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).

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