Christopher Prewitt

 

 

 

Cowboy Church

After I came out of the coma,
it was explained to me that
I had (repeatedly) tied

cherry stems with my tongue.
Reporters in attendance
of my waking took pictures,

and a few shook my hand.
My girlfriend, who believes mountain lions
sleep on her couch when she’s not

home (or she did prior to my
leave of absence from the world
of the willingly asleep

or awake), was clearly fishing
in her little handbag for mace.
“Who fed him cherries? He’s

allergic to cherries.” The doctor
rebuked her. “No one fed him
cherries. We simply brought him

stems to demonstrate his talent.”
My bed sheets were stained
with moth wings. It looked like sleet

was coming down on the hospital
from my window. My girlfriend’s
fake eyelashes were detaching.

I felt incredible guilt for creating wonder
unsolicited despite the apparent
danger. I squeezed my girlfriend’s

hand. “You have seen the true
me. You have seen how in this
dirty dishwater colored brain

there are mother birds flying
to the wrong nests, feeding their babies
lemon seeds and fire. For my part

I am so sorry, and I love you.”
With that my head dislodged
and floated over my bed.

Looking down at my body,
I couldn’t recall when I had been
bisected.

 

 

Christopher Prewitt‘s collection of poems, Paradise Hammer, won the 2018 James Tate Poetry Prize (SurVision Books, Dublin).

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Nicholas McGaughey

 

 

 

Cold Kitchen

Willow has bred in the cold of our kitchen
like some internal coppice;
where hot cakes and rolls cooled on racks,
we have “Shoppers” and wreaths

and little else between us,
as she grapples stalks with steel fingers,
weaving the bonds that together
nothing can break.

 

 

 

Nicholas McGaughey is part of Literature Wales Mentoring Scheme 2019/20. He has new work in  Prole, Marble  Poetry and Poems About Running (Smith/Doorstop.)

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Laura Potts

 

 

 Swansea Son

He is here in my autumn of age
the riverlight through windowpanes,
the small-hour laughter,
the slim-supple night
and moonlight eyes on the history page.

I remember his name that giggled the stars
when the stage of the world lit its lights for him,
and I, summer’s daughter,
he Swansea’s son
whose words in the plash of the water
we hear in the echoes of hills. Still

the ghost in my arms in the cracked black night,
still in stairwells the old grey light that writes
of the deer shaping the dales, that writes
of bonfire-bright old ale, that writes
of Death in His coat and tails.

You, man of words with the firefly eyes,
who didn’t stay to see the wild spring flowers
riot on the mountainside, who died
like a steeple that cradles its bones,
and whose voice now sleeps beneath Wales’ stones;

you, my lone man with the light, lord of all words,
whether I’m there with you or not, well, that’s alright.
 

 

Laura Potts, twice-recipient of the Foyle Young Poets Award, became one of the BBC’s New Voices last year. She received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018 and was nominated for The Forward Prize in 2019. Website: https://laurapottspoetry.com/

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Holly Magill

 

Tuesdays she is a cat

Sadly it never happens Fridays;
there would be more chance of fish.
Even in this she is fated
to be left wanting.

No loved one to present mouse heads to,
she crunches the lot herself –
calcium beneficial to ageing bones,

stalks the village, aloof,
darting away from human attention,
tail up, claws ready.

She is still very much herself.

Late afternoons, stretched in a sunspot
behind an abandoned bungalow,
she licks her paws, draws them back
soft over her skull to wash silken ears.

Dawn Wednesday always the end of it,
so night is to be savoured,
green eyes watchful for the shop’s delivery of milk.

 

 

 

Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, and Under The Radar, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – www.atriumpoetry.com. Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/holly-magill/4594330527

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Melissa Todd reviews ‘On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea’ by Maggie Harris

 

On Watching cover

 

I had the luck to watch Maggie Harris launch this collection at Tongue Punch, the Tom Thumb theatre’s monthly poetry night in Margate. The lilting cadences of her not-quite-placeable accent gave a glide and a swoop to her words, sending them soaring breathless over the storm-dark seas she refers to over and over in this collection. I fretted the work might not jump off the page with quite so much energy when I read it alone. But I fretted needlessly: her words are quite capable of standing without assistance. It’s perhaps vulgar to mention this of a poetry collection, but heavens, she gives you plenty of words for your wad – 66 solid poems, count em, none that can safely be skipped over, each a delight that deserves to be properly pondered.

The collection is divided by geography, the places that have informed and proved crucial to her life and work – Wales, England, Guyana, Ireland and Elsewhere. Landscape drives her lines, and also informs her identity: the poet seems as divided and torn by place as do her creations. In ‘Not Home’, part of the Wales section, we see her strung out between her various locations, one by birth, one by choice. Wales, in spite of the rugged, aggressive beauty which “flings itself in my face”, she decides she cannot call home.

The soil, the trees, the wind-hewn rocks, are all constant characters in this collection. “These staggered rocks”, “Budding heads of unnamed weeds”; “The wind is cutting and we’re keening after the thrill of watching the land slip away with a sigh.” No sight nor smell of her adopted terrain passes her pen by.

In the opening four part title poem, she spies a lemon bobbing, blowing across the sea, washed to Wales from – who knows where? Instantly we are transported to Maggie’s Guyana childhood, and the lemonade, “sprinkled with Demerara”, which her mother made. Before we say goodbye to the “self-contained cargo ship” at the end of part four, she has summoned plantations  – “I do not remember lemons, but limes”; her aunt – “arms thin as bamboo”; the “split-bellied” “slack-jawed fish” for whom a lemon might be destined. Instead, solitary,  lost between lands, incongruous and purposeless, it sits waiting. “But I/unsure of your heritage/refused you.”

In part two she describes setting the lemon free, “fresh and sharp as a sun-bright wind-cut winter’s day”, charting the waves crash and roar, cascading over the page with a fierce, insistent sensuality that leaves you tasting the salt on your tongue. At last the lemon rolls away on the tide, lost to view.  Instead Harris takes up its journey round the globe, through the landscapes that have sheltered and formed her. And that same sense of incongruity, of being found purposeless, in the wrong place, identity and geography at constant odds, goes with her.

The family members which geographical features unite or divide are also critical to this collection. Harris has the ability to tease out the tiny moments that mean the most: the sound of her mother’s voice “in our home rhythms”, her husband, “full with the love of birds”; “children braving the boundless waves”. Beautiful, touching observations which flavour her images like aromatic herbs. She returns to the sea over and over, her rhythmic, lyrical poetry equally brutal, relentless and awe-inspiring.

In this collection Harris has created a work which endlessly reflects upon itself, not discursively, but within its very fabric. It’s a meditation on the redeeming role of language to those without identity, and makes the crisis of an uncertain sense of self into its central core.

 

 

Melissa Todd is a writer and performer from East Kent and the director of Hags Ahoy Theatre Company. She is currently writing a book with award winning poet Matt Chamberlain.

 

Maggie Harris‘s On Watching a Lemon Sail the Sea is published by Cane Arrow Press and available here: http://www.canearrowpress.com/books.htm

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‘Truth’ for National Poetry Day: Sharon Philips, David Van-Cauter, Terry Quinn

 

 

 

Something’s wrong

This is how it will start:
from the other side of a room
you’ll hear your mum talk, loud
but so fast you won’t be able

to follow and she will see
you’re looking so she’ll come
over and pull you aside.

Listen to me, she will say,
I’ve got something to tell you,
and you will think of cancer—
breast, perhaps, or womb—

but her eyes will be wide open,
and her teeth will shine with spit
and she’ll pant a little laugh

before she tells you that she is
the Holy Ghost and you will
stare at the flakes of mascara
beneath her lashes before you

turn your back. Years later
you will feel her strong fingers
clutching at your bicep.

 

 

Sharon Philips started learning to write poems a few years ago, after she retired from her career in education. Her poems have been published online and in print, and have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2017), the Indigo Firsts pamphlet competition (2018) and the WoLF Poetry Competition (2019). Sharon won the Borderlines Poetry Competition in 2017 and was among the winners of the Poetry Society Members’ Competition in November 2018. She lives in Otley, West Yorkshire.

 

 

 

Meerkats

My mother has stuck meerkats to her bins.
I ask her why.
She says because the butterflies have peeled off.
That makes sense, I reply.

In town, she tells me how spectacular
the markets used to be:
the space
the open air
An elbow hits my back.
A man yells in my face.

At the house, there are jobs
involving reaching things, and bulbs.
Working through each chore,
I mark it off, implore her
to remove the stains
the house is burdened with, the pain
of loss that clings to every dusty book
and stands upright, expectantly, to look.

As I leave, the nervous tom
scurries away from my touch.
I try hard not to read too much
into that –
after all, it’s just a cat.

 

 

David Van-Cauter’s  pamphlet Mirror Lake was published in 2019 by Arenig Press. He was runner-up in the Ver Prize 2019.

 

 

 

Getting the Point

It’s getting to the point
of a small rearrangement
in how things were.
Not exactly a lie,
I did have a girlfriend,
she was called Eileen,
and she did, does, live in Hammersmith.
But she didn’t,
as far as I know,
drive a Ferrari
into the lake at Kew Gardens
after an argument
about a duel I’d fought
with Simon Armitage
about her honour
or the placing of a comma
in the Dead Sea Poems.
One or the other,
it doesn’t matter.
The point is that these days
you need an edge,
a little something
that’s hard to find
in another poem
about finding your Father’s pipe
or a lost letter from a lost love
about snow falling on Blackburn
or a night spent talking
about that Al Gore film.

 

 

Terry Quinn worked in Medical Engineering.  The Amen of Knowledge won the Geoff Steven’s Memorial Prize. He has a collection with Julie Maclean To Have to Follow from Indigo Pamphlets.

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‘Truth’ for National Poetry Day: Justina Hart, Paul Jeffcutt, Clarissa Aykroyd

 

 

 

To the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London

Release your black charges from their cages –
Gripp, Harris, Rocky, Merlin, Erin, Jubilee –
six to save the country, as Charles II decreed:
with a spare, Poppy, born and bred for Brexit.
Glue back their primary feathers for balance.
Feed them blood-soaked biscuits, gralloch,
whole rabbits complete with fur and bones.
Whistle to them, await the rich metallic caw.

Now see your charges soar above the nation,
alight on a billowing blue flag, peck out
gold stars. Watch them swoop on Westminster,
pluck out the tongue of every MP. Observe
how they descend in an unkindness on Britain’s
soft belly, biting green fields till they’re bare.
Then cry as the White Tower of London tumbles,
the White Cliffs of Dover crumble to the sea.

 

 

Justina Hart is a poet, performer and novelist who received a British Council/Arts Council award in 2018 to tour her work in Australia. Her Remapping pamphlet was shortlisted in the Poetry School’s 2014 pamphlet competition. www.justinahart.com, @justinahart

Note: This poem was shortlisted in the 2019 Second Light poetry competition.

 

 

 

Due

Tibulus the freed-man of Venustus
wrote with an iron stylus
in lamp-blackened beeswax
coated on a tablet of fir
to Gratus the freed-man of Spurius,
one hundred and five Denarii he owed
for merchandise sold and delivered to him
in Londinium six days before the Ides of January.

One thousand nine hundred and fifty seven years later
the tablet was found preserved in mud
as foundations were dug in the City.
The beeswax gone,
his debt remained
etched in wood.

 

 

Paul  Jeffcutt lives in the Brontë Country of Northern Ireland.  His debut collection, Latch, was published by Lagan Press (2010). Recently his poems have appeared in The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Orbis, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Vallum. Website: http://www.pauljeffcutt.net/

 

 

 

‘Speaks true who speaks shadow’
i.m. Alexander Litvinenko

What is said
Agreed
In boardrooms

Words
The translation
Into day violence

Your eyes
Still living
Into us

 

 

Clarissa Aykroyd grew up in Victoria, Canada and now lives in London, where she works as a publisher. Her work has appeared in international journals and anthologies, and her first pamphlet Island of Towers will be published by Broken Sleep Books in October 2019. She is the author of a blog on poetry and poets, The Stone and the Star https://thestoneandthestar.blogspot.com/  

 

Note: The title of this poem is taken from Paul Celan’s poem Speak you too, translated by John Felstiner.

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