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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


(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.


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.


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

Buy a copy of this poetry book >

Find out more about this book here >

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Featured Poems: Mario Petrucci

“Reminiscent of e.e. cummings at his best”, Mario Petrucci’s work is “vivid, generous and life-affirming” (Envoi). His most recent poems, inspired by Black Mountain and hailed as “modernist marvels” (Poetry Book Society), embrace contemporary issues of profound social and personal relevance via a distinctive combination of innovation and humanity. Through groundbreaking residencies, poetry films and a remarkable output of ecopoetry, his unique scientific sensibility has illuminated the linguistic as well as emotive resonances of love and loss in the public and private domains. Whether exploring the tragedies of Chernobyl (Heavy Water, 2004) or immersing himself in heart-rending invention (i tulips, 2010), Petrucci aspires to “Poetry on a geological scale” (Verse). anima, his most recent collection, is part of the larger i tulips sequence of poems, and is out now, published by Nine Arches Press.

photo credit: Jemima Kuhfeld


the blade drops
& both half-oranges
rock upon their backs as

beetled species made
zestful but without
the frantic legs

enlarged in heat
to overbrightly dribble
sap in that broken moment

after insect sex which could be
love yet dictates each rolls
apart to undercarriage

straight-grained ex
-posed in falling apart
where one gains access

to tarter matters animal
or vegetable softly to
be consumed for

rind is hard on us
unscooped or what
the starveling leaves

behind or am I for
getting I was once in
heart fruit-perfect & un-




swish &

of feathered

the wobbled

so near

a flicker


& already
they have


then on



as you

nearness of lovers

tight on the Tube
close the soft thrust

of the train bitters my
on the twill of his right

i smell the second waft
of her

aroma white with tended

for him received by this

who suddenly loves
her beau can

that wateriness
in blue
as her still

unblock something
of me

through him
i hear in thunder

wheels upon wheels
small gasp to the rock

of her carriage : words
for one nuzzled other

urgency spills as
does – as love


About anima by Mario Petrucci 

Published: May 2013

Price: £8.99 

The thirty-nine poems of anima bring a distinctive, archetypal potency to the closing stages of Mario Petrucci’s larger i tulips project, the 1111-strong sequence in which this sub-sequence crucially sits. These challengingly-unorthodox poems are, in one sense, impromptu investigations into the anima-impetus within the male psyche; but they also immerse the reader in a primal love poetry that is sensuous yet vulnerable.

Arising organically from prior modernist experiment, Petrucci’s style nevertheless remains utterly contemporary. His mastery of the shape and sound of each poem makes for an intense and all-consuming experience, refocusing an array of influences through an acute lyrical sensibility. By yielding so completely to the power of linguistic transformation, these searing, necessary poems capture both the crisis and the beauty of the heart’s innermost voyage.

Praise for anima by Mario Petrucci:

“Mario Petrucci’s anima is a revelation of the underside of a human heart submitting to the contradictions of love, doubt and mortality. This remarkable work reconfigures the soul as well as the mind, through language that shapes the ineffable into a visceral, triumphant poetry.” - Alexandra Burack [American poet and educator]

“The tensile delicacy of Petrucci’s lines springs back with a very English baroque, Miltonic surprise: sense-ambush occurs in the next line, skewering what's gone before. Between these line-breaks rests a declamatory silence tested to snapping. This is major work to cast shadows.” - Álvaro de Campos [tr. Simon Jenner]

“With a brio and tenderness all of their own, these new lyric poems are modernist marvels, word sculptures pared to their very essence… Petrucci’s tulips promise to grow into a truly ambitious landmark body of work.”- Poetry Book Society Bulletin [Spring 2010]

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Interview with Angela France

Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals, in the UK and abroad and has been anthologised a number of times. She has an MA in ‘Creative and Critical Writing’ from the University of Gloucestershire and is studying for a PhD. Publications include Occupation (Ragged Raven Press) and Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press). Angela is features editor of Iota and runs a monthly poetry cafe, ‘Buzzwords’. Her latest collection, Hide, is published by Nine Arches Press.

image credit: Derek Adams

 Your poetry collection titles are intriguing and memorable, and often have fascinating a backstory all of their own. Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press pamphlet, 2011) certainly did! Could you tell us more about Hide as a title, and also about the importance of collection titles themselves - does a collection seem to you to assemble itself around the nucleus of what a title captures in some sense? 

Collection titles are important to me; for my own and for those I read and buy. I like a title for a book or a poem to add something, another layer or illumination. Quite often, I think a title doesn’t snap into focus until after reading the poem or book and then there is an ‘aha’ moment on looking back to the title – and hopefully the poem also snaps into sharper focus. I like ambiguity in titles, hence Hide and my earlier collection Occupation; both are slippery words with multiple meanings which I like because I don’t want a book (or a poem) tied down to too narrow an expectation before the reader starts. I find that titles either come quickly, early in the process, or it takes a long time to find the right one. Hide was one of the latter. I had a working title which I knew was only a placeholder and the collection was almost complete before Hide became the right title for it, in all its definitions. There is a poem titled 'Hide' in the collection which was one of the first ones written but that is co-incidental; I never had a sense of it as a title poem and I resisted Hide as a book title for some time because I felt it was already taken. In the end though, it was the only possible title to illuminate some of the slippery issues I had explored in the poems. 

Your previous poetry collections have always found their grounding and inspiration in the stories and histories of others; in Hide it is your own stories and personal histories that inform the poems. This would appear to be a new approach for you - how did you find the writing process, and was it at first unnerving to write from this closer and more personal perspective? 

Oh yes, definitely unnerving. I had always found the personal first person intensely uncomfortable and avoided writing the ‘I’ unless in persona. The reasons for this are complex but include a Methodist, working class, upbringing where talking about yourself too much was frowned on and the community took precedence over the individual. Added to that conditioning is a critical landscape where women’s poetry with autobiographical elements is often not taken seriously (an area I am still researching) and that I greatly value solitude and privacy. These things work together to create some formidable barriers for me in writing the ‘I’ but it was something I knew I had to tackle if I were to develop as a poet. I knew that I could continue writing the story-based poems and enjoy doing so but had become dissatisfied with the poems and knew I had to move forward. Although I don’t suppose a reader would see risk in the poems, they felt very risky to me and I sometimes even felt squeamish when I read them. My hope was that, if a barrier was so strong, there ought to be something interesting on the far side of it. 

I did find that my usual processes would not work. I had always used storytelling to create, in my mind, a world in which poems could grow but felt I had to stop doing that if I was going to work with memory and history – I didn’t want the poems to take off into fantasy or fiction. As time went on and the collection started to build, I was able to relax a bit with the process and allow some storytelling into the mix although even those poems which may seem to be fantasy such as 'Sooterkin' or 'Reasonable' have connections to some of the personal or family history I’ve been working with. Working with the ‘I’ is fraught with difficulty apart from any personal barriers; the I is always a construct and only valid for that poem – the self is complex and multi-layered and no-one could truly present a poem, however personal, and say ‘this is me’. I don’t consider the poems to be ‘confessional’ which is a term I dislike anyway; it is so often used pejoratively. They are based in memory and family histories as well as being rooted here in Gloucestershire but I hope there is also enough of the universal human condition in them to resonate with readers. 

I know that this collection has been in progress for three years, a great deal of your energy and time has been dedicated to polishing and refining it, and that you've also really benefitted both from an Arts Council grant and an Arvon course during this period. Can you tell us more about how both of these contributed and enriched the process of working on this collection for you, and what your advice is to others who might be in the early (and sometimes quite daunting) stages of compiling a collection of poetry? 

This was the first time that I was conscious of setting out to write a collection. With previous books, I was just writing poems, following whatever obsessions were with me at the time. At some stage, enough poems reached a mass that felt connected and started to feel like a book and at that time I would start to put them together and follow threads I found in them to write in the gaps. Hide was (hopefully) going to be a collection from the first poem. 

When I first started working on the themes that would become the collection, although it was difficult and uncomfortable it was also new, exciting, so I was thinking about it all the time and working every spare moment. However, there are many pressures on my time: I work full-time for a youth charity, do occasional teaching at the university, run the Buzzwords reading series, am features editor for Iota, and am studying for a PhD. By the time I had a critical mass of about half the poems, I had slowed down and was finding it increasingly difficult to get enough clear head-space to think about the poems and the themes. I applied for the ACE grant in desperation but with no idea whether I stood a chance of getting it so I was really thrilled to be awarded the grant. The grant allowed me to take some unpaid days off from the ‘day-job’ to concentrate on writing and paid for the Arvon course. I had never been on an Arvon course and wasn’t clear about how it would help except that I hoped some concentrated time in a writerly atmosphere had to help me get to grips with the collection. As it turned out, the Arvon course came at just the right time when most of the poems were written (thanks to the extra days off!); it was a tutored retreat and gave me the quality time with the collection I needed to work with it as a whole. Hide would eventually have been completed without the grant, I think, but it would have taken a lot longer and probably been a different book – or at least be missing some of the poems that I consider important to the whole. I am immensely grateful for the ACE grant and the time at Arvon. 

Throughout Hide, a series of 'cunning' poems are subtly interspersed - could you tell us a bit more about these poems and about the themes of cunning, superstition and the unseen that also seem to be integral to this collection? 

‘Cunning’ insinuated itself into the work from the beginning. It is cunning in the sense of the old knowledge, strongly connected to traditional lore, wisdom and superstition and wholly to do with family – specifically my grandparents. My (maternal) family have been in Gloucestershire a very long time and my grandparents, although living in town, were country workers at heart. My grandfather was illiterate and scraped a living by selling garden produce from an allotment. I spent a lot of time in their tiny terraced house and, while they were often ruled by superstition, there was also a sense of otherness, of a knowledge of what could not be seen or explained, particularly with my grandmother who seemed to be able to influence games of chance and could see a shadow in the face of a person who would die soon. It is a peculiar mix; an earthy sense of clairvoyance and pagan beliefs combined with our attending Methodist Sunday School and a matter of fact expectation that relatives came to ‘visit’ after they died. The ‘cunning’ poems needed to be – demanded to be - threaded through the collection because cunning, though never named, was so strong a presence in my childhood and hence so much a part of who I am now. 

It seem so obvious to say that language is clearly important to you as a poet, but I am interested in how language itself, whether spoken, written or as a concept, seems to be something of a slippery and complex character in Hide; in 'Other Tongues' you talk of a mother tongue that "sleeps under your skin" and in other poems like 'Placement' and 'Some of These Things Are True' language is something sampled, tasted, "rolled around on the tongue" like a wine from a rare vintage. What comes across is a sense of language as both something that anchors person and place and yet also provides an opportunity for broader exploration and discoveries -I'd be interested to know more about how language works thematically for you, as well as technically, within your poems?

Yes, you’re right, it is all of those things. I have always enjoyed language (though, as a child, mostly in my head!) but it is slippery and words have power. When I first read about Masaru Emoto’s experiments with the effects of words on water, it felt like confirmation of something we should have always known. My relationship with spoken language is not straightforward; my grandparents were dialect speakers and a large extended family spoke with broad Gloucestershire accents. I, while always being quiet and private, had a voice for public speaking and enjoyed using language that way and was often picked to read the lesson in church. I was sent to elocution and entered into competitive verse speaking and Poetry Society medals from the age of 5 or 6. My ‘mother tongue’ speaks with a Gloucestershire accent and it feels like home when I hear the cadences of old men I meet walking their dogs when I am out walking mine – but at the same time, language has taken me into new places and new ways to grow. I have more words at my disposal than my family ever did but it still feels that the important ones, the ones etched on my bones, come from that old cunning and all it gave me.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Featured Poems: Angela France

Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals, in the UK and abroad and has been anthologised a number of times. She has an MA in ‘Creative and Critical Writing’ from the University of Gloucestershire and is studying for a PhD. Publications include Occupation (Ragged Raven Press) and Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press). Angela is features editor of Iota and runs a monthly poetry cafe, ‘Buzzwords’. Her latest collection, Hide, is out now and published by Nine Arches Press in March 2013.

Photo credit: Derek Adams


Berries blacken and gloss in the late sun,
tempting past any memory of thorns
or scratched shins and my urge to pick them
is sharp as hunger; I need to collect
the mushrooms that glimmer like small moons
in half-light, newspaper-wrap apples
to layer in a tea chest, bottle, blanch
and freeze until it no longer matters
how long, or cold, the winter to come.


Connective tissue creaks between ribs
and marrow shudders in long bones,
shy of the narrowing search. It’s not there,

among the rigid and gristle of skeletal frames
nor under locked skull-seams; not nestled
in a palm, though my fingers curl into shelter.

My belly’s complacent spread has room
to offer soft harbour and the careless attitude
of years; my spine feels shifty, stiff with suspicion.

My only surety is carbon and water, ashes;
language as sensation,
                                 no words.


Quiet now. It’s their turn to visit;
the old aunts and uncles, the great
and grand parents. They visit as we did
—rarely and politely, quiet as we were
in their musty houses where
we were fascinated into silence
by great age, a pendulous lip
or skin like crumpled tissue.

They come singly, slipping in
unnoticed, content to perch on a bed
or lean on a mantelpiece
until they’re seen. They don’t speak,
don’t change position, only nod
or gesture at a picture, a fireplace,
or a vase of flowers, seeding.


                      I like the shape
of the word in my mouth. The sharp angle 
of its beginning, its fulsome end.
                      I like the planes of them,
the sigh of their support as I relax against a wall,
the flat surface they offer to the sun.
                      I like the way they lie, 
mirrored either side of my spine,
how they slide under my skin as I move,
how they quietly hold the potential of wings.


I could practice blindness as the canopy drips in my eyes
and not-knowing as tree becomes all I touch; could rise
with the sap through branch to twig, fragment and divide,

split around whorls in the heart-wood, leave solidity behind
to weigh the roots down with logic, find lightness in travelling
to fine ends where leaves burst from buds and only the smallest

birds can perch to feed. I could become tree and twig,
songbird and owl, and learn to know nothing of what feet feel
from the ground, if I lay down in the rain, now, under the trees.

About Hide by Angela France: 

In Angela France’s third poetry collection, Hide, what is invisible is just as important as what lies within plain sight. Layers of personal history are lifted into the light and old skins are shed for new; things thought lost and vanished long ago are just on the edge of perception, yet certainties before our eyes vanish in the blink of an eye.

These poems possess their own rich heritage of stories and experiences; themes of magic, wisdom, age and absence are woven into the fabric of this skilful and succinct collection. Readers should also keep their wits about them, for these poems are cunning and quick; they hide nothing, but delight in camouflage, disguise and secrets, patiently awaiting someone who will seek.

Buy a copy of Hide here

Read an extract from Hide

Praise for Hide by Angela France:

“France’s writing engages sensitively with the world as she searches for meaning in the ordinary and movingly explores the borders between shared and private experience. These are poems that make an honest deal with discomfort, following the trails and ‘ghostly outlines of existence’ with integrity, thoughtfulness and care.” – Deryn Rees-Jones

“‘Invisibility must be achieved for success’, writes Angela France, revealing one of the truths of why the best poets serve language and are annihilated in the process. Hide is a book of wisdom, dignity and first witness. It offers poems of scrutiny and strength of character. And the poet's language possesses and is possessed by a gloriously sheared weight and shared music.” – David Morley

“Angela France’s new collection is a deft and resonant exploration of the half-hidden, taking us ‘over there’ and ‘in there’ under the hide of the ‘other’ and the liminal spaces they inhabit, all evoked with an uncanny command of language and image.” – Nigel McLoughlin

Publication date: 24th March 2013
Price: £8.99
ISBN: 978-0-9573847-1-2

Friday, 29 March 2013

We return with the sunshine & news of John Donne Day 2013

It's been far too long since I have had time to write on the blog, and this extended winter has mostly been a period of long hours working on several new Nine Arches poetry collections, plus time spent on the new and very exciting Wordsmiths & Co series of events that I've incredibly fortunate to work on with Apples & Snakes, Jo Bell and Warwick Arts Centre (as well as a dozens of eye-opening, mind-broadening & very talented poets) not to mention planning further poetry-related things that you will no doubt hear me talking much more about soon.

Nine Arches has also recently joined Inpress, which is fantastic news;  becoming a member feels like a really important milestone for the press and I am very proud to be in the excellent company of fellow publishers such as Penned in the Margins, Cinnamon, CB Editions, Seren, Arc, Five Leaves and many others. This also means you, book-lovers, now benefit from free postage on all your poetry-goodies via the Inpress Nine Arches online store, which you can find just here. 

As today sees some of the only sustained bouts of Midlands sunshine we've experienced in some time, it seems an apt opportunity to also blow away the cobwebs and dust down the Nine Arches blog for the year ahead.

I will be bringing news very shortly of our new collections, and of some of the events and festivals we are involved in over the coming months. For now, though, some news on something happening very soon that you shouldn't miss if you're in the vicinity of North Warwickshire next week:

It's lovely to have been invited to be a part of John Donne Day in Polesworth next Tuesday 2nd April 2013. This afternoon and evening event will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Donne's Poem - 'Good Friday 1613 Riding Westwards'.

The event takes place at Abbey Church, Polesworth Abbey, (High Street, Polesworth, Warwickshire, B78 1DU) which is a really beautiful and fitting venue for these celebrations.

Workshops, talks, walks, discussions from 2pm. Gala performance of poetry of John Donne and newly commissioned work from 7pm.

Full programme: 
John Donne Day 2013, Tuesday 2 April, 2013, The Abbey Church, Polesworth, Warwickshire. A Made in the Midlands afternoon/evening of talks, walks, readings and performances.

2pm – 2.45pm. Reading ‘Riding Westward’: a seminar on John Donne’s poem, ‘Good-Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ and related poems - Dr Anthony Mellors, Reader in Poetry and Poetics, Birmingham City University
3pm – 4.15pm. Writing in Response: a poetry writing workshop in response to John Donne’s poems and Polesworth Abbey Church – Dr Gregory Leadbetter, Director, Institute of Creative and Critical Writing, Birmingham City University
3pm – 4.15pm. In the Footsteps of Poets: a walking tour of Polesworth Poets’ Trail – Malcolm Dewhirst, writer and developer
3pm – 4.15pm. Reading On: Some Poems to Read in Response to John Donne - Dr Anthony Howe, Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University
5pm – 5.45pm. Reflections on John Donne and his poetry: a chance to share personal views on his work
5.45pm – 7pm. Break: food will be available in Polesworth and nearby villages
7pm – 8.30pm. Riding Westward: A Gala Performance of Poems by John Donne, read by Dr Derek Littlewood and newly commissioned poems from Jane Commane, Malcolm Dewhirst, Jacqui Rowe and Greg Leadbetter

Entry: £9 afternoon & evening. £5 just afternoon or evening.

Find out more by following the twitter feed @johndonneday

Hope to see you there!

Here's to springtime.