“Oystercatcher Press has published over 50 pamphlets of contemporary poetry in its short existence. It won the inaugural Michael Marks Award ‘for outstanding UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form’. Chair of judges Ian McMillan praised the press for ‘taking risks with older and newer writers from outside the perceived centre of British poetry’.
This anthology now provides the first opportunity to sample all the poets represented by Oystercatcher Press in one book. It confirms the judgement, made by Ian Brinton in World Literature Today, that Oystercatcher Press offers ‘some of the most exciting and vivid poetry available in England today’.”
About Peter Hughes
Peter Hughes, founding editor of Oystercatcher Press and the editor of this volume, is a poet who is now based on the Norfolk coast. Much of his work is published by Shearsman. His Selected Poems will appear from Shearsman in 2013, alongside a volume of responses to his work.
Contributors include John Hall, Kelvin Corcoran, Emily Critchley, Peter Riley, Ian Davidson, David Rushmer, John Welch, Maurice Scully, Carol Watts, Rufo Quintavalle, Alistair Noon, Lisa Samuels, Gerry Loose, Allen Fisher, Ken Edwards, Randolph Healy, David Kennedy, Alec Finlay, Michael Haslam, Richard Moorhead, Carrie Etter, Simon Perril, Iain Britton, Peter Hughes, Anna Mendelssohn, Catherine Hales, Nathan Thompson, Michael Ayres, Giles Goodland, Sophie Robinson, Matina Stamatakis, Ralph Hawkins, Nigel Wheale, Ivano Fermini, Rachel Lehrmann, Pete Smith, Tim Atkins, Philip Terry, S.J. Fowler, Alasdair Paterson, Tim Allen, Amy Evans, Sophie Mayer, John James, and Simon Marsh.
“In the spirit of the best English poetry of the past, these poets have opted to move on. They make it new without resorting to gimmicks, make it aesthetically potent rather than merely decorative, and make it contemporary rather than modish.
When you are dealing with the very new, as we are here, the merit of individual works of art is bound to be disputed. Some will be ignored, some dismissed, especially by those still relishing the styles of 1956. But, to paraphrase John James, it wasn’t like 1956 in 1956 either.
This is a period of political regression, and of the erosion of opportunities for independent thought in education, and of the remoulding of ‘consumer tastes’ by multinational corporations. In such circumstances it is easy to underestimate the importance of modern art, which begs to differ.
This book displays a series of choices and procedures which are not determined by ‘what the market thinks’. These are individual writers investigating and imagining what is true now. They are thinking for themselves, and writing for anyone tired of official versions.
Readers will notice that these writers are different from each other and do not constitute a ‘school’. Cultures thrive by means of such diversity, and ‘schools’ are best reserved for children, fundamentalists and whales.
Oystercatcher Press got off to a good start. The first batch of pamphlets was entered for the inaugural Michael Marks Awards and won the publisher’s prize. Ian McMillan, Chair of the judges at that time, praised Oystercatcher for ‘taking risks with older and newer writers from outside the perceived centre of British poetry’. We must admit that this took place.
Since then many individual pamphlets have been singled out for praise in various quarters. At the same time, attempts to define a ‘house style’ have generally been thwarted by a new Oystercatcher pamphlet which seemed to be stylistically located on the other side of someone else’s fence.
I think it dangerous for poems or presses to have too clear an idea of where they are going. Just around the corner is a place which is different from where you have been. And it’s more fun checking out the locals and locale than grumbling about how this is not the same as yesterday and why are there no chips.
I hope all the people enjoy some of these poems most of the time, whilst keeping on the watch for what’s coming up next.
The Old Hunstanton Vortex
many greys but sometimes
you look out at a horizon
and see glimmers
of yellow or orange
you think it must be Paradise
or some kind of promised happiness
better than it’s been here
turns out to be a series
of nuclear explosions
Some think this demonstrates our
spacetime after four fifths of our
existence has been burnt
in fact this has not accounted for
the speed change in entropy
which will indicate we have
far less chance to survive far more
chance to survive once we have further
encouraged a negative entropy
before we get back to a better sense of colour
from The Reluctant Vegetarian
n (1) owl pellet
fairy bile; (2) goose
with burdock; (3) jar
of seal eyes, lustrous
when wet; (4) a mesa’s
(5) blue Cambodian
skulls in a punnet;
v (6) to ash
the darkened skin
with chalk; adj (7)
the tight baby eye
of a teenage heart;
adv (8) how innocence stirs
in the mouth first;
adj (9) the taste
of a bitten tongue or
a wrecked planet.
(1) horse strawberry
goat sweat; (2) pulp
blood; adv (3) the way
adults how to
eat again; n (4) jelly
with hawthorn; (5)
tapestried on stab
wounds; (6) the puckered
lips of car-crash
(7) the wretchedness
of the past tense;
n (8) an embolism
and its silent
drift in my
from The Lotion
A persuasive blackness of spirit touches
you, & I do not have the answer you
Feel you deserve. Your olive-oil stomach
Is calling out for the thrill of lips, &
Your hurt curls are enshrined in cotton.
Small and puffy by the door, a backless
Vibration falls amongst us, a low-flowered
Anger. You hold out your palms of feel the
Chesty pulses, and soon it creeps in you,
Harping over and over the hands and
Cities. The loving diagnosis of
Your hip shot from grace—a stapler greeted
By skin, broke, fell to earth like a gazelle.
Hunch and Shuffle
The modesty of caramel—burned, earthy
& smashed against my wanton mouth in stickled
smudges—make a meal of my gushing brains, take
my faith as fallen & my delicate curls
unshaven. Pimp your pickles with my bluish
pelvis. I crook myself upon you, dribbling
with an anorexic urgency, and I don’t see
your workload lightening beneath the crusted
halo of your charm, cowboy, so knuckle down.
you flounced in water
child half bird half fish
a mermaid’s dreams
one tail slap away
you mulled the sea till clear
felt settled salt soften in your pores
threw back your sodden shank of hair
it hit the surface
rock-thud beat the rumbling sea drum
& the Giant Starfish
plucked from waterless heaven
its trail turned cold so very long ago
December wind booms long
rustles street lamp drips of amber light
tilt your head
into this hollow
shaped to your return
the Milky Way
a lung too full of stars
see how those foil ball satellites unclip
the zoney congruence of time?
& hark the gong of distant Moon
her notes form frozen spears of light
they fall to Earth as rattling disks
unspun fragmented echoes at your feet
from Sea Pie (Shearsman Books, 2012).
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