Category Archives: poetry launches

Claire Trévien’s The Shipwrecked House

© Image by Richard Davenport

© Image by Richard Davenport

Claire Trévien is an Anglo-Breton poet. She is the author of poetry pamphlets Low-Tide Lottery (Salt, 2011) and Patterns of Decay (Silkworms Ink, 2011). The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013) is her début collection. She is the co-organizer of Penning Perfumes, the editor of Sabotage Reviews, and the co-editor of Verse Kraken.

The Shipwrecked House
“Ultimately does it matter if the pearls are real or not?
The earth is a pearl, blinding and flawed,
nestled inside the mollusc of the milky way.
Do you prefer your pearls cultured in the art
of oology, or simply coated in fish scales?
Anchors, shipwrecks, whales and islands abound in this first collection by Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien. These poems are sketches, lyrics, dreams, and experiments in language as sound. Trévien’s is a surreal vision, steeped in myth and music, in which everything is alive and – like the sea itself – constantly shifting form. Fishermen become owls; one woman turns into a snake, another gives birth to a tree; a glow-worm might be a wasp or ‘a toy on standby’. Struck through with brilliant and sometimes sinister imagery reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth or an Angela Carter novel, The Shipwrecked House is a unique and hallucinatory debut from a poet-to-watch.”
“Whenever I read new poetry I’m looking for someone else’s delight in language and ideas; for work that commands and sustains my attention. What I never expect, but what I found in Claire Trévien’s work, is a voice already so mature and refined it reads like a previously untranslated classic rather than a debut. These are serious, visually stunning poems of nationality, history and memory, but they’re personal and generous in their wit, as formally innovative as they are endlessly engaged and engaging. Reading them is like spending an hour in the company of someone you secretly admire.”
— Luke Kennard’
The Shipwrecked House I 
The ceiling is tugged by the moon
it expands above us, an opaque dome
through which we guess the stars.
Other ships will be built from these rooms,
other seas and currents eroded by a figurehead.
Walls tremble violet-blue, weave the song
of seagulls into their granite veins.
An empty wine glass fills with cowries.
My mother twists her ring like a weathervane,
east to west; still the sun refuses to set.
Cowries are claimed from the sand;
fingers sniffle through broken claws.
We hinge the stones in pools to watch life
dart out and hide beneath other shelters.
The glass fills but is still half empty.
Ironed darned sheets cover old mattresses that spill
over the frames of beds.
And Cesária Évora sings of homesickness.
After Rimbaud’s ‘Roman’


You can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one —
the evenings flare, a rolled joint behind your ear,
drunk on Wednesdays, university veteran!
You talk in your backyard of us all being queer.
The weed smells great on those June afternoons!
So sweet you could sleep through any exam;
the wind carries laughs, it’s humming a tune
older than you, Johnny Wright’s Hello Vietnam.


The sky is all yours, you spy it through brambles
palpitating like grass you would like to caress…
You think the answer’s there to be unscrambled
if only the stars stopped changing their address.

June nights! Twenty-one! Easy to be wasted.
The cheapest wine is as good as any champagne…
You ramble on about the Bourdieu you tasted,
your lips crumple like a Communist campaign.   
You bildungsroman through books until
you spot a leading lady perched on a stool,
with the fruit machine lights pulsing her still
face red, green and blue. You think of Kabul.
She calls you a kid when you try to explain
— as her long nails trot gamely on the board —
why you are superior to her boyfriend,
but she leaves with her glass, looking bored.
You are in love: rented until August!
You are in love. She finds your poems laughable.
Your friends leave, your laundry starts to encrust
when at last, she responds to your madrigal!
That evening, you stroll out in the sun,
you order a kiss or a ginger beer;
you can’t be serious when you’re twenty-one
and there are summer evenings to premiere.
Cyrano de Bergerac Takes a Last Bow
He says fuck you to Death, for looking at my nose,
raises a glass to the sky that clouds like a noose.
The moon’s a limp pancake, dripping with syrup.
He pours more wine; the cork still has its stirrup.
He knows the bottom of the glass is near but beauty
is in the useless half-swig, the attempt to bounty
unbroken beads of wine on the tongue for a second
longer, to feel it slip away and still think it extant.
Yes! he cries, You take everything away from me!
He surveys the debris of bloodied glass, frowning.
But when I go, there’s something unsmashed
I can claim’s still mine, my fucking panache.
from The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013).
Order The Shipwrecked House.
Visit Claire’s website.
Launch of The Shipwrecked House and Human Form
Join independent poetry press Penned in the Margins for the launch of two debut collections: The Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien and Human Form by Oliver Dixon.
Entry is free.
Date:  Thursday, 21 March 2013
Time:  19h00
Venue:  The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, E1 7EX, London 

Sue Rose’s From the Dark Room

Born in London and now living in Kent, Sue Rose is a literary translator with an MPhil in writing. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies and she has been commended or placed in competitions such as the National Poetry Competition, the Peterloo and the Wigtown. She won the prestigious Troubadour Poetry Prize in 2009 and the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition in 2008. She is also a founder member of Scatterlings, a group formed to give readings in the Southeast and beyond. Her debut collection, From the Dark Room, has just been published by Cinnamon Press.

From the Dark Room is in part a meditation on formative experience and an examination of life in the face of death. Playing on the ideas of dark and light, the ‘dark room’ of the title refers both to the womb with all its potential, and to death and grief. It takes in domestic interiors too and the darkened rooms we all inhabit at some point in our lives, as well as the way we look out from our darkness at lit rooms, examining them with voyeuristic curiosity, desire and need. However, as with the photographic darkroom, something lasting is born out of the darkness.”
“From the first poem to the last, I enjoyed this collection. It is rich with the life of the body, with flesh, seed, sex, blood, birth, family love, all in language that is truthful, brave and tender. She is poet as daughter paring dead skin from her mother’s feet, as birthing partner to her sister, as mourner for her father, as lover. The family includes ancestral stories of a tribe of Jewish forebears, all described with an affectionate but accurate eye and a true sense that history lives in us.”
– Gillian Clarke 
“”From the dark room” is a phrase from the poem ‘Travelling Light’. Often in Sue Rose’s poems, light turns out to contain darkness and vice versa. In ‘Hard Skin’, the “callused contours” and disfigurements of ageing feet become a stage where mutual love and need are acted out; in ‘Rare Old’, Shackleton’s abandoned whisky in the Antarctic is “brought into the damage of light”. In ‘Making a Gem’ the ashes of a married couple “his and hers, light and dark/ perhaps” combine, shaped by heat, and form a diamond. Words too, carrying their freight of different meanings and associations – “travelling light”, “the dark room of childhood” – combine, becoming what they always had it in them to be.”
– Sheenagh Pugh
“Sue Rose’s poems are at once lyrical and truthful in their exploration of the difficult transitions in life, and in the intricate relations between daughters and parents, illicit lovers, the bereaved and those they’ve lost. Her filmic eye captures intimate moments and minute details with great precision and formal grace.”
– Tamar Yoseloff
“Sue Rose knows poetry, without doubt. She knows where it begins, how it ends, she knows the journeys it leads us on, to the hidden places we thought we knew but needed the poem to reveal them. Above all she knows the language, how to use it to enchant and seduce us, the right word in the right place, the timing spot on. She combines economy of style with a seemingly effortless movement through the poem, as in the five-part ‘Travelling Light’, an impressive major work. She employs words, phrases, and lines that open wide the world for our delectation and revelation. Her precise, finely crafted images are sumptuous but not grandiloquent. She has the ability to look at life, and death, with unsparing clarity, and at the same time with an empathy that never spills over into sentimentality. I’ve seldom experienced such a wonderful first collection.”
– Robert Vas Dias
Rare Old
The glaciers shifted with music
too high, too low, for the human ear,
a music of sensation, and ice formed
beneath Shackleton’s hut, packing
its crumpled hexagons about the crates,
holding his abandoned whisky tight
as sand or rock. Antarctica waits
for the new wave of explorers, armed
with syringes, drills and picks
to extract the extinct liquor
protected by the freeze.
           The land is breached.
The milder waters of ancient lakes
have left behind fossils of ostracods,
icebergs topple into the melt
and glaciers rot. The chilled terrain
will be forced to deliver its message—
yesterday’s peat, the blend of centuries,
brought into the damage of light.
Some show lightscapes of cities tracked
by satellite at dark, others are inflatable
or lit within. Mine was metal,
cratered by carelessness. I’d frame it
with my hands—the way lovers later
would still my face—then make it turn
to a carousel of pinks, blues, reds:
countries we coloured differently,
contours hollowing as the sea bit in.
I didn’t wonder then what swelled
inside holding the surface taut,
or what might ooze if the egg
of the Earth were cracked, light
hatching from the world’s blown sphere.
Poseidon Burning
after a pyrotechnical fire sculpture by Robert Bradford
He took shape slowly that November,
hammer, staple-gun, nails summoning
a barrelled driftwood divinity bulked
on the shingle, a warship waiting on the tide.
We had come to see him burn, watch
the torching of this cobbled god
before he could call up earthquakes, incite
the sea to damage, implant his seed.
The flames feathered his back and legs
bridging the long strides to the water’s edge
where his downturned toes dipped and crabbed.
His skull was limned in fire, his sockets glared
until the air itself burned, hopping with light.
Transfixed, we refused to turn and run
in the escaping crowds, you hugging the secret
in your belly, your upturned face glorious
in the wild golden ritual of ash.
Caravaggio’s Virgin
     I hadn’t met anyone like him before.
All I had to do was play dead—much easier
than pacing the narrow dark
round Piazza Navona, heels stabbing
at the stairs of bridges, arches strained.
     My red shoes glowed like lanterns
in the corner of the room, my bare feet froze;
I couldn’t breathe for the reek of pigments,
the scarlet drapes blooming
in the candlelight, taking all the air.
     He told me red was the only true colour,
the colour of sex, joked about the death
of the Virgin in a shift of reds, the symbolism
of bare feet, mocking the pilgrims on their way
to sanctuary. There is no deliverance,
he said, no Assumption.
     He wouldn’t show me at first,
the canvas turned against the wall.
He coloured my skin instead, a flush
of heat livening the grain of my body
beneath the canopy, his strokes sure.
     He said he loved me
but he was a liar—look at me
lying there, bloated, hair dull,
hemmed in by a bevy of old men,
any fallen woman fished from the Tiber,
soles blackened by walking the streets. 
Order From the Dark Room (Cinnamon Press, 2011).
Read Sheenagh Pugh’s review.
Read more of Sue’s poetry.
Launch details
Date: Thursday, 6 October 2011
Time: 19h00 to 21h00
Venue: Woolfson & Tay, 12 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
Tel: 0207 407 9316
Please RSVP to

A trip to beautiful Cape Town

'The Tavern of the Seas'

Next Sunday I’ll be flying to Cape Town, the Mother City, the Tavern of the Seas. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, meeting new poetry friends, reading at Off the Wall in Observatory on Monday, 27 June, and launching The Suitable Girl (co-published by Pindrop Press and Modjaji Books) at The Book Lounge on Tuesday, 28 June.
If you’re in the area I’d love to see you on Monday or Tuesday evening – or both! 

Reading at Off the Wall

A Touch of Madness, the Victorian Quaffery in Observatory

Hosted by Karin Schimke and Huge Hodge, Off the Wall is a well established weekly event held at A Touch of Madness (love the name!), a Victorian Quaffery, ‘in the heart of bohemian Observatory’.
Date: Monday, 27 June 2011
Time: 20h00 – 22h00
Venue: A Touch of Madness Restaurant, 12 Nuttall Road,
Tel: 021 448 2266
Google map directions.
After the reading there will an open mike session so come along and share your work.

Bohemian dining

Launch at The Book Lounge

The Book Lounge, Cape Town

The Suitable Girl is being launched at The Book Lounge, an independent bookshop in the Eastern Precinct of Cape Town City Centre. I’ve heard so many great things about Mervyn Sloman, the Loungers and the wide range of local and international books available on The Book Lounge’s shelves. I hope to have at least fifteen minutes to browse and buy …
I’m thrilled that Helen Moffett will be introducing me at the launch and can’t wait to see Colleen Higgs again. Colleen is the inspiration behind Modjaji Books and the last time we saw each other was at the Cape Town Book Fair in 2006. It’s been far too long.
Date: Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Time: 18h00 – 19h30
Venue: The Book Lounge, corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Streets
Tel: 021 462 2425
Google map directions.
There’ll be wine sponsored by Leopard’s Leap, soul food and books – lots and lots of books.
Please RSVP.

The Suitable Girl (co-published by Modjaji Books)

Jacqueline Saphra’s The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions

© Image by Naomi Woddis

Jacqueline Saphra read Drama at Manchester University and is a screenwriting graduate from the National Film School. Her plays have been commissioned and produced by touring companies and repertory theatres including the Watford Palace and Manchester Library Theatre. She is on the editorial board for Magma Poetry and organises a regular poetry night, The Shuffle, at the Poetry Café. Her poetry has been widely published and anthologised and she has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma was published by Flarestack in 2008 and The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye publishing, 2011) was developed with the support of the Arts Council of England. She lives in London with her partner Robin and four children.

A man claims ambush and assault by women’s underwear, Houdini’s diametrically opposed counterpart waits taped and shackled for her man to save her, and girly-weak is not an option. Described as a poet of the world, Jacqueline Saphra’s work dances between the personal and the profound to offer a striking vision of growing up and growing older, mothers and motherhood, femininity and gender relations, all framed against the backdrop of a modern world, itself subject to growing pains.
“The eternal triangle of childhood, sex, and death doesn’t make for happiness, but if memory is indeed the mother of the muses, then it furnishes a rich and haunted house. In Jacqueline Saphra’s case the house is full of energy – even at its darkest it remains light and brisk on its feet. Her ear is sharp and her eye sharper still. The heart aches, the shoulders shrug but the feet dance.”
– George Szirtes
“Jacqueline Saphra’s poems are simultaneously as searing, sexy, funny and cleansing as any poems on earth – she has the gift of the sifter mixed with the power of the big sharp knife! Do not miss these savory pleasures.”
– Naomi Shihab Nye 
“A strikingly confident first collection, notable both for its formal skills, and for the poet’s ability to explore challenging and complex relationships in memorable and agile language. Here is a poet of the world and not of the ivory tower. Fiercely intelligent; a remarkable debut.”
– Penelope Shuttle
An Unofficial History
It must have been at night and no doubt they kept
the light on because each of them liked to watch
whatever they were touching and desired moreover
to be seen. And what a night it was, of steam and invocation,
mutters, cries and wishes, miraculous lust, irrevocable
human error. Sometimes the most unlikely combinations
can produce a tangible result. Strange to think that just
the common heave and thrust, the usual universal ecstasy
could be their marriage glue, transcend, over years, such rank
incompatibility. As unofficial chronicler of that night, I believe
there must have been a mutual outrageous climax, that
it was a pivotal experience imbued with unexpected
gravitas, as was the bracing follow-up, that twitching race
of the ridiculous, those nearly-beings making for one huge
stranded cell ripe for the breaching, programmed
for a kind of mad union, that two half-lives might be salvaged
to make a whole. I can’t say I was there precisely but I swear
my floating soul was witness to this chance, the sweetest, gravest
and most typical of mistakes and that this story was laid down
in my bones, because I was waiting, willing to be conjured.
The Striking Hour
I’m the girl in black with gravitas who rocks
with the pendulum, the one who won’t forgive,
the diva who lives and re-lives the drama
of the tick and toll, bruised in the places
where I trip and trip again, running for trains.
Maybe that’s why I break so many watches:
I overwork the cogs of memory, wind and rewind,
tune in, tune out of eras till the springs give way.
Though it makes me sick, I travel backwards
too often, stopping at those pinch-points:
what if, if only, where nothing can change.
But sometimes, I see myself humming
on some bright platform, beside a pyramid
of broken clocks. I sychronise my selves
call them to heel all dressed in lipstick, feathers
of unnatural pink, outrageous tights. I smash
a few plates, kiss somebody, anybody, slur
my sorries into the mic. Make up for lost time.
The Pick-up
This is the girl
the front seat tramp
with the haversack
and the long cigarette
and the Spanish guitar
and the bong that she smoked
at your side in the car
who spread her legs
on the burning bed
and gave you her heat.
This is the girl
with the sky tattooed
on the soles of her feet
who sat in your truck
full of sugar and salt
the hard-boned bitch
who flicked your switch
at the edge of a cliff
the girl who felt
the bite of your belt
who cut herself free
with a silver knife
and jumped from the bridge.
This is the girl
with brine for eyes
with floating limbs
and a voice unhinged
who festers and sighs
who gurgles and sings
who laughs at your lies
in her bloated disguise
your trouble and strife
with the golden ring
whose scent still clings
to the skin of your life.
Seventeen and all that Shit
You wore ugly like seventies corridors wore their skin
of anaglypta. Your ugly wink flickered like the vacant signs
that beckoned from motorways; twitched in dayglo mirrors
in hotel lifts. You fasted ugly round your neck in strands
like fake pearls, took it naked to bed with third rate
touring drummers, taxi drivers, men with diaries and wives;
you flaunted ugly like cheap knickers retrieved on many
pinked-up mornings, sun rising like a boil. You let your ugly
seep into these envelopes of photographs carried home
from chemists, and you turned your head away.
But now you stare, blinded, at these clean sheets
of negatives, backlit with hindsight. There was no ugly;
only youth with its tilted longings, and those myths
written in lipstick on the mirror, the ones you took for truth.
from The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions
(flipped eye publishing, 2011).
Pre-order The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions here and here.
The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions will be available from
flipped eye’s online bookstore from 7 July.
Visit flipped eye publishing’s website.
Visit Jacqui’s website.
Midsummer launch details

Date: Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Time: 19h00
Venue: Woolfson & Tay, 12 Bermondsey Square, London SE1 3UN
Tel: 0207 407 9316

Wine and canapes.
Live music from Fiona Bevan and short, sweet star turns from
Nii Parkes, Alison White  and Jacqui.
Please RSVP to

Tamar Yoseloff’s The City with Horns

Tamar Yoseloff was born in the United States in 1965. She is the author of four collections of poetry, including Fetch (Salt, 2007) as well as Marks, a collaborative book with the artist Linda Karshan, published by Pratt Contemporary Art in 2007. She is also the editor of A Room to Live In: A Kettle’s Yard Anthology. She lives in London, where she is freelance tutor in creative writing. Her blog, Invective Against Swans, explores the intersection between poetry and visual art.

“Every artist paints what he is”, said Jackson Pollock, the iconic figure of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. His tumultuous life and his revolutionary vision provide the storyline for the main sequence of poems in The City with Horns, Tamar Yoseloff’s fourth collection, in which Yoseloff plays ventriloquist to the voices of Pollock; his wife, the painter Lee Krasner; and his mistress, Ruth Kligman (who survived the car crash that killed him). The characters of James Dean, Frank O’Hara and William de Kooning are also woven into the narrative. And it is Pollock’s dictum that provides the departure point for other poems which chart the attempt to find hidden meanings – whether through driving blind on a road at night, reading James Joyce in a Japanese restaurant, or gazing at a concrete wall. In The City with Horns, you will find journeys through the poet’s adopted city of London and through turbulent weather, on trains, into fields that conjure up the past, and around junk yards where treasure can be found. This is Yoseloff’s most challenging collection to date.
“In the title sequence of this collection, Tamar Yoseloff breaks new ground with poems that flow and rush and fizz in ways reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s paintings. From the turmoil of Pollock’s life, Yoseloff powerfully re-creates a vision in which everything knots together, a way of seeing that is intoxicated. But if the central sequence overflows with plenty, then the outer sections of the triptych speak of emptiness and pain in a poetic voice more familiar, curbed and astringent. Here, Yoseloff continues to explore territory she has made her own in earlier collections: snap-shots and “little fables” of up-rooted individuals whose tokens, found objects and souvenirs struggle towards articulacy. These are poems offering few consolations, but the strength of The City with Horns lies in its chastening honesty, its ability to evoke a sensibility that feels never less than modern.”
– Martyn Crucefix
“Tamar Yoseloff’s Fetch is a delicate book of haunting strength, of strangeness uncontained. These poems are irresistible.”
– Alison Brackenbury
[Speaking of Fetch]: “These are dark poems in the best sense of the word, edgy, unnerving, but glittering, too. Tamar Yoseloff can make a visit to the dentist or a lamb curry sexy and sinister. I’ve followed her career from the beginning; Fetch is her most ambitious book yet, and her best.”
– Matthew Francis
Cedar Nights
Kerouac baptised the ashtray with his piss,
Rothko gazed into his glass, lost
in a haze of smoke (later he would slit
each arm, two razored lines, maroon on white),
while Gorky picked a fight with every stooge
who strayed within his reach (his wild eye,
hangdog face, peasant hands, the dreams
he couldn’t shake). De Kooning pontificated
over water (bastard) and by his lead
women shattered into pieces, all lips
and tits. Klein splattered the bar in black,
while dizzy Ginsberg’s angelheaded hipsters
swore, and sang, and toppled off their stools,
then hurled themselves into the negro streets;
Frank was brashly erecting something new
from shreds of Rauschenberg and Lady Day.
And Jack? He was painting up a storm,
(when he was sober), admiring his fame
from the summit of the Gods, until the night
she breezed into the Cedar, all ass
and attitude, looking for a guy,
and there he was, the prize, the mark, the Jack
of Hearts, the cover boy. She sidled over:
what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink?
Guggenheim Museum, Venice
Just when I think nothing can move me,
room after room of Tintoretto, Veronese, Bellini,
the Virgin granting me her doleful eyes,
her pearly tears,
I enter a cool white palazzo,
find his huge canvas, which shows me the truth
of water and fire, in this place
of canals and candlelight, a city he never saw.
What he made was a world
in perpetual swirl, violent red, yellow bile,
the way the galaxy might look to a man stranded
in space, before science and logic takes hold.
And I stand before this picture,
the man who painted it
dead, like the masters shut away
in these palaces of art, their works their tribute;
wanting to pin beauty to the canvas,
dusty and flightless. But this picture lives, black
against the midday sun, legions of day-glo tourists
bobbing along the canal,
and I feel tears
welling up before I can make them stop.
I don’t know why; I’m tired,
vulnerable in my light summer clothes,
he and I foreigners to a faith
which isn’t ours: Christ on the cross,
the martyrdom of the saints, spelled out in
blood and gold.
Reading Ulysses in the Teri Aki Sushi Bar
He would have liked the concentric circles
of the California roll, whorls of salmon and avocado,
brightwhite rice, the ginger fanned
across the plate – like Molly Bloom,
her legs apart – the saki hot
in his throat, a trill of syllables.
He would have admired my discipline,
my quiet journey with Leopold
and tuna maki – squintyeyed
over the page, the words
running away from sense.
The Dublin streets swell with rain,
delicate perfume of dung, and
there’s a man hurrying home,
brown eyes saltblue, with no umbrella.
          I will know him, oh yes, by the shrug
of his shoulders, hunch of his coat,
the way he looks up, suddenly,
               that somewhere a girl, pretty,
captures a fishy gobbet in her chopsticks,
raises it to her lips, that first bite releasing
brine, bladderwrack, the green rot
of the ocean floor.
                           If only he
could sit across from her, worship
her perfect little teeth.
He will pass me on the street
one evening when the rain
smells like the ocean,
          flame memory for an instant
before we turn our separate corners,
pull our collars to our throats.
Previously published in Shearsman Magazine.
Mannequins on 7th Street

for Robert Vas Dias, after Anthony Eyton
We desire them to be perfect:
limbs without blemish, Malibu-bronzed,
robed in fuchsia and gold, smouldering
goddesses in a city leached to grey.
We, merely flesh, race past, hail cabs,
jump buses, never to strike
their timeless pose.
We must embrace the gift of the street,
the glare of chaos, of things being various.
The frail instant needs us to record it;
the mute made audible, still life animated.
They keep watch from their temple
of glass, stranded in silence, all dressed up
and nowhere to go.
from The City with Horns (Salt, 2011).
Order The City with Horns here.
Visit Tamar’s website.
Visit Tamar’s blog, Invective Against Swans.
Launch with Katy Evans-Bush’s Egg Printing Explained
Date: Thursday, 2 June 2011
Time: 18h30 – 20h30
Venue: Purdy Hicks Gallery, 65 Hopton Street, London SE1 9GZ
For other readings, please check Tamar’s website.

John McCullough’s The Frost Fairs

John McCullough © Morgan Case

John McCullough’s poetry has appeared in publications including London Magazine, The Guardian, The Rialto, Poetry London and Magma. He teaches creative writing at the Open University and the University of Sussex. His first collection is The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).

The Frost Fairs is a compassionate book with a global and historical scope, tackling science and city life from a range of surreal yet poignant angles. It explores love in many forms, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay and cross-gendered lives from the past. The pieces travel from ancient Alexandria to twenty-first century bars and council estates, behind everything the vastness of the sea and sky. The array of voices here is striking: taxi drivers report their most outlandish fares and hermaphrodite statues flirt with observers; abandoned lovers watch frost fairs melting on the Thames and drag queens revel in the freedoms afforded by the Blitz.
Formally deft and carefully crafted, this diverse range of poems uses language that is always musical and alive. Surprise and the uncanny are cherished as ways of returning to us the strange leaps and enduring power of our deepest yearnings. In this collection, longing and losing condition all we see and hear, making the impossible suddenly plausible. Whether exploring Brighton seascapes or questions of empire, there is always in McCullough’s writing an openness to seeing the world from an alternative point of view. At once bold and haunting, The Frost Fairs opens the door to a new country in the reader’s imagination in its exploration of the possibilities of the human heart.
“In this immensely enjoyable collection there is an immediacy and tenderness that is outstanding. These vivid moving poems have such a sharp eye for those telling daily details, the particulars. All of this, plus their humour, creates poems that are so solidly tangible and believable. The title The Frost Fairs tells it all. The vulnerability and changeableness that threads our lives, the shifting ice below our feet.”
– Lee Harwood 
“John McCullough’s poems are never far from wonderful. He shows a lovely mixture of ease and energy, so that there’s a feeling of improvisation even in closed forms. Unpredictable, tender, resourceful – why shouldn’t Wallace Stevens hold hands with Tintin?”
– Adam Mars-Jones
“John McCullough is a poet for whom language is a flexible gift. He can be formal and controlled, colloquial and intimate, sensuous and saucy. He enjoys risk-taking in his work, forging unusual juxtapositions of images and ideas, and it’s this playfulness and humour which makes his work, like a stiff sea breeze suddenly hitting you in the face, so refreshing and invigorating.”
– Catherine Smith
“I’ve been reading John McCullough’s poems for several years and never saw him as ‘promising’, rather, as a verbal magician who had already performed, with a sureness and brio anyone might envy. The startling range of subjects can be partly accounted for by his ability to enter the imaginations of personae from odd walks of life or curious moments in history. He is even able to work out what Michel Foucault’s spoons might have thought about their owner! In poem after poem one senses the encroachment of an exalted vision held at bay by this poet’s commitment to conversational tone and offhand irony. I don’t want to round up the usual superlatives, but I do urge you to read this landmark first volume.”
– Alfred Corn
What sticks is the hum
of the fridge in your basement,
a plane ticket lying flat on one chair.
The way, fag in hand, you order me to stop smoking:
you’ll damage your cilia
and you conjure those tiny threads stroking together,
pushing wayward particles where they belong.
You drain a glass of vodka,
write my name in your diary on the page
where you’ll wake in a new country.
You keep your promise:
two hours and twenty dollars on a dodgy line
from a city without Marmite
where you tussle with silverfish
and baseball shirt slang.
O much assailed friend,
in these fathomless times
I walk down to the ocean at night
to set my hand on its skin
and my mind on rowing, rowing, rowing.
Night Writing
In humid months, at the estate’s unwatched edge,
the boys gather for an after-hours cigarette
before trashing field gates. All boast Reeboks, earrings,
their honed geezer-laughs rev-revving
with the engines of graffiti-tagged bangers.
Customized stereos thump out speed garage,
the race kicking off in a blizzard of chalk dust,
their bouncing charge towards a crooked iron post.
Death and dew ponds can’t stop them while they swerve
past quivering teasel, conquer the bone ridge’s turn,
skeins of wool lifting from gorse as banners
for the night’s whooping, fist-raising winners.
Further off, the crews unite for a slow drift, melt into hills
but leave the empty sky with headlamp trails:
blazing ghosts still performing their necessary work,
still scribbling their names on the dark. 

The Disappearance of St Anthony’s Church
Hard to tell exactly when it vanished –
local rumour says late or early summer.
They stole the thing discreetly, brick by brick,
an anti-miracle. Curt officials blame
the village but no infidel’s been punished,
the two best clues a chisel by a tomb,
a distant maze of tyre marks from a truck –
though some insist that these came later.
They left behind foundations, one unwanted wall
and a different view of pines, the snaking river.
Next spring the first grass sprouted in the nave,
the chancel’s earth disturbed only by lovers
and the odd partridge hunting for snails
or a place to rest in silence for a while.
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
Order The Frost Fairs here.
Visit John’s website.
Brighton launch

Date: Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
Venue: The Red Roaster, 1D St James Street, Brighton
There will be readings by John and guest poet Lisa Handy.

This event is part of the e.g. poetry series. Entry is £5/£4 conc. 
London launch
Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Time: 20h00 – 23h00
Venue: The Phoenix Artist Bar, Phoenix St (Off Charing Cross Road)
There will be readings by John and guest poet Sophie Mayer, author of The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011).
Entry is free.

Days of Roses Anthology

About the anthology
Editors Declan Ryan and Malene Engelund have chosen to focus on poets who have read at the series and who are at an early stage of their career. Many of the contributors have released acclaimed pamphlets, but most are not quite at a full first collection stage. As such, the anthology is intended not only as a memento of the highlights of the first two years of the event, but a showcase and calling card for some of the most gifted up-and-coming poets in the country.

About Days of Roses
Days of Roses began life as a monthly literary event, starting in January 2009 at Filthy McNasty’s in Angel and going on to hold nights as part of the Oxfam Bookfest at its flagship Marylebone store as well as readings at 3 Blind Mice, The Camden Head, The Book Club and The Rugby Tavern. Initially an off-shoot of the Royal Holloway Creative Writing MA, a writing programme run by writers including former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Head of the Poetry Society, Jo Shapcott, the evenings quickly evolved into a place for guest writers to showcase their work alongside new voices from the Royal Holloway MA, past and present.
Date: 23 February 2011
Time: 18h30 to 23h00
Location: 3 Blind Mice, 5 Ravey Street, EC2A 4QW, London
The launch of the first Days of Roses anthology will feature readings from the contributors: Jo Shapcott, Christopher Horton, Declan Ryan, Dominic McLoughlin, Gareth Jones, Liz Berry, Lydia Macpherson, Malene Engelund, Marianne Burton, Maximillian Hildebrand, Robert Selby, William Searle and music from Fiona Bevan and Mr Dupret Factory and friends.
Copies will be available on the night with 15 different signed and numbered covers created by Ross McNicol and Amelia Newton Whitelaw. The anthology will be available on Amazon after the launch.
Till dawn
Lydia Macpherson
They say it’s harder for those left behind,
so why do you keep trying to get back?
These days I’m sleeping with the lights on,
expert in the phases of the moon,
the early morning train times, the taxonomy
of moths. Even with my eyes screwed shut,
I note the clock’s red flick as if you’d passed
a hand across my face. The milky drinks
in the small hours of the kitchen,
lit by the fridge’s cinema glow, the burbling
background of the World Service,
its RP reassurance giving way to patriotic
music, weather continents distant,
the far flung potential of the shipping forecast –
nothing drives you off. How many years was it
before the ground had settled back to make
a headstone worth its while? That rose
your mother threw must have joined
you long ago in a slow dance of rot and growth.
It seems just yesterday that staying up till dawn
was all we wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
The chink of milk bottles, the baby’s cries,
a two-tone siren streets away, all mark
the daily absences of life.
Previously published in Magma.
Baking with Kathryn
Declan Ryan
Two halved eggs are brittle castanets, their parted shells
at no risk in your hands despite their bloom, calcium crystals
thick, a liquid line slides, one to the next.
Dark chocolate snaps into splinters beneath your thumb,
between pinning your hair with a grip and miming drums,
two clean whisks your soft jazz brushes.
When the machinery stops we hear the start of Beeswing,
of work next to a laundry girl, animal in her eyes, a rare thing
then as now to find such fineness stilled.
While we wait you play Debussy’s Sarabande, with élégance
grave et lent
, and I watch your fingers in a practiced dance,
forgetting what we have left to the heat.
Previously published on Eyewear.
Trucker’s Mate
Liz Berry
The A1 is the loneliest. Four hundred
and nine miles down the spine of the country,
only the firefly of a fag tip to keep you steady.
A man needs some company,
an eye on the map, a hand on the radio.
Ten four, hammer down, breaker breaker.
He made a man of me, rubbed me
smooth with engine grease, taught me how
to pull a flatbed, take an unsigned route,
draw the curtains against the prying eyes
of headlights. As other lorries trundle home,
we push onwards, the road a romance.
I was a kid that first night. Birmingham
to Folkestone. The junctions looping
and racing above us, his hand on my leg.
In the woods beside the layby, I pressed my tongue
into the sap of a pine tree as I pissed,
already half in love with him.
Now belly to back in the cab, his vertebrae
like cat’s eyes guiding me down,
I think of the M6 Toll, lined with two million
pulped Mills and Boons; how love is buried
in unlooked for places, kept secret like us.
In the darkness his breath hums like an engine.
Previously published in Magma.
The Singer and The Catch
Marianne Burton
It was not straight doing.
A witch told him how to hold me, to throw
his shirt over my back when I surfaced,
pulling up on the boat’s side to hear him sing.
He was a small man, not much to look at,
with a black tooth and a short beard,
brown and white, the plumage of granite.
He caught me fair in my woman’s shape
and I lay in the shell of the boat winded,
caught on the turn, my legs still legs.
The next night he came in from fishing,
I was sat in the kitchen, bemused by the pots,
the fire too hot, the cutlery too reminiscent
of fish hooks to keep me comfortable.
Where’s my supper then? he said, woman,
as if to emphasise I was woman now for him,
fleshed and flayed. He hit my face, lightly,
a caress, a joke, but the intent was serious,
and the men in the doorway jeered,
and a woman laughed. One I said.
Two months later the village had a wedding.
Not ours. Still, he was singing in the evenings
and each time his voice sounded the spell held;
I couldn’t move from the room it was so sweet.
The men stared at the dust on my black coat,
the woman raised her eyebrows at my clogs.
I’d never tasted wine and after a time
I spun and laughed, then wept at the sorrow
the bride would know. He slapped me hard,
weeping at a marriage. Two I said.
Shortly after, but a long time it seemed,
one of the men was trapped in the nets,
turned up bloated and still on the beach.
Not my man though. At the funeral
they poured an oily orange water which bit;
and after a glass I threw back my head
and laughed at all the pain he was spared,
the dead man. A great blow he dealt me
this time to the side of my head. The eyes
of the woman danced as she watched. Three I said.
I was out of his home then in my black coat
and away that night.
But his singing would carry down to the beach
and I’d crawl through the graves to peer in
where he sat in the firelight with his one candle;
fire and cat hissing at my face at the window.
The woman lay across his lap and laughed,
and he – he turned and pointed at her,
separated her long fingers, not webbed
at all, drew her skirt up above her knees
and pointed to her feet, real feet with toes,
and he opened his mouth and sang.
I did not want his coarse beard, his bruises,
his black greasy kitchen, or the sweat of his bed,
but I wanted the music and that they knew,
as their faces hardened into spite, and I slid
from the sill, across the pebble shale, back
into the sea where the music doesn’t hurt.
Previously published in Chapman.
from the first Days of Roses anthology.
Join the Days of Roses Facebook group.