Monthly Archives: February 2013

Maria Jastrzębska’s At the Library of Memories

Maria Jastrzebska 
Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and came to England as a child. Previous collections include Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004), I’ll Be Back Before You Know It (Pighog Press, 2009) and Everyday Angels (Waterloo Press, 2009). She co-translated Elsewhere, the selected poems of Iztok Osojnik, with Ana Jelnikar (Pighog Press, 2011) and is the co-editor of several anthologies including Forum Polek bilingual women’s anthology, Poetry South (2007), Whoosh! (Pighog Press, 2008), and Different and Beautiful (Allsorts Youth Project).

Her poems feature in the British Library project Between Two Worlds Poetry and Translation and are widely anthologised. Following a Wellcome Trust award, her drama Dementia Diaries toured nationally with Lewes Live Literature in 2011. A co-founder of South Pole artists’ network and Queer Writing South she lives in Brighton. At the Library of Memories is published by Waterloo Press.
Maria Jastrzebska 2 
At the Library of Memories leads the reader from the ghost of one room to another, via the senses and catching at fragments of stories. This is an invitation to examine not only individual, arresting memories – at once familiar and disturbing – but the process of remembering itself. How we come to terms with our own past and what collectively we make of it are questions running in and out of these vivid, exciting poems.”
At the Library of Memories 
“In Maria Jastrzębska’s new collection memory is a powerful and truthful tool, admitting fallibility and never exceeding its prerogative, yet evoking a whole world of tastes and smells, longings, anxieties and human needs. This is vivid, thought-provoking poetry that takes us by stages to the heart of the immigrant experience and leaves us with urgent questions which imperceptibly have become our own.”

– Susan Wicks
“Maria Jastrzębska’s epic new collection is fabulous, audacious and compelling; here are dazzling conjurings of lost times and places, tremendously moving elegies, and astonishing fragments of intricate stories recovered from lost worlds. This exceptional collection is the work of a poet at the height of her imaginative powers.”

– Nick Drake
It didn’t matter that everything was grey.

Smoke and slate grey touched sea green,
brown grey, foamed at the water’s surface.
Dead souls’ icy spray.
Mama had packed me an extra jumper, rye bread
with polędwica. And in the fog I saw

the ship – swashbuckle silver – counted
her guns, wet metal grey. Days after that
I’d play captain, pacing her quarter deck
with my musket; I’d light stern lanterns
on her poop deck, shout orders into the wind
as we steered through choppy water.

We went across on the ferry instead.
It didn’t matter. It was enough
to hear gulls shriek, feel the brine’s
taunting slap. We leaned overboard
as far as we dared – the teacher
yanked us back by our anoraks.

I went to the port, I shouted
we saw the tall ships, we sailed abroad!

There were no words for the seal grey,
cross-bone and skull white
marbled grey, only a smell of diesel
in my hair, the sting of the spray
still cold on my cheeks. Mama took
my wet clothes.
                         This isn’t home,
we’re already abroad was all she said.
Deserted Boatyard, River Eye, Gloucestershire 1963
I never minded the stench of the water
or that it was completely black and I had to tread
carefully not to lose my footing among the planks.
Even though the boats moored there were
so old their timbers were probably rotten,
they held the promise
of voyages somewhere beyond
the few small worlds I inhabited.
That’s how I would leave:
on a boat or raft slipping
away silently through black waters
with my penknife, rucksack
and a tiny stove neatly stashed in the prow.
Above me: the swirling, creamy stars.
To a Boy

Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944
Wassily, don’t turn your back on the blue world
of soft curves, take my hand. Look!
The riders with their cloaks of white and green
have almost reached the mountain’s peak.
Don’t discard their shapes altogether.

There’ll always be two opposing forces
and silence etched in black:
every boy dreams of being crowned.
But don’t try to remain cool with your points
and lines, those hieroglyphs in grey.

Who can blame you for painting
a development in brown
when they call you degenerate, confiscate
your colours? A weightless white ribbon
in a sombre background in understandable.

Yet I’m sure I saw a rabbit on its hind legs
or was it a tall bird, a gargoyle leaning out to sea?
A shoelace, thumb-print or pink boulder –
these are things which delight.
Let’s draw a horse with a mouse’s ear,

a tin can, the fin of a boat’s sail;
trace a star’s filament;
never forget the forms that flitter
like snowflakes so small
they dance in the infinite.

When fragile triangles oscillate,
you’ll be vaporising pigment.
It’s tempting to lose
yourself in purple swarms colliding
but don’t ease me out.

Cover what’s left – matchboxes, cardboard,
wood, corrugated iron – with circus creatures
that twirl hopeful as embryos,
and, swimming into blue sky,
pass through constellations.
Telling Tales
In her story there’s a forest
in fading light and in the clearing

he introduces her to some friends
who call her sweet and darling,

fondle her like heavy-pawed bears
while hunger glistens in their eyes.

He denies there was a forest ever.
Then says she lured him there.

He calls his story one of love,
she says it was about despair.

She thought he was a faun –
his prancing gait – maybe a young stag.

He thinks it was the scent of her –
violet, bluebell – left him no choice.

He says she swore she’d never tell,
broke her promise.

She says he told her he knew the way
but when she found his hand,

tendrils like a vine around her wrist
bound them together.

The branches grew soft at first
but when she tried to sever them

tangles of sinewy undergrowth
lashed her with him to the forest floor.

It’s not enough to tear out your hair,
clumps of it, even the tiniest roots.

You’ve got to scrape the green bile
from the back of your throat,

pull up the stems of brambles where
they’re wrapped around your tongue,

the spotted fungi, brown blood
till it makes you gag, she says.

She still hears his voice in her head:
night’s falling, wolves will come.

As long as she’s eaten up with him,
he doesn’t care, she thinks he says.

Friends tell her she should arm herself
but what use is a knife, she says

when you’re carving out a space
inside your body, a clearing in your life.
Kiarostami’s  Snows
People are shadows –
not even lines, their dogs specks,
the trees dark smudges.
Ramshackle oblongs and squares
could be their homes.

Roads and signs vanish
with contours of fields and villages.

Snow coats the world with layer
after layer of nothing
but itself.

Close-up in the sun
snow is gold leaf
on the bark of birch trees.
Tiny prisms
scatter, mirrorwork crunching
under your feet.

A falcon swoops
to perch on the pine –
rocking on the branch
it sends a flurry
into your eyes.

Have you been here before?
It’s not that you’ve forgotten
only that the snow won’t stop falling,
catching on your eyelashes,
swirling in front of you.
Then settling on the path.
It has covered up
small stones and nettles
at the edge, hidden
any footprints.
Everything is levelled,
tinted with an almost blue, chalky bloom.

From a distance you can’t tell
if it’s a person
or a tree
in the wind …

A boy with dark curls and full lips
is running through the snow.
He doesn’t know
that he is lost.
You call out.

How easy to lose
someone in snow like this –
starting out together,
turning to find them gone.
What the Wolves Remembered
All it took was the door of a basement store-room
accidentally ajar or blown open and they moved in.
First, a few stray cats and dogs, next lean foxes,
tired of nudging heavy bin lids with their snouts,
chased them out. And then the wolves came.
               Thin as the wind, they chewed on scraps,
quickly gulped down the bare bones
of what had seemed endless supplies. Afterwards, full
for the first time in months, they stretched out
to nap on discoloured couches that bulged
with wrecked springs, on piles of moth-eaten coats –
astrakan, mink – old exam papers, love-letters
torn lagging next to the hot copper pipes.

What they remembered, half-dozing and half awake
was always the same: war and the girl
in thick snow on the path.
                         First they’d seen men who raced
on gleaming steel hunting other men through the woods.
The wolves had sniffed faeces leaked onto fern, chased
blood trodden in the mud, and seen the men throw
a body to one another playing like pups. Their dogs,
yes, dogs ahead of them ears flat, snarling, scared.
They’d smelled their dogs too. The men left meat
that was easy to find so they’d feasted
ripping out heart, liver, lungs
               when a new, stinging scent filled everything.
The forest flashed sun-bright, tearing their throats
its poisonous bite snapped at their heels, near – too near.
Yes, they’d heard whimpering, crackling, they’d run, run.
A trail of piss, sweet milky saliva, licked-up puke
led them to where black wind roared in hot tunnels,
sucking the marrow breath from their sisters
and brothers. They found them in the den and their once
wide awake mother baked brittle. Heard her howls
unravelling as they ran and ran through the dark.

Now a girl alone in their woods – no mate to guard her.
They circle. Know they have her. She’s no bison
or bear to stand her ground. For dark months
since the blaze they’ve been starving.

She hasn’t seen them. Quietly – the snow helping –
they come in closer, find a stillness
unlike anything they’ve known. It isn’t the snow.
What makes them stop?
Makes them crouch, tails tucked under?
Not a star but a flicker. She holds it out, blinding their eyes.
There’s nothing to sink their teeth into, nothing to track.
Ripples of light through the air. Lustre licking their sores.
Her scent snowdrops, moss. Buds split open.
Rats and shrews waking. She doesn’t twitch
like a fawn or squeal like a lamb.
No snarl either. As though she’s never learnt to obey
the laws of fight or flight. Their jaws loosened, tongues
rolled out; they crouch lower still.

Small in the dark, she turns towards them.
© Maria Jastrzębska 2013

from At the Library of Memories (Waterloo Press, 2013).

Order At the Library of Memories.

Visit Maria’s blog.

Visit South Pole, Art with a Polish connection.

Pippa Little writes about Overwintering

Pippa Little 
Pippa Little is Scots, but now lives in Northumberland. She has received an Eric Gregory Award, an Andrew Waterhouse Award, The Biscuit International Poetry Prize, The Norman MacCaig Centenary Poetry Prize, The Scotsman Haiku Prize and was joint winner of the James McCash Award 2013. She has read her work in Mexico City and at festivals including StAnza. Poems have appeared in many text journals, on radio, film and online. She also won the 2012 Anam Cara Poetry Competition. The Spar Box, (Vane Women 2006) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, Foray (Biscuit Press) came out in 2009, The Snow Globe (Red Squirrel) in 2011 and Overwintering in 2012 from Oxford Poets, Carcanet Press.
Overwintering (Carcanet/OxfordPoets, 2012) is coming through, emerging into the light of a new season. Pippa Little’s book explores what survives and grows from the dark energies of winter, night and loss, from the buried past and the imagination’s depths. Landscapes speak of ancient violences and hold the hope of resolution. Love survives; the richness of the world replenishes.

Little’s poems have a sensual delight in qualities of light and texture, in imagined realities and the fantastical real. “Hope is winter light”, she writes, “is day arriving, numb and slow”.”
“Richly imagined, wide-ranging and subtly musical, Overwintering is a most welcome collection.”

– Sean O’Brien
“There’s a quiet courage here. Meaning dwells in the clear images of sense-perception but transcends them too. The real is fleet, elusive: but when it earths itself in this world, it is decidedly womanly. There’s an unexpected laughter, rueful, sly. This poetry will hold.”

– Gillian Allnutt
“I have come through”. This line from the first poem in my book, ‘Solstice’, means a great deal to me. My father died at the winter solstice (which is also the birthday of my youngest son). Six months later at summer solstice my father-in-law died. Looking back now I can see the narrative arc of those and other losses in these poems, how I struggled with making sense of my life and how, like the plants and seeds that ‘overwinter’ deep in the soil through the coldest part of the year, I found courage to sit out the dark and keep faith that light would return at some point.

Perhaps like a deep winter day some poems are marked with definite shadow and others by sunlight. I arrived ‘home’ from Africa as a young child straight into the worst winter Scotland had suffered for years – I had never seen snow before. So I think that ever since then, images of winter have affected me deeply,
               … snowflakes’
               see-through stars
               burning gently to the bone

               so ash of us, filigree,
               lilts up as we dance beneath,
               those of us who have nowhere to go
               but the rest of our lives.”

                                        ‘The Seaweed Chandelier’
Not all the poems are wintry, though. A summer couple pretends the bandstand is a liner sailing into New York, a bag lady pushes her Tesco trolley along the quayside in ‘Stella Maris’, a tattooed shamaness and her six horses are discovered in the Altai Mountains. Friends, real and imaginary, crop up, and so do journeys, near as the churchyard opposite to far as the Mozambique border. Memories rekindled from my son’s spell in East Africa, where I was born, creep into poems such as ‘Newala’. There are animals too, the elk who eats roses from a Swedish garden, magical bees, wild birds, horses, dogs. And trains. The world is a very rich, beautiful and surprising source. Landscapes too are important – I’m deeply attached to the bare spaces of Northumberland where I’ve been settled now for more than twenty years.

The central poem sequence ‘The Karlovy Vary Trains’ describes a circular walk around Prague beginning and ending at the railway station. I’d been reading about the 1942 assassination of the Nazi Rheinhard Heydrich, so visiting the church where Jan Kubis, Jozef Gabcik and the others hid after the shooting, the place where they were discovered and dragged out, was very powerful. I always felt a connection with this perfect, beautiful yet somehow menacing city and had also been listening to a friend talk about how his family, Czech Jews, disappeared during and after the war and about his recent visits to Prague trying to find where they were buried, if they were buried at all. The railway station itself is very striking: above ground it’s modern and ordinary but its subterranean level is decaying art nouveau grandeur, a kind of living ghost-museum. I associate Prague with winter, having always made my visits then; the city’s draped in lights and Christmas decorations which give it an even eerier atmosphere.

I think if I had to sum up this collection I would say it records my questioning of ‘home’; what belonging is, and exile, in terms of personal loss. Looking back gives a wider angle of view: “you walk right through me, and keep going”; “I let the dark/ smudge you across the glass/ into my own face”. But it’s also an effort of separation, a growing up and apart: “ … the old house turned its face away/ forbidding me to enter even in dreams” and an active coming to terms with what results – “ … that way the years of speechlessness I shed”.

Re-reading that first poem, ‘Solstice’, with its image of the house in the woods, I realise the house is me – that whatever I meant by home was really in myself, in the world I make through memories, imagination and poems, that “coming through” is a process at which I must keep working. And that delight in small things, in the world around, in friendship and fellowship and love, in keeping hope – “a pocket-stone forgotten long ago/ found by your hand and known/ as a corm is married to the loam” – having faith in the making of things (a life, a poem, a bowl, a cairn) is part of that process: “winter, but with roses in it, somewhere”.
Order Overwintering (Carcanet/OxfordPoets, 2012).
Visit Pippa’s website.

Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak Like Wolves

Kim Moore 
Kim Moore’s first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith/Doorstop, 2012) was a winner in the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. In 2011 she won an Eric Gregory Award and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. Her poems have been published in various magazines including Poetry Review, The TLS, Ambit, The Rialto and Poetry London. If We Could Speak Like Wolves was selected as one of The Independent’s Books of the Year in 2012 and her writing placements include Young Poet-in-Residence at the 2012 Ledbury Poetry Festival.
If We Could Speak Like Wolves 
“These are terrifically assured poems – sensual, perceptive, entertaining – which bridge the gap between feeling and utterance with a genuine lyric gift.”

– Carol Ann Duffy
“Kim Moore’s poetry is tough and beautiful. It is also an absolutely distinctive presence: hers is a voice that knows its own mind. Moore’s work is drily hilarious but also mysterious, disciplined but also risk-taking. Exact and exacting, she is modernizing the lyric tradition.”

– Fiona Sampson
“The poems in Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak Like Wolves are beautifully modulated, decked out in confident, well-judged rhymes, with a keen rhythmic intelligence.”

– C J Allen, Litter
“What stands out for me is the musicality of all these poems: the lines are rhythmic, and the words dance, and echo off each other.”

E E Nobbs
“The title poem, ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’, has the muscular power of the creatures it describes […] It builds and builds to the payoff at the end; this is not just a stunning portrait of wild animals, but a picture of a relationship “more simple than marriage”. The poem works as a kind of slanted nature poem, but the final lines make the reader see it all in a new light.”

Clarissa Ackroyd
Walney Channel
There’s a door frame in the channel,
made of thin black twisted wood.

When the tide is in, it leads to water.
When the tide is out, it leads to mud

and the beginning of the old road
across the channel. Listen at dusk

for the shouts of those who walked
that channel years ago. This was just

a crossing, the only way, before the bridge
was built. Each morning you’ll hear

the shipyard siren calling men to work.
Wait and watch the path appear

like the spine of some forgotten animal
turning in its sleep before you come

to find me. Wear boots, or go barefoot.
Don’t stop, and if you hear them

calling, don’t turn around. You’ll see
barnacles and seaweed on my causeway

and a blue boat waiting at the shore.
Train Journey, Barrow to Sheffield
Even though the train is usually full of people
I don’t like, who play music obnoxiously loud
or talk into their phones and tell the whole carriage
and their mother how they’re afraid of dying
even though they’re only twenty five,

even though the fluorescent lights
and the dark outside make my face look like
a dinner plate, even though it’s always cold
around my ankles and there’s chewing gum
stuck to the table and the guard is rude

and bashes me with his ticket box,
even though the toilet smells like nothing
will even be clean again, even though
the voice that announces the stations
says Bancaster instead of Lancaster,

still I love the train, its sheer unstoppability,
its relentless pressing on, the way the track
stretches its limb across the estuary
as the sheep eat greedily at the salty grass,
and thinking that if the sheep aren’t rounded up

will they stand and let the tide come in, because
that’s what sheep do, they don’t save themselves,
and knowing people have drowned out there
like the father who put his son on his shoulders
as the water rose past his knees and waist and chest

and rang the coast guard, who talked to him
and tried to find him, but the fog came down,
and though he could hear the road, he didn’t know
which way to turn, but in a train, there are no choices,
just one direction, one decision you must stick to.

This morning the sun came up in Bolton and all
the sky was red, and a man in a suit fell asleep
and dribbled on my shoulder till the trolley
came round and rattled loudly and he woke up
with a start and shouted I’ve got to find the sword.
If We Could Speak Like Wolves
if I could wait for weeks for the slightest change
in you, then each day hurt you in a dozen
different ways, bite heart-shaped chunks
of flesh from your thighs to test if you flinch
or if you could be trusted to endure,

if I could rub my scent along your shins to make
you mine, if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat, if it could be forgotten

the moment the wind changed, if my eyes
could sharpen to yellow, if we journeyed
each night for miles, taking it in turns
to lead, if we could know by smell
what we are born to, if before we met

we sent our lonely howls across the estuary
where in the fading light wader birds stiffen
and take to the air, then we could agree
a role for each of us, more complicated
than alpha, more simple than marriage.
from If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith/Doorstop, 2012).

Order If We Could Speak Like Wolves.

Visit Kim’s blog.

Jill McDonough’s Oh, James!

© Image by Stephanie Craig

© Image by Stephanie Craig

Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough’s books of poems include Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), and Where You Live (Salt, 2012). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and Stanford’s Stegner program, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for thirteen years. Her work appears in Slate, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, and Best American Poetry 2011. She teaches poetry at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the online writing program at the Fine Arts Work Center.
Thunderball II
Domino wears slutty bathing suits: zebra
bikini, black tank with sheer inset that shows, for
a second, her nipple, my hand
to God. I pause
the DVD, flickered her nipple just
to be sure. She wears the black and white surplice
bandeau wrap bikini to have sex
with James. James
wearing scuba gear.

Oh, James.

They shoot one shark
to distract the others, and he swims into them,
a swarm of sharks, a cloud of blood, to find
the sunken plane.

He skims past sharks like cats, like
the lady assassin in his bathtub. She
is naked, asks for something
to wear. He hands her
shoes. She’s thinking about Pussy:
James Bond, who only has to make love
to a woman, and she repents, returns
to the side of right and virtue.
But not this one, she says, and shoots.
Moonraker I
When the pretty French pilot with the heart

of gold betrays the bad guy, shows James the safe

in the Louis XIV clock, her evil employer

asks her to leave. She leaves. Then he

releases the Doberman Pinschers. She has put

aside the slutty low-cut frocks she wore

before she met James, wears a white dress, long

sleeves, pleats, white lace up her throat to run

through the woods, woods filled with mist, with

slanting sunlight, branches that tear at her face

and hair, sweet dress, the score rising with her ragged

breath until, in slow motion, the dogs take her down.
For Your Eyes Only
When you break into the drug lord’s lair, there’s
the swimming pool, girls. A Pacific Islander wears
a red hibiscus behind her ear, a turquoise bikini, tassels
bouncing at her hips. A white woman with beaded
cornrows, off-the-shoulder tank, dives in;
a black woman in a red one-piece looks on
from her lounge chair, looks like she just
got high. A periwinkle swimsuit crawls
up a brunette’s ass. She walks toward
a tall white girl: white bikini, camel toe.

          The sound of heels on flagstones. Disco.

They dance on the crabgrass. The Asian’s
in lilac, reads a magazine, smiles. A strung-out
blonde fights a blonde man; he agrees
to play paddle ball. When the white girl
in a white one-piece sees the suitcase is full
of cash, her eyes widen
like a girl’s. She
whispers—Wow!—the one line spoken by a woman
in this scene. Pam Grier, or the one who looks
like Pam Grier, wears big sunglasses, sucks
her stomach in. She’s seen the suitcases before.
She grins, raises her eyebrows; the drug lord,
balls bunched to one side of his tight striped
trunks, tosses a stack of bills to her lap.

Everyone is having a good time.

When he gets hit with a dart and bellyflops, dead,
in the pool, the women laugh at first—
our drug lord, always goofing around—then
understand, cry out, reach for each other. James
shoves men in the pool, knocks bad guys around
with sunbrellas. This is their life: getting high, piña
coladas, paddleball, all the waist-chains
and swimsuits they need, that wiggle that makes me
think they all have yeast infections, UTIs. Happy
until James shows up, kills their benefactor, leaves.
In the last glimpse we have of the pool, their whole
world, they gather together, lift his bloodied corpse
tenderly out of the pool.
You know, things are going pretty good. Sure,
your dad named you Octopussy, then killed
himself, but you’ve pulled yourself up by your
garter straps: diamond smuggling, your own
all-white-girl Indian island cult. They rise
gleaming, naked from your swimming pools
to the sound of more young women chatting, laughing,
wrapping each other up in high threadcount
towels, gold and pink saris, a hundred shades of rose.

Where did you recruit all these lovelies?
Doesn’t he get it? Did he ask Blofeld, Goldfinger,
Drax where they got all those matching futuristic
suits, the blinking lights at headquarters. No. I train
them, give them a purpose, a sisterhood and a way of life.
James is suspicious. How can it be this good? In crime?
In business. It’s 1983, you fool: I diversified into shipping,
hotels, carnivals, and circuses. Oh, Octopussy, don’t
do it: think of Gwendolyn and Midge, a dozen more
in matching scarlet spandex, the blonde
who ties her sheer pink sari to a balcony rail
and tumbles, graceful, to the ground. Don’t make
the damn martini, go to bed with Bond.

Here’s what you’ll get: three dirty men
breaking in with their knives and yo-yo saw
blades, a turbaned thug with a missing eye, no teeth,
a redneck’s giggle. Bond’s in your bed an hour and it’s
trashed, saw blades everywhere, satin pillows torn, aquaria,
teak honeycomb lattice smashed. Shirtless, sweaty
men covered in feathers lunging after you, mahogany side tables
sawn in half. Your pink silk sheets, your gilded
octopus-shaped bed, its pink satin upholstered
octopus head. Your thirty-foot ceilings, priceless
stained glass dome, your marble tables laden
with ripe tropical fruit, all sawn up, broken, gone.
Don’t do it, Octopussy: you shake that
martini, next thing you know you’re breaking
bottles over strange men’s heads, shooting
half-naked men with poisoned darts in your dressing room.
It all starts here: the Russian generals slipping
nuclear warheads in your circus cannon, duplicate
cabooses, Bond panicked in a clown suit, the works.

You’ll have to use your whole girl circus, your dancing
girls, your acrobats, your human pyramid of girls in matching
spandex. You’ll have to break out the sheik headdresses,
the ropes, the galley slaves, fake prostitutes to first distract,
then knock out the guards. Your whispering
pole balancers, your tiny snub-nosed pistol, your nets,
your elephants, all your sword fighting skills. Is it worth
your veiled half-naked trapeze artists’ efforts, Octopussy?

Octopussy. Don’t do this, please. Take a look
at his old man’s mouth, the lewd looks
he gives Gwendolyn, poor Midge. Don’t
give up everything you’ve worked for, don’t
do it, don’t you do it, no—Oh, James.
Goldeneye I
Judi Dench is M: I think
you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic
of the cold war.

Junkyard of Soviet statues, busts
of Lenin, arms, a disembodied
Bond-size Lenin hand. Long
shadows, sourceless light: cue
the creepy fog, a raven’s call,
a crow’s. Rusted-out red
star, rusty columns, a wreath
of wheat and stars. Strong worker
heroes, muscular men and women out
of Rockwell Kent. Three Lenins, one
capped, another trapped in scaffolding.

In the turncoat 006’s evil lair, James mocks
his loyalty to his dead parents, calls him
“little Alec”. Oh, please, James, spare me the Freud.
I might as well ask you if all the vodka martinis ever silence
the screams of all the men you’ve killed. Or if you ever
found forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women
for all the dead ones you failed to protect.
Die Another Day
The movie starts with Bond getting caught
in North Korea, unable, for once, to fuck
his way out. The naked ladies
in silhouette, black silhouettes of guns—
this time that alternates with James
in a filthy prison, James
refusing to talk. Scorpions, syringes, primitive
waterboarding. A man laughing, ducking
James’s head into dirty water. The camera is
with James, under the dirty water, again
and again. The camera can’t
do anything to help. A woman
strings him up by the hands and holds
a scorpion to his face. A woman made
of ice, a woman of fire, a woman of melting
ice, water droplets filled with Bond
under water, the water hitting the women
of fire, the water turning to steam. Then men
haul him out of the water to kick
the shit out of him. Fingers of ice stroking
flanks of ice. Time passes. Bond has
long hair, a beard, a filthy t-shirt, pants
he’s been wearing fourteen months.
About to be executed, he’s exchanged
for another prisoner, a smiling, clean
Korean wearing a freshly laundered
jumpsuit. Freshly shaven. Sleek
and healthy, fresh from an American
prison. Lucky guy.
from Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012).

Visit Seven Kitchens Press.

Visit Jill’s website.

Visit the Creative Writing, MFA webpage
at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Visit 24PearlStreet.

Peter Hughes’ Soft Rush

Soft Rush 
Peter Hughes is a poet, painter and the founding editor of Oystercatcher Press. He was born in Oxford in 1956, based in Italy for many years and now lives on the Norfolk coast. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry which include Nistanimera, The Sardine Tree, The Summer of Agios Dimitrios, Behoven and The Pistol Tree Poems. Nathan Thompson has described the latter as “flickering, intense, innovative and utterly mesmerising”.
Peter’s Selected Poems, drawing on work from over 30 years, will by published by Shearsman in April. This coincides with the publication, by the same press, of ‘An intuition of the particular’: Some essays on the poetry of Peter Hughes, which is edited by Ian Brinton. 2013 also sees the publication, by Reality Street, of Allotment Architecture.
More information about Peter’s poetry and his press, Oystercatcher, can be found at his website.
Soft Rush (The Red Ceilings Press, 2013) consists of 30 versions of Petrarch’s sonnets, numbers 67 to 96. It forms part of  an ongoing series in which Peter Hughes is creating ‘translations’ (in the broadest sense of the word) of all Petrarch’s sonnets. John Hall has written of Hughes’ work:
“Read it, in the expectation of any number of lyrical pleasures, for the ear, for the play of line against continuous movement, for its celebration of remembered pleasures, for its good will and for its wit. By this last, I mean a mind in evidence in the poems that can constantly surprise itself in the turns of speech, that can dance in the syllables and still have world and experience in its sights.”
Tony Fraser, on the Shearsman website, refers to Peter Hughes as “one of the UK’s most interesting and unclassifiable poets.”
3 / 69
Erano i capei d’oro a l’aura sparsi
a deft breeze slightly lifted surprising
qualities of fair hair woven with light
from her eyes extensive swathes of elsewhere
via memory into now where she is not
to be forgotten is the fate of all
living creatures hint at the angelic
harmonising language equals silence
echoes in dark chambers of our hearts
& if I say she moved like Bill Evans played
you’ll hear the subtlest of accompaniments
which compliment the voices of the world
where weird late sun slants downwards through storm clouds
out over a desolate valley road
we’ll walk unaccompanied tomorrow
6 / 72
Più volte Amor m’avea già detto: Scrivi
it is often love that sings the pen is
greater than the sane or diplomatic
in the middle of the night this neon
clamour plays & drives heaven’s dark heart wild
to wake up on the street in gentle rain
without a world in your care is the fate
of those who dive from the cliff into love
where we landed & paddle in morning
life’s too short to be a conservative
& art too deep in the merely current
we ride on the bows of the bright & free
who has redelivered us to language
& redelivered language to our hearts
well write out your own list & let me know
11 / 77
Orso, al vostro destrier si pò ben porre
I know I could have been a contender
billowing proudly in the field of dreams
my little pennant waving in the breeze
past all the sulky guards in silky tights
someone always comes & cuts the guy-ropes
makes off with the poles & we’re blown away
flapping up & over the hedgerows at dusk
discarded wrappers of our destinies
& we look back from the borders of night
out on the cold edge of the atmosphere
to green & distant fields of long ago
our emblem a small yellow rectangle
of damp & famished turf embellished with
colonies of red & wiry bloodworms
14 / 80
Lasso, ben so che dolorose prede
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
calmly with whatever grace we leave it
& it’s given that each of us will fall
through personal doors into no autumn
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
treading with care as in a dream of say
this taut prelude & fugue in A minor
BWV 889 which still
escapes from the litter of time & leaves
a garden on the other side of death
while we live on this other side of death
I think you’ll find the world will let us go
our structures sifted back into the seed
beds of our time & love & timelessness
17 / 83
L’aspecta vertù, che ‘n voi fioriva
rather than knock up another statue
to be ruined by pigeons & spray-paint
as well as acid rain & student pranks
that might leave you brandishing a dildo
you’d be better off encouraging me
to write about how wonderful you are
how you’re the perfect Lord of Rimini
to be lauded through all eternity
like Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood
1973 (for long thought lost)
winner of the Grandma’s Attic award
at the Eerie Horror Film Festival
& another illustration of how
no-one escapes from the tunnel of love
from Soft Rush (The Red Ceilings Press, 2013).
Order Soft Rush.
Visit Peter’s website.