Born in 1969, Karen Dennison’s passion for poetry began in her early thirties. Her poems have been published in South, Orbis, The New Writer, Ink Sweat and Tears and poetrywivenhoe 2011. Karen won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011.
“Karen Dennison’s first collection, Counting Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2012), is a quiet and moving series of poems, in which the most recurrent theme is the loss of childhood, and the way it lodges in the memory. ‘Here’ she writes, ‘are the rooms of our childhood,/ the walls where we wrote our names’. This is a skilful, perfectly disarming series of pieces, in which disquiet and tension lie just beneath the surface, held there carefully while the writer investigates moments of loss, love, discovery – the whole collection is like a stealthy and imaginative search for the way the past and present impact upon one another. Its timing and its imagery are exceptionally exact: this is a life that we recognise, in which the writer uses her own experience to make us think about our own. It’s wonderful – a genuine journey, trodden and re-trodden, one that’s a privilege to share.”
– Bill Greenwell
“Karen Dennison’s poems explore both the vastness of space and the intimacy of what passes between people in the cycle of birth, death, and what happens in between. She has a scientist’s concern for precision, but a poet’s ear for lyric. Her poems are direct and powerfully emotional in their desire to seek a pattern in chaos and to wake the ghosts of memory. An exciting debut.”
– Tamar Yoseloff
“Dennison’s poems bristle with disquiet and transformation. Her images leap off the page and look you right in the eye.”
– Helen Ivory
Your belly is rounded, palimpsest of moon.
Feet-up, you wait, eyes scanning the flickering screen.
The grainy transmissions are like the silvered crater
of my skull, the muffled chambers of my heart.
Through egg-shell skin, I see
a hazy light, turn like a heliotrope.
As he takes his momentous step, you feel
me kick. We’re almost weightless, he and I,
suspended between worlds. But I resist
the pull of earth, the first breathless glimpse,
begin one last slow-motion somersault,
not yet ready to breathe for myself.
123 Corbyn Street
Whatever the time of day or year
the house is drained of light:
only your Jack Russell is excited
on his invisible trampoline.
We follow shuffling feet,
shined shoes that creak,
brace-striped shoulders, hunched,
the back of your waxy head
(past the front-room saved for best,
ghosts around the piano seat).
We sit at the table,
next to the veiled window, you shouting
‘When’s he gonna cut his bloody hair?’
You disappear into the scullery
with its dinted tarnished pans
and falter your hands over tea.
Nan is shrunk into a soft,
high-backed chair, blanket on knees,
stockings crumpled like loose flesh
around her slippered feet.
Her brittle legs blossom with bruises, her hands
flutter like injured birds.
Her eyes tussle with me, under
thin black curlered hair.
‘Is that you Olive?’ she says.
As we leave, we glimpse
a door of light, a terraced row,
a treeless street, a block of bleached sky, the sun
just out of reach.
She examines her feelings with a microscope,
measures her pupil dilation with a ruler
and traps her laughter in a vacuum in a bell jar.
She hangs her dreams on the wall,
pinned and classified like butterflies,
next to anatomical drawings of her heart.
She cries onto strips of litmus, stoppers
desire into test tubes, heats it over a bunsen burner
and scorches her fingers in the blue-green flames.
With a scalpel, she cuts at the emptiness in her cells.
We bicker in the car, heading east
to the Strood causeway, winter biting our tail.
The tide is low, the white-fenced road
dry and clear, flanked by stubbled fields.
We agree to disagree amid the clink
of sail-less masts. The boats are moored
in creeks, hung with ropes.
Paint-chipped wooden prows
lean between Blackwater, Colne, sea.
Silenced by the rhythm of our steps,
we pass dog-walkers, kite-flyers,
couples hand-in-hand, parents with children
in hats and mittens, windsurfers, beachcombers,
a row of pastel beach huts, padlocked for winter.
The salted air rushes our lungs
as we walk the sandbars and shingle,
crunching shells underfoot,
erasing footprints with footprints.
Shouts and barks and voices fade to wind.
The darkening mudflats stretch
beyond wooden groynes heavy with seaweed
out to a bank of metallic sea
glistening with possibility.
Two oyster pickers bend over buckets,
dark figures amongst golden pools of cat-paws.
The sun, swung low, huge in a cloud-flecked sky
dazzles us, bleaches our memories.
White heat glosses the cool sea
and Bradwell is like a ghost ship on the horizon.
Turning back, we stop to hear a curlew, and its trill
seems to rise from our throats, like a spell.
Previously published in South 40.
from Counting Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2012).
Order Counting Rain here and here.