Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Featured Poems: Robert Peake

Photograph: Valerie Kampmeier

Robert Peake is a British-American poet living near London. His previous publication was a pamphlet, The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013) and his previous short collection Human Shade was included in New Poets | Short Books, Vol. V (Lost Horse Press, 2011). His first full-length collection The Knowledge is forthcoming April 2015 from Nine Arches Press and can pre-ordered here.

Robin from Robert Peake on Vimeo.


Bold and tattered, slashing into view,
tiny courtier teeming with invidious mites,

we welcome you at the waterspout, bent sprig,
weaving a maypole out of long oat grass.

You wear a red-crossed breast, poor Templar,
far from healthy with your half-feathered head,

blandishing the cold-snapped air, informing
and interpreting the seasons like a wild-eyed monk.

You preach through the frost and meandering drizzle,
moot points of theology and tactics with squirrels,

piecemeal captain of our sinking green ship,
perched like Nelson at the tallest crow’s nest.

Guide us, our skipper, bard and troubadour, into
the winter you know will be your last.

First published in London Grip

Last Gasp

December 30th, 2006

The scorpion is an opportunist for sure.
For days he waits in a desert hole,
the heat driving his prey toward the shade.

Once, a deposed tyrant hid in a hole,
breathing dust and ash, unable to stand.
When we found him, we hanged him.

The lungs balloon and drain
eighteen thousand times per day.
One day the alveoli all flash shut together.

One man’s last breath is Baghdad city air.
Another drowns on his feet in chlorine gas.
Desdemona breathed the perfume of her bedclothes.

There are mothball-scented chambers in a life,
dark places moonlight cannot light up blue—
a held breath that the breather knows is final.

Dare we mention the soft grasses
growing, somehow, underneath a stone?
They, too, must have known the sunlight once.

A salt stain bleaches the pillow cover.
Who can tell if it was tears, saliva, or sweat?
Only that the head was wanting rest,

only that the fluids of the human animal
cannot be contained in sleep, in love, in death.
Some call the incognito intimate.

The chambers of our secrecy are vast.
While sleeping in his hole, our tyrant dreamt
of the high, gilded ceilings of his ballrooms.

More intricate than Arabesque tile,
the workings of a mind in flight, glimmering
and expansive, as a polished marble floor.

First published in Human Shade

La Campagna, London, Friday Night

This is not your nan’s Sunday dinner, a fish-and-chippy
or Chinese buffet. Tonight, this is Italy, no haggis
here, no bottled beers, just pasta, fresh, tailor-made.

The waiter gooses the posterior of the brawny
man in the scullery, then inverts his frown, glides
over to the long table of single women, and flirts.

At first, you think, he hears the clink of coins
on his silver tip plate. But their laughter opens
his face like a daffodil, peeling back the outer petals

to reveal the golden middle of a man surrounded by nieces
and sisters, their heartaches, children, and deadbeat men.
He recommends the right rosé to wash it all away

and they comply with his performance, casting their eyes
over his handsome face and fit physique, investors
in a scheme that yields only the thrill of investing.

But isn’t this happiness? William Blake would whisper
in each ear an accolade for joy caught on the wing
and when they are at home, curling the stockings

from their legs, a little drunk, and over-full,
their smiles that say could have been and you
never know will smile on them again, shaking out

their hairpins, clink, on the makeup mirror,
a sound our Romeo won’t know or hear, scrubbing
the stubborn Bolognese from his stiff apron,

sliding the tongue of the register back into place,
the backstage routine always tinged with sadness,
the afterglow of smiles, the space between applause.

First published in Rattle


Barmaids pull green spiral taps,
tippling the bees in swarm
frothing up a golden head of pollen.

O the youthfulness of arrogance.
Blackbirds swap their arcane ciphers,
hacking into the un-redacted news.

Squirrels in fiasco groove the bark
to a barber-pole double helix,
shift a confetti of godsend petals.

Here is the sallow-green heart of things,
sap coursing through like amphetamine,
the sticky truth, its plausible deniability.

The soil steams with overfed grubs,
a richness of embarrassment — on goes
the arms race towards the beating sun.

About The Knowledge by Robert Peake

Publication date: 21st April 2015

Pre-order The Knowledge here.

"The Knowledge is quirky, wide-ranging, luminous and completely enthralling. If there were an A – Z of all the places poetry should take us, this would be it." - John Glenday

Robert Peake’s
incredible eye for detail illuminates a collection of stirring and delicately attuned poems that not only roam but actively seek – travelling to all manner of places but also moving through time, taking leaps of faith or journeys into memory and sensation. These poems refer to a kind of knowledge that isn’t just sought or gained, but is felt and experienced, known in your heart and in your bones as much as in your mind.

From postcards to portraits, from ancient and modern wars to cosmopolitan cities, wildlife, and even a tiny ornamental skeleton, Robert Peake finds a sharp focus for the bigger picture both far and wide and closer to home. These carefully-controlled and eloquent poems know the subtle and deep consequences from each small gesture; the ripple-effect across each story, the altering of lives and history; the still, quiet centre from which it all begins.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Nine Arches Press: Review of 2014

What a year it's been! There have been plenty of highlights in 2014, so here are just a few of them from my publishing and poetry year at Nine Arches Press. It has been a really packed year – probably my busiest yet – but it has also felt like a very gratifying year for all the throwing myself into the heart of stuff and feeling much cheered by all the excellent poetry I’ve read and enjoyed and have been so fortunate to have partaken in, edited, published and shared in 2014.

January kicked off with some great live poetry - our first Leicester Shindig of the year, featuring Cathy Grindrod, Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson, Charlie Jordan & Joe Coghlan, all helping us to get the year off to the right start with lively and enjoyable readings. There was also a memorable and rather special evening of poetry at Poetry bites, as Angela France & Daniel Sluman performed to a packed Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham. After a lot of work over the festive period, I also launched the brand new Nine Arches website and online shop, which has proved to be much more user friendly and popular!

February was a little quieter on the event front, but a hive of activity behind the scenes as the final touches were put to this year’s collections. 

In March, independent publishing was properly celebrated at the annual States of Independence book-fair at Leicester De Montfort – we sold lots of books, as usual, but more importantly had plenty of interesting conversations and a great chance to put faces to names for all those we’ve met online but not in real life. And another great day out was also had later the same month at the inaugural Writing East Midlands Writer’s Conference at Nottingham University, where I provided a series of one-to-ones for  poets to book and ask all those questions about publishing you’ve always wanted to ask but were too afraid to… I hope they proved useful. I’ve been really pleased to see several of those writers now in print in recent months too, which is always heartening.

April came around, and I found myself at the wonderful Wenlock Poetry Festival. Nestled in the Shropshire hills, for one weekend each year this small town is taken over by poets and poetry audiences and all manner of performances, talks and workshops. It was a great chance to catch up with lots of people, but also to make some new friends and acquaintances and enjoy plenty of poetry performances too. Rebecca Goss’ and Helen Tookey’s reading was particular moving and memorable, as was David Morley and Gregory Leadbetter’s outdoor reading at the abbey ruins, where we just about dodged the both the impending rain and the dusk. We concluded our weekend with a Maps & Legends reading, with Jo Bell compering some wonderful readings from Matt Merritt, Mario Petrucci and Maria Taylor that celebrated our first five years in poetry publishing.

May saw the first ‘Towards Poetry Publication’ six-week short course for Writing West Midlands (so popular it was fully booked, and we're now running a second course from 27th Jan 2015). It was also the launch of our Forward Prize-commended debut poetry collection Ways to Build a Roadblock by Josh Ekroy. We headed down to London to launch Josh’s book in a packed cellar bar at the Betsey Trotwood and had a warm reception far and wide for this much-anticipated debut –including requests for signed copies for bookstores! With poetry that is both satirical and instinctively humane, Ekroy has been building a reputation through magazine publication and readings for a number of years. It’s so rewarding when readers take to heart a poet whose work you have also admired and followed – and to see your faith in their work and its distinctive qualities repaid when the books are released out there to find good homes on bookshelves up and down the country. May closed on an especial high point - I spent 31st May at the Sabotage Awards in Oxford, where Nine Arches came away as a prize-winner - Most Innovative Publisher 2014! It's an award that really means a lot to me, as it was voted for by the general public and our readers, and to get that vote of shared love for our books feels important and rather special.


June brought us the launch of Richie McCaffery’s Cairn and Markie Burnhope’s Species – two very distinct and exciting debut collections that I was enormously proud to have as part of 2014’s list. From Richie’s brilliantly-detailed and revelatory miniatures to Markie’s sharp and astonishing technicolour focus on otherness and injustice (amongst so much more), there was a great deal to be celebrated here in these two first collections.

In July we had a grand time at Ledbury Poetry Festival It was also (at last) a delightful opportunity to meet poets Bobby Parker, Richie McCaffery and Dorothy Lehane for the first time in real life, after many months of email correspondence and working on their collections, and a proper treat to hear Dorothy, Richie, and Bobby read from their debut collections at the festival. It is often in those first ‘voicings’ that a collection truly comes alive for me. This month also saw the launch of the brilliant second collection from Tony Williams, The Midlands. It’s always a pleasure to work with a returning poet, and a real treat to have the opportunity work with Tony again on a book that touched on so many of my personal favourite themes – ideas of places lost and found, walking and journeying, and of course the Midlands themselves which, characteristically, lurked resplendent, both bashful and beautiful, within the collection’s own marvellous scenery.

August saw a short break in book launches but still plenty of behind the scenes work going on, and plenty of planning as a busy Autumn lay ahead on return form my holdiays!

September was a particular highlight of the autumn, with a lovely day in London at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair, where we joined with our good friends at Worple Press (Peter Carpenter and Michael McKimm) to give a joint reading outdoors with Matt Merritt and Josh Ekroy representing Nine Arches in the park café, whilst indoors, books sold rapidly and we had a chance to catch up with many of our other fellow publishers and poets. It seemed to be particularly busy this year, and there was a real buzz around the whole fair. Huge thanks to Joey Connolly and Chrissy Williams for yet again putting on a great day, and for the beautiful book fair booklet – which featured a poem by Richie McCaffery amongst many others from each press.

October brought another annual highlight in the form of the Birmingham Literature Festival. A personal favourite among my events this year was out ‘Poetry Afloat’ event at the festival with Jo Bell and Tony Williams joining a (quite literally) captive audience aboard the canal boat Frederick as we toured Birmingham’s inland waterways and saw the city from an entirely new viewpoint, accompanied by Jo and Tony’s poems along the way. Even the Brummagem drizzle couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of this little poetry voyage! This was also a month of frenetic publishing activity – with the launch of three books. First up was A Midlands Odyssey (ten stories re-imagining the Homeric epic as heard recently heard on BBC Radio 4), which is now also available as an eBook. Hot on the heels of this came Dorothy Lehane’s debut poems, Ephemeris and Bobby Parker’s Blue Movie. Whilst taking unique approaches, both Lehane and Parker share the theme of personal territories within their poems. Solidly and deftly written, both also are attuned to the particular music that their poetry requires, an understanding which makes them urgent and unmissable debuts with a great deal to say.

November saw us entering the winter with a flurry of activity. Leicester Shindig! featured wonderful live poetry from Michael W. Thomas, Andrew Taylor, DA Prince and Ben Wilkinson and, as always, an excellent selection of open-mic readers bringing a breadth of subjects and styles to proceedings. I also took part in The Writer’s Toolkit for Writing West Midlands, and enjoyed several informative panel talks and a good end-of-year catch up with lots of regional friends and colleagues – even if it seemed a little incredible that 2014 was already speeding past us and out of our grasp...

December opened with a thoroughly enjoyable day at the Library of Birmingham for the first ever Library Toolkit (convened by the West Midlands Reader’s Network and Writing West Midlands) were I gave a talk on how to work with independent publishers and spread the good why about why indie publishers matter (and what we can offer to libraries that the bigger publishers just can’t). And one last reading – a great evening in the best bookshop in the region, Nottingham’s very own Five Leaves Bookshop. With probably the best poetry section since I’ve seen since (the now sadly-demised) Borders, this bookshop is a real gem and I urge all book lovers to pay it a visit. As well as thoughtfully-chosen poetry and fiction, it has a brilliant selection of political, social and historical and lots of independently-published books that show real, dedicated book-lovers are responsible for this warm, cosy and welcoming bookshop. Bobby Parker, Tony Williams, Dorothy Lehane and Matt Merritt all joined us for an excellent showcase of Nine Arches talent, which (along with the mince pies and wine) was much enjoyed by an appreciative audience. December has also seen the end of a few projects, including one I have worked on with HEARTH over this last year, and also the beginning of several new projects (some of which I can’t talk about yet, you’ll just have to wait and see!).


All of which brings me to the end of this round up, and to wish you, our poets, readers and supporters, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s to much more great new poetry in 2015, and a happy, healthy and creative year ahead to you all.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Poetry Series: Nine Arches Press at Five Leaves Bookshop

This weekend, we'll be in Nottingham at the wonderful independent Five Leaves Bookshop, to round off a great year of new poetry with four of our poets - come and join us!

Sunday, 7th December from 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Five Leaves Bookshop, 14a Long Row, Nottingham

In the final event in the Five Leaves Bookshop poetry series, join us to enjoy a fine selection of poets from Nine Arches Press:

Dorothy Lehane is an Assistant Lecturer in Creative Writing and PhD candidate in Poetry: Text Practice as Research at the University of Kent. 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.

Bobby Parker was born in 1982 and lives in Kidderminster, England. Publications include the critically acclaimed experimental books Ghost Town Music and Comberton, both published by The Knives Forks & Spoons Press. His poetry, artwork and photography have appeared in various reputable magazines in print and on-line and he writes a poetry column for The Quietus. His reading style has been described as “Gripping, weird, relatable but alienating, emotional, totally fantastic poetry.”- Café Writers. Blue Movie (Nine Arches Press) is his first full collection of poems.

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.

Matt Merritt is a poet and wildlife journalist from Leicester. His third collection, The Elephant Tests, is out now from Nine Arches, and previous publications include hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica (Nine Arches, 2010), Troy Town (Arrowhead, 2008), and Making The Most Of The Light (HappenStance, 2005). He blogs at: polyolbion.blogspot.co.uk

Admission £3.00, refreshments available.
Please RSVP to bookshop@fiveleaves.co.uk
Read more about this event here on the Five Leaves Bookshop site.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Featured Poems: Bobby Parker

Bobby Parker was born in 1982 and lives in Kidderminster, England. Publications include the critically acclaimed experimental books Ghost Town Music and Comberton, both published by The Knives Forks & Spoons Press. His poetry, artwork and photography have appeared in various reputable magazines in print and on-line and he writes a poetry column for The Quietus. His reading style has been described as “Gripping, weird, relatable but alienating, emotional, totally fantastic poetry.”- Café Writers. Blue Movie is his first full collection of poems. 

The Opposite of Excitement

When I was young I frightened
my mother while she was hanging
white sheets on the line.
Ran at her with an evil face,

clawed hands like Bela Lugosi
growling ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh!’
She jumped, but didn't scream
though almost burst into tears for fear
because I was such a wicked child.

There is a pain for me
thinking of the day I terrified her;
it runs along my arms and into my hands
making my fingers ache.
I think it comes from my stomach.
It is the opposite of flowers and
excitement, it is the opposite
of a day at the beach when she told me
how she met my dad and fell in love.

If I could take it back and replace it,
I would leave a son full of
birthday balloons and small candles
excellent school-reports and pictures
of stick parents on a piece of card
holding hands beneath a crayon sky.
I would tell him how short the time
is we get with mothers who smile.
And he would hang the sheets for her.

And the wind would blow through her hair.
And the wind would blow through her hair.

No Screaming While the Bus is in Motion

It’s true I pulled a wardrobe door
from the firewood pile and painted
a sign: Parker’s Ghost Hunting Agency
in dripping red letters and nailed it
to the fence alongside our house
where passersby pointed and laughed.
Kids threw stones at our windows.
A boy they called Bad Dog
blacked my left eye for lying.
My parents let the sign
stay up for a week
before my dad burned the fucking thing.
It was around this time I started
to think about death a lot, lying
in my imaginary coffin on the sofa,
arms crossed over my chest, holding my breath.
Quoting Freddy Krueger at the breakfast table.
Mum cried. Dad slapped me
and ripped Vincent Price
off my bedroom wall.
Such horrors;
before we moved up the hill
next-door to a girl
with green eyes.

Heartbreak Delirium

My bedroom gathers
night traffic
footsteps through puddles
cars that never stop.

The first dream tells me
sex is a lake full of lost hooks
and headless toys.

The second dream disturbs me
her voice is punk rock
in a valley of pianos.

Listen to my heartbeat, it sounds
like someone throwing tins
of baked beans at an empty wardrobe.

A gate across the street
howls against the padlock.

Like peeling off Elastoplasts
is tonight’s simile
for the sound of tyres in the rain.

Ducks Staring Into You

Ring him. Send him a text; just a couple of lines,
save the rest for Friday. It’s almost pure!
How often do you get pure stuff? Lately it’s been
half washing powder half something that isn’t this.
It’s only six minutes to midnight, you can be in bed
praying for sleep and biting your tongue with apologies
by 3 a.m. Kneel in the bathroom, chop it carefully
with your library card. Snort it off the toilet seat;
glance painfully at your daughter’s bathwater
with blue ducks and yellow ducks staring into you
from bubbles that won’t be there tomorrow.
A bath-time you missed, again. Another day’s bathtub-echo
laughter gone, her two front teeth, golden hair.
Drink everything. Listen to heavy metal music.
Lean forward. Lean back. Sweat. Check your pulse.
Sit down. Walk into the kitchen, turn the light on.
Turn it off. Smoke a roll up in ten seconds in ten-minute
intervals in the paranoid car park. Forget about
your wife’s innocent leg hanging out the bed.
Your daughter, crawling faster with light to hug you
every morning. Every fucking morning. Smell her hair
and tell yourself, ‘This is what makes me happy!’
You liar. You bastard father. You darkness.

Shut Your Mouth

Behind your smile there’s
the kind of broken furniture
you don’t want strangers to fix.

People want your secrets
to trade for more secrets until
the soul is a broken satellite dish.

Pretend your lips
have been glued shut
by a woman with red hair.

Keep the mischievous
flames of their tongues from
peeking into your petrol tank.

Communicate via nods and grunts.
If truth shines out your eyes
wear dark sunglasses.

Cut out your mouth and throw
it off a bridge because it hates you,
it wants to pull you inside out.

When people ask your name
look away, shrug; consider it for
a moment – hold that thought.

ISBN: 978-0-9927589-7-4
Price: £8.99

A Debut New Poets series collection form Nine Arches Press

Bobby Parker’s poems play truth or dare, baring the soul of the small town blues: undaunted by subject matter and fearless of propriety or prettiness, he writes with dynamic clarity of frightening, lonely places within and without our selves.

In this debut full collection, Parker holds back on nothing – both daringly up-front and utterly candid, Blue Movie veers between disaster, horror, comedy, sex, drugs, love and parenthood with dare-you-to-laugh brilliance. Along with their starkness and mucky-faced honesty, these poems are meticulously crafted, canny, and always one step ahead.

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.


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


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


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


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


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 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.


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.


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
       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.


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
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.


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