Tag Archives: Penned in the Margins

Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made of You

Melissa Lee-Houghton was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1982. She has had poems published widely, in magazines including Magma, Tears in the Fence and Succour and has poems forthcoming in The New Writer, The Reader and La Reata. She also writes regular reviews for The Short Review.

Melissa Lee Houghton’s A Body Made of You is a series of poems written for other writers, artists, strangers, lovers and friends. The process began by interviewing each muse, and then working from photographs and in a couple of cases, paintings of them or by them. Charged with sexuality and an uncomfortable sense of the strange, this debut collection introduces a powerful new voice in poetry.
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s highly original and innovative debut might be considered an epistolary tour-de-force, split into fifteen sections dealing with Others identified only by their forename. We begin to see those named through the refractions and concerns of the poems, as they conjure relationships and exchanges, memories and transgressions in strikingly off-kilter, compelling narratives that often contain piercingly memorable lines. The final Other of the collection is actually a sublime self-portrait played out in the form of an interview and indeed the whole book can be seen as an extended interview or interrogation of intimacy. It is an extraordinary achievement and a must-read book for 2011.”
– Chris Hamilton-Emery
“Melissa Lee-Houghton’s A Body Made Of You is a restless book; images pile high full of a deep questioning of the friends, lovers and strangers who populate these poems. This collection is an intense ‘naming of parts’ made of body, soul, and memory.”
– John Siddique
“I feel alive when I read Melissa’s poetry. It is raw, anthropological and sassy. Sympathetic studies of character, gender and address that poke, prod, irritate and echo. She has a penetrative gaze, a deep compassion and turn of phrase that recalls Alan Bennett. Her dramatic glimpses of being are full of honesty, wit and understanding. Pour yourself a favourite tipple and imbibe. You will feel the range of psychology; her emotional and poetic register and be in awe at its resonance. You will see her double vision.”
– David Caddy
laid out
your foreign bread smell
boiled bagels shoulders
round like potato, oily
inner fish skin sweet yeast
burned bonfire matchwood tongue
marijuana kiss old as bees
moustache curled walrus
sarsaparilla earlobes call
like a tender drunk piss
smells of old books rub
olive oil in your skin
straight nails the pink of
teary eyes skin like fresh
paint still moist the heat
droops the eyelids summer
is tiring on your feet
tepid showers matted
eyelashes like wet dog fur
straightened out for an alien
feet like Roman tiles veins
like common worms your leg
gets lonely in bed purrs
in sleep a cat dying
happily, your violence is just
frustration at the size
of things my hands
and just smaller than yours
we smash things like we’re
children, ninety per cent
of your ticklish skin
is underused
by my sad wick tongue.
Rumi was our wedding gift from you. A reminder
     of ecstasy; you think me a denouncer of prayer
in favour of blank idols, but I have prayed
     like only a whore knows how.
You’re blonde, you have the features of purgatory,
     the feminine blueprint; tragedy has aged your
god and he is earthly. You feel his cold blood
     in the clay, the places your mother implored you
to feel for. You should wear your summer hat –
     don’t let your skin burn, your precious skin
is delicate, will peel like a shroud from the body
     of a pharaoh. What brave language
have you made in me, have you freed, succour
     with the alabaster bones of your love and faith;
your blood is the silk that creases in your dressed
     gestures, I know the thing you haven’t told.
Secrets do not matter. They are only sugar
     and fat soap. Your soul was Mayan; it was burned
into the flesh of a sleeping child; it was fed
     on the equilibrium of pain and the beauty
of dead sunset. Be careful, it’s not your fault
     you burn so easily, squirm at rivers, bloated sheep;
the breath of a son in your lap or a buttercup’s
     gold glowing life in a beam on your throat.
from A Body Made of You (Penned in the Margins, 2011).
Order A Body Made of You.
Visit Melissa’s blog.
Launch Details
Date: 23 April
Time: 7.30 pm
Venue: Nexus Art Cafe, Dale Street, Manchester

with readings from Annie Clarkson and Michael Egan

Ross Sutherland’s Twelve Nudes

Ross Sutherland was born in Edinburgh in 1979. A former lecturer in electronic literature at Liverpool John Moore’s University, Ross works as a freelance journalist and tutor in creative writing. He is a member of live literature collective Aisle 16. His first collection, Things To Do Before You Leave Town (Penned in the Margins), was published in 2009.

In this limited edition, signed mini-book, Ross Sutherland presents the poem as honed, stripped and exposed. With trademark wit, Twelve Nudes (Penned in the Margins, 2010) interrogates the failures of love, exploding the dynamics of text, voice and body. In this elegant but uneasy satire, ‘to be naked is to speak without footnotes’.
Each book is packaged in a gold cellophane bag and comes with a special gift.
Our fear of public speaking began in childhood, when public speakers burst into our living rooms and murdered our families.
Those articulate bastards left us with nothing, just a handful of cue-cards escaping across spearmint lawns:
How we swore vengeance on those public speakers! Quiet, incoherent vengeance; the best kind, muttered inside cupboards.
Ever so often we attempted to tell people the story of our lives, only to discover that they had already heard it, with smarter punch-lines and less insincere flippancy. Word came that someone had sold the TV rights to our fear of wasps.
In nightmares the public speakers appeared to us as demonic, fifty-foot rainbows. “We shall now say a few words on emptiness,” they chimed, their mouths descending like Tetris onto our beds, finishing our sentences.
We followed them through the periodicals, hating them so. Rain fell in perfect fallacy onto their palladiums. “My plus-one is this sniper rifle,” we said in unison.
Behind the red curtain we could hear them rushing about, becoming more and more eloquent as their entrance approached.
We sat there in silence, frantically inventing opinions that our biographers had no use for. But it was too late. They were already imagining us naked.
from Twelve Nudes (Penned in the Margins, 2010).
Order Twelve Nudes.
Visit Ross Sutherland’s blog.


Steve Spence’s Limits of Control

Steve Spence © Alan Munton

Steve Spence lives in Plymouth and co-organises live poetry group The Language Club. His reviews and poetry have appeared in Great Works, Shearsman, Stride, Tears in the Fence, Tenth Muse and The Rialto. He was assistant editor of Terrible Work magazine for four issues and in 2007 completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth. His debut book, A Curious Shipwreck (Shearsman, 2010), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

In this extraordinary sequence of prose poems, coral reefs fall from the sky, volcanoes smoulder and pirates come to power in Britain. Combining montage techniques with reckless interventions, Steve Spence mashes up the worlds of robotics, banking, fishing, optometry, entomology, climate change, speech synthesis and meteorology to create a dizzingly contemporary poetics – and a new form of nonsense. As entertaining as it is politically engaged, Limits of Control (Penned in the Margins, 2011) speaks to the challenging predicament we find ourselves in: ‘Things cannot go on as if nothing has happened yet the events which follow are even more strange.’
Voices of the dead
Knowing how to feel is more important than what you feel.
This surely depends less on the robots than on the quality of
the humans who design them. Should beauty be painted with
her head in the clouds? She still has occasional mood swings
but they’re nowhere near as severe. From the water everything
looks different yet most learning happens casually and without
programmed instruction. A system of uncertainty has entered
our daily lives. Pollack like a slow-moving bait and for that
reason the action of your rubber eel is important. As mutinies
go this is a very laid-back affair. Some scientists say that our
planet is running out of platinum. This may or may not be
true but every cloud has its moment in the sun. During the manic
phase there can be feelings of inflated self-esteem verging on
grandiosity. Do you have the ability to spot the next big thing?
Whether it was actual bravery that kept him
there or extraordinary arrogance is open to
some debate. “Ask Nigel how ‘industrious’
sounds,” she said. It’s all very vigorous and
virile yet this thin-lipped variety has sturdier
jaws and more teeth. What are the roots of
altruism? “We’ll end with a pepper but we’re
going to begin with porn.” He emerges here
as a global softie with no time for oppression
and all the time in the world for the oppressed.
Lavish eating and drinking was a key element
of the Roman world yet even now the city
seems incapable of self-regulation. This causes
an intense acoustic ripple to propagate across
the plane of the surface.
from Limits of Control (Penned in the Margin, 2011).
Order Limits of Control.
Launch details
Join Penned in the Margins to celebrate the launch of two new collections:
Limits of Control
by Steve Spence
Love / All That / & OK
by Emily Critchley
with readings from Emily and Steve, plus Chris McCabe and
Sophie Mayer
Date:  Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Time:  19h00 to 21h00
Venue:  The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street E1 7EX
(Nearest tubes: Liverpool Street / Aldgate / Aldgate East)
Free entry

Emily Critchley’s Love / All That / & OK

Emily Critchley was born in Athens, Greece, and grew up in Dorset. She studied at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge. From Cambridge she gained a PhD in contemporary, American women’s experimental writing and philosophy, and was the recipient of the John Kinsella & Tracy Ryan Poetry Prize in 2004. She now lectures in English and Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.

Love / All That /& OK (Penned in the Margins, 2011), an anti-confessional by experimental British poet Emily Critchley, brings together a diverse range of work previously published in chapbooks since 2004, and includes new material from the sequences ‘Poems for Luke’, ‘The Sonnets’ and ‘Poems for Other People’.
“Really intelligent, coquette, fuck-you work … a space for a new kind of anti-misogynism in poetry.”
– Marianne Morris
“I think the project is high electrics and considerable. I particularly care for the frailty and edges of coherence loss. It’s the intelligent frays that push under my thought and matter most.”
– Allen Fisher
“Her formally adventurous poetry implicates its author in, then deftly upends, the conventions – political, sexual, intellectual, and emotional – that threaten to diminish the purview of any fierce, bright, 21st-century female. Critchley practises a brisk vernacular anti-lyric, often in the name of love and always in a language that (pounding Pound) ‘hath ‘ham’ innit.’ As an antidote to a future that ‘may be very wrong,’ these poems are absolutely right.”
– Jean Day
from ‘The Sonnets’
I took it for a “door” because that’s what
the man told me. Tried to walk
through it. Couldn’t
take your time, couldn’t
take mine. Unannounced.
While the arch leans bilingual
& equivocal.
Not backed by police
or any kind of force.
So B’s furry but not all that ‘cute’
no more ~ an intellectual thing ~
Like small & pointy, but lacking
brightness, see? & I like buildings
that match structural intent wth design
In summer. Flotilla of scraps
pulled into remnants
by a dead pulley system.
B is right, straight, & points (i)
his dick into the crowd.
Don’t hype up sympathy
for laughs, we cld do this
feelingly if our guts were only
in it, not the cat.
Well, hey, who’s counting
whose failure to be integral, honest,
whole. The sign said
for belief go right
& right again

(i) ‘I’m free, right, and point a gun,’ Catherine Wagner, ‘everyone in the room is a representative of the world at large’
from Love / All That / & OK (Penned in the Margins, 2011).

Order Love / All That / & OK.

Siddhartha Bose’s Kalagora

Siddhartha Bose by Liam Davenport

Siddhartha Bose is a poet and performer based in London. He was born and raised in India, followed by a seven year stint in the United States. He trained as an actor, made films, and recently completed a PhD on the grotesque at Queen Mary, University of London. His work has appeared in magazines like The Wolf, Fulcrum, The Literary Review, The Yellow Nib, Tears in the Fence, Eclectica and Alhamra Literary Review. Selections of his poetry have appeared in the anthologies City State: New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins) and Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe). Five of his poems are forthcoming in The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians (HarperCollins, September 2010). Siddhartha has performed at The Whitechapel Gallery, The Troubadour, Museum of London, the Royal College of Art, New York University (Lillian Vernon Center), City of London Festival, West London Literature Festival, Spitalfields Festival and London Word Festival. Times Online dubbed him ‘one of the ten rising stars of British poetry’. He will be touring a solo stage show, Kalagora, from October 2010. His first collection will be published simultaneously by Penned in the Margins.
Chinatown, New York
A nose for paradox
Made me read Chuang-Tsu
On a late autumn afternoon
In Washington Square—
From his butterfly dream
I too emerged with wings,
A flowing gown of red and green,
A taste for wet fingertips.
I wafted down Mott Street—
Bees in my hair,
Pollen on my tongue,
Rain coiling in my eyes.
From your curious castle, heavy,
In a bowl hammered out of lapis lazuli,
You gave me thick soup
Cooked in the entrails of a fatted fish.
In it, strands of the Milky Way
Welcoming, cradling me
From the sluggish approach of
Snow, heating bills, a fading lover.
Previously published in The Wolf and
Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century
Swansong, Mile End
Pigeons on a tiled roof.
Foreground—bus stop shines in the rain.
Swans—patches of cloud—
float long Regent’s Canal, its
skin, moving fish scales.
Shirt of sky opens.
Hair of stars sprout.
Plastic bags crackle like
pellets of rain in a tin can, like fire
bled on wood.
A southbound train lunges over a
The night is radioactive.
The two swans screech their song of love,
shake their manes, become
proud as horses.
Previously published in The Wolf.
Visit Kalagora.com.
Visit Penned in the Margins.

Simon Barraclough’s Bonjour Tetris

Simon Barraclough

Simon Barraclough is originally from Yorkshire but has lived in London since 1997. He won the poetry section of the London Writers’ Prize in 2000 and his debut Los Alamos Mon Amour was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2008. His work has been published in Poetry Review, The Guardian, The Financial Times and Magma, and he is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3 and 4. Bonjour Tetris (Penned in the Margins, 2010) contains seventeen poems commissioned between 2008 and 2010.

Jurassic Coast
The house had grown too small for us and so
we spent that final summer in a tent.

At first we interlocked our sleeping bags,
each row of teeth zipped into place like cogs,

our limbs and fingers nightly interlaced.
But due to condensation and the dew,

the zips began to snark and twist apart
and you unhooked them, torch between your teeth,

and bundled up your bones in a cocoon
and shifted inches, light years, out of reach.

Your tongue became a pebble, smooth and mute,
mine frayed, a salty beach towel on the strand.

You found an adder’s egg by Durdle Door
and hatched it in your polyester nest

while in the gloom I rode to Casterbridge,
the pages greenly lit by your turned back,

that glowed a weedy hue right through
the segments of your gently humming sac.

I didn’t wait to see what you’d become
but turned my eyes to hard-baked Dorset Knobs.

You scissored your way out. I felt the draught
of autumn winds and newly minted wings.

My heart froze like a goldfinch in its cage
and Chesil Beach began to feel its age.
from Bonjour Tetris (Penned in the Margins, 2010)
Order a boxed, limited edition copy of Bonjour Tetris.
Visit Simon’s website.

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part Three

Liz Gallagher
The Missing by Siân Hughes (Salt Modern Poets)
Tolstoy in Love by Ray Givans (Dedalus Press)
In the Voice of a Minor Saint by Sarah J. Sloat (Tilt Press)
Pamela Mordecai
Naming the Mannequins by Nic Labriola (Insomniac Press)
Fierce Departures: The Poetry of Dionne Brand, with
an introduction by L. C.  Sanders (Wilfred Laurie University Press)
Hope’s Hospice and Other Poems by Kwame Dawes
(Peepal Tree Press)
Andrea Porter
The Burning of the Books by George Szirtes (Bloodaxe Books)
The Ambulance Box by Andrew Philip (Salt Modern Poets)
Faber New Poets: Fiona Benson (Faber & Faber)
Carrie Etter
Elsa Cross: Selected Poems, edited by Tony Frazer
(Shearsman Books)
Assorted Poems by Susan Wheeler (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
Ann Drysdale
Darwin’s Microscope by Kelley Swain (Flambard Press)
No Panic Here by Mark Halliday (HappenStance)
Missing the Eclipse by Joan Hewitt (Cinnamon Press)
Sascha Aurora Aktar
Bird Head Son by Anthony Joseph (Salt Modern Poets)
Poetry State Forest by Bernadette Mayer (New Directions)
Orphaned Latitudes by Gérard Rudolf (Red Squirrel Press)
Giles Goodland
Darwin by Tony Lopez (Acts of Language)
The Summer of Agios Dimitrios by Peter Hughes
(Shearsman Books)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
Catherine Daly
luce a cavallo by Therese Bachand (Green Integer Press)
The Last 4 Things by Kate Greenstreet (Ahsahta Press)
Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988 – 2008 by Norma Cole
(City Lights Books)
Tim Wells
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
Poemland by Chelsey Minnis (Wave Books)
City State: New London Poetry, edited by Tom Chivers
(Penned in the Margins)
Jacqueline Saphra
West End Final by Hugo Williams (Faber & Faber)
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Farewell My Lovely by Polly Clark (Bloodaxe Books)
Sophie Mayer
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
The Son by Carrie Etter (Oystercatcher)
The ms of m y kin by Janet Holmes (Shearsman Books)
Cold Spring in Winter by Valérie Rouzeau, translated
by Susan Wicks (Arc Publications)
The Joshua Tales by Andra Simons (Treehouse Press)
Katy Lederer
Free Cell by Anselm Berrigan (City Lights Books)
Delivered by Sarah Gambito (Persea Books)
The King by Rebecca Wolff (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Ross Sutherland’s Things To Do Before You Leave Town

Ross Sutherland was born in Edinburgh in 1979. He was included in The Times’s list of Top Ten Literary Stars of 2008. His debut poetry collection, Things To Do Before You Leave Town (Penned in the Margins), was published in January this year. Ross is also a member of the poetry collective Aisle16 with whom he runs Homework, an evening of literary miscellany in East London. His one-man poetry/comedy show, The Three Stigmata of Pacman, debuts at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington in January 2010. Visit Ross’s website.

Ross Sutherland

Critical praise for my last relationship
Ross Sutherland
At first glance, our faces appeared little more
than frayed notes, hinting at a distant mood.
Yet, on reflection, there was something compelling in that fraying:
My beard was loaded with the channeled pressure of something
                                                       being said.
Her eyes were not one thought, but two.
If you kept your nerve and stuck with us
You would have found that each day we spent together
had a distinct tone and shape.
Our subject range was impressive:
A man regresses himself through his previously owned automobiles,
A snow crystal grows synthetically on a petri dish,
Ovid laments his exile from Rome.
In winter, we underwent an odd shift of register.
Humour masked an aposiopesis. I trailed off into northern slang.
My invocation of a lost England was haunting in its fragility,
A place Frank Ormsby at the Belfast Telegraph described as
                                                      ‘a world of cries’.
She was as personal as Emily Dickinson.
I was as striking.
We were happy spanning joy and death together.
Cutting out every word we dared,
then walking out upon empty streets,
heat rising up into the negative space above us.
There were occasional poor lines,
but they were made noticeable by their rarity.
A meditation on the exchange of Christmas gifts
whilst well written,
felt too much like a generic picture of despair.
Published in Things To Do Before You Leave Town
(Penned in the Margins, 2009).
Buy Things To Do Before You Leave Town.
Check out a new animation based on another of Ross’s poems from Things To Do Before You Leave Town.

Stephanie Leal’s Metrophobia


Stephanie Leal is originally from New Jersey, USA. She received her MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2007 and is studying for her PhD in Philosophy. She currently lives in Norwich. Visit her website.

Stephanie Leal

Stephanie Leal by Alexandra Bone

Boston Tea
Stephanie Leal
December 16, 1773
Sixteen sips from Chinese porcelain
espy the arbitrary day, the decisive act.
History began mohawking the bay:
vulcanizing sand dunes
cracking into champagned water,
bumbling with stamped-out Liberty,
the smuggling thief; a unanimous
continental conspiracy
to remember the misrepresentation,
remember the gunpowder;
convulsing welkin
obscures feathered headdress.
The tea still washes up
on the shores of Boston;
nothing was damaged or stolen
except a padlock
that was accidentally broken,
but anonymously replaced one week after.
Mrs Darling’s Kiss
Stephanie Leal
Lines lifted from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Her mouth, a nightlight, conspicuously
sweet and mocking. On it was a kiss,
hung on the right-hand corner of her lips,
unobtainable. And yet he, clad in leaves
and juices that ooze from trees, easily
stole that kiss away. She pirouettes. Miss
Darling, now released from her innocence,
forgets how to fly, forgets how to see.
Although she is now dead and forgotten,
fairy dust still sparkles on the wood floor
(dog hair mixed with strands of white silk cotton).
She asked for a kiss, he gave an acorn.
Sewing youth to shadow never softens
the wrinkles: Napoleon slams the door.

Published in Metrophobia (Penned in the Margins, 2009).
Read more about Metrophobia.

Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf

Napoleon's Travelling Bookshelf

Sarah Hesketh was born in 1983 and grew up in Pendle, East Lancashire. She attended Merton College, Oxford and holds an MA in Creative Writing from UEA. In 2007 her collaboration with composer Alastair Caplin was performed at the Leeds Lieder Festival. She currently works as Assistant Director at the writers’ charity English PEN. Visit Sarah’s website.

Sarah Hesketh by Benjamin Thompson

Sarah Hesketh by Benjamin Thompson

Sarah Hesketh
               A month
                              of leaping trout.
The villagers dusted earth from their boots,
muttered of meanings caught lurking in the corn.
It befits such tales to begin with a stranger.
And so she seemed: the pots unwashed,
the blackberries gone to rot inside the door.
Nights were worse.
I am thrice blessed by moonlight, he declared,
and she kissed his scars in brazen view
of that common nunnery gossip.
Later, when the cows wouldn’t calve,
and her neighbour held a barrel
to the head of his hound, she would testify, only
to this: that his night-rushed skin
turned to smoke come the morning.
And the rising light across sky-rocked fields,
came like a command from home.
The Ravensbrück Seamstress
Sarah Hesketh
She bites buttons from the coats of dead men.
Fillets the seams of grain sacks for thread.
Spits when repairing the outline of stars.
Mud is murder on the hems. They come to her
for pockets that might save a photograph, a ring.
Cuffs are fashionably frayed that year. Waists cinched in.
When Reuben dies by the train track, in the rain,
twelve girls are wearing his socks by lunch.
Each thick red stitch she forces through their collars
irritates the skin, reminds them to struggle.
They break ice for mirrors for a treat when it’s cold,
worn faces, suddenly respectable to themselves.
Published in Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf
(Penned in the Margins, 2009).
Read more about Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf.