Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dawn Garisch’s Difficult Gifts

Dawn Garisch has had three youth novels, two adult novels, a poetry collection and adult literacy books published. She has had a short play and a short film produced, and has written for newspapers, magazines and for television. Three of her novels have been published in the United Kingdom.
She is currently working on an autobiography, Words and Flesh, travels in the Eloquent Body (working title) which examines the two legs of her working life – writing and doctoring – and how science and art perceive the world and the truth. It proposes that both established fact and personal symbol are necessary to understand the meaning and solve the problems of one’s life. This will be published by Modjaji Books this year.
Awards and grants include an Avanti Award for a documentary Dancing with the Ancestors for which she wrote the script, a DALRO award for poetry, and an ANFASA and a NAC grant to complete Words and Flesh. Her latest novel, Trespass, was nominated for the Commonwealth prize in Africa.
She is a practicing medical doctor, has two sons and lives in Cape Town.

“There is a balance of emotion and craft in Dawn Garisch’s poetry, a seamless welding of raw experience and self-observation, of music and thought. She writes the most personal spaces, always lit by her wry, focused understanding.”
– Ken Barris
“Dawn’s poems reveal a warm, keen eye for the intricacies, delicacies and difficulties of language and love.”
– Tania van Schalkwyk
“The motif of the body is central to Garisch’s work – like relationships it breaks/is breaking; it changes – it can leave. It is also a place of sustenance, and offers the possibility of transcending grief. The images stay with me: the pungent eroticism in the poem ‘The Proper Use of Flowers’, or love encountered as a ‘trout that breathes polluted water’.”
– Alan Finlay
Great Fish
My father caught great fish, tiger fish.
He pulled their gleaming, dancing bodies
from the jaws of the Zambezi, severed
and salted their heads and strung them up to dry:
necklaces of death.
I felt them watching as I played
with trucks, earth and sticks,
amongst the mielie stalks;
their trapped, flat eyes
never leaving my back.
Sometimes I would chance a look
and see their rows of razor teeth
invite the blood that leapt in my finger
to touch them.
I could have touched,
seen my blood run.
I went inside at my mother’s call,
washed the dirt off my hands and face,
sat still and straight at a white, starched table,
and ate their bodies.
Bee Man
The man I met with kind, hurt eyes
– over drinks at a braai –
described his work with bees:
how he’d hold a swarm,
drunk with smoke, in his arms.
I could see it: armfuls of sleepy bees
pouring from his embrace – slow honey.
He put a glass of mead he’d made
into my hand. The smooth honey-wine
slid into my centre and stung.
I wanted more
but as day succumbed to night,
with the insistent buzzing of insects,
I saw how he undid himself
– smoking drunk –
unable to hold a thing except
the ferment trapped inside his face –
swollen and red
with the woken rage of bees.
The Owls
We live next door to graves and owls;
some avert their eyes to say
we flirt with night, and brush
too close to that we should not touch.
But earth is lined with death
and we are rooted in it,
the dirt of us already packed
black beneath some future farmer’s
fingernails; buried bones
lie karossed in wood and fleece
dead blood seeps through soil
in long red ochre entrails.
Eyelashes fall, dissipate into sleep.
The owls preside,
pegged upon two fence posts;
they linger, rotate their heads
and arc their eyes in vigilance.
On the ground they’ve posted pellets
of rodent bones and fur; the tree above
roots down and stirs ancestral wrists and ribs.
A wind sweeps past, alive
with millions of last, expelled breaths.
Dust settles softly on our table.
We sit and eat, drink and talk till late
and arc our eyes.
Silently we survey the dark.
Like owls, we sit and wait.
The Difficult Gift
Here again: the difficult gift of love arrives
– a parcel placed in my hands.
The sensible thing is to refuse, knowing
it isn’t possible to live with certain gifts.
A parcel arrives, placed in my hands.
And I accept, trying this time to learn
how the gift might possibly be lived with.
After all, this pain is not the same as love.
I must accept it, try to understand
the motive and invention of the giver.
After all this pain, I can’t correctly see love –
the trout that breathes polluted water.
The motive and invention of the giver
test the filters I have put in place.
A trout might die in these polluted waters.
How to keep myself and be true to love?
The filters I have put in place test
what to admit, what to refuse.
How might I be myself, and be true
to this difficult guest, arriving, bearing gifts?
from Difficult Gifts (Modjaji Books, 2011).
Order Difficult Gifts from

Date: Wednesday, 8 June
Time: 18h00 for 18h30
Venue: Kalk Bay Books
Emily Buchanan will be in conversation with Dawn Garisch.

Sally Read writes about her poem ‘Breaking Fish Necks’

© Image by Emidio Gorgoretti

Sally Read is the author of two books of poetry, both published by Bloodaxe Books in the United Kingdom. The first, The Point of Splitting, was published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Jerwood-Aldeburgh prize for best first collection. The second, Broken Sleep, came out in 2009. Her work has been recorded for the Poetry Archive and anthologised in The Forward Book of Poetry 2006, Bloodaxe’s Identity Parade (2009) and The Picador Book of Love Poetry (2011) among others. Sally’s poetry has been translated into Italian and a Selected Poems in Italian is in the pipeline. In 2001, she was the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. She has worked as a teacher and a psychiatric nurse and is poet in residence at The Hermitage of the Three Holy Hierarchs.
What do anal sex and fishing have in common? This was the question I was most asked after I read what was for a while my best known poem, ‘Breaking Fish Necks’. In the poem the protagonist has anal sex for the first time. I stopped using it at readings; I didn’t include it on my Poetry Archive cd. I felt it would become a ‘signature poem’ and I disliked the knowing leers and questions from male members of the audience that it provoked. Then, Mia Lecomte, organiser and director of May 28th’s Madrigne for La Compagnia Delle Poete, included its Italian translation in the script. I called her up and told her I’d rather not perform it. But she pushed my writer-buttons: it’s a fine poem, it’s significant, it isn’t titillating. Plus the script is written.
When my Italian husband went through it with me in Italian he freaked, “Santo Dio!”. The mother in law has been shipped over from Sardinia to babysit so he can drive me and my tough New Yorker friend Rosie (who’s been through everything from armed burglary to 9/11) to the venue and steal me out through a side-door afterwards, under a blanket. As Rosie drawled when she read the script
“Honey, are you sure you wanna do this? You don’t wanna be the poet who took it up the Hershey tunnel.”
Why do people assume poems are real, and what’s in a poem is what a poet has done? Well, mostly because it’s true. Most of my poems are, in some way, an account of what I’ve personally been through. Except the exceptions. Anal sex is a thing I’ll bet most women have been confronted with, even if, ultimately, like me, they opted for anal virginity.
“What is it with men and the ass these days?” Samantha in Sex and the City asked (in the days when it was a fairly intelligent examination of the modern mating game). Yeah, what is it? Most men seem to want it (not all). The man at the centre of the poem ‘Breaking Fish Necks’ was always after it. And he gave me my favourite ever lines from a decade of dating in London:
Me: “You’re telling me you’re leaving first thing in the morning, that you don’t even want to spend the weekend together, and you want to have anal sex with me?”
Him: “We’d be having anal sex not building a shed.”
This same guy used to fish when he was a lad – out with his pa on the Great Lakes, bonding, drinking beer, and doing guy-things. But he stopped because he couldn’t stand breaking the fish’s neck. His dad thought it was more humane to snap the neck than let the fish flap about and suffocate on the bank. What a sweetie my guy was. And then I got to thinking (as Carrie Bradshaw might have said before she sold out to foreign location and greed), how this same guy was intent on us performing what, for me, would have been a painful, unhygienic, and ersatz act. I asked around friends: Who had, who hadn’t. The nearest I got to consent was a friend who told me it was “The agony and the ecstasy”. Oh, and someone I worked with: “Well, if it keeps ‘em happy” (bless them).
The poem, it strikes me (at a distance of eleven years since the writing of it, it does seem penned by someone else) is about women not breaking. The man able to intimately dominate and undo a woman, and not have her fall apart. The desire to illicitly find the nub, the rub, the kernel that is nothing to do with her womanhood and the gift she has of creation. And not kill her. Not really. Unlike the fish “too easily become the dead weight of flesh …” She is easier to play with. To walk away from.
The poem almost became classified as an ‘erotic poem’ – a label I strenuously resist for it and all the sex poems in my first book The Point of Splitting. Now I’m out of the London dating game, I see the willingness of a lot of women (not all) to feed desires that have nothing to do with love or procreation as sad. Many of us are help-mates in the perpetuation of our own loneliness, or ultimately, childlessness. About to turn forty, my peer-group is witnessing the impact on women of a legacy of contraception, abortion, and work-above-all-else. Women who, suddenly, want a baby. After two decades of assiduously trying not to fall pregnant, it’s now not so easy. The term ‘Culture of Death’ springs simply and silently to mind.
The vagina has become a second class erogenous zone.
How, in hell, did we let that happen?
Breaking Fish Necks
The next afternoon we tried anal sex
and as you coaxed my neck with your thumbs
I thought of Wolf’s Creek
and the fish you wouldn’t catch,
plump trout necks you couldn’t bear to break
and take home dead to your mother.
In the warmth I knew my arse
was soft, the downy peach.
But what was beyond drew you in:
a core, sensitive, harsh
like a peachstone –
its coarse ridges, fine strings
caught in grooves
where flesh is torn raggedly away.
Here, at the kernel
of spine, cat’s-cradle of muscle,
you tried to undo me, cupping my hips
with your hands, breaking me patiently.
As we paused, I did loosen
but held together
around this hardness,
in the brace of your arms
till we rolled apart
and I healed slowly over.
You stopped fishing years ago.
You only used the stillness,
the bronze film of water
to will the fish deeper.
You couldn’t watch them
choke on air or feel the snap
of delicate bones
between forefinger and thumb.
Or walk the mile home
swigging a beer
with a wet chill on your hands,
and flashes of silver skin
too easily become
the dead weight of flesh
slung at the bottom
of your pack.
from The Point of Splitting (Bloodaxe Books, 2005).
Order The Point of Splitting.
Order Broken Sleep.
Visit Sally’s blog, The Far-Near.
Read more of Sally’s poems at The Poetry Archive and The Poem.

J.T. Welsch’s Orchids

J.T. Welsch grew up in a small farm town near St. Louis, Missouri, but lives and teaches in Manchester, UK, where he completed a PhD this past year. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbox Manifold, Stand, Boston Review and Manchester Review. Orchids (Salt, 2010) is his first book of poetry. Another pamphlet, Orchestra & Chorus, will be published by Holdfire Press later in 2011.

Orchids springs from the margins of contemporary masculinity. A rich undercurrent of melancholy and desire seethes beneath the cool rhetorical playfulness of these monologues, as anguished speakers face the unfeasibility of confession. Beyond their fantastic flights and metamorphoses, these poems remain most troubled by the everydayness of their melodramas.
“Rapid, surprising and unlikely, J.T. Welsch’s poems spin brilliant variations on the recession, translation, gender studies and war. Strangely and completely convincingly, these subjects are refracted through the love poems which comprise this pamphlet. Hammered out in stanzas which show an inviting formal authority and are a pleasure to read, Orchids re-routes the work of his great St. Louis predecessors for the 21st century.”
– John McAuliffe 
Orchids is a distinguished debut: clever but emotional, ingenious but affecting. The poems are a self-sufficient pleasure, and promise very well for the future.”
– Andrew Motion

Yes, it’s cutbacks time. This winter,
the planet is in brilliant recession.
Contemptible new lines of sight are
daily being opened up and up and up
for sinners in the hands of an angry Dow.
No one’s buying any solution back home.
No one will see the copse for the corpses.
When they cleared along the mill path,
my own gut-of-guts’ reaction was that
we shouldn’t see our house from here.
The sign calls coppicing an ancient art,
but that doesn’t make it common sense.
Cutting back to help grow? Admit it,
invisible hand: Diversity’s a hard sell.
If nothing else, who’s your target audience?
If it were natural, the argument goes,
Miss Nature would regulate herself.
But nature isn’t rational, not like a soul!
So, we’ll wager the organic, working body
against an otherwise uninsured salvation:
A penny saved qua a penny earned.
Substitute your paper currency of choice.
You don’t understand: It’s in my blood.
My forefathers and foremothers robbed
Indian graves to get through their winter.
So what if the Mayflower is a barn in
“Buckinghamshire”? Recycling’s cheap.
Cut the canopy, let the underwood breathe.
God can whip up a zillion new trees.
I’ll bet none of them come with poems.
Meditation on Washing Up
I feel no duty toward these dishes, even if
I’ll be the last to read them, or their splotches,
and quickly, till each re-surfaces,
more complete than I ever hope to be.
It’s not like what we do with a gentler sponge,
uprooting whatever’s been determined
(in this circular way) to be outside us.
Nothing outside us makes us dirty, says Jesus.
Who’d believe it’s invisibly small creatures
eating and shitting dead skin that does it?
Uncleanliness is a feature of neither dirt nor thing,
but teeters between, like any other fornication.
Absolution is an endless archaeology.
Every plate you bring into our home is held
to its inscription, waiting, or jumping the queue
to don the colours that say Mine or Hers.
I know I’m clearing what can’t add to our re-births.
That’s why I like washing you even more
than dishes: insane jealousy of your microbes.
Unlike food’s, I savour their downfall. Plus…
If my own troops have more spunk, so to speak,
they’re only half me, and equally erasable.
Mark 7:19 – What goes down identifies
temporarily with body, not the soul.
He Do Star Wars In Different Voices
The facts. No dirty talk. No reference,
no puns. Would it be easier
just to watch the damn things?
Maybe, sweetheart, it would’ve been.
We’ll agree it’s too late now.
To spare my nostalgia for some
pure edition no one has ever seen,
I shield you, in turn, with these hours
and awful English accents, a bed sheet
for an all-purpose prop and costume.
For you, we take as much time
doubling back for Kurosawa,
or Joseph Campbell, for Ben Burtt fun-facts
and the truth about Han and Leia’s kids
as we spend lost in headlong exposition.
If that sounds oppressive, I can’t help it.
I’m ready to fall on my light saber
belaboring the elegant structures
of the Expanded Universe,
expanding on it until it includes you too.
from Orchids (Salt, 2010).
Order Orchids here or here.

Gary Cummiskey’s Sky Dreaming

Gary Cummiskey was born in England in 1963 and apart from a short stint in London in 2001/2002 has lived in Johannesburg since 1983. He is the author of several chapbooks of poems including When Apollinaire Died (1996), Reigning Gloves (2000), Bog Docks (2005), Today is their Creator (2008) and Romancing the Dead (2009). In 2009 he co-edited, with Eva Kowalska, Who was Sinclair Beiles?, a collection of writings about the South African Beat poet. In 1994 he founded Dye Hard Press, a small independent publishing venture that has published about 26 titles. He is also the editor of Green Dragon, a literary journal of poetry and prose.
Sinclair and the Great Dane
I am searching for André Gide and have been told he is staying with Sinclair Beiles, so I go to Sinclair’s house in Raleigh Street, Yeoville. It’s been years since I have been out this way, but even so, after I knock on the door, Sinclair answers quite friendly and says, ‘Gide doesn’t live here anymore. I think he’s staying at a flophouse – he went loony, you know’.
Then we talk about TS Eliot. Sinclair says: ‘Bob Kaufman was the only Beat poet to really admire the work of Eliot. He was particularly enthusiastic about Murder in the Cathedral. The others hated Eliot because of his conservatism. It was a terrible misguided narrow-mindedness’.
Sinclair is giving a series of presentations about the Beat Hotel in a large lecture hall next to a synagogue, so I agree to meet him there later.
On the way to the hall, a neighbour stops me to complain that Sinclair’s dog has damaged his garden and demands that we drag the dog into the lecture hall, present it to Sinclair, and get the dog to confess its wrongdoing. The dog is a huge, intimidating Great Dane but it is nevertheless nervous and trembling, knowing it’s in trouble.
So we drag the terrified, whimpering dog through the hall up to the lecture stand, where it knocks a glass of water all over Sinclair’s papers.
from Sky Dreaming (Graffiti Kolkata, 2011).
Order Sky Dreaming.
Visit Gary’s blog.

Ian Parks’s The Exile’s House

Ian Parks was born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, in 1959 and was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. Described by The Chiron Review as ‘the finest love poet of his generation’ his first collection, which received a Yorkshire Arts Award, was published in 1986. Others followed: A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998), Shell Island (2006), The Cage (2008), and The Landing Stage (2010). His Love Poems 1979-2009 was published in 2009 and a selection of his work appears in Old City: New Rumours edited by Carol Rumens and Ian Gregson. He was made a Hawthornden Fellow in 1991, spent 1994 on a Travelling Fellowship to the USA, and went on to research Chartist poetry at Oxford. His poems have appeared in Agenda, The Liberal, The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry Review, Stand, Magma, The London Magazine and Poetry (Chicago). Featured regularly on Peony Moon, his next collection, The Exile’s House is due out shortly from Waterloo Press.
The Exile’s House
Precarious, on a cliff above the sea
     the exile’s house is improvised
from objects found while walking on the beach.
     His crime, it seems, was speaking out
against a harsh, repressive regime.
     Displacing dust, he moves from room to room
or gazing at the sunset, sits and waits.
     The place is chained and anchored down
with ships in bottles, figureheads.
     The ghosts of lovers breathe against the glass;
a trace of silver where they came and went.
     An open door, a broken blind,
a rocking-horse dismantled on the floor
     with flying mane, distended eyes.
Under a lantern like a paper moon
     at a table ringed with stains
he drinks and watches as the night dictates
     words of resistance, lines of dissent.
All night the ash was falling.
Invisible, it drifted down.
Carried on the wind
it settled on our skin
and windowsills: a film –
a covering so thin
we didn’t notice it at all.
Somewhere far north
a vast eruption
shook the ground;
smoke plumed and billowed,
smothering. And yet
we needed to be told
that slow and silent
in our sleep
it crept above
our cities and our towns.
We woke to a new landscape,
cancelled flights,
our sense of distance
suddenly compressed.
I took your ashes
to the riverbank
and there under
that gathering cloud
I poured them out
and scattered them.
Since then the skies
remain obscured
but the dawns
have been sharp-edged
and more intense;
the sunsets radiant.
Not the rain that Edward Thomas heard
beating on the roof of his tin hut
but heavy-sheeted, unrelenting rain
that drives across the landscape that he loved.
To have that sort of rain you’d need
to change the places that it falls upon –
unbuild the office blocks and shopping malls,
tear down the children’s playgrounds, roundabouts
and disinvent the electronic chip.
You’d need to clear the motorways,
break up the concrete car parks,
make them ready for the plough.
Let the rain rain unimpeded on
the nettles and the curled up ferns.
For that you’d need to change the hearts
and ears of those it rained upon;
make sensitive the tap-root and the soil.
Not the rain that Edward Thomas heard –
the rain that rinses as it falls.
This rain has acid in it and it burns.
The Wheel

The pithead used to dominate the town.
My dead forefathers came and went,
were buried in the shadow cast by it.
I passed it on my way to school,
heard its revolutions in the night.
If the pithead was the place’s heart
the great wheel was its soul.
And then there was the slow dismantling.
The slagheap was grassed over: it became
an innocent green mound where cattle graze.
They hauled the winding gear away
and sold the chain for scrap
then took the giant wheel and clamped it down,
reminding us of where we came from
what we did and who we were –
a monument of rusting metal spokes
that radiate from hub to rim
for kids to climb on, point at questioning.
Some day we’ll come with picks and dynamite,
dislodge it from its concrete plinth.
We’ll drag it from the valley floor,
aim it at the cities of the south,
set the wheel in motion, watch it roll.
Expecting my reflection
there’s another face I see
suspended for an instant
in the early morning light.
Waking in the summerhouse
I pull the curtains wide
to find her white and ghostly
making for me, wings outspread.
She skims the headland
hunting, swooping down
to catch a living thing;
an unsuspecting vole or mouse
and doesn’t notice me
here at the window taking in
her momentary span.
It seems she’ll fly straight through
and break the glass. Instead
she banks abruptly
as her eyes draw close to mine –
a second’s contact, looking in
before she rises, disappears
above the sloping roof. She comes
from out of nowhere after all
or from some somewhere out of reach,
arriving with her otherness
and making clear to me
I’ve looked my last on youth
and what it brings:
an after-hush in the long grass
and this dawn-brought visitant
alive above it, hovering
between the day and night,
bringing from the place where she was sent
her oval timeless face
and flawless wings.
from The Exile’s House (Waterloo Press, 2011).
Pre-order The Exile’s House.
Visit Waterloo Press.

Galton’s Sight

Roy Woolley divides his time between Derby and London. His work appears in the Oxford Initiate anthology and in various magazines. A version of ‘Galton’s Sight’ is currently part of an exhibition in the Oxford Museum of Science. 
Galton’s Sight

He’s spent a week watching cloud-shapes
unfold on the hill-side in order to estimate
their density, the composition of future rain,
the refractive index of wet skin after a downpour.
He measures everything: the separate shades of green
in the serving dish, the average weight of clocks
in the houses he visits, the changes in his packed body
as it moves through the seasons,
words cooling in mirrors like ferns in ice-water.
He wants the pattern behind these events
made clearer with repetition
like the nature of God released by a mantra.
He’s distilled language to its expressive bones
and layers each page with diagrams in rows
to track the features these histories yield,
the new ways of seeing he’s clarified and named.
He folds a map of the sky into his head
and works out the twists and spills
of water going backwards in a cyclone.
The lines intersecting in his skull
converge to a golden child he’ll describe late in life
when he writes the novel his niece will burn.
He hears colours unlocked by the word,
tastes the shape each sense can make.
His time in Africa is the note that tells of beginnings
a darkness that makes each fingerprint burn bright
as a name, as clear as the star orchestrating the weather,
this other ‘great bell ringing out light’.

Kirsten Irving’s What To Do

Kirsten Irving is one half of the team behind hand-made magazine Fuselit and collaborative poetry press Sidekick Books. Her first full collection, Never Never Never Come Back, is due to be released by Salt in 2012.

This pamphlet is full of characters in trouble. The energy that drives the poems won’t settle for resolution, only the sense that however bizarre the action or injury, it has you by the throat and isn’t letting go. This is, as they say, something else.
Nancy Archer steps out
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.
Dreading my period. It’ll be more of a plague
than ever. But more than this
I dread putting my bubblecar eye
to the window of the club where I know you sit
in love, or joined by something stickier than the floor.
Honey and honey, I want my shot
but if I take my thumb and dash your heads
into the Bacharach-piping jukebox
or stake you with a huge incisor
and write liars in your combined juices,
it will be a half-cough of revenge, the kind
that doesn’t quite clear the throat.
That’s not to say I won’t.
The moon’s a thumbnail. Guess
I’ll sit on the bar stool of the cooling tower
until I work out
what to do with myself.
‘Nancy Archer steps out’: Nancy Archer, for sci-fi film abstainers, is the cuckolded eponymous heroine of Attack of the 50 ft Woman. She uses her new size and power to seek revenge against her philandering husband and his mistress, Honey Parker.
Meanwhile, down in the town, the good people
drink on

The gypsy on the hill is jabbering jelly again,
turfing slugs of words from his mouth, none of them
real words. You’d think that, working here, he’d try to learn.
Their ale is moreish, edged with honey and cardamom.
Never mind that me and my stone and my greying sling
are up here losing to a storey-high golem,
to Monday’s metal dinosaur, his chrome tongue
a poison whip, his tail a razor rattle,
to the mid-week spectre of my dead darling
who sucks at my neck, lisping for the blowhole
of my life force, whose own force
is close to crushing this little foreign skull.
The townsmen swig, while tengu swarm the rough grass,
while hags, their faces thick with poisoned hair
come snapping, scuttling like gigantic roaches
towards the beard of sheep, sheep unaware
that an army that could help them helps itself,
while their skinny page flings pebbles at the air.
Folk toss tales round the inn, each mouth a gulf
that takes in booze and mocks the foreign kook,
and me, I only know their word for wolf
Tell her, as you scramble from the lorry,
as she tries to slam the door, that you may be a liar
but you need her—her—to rule
your body, that you didn’t just roll
from a musty pit and oral
straight here. You’re short on allure,
so stomp around the garden like Lear.
Clown for her, rail
against the idiot you were, the lore
of your mistakes, the Erroll
double you left in his lair,
feral, tight, chest like a rough-strung lyre.
With your last reserves, tell her this: Your areolae
soft, hairless, your wet moss. I really think, Laura,
that you can save me. This, all this: it’s not real.
from What To Do (HappenStance, 2011).
Order What To Do.
Visit Sidekick Books.
Visit Fuselit.

Geraldine Green: Two Poems

Geraldine Green’s first two collections The Skin (2003) and Passio (2006) were both published by Flarestack Publishing. She has read and been published in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and Greece. Her poetry has been translated into German and Romanian. Currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing Poetry, Geraldine teaches Creative Writing. She’s an associate editor of Poetry Bay and has just completed her third collection, The Other Side of the Bridge. She lives in Cumbria.
Linden trees do grow in Spain
She mentioned this to him
several times that day
in the grounds of the
Palace del Alhambra
its tiles hot underfoot
the day she noticed
the way his hair curled
the way bees filled the throat
of the courtyard
a thousand monks chanting
a thousand mantras
announcing morning.
She remembered his kiss
on the nape of her neck
the sting of it, the subtle,
sweet venom of his lips.
Last night candlelight
crimped the edge
of their table –
its plainsong of linen
its burnished cuticles
of lip-marked glass.
They’d held hands
worn the wrong shoes
stumbled down a track
sown with moonlight
milk-blue as cooling iron.
Cases already packed
their tickets pressed inside
a book of photographs
showed the Alhambra
showed the linden trees
escaping down slopes
where dawn would wake them.
Next year they’ll untangle
the sound of bees
find their steps
between fountains
taste the lost tremor
of their lips
the untamed hours
Last night the bobcat
I woke
wanting a piss
an owl hooted
once or twice
by our window.
I went out back
behind the rock
where the bobcat
first saw me
Look at that!
You said, awake too
almost making me
jump out my skin.
Describe it me, I said
back in bed wrapped
in covers and your body
nuzzling your neck.
Describe it me.
Small head, neat ears
fierce looking eyes
body slender, tail thick
haunches taut
ready to spring.

Birdbook I: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland

Sidekick Books is a London-based publisher of exclusively collaborative poetry projects, including micro-anthologies and (forthcoming) poet-illustrator team-ups. It is run at the behest of excommunicated alchemist Dr Fulminare and his demonic familiar, Bandijcat, but most of the legwork is done by poets Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, who kicked off the press with Coin Opera, a book of computer game poems, in winter 2009. Books can be bought from and currently all four micro-anthologies plus Birdbook (April 2011) are available for £20 (plus P&P).

Birdbook 1: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland
£10.00 + postage, 158pp 
Featuring poems and artwork by:
Rachael Allen, Rowyda Amin, Hannah Bagshaw, Becky Barnicoat, Simon Barraclough, Julia Bird, Niall Campbell, Michael Chance, Tom Chivers, Hanna Terese Christiansson, Monika Cilmi, John Clegg, Dave Coates, Phil Cooper, Lois Cordelia, Lorna Crabbe, Caroline Crew, Nia Davies, Lizzy Denning, Isobel Dixon, Philip Elbourne, Dai George, Matthew Gregory, Cliff Hammett, Aiko Harman, Emily Hasler, Holly Hopkins, Nicholas Hughes, i-lib, Kirsten Irving, Andrew Jamison, Amy Key, Judith Lal, Alexandra Lazar, Natalie Lazarus, Katherine Leedale, Roddy Lumsden, Edward Mackay, Marion McCready, Siofra McSherry, Matt Merritt, Kate Parkinson, Saroj Patel, Kate Potts, Richard Price, Fiona Purves, Declan Ryan, Bethany Settle, Jon Stone, Jennie Webber, James Wilkes and Chrissy Williams.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
James Wilkes
We would like to know when all these deer actually work as you never see them at it. Their spoor is stacked in the form of logs. A plastic chair nailed halfway up a tree. Climbing into its cup we surmise it is for shooting the deer if they fail to complete their quotas. A death perspective snaps open. Across this, the looping movement of a slight bird. It all goes strangely quiet as it drums a hollow tattoo of ants and bracken in the smell of rain-to-come. 
St Jerome and the Chaffinch
Emily Hasler
More usually with a lion he can’t shake off,
and always with a book – but,
sometimes, he appears with a chaffinch.
Animals love him. And it’s a symbol
of celibacy to be accompanied by a chaffinch.
The colourful male winters less far away than his mate.
He becomes known as the bachelor bird
and also the harbinger of rain.
But only sometimes does he sing for rain,
other times he sings for sun, or for his mate.
The French say gay comme un pinson
but we are not always so gay
or so serious. Bosch paints him this way.
I cannot say why he sings, only that
the chaffinch, sometimes, appears with St Jerome.
Willow Tit
John Clegg
Her beak is a split thorn
carving a zipline,
undressing a seedpod.
Ignore her calls,
those sudden shudders
of breath in a pinetree.
Ignore her completely.
Some birds in China
sculpt nests from spit;
she’ll hammer a home
in your huge neglect,
eyeshadowed, black-capped.
In the land of the dead
the judges will balance
your heart and her feather.

Tacc Tacc, Blackcap
Edward Mackay  
Tacc tacc;               creetily creetily – akerah creektur
turrturr               you will be taken hence     turr creetily creetily;
akerah, and from there                   creetur creetur –
turrturr,             to a place           akerah akerah creetah.
A place Akertah! of lawful                 tacc tacc
creetur execution       tacc tacc…          creetily tacc
where you will be creetily creetily tac tac
hanged tacc tacc by the neck creetily
until dead tacc tacc     And may the creetily akerah tac
Lord tacc tacc have mercy creetily on your
tacc tacc akerah soul            Tacc.
Wood Warbler
Nia Davies
In the unaxed oak and the underleaf,
where a feast hatches
for a hidden eater or
a smallish singer,
a Thai green belly
is patched over by tree.
And it blows those calls:
a reedy woodwind
with kora playing
tapped melodics,
trying to elbow in
a slice of bandwidth
amongst Buzzard,
Thrush and Chiffchaff,
hipping up the trunk
with a draw-string beak,
shutting-up from singing
till there’s hush
in the barging forest,
till there’s space in
the rustling arena,
from the chainsaw
and the twitcher,
and all those other
tiny gladiators
tangling for flies.
from Birdbook 1: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland.
Order Birdbook 1: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland.

Marion McCready’s Vintage Sea

Marion McCready was born on the Isle of Lewis and brought up in Dunoon, Argyll, where she currently lives with her husband and two young children. She studied at Glasgow University and her poetry has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Vintage Sea (Calder Wood Press, 2011) is her first collection.

“It is rare these days to read a first pamphlet in a voice so sure and well formed and rooted in local knowledge as Marion McCready’s, whose poems come to us drenched in the waves and mists of the Firth of Clyde and the islands off the west coast of Scotland, and yet never fail to remain responsive to the tidal surges of the universal. Whether writing of the natural world of her beloved seashore and rivers, or of the equal mysteries and deeps of love and motherhood, McCready’s poems are always both aware of the spirit and grounded in the here-and-now of a pleasurably physical sense of language as music and of the poem as a shaped and shapely object. Setting out for the islands, McCready advises that we will be able to find her “in another life/ among the kittiwakes, the sea pinks,/ cormorants feeding their young in my ribcage”, and we, already persuaded, are eager to follow.”

– James Owens
“to read marion mccready’s poetry is to enter a transformational landscape where the act of seeing is ecstatic and filled with meaning. it is not magical realism but a realism that becomes magical. i highly recommend it.”

– morgan downie
“Marion McCready lives on an island which seems to be one giant metaphor. From seascapes and landscapes she creates dreamy, often startling, images, sometimes making a pithy point, sometimes nudging the reader beyond the here and now to a place more mythological and elemental. This is the first collection from a very individual voice.” 
– Hugh McMillan
The river-sun whitens the birch wood trunks.
I lie as foreign as coloured glass amidst the mossy greens,
shadows of birds flying across my skin.
Shushing leaves fill the sky with the rush of the sea,
and above my closed eyes
the clouds become boats filled with Nessmen
as they sail to the gannet skerry
where they’ll find me, in another life,
among the kittiwakes, the sea pinks,
cormorants feeding their young in my ribcage.
The Herring Girl
Under a cloud of shoals she lies.
The peaty moon
rising from her knees,
sailing the length of her curves.
Her herring bone hands
hang by her side.
The cry of her oilskin tongue,
lost to the wind.
Across the loch
the false men shimmer
their glitter of quartz,
feldspar, hornblende.
They talk amongst themselves.
Cailleach of the moors,
she slits throats in her sleep.
Though she lies inland,
her body is a work of the sea.
She follows the seasons
in the ports of her mind.
The Cockle Picker’s Wife
She hangs her blacks
on a washing line at the back
of a washed up beach.
The tide has left its mark
on the promenade:
offerings of seaweed,
cracked mussels, softened glass.
Gulls feed from her hands,
oystercatchers land on her head.
She keeps cockles
in her bed,
picks them by night under moonlight.
At her call the heart-shape shells
rise from sands.
Their rib mouths yawn,
part under her touch.
Her home is a haven for molluscs.
Daily she fills, from the Firth,
a bath and lies with them, skin
smooth as pebbles.
A black rock under green waves;
the waters flow over her head.
She gathers
the unruly spheres,
plants them in her pocket,
her bag, seeds them
between her toes.
She knows one day she too
will lose her fruits
to the wind.
We Met by a Charm of Crossbills
The blood-birds kiss the air
as they fall from cone to cone,
their warp of mandibles
freeing the fruits, shucking the shells.
Below them, the sky is flecked
with drifting scales.
You whisper ‘crossbills’
and a bird rises in my throat.
You taste of rust and nails.
The Douglas-firs hold up the fiery bells,
their thick bull-necks, their forked-tails.
My skin is a spectrogram of your breath.
You spell words with symbols on my neck.
The blood-bird song is a warning in our heads.
We met by a charm of crossbills.
from Vintage Sea (Calder Wood Press, 2011).
Order Vintage Sea.
Visit Marion’s blog, Poetry in Progress.