Tag Archives: British poets

David Morley’s The Night of the Day

David Morley

A former natural scientist, David Morley has published 18 books, including nine volumes of poetry, won 13 literary awards and gained two awards for his teaching, including a National Teaching Fellowship. He is Director of the Warwick Writing Programme at the University of Warwick, and also Director of The Warwick Prize for Writing. Recent publications include The Invisible Kings (Carcanet, 2007) and The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. His forthcoming collection of poems from Carcanet will be titled Enchantment.
The Night of the Day (Nine Arches Press, 2009) is remarkable for the skill and grace with which it travels through the difficult territories that map a journey from darkness towards light. In this movement from out of the shadows, it engages with tricks of the light, vanishings, illusions, magic and bitter realities, whilst using the terrain of language that each necessitates.
From the brutally austere language that depicts a child’s experience of violence that opens this short collection, the poems move thematically into the natural world and the darting, shifting vocabularies of memory, friendship and loss. The Night of the Day keeps a solid and determined pace, which ultimately brings us under the canvas of the big top and into the lives of the travelling circus people, in their own words, their own voices, an undertow of threat and prejudice forever shadowing their footsteps on the road.
David Morley

I am trying to behave but my father
has a fist crammed with kitchen knives
like a brilliant new hand, and the rest
of us in the house are suddenly not alive.
One of us is guilty of the crime of two biscuits.
One of us has taken biscuits without permission
so all are condemned and have earned his lesson
which is to cower in the bedroom’s corner
without cover while he slices our arteries open
in the air between us. His house is his abattoir.
His home is lit with hooks and steel hands.
We are not alive as he bars the bedroom door.
The morning is ordinary because I am three.
My brother unwinds a lace from his shoe.
He works its little rope across the hearth
until it makes a dripping strip of light and flame
that he slips slowly on the back of my hand.
I am trying to behave as though this never happened,
keeping my scorched hand below the tablecloth
while my father, sick with guilt, serves us soup.
My brother knows I can soak up his secrets.
My left fingers misbehave and my father
forces the hand. Sered sores. A veal of veins.
My brother at this time is being flung into a wall
and all I am thinking is that I do not like oxtail.
I do not like the blood thirst of what I can hear
through the floor of my bedroom as my father
flies off his handle again, but this is a real handle
that he’s handling as a weapon, and the sitting room
is being smashed and smashed and smashed to death.
Better the mirrors, I think, than my mother.
But he’s upstairs by now, kicking his way up
and dread is draining through that black wall
but the wall doesn’t shelter, not when there’s a door
to be hurled off its hinges like it was never there,
him yanking me by my cock to his yelling height
before dropping me down a well in that dark room.
His face swells to fill the door as he finds his range.
Published in The Night of the Day (Nine Arches Press, 2009) and previously published in Cake.
Order The Night of the Day here.
Read two poems from The Night of the Day – ‘Mayflies’ and ‘Alaskan Salmon’ – in Horizon Review’s third issue.
Visit David’s blog and website.

Ian Parks’s Love Poems

Ian Parks was one of the National Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. He was made a Hawthornden Fellow in 1991 and received a Travelling Fellowhip to the USA in 1994. His collections include A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998), Shell Island (2006) and The Cage (2008). His pamphlet, A Paston Letter, is just out from Rack Press. Recent poems have appeared in The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry (Chicago), The Liberal, London Magazine and Stand. He has taught creative writing at the universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Hull and Leeds and is now writing full-time.
Love Poems 1979 – 2009 is published by Flux Gallery Press.
In the Foreword, Ian writes:
“I never started out to be a love poet. In some moods, I don’t necessarily think of myself as one even now – although the existence of this collection would seem to belie it.”
“How do you write love poems that are still recognisable as such without merely repeating what has already been done much better by others? And how do you write a love poem that attempts to address wider issues?”
“The earliest poem was written in 1979 when I was twenty; the most recent in 2009 when I was fifty. Thirty years seems like a good round number. You have to draw the line somewhere. And here it is.”

Ian Parks

The Lighthouse
Ian Parks

Think back: remember the lighthouse
poised on the windswept head;
or rather, the approach to it –
a long road unwinding through acres
of dark pasturage and fields of gorse,
affording glimpses of its vivid beams,
distinct at first but losing their identity,
criss-crossing over miles of open sea.
This is what it’s like to be in love:
to find perspectives shifting constantly;
to always be approaching some fixed point
but never arriving at its source.
Tiger Lilies
Ian Parks

Did you get back to find them
starved of air, unopened
in the hot room where we danced?
I held you and you wore
your velvet dress: black, absorbent,
swallowing the night.
Or were they open-throated
when you came, turned to the window
where you used to sit –
self-centred, self-contained –
distilling their potential
as the moon burned fierce and red?
All night their fragrance
promised something more: a scent
too like the scent of death
suspended in the air;
the crude Byzantine crucifix
I nailed above our bed.
Gideon Bible
Ian Parks

That night in the Chelsea Hotel
with nothing to read
but the Gideon Bible
propped in the folds
of the silken counterpane.
You were fresh from the shower,
caught in a fragrant fall
of talc. Solomon
was singing the delights
of eyes like diamonds,
teeth like pearls,
hair like a fountain –
smooth, cascading down.
Forgiveness was still possible
or so it seemed
for those who left these pages here
inside the slighty scented drawers
for somone to discover
on a future night like this:
the pulse of neon
flashing out its message
in the dark; a city
unrepentant, unredeemed.
The Leavetaking
Ian Parks

I could see from the way you were waving
from across the windswept road;
I could tell by the way you blew me a kiss
that for you it was not worth saving.
So I turned and walked away.
Not the river tipping all its weight
over the smooth, precipitous weir
or the swans – so brutal when they mate –
locking soft necks underneath the wall
but you stood at the open gate
not ready to become a ghost
but hesitating, fading fast,
turning from familiar you to unfamiliar she
with the love gone and the poems gone
and with such finality.

Ian Parks, Andrew Oldham and Gaia Holmes

“The finest love poet of his generation.”
Chiron Review
“He is a love poet in the sense that Auden was a love poet – a poet of all love’s complexities.”
– Ian Pople
“He has re-invented love poetry for a new generation.”
– Andrew Oldham

Michael Swan’s ‘comb’

Michael Swan

Michael Swan

Michael Swan works in English language teaching and applied linguistics. He has been writing poetry for many years, driven no doubt by an unconscious need to prove that grammarians have souls. His poems have been published widely in magazines, and have won a number of prizes. He clings to the belief that it is possible to write good poetry that is neither difficult nor boring, and he often finds humour a useful tool in dealing with a seriously confusing universe. Michael’s first collection, When They Come For You, was published by Frogmore Press in 2003 and was very well received. He is now looking for a publisher for his second collection.
Michael Swan
I was sure
it was her comb
lying on the pavement.
And I ran after her
‘Excuse me
but you dropped your comb’
and she turned
a woman I had never seen before
and she told me
it was not her comb.
She seemed unwilling
to discuss the matter further
and walked on
rather quickly.
She had hair like yours
and the comb, too
was like one of those
you used to leave everywhere
on tables, shelves, windowledges,
in the car, on your pillow.
I was sure it was your comb.
© Michael Swan 2005
Read more of Michael’s work at poetry p f.

Vicki Feaver’s The Handless Maiden reissued

Vicki Feaver lives in South Larnarkshire in Scotland and divides her time between painting and poetry. ‘Marigolds’ is from The Handless Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 1994) which won a Heinemann Prize and a Cholmondeley Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. The Handless Maiden has recently been reissued by Jonathan Cape.
Vicki Feaver
Not the flowers men give women –
delicately-scented freesias,
stiff red roses, carnations
the shades of bridesmaids’ dresses,
almost sapless flowers,
drying and fading – but flowers
that wilt as soon as their stems
are cut, leaves blackening
as if blighted by the enzymes
in our breath, rotting to a slime
we have to scour from the rims
of vases; flowers that burst
from tight, explosive buds, rayed
like the sun, that lit the path
up the Thracian mountain, that we wound
into our hair, stamped on
in ecstatic dance, that remind us
we are killers, can tear the heads
off men’s shoulders;
flowers we still bring
secretly and shamefully
into the house, stroking
our arms and breasts and legs
with their hot orange fringes,
the smell of arousal.
Published in The Handless Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 1994).
Read more about Vicki and her work at Contemporary Writers and the Poetry Archive.

Ian Duhig’s ‘goths’

Ian Duhig has written five books of poetry. The last two of these, The Lammas Hireling and The Speed of Dark (both from Picador) were PBS Choices. His last published short story appeared in Comma’s The New Uncanny, which won the Shirley Jackson Best Anthology Award for 2008, while his most recent musical collaboration, a contrafacta with the Clerks called ‘After the Mass’, appears on their CD Don’t Talk – Just Listen, from Signum Classics, 2009. His next book of poetry is forthcoming from Picador, with the working title of Jericho Shanty.
Ian Duhig

I love them. They bring a little antilife and uncolour
to the Corn Exchange on city centre shopping days
as if they had all just crawled out of that Ringu well,
so many Sadakos in monochrome horrow, dripping
silver jewellery down flea-market undead fashions.
They are the black that is always the new black,
their perfume lingers, freshly-turned-grave sweet.
Black sheep, they pilgrimage twice a year to Whitby,
through our landscape of dissolved monastery and pit,
which they will toast in cider’n’blackcurrant, vegan blood.
They danse macabre at gigs like the Dracula Spectacula.
Next day, lovebitten and wincing in the light, they take
photographs of each other, hoping they won’t develop.
Previously published in Stand.
Read more about Ian at Contemporary Writers, the Poetry Archive and PIW.

Eleanor Rees’s Andraste’s Hair

Andraste’s Hair
Eleanor Rees
– Andraste: Iceni goddess of war and victory.
In the woods they are burning her hair
                              three of them
they light it with a match
and she lets them
she lets them burn her hair.
Watches the ends smoulder.
Watches the ends curl her curls
curl up like leaves.
She lets them burn her hair.
There are long dark shadows
                    between trees
                    like corridors
blocked with boulders.
– The area is cordoned off. –
She let them burn her hair.
– The area is cordoned off. –
When the sun splits open
the gaps between trees
and the sun slices into the scene
they see:
that she let them burn her hair.
The light opens up the morning.
A plait lain out on the end of the bed
                                        like a rope
several metres long it hung there
                    tied with a yellow bow.
It belongs to no one now
lopped off at the nape of the neck.
The door is closed.
Arms raised to hug the sun
                    eyes like sods
ratchet-nosed, craggy
hatchet arms creak and clank
sleeping under sunless light
another sun gone
reaching obedient:  she dreams.
From among the ashes
from what had not burnt
gathered to a mass
of brown turf gathered
her hair
and carried
– a cloud in her arms –
and carried
to the river
her hair
to spread in the warp of water.
The light smooth and silting.
The forest behind –
too much                    too much
dark cannot exist?
                    The sun swings to the right.
She went left
to the river
old dirt track
stepping over grass
hair taken down to depth.
In the forest they look for her.
she walks along the path by the river
her hair in her hands
to deliver
what had been taken
to the river
to the water
the smooth strand that curves its path
over the head of the hill.
Something subsides.
Something has passed.
Behind in the forest
in half dark heaving afternoon
they claw at earth
scratch around for a trace
                    and further
in the woods
search through evidence
make lists of explanations
make lists of reasons
for her absence.
The sun guides steps,
imprint on soil.
It wasn’t about who was listening.
If anyone was listening
                         – to the song not the words –
speaking would mean silence
                         – dead ears dead ears –
but variation
the pull and placing
in a line brimmed to full
     with evocation
was almost love and almost listening.
Quiet response to quiet sound.
A song heard in the forest days later
made a young boy cry.
Wrapped round trees
stayed, not moving,
                                   just hung
a stopping place.
We could meet
in the woods by the river
stand eye to eye
in the stopping place
                   and wait
words curdling our bones
                    to stone
         be petrified
                                             in sound
a single drum beat, one long groan.
While she walks
a path behind her concertinas
each stride a fragile weight
  pushes up the earth,
turf over grass over turf.
Know how
it is now to be stone now
to know how to finish.
Listen, she’ll break you.
Will you follow?
from Andraste’s Hair (Salt Publishing, 2007).
Read more about Eleanor and Andraste’s Hair here.
Andraste’s Hair was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best
First Collection 2007.
Visit Eleanor’s website.
Eliza and the Bear, Eleanor’s forthcoming collection from Salt in October 2009, explores wildness and what it means to inhabit a body, what it means to be an animal with a sense of self. The poems circle the tensions between a domestic, communal experience of selfhood and the individual wild feminine of the “I” of the title poem. They explore love, longing and esire with unabashed imagination.