Tag Archives: Chris Emery poet

Chris Emery’s The Departure

© Image by Jen Hamilton-Emery

Chris Emery lives in Cromer with his wife and children. He is a director of Salt, an independent literary press. He has published two previous collections of poetry, a writer’s guide and edited editions of Emily Brontë, Keats and Rossetti. His work has been widely published in magazines and anthologised, most recently in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010).

“At the centre of Emery’s third collection are a series of narrative poems that reveal an astonishing range of personas, from the set of Mission Impossible, an extra from Gojira, porn stars, bombers and executioners — even Charles Bukowski turns up to take a leak. There are Pennine journeys, war zones, the Norfolk coast, the Suffolk coast, riots, bad hotel rooms and crazy conventions. Even the secret life of peas. Interspersed among all these are poems concerning the mysterious ‘M’.”
“The poems in The Departure possess (and are possessed by) such intent, detailed, living brilliance, it is like reading a series of captivating novels compressed to their musical essence.”
– David Morley
“Chris Emery’s poems are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed. Once in, the place is full of vivid detail keeping our head turning. A good deal of the world is there with all its proper names, staring back at us as if it desired calm but knew things were on the move. Sometimes surreal, sometimes baroque, at other times darkly playful, the world is as in ‘Snails’: “Tonight we will pile them, pile everything of them/ into the whorl of a bucket and then we will fill it/ to the top with forest tears and let the silence do its work.””
– George Szirtes
“In his aptly-named new collection, Chris Emery shows he still has the talent to surprise us with a perfectly-managed change of direction and range, showing (in the words of one of his poems) a new “fantastic ordinary face”. A fresh accessibility is achieved with a richness of striking and imaginative language that will impress his existing readership, and reward the new one this book is certain to attract. There is plenty of humour here alongside genuine political commitment, a lot of real human feeling between its sharp satirical edges, kissing as well as broken teeth. Anybody interested in the contemporary poetry of these islands will have to read this book.”
– Ian Duhig
“There’s an immediacy and something familiar in the way the poems of Chris Emery’s new collection address the reader. They impel us to engage, to join the moment, the experience, the thought, and to consider what’s being prised open or experienced. The ease with which he develops irony and yet is freshly lyrical is almost reassuring. This is a very sophisticated and controlled poetry, language rich, but also surprisingly and at times gloriously tangential. What matters most is that it urges us to confide, to share – written because it has to come out, but also because we might like to listen. Emotions work with sensations and retain the intelligence that has so characterised Emery’s earlier writing. Who are we, where am I, how do we all relate to a wider world with its still and frantic moments? This book expands horizons, acerbic and poignant, constrained and ecstatic at once.”
– John Kinsella

On Leaving Wale Obelisk
           for Jen
Did we shuck our suits that leaf-dense noon,
leaving serious careers in lemon light?
The high clouds, early swallows, the day moon
weakened, nothing farmed, nothing tight
above the summer marriage of grasses,
and all that luscious time receding in
the corporate years’ climbing excesses,
just a vacancy before the children?
We made our love pledge there. It leaves you
in chromatic episodes like this,
doesn’t it? Not quite nostalgia, but who
could have imagined ageing like this?
We had climbed up to lie on the piled hay,
the tow-coloured earth all nice and neat
and with everything to come our way,
lovers of the smashed-up wheat.
Duke Bluebeard
Each morning he coughs up entire corridors
of detainees.
The saturated ceilings bulge, the ball lights wobble
in each beige apartment.
This morning, he wanders out warning
the twelfth storey rays.
Knocking on doors,
tapping the struts and laths,
testing the slop on the floors with a block-toed foot:
he never wears galoshes. He is
connecting the impressive lips of the world.
He readies himself for the day’s accountancy.
When Judith comes to clean the tower
she is permanently bent into the letter R,
ripping up piles of scarlet tulle,
picking up bran-coloured skirts, fans, court shoes, masks.
She hates his beard and throbbing basso profondo.
She calls him a fat goat. He tugs his beard and asks
her to open any door, this way or that. She’s had it with him.
She keeps her head down.
He shrugs his shoulders and walks off boasting to the dead.
There’s always tomorrow.
More floors. More doors. More ticking frames.
This world will never tire of locking up its women.
‘The Girl from Ipanema’ floats out
from the Sole Bay Inn as we take note
of the ash-grey granite
of the two-up two-down opposite.
It has a charcoal push bike
leaning on the door’s black velour.
The grocer’s swells with fruit;
the brewery sports its brands
with a tame gold veneer.
The lighthouse pokes its tibia
into the sloe-blue night,
fathoming out the sea’s soft rushes.
We hear the darker pebbles
with their foam hems, faintly clacking
their blind buds together.
All these comings and goings
where the beach’s groynes order
the waves’ chemical procession.
Our landlady’s pensive as a courtesan.
She reads the papers in the empty lounge.
Her mornings ‘re scooped out between regulars.
Her red jowls mark out
the egg and tomatoes of each sallow breakfast.
All for the taking. The perfect scallops
of roof tiles on beach huts, painted like teeth.
The slow sedans in this temporary commune.
Now starlings in pyrotechnic, half-baked flight
swoop to eaves sharpened with gorgeous,
apostolic light. So much to claim,
as the sea’s womb bursts and adopts
one column of light
from an aching corn-yellow moon.
We’re spruced up, mediators in an evening
swollen free from cities, chalking up meaning
below the swashes of power lines.
Remember this weather. Summers silted up
like the vanguard of some redemption.
Just pan left and take a wide angle
as the score changes and we change reels.
Now that swollen moon drops and kicks up
a class finale. The brass dampened, throbbing,
as the strings come swooping in with
Fred and Ginger, dancing the perfect closing steps.
The New Play at The Astoria
I’m watching the Baltic light decline by slow degrees.
Stage left, a gold pagoda, behind it a starry lake reduced
in the sumptuous evening. Now, the leads, in masks, isolate
their rich emotions inside the crowd, working.
Our interest lies with the bodies of the women, though,
who, while impressively restricted, are imagining their gloves.
There is a charmingly repetitive soundtrack off stage.
Beside this, the weathered temple script leads off
to tiny birds. Underneath, things develop.
At first the implications of each soft movement
seems wondrously vague, but soon the changes in our scarlet
backdrop seem peculiarly prescient, and we are enabled
to see a remote undressed yearning grove. We can’t stand it.
We begin itching. Some of us are fevered enough to break loose.
The protagonists are undeterred and begin slowly waving back.
Each of us is placed into a separate fog. This is how it begins.
M1 3LA
Up the pissy steps we find nostalgia’s vein-blue glamour
sweeping under chandeliers and a dominating
stairwell, cloistered bridges and gantries
and dark batik where hoteliers in sulking combat sit.
Maybe they’re fed up faking it with crimplene
for mauve itinerant weddings, or watching
the unhitched come past name-boarded rooms
straight from the sales circuit to some daft do
on sill linings or Mitsubishi extractor fans –
all scooting in from Bromle and Burnley
on £20k contracts with options for export.
The car park is all sun-roofed Mondeos.
The cladded bars are putty coloured and flooded
with Sky Sports where youth’s peeling edge embarks
on suited years of margins, on the way to a dad’s
divorce or dividends, drizzle and Droylsden’s
best kept secret, moored to all those structured terms.
We sidle up among the winding men intent on
feeding this necrosis of signage and pull up
a pew to spot a few lame souls reading
the monthlies in Edwardian kitsch. So
gone up in the world and yet gone off. The tide
has turned, the boats have sailed and all of us
are stranded in this little local absence, making from it
what we can, not filled with laughs or money, carried
over six pints of Boddies and a go at the vids
before the bells call time and Sugsy coughs up
on the cards and Darren shuts up shop on his Chinese
bonded plastics tale; he’s almost bagged it now.
Our lives are made between such repetition,
like the Manchester-Hollywood boudoir thing,
where ideas still die among the lazy girls
and rooms of cheap cutlery. Bed time now.
The salad bars are gaping still in stolidly lit suites.
Six flights up we separate into our cares like fish,
along the corridors’ empty lungs in our exit
from home. We hit the fungus-shaped bed
in yeasty air and muzak, the telly freeze-framed
on a grinning line of chefs, shot in some
spittoon-shaped atrium in Gatley.
How many of us strip before the atrocity of the mirror?
Unpeeling selves like a bridge into some white error
of arse and thighs, the tide mark of pubic hair greying now.
The air con whistles and shifts its haunches. The toilet groans.
Sleepless at three, we draw back jacquard curtains
on the soaking brick Elysium, all eyes up
for what refocuses on icy city panes, those body smears
catching vacant light like a Vaseline ghost and in
those whorls we see the mad swifts’ shrieking circuits
echoed over torpid crowds and feel, or half sense,
each torso lifting in the livid air, towards a trace-setting
where hopes perpetually pour.

Dear crows, I don’t mind
that there’s nothing left to chew
in the wild banter.
Our days were mushroom
fat, loyal and dark. We knew
every rotten truth.
In those blood thin years
we came to see the mirror
inside our losses.
So the wheat fields breathe
and our car fills with evening’s
taupe, miles of it, crushed.
from The Departure (Salt Publishing, 2012).

Order The Departure.
Visit Chris’s website.
Read ‘Ten Facts about Chris Emery’.
Visit Salt Publishing’s website.
Visit Salt Publishing’s blog.
Launch details

Launch of Chris Emery’s The Departure, with Sophie Collins and Peter Daniels

Date: 19 April 2012
Time: 18h30 to 20h30
Venue:  The Book Hive, 53 London Street, Norwich, NR2 1HL
Tel: 01603 219268

Chris Emery’s Radio Nostalgia

Chris Emery lives in Cromer with his wife and children. He is a director of Salt, an independent literary press. His has published two collections of poetry, a writer’s guide and edited editions of Emily Brontë, Keats and Rossetti. His work has been widely published in magazines and anthologised, most recently in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010). A new collection of poetry, The Departure, will be published by Salt in 2012. 

“As palliative as a corpse in a junkyard, … Radio Nostalgia doesn’t relax you so much as it opens a way into wakefulness. With a stunning lexicon, short phrases stuffed with grit, petrol and spleen, Chris Emery orchestrates a complex, resistant music into one to three-beat lines as our ‘countdown to armaments’. He refuses to look away from the tableau vivant of degradation. “It is (as promised) all here for you now”, he writes, a twenty-first century so wounded and blout that only the the language that crawls over it shimmers with its implicit hope for transformation and redemption.”
– Forrest Gander
“[Radio Nostalgia] … has complex roots. The poems owe much to cinema … a distinctive sonic resonance … word music which sets his work apart. In these poems Emery has discovered a language which articulates the complex and nightmarish ramifications of the war on terror …”
– Philip Terry, Stride Magazine
“The stark nature of the world and the taut lives of the characters which people his particular wasteland. … thrives on the binding device of this tight diction … springs the rhythm of the entire language and renders it foreign … a rather breathless feel to it … musical and expansive.”
– Nigel McLoughlin, Poetry Review 
” … strong, gritty and very appealing … a plainness of diction and a wry humour … witty, gracious and entertaining … presented with real dignity and compassion.”
– Robert Nisbet, Roundyhouse 
Radio Nostalgia is cover-to-cover quality, also dense and disparate, so the first several poems throw the reader into a dark room. Until you recover your Night Vision, these poems will escape you, until you see the ashen, moonlit strains that shoot through the book. The martial and the political come gradually into focus, poem after poem, and at their most keen the poems indict a particular mayor, governor, political candidates in general, a British Parliament and Prime Minister.”
– Ezekiel Black, Tarpaulin Sky Reviews 
Upward with tapers
death has come to meet me on the stairs.
Her face hangs like a handset on its cord
loaded with static. She always has the answers.
We are the insects of her trade
inside a world of doors.
Hereabouts she smiles and strokes
her children with aplomb,
we totter on
above the sordid rafters.
Not far off, the chimneyed landscape
rolls in black succession to the sea.
Is it that the lack of choice seems fair
within the ferment,
or that the buried coast she stalks
is feathered with ideas?
I tell her of the ghosts I’ve had
where each was left all tangled
in a dress shirt on the path.
We move in conical procession to the ridge.
There are stains on the knees of the officers.
Their woollen socks are grey and frayed
as we watch the miniscule dresses
soiled with distemper.
Dad, are you still in there,
shining with your tiger’s eye cufflinks,
ending up in grease and pewter
in some Egyptology of the lounge? 
Next I’ll peer out over the cadmium earth,
jumping with the doubt of it,
my trouser hems on fire
as I race out over
sparking fibrous moorland
soaked with the milk of hinds.
Son, the oil of each memory
is a cancer for love.
Speeding with the dead can sort
whatever mouth, whatever bone.

The Journey 
          for Roddy Lumsden
When called, near our favourite moors, too soft to bear
          an ache this winter,
beyond the frozen lines of washing left out late and
          rigid as a mind,
I’ll come and stake my life on the bare land to declare
          not hate
or love or municipal indifference, but kind extension.
          The way the traffic
purls along the road through the steep night, or that
          clacking of a train
pouring over Failsworth to end up here is just a black
          journey we could make
through northern narratives towards a bad nativity
          scene or cave of light.
Yes, here in the mill towns and dead collieries I’ll hand
          you a note,
nothing grand or preposterous, a simple common
          sentence about that raging day
that no one could escape from, and then the barriers
          will fall, Roddy, to show
receding light up there on that hill monument, like
          some invite to another life.
From the Centre 
Once your eyes have adjusted to the grit
and sprawl of Braille around the tableaux
you’ll see ears are ammonites, hands starfish,
and tilt your head to watch the weather’s slow
procession from the dig. There’s singing or crying
investing wealth with high-throated commotion.
At midday the daylight ends; no one wings it
in the compound. We are poverty in motion.
How we ended up here is funny, like a shiny
belly or bare flank, or it could be that ash-
coloured, hose-damp concrete there.
Every child distorts the man and man the cash.
Look at it raining down — atrocious love
beside couples filming or are they fleeing
the gift. It is an entirely live feed as we learn dogma
from wire. Someone says, ‘Nomads in waiting,’
and we become scintillating, free in the debris.
Don’t catch life out, then, and watch the traffic.
Now you know, when the slap up meals fall out
of those sacks, we’ll be taking home our pick
of your bomb-retiring heroes, day and night,
night and day, those clean-cut silent flags of ham-
burger heaven still warm under props. Later, we’ll
be zooming or seething through that dream
of dislocated empty routes, shaky gorgons
of the zone. Together we are a modern fog,
the idea of the better dead, immortalised grey
eyes above subtitled totally idealised dialogue.
No one adheres to the precise terms any more.
The streets shiver like windows this afternoon of very
large government. We’ll ape out the speeches
of the ape. This country is his artery.
The Curtain 
It’s no good maintaining appearances. I am not as I was. I’m keeping out of things. Still muttering and picking my skin. Just noise in the rubble. The curtains shifting, a little musty, as the engineers prepare the way. Out there the seats are all empty. Where have I got to in the course of events? It is of no consequence. The words teeter and genuflect, little obelisks moist in the dusk. There are limbs of course, but none of them are mine. Someone else is at work on things. For a long time I have been participating in my own eradication. There is no end to this. The blade scrapes and scrapes. The bleach makes its mark. A fossil burns in the grate. I sense I can make things clean again. Cleanliness is very important. A machine scrabbling in the dust, picking its templates, picking its phrases. A machine burning for delivery. Cleanliness is unquestionably a very important part of making a contribution. Building the erratic gorgeous system. It is extremely pure and deprived of all identity. For a long time I have known that things are perfect. I have decided to get to the heart of this issue. As I make progress I am not clear I am in the midst of beauty. This is very liberating and also sour, like the taste of zinc. Sometimes I imagine I can matter, but largely this is a fabrication and completely disgusting. Once I have become another my life will be worth living. Until then the scrubbing seems a lustful and egocentric waste of time. Only after I have gone will the system become clear. I cannot get to the dark bed. The frontier is very cold and uncomfortable. Soon it will have to end.
The Lermontov
The cruise ship was
A weak heart grinding.
Weighing in cold presence
The grief.
The Lermontov fathoming
Industrial pine beside the tiered
Ice cliffs. In its wake
That month of bells.
Our crew embraced Lenin.
He boiled on lapels,
His savage index and globe
Ardent, dilapidated thesis,
Yet no red life was made.
Ideas foiled the smashing
Waves and boiled under
The manoeuvre’s wasting feature.
New negative horizons
Fused the common purpose.
The natal sea was antic. The lanes showed
Severe ash drop permanence
Making life its excavation.
Ancestors in leather
Jewelled fields and outcrops
Were just tattoos of earth.
Years sunk in black throats.
The ruined heads of bears stared
From the intaglio of it.
3,000 miles below
The frozen heart
Still spins with abstraction.
We adhere to its iron crystal,
Faster, darker polyps,
Love’s scouring creatures,
Electric weight unbedding
The banal arc
Of the salt path.

Lemnos Revisited
after Sophocles
Along the road beyond a sign or mention of it
I came to in the dead light of Lemnos
I hear their war cries and will not heal
So they left me stinking among the rocks
To ponder the rich shade of Chrysa’s shore
And think of the Achaean feasts
Abandoned on the land without succour
And only abstract rags and this reconnaissance
My heart has no pity
Watching the dark tiers of the earth steer
Like some neutral star path in the sea
While yet across the sea I hear Paris
Shouting a new method of glory
Consider us dragging that shining horse of flame
Seething in the dark resin
We were always spiralling to Troy
Sinking with the earth’s turning fury of love
Affection and attack
Now far away these chafing women
Are my border watch and know the facts of it
Shaking a lifetime of winding sheets
I hear the war drum and the scissors of men
So let this ink pool of the gods explain
Our designified wounds
Our lack of monuments in this final order
My military effort can host no creed
No glaze or feature except the posture
And rancour we hold to be just
For in this local output deficit we may trade
The chaos of our meals for a white cage
I know no thought will mar that furious ife
My ranging shot and perfect cut
Will spur the vaulted hills
Straight to the feathery heaps discarded there
I will see our little treasures wasted
The earth bandaged up
I’ll hear their fricatives and see their plastic torsos
Hot above our hot post-animate shells
Pastel vexed and torpid.
Pressed in the teeth of the wheels
The steel pigs mashing down
With terminal velocity
from Radio Nostalgia.
Purchase Radio Nostalgia (Kindle Edition) in the UK and USA.
Visit Chris’s blog.
Visit Salt’s website and blog.