Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nia Davies’ Then Spree

© Image by Maria Angelica Madero

© Image by Maria Angelica Madero

Nia Davies was born in Sheffield in the United Kingdom and studied English at the University of Sussex where she won the first Stanmer Prize for poetry. Her poems have featured in Bird Book from Sidekick Books and The Salt Book of Younger Poets and in magazines such as Poetry Wales, White Review and Poetry Northeast. Then Spree is her first publication – a pamphlet of poems published in the Salt Modern Voices series in 2012. Nia is currently based in London where she works for Literature Across Frontiers – a European platform for literary translation and intercultural dialogue. She is also a project manager for Cyfnewidfa Len Cymru / Wales Literature Exchange – Wales’s hub for literary translation.

Then Spree 
“The poems in Then Spree take language for a ride bare-backed through fringe-worlds: through the backwoods of forgotten histories to the watery edges of landmasses, from the sunken, frayed psyche of a man living underwater to the wild spree of a meandering imagination. This debut introduces a poet devoted to the wayward call of music and always prepared to risk terror for the rewards of song, love and insight.”
“Nia Davies’s poems are sharply attentive to the realm of the ‘inner ear’, a meeting point of external and internal environments. The lines have their own intense music, but instead of approaching song’s recognition and resolution they push towards the unfamiliar. Archaeologies and soundscapes are carefully excavated in language that sparks at every turn, while multiple directions open for the reader and ‘choice is a parallelogram/ best made on the slant’.”

– Zoë Skoulding
“These are poems of great subtlety and depth, with acute emotional precision and a canny kind of brilliance. It is alert, quick and ancient, all at the same time. It is simply beautiful.”

– Jay Griffiths
“Davies (who hails from Sheffield but has Welsh roots) writes rich and adventurous poems. Appropriately for someone who works with Literature Across Frontiers, her work feels borderless, influenced by experimental American and eastern European poetries as much as—probably more than—the British canon. Her Welsh identity, if it is on display at all, shows in the dense, heavily stressed fabric of the verse, which seems (or sounds) conversant with Cynghanedd, Hopkins and Glyn Jones. In the event that an ‘I’ surfaces in her work, it is defiantly plastic and multivalent.”

– Dai George, from the essay ‘Worth their Salt’  
Periphylla Periphylla
On and off,
it’s the benign traffic light
of his coruscating heart:

a triangular jellyfish, spreading
and closing, visible through the greased glass
of the night bus. He travels

sunkenly and half-happy
through a dawdling soup,
the city’s deep midwater.

Aboard this electric ark,
his macaw-red eyes weep vodka,
a cell perishes with every blink.

He rides to his stop by the all-night butchers.
All alit are the stripped shins
and beheaded hens.

When they dangle like that
they witness his troubled isosceles,
lighthousing through his body.

He must walk on, possible
only by beating at
the krill-strewn sea.

In the ninth abyss
the tensing pipes of his bright organ
widen for water.
Bubble headed, diving-bell brained,
he drifts, in a bee’s aerial course,

across the night-hewn road,
tacks against the wind siphoned by streets,

longs to suck its stream of nutrients.
Under awnings, the Michelin man

has stacked up black rubber, bright
as dull can be under yellow light.

He is cast towards the pub and its open arms,
but those poor stung legs,

are feeling the taunt of stingray pikes,
and from the frets of the sea bed

come the coral polyps, alive and clinging.
It’s slow going. The massing gutter sounds,

the tump on the slabs by other fish.
Unlike them. He is unalike:

a crawling embittered stumble,
white with flummox.
Daylight and there is dimming
in our aged white star. Past the Coexistence Trust
a peculiar grey in green.

It’s all the trick of that ailing thing,
the sun, that melts and forgets radiance,
fluffs hem, cuff and hairline.

He walks in a very straight line
towards the sinking star,
across the royal park.

The press on his lungs is lessened
in the light. But still in his head the fug
of a sorry skin-dive.

When he was born, there was too much soft tissue
in the x-ray. Chatting was outlawed.
Now he’s passing into paving

and grass, with each step
the charnels of the sea go blank.
In each step a bone replaces

tentacle. He is gaining buoyancy
hourly, but he is still awash,
still the Crown Jelly.
i Want To Do Everything
Bibulous, happy, exploded in the litter
of pomegranate, I want to live long.

And face the glaciers’ flume. It’s spring,
it’s spring in that toothpaste. The winter is game,

asks me to press forward: evenly. Then spree.
The rubble of my room, the follicles pushed up,

flowering envelopes, springs of seed packeted.
What can be chosen amid this?

In the bed we’ll live long to bear orang-utans.
And in clusters of eight we’ll count them.

Nine might be holy. And it’s better
when it’s a charmed story.

Peeled wheat at breakfast, blood oranges and March.
Let it be March soon.
from Then Spree (Salt Publishing).

Order Then Spree.

Visit Nia’s blog, Sky Like That.

Andrew Frolish’s Retellings

Andrew Frolish was born in Sheffield in 1975. After studying politics at Lancaster University, he trained to be a teacher in the Lake District. His poems have been published in a variety of magazines, including PN Review, Acumen, Envoi, Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, Pulsar, Iota, Orbis and The Agenda Broadsheet. He has received prizes in several competitions and won the Suffolk Poetry Society Crabbe Memorial competition in 2006. A selection of Andrew Frolish’s poems appeared in New Poetries IV, published by Carcanet, and his poems for children, along with lesson plans for teachers, have been published by Hopscotch. He now lives with his family in Suffolk, where he is a headteacher. Retellings (Nine Arches Press, 2012) is his debut collection.
“Andrew Frolish’s debut collection, Retellings, finds its foundation in the stories we tell of love and loss, of the stories passed on to us and those narratives of life we write ourselves. Fathers and forbears loom large in poems that find them working long and unforgiving hours on the factory shop-floor, bringing wild animals in from the cold, and notable both by their presence and absence in Frolish’s poignant and measured poetry.

Moving between East Anglia’s stretching seascapes, childhood’s sometimes lonely landscapes and the wider world we venture into as we grow, each poem by Andrew Frolish unearths a story like a treasure find and brings it, clear-eyed and succinct, into a razor-sharp focus.”
“This first collection brims with the hidden pressures of history. Poems range widely, from rural and industrial tradition, through a lovely sequence of stone-skimming, to that mysterious exchange of energy between what is said and unsaid. Boundaries are pushed back, levitation is underwater. And Andrew Frolish knows too, how to let simplicity fall, like a blessing.”

– Pauline Stainer
“Andrew Frolish’s first book is in thrall to the physical world. There are factories where things and people are transformed; hospitals, crematoria, places in which the human creature is reduced and rendered. And there is the world of nature, rich, treacherous, full of surprises. Mechanical and organic metaphors wrestle with one another like Jacob and the Angel. And the imagination moves through this world aware of its incarnate being, its skin and sinew, in love, in awe, lamenting, celebrating. Time passing is registered in the extended rhythms of Frolish’s resourceful and evocative language.”

– Michael Schmidt
The Day You Go
I predict there will be an eclipse
lasting for hours and hours.
At first the birds will be silenced
but under the weight of expectation
this will give way to nervous
twittering and coded gossip.

The bees will give up
and walk, as if unwinged,
back to their quiet hives
while the sunflowers will droop,
casting their eyes to the earth,
looking for their own shadows
(they will never find them).

And people will gaze
into the sky waiting
for something to change,
shrinking as the gloom deepens:
an abyss surrounding
one small ring of light
that could mark the end
of another journey.
We return to the clearing night after night
expecting to see that white glow
peel itself off the moon again:
the owl swooping between spiny trees
and the slick currents of polluted clouds.

At night, stooping silently
under low boughs and heavy skies,
the earth comes alive with the crackling
and scratching of prey finding cover,
shivering through pauses in the hunting.

On the third night, we find the owl’s perch,
a tree stump, rotting in its coat of fungus.
Pellets litter the dirt below: little furry sacks
of indigestible waste, the undesirable
aspects of lives consumed the previous night.

Poking through the compressed fur,
delicate bones like wooden splinters.
Imagine the retching, coughing, snagging
mouthful of unwanted bitterness
spat in the clearing each night.

Stumbling our way home down unlit paths
where the fingernails of nightened trees
scrape the flesh from our cheeks,
I look at you as the moon slips from your face
and I feel the bones catching in my throat.
Left Unsaid
These secrets hang from us
like fruits; our boughs bend
under the weight of them.
The light that surrounds us
is not wasted on them
as they swell and ripen.

Our secrets go unpicked
while their season passes
silently and unnoticed.
Neither of us taking chances
with temptations such as these,
so we let them fall.

The apple falls close to the tree
where it softens into earth,
leaking quiet toxins
for our roots to absorb,
and channel to our hearts.

I’ve seen you
in those quiet moments
between breaths,
when all the colours
of the spectrum spill
from your eyes at once,
revealing passion after passion.

Watching you weaken,
and hide these holes in yourself,
I wonder how long it will be
before I can see through
your translucent heart.
Marine Snow
Here in the dark zone
other animals wait,
living off the marine snow
that drifts from
richer shallows.

Light, in its absence,
forgets these shadows
of fish and brittle stars,
but continues to be
the giver, the provider.

These consumers waste nothing
of the detritus cascading
from the sun filled world —
particles and dead cells,
second-hand energy,
solar indirectly.

But rise sometimes
to spawn
in the deadened night,
coats burning
with bio-luminescence,
each one a sun
in its own right.
When night came, it was still just a house
with square windows and net curtains,
frosted panels and a hidden back-door key.
Inside, your scent lingered
and I wondered what we had started.

You pulled the anchor and the stars drifted by.
In turn, each of us left the other lashed to the wheel
to navigate alone.

The roof swelled, caught the wind
while ropes snapped and clapped
against the makeshift mast,
swaying hopelessly over the chimney.
Gulls circled and followed for a time
before arcing back into the horizons
we drifted from.

Days came. We marked them
into the deck with a knife
until we realised there would be no search parties.

Unfamiliar countries
rolled by like sea fog, ushered on
by invisible currents.

Dreaming of a desert island;
adrift, you and I.
Hail Stones in Texas
I mean this literally: the sky was green.
Green like the moss creeping through our lawn,
algae in the shallow pond by the back door.
Not the green of freshly mown grass,
but something darker, more substantial.

We arrived at the ranch
to deranged and howling dogs,
running between bullets of rain water,
shaking vigorously when they failed.
Overhead, the porch light swung
side to side, throwing our shadows
this way, that.

We howled and danced to the veranda,
soaked and dripping human clouds.
Someone made a fire and we watched
the storm through the open door:
leaves tossed between bobbing trees;
furniture bounced against the workshop;
power lines swayed like drunks.

Sudden brightening layered the sky —
from a churning sea to the depths of her eyes.
And in that instant, the storm tossed a hailstone
the size of a man’s fist across the veranda,
into the house, to stop beside the fire;
waiting for the lazy warmth of the coals
to worry the edges of its ice-coat.

That night the bolted door,
almost shaken off its hinges,
stood its ground and kept out
the stones’ drumming feverish fingers.
And we danced in the dining room,
holding our partners close,
footsteps drowning out
the hail’s punchy persistence.
Her cowboy boots slithered
over the polished floor,
a peel of new lizard skin
as the storm starved and thinned.
from Retellings (Nine Arches Press, 2012).

Order Retellings.

Haidee Kruger’s The Reckless Sleeper

Haidee Kruger is an academic, editor, translator and poet. She holds a PhD in translation studies, and is primarily involved in research in descriptive and theoretical translation studies. Her most recent publication is Postcolonial polysystems: The production and reception of translated children’s literature in South Africa (John Benjamins).

Her poetry and short stories have been published in, amongst others, The Common, Big Bridge, New Contrast and New Coin. Her debut collection of poetry, Lush: poems for four voices, was published in 2007 by Protea Book House. The Reckless Sleeper (Modjaji Books, 2012) is her second collection.
The Reckless Sleeper is a consuming, agile, acutely crafted collection of poems from one of the most promising younger South African poets. Haidee Kruger’s poetry is at deepest an exploration of the relationship between language and the body. This, her second collection, is sharp, intelligent, sensual poetry of love, loss, sexuality and creativity. Its language is at turns enigmatic, beguiling and shocking in its minute strangeness, displacing the reader into a surprising awareness of the violence of the everyday, the ordinariness of the extraordinary.”
“Here is Kruger’s second collection of the frantic and the fragile. Her poems recklessly carry their insides on the outside. They run fiercely across the traffic of language and love. Read them.”
– Kobus Moolman
“In this, her second individual collection, Haidee Kruger extends the accomplishment of her earlier work. With inventive use of line and page and an unusual, but telling, juxtaposition of images, she achieves a poetry that is simultaneously visceral and intellectual. Her poems are at once both toughly gnarled and delicately gentle. They immerse the reader in a world where the body is interpenetrated by the natural, sexual and workaday, and the previously familiar emerges strange and new.”

– Kelwyn Sole
For A, four years old this spring
You ask

if we are allowed
to talk about

the deadness of
plum blossoms
in a glass jar

and I have to think
before saying

Mermaid song
It’s a different element: turbid, electric, saline.
You have to prove your fins
before we can let you in.

A toe to the water is not an option;
there is only full immersion,
scraping away the scales until you’re just
the pulse of raw meat baptised in brine.

It’s a red tide, a lick of phototactic tongue ebbing,
or a mermaid disappearing into her gills,

This place aches and aches and aches its fluorescent beat.
You have to prove your fins
before we can let you in.
The way light falls
It’s Wednesday and
the sky has
a biblical look
to it, like
a prophet’s beard
straggling red over
the horizon. She
picks up her
weight and walks
through the gate,
into the morning.
Her body disappears
but she leaves
tracks in the
mud: an invitation
for hunting. In

the street children
cling to the
pavement while their
mothers unplug themselves
from the day
ahead. The wind
sleeps between buildings.
She watches the
chickens like 3D-mosaics
behind wire, and
wonders about feathered
things and how
to kill them.
She buys a
remote control and
notes the particular
taste of milk
and metal on
her tongue, and
thinks: none of

us understand our
breathing, still we
breathe; still we
remember how a
kiss can turn
you into a
stranger to yourself.
Yes, there is
redemption in this,
she says to
her belly: the
way light falls
on hands here.
the underground
the man with the concertina
playing psalms while staring at
a poster of madonna nodded
at the money and said
it seems i should learn
how to juggle    &    the blonde
woman with the perfect knees
pulled out split hairs putting
them on her lap to
count and when she couldn’t
find any more she split
some with her boyfriend who
was trying to sleep but
couldn’t because of the smell
of oranges and the old
man turning the pages of
his book next to him
like a bedroom door shutting
and said i need to
have a baby    &    the mystic
with the hair like the
wing of a crow and
the ayurvedic body oil sang
and smiled but did not
say i need you so
the man with the level
tasting women with nipples black
like olives said find a
cliché and fall in love
with it    &    the boy chewing
his shoelaces looked at the
girl counting the stitches in
her skull and said you’ll
be needing both hands to
hold on to reality    &    the
reader holding her book gently
to keep its spine smooth
like a new body said
why keep your tongue in
your mouth?    &    the sleeper with
the ears of a wolf
slumbered without dreaming while    the
child without a mouth said
you are a container for
all this all this all
this all yes i said
Poem for my father
Today I am my father, lining
up brown paper, scissors, plastic, tape,
his hands dappled origami birds over
the ribcages of the unlived year, or else
exorcising wrinkles in a halo of steam and crisp cotton,
his face a furrow brimming with silent seeds.

I never thought these things wings, and yet,
today I cut the shapes we learn without knowing.
A corner is a treacherous thing –
the angle should be
just so –
but it is nothing against a spine.
You want it planed and sleek but not
too taut, a living
supple string, much like the faultline that runs down the leg,
fabric that echoes skin in secret places.

Time folds. Today I see:
inside the geometries of my father
is tucked the softest rumple of things, feathering.
from The Reckless Sleeper (Modjaji Books, 2012).

Order The Reckless Sleeper from

Visit Haidee’s blog.

Sally Read writes about The Day Hospital

© Image by Dino Ignani

Sally Read’s first collection The Point of Splitting (Bloodaxe Books, 2005) was shortlisted for the Jerwood-Aldeburgh prize for best first collection. Her second collection, Broken Sleep, came out in 2009 and her work was recorded for The Poetry Archive in the same year. Her poems have been anthologized in Roddy Lumsden’s Identity Parade (2010), The Picador Book of Love Poems (2011), and Poems of the Decade (2011), among others. A selection of her work, Punto della Rottura, translated into Italian by Andrea Sirotti and Loredana Magazzeni, is due out this month.
Read, an ex-psychiatric nurse, is based in Santa Marinella, Rome, where she is Poet in Residence at The Hermitage of the Three Holy Hierarchs. The Day Hospital is out with Bloodaxe on 22nd November.
“Across one day in London, twelve elderly men and women sit in flats, walk, or wait, and speak about their histories, their hopes, their loves, their disappointments and griefs – and above all seek to express who they are and what their life has been. Most are immigrants – Irish, West Indian, Polish, Italian, and German, struggling with a feeling of rootlessness.

Drawn from Sally Read’s experiences as a community psychiatric nurse in central London, these twelve monologues are the voices of schizophrenia, dementia, depression, and anxiety. Authentic and moving, they form a vivid portrait of the capital – its richness and its sadnesses, its waves of immigration, and its living witness to the devastating effects of World War II. Four of the voices are Jewish refugees who arrived in London as children, leaving parents to die in Nazi-occupied Europe. Candid and vivid, these monologues make us privvy to entire lives through a poetic voice that is at once brutally realistic, and beautifully realised.

Above all, these poems give marvellous expression to people whose speech, memory, and coherence is often marred by illness. The result is a stunning insight into other people’s stories, and how we may come to measure our own.”
“Direct, searing, and very, very truthful”

– Bonnie Greer
“Read defines herself by her risks … violence and elegance walk hand in hand – her style is not unlike that of Plath’s middle period. There is real pleasure in the disparity between her light lyric touch and the menacing and/or visceral description she frequently employs; she disarmed this reader and defied the expectation”

– Kathryn Gray, Magma
If ever a book wrote itself, it’s my third collection The Day Hospital—although it took ten years from the experiences that informed it, to its birth.

Years ago, I was a psychiatric nurse in London, specializing in the care of older people. The catchment area was central London. Looking back, it seems as though at least 80% of our patients were of non-British origin. And a startling proportion had ended up in London as Jewish refugees from Nazi occupied Europe. In 1998, a group of over 65s inevitably thought much about the war. Sometimes, over afternoon tea, it seemed that Hitler was still alive, and that we all kept a gas mask under our chair. Too, the patients gave a strong sense of where they were from—as though they’d just arrived by ship and barely unpacked. This strong attachment to country of birth bleeds through, especially in old age. Many dementing men and woman, who had lived in London for as long as 50 years, began to speak almost exclusively in their mother tongue.

But it was one particular lady who made me want to write a poem about her. She had come to London to work as a young woman, leaving her mother behind in Nazi Germany. The guilt and grief she felt at her mother’s disappearance (she never knew by what means her mother had died), had made the woman mute. She also tore at her clothes every day; every day making new the Kriah—the Jewish rending of clothes in grief. The relationship that developed between us broke her silence. We came to share a certain tentative and limited confidence, that—bearing in mind her history and pathological reservation—was remarkable. It made me want to give her voice when she died. I thought I owed it to her to give witness to her terrible story, to give words to what she couldn’t bring herself to entirely utter.

But, aged 28 and still a nurse, I couldn’t write the poem. The experience, my attachment to her, was too strong. Over the course of the next ten years I wrote numerous lengthy poems about her. And yet nothing seemed to capture her or her grief. I was also still finding my poetic feet, and wrote exclusively in a close mixture of first person and self—hence, I was the nurse writing about the patient. It was ten years from both my exit from nursing, and the death of this lady, before the way was shown to me. For some reason I began watching old Meryl Streep films—first of all Sophie’s Choice. Streep’s immersion in character, her Method, made me realize with a clang what I had to do: the dramatic monologue.

The morning after I’d watched the film I wrote the lady’s, ‘Anna’s’, monologue in, of course, her own, fictionalized voice . Almost superstitiously, I collected Streep films—The Bridges of Madison County, Plenty, The Hours, The French Lt’s Woman. The subject matter wasn’t relevant: what struck me was her ability to get absolutely inside the psychological framework of a person—and particularly to find that one slash of grace within their character, the redemptive streak. This was not to let them off the hook or to sentimentalize them, but to give them the capacity of being understood.

As far as my own ‘voices’ were concerned, I had the job of fleshing out a person who—for example—couldn’t remember their own name, or who repeated the same story over and over, or who had attacked a nurse. It was only by considering, fully, a person’s history, and the dynamic of emotion and expression coupled with that history, that I could make these people live on paper. The process wasn’t so very different to the way I nursed: I always sought to find the young face in the old, to hear about people’s jobs, dreams, what—at the end of the day—they put store in, what had made them happy.

After watching each Streep film another ‘person’ would come to me, another voice, and with astonishing ease.

Of course, the characters in my book are fictitious. The blessing of a ten year gap between knowledge and writing is that I can barely remember the facts about my patients’ lives anyway. That, coupled with a disciplined approach to fictionalizing means that none of the people are ‘real’. But what came through in the writing was the essence of a person—an emotion, a turn of phrase, a fear, a mindset. The voices grew in number—an Italian Jewish man who throws himself from a high roof, a depressed Irish lady with agoraphobia, a Russian lady with vascular dementia, a Londoner with advanced Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile, the creation of these souls was working in me, and troubling me. Once again, even at a distance, I felt bogged down by so much misery. More, I was up against existential and practical problems—even with the faithful and holistic approach to character that I noticed in Streep’s work, how do you write a monologue for someone who has no memory for his story, if his emotions are incomprehensible, if he can barely speak? I used the word ‘soul’ at the start of this paragraph, and it’s a word that comes easily these days. Then, it didn’t: I was an atheist; I didn’t really believe in the soul. But when I was confronted with someone apparently stripped of their personality and functioning, did I really believe that that person ceased to exist?

The spiritual process that this set in train has been recorded elsewhere. I was an atheist when I began writing the monologues, and a devout Catholic by the book’s completion. It’s hard to say if this would register for the reader. The saving element for many patients I would, now, call grace. The moments of lucidity, and even joy, in patients, I would also call grace. Even in pain, I would locate the divine. As one Jewish character, Ruth, puts it “In the guard’s footfall to murder, there is a vacuum and there is God’s vigil”.

After about a year I had twelve voices written, and they spanned the course of a day. It does look like a cross section (albeit displaced, sad, unwell) of a certain London generation. Soon people whose parents were killed in the death camps will all be dead. The World War Two pilots and soldiers I nursed will be dead too. And the wave of Irish and West Indians who came to London in the 1960s. Soon, old ladies, I suppose, won’t wear felt hats, or live in chintzy flats over sex-shops in Soho. The book is a day, and twelve voices that I hope, in a small way, I’ve saved.
Order The Day Hospital here or here.

Visit Sally’s Bloodaxe Books author page.

Visit Sally’s blog, The Far Near.

Binders Full of Women

“Make it as political as hell, and make it irrevocably 

– Toni Morrison
are Sarah Crewe, Nia Davies, Amy Evans, Maria Gornell, Sarah Hesketh, Kirsten Irving, Mara Katz, Rowena Knight, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Agnes Marton, Sophie Mayer, Sally McAlister, Michelle McGrane, slmendoza, Steph Pike, Chella Quint, Nat Raha, Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg, Jacqueline Saphra, Claire Trévien, Jackie Wills, Alison Winch.
Editors, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer, write:
Threats to society. Shouty women, scroungers on benefits, queers, trannies, boys in lipstick, girls in suits. This is how Republicans see it. This is how Tories see it. This is how every right wing government sees it.

Those of us screaming out of the Binders Full of Women see things differently. We have to, because we are these “threats to society”.

We see inequality as the greatest ill of the times we live in. We recognise that rape has existed as a weapon since the beginning of time. It is biblical, it is prehistoric, medieval, Victorian. Yet in the age of media as the fourth estate, we are horrified to witness the double standards, the culture of blame, the glorification of this sick malfunction of the pathetic on television screens, in cinemas.

We have a situation whereby a man is allowed to take refuge in an Ecuadorian embassy from rape charges, as opposed to being sent to face trial, and hailed as a hero by the socialist press. Is it any wonder that we feel let down, and disillusioned by the lack of voice for the feminist cause?

It’s no wonder, but it’s not the only possible response, as our collaborators prove. Their work, arriving in our inboxes daily, lifted us up, made us rage with them, laugh with them, cry with them and celebrate with them. They name gender violence – misogyny, homophobia, transphobia – and reclaim the bodies that are subject to it. They extend love, joy, pleasure, rage, beauty, thought, art, and activism as strategies of reclamation for you, the reader, to share.

Twenty-two poets who identify as female, trans, intersex or gender-neutral consented to be bound in Binders Full of Women. Rather than speak for them (as patriarchy tends to do), we’d rather let their voices be heard, collectively describing why they contributed to the anthology, and what the anthology is – so, after a bit of crucial information about where the proceeds from Binders are going – there’s a sampler of fantastic lines, in alphabetical order by poet, that adds up to an introduction, a manifesto and (with a tip of the hat to Le Tigre) a symphony of the sound of women defiantly refusing to swallow their own tongues.

Raising our voices together has been powerful: using them to raise money and awareness for two crucial UK-based organisations, both threatened by increasing conservatism and loss of funding, has felt more powerful still.

Choosing Rape Crisis seemed like the most positive action we could take. Not just though donating money, but by raising awareness of the fact that such an important facility exists for survivors. The word is so ugly that it’s difficult to type: but rape needs to be talked about and confronted. If by reading Binders just one person becomes incensed by the horror of rape, raises the profile of rape crisis, asks their local politician exactly what they intend to do to ensure that this issue starts getting treated with the action it requires, then that’s good enough for us.

The Michael Causer Foundation is a charity based in Liverpool to help LGBT young people find crisis accommodation and support. Michael was a gay teenager who was brutally assaulted and later died. He was attacked after one of his killers found sexually explicit images on his mobile phone as he slept upstairs at a house party. Ridiculously, one of the gang claimed “self defence” against a boy who suffered a fractured skull at the hands of their violence. This defendant walked free.

Michael’s mother could have easily locked the doors and grieved for life. Instead, she set up the Foundation in memory of her son, to help the community her son was a part of and to aid those at risk from the type of vicious prejudice that led to the death of her son. It is hard for us to imagine the strength of her courage. It is also a reminder of just how difficult life can be for LGBT young people to be accepted in their communities. In spite of state, systemic and individual cruelty, it is good to know that support is out there for those who need it.

These continuing acts of violence are hateful. Yet the work of both the poets and these charities that emerges in response to them is open, affective, exciting, caring and transformative. It’s imperative, as the poems argue, that we highlight these issues, by standing together and speaking collectively.
          we are sewing the clitoral jewels on all the pretty dresses

          And of course I thought about Mossycoat. She singles out

          material all a round

          following the signs

          wants to kiss away these names that linger

          It made the Echo: a quarter-column

          before I grew them, I knew they were mine

          warning that there could be no return

          at the funeral your mother said she knew about me

          Or Julie, sometimes this/that.

          you pick-axe crackers of cunt psephology

          Call it what you would love better

          a girl like that, what did she expect?

          mouth opens suddenly and makes the click of

          we stink of blood and sweat and piss

          and laughing, for all the right reasons

          or narratives rendered through medical ciscentricism

          The playbill is stapled to my chest

          would you, with longing, spread your legs for this

          cuties [but no bitches, hussies, ladettes, matrons


          But in on the cosmic joke.
A Steel Kiss
Maria Gornell
It’s cold tonight
the moon looks
down with a steel
eye that refuses
to melt.

He wore a coat of flame
stole the breath
from my lungs

followed my trail
like a dog that
claimed its territory.

Promised to turn the world gold
with a Midas touch

that looks a bleak grey tonight
a stiff corpse frozen
in unfulfilled hollow
words that

echo a sound of suffering.
He will sleep with the devil
tonight; dream of a black mane
and eyes of truth he cannot bear.

A coward that took himself
out of the equation and
sabotaged his own

Tonight he wears a coat
of shame. The cold night
covers him in icicles
a steel kiss
to his heart

and I keep on
following the signs.
Race Against the Cure
Mara Katz
When I was a child I learned
not to let anyone I didn’t love touch my breasts.
Before I grew them, I knew they were mine
and the job was mine of protecting them.

But breasts in my family
are hard to take care of.
My father’s mother met the woman her son would marry
just once
because of her breasts.
Back then there was no cure.
My mother sacrificed her breasts
and was in pain for a year
so she could live for my sister and me.

You want to tell me
whether I shall die like my grandmother
or be cured like my mother
all because I have breasts.

With all your money, you don’t know what they’re worth.
Rowena Knight
The rules were arbitrary, but sharp as steel;
we let them be. We all
wore satin boxer shorts,
studied the changing room floor,
and shaved.

Tights were not an option,
in the same way that gravity exists.
My sister instructed me on technique,
warning there could be no return;
blunt hairs would only seem more riotous.

Still I prized my cheap Bic razor,
a golden ticket to anonymity.
I triumphed over each little black snake.

There was blood, of course,
sometimes laddering my legs.
But scabs served as badges,
proof that I was trying.

At eleven I was desperate
to feel like a woman who has to cull
the conflict of stubble,
who searches for a child
with a razor.
Jacqueline Saphra
(after Epstein’s Adam)
His cock hangs at half mast; it’s primed to score:
rising, monstrous; nothing like those bland
and flaccid members in rooms 3 and 4.
Drunk on lust, pumped up with blood, he stands
broad on his plinth and howls for cunt. Who’d dare
to leave his call unanswered? This is where
we find the source: that first, primeval sin:
he forced an opening, she let him in.

Later they wrote she asked for it – her pink
seductive flesh, the bruise and not the kiss.
You ask who wrote those books: who do you think?
Would you, with longing, spread your legs for this,
bear more like him? It seems so far to fall.
Must this man be the father of us all?
Order your Binder Full of Women here.

Kaddy Benyon’s Milk Fever

Kaddy Benyon was born and raised in East Anglia. Her poems have appeared in several literary magazines and websites. She won the Crashaw Prize 2012 and her first collection, Milk Fever, is published by Salt. This year she was also introduced by Gillian Clarke as a Granta New Poet and become Invited Poet at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge where she is writing her second collection.

“The poems in Milk Fever draw on myth, motherhood, loss and rebirth. They are so sharply observed they can leave you breathless, and with details so clear and new-minted they heighten your sense of the world. Whether they are set in the north pole, a mineshaft in Chile, Pasternak’s Russia, a tiny Italian island, ancient Greece or a volcano in Argentina, one finds the same disquiet lurking, the same poignant complexity paired with an assured, unguarded and intimate address.”
Kaddy writes:
“I’m fascinated by paradoxes: by that space between fantasy and reality and what can take root, poem-shaped, and start growing there. Whether I’m playing with my children, swimming, writing or painting – I’m really thinking about that space, that synapse in thoughts and feelings that can only be expressed in a poem.
The first inklings of Milk Fever came on a flight from Texas to London in 2009. I was travelling with my four-year-old daughter and when the plane hit turbulence, without taking her eyes from the film, she clung to me with a sticky, lolly-poppy hand and was instantly soothed. I had such a strong urge to do the same to a polished lady sitting on my other side that, to distract myself, I counted all the older women who have shaped me. By the time we landed, the first draft of a tiny, tentative poem about one of my ‘other mothers’ had formed, and the collection grew and evolved from there.”
“Kaddy Benyon’s poems are physical, earthy, powered by the salt of guilt, the cadences of liturgical language, the familiar stations of the day, close family relationships. Such poetry draws on the rich ground of childhood to question the big subjects: family, love, sin. It stirs primitive fears and desires that are the spark in the steel.”

– Gillian Clarke
“Here are poems which combine dark Lawrentian fire with sparkling contemporary diction to great effect: poignant, far-reaching, reflective, elemental. A remarkable debut.”

– Penelope Shuttle
“I love the earthy, physical quality of the poems, which as they turn at their ends, renders shock and very physical astonishment in the act of reading. I keep trying to turn over their words, as it were, like stones. I love them and look forward to reading more.”

– Sean Borodale
Fitzwilliam Selkie

after ‘Wave Spinning’ 2008, by Maggi Hambling
Find a museum, a bookshop, a park
when feeling mournful, all at sea.
Sit on a bench, hold tight, invite
nobody in with words or eyes or sighs,
just be – be still in the flotsam
of crashing moods, believe in the selkie
(her silk kelp skirts and impish smile),
let her slowly surface from oil-spattered
spindrifts, loop your pale fingers
through the curves of her spine, rest
your head on her shoulder while she sails
you back to life, surfing a blue-green
vein along the estuary of your wrist.
Pomegranate & Pin
I have waited for the tenth day
to tear this fruit apart,
my thumbs dig deep in its rusty skin,

get stung by its sharp, slick spill.
Just six of these gelled seeds –
swaddled embryos bursting with talent –

I’ve placed on my tongue, kept warm
as a first kiss, safe as a daughter.
Look, a globe of pale moon spins,

a darkening world turns below.
Between fair freckles of a star-blown
night and hard arthritic roots

pulsing beneath my feet, I stand alone
inside this moment, inside
this covenant I am making with you,

with her, the self I pray to find.
I push my fingers inside the two half-shells,
into unhealed flesh; live fibres

until a kind of blood weeps to my wrists,
leaks on my chest. I bury the pips
around a mountain ash, whispering

my hurts, my fears, my lusts
until the language I nursed on runs dry.
I seal my eyes, my lips, each failure

and regret as I crush the seeds, feel
a bittersweet surge of life, its prickling
rush urging me to taste, to become

and keep on becoming both
the weapon and the wound, Persephone
and Demeter; pomegranate & pin.
Holy Water (I)
Now the blessing, the readiness of Christ
be with all those who stare or fall into this river.
                    – Alice Oswald
River: a bleak seductress –
mussitating, black, beckoning.
She suggests answers under her silt,
inky veins: the tangled tributaries
that surge and curse the fens.

Step closer, teetering to a mutter
of tricked thoughts as they pulse
in reverse – whispers to wisps of light –
the somatic throb of ancient hurts.
Here is the slipping point, here

where chlorotic roots slacken to slime.
Lean over the river’s mutable skin
and catch a twin reflected back –
fleetingly, lovingly; the shock of
tenderness grazing the heart like water.

Feel your head tip up, your right foot
ever so slightly lift from the earth.
She’d plait my prairie-grass hair
as though weaving a baby corn doll,

I’d close my eyes, inhale pollen, resin
and woodsmoke from her skin.

She’d say: never let the embers sleep
wake them up with a stick like this

and tickle me with sooty fingers.
Winter, she left for the kindling crop,

a hand-carved hatchet on her back.
Seven pale moons have since turned

their wounded faces and some nights,
waist-deep, I part the forest seeking

the glint edge of pulsing swamp
where she swore fireflies hatch under

the curled, peeling skins of pawpaw
trees. I tiptoe in, pinch the soft eggs

between my fingertips and study
my stolen glow. I want to tap the light

forever, treasure it in a jar on the porch,
hear the rhythmic clink of light bodies

thrown like hailstones against ice. I
dream her home: armfuls of hornbeam,

larkspur and blueberries for breakfast.
Yet each new day her bunk is empty,

logs lie brittle in their pit, her lantern
on the porch a silenced heap of ash.
Holy Water (II)
You retreat as an oarswoman sculls
the river’s wide turn, her blades churning
black waters that will thicken

to a nighttime slush. Her face is lit
with sweat and dread, her hair steams
in a rain that hints at a hazy corona.

She is crowned by the effort of bearing
both stern and bow, her vessel’s rival tides;
the tension that tugs between desire

and loss. You watch as she hauls spray –
flecked oars from the river’s ravenous drag,
glides inside a shaft of alluvial light,

to bisect a perfect symmetry of wood
and flesh quartering air. Her head dips
as if in prayer as she contemplates

knuckles blued by freezing blood, nails
split and bitten, veins swelling to a perilous,
rising tide. You urge her to warm

the font of her palms with steady, gentle
breaths, to swaddle her poor derelict hands
in her armpits, let a slow heat return.

If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us,
that we are the reason there is a Universe,
does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?
                    – Carl Sagan
Afterward, we took Flo to the planetarium:
the three of us reclining under a copper dome,
darkening like the linea nigra of Greenwich.
Doctor Rylance battled asteroids and tongue-tie
as he led our shpace ship shafari and Flo grinned,

clinging to sleeves and knees. The dopler
had landed hard on the atlas of my belly, roamed
the noctural pocket we had made. We hunted
Sirius, the bright winking of your heart
and hoped you’d refract back, send galloping news

that you lived. The sonographer turned breach,
a contortionist in her sweaty efforts to probe
new life. She discovered a suffocated astronaut
suspended in space; a dozing night watchman,
alien head dipped. No bipolar flow, no swoosh

or suck, just a dust pillar unpulsing, your clustered
limbs extinct. You’d have been our winter son,
we your shepherd moons watching you explore
this blue marble. Maybe fifty-six days was enough,
enough to complete you, dwarf planet; new star.
from Milk Fever (Salt Publishing, 2012).

Pre-order Milk Fever.

Read Kaddy’s Crashaw Prize profile.

Visit Kaddy’s website.

Edward Mackay’s Swarming

Edward Mackay studied History and English at Oxford University and lives in east London where he also runs a mediation charity. His poetry was shortlisted for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize (2011), commended in the Emerge Escalator competition (2010) and shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award (2009). He has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. Swarming (Salt Publishing, 2012) is his first solo publication.
Swarming is a waspish debut of strange voices and unsettling moments which jostle at the border of individual and collective experience: a holy fool lurks uneasily in an abattoir; a host of angels go to work in the Israeli post office; a tiger wanders through London, blurring the lines between dream and reality, the atomised individual and the possibilities of the social. Meanwhile Mesolithic voices emerge in a spell from the depths of the north sea and eclectic presiding spirits from Ivor Gurney to Jim and William Reid haunt poems which are deeply personal and quietly political – poems which hope, fiercely, for a remade world and rage that it is not so.”
“Edward Mackay’s poems sound like the real thing. In fact, the pleasure of reading them again and again is heightened by the growing perception that they are indeed the real thing: their wide-ranging subject-matter and striking allusiveness are complemented by a richness of diction, an impressive intelligence, and a formal elegance at the service of his subject. The tone ranges from an almost objective detachment when dealing with ‘heavy’ emotional material, to a controlled anger, to an almost excruciating relish in the depiction of the grotesque, to poignant expressions of the human predicament – see the poem of a life lived on the boundary, ‘Stone House Asylum, 1932’, about the poet Ivor Gurney’s last days.

Here is a poet whose capacious imagination and obvious love of language is matched by his abilities to transform sensation, feeling, and intellectual awareness into true art.”

– Robert Vas Dias
“Edward Mackay’s poems always deliver surprise: his formality is jagged and irreverent; he re-envisions the lyric in the edgy fringes of east London. He takes on many guises – cannibal lover, death-knell raven, restless traveller. This is an extraordinarily confident and beautifully crafted debut from a poet who is going places.”

– Tamar Yoseloff
“Sharply sequenced, Mackay’s pamphlet possesses a courageous, focused, and often visceral perception, revealing its author to be equipped with that necessary ‘acuteness of the senses’, to quote Poe, that makes for good poetry. From ravens to abbats, to the Johnny Cash bassline of a tiger’s walk, to the pinnacle work on Edward Thomas and Private Guerney, these well-crafted poems reward the reader with characters and phrasings that bend our customary ways of seeing things, retelling the world through the integrity of their metaphors.”

– Rachael Boast
Yours, the browning, bent-down corners
of my books, Jupiter’s red rings drying
in a wine glass. Yours, the somersaults
of the furies, the restless night, the rupture.

I give you, too, an anagram of your discarded
names, your absences, your story, your stomach’s
taut fire-lines, the idle traces of your toe in ash:
smoked signals on that sill above the Mile End Road.

I leave you the thrilled, sour taste of those early
nights, dissolved like the host on my tongue,
in that chaste first month when we lay, untouching,
outlines of leaves rustling in the borrowed dark.

Yours, fermented hours, cradling a hope inside
the heart’s neat crook. I give you back your echo,
my pencil shavings, three burned down candles,
the granite revelations, these swarming years.
So, yes, I will sit in your pew, performing
the ablutions of custom: sing lustily and then
forever hold my peace. I’ll beam – and mean it –

as a puce-faced man links arms with you and speaks
his part. I’ll dab a dignified eye and place
my slip-shod faith in your fresh happiness. These things

I do for you. I’ll even think of other things
(between the hymned injunctions that you don’t believe)
to put aside the memory of your fresh grown curves,

their neat silhouette on curtains drawn across
our conspiracy of amber afternoons. And I’ll not
picture the lovely chaos of piled clothes, jam jar lids

of dogends, or you, shameless, sitting at the far end
of my bed reading aloud – your crease of belly
grinning, slicked in sun. Or then the twist of hips,

wide-eyes, and clumsy tongues. These things I’ll try.
I’ll raise a glass. I’ll even dance. I’ll kiss your cheek,
wish you well then drive into the heavy evening

of your August wedding night where dusk is furred
with stories, motorway illuminations trail, and
all’s washed clean, forgotten. You will wear white

and be unhistoried. I’ll turn off course, and look back briefly
down the incline of the years, to read that outgrown city
that went on without us. And above, the jittering

stars will slip into the constellations of your freckled back.
These gathering days
are the thin, electric days,
fermenting to the spark of a golden sun.

Full harvest days, taut before the rains,
billowing beneath the contented weight

of a dying season. They come in equal
moments, clinking from the cupboards;

the measuring days, in muddled, misfit rows,
the palm-prickled hoarding days

sifted to the weight of a purpled fig,
resting fleshy and warm, a bird in the bowl of a hand.

The hours are counted out in pierced sloes,
sliding their springtimes, greened from

their opened sea-deep blues. We drop sweetened words
into bottles, slicking them in syrups, vinegars and rums:

plump fruits marooned from time, press idly
against glass as juice and sap slip between cracks,

their rhythm slowed. They settle into one another,
bobbing in their tiny glassy worlds.

Veined skins split pathways from the sun
in these shrunken days. Then comes

the cold; we are well-stocked
to hold back the hunger,

yet indifferent jars stay sealed,
furring with dust as the treasures sleep.
from Swarming (Salt Publishing, 2012).

Pre-order Swarming here, here and here.

Visit Edward’s Salt author page.

Visit Edward’s website.

Matthew Stewart’s Tasting Notes

Matthew Stewart was born in Farnham, Surrey, in 1973. Following a comprehensive school education, he took a degree in modern languages at St Peter’s College, Oxford.

During his studies, he spent an academic year teaching English in Extremadura, one of the remotest and least-known regions in Spain. Following graduation, he decided to make his home there, working first as a freelance translator and then in the local wine trade.

He is now blender and export manager for a co-operative of local farmers, Viñaoliva, selling their Zaleo wines in fifteen different countries around the world. As part of his job, he writes the back labels, brochures and website copy for the co-op, including the tasting notes.

Stewart is also a poet. His poems have appeared widely in UK magazines and his first collection was Inventing Truth (HappenStance, 2011). He blogs at Rogue Strands.
“In his mini-pamphlet, Tasting Notes (HappenStance, 2012), Matthew has four Zaleo products speak for themselves—a marriage of wine and poetry.

If you’d like to sample the poems with the appropriate beverage (recommended), a single Tempranillo (or all four Zaleo wines) can be bought at a discounted price to HappenStance purchasers from Bat and Bottle Wine Merchants, Unit 5, 19 Pillings Road, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 6QF, United Kingdom (tel 01572 759735 / 07809 828662, or email Online orders direct from or click the link here.”
Zaleo Rosado
          With raspberries and recently cut roses
          on an elegant and delicate nose,
          Zaleo Rosado then leads us through
          to a lip-smacking, refreshing palate.
          It’s ideal for lazy summer evenings.
Even the winemaker sniggered
at me on sight, and bled me off
from all his other grapes and skins
a day after leaving the vines.
I haven’t got the guts for red.

At times I’ve heard it said I blush.
Well, wouldn’t you, if popped and poured
in some High Street pub, surrounded
by a gaggle of squawking girls
who hurl you back without a thought?
from Tasting Notes (HappenStance, 2012).

Order Tasting Notes.

Visit Matthew’s blog, Rogue Strands.

Visit Zaleo’s website.

Beautiful Hand-lettered Literary Maps

“The idea for these maps was my wife, Dani’s, and I created the first one (the United Kingdom) in November 2010 without thinking all that carefully about the selection. I just trawled my own bookshelves. I have to defend myself almost weekly against angry emails about the absence of Dickens (whom I have never rated); no one seems to have noted that Pope and Orwell aren’t there either. I admire both and would have included them had I been more thorough. The first 500 copies of the map have a spelling mistake (Robert Greacen, in Ulster, is spelled ‘Greacon’); I corrected this on the second printing and added a couple of names – Angela Carter and Louis MacNiece.
I drew the map freehand, and it is somewhat distorted, in order to take into account the concentrations of writers I admire: Kent and Sussex are larger than they should be; Northumberland compressed, and the Lake District grossly inflated. On the fourth and latest edition I altered Kent a little, and relettered a handful of names. I think I should probably stop tinkering with it now!
We were surprised by how well the United Kingdom map sold and straightaway set about a map of the United States. This time I worked with an American editor, Bridget Hannigan, to attempt to get slightly better coverage, particularly of those parts of the United States I know nothing about. I also spent quite a while finding a projection that cinched in the northern parts of the United States, so that I could fit it onto a standard paper size, and then laid out the names state by state. You can see still see the state boundaries in a number of places; try tracing the outlines of Texas or Idaho. New England was incredibly dense and hard to do; California too, but at least that had space to spill over somewhat into the rather emptier Nevada. The solution I came up with for the New York/Boston logjam was eventually to include a spray of American writers who made their names in Europe off the East Coast and a number of Jewish writers who came in during the 1930s.
The next map that I did towards the end of 2011 was a real labour of love. While Scotland had a good amount of space on the United Kingdom map, for Wales I had had far too many good names to try to pack into a tiny area, and we set to work on a dedicated Welsh map, working with Gwyn Davies (from the National Library of Wales) on the name selection. We decided together to restrict the selection to dead writers here, as the Welsh tradition covers 1,500 years and three languages; with the United States it had been 250 years at most; 90 for the West Coast, and all in English. Wales was probably the most aesthetically satisfying for me in terms of the quality of my own lettering, although its sales remain quite modest compared to the others.
And so to the newest map, ‘From Neverland to Wonderland: A Map of Children’s Literature in Britain’, just out this week: this one was entirely Dani’s idea. She did an MA in Children’s Literature at Roehampton a few years back and is passionate about the subject. Here I decided to use slightly brighter colours than the fairly muted palettes I usually favour, and a few more visual jokes; Spike Milligan, for instance, would have been hard to fit into Sussex, where he lived, as it is stuffed already, so I put him walking backwards across the Irish Sea.”
– Geoff Sawers
Order your hand-lettered map of
Literary Britain and Northern Ireland.
Order your hand-lettered USA Literary map.
Order your hand-lettered
Literary Map of Wales/Map Llenorion Cymru.
Order From Neverland to Wonderland: A Map of Children’s Literature in Britain.
Visit The Literary Gift Company for a range of marvellous
gifts and treats. 

Peter Hughes’ Regulation Cascade

© Image by Beryl Riley

About Peter Hughes
I was born in Oxford in 1956. My mother was born in the Claddach, Galway—an impoverished Catholic ghetto without electricity, running water or sewers, situated outside the city. My father’s people came from Redhill, in Surrey. I went to local comprehensive schools and, for a while, to Sunday school at the convent. For several months it was my ambition to become the big nun who sang ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ in The Sound of Music. I had a couple of years doing a range of disparate jobs (milkman, stagehand, hiring out boats, gardening, landscaping, playing guitar in a bar, building, house renovation) and travelling in Europe—especially around Alpine regions—before going to Cheltenham Art College for a year.

I spent a year in the Isles of Scilly—reading, growing daffs and spuds and shooting rabbits with a Czech shotgun. I did a degree in English, from 1978 to 1981, at what was then the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. It was in that period that I came across the poets who have influenced me most. These included Americans such as Ashbery, Tom Waits and O’Hara; contemporary European poets, and writers closer to home: David Chaloner, Andrew Crozier, Roy Fisher, John James, Barry MacSweeney, Doug Oliver, Peter Riley and John Welch. And countless more, of course. I particularly liked Pasolini and his description of himself as a Catholic Marxist.

After doing an M.Litt. in Modern Poetry at Stirling, I moved to Italy in the autumn of 1983. I lived and worked there until 1991, mainly in Rome. For me it is still full of more sacred sites than are listed in the guide books, including every stop on the underground.

John Welch published my first poems as The Interior Designer’s Late Morning in 1983. His Many Press also did Bar Magenta (1986): half of the poems were mine; half were by Simon Marsh (who has been based in Milan for over 20 years now). Peter Riley brought out my Odes on St. Cecilia’s Day as one of his Poetical Histories in 1990. Then the Many Press published The Metro Poems in 1992—one poem for each of the stations of the Rome metro. Rod Mengham did two Equipage booklets in 1995: Psyche in the Gargano and Paul Klee’s Diary. Andy Brown published Keith Tippet Plays Tonight as a Maquette chapbook in 1999. Salt did Blueroads: Selected Poems in 2003. There were two chapbooks in 2006: Minor Yours, from Oystercatcher Press, and Sound Signals Advising of Presence from infernal methods.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some memorable readings over the years: with David Chaloner, Helen MacDonald and Roger Langley at the Cambridge Conferences of Contemporary Poetry; with bass player Simon Fell at SubVoicive; with guitarist Ron McElroy at the Diorama Gallery; with John Welch, Simon Marsh, Nigel Wheale and Peter Riley on several occasions, in various locations.

Music, painting and writing have been equally important to me and I tried for years to sustain an active involvement in all those fields, as well as earning a living by teaching. The crunch eventually came in spring 2006: I decided to stuff my paints and instruments in the loft and focus on the writing.

The results have included The Pistol Tree Poems (a collaboration with Simon Marsh which is ongoing and unfolding on the Great Works website); Berlioz (serialised on Intercapillary Space); Italia (published by Liminal Pleasures); The Sardine Tree (a life of Miró); From the Green Hill (based on the work of veteran jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko); and the Shearsman book, Nistanimera.

I live on the Norfolk coast, with my wife Lynn, in a coastguard cottage which is creeping ever closer to the cliff edge. The views are increasingly breathtaking.
“Petrarch wrote over three hundred sonnets & the following twenty poems are English versions of what have become known, in my head, as The Second Batch. This group consists of his sonnets 27 – 46.”
Apollo, s’ancor vive il bel desio
in meteoric lines that slit the sky
wrote notes in dark fecundity
looming under Cassiopeia
I invoke the idea of Apollo

I invoke the idea of a poem as
perpetual enactment of pursuit
of passion of flight forever turning
into your damp cavern & formation

as living light changes this appearance
surfaces through you-tube & saliva
mouthing inclusive preliminaries

we are joining ground into night once again
via the grace of imagined movements
through air & all is increasingly clear

Io temo sí de’ begli occhi l’assalto
well I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch
with you & me & most forms of the social
for what is it now time escapes me &
on I jog while ducking my own thoughts

like a dyspraxic boxer on acid
or Hercules chugging through the under
growth clawing the shirt of madness from his back
we all want to wipe the world’s hard-drive clean

at times & they’re the ones which drive us
to distraction & death & the end of the line
it’s her eyes that I can’t come to terms with

their stirring stellar nurseries do me in
ways & means I can’t elucidate this
overdue message to you & heavens

S’amore o morte non dà qualque stroppio
if love or death don’t fuck it up
by making me a mumbling imbecile
another gormless poetry muppet
or just a corpse chilling down the Co-op

I’ll polish off this amazing sequence
which will be classy but bang up to date
& could find acclaim as far away as
Norwich or the rougher parts of Cambridge

but you need to let me have my books back
I can’t get on without the old masters
Italian English & American

I don’t need all the academic cack
but I need my Dantes & O’Haras
my James both Rileys & Ted Berrigan

Il figliuol di Latona avea già nove
she’s out of circulation for a week
& alas the cosmos goes cold turkey
all the fauna & flora & people
are helping the gods & small particles

look in & behind the hedges & clouds
for even the ghost of a hope of a glimpse
of where she’d parked her numinous aura
but the windows & mirrors stay empty

we all twitch & itch with desperation
as insects scuttle round the insides
of our skulls & prospects for the weekend

biochemical regulation cascade
in the absence of platonic tablets
will the sky ever open again

Se mai foco per foco non si spense
try putting out fire with gasoline
or turning water-cannon on a flood
fucking in support of virginity
shooting troops to protest against the war

gluttony cannot be cured with cheesecake
or alcoholism with Guinness
reality will not prevent dreaming
a glimpse of the facts will not cure love

we have so much in common I love you
or we don’t therefore opposites attract
I can’t have it both ways & so I do

both feet pressed hard to the floor
handbrake on & a roaring in my ears
the shuddering shouting this will not end well
from Regulation Cascade (Oystercatcher Press, 2012).

Order Regulation Cascade.

Read an interview with Peter by Aaron Game.

Visit Peter’s Shearsman Books author page.

Visit Peter’s website.