“J G Ballard, the author who has died aged 78, was best known for his two fictionalised autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women; the former, which told of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp outside Shanghai, became an international best-seller and was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.”
Read J G Ballard’s obituary in The Telegraph.
“A poem is an approach towards a truth. But poems can be funny, witty, quirky and sly. They can be mischievous, tricksterish. Their truths don’t sound like the truths of the courtroom or the inquest. Does this, then, show us something about the nature of truth? Can we say there are many truths, or, rather, many aspects of Truth? That truth itself is a shape-shifter?”
– Kathleen Jamie
“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home.”
– Mahmoud Darwish, from ‘I Belong There’
(Translated by Carolyn Forché and Munir Akash)
“Both reading and writing are, then, acts of supreme faith. They are both, in essence, a call to grace, a belief in the miraculous – that we might come to see through stories what we had not previously seen, that we might come to understand what had, before that moment, remained uncertain, undefined. The mask of fiction, of writing and reading stories, does not, in the end, disguise our faces but instead reveals who we really are. In the end, I think, stories acknowledge life’s difficulty and sadness but insist that we go on anyway, that we always hold to our faith, to our belief in grace.”
– John Gregory Brown
“Writing is a displacement, a displacement from the normal social contract. A displacement from the habitual, the pattern, and the ready form. A displacement from the common roads of love and the common roads of enmity. A displacement from the believing nature of the political party. A displacement from the idea of unconditional support. The poet strives to escape from the dominant, used language, to a language that speaks itself for the first time. He strives to escape from the chains of a tribe, from its approvals and taboos. If he suceeds in escaping and becomes free, he becomes a stranger at the same time. It is as though the poet is a stranger in the same degree as he is free.”
– Mourid Barghouti
had tins full of prayer tags
and soft Garibaldi biscuits.
She kept gossip like hymn sheets
folded into the back
of her breeze-block bible,
kept a row of icons
above her fireplace
with garish hearts
like rotting plums,
reserved the best bone china
for priests, saints
and other visitations.
If you were lucky, upon leaving
you’d be blessed with a dry kiss
pressed upon the brow,
otherwise you’d leave
drenched in a frenzy of spit,
Hail Mary’s and Holy water.
You said I’d done quite well,
made a good impression
but I could tell by the way
she edged her way
around my name
and how damp I was
when we said goodbye
that she thought
I’d burn in Hell.
He could charm the poison out of fox gloves
and used his skills to quicken my heart.
I wondered what he fed on: frayed liturgies
and the secret dreams of women,
toxic spores translated into messages
of lust, slivers of the dank March sky
rolled up like pickled herring.
I never knew. He always skimmed me,
left me hooked on some potent pollen,
some sacrificial line,
some cold gap between sentiments.
His fingers were like cathedrals,
too big to untie my delicate knots
yet he knew me inside out like he knew
the names of flowers and bats and clouds,
like he knew how to throw daggers
without skewering the soul.
He could sniff out creeping wolf-men
and crack their backbones with a lazy wink,
worked my fingers to his throat
like a snake charmer,
made me slide and arch with his singing breath.
After we’d loved and I was doped up on glow
he laid wet silver on my eyelids
believing it would bring him luck.
In the beginning we created
bone, blood, skin, breath,
as we surged, rose, touched, kissed,
and it was morning
and it was evening,
our first days,
and together we saw that it was good.
In the beginning were our words,
and they were yes, now, tomorrow, joy,
and it was green and golden,
it was wind and fire,
it was man and woman,
and together we thought we would last forever,
for we knew that it was good.
In the beginning
we were sand and ocean and heaven on earth.
Our light carved out the darkness
with the stars’ brightness
and the moon shone forever
as we were born over and over,
and the sun in your eyes told me it was good.
But as our love filled the darkness of our deep,
the waters of the firmament filled with our tears.
In the beginning we feared no end.
In the beginning
was our end.
from Drawing from Memory (Cinnamon Press, 2007)
Copies of Drawing from Memory may be purchased through the Cinnamon Press website, Amazon (UK) or directly from Hazel (email@example.com).
Drawing from Memory’s cover artwork is Hazel Frankel’s Red Painting.
Postcard from Hotel California
A picture of a greyhound on the side of a bus
I imagine will always make me smile.
The old man smells of pomade,
the daisies in his hand are lightning rod straight.
A woman leaves her good lips on an egg sandwich
and my sister hurls into a Playboy
someone tucked into the seat.
My head is full of Hotel California.
I picture myself with Malibu skin at a dresser,
combing my hair with fingers of sun.
My life will be palm trees,
a crowd scene on a beach. Somewhere
on the postcard is a pinpoint of colour,
you can’t quite make out: she is me.
from Strip (Salt, 2007)
Strip is now available in softcover here.