Monthly Archives: January 2013

Skate, a Pighog Press anthology

Skate: the wonderful world of ice skating in prose,
poetry and
Edited by Meredith Collins
Pighog Press, 2012
ISBN 9781906309794
A fascinating collection of poetry, history and images dedicated to the art of ice skating, with an introduction by Jayne Torvill from Britain’s most famous skating duo, Torvill and Dean. It’s an ideal gift not just for novice skaters and more experienced dancers on ice but for anyone who loves elegant design and intriguing information.
contains articles written by curators at the Museum of London with iconic paintings and charming photographs depicting the history of this joyous pastime. From medieval ice skates made of bone to the Frost Fairs on the Thames in London, this enchanting miscellany explores the art and history of skating. It also highlights the remarkable contribution British skaters have made over the years and the impact they’ve had on the style of figure skating we recognize today as a graceful Olympic sport.
‘Poetry on ice’ by historically renowned poets such as Addison, Blunden, Goethe and Wordsworth features alongside work by contemporary poets, to create a fascinating reading experience. Whether you’ve never gone near the treacherous surface of the rink or you can do a Mohawk turn with the best of them, you will treasure this stylish and beautifully presented anthology.
£1 from each sale of Skate goes to the charity Shelter to support their work with the homeless.
Articles by Meredith Collins, Hazel Forsyth and Jackie Keily.
Poetry by Tracy Davidson, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, William Wordsworth, Joseph Addison, Pauline Suett Barbieri, Edmund Blunden, Robert Snow, C Dibdin, Anna Kisby, Edgar Wood Syers, Curtis Tappenden, Brendan Cleary, John Liddy, John McCullough, Susan Richardson and James Thomson.
Extract from The Coldest Winter on Record
17th Century Frost Fairs
by Hazel Forsyth, Museum of London Curator
The great ‘singularity of the City of London’ is the Thames, wrote James Dalton in his celebratory account of the capital in 1580, for it,

“Reacheth furthest in the bellie of the land [and] … the breadth and stilnesses of the water is naviagable up and down the streame.’ London is perfectly situated ‘for if it were removed more to the west, it should lose the benefit of the ebbing and flowing; and if it were seated more towardes the East, it should be nearer to daunger of the enemie and further from the good ayre and from doing good to the inner parts of the Realme.”
The importance of the river to the communication, economy and culture of the capital is a recurring theme in sixteenth and seventeenth-century literature. Foreigners were particularly struck by the vast number of merchant vessels thronging the quays and wharves and the smaller craft ‘used by groups of people to cross the river, or to enjoy themselves in the evenings’. According to the Venetian, Alesandro Magno in 1562, the boats were ‘charmingly upholstered and embroidered cushions are laid across the seats, which are very comfortable to sit on or lean against’. By the late 16th century there were three-thousand watermen operating a water-taxi service on the Thames, but sometimes there were no boats to be had and one tourist complained that he had waited so long ‘that we could in the space of time have made the entire journey on foot and performed some errands along the way’. When the boat finally arrived it appeared to be reduced by ‘worms and time to such a condition that it could have been used as a cork’ and the two watermen seemed broken: ‘they stretched their bodies to their entire lengths while rowing, [they] succeeded only in making very slow progress’.
The Other Side of Winter
John McCullough
Overnight the Thames begins to move again.
The ice beneath the frost fair cracks. Tents,
merry-go-rounds and bookstalls glide about

on islands given up for lost. They race,
switch places, touch – the printing press nuzzling
the swings – then part, slip quietly under.

Still, there is no end of crystal weather.
I hoard coal, stare mostly at the chimney’s back,
fingering the pipe he gave me on the quay.

Even now it carries his greatcoat’s whiff:
ale, oranges, resolve. I remember his prison-ship
lurking out from shore, huge as Australia.

I’ll write, my dear sweet man, he said
then squeezed my thigh and turned, a sergeant
again, bellowing at a flock of convicts.

I do not have the nerve to light it.
The mouthpiece is covered with teeth marks, sweat.
I look out at my museum-garden,

the shrubs locked in glass cases,
the latticework a galaxy of frozen dew.
There is no snow in New South Wales.

I cannot put the pipe down. It makes things happen.
Last week I heard a crash and ran outside to find
a jackdaw flat on the lawn. It must have fallen

from the sky, its wings fused together
by hardened sleet, its neck twisted as though broken
from straining to see the incredible.
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
from Skate (Pighog Press, 2012).

Order Skate.

Order Skate’s companion publication Ice.

Visit the Museum of London’s website.

Ice, a Pighog Press anthology


Ice: Contemporary and traditional poems
for the festive season
Edited by Meredith Collins
Pighog Press, 2012

ISBN 9781906309718
Ice is a beautifully designed anthology that includes works by poets of the past and present about winter, snow, ice and everything frosty. Classics by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, John Keats and Charlotte Brontë snuggle up with works by contemporary poets like David Crystal, John McCullough, John Davies and Jeremy Page. Whether nursing a glass of mulled wine or roasting chestnuts on the fire readers will love to immerse themselves in these memorable poems full of evocative imagery and cadence.
£1 from each sale of Ice goes to the charity Shelter to support their work with the homeless.
Poetry by William Shakespeare, John McCullough, Emily Dickinson, Alex Mosner, William Blake, Chris Hope, David Crystal, Elizabeth Tollett, Thomas Campion, Nancy Campbell, Anne Hunter, Robert Burns, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Paul Deaton, John Keats, Charlotte Brontë, Alwyn Marriage, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jeremy Page, George Meredith, Eileen Casey, John Donne, Meredith Collins, Robert Bridges, Laura Kayne, James Thomson, John Davies and Christina Rossetti.
Cold Fusion
John McCullough
March thaws the ocean
and I resume spinning pebbles into the shoal.
Speedboats reclaim the lavender distance,
their backwash diminished
by rollers that hiss at my feet.

On jetties, men clank huge buckets of mussels,
their rubber soles squelching
past crate stacks, flung rope.
The air stinks of spilt fish guts and tainted jokes.
Husband comes home to find his wife …

Last month, they hoisted a dead man
from the glass-covered Atlantic,
a small crowd of us watching.
Matted blond hair, his face purple and mustard.
He seemed to be pondering inscrutable algebra.

A passing nurse crossed herself,
two boys dashed for a bus and I carried on home,
trying to remember your smell.
It’s my turn to phone your mother
though I’ll write a letter instead:

calm words that say everything’s fine.
In my recurring dream, I swim
instinctively back to Christmas
to sweep again all the icicles
from under your bedroom window.
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
Winter’s Naked Answer
Alex Mosner
To melt the butterscotch cathedral
of your ribs, to wear the silk chant of shivers
woven through your skin
would be to understand
the slur of music in your eyes;
the way you look at a thing of beauty
with a quiet understanding.

We walked together through December
and you noticed the moon’s raw crown of light.
You broke off a sharp gasp of sky and swallowed it,
held it inside you where it learned your silhouette,
and then you let it out. We stood there, shared breath,
stared up at the vague enormity.
It was as if you were listening carefully to its story,
keeping a secret on behalf of everything else.

I went home and drank a glass of water
just to give myself weight,
tried to solve winter’s naked answer
with nothing more than a broken key of questions,

to find that you are the unspoken agreement between
the rest of the night and the way we touch;
gorgeous as a beggar’s soul.
Snow Fox (on the cancellation of our reading
at the Whitechapel Gallery, December 2010)
David Crystal
for John, Matt and Zena
I watch the fox
that slept on our shed-roof in summer
walk up Queensthorpe
in a blizzard of snow.
He of the right leg limp
he of the cat thin tail
head down, ribs lean
in the last winter of his life.

(Snow fox on fox-hill
on his red bread tray sledge,
Spider, popping snow white pills.)

I read out loud to no-one
Gangsta Keats,
look at my set list, my last poem
Three Strawberries,
for Arthur, my grandad,
who would have rattled past the Whitechapel
flat out in his ambulance,
the blitz years he never really talked about.
Happy nights though
ballroom dancing in Bethnal Green
chain smoking Black Cat cigarettes.
Somewhere on Lemon street
a severed freckled arm in rubble
hand lock tight around a worn out old iron
Shirt, skirt, silk tie,
only the washing line left of the house.
Arthur dancing the American Smooth
before another black-out, more bombs.
John Davies
Wait. Watch a scimitar of heath
chicane above the fencepost silhouettes,
careen along the hillside’s windward crease,
as drab as the branches where it settles.
Wait. See the ground start up and fly
and leave its long-legged shadows in the snow.
Observe a wing of primrose in the sky,
how long it takes for anything to grow.
Wait. Count dull barbs on silver wire,
sodium stars that pierce the closing dusk,
wheat stalks scorched in the harvest fire,
the total sum of humanity’s flux.
Will waiting help us understand how much
of us is there, how much of there is us?
‘Winter’ was written as part of a commission from North Middlesex University Hospital and Bouygues UK.
from Ice (Pighog Press, 2012).
Order Ice.
Order Ice’s companion publication Skate.

Anthony Wilson’s Riddance


© Image by Chris Parker

© Image by Chris Parker

Anthony Wilson is a poet and writing tutor, and a lecturer at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. He has held writing residencies at The Times Educational Supplement, The Poetry Trust, Tate Britain and The Poetry Society. He is co-editor of The Poetry Book for Primary Schools (Poetry Society, 1998) and editor of Creativity in Primary Education (Learning Matters, 2005). Worple Press has published two previous collections: Nowhere Better Than This and Full Stretch: Poems 1996–2006. Always approachable, his work inhabits the borderline territory between laughter and grief, the public and the private, memory and forgetting.

© Cover image by Lucy Mason

© Cover image by Lucy Mason

“On Valentine’s Day, 2006, Anthony Wilson was formally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. ‘Beginning with what happened’, the poems in Riddance (Worple Press, 2012) chart the progress of his treatment for this disease, from initial diagnosis to the uncertain territory of remission. Even more essentially, the poems in Riddance recover and celebrate all that is most fundamental and affirming about the act of living.”

“Anthony Wilson is devastatingly direct and unsentimental about illness and death. At the same time – miraculously – he is exuberant, irrepressible in his celebration of life, complete with all its complexities and compromises. These are courageous, beautiful and fiercely intelligent poems.”

– Jean Sprackland
“This is a remarkable book – modest but ambitious, unguarded but clear-eyed and crafted, it doesn’t present a life under pressure so much as an embodiment of life in poem after generous-minded poem.”

– Peter Sansom
You gave me time to notice –
apple blossom, hand movements,
the light taking leave of rooms.
I would like to claim
new attention to my children
but the truth is they grew up
whether I watched them or not.
Mostly I slept.
You began in midsummer.
It took till February to find you.
By then all I knew were symptoms:
insomnia, night sweats, a cough
I could not shake off.
Because of you I revisited old LPs –
I did not want to die
not having fried onions to Grover,
made bubbles to This Mortal Coil.
The script writers of Frasier
helped me recover from you,
plus condensed milk and broccoli –
though not at the same time.
Eventually I drank coffee again.
You reacquainted me with my guilt –
the way I glared at S
after she’d poured out her heart
in the autumn of endless nights
with nothing but the wind for company.
I chose songs, having you,
and invented ceremonies by rivers.
(But I found no poetry in you.)

You saved me from talking about house prices.
You obliterated my craving for alcohol.
I would say I am grateful
but am not ready for that, just yet.
How to Pray for the Dying
Do not say: ‘Lord, this is not of you,’
rebuking our tumours
as though we were not in the room with them.

Say instead ‘We are afraid,’
and ‘We do not understand.’

Think of it as a window
misted with sighs,
not an arm wrestle with God
who sees your thoughts from afar.

Pray in tongues by all means,
but also remember our kids.
Pray that we sleep.

Pray for the obvious.
Pray we live to see Christmas.

Don’t you dare
say ‘It’s not fair.’
Spare me your weeping.
Try saying ‘Shit happens.’
What Not to Say
Enough of your lovely shaped head,
your meaning to ring.

Tell me as it is:
I look like a waxwork.

Spare me your positive mindset,
your fight it, you know you’re a fighter.

I couldn’t care which website you visited
explaining it really clearly.

And you could try not calling me brave.
Invite me to dinner.
                                   Offer me water.
For Afterwards
I want it kept simple,
I want to leave one part
of the congregation
thinking they witnessed
a jazz improvisation,

another they attended
a poetry reading
and another that a sermon
wasn’t preached at all—
the kind I long to hear still,

including a story
about a boy and a boat,
a mention of the Prodigal Son,
and a metaphor
concerning train drivers.

I’ll have no wisdom
from the other side.
I direct you instead
to the cracker-jokes
buried in my best suit,

the postcard I keep
for emergencies, blank
but for the words:
‘That green notebook
was a good time of life.’
On Re-reading ‘The Man With Night Sweats’
Today is Valentine’s.
Later they will tell me
what I know in my bones.
It will not be pretty.

Shivering and soaked through
I’m put in mind of you

pacing the floor at dawn,
listening for avalanche
in sinew and in skin
which do not seem to change;

and yet you know full well
how skin feels when it melts,

the sabotage of cells
destroying their good host
while dining out in hell.
Our plagues are cousins, ghost:

the curse within our blood
can never be proved good.

Your rhymes dare me to dream –
not of eternal life,
that things aren’t what they seem –
of living in the light

long enough to be brave.
May it never arrive.
from Riddance (Worple Press, 2012).

Order Riddance.

Visit Anthony’s website.

Penelope Shuttle writes about Unsent: New and Selected Poems 1980–2012

© Image by Jemimah Kuhfeld

© Image by Jemimah Kuhfeld

Penelope Shuttle has lived in Cornwall since 1970, is the widow of the poet Peter Redgrove, and has a grown-up daughter Zoe, who works in the field of sustainable energy.

Her first collection of poems, The Orchard Upstairs (1981), was followed by six other books from Oxford University Press, The Child-Stealer (1983), The Lion from Rio (1986), Adventures with My Horse (1988), Taxing the Rain (1994), Building a City for Jamie (1996) and Selected Poems 1980–1996 (1998), then A Leaf Out of His Book (1999) from Oxford Poets/Carcanet, and Redgrove’s Wife (2006) and Sandgrain and Hourglass (2010) from Bloodaxe Books. Redgrove’s Wife was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the T S Eliot Prize in 2006. Sandgrain and Hourglass is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her latest book, Unsent: New & Selected Poems 1980–2012 (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), is drawn from ten collections published over three decades plus a new collection, Unsent.

First published as a novelist, her fiction includes All the Usual Hours of Sleeping (1969), Wailing Monkey Embracing a Tree (1973) and Rainsplitter in the Zodiac Garden (1977).

With Peter Redgrove, she is co-author of The Wise Wound: Menstruation and Everywoman (1978) and Alchemy for Women: Personal Transformation Through Dreams and the Female Cycle (1995), as well as a collection of poems, The Hermaphrodite Album (1973), and two novels, The Terrors of Dr Treviles: A Romance (1974) and The Glass Cottage: A Nautical Romance (1976).

Shuttle’s work is widely anthologised and can be heard on the Poetry Archive website. Her poetry has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and her poem ‘Outgrown’ was used recently in a radio and television commercial. She has been a judge for many poetry competitions, is a Hawthornden Fellow, and a tutor for the Poetry School. She is current Chair of the Falmouth Poetry Group, one of the longest-running poetry workshops in the country.
“Adventurous, searching, interested in the luminous instant of reality that dwells in the perpetual now of the poem, Penelope Shuttle is a poet who clearly shares Picasso’s view that ‘If you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the point of doing it?

If a poet’s work is her personal experience of the universe then this book takes us deep into that Shuttle-verse …”
          ‘ … but I don’t really know how poetry gets to be written.
          There is a mystery and a surprise, and after that a
          great deal of hard work.’
          – Elizabeth Bishop, from Letter to Miss Pierson
Although my New and Selected Poems stretches over thirty two years I remain no wiser as to how poems get themselves written, as ruefully noted above by Elizabeth Bishop.

Since I began writing in my teens, nothing has so enthralled me as poetry; before my first attempts at writing, reading poetry had thrown a similar glamour over me, as it continues to do. Words are made of the breath of life, its essence, and they land on the page still breathing. That, I think, is the mystery and the surprise, for me, and then follows the hard work.

But what kind of hard work is involved? The whole process of editing and re-shaping and learning further meanings from that first draft is an addictive and deep pleasure for me. Seeking to keep the spontaneity alive is also an exciting challenge.

It takes a long time. Many of my poems are in various draft versions for years. Some poems prefer to develop at the speed of geological time, it seems! There is also the phenomenon of the now-and-again poem, as all poets know, which arrives as a free gift. It falls on to the open page through some kind magic and needs only the tiniest of tweaks. But these are rare and seldom occasions. I think perhaps that they only happen if the poet’s radar is switched on all the time.

Here’s some background. I published my first full collection of poems in 1980, when I was thirty three years old. The publisher was Oxford University Press, and my editor there, Jacqueline Simms, created a wonderful and unique stable of poets, including Jo Shapcott, David Harsent, Michael Donaghy, Hugo Williams and Fleur Adcock, to name but a few. By 1998 I had published six collections with OUP, and in that year my first Selected Poems appeared. In 1999 OUP’s superb poetry list was shut-down by The Press, in an act of unparalleled cultural vandalism. The poets dispersed, and continued to play highly-significant roles in the life of poetry in the United Kingdom and beyond, winning numerous prizes such as the Forward Prize, the T S Eliot Prize, and the Griffin Prize. But nothing to me in my publishing life has been sadder than that wilful destruction of a living poetry list.

My 1998 Selected Poems was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In a review in the TSL, Gerard Woodward said: ‘Shuttle is a poet of immense reach, both in the range of her subject-matter and the breadth of her language. She is both an acute observer and an inventive fiction-maker. One senses that she has her life perfectly in tune with her poetry, so that it registers the slightest variation in her state of being. In this sense, the narratives of emotional, erotic and maternal love that can be traced through these poems collocate into the drama of a life lived in the full flood of being’.

I published a seventh collection in 1999, A Leaf Out Of His Book, with OxfordPoets/Carcanet. They also took over the distribution of my OUP books, including the Selected Poems, which went out of print a few years later.

There was a considerable gap before my eighth collection, Redgrove’s Wife, appeared from Bloodaxe Books in 2006. This was due to the death of my husband, poet Peter Redgrove, in 2003, after some years of ill-health. Redgrove’s Wife contained a number of elegies for Peter, and for my late father Jack Shuttle, who had also died in 2003. This collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Collection, and for the T S Eliot Prize. A ninth collection, Sandgrain and Hourglass, appeared (also from Bloodaxe, 2010, Poetry Book Society Recommendation), again containing elegies for Peter, Dad, and my friend, artist, musician and poet Linda Helen Smith who died in 2008.

I’m most grateful to Bloodaxe Books for their generous and sustaining support over the past six years, and for publishing in October 2012 Unsent, which contains all the poems from my OUP 1998 Selected Poems, with further selections from the three subsequent collections.

It also contains a volume of sixty-two new poems entitled Unsent. Whereas I had tempered my two previous volumes of elegies (Redgrove’s Wife and Sandgrain and Hourglass) with poems covering a wide range of other topics, Unsent is a book of elegies. I wished to include this volume in my New and Selected Poems to create a triptych of elegies. They seemed to fit naturally together. One theme which emerges in this third volume is the question – how long do you  continue writing and publishing elegies? And I try to find and suggest some answers. I felt that to publish Unsent as a stand-alone collection would be asking too much of a reader, an overwhelm. There comes a time (and this is delineated in these poems) when I must cease ‘to weep on the world’s shoulder’.
Cloud to Cloud
When I couldn’t
bear another day,

I cloud-watched
for dear life –
no two skies alike

Those skies
made plain to me
where my thoughts began
and where they ended

I saw the witch Kikimora
and her white Cat
scudding from cloud to cloud

          Stop weeping
          on the world’s shoulder!

          spat out her good advice
Your Three Hats
Your three woollen hats
found such pleasure in covering
your bald head.

King Solomon could have found
no more faithful servants.

Your retinue of Musto hats
that while two could be lost
somewhere in the house

one would always be available
          at the drop of a …
to take its rightful place
on your crown.
I hope that this new collection of elegies can be read, seen, experienced as part of my life story in poetry, a continuum where ‘the narratives of emotional, erotic and maternal love’ of my earlier poems are carried on into the narratives of loss, bereavement, and renewal of self.

Now I catch myself thinking of this book as a time machine. It travels me back to the poems of my first collection, when I was a young woman and a new mother, and it fast-forwards me through the rich and complex years with Peter, our shared life as poets, the ups and downs, the landscapes of Cornwall ever-present …. as in this poem about Mylor, a creekside village close to the town of Falmouth where we spent our years together and where I still live.
The Well at Mylor
At Mylor
the water of the well

bears the armour of the light,
it hides and escapes

and stays still
under its hood of rock

amid a galore of graves
and green leaves,

spring of fresh water
beside the sea,

a find, a treasure,
a pedigree,

no idyll
but the essential source,

now retired
from its work of sole sustenance,

living among memories
of former fame,

a saint’s hand dipping in
like a taper unquenched,

coins splashing down
for reverence, not luck,

from time to time,
a self-baptism,

secret and quick,
for some

prefer their ritual
out of doors,

water understands this,
and loves the brow

fanned with its body
for reasons the water easily guesses,

for it is the one who blesses,

freely it runs
its long unceremonious

through my fingers,

and on my lips
tastes ferriferous,

blood-hint at the periphery,
pell-mell mint at the heart.
I’m sure I’ll continue to write elegies, for they are a way of continuing to talk to Peter, to Dad, to Linda … but I don’t plan to publish any more elegies. (Though, as the old song has it, never say never!). The poems in Unsent have been a process of release and re-awakening to possibilities for me though language, rhythm and experience. They have liberated me into whatever new kinds of poems I’ll be writing next. Those poem-drafts are already beginning, taking me to new places and opening new doors. What else are poems for?
Order Unsent: New and Selected Poems 1980–2012 (Bloodaxe Books, 2012) here or here.

Visit Penelope’s Bloodaxe Books author page.

Sarah Crewe’s flick invicta

Sarah Crewe 
Sarah Crewe is from the Port of Liverpool. She co-edited Binders Full of Women with Sophie Mayer and Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot with Sophie Mayer and Mark Burnhope. She has work upcoming in Tears In The Fence and Party In Your Eye Socket. She also co-edits M58, a webzine for visual poetry, with Andrew Taylor, and Stinky Bear Press with two other Stinky Bears. She has never quite got over the fact that Malory Towers is a work of fiction. flick invicta is published by Oystercatcher Press.
flick invicta
the dead push up the indigo

doc leaves soothe

                    hannah’s shattered wrists
one stone left    the grass sinks

beneath flick’s heels

non conformist          stockpile
marilyn up against the wall

grass circle

               of dead energy
flows       is caught in    hawthorn

in damsel flight        in felo de se

infirmary escapism
decay in flux        decline as cause

of death          poppies convulsing

into red dots        teething pains
flick circles the water tower

         the path remains the same
peridot hearts

                    in hair

legs in combat

verdant caught in
see through

my flesh breathes trees

blooming          arched

clutching limes

reading heat

feed me

petals tumbling

leaves reaching

in chlorophyllic glee

never to be seen
no patience for
the birds or a
silent bandstand
chasing swifts
he brings flowers
to the bees and
says he’s used to
things that sting
flick/blue heaven
flick provoked
flick invokes
flick invicta

flick hears vipers
                     in the clover

flick’s red poppies
ox eye daisies
wasteland nursery

flaky social club

flag on the brow side
flick shudders
flick seeks camomile

jennifer rides a wild boar

flick felicitous
mint choc cathedral
terracotta spindle

bare legs whipped
                by dry grass
from flick invicta (Oystercatcher Press, 2012).

Order flick invicta.