Monthly Archives: July 2011

Mark Burnhope’s The Snowboy

Mark Burnhope was born in 1982. He studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. His poems and reviews have appeared in a variety of print and online publications. He currently lives and writes in Bournemouth, with his partner, four stepchildren, two geckos and a greyhound. The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) is his first book of poetry. 

“Mark Burnhope’s poems present a generous but moral quizzing of the world. Peering out over disability, faith and the host of prejudices that spring from such ground, they negotiate a path through lyricism and music, didacticism and narrative, comedy and confession, slang and slur in their search for a voice with which to speak. They visit town and sea, husband and wife and monuments to grief built of snow, steel, stone. They take us to a hydrotherapy session, a talking tree and an outcast crew including Pinocchio, Queequeg and Quasimodo. But at their heart, there is great warmth. Burnhope asks uncomfortable questions of the rhyme or reason for loss and healing, even as he challenges received perceptions of disabled life with wit, verve and an inclusive imagination.”
“Mark Burnhope’s work is concerned with the physical – how a town is a physical place, how we live in a world of machines, our bodies among them. Many of the poems address disability, not only in the narrow sense our culture understands it but also in the wider sense that our physicality acts as a pathetic curb on the life of the spirit. The poems (which are machines themselves, we’ve been told) shake with the joy and frustration of living.”
– Tony Williams
“Imagine Zaccheus turning tables at the Internet Café, Paul turning back into Saul, confuse dying with flying, imagine a wheelchair recast in a pastoral landscape. Burnhope speaks movingly of human weakness and physical frailty, of strength and lightness of spirit.”
– Helen Ivory
“This debut pamphlet introduces a serious and playful, tender and ironic, strong and coherent new voice. A definite talent to watch.”
– Andrew Philip
To My Familiar, Queequeg
I too am tattooed.
I too tap away
nightly at an idol.
Show me a sailor who
hasn’t savaged himself
and I will anchor a cyclone.
Our ink speaks
in skin: spins tales
of speared fins;
sirens found by fingering
tracks of sultry song
and then defiled.
The world turns
over like a novel
sex act requires
of a woman. I often
trail the geography
of the tethered body.
Once, I woke to find
your tentacles tightly
wrapped around me.
I wished to be tangled
safe, like Ishmael
finding in you his wife.
I wanted to compare
tattoos, remove tops
and trousers, and trace;
laugh at lines
blown out from excess
force by the hand, and time,
designs that lighten, slowly,
like flints in the sea.
For a while, Quee, we’d find
a world where the whale
is not white or dreadful. It’s
a pale vessel, drifting, singing.
To My Best-kept, Quasimodo
          ‘When you’re standing by the roadside
          and it’s a long way to go, I’ll carry you’
                                           — The Levellers, ‘Carry Me’
Like you, I have one eye
which is good, my other
a glossy, pussed growth,
a tumour. I would pluck it out,
say, I have sinned, Father—
seen far-and-away
the best of Esmeralda
through blue, stained-
glass panes: her sleight
of foot, bangled wrist,
Notre-Dame de Paris drowning
under her deft Paparuda.
But my better eye has seen us,
cliché cripple and Romani
gypsy, run to escape the flash-
storm of rain and paparazzi
curiosity forward-slash greed—
and so many spine-twisting stairs!—
to roost in my stone belfry:
feel the pull, hear the toll
whose light spell whispers
in the ear of a seed, makes
straight once-wasted bone.
from The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Order The Snowboy.
Visit Mark’s blog, Naming the Beasts.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson…

Deborah Tyler-Bennett by Francis O'Donnell Smith

Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s current collection is Pavilion (Smokestack, 2010), set in Brighton, her first was Clark Gable in Mansfield (King’s England, 2003), selected poems are in Take Five (Shoestring, 2003), and a new collection, Revudeville, has been published by King’s England. First poems from Anglo-Punk (sonnet sequences on Regency dandy Beau Brummell) have been published. Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson…, a chapbook collection of three portraits in poems is published by Nine Arches Press. Many of Deborah’s poems are influenced by vintage fashion which she collects and wears.

“Deborah Tyler-Bennett draws together three memorable and inimitable portraits of notable (if not always noted) lives in Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson…. The resulting poems, bristling with Tyler-Bennett’s subtle and laconic style, go beyond renderings of lives past, anecdotes told, and look instead to explore the gaps in the biographies, the real people behind the characters.”
“With an eye out for the singular, the wayward, the eccentric and, at times, the downright mad, Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s poetry portraits channel three very different lives and histories, whilst seeking out the faint echoes of these lives in the present. From the bear-riding Mango ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton’s attempts to cure hiccups by means of self-immolation, to balladeer Jimmy Dyer’s lonely wanderings with his fiddle, to poignant glimpses of her great grandfather Billy Gibson’s old age, these are poems that get to the essential solitude of human existence as they trace the lines of their subjects’ strange passions.”
– Will Buckingham
Death of the Popular English Print
No more ‘Mytton Rides a Bear’,
‘To Hounds’, ‘On Fire’
(mad cure for hiccups),
frames fit only for the byre.
Annals listing bad behaviour
(and extreme) deny entry
to vanquished squirearchy.
Chilled, standing sentry
those who dreaded invites,
Parson wibbling on –
something about sins cleansed,
carved heaven won.
Print-maker’s lament,
subject dust-bound,
shunned visitors received,
now cold in ground.
No more ‘Mytton Set Alight’,
‘With Hounds’ … New gloom
consigns rich racing prints fit
only for a Bawd’s scant room.
Telling the Bees for Jimmy Dyer
Carlisle Market hosts midnight concert.
Jimmy Dyer’s ghost, ballad singer fiddling below blea stars.
Only drunken stragglers to hear …
Cabbies waiting on night’s last fare
think strings daggy hill-blown winds.
Passing strays rub through his legs.
Were rushes laid?
Hive receiving funeral crumbs?
Song travelling corpse roads, fingers cupped
round the bowl, brawny as bee-bread.
Where does he go come daylight, as shoppers bree
through Tesco? Where does he play in sunlight?
Maybe hills replenish his pack, strings
plucking local names for flora:
Oxeye, Ellers, Dead Tongue, Horse Knap … Vagabond’s Friend
his favourite. Crumbled notes
perfecting, telling the bees
how it was, how it always is.
Blea, Bree: Old Cumbrian words for blue, and bustle, or hurry.
At the Mortal Man Inn
In the snug, slotted tight as bee bole,
          face deepening the fire house.
          Fiddle-bow slings hail
          on honeyed floors.
Replacing fiddle, terrors begin.
          Sings of the Bargest, raging hairy way
          off fells, eyes sputtering coals,
          no path left but to it.
Ballads soft, always a catch,
          faery women on cross-roads,
          coaxing travellers to open-
          mouthed mounds.
Unaccompanied voice – glance behind, or
          October’s cold snap, boulders
          mistook for elf-
          shot warriors.
Superstitions roar hearth and chimney,
          stain, flaking soot:
          Cover mirrors when a wake begins;
          keep the Skep informed and happy;
don’t forget to greet the Magpie,
          ask after his wife, don’t bring hawthorn in;
          or annoy the Hobthrush;
          and don’t, and don’t, and don’t …
Sups between verses,
          conversation hive bound,
          fiddle sleeping, hands
          raging mad for music.
Deep within The Mortal Man,
          heart’s buzzing fire house,
          takes the fiddle up again.
          Paddling yards, rain’s solitary Bargest.
Bee bole: space for bees in a dry-stone-wall / Skeps: straw spaces in bee boles to shelter bees from the North wind / Bargest: wolf-like Cumbrian spirit foretelling death / Hobthrush: hob spirit / Fire House: main room
Floyd on Exiting
I.M.: Keith Floyd, 1943 – 2009 / William Gibson, 1884 – 1955
When Keith Floyd died,
tabloid story: CHEF’S FINAL FEAST
(partridge, cocktails, full-blown wine)
reminded Mum of Billy Gibson’s partied going
(bitter, dessert cake, marinated song)
at Sutton Lib Club’s Pensioners’ Christmas Night.
Billy poling up come dawn’s glazed light, trilby tight-
balanced at crown’s back, wrong
scarf … Piquantly ‘worse for wear’,
boasting booze too much, food too much,
‘fantastic times’ tasted. Such
swanning served later by friends, their
glacé eyes. He’d sung: ‘Let him go, let him tarry,
let him sink, let him swim’.
‘Suffer tomorrow’, Daughter grinned
at forced defiance. ‘Your head’ll be
that old chestnut: THE DRUNKARD’S CURSE’.
Mates re-heated Billy’s refused
seat downstairs, he’d felt abused,
well-meaning, asked: ‘Able-bodied?’ Boozing
upstairs, dying-up to ‘Showman’ nick-name,
ballad’s flambéd flame.
Gone in bed, no bruising
hang-over, cure un-needed.
Now, Floyd’s obituary note,
mean-spirited rival gloats
of days mis-lived. Still, something to be said
for tables left post- savoured food and drink,
hung-over insecurities dwindled (think
reducing stock). Obits gut and joint the dead,
no cognac after-glow …
Fabled feasts feed hungry ghosts, allow
my unrepentant Angel’s chorus: ‘Let him tarry, let him go.’
from Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson…
(Nine Arches Press, 2011).
Order Mytton… Dyer… Sweet Billy Gibson….
Read more of Deborah’s work at poetry p f.
Order Pavilion (Smokestack Books, 2010).
Order Clark Gable in Mansfield (King’s England Press, 2003).
Order Revudeville (King’s England Press, 2011).

Gail Dendy’s Closer Than That

Gail Dendy was first published by Harold Pinter in 1993, her subsequent collections of poetry appearing in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America respectively. Her poetry and, more recently, short stories, are regularly published in journals and anthologies. An internationally trained dancer, Gail helped pioneer Contemporary Dance in SA between the late 1970s and the early ’90s. Other passions are environmental- and animal-rights issues. She lives in Johannesburg together with her husband, pets, a law library, and a huge collection of rock ’n roll.

“Gail Dendy is one of South Africa’s most unmistakable and unique literary voices. The singing quality of her poetry soars and swoops, transporting the reader into a world of glittering magical realism. In this book a moon ripens in the window ‘whole and lemony once more’, mothers express longing and love, the sun and moon argue, there are gypsy women and a fantasy piece with Shakespearean characters. This book is truly alive, presented in language that ‘rings like a gong from here to the far end of the world’.”
“Gail Dendy has grown in stature as a poet … Her poems are intriguing and at times playful, and she is in complete control of her subtle lyrical gift and delicate technique.”
– Gus Ferguson
“Gail Dendy moves across the landscape of a remembered past, and fictionalises into imagined other lives … An important voice in South African poetry, Dendy’s words are delicately polished jewels.”
– Arja Salafranca
Peopling the Isle
          ‘Might I but through my prison once a day
          Behold this maid.’ – Ferdinand (The Tempest I, ii, 351–2)
You took your books and wound an island
as a silver ring about your finger.
I was there in the inlet, tussling
with a tide that had seen the moon
sleep badly one night, shoring wild, unholy dreams,
awakening with eyes spewing a milky pus
and a throat dry as thunder. I saw
your daughter, a godsend of perfunctoriness.
I didn’t bow. I didn’t kiss her hand
or make small talk. She lit a corner of the room
by shouldering its dank mustiness
and heaving it like logs on to a flame.
No one could hear her, though a night-jay
alighted in the pink dimple of her shoulder
and snatched at her ear before diving
through watery forests in search of
daybreak. It was then the hills
clawed backwards, snorted as though submerged
and with them the flotsam our ship had placed
on a luckless, unmarked spot. The sea blanched and stiffened.
We were trapped in ice the entire season.
After the thaw I sought her in impossible places,
laid feed for the birds, and took to kneeling
at each well to watch the moon in its stony berth.
Little good it did me. And so I cut
the pages of your books to use as canvas,
took matchsticks for rigging, icicles for wind-chimes,
and always the suspicion that she far preferred
the heat and stench of that brutish Caliban
who straddled the island like a bedded lover,
lifted his coin at the sight of her,
swore and cursed, filched her father’s goods,
and on heaven and hell loudly proclaimed
his sweaty oaths to sire some dozen like him,
cripple the pyramid of state, up-end the isle,
and so rinse this place in sore democracy.
The Search
And my mother would search for her hairpins
on my father’s side of the bed,
and in the morning would light the fire,
and we would break bread, and eat.
And she would search for us
in the damp forests, between
the owl’s call and the deer scent,
and when we came home, she would light a fire.
And she would light a fire
at bath time, and slip off her robe,
and soap her legs and her belly
and pin up her tresses, and braid them,
and I saw how she would light a fire
in my father’s eyes, and search in the mirror
for his approval, and he would stop
writing with his slim pencil,
and his eyes would search for the pins
in the grey snow of her hair,
and the deer were far away,
further than the owl’s call.
The Terrible Quest for Size Zero
Fashion photographers vaporise inside their own glare,
models’ legs appear never to be joined at the hips,
my hair is cinnamon coloured and braided to the hilt.
My daughter is aghast at her own weight,
stands at the mirror, towel across her shoulders,
cries. I can tell her she’s beautiful and attractive,
I can tell her she’s perfect for her size. I can tell her
she should take none of this to heart. She’s searching
for Size Zero while two doors away her father
is cutting down tree stumps, her grandmother is lost
in the woods, her brother is gambling away a fortune,
and her unborn sister knows neither breaststroke nor crawl.

My children have pulled the rain
thickly around their feet.
They have slept in the small cave
of an oak, have wrapped themselves
in nuts, and bark, and become green.
My children never speak.
I feed them honey and raisins
and make bird-sounds against the windows.
I sew little blankets for mice to amuse them.
The sky drifts and is still,
and I plug its leaking teats
with all the words I can think of.
I darn its blue blouse with consonants
and pick off the fluff of vowels
as white as sheep in the fields.
The oak tree is solid and my children
cling to its silence.
I have done with sleep.
In my dreams a prayer
fells the tree like an axe.

from Closer Than That (Dye Hard Press, 2011).
Closer Than That is soon to be available from Exclusive Books branches at an  estimated retail price of R105 or you can contact
Visit Dye Hard Press.

Angela France’s Lessons in Mallemaroking

Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals in the United Kingdom and abroad and has been anthologised a number of times. She has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire and is studying for a PhD. Her second collection, Occupation is available from Ragged Raven Press and her new pamphlet Lessons in Mallemaroking is now out from Nine Arches Press. Angela is features editor of Iota and an editor of ezine The Shit Creek Review. She also runs a monthly poetry cafe, ‘Buzzwords’.

“Between the lines of Angela France’s poems an ardent force is at work. Lessons in Mallemaroking rewards our curiosity, capturing the reality and truth at large of a nonchalant world that has been perfectly observed just when it thinks no-one else is looking. France urges us to Look inside. Learn to wait, to feel the weight of loss, of hidden lives, of the darkness and hope gathering at the future’s edge.”
“Angela France conjures a world of absences and menace with precise and elegant language. Things have begun to fall apart; the creatures are already wise to it. Dogs whimper at night and the horses are watchful of changing weather, they creak light from their joints/as they stamp, swish tails. Buddleia is sprouting through the concrete of driveways and petrol stations. We watch the river, the barrier,/the water rising. These excellent poems come as a warning.”
– Martin Figura
“Here are poems that inhabit fully the physical world and explore the ever-shifting boundary between the physical and the metaphysical. Angela France has the craft to sustain her compelling and varied subject matter, and she uses language with controlled intensity, lyric energy, and an unerring sense of how to balance a poem. She is a poet not content with anecdote, but one who engages with the tough uneasy realities of experience.”
– Penelope Shuttle
Dry Dock
Reynold’s warehouse
frowns rows of windows down
on ‘The Tall Ships’ where crisp
packets and fag-ends cluster
at the base of the menu blackboard.
She stands, folded into herself,
hugs the faux-fur closed; arched feet
fidget in red straps as wind
lashes her scarlet-tipped toes with grit.
Cosy-painted longboats rock
and nudge each other, seagulls wheel
over the oil-shimmered water to yawp
above the roar of an excavator
shuddering a bite of stone.
He shifts his shoulders, lifts his shades,
grumbles about the risk
of dirt on his lens. He adjusts his dials
C’mon darlin’, let’s get on with it.
Angling her head to let the wind lift her hair,
she spreads open her coat. Her clenched
calf muscles drive her feet down
onto stilettos; a quiver races
over the skin of her improbable breasts.
The camera clicks, whirrs, clicks:
her pink and white smile shivers
like the ripple that chases
across the grease of the dock basin.
A Letter Home
The well is full of dead rabbits, Mother.
Night after night I watch them: some hop,
some run, they all leap in a determined arc
over the rim. The cockroaches multiply
every day but your advice about pots
of paraffin keeps my bed clear. I heard
of a woman whose baby was bitten by rats
in its crib: who’d have a baby now,
even if they could? The radio is down
to an hour a day. They give us
the daily warnings then fake an upbeat
story, usually one with children, or heroic
dogs. The sunset was spectacular last night.
The paper said that the sunsets
show how bad things are; the radio said
that the paper is subversive propaganda.
There have been some new families
in our water queue this week.
They have teenagers and I have watched
a boy and girl look, and look away;
flirt and grow close. I don’t know now
whether rabbits are wiser
in choosing a shorter arc.
Sarah Talks to the Social Worker
If I’d known what he was thinking
I’d never have let him go.
Some Father-Son time, he said.
A bit of quality time, me and my son
and the mountain.
No, I didn’t throw him out
straight away; I didn’t know
what happened. Isaac was quiet,
started bed-wetting.
I thought it was bullying at school,
maybe, or worry about tests.
When the nightmares started,
I couldn’t understand what he meant.
I wondered if thugs had moved
into the area, worried about knives
and gangs.
Once I understood,
his father’s bags were packed
and on the doorstep before
he got home from work.
He’s got a nerve to complain
about supervised visits.
He isn’t the one left holding
a screaming child
whose nights are sharp
with the raised knife, the gleam
in his father’s eye, the blood
of that poor lamb.
Hide and Seek Champ Found Dead in Cupboard
‘Sunday Sport’ Headline
As a boy, he hated the foolish feeling
of being found; the too-narrow tree
he stood behind, the cupboard door that wouldn’t close
from inside though his fingertips gripped
to whiteness on a slim batten, the shudder
in his chest when he suppressed noisy breath.
He worked at being lost, taught his joints to fold
and squeeze in small spaces, schooled his breath
to ease, his heart to slow. It tooks years
to train his blood-flow to thin or pool under his skin,
to shade and pattern the surface.
He hides as a party trick, challenges strangers
in bars to find him; vanishes at work, disappears
on dates. He’s filmed for a documentary,
shut in an empty room, slowly fading into wallpaper.
He hides from taxes and utility bills, paternity suits
and parking tickets.
His house is riddled with small spaces
under floorboards, hollows in cavity walls,
false walls in alcoves. He perfects the art
of cupboard backs; trompe l’oeil on high shelves
with dusty suitcases, sports equipment
and a carefully woven cobweb of nylon fibre.
The fit is perfect, handles on the back
to pull it tight, a can of silicon sealant
stops even his scent from betraying him.
He makes his muscles relax, his limbs
settle into their contortions. He waits
for someone who’ll seek.
‘Hide and Seek Champ Found Dead in Cupboard’ was previously published in the Arvon Competition Anthology 2010.
from Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press, 2011).
Order Lessons in Mallemaroking.
Order Occupation (Ragged Raven Press, 2009).
Read more of Angela’s work at poetry p f.
Listen to Angela reading some of her poems at PoetCasting.

Amy Key: Six Poems

Amy Key’s pamphlet Instead of Stars is published by Tall Lighthouse. Her work has been published in magazines and various anthologies, most recently in Birdbook (Sidekick Books) and Clinic II (Clinic). She co-hosts The Shuffle reading series at London’s Poetry Café. She enjoys collecting clutter.
I wanted to go to the bottom of the sea
in the drop-net we bought to catch edible
crabs. I had thoughts like the sea bed in soft,
but soft like a bed, so you’re not afraid,
that a shoal of black and white fish
– waitresses – will swim around me
and think me strange. But then I had
other thoughts like how might I breathe
and will the net line break? Then the net
became a pod and I had to wear a mask
but then the sea bed wasn’t soft and all the fish swam away.
‘Capsize’ is from a series of poems based on the film
Where The Wild Things Are.
Poem to Chelsey
He made me cry like a girl denied pink bunting
          Left my crockery lustrous with butter
          Watched my school-flirt cartwheels
          Ate the heads of nasturtiums
          Said ‘ruin yourself with these, honey’
          Let his doggy off the leash
          Sang bawdy at the cream tea
          Pushed me over in the daisies
          Mistook my toenails for diamantes
          Stuck his tongue into the Swiss cheese
          Put his linen in the chiller
          Knotted the leash to my ankle
          Wrote I’m sorry in white petals
          Poured cheap brandy on the bite marks
          Had a thing for leatherette
          Rubbed against the hydrant
          Allowed the dog to chew the leash
          Cheerled dances in the bathtub
          Shot the Pepsi off the ledge
He liked me to wear the gold anklet
          Milked it for all he was worth.

‘Poem to Chelsey’ was commissioned for a tribute to
Chelsey Minnis.
His is a Mystery of Cooling Towers
          demolitions and algae.
Oh suitor, thunder me
          your elegant curse. Mobbed,
I will magic us to Siberian igloos
          where lamps bleed a glow
into our symmetrical clinch.
          Or a late shadowed terrace –
cool tumbles of liquor, a hand-painted parasol –
          balmy with glossy austerity.
And though I will admit I was a squeeze
          more drunk than you (given my rabble
of stunted views), I hold dear these inventions;
          last night, after the third time
I noted my wine glass wanting, leaning close
          and whispering my cheek
with mushroom-gill lashes, you murmured
          You, are a very nice girl. 
The Susceptible Heart
Nothing to be done about the sky, its early fall.
You give me match-strike, candelabra, chandelier.
This year, autumn doesn’t matter.
                                        If lit by dawn,
my mind will clamour to recall how our kiss left off,
how the evening’s talk – steeped in dramatics – set off
that wordless flourish. But tonight pours
into your absence. Take this half of ale,
sipped with one eye on your tastes and just now
my fringe swept away with your imagined hand.
Our romance, tracked by a fling of mill-town
horns, an elementary fiction of sweethearts.
With You
     for Rebecca Key
The fish gurgle in their outer space light –
I ask “pass me the blanket” and the wineglass
residues are violet and look back at us, like pupils.
To-do lists cascade from the fridge.
Your to-do lists are often niche catalogue orders.
We both eat showy pralines. Alternately, you eat
                                                       the lychees.
When you’re distracted I like to hide my finger
in the core of your best ringlet. Upstairs the bath
lies empty and I can’t but think bath oils and towelling.
I harvest garden moss and set it on the floorboards.
The garden is flung with a camouflage of twilights.
We turn the lights down and sit on the moss bed,
compare photos of our favourite light fittings.
If you do me a pedicure, I’ll do you a manicure.
Your eating of the lychees suggests the extent
of your gentleness. My favourite: Hotel Kiev;
yours, in this living room. I choose to breathe
in the space between your breaths.
We’ve declined all other atmospheres:
the room turns aquarium. We sit back,
tune into deep-sea light shows.
Your eyes fill in with yet more green. Once
you sat by my bed until you knew I was dreaming.
Tight Dress
I’m in the tight dress. The one that prevents dignified sitting.
The tight dress suggests I’m prepared to be undressed.
Do my thighs flash through the seams?
I try to remember if the bed is made, or unmade.
The wind is wrapping up the sound of our kissing.
I wonder should I undress first or should you undress first.
I’m not sure I can take off the dress in a way that looks good.
I consider if I should save up sex until morning.
We are far gone and I’m better at kissing when sober.
I find that your earlobes provide the current fascination.
On my bedside table are three glasses of water
                                          and my favourite love letter.
I try to untie your shoes in a way that is appalling.
‘His is a Mystery of Cooling Towers’, ‘The Susceptible Heart’,
‘With You’ and ‘Tight Dress’ are published in Instead of Stars
(Tall Lighthouse, 2009).
Order Instead of Stars.
Read more of Amy’s poetry.
Read Amy’s article ‘How to Put On a Poetry Gig’ at Young Poets Network.

Tony Williams’s All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head

Tony Williams’s first collection of poetry The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt, 2009) was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Portico Prize. His pamphlet All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head is published by Nine Arches Press. A book of short stories is forthcoming from Salt in 2012. He works as a lecturer in creative writing at Northumbria University.

“The maker of these strange pieces was an inmate of an asylum somewhere in Central Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. His fevered versions of the sonnet form were painted on to ceramic tiles, since smashed, and now pieced together to give some partial access to his world of mental anguish, incarceration and dreams of flight.
Inspired by the great artists celebrated by Hans Prinzhorn in his famous work The Artistry of the Mentally Ill, Tony Williams has explored what it might mean to create literature under such conditions of stress. These highly formal and dreamlike poems do not exploit their subject. Instead they seek to dramatise complex meditations on landscape and identity by taking on an anxious, urgent voice whose power is founded on a strange and scornful idiosyncrasy.”




from All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head (Nine Arches Press, 2011).
Order All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head.
Order The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt, 2009).
Visit Tony’s blog.

Why I love Dorothy Parker

“I like best to have one book in my hand and a stack of others on the floor beside me so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours. In all reverence I say Heaven bless the Whodunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people.”
“There’s life for you. Spend the best years of your life studying penmanship and rhetoric and syntax and Beowulf and George Eliot, and then somebody steals your pencil.”
“If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you.”
“Indeed, it turns out that as a source of entertainment, conviviality, and good fun, she ranks somewhere between a sprig of parsley and a single ice-skate.”
Faute de Mieux
Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme –
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.
“I know that there are things that never have been funny, and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield, but it is not a weapon.”
“There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”
“This is me apologizing. I am a fool, a bird-brain, a liar and a horse-thief … I wouldn’t touch a superlative again with an umbrella.”
“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”
“What can you say when a man asks you to dance with him? I most certainly will not dance with you, I’ll see you in hell first. Why, thank you, I’d love to awfully, but I’m having labor pains. Oh, yes, do let’s dance together – it’s so nice to meet a man who isn’t a scaredy-cat about catching my beri-beri … I’d love to waltz with you. I’d love to waltz with you. I’d love to have my tonsils out. I’d love to be in a midnight fire at sea…” 
“The Monte Carlo casino refused to admit me until I was properly dressed so I went and found my stockings and then came back and lost my shirt.”
“Don’t let me take any horses home with me. It doesn’t matter so much about stray dogs and kittens, but elevator boys get awfully stuffy when you try to bring in a horse … Three highballs, and I think I’m St. Francis of Assisi.”
“I should have stayed home for dinner. I could have had something on a tray. The head of John the Baptist or something.”
“That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say No in any of them.”  
Unfortunate Coincidence
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying –
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
“Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.”
“What fresh hell is this?”
“And you know those anecdotes that begin that way; me, I find them more efficacious than sheep-counting, rain on a tin roof, or alanol tablets.”
“They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.”
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

“All I need is enough room to lay a hat and a few friends.”
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”
“She wore a feather boa that was always getting into other people’s plates or was being set afire by other people’s cigarettes.”
– John Keats, You Might As Well Live
“She is a combination of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth.”
– Alexander Woollcott, ‘Our Mrs Parker’, While Rome Burns
“Parker was one of the wittiest people in the world and one of the saddest …”
– Brendan Gill, A New York Life: Of Friends and Others

Dorothy Parker interviewed by Marion Capron in The Paris Review.
Order The Portable Dorothy Parker.
Order Complete Poems.
Order A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York.
Visit The Dorothy Parker Society’s website.
Visit The Algonquin Round Table’s website.

Agnieszka Studzinska’s Snow Calling

Agnieszka Studzinska was born in Poland in 1975. She came to England in the early 80’s. She studied Cultural Studies at Norwich School of Art & Design and has an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. She has previously worked as a freelance researcher in broadcasting and now teaches and lives in London with her husband and two children. Snow Calling (Salt Publishing, 2010) is her debut collection and was shortlisted for the London Festival New Poetry Award 2010.

Snow Calling is Agnieszka Studzinska’s debut collection, examining the fractures, the breaches of things, bringing a narrative meditation on the entity of displacement, whether in a relationship, ancestry or with oneself. The poems trace the delicate journey of transgression and coming together of family and history in their lyrical and elegiac styles, capturing the contradictions of what is whole and what is left behind. The poems show the equivocal nature of an ordinary moment, opening that ordinariness into something much bigger than the actual, the specific. These poems explore what it means to be human and question silently the unanswerable. 
“Agnieszka Studzinska’s poems are at once delicate – in their use of subtle language, sparse form and precise image; but also emotionally powerful – in their strong evocation of the lives of women, love affairs and illness. These qualities are reminiscent of the work of poets such as Mary Oliver and Louise Glück, and are not common in British poetry today. These are brave and beautiful poems which will remain with you.”
– Tamar Yoseloff
“Agnieszka Studzinska’s poems convey the strangeness and freshness of the world, as if it were inscribed on memory or out of memory onto language sharp enough yet transparent enough to let us see and feel it.”

– George Szirtes
“In Agnieszka Studzinska’s spacious poems, the precision and uncertainty of nature invoke the fragility of what it is to be human, what it is to love.”
– Anne-Marie Fyfe
She speaks rain to launder daylight, to be green—
decipher the relationship of light to half light,
liquid to stone, to herself, the unspeakable
alphabet of someone’s escape into more light.
She listens to the measure of a fall, lilt of its travel,
the rhetorical pattern it cuts—She is untold.
She speaks rain with rain slipping
on a pavement’s tongue into a pavement’s throat,
swallows the deception of this lightness
mouths its bleached ambivalence
as it descends between territories—
the discomfort, a wet splinter in skin.


The fish like limp flowers in her salt eaten hands
rubbing flakes into fish skin, as if to awaken them
from a bottomless sleep, eyes sea-black summoned
in shock, jolted into absence with a glutinous glare
or troubled by one action leading another:
like kissing for instance—an intrusion of tongue
through a backstairs world—the fall which follows,
like a gust of breath alloyed in its own loss.
Growing older is like this—
watching two carp swimming in the bath
from a child’s horizon, in awe
of their synchronised flow of love,
their ugly, dun beauty unaware, just swimming
together in the stark water knowing only how to be—
I wonder if we can ever be them, so complete
and unhinged by fear of being lonely—or losing
the other in the life we’ve driven—
if I too will stand in a kitchen, years from now
with death in my hands elegantly held
and think of skinning fish,
desiring to return them to water.

Rumours like rain fall on a meadowland
in a village, in a country, in a town, a house
on a plot of earth—an ear drum
pressed to the ground
the landscape flat enough to fold
into an envelope like a letter
bearing what you didn’t want to hear—
people shredded like wood,
the wolf howling for his pack
as his teeth sink further,
printing new borders with his paws
licking his fur in the coppice of snow.

She kept calling with all her breath thinning
like a brook downwards until we surrounded
her—drifting clouds across the spine of its
bearer, you call this living? she would say,
gesturing to the stucco walls of the self.
You showed us solitude—
it’s pattern of waking to the drift of yourself
in a distant room where you watch the trees
no longer weaving the open space,
leaves unravelling nothing short
of their own mysterious descend
as each one drops, you sink further
into their meticulous world of camouflage
and steal your own memories—
a fox in the tulip darkness, her call
is the shrill that wakes what’s human
muffles this hearing with feathers
brings all that is free, all that is particle
through the pores of midnight.
Solanum Tuberosum
Tonight is a boiled potato, indefinable sweetness covered in salt.
Tonight the potato is in the womb of our palms.
Tonight she delivers lines of our descent.
Tonight is a root dug from soil by hands moulding burrows.
Tonight is the dearth, a near divorce in the bootlicked air
of the 40’s, it is all the stories you have hidden
in the peelings of all the things you have lost.
Tonight is a liver-spotted hour on a plate,
or that apparition through a window
that opens a decade like earth or a meditation
which flits like a wing, resting long enough
to catch the colour of white.
Tonight, around this table I am digging potatoes for her.
from Snow Calling (Salt Publishing, 2010).
Order Snow Calling here or here.
Read Ken Head’s review of Snow Calling on Ink Sweat & Tears.
Visit Nisia’s website.
Visit Nisia’s blog.

Famous literary rejections

*     Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

*     Watership Down, Richard Adams

*     Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

*     Crash, J G Ballard

*     Lorna Doone, R D Blackmore 

*     The Diary of Anne Frank
*     Lord of the Flies, William Golding
*     The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
*     Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
*     Catch-22, Joseph Heller 

*     Dune, Frank Herbert

*     Dubliners, James Joyce

*     Ulysses, James Joyce

*     Carrie, Stephen King

*     Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D H Lawrence 

*     The Rainbow, D H Lawrence
*     The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carré
*     Life of Pi, Yann Martel
*     Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
*     Anne of Green Gables, L M Montgomery
*     Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov 

*     Animal Farm, George Orwell

*     The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

*     The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger

*     Lust for Life, Irving Stone

*     A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

*     The War of the Worlds, H G Wells