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 


  1. Beautiful work. I look forward to reading this collection in full.

  2. Very much looking forward to Mark's collection, Species... his poise and purpose are beautifully syncopated... nice work Nine Arches Press...