Jacqueline Saphra read Drama at Manchester University and is a screenwriting graduate from the National Film School. Her plays have been commissioned and produced by touring companies and repertory theatres including the Watford Palace and Manchester Library Theatre. She is on the editorial board for Magma Poetry and organises a regular poetry night, The Shuffle, at the Poetry Café. Her poetry has been widely published and anthologised and she has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma was published by Flarestack in 2008 and The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye publishing, 2011) was developed with the support of the Arts Council of England. She lives in London with her partner Robin and four children.
A man claims ambush and assault by women’s underwear, Houdini’s diametrically opposed counterpart waits taped and shackled for her man to save her, and girly-weak is not an option. Described as a poet of the world, Jacqueline Saphra’s work dances between the personal and the profound to offer a striking vision of growing up and growing older, mothers and motherhood, femininity and gender relations, all framed against the backdrop of a modern world, itself subject to growing pains.
“The eternal triangle of childhood, sex, and death doesn’t make for happiness, but if memory is indeed the mother of the muses, then it furnishes a rich and haunted house. In Jacqueline Saphra’s case the house is full of energy – even at its darkest it remains light and brisk on its feet. Her ear is sharp and her eye sharper still. The heart aches, the shoulders shrug but the feet dance.”
– George Szirtes
“Jacqueline Saphra’s poems are simultaneously as searing, sexy, funny and cleansing as any poems on earth – she has the gift of the sifter mixed with the power of the big sharp knife! Do not miss these savory pleasures.”
– Naomi Shihab Nye
“A strikingly confident first collection, notable both for its formal skills, and for the poet’s ability to explore challenging and complex relationships in memorable and agile language. Here is a poet of the world and not of the ivory tower. Fiercely intelligent; a remarkable debut.”
– Penelope Shuttle
An Unofficial History
It must have been at night and no doubt they kept
the light on because each of them liked to watch
whatever they were touching and desired moreover
to be seen. And what a night it was, of steam and invocation,
mutters, cries and wishes, miraculous lust, irrevocable
human error. Sometimes the most unlikely combinations
can produce a tangible result. Strange to think that just
the common heave and thrust, the usual universal ecstasy
could be their marriage glue, transcend, over years, such rank
incompatibility. As unofficial chronicler of that night, I believe
there must have been a mutual outrageous climax, that
it was a pivotal experience imbued with unexpected
gravitas, as was the bracing follow-up, that twitching race
of the ridiculous, those nearly-beings making for one huge
stranded cell ripe for the breaching, programmed
for a kind of mad union, that two half-lives might be salvaged
to make a whole. I can’t say I was there precisely but I swear
my floating soul was witness to this chance, the sweetest, gravest
and most typical of mistakes and that this story was laid down
in my bones, because I was waiting, willing to be conjured.
The Striking Hour
I’m the girl in black with gravitas who rocks
with the pendulum, the one who won’t forgive,
the diva who lives and re-lives the drama
of the tick and toll, bruised in the places
where I trip and trip again, running for trains.
Maybe that’s why I break so many watches:
I overwork the cogs of memory, wind and rewind,
tune in, tune out of eras till the springs give way.
Though it makes me sick, I travel backwards
too often, stopping at those pinch-points:
what if, if only, where nothing can change.
But sometimes, I see myself humming
on some bright platform, beside a pyramid
of broken clocks. I sychronise my selves
call them to heel all dressed in lipstick, feathers
of unnatural pink, outrageous tights. I smash
a few plates, kiss somebody, anybody, slur
my sorries into the mic. Make up for lost time.
This is the girl
the front seat tramp
with the haversack
and the long cigarette
and the Spanish guitar
and the bong that she smoked
at your side in the car
who spread her legs
on the burning bed
and gave you her heat.
This is the girl
with the sky tattooed
on the soles of her feet
who sat in your truck
full of sugar and salt
the hard-boned bitch
who flicked your switch
at the edge of a cliff
the girl who felt
the bite of your belt
who cut herself free
with a silver knife
and jumped from the bridge.
This is the girl
with brine for eyes
with floating limbs
and a voice unhinged
who festers and sighs
who gurgles and sings
who laughs at your lies
in her bloated disguise
your trouble and strife
with the golden ring
whose scent still clings
to the skin of your life.
Seventeen and all that Shit
You wore ugly like seventies corridors wore their skin
of anaglypta. Your ugly wink flickered like the vacant signs
that beckoned from motorways; twitched in dayglo mirrors
in hotel lifts. You fasted ugly round your neck in strands
like fake pearls, took it naked to bed with third rate
touring drummers, taxi drivers, men with diaries and wives;
you flaunted ugly like cheap knickers retrieved on many
pinked-up mornings, sun rising like a boil. You let your ugly
seep into these envelopes of photographs carried home
from chemists, and you turned your head away.
But now you stare, blinded, at these clean sheets
of negatives, backlit with hindsight. There was no ugly;
only youth with its tilted longings, and those myths
written in lipstick on the mirror, the ones you took for truth.
from The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions
(flipped eye publishing, 2011).
Pre-order The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions here and here.
The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions will be available from
flipped eye’s online bookstore from 7 July.
Visit flipped eye publishing’s website.
Visit Jacqui’s website.
Midsummer launch details
Date: Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Venue: Woolfson & Tay, 12 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
Tel: 0207 407 9316
Wine and canapes.
Live music from Fiona Bevan and short, sweet star turns from
Nii Parkes, Alison White and Jacqui.
Please RSVP to email@example.com.
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