoy sharing it with her.”

– Carol Rumens

“There are breathtaking poems here. Whether writing about motherhood, accent, place or mischievously entwining the Classical world with YouTube and cable TV shows – and somehow still drawing pathos from it – Jess-Cooke has an unflinching honesty to match her powerful imagery. ‘Bitten’ makes you feel like you’ve been bitten, ‘First Time Buyer’ makes you feel like you have just got home, and ‘A poem without any vegetables’ makes you feel like you have children. Combine this with a sense of wide and deep reading, of reacting, of making a range of styles her own. Inroads feels refreshingly transatlantic – this is a poet unafraid of crossing boundaries, capable of being as simultaneously playful and serious, as good literature always is.”
– Luke Kennard
Stowaway inflections and locally-produced slang
have passports of their own, a visa for the twang
           that tells me you’re not Xhosa
but a Geordie raised in Grahamstown, maybe. It’s a blitz
of souvenirs on the ears, the way you bring your bliss
           of home that much closer.
Home? Or everywhere? Like combing coral
or sand and snow globes, or a wave-shaped petal
           from Sydney’s Manly Cove
my voice fossils places. The way sound chases
itself in tunnels and halls, the way senses
           fold memory into five
is an accent’s suitcase aesthetic. Listen.
There’s an address, a postcard in the tone,
           the foreign rhythm
and that emphasis, that accent on the off-beat
which echoes longing clearly; the picked-up place-music speaks
           where you ache to be, with whom. 
The first time I was five. An Alsatian
we teased stripped a layer of skin from wrist
to elbow. It was a blind sensation
the first time. I was five, and all stations
between six and twelve were flagged with lesions
connected, somehow, to a need to be kissed
for the first time. I was five, and satiation,
wet ease, stripped a layer of skin from risk.
from Inroads (Seren, 2010).
Order Inroads here or here
Order The Guardian Angel’s Journal (Piatkus, 2011).
Visit Carolyn’s website.
Visit Carolyn’s blog, The Risktaker’s Guide to Endorphins.

Sarah Frost’s Conduit

Sarah Frost is 37 years old and a single mother to a six year old boy. She works as an editor for Juta Legalbrief in Durban. She has been writing poetry for the past fourteen years. She has completed an MA in English Literature, and also a module on Creative Writing, through UKZN. She has been published in various South African journals, and also some in the United States of America. Her first collection, Conduit, is published by Modjaji Books.

Conduit is a book of pared-down poems graphically tracking a young girl’s journey from the lonely spaces of childhood to the creative, powerful realm of womanhood. At times stark, Sarah Frost’s formal yet tentative grappling with the experiences of being a daughter, a mother, and a lover, reveals the growth of a strong, yet guarded poetic persona.
“These are poems of drowning and coming up again. Of surviving with lungs that breathe water and sunlight. These are poems of longing and loss. Of searching for a foothold in a world where all slides and changes. Sarah Frost is a new voice in South African poetry. A clear and strong and exciting voice. Read her.”
– Kobus Moolman
On the slopes the charred spines of the winter pines.
The town still in the valley below,
a pulse just visible in the soft hollows of a skull.
Lonely the forest road billowing sunset-red
for a girl on her bicycle, going home.
For her there can be no leaving, yet. Nothing to find.
Just a waiting as gradual as the evening train
shunting its heavy load free of the station.
Bed time, and the wind chime jangles.
Beyond the glass, a planet stark against the sky.
Restless, she turns under her covers at dawn,
hearing a truck shift down to its lowest gear.
The deep engine roar judders on the highway, departing.
The capsicum pot-plant tilts,
as you carry it precariously,
speaking of your wife, and how you owe her flowers.
Carting my own star-jasmine tethered to a wooden stick
to where we parked – we came separately –
I feel the cake we shared at the café above the nursery,
sit heavy in my stomach like woe.
You turn your car around and with a careful wave,
drive off, leaving me, hot-faced, heavy –
scrabbling to collect the coins that just fell out of my purse
into the gravel in the gutter.
Like a CD track stuck
the old song reverberates in my head
‘the girl at the window/
waited all day for her father to come home/
thought that if she flirted with him/
he might love her more.’
At the table beneath the spreading fig tree,
I let you see my black bra-strap slip
from behind my green-yoked dress.
Felt your glance stroke my hair,
as you told me about paying your bond (and hers).
Your dessert fork glinted in the dappled light,
itching to wound.
My serviette, smeared red,
crumpled on a side plate.
One year in
We argue all night, until I ask you to leave.
The next day we walk along the promenade.
I want to view the sea between the trees, but
you pull me back, showing me wild jasmine.
We find a bench on the dune.
Below us, a family; a woman
smears sun-cream onto a man’s face.
A brother and sister build a sandcastle.
You want this. For us, you’ve said.
I know I must relinquish my other search,
a father I have lost and survived;
but still the longing, an ache in the throat.
The sun glares, and waves barrage the beach.
I watch the small girl wrap her legs
around her daddy’s waist, a limpet, not letting go.
You stroked my face
The Southern Cross, like a spoon
dips into the city bowl
scoops up the harbour lights,
the distant rattle of ships leaving,
freight trucks returning.
A fruit bat swoops into branches,
elusive as an unanswered question.
Saying goodbye, the man I want
so much it makes me silent,
kisses my face on both sides,
then turns away, shouldering the night.
Indoors, I lay my restless son down to sleep,
my fingers stroking love across his face.
I recollect the way you, my father, traced my forehead so,
when I was a child, when you held me during storms.
My tears prickle like dry grass against a bare foot
for what came later; for what you did not do,
for the leaving, and the staying away.
from Conduit (Modjaji Books, 2011).
Order Conduit from

Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made of You

Melissa Lee-Houghton was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1982. She has had poems published widely, in magazines including Magma, Tears in the Fence and Succour and has poems forthcoming in The New Writer, The Reader and La Reata. She also writes regular reviews for The Short Review.

Melissa Lee Houghton’s A Body Made of You is a series of poems written for other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. The process began by interviewing each muse, and then working from photographs and in a couple of cases, paintings of them or by them. Charged with sexuality and an uncomfortable sense of the strange, this debut collection introduces a powerful new voice in poetry.
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s highly original and innovative debut might be considered an epistolary tour-de-force, split into fifteen sections dealing with Others identified only by their forename. We begin to see those named through the refractions and concerns of the poems, as they conjure relationships and exchanges, memories and transgressions in strikingly off-kilter, compelling narratives that often contain piercingly memorable lines. The final Other of the collection is actually a sublime self-portrait played out in the form of an interview and indeed the whole book can be seen as an extended interview or interrogation of intimacy. It is an extraordinary achievement and a must-read book for 2011.”
– Chris Hamilton-Emery
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made Of You is a restless book; images pile high full of a deep questioning of the friends, lovers and strangers who populate these poems. This collection is an intense ‘naming of parts’ made of body, soul, and memory.”
– John Siddique
“I feel alive when I read Melissa’s poetry. It is raw, anthropological and sassy. Sympathetic studies of character, gender and address that poke, prod, irritate and echo. She has a penetrative gaze, a deep compassion and turn of phrase that recalls Alan Bennett. Her dramatic glimpses of being are full of honesty, wit and understanding. Pour yourself a favourite tipple and imbibe. You will feel the range of psychology; her emotional and poetic register and be in awe at its resonance. You will see her double vision.”
– David Caddy
laid out
your foreign bread smell
boiled bagels shoulders
round like potato, oily
inner fish skin sweet yeast
burned bonfire matchwood tongue
marijuana kiss old as bees
moustache curled walrus
sarsaparilla earlobes call
like a tender drunk piss
smells of old books rub
olive oil in your skin
straight nails the pink of
teary eyes skin like fresh
paint still moist the heat
droops the eyelids summer
is tiring on your feet
tepid showers matted
eyelashes like wet dog fur
straightened out for an alien
feet like Roman tiles veins
like common worms your leg
gets lonely in bed purrs
in sleep a cat dying
happily, your violence is just
frustration at the size
of things my hands
and just smaller than yours
we smash things like we’re
children, ninety per cent
of your ticklish skin
is underused
by my sad wick tongue.
Rumi was our wedding gift from you. A reminder
     of ecstasy; you think me a denouncer of prayer
in favour of blank idols, but I have prayed
     like only a whore knows how.
You’re blonde, you have the features of purgatory,
     the feminine blueprint; tragedy has aged your
god and he is earthly. You feel his cold blood
     in the clay, the places your mother implored you
to feel for. You should wear your summer hat –
     don’t let your skin burn, your precious skin
is delicate, will peel like a shroud from the body
     of a pharaoh. What brave language
have you made in me, have you freed, succour
     with the alabaster bones of your love and faith;
your blood is the silk that creases in your dressed
     gestures, I know the thing you haven’t told.
Secrets do not matter. They are only sugar
     and fat soap. Your soul was Mayan; it was burned
into the flesh of a sleeping child; it was fed
     on the equilibrium of pain and the beauty
of dead sunset. Be careful, it’s not your fault
     you burn so easily, squirm at rivers, bloated sheep;
the breath of a son in your lap or a buttercup’s
     gold glowing life in a beam on your throat.
from A Body Made of You (Penned in the Margins, 2011).
Order A Body Made of You.
Visit Melissa’s blog.
Launch Details
Date: 23 April
Time: 7.30 pm
Venue: Nexus Art Cafe, Dale Street, Manchester

with readings from Annie Clarkson and Michael Egan

Paul Maddern’s The Beachcomber’s Report

Paul Maddern was born in Bermuda of Cornish and Irish stock. He attended Queen’s University, Ontario, where he studied Film. He graduated in 1983 and then spent a short time with the Colorado Ballet before moving to San Francisco. In 1987 he relocated to London and worked at the Groucho Club and 192 Restaurant. He settled in Co Down, Northern Ireland, in 2000 and obtained an MA in Creative Writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast in 2005. He was awarded a studentship by the Centre to continue with a PhD, which has involved establishing a digital archive of poets reading their work in public. In 2009 he won the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition, resulting in Kelpdings. In 2010 he was awarded a grant by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which facilitated the publication of The Beachcomber’s Report (Templar, 2010), nominated for the 2011 Eithne and Rupert Strong Award for Best First Collection. He is on the committee of the John Hewitt Society and on the Advisory Board of the Seamus Heaney Centre. Together with Alex Wylie, he has founded the online journal Poetry Proper.

“Paul Maddern has a sense both of the necessary rhythms of a poem – something that looks right to the eye and sounds right to the ear – and also of poetry’s conscience. There is technique here, there is insight, there is passion, knowledge, zeal.”

– Ian Sansom
“On one occasion Maddern says: ‘For I would tell you simply …’, but thankfully he never quite delivers on that promise. The poems lead us astray, through strange landscapes and noir cityscapes . ..they deftly knit together non-sequiturs and scene-changes. They segue into poems by other poets … they have gargantuan stipulations for the most mundane of activities. They refuse to provide crescendos and imagistic flourishes where expected, instead furnishing further lyrical qualification and explanation. In short, they constantly and suavely surprise.”
– Justin Quinn
On Mastroianni in A Special Day

The world, Marcello, has gone outside
to witness Adolph hold hands with Benito.
We have watched your booted and tasselled neighbours
running to become the newsreel’s throng.
But I linger with you, at a simple table,
our backs to the state apartment’s view.
And I will mirror you:
let us rest our chins once more
on the back of our hands and sigh.
Like this, I will fall for you again,
the face that pretends a curriculum vitae
of macho bravado, betrayed by its history –
the cheeks too quick to blush, the lips to tremble.
Together we define the ipsissima verba for entrapment
which leads to the problem of filling our time.
So you grind beans for a last cup of coffee,
lend me your The Three Musketeers for escape
and we dance the rumba once more as an act of defiance.
Hold me tight and pilot me up to the tower block’s roof
where we can display ourselves above all of Rome.
Two men among immaculate avenues of boiled-white sheets,
we move from back projected silhouettes
to abandon ourselves in the levelling glare of sunlight
where our secret must slip. Listen for the fall.
But just this once, Marcello, I will be allowed
to wrap you in cotton and steal you from harm,
smuggle you into alien cities
where we will be free to dance the latest craze
with legions of courageous d’Artagnans.
         for Nora
Yours was the face I almost lived a lie for,
that might have brought about the 2.4,
not this sterile A4 annual report
about the daughter’s aptitude for sport,
Ted’s reunion and the dress you wore.
I want to know: did the dress allow
seductive développés and port de bras,
did sling-backs reveal triumphant arches,
were accountants left unconscious
and the husband damning Terpsichore?
But should I be content if my Odette
is happy to distract suburban courts?
Nibble canapés my swan, forget
this mincing prince who hoped we might be more.
The Last Act
A steam scrim climbs
     calabash high
off baked asphalt
     raising a trompe l’œil
of colonial house with garden,
     surround verandas
in laissez faire repair,
     shutters unhinged.
Neglected magnolias,
     those old retainers,
are left to petal dust
     and trace their roots
back to the gloom
     of the garden’s vanishing point
where crabgrass meets
     sand, ocean and thundering sky.
In the foreground
    an old man mimes shoo away
to a child stepping
    clean from noon rains,
an audience standing its ground,
waiting for asphalt to dry
     and the scene to crumple.
The daughter to the music teacher
sotto voce hums a tune
her mother did not give her.
from The Beachcomber’s Report (Templar Poetry, 2010).
Order The Beachcomber’s Report.

Alan Finlay’s pushing from the riverbank

Alan Finlay lives in Johannesburg, where he works as a writer, researcher and editor. Previous collections of poetry including Burning Aloes (Dye Hard Press, 1994), No Free Sleeping with Donald Parenzee and Vonani Bila (Botsotso Publishing, 1998) and The Red Laughter of Guns in Green Summer Rain – chainpoems with Philip Zhuwao (Dye Hard Press, 2002). He started the literary publications Bleksem in the 1990s and later donga, an online poetry journal from 2003 to 2007. In 1994, with Robert Berold, he co-edited a collection of Eastern Cape school poetry called Parking Space (Institute for the Study of English in Africa). He has also co-edited a collection of new South African prose and poetry with Arja Salafranca called glass jars among trees (Jacana, 2003). Alan’s recent collection, pushing from the riverbank, was published by Dye Hard Press in 2010.

pushing from the riverbank
why do i wake up at four
in the morning and think:
“Now is the time to work
to finish the day before
it starts”? what day is it
just night sweeping over
us: as my little boy climbs
into bed beside me says
daddy i can’t sleep i want to
talk, and i’m lifting my eyes
heavy as doughnuts from
my own thoughts. Ok,
so what about? about
sharks and monsters when
i flush the toilet — remember
those? — and about you,
i’m thinking: my nightmare
smoking, thinking, smoking
what am i going to
do about that, the encroachment
of the neighbour’s wall the
inbox choking with e-mails
everywhere the world tilting
towards me the day so i
get up at night, four in the
morning, get it
started so i can push back
begin with a letter to the
neighbour, polite, legitimate
and underneath a growl i
don’t know if i have the
courage to carry through
not that i have to; but you
see the way things swing
while my kid worries about
monsters behind him vultures
descending as he runs
in his dreams and
i lie exposed on the
grass, waiting for death
what kind of life
is that, my chest
open like a lantern to insects
what kind of birth is that
they’ve got books at school
he says, where dinosaurs
really rip your flesh out
i saw it dad, in their mouths
bits of flesh struggling
while the neighbour hoists
a delicate strand of string
across the boundary
and gets it wrong. Again.
maybe i should tell him
that he’s got it wrong; her
that: you’ve got the boundary
          night capsizes into day
like a rowboat tilting from the
weight of light, deepening
     to one side.
i spear the fish, my child
says murky water he’s afraid
of things that move like the
cookiecutter at kei mouth
flashing past him with its
sand, past his leg, real
as anything. and what shark leers
towards me through my
murky dark that i’m up at four
click on the light, tea
cigarette, respond to
e-mails, it’s ok, i love
you, i say i say as if
to repeat myself: and feel the
pull as i push back with my
legs, from the riverbank
let go gently
so you might understand 
into the day.
from pushing from the riverbank (Dye Hard Press, 2010).
pushing from the riverbank is available at Exclusive Books outlets at an estimated retail price of R90. It can also be ordered directly from Dye Hard Press for R65, including postage, or R80 for overseas purchases. Contact
Visit Dye Hard Press online.