Thursday, 25 September 2014

Featured Poems: Dorothy Lehane




Dorothy Lehane is an Assistant Lecturer in Creative Writing and PhD candidate in Poetry: Text Practice as Research at the University of Kent. Her research explores the perceptual and social experiences of neurological speech conditions, and examines questions concerning cultural encounters and embodied responses within poetic practice. Her chapbook Places of Articulation is forthcoming in November 2014 with dancing girl press, Chicago. She is the founding editor of Litmus Publishing, an Arts Council England funded press exploring the intersection of poetry and science. Her work has recently appeared in Glasgow Review of Books, HARTS & Minds, Tears in the Fence, and Zone Magazine. She has performed her work at various venues in the UK including The Barbican, The Science Museum, The Roundhouse, BBC Radio Kent, Sounds New Music Festival, In The Woods Festival and Canterbury Art Festival. Her Nine Arches Press poetry collection, Ephemeris, is published this October.



STROMEN


begin with STROMEN for what it means to be human
as good enough mother
as early aphasiologists think   
influx because there is no formulaic STROMEN
sing verbs as STROMENTS
you could say that a talking therapy cannot touch this
forcing itself into my purview
shedding avoirdupois
perfect unutterable castration of
blinded by my own STROMEN
arguing about leaving iron scrap out for the travellers
each poem ends with a solo
-do you know how complex iron fusion is
etc etc


Phobos


they may call you aspergic,
statement you, beautiful vacuous child,
sweet old surd, give tapestry answers,
empty eyes, hung up wasteland atmosphere,
hollow conglomerate, what is this façade,
lo, from which contingent? What hell bent
question mark lurks over you, love handle
or lore, equatorial hanger-on huh huh habitat,
siesta until the sun rises, no ball games now




Dimensions


We haven’t said enough of the third dimension;
concealing its neighbours from us
how we grow regardless, lancing incisors
showing breast, mapping sweet epigrams
in this dimension, you tell me the genesis
of your name, oh, lord of Ireland, from stardust
or bombshell, you might see me in essence
watching the drunks in the pub opposite
if it is really really late a commuter
walking home irregular feet for drink
regular feet for ambition

             in a sixth dimension, I am a girlfriend
breathing fire, long hair pointy face, kicked out
from a black hole, in this dimension
we are the sixth universe; January through June,
five careful kernels in the library, you tell me
in this dimension, I am your wife; your third wife
reading poems your first wife hated, much less like you
and your second wife, how, in this poem
I am also android and how, absolutely
like your current wife, or that in-between Virgo
in this dimension, for certain we are involved
in something

             You and I held captive in the ninth dimension;
here before us, watching the flames
spit with a burned refractory, lichen, granite
glassy sand. Over your shoulder shouting a final
post-script, an out of earshot, a sick unsound
and you are a missing, leaving a lingering chroma
motes of dust scattered in the air, like a wrap
of skin cells from cushion chairs in a village hall
after a talk on ornithology



Reader


maybe you’d prefer post mortems
the year we left Mum’s gingham rug out
all night in the long grass,
my sister’s cot-death, the meagremeagre
breeze, my first balloon,
the divorce, my mindless photography
not this clarion stunt dr. persona,
who will validate my science
this pointless manifest
insofar as: have I devalued
the laws and laws, grammatical
science, the rivalry of image
as the crux



Unnova


hidden in plain sight
elusive wink out / inside out
javeline flash
bloated turbulent envelope
elastic gas seems
a phenomena
compared to the quiet
ironing board
the chrome leg isn’t bright
isn’t looping polyphonies
percolating hailstones
local funeral / just going out



About Ephemeris by Dorothy Lehane:






Publication date: October 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9927589-6-7
Price: £8.99

Pre-order this book here >
Read more about Ephemeris

Dorothy Lehane’s debut poetry collection is experimental and exploratory - part daybook, and part astronomical chart, this is a voyage into both the self, the body and the personal as well as into an ever-expanding cosmos of stars, planets and space.

The poems of Ephemeris are fiercely bright and tuned in on a precise, musical wavelength of sound and form. Language, seen here through this particular telescope, is exuberant and numerous with possibilities, gracefully testing its own boundaries. In galaxies of sounds and shapes, Lehane brilliantly takes a giant lyric leap from poem to poem, making for something of a stellar debut.

Praise for Dorothy Lehane: 

"Ephemeris is a stellar nursery for new poetic formations to address our changing perceptions: here, the stars simultaneously twinkle and are giant gas clouds. Renewing lyric's hunger for discovery, for the edge of making and unmaking, they are doubly experimental, yoking Albert Einstein's particles and Gertrude Stein's participles. These poems are colliders as much as star charts: Schröedinger texts, they effect what they document in their 'lexis, praxis… nexus… flux.'"
  – Sophie Mayer

"Ephemeris is a ‘diary’ or day-book, more accurately the Greek word of which the Latin word for ‘diary’ is a translation. Ausonius wrote around 380 AD a poem called Ephemeris describing a day of domestic routine hour by hour. One folio seems to be missing. More locally, it is an astronomical table for determining the position of a heavenly body on a given day. Swim-suit, space-suit. Seismic waves of deviance/ tongue-tied miasma, Dorothy Lehane’s book of this name is an extended metaphor in which the course of a heavenly body through the sky draws after it shifting experiences, in an organism susceptible to the influences of heat and light." - Andrew Duncan


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Featured Poems: Tony Williams



Tony Williams grew up in Matlock in Derbyshire and now lives in Northumberland. His first collection The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh, Portico and Michael Murphy Prizes, and All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. He also writes prose fiction. The Midlands (Nine Arches Press, July 2014) is his second collection of poetry.




THE MIDLANDS


The Midlands are crying, crying for haslet and bacon,
        crying for bridges where railways falter,
crying for sumpters no longer needed
        on towpaths of moss and built-upon pasture
and troughs of time-stilling water
        where rodents and litter are drowning
in mushy-pea visions of Methodist churches
        and hedges and car keys and crisps.
They are crying for conkers and tennis balls lost in the woods,
        for mortgage advisors, for money itself
to the price of one pint of their sulphuric bitter,
        which also they cry for and cry for at length in the night.

They cry in the car parks of aerodromes, deep in the cellars
        of buildings that used to be bookshops.
They cry over fences, at steam-engine rallies.
        They cry over dogs and bags of granulated sugar.
They cry for the rugby posts lost in the mist,
        for vandalised road signs and nullified Sundays,
for teenage perceptions of dreadful pan-Midlands despair
        at the doom of solitude made real in bedrooms
invaded by older sisters themselves driven mad
        by the tussocky desert of pop songs and taciturn lads
in the suburb-like towns and town-like suburbs
        of Dirgeville, and Grieflington, and Sad-at-Heart.

Here is neither one thing nor the other.
        There is no one waiting at the level crossing.
There is not the flash of headlights on the wall
        to say that someone loved is coming home.
There is not even clarity and rage, but only
        rain setting in on a plain between ridges,
the magistrates courts as busy as ever,
        the chorus of starlings chattering trenchantly on
in the skies, an unfound grave of a Mercian king
        under wurzels, new housing, and out-of-town Asdas
that mop up the rheum of the foothills
        that lean-to the North.




THE COWS


Here are the cows and I love them.
They move from one field to another
and in every field they dance
to cow music I cannot hear
in steps I do not understand:
now grouping to graze in a corner,
one standing alone as a sentry,
now suddenly migrating, now
reaching the shape of an emblem
spaced out on the pasture
all facing the same way,
utterly still. Sometimes
they break through the fence to lay claim
to the lane and the grass of the roadside,
which placates them – cow freedom
ends here. I love them,
the cows and their constancy,
here every summer all summer
to munch and proceed at the pace
of the hoof on the sod in the sombre
grass-ceilidhs of their cow-religion.
O feast of movement; O flexing
knot of flesh like a fist or a heart;
O sacred hugging of herd;
O slow kaleidoscope
whose shifting field shows
all colours and atoms belong
in all constellations, and are cow.




DEAR RHINO, LOVE FROM HIPPO


With skin like ours, my friend, the usual
       insults of a rivalry descend
       harmlessly as confetti
       or the blossom of trees
       we rub our backs against.
Nor would expressions of sympathy survive
       the foul tempers of our readership. Instead
I’m sending you this chatty letter, a crocodilian
       sickle of courtesy in the poisoned soup,
       which might worry you if crocodiles did.
Be assured of my continued indifference.

In the past month
       I have eaten a rare fly, a wristwatch,
       a silhouette, odd chunks of my rivals’ chins
       and a vast tonnage of hay which you,
dense hoover of the midday sun, missed
       when the eternal salad drawer of the night
       clanked open as you slept. Or are you
       nocturnal too? It’s hard to see in the dark.

You doomed swordsman, me cloven-hoofed
       and cackling like a whale. You unicorn,
       me Cadillac bumping up
       against the blonde girl’s legs.
Whatever happened
       to your ambition to become a freelance illustrator?
Every time I pass the hospital
       done out like the concourse of an old European station
       with the pediments high up based, unattributed,
       on your sketch of an elephant’s toenails
I think dommage! and of the royalties we’d claim
       if ever I’d passed my law exams and you
       weren’t such a raging and wretchedly cantankerous drunk.
At least we don’t owe money to the giraffes.

You, engraving from the days of the plague,
       me poster paints printed by a dipped-in bum.

Listen, priapus-face, I’ve been
       divining the future in the map of illness
       disclosed in my own used nappy.
I think you’d enjoy a cheese and pickle sandwich
       if you dared to enter a deli. I think the jackals would swoon
       like spinach wilting if only you’d show them The Dance.
I’ve been listening to local radio over the internet.
       I’ve bid on a doll’s house and
       a signed photo of Lothar Matthäus.
I’ve heard a grown man singing falsetto
       for the amusement of chumps.

Thanks very much for the library card. I’ve read of
       isotopes, anarchists, artistic foibles of heretical sects.
I’ve read a few classics, and enjoyed your waspish annotations.
       (I dreamed I saw your initials
       carved into the brickwork of the Bradford Alhambra
       but didn’t inform the police.)

You tin opener, me turtle without a shell,
       you me, me you. How long
       will we put up with being haunted
       by the ghosts of all the antelopes
       mistaking us for mobile crypts to hole up in?
Now that I’ve developed the transmogrifier
       we could go anywhere, do anything –
       spend a century as a standard lamp, become amoebas
       in the eye-sockets of a monkey, seek election.
So don’t get pettish. Sling your keys in the bowl.
       We’ll put our heads together, become a
       hiprhiponopocetarosmus,
       get a scholarship to university, mend a motorbike,
step out one morning after a pot of tea,
       carrying a cudgel, thinking
       how the sky’s colour reminds us of approaching evening,
       how the deaths of our loved ones will become
as fey a topic as essential oils and the history of the Anabaptist Church
       which we might tease open with a little sullen laugh
       just to see if it hurts
       over a tall glass of Pernod.




THE MINE-ROADS


Going down Clifton Road, I see the yellow bulbs
burning through fanlights in the glossy doors
and dream whole households back to frigid life.
Or see the silhouette of a stile in a cow’s eye,
myself a dim figure at the bottom of the shaft.

*

There is a village underneath the village.
The mine-roads even made a city,
if industry and darkness are what make a city,
and like an ancient city-state were flooded
by a river, and abandoned long ago.

*

Dark streets, lit by what quartz eyes
have held of passing candlelight,
cross unconjoined with the sunny lanes of home.
The ground of home contains more names
than murmur in my heart’s gazetteer.

*

And when I step towards the public bar
I pace Black Ox; lost in the woods I follow Moletrap Rake.
The dog-walk round the hill takes me across
Silt Rake, to Jacob’s Dream, and down
to Groaning Tor. But never home.

*

These passageways disopened by the light
insist on being there, on leading down
through lack of light, through earth and rock
towards a nameless pool. They crave the breath
with which I speak of them. My skull.

*

Walking the mine-town’s graves I wake them,
sending a shiver down each ditch
on the narrow-gauge rails. There’s no one there
to feel the permaslime on rope-grooved walls
or taste lead ore in the wet air; but a footstep
hears itself, echoing, in the dark.




THE MIDLANDS - Tony Williams


Find out more about The Midlands

Purchase a copy of The Midlands

The Midlands is the second collection of poems by Tony Williams, following his acclaimed debut The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. Beginning in the Midlands themselves, where Mercian kings sleep under wurzels near the local Asda, his poems open out into tragi-comic paeans on dog walks, photocopiers, shut shops and lunchtimes, and meditations on what it means to be a person living, wonkily, anywhere. But beneath the word-play and tomfoolery, something strange is brooding in the caverns underneath the hill. History is coming for you, and if you set out to meet it, you’ll never find your way home…


Praise for The Midlands by Tony Williams: 

"Never mind the geography, these poems go far beyond the Midlands. They start from that caved, mined and milled country, its people and its names - but Tony Williams' landscape is also one of great humanity and surprise. Between pigsties and the partridges the poems give us photocopiers, hippopotamus, and narrators who share the subtle rhythms and wit of English speech. Williams builds poems as solid as fine architecture, but has a pastry chef’s lightness of touch. The Midlands is a fine collection of poems, playing the conversational music of contemporary poetry at its best." 
       – Jo Bell

"In poems giddy with place and what it means to explore place, Tony Williams establishes a midway, between-times territory where the ghosts of Arnold Bennett, Chopin and a sad minister’s daughter, who ‘wears a dress above her ache,’ wander muddy fields and spectral pigsties. If this sounds weird, it is. But it’s a weird world that history leaves us to make our way through, and The Midlands is full of the fearsome merriment and hair-raising power that comes of recognising and recording this. Great feeling, vital ways of seeing and startling music run like veins of silver through this brilliant book." 
        – Jacob Polley 



Friday, 9 May 2014

Featured Poems: Mark Burnhope




Mark Burnhope was born in 1982 and studied at London School of Theology before completing a Creative Writing MA at Brunel University. His work has appeared in various magazines and anthologies in print and online. Mark co-edited Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot with Sophie Mayer and Sarah Crewe, and Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos with Sophie Mayer and Daniel Sluman. His previous pamphlets are The Snowboy (Salt Publishing, 2011) and Lever Arch (Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2013). His debut poetry collection, Species, is published by Nine Arches Press in June 2014.




“Am I Disabled?” – A Self-diagnosis Questionnaire


Be advised: this questionnaire should not
be used instead of a medical diagnosis
but as a companion to it. The medical field
has meticulously written your synopsis
step-by-painstaking-step.
We have no intention to tread on their toes,
accidentally or otherwise.
The purpose of this questionnaire is to flesh
out your narrative, just enough for you
to begin
to break
through the fourth wall – ‘come out,’ if you will.

1. Do you ever feel destabilised, in life and / or limb?

2. Do you have a car you struggle to:
       a) pay for yourself?
       b) dignify with a human name?

3. If you have a car:
       a) Do you tend to rely on the car in town?
       b) Do you look left and right before
       opening the door, thinking the worst
       kind of person could be stood there,
       demanding to see your credentials?

4. Do you miss the days when three-wheeled cars could be seen regularly on the roads?

5. If you no longer have
regular sightings of three-wheelers, do you
have regular sightings of anything?

6. If you answered no to question five,
does this bother you?

7. If you answered yes, does this
make you want to Salsa with somebody?

8. Do you wrestle with what your feet are for?

9. How long has it been since you last looked
between your toes and treated the inevitable build-up,
whether with concern or even contempt, and flounced
out of the room
leaving the fungal cream completely alone?

10. Does anything on your body uncontrollably:
       a) hang low?
       b) wobble to and fro?

11. How many names for knots can you identify
in a medical dictionary? (It doesn't matter
whether you could tie them.)

12. Can you throw over your shoulder:
       a) a tennis ball?
       b) a school satchel?
       c) a school teacher?

13. Remember that satchel: were you ever taught
how to recall the order of items
you needed to pack for the day?

14. The scenario: you’ve been called hero, soldier,
asexual attention-whore. But could you, when drafted
or backed into a corner and shafted, hold up in a war?

15. Do you give two hoots about who governs either
you, or:
       a) your immediate family and vicinity?
       b) your postcode / county / country?
       c) your soul on one level, the chronology
       of every Spatial frontier on another?

16. Do you always pronounce “bow” properly?




Water Rail, with Moses


She breaches warmer waters:
distorted kiwi, beak too short
and orange to be a curlew's;

wears a similar fibre-blend
of brown-tan feathers.
Her eyes are dabs of blood.

Moses’ basket and blanket
appears in the rushes; she parts
a sea of them to meet him.

Her sharming startles his story
into fruition: gnat, fly, locust,
all in a day's plague

to this alien rail. She emits
a series of grunts followed by
a scarpering-piglet’s squeal

ending in purrs of contentment
(for territorial claim, alarm
or announcement).

She dips for food and I am made
to remember manna, her mouth
a pillar of fire with a reed's girth.






To My Kreeping Krypto-faith, Krampus


For December’s festivities, dress yourself
(young man, queer-cripple, untermensch)
in the fur of some creature gifted the bullet
(sable-horned, cloven-hooved), the clothes
of growth's gradual epiphanies. From his lips
and teeth, hang a long-ribbon-tongue.

Your title drags the Christ
Mass through dust; combines grump, Gramps,
cramp, and pus (St. Paul's sprinter pulling
a calf, keeling over, footing a fierce blister).

Your name contains campus and hippocampus:
the civic space wherein they (re)formed us,
the brain-piece that converts short-term memory
into long, fosters spatial awareness. Krampus

Is An Evil Man
, Vienna government wrote
in a propagandist pamphlet. But they lied.
Krampus is Lore. Nobody (only innocence)
died. Tonight, you shall get shit-faced
on schnapps, that's me in the corner, losing
my religion blaring from the bar behind you.

Tonight darkness rides the same sleigh as light.
So, do a runner without paying the tab
into the town you've been imprisoned in. To
help you navigate the side-streets bladder-eyed
summon Hel, queen of the underworld within you.

Swing your chains around your head; chase
down each child who looks like you did,
whipping their butts with bundles of ruten.
Frighten the fundamentals out of them.
Make the mountains tell of all you've done.





Deliverance

No one can swear how it fell
into our hands. No one
– Andrew Philip, 'The Ambulance Box'


I awoke tonight,
my bedside clock a white receptacle
bearing time's nick

bleeding out         to tell you:
this                      delivery
fell through our door as well,
five weeks ago now.

Who can tell
who is next?
                      So, to respond
            to the instruction slip I took
                      as an invitation:

after the wards and waiting rooms
                          I envisage a visit
to The Ship in Distress

where a punter in a white-sail vest
who’s been losing weight for the amount

of time his wife has bled of late
faints over the bar,
                           spills a pint;

to his wife
who tips the Solent into a teacup,
                            sees trade ships in

two cubes of sugar      sinking,
thinking         she’d trade all of her
possessions to have him here;

to a boy floating his boat in a bathtub
full to the brim with everlasting water.

We could find them, usher them in
from the callused     strip-lit street,
tell them

wait indoors for news about the tests
the Spirit carries out upon our waters;

spinning her fingers, stirring the foam-
tipped waves into a salve,
and folding our earthen bodies into the swell

to see what weight they bear,
                                    set their course.




To My Parallel-Parked King, Richard III



Cheated of feature, deformed,
unfinished, we have called ourselves.
Hedgehog, bottled spider, foul bunch-
backed toad, diffused infection of a man,
we have been called by women
diluted in a playwright's quill and ink.
Now my names: planking skiver,
striver for naught but pity,
the perfect party-political binary.
Mark: for all the names they gave me
we may as well have been buried
beside ourselves: one cockentrice
(dry-cured, butterflied, fossilised)
to rule them all.
So many species of automobiles
came to a stop on top of us we could
be called scrap-yarded cars ourselves.
My King, I'm making a meal of it
but what I’m trying to say is this:
in our new new identity as vulnerable,
'difficult-to-place' claimants,
we have been royally parked
by tourism, media, leaders, law-makers,
powers greater than any of us
in our impotent states.
They mine our stone for money.
Even though your facial reconstruction
displayed chiseled-waxy planes
of the unmistakably-Charming, instead
of the gravid pores of the Surinam toad;
even though your scoliosis was found
to be mild, meaning little strain on arms
in battle (neither withered in any way),
yea, we can be reasonably confident
they have worked about us without us.
My family is an army in some manner
and our county of Surrey tested positive
for horse but they carry on being wrong
by half. My kinsman
in this farce (this farce),
I would have kept them from you if
I could have.






















Mark Burnhope’s Species  is a debut collection unafraid of being vital and bright. These poems tackle the big issues yet do not neglect the small and precious details either. Burnhope brings both wrath and wryness to bear on inequality, ignorance and prejudice, and balances force and anger with nature, sexuality and love. 

The exploration of identity and disability and ideas of ‘otherness’ inform a distinct approach; the body becomes the territory of both creation and conflict, language the interpreter of its losses, pains and beauty. 
Political and theological ideas ferment and rise in these poems, which though often serious are also ripe with wit, adventurous in their form and distinctive in their energy and verbal vigour. Species is radical and acutely aware – a rare and brilliant mix that makes for essential and important poetry.


Praise for Species

“This collection left me feeling simultaneously astonished, angry and uplifted. Mark Burnhope fuses the personal and political in beautiful, subtly charged language. A new species is born.” – Rob A. Mackenzie 



Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Featured Poems: Richie McCaffery

Photo credit: Gerry Cambridge

Richie McCaffery (b. 1986) lives in Stirling and studies and works as a teaching assistant at The University of Glasgow. He is working on a PhD in Scottish Literature, looking at the Scottish poets of World War Two. He is the author of two poetry pamphlets, Spinning Plates (HappenStance Press, 2012) and Ballast Flint (Cromarty Arts Trust, 2013). His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as The Dark Horse, Stand, The Rialto and The Best British Poetry 2012. His debut collection, Cairn, is published by Nine Arches Press in June this year.




BALLAST FLINT

They often took people from these shores,
pariahs of the law or kirk. Sent them down
into the holds of ships like ballast flint,
mined locally, as plentiful useless weight.

Nodules like bone joints, broken open
to dark quartz, the black iris of a Sphinx,
unknowable and inscrutable. The dud cargo
often dumped by the salt-chapped rim

of other seas where it did not belong,
still cluttering beaches. It once sparked
great fires, sharpened to double-edged blade,
a forgotten clan knapping arms in the swash.





THE CONSUL

You are unhappy here, in Paris,
in your birthplace, everywhere.

If you were a God tasked with
ripping open two tectonic plates

to let a new island rise up
in basalt spuming out of the sea

you couldn’t begin to populate it
with all the dead people you miss.

But as a start, tell me the weed
you want for a national flower.

I’ll pin it to my lapel, like a consul
to a place that is still to exist.





TIES

As a policeman,
my Granddad’s ties
were clip-on

coming away easy
like a salamander tail
if someone throttled him.

He died, suffocated
in an open necked shirt,
the victim of his tobacco habit.

I borrowed a black tie
from my father
to attend his funeral.

Dad has many black ties.
I thank him for the Windsor knot
which I slacken or tighten

like the grip between
his hand
and his father’s.





VIV

For years my Grandmother’s best friend Viv
has been referred to as The lady who got run over,

and what smarts to this day is the question
where she was heading, across that main road.

She was in the middle of nowhere,
a little gabardine matador. I often think

Grandma might sleep easier if she knew
Viv had a destination, beyond the crossing.





THE LONESOME DEATH OF BRIAN CONNOLLY

His last great gig
was falling backwards
down the stairs, pissed,
as if letting go into
the needy arms of the crowd,
his heart rattling
like the Glasgow Subway shuttle
between Hillhead and Kelvinbridge,
riding twenty years
with the same expired ticket.








Richie McCaffery’s debut collection of poems, Cairn, begins in dedication and ends with ghosts – in between lie artefacts and antiquities: a police whistle, a tarnished silver spoon, a bookmark lodged in an old book. These poems find their stories in the overlooked spaces of everyday, and take delight in the unexpected image and turn of phrase. Soaring, short and melancholy, the poems form signposts in the landscape of life, lore and family, mementoes for the buried and the living.

Cairn is an understated and quietly-brilliant collection of poems, where each word is tactile and polished like a beach-combed pebble; these are poems you’ll want to pocket and treasure.


Praise for Cairn by Richie McCaffery:

"When you enter McCaffery's world, objects are no longer inanimate, drawers are filled with stories, desks are cluttered with moments of grace. A beautiful, and powerful, collection of poetry" - William Letford

"McCaffrey is a skilled, sure-footed poet, opening the inanimate objects of the world to show how they echo with voices inside. A pen, a writing slope, a whistle, a plastic football, each traps significance like sunlight and reveals how we are connected to the world equally by what it gives us and what it takes away. These are poems filled with light and rain, moving and celebratory- a remarkable collection, and one to be treasured" - John Glenday


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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Featured Poems: Josh Ekroy


Josh Ekroy is an old person who was born in Essex, brought up in Surrey and educated in Sussex and Kentish Town. His most interesting job was as a paper warehouse operative. In another life he wrote many novels for which the world was not yet ready as well as semi-humorous articles in magazines including Punch. He now lives next to a lot of building sites in the City of London. He attempted to teach English for some years mainly in FE Colleges and for two years in Kiribati in the Pacific, which was then and is now disappearing beneath the waves as ocean levels rise. His poems appear where they can in magazines, anthologies and webzines. Ways to Build a Roadblock (Nine Arches Press, May 2014) is his first collection of poetry.



MY RIFLE

Throws jelly beans to shouting boys.
Reveals what intimacy means.
Plays The Song of the Earth to swooning ladies.
Never blames anyone.

My rifle wears a bespoke suit.
Delivers non-violent outcomes.
Outshines the suns on my brassards.
Fishes in the cross-hairs for semiquavers.

Sometimes my rifle’s a wowser.
Wins true hearts and deep minds
then calls me slattern and laughs in a friendly manner.
Doesn’t like to ride shotgun.

My rifle’s a strict tonometer.
Is my refresher towelette.
Draws graffiti in the pargeting.
Loves the silver prose of Ruskin.

My rifle whistles up the dogs.
Is a big softie. Costs nothing.
Endows me with autarky.
Chews the fat with Ministers of Grace.

My rifle came along when I was a kid.
Was softer than nanny.
Charmed bullfinches
from the tip of the larch.

Gives me an appetite.
Like reptiles, it cannot yawn.




FIRST WOODPECKER

His father pours it for him, testing him
in the webs and flaws of drink,
lifts him to tangled branches.

He learns to unscrew apple sheds,
fulcrum the bottle with both hands,
watches bubbles rise and spit

in his tumbler. Red cap, black cheek,
green wings, dagger beak builds a nest
in his mind. The bottle’s a conical shell

waiting for the snug breech, brown glass
contains the stab and sparks in his throat,
sweet with the sweetness that clusters

around his heart, guts and bladder,
all the way to the tip of his penis.
He remembers forty years later

with a sudden, returning swoop:
the woodpecker creates waves
of forest air, grips bark,

gives a sarcastic peal of laughter:
everything after this can be okay.




GOTHIC AUNT REVIVAL

They strode, manly cathedrals through side-streets,
imposing Ur-Goths. Wore, like furred copes,
the bodies of foxes with which as eager
girls they’d been blooded, draped around
their aisle-wide shoulders. Monkish, they’d eat
anything with a face, their own whiskered
like stained-glass window cats, kissed me
with powdered cheek-flesh, soft as a bishop’s.
They served tea in Rockingham chalices
reciting their favourite psalms, nerves
like febrile lamps in long drawing-room naves.

Afficionados came from far in whining Morris Minors
to view those flying-buttress arms, their gargoyle
smiles that never took an answer for an answer,
their whispering transepts and triforium gallery hats,
their incense perfumes stifling a visitor’s hymn
of adoration. These minsters would never,
like their country cousin churches, dissolve
in English showers. The dimmed chancels
of their spirits were always worth the detour.





THE COLOUR OF MEMORY

walking across a field, an unarmed man.
One more step and there will be a blast.
I’m afraid to miss the moment:
an explosion, there’s nothing I can do
nor can I turn away. A carrier
comes round the corner and
the shape disappears from sight.

I dream this scene a few times after that:
the man walking through a minefield,
a lone figure. It’s summer when it happens,
sun flooding purple earth,
green smells of a nearby forest but I remember only
this black figure on a black field in Chechnya.

This black figure on a black field in Chechnya:
green smells of a nearby forest but I remember only
sun flooding purple earth.
A lone figure – it’s summer when it happens –
the man walking through a minefield.

I dream this scene a few times after that:
the shape disappears from sight,
comes round the corner and
nor can I turn away. A carrier –
an explosion... there’s nothing I can do,
I’m afraid to miss the moment;
one more step and there will be a blast.
Walking across a field, an unarmed man.





THE TROJAN ENQUIRY

Was there ever a threat of aggression from Troy?

All the pertinent intelligence said there was.

Which you plagiarised, then sexed up. Is that not true?

I stand by every word. We did not dramatise.

Should we have given them time to return Helen?

The Ravage Inspectors had sounded the alarm.

You read the Peace Dossier from Agamemnon?

I’d heard it was dodgy from hoplites in his team.

Were there any pressures on the defence budget?

No. Urgent Ship Requirements went through very fast.

And sword, shield and spear-makers never overcharged?

No request was ever ruled out on grounds of cost.

Was there firm intel guiding conduct of the siege?

Yes, it came from disaffected slaves of Priam.

Was that adequate basis on which to engage?

We did not know it was defective at the time.

Whose responsibility was the Trojan Horse?

The decision was taken in full Cabinet.

Weren’t your plans compromised by Cassandra’s outburst?

The change in our strategy was proportionate.

How can you defend the subsequent massacre?

We were confronted with a vile dictatorship.

And it would be hard to return to Ithaca?

That was not my remit. A storm in a teacup.
























About Ways to Build a Roadblock

Publication date: 14th May 2014   ISBN: 978-0-9927589-0-5   Price: £8.99
A Debut New Poets collection from Nine Arches Press

Josh Ekroy’s debut poetry collection explores the legacy of more than a decade of wars on terror, disastrous foreign policies and brutality. These are adroit and concise poems, observed from the standpoint of an unflinching bystander to the ‘shock and awe’ of early twenty-first century history.

Revulsion at corrupt leaders and the absurdity of rotten institutions and systems fuels these poems with an illuminating satirical energy. Ekroy’s poetry is dynamic and refined, mindful of the blood and the ties of humanity that should bond us; it is deeply humane poetry – written with a graceful and precise wit, and a generous dash of surrealism. Ways to Build a Roadblock reminds us of our complicated complicities and boldly reflects on the contradictions of our age.

"Josh Ekroy's poems are inventive, witty and often as impassioned as they are original and memorable. A range of tones (wry irony, principled irreverence, wrenched compassion) informs the collection; matters of public and domestic justice occupy the poet, as do the shifting sands of history and myth. Ekroy's craft and good ear enable him to write lines that stick and haunt and often make the reader see the world in a new way, as in these lines from 'My Rifle': 'Charmed bullfinches/ from the tip of the larch.' This is a stunning and most welcome first collection, that expands in significance and power at each reading." - Peter Carpenter



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Joel Lane 1963 - 2013



It's with great sadness that I've heard the news tonight of Joel Lane's passing at the age of just 50.

I was so very fortunate to know Joel and privileged to have worked with him as his publisher on his short collection of 'Birmingham Noir' crime stories, Do Not Pass Go, back in 2011, and to have continued to have known him since.

I had first came across Joel Lane a little earlier on, by sheer coincidence; when I was about 17 or 18 I borrowed his novel From Blue to Black from my local library, picked out on a whim. What was electrifying about reading this, in a small midlands town in my late teens, was that for the very first time I had found a writer writing about things close to my heart, that mattered to me (rock music, and especially those mentions of Spiritualized, Joy Division, and others) and not only that, but setting the story in places I knew about (namely Birmingham - a bit further away from where I'd grown up, but close and familiar enough to leave me with a buzz about seeing the place written about and in print). These were places and things that I'd not thought before that you could write about. What was exciting was to suddenly see all these possibilities, open doors, the permission that great writers grant to fledglings such as us, through inspiration such as this.

I remembered the name of the author long after I'd forgotten the title of the book, so several years later, when I started working in poetry and publishing and going to readings in the West Midlands area, it was great to finally meet Joel and to tell him what an impact his book had on me and how it changed my idea of what I had thought was possible with creative writing (as always, he was very modest about this and always looked a little bashful if I mentioned it at readings or launches).

As well as working prolifically across several genres of fiction (crime, sci-fi, speculative and horror and literary fiction) Joel was also an incisive and quietly-brilliant poet; he published several collections with Arc (The Edge of the Screen, Trouble in the Heartland and The Autumn Myth), and a pamphlet of poems recently with Flarestack Poets, called Instinct. Again, the urban environment, and specifically Birmingham's environs, influenced and informed his tender, melancholy and sharply-observed poetry. He was truly a part of the rich tapestry of Birmingham's writing community, and tonight it feels poorer for his loss.

Joel was a deeply principled, thoughtful and gentle person. He cared greatly about  many issues of social justice, equality and politics, and had the sort of intelligent overview of current affairs that made him a fascinating person to converse and debate with. He was also great fun to edit - on Do Not Pass Go, we sat in a rough Wetherspoons pub in Acocks Green one wet and windy night  (the sort of place that could easily have come out of one of his own short stories, in fact) debating back and forth the merits of various plots, characters and dialogue, Joel arguing the case for them when appropriate, talking through alternatives when we came up against things that didn't quite work. An attentive and careful author, he knew just how far to let the editors go with their pruning shears, and exactly when his writer's instinct knew something just had to stay as it was.

Fellow Birmingham writer, Roz Goddard, reminded me on Twitter tonight of a reading we did with Joel in Kingswinford Library earlier this year. We could have simply stayed all night - he loved reading the stories, the audience couldn't get enough of him, and got all the in-jokes and the local references in the stories - it might have been chucking it down outside, but indoors, Joel's brilliance as a story-teller just radiated from those darkly-humourous tales, and thrived in the audience's reception of them.

So thank you Joel, for the brilliant books, the stories and the poetry that will stick with us, and the memories.

 We'll all miss you so much.


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Featured Poems: Jeremy Reed

Jeremy Reed, born on a chip of rock off the French Normandy coast has been for decades Britain’s most dynamic, adventurous, controversial and futures poet. Called by The Independent ‘British poetry’s glam, spangly, shape-shifting answer to David Bowie’. He has published over 40 books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, winning prestigious literary prizes like the Somerset Maugham Award. His latest publication is Whitehall Jackals, a London poetry collaboration with Chris McCabe, published by Nine Arches Press. The following poems are taken from this collection.





WHITEHALL ENDGAME

(depleted uranium mix)

The 5pm sky’s like rainy sapphires
a blue toxic hydrocarbon blanket,
and you’re my pick-up, bite my lip
to redden like a strawberry.
It’s later in accelerated endgame time
by 600 seconds than when we met
at the compressed Starbucks on Hollen Street,
you a Beijing space-time interloper
put into a blonde-bobbed Eurasian mix.

The psychopathic jackal Tony Blair,
four blacked-out Range Rovers gunned
through town, a war criminal’s carbon tail
choking polluted haze, his handgun grin
cold as forensics, czar to every war’s
genocide, the killer autocrat
smeared in depleted uranium, Gulf blood,
the meltdown hedge funder — the commandant
guarded 24/7 by thugs in suits,
Glock pistols in their Paul Smith repertoire.

We watch his cars open a corridor
into a cannibalistic future —
Blair crunches Cherie for a final meal.
The day builds on us like a pyramid
of neural info — love me to the end
of Soho village — there’s no other way

sighting those tyres that leave blood on the bend.




WENLOCK ARMS


A summer there in sticky warehouse heat,
our fuzzy light-polluted sweat-drenched thrust
to monetize a dead friend’s books
boxed into dusty architectural blocks,
dealers categorising firsts and states
Red Snapper partners itchy for hot cash
both of us maintaining dandified looks
in repurposed high-end Shoreditch,
its rogue outtake the Wenlock Arms
looking like a Krays’ gang operation,
peeling green walls, purple frontage —
I’d knock at 10am for Aaron’s flaky need
to stabilize, a drinks top-up
kicking the pineal with a sugared boot.
12 handpumps, a stripped-down defiant room
yeasty with real ale, I stepped into
a throwback parallel space-time
scrutinized for my beret and paste rings
crowding in starburst clusters at the bar —
an edgy glitter, a moody lagoon.
She never spoke, just handed me the glass.
Two months, two hours a day deconstructing
solid book tons as physicals, we sold
into profit — I kept a CA shelf
of Robert Duncan, orange sunshine
stored in the pages, had a last drink there
like flipping back to 1958.

Got all my times wrong, bussed back into town.
Knowing I’d be too early, or too late.




LONDON FLOWERS


These oriental poppies earthed
as scattered outtakes, rough demos
lucked into NW3
shivery silk minis on runway pins —
pink, yellow, orange, blue and red,
they’re like randomised confetti
transient saucerians
an anthology of MAC eye colours
in nitrogen-depleted soil.
I give them names like Toyoko,
Masako, Yumiko, O,
Yuan Yuan, a garden harem
cooking Chinese opium.
Ixia and violet iris
lyricise intense moments,
so too explosive azaleas
and a libidinous steamy lily,
a transplant brain from Asia
with a bulb like a shaved cortex.
This marine blue hydrangea’s
the colour of the blue deodorant cube
floating in the Gatwick men’s toilet,
a sort of deep Atlantic blue
squirted with ultramarine.
Like everything I see they’re poetry,
poppies bringing a dusty frill
to capital affairs, a bright
liaison like a thought pattern;
immediate as light checked-in
8 mins travel time from the sun
to reach this wiry leggy cluster
that tomorrow will be gone.




About Whitehall Jackals: 



















Buy a copy of this poetry book > 


ISBN: 978-0-9573847-2-9
Price: £9.99

London in the dark end-times of the late noughties; escaped war criminals and their hired thugs scavenge like hyenas amid the city’s smut and glitter, the system appears in nonchalant free-fall and words drop cheaply as grimy metropolitan rain. With this dystopian backdrop, where language is spun, redacted and renditioned, McCabe and Reed’s gritty riposte performs an angry and elegant resistance.

The result of this psychogeographic collaboration between two of modern poetry’s most distinct voices is this - a poetry chain-letter that seeks to interrogate the city at one of the most peculiar and sinister points in contemporary history and to map the capital on foot, under their own light; poems as foundlings; the weight of language and place obsessively and voraciously explored. Beneath flagstones, in river silt and on the top decks of buses, the strange, dark energies of the city find their way into this electrifying exchange of poems.



Praise for Whitehall Jackals:
"McCabe and Reed’s wide-eyed, X-rayed Cubist vision of London is more than a cultural mapping. It is a significant addition to the poetry of London. Partly a response to Whitehall’s warring, it uncovers deeper historical and pyschogeographical interplay within the city. Horizontal and vertical layers of story are contextualized and abstracted to reveal multifarious states of being, control and flux. These anchored, edgy scripts of multiverse unearth deposits in angular localised texts that make you smile, laugh, wonder and leave you wanting more. A tour de force in every way." - David Caddy


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