Keep reading the poems

There’s going to be a short break while I catch up on a long list of unfinished tasks. More poems will be posted in April, so not long to wait. In the meantime, do browse through the many, many poems on this site. Here are just a few that you might enjoy:

‘Half the Story’ by Ian Duhig - a poem from his eagerly awaited new collection, coming soon from Picador.

Two poems by Anja Konig from her pamphlet ‘Advice for an Only Child’ – selected by the Poetry Book Society as a recent Pamphlet Choice.

Two poems by Rebecca Goss – Rebecca was named in 2014 as one of the Next Generation Poets.

Two poems by Mona Arshi – Mona was a joint winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize in 2014 and has a debut collection forthcoming from Pavillion Poetry.

Three poems by Carrie Etter. Carrie has been shortlisted for this year’s Ted Hughes Prize for New Work in Poetry and is one of the judges for this year’s Forward Prize.

‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ by Kim Moore. A poem from Kim’s forthcoming debut collection from Seren. Since I posted it on March 8th, this sestina has been shared over 500 times on Twitter and Facebook.

‘March’ by Boris Pasternak translated by Sasha Dugdale. I’m always delighted to be able to feature hard-working editors on this site. Modern Poetry in Translation editor Sasha has also given us Pasternak’s ‘February’ but I’ll leave you to find that one for yourself.

Enjoy the poems and see you in April.
 
 

‘A Circular Life’ by David Lukens

A Circular Life

“Don’t forget, I was brought up an heiress,”
she said, massaging the dog’s arse with the palm
of the hand that would soon be cutting cake.

“He’s constipated, poor lamb.” She gave
another loosening stroke. The dog wheezed
through flattened snout and winked at me.

“More cake?” “Not me, I’m full,” I lied
and watched her lick a thumb and chase the crumbs
across the grey stained linen tablecloth.

I could never forget that. Of course not.
Only heiresses can accomplish all that
my grandmother did with such gentle grace:

shrug amiably as her stocks plummeted,
along with her broker in a silent leap
from the window of his Manhattan office.

Move flats each time the rent increased.
Sew garments she could no longer afford
for the rich whose standards matched her own.

Drive ambulances through the London blitz.
Pull body parts from piles of bricks;
learn to sleep for one hour at a time.

Calm the young policeman who found
her husband’s body wrapped around his gun;
tell him it was always so difficult to clean.

(first published in For want of a better word, poems from the Poetry Space competition 2014)

 
 
David Lukens lives in Wiltshire and has worked in teaching, business and information management. He has written novels for young adults and has had poetry published in a number of magazines.

‘March’ by Boris Pasternak translated by Sasha Dugdale

March

The sun has broken a sudden sweat
And the ditch gushes febrile, unstaunched.
Spring, like the stocky dairymaid,
Holds in its hands the foaming warmth.

How wan the snow; it has the green sickness
Thin blue twigs are its feeble veins
But life comes steaming from the cowshed
And the pitchfork plumps the healthy hay.

These days, these days and nights!
Midday, and the drip and clatter
Of consumptive icicles, wasting away
In rivulets of unceasing chatter.

The stable and byre doors are thrown wide.
Pigeons in the snow, pecking up seeds
And all this is the source and the giver of life:
The manure smells of the fresh breeze.
 
 
Sasha Dugdale is a poet, translator and editor of Modern Poetry in Translation.

Three poems by Maria Taylor

Tracing Orion

You were already fully grown
and frolicking with lovers
under the stars, around the time
when I used my rough book
to trace constellations at night.
I’d recite names like magic spells:
Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka.
The hunter’s body in space
impossible to touch.

You in the middle of nowhere
fumbling with straps in the dark.
Me in a box room. Star-gazing.
 
(first published in The Rialto)
 
 
Ferry

Natasha is sixteen, drunk on Flemish Beer.
She sobs and giggles, loudly threatens
to jump into the English Channel.

Roll your eyes. Comfort hungover Amy
who threw up outside the large window
of the hypermarché restaurant. Leave her.

Hang around with a walkman on deck.
Pretend you’re in a pop video. Mime at grey.
Forget the rows of white crosses in Ypres.

Vow to get further than any of them.
Be different. Pause. Breathe in salted air.
Go back to the girls with sore heads.

Watch the milky light of England rise.
See everything in front of you, fogged.
Feel the land’s pull, its terrible magnet.
 
(first published in The Warwick Review)
 
 
Anna of The Fisheries

Not for the hungry who enter the shop
leaving fingerprints on everything,
or for her uncle, her tutting boss,
will she scrub the fryer’s chrome
till it’s a mirror for her forced smile.

Not for salt & vinegar tears over chips,
for a labourer’s fish supper wrapped
in inky pages from a Daily Mail,
or for teddy boys in brothel creepers,
will she gather tips in a coffee jar.

Not for gossip with backcombed wives
will she wear her alchemist’s overalls.
Home is seven days away on a ship.
Anna drops slabs of cod into bubbling oil
and waits for batter to turn into gold.
 
(first published in Drifting Down the Lane: Art and Poetry Explorations, ed. A. Marton and H. Lawler, Moon and Mountain 2013).
 
 
Maria Taylor’s poems have appeared in a range of magazines, including The Rialto, Magma and The North. Her debut collection Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize in 2013. She blogs at http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk/

‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ by Kim Moore

How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping

What happened sits in my heart like a stone.
You told me I’d be writing about it
all my life, when I asked
how to stop saying these things to the moon.
I told you how writing it makes the dark
lift and then settle again like a flock of birds.

You said that thinking of the past like birds
who circle each year will make the stone
in my chest heavy, that the dark
that settles inside me will pass. You say it
is over, you say that even the moon
can’t know all of what happened, that to ask

to forget is to miss the point. I should ask
to remember. I should open myself to the birds
who sing for their lives. I should tell the moon
how his skin was like smoke, his hand a stone
that fell from a great height. It
was not what I deserved. The year was dark

because he was there and my eyes were dark
and I fell to not speaking. If I asked
him to leave he would smile. Nothing in it
was sacred. And I didn’t look up. The birds
could have fallen from the sky like stones
and I wouldn’t have noticed. The moon

was there that night in the snow. The moon
was waiting the day the dark
crept into my mouth and left me stone
silent, stone dumb, when all I could ask
was for him to stop, please stop. The birds
fled to the trees and stayed there. It

wasn’t their fault. It was nobody’s fault. It
happened because I was still. The moon
sung something he couldn’t hear. The birds
in my heart silent for a year in the dark.
This is the way it is now, asking
for nothing but to forget his name, a stone

that I carry. It cools in my mouth in the dark
and the moon sails on overhead. You ask
about birds, but all I can think of is stones.

(from The Art of Falling to be published by Seren, April 2015)
 
Kim Moore was born in 1981 and lives and works in Cumbria. Her first full length collection, The Art of Falling, is forthcoming from Seren in April 2015. She won a New Writing North Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2012.

Two poems by Sheree Mack

 
A Black Writer Studies Her Craft After One Year Of No Memory

A year’s worth of memories condenses on the skylight above her single bed.
She reads Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, sings spirituals.
An angry heron pierces the clouds. It seems since she came back,
it’s always cloudy. She takes her poetry, reads it over.

It was Sonia (another black poet) who triggered it. She wrote
in the persona of a tree, said it wasn’t right that
there was some strange fruit, forbidden
culture, ravaged homeland. Sonia seems to have no pause button.
Sonia gets fired up just going to the farmer’s market.

For herself, she was just glad to be back with mom and pops.
They say she married young. Only last week, while in the garden,
this strange black man with sky-high afro came knocking saying
I’m praying for some warm soft rain to water your cherry blossom tree.

She only went out for some fresh air.

Now she aches for any light, struggling to remember herself.

She leaves a poem on her pillow and heads out towards the woods.
Amongst the slender ashes reaching up in prayer, she lies down.
The day softens to night. The moon is gathered up in the clouds.
 
 
After #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

Maybe some day we will have written about this color thing until we’ve solved it. – Toi Derricotte

Tonight I read my poems about living within my black skin,
about having to deny a part of me just to fit in. I notice
the audience move back into their seats, fidget in their whiteness.
I think they think I am accusing them of white privilege. I think
they pray for me to shut my mouth. But I don’t shut my mouth
and respect their silence but ride right on into that white space;
my words keeping my spirit alive. Afterwards, they peel themselves
off their chairs to step away from me, seems I’ve hurt them.
Oh my voice. Sometimes, I wish it didn’t betray the hatred
of myself, my upbringing, my words exposing how I grew up
alone in a white society. It’s not my fault that I keep trying
to prove I am not what I think they think.
 
 

Sheree Mack is an established poet, who also writes prose, drama, and life
writing. She has two full collections of poetry, Family Album (Flambard Press, 2011)
and Laventille (Smokestack Books, 2015). She was the Jessie Kesson
Fellowship Writer in Residence with Moniack Mhor, 2014. She has recently
completed an Arts Council International Travel Grant (2014-2015) to work
with the Jefferson Land Trust to further her relationship with the natural
world, http://adriftinthewilderness.blogspot.com

Three poems by Carrie Etter

Conception

There was a canoe missing an oar.
There was a stretch of pristine shore.

Colour broke into sound,
one mindless gasp
predicated on so much
prior consciousness.

Daughter of my daughter yet to be—
a glint on a distant wave,
a window without a wall—

O hovering cab, O sureshot marble—

(previously published in Hayden’s Ferry Review , US)
 
 
Recognition

The ceremony props up the accomplishment.
The wind in a gown of linen, in the overgrown field.

Canapés champagne speech applause.
Wildflower and weed in one ebullient arc.

Otherwise, who will call it a triumph?
Her dress is the thrill of it.
 
 
Leaning with Torque

Leaning toward a memory, leaning with torque

The torque of hindsight, perhaps, or emotional distance

Imagine the beloved walking toward you down a long street

First the height, the build, a couple colours—his dark green coat, khaki trousers

My tightening calves, my hands opening and closing

More precise detail—the wave of his hair, his gait

Lips already parting for words

With such intense watching, the shock of the whole, of precision, of gaze and grin

A memory a bead on a string, connected yet independent

Which is to say when I look at it again, again the word: pure

Just the word, without quotation marks, without italics, that’s all I’m asking

(‘Recognition’ and ‘Leaning with Torque’ previously published in Handsome, US)
 
 
Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and taught creative writing at Bath Spa University since 2004. She has published three collections of poetry: The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Prize, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011) and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014); additionally, she edited the anthology Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). She also publishes short stories, reviews and the occasional essay. It was announced today that Carrie Etter has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for Imagined Sons. Read three poems from the collection here. Buy the book direct from Seren here.

Two poems by Richie McCaffery

 
Legend

The cricket club is a cow-field away
from our house, yet local lore
says a cricket ball knocked so far
for six in the 1950s smashed
one of our bay windows.

I can’t say if the ball was returned,
if it even crossed the players’ minds
that evening in the pub, of someone
far off, bent with brush and pan
at the frayed far end of that arc.
 
 
Robin and wren

In the morning we talk of the bird
that woke us twice in the night.
You think it was a robin and I, a wren.

It was high pitched and squeaky,
like the lid being teased off
a Russian-doll, or treen snuff-mull.

The bird calling behind the curtains
was both a robin and a wren
as we laid our heads down again.

Only in argument did it have to be
either/ or and I can well believe
it’s the same for greater unseen things.
 
 
Richie McCaffery (b.1986) was a Carnegie scholar in the Scottish Literature Department of the University of Glasgow, earning his PhD in 2015, on the Scottish poets of World War Two. He is the author of two poetry pamphlets – Spinning Plates from HappenStance Press (2012) and Ballast Flint (2013) which was the runner-up in the 2014 Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His first book-length collection is Cairn from Nine Arches Press (2014). He is busy editing Finishing the Picture: The Collected Poems of Ian Abbot for publication in 2015 by Kennedy & Boyd.

Three poems by Carole Bromley

 
Whistling on the in breath

Your forte. Carols, music hall tunes,
even the odd aria. A choir of children
dressed in red with white ruffs
sings in Latin this morning
till the stained glass shivers

but it’s your whistling I hear,
sound track of my childhood.
We brought you with us once,
you fiddled with your hearing aid
‘What’s he saying? Can’t hear a thing.’

Afterwards I got 2 out of ten
because I’d forgotten the sherry
and you worried all through the presents
that you’d not get home in that snow,
the house so hot we had to strip off.

I remembered, walking to church,
the bottle of olive oil I dropped
in my panic about the turkey
the way, however hard I scrubbed
I couldn’t get the grease off the tiles.
 
 
Here’s why

I loved you because you acted the goat.
With you I could be a kid again,
not a nanny in sight.

Just your soft coat, your rough beard,
your insatiable appetite
and me ready to taste everything.
 
 
Beningbrough Hall

I’d like to know what ‘snippets of tittle tattle’
the laundress tucked in among the goffered shirts,
broderie anglaise petticoats and lace bibs
sent in a box from London.

I wonder if she ever took a swig of the gin
that was meant for removing grease stains
or fought off the advances of the messenger boy
with a swipe of that mangle bat.

I bet they never let her sit in the East Formal garden
with its whites, pinks and blues, its views
of the south lawn, parkland straight out of Watteau,
that haha keeping the black cows out.

Purple is king in the old rose garden
with its salvia, ceonothus, campanula,
the only sounds wind like water in the trees,
footsteps on gravel, an old man’s cough.

In the walled garden, where catmint and lady’s mantle
tumble under arches of espaliered pear, girls in long frocks
and boys in peaked caps play hoop and ball,
the laundry clock strikes one, even the rhubarb knows its place.

(published in The Garden, OWF Press)
 
 
Carole Bromley teaches Creative Writing for York University. First collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, published by Smith/Doorstop, 2012. Currently judging the York Literature Festival/ Yorkmix poetry competition. Closing date Saturday 28th February. 1st Prize £400.

Two poems in translation by Lawrence Schimel

The Great Atlas of the Human Body
by Care Santos
translated into English by Lawrence Schimel

The Prefrontal Cortex
is the largest room of the home
we call the brain.
That’s why it’s used as the storeroom
to keep everything:
what is learned, what is sometime thought,
what we are and what we do,
what we sometimes unlearn
about the already known
and also (how difficult it is to imagine)
that which we feel through the skin:
that night in Cordoba
(the name of the hotel is fuzzy),
the infernal noise of the Gran Vía
under our moans,
the unharmonious voices of local seagulls
above the skylights
and that periodic pain of pulling away from you
week after week.
What a shame,
how much space we take up in warehousing worthless
bits of junk.

Any day I’ll get some boxes
and empty the storeroom of useless memories.
I’ll leave them in the street, beside the garbage can
in case they’re of any use to someone.
Any day I’ll see them, my memories,
in the hands of another woman
who knows how to appreciate them.

(first published in Dissection by Care Santos (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014).

 
Somewhere
by Jordi Doce
translated into English by Lawrence Schimel

You live in a city where the map of the side streets dangerously resembles that of your heart. A city where the stains and chips in the walls are windows that follow your steps, doors that no one dares to enter. Where the hung laundry sends coded messages and the glassy eyes of fish exchange glances of recognition with the copper coins of the servants. A city of towers and minarets that change location every day, of carpets that fly inside one’s eyes, of lamps that hide their own light. A city where at nightfall groups of young and old men gather atop the walls to look over the flood plain, the melted nugget of the sun illuminating the fertile land, cornstalks trembling at the slightest breath.

(published in STRUCTO 12)

 
Care Santos (Mataró, 1970) is one of Spain’s most versatile and prolific writers. Writing in both Catalan and Spanish, she is the author of over 40 books in different genres, including novels, short story collections, young adult and children’s books, poetry, etc. (@CareSantos) Jordi Doce (Gijón, 1967) is a poet, critic, and translator. He holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield, and has taught at both there and at Oxford. (@JordiDoce) Lawrence Schimel(New York, 1971) writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books in many different genres, for both adults and children. He is the publisher of the independent poetry press A Midsummer Night’s Press. He lives in Madrid, Spain where he works as a Spanish->English translator. (@lawrenceschimel)