Category Archives: chapbooks

Lucy Sheerman’s Rarefied (falling without landing)

Lucy Sheerman was born in Wales and grew up in West Yorkshire. Her work has recently been included in the Shearsman anthology Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets, edited by Carrie Etter, and The International Egg and Poultry Review (Friends Magazine 2). She also has a commissioned piece of work in Archive of the Now, a digital collection of poets performing their own work, based at Queen Mary, University of London.

She set up the rem press poetry series with Karlien van den Beukel and ran the poetic practice seminar with Redell Olsen and Andrea Brady. She is currently a literature specialist at the Arts Council, working to support the development of writers and new writing. She lives with her partner and four children in Cambridge. Rarefied (falling without landing) is published by Oystercatcher Press.


Lucy writes:

“I wrote the sequence in response to the documentary Apollo Wives, a series of interviews with the wives of the Apollo astronauts. They talked about the experience of being plunged into the media spotlight while their husbands were on the Apollo programme and how they formed strong bonds with each other while living in close proximity on a military housing base.
Structurally I have been using fairly strict constraints to number of lines and number of beats in a line, but these are significantly longer than the palette I used to work with. I find that it has been very liberating to lengthen my lines and it has felt like reintroducing oxygen into the writing to a degree. The ability to let the writing breathe and allow a vestige of narrative provided an entry point into the work which however I felt I could still control. Some of my earlier work had got so sparse that it was almost visual. This shift meant the text became more expansive, capable of including narrative, memory and speech in quite a different way.
Rarefied (Sinatra, misappropriated) was written during a period when I was writing late at night and early in the morning while the children were asleep so I felt I was writing by moonlight and it was quite solitary – my partner tends to disappear during term time, similarly my father was absent during the week. Witnessing and then experiencing that sense of dislocation resonated.
One of the wives talked about looking up at the moon and not being able to believe her husband was really up there. That image of longing became the kernel of the sequence. Another interviewee talked about her attempts to get the lawn to grow in the desert conditions they were living in and how it had been all but destroyed by the paparazzi thronging around her home during the moon landings. I liked the marriage of that domestic concern with the vast abstract experience of staring at the moon. The inability to conceive of her husband being on the moon and the being in the moment of looking down at an untidy lawn suggests why people are more able to believe the moon landings are a hoax, an elaborate filmed sequence shot in a studio, than a real event.
Some of the photographs and the image I had of a woman looking up at the moon linked with the story of Ariadne waking up on Naxos to discover she has been abandoned by Theseus. Catullus’ description of this moment is beautiful, but so is his sympathetic description of Theseus’ memory being distorted, allowing him to leave Ariadne behind because he has been made to forget her. The balance Catullus presents gave me the structure to describe both the experience of the wives and of the astronauts as they left earth. It became a trope for understanding the splitting that took place between the astronauts and their wives and the old world. I loved Catullus’s motif of a weaving shuttle so I used that too. One of the interviewees described the experience of being left and living through the Apollo programme as ‘like being shipwrecked together’. The idea of floating, being set adrift, of being marooned permeates all these narratives.
I used details about the Apollo missions lifted from the NASA and Wikipedia websites and the words of the astronauts and their wives. I used stories and quotations from a lot of different individuals so it doesn’t represent one single narrative, more of a composite. They all bring facets of the experience of being left or of leaving, of strangeness and alienation. I liked the way they combined into a story made up of fragments and although that makes some aspects of the tale short circuit or resistant to forming a satisfying narrative it added to the overriding sense of the normal becoming abnormal as it does in moonlight and when close relationships start to distort.
The interviews and accounts of the landings defer to the potency of images, the experience of being watched and photographed. For example, one of the key scenes of the film is of a photographer posing and shooting the wives in the desert. Families were photographed on the ‘death watch’ as they observed lift off; when Apollo 12 was struck by lightning these photographs seem to mediate the trauma, and make it meaningful for the viewer. On this mission, the NASA ground crew put pictures of Playboy playmates into the Apollo checklists with captions such as ‘seen any interesting hills or valleys lately’ – the moon is a woman, but so is the earth. It’s a simultaneous leaving behind and being separated from the familiar, earthy, for the abstract, echoing the description of Theseus’ departure.
The photographs and memories in the documentary were often distorted by time or by physical barriers. Images of the moon, the earth and other people are obscured or mediated by lenses, television screens, visors, sunglasses, newspaper reports or Wikipedia entries. On one mission the camera was destroyed when it was pointed directly at the sun and no images were broadcast. Nevertheless these images became a short hand for lived experience or feeling. People were watching the moon landings on television and projecting their aspirations or desires onto the astronauts and even their families. It creates a reality in which a stranger’s appearance shapes the emotional responses of others, giving it a hyperreal importance.
The idea of surfaces and appearances also exist in the description of family relationships. The wives reported being told not to quarrel with their husbands when they came home on leave. When they were away on missions the wives held up signs for the media painted with the words ‘thrilled, happy, proud’, things they were advised to say to the reporters who mobbed them. There are photographs of them carrying them like speech bubbles, or placards. One of the astronauts left a picture of his family on the moon. It seems like a tangible abandonment although I don’t think that is how it was perceived.
Many of the marriages ended in divorce – so that metaphorically these leavings or separations were real and became permanent. The alcoholism and depression amongst the men and the women involved underlines the ripping apart from each other, from the world in a way that was irrevocable. It’s the price of the knowledge and wonder they gained.
The motif of surfaces and their fragility is implicit in the risk of the whole enterprise. One of the daughters had a recurring nightmare that her father kicked through the skin of the rocket ship and was sucked into space. It suggests how delicate the ties holding people together were, how easily wrenched or cut. It echoes the damage that happens to the weft and warp of the stories and narratives relayed. The Apollo 10 spacecraft at the science museum is so fragile – seeing it underlines the nature of the leap of faith they all made and how much they had to lose.”
ii.  Theseus
Captured in the rapture of the moment,
the universe shaking the shining stars.
His co-ordinates fixed. Time-trapped. Airborne.
Considering the heavens breathtaking,
finds he takes no special joy in walking.
Each small step a measurement of distance,
mapping out interesting hills and valleys,
voluptuous encounters with strangeness.
He has a finite number of heartbeats –
wasted while looking back. Not halting, he
gains speed. Crash landing into history.

What is man that thou art mindful of him?
When he comes apart in tiny pieces
just like this tiny pea, pretty and blue.
Earth disappears behind his thumb – eclipsed.
He lets all slip from his forgetful mind.
Biddings fading, the image left behind,
obliterated. Only his footprint
lingering near the family snapshot.
A square of memory, plastic coated.
All shaded in his thoughts with blind dimness.

The camera points directly sunwards
and he is lost in a blaze of light. Blinks,
feels the sickening sense of weightlessness
bringing nausea spreading across skin.
These first footsteps last forever almost.
Sensing perhaps he might never go back
he longs for animation suspended,
solitude, paler than the gleam of gold.
Lightness floating across his face like dust,
shimmering. Hand shadowing eyes, he waves.

Back home they can hear the commentary.
Pinned to their seats, eyes fixed upon the screen,
they watch the world as the world watches them.
Aflame with longing for this bright mirage,
guests crowd in close and closer. Avidly
taking speech shorthand, light flashes pulse.
Never minding them if they leave her be,
She grips the cigarette and absently
counts down to the next sip of martini.
Transmission ends, all contact lost. Static.
from Rarefied (falling without landing) (Oystercatcher Press, 2012).
Order Rarefied (falling without landing).
Read a review of Rarefied (falling without landing).

Sarah Crewe’s Aqua Rosa

Sarah Crewe is 30 years old and from the Port of Liverpool. She has work at ZimZalla as part of Jo Langton’s PoeTea project and in In The Company of Ghosts: The Poetics of the Motorway anthology by erbacce press. She also has work in the upcoming collection The Sheffield Anthology: Poems From The City Imagined from Smith/Doorstop. Her favourite fruit tea is pomegranate and she thinks that water chestnuts are the Devil’s counters. Aqua Rosa is published by erbacce-press.
“Sarah Crewe is the creator of poetic vignettes, an imagery not of the surreal but of the proto-mundane, the elastic and the luminous. She is a poet of distinction in vocabulary, author of a lexicon that reaffirms the everyday in its intensity, utilising a finesse that pales the false poetic posturing of those travelling in the roadmarks of what was. This is a stone’s throw from Maggie O’Sullivan, from Geraldine Monk, this marks a beginning that can bring only hope to those discerning enough to recognise it.”

– SJ Fowler
“Sarah Crewe’s debut is inhabited by warrior princesses, ghost girls, anarchists, elves, Marxists, kittens, brides – telling stories that are part manifesto, part personal testimony. It invokes a world where people’s songs are deeply concentrated and eerily beautiful. In her poems, the Port of Liverpool is a mythical, contrary place, where kisses are blown across the water, but sirens wail. These poems, playful but precise, are full of musical grit and sparkle. This debut introduces a poet who deserves your full attention.”

– Amy Key
Axe Actual
I am cryptocrystalline
I am warrior princess
Amber brown curvature
Artemis of rock world
I am hunter gatherer
For hunter read killer
For gatherer read forage
flint/flash beasts and berries
I bury. I am Queen of the Stone Age
Mammoth bone blood and bouffant hair
I lure creatures over clifftops
I cut, I chop I claw
I ensnare I am effigy
I am Venus Paleolithic
I am Calvin’s killer frisbee
Don’t dare call me primitive.
Swish out maroon and black and swallow
red and kalamata, our food matched
uniform. Art factory shop girls
tapping nails dirty laugh on swipe.
You loved Lempicka and we swapped
life stories between Mapplethorpe keys.
Northern fado under Bourgeois web.
Your Rainer crucifix tides ran straight
into my own moonblood, symmetry
you could not clock on a wage slip.
Yet no sight of you or sound of you
or scratch off you or song from you for
years. You weaved the words sexy Liverpool
mamma into my new ID list.
Keep Portuguese kitten etched in yours.
Ana you stemmed and stretched but he stitched
you up. Voltar-se. You can’t fix flowers.
the ballad of Rupert and Dorothy
you’re famously famous.
red top blue sky scoop snatch
graphics. cervine page three
paradummies divert
from drop zone. but the
screen is down. the munchkins
have been caught out playing
Fred Astaire on tele-
phone wires. your sideshow
bobette crashed the house
on Toto and stole the
wicked witch of Wapping’s
shoes. if the slippers fit
then make sure she can run
in them flight J96
Qantas Kelvin butler
monkeys onboard to serve
now fly my pretties fly
wide awake club
s t o p b r i e s t o p. no mercy in midnight blue.
barrel shaped subtext. 30’s slimkins pact.
Kurt Geiger newsnight lust.
function and comfort
fuck this I’ll take them
off anyway

deflation. Andrew time has not worked out.
British Gas 80s logo blue fire spheres
Coppola’s Dracula castle fort. if
your bones chill again i’ll invoke Prince
of Darkness. or Jack.

Scotch is needed
must move for whiskey
stuck by the fire
your blue blood is trauma
Dagenham creeps into
view. shift to Basildon
a grimace. mutual
wonder at Dave Gahan’s voice

red wine hands full
tannins curse me
stick to my lips
’til Monday morn
please understand
how much I want
those bloody shoes

i eat German stars
pink leopardskin fur
gilet Breck Road girl
root out in your dreams
what I can or can’t
Simone says
Put your hands
On your head
Banshee bird dance
First right after
Next set of lights

Split the Red Sea
Wave to Babel
Bow your berry head
To the Greco grotesque

Simone says
Cover your ears
The boy who says fuck
Can’t possibly be yours

Be your own Boudica
Climb red-black chariot
Scratch itch for Euston
Wake in Bloomsbury haze
Hair pinched at platform
And wild eyes to boot

Simone says
Roll up your sleeves
In dishwater prose
In pugilist bleach

Wrap your tits
In net curtain
Keep close to chest
Hope brash best front forward
Can hide swinging brick

Simone says
Listen love
i’m not Simone
On reaching road
Her mind is changed
I can be Simone,
Rosa, Ulrika
Whatever you want

Simone says
Put your hands
On your hips
And hope for
A sea change.
My grandmother as Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ
the King Liverpool
Spiky bridesmaid. A crown of thorns through a workhouse site. They kissed your toes at La Plaza De Toros. Miss Porcupine, a hue of lilac and blue. Beautiful. I’m never home until i see you. I worship at your feet, I play at them also trying to filch luminous sweets from your chequered pink pockets. You are just 44 years old, post war, your beauty was rationed. I hear you everyday. Raised in Little Italy, but all that was roman was the crypt and your nose. Virgo runs screaming from an archbishop’s ghost in an early morning fog. I can still hear you sing in the key of H, to the world’s largest organ never built. Palimpsest of carols over Tridentine rites. A sun ray slices diocese flags, through sandstone shadow. Four dress designs, but three times a lady.
from Aqua Rosa (erbacce-press, 2012).
Order Aqua Rosa.

‘Formerly’, a collaboration between Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald

(Hercules Editions, 2012) is a collaboration between Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald, who share a desire to commemorate forgotten corners of a London now fast disappearing. The sonnet is the classic elegiac form, but Yoseloff’s are irregular, anarchic; the perfect companions for MacDonald’s grainy photographs of superannuated shop fronts, council estates and industrial sites – defiant structures left behind by the sweep of mass redevelopment.
Tamar Yoseloff’s most recent collection is The City with Horns (Salt, 2011). She is the author of two collaborative editions with artist Linda Karshan and editor of A Room to Live In: A Kettle’s Yard Anthology (Salt, 2007). She lives in London, where she works as a tutor in creative writing.
Vici MacDonald lives in London, where she works as an editor and art director. She is a founding editor of contemporary art magazine Art World, and author of a monograph on the Australian sculptor Rosalie Gascoigne (1917 – 99), renowned for her poetic assemblages of found text.
Formerly is a direct and quietly urgent dispatch from a familiar but disappearing London, a lonely, seedy and dilapidated bedsitland of regrets and furtive longings, all covered by ‘the fine dust of misery’.”
– Owen Hatherley
Formerly is a wonderful series of photographs by Vici MacDonald and loose sonnets by Tamar Yoseloff responding to London’s continual dissolution and reinscription of itself as a contemporary city. The poetry, though often humorous and with ephemeral subjects, is always fully achieved and as richly-textured as the photographs, making the nebulous tangible again, as Frank O’Hara suggested poetry should. This is the best collaboration between these arts that I have seen since Fay Godwin and Ted Hughes’ Remains of Elmet, and I cannot recommend it too highly.”
– Ian Duhig
“Tamar Yoseloff’s verse boxes shadows while Vici MacDonald’s surfaces change before our eyes. This is the London we have been looking for down the ages, from Dickens to Sinclair and Whistler to Kossoff. It is here and now but only for a moment, you have to be very quick and catch it while you can …”
– Josh McFadyen
Tamar Yoseloff on Formerly
“This project began with a mutual fascination for dereliction. I’m attracted to places that have been abandoned, forgotten, allowed to fall beyond repair, ‘places where a thought might grow’, to quote Derek Mahon. London is full of these locations, and mostly we walk past, too distracted to question what happened there and when. Sometimes just a boarded window or a ghost sign on a wall will be all that remains of human activity. I’ve always found a strange beauty in these places because they are the ruins of our modern lives, our great structures, our Tinterns. The city moves quickly, is unsentimental, so these poems are my attempt to capture what is already on the way out, momentarily halted in the photographs.”
Vici MacDonald on Formerly
“I am fascinated by the mundane poetry of commercial facades, and the images here result from decades spent photographing them. Things which attract my lens tend to disappear shortly afterwards, so most of these scenes exist no longer: only the uprooted gravestones and unreachable ghost signs linger on. Once, I saw such fading corners as poignant reminders of outmoded aspirations and long-lost good times. But of course it was the passing of my own time I was capturing  – life flicking past with the speed of a camera shutter as the city evolves relentlessly on. London’s mouldering walls and windows, its gravestones and ghost signs, will long outlast me; and for generations to come, their poetry will endure, too.”
Fat chance you’ll ever break out of here,
this depository for great mistakes
you’ve made your home. Just enough room
for a bed and a stool, a cell of sorts,
for a man of thin means. Lean times.
But I’m a girl who’s capable
and culpable, who knows the value
of a pound. You can’t resist the give
of my carapace, my caterpillar lips,
my capacious thighs. I’ll never sell you
short. You’ll never let me down.
For the first time, you are full
to the very brim with the milk
of human kindness. Moo.
Quickie Heel Bar
Ladies, here’s the shit:
your skirt’s so tight you can barely walk,
your stillies clack clack like a ticking clock.
You strut to the bar for a rum and coke,
scan the joint for a bloke with a wad,
some blow to share, a flair for words:
I’m your Cyrano without the hooter,
your Romeo with a better future,
your Casanova with a Rolodex,
your Ronaldo with Italian treads.
I can go all night like the Duracell Bunny,
not being funny. I’m a bull in the ring,
I’ll make you ring a ding ding, no bull.
Ladies, get your coats, you’ve pulled.
Limehouse Cut
You slumped into the night. That was it:
I fling myself at exits, breezeblock walls,
I haunt abandoned lots, urinal stalls,
anywhere that bears your mark (the flick
of the switch and then the dark, the quickie fuck),
any place you had me, any way;
like they said you’d do, you chucked me away
like trash; like shit on your shoe, I’m stuck
in the past; I’m pissed. Now I splash my tears
over the ragged towpath of your estate
and wait for rain to wash the morning clear,
and wait for love to incubate from hate,
and wait for spring to strip the sky of soot,
and wait for pain to crack your concrete heart.
The Rose
Your memory’s turning tricks; a sudden
blush as you relive the bump and grind,
the slap and tickle. It was all a giggle,
didn’t care about the consequences, cold
light of day, and all of that: a dab of
La Vie En Rose behind the ear, a skinful,
and you were set. No regrets, that’s what
she sang, no regrets, but you forget
what it was like when you could clench
the thorny branch between your teeth,
dance all night for the boys. Your heart’s
playing tricks; the stop / start / stop,
that voice, clear as a bell in your mind:
Hurry up, gentlemen, please, it’s time.
from Formerly (Hercules Editions, 2012).
Order Formerly.
Read Tammy’s first Formerly post at Invective Against Swans.
Tammy writes about Number 13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth.
Read about Formerly’s launch (and some thoughts on the olfactory properties of books).
Read about the Poetry Society workshop based on Formerly.

Sophie Mayer’s Kiss Off

Sophie Mayer is the author of the poetry collections Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman), The Private Parts of Girls (Salt), and Kiss Off (Oystercatcher), with Lemniscate (Knives, Forks and Spoons) forthcoming. She teaches creative writing for universities and activist reading for English PEN, and is a regular film reviewer for Sight & Sound and The F-Word . Her latest project is I Don’t Call Myself a Poet, an online anthology of interviews with contemporary poets living and working in the UK and Ireland.

“Love letters across continents, eras and genders between Orlando (Woolf’s and Potter’s/Swinton’s) and Alex (protagonist of Lucia Puenzo’s film XXY, played by Inés Efron), with a twist of feminist theory and all the colours of evolution’s rainbow.”
“The words of the gurlesque luxuriate: they roll around in the sensual here while avoiding the sharpness of overt messages, preferring the curve of sly mockery to theory or revelation.”

– James McLaughlin, Stride
“This is a beautifully orchestrated, bravura performance for mind and voice. Or, perhaps, minds and voices. For …  the writing reaches out through friends, texts and influences to the jostling realities of the contemporary world … the Acknowledgements section of Sophie Mayer’s pamphlet mentions Luce Irigaray, David Attenborough, Wikipedia and Joan Roughgarden. Oh, and it also names the friends who contributed to the project by responding to those very first tentative notes on Facebook.”

– Peter Hughes, Poetry Book Society
First Round
KO to your kisser, sister
lips meeting red leather
you better / go down
this is the kiss-
off blister (this
bliss this bliss too much
lip in all shades and flavours
chocolate ice cherry
pie berry burst fruit of the forest frost fairy
high / gloss
makes lips
stick / screw
courage to the speckled mirror
(they call me the kiss-mister
fogging up your silvered
your hornrims with my hot
breath in a blotted
lipprint lined
in pink no
mess no miss
no make
up in school yes
miss marked
my work with red-
inked kisses small
strawberries of errancy
truancy (run away
with me like a sadie
benning video like
a browneyed girl in the ring
and breaking free
of the wooden o
sign here for your
absence xo
Third Attempt] (ExtraIrigaray)
A lipped kiss of crossed legs un
crossing. O, you think so do you
wear the pants she pants lips o
pen he writes see ho
wever you pitch it, pitch like a girl (high no
tes, glass rimmed with lip
stick tracery ornate as dynamite
criss-crossed for the takedown (the lo
vebomb wants us all in the o
of wound how juicy how moanumental

the ice breaks up and in
the cut she writes on the mirror over the fatal
washbasin no
pen eyeliner will have to do so
many things (kohl and response
able to lid or lip touching
brush pencil or liquid it will make you
a star
t as
tart a st.
art astarte

in a doublet and farthingale
in a black tux and nylons
in an island nightclub
in a shower a singlet
in the darkness
you are the darkness o
pacity, o paucity of your sync sound
I want to speak with the inside of yo

secretly / glancing / eyeline / (o)r love
matches (burnt) letters
addressed for my eyes
only and signed
XO 5th S[ea N]ymphony
you’re a kiss-in in
an aquarium gold
fish lips and bottlenose a little
pokery (when jiggery
makes waves you stay in the still
ness you pitch trough

and you’re home free
squid-flushed with the first
lick of ocean (made me ink
myself hey blue
and all the dolphin-swimming
clichés kick around you click
with your tongue
the diver it’s
become (coraling
fish into glitterballs for the eating

and when the gannets dive wing
folded you rise
to meet them dancing
beak to beak a lucky
streak of finned silver (all dorsal
flex oh yes you are
a muscle crunched and stretched the length
of a lipped horizon under sunset
dipping redly for the perfect picture
postcard wish you were (stamp / licked o

raise a blush from the deeps
of my skin (sunk there by squalls
and cannonballs all spar
and seaweed now full
stripped and seachanged
see the mermaid curled
upon my decks (yo
ho yo ho yo
u who should scratch
pervert see her mix the fresh
into the salt and glitter
out her sign off her call
sign Radio (raise yo
hands in the air
from Kiss Off (Oystercatcher Press, 2011).
Order Kiss Off.
Order Sea Pie: A Shearsman anthology of Oystercatcher poetry,
edited by Peter Hughes (Shearsman, 2012).
Visit Sophie’s website.

Rosie Shepperd’s That so-easy thing

Rosie Shepperd lives in London and is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Glamorgan University. Her work has appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. She was a finalist in the inaugural Manchester Poetry Prize, the Ware Poetry Prize and the Café Writer’s. She won the 2007 Writer’s Inc Bursary and won the 2009 Ted Walters/Liverpool University Prize. She was a winner in this year’s Poetry Business Competition.

“These poems have a real originality both in form and content – from sestina to surrealism, villanelle to vignette – and are erudite, well-travelled, witty and sexy.”
– Carol Ann Duffy
“The surface textures of Rosie Shepperd’s poems are so engaging, with their wit, their sensual appetite, the fluid shifts of the voice, that you could almost overlook their most distinctive quality: a steady lithe intelligence, alert to the slightest nuances, like a fish in a fast-flowing stream.”
– Philip Gross
“Rosie Shepperd’s poems unfold with the logic of a well-planned journey to an unmapped land. We take in all the sights, the sounds, the scents – the local dishes – and experience, as things play out, the twin pleasures of inevitability and surprise that are the hallmark of superb poetry – and significant travels. We read these poems to notice things we haven’t seen before, and recognise what we didn’t know we know.”
– Liane Strauss

Tomorrow will be a day beloved of your father and of you
My name is Dr Seth; we have not met but I know your sister.
I’m going to tell you what we will do now for your father.
He is comfortable, not in pain and has just finished a glass
of apple juice. When I stopped by to see him, he waved
and you know, this may be a good time for you to leave.
You’ll be all right, get something to eat, just something light.
I know your mother would much rather drive in daylight.
It’s understandable and she is lucky to have you two sisters
close by. You’ll be all right. Let’s walk. See the leaves;
they have so many colours. The birch by your father’s
room – see, see how the branches move, almost in waves
of gold and silver with lamb-tails brushing against the glass.
The sun is low now; there is just time to visit the glass-
houses which, Fr Michael says, are the real highlight
of St Simon’s, with their tomatoes, anemones and waves
of vines. You’ll be all right. We have time; the lay-sisters
will know where to find us and if he is sleeping, your father,
well, he is sleeping and we must make sure he leaves
us in peace. It will help you to be outside, to leave
that place. See the late sun. Look at the weatherglass.
Tomorrow will give us a day beloved of your father
and of you and feel, even in this precious Autumn light
that is almost too thin, there is life, in you and your sister.
It’s all right. See the night-shift in the car park, waving
to their husbands, their wives. They talk in soft waves,
they think of the evening to come, how it will leave
them. Do you know Tagore, the Indian poet? Your sister
brought a book. It’s not what you expect, no? The glass
helped your father to read. Faith is a bird, feeling the light.
It’s all right. I know, you’re shocked. A man like your father?
That is what you are thinking, is it not? My father,
reading poems about faith? Tagore is not on his wave-
length, no? Let me tell you. Tagore is a man who delights
all men. Did you know he met Einstein? They both leave
each of us with the idea that we look at life through glass.
It’s all right; chance has its way, just as you and your sister
have each other. Chance and causality move together in waves.
See the lay-sisters; they do not know where the birch leaves fall
or why the lamb-tails brush with such lightness against the glass.
‘Tomorrow will be a day beloved of your father and of you’ won the Ted Walters/Liverpool University Prize in 2009 and has been commended in the 2012 Hippocrates Poetry Competition.

Perfect and private things have imperfect and public endings
          i.m. Weldon Kees
And did you choose those friends with care and intelligence and did
they rinse your socks, let out the pinkish water and find a good home
for your cat whose name, I know, is Lonesome? I’ve read that suicides
prepare themselves with excruciating care, seldom leave errands for
others and yes, I remember they remove their glasses, sometimes
watches and also shoes. They do not tend to empty savings accounts;
usually they eschew talk of starting afresh, anew or anything ridiculous.
I hope your mind has ceased to flap like a broken blind; perhaps it was
broken. Perhaps it is. It may be dawn before you sleep and the silence
of these altered rooms has thinned. I want to think you are there now,
sitting in a different porch-light, where the wind doesn’t rush and tall
angular trees are actual and take no holiday. The music will start again
inside a small responsive smile. For a while anyway, let this be enough.

from That so-easy thing (Smith/Doorstop, 2012).
Order That so-easy thing.
Sheenagh Pugh interviews Rosie here.

Joanne Limburg’s The Oxygen Man

Joanne Limburg is the author of two poetry collections published by Bloodaxe. Femenismo was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize; Paraphernalia was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She has also written a memoir: The Woman Who Thought Too Much (Atlantic Books, 2010). She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.

“The poems that make up The Oxygen Man (Five Leaves Publications, 2012) were written in response to the death of the author’s younger brother, a brilliant chemist who took his own life in 2008. They follow Limburg as she visits the mid-Western town where her brother lived, worked and died, range back over their shared childhood, and look ahead as she tries to work out what it means to be the one who stays behind.”
“Limburg’s universe appears to be constantly twisting away from perception even as she pins it down in lines of singular economy.”
Poetry Book Society
She will harrow this town, she will turn him up,
whole or in pieces. Being a sister,
she knows that brothers are born to trouble.
Her part is to rescue him,
lend him a heart to face his enemies,
or failing that, confound them herself
with withheld smiles, or with her sharp
big sister’s tongue; and if she finds
them gone to ground, their damage done,
she’ll cut the losses for both of them
and seek him out, wherever he’s lying,
broken and say, Brother, there’s
no shame in one lost battle, or
in ten. Put the phial down –
don’t drink! And if it is too late
for that, she’ll scruff the man and stick
her fingers down his throat, or find
an antidote, or make her own,
or heave time back, or failing that,
and even failing that, she’ll take him home,
and never mind how small the pieces.
Sylar and Elle
Into the midst of things more real
and personal, creep Sylar and Elle.
She is shaking with grief and rage;
he wants to know if he can feel
for someone else, he covets pain.
So he approaches her, this girl
whose father he scalped some episodes back,
and she cries You! and zaps him. And again.
I’ll kill you! Zap! She hurls blue lightning
from her palms, it hits him dead
in the chest, and he falls back, his arms
spread wide, a T-shaped allusion to something –
make that ‘someone’ – the viewers know,
and maybe love, and maybe pray to.
Then, in case you hadn’t got it,
he gets up. He has no wounds to show
but he looks chastened, and his shirt’s
in charcoaled tatters. I understand,
he coos. You hate me. Let me have it:
I can take it. She slings her hurts
again. Again. The shirt is gone
completely. His body twitches back
to life, as we expect. He’s keeping
calm. He’s kept his trousers on.
Elle’s given up, she’s emptied
of her hate. His work complete,
Sylar crawls to her, the blue
sparks in his hands, all mended,
and they laugh. I never want
the scene to end, but it must.
I want to do what Elle does, give it
all to Sylar, but I can’t.
Oxygen Man
Today, instead of dying,
you could go to work,
open up the lab
that has your name on it,
power something up –
some expensive toy
it took two grants to buy –
and set creation going.
I said creation. I know
the things that you can do:
engineer an enzyme,
speed up evolution;
one of your early tricks
was making oxygen.
Do that once more for me.
Take the manganese ions,
the ones the flowers use,
bind them up with ligands,
stick them in solution,
add your hypochlorite,
wait. We’ll wait.
Maybe minutes, hours –
you know, I don’t – but then
we’ll see the bubbles rise.
Now that’s your own good stuff:
breathe it, breathe it in.
Blue is not your colour.
Let everything be green.
from The Oxygen Man (Five Leaves Publications, 2012).
Order The Oxygen Man.
Visit Joanne’s website.
Visit Five Leaves Publications.

Kayo Chingonyi’s Some Bright Elegance

© Image by Kim-Leng Hills

Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia in 1987 and came to the UK in 1993. He studied English Literature at The University of Sheffield where he completed an undergraduate dissertation on the work of Saul Williams and co-founded a poetry and music event series called Word Life.
His poems are published in City Lighthouse (tall-lighthouse, 2009), The Shuffle Anthology (Shuffle Press, 2009), Verbalized (British Council South Africa, 2010), Paradise By Night (Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2010), Clinic II (Egg Box Publishing, 2011), The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing, 2011), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt Publishing, 2011) and Out Of Bounds (Bloodaxe Books, 2012). He is an emerging writer-in-residence at Kingston University and works as a freelance writer, performer and creative writing tutor.
He has performed his work across the UK at such venues and events as The Big Chill, Larmer Tree Festival, Essex Poetry Festival, London Literature Festival, Sheffield Poetry Festival, Contact Theatre, The RSC Swan Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The University of Bradford and Buckingham Palace. In 2010 he was a touring artist with the British Council as part of Verbalized, a collaborative tour of South Africa and the UK. 

Some Bright Elegance captures those moments of transformation when people, places or objects take on new significances. In the book this is explored in relation to bereavement, the transcendental qualities of music and the search for spiritual understanding and connection.”
“More than a title, Some Bright Elegance is a statement of intent, a promise that Chingonyi delivers on.”
– Jacob Sam-La Rose
“This is the work of a strong and passionate new voice in UK poetry, made even stronger by the contrast with the ‘bright elegance’ of the style.”
– Dr. Nathalie Teitler
“Chingonyi’s poems have a permanence about them that belies their dark fragility. Some of them even approach that supposed impossibility: an investigation into the nature (spiritual and physical) of things. Chingonyi’s opening salvo reminds us that to be fully human is in itself an act of being fully observant.”
– Roger Robinson
‘It is possible for you to reach it but you will grieve a great deal’
                                                       – The Gospel of Judas
Imagine the husk of a man who knows
his son will die before the week is out.
You ask him why he sings, no doubt, baffled
by the faith it takes to open the most
stubborn of hearts, make a bloom of gently
insistent beauty. This is when your own
newly sprung bloom would shut itself again,
afraid that get well cards are only empty
measures of sentiment, the weight of a word.
You’re sorry with no answer to this obscene
riddle: a stubble headed boy whose scream
fissures the night ward watched by a just lord
who won’t intervene, for all this man stops
to find the tune that, even now, isn’t lost.
Some Bright Elegance
For the screwfaced in good shoes that paper
the walls of dance halls, I have little patience.
I say dance, not to be seen but free, your feet
are made for better things. Feel the bitterness
in you lift as it did for a six year old Bojangles
tapping a living out of Richmond beer gardens
to the delight of a crowd that wasn’t lynching
today but laughing at the quickness of the kid.
Throw yourself into the thick, emerging pure
reduced to flesh and bone, nerve and sinew.
Your folded arms understand music. Channel
a packed Savoy Ballroom and slide across
the dusty floor as your zoot-suited twenties
self, the feather in your hat from an Ostrich,
the swagger in your step from the ochre dust
of a West African village. Dance for the times
you’ve been stalked by store detectives
for a lady on a bus, for the look of disgust
on the face of a boy too young to understand
why he hates but only that he must. Dance
for Sammy, dead and penniless, and for the
thousands still scraping a buck as street corner
hoofers who, though they dance for their food,
move as if it is only them and the drums, talking.
Alternate Take
When they laid our father out, mwaice wandi,
I want to say, I’m meant to say, soft light
played the skin of his spent face and the sobs
were, of course, a jangling kind of song.
If I could take you where the sandy earth
meets his final stone, tiled and off-white,
we might have learned to worship better gods.
He was known, in the shebeens, as long John.
At the wake relatives tried variations
on the words of the day: I am sorry
for your grieving/your trouble/your loss.
I’ve been weighing these apologies for years
that pass and retreat like disused stations.
I think of his walk becoming your quarry,
his knack for beguiling women, your cross.
It’s enough to bring me here, past tears
to where his face simplifies to a picture:
the shrine in Nagoya, him stood, Sequoia
among lesser trees, looking good in denim;
every inch the charismatic spectre.
In his memory my voice bears his tincture –
saxophone played low slash boy raised on soya
porridge, chloroquine, a promise of heaven.
There are days I think I’m only a vector
carrying him slowly to my own graveyard
and, standing at the lectern, rather than my son,
will be another copy: the same sharp
edge to the chin, that basso profundo hum.
Kid brother, we breathers have made an art
of negation, see how a buckled drum
is made from a man’s beating heart
and a fixed gaze is a loaded weapon.
from Some Bright Elegance (Salt Publishing, 2012).
Order Some Bright Elegance.
Visit Kayo’s website.
Read more about Kayo at Poetry International Web.

Janet Rogerson’s A Bad Influence Girl

Janet Rogerson lives in the North West of England. She has an MA in Creative Writing and also teaches Creative Writing. She has spent time working in various places including a university, hospital, bank, factory, shop, pub and prison but she likes to work with poems most of all. She is currently studying on the PhD Creative Writing programme at the University of Manchester. Her poems have been published in The Rialto, Smiths Knoll and Stand. Her pamphlet, A Bad Influence Girl, from which the poems below are taken, was published by The Rialto earlier this year.

“In this outstanding debut, Janet Rogerson puts her finger on the odd moments when the extraordinary meets the recognisable and everyday: ‘The hearse has driven onto the grass!’ exclaims one vivid, unsettling poem and, throughout, Rogerson keeps the tone light as the material darkens, telling stories which sting and convince in poems whose timing is bewilderingly confident and assured.”
– John McAuliffe 
“Janet Rogerson becomes our bad influence, addressing us intimately, telling us secrets and showing us a variety of entirely seductive characters and situations. Her language is sparky and exciting, delivering poems of extraordinary detail, establishing the realism from which they often fly into the surreal. She shows us a different way of looking at the world and we accompany her acute poetic voice zigzagging through these surprising and delightful poems, not one ‘statement a linear one’.”
– Alicia Stubbersfield
A Pebble Hits The Windshield
and at the same time across town
a loud noise cracks the glass
of a carriage clock.
Am I missing something?
How many times will you tug
that drawer, anger rising
against the fork or spoon
that holds it shut – how many times
before you close your eyes?
Is it funnier to see a person
fall downstairs
or just to hear them
With a porcelain elephant’s trunk
it is only a matter of time.
The fractures and fissures
are of little note, that is,
how they occur – force, pitch,
a small boy, but you could
lose yourself in the splintered
circle of cracked glass.
Cops have been known
to circle a bullet hole
for days, clockwise
and counter-clockwise.
You can lose yourself
in the splintered circle
of cracked glass and find
yourself still lost years later
going around and around
stopping briefly at the summit
only to fall harder
faster down again
blood on your fingers
was that a bullet?
The Significants
When they left the forest, they left no footprints, they stopped our breath, chilled us and put us to ground, they were warriors striding out with fire and friction, dressed in black their eyes dark and fixed in time, fixed in history and a thousand photographs, you knew they were harder and crueller than we could ever be yet they looked upon us with kindness, they impressed us and we felt humbled, honoured, we wanted to feel the grass beneath our knees, you would not say they were sexy, because they were sex, you would not say they were immortal, they were mortal just like us, they were the opposite to us, even the ugly ones were so beautiful they took our breath and flicked it from their fingers like water, it evaporated into the ether, became insignificant, they were never strangers, they were inside and outside of us, after them everything was different, they defined us, it made little difference if they were good or bad, over time the gods and devils became one and the same, connected by truth or lies, this is why to kill is just to kill but to assassinate is a hissed, whispered utterance, that lasts forever.

The Lovely Garden
The graves were windows with their shutters down.
The flowers were fresh on some and dead on others.
Best is fresh, second is dead, and last is none at all.
An oblong with a stone, again and again and again.
Walking up and down the rows
I realised what was wrong and felt the need
to tell you quickly, just in case. I left a message.
When I die curl me up and place me in a round box.
I cannot lie on my back like a corpse.
I started as a circle, so don’t iron me out.
Don’t make my last statement a linear one.
from A Bad Influence Girl (The Rialto, 2012).
Order A Bad Influence Girl.
Visit Janet’s blog.

Tom Gilliver’s The Graft

Tom Gilliver was born in North Yorkshire in 1990. After studying as an undergraduate at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he is currently writing an MPhil dissertation about twentieth-century poetry. He is especially fond of the poetry of W S Graham and Ian Hamilton Finlay. His first pamphlet, The Graft, is published by Salt Publishing.

“The pastoral mode has traditionally been the playground of the young poet. These quiet and lyrical poems take on the difficult task of maintaining a living connection with literary tradition. The Graft turns upon moments of uncertain feeling wherein the clarity of loss dispels our anxious dialectical interrogations. The poems are cross-pollinated with images of cyclical change, haunting, germination, hibernation and resurrection. The desire of order runs up against the fact of our hybridity, which is reflected in the delicately variegated forms of this collection: ‘a mutation, no more or/ less, like the rest’.”
“In this startling debut, Tom Gilliver walks a quiet bridge by night, his companions the ghosts of old poets and a tyre-deformed hedgehog. These delicate, aurally gorgeous poems perform their strange work on the mind – an accretion of formal and tonal enigmas – ever alert to the ‘flare’ of language, its ‘hoarse gifts’.”
– Sarah Howe
Before We Thaw
With one finger on the atlas,
Bella traces the confused outline
of Nova Zembla.
She says it is as far up as you can go
without turning to ice.
She says it is where icicles come from
in the night, and where reindeer go
to hibernate.
Beyond the window torn paper is falling,
     filled with mistakes
and sketches and drafts.
For a Quiet Night
Let us go where we will not be
overheard, and are unguarded:
here where the hours
could not be smaller.
          The planets are turning
          in and losing
          hair, leaves, sleep.
Now she is coaxing
the fringe to where it must
part, and telling
          how the pale would come
          to rest, how the days
          were taken in by heart.
I walked home with the moon
and the hedgehog’s misshapen ghost.
You followed me, for a little way.
Was it your whiteness or the moon’s
that ducked behind each chimney?
Or did you wear the uniform of night,
since as I looked I lost you in its ranks?
And whose was the sadness —
(it smelt like dawn)
— that all this will be forgotten?
from The Graft (Salt Publishing, 2012).
Order The Graft.

Cathleen Allyn Conway’s Static Cling

Cathleen Allyn Conway is a poet and journalist. Her work has appeared in Bitch, Magma, Cliterature, South Bank Poetry, Full of Crow, The Beat, Ink Sweat & Tears and 3:AM Magazine. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in London, where she is working on a PhD in poetry at the University of Greenwich. Her first pamphlet, Static Cling, is published by dancing girl press.

Orange County
Morning, ten hours after arrival, light
slatted through shades like 80s sunglasses,
you unwrapped your package.
Was I not what you ordered?
Late night at a filling station in Anaheim,
trying to hand over gas money you refused,
your hand finger-picking skiffle
on the denim-ridges of my knee.
“Old Tom Waits or new Tom Waits?”
His blues beat stirs the west
coast air that steeped my lungs.
And later, in the dark,
the dark that hid orange-peel thighs,
go-faster stripes ripping across my belly,
I thought of the Observatory, the Valley,
the Hollywood sign, so surprised it wasn’t lit.
Previously published in South Bank Poetry #7.
Femme Fatale
Her voice quavers as she issues commands,
hands shaking as she picks up the spit-slicked
cat-o’-nine tails to snap at the apples of his ass-cheeks.
He snatches the whip, leather burning her fingers,
flicking his wrist, mouth slack:
No, no! You’re doing it wrong! Like this!
Her stomach jumps as acid bubbles rise,
force her to lurch his spiked champagne.
She pushes up from the bed, runs to the dark
bathroom, where piss rivulets splash the toilet bib,
retching gullet burning, as the rough snort of cocaine
off the kitchen counter rockets through the flat.
Breath choked, she scrapes snot ropes from her nose,
squints in the shadows, as he parks a chair in the hall,
cushion farting under his bare skin. You’re still my mistress;
you’re still in control, he says, tongue lolling,
rubbery cock bouncing in his palm,
bulging eyes glassy, like a butchered cow.
Previously published in 3:AM Magazine.
Inanna in Illinois
          If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
          I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
          I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
          I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
          And the dead will outnumber the living.
                         – Ishtar to the gatekeeper of the underworld
What you wanted was Inanna, sozzled goddess,
rolling up in a chariot Camaro, stinking of cheap
beer and cheaper cigarettes, hair stiff from the scalp,
acid-washed jeans tucked in fake leather boots.
Your Inanna tramps across the state line,
between the twin rivers of the Calumet,
looking for you in strip clubs and dive bars,
truck stops and no-tell motels,
to drag you home, curl up on your bed,
stretch her sparkling claws, before buoyantly
unwrapping the hot pink spandex g-string
with your name on the crotch in gold glitter.
But what you got was a different Inanna:
Instead of spreading her holy legs, waxed
temple welcoming, silicone hot from the
tanning bed, body taut from pole dancing,
your Inanna rose from the Underworld,
sucked you into her squall, weeping rain
from grey eyes wild like the iron Atlantic,
grist in her teeth and blood on her mouth.
from Static Cling (dancing girl press, 2012).
Order Static Cling.