Leslie Philibert

 

 

 

Snow Train

As the snow is
tidal in the trees,
consider the tracks

and the dark tons
asthmatic with steam,
cold as the moon`s slight,

black as the star`s hide,
perfect as a pulse of wheel;
dead crate of steel

that rests and waits,
then moves by magic
through the ice night.

 

 

Leslie Philibert is a social worker and poet living in Bavaria.Born in London, he studied English in Ireland.  He has translated some work for German theatre groups and has had poetry published in magazines.

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Sally Evans reviews ‘Abiding Chemistry’ by Susan Castillo Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Writers of reviews often know more about an author than can be adduced directly from the book. This is often due to the author’s known oevre and career, or to previous discussions that have taken place in the literary arena. But sometimes one’s knowledge has been less widely shared. Discussing a book in relation to its author has been epitomised dismissively as “what the artist had for breakfast,” but certainly most reading will benefit from some additional knowledge about the circumstances surrounding a book.

 Abiding Chemistry for me comes into this category. I, and many others (though not the poetry establishment), know a good deal about the background to these poems. We remember the author as the first woman Professor of English Literature at Glasgow University, as the poet of her first poetry book The Candlewoman’s Trade (2003). We recognise her as a scholar of Southern American literature who has travelled the world as professor, examiner, speaker, and as an American lady who has very much settled in England and Europe.

It is from her poems that we know of her Louisiana childhood, her extraordinary and at times traumatic family (here shown compactly in a few poems on pages 13-20), and in them that we read through these expertly sequenced poems, her memorial and tribute to her husband, who died unexpectedly at their newly acquired Sussex country home, less than three years after their relationship began.

This story too is already in the public (though not literary) domain. In an amazingly open, intense and moving blog, The News on the Street, followed by many people all over the world, Susan Castillo Street wrote of the crisis when her husband fell in their home and suffered a head injury, and of the weeks of uncertainty while he remained in a coma. That blog came to its end and Susan writes a new blog now, but it is all still available.
Abiding Chemistry is a book about recovery. The voice of these poems is independent, charting a deep and important relationship and looking round to the world of family and place, before and after these events.

The poems are not limited by national traditions. They are not in either the current English or American style. Though she now lives in the south of England and has made contact with poetry groups there, and the author seems to regard Sussex as her home, her previous academic stint in Glasgow brought her into contact with Philip Hobsbaum and major Scottish poets. Where does an international writer fit in?

The voice is intellectual and often catches parable-like conclusions. In the first and title poem:

Perhaps love is its other name,
this abiding chemistry
that binds the fragments close.

and in Question:

I point up at the sky.
“The Big Dipper” I tell my child.
“A question mark,” she says.

There is droll humour elsewhere:

the rope gravediggers use
south of the Mason-Dixon line
is springy bungee cord.
up the shadows burst once more
in showers of dark soil

and:

You always used to steal the duvet.
One day when we lie together
deep in Sussex soil, you’ll be up
to your old tricks.

and daring in some:

They say that at the moment an atomic bomb explodes
outlines shimmer, colours radiate out
shadows of what was imprinted on the walls
time slows, stops, crystallised
in all its fractures.

Moving from an awareness of her early family at the start of the book, to closeness with her granddaughter in the last poem, the poet places the three year love affair in the context of her adventurous life with success and dignity, in a clear poetry that smiles out from every line.
The actual publication is American in style, and the project has been completed with alacrity and practicality, presenting as it does an essentially memorial volume, while also being worthy of an academic and a poet.

 

 

Order your copy of Abiding Chemistry by Susan Castillo Street, published by Aldrich Press here

 

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Rehan Qayoom

 

 

 

Speak

after Faiz

Speak, because your lips are free
Speak, because you have a tongue
Because your golden body belongs only to you
Because you are still alive
See how in the blacksmith’s shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.
Speak, for this moment is long enough
Before the death of the body and the tongue
Speak, because the truth lives yet
Speak, say what you have to

 

 

 

Rehan Qayoom is a poet, editor and translator educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work at international venues. He has published 2 books of poetry.

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Danielle Hope

 

 

 

Cliff

You don’t remember this point?
A stone cottage balanced on a cliff.
It was spring, the previous guests left
thrift in an egg cup on the shelf.

You don’t remember the subterfuges -
changing history as easy as making tea.
White foam wore down stones
the bread tasted sugary.

You strolled down to the beech
along the paths of sheep
thought you saw a grey seal
beyond the place the wreakers used.

You swore you would never return -
seaweed wrote warnings on the sand.
But now you can’t recall
who was spared and who drowned.

 

 

Danielle Hope is a poet and doctor, originally from Lancashire, now living in London. She founded and edited Zenos, a British and international poetry magazine, worked for Survivors’ poetry, and is currently advisory editor for Acumen Literary Magazine. Her work has been published widely in magazines, anthologies and on the London Underground. She has published 4 collections with Rockingham press. Website www.daniellehope.org      Twitter @Danielle_Poet

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Monica Corish

 

 

 

Seven Winters
for Trish Howley

Once I lived beneath a lemon tree,
wore sandals all year long,

air on my skin, mud squelching
between my toes after sudden rain.

Seven winters have passed
since I last saw Africa, and I miss her:

a large and exuberant friend
who wears colours that clash,

who laughs louder than anyone else
in the restaurant, who sucks lustily on crab claws,

on the sour bite of a lemon.
I want to live with her again.

I want to make my house in a corner
of her courtyard, to smell like her,

of sandalwood, to watch her enormous
and flexible hips as she dances.

I want to live for one season more in a land
where rain is always a blessing.

O Summer, O Africa, O deathless Mama,
make a place for me at your table.

 

 

Monica Corish‘s poetry has been published widely, including Poetry Ireland, Orbis, The North, Causeway/Cabhsair, Artemis, THE SHOp, Cyphers, New Irish Writing and The Stinging Fly. Her first collection, Slow Mysteries, was published by Doghouse. www.monicacorish.ie

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Angela Readman for National Flash Fiction Day

 

 

 

So, You Think Your Mother is a Gorgon?

You suspect it when she looks at you and you freeze, unable to apologise, or leave. The words you could say are stones in your mouth, falling down your throat.

Observe her carefully to know for sure. Certainty can take years. Does your mother stare outside, look at the floor when the postman arrives? She answers the door in a bathrobe, hood pulled low. When’s the last time she met your eye? There’s a chance she’s afraid.

Consider the bathroom drawer, rattling with lipstick, powder, foundations. She stares into the mirror for so long some nights when she pulls away she looks surprised that she can. Does she lack the ability to leave the house without putting on her face, plastering it on? Has she been known to say, ‘Wearing sunglasses saves lives?’

There’s a chance she’s a gorgon. Look at how she moves, slowly, dragging herself off the couch, slanket stapled to the hip. Think about it, how often have you seen her legs bare? When’s the last time she danced? Count her shoes, pair after pair, bought, left in the box in the wardrobe, waiting to go some place nice. For some, some place nice never comes. There’s a reason she’s never had a pedicure. Are you sure of her feet?

Look at your father, when did you last see him shift? Does your mother dust around him, posted in front of the TV? Watch the way she sidles up to his cool open palm, curls hers into his like a sock rolled into a ball, and slinks off. Have you ever seen him slap her behind? Grab her, suddenly, kiss her for no reason, waltz in B&Q? Does he resemble a garden gnome?

There has to be a reason for so many concrete statues in her small garden: hedgehogs, spaniels, ducks, turtles, and so many boys. Notice how she lingers, watering the lawn, strokes the chests of stone men, a finger groove worn over their still hearts. Look away as she peels moss off speechless lips, tender as uncovering a kiss lost in thought.

This can happen to the best of us, don’t judge. There’s a chance your mother’s in recovery, know the signs. Has she suddenly,quit her landscape features business? Ditched her snakeskin crafts Etsy store? There are always curlers in her hair, always. Study her hands, the scales falling like rain, bites on her fingertips healing a little each day.

Look at her Things To Do List stuck the fridge 1) Try not to be a gorgon today. Observe the tattoo on her wrist of the face of her youth, the red bar across it like a No Smoking Sign. She stares at it, rips up old photographs and says: That’s not who I am now.

It is a battle keep gorganism bay, learn the signs, let her invite the guy from the reptile store over for dinner, struggle to understand his jokes. She is learning to laugh likes someone with instructions. The candle is lit on the table, spits. She listens to the soft hiss, fidgets with the wax.

You will find her in the kitchen clearing the plates, alone, clumps of spaghetti in her hand, fingers swirling, swirling the lengths. Tell her you understand.

 

 

 

Angela Readman‘s stories have been winners of The National Flash Fiction Day Competition and The Costa Short Story Award. Her debut collection, Don’t Try This at Home was recently published by And Other Stories. It won a Saboteur Award in 2015.

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Vasiliki Albedo Bennu

 

 

 

Landowner

You say you don’t remember
the time you slashed
your razor-palm across my cheeks.

When I fell to meet your shoe,
a flint of rage stabbed my gut again.
I remember well.

My friend from school was there.
When you were done she hurried home,
I crammed coins and clothes into my bag and left.

Two streets down you found me, rolled up
in your car with daisies from the garden.
I couldn’t leave. You are forever

folded within. Sending me flowers
with the right hand, while your left
is over my mouth.

Nights, when I have no defense
you jolt into my dreams to plough
your little plot within my heart.

 

 

 

Vasiliki Albedo Bennu has recently moved to Greece and works with renewable energy development. In her spare time she writes poetry, trains in martial arts and practices pouncing and stretching with her cat Bruce Lee. She has had poems published In The South Bank Poetry Magazine, the Ofi Press Magazine and Belleville Park Pages.

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