You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book (Pindrop Press, 2012) is Sarah Salway’s first poetry collection. She is the author of three novels (Something Beginning With, Tell Me Everything and Getting the Picture) and a collection of short stories, Leading the Dance, as well as a collaborative flash fiction project, Messages, with Lynne Rees. Her poems have won prizes in competitions organised by Poetry London, the Essex Poetry Festival and The New Writer, and have appeared in publications including the Financial Times, The Virago Book of The Joy of Shopping, Mslexia, PEN International and Poetry London. Sarah is the Chair of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society and her website is at www.sarahsalway.net. She is a Royal Literature Fund Fellow at the London School of Economics, and the current Canterbury Laureate, where she is running a community writing project for university students and trainee teachers, and writing a book of literary responses to gardens in Kent.
“Subtly angled glimpses of love, sex, marriage, which reveal them as they really are: matters of life and death. There’s a quiet sizzling underneath the surface of these poems, which can make you smile and wince at the same time.”
– Philip Gross
“Sexy and tragic – my favourite combination.”
– Will Hermes
“Sarah Salway gets under the skin of your secrets and makes you squirm in delicious recognition. I come undone when I read her words. Her poetry slays me.”
– Susannah Conway
“A dissection of the secrets, desires and addictions that haunt contemporary relationships; darkly funny at times, Sarah’s poetry shows us the extraordinary richness and complexity lurking just below the surface of so-called ‘ordinary’ lives.”
– Catherine Smith
“Sarah Salway is an astonishly smart writer. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
– Neil Gaiman
Love and Stationery
Tonight, women dream of stationery;
well-thumbed catalogues hidden
in bedside tables, falling open
at filing solutions. Some promise
this will be the last time, one final gaze
at industrial size staplers, hole punches.
Others take it further, chasing private
rainbows edged with Post-it notes
husbands can’t understand.
At lunchtime, propelled out by a need
for highlighters, their fingers brush
sellotape dispensers as they imagine
being held by paperclips,
protected by bubblewrap,
wiped clean with Tippex.
In quiet moments,
they will pull out new journals,
those blank pages waiting
to be filled – who knows what magic
will result from an organized life?
And when the ink runs dry,
you will find a woman standing
in front of an open stationery cupboard,
the flutter of her heart stilled
by the weight of correspondence-quality paper.
When I tell my daughter I’m working,
she nods, pulls her chair right up
to mine, elbows out, breath hot
with cheese and onion crisps.
She chooses a red pencil, starts
chewing, sighs over her blank paper,
tells me to shush. She draws us, stick
mother holding stick daughter’s hand.
Look, she says. I try to concentrate
on my work but she’s learnt
from me too well. Really look.
Clumsy fingers twist my hair
until we fight. I say she has to go now,
to let me get on with Mummy’s work.
Outside she sits so close to the door
I hear every rustle, every sigh so loud
that the note pushed under my door
comes like a white flag. Dear Mummy,
my daughter writes. This is me.
Through Carved Wooden Binoculars
1. I want to carve you some wooden binoculars.
2. I want to sew you a suit from slivers of bark.
3. I want to run up and down your body like an ant.
4. I want to take each one of your feet and bury it in earth.
5. I want you to stand still until you feel your soles bursting
as you take root.
6. I want to sleep under the canopy of your whispers.
7. I want to wake up every morning and think, Why not?
8. I want to paint each of my fingernails a different colour
just to make myself smile when I type out these words.
9. I want to watch my fingers making rainbows over
10. I want the words to keep their coloured shadows once
11. I want you to see how SEE ends on such a yellow burst.
12. I want orgasms wrapped in blue silk.
13. I want to untie them with gold ribbon, so so slowly.
14. I want to open several blue silk parcels every night.
15. I want to think, Oh I can’t, but then I will.
16. I want to make a celebration from every day, especially
this one, this day.
17. I want a day where no news media uses the words,
The problem with girls.
18. I want to run my fingers through the hair of this man I see
on the train.
19. I want nothing else from him, especially not conversation.
20. I want there to be a slight tangle, for my fingers to get
caught, to have to pull and then set it free.
21. I want to have brushed my daughter’s hair every time
22. I want to have left my chores, my cooking, my work and
picked up the brush.
23. I want to have used the silver-backed hair brush my mother
inherited from her mother.
24. I want to keep my hair long, even when I’m an old lady.
25. I want my daughter to brush my hair in my hospital bed.
26. I want to use my mother’s silver brush.
27. I want to eat a dictionary today.
28. I want to take my time, to taste the particular sharpness
of P for Pain and the slipperiness of C for Circumvent.
29. I want to be able to put my hand on my leg so I can feel
where Confess, Honour and Truth have got to.
30. I want Pleasure in my belly.
31. I want no words to hide in my heart.
32. I want to be wearing a sleeveless red dress on a hot summer
evening, I want to be luxuriating in the sensation of sun on
my skin, and I want the friend I’m with to let out a gasp.
I want to say, What’s the matter?
33. I want her to point to my arm, in the flesh of my upper arm,
where letters are appearing.
34. I want them to be in Bookman Antique.
35. I want my mother.
36. I want to look up into the sky for so long I start to see
the stars behind the stars I normally see.
37. I want some people, the people I care about, to look at me
that carefully, to see the heart beating behind my heart.
38. I want to smell wood burning and think this is what
the cavemen would have smelt. Exactly this.
39. I want a perfect pear, sliced into four and eaten on a
40. I want to spread rose petal jam on dark rye bread.
41. I want to really believe that to be greedy is to be sexy.
42. I want people to walk into my kitchen and stand still for
a moment before saying, Hmmm, cinnamon and lemon
43. I want to feel my blood as it runs round my body.
44. I want to stick a label on each part of my body denoting
previous owners: my mother’s index fingernail, my father’s
nose, my grandfather’s feet.
45. I want my body to have doors that creak open at the stomach
like an old-fashioned wooden wardrobe.
46. I want to look inside and see the labels, ‘Great Grandfather’s
sense of humour’, ‘Great Grandmother’s strong lungs’.
47. I want people to say, No one in her family has ever done
a thing like that.
48. I want those coming after me to think, Well, I can now.
49. I want all the separate parts to come together like a portrait
painted with a single brushstroke.
50. I want to know what I want.
from You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book
(Pindrop Press, 2012).
Order You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book.
Visit Sarah’s website.