Tag Archives: Jacqueline Saphra poems

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 poetry@jacquelinesaphra.net.

Jacqueline Saphra: Three Poems

Jacqueline Saphra by Studio 6, Portsmouth

Jacqueline Saphra’s poetry has been widely published and her plays performed on stage and television. She has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma (Flarestack) is followed this year by a collection to be published by flipped eye and supported by The Arts Council of England.
The Mary Rose
The naval plot’s on repeat in Portsmouth Docks.
Our rosy boys, all fired up again, restless
as puppies, wave from upper decks,
juggle caps. Lipstick girls in fishnets
and stilettoes clutch Kleenex in lovelorn fists,
hold out for heroes. More dreams of epaulettes
and white gloves, wartime etiquette.
Amid the choke and churn of history’s mess,
gunpowder’s retch, flashes of SOS,
The Mary Rose, wreck of sacred wrecks
retires with her ghosts: sailors netted
in their own defences who toss dregs
of shanties to the wind. Eternally unchecked,
our ships sail on from one fucked era to the next.
‘The Mary Rose’ was made into a short film by students
at the University of Chichester.
Six Feet of New Linen
Do you remember our first, narrow bed?
It coaxed us close, our breath mixing to mist
that hid our fears and blemishes and fed
the myth of easy love and coupled bliss.
For years, I’ve mapped your web of veins, I’ve sparred
and stabbed. I’ve braved uncharted arteries
that spat blood, lapped your tears like milk, plunged far
into your depths, sought out new strategies.
I’ll have you yet, I’ll draw you in. Not done,
the endless round of touch and tussle, heart
and mouth trying to speak in unison,
so much to hold, so little truly grasped.
In this expanse of white, you lie beyond
my reach, waiting for me to take your hand.
‘Six Feet of New Linen’ was published in Equinox.
Lost Property
Since we parted I have lost my red wrap. This is a symptom.
I grow pale, I want my roses, I want to be fed, I make it difficult.
You will find my red wrap on the other woman, the one who sees
only what’s in front of her, who took it from a sofa where I left it.
Crimson is not her colour but now she basks in my heat and wears
the smell of my longing on her shoulders. Salted with flakes
of my skin and yours, she is all smiles, she is always replete.
If she had the eye she would touch my mind, she would read
my scrawls, she would balk at my famished words, circling.
But she doesn’t have the eye. I have the eye and I have the greed
and she has my red wrap and she has caught you inside it.
Oh, but sweetheart, how easy she makes it for you, she who has
such appetites. I do not see you struggle as she tightens the knot.
‘Lost Property’ was commended in the Ver Poetry competition.
Visit Jaqueline’s website.
Visit flipped eye’s website.

Jacqueline Saphra’s ‘The Dark Art’


The Dark Art
Jacqueline Saphra

I once knew a wife with rattling bones,
whose face was made of rice cakes
whose blood was made of consommé
whose skin was hard as eggshell.
There was no melting her.
Her child swallowed nothing
but greens and goat’s milk;
he was spindly and failed to thrive.
I once knew a wife, plump as a doughnut
with buttered hands and a floury lap
whose babies always wanted more.
Her sighs weighed heavy on the rolling pin,
her crusts were never tender,
there was fury in her kneading;
her loaves would take on air and multiply;
her children grew too fat.
I once knew a pitiless wife
who smelled of peach and salt
who warmed her skin like a caramel glaze.
She kept a secret book of recipes,
lured her husband with a calculated sauce,
then killed him slowly
with foie gras, double cream and hollandaise.
Visit Jacqueline’s website.
Order Jacqueline’s pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma (Flarestack Publishing, 2008).