Monthly Archives: October 2013

Children’s Poetry: Joanne Limburg’s Bookside Down

Joanne Limburg    
Joanne Limburg has published two full poetry collections for adults, Femenismo and Paraphernalia, both with Bloodaxe. A pamphlet, The Oxygen Man, was brought out by Five Leaves Press last year. Joanne has also published The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about OCD, anxiety and poetry. She is currently finishing a novel based on the life of Queen Anne, and beginning a PhD in Life Writing. Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013) is her first book for children.
Bookside Down 
“The poems in Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013) are written about and for 21st Century children, who are into their friends, the TV, Wiis, DS’s, computers, collectibles and things that make them laugh. They deal with important matters such as difficult schoolmates, daft parents, impossible siblings, the last days of the dinosaurs and the death of planet earth. In this book you will find rhyming poems, non-rhyming poems, poems that are conversations and poems that tell stories. You could read them to yourself, read them aloud, or even use them as patterns to write your own poems.”
“Joanne Limburg’s funny and tender Bookside Down sees things deliciously from the children’s point of view. The poems are set in the worlds children inhabit: the home, the playground, school, pocket money, TV and friendship. With a natural story-teller’s timing, a poet’s ear and a splendid eye for both detail and fantasy Limburg leads us through the jokes and puzzles of a childhood all children will recognise.”

– George Szirtes
Dad, Dad, is this my lunch?
And are you having your lunch too?
And are we going out after lunch?
Are we going into town after lunch?
And are we going on the bus?
And can I have my pocket money?
And can I buy a comic with my pocket money?
And can we take the bus back?
And can I ask you something else?
Will you always say yes now?
The Sort of Boy
There’s always the sort of boy
who has to get in first

who says he knows
whatever you know already,
he’s known it for ages

who got whatever you just got
three weeks ago

or says there’s a better one just out
and he’s getting it with his Dad

who has to decide who’s playing
and what they’re going to play

and if it’s Harry Potter,
he’s always Harry Potter.
The Prefix Lesson
Let’s see if you’ve been listening.
Can you give me something that begins with ‘anti-‘?

Anti Julie lives in London.

Not quite what I was looking for.
Let’s try another, ‘un-‘.

Un-cle Ian lives there too.

OK. Never mind. Have another go.
How about … ‘pre-‘?

Pre … tty soon they’re coming to visit?

Oh dear. We’ll try one more.
Now think carefully: ‘dis-‘

Dis … dis …..
dis isn’t going very well, is it?
Family Swimming Time
I think I might just watch today.
But you’ve got your costume on.

The water feels too cold.
But you’ve only put your toe in.
It’s splashing on my face now.
So what? You’re wearing goggles.

I don’t like the big boys jumping in.
It’s OK. We’ll move away.

I think I might get out now.
You’ve only just got in.
Well don’t leave me on my own!
But I want to have a swim.

I don’t like it when I can’t see you!
But I can swim—don’t worry.

I know you can, but I can’t!
Then just stay in the shallow end.

I don’t like it in the water!
Mum, I know you don’t, but you’ll be fine.
Butterfly and Crocodile
At swimming once,
I went to turn from front to back
and just kept turning,
just kept turning,
turning over,
over and over,
till the swimming teacher said,
‘What are you doing?’
and I said, I’m a crocodile.
This is the death roll
that crocodiles do
to tear their prey apart.’

‘OK’, she said,
‘You need to work on your butterfly now—
though I must say
your crocodile
is really coming on.’
The Potatoes My Dad Cooks
Let me now praise the potatoes my Dad cooks
     for truly they are epic;

for they come from the oven smelling so sweet,
     their smell delights my nostrils

and when they sit steaming in their dish,
     their crispy coatings delight my eyes

and when I take one up and bite it,
     the coating breaks with a crunch

and when I chew that mouthful,
     the mouthful delights my tongue

and then it delights my throat,
     and then, oh then it warms my insides,

for truly the potatoes of my Dad are epic.
     The potatoes of his enemies will fail.
From Bookside Down (Salt Publishing, 2013).

Order Bookside Down.

Visit Joanne’s website.

Translator Nicky Harman speaks to Han Dong

Han Dong – London, April 2009

Han Dong – London, April 2009

Han Dong (韩东) was born in 1961 in Nanjing. His parents were banished to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, taking him with them. When the Cultural Revolution ended, he studied philosophy at Shandong University, subsequently lectured in Xi’an and Nanjing, and finally relinquished teaching in 1993 to make his living as a writer. In the 1980s, Han Dong became an important avant-garde poet, and edited the influential poetry magazine Tamen (Them). He is also known as an essayist, short story writer, blogger and novelist.
He has made several literary tours in the West, visiting Rotterdam, Paris, Brussels, London, Manchester and Edinburgh, and has been writer-in-residence in Gutenberg, Germany and Saint-Nazaire, France. A collection of his poetry in English can be found in A Phone Call from Dalian (Zephyr Press, 2012). A number of poems from this collection, and others, have appeared in translation in poetry magazines and online, for instance as Carol Rumens’ Poem of the Week in The Guardian.

Nicky Harman
lives in the United Kingdom. She translates from Chinese, focusing on fiction, poetry and sometimes literary non-fiction, by authors such as Han Dong, Chen Xiwo, Xinran, Hong Ying, Zhang Ling and Yan Geling. She is a regular contributor to the literary magazines Chutzpah, and Words Without Borders, and also organises translation-focused events, mentors new translators and was one of the judges for the Harvill Secker Young Translators Prize 2012. She contributes to the website for translators from Chinese, Paper Republic, and was Translator-in-Residence, London, at the Free Word Centre in 2011. Her home page is here.

A Phone Call from Dalian

Han Dong was a leading light of China’s avant-garde in the 1980s and continues to be an influential poet today. But, 30 years on, the poetry scene in China has changed, and so has he. I was curious about how he sees his work now and eager to delve a bit deeper into his persona as a poet. I interviewed him for Peony Moon.

In 1966, when the Cultural Revolution began, Han Dong’s family was sent to a remote area of the countryside. Here he grew up, developing an affection for the countryside and its people which still comes through in some of his poems. His parents suffered: his mother was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a counter-revolutionary plot, and his author father struggled to “serve the people”, within a system so seamlessly repressive that Han Dong describes it in Banished: A Novel as “a dog that winds up biting its own tail”. Then came the 1980s and, alongside political and economic reforms, a great explosion of new literature. Han Dong became known as an enthusiastic debunker of everything from ideology and heroics to the elaborate imagery of other avant-garde poets.  An early poem, ‘Of the Wild Goose Pagoda’, which mocks a famous patriotic landmark and ends with a characteristic sting in the tail, became iconic.

Han Dong has been called a ‘colloquial’ (口语), poet, of the ‘ordinary folk’ (民间). But as Maghiel van Crevel says in his Foreword to A Phone Call from Dalian: “the language of this so-called Colloquial Poetry is not the same thing as that spoken in ordinary human traffic … the power of Han Dong’s poetry lies not just in the rejection of formal or bookish language of one kind or another. Positively defined, his usage comes across as measured, focused and controlled. This lends his poetry a quiet confidence and insistence”. And van Crevel goes on: “Several features combine to make Han’s a distinct and influential voice: quotidian themes, purposefully superficial description, colloquial language, literary meta-consciousness and last but not least, his individuality and sophistication in handling these things”.
          The Chicken-seller
          He’s got the knack for killing chickens quick, so
          He became a chicken-seller, that way
          He doesn’t need to kill people. Even though he acts
          Calm and gentle, and never beats his wife
          Taking off his wife’s clothes is like plucking a chicken
          Similar skills always overlap, just as
          Cruelty and kindness are two sides of the same coin
          He plucks, and she leisurely takes the money
          And I feel that therein lies a kind of evil sweetness
Time to give the floor to Han Dong himself. Many of the leading lights of the 1980s and 90s poetry scene have stopped writing altogether. So I began by asking –

Nicky Harman: You’ve been writing poetry for 30 odd years. Why do you go on writing it?

Han Dong: I’ll carry on as long as I’m able – for the reason that poetry, unlike other things in life, is of no practical use. And its very uselessness makes it just a bit important. Of course (I also do it because) I think I do it well and the poetry I write is distinctive. I’ve said in the past that poetry is my homeland. I have a hankering to ‘go home’, and in fact I often do. I hope one day to be able to settle down there and just write poetry, nothing else. That’s the kind of life I’d love to lead.

NH: How do you feel you’ve changed as a poet over the years?

HD: In my early poetry I put a lot of stress on form and language but my poetry has evolved in that respect. I focus now on the content, the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’, partly because I have learnt through experience what form and language to use, partly because I no longer feel form is so important to me. Now my main aim is to create work that is stubbornly, distinctly, my own. Ultimately, poetry is the meeting of language and a particular life lived. There’s a kind of mutual love, a kind of merging. I want my poetry to be reclusive and private, but I’m also groping towards connecting at a deep level with other people.
          Green tree, red fruit
          The green tree was there before I was
          Then I walked past it
          Then ahead of the tree, there were more green trees
          Between the forked branches was the sun

          I looked right at the sun. Just then
          It was like a red fruit
          And so the whole garden became an orchard

          A flurry of footsteps came
          A buzzing of voices debated life
          People’s shadows circled, gathered like gnats
          The evening star, a great cool teardrop

          I am still there
          The red fruit gone
          The green trees dulled
You famously said that, “poetry does not go beyond language” (“诗到语言为止“). Do you still believe that? If not, what do you think are the most important principles of poetry?

HD: When I said that, it was to counter the prevailing view (in China) that “the written word must express a moral view”, and to emphasize the importance of language in poetry. But ultimately this was just another creed and, to that extent, one-sided. I understand poetry in a more rounded way now, not just as in opposition to something else. Poetry is an absolute, or at least an indication of an absolute. Analysing poetry is of limited use. Poetry doesn’t exist in the abstract, only in specific poems, in the writings of a particular poet, and we shouldn’t try to over-explain it. I dream of being able to write poems which need little or no explaining, and can be understood intuitively. Readers don’t need training but poets do, and that training ought to include how to stir people’s hearts.

Han Dong has written many poems about women, from the erotic to the love-lorn. I can’t help noticing there are fewer now, at least of the latter. Could this be because he is a middle-aged, happily-married man? I rather cheekily asked him if he still wrote love poems.

HD: Of course … Ultimately, a good love poem is about more than just love. … I’m continually concerned with human feelings, especially the love between men and women, and that’s a source of inspiration I wouldn’t willingly give up. You’re in love, you break up, you have no one to love or you’re abandoned – and you write about all of those things as they happen. There’s something else: the thing we call ‘love’ is only one way of expressing love between humans. I’ve said in the past that my ‘spiritual home’ is with people who have left or died, with friends, even with pets. That’s where love is, for me. Yes, I will go on writing love poems in the broad sense.

Hmm, I’m not sure I really managed to nail him on that one.

NH: Going back to the years when you first made a name for yourself as a poet, you had a reputation for getting into heated debates about poetry. Are you still so combative? If so, what topics get you fired up?

HD: I’ve always enjoyed a good argument, but I’ve also regarded that as a failing. In fact, I really hate that side of myself. Intense, aggressive debate only ends in defeat or victory, so it leaves me feeling empty. I almost always win the argument, which makes it more difficult for me to curb that tendency. The reality is that where poetry is concerned, the only meaningful things are serious thought and careful listening to others. Discussion should be based on an exchange of ideas, where everyone gets a chance to say what they think and makes an effort to understand the opposing side.
          Wood work
          The wood workers lie at work in the sawdust
          Their workshop has no door, no windows and no walls.
          Just a shack with blonde rush matting on three sides.
          Just sunlight, sawdust, wood and
          The shaped hafts of every kind of farm tool
          No door, no windows, benches or doorsill
          No lathe. This wood work has done away with wood work
          Sawdust has covered up the mud floor
What do you feel about the translation of your poetry? I once asked you which of two possible titles I should use: Wood worker, the person who does it, or Wood work, the process. (The Chinese could mean either.) You said you didn’t mind, I could choose whichever I liked. Would you be as laissez-faire about translation if you were fluent in English?

HD: Translations are authentic creations in their own right; the original is only the spiritual source and the basis for the translation. Especially with poetry, when you translate from one language into another, you create something other. For a poem to work in another language, it needs to be completely transformed. Its magic, its inspiration, depends on the translator. Poets aim to ‘translate’ life and give it a meaningful existence in language; translators have the same aim. So, first-rate poetry can become second-rate in translation and vice versa, depending on the translator’s ability and sensitivity. I’m there to respond to the translator and I’m happy to discuss anything which is relevant to the original work, but this is just a way of stimulating the process and doesn’t mean I want to control it. If your poems don’t stand up to translation into another language, then why should the translator continue to be loyal to the original? If those poems can shine in another language, then why worry if they have departed from the original?

Ultimately my aim as a poet is to create good things, not things that are good for my reputation. And all good things can stimulate and ‘give birth’ to further good things. Even in the original language, a poem only becomes complete when it is read, when it arouses feelings, and when the poem combines with those feelings. To have vitality, a poem needs to transform, stimulate, adapt, combine and give birth to something new.

And there we left our discussion. But let the poems speak from themselves. And, yes, there really is one about his dog:
          Overcoming loneliness
          My small dog was shut in the flat
          The neighbours opposite kept one
          Shut in their flat too
          The two dogs yapped through the barrier of two doors
          They could hear each other, and sometimes met on the landing
          They were boy dog and girl dog but didn’t mate
          We all know dogs like to lay-about in packs, but these two were no pals
          You could say hostility was
          Stronger than friendship
          More help in overcoming loneliness
          The end came when their dog died, but my dog
          Kept up the yapping
          An imaginary enemy may well be better than a real one
          At overcoming loneliness.
Han Dong’s poems ‘can stand their ground in any contemporary world literary canon’, World Literature Today.
All the poems except ‘Overcoming loneliness appear’ in A Phone Call from Dalian  (Zephyr Press, 2012).

Simon Howard’s Wrecked

Simon Howard was born in Fulham, London, in 1960. He attended University College London & was active as a poet until the early 90s when self-disenchantment with his voice led to muteness. He began to publish again in the late 2000s; his books are ZOOAXEIMPLODE (The Arthur Shilling Press), Numbers (The Knives Forks & Spoons Press), adrift (The Red Ceilings Press) & recently Wrecked (Oystercatcher Press). He has contributed to a tribute volume for Barry MacSweeney & has a blog at where much of his work is available. He has four poems forthcoming in the second edition of Snow, the new literary magazine edited by Anthony Barnett & Ian Brinton.
“Simon Howard’s poetry has the rare quality of evoking ‘images’ whose ‘sonic’ component is as memorable as (and indistinguishable from) the visual – and not because musical references are threaded through the poems; rather, everything in this poetry emerges from an obsessive sensitivity to a music which is not just ‘in’ the words but surrounds and informs them, in ways that no other poetry I know can do.”

– Richard Barrett
All my fascist uncles / all my cannibal nieces
& wonderfully a multitude of green butterflies flutters from our stony mouths

The lines give a sense of the breadth of Howard’s landscape. A landscape of stones, of green LED lights, the screen, keyboard clicks, domesticity, songbirds somewhere. Quiet terror, silent determination, endless waiting. Eerie as Hegel, peaceful as unrest. Wrecked is a remarkable chronicle, a calm refusal of the implosive Tory apocalypse.”

– Sean Bonney
Wrecked is a collection sewn tightly with ephemeral, vivid dreamscapes that dart from butterflies to the odd polar bear. The transience of nature is contrasted with signifiers of everyday life such as chairs, cupboards and cigarillos. Complete with a Teutonic instrument that continues to lure the reader further in, it is a book in which the musicality remains with the reader well after it is finished. Each word is packed with a precision that would make the most attentive of double bass players blush. London Town may be invisible, but Wrecked’s charm and cohesion is there for all to see.”

– Sarah Crewe
“Read outside, through the damage. These lyrics ring out vestiges of song in silent alphabets, in the calligraphy of birds and plants. Short lines find their way into pathways, fragments return in cannibal tongues and singular scores. There is wonderful order here, and the work of encountering what it might continue to be, while the pelting of sounded and violent contradiction goes on. Listen to the stranger, to what flutters from mouths: you are here.”

– Carol Watts
What is said will be any secret
the slow trudge

down day
break hill

proscribed pro-scribed –

scribbleenscrypted –
big cat found in a block of ice

theory = universal peace by
means of perpetual war &


Late afternoon
the weather clearing

sky gaze
a beautiful gauzy blue

pale green goldening, motionless

levitation, a bramble scratch
a vocalise

the interweaving undergrowth
Disquiet at finding myself inside a house
with good weather outside, inside the branches thrashing

incompatibility of remembered imagination & memory
she’d worked in a circus in a land

where the moon is blank the stars never lose brilliance

of course blindfold assassinations
are something they do when rationalising their militias

& wonderfully a multitude of pale green butterflies
flutters from our stony mouths


Forest of lautenklaviers
twanging & chattering

there’s been no news of her lately
& a light bulb burnt out

told me I couldn’t stay

all I hope for is to listen to the silent streets
a barrel rolling down a ramp

archaic formation
strolls in like a blind king
We walk out on them laughing
put on surgical gowns for party

games o eerily quiet everything hidden
even the inconsolable

I think someone is asking us their identity

was known as navigator’s parsley
or incendiaries

a boat on a canal
in the next country by alphabet


Everyone drinking hard
or otherwise drugged sober

insect dreams project
on tiny screens inside our tears

what flower do you associate with a quiet day in your life(?)

I think I can make me
out moving behind curtains

though he may also be invisible
just like London Town
(for my mother)
The strangers exchange smiles
now I can’t stop smiling

dark bees swim inside
a radiant Absolute

a white perfumed bush
lifts into the sky below my feet

there are advertisements forgotten
on a patch of forgetful ground

describe your experiences of semi-invisible architecture
try to stop crying

we were waiting for a train
when a huge tempest broke over the sea, I

attributed your exemplary calm
to my eating an ice cream
from Wrecked (Oystercatcher Press, 2013).
Order Wrecked.
Read Ian Brinton’s review at Tears in the Fence.
Visit Simon’s blog.

Whitehall Jackals by Chris McCabe & Jeremy Reed

 Whitehall Jackals 
“London in the dark end-times of the late noughties; escaped war criminals and their hired thugs scavenge like hyenas amid the city’s smut and glitter, the system appears in nonchalant free-fall and words drop cheaply as grimy metropolitan rain. With this dystopian backdrop, where language is spun, redacted and renditioned, McCabe and Reed’s gritty riposte performs an angry and elegant resistance.

The result of this psychogeographic collaboration between two of modern poetry’s most distinct voices is this – a poetry chain-letter that seeks to interrogate the city at one of the most peculiar and sinister points in contemporary history and to map the capital on foot, under their own light; poems as foundlings; the weight of language and place obsessively and voraciously explored. Beneath flagstones, in river silt and on the top decks of buses, the strange, dark energies of the city find their way into this electrifying exchange of poems.”

© Chris McCabe

© Chris McCabe

“McCabe and Reed’s wide-eyed, X-rayed Cubist vision of London is more than a cultural mapping. It is a significant addition to the poetry of London. Partly a response to Whitehall’s warring, it uncovers deeper historical and psychogeographical interplay within the city. Horizontal and vertical layers of story are contextualized and abstracted to reveal multifarious states of being, control and flux. These anchored, edgy scripts of multiverse unearth deposits in angular localised texts that make you smile, laugh, wonder and leave you wanting more. A tour de force in every way.”

– David Caddy

Chris McCabe 
Chris McCabe was born in Liverpool in 1977. His previous collections are The Hutton Inquiry, Zeppelins and THE RESTRUCTURE (all with Salt Publishing). His work has been described by The Guardian as “an impressively inventive survey of the uses of English in the early 21st century”. He has recorded a CD with the Poetry Archive and has had work included in numerous anthologies including Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010), The Captain’s Tower: seventy poets celebrate Bob Dylan at seventy (Seren, 2011), Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins, 2012) and Dear World & Everyone in it (Bloodaxe, 2013). His plays Shad Thames, Broken Wharf (also published by Penned in the Margins as a limited edition box) and Mudflats have been performed in London and Liverpool. He works as the Poetry Librarian at The Saison Poetry Library and teaches for The Poetry School.
Jeremy Reed 
Jeremy Reed
has been for decades one of Britain’s most dynamic, adventurous and controversial poets; The Independent called him “British poetry’s glam, spangly, shape-shifting answer to David Bowie”. He has published over 40 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, winning prestigious literary prizes such as the Somerset Maugham Award, and, on coming to live in London in the 1980s, was patronised by the artist Francis Bacon. Amongst his fans are J.G. Ballard, Pete Doherty and Bjork who has called his work “the most beautiful, outrageously brilliant poetry in the world”. His poetry publications in recent years include Heartbreak Hotel (Orion), Duck and Sally Inside, This Is How You Disappear (both Enitharmon), West End Survival Kit (Waterloo Press), Bona Drag (Shearsman) and Piccadilly Bongo with Marc Almond (Enitharmon), and his most recent novels are The Grid (Peter Owen) and Here Comes the Nice (Chomu Press). Jeremy Reed also works and performs with musician Itchy Ear as The Ginger Light.
Jeremy Reed
A black network in London’s thalamus,
a landscaped-over solid trawl
licking a trace into Dead Dog Basin,
like a path-lab procedure,
a subterranean autopsy

of body parts in soup, bottles and dogs,
a swirly ooze down to Kentish Town loch
and under to St Pancras,
furred arteries pushing to King’s Cross
as cold bacterial soup, a mucky rush

that puddles on the road sometimes
in thunder-rain at Holborn and Blackfriars
in think-bubbles, the river’s secret life
come up to be decoded like intelligence
and splashed through by the tube exit,

I’ll never know I’ve walked it home
in squidgy traces on the floor
at South Hill Park like a liquid barcode.
We talk about the river’s drop
at the Magdala, drunk out of the rain

in leaf-slidy November, the street
wallpapered over by stripped orange leaves;
and someone claims they’ve fucked beside its source,
the bottomless pool by the aqueduct
power-pointing into the river

to feel its drive into the underground,
but it’s not clear where water starts,
unlike a road, its shoplifting impulse
traffics into a dark gritty corridor.
We stand above it as we talk,

a disturbed system of tunnels and tubes,
aquifers, islanded from the rain,
and I can feel the drop under my feet
into the Fleet pit, as I buy a round
and feel the fourth or fifth light up my brain.
Wapping Old Stairs
Chris McCabe
A lighter, a camera, a PLUMS bottle
washes in the tide at the Old Stairs :
I smash the bottle against ceramic & brick
— no message but ink —
the content oozes conger black
slicks wet in ebony nox
gluts in chunks its obsidian soup,
the river’s bed condensed to wet ash
— no message —
the camera ejects the card,
digital images crust in wet clay
embedded with the river’s source.
I take the lighter & camera —
past Tower Bridge a courier sits
on the pavement — head between knees —
opened envelopes around his feet,
two Latino men shine the bullion
of the Tate & Lyle logo
out of the strong came forth sweetness
as cigar smoke rises like cremations
of vermin. At Dark Horse Walk
a payroll manager stares out the tide’s volta,
pockets an Identity Card, folds up collars —
I scratch the wheel of the lighter :
its wet flint adds nothing to this
Whitehall Endgame
Jeremy Reed
(depleted uranium mix)
The 5pm sky’s like rainy sapphires
a blue toxic hydrocarbon blanket,
and you’re my pick-up, bite my lip
to redden like a strawberry.
It’s later in accelerated endgame time
by 600 seconds than when we met
at the compressed Starbucks on Hollen Street,
you a Beijing space-time interloper
put into a blonde-bobbed Eurasian mix.

The psychopathic jackal Tony Blair,
four blacked-out Range Rovers gunned
through town, a war criminal’s carbon tail
choking polluted haze, his handgun grin
cold as forensics, czar to every war’s
genocide, the killer autocrat
smeared in depleted uranium, Gulf blood,
the meltdown hedge funder — the commandant
guarded 24/7 by thugs in suits,
Glock pistols in their Paul Smith repertoire.

We watch his cars open a corridor
into a cannibalistic future —
Blair crunches Cherie for a final meal.
The day builds on us like a pyramid
of neural info — love me to the end
of Soho village — there’s no other way
sighting those tyres that leave blood on the bend.
Chris McCabe
for Kelvin Corcoran
It’s the music of what matters
it pulls me this way always
across Waterloo Bridge
in search of the poet
— revenant of sliproad hymns —
the Isle of Dogs smatters
its SIM cards to the stars
as Westminster descales
gold florins
in the Counting House
of the river’s pummelling,
the Aldwych arcs a scythe against
Bush House & pushes me north
— in search of the poet —
through the contented Squares
of Tavistock, Russell, Bloomsbury,
where my mind lost its trace —
night air around Gt. Ormond St
when my son was strung with fluids
like a doll in a rockpool
I walk that way through reduced serotonin
to the glyphs of SWEDENBORG HALL
inside the poet sings
with a haemorrhage on his mind —
adds his message to the city’s signs :
the dark enfolding road we leave behind
Jeremy Reed
A blue light-box, deep sea ultramarine,
an Yves Klein shot with toothpaste blue
(Colgate Oxygen) faces out
on Broadwick Street, a rainy Sunday fuzz
pixelating beadily, a damp glow
grainy Soho 4pm 30/11 chill
we take inside from reflective windows
of Cowling & Wilcox opposite.
(I make adjustments for altered place states
in my sci-fi Soho novel The Grid)
and find immersion in 150 teas
and choose a Pau Dragon Orchid, scent
written into the name, a gold sauna
poured in a cup, a steamy tangy trick
turned on the palate — it’s your green tea cake —
three leaf-green suitcases pitted in mousse
like baggage angled on the carousel
arrests my eye, an arty rococo detail
designed to tease the bite: the Cantonese
next to us fork venison puffs
and lobster dumplings, slowly, incisively
like surgery, a serious graft
of separating textures, while I stare
out at a 6ft strip of afternoon
leaked in with shop lights, frontage, drizzled smear,
a Broadwick Street industrial grey different
from any other Soho grey
and feel the transient suspense, the last
shot-down blues bled out of the winter day.
Alderman Stairs, E1
Chris McCabe
Under Alderman Stairs chains latch
to brick, moss-covered steering wheels
of Volvos silenced in the woods
— interiors hushed with vines —
an anchor rigged with a rope of horsehair
and matted with sponge. The city’s
urgencies close-off above, quaint
as tea-rooms from the debris & crush
of this basement shoreline, a cellar
of thanatos drinking games. A shingle
of dud electrics glint the base of a glass
like a monocle that blinds, the petrified
crust of a stout bottle holograms
an eagle in the tide’s dispensary — we drink
to ooze these toxins merrily. What sunlight
the city takes in early March is caged here,
like the underside of a disused pier, ribbed
with blackened timber & splintered barge-
beds. I walk like a hangman that scattered
the revellers as the grey beach rolls
under my treads on an axis of lichen —
finger-nails hook damp wood for gravity.
A trickle like coins from a hostelier’s
pouch counts itself in crustaceous syllables
from under the stairs : there, like a kissing
chamber enclosed in the corner, a stream
runs from a lost river or a leak from
an ancient watermain, choking back
to its source. My shadow sprawls on the
bricks beneath, as if to attach itself to itself
and multiply under stalactites in this unit
of storage the city fails to lease, a hub for
rats & disused fibre-optics. There is enough
space to sit inside & for the river to rise
and cancel this bucket of oxygen, closing
London back to ground level as the detritus
swirls to the surface for the tea-drinkers
to watch — swirls of champagne corks,
consumables — that submerge again & rise
with the broken glass & the bladderwrack.
from Whitehall Jackals (Nine Arches Press, 2013).

Order Whitehall Jackals.

‘london bacteria is virulent: writing whitehall jackals’ by Chris McCabe.

Whitehall Jackals reviewed in Stride and Sabotage.

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