Monthly Archives: October 2011

Anne Gorrick’s I-Formation (Book One)

Anne Gorrick © Lynn Behrendt

Anne Gorrick is the author of I-Formation (Book One) (Shearman Books, 2010), the forthcoming I-Formation (Book Two), and Kyotologic (also from Shearsman Books, 2008). She collaborated with artist Cynthia Winika to produce a limited edition artists’ book, “Swans, the ice,” she said, funded by the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Images of her visual art can be found at The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows.
She curates the reading series Cadmium Text, which focuses on innovative writing from in and around New York’s Hudson Valley. She also co-curates the electronic poetry journal Peep/Show with poet Lynn Behrendt, which is a “taxonomic exercise in textual and visual seriality”. Anne lives in West Park, New York. 

“In this book, Anne Gorrick writes poems of heft and delicacy. Each is constructed as a musical thinking through of an idea, as she builds a poem through deft and fluid repetition and musical ways of speaking. Even though these poems exist here only on the page, her voice, unique and personal, is present in each, and it guides us through her surreal landscapes of concrete abstraction with gentle tenacity and a rich and vivid vocabulary. Everything exists, in her poems, as a thought, as a vision, as a sound through space, and all at once. What a poem must do to justify its existence is to surprise us with its necessary inevitability, which is what these poems do piece by piece, one by one, and together.”
– Geof Huth
“What is this ‘piece of sea kohl on the tongue?’ Indescribable, uncapturable, the two primary texts of I-Formation ‘abundant inside the unknown weeks’ convolute, permutate and gestate into various complex gardens ‘informed by duplicate vibrations’. An ‘arrangement released from families, beds, factories, from books’. If you, like author Anne Gorrick, ‘consider stars, their vapor whistles/ how they spread out their thoughts across the night’ and attend that ‘rose whose belief is secure’ and ‘time dissembled from indigo/ the sky broken from its facts’ then you just might be ready to enter into the text’s dreamy fabulist’s ‘declaration in color’. But, don’t expect to keep your I’s intact!”
– Kimberly Lyons
“Finished with expulsion? Garden again. Here. In an Eden made of metal or terrible gristle or the exact equivalent. Like Adam. Like Eve. You know them? Think again. Indent. Reconfigure. Indent. Reverse. Invent I more as vowel than self—an auto’s horn(y) chrome. Anne Gorrick’s I-Formation (I) plants readers in a genesis. We watch how she tends to ‘the excess of humanity’—its clay, its cancer, its color, its counting—with a wry reverence. The visual is intellectual: ‘To be red in corn, in the need to divide …’ Sonic recursions become mechanical matter(s): oil drums, rope, yellow narcissus. Making marriage mythic, Gorrick lets desire flourish and combust. One could return to these meditations season after season. I will. ‘She is systematically new’.”
– Lori Anderson Moseman

The April Garden
The sky’s miracles gaze into her thinness
Weeping: what she does to give the days form
Because Shaolin gave me “Colette” in roses
The garden takes in her greening arms
willful, ancient wood narcissus
Spring’s shadows fall into their fire
          Guinea hens, obstinate and strange
          The ancient yellow of narcissus in April woods
That which has extraordinarily expanded is recently thin
Crying is what makes the days occur now
The old yellow narcissus is intentionally strange in the wood
Photography lodges itself into one of her weekends
It’s purpose? To stand still very quickly
          Star of many miracles A and as for me
          sometimes you’d think I’m composed
          entirely of my own screaming
          Grandmother: where we were large once
Cancer peels her into thinness
Each day now is a cinder
Darwin criticizes her lips
a pink impression, yellowed pages
Aluminum silk, cancer silver
She fasts and stands as though inside glass beads
          The cancer believes in itself
          Regard the many, many stars in her
          “Colette” knows the essential color of roses
          The writer believes firmly, yet it does not happen
          Quiet inside an aluminum book
Consider stars, their vapor whistles
how they spread out their thoughts across the night
in our shouts, our affliction
How do you know the true color of roses?
          Darwin’s own blood spills
          Changed yellows
          I am installed inside a photograph
          for the duration of one weekend
          The rope colored crown
          Movement takes place in glass granules
The belief that time exists completely for cancer
The skin end of a dog
As for me, the stars are steam considered
The rose whose belief is secure
          When knowing does not happen
          Green, a fact which waits around for tulips
          When fairness first changes
          I fast from silver
          The aluminum silks of cancer
          their glass particulates
          engaged in movement, acquisition
The October Garden
          Our first true freezing
          by the time the sheets hang in addition to the leaves
          I supervise the landscape
          There have been very few distinguishable reds this year
          Facts linger in the Japanese maples
          “Slap me red”
          The hydrangeas turn to paper
          pale and luminous
          The birds devour the crimson seed heads
          The sky divided multiply by a tree
The year is few and red under enormous rain
as soon divides itself
If I indicate a view, this year taken in small amounts
very mine amongst the You seen in red
A factual Japan applied with influences
in paper revolutions bright in an arc of salt
The birds below “Jeanne d’Arc”
the white of 300 Thalia swallows the wood immediately around him
That decreases were decreased
          When autumn originates within rain and indicates
          a view: German silver, deep red
          Method dawns in a plate of hydrangeas
          new jonquils the color of white cars
A medical exam in October, normality under an enormous rain
The enemy sees you completely in a German silver-plated place
which is red-dark
The facts outside of Japan: dishes of hydrangea
jonquils carved into the red-dark
The He is tall, next to white car underneath a red pine
swallowing 300 Thalias
When he is divided from form
importance immediately ardently
This reduction of environments
          The interior of this year is enormous
          When German silver indicates sight in place
          of a dark red ore
          Papery, pale and luminous
          The Japanese fact applied to a tree
          “He will be red-dark, reliably believed”
Method shovels hydrangea, plates of jonquils
Belief in the firmly red-dark bulbs in electric lamps
The high crow and the white automobile
You under a red pine tree
300 established for swallow’s white
Thalia in components
Respect divided by form in love immediately, importantly
Environment in this reduction
          The You I write has changed
          still inside the fall, an enormous rain
          takes Looking at this thing, this ore
          when the German enemy should cover the place
          with a silver that is also dark red
          A thin bright paper
          Japanese fact applied to function in wood, which is
          Securities stacked with red darknesses
Meaning in order to believe in electricity
The world prints an annual edition of 300 hydrangeas
The white automobile You
and being wooden the pine to be red
swallowed in white hostas where the jonquils are
When we are divided by form in certain decreases
immediately, seriously, decreased in love
          October is the prosecuting attorney of these materials
          In order to establish fact, we exchange seats
          The I spreads out and it writes
          Belief in enormous fires
          in identical times, in Grace’s Water Museum
          An ore in place of obligation
          The enemy of time and red
          The paper, as dawn, thins
          The Japanese fact as function applied to these trees
          By him, an immediacy, the targets piled up
          To believe in a lightbulb when it’s dark
          The jonquils point inside in inferior
          white shedding of the blood curve
          In love with reduction, the mother-body, in decrease
The I propagated outside and written
under enormous fires
Autumn rains mineral and obligation
Documentation is thin
The trees are applied to the sky above us
a considered directness, objects accumulate
jonquils swallowed in buttery light
The white autokinetic You
The pine tree and a spade divided
decreases in places of love
This mother-body, this reduction
          The jurist in October
          The I external, and he writes her
          There will be enormous fires in this rain
          Our interior autumns in regard to water
          Expenditures, mineral final, obligation
          When Germany is applied to the red of the thing
          Documented together, we appear thin
          Tasks accumulate alongside darkness
In concrete she eats attainabilities
A bright tuber of electrical light = sufficiency
Problems swallowed in walnut oil
The jonquils inside Jeanne d’Arc when she burned
an interior whiteness, blood oppression
Crow writing high crow
The white automatic kinetic You
swindled hydrangeas from a red pine
          Jurist, natural elements, examinations
          Minerals established instead of place
          The electric light is tubercular with obligation
          Tasks accumulate in responsibility
          The whiteness of jonquils, a blood oppression
          Crow high, a kinetic automatic target
          along the axis of a hydrangea
          The atmosphere diminishes leaving him on an axis divided
October is a material jurist
a place for ending mineral things
The obligation in him
German characters in red time
The crow has written in order to write
You swallow jonquils, pure white
He shines electric against concrete
The methods of resembling when she is systematically new
The atmosphere divides, decreases
On the axis of automatic motion: some hydrangeas
from I-Formation, Book One (Shearsman Books, 2010).
Order I-Formation, Book One.
Allen Bramhall reviews I-Formation, Book One at
Galatea Resurrects.
Lynn Behrendt reviews I-Formation, Book One at
Galatea Resurrects.

Adele Ward’s Never-Never Land

Adele Ward lives in North London with her sons Stefano and Danny. She worked as a journalist and author of nonfiction before spending four years in Italy where her children were born. She was one of the first students on Andrew Motion’s postgraduate creative writing programme at the Royal Holloway, University of London. Her poetry has been anthologised and broadcast on national and local radio, and other publications include a selection in the first Bedford Square anthology published by John Murray. In summer 2010 she set up Ward Wood Publishing with Mike Fortune-Wood, and in 2011 she started the regular Friday Night Writers event in London.

Never-Never Land is the debut collection of poetry from Adele Ward. This collection takes the reader on a journey through the poet’s life with a satisfying outspokenness on subjects usually kept hidden. Changing locations mark our different stages and experiences: from London to Italy, the scenery may change but the startling openness is constant. Although the writing is autobiographical it is not introverted; it looks outwards to the stories of others and the relationships and events that shape a personality.”
“The final sequence about childbirth is particularly moving. These are precise, powerful and unflinching poems – brave stuff.”
– Pascale Petit
“I love this collection. It’s the best I’ve read for a very long time. Precision and emotion running together, and a rich variety of themes. Fearlessness too. The poems I particularly liked: ‘Eclipse’, ‘Today’, ‘The Muses’, ‘The Boy at the Guest House’, ‘Caring’, ‘Gooseberries’, ‘September’, and, above all, the three wonderful, painful, loving poems about childbirth.”
– D M Thomas
“There’s a fantastic range of life between the pages of Never-Never Land, set down with a finely understated narrative style that not only gives the poems room to breathe and expand, but also heightens the visceral jolts of shock that Adele Ward delivers with such a sure touch. Ward glides effortlessly over the surfaces of things with a precise eye, whether the crisp sheet of an Italian bed or the hairiness of a gooseberry; lingering just long enough to allow the reader a glimpse of what lies beneath: the shadows and ghosts, the things half articulated which pull us in and make us catch our breath.”
– Jan Fortune-Wood
Piazza Bande Nere
Saturday, 1am.
It’s just you and me again, sister,
with seven storeys between us.
My baby can’t sleep
so I hold him here on the balcony
where mosquitoes love me.
At your post by the kerb
you’re a goddess –
black skin gleaming against
the red flare of your dress
in lamplight, moonlight
and approaching headlights.
The wives are already one month gone
to holiday homes by the sea.
There’s no need for your pimp to linger
moulded to that tree trunk
on his time and motion study.
You squeeze the short red tube of your dress
into a production line of Fiats.
I worry over your empty slab
until your stilettos cross it and you
squat by a tree,
roll up your hem like a stocking
and clean out the last client.
2am. I put my baby in his cot
then stay here with you.
My husband expects me awake.
The throb of the lift and jolt
of the lock is him, jarring the silence.
He will pull out a wad of notes
from his shirt – count half for me
with a licked finger.
All week they’ll give off
a sweet smell of sweat
passed to them from the hands of men and women
and the hot damp pockets they’ve lined.
At the time of the last solar eclipse
we were still together.
They were selling viewers in Tesco’s,
one pound a pair, so I bought two.
You wasted your money, my husband said.
He’d already bought his.
When the countdown started
both my pairs were lost –
so I stood in the garden watching my husband
watching the eclipse.
He said it was disappointing.
The Muses
Although the women poets come alone
the men might have one:
a jean-clad sylph, flawless
without the aid of Revlon.
Their fixed smiles never flicker
while he recalls the crumpled sheets
in deft metaphors of loves lost.
Adoration renders them radiant
as dazed Madonnas, wide-eyed
as the dandled child.
They are sequenced, so similar
the seam is invisible where one
ends and another begins –
the lovely Judith, the lovelier Margaret,
who left her beaded bag to save her seat
and spent her poet’s reading in the bar,
then disappeared, leaving a vacant place,
shaking the dust from her designer shoes.
Cookham Horses
The horsey girls rode past each day –
square in the saddle, backs straight,
while I craved a cream-coloured horse,
a wine-red riding jacket.
So I raced my bike
at a gallop up Bradcutts Lane
to straddle the fence at the paddocks
where horses ran free.
My favourite ambled over,
raised a velvet muzzle to my nose
and we breathed each other’s breath,
exchanging lung scents.
Then rested heavily on my shoulder,
beard-coarse hair stroking my cheek.
Until the horsey girls surprised us,
blond hair gleaming anger from rigid plaits.
Their jealous rage was sparks off flint
from glassy eyes and polished boots.
They would have liked to whip me
with the curved tan leather
of their fist-clenched riding crops.
But I bowed before them,
shamed by their ownership,
as a circus-horse humbly
kneels, its head lowered,
or awkwardly paws the ground.
While the horse gamboled off
with a flourish of carousel tail,
the joy of a bare back and a kick
of both rear hooves
at us and into the sky.
That was the first time I saw orchids.
A neighbour called over the hedge
though he didn’t like children.
Being twelve I obeyed,
even if his mouth was too
old man voluptuous.
Glaucous eyes behind
thick lenses caught and held me captive.
I followed
into a dark back room
where his wife sat in the corner,
so still she might have been dead,
then stepped around
               his special door
into the warm extension.
The walls were glazed –
light filtered wetly
through overlapping fronds.
Flowers perched like fine curled
slices of moist raw veal.
He showed me his pride: cymbidium orchids –
See how they grip the climbers:
they live on trees,
sucking up water and leaf litter
as it drips down the bark.
, he called them.
Parasites, I thought.
Hold out your hands.
He sliced off an orchid head  –
planted it, corpse cool,
in my upturned palms.
I held it: stemless, wounded,
incapable of survival.
Nothing but a gaping mouth –
amputated, silent.
Then he took a hooked knife,
cut away clinging roots
and tore through, as if
parting curtains.
Look. That’s where I watch you play.
From his hide I peered
into my own clearing: a square of lawn –
sunlight painful after the shade.
My own discarded tennis racket waiting.
from Never-Never Land (Ward Wood Publishing, 2011).
Order Never-Never Land.
Visit Ward Wood Publishing’s website.
Visit Adele’s blog.
Visit Friday Night Writers.
Visit Camden and Lumen Poetry.

Anne Gorrick’s Kyotologic

Anne Gorrick © Elizabeth Bryant

Anne Gorrick is the author of I-Formation (Book One) (Shearman Books, 2010), the forthcoming I-Formation (Book Two), and Kyotologic (also from Shearsman Books, 2008). She collaborated with artist Cynthia Winika to produce a limited edition artists’ book, “Swans, the ice,” she said, funded by the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Images of her visual art can be found at The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows.
She curates the reading series Cadmium Text, which focuses on innovative writing from in and around New York’s Hudson Valley. She also co-curates the electronic poetry journal Peep/Show with poet Lynn Behrendt, which is a “taxonomic exercise in textual and visual seriality.” Anne lives in West Park, New York.

“In the winter, when it is very cold and one lies buried under bedclothes listening to one’s lover’s endearments, it is delightful to hear the booming of the temple gong, which seems to come from the bottom of a deep well. The first cry of the birds, whose beaks are still tucked under their wings, is also strange and muffled. Then one bird after another takes up the call. How pleasant it is to lie there listening as the sound becomes clearer and clearer!”
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
“Anne Gorrick’s first collection of poems is a remarkable reworking of themes from the 10th century Japanese memoir of Heian court life, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is the only evidence we have about how life was lived 1,000 years ago during the Heian period in Japan. That women enjoyed almost all the same freedoms as men … That a woman of this time produced what we consider to be the first modern novel … That poetry acted as an intrinsic cultural currency of the kind that is almost impossible to imagine today … These points serve as a continuing reminder of what poetry can be to culture.
Anne writes over and within the historic text of the Pillow Book and through various textual manipulations and colonizations, makes a new work out of it. An ancient Eastern text drunk on Western footnotes: Tristan Tzara, Susan Howe, Robert Duncan, Robert Desnos, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Modernity sewn flamboyantly over the holes of an old cloth, an ancient boro text/ile.”
“A densely beautiful book, young poems growing out of old poems, vines round an ancient pine. Imagine language talking to itself, all skin and rain and blossoms, scattering like leaves, seeming to remember some other country some other time—yet always being vividly present like a strange food you’ve taken into your mouth that’s too sweet—but after a moment, just barely sweet enough, as we get to like this world Gorrick has incarnated for us here, safe in our deepest feelings.”
– Robert Kelly
“In Kyotologic, Anne Gorrick takes Sei Shonagon’s poetic diaries as materials for a new performance of eccentric intimacy. A book of days that is also a “model of interruptions”, Gorrick’s work admits us as voyeurs, offers us mysterious routines in lieu of identity, and includes history (albeit processual history). Trust that this book is written in silk, cherries, and “with a good pen”, but don’t expect orientalism or even orientation, as such. The logic of Kyotologic is a cold engagement with personhood mediated by a world of things.”
– Aaron McCollough
161. On the Twenty-Fourth of the Twelfth Month
The Empress arranged that there should be a name
and for us a temple to aim for a secret tryst
I divided a carriage with some others
Snow descended as if it were days
The morning stopped and there was a strong wind
Black cotton soil where snow had puffed up
The rooftops were completely white
ignited by a pale moon
as though they were covered with money
The icicles seemed to be deliberately hung
like the various lengths of nights
luminous and assembled
               Blind men outside the carriage, the moonlight well inside
               Eight layers of plum and clearly red
               A coat of sunk violet
               In the openings of his casings one could see
               pink and yellows scarlet within him
               He had demolished the white dazzlingly
He recited the words, “cold drilling, it drew aside as ice.”
The Empress ensured that the buddha should have a name
The snow part was air-pushed
The huts of the poor were roofed by slats of the moon
               His external the blind
               Covered in eight layers of magenta-free red
               The material stood grape colored
               with a strongly described Design
Time became cold and perforated resulting in snow
The Empress drew a salary
assessed the fact that buddha would need to name us
The snow descended, hours stopped
The black cotton soil
The poor besides were burned
The moon was sick as if covered with money
The icicles seemed to hang with incredibly good manners
               A sinkful of moonlight
               One could be Mrs. and A simultaneous
               in eight layers of fuschia, red-free and red plum
               Over this he transported a coat of viola sunk
               that he has polished with one luminous streak
               Legacies of the material: firm, grape, colorful
               One could see you indent it
               The scarlet dresses like evenings under yellow
The woman slid into the back of the car in order to prevent
     the luminous moon
I divided the stars between the others
The moon on a stick burned
The Empress arranged that we nominate the buddhas
for a private game, a tryst
I shared a covered cart with falling snow
One could see a patch of black land
where the snow was casting absentee
The rooftops were completely white despite the poor
illuminated uniformly by the moon
thatched in silver
Icicles deliberate in different lengths
               She carried a coat of descended violet
               A luminous gloss
               A strongly described design
               In the openings of his residences
               one could see the notchings
               and the scarlet within him
               The evening gowns of magenta-ed lower parts
“The whole night likes to spend you.”
A divided carriage covered in delicious movement
Snow came to the bottom of our days
One could see a piece of the black cotton soil
where the snow had missed the frame
The pale moon wore a luminous uniform
moved across the sky like completion covered in money
Icicles hung in different duration as if they were days
               At the openings of his domiciles
               one could see notch and scarlet
               He stood in such a way, one of his legs inward
The cold in order to perforate the hours
The entire night to spend leisurely if there would be similar ones
“We will suffer a surplus of destination soon.”
               The snow arrived instead of days
               exquisite movement
               the hours gusting
               the roofs were completely white with women
               their icicles deliberate and hung
I could see one courtesan
covered in eight layers of magenta, red, plum
and other white dresses of the night
On this she laid a covering of violet descending
a luminous gloss
One could carve scarlet into domiciles
Dazzle the white demolished
In the end, we subvert moonlight
by sliding into the backseat of a car
On some occasions we recite the words
“the cold ends to perforate the hour”
An excess of destination soon
               A covering of coming down in viola
               The night’s dresses cut free
               The night ended in a familiar courtesan
from Kyotologic (Shearsman Books, 2008).
Order Kyotologic.
Anne is interviewed at Galatea Resurrects, Open Letters Monthly
and Five & Six Photo/Text.

Three poems from The Best British Poetry 2011

The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing) presents the finest and most engaging poems found in British-based literary magazines and webzines over the past year (selected by editor Roddy Lumsden). The material gathered represents the rich variety of current UK poetry, including lyric, formal and experimental poetry. Each poem is accompanied by a note by the poet themselves, explaining the inspiration for the poem and why they decided to write the poem in that form. The format of the book will be familiar to those who have seen similar annual selections made in other countries such as Ireland, Australia and especially the United States, where the equivalent annual book is a popular yet controversial landmark in each year’s literary calendar. At a time when print journals still retain their significance and popularity and when new sites are flourishing on the web, this book offers a snapshot of current poetry practices in the country by offering a diverse selection of excellent poems.”
Contributors are Gillian Allnutt, Mike Bannister, Chris Beckett, Emily Berry, Liz Berry, Nina Boyd, James Brookes, Judy Brown, Mark Burnhope, Kayo Chingonyi, Jane Commane, Fred D’Aguiar, Emma Danes, Amy De’Ath, Isobel Dixon, Sasha Dugdale, Ian Duhig, Josh Ekroy, Laura Elliott, Carrie Etter, Dai George, Giles Goodland, Matthew Gregory, Philip Gross, Kelly Grovier, Jen Hadfield, Aiko Harman, Emily Hasler, Oli Hazzard, W.N. Herbert, Alexander Hutchison, Sarah Jackson, Christopher James, Katharine Kilalea, Nick Laird, Pippa Little, Chris McCabe, Ted McCarthy, John McCullough, Patrick McGuinness, Kona Macphee, Lorraine Mariner, Sophie Mayer, Gordon Meade, Matt Merritt, Kate Miller, Esther Morgan, Catherine Ormell, Richard Osmond, Ruth Padel, Emma Page, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Abigail Parry, Andrew Philip, Heather Phillipson, Kate Potts, Vidyan Ravinthiran, Deryn Rees-Jones, Sam Riviere, Colette Sensier, Penelope Shuttle, Jon Stone, Matthew Sweeney, George Szirtes, Lizzi Thistlethwayte, Eoghan Walls, Ahren Warner, Chrissy Williams, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch and Michael Zand.
Andrew’s Corner
Kayo Chingonyi
Where an old man comes, to practise
standing still, tutting
that the street he fought to keep is gone
and, sixty years on, he doesn’t belong
to this world of bass, blasting out of
passing cars, and earshot, at the speed
of an age when pubs close down
overnight; are mounds of rubble in a week.
Where flowers moulder in memory of Tash,
fifteen, her twenty-something boyfriend
too drunk to swerve and miss the tree,
girls own their grown woman outfits,
smile at boys who smell of weed and too much
CK One. Pel, who can get served, stands in line.
Outside his friends play the transatlantic
dozens; the correct answer is always your mum.
Where alleys wake to condom wrappers,
kebab meat, a ballet pump, last week
a van pulled up and it was blood. Today:
joggers dodge a dead pigeon, offer wordless
greeting to the night bus’s army of sanguine-
eyed ravers, nursing bad skin and tinnitus.
Goaded by the light, past the same house on repeat,
they think of taking off their shoes; inviolable sleep.
from Wasafiri
Kayo reads ‘Andrew’s Corner’.
Abigail Parry

You dreamed the field was a tin grid,
Latticed with running hares, March-mad and stargazy,
Their quick jolts the firing of neurons.
At other times you meet him alone:
That long face, the dowsy parting at the mouth,
A suggestion of teeth; lecherous, repulsive, somehow
Irresistible. Witch.
And he was there in pinstripes,
Haunches drawn out on their pivot,
Leaning over your shoulder at the wedding party,
Those fine ears folded smooth down his back,
Complacent. Smug. Buck-sure.
His yellow eye met yours, knowing
You could do nothing. You thought:
I’ll have you, you suave bastard.
Find him in a field. He’s gone
In one swift arterial pump.
                               Oh, he is a tease …
            He is the sidelong, sidling
And askance,
      So learn to see as Hare sees,
           Learn his steps,
Accept his invitation up to dance:
He’ll stay that spring-heeled jolt if you keep time.
Walk in rings around him. Do not spare
          One glance towards the centre or he’ll bolt.
See how a pattern’s there, a coiled line:
          Tighten up the circles, and each whorl
Will shave a sickle off the verticil.
          Pare away the moons. His labyrinth’s
A unicursal round: with just one end,
          And just one track. He’ll be waiting,
Slant-eyed jack, and prince
          Of tricks. Your part is fixed:
          A virgin going down,
          A widow coming back.
from The Rialto
Abigail reads ‘Hare’
Jon Stone
Its flavour in the nostrils a thundercloud smart
like seeing your crush on a superstud’s arm;
you’d have to be sturdier than durmast
oak to contain such a bastard stum
in your head’s barrel and not cry out drams
of tears. But if you, in your dilemma, durst
eat another spoonful, your throat’s drum
is often only half as stung, your heart’s mud
stirred to a soup and every untoward smut
on your tongue expunged in one broad strum,
leaving nothing – no points, no clear datums
from which to measure pain, no lukewarm dust
of hurt feelings, rags clinging to an absurd mast
or pins or crumbs or flakes of seed-hard must.
from Magma
Jon reads ‘Mustard’.
Order The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing).

Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game

Benjamin Péret (1899 – 1959) was one of the founders of Surrealism with André Breton and Paul Eluard. He remained one of its most ardent supporters throughout his life. Le grand jeu (The Big Game), published in 1928, was Péret’s best-known work and is still in print in France eighty years later. This is its first full-length translation into English.
Marilyn Kallet is the author of fifteen books, including Packing Light: New and Selected Poems and has translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, both from Black Widow Press. She is director of the creative writing program at the University of Tennessee, where she holds a Lindsay Young Professorship. She also teaches poetry workshops for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France.
In 2005, Kallet was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in poetry, and named Woman of Achievement in the Arts by the YWCA in 2000. She has performed her poetry in theaters and on campuses across the United States, as well as in Warsaw and Krakow, as a guest of the US Embassy’s “America Presents” program.
Mes Derniers Malheurs

          A Yves Tanguy.
 270  Les bouleaux sont usés par les miroirs
 441  Le jeune pape allume un cierge et se dévêt
 905  Combien sont morts sur des charniers plus doux
1097  Les yeux du plus fort
        emportés par le dernier orage
1371  Les vieux ont peut-être interdit aux jeunes
        de gagner le désert
1436  Premier souvenir des femmes enceintes
1525  Le pied sommeille dans un bocal d’airain
1668  Le coeur dépouillé jusqu’à l’aorte
        se déplace de l’est à l’ouest
1793  Une carte regarde et attend
        Les dés
1800  Vernir il s’agit bien d’autre chose
1845  Caresser le menton et laver les seins
1870  Il neige dans l’estomac du diable
1900  Les enfants des invalids
        ont fait tailler leur barbe
1914  Vous trouverez du pétrole qui ne sera pas pour vous
1922  On brûle le bottin place de l’Opéra
My Late Misfortunes
to Yves Tanguy
 270  The birches are worn out by mirrors
 441  The young pope lights a candle and disrobes
 905  How many corpses lie on the softest mass grave
1097  The eyes of the strongest
        carried off by the last storm
1371  The old may have forbidden the young
        to reach the desert
1436  First memory of pregnant women
1525  The foot dozes in a bronze jar
1668  The heart stripped to the aorta
        emigrates from east to west
1793  A map watches and waits for
        The dice
1800  Varnish surely it’s about something else
1845  Caressing the chin and washing the breasts
1870  It snows in the devil’s stomach
1900  Children of invalids
        had their beards trimmed
1914  You will find oil that’s not for you
1922  We burn the phone book Place de l’Opéra
Portrait de Max Ernst
Tes pieds sont loin
je les ai vus la dernière fois
sur le dos d’un cheval-jument
qui était mou qui était mou
trop mou pour être honnête
trop honnête pour être vrai
Le cheval le plus vrai
n’est jeune qu’un moment
mai tois
toi je te retrouve
dans les rues du ciel
dans les pattes des homards
dans les inventions sauvages
Portrait of Max Ernst
Your feet are far away
I saw them the last time
on the back of a brood-mare
who was slow who was slow
too slow to be honest
too honest to be true
The truest horse
is young only a moment
but you
you I rediscover you
in heaven’s streets
in the lobster’s claws
in wild inventions
Tombe pain d’épices
les blessés sont loin
les plantes sont mortes
et les malades respirent à peine
Let gingerbread fall
the wounded are distant
the plants are dead
and the sick hardly breathe
Voyage de Découverte
Il était seul
dans le bas du seul-seul
Un seul à la seule
il seulait
Ça fait deux seuls
deux seuls dans un bas-seul
Un bas-seul ne dure pas longtemps
mais c’est assez quand on est seul
dans le bas du seul-seul
Voyage of Discovery
He was alone
in the depths of alone-alone
A loner to her loner
he was going it alone
That makes two loners
two loners in a low-alone
A low-aloner does not last long
but that’s enough when one is alone
in the depths of alone-alone
Passerelle du Commandant
Il faut être chaste pour être bon
Il faut être vieux pour savoir faire
Il faut être riche pour tous les temps
Il faut être grand pour regarder
Il faut être juste pour installer
Il faut être bien pour supporter
Il faut être rond pour mesurer
Il faut être tendre pour concourir
Il faut être seul pour opérer
Il faut être deux pour être trios
The Commander’s Gangway
You must be chaste to be good
You must be old to know how
You must be rich for all times
You must be tall to look
You must be fair to settle in
You must be well to withstand
You must be round to measure
You must be tender to compete
You must be alone to operate
You must be two to be three
Chaufferie Mélancolique

          A Théodore Fraenkel.
Je rêve à toutes les étoiles
et elles en font autant
Il n’y a pas de temps à perdre
tout cela va éclater
Nous sommes perdus
nous somme perclus
Soupirer ou regarder
pas du tout je ne rêve plus et je m’en vais
Nous ne sommes pas perdus
Melancholy Boiler Room
          To Théodore Fraenkel
I dream of all the stars
and they do the same
There’s no time to lose
everything’s going to blow
We’re lost
we’re crippled
To sigh or look
not at all I dream no more and I’m going away
We’re not lost
Order The Big Game (Black Widow Press, 2011).
Visit Black Widow Press.
Visit Marilyn’s website.
Visit the Association des amis de Benjamin Péret.

Victoria Field on Writing Routes

Writing Routes
A Resource Handbook of Therapeutic Writing
Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field and Kate Thompson
Foreword by Gwyneth Lewis
ISBN 9781849051071
(November, 2010)

All poems have been on journeys. Some have made a quick sprint from the poet’s unconscious onto the page, a leap from origin to destination with no baggage, ticket or chance to look at the passing scenery. Others may have travelled many miles, shape-shifting en route, collecting memorabilia from different places along the way.
To most readers of poetry, whether the poem’s journey has been long or short, makes little difference to an appreciation of the final product. Sometimes, a lot of effort goes into creating something consciously artless. John Sparrow wrote of a poem in Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, that ‘of its four stanzas, Housman tells us that two were ‘given’ to him ready made, one was coaxed forth from his subconscious an hour or two later, the remaining one took months of conscious composition. No one can tell for certain which was which’.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers has a growing list of titles in its Writing for Therapy or Personal Development series which are about the ways in which creative writing interacts with the writer’s psyche. The emphasis is not so much on the final product but rather on the process of creating it. There is less concern for its ultimate literary merit, but more for how the act of shaping the material, finding form for thoughts and emotions, might illuminate issues and questions in the writer’s life. A recently launched title, Writing Routes, co-edited by Gillie Bolton, Kate Thompson and myself, explicitly takes the journey as a metaphor for how writers of all kinds travel alongside their writing and what they learn as a result.
Here are some examples of writing journeys featured in our book:
Penelope Shuttle writes of how Virginia Woolf describes mourning as time when nothing happens, because ‘one is simply imprisioned in time, frozen from any action’. Water is a theme of her piece, ‘The Healing Fountain’, its title taken from WH Auden’s poem ‘In Memory of WB Yeats’. She describes coming across her late husband, Peter Redgrove’s poem ‘The Harper’, full of arresting images, including a ‘woman swimming in her evening clothes’. Reading these astonishing words, Penelope describes how she ‘felt the dried-up well-springs of poetry and life flow in me again’.
Depression, Les Murray reminds us ‘can be a fatal illness’. He describes the process of writing a poem about bullying and suicide and how writing the poem ‘initiated a programme of accurate research into my experience and what it could show me’. Sometimes, it takes great persistence and courage to get to real issues behind an incident or the events surrounding it. Les writes, ‘you have to cast a clear light on piggy little neuroses … you have to tell their stories over and over …’ His resulting poem, ‘Burning Want’ takes him back to his school days and events in the early 1950s. In terms of it clarifying the events of that time, Les writes ”Burning Want’ was a start and gave me an instinctive relief the moment I completed it’.
Myra Schneider chooses to create some distance from personal events in her poem ‘The Mincer’. She was aware of the ‘heavy sense of sunlessness’ in her home as a child, particularly connected to female drudgery. Rather than describe it directly, she personifies the mincer as a character ‘clamped/ to kitchen’ with no inkling of ‘subtlety nor beauty’.
Abi Curtis, Glynis Charlton and Wendy French take published poems as starting points for their own journeys. Kate Compston, Maggie Sawkins, Robert Hamberger and Carolyn Henson describe how, paradoxically, the restrictions of writing in form gave them more freedom to explore their material.
And there’s more – the book has over seventy contributors. Many write poetry but others tell stories of their journeys through prose or drama. The book is arranged arranged by theme and cross referenced by the type of writing.
We hope Writing Routes will serve as a map of a still little-explored continent, that of our writing selves. We hope too you might consult it and plot your own journey and that you might set out knowing that others have been similarly courageous.
Gwyneth Lewis writes in her Foreword that the trickiest part of a journey can be ‘finding the beginning of the path. Once you know that your feet are on a way which has been followed by others, then it becomes much easier to pay attention to the surroundings and enjoy the view’.
Order Writing Routes (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010).
Visit Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Victoria Field is a writer and Poetry Therapist. She is a regular tutor on the Writing in Health and Social Care programme at Ty Newydd. One of her poems is Poem of the Month on the Second Light website.  Read more of Victoria’s work at poetrypf.

Victoria Field © Christopher North


Tomorrow, We Will Live Here

Ryan Van Winkle © Ericka Duffy

Ryan Van Winkle is Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library. He runs a monthly “Literary Cabaret” called The Golden Hour and is an Editor at Forest Publications. He lives in Edinburgh but was born and spent most of his life in America. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Northwords Now and The Oxford Poets series. He has won Salt’s Crashaw Prize and been shortlisted for the Bridport and Ver Poetry Prizes.

“This is a terse, tough début by an award-winning American poet with punch in the language. What you find here is the grist of life – death, love, sex, departure – honed by a voice obsessed with the gravity, fear and the humour of being human. Van Winkle’s understated, plain spoken narrators are as diverse as the America they live in – the lonely night nurse, the conflicted son of a preacher, and the cross-country runner – are all ill at ease in the world. Through road kill, September 11th, and death row they address their own bitter faults with noir-like melancholy, seeking redemption and absolution.”
“This luminous collection begins with the workings of the author’s ghost and ends on a bar stool contemplation of days lived and quietly lost. In between is all the richness and wonder of things.”
– John Glenday
“RVW’s poems are rooted in the detail of daily lives and personal histories, yet their richly sensual physical reality is like ice, glittering beautifully over a void. His speakers are distinctly ill at ease in the world, questioning the sense of it all in voices that combine an elegiac tone with off-beat humour. VW’s first collection marks him as a confident and compelling new voice.”

– Jane Griffiths
“There is a bracing tension at the heart of Ryan Van Winkle’s first full collection, Tomorrow, We will Live Here. On the one hand, there are often ironic and self-aware poems whose focus is on geographical and personal fluidity – born in the USA (a Springsteen fan!), Van Winkle now lives in Edinburgh – and, on the other, those which explore, in a number of first person narratives, those whose lives are determined by inheritance and circumstance in the land he has left behind. In poems, like ‘They Tore the Bridge Down a Year Later’ (about a childhood rape) and ‘Everybody Always Talking About Jesus’, speakers recount memories that haunt them, as they seek forgetfulness or redemption. The filmic clarity of Van Winkle’s narrative shows they will be granted neither. These are thrilling poems in a confident and rich collection.”
– Tom Pow
“The experience of exile haunts these poems, as speakers reach helplessly towards forever-lost pasts and glimpsed, impossible futures. The wide and empty landscapes of America are stalked by ghosts and silences, suicides and roadkill. Words go unsaid; the old family life is unreachable because “They do not know the time in my zone”. Even death is ambivalent: is it a longed-for escape, or yet another numbing failure of intimacy?
Ryan Van Winkle’s back-country lyricism is tinged with cross-cultural influences – the beat-up resignation of Springsteen’s smalltown USA, the teabags and toast of bedsit Britain – that come together in a distinctive and harmonious poetry of distance and loss.”

– Kona Macphee
My 100-Year-Old Ghost
sits up with me when the power cuts,
tells about the trout at Unkee’s Lake,
the wood house burned on the hill.
He says he was intimate with every
leaf of grass. Wore one hat
for Griswold, another for his own field,
the possiblities of the century laid out;
an endless string of fishing pools. But
they never got ahead of my ghost—
he took them like cows, one at a time,
never lusted for the color of trout
in a pool a mile away.
He knew from the smoke in the sky
Mrs. Johnson was starting supper, and, in March,
when the candles appeared,
he knew Bobby’s boy had died.
My ghost only ever had one bar
where the keeper didn’t water his drinks,
nor did he feel the need to hide his moth cap,
his potato clothes, or scrub himself birth pink.
My ghost tells me there was a time you’d look out
and not find a Dairy Queen. You could sit
on your porch a whole life and never think
about China. Sometimes I see my ghost
bringing cut sunflowers to his wife
and it seems so simple.
Then, sometimes, it is dark,
he’s just in from work and Griswold says
they ain’t going to raise his pay. And even back then
the power went out, long nights when they had no kerosene.
And my ghost tries to sell me on simpler times:
the grass soft, endless—
lampless nights,
pools of crickets singing.
Under Hotel Sheets
And the mother with scarlet baby biting
her breast, and the trucker with the bullet whore, crying
though he’d like to do more. And the newlyweds
too poor to go too far—but still he brings crimson,
and the nurse escapes, blots her mascara
on paper sheets which dry an ink spill,
and the farmer sweats the night
and goes back to grass the next day,
and the male too scared to shit,
waits for the balloons to break.
And only yesterday I was told
of my grandmother below hospice sheets,
and there’s angel dust in skeletal lamp light,
brown, moth-size burns left on the shade.
And someone looked out this window,
and someone spilled wine for the floor
and you have to tell yourself without fear
where this goes, and what we leave,
what remains whenever
we are a little bit gone. And how many
others have had this bed and done
what I’ve done—come in a hand
beneath whispering sheets,
wiped their ghosts on white before sleep?
She is a god of knots.
His socks are Spanish Bows
and in the night the doors
are secured with a tight Sheep Shank,
china cups hang on Artillery Loops
and she twists her own hair
when she worries, pulls it
over and around and then through
and around again until it hangs
in a Jury Mast and some nights,
when the door is tight, she gets him
in a Carrick Bend and whispers
about the old Bill Hitch
and all the time he hopes
she’s tied herself up
enough to stay the storm.
Necessary Astronomy
We had one of those
conversations like necessary
astronomy which your mind
must get back to
again and again to tell you something
about who you are and how you exist.
In your mind
maybe you are Paul Newman eating eggs,
maybe you are Orion tightening his belt,
maybe we are,
all of us, still 23 and drinking
as if we were stars who could drink
and not burn
out what was between us.
And it is important that we never fuck;
not on that night
or ever and after, anyway, we
lost touch, but that night was something
that I come back to
like a constellation an uncle showed me
and if you die
before me, Erin, I will not go to your funeral
and try to make
my mouth give everyone that image of you
in December,
our heads touching, your cuts
like all the skies we loved, opening
and closing and opening
again, echoes of necessary people chatting,
organizing lights
inside a darkness that grows and disperses
in the sky outside.
Ode for a Rain from Death Row
The rain is a cold, clean prayer,
the only light I want to see.
I say it still rains on her
like it rains on the bars and streets
somewhere outside the walls.
And in the rain, she is always twenty,
her shoes always candy-red Converse,
her jeans always damped to her thighs,
her mouth never parted from mine.
She hasn’t pressed her lips to glass
since the fire; the ashes are back to ashes, the dust
follows dust, the spring rain powders her arms
and evaporates in the stare of the sun.
And this rain is the only light I want to see.
A mist that kisses till my socks are sponge,
till the fire fizzles and baby is back again
cooing with hot-chocolate-warm hands.
Before I die I want to stand outside,
birth-naked, let the Lord soak me.
But options and pardons are gone.
The priest only offers a glass
where my throat wants a holy rain that pours
in sheets and hoods and lasts for forty days,
till it floods, and floats my sins away.
from Tomorrow, We Will Live Here (Salt Publishing, 2010).
Order Tomorrow, We Will Live Here.
Visit Ryan’s website.

David Caddy’s Man in Black

David Caddy is a poet, writer, critic and literary sociologist. He lives and works in rural Dorset from where he edits international literary journal Tears in the Fence. He was co-author of London: City of Words (2006) with Westrow Cooper. Man in Black (Penned in the Margins, 2007) is his eighth book of poetry and follows the highly regarded collection The Willy Poems (Clamp Down Press, USA, 2004). David is a long-standing promoter of poetry. He founded the East Street Poets in 1985, which he ran until 2001, and directed the Wessex Poetry Festival from 1995 until 2002 and the Tears in the Fence Festival from 2003 to 2005. His latest book of poetry is The Bunny Poems (Shearsman, 2011). A collection of essays, So Here We Are is forthcoming from Shearsman Books in October 2011.

“The incantations and damnations of Caddy’s poetry are at full tilt … These are runic translations out of the woodlands, out of the fields, out of folktale and gossip, into modernity, into the doubts and occlusions of the urban. There’s mystery here, and a desire to explain the absences, to rediscover lost ‘home’. The book is like an ancient script that throws light on who and what we’ve become, and how. It comes out of the oppressed land.”
– John Kinsella
“Who else could bring together the spirits of John Donne and Johnny Cash in one collection? In Man in Black, David Caddy, a quintessential poet of place, rakes through the gloss and pump of a Botoxed modern world to find what’s been lost. These poems echo like footsteps in an abandoned mill; haunting, mortal poems that face the human condition head on.”
– Lori Jakiela
“David Caddy reaches forward, breaks the bounds of what is possible within the short poem, [taking] the reader to a new place altogether. The visionary quality in these poems [is] astonishing in its range, its depth, its complexity.”
– Jeremy Hilton, Poetry Salzburg Review
“Caddy has provided another important contribution to ecological literature. It is clear that Dorset is the portion of earth for which Caddy feels responsible. And Caddy speaks for it confidently, with pulsing anaphora, watchful litanies, and studied allusions.”
– Janelle Adsit, Pedestal Magazine
A Silence Opens
No one I know or heard of
wants to live there now.
There are no signposts to the road.
The village bank closed long ago.
This is the view you laughed at,
sometimes, at least, weeping with,
trying to dovetail into a gentle
and condensed living.
When you left the season was high
with heartsease, lovage, tansy, self-heal.
Now it spawns gestures of recognition, mild
complaint, the bark of transience.
Gnarled old-timers fretful, densely frugal,
hateful of the French and Labour,
long for pitchfork days, leaning into gates,
following distant hares, coursing.
Effort and loss redundant in a moment’s
blink, a ledger cross, some lack
or fickle twist and the holding grows thin
at the end of a dwindling track.
Church Hill
I have been there and I am
impatient to return. Silent
and motionless it is surrounded.
With each step we get closer.
I can speak of this virus
that loiters by the wire fence
of the prattle that passes for dialogue
the wind that lashes a man’s throat.
I propose to you a hill.
In the woods rooks call attention
to our presence.
Our bodies are full of expectation.
It hurts to live the way we do
wanting so much
unable to cope with this longing
unwilling to wait.
The landscape we love grows dark
so easily. Turning back we feel
the need to stop and linger.
We move. Stop. Are soon gone.
Sermon By The Crossroads, East Stour 1829
There are men and women here that like
ideas are shadows, children that are ghosts
of salts and gases. What moves these
writhing upwards as kites is love not punishment.
A lofty courage with wings, less than intoxicated,
they sway here and there in thermals
soaring over walks sprinkled with liverwort,
forget-me-nots and vast openings, wasted.
All in all, the divine pushes outwards,
as rooks rattle the mind out of slumber
the lid of lost questions interrogates the soul
breathing in the substance of things hoped for.
Inside this meadow ash and willow wish
and the wind across plants, leaves
and the thrush, tom-tit, lark call nurture
the wherewithal of a brighter light.
Unwanted spectres rise as bent magnets
usurp and tether tenancy beyond contract
leaving less than deepest yearnings,
the heart as clockwork out of time.
Let me ask you to place a bell
around the neck of every cow
so that you can hear that dissent
is alive and moving in discovery.
Let us clear and keep the Commons
disconnected after the fashion of clouds.
A rock is not superstition until it hurts
like the near-present hurtling towards us.
from Man in Black (Penned in the Margins, 2007).
Order Man in Black.

Sue Rose’s From the Dark Room

Born in London and now living in Kent, Sue Rose is a literary translator with an MPhil in writing. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies and she has been commended or placed in competitions such as the National Poetry Competition, the Peterloo and the Wigtown. She won the prestigious Troubadour Poetry Prize in 2009 and the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition in 2008. She is also a founder member of Scatterlings, a group formed to give readings in the Southeast and beyond. Her debut collection, From the Dark Room, has just been published by Cinnamon Press.

From the Dark Room is in part a meditation on formative experience and an examination of life in the face of death. Playing on the ideas of dark and light, the ‘dark room’ of the title refers both to the womb with all its potential, and to death and grief. It takes in domestic interiors too and the darkened rooms we all inhabit at some point in our lives, as well as the way we look out from our darkness at lit rooms, examining them with voyeuristic curiosity, desire and need. However, as with the photographic darkroom, something lasting is born out of the darkness.”
“From the first poem to the last, I enjoyed this collection. It is rich with the life of the body, with flesh, seed, sex, blood, birth, family love, all in language that is truthful, brave and tender. She is poet as daughter paring dead skin from her mother’s feet, as birthing partner to her sister, as mourner for her father, as lover. The family includes ancestral stories of a tribe of Jewish forebears, all described with an affectionate but accurate eye and a true sense that history lives in us.”
– Gillian Clarke 
“”From the dark room” is a phrase from the poem ‘Travelling Light’. Often in Sue Rose’s poems, light turns out to contain darkness and vice versa. In ‘Hard Skin’, the “callused contours” and disfigurements of ageing feet become a stage where mutual love and need are acted out; in ‘Rare Old’, Shackleton’s abandoned whisky in the Antarctic is “brought into the damage of light”. In ‘Making a Gem’ the ashes of a married couple “his and hers, light and dark/ perhaps” combine, shaped by heat, and form a diamond. Words too, carrying their freight of different meanings and associations – “travelling light”, “the dark room of childhood” – combine, becoming what they always had it in them to be.”
– Sheenagh Pugh
“Sue Rose’s poems are at once lyrical and truthful in their exploration of the difficult transitions in life, and in the intricate relations between daughters and parents, illicit lovers, the bereaved and those they’ve lost. Her filmic eye captures intimate moments and minute details with great precision and formal grace.”
– Tamar Yoseloff
“Sue Rose knows poetry, without doubt. She knows where it begins, how it ends, she knows the journeys it leads us on, to the hidden places we thought we knew but needed the poem to reveal them. Above all she knows the language, how to use it to enchant and seduce us, the right word in the right place, the timing spot on. She combines economy of style with a seemingly effortless movement through the poem, as in the five-part ‘Travelling Light’, an impressive major work. She employs words, phrases, and lines that open wide the world for our delectation and revelation. Her precise, finely crafted images are sumptuous but not grandiloquent. She has the ability to look at life, and death, with unsparing clarity, and at the same time with an empathy that never spills over into sentimentality. I’ve seldom experienced such a wonderful first collection.”
– Robert Vas Dias
Rare Old
The glaciers shifted with music
too high, too low, for the human ear,
a music of sensation, and ice formed
beneath Shackleton’s hut, packing
its crumpled hexagons about the crates,
holding his abandoned whisky tight
as sand or rock. Antarctica waits
for the new wave of explorers, armed
with syringes, drills and picks
to extract the extinct liquor
protected by the freeze.
           The land is breached.
The milder waters of ancient lakes
have left behind fossils of ostracods,
icebergs topple into the melt
and glaciers rot. The chilled terrain
will be forced to deliver its message—
yesterday’s peat, the blend of centuries,
brought into the damage of light.
Some show lightscapes of cities tracked
by satellite at dark, others are inflatable
or lit within. Mine was metal,
cratered by carelessness. I’d frame it
with my hands—the way lovers later
would still my face—then make it turn
to a carousel of pinks, blues, reds:
countries we coloured differently,
contours hollowing as the sea bit in.
I didn’t wonder then what swelled
inside holding the surface taut,
or what might ooze if the egg
of the Earth were cracked, light
hatching from the world’s blown sphere.
Poseidon Burning
after a pyrotechnical fire sculpture by Robert Bradford
He took shape slowly that November,
hammer, staple-gun, nails summoning
a barrelled driftwood divinity bulked
on the shingle, a warship waiting on the tide.
We had come to see him burn, watch
the torching of this cobbled god
before he could call up earthquakes, incite
the sea to damage, implant his seed.
The flames feathered his back and legs
bridging the long strides to the water’s edge
where his downturned toes dipped and crabbed.
His skull was limned in fire, his sockets glared
until the air itself burned, hopping with light.
Transfixed, we refused to turn and run
in the escaping crowds, you hugging the secret
in your belly, your upturned face glorious
in the wild golden ritual of ash.
Caravaggio’s Virgin
     I hadn’t met anyone like him before.
All I had to do was play dead—much easier
than pacing the narrow dark
round Piazza Navona, heels stabbing
at the stairs of bridges, arches strained.
     My red shoes glowed like lanterns
in the corner of the room, my bare feet froze;
I couldn’t breathe for the reek of pigments,
the scarlet drapes blooming
in the candlelight, taking all the air.
     He told me red was the only true colour,
the colour of sex, joked about the death
of the Virgin in a shift of reds, the symbolism
of bare feet, mocking the pilgrims on their way
to sanctuary. There is no deliverance,
he said, no Assumption.
     He wouldn’t show me at first,
the canvas turned against the wall.
He coloured my skin instead, a flush
of heat livening the grain of my body
beneath the canopy, his strokes sure.
     He said he loved me
but he was a liar—look at me
lying there, bloated, hair dull,
hemmed in by a bevy of old men,
any fallen woman fished from the Tiber,
soles blackened by walking the streets. 
Order From the Dark Room (Cinnamon Press, 2011).
Read Sheenagh Pugh’s review.
Read more of Sue’s poetry.
Launch details
Date: Thursday, 6 October 2011
Time: 19h00 to 21h00
Venue: Woolfson & Tay, 12 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
Tel: 0207 407 9316
Please RSVP to

Islands, the Universe, Home

“You have to mix death into everything,” a painter once told me. “Then you have to mix life into that,” he said as his cigarette ashes dropped onto the palette. “If they are not there, I try to mix them in. Otherwise the painting won’t be human.”

– Gretel Ehrlich, ‘This Autumn Morning’
What is this wild embrace? This slipping away of heat from air at daybreak, these clothes made of bird cries being peeled from my body? …
Lao Tzu exhorts us to listen to the world “not with ears but with mind, not with mind but with spirit.” Some days I hear what sounds like breathing: quick inhalations from the grass, from burnt trees, from streaming clouds, as if desire were finally being answered, and at night in my sleep I can feel black tree branches pressing against me, their long needles combing my hair.”
– Gretel Ehrlich, ‘The Fasting Heart’  
Order Islands, the Universe, Home (Viking, 1991).