About the anthology
Editors Declan Ryan and Malene Engelund have chosen to focus on poets who have read at the series and who are at an early stage of their career. Many of the contributors have released acclaimed pamphlets, but most are not quite at a full first collection stage. As such, the anthology is intended not only as a memento of the highlights of the first two years of the event, but a showcase and calling card for some of the most gifted up-and-coming poets in the country.
About Days of Roses
Days of Roses began life as a monthly literary event, starting in January 2009 at Filthy McNasty’s in Angel and going on to hold nights as part of the Oxfam Bookfest at its flagship Marylebone store as well as readings at 3 Blind Mice, The Camden Head, The Book Club and The Rugby Tavern. Initially an off-shoot of the Royal Holloway Creative Writing MA, a writing programme run by writers including former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Head of the Poetry Society, Jo Shapcott, the evenings quickly evolved into a place for guest writers to showcase their work alongside new voices from the Royal Holloway MA, past and present.
Date: 23 February 2011
Time: 18h30 to 23h00
Location: 3 Blind Mice, 5 Ravey Street, EC2A 4QW, London
The launch of the first Days of Roses anthology will feature readings from the contributors: Jo Shapcott, Christopher Horton, Declan Ryan, Dominic McLoughlin, Gareth Jones, Liz Berry, Lydia Macpherson, Malene Engelund, Marianne Burton, Maximillian Hildebrand, Robert Selby, William Searle and music from Fiona Bevan and Mr Dupret Factory and friends.
Copies will be available on the night with 15 different signed and numbered covers created by Ross McNicol and Amelia Newton Whitelaw. The anthology will be available on Amazon after the launch.
They say it’s harder for those left behind,
so why do you keep trying to get back?
These days I’m sleeping with the lights on,
expert in the phases of the moon,
the early morning train times, the taxonomy
of moths. Even with my eyes screwed shut,
I note the clock’s red flick as if you’d passed
a hand across my face. The milky drinks
in the small hours of the kitchen,
lit by the fridge’s cinema glow, the burbling
background of the World Service,
its RP reassurance giving way to patriotic
music, weather continents distant,
the far flung potential of the shipping forecast –
nothing drives you off. How many years was it
before the ground had settled back to make
a headstone worth its while? That rose
your mother threw must have joined
you long ago in a slow dance of rot and growth.
It seems just yesterday that staying up till dawn
was all we wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
The chink of milk bottles, the baby’s cries,
a two-tone siren streets away, all mark
the daily absences of life.
Previously published in Magma.
Baking with Kathryn
Two halved eggs are brittle castanets, their parted shells
at no risk in your hands despite their bloom, calcium crystals
thick, a liquid line slides, one to the next.
Dark chocolate snaps into splinters beneath your thumb,
between pinning your hair with a grip and miming drums,
two clean whisks your soft jazz brushes.
When the machinery stops we hear the start of Beeswing,
of work next to a laundry girl, animal in her eyes, a rare thing
then as now to find such fineness stilled.
While we wait you play Debussy’s Sarabande, with élégance
grave et lent, and I watch your fingers in a practiced dance,
forgetting what we have left to the heat.
Previously published on Eyewear.
The A1 is the loneliest. Four hundred
and nine miles down the spine of the country,
only the firefly of a fag tip to keep you steady.
A man needs some company,
an eye on the map, a hand on the radio.
Ten four, hammer down, breaker breaker.
He made a man of me, rubbed me
smooth with engine grease, taught me how
to pull a flatbed, take an unsigned route,
draw the curtains against the prying eyes
of headlights. As other lorries trundle home,
we push onwards, the road a romance.
I was a kid that first night. Birmingham
to Folkestone. The junctions looping
and racing above us, his hand on my leg.
In the woods beside the layby, I pressed my tongue
into the sap of a pine tree as I pissed,
already half in love with him.
Now belly to back in the cab, his vertebrae
like cat’s eyes guiding me down,
I think of the M6 Toll, lined with two million
pulped Mills and Boons; how love is buried
in unlooked for places, kept secret like us.
In the darkness his breath hums like an engine.
Previously published in Magma.
The Singer and The Catch
It was not straight doing.
A witch told him how to hold me, to throw
his shirt over my back when I surfaced,
pulling up on the boat’s side to hear him sing.
He was a small man, not much to look at,
with a black tooth and a short beard,
brown and white, the plumage of granite.
He caught me fair in my woman’s shape
and I lay in the shell of the boat winded,
caught on the turn, my legs still legs.
The next night he came in from fishing,
I was sat in the kitchen, bemused by the pots,
the fire too hot, the cutlery too reminiscent
of fish hooks to keep me comfortable.
Where’s my supper then? he said, woman,
as if to emphasise I was woman now for him,
fleshed and flayed. He hit my face, lightly,
a caress, a joke, but the intent was serious,
and the men in the doorway jeered,
and a woman laughed. One I said.
Two months later the village had a wedding.
Not ours. Still, he was singing in the evenings
and each time his voice sounded the spell held;
I couldn’t move from the room it was so sweet.
The men stared at the dust on my black coat,
the woman raised her eyebrows at my clogs.
I’d never tasted wine and after a time
I spun and laughed, then wept at the sorrow
the bride would know. He slapped me hard,
weeping at a marriage. Two I said.
Shortly after, but a long time it seemed,
one of the men was trapped in the nets,
turned up bloated and still on the beach.
Not my man though. At the funeral
they poured an oily orange water which bit;
and after a glass I threw back my head
and laughed at all the pain he was spared,
the dead man. A great blow he dealt me
this time to the side of my head. The eyes
of the woman danced as she watched. Three I said.
I was out of his home then in my black coat
and away that night.
But his singing would carry down to the beach
and I’d crawl through the graves to peer in
where he sat in the firelight with his one candle;
fire and cat hissing at my face at the window.
The woman lay across his lap and laughed,
and he – he turned and pointed at her,
separated her long fingers, not webbed
at all, drew her skirt up above her knees
and pointed to her feet, real feet with toes,
and he opened his mouth and sang.
I did not want his coarse beard, his bruises,
his black greasy kitchen, or the sweat of his bed,
but I wanted the music and that they knew,
as their faces hardened into spite, and I slid
from the sill, across the pebble shale, back
into the sea where the music doesn’t hurt.
Previously published in Chapman.
from the first Days of Roses anthology.
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