Monthly Archives: August 2012

M R Peacocke’s Caliban Dancing

“When you’re old, you have to be nimble to keep your balance on a spinning world. By nature I’m a foot-paced person, with a better understanding, I believe, of animals than of people and more skilled with my hands than with new technologies, so it’s something of a performance to keep up. However, I don’t miss the world I was born into in 1930: very English, socially and artistically ambitious and yet conservative – a world that has all but vanished. I found my way into poetry in spite of it rather than because. Where do I belong now? Only to my language, I think.

The need to make poems was there from childhood, though much blocked until in my 50’s I took a small hill farm in northern England where I worked and wrote for almost thirty years. Poetry continues to be my way of exploring thought, feeling and, increasingly, memory. I don’t know what sense anyone else can make of the words, but I hope they may take them as true lies and catch their music.”

– Meg Peacocke
“These poems, continually illuminating the phenomenal world, never rest content. They are like a threshold, across which there is more. Again and again they make you feel it will be worth your while to watch, listen, attend.”

– David Constantine
Full Moon
Moon looked in about teatime
through the cleft of two roofs,
leaning its chin against slate.
I leant mine on my hand
and looked out. There was nothing
that needed to be said.

There’s a no-sound, I noticed,
that is sound in the way
the no-smile of the Buddha
smiles moon-fashion, homely,
absorbed, illuminating
without considered light.

A poem, I thought, a true one,
should ride in that ease, words
appearing like the first stars;
but at my thinking, moon
moved away solitary,
formal, flat as a gong.
I went into the garden like a child
one spring morning and smelled the season.
Each thing glinted with borrowed life. I picked
aconite and snowdrop. Snatches of bitterness
rankled in their perfume, odour
of the shaft concealed among fresh green spurs,

that black adit in the primrose bank
painted with voices where the shadow
of Eurydice snags on the wall, where year on year
Persephone stumbles, where you went
to be buried: you who willed me
your archive of memory obscurely bound.

I’m fading now: I can scarcely make you out.
Do you recall my stony head, garlanded
with lies, shells, bones, dismembered truths,
stories half told or half recalled? I’m learning this:
we have no history but these summer ballads,
strata of invention, winter tales.
A Kiss Remembered
Errant, vagrant, the kiss that flew unbidden
the way a swarm will hurtle in, dark on a shining day,
and attach itself, be attached, there on the apple bough,
whole tree vibrating with that force and splendour;

a kiss searching for itself, neither looked for
nor expected, but like the rapt coupling of dragonflies
or the crush of teeth into honeycomb or the first shock
of air to a lung; and still a wound unhealed,

a binary star, inseparable and separate,
shackled in the dance, halves of a gold ring.
Thirteenth Night
If you’re wise, an angel whispered to us,
you’ll go home by a different route.

Which we did. The long way round. It takes years.
People eye our rags and tell us

So what did you achieve. Precious little.
A wild goose chase after a star.

Pay no attention to angels. Listen,
the rafters drip, the panes are smashed,
your children have sold all the furniture
and the mattresses skip with mice.

Watch long enough and the stars start jumping.
We change our story every day

and people listen, hoping for a clue
but what they hear’s not what we said.

Finding your way home: that’s the pilgrimage.
Gone yesterday here tomorrow.

The hills lay down their muzzles at our fire.
We are obliged to eat rubies.

What’s left? Still something crazy in the feet,
wanting to die, wanting to dance.
Caliban Dancing
Once the sandy island chased underfoot as he danced in the fallow of cloud, his shadow enormous, embracing stone, the whipping marram, dunes, gleaming slacks. He caught the salt wind by the throat, roaring and singing towards the pewter seapath the moon had laid.

Now he’s standing, pushing out his lips like an ancient child about to be fed; forms Coat. Shoe. Book. Watches for nods. (Learning, learning is salvation.) Under the burden of naming, sea and sky grow limited and dense.

As yet he has not learned to curse.
An Inventory of Silence
Silence of early, the hour
before birdbreak. Silence hanging

between tick and tock.
A plainsong silence, unmarked stave.

Intima: innermost membrane
thinner than gold leaf: a firmament.

Angle of a thinking head.
The letter not arriving, or having arrived.

A baked clay tablet, clearly incised.
You cannot decipher it.

An electric bulb swinging. Silence
of speaking when you are spoken to,

not finding the words
to say words fail.

Silence, a paraphrase.
A means of making do.

Proposition. A light illicit touch.
Silence like unrisen bread,

blanched knuckles in a row.
Silence in a manner of speaking.

An empty lap. Hands nailed
in the endurance of prayer.

Silence of between, of alone.
At the last, with a bloom to it

and all the stories gathered
like light in one unfallen drop.
from Caliban Dancing (Shoestring Press, 2011).

Order Caliban Dancing.
Visit Shoestring Press.

Sophie Mayer’s Kiss Off

Sophie Mayer is the author of the poetry collections Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman), The Private Parts of Girls (Salt), and Kiss Off (Oystercatcher), with Lemniscate (Knives, Forks and Spoons) forthcoming. She teaches creative writing for universities and activist reading for English PEN, and is a regular film reviewer for Sight & Sound and The F-Word . Her latest project is I Don’t Call Myself a Poet, an online anthology of interviews with contemporary poets living and working in the UK and Ireland.

“Love letters across continents, eras and genders between Orlando (Woolf’s and Potter’s/Swinton’s) and Alex (protagonist of Lucia Puenzo’s film XXY, played by Inés Efron), with a twist of feminist theory and all the colours of evolution’s rainbow.”
“The words of the gurlesque luxuriate: they roll around in the sensual here while avoiding the sharpness of overt messages, preferring the curve of sly mockery to theory or revelation.”

– James McLaughlin, Stride
“This is a beautifully orchestrated, bravura performance for mind and voice. Or, perhaps, minds and voices. For …  the writing reaches out through friends, texts and influences to the jostling realities of the contemporary world … the Acknowledgements section of Sophie Mayer’s pamphlet mentions Luce Irigaray, David Attenborough, Wikipedia and Joan Roughgarden. Oh, and it also names the friends who contributed to the project by responding to those very first tentative notes on Facebook.”

– Peter Hughes, Poetry Book Society
First Round
KO to your kisser, sister
lips meeting red leather
you better / go down
this is the kiss-
off blister (this
bliss this bliss too much
lip in all shades and flavours
chocolate ice cherry
pie berry burst fruit of the forest frost fairy
high / gloss
makes lips
stick / screw
courage to the speckled mirror
(they call me the kiss-mister
fogging up your silvered
your hornrims with my hot
breath in a blotted
lipprint lined
in pink no
mess no miss
no make
up in school yes
miss marked
my work with red-
inked kisses small
strawberries of errancy
truancy (run away
with me like a sadie
benning video like
a browneyed girl in the ring
and breaking free
of the wooden o
sign here for your
absence xo
Third Attempt] (ExtraIrigaray)
A lipped kiss of crossed legs un
crossing. O, you think so do you
wear the pants she pants lips o
pen he writes see ho
wever you pitch it, pitch like a girl (high no
tes, glass rimmed with lip
stick tracery ornate as dynamite
criss-crossed for the takedown (the lo
vebomb wants us all in the o
of wound how juicy how moanumental

the ice breaks up and in
the cut she writes on the mirror over the fatal
washbasin no
pen eyeliner will have to do so
many things (kohl and response
able to lid or lip touching
brush pencil or liquid it will make you
a star
t as
tart a st.
art astarte

in a doublet and farthingale
in a black tux and nylons
in an island nightclub
in a shower a singlet
in the darkness
you are the darkness o
pacity, o paucity of your sync sound
I want to speak with the inside of yo

secretly / glancing / eyeline / (o)r love
matches (burnt) letters
addressed for my eyes
only and signed
XO 5th S[ea N]ymphony
you’re a kiss-in in
an aquarium gold
fish lips and bottlenose a little
pokery (when jiggery
makes waves you stay in the still
ness you pitch trough

and you’re home free
squid-flushed with the first
lick of ocean (made me ink
myself hey blue
and all the dolphin-swimming
clichés kick around you click
with your tongue
the diver it’s
become (coraling
fish into glitterballs for the eating

and when the gannets dive wing
folded you rise
to meet them dancing
beak to beak a lucky
streak of finned silver (all dorsal
flex oh yes you are
a muscle crunched and stretched the length
of a lipped horizon under sunset
dipping redly for the perfect picture
postcard wish you were (stamp / licked o

raise a blush from the deeps
of my skin (sunk there by squalls
and cannonballs all spar
and seaweed now full
stripped and seachanged
see the mermaid curled
upon my decks (yo
ho yo ho yo
u who should scratch
pervert see her mix the fresh
into the salt and glitter
out her sign off her call
sign Radio (raise yo
hands in the air
from Kiss Off (Oystercatcher Press, 2011).
Order Kiss Off.
Order Sea Pie: A Shearsman anthology of Oystercatcher poetry,
edited by Peter Hughes (Shearsman, 2012).
Visit Sophie’s website.

The Parley Tree: Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World

The Parley Tree
An Anthology of Poets from French-speaking Africa
and the Arab World

Bilingual edition
Translated by Patrick Williamson with Yann Lovelock
Edited and introduced by Patrick Williamson
with a Preface by Tahar Bekri
Arc Publications, 2012
ISBN 9781906570613
“Poetry is one of the major forms of literary expression in both Africa and the Arab World and this anthology endeavours to provide the reader with a glimpse of the most representative voices of the poetic movements, and generations, in the French-speaking countries of these two regions, at the same time as doing away with the divisions and distinctions between the countries of Africa. The poets anthologized here – from North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and the Arab World – have long wished to escape from artificial pigeon-holing and rather to be associated with common threads. The past half-century has confirmed their work as poetry of great literary quality, full of a unique vitality and presence, and this anthology enables an English-speaking readership to discover and savour these distinctive voices.”
About the translators
Patrick Williamson was born in Madrid in 1960 and lives near Paris, France. His most recent poetry collections are Bacon, Bits & Buriton (Corrupt Press, 2011), and Trois Rivières/Three Rivers (Editions Harmattan, 2010). He has translated the selected poems of Tunisian poet Tahar Bekri (Inconnues Saisons/Unknown Seasons, L’Harmattan, Paris, 1999) and the Quebecois poet Gilles Cyr (The Graph of Roads, Guernica Editions, 2008). He is the editor of Quarante et un poètes de Grande-Bretagne (Ecrits des Forges/Le Temps de Cerises, 2003).
Yann Lovelock lives and works in Birmingham, England. In addition to numerous collections of his own poetry and scholarly work, he has published translations from French, Dutch, Wallon, Flemish, Urdu, Spanish and Danish and held guest editorships, notably for Modern Poetry in Translation, Dutch & Flemish issue, 1997. As a Buddhist, he has been widely involved in educational work and inter-faith dialogue.
Contributors are Mohammed Dib (Algeria), Habib Tengour (Algeria), Paul Dakeyo (Cameroon), Nimrod (Chad), Alain Mabanckou (Congo Brazzaville), Tchicaya U Tam’si (Congo Brazzaville), Kama Sywor Kamanda (Democratic Republic of Congo), Abdourahman A. Waberi (Djibouti), Tanella Boni (Ivory Coast), Venus Khoury-Ghata (Lebanon), Edouard Maunick (Mauritius), Khal Torabully (Mauritius), Abdellatif Laâbi (Morocco), Babacar Sall (Senegal), Amadou Lamine Sall (Senegal), Tahar Bekri (Tunisia), Shams Nadir (Tunisia), Amina Saïd (Tunisia).
Four times azure and five
Habib Tengour
Sand stone or mineral ultramarine blue
memory attaches to its rays
frail trace of a camp
to cross our lives set out in a mirror
just as hachures fade to grey
and the sky is colour sterile

The trip, you cannot tell us about it
this ash taste when words merge
nor the burst of joy when landing

I stared and stared at the line
stubbornly searching for a bearing

Pale at the time of reckoning your book on the stall
visibly unsettled
no longer a question of flight

The spectre is mute
it will not reveal its secret before cock-crow
the anguish that roams at night is not fatal
even though fear haunts the stars

In the bedroom, dawn sprinkles its gold sequins
and azure drinks from your lips
Soweto, suns shot down (extracts)
Paul Dakeyo (Cameroon)
My anger
The high winds
That punctuate the march
My homeland in revolt
My people rising up
Against raging night
My people rising up
Ferment of our suffering
The raging storm

And our martyrs
That are not dead
Our martyrs
That are in my song
In the air the sea
Like a volcano in fury

I will carry you over my land
Barely dry from tears
I will carry you among the flowers
Pollen the pure volcano
I will carry you a sun
All through the final march
I will carry you lovingly
Even in the stirring
Of my faraway country
Even in the unbridled silence
Of our solitary corner of the world
I will carry you

Time hangs heavy
The march drags on
Waiting for the warm
Embrace of the great day
Waiting for love
And harvests to come
Time hangs heavy
The march drags on
In the night
Cold and alone

We will walk on thorns
In insubordination
To order
In insubordination
To prison space
Our final insubordination
In the night
Till freedom come

And when the march ends
We will strike up a friendship
With the intimacy of day
With fire, water, air
And a brighter morning
A warm embrace
That probes the virgin wind
Of our parallel geographies
We will strike up friendship
Our arms that untiringly
Embrace time

So we will emerge from exile
A swarm of bees
A tidal wave
That ebbs to the horizon
Flayed by wind
Like so many stars hoisted
To the very centre of the sky
We will emerge from exile
Like a raging volcano

I will take you to walk
On the shore
Along the coast
When the breeze skims
The sea
The never-ending sea

I will offer dawn
The magnitude of love
And your snugly

And we will go on
Across the smooth sand
Of my land
Alone in love
Just as the incoming tide
Lulls the worn reefs
With silence
The cry of the bird

for Daniel Bourdanné
I wanted to be overcome with silence
I abandoned the woman I love
I closed myself to the bird of hope
That invited me to climb the branches
Of the tree, my double
I created havoc in the space of my garden
I opened up my lands
I found the air that circulates between the panes
Pleasant. I was happy
To be my life’s witch doctor
When the evening rolled out its ghosts
The bird in me awoke again
Its cry spread anguish
In the heart of my kingdom
In the silence of hearts
Kama Sywor Kamanda (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Now you are queen of my kingdom of dreams!
Woman, I am lost in your darkest night
Without a guiding star!
Carried away by your everchanging soul
As on an infinite sea,
I am drowning in the light of your desires:
Your love of its sensual pleasures transfigured me,
And I distanced my life from the shores of solitude.
It is softness in my heart
Nourished by the blood of lovers!
The fears on the flanks of wind are ripening,
I pray for heaven
To protect your life from all suffering,
And the force of love to safeguard your freedom
Wherever honour
Is a requirement of election.
I will cross gulfs of bitterness
To accede to the sun of your pleasure,
And I will attain the highest summits of your slopes
So that the river of all tenderness will flow down
Broadening as it courses its way.
Abdourahman A. Waberi (Djibouti)
I am the rustling of the world
the swaying between here and elsewhere
the dumb foliage of the cactus
the coarse wood that covers the gecko
the bed for the world-book
whose pages are as many waves of the quest
endlessly begun again
Tales of yesterday
Abdourahman A. Waberi
               The female lips of the tiger orchid have
nothing to hide. Darkest night.
Everything sleeps, even silence.
The bones of the past here, visible in evening streets.
The laurel trees weep for their Daphne
Apollo is off chasing skirt in Abyssinia.
Go on, anchor further out. Leave the sea of Eritrea,
the heavens will be better then.
This is the sacked bard telling you:
my land is poor, there is nothing for sale.
Black gold, precious wood, pearls of azure?
Nothing but the wind, migratory winds –
the dreams of flocks and mirages of water.
Our confidence has evaporated
like the morning dew
sucked up by the eye of the sun.
It is black, often. Pink sometimes. We are a long way
from having said yes to the abduction of the coffin.
Dialogue of water and salt (extracts)
Khal Torabully (Mauritius)
Dialogue is no more a place than space,
nor cry where being is born and trespasses.

It is a sudden crossing, a succession of epitaphs
where the soul leaves traces in the calligrapher’s silence.

Yet, between sky and water, the word alone
disquiets the being: between coral and rock,
the instant of speech – this reed finally full of notes
that quiver.

If salt and water wish to undo the sea
or silence, that’s not my business.
But if this here is the Frontier,
between desire and speech, I note it in flesh and bone.
The sea is further out than salt
salt closer than sea.


Speak! Speak! Tell me the dialogue of water!
Speak! Speak! Tell me the arabesques of salt!
The opposite meaning of words,
Speak memory, before I take you out!
Tahar Bekri (Tunisia)
If music were to die
If love is the work of Satan
If your body is your prison
If the whip is what you know how to wield
If your heart is your beard
If your truth is a veil
If your refrain is a bullet
If your song is a funeral prayer
If your falcon is a crow
If your look is brother to dust

How can you love the sun in your lair?

If your sky detests kites
If your soil is a minefield
If your wind is thickened by powder
And not fecund pollen
If your mulberry tree is a gallows
If your door is a barrage
If your bed is a trench
If your house is a coffin
If your river flows with blood
If your snow is a cemetery

How can you love the water in the river?

If your mountains submit
Humiliated and humbled
Their backs unjust citadels
Their guts disembowelled to harden stone
If your valley is not to fuel your dream
Like a rose in the zephyr
If your clay is kneaded by grief
Not to raise a school
Like an apricot tree in flower
If your reed is not a qalam

How can you live in the light?

If your labour is seed for scarecrows
Craven cache for poppies
If your horse is enslaved by its blinkers
Scorns the flight of flutes in the air
If your valley vomits its sapphires
To the warlords
If the braids of women are ropes
If your stadium is a slaughterhouse
If your path is invisible
If your night is a tomb for the stars

How can you promise the moon?

If Gengis Khan is your master
If your child is the offspring of Timur
If your face is faceless
If your sabre is your executioner
If your epic is ruins and vultures
If all the rain cannot wash your forefinger
If your desire is dead wood
If your fire is ash
If your flame is smoke
If your passion is grenades and cannon

How can you seduce the dove at the window?

If your village is a casern
Not a nest for swallows
If your house is a cave
If your source is a mirage
If your dress is your shroud
If death is your mausoleum
If your Koran is a turban
If your prayer is war
If your paradise is hell
If your soul is your sombre gaoler

How can you love the spring?
from The Parley Tree (Arc Publications, 2012).

Order The Parley Tree.

Abi Curtis’s The Glass Delusion

Abi Curtis’s first collection Unexpected Weather was a winner of Salt’s Crashaw Prize in 2008. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2004 and holds a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex. She is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at York St. John University.
The Glass Delusion draws on the power of animals, the strangeness of home and the mysteries of the future. Blending the mythic and the domestic, it is a book haunted by the lost, by buried objects and preserved creatures, unearthed memories and secrets brought to light. The poems in The Glass Delusion dwell on the meaning of where we live and how we live. They are ecologically aware, uncanny and speculative. Curtis brings to life such characters as Dr Who’s wife; Paul, a psychic octopus; a troublesome poltergeist; an orchestra of insects and an enchanted version of Essex. Sensuous, musical and shot through with wry humour, Curtis’s second book will move and surprise you.”
“These highly imaginative scenarios have the jubilation of discovery being made on the hoof. The poems are daring, wondrous and unexpectedly funny. Reading Curtis is like being blown offwards by a whisper.”

– Daljit Nagra
“If Abi Curtis’s first collection plotted a course through myths both personal and legendary, The Glass Delusion wanders off from the breadcrumb trail altogether and finds its own way home through the forest of our collective unconscious. Reading her is to be reminded of the mystery of every living creature, to awake from your own delusions to find that reality is even stranger.”

– Luke Kennard
“These poems playfully and tenderly blur the border between fact and fantasy, imbuing true stories with a melancholy magic and establishing fables which feel all too true.”

– Antony Dunn
“Tender, surprising, funny and sad, the poems of The Glass Delusion demonstrate a range of preoccupations, passions and interests unique in contemporary poetry. In its fascination with the who (wittily explored in ‘Marrying Doctor Who’) and the what (the quiddity of a giant squid in the stunning poem, ‘Squiddity’), with history and the everyday, Abi Curtis’s poetry has a strange beauty, a precision and reserve reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop. This is a remarkable volume.”

– Nicholas Royle
I had a vision of the future: you
draped across the clavicle of this beautiful
woman on a cold New York avenue,
your fur like the touch of mist lipping a brook.

Your bones, your guts, your heart all gone,
turned inside out to leave a shadow
of their warmth and this tint that gives your name:
Silverblu. A freak among a litter of dark brown.

Sheen like a spider’s web or ice on a lake,
the slick, rained-on street. The hue
of low, shining planes in midsummer
humming low over the harbour.

They bred generations for your coat
but kept your vicious ways;
the rancher holds your thrashing body
tight and soft against his face.

And when they unzip you to your skeleton
and sinew, does your blood remember
an ancient shape made for slinking
along waterways, under a colourless moon?
Note: A type of mink bred in America. The name was coined by Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1941 to describe the distinctive colour of its fur.
El Pulpo Paul
‘Psychic’ octopus predicts Spain’s victory in the World Cup final.
Dolefully, he unfurls and rolls
through rocks and miniature footballs.
The crowd watches flagged boxes dip
into the tank, the soft flesh of a mussel in each.
Paul will choose. He knows. He’s known since
he hatched in a Weymouth aquarium
amongst the large, dark eyes of his siblings.
He drapes over the flag of red and gold

with a wry look to the paparazzi,
one poppered arm looping like a question.
He knows what they cannot,
a whole watery universe he’s never witnessed:
drifting plankton, clouds of ink,
whales calling from the lower darkness.
He doesn’t understand, but knows a thought
can flex and rumble through the blue.

But does he know his mother siphoned water
gently over ten thousand winking eggs
and guarded them until she shrivelled in her death?
Or that his end is written in his billowing, clever cells;
that this will be his last prediction?
He flushes grey to crimson, seeing, days from now,
the Spanish keeper wrap his long arm around
the beautiful reporter’s neck.

Paul caresses, eases up the plastic lid,
devours the mussel through his beak
to a burst of flashbulbs,
watching the future unravel:
the keeper, prickled with grass and sweat,
refusing to answer any more questions,
drawing her close for a kiss, on camera,
like a minor god acknowledging his fate.
Saint Fabiola’s Portraits
After Francis Alÿs
This room hallucinates our faces:
three hundred Fabiolas, draped in cauls of red,
canvasses spread with Rose Madder, Scarlet Lake.
One lost woman: multiplied.

We are doing penance on these walls
for a failure to keep our loves,
our profiles looking to the right
at a life we cannot trace.

Here and there, exceptions, striking in their frames:
a fifties starlet, hair curled; an emerald shawl;
one formed of beans and shells; one embroidered.
We are all unique. And just the same,

salvaged from the bric-a-brac of Europe.
One by one the watchers file in,
waiting for us to turn and face them.
We are in the corner of your eye,

a flash of vermillion and flesh.
He rescued us, so he must be in love,
but he doesn’t need to choose.
He wants to be surrounded by women

rising up the walls of the gallery.
We seduce him with the secrets
in our almost-smiles, so many,
gathered under this beautiful roof.
Note: In 2009 The National Portrait Gallery in London exhibited ‘Fabiola’, a collection of profiled portraits of the saint assembled by Francis Alÿs. Gathered by Alÿs from flea markets and antique shops around the world over a period of fifteen years, the images are all based on a lost 19th-century French work. Saint Fabiola was canonized in AD 537 and is revered as a protector of abused women. (Lynne Cook, Curator, Dia Art Foundation, National Gallery Leaflet: 2009.)
Glass Makers
To let them see and feel the ocean’s creatures,
Rudolf and Leopold heat the batch,
blending silica, lime and potash to molten

until it is an August sunset wobbling on a stick.
Rudolf fills his cheeks and his father
watches the glass draw a borrowed breath.

It will become a sea cucumber or jellyfish,
not lifted from the cool salt of the Baltic,
but pulled white-hot from the glory hole.

Leopold makes the eyes with delicate fusing,
Rudolf flutes the narrow grooves
and shapes the tentacles on wire scaffolds.

From copper, paper, wax,
the bellows work their light sea breezes
and bring about the fluid, pulsing bodies

of octopuses, coral, angelfish.
Oxides blend to tint the filmy skins,
violet, yellow, bristling green.

Cullets of blank glass are caught
in the spin of Leopold’s grind and polish.
Until he dies one evening.

Rudolf will continue alone,
raising sea horses from a wick and a tin cup,
archiving ever one in a padded box.

Years later, Thomas is searching the stacks,
when he hears a rush like a fall of books.
Finding no pages, he’ll unclip an antique case,

push back the shredded paper, swear
that the anemone he finds is moving,
until he stills it with his touch.
Note: During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, father and son, created glass flowers and sea creatures for educational use. Professor Thomas Eisner rediscovered some of their archived creations in 1957 at Cornell University.
from The Glass Delusion (Salt Publishing, 2012).
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Maria Taylor’s Melanchrini

Maria Taylor is a poet and reviewer from Leicestershire. Her debut collection, Melanchrini, is available from Nine Arches Press and was launched at the Ledbury Festival in July 2012. She is Greek Cypriot in origin and was raised in London before moving to the Midlands. She has had poetry published or forthcoming in a variety of magazines including The North, Staple, The Guardian and Iota. She has also reviewed for The TLS and Sphinx, as well as co-editing the magazine Hearing Voices. She teaches Creative Writing at De Montfort University and has also tutored young people and children.


Melanchrini is a distinctive and assured collection of poems. The writing is at once clear-sighted and fully realised. In its mystery, precision and surprise, Melanchrini shows the truth of a powerful new writer.”

– David Morley
“Enjoyable, engaging, serious but unpretentious, confident and well-crafted, this is a debut collection that should attract attention– and ought to win Maria Taylor a lot of readers. Above all the book is full of life, of real lives. It has variety and surprise but is very clearly by one voice  – a voice that it is good to listen to because it sees so much.”

– Peter Sansom
“Maria Taylor’s poems sing with the extraordinary in the everyday, full of those moments where something or someone is briefly transformed: a woman takes a merman home; a dead Aunt’s house becomes a museum where the main object is missing; the memory of morning coffee is full of birds’ wings. The power of these poems is that they constantly invoke the unexpected, and the colours and textures of both times past and yet to come. There is a richness to the work, which, combined with an honesty of tone, makes for an intriguing poetic voice – a voice invoking both the difficulty and the wondrous nature of being human.”

– Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Melanchrini stands out among first collections for its coherence. Maria Taylor’s achievement lies in having generated a deeply personal thematic and poetic drive that runs throughout the book.”

– Matthew Stewart
Asphodel, Revisited
So, after a bit of spaced-out skinny-dipping in the Lethe,
we headed off for a smoke; heads light and stupid,
emerging from the water worse than an unmemoried babe.

I didn’t know the names of the others in our ragged formation,
though I reckon the man third from left, sculling and thrusting,
may have been my father. Forgetting’s harder than you think.

Lunch is always asphodel petals. We all long for Hades
where there’s red meat and wild parties that go on till daybreak.
Afternoons are unceasing here, clouds always bruised.

Idleness in the soil and seed of our souls, but being dead already,
nothing ever grows. I resolve to die again, exhaust the
of self-harm: pills, blades, hemlock, but nothing. I am still dead.

Now and then I hear them scream in Tartarus. I don’t pity them,
skies are red over their way, our fires wheeze ash and black,
dull smoke fills our rusting lungs. As in all things, we stand well
September. Someone hands me a copy of Larkin,
thirty eager teenage faces search me for clues.
I will love teaching Larkin, I will embrace Larkin,
‘A’ Level Syllabi, York Notes, Spark Notes;
we’re going to crack this Larkin like a walnut.
October. Larkin has moved in. My photographs
are all of Larkin, the face on the television
belongs to Larkin. In the crisp mornings
birds are tweeting Larkin! Larkin! Larkin!
It’s Sunday lunchtime, thirty essays on Larkin
scream at me. Was Larkin a misogynist?
Was Larkin a misanthrope? Was Larkin a joker?

I give up and go in search of food. Larkin passes me
the leeks and compliments me on my choice of wine.
The term ends. We have done our Christmas quiz
on Larkin. ‘I hate Larkin,’ says a small girl with eczema.
‘Tis the season to be Larkin. I go home with a suitcase
full of Larkin. On Boxing Day I drink brandy
and salute Larkin. I think I’m going Larkin.
Last night when I was asleep, Larkin was on top
of me again, grunting. His lenses were all steamed-up,
he enjoys the feel of the living, the way we move.
I fended him off with a hardback of New Women Poets
and woke up, relieved to see someone else.
You may turn over and begin. Mr. Larkin is your invigilator
for today. I raise my hand, ‘How do you spell MCMXIV?’
He clips the back of my ear with a shatterproof ruler.
I draw a Smurf in the margin, I have forgotten everything
there is to know about Larkin. He gives up on me and leaves.
Larkin’s shoes echo noisily through the gym.
August. Twisted. They’re opening little envelopes,
some smile, some cry. A photographer from the local paper
takes photos of students throwing Larkin in the air.
I’m better now, cured of Larkin. The girl with eczema
has a lighter. I find a charred copy of High Windows
behind the gym with a used condom and a can of Lilt.
Never such innocence, as I think someone once said.
When passing through the island
which was your only country,
take in the scent of benign jasmine,
speak softly to travellers on the path,
allow them to speak softly to you.
You won’t need a passport or papers,
there will be a glint in your eyes
which is recognised or understood.
They won’t be known from photographs
but you will have heard their names
spoken, whispered like incantations.
Eat with them, drink with them,
let them go. When the sun falls
and you must return, lay bellflowers,
take back their stories, and remember
there was no second or third country,
just a place where people come from,
where once before maybe you did too.
An Unremarkable Wardrobe
Some thoughts are like wardrobes.
It’s impossible to take them anywhere,
so much easier to creep inside, pushing
at the backbone of tigered rosewood,
finding a nook of permanent winter
and a Snow Queen making promises
of sleigh-rides over invisible hills.

And yes, I could leave, but I choose
her glassy world over mine. I breathe
and exhale frail mists of sugared icing,
play among her creatures of stone,
sleeping on bear-skin until I can’t recall
the scent of dead women’s clothes.
She tempts my lips with cool sweetness,
uneaten platters of Turkish Delight,
teasing almost, almost but never quite.

The girls pass us by, all volume and lilt
in their weekend tribes, hollering, invulnerable.

We call it a night to the scraping of heels,
sleepwalking through ring-shaped streets

far away from the jewel-box fronts
of shops and bars, into the city’s midnight.

We lost the way home under a sickle-shaped moon,
you and I diminishing with every footfall.

I wanted to turn back to the pinwheels of light
thrown from the centre of the city we’d left,

the snaking filaments of liquid electricity
and sticky crowds who shield us from ourselves.

Fable town; our halls of pleasure and distortion,
the absinthe-green light, hollowing your cheeks.

Instead we murmur sobering goodbyes
our voices weaving into the pallium of dark.

You fall into the calyx of my memory
and bury yourself under clocks.
Maybe it began with phone calls,
an exchange of photographs
hurried text messages, then lips,
the bright crimson staining
of beeswax, oil and pigment
over a greedy, wanting mouth.

You walk home through rain
trying not to think the obvious
as water trickles over your face
finding its way onto your tongue
forcing you to swallow deeply,
perhaps it feels like drowning.
from Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press, 2012).
Order Melanchrini.
Visit Maria’s blog.

Alistair Noon’s Earth Records

© Image by Karl Hurst

Alistair Noon was born in 1970 and grew up in Aylesbury. Besides time spent in Russia and China, he has lived in Berlin since the early nineties, where he works as a professional translator. His poetry and translations from German and Russian have appeared in nine chapbooks from small presses. Earth Records (Nine Arches Press, 2012) is his first full-length collection.

“Alistair Noon’s Earth Records presents the poet as a truly global citizen with a passport for anywhere in time and any place with darkening city streets, restaurants only the locals know about and the crumbling facades of history flickering behind modernity’s bright new colour schemes.

Noon’s precise attention to sound and form creates a bittersweet and infectious musicality as he explores the holiday plans of poets, the strata of old and new Europe, shifting tectonic plates in the Soviet Union and China and the poet’s place within or without it all.”
“Knockout poet.”

– Kelvin Corcoran
“This is genuinely terrific writing, of wonderfully gratifying complexity. There’s no one else, to my limited knowledge at least, who is taking on these big questions – with so many terms of reference. It’s work that draws me back, which is something that real poetry demands.”

– Tom Lowenstein
“Alistair Noon’s poetry is important because he is one of the younger poets who are working on the regeneration of a central space without which the whole cannot be an open field. Instead of a ditch between two extremist positions with their weapons pointing at each other, we are offered a freedom to roam, and a refusal to be bullied into false choices. The bite of modernism shorn of academic mysticism cohabits contentedly with lyrical plain speaking. Urban realism is his entry to this discovery, directly experienced, the signposts of our conditions ruthlessly catalogued as they fall before his eyes, and the whole of Europe is the theatre at his command.”

– Peter Riley
Li Bai on a Quiet Night
          Bright moonlight in front of a bed
          perhaps just frost on the ground.
          A raised head gazes at the moon,
          sinks, and thinks of home.

Dozing in a moonlit berth,
you might ponder what home is worth
as your eyes float out of the porthole,
where an old sailor circles the earth.
Moonlight and frost have bled
to the path your eyes will tread.
The bright lamp navigates no one
back to their abandoned bed.
The cold and dark surround
your ears, high above the ground.
Switch to an in-flight channel
and you’ll hear the moon resound.
The future is hard to surprise,
the past — a night sky to analyze.
Frost on the telescope’s lens.
No heart knows where it lies.
Keats Somewhere or Other
Turquoise torso, silver apples in your hands,
your skin is polished, a jewel behind glass.
Your arms extend like two aquatic fronds,
as if you were stretching your slender shoulders
or performing Javanese temple dance,
your eyeless head thrown back, perfectly bald.

You live in the basement — but what a basement! —
with a rapid reaction force of handbags.
Little daylight falls to this gold-rimmed place,
its chessboard marble floor with darker streaks.
And all this time I’ve been eating green apples
and stirring jasmine tea with Chinese steel.

So in what unseen workshop were you born?
Is there some resounding production line?
How many think your non-existent thoughts,
hold those silver apples, and make that shape,
stiff, blind, half-human figure with no mind?
Hold on, sorry, I’m going to have to take this.

Any idea where we are? No, me neither.
But let me cavort you down the long street,
down the rank of shops wherever it lies.
Clifford Geertz was meaning to swing by later
to talk about tools and cultural meaning.
We were thinking of meeting in Happy Asia.
Anna Akhmatova at Koblenz
Four days don’t seem like much
to write beside the Rhine.
Four days when we don’t touch?
Nothing some sweet white wine

won’t wash down the long river.
(But on its banks at dawn
I sit and slowly shiver
by hills the light has redrawn.)
Hannah Höch at Schloss Charlottenburg,
May 1945
She stood where the Kaisers had perched,
watching the sky go lime and peach.
The domeless cream cupola and shelled yellow wings
looked fit to crumble at the snap of her finger.

Kurt Schwitters strode out of the unfurling trees,
waved, said something in English, then vanished.
A black loco steamed by on the girders behind.
From out of the cabin ballooned an orange eye.

She had walked from the northern suburbs. Times
were hard. A tank was parked at her garden gate.
There were no lemons to make lemonade with.

Onto the iron bridge strolled a figure in silver furs
and beige bonnet, half-hiding its head, all sleek
with green and black feathers. A fat yellow beak
poked out like a bazooka from a ruin. Webbed hands
pulled out a paper bag and began to fire crumbs
into the misty stillness of the carp pond,
where pale paddlers in striped bathing suits and trunks
flapped and splashed, whooped and hooted
as they hurtled towards that cloudburst.
Note: Höch, Hannah: 1889, Gotha — 1978, West Berlin; visual artist associated with the Dadaists; work included painting, collage and photo-montage. Under the Nazis, her work was treated as ‘degenerate’; rather than emigrating, she moved to a small secluded house in a North Berlin suburb, worth a visit if you’re in Berlin (advance booking necessary).
Pablo Neruda in Aylesbury
I walk through you now as if crossing
a rope bridge into the mist,
a hare creeping back to a habitat,
keeping to the bushes as a red kite
glides overhead. You’re a pitch-black room
I used to live in, a surface familiar
and strange to the touch.

Fragmenting clouds patrol the estates.
The grandchildren of Camden, Barbados, the Punjab,
Calabria, Cochin, Glasgow and Newcastle
chat in the terraces and the semi-detached dream.
Rains commute back every few hours,
a break between gardening programmes.
This week we’re in the Home Counties.

As far as we’ll get from any cliffs or beach,
end of a Grand Union tentacle
and an iron road to the imperial capital.
Fruit I had no need to peel,
streets I learnt like a mother-tongue,
I knew you before I could read maps.

Your roads trace Dark Age furlongs,
roundabouts — a cyclical view of history.
When I dig down into your earth I find
a ritually smashed-in skull.
When I stagger from your pubs at midnight I meet
a ritual of smashed-in faces.
I hear the bad punk song of your name in the White Swan.
Synthpop seeps into my ears. Howard Jones, are you there?
Bright records in a windswept backstreet
condensed into CDs in the warm centre.

I cycle the Amber Way towards
the Buckinghamshire Samurai.
We see through each other outside Smiths.
I have my tokens and tickets.
Elizabeth Bishop at the South Bank
The Thames lay ditchblack as the sky.
Presiding in silence, the white brick peaks
shone nickel and zinc in the winter quiet.

Next day, the granite agreed with the grey
billowing canopy leaking onto tower blocks,
those crags where solitary gulls might stay.

She thought of the water that deepens and grinds,
miles hauling mud where the coins are sparse,
where parakeets paint a London of another kind,

where she’d dozed and startled through the humid years,
and constructed rafts of log and liana, barques,
dugouts, diverse vessels for pilots to steer.
Jim Morrison on Mehringdamm
Meet me at Mr. Kim’s,
where the walls blare with song,
and the disco ball glints
where so many stars have shone.

Cross, if you get there first,
the constellations on the floor
constantly whirling. Request
some wheeling riff by The Doors,

or sink to the Octopus’s Garden
in the voiceless waters of the menu.
In this outlet in the dark,
this hidden, flaring trench

we’ll find the music of the Philippines,
and our number might come up later
when someone at the music machine
flicks through our scribbled paper.

Chums, that’s us. That single
mic on the stage is ours. The track
is Light My Fire. Now sing
till the long instrumental break.
from Earth Records (Nine Arches Press, 2012).
Order Earth Records.
Read Peter Riley’s review of Earth Records at The Fortnightly Review.
Listen to recordings at Archive of the Now.

Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own

Daniel Sluman is a 25 year old MA student based in Gloucestershire. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review and Orbis. His debut full-length collection, Absence has a weight of its own, was published in summer 2012, through Nine Arches Press.


“Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own is an unflinching study of serious illness, sex, death and decadence. In sometimes brutal and spare cadences, Sluman explores the extremities of human experience in poems that are skilfully, icily primed.
This debut collection is at times provocative and by turns tender and wry. Frailties and vices are held up for inspection in a ruined landscape of disappointing highs, hung-over regrets and head-on collisions, haunted by figures such as Roman, an unrepentant and debauched womaniser. In the aftermath, real love and hope remain stubbornly, emerging into the sunlight of an unexpected new day.”
“Daniel Sluman has looked mortality square in the eye and given it shape. These poems are crafted with a striking maturity, each with a heartbeat and blood in its veins. If poetry has a purpose, then this is it.”

– Helen Ivory
“Daniel Sluman’s debut collection crackles with energy; his language is physical, fast-paced, passionate, fearless. A real discovery by Nine Arches Press.”
– Penelope Shuttle
“This poetry of love and trauma is deeply, generously intelligent without ever becoming knowing. There is no joke here: even the most ambitiously strange analogies are counterweighted by a tonne of hard-won pathos. Daniel Sluman’s imagery is jealous-makingly good and his fiercely witty, lyrical voice charts a course between the plainspoken and the precision engineered epiphany. On any given rainy morning, empty afternoon or night, they turn you sideways. You find yourself possessed like Roman (more Sluman’s sporadically illuminated sidekick than Berryman’s Henry) by the conviction, in the glittering mystery of a mundane street, that “we’re walking narratives”.”

– Luke Kennard
“Dan Sluman is a poet accomplished beyond his years. His work demonstrates a maturity and control of image and form which gives his use of the poetic line all the tension of a band-saw. These poems have teeth. They are as brave and uncompromising as their imagery is startling. Not only that but he reads his work with extraordinary confidence and power. He is definitely a young poet to be watched.”
– Nigel McLoughlin
“Daniel Sluman is a name to watch for. His poems are sharp and crafted with not a word out of place and he has a talent for the unexpected metaphor and simile which jolts with its fittingness. These are not comfortable poems, they can’t be read – or heard – casually but this is a poet who clearly loves language and has the skill to work it. The one thing I demand from poems I read is that they change me in some way – and these do.”

– Angela France
“Daniel Sluman’s fine thoughtful poems take all sorts of risks that really pay off. He improves upon each re-reading, achieving what I can only describe as a blend of visceral, occasionally sarcastic and humorous realism. I’m convinced that Sluman is a young poet to keep a very close eye on.”
– David Tait
Gas flooded lungs tense;
turned spluttering breath
to moth-balled lips
as they cleaved me at the hip;
the flesh was stitched taut,
a finer fabric tore.
Unlike the gold rush of cancer
it entered slowly; grew fat
in my pulse — the tick in my wrist
as I slid through a classroom,
its face swept in hair
that bled to the floor,
that smile
ripping a knife
through the linen
of my childhood; saying
‘absence has a weight of its own’.
Summer at the farm
Our throats burnt with sherbet
& fuck rattled our tongues lazy
as we tore at strawberries,
our fingers smacking
at the lesson in life cycles;
raspberries throbbing to thumbs,
or that afternoon we watched
Wendy’s blood wisp, bloom ringlets
on the white of her thighs.
We slept to fireflies
humming stubble on our cheeks,
the night twitching in our dreams
of poolsides, strapless bras,
the seeds in our heads ticking
against the salt in our blood.
Two pages stuck
between thumb & finger
& no grip, no distance
between the just-gone
& the present; back-alleys
of endless footnotes,
a compass full of north.
Each time your glossia
is frozen, a sheet taut
with premonition, your eyes
are screaming & my hands —
crows tearing an escape route
— until your voice buckles
the night & we wake;
the taste of tomorrow
on the roof of our mouths.
Portrait at a café
She tears at the sheets
of her loose-bound notebook
but means to unravel
herself. Her hands
private suicides
stiffening life into ink.
I wince at the force
in her thumb; three divorces
tense the pages into the past.
She sips her cappuccino
& floats back to the evenings
when a single line
would catch, spark,
igniting everything below.
She is gulping down
the months before we met.
When our pupils swallowed the irises black
The party was a fist of jazz notes,
all wrong except in context;
fashionistas bashed their fists
to a pulp on the bathroom wall,
love-slashed girls rattled
in the throats of middle-aged men.
This morning we clear the cans that gleamed
neon in the arse-end of the evening,
clutch the red-spittled glasses
that rolled on the floor. Next week
we will have forgotten the motives
that slipped down our throats,
the afterthoughts stiffening in smoke.
We’ll return where we left, forgetting
when we started; each breath
binding us tighter to the past.
Previously published in Clinic.
Dear Samaritans, I’m writing this to let you know that everything’s okay now
The last time we spoke
I was smearing the red flag
of myself around the tub;
the bottle & knife clinking
in my hand. I mentioned
that since I was a child
I have been narrowing
all the questions in the world
to matchsticks, striking them
against my skull, I don’t know
how I felt nothing so utterly.
I’ve learnt patience,
not everything has to wisp
from my fingers. There is a priest
who prays for me; they fly
off his knuckles & hang in the air,
swooping, their feathers
line my pillow. If he could see
these gaping white smiles
on my arm, could taste
the dreams that split my sleep,
he’d understand. God sees me
as a tiny pink coffin, wandering
from place to place, waiting
to fall into the open earth.
Previously published in Ink, Sweat & Tears.
from Absence has a weight of its own (Nine Arches Press, 2012).
Order Absence has a weight of its own.
Read Daniel’s interview on the NAWE website.