Antony Rowland was born in Bradford in 1970. Since studying at Hull and Leeds he has taught literature and creative writing at The University of Salford. He has published poems in various journals and magazines, including Critical Quarterly, Stand and P.N. Review. A selection of his work appeared in New Poetries III (Carcanet, 2002). He received an Eric Gregory Award in 2000, and a Learning Northwest Award in 2001.
“Staring at 8MM bar in Berlin, this collection wonders what it’s like to spend your entire life on the M62. Playful, risqué and plain funny, these poems always tackle the important questions. Where does beer come from? Why was Shakespeare fond of gravy? What does it mean where Bedfordshire produces a sweet and sour pasty? Can a smile kill? During the Bradford section of the motorway, the book encounters Titus Salt and enquires about his snooker table. Mark E Smith discusses the Manchester smog and moshes with Allen Ginsberg. Children come and go, wishing for shells, Liverpool and a ready supply of Scootin’ Bumbleberrys. And where is Widdop?”
“Throughout the collection, Rowland demands that we take nothing for granted and ensures that we visualise the world as the extraordinary place that he perceives it to be. It is this unique vision that brings a fresh vibrancy to Rowland’s work and explains why this consistently self-assured writer was recently awarded the Manchester Poetry Prize.”
– Judi Sutherland
The Yellow Villa
The garden flamingos unfold their pink, but
I still can’t get you out of my granite windowsill,
curtains that only face-cloth half the light
of Olomouc, Kozel pastures, where
from the top of this sad oblong
an evening plane is a moving star.
For sleep you have crumbs in your eye
and you make me spill the negotiation
of a hairpin bra in The Yellow Villa.
I always like a gold oratory
despite your crisp air-bag exploding
and fountaining: we’ve been growing holes
in ourselves all afternoon where the water
clings to the leaves falling on the oriel,
řijen, October, rutting, štika,
listopad, sour tart and ham-ribbed
the potent funge of hermelín. I
don’t know why the meatballs were cold.
They just were. And the beautiful monsters,
the giraffe women laugh grazily by the kašna.
An aeroplane is a bar, laddered.
Staré mĕsto squeezes with your Moravian arm
and the lime trees in Michalská,
which has a very high cherub count
unlike our recent afternoons, paku paku:
my ledvinky are battered with ghosts.
Would you like that with gherkins?
The plane morses the tree-lined dark.
The Unexpected Guest
Have never seen a spiral staircase in a room before:
would not know where to begin
and they should do something
about the pigeons. There was something sore
in the bathroom I couldn’t place.
Felt unsafe in the gym:
the doors were not pleasing;
suspect adjoining face
with wall penetration of heat.
I found a dirty sock in a broken bed:
I told reception and they looked at my head.
The shower was a daily feat:
I wear glasses; it got hot if you turned your back
in the wrong direction. Told
to use our newspaper as a fan to keep cold.
‘What do you wash your face with?’ I asked.
They said the big towel. The doors opened onto the bed:
I could not even take a photograph of it.
They didn’t serve us but they made us sit
and the breakfast – when it came – looked unhealthy and sad.
We found someone in our bathroom. That was weird.
The relaxation room was cold. The toaster
was trained by a parrot. No coasters
for the bell-captains. We found a beard
in our suitcase. There is only one phone
for use in the hotel, and it is a phone, it is also
locked in a private room. We had to go
into another cupboard. The toaster was alone
on the serving table and frustrated all the guests.
They should have mentioned
that it was under construction.
The gel was terrible. Ditto eggy bread.
The sweet at reception was coked.
Motor bikes roaring up and down.
The bartender was a clown.
Being a smoker I appreciated that I smoked.
Breakfast – waste of a cow. Floor too high.
I want fresh milk and English tea!
The kitchen was excellent, but empty.
If the room was a minibar it would be nice.
Milk – creamer. I slept with a wet carpet.
This may not be the hotel you are looking for
if you need service, facilities or storage.
We did not want these: the hotel was perfect.
Would a Smile Kill
I did not like the little biting animals in the carpet
and, overnight, the chocolate in my dressing gown
had been eaten by something. Now
there is wind in the room like a harp.
Elevator only runs from the basement to first floor.
I threw a twenty down for a drink:
‘You’re going to need more than that’’, winked
the bartender. The legs out of the bathroom door
were small. The view from the hotel is the hotel
at the other side and they should do
something about the cars driving through.
Whenever I open a tap, there’s a sink smell.
Staff came into the room in the middle of the night
to do a roll call. Noise spreads with snore
and people watched me from the corridor:
I couldn’t even stroke my shirt.
We had no choice but to dismantle the duvet:
please, I am not noise retardant you know.
The stairs are too abstract. We found a cockroach
but the staff came and took it away.
The sound proof was so good I had trouble thinking.
I saw a wall and I couldn’t open it.
Would a smile kill ya? Asked for a blanket
to drape over the painting. The spacing
and distribution of the furniture
was terrible and late afternoon was cooler
than we liked in the swimming pool.
My kids also thought the floor would be better.
A large party of schoolchildren emptied the bar
every morning. Woke every time
the hotel went by to slide
the receipt under my door. Crazy car
parade held in the night. Sometimes just one side
of the building was working. The chair was cane
at the hotel entry: it had a strong fragrance
that annoyed both my wife and myself.
Be careful when you wake up from the bed.
Someone else came into the shared bath. Body bars,
the whole place is rocked down with whores,
if you come to my country you don’t expect
to speak Greek. We had to share the elevator.
You couldn’t close the door unless you were locked in
and it was hard to look at things
because the concierge wasn’t always there.
Twice we were charged the price of living
and disadvantages were the FBI,
swat teams, large guns, remote-controlled eyes,
but the English soaps made up for everything.
The Mind Resort
The white colours of the bulbs were disturbing,
the panoramic windows had a noose and you
shouldn’t allow relatives into the room
I don’t know: you didn’t mention this in the terms
and conditions. When I went to book a spa,
they asked me to have an operation, and the pool
was small for an infinity pool and two
rats joined us in the pool; even birds use water.
I was stopped by the unlimited buffet
experience. We asked for an iron
and they brought us sliced onions;
the porter also didn’t leave our room all day.
There were some adult bears very close to the hotel
and I found a gentleman outside my door
taking photographs of an empty corridor –
bear in mind Mumbai. The smell
when we burned some wood perfume was bad.
There were two elevators at the end of our room,
a lightbulb hurt my eye and when you placed two
pillows together, it became too high for the head.
The cleaning staff were hanging in the corridors.
Servis a little horror: Wi-Fi only in a coffee,
the hotel was in a restaurant in the lobby,
and they charged an extra basis for a morning call.
Why has the kitchenette got a glass pane
that allows the west sun to enter?
The room was a gas chamber.
The air con cons: the fan the AC just facing
our faces sucks! My small pillow could smell:
minor sewer gas came out of a sink.
The paint was sniffable. The welcome drink –
an insult. The desk said we were mental
because we didn’t understand: I said
we didn’t like the non-functional encroached
footpaths. We placed some cockroaches
on the desk, the fridge smelt like death,
the receptionist is always mad
and the prostitution is so loud and clear,
someone attempted to steal my beer,
and all the hotel staff are a little bit slag.
In the bathtub, the previous occupant was floating.
The basement disco climax should be free,
the expresso machine brewed us something green;
even the room was badly smiling.
Misery – one word. A ghostly experience occurs
in the bathroom: we didn’t have enough selves
for our clothes; I had to use clothes
to protect myself against external eyes.
I can’t remember anything I missed;
simply, the hotel did not exist
and if you want a hotel close to
creepy interactions, this the hotel for you.
I am a Magenta Stick
A spell in your index finger,
logged as dialect for splinter,
precious as the autumn spinners,
finally scooped as East End slang
hairing north after Whitechapel banns
with Yorkshire Cockneys, the family,
hexed by natives, my moving kin,
with a one-word spell under new skin,
woodening our identities.
Spell – to spell – spell it out, wrong
since it’s northern too, not nawped
from our Stepney tongues long
before smudge faces caught in Holborn days
where cream hokey-pokey men frame
the five-inch gauge, Shoreditch railway;
not lost in Southwark mystery, or lead
to the path of our Elijah Rowland, wed
among St Giles’s daisies and untidy dead.
And I am a magenta stick
in my child’s nursery picture,
schooled in the family’s width
and margin, barely discernible
head round a pint of whelk,
whisper to your mum’s sleek
and wigged care, Bette eyelash notes,
splintered felt, sending me in dots
upstairs, home to the cloud pots.
The Ladies’ Companion
“[I]n all the several Ages of the world it hath been the confirmed Privilege of the Fair Sex, to use all the lawful and ingenious Endeavours to get the Love and Admiration of Mankind”
(T.B., The Ladies’ Companion (1704))
Clean your Paint with the Juice of distilled Raspberries
& Asses-milk, or the Water found in a kind of Bag
on the Leaves of the Elm-tree. The pressed Water of Radishes
is also good. For Make-up, graze your Cheeks with the Blood
of Paradise, Cubebs, Clove Raspings and Golden-rod
infused with Brandy over an open Fire (my Fire). Do not ignore
your Prints of the Small-pox: choke them with Bulls-gall
crusted in the Sun, effused with White-spirit and Venice-Talk
bled into a subtile Powder. For Ringworm – if I may – the Liquor
that drops out of green Wood burning on a Chestnut Fire.
Do not lose your Beauty for want of my Attendance:
use Milk-warm Water to wash & wear an oily sort of Mask
& Gloves at Night for plump & soft Hands, your Hands
chafing the Sleeves of This, our homely yellow Tome.
We say it alone: for Sun-block, Mucilage of Fleaworts,
Quince Seeds & Sheep’s Suet; Florence Orrice and Venice Borax
for Night-paint, or the Gall of an Ox digested in powdered Glass
& two Gutted Pidgeons with Sugar Candy. Marrow of Hogs
or Calves’ Feet for Spots. For Redness, a pint of sweet Cream
boiled in Oak-tree Moss. Believe This, and You will Believe.
My Beauty, our Guests do not want see your Cerate
of Sperma Ceti & you have left your Bear’s Grease
on the Settee just to annoy me. Remember, the Ashes
of a Mouse will milk out your Hair, but then decease
or it will white like a Rose. I suppose the distilled Water
of Man’s dung might be effectual against your bleeding Gums;
if not, macerate your tender Head with white Wine or the Tendrils
of a Vine, Lye of Tartar, Blood of a Mole & Decoction of Thyme.
And if by Fancy you would have blanched Locks,
live until eighty: it is odd, but you shall have your Shock.
from I am a Magenta Stick (Salt Publishing, 2012).
Order I am a Magenta Stick.
Judi Sutherland reviews I am a Magenta Stick.
Tony Williams reviews I am a Magenta Stick.
Roy Marshall reviews I am a Magenta Stick.
Read more about Antony at The Poetry Archive.