Matthew Caley lives and works in London. Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011) is his fourth collection of poetry. His first, Thirst, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 1999.
Professor Glass is Matthew Caley’s ‘lost’ fin de siècle concept collection. Its eponymous, transparent persona can barely hold his life together, never mind the narrative the reader might want to intuit between the lines of the text. He may be a professor in some unspecified subject, in some un-named university in central nowhere, caught between a loathing for his subject and his salary; between modernist certainty and postmodern doubt; between every academic / pedagogic argument going; between his wife and his nubile charges, between the body politic and a disembodied discourse; or he may only be a spectral creature forged out of the curious mix of languages found in academia. If Jean Baudrillard was right in saying reality no longer emits enough signs to guarantee its existence, the Professor’s text might represent the last, saving sparks of his own being.
“Formally outrageous, culturally light-fingered … Caley is a rare beast, an important poet yet to be discovered by his true readership, which is to say everyone.”
– John Stammers
“At last, somebody with intelligence, wit and a vocabulary who can crack open a cultural canapé and lay out its extravagance for us …”
– John Hartley Williams
Satyrs and nymphs in the foam. A spume of fire,
the wicked glint of nails and razors.
The slyest reference to the slyest reference
of Peter Greenaway. Pinhead
Some oddbod with a head shaped like a coracle.
Choreography by Michael Clarke and Salome.
‘Venus in Furs’ by The Velvet Underground
[out of, yawn, Warhol, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,
The Factory, Edie]
Sacher-Masoch, The Marquis De Sade, Artaud,
Terminator 1, Skin 2,
fetishists [make a long list of list
poems for a very long
shades of a Kurosawa battle,
George Bataille and the Story of the Eye,
Dominique Aury and the Story of O.
Futurists fist-fucking history.
Get in. Turn the key. Test the ignition. Drive carefully.
Who thinks it outré
to disturb the equilibrium
of my in-tray and my out-tray
to take the Balm of Gilead
into my head, to take the lead
and kneel down at my feet
with the softest kiss. To think it neat
-er than any metaphysical conceit.
My lark, my sparrow,
I’ll let you know
what the heart is for,
the heart is made for the arrow,
the arrowhead, the pain,
ask anyone, ask Saint Sebastian.
No qualms? No doubts? No fears?
No points to prove?
To do all this yet not remove
the Discman from your ears.
Would anyone attack you?
Would your friends sing?
In the fish bowl of autumn
their faces are
fresher than the sun.
the world’s queuing
up to fuck you.
Sinsemilla Lullaby No. 1
Sleep, little pill head, sleep
so I can take a toke
on your neat pale whirlpool navel,
its turquoise and jasper
and you, so beyond reproach,
inside the blue-billowed smoke
as you apply
a shivery taper to the roach
and scrabble for more Rizla paper –
roll it carefully out on a Jamiroquai
12-inch single cover. A-grades for you, my dear.
Sleep, little pill head, sleep.
Apparently ‘the speech of the depressed
is like an alien skin’ is what she said
and, scattering petals aside, undressed,
leading me through my skin to the tousled bed.
This could have seemed somewhat heavy
for a first date
but in fact was as light as petals or duvet
feathers. So light that I lost weight
on the journey from the door to the divan.
So light that when she played upon my ribs
like a melodeon, she played on them an even
-song. From that, to go on to describe,
with a clarity that still alarms me,
how the ossified cries of a child
become the poems of a Mallarmé
or Nerval – it was as if she had willed
these words like birds from the trees.
Then she took me, took me like any lover –
elbows, eyelids, earlobes, ankles, knees –
as if none belonged to one, or to the other.
from Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011).
Order Professor Glass.
Ahren Warner was born in 1986. His poetry was featured in City State: New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins, 2009), Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe Books, 2009). His first full collection, Confer, will be published by Bloodaxe Books in autumn 2011. He is a doctoral student at Queen Mary College (University of London) and divides his time between Paris and London.
Re: is Ahren Warner’s much-anticipated debut. Featured widely in recent major anthologies, he is quickly emerging as a notable voice within a new generation of British poets. This slim selection reads like a series of postcards sent from, or touching on, a variety of locations – Nuremberg, Dachau, the Carolinas – but most often the streets of his home cities, Paris and London. While Warner engages boldly with art and philosophy, poetics and history, these poems are always alive to the light and heat, the sights, sounds and multitude of the contemporary city.
Having always thought someday I’d burn that bed,
I left with nothing but a cold bologna sandwich,
a borrowed suit, pockets full of dust and found myself
a thousand miles away, amongst the mountain dew
and, later, amongst smokey mountain eyes
in a crowded back-room, where every look was thrown
like a knife and I thought the game was over, but
sitting on three queens I made a train at sunrise.
That night, I swallowed liquor and a lighter
and found her like moonlight falling on a bed.
I could have swore her hair was made of rayon
and when we kissed she tasted like a loaded gun.
The sound of bluegrass and southern words
wove their ways to an old Sandlapper tune
between Palmetto trees and geese in flight.
Wearing a Milton-Bradley crayon, she whispered
something warm about the height of cotton,
asked if I could feel the moon shine
and beneath the silver sun I asked her
what she’d say to setting out for getting lost.
She sent me to the milkman, looking for the truth.
Note: This poem is a rough collage of lines from songs by Frank Zappa, George Gershwin, The Raconteurs, Counting Crows, Claudia Church, Alabama, Bucky Covington, Sheryl Crow, Brand New, Mary Black, James Taylor, Jo Dee Messina and Josh Turner. All songs cited contain ‘Carolina’ in their title, with the exception of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ which is from Porgy and Bess, the state opera for South Carolina. The poem was commissioned for Broadcast’s 50 State project in 2008.
About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters …
Though, when it comes to breasts, it’s a different story.
Cranach, for example, never seems to have progressed
beyond his pubescent attempts at apprenticeship:
tennis balls sewn to a pillow of hay, fingers coming
to terms with the concept of foreplay. So too
with Titian, whose Venus bares handleless plungers
or the fruits of a template mocked up at Bellini’s.
For breasts, you want Rochegrosse, his Chevalier
surrounded by breasts real enough to have men
gripping their gallery plans discreetly; or Picabia
at his most garish: his naked, peroxided blonde
stretching to coddle her slavering mutt. Her breasts
impress their tender weight upon us, and though
not as lofty as Pieter would have liked, she too
knows something of our weakness; that we fall
and are floored as much by the salt lure of skin.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Here, all parks are masculine, grammatically so,
I mean; le jardin, le parc, never a la.
Planes defined by avenues, circulars,
lines on the maps labelled with saints, saintly
politicos: Saint Michel, Kennedy, Jacques.
Even the flowers, here, are masculine,
reminding us of the season, a year or so back,
Gucci, or some such, had men preening
in powder-pink shirts; strutting their cocks
down the Strand, Bishopsgate, Bank.
Here, there are no pink shirts, hardly any
shirts at all. Just men, reclining in the bronze
of their estomacs; the vague swell of their guts
rising to the heat. There are women too, of course,
mostly with tops, but tops rolled up,
estomacs bared to the sun. We are reclining too,
squinting at the sky – as electric, if lighter,
than Klein’s – swallowed up or slipping in
to an igloo of sérenité, the gender of which
I’ve had neither the time, nor desire, to look up.
from Re: (Donut Press, 2011).
Visit Ahren’s website.
A.B. Jackson was born in Glasgow in 1965. His first collection of poems, Fire Stations, was awarded the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2003. His poetry is featured in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe Books, 2010) and his poem ‘Treasure Island’ was awarded First Prize in the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize 2010. Andy works as a Senior Information Manager with NHS Education for Scotland.
Apocrypha is series of twenty-one poems which will form part of A.B. Jackson’s long-awaited second collection. This signed and numbered Donut Press special edition is limited to 250 copies.
Ruth at sunrise, grooming horses.
The bit, bridle, curry-comb of love
was her business.
Simeon skulked around indoors,
consulted Qabalah, threw sticks,
anything to improve sex.
Clouds were locomotive smoke,
camels or torn pillows,
science of moodswing or a god
in evidence everywhere, the veil
obscuring male from female.
Ruth gathered apples. The Elohim
stamped in their stalls.
Bed-head Lazarus, at breakfast:
three Embassy Regal, tea so strong
you could trot a mouse on it.
To his bare barrel chest, a rag
embroidered with Do Not Disturb
Nettle cheese omelette, French
toast with field mushrooms,
three more furious cigarettes.
Manifest ailments: eye-gum,
heart overrun with Japanese knotweed,
cock not worth a docken.
Mist burned off. Honey bees fussed
religiously, as usual, over roses.
Balding, young Noah
constructed a classic comb-over.
High wind signalled ruin,
impending rain. He amassed
articles on follicle health, applied
pigeon dung paste,
pomades of hippopotamus fat,
black Andalusian foal urine.
The more elusive ingredients
took jungle-time and steel traps,
an array of live bait, his life
regime and rumour.
Markets rose. Bullet-head Noah
floated his beauty empire.
from Apocrypha (Donut Press, 2011).
Visit Andy’s website.
Wayne Holloway-Smith was born in Wiltshire in 1979. He recently received an MA (with Distinction) in Creative Writing from Brunel University, and is currently working on his debut novel, provisionally titled Big Time. Wayne’s poetry was featured in City State: New London Poetry (Pennned in the Margins, 2009) and Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering (Donut Press, 2011) is his first solo selection.
Rummaging through the pages of Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering, the reader encounters a young Groucho Marx, an aged Smith Wigglesworth, together with a host of other beguiling characters who try on aspects of themselves as masks, exploring the possibilities. Not least of these is the author himself. Whether employing the lyric, dramatic monologue, epistle or tall story forms, he always revels in the poem as performance, carefully balancing wit, heart and dizzying imagination, in a riveting, often comic, high wire act.
The back of her hand placates my cheek:
‘It’s just an act! Are you ok?’ Before I reply
she’s gone and the hostess announces
‘Miss … Coco … Lachaille!’
She enters, stage left, Charlestons clumsily.
A glut of men watches as she struts
a playful rubato, cha-cha kicks, twirls a parasol
like a walking stick, ’til oops! she stumbles
aesthetically, throws a candid glance, blows
bubbles with a slim black pipe. I try
to reconcile this with last night’s tendresse, but now
her hair is candyfloss pink, folded beneath
a feathered head dress. I stare at her painted face:
white, her blue-rimmed eyes, a single red line
tracing the length of her cheek. I’m fixed
on her lips as she flashes a smile, winks on a beat,
bends to reveal a glimpse of what they came for,
teases the crowd forward in their seats. Accelerando!
Now the swirls throw up her petticoat’s tulle tiers;
she spreads the polka-dot parasol, snaps it shut
on the splash of a cymbal. What applause!
Her velvet corset’s disappeared along with the pipe,
replaced by finger to lips, broderie anglaise
pantaloons. She spins and cocks her foot: Fin.
The parasol reopens, she drops into splits.
Cutting a Figure
Begin by losing yourself.
Burn your old clothes, your love notes.
Sit naked at your midnight window,
weighing the cadence of the age.
Become a flicker behind the blue smoke
of dive bars. Decipher conversations,
eavesdrop on topics that hold attention:
plot the growth of future trends.
Memorize turns of phrase
and adapt their use for other circles.
Survey the movement of masters;
scrutinize your artful ancestors –
Brummel, Langtry – trace and retrace
their images. Mimic the mannerisms
of success, as the apprentice does
before he attempts the autonomous stroke.
Etch an outline of your ideal.
Let it hold you accountable.
Feign authenticity, be well versed
in the art of telling a lie. Examine
the parameters of social acceptance;
be scandalous within. Allow yourself
to be held but not bridled.
Perhaps then you will be ready to emerge
in society, to court the light, to have
your features captured in photographs,
your exploits noted in memoirs
you’ll one day strike a match to.
from Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering (Donut Press, 2011).
Order Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering.
Order City State: New London Poetry
(Penned in the Margins, 2009).
In early 2008 Jude Cowan began to write poems in response to the un-packaged daily news footage she was archiving for the Thomson Reuters news agency. She continued throughout what proved, globally, to be a tumultuous and historic year. For the Messengers draws together this work and is a startling document. From the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination to the Mumbai terror attacks; from economic boom to near meltdown; from the first Olympic Games to be held in China to the election of Barack Obama, Cowan draws on an array of material from across six continents. She has a talent for locating the key details which cut to the human centre of a story and levels a sharp eye and subtle wit wherever she turns her gaze. These skills, allied with a sure poetic gift, help her do justice to the day-to-day journalistic footwork which this book illuminates and celebrates.
“Jude Cowan has gone where I’ve never seen a jobbing journalist tread before. This is news observed with so discerning an eye that marvellous detail emerges within the poetry. Read her book. We are the richer for it.”
– Jon Snow, Channel 4 News
“Unlike the daily news that fades from view, Jude Cowan’s images linger in the memory. She creates poetry which finds the humanity amid the horror of our times. Her work is outstanding.”
– Bill Neely, International Editor, ITN News
The Brujo Mayor wears yellow to attract money.
He turns his tarot to the Empress.
Hillary Clinton will be the next US President.
Prediction bursts through ruddy cheeks,
springs from ebullient eyebrows,
trickles down his long grey beard.
He grows serious, tells, country by country,
of a terrible series of disasters.
Central America will almost disappear.
Acolytes cast spells. Journalists scribble.
A good day’s work, another quirky tale
captured for the Reuters Life! feed.
Saudi Arabia: Oil Hunters
Before the oil we were shepherds
and drivers of camels, chasing stars,
crossing unmarked borders. Beneath
the wide tent we drank-in quiet,
our teapots nestled in roasting charcoal.
Then came oil. Wellheads bloomed, their
metal trunks withstanding desert heat,
growing strong on rich calories of black blood.
Riyadh teems with petrol pumps, and down
its streets we shunt in mighty machines,
managed by signs directing our migrations.
Transparent parabolas praise the cliff
of Kingdom Tower, water plays
like children at its palm-strewn feet.
In Salhiya a woman goes
back into the rubble
to collect her paraffin heater.
It’s needed even more without walls.
What happened to the trim locks
and smart suits in which this leader
told attentive soldiers
how to make enemies and eradicate people?
Can eleven years on the run change a man?
His beard and hair grown long and wild,
sprouting freely in newsprint and video.
His two-faced two faces roam Europe’s media,
encapsulating Karadzic past and present,
professional dispenser of war and medicine.
He shall receive our finest justice.
As seconds shift, angry observers watch
for the minutest of changes
in his concentrated face.
Light clouds play on his wrinkles.
He makes a tiny turn of the mouth,
brings a slight quiver to his eyes.
The doctors aren’t sure
if this ocular treatment
gives relief of any kind,
but he must drink his medicine in public.
He must be seen to take it.
Zimbabwe: New Parliament
The smell of shit on the streets
goes up the noses of MPs
and judges who cheerfully parade
a new season of power.
The old government is refreshed in Zim,
where nightmares about zeros
harry bankers, and money is printed
with an expiry date.
When you’re riding through hell
you just keep on riding, scream
the four horsemen,
hooves churning the red earth.
from For the Messengers (Donut Press, 2011).
Order For the Messengers.
Visit Jude’s For the Messenger’s website.
Donut Press book launch and 10th birthday celebration
Date: Saturday, 5 February 2011
Time: 19h30 – 23h30
Venue: Balls Brothers, (downstairs at) 158 Bishopsgate, London, EC4 (Liverpool Street tube)
Come and help Donut Press launch spanking new titles by Matthew Caley, Jude Cowan, A.B. Jackson, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Ahren Warner, and celebrate ten years in the publishing game. Special Guests and fantastic sounds – soul, ska, reggae and blues – from the wonderful Ms Laura Michelle Anderson.
Read more about all the new titles on the Donut Press website.
Tim Turnbull grew up in North Yorkshire, lived in London in his thirties and now resides in Perthshire. His latest collection Caligula on Ice and Other Poems is available from Donut Press.
After that nasty goat business
he screwed his profile down,
plucked all his warts, sold off the bridge
and moved into a flat in town,
found himself a decent tailor,
an innovative cutter
who could disguise his lumps and humps,
then to stop the snarls and splutters
took some elocution lessons;
saw to his deportment;
found the private members’ clubs
where a better social sort went,
learnt the art of modish small talk,
how to flatter or to charm
with just a smidge of erudition
or great big bucket-loads of smarm;
who to ignore, who to trample,
when be early, when be late,
when reveal his brutish nature
in order to intimidate
and armed with these new social skills
he launched into the world
to make himself a better gnome
by getting status, cash and girls.
He took a job in publishing,
PR or some such-like
and shimmied up the slimy pole,
scaled to mildly giddying heights,
till with his air of seriousness
and his grave demeanour,
he won the reverence from his peers
you might give to a hyena.
But look into his gimlet eyes,
they’re wells of boiling rage.
He hardly can contain himself
inside that well groomed, urbane cage.
Which begs the question, doesn’t it,
how such a frightful beast
could make its way so smoothly
in the business world when it’s unleashed?
The answer’s pretty obvious,
and not a little grim –
the whole of London is awash
with semi-housetrained trolls like him.
Published in the StAnza anthology,
Skein of Geese (The Shed Press, 2008),
edited by Eleanor Livingstone.
Buy Caligula on Ice and Other Poems (Donut Press, 2009).
Visit Tim’s website.
Cover design by Liam Relph, based on the artwork Repository (2009) by W. Hunt.
I hope you will enjoy these recommendations and consider buying a few collections, pamphlets and anthologies published this year by a range of presses. A huge thank you to the poets who gave me their choices for the year.
What’s your favourite volume of 2009? Feel free to include your recommendations in the comments section.
Natural Mechanical by J O Morgan (CB Editions)
Cold Spring in Winter by Valérie Rouzeau, translated by
Susan Wicks (Arc Publications)
Continental Shelf by Fred D’Aguiar (Carcanet Press)
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Grain by John Glenday (Picador)
Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century, edited by
Clare Pollard & James Byrne (Bloodaxe Books)
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
A Village Life by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
End of the West by Michael Dickman (Copper Canyon Press)
Cradle Song by Stacey Lynn Brown (C&R Press)
Snowbound House by Shane Seely (Anhinga Press)
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Nothing Like Love by Jenny Joseph (Enitharmon Press)
Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
Farewell My Lovely by Polly Clark (Bloodaxe Books)
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
Beneath the Rime by Siriol Troup (Shearsman Books)
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Faber New Poets: Heather Phillipson (Faber & Faber)
Stress Position by Keston Sutherland (Barque Press)
Weak Link by Rob Halpern (Slack Buddha Press)
Clampdown by Jennifer Moxley (Flood Editions)
Practical Water by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan Poetry)
Warhorses by Yusef Komunyakaa (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
Sassing by Karen Head (WordTech Communications)
A Ruffer Version
That time in Efes, when the killer strolled in, I’m sure Mehmet saw it coming ‘cos he blanched, and his eyes moved from the door to the barman, then finally to the man. The gunman walked behind him, as he sat leaning back in his chair, pulled slightly back and popped him in the head.
I’d thought a skull would burst from a shot, but it was quite the opposite. As Umit said, “There never was much in that head of his.”
No explosion, no fountain, no split peach. Just a brief spray of blood. I remember the claret splashing the ear of a girl at the next table. Just that effusive spurt and then a dribble. He slowly leant to one side and settled. I’ve slept drunk at that self-same table many a time and looked deader.
The quiet was disturbing. Everyone’s Thursday night after-hours teetering on a chasm of murder, police and questions, questions, questions.
The assassin held the gun at his side, gave an embarrassed smile and said, “Sorry. So sorry, everybody.” With that, he calmly walked the length of the bar, around the side of the pool tables, and was gone into the night.
His calm lingered in the room for a few moments. It was only when a chap knocked over a glass as he fumbled for a drink that the first scream erupted.
Anyway, as I told the Old Bill, I was in the toilet when it happened.
‘A Ruffer Version’ is included in Rougher Yet (Donut Press, 2009).
Read more about Tim.
Read Heather Taylor’s interview with Tim here.
Read Anna Goodall’s interview with Tim in The Guardian.