Claire Trévien is an Anglo-Breton poet. She is the author of poetry pamphlets Low-Tide Lottery (Salt, 2011) and Patterns of Decay (Silkworms Ink, 2011). The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013) is her début collection. She is the co-organizer of Penning Perfumes, the editor of Sabotage Reviews, and the co-editor of Verse Kraken.
“Ultimately does it matter if the pearls are real or not?
The earth is a pearl, blinding and flawed,
nestled inside the mollusc of the milky way.
Do you prefer your pearls cultured in the art
of oology, or simply coated in fish scales?
Anchors, shipwrecks, whales and islands abound in this first collection by Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien. These poems are sketches, lyrics, dreams, and experiments in language as sound. Trévien’s is a surreal vision, steeped in myth and music, in which everything is alive and – like the sea itself – constantly shifting form. Fishermen become owls; one woman turns into a snake, another gives birth to a tree; a glow-worm might be a wasp or ‘a toy on standby’. Struck through with brilliant and sometimes sinister imagery reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth or an Angela Carter novel, The Shipwrecked House is a unique and hallucinatory debut from a poet-to-watch.”
“Whenever I read new poetry I’m looking for someone else’s delight in language and ideas; for work that commands and sustains my attention. What I never expect, but what I found in Claire Trévien’s work, is a voice already so mature and refined it reads like a previously untranslated classic rather than a debut. These are serious, visually stunning poems of nationality, history and memory, but they’re personal and generous in their wit, as formally innovative as they are endlessly engaged and engaging. Reading them is like spending an hour in the company of someone you secretly admire.”
— Luke Kennard’
The Shipwrecked House I
The ceiling is tugged by the moon
it expands above us, an opaque dome
through which we guess the stars.
Other ships will be built from these rooms,
other seas and currents eroded by a figurehead.
Walls tremble violet-blue, weave the song
of seagulls into their granite veins.
An empty wine glass fills with cowries.
My mother twists her ring like a weathervane,
east to west; still the sun refuses to set.
Cowries are claimed from the sand;
fingers sniffle through broken claws.
We hinge the stones in pools to watch life
dart out and hide beneath other shelters.
The glass fills but is still half empty.
Ironed darned sheets cover old mattresses that spill
over the frames of beds.
And Cesária Évora sings of homesickness.
After Rimbaud’s ‘Roman’
You can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one —
the evenings flare, a rolled joint behind your ear,
drunk on Wednesdays, university veteran!
You talk in your backyard of us all being queer.
The weed smells great on those June afternoons!
So sweet you could sleep through any exam;
the wind carries laughs, it’s humming a tune
older than you, Johnny Wright’s Hello Vietnam.
The sky is all yours, you spy it through brambles
palpitating like grass you would like to caress…
You think the answer’s there to be unscrambled
if only the stars stopped changing their address.
June nights! Twenty-one! Easy to be wasted.
The cheapest wine is as good as any champagne…
You ramble on about the Bourdieu you tasted,
your lips crumple like a Communist campaign.
You bildungsroman through books until
you spot a leading lady perched on a stool,
with the fruit machine lights pulsing her still
face red, green and blue. You think of Kabul.
She calls you a kid when you try to explain
— as her long nails trot gamely on the board —
why you are superior to her boyfriend,
but she leaves with her glass, looking bored.
You are in love: rented until August!
You are in love. She finds your poems laughable.
Your friends leave, your laundry starts to encrust
when at last, she responds to your madrigal!
That evening, you stroll out in the sun,
you order a kiss or a ginger beer;
you can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one
and there are summer evenings to premiere.
Cyrano de Bergerac Takes a Last Bow
He says fuck you to Death, for looking at my nose,
raises a glass to the sky that clouds like a noose.
The moon’s a limp pancake, dripping with syrup.
He pours more wine; the cork still has its stirrup.
He knows the bottom of the glass is near but beauty
is in the useless half-swig, the attempt to bounty
unbroken beads of wine on the tongue for a second
longer, to feel it slip away and still think it extant.
Yes! he cries, You take everything away from me!
He surveys the debris of bloodied glass, frowning.
But when I go, there’s something unsmashed
I can claim’s still mine, my fucking panache.
from The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013).
Order The Shipwrecked House.
Visit Claire’s website.
Launch of The Shipwrecked House and Human Form
Join independent poetry press Penned in the Margins for the launch of two debut collections: The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien and Human Form by Oliver Dixon.
Entry is free.
Date: Thursday, 21 March 2013
Venue: The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, E1 7EX, London