Smells as Sweet
He said it with flowers: one dozen red roses to smother love and patch a broken heart. It wasn’t enough. A thousand roses wouldn’t have been able to stem the pain that he caused.
But that was twenty years ago. I was a different woman when Facebook told me that Roger Smith had sent a friend request.
It came as a shock, seeing that name on my computer screen. I didn’t even have a computer when he left me with nothing more than a handful of thorns. Seeing his name appearing like that, as though it was just any other name, caused me to draw in my breath and bite my bottom lip.
I stood up from the desk in the front room and walked through to the conservatory. I gazed out, over the order of the trimmed lawn, past the disused but still-loved climbing frame and swing, to the deep rose-beds at the back. They were in full bloom: oranges and yellows mixed with purples and whites. No reds.
I thought about Bill and the kids, and the way that time passes. It doesn’t heal wounds, like they say, it lays plasters over them. And all it took was a name on a screen to rip the plaster off and restart the bleeding.
Well, I decided. I wasn’t going to allow this.
Back at my computer, I searched for what I needed. And before I clicked on the ‘Ignore’ button, and the ‘Block’ button, I made sure I’d posted a picture on his Wall of a suitably bloody bouquet.
Calum Kerr is the author of 31, Braking Distance, Undead at Heart and many short stories and flash fictions. He is a lecturer, an editor, and is the Director of the UK’s National Flash-Fiction Day. His new flash-fiction collection, Lost Property, from which Smells as Sweet is taken, is out now. Order your copy hereRead More
The Café Writers Norfolk Commission was established five years ago by the Norwich-based writers network Café Writers, in collaboration with Ink Sweat & Tears, under the patronage of Kate Birch and Dominic Christian, and published by Gatehouse Press.
Every year, Norfolk poets are invited to submit a proposal for a new body of work that responds to Norfolk in some way. Andrea Holland’s winning proposal Broadcasting focussed around the war effort in Breckland and what particularly interested the judges was that Andrea wanted to explore almost-forgotten local history.
Andrea writes on her website: ‘The names of villages and the people who had to leave their homes in July 1942 became real to me after my second visit to the Thetford STANTA (Stanford Training Area) military base in May 2012. In a chilly Nissan hut I spent hours staring at black and white photos which had been donated to STANTA by ex-residents; each wall of the room had the name of one of the villages above it: Stanford, West Tofts, Sturston, Tottington, Buckenham Tofts.
I knew that I would have to write about both real and imaginary villagers who gave up their homes and their land, for what would have been described as ‘the war effort’. So in that cold Nissan hut at STANTA, many of the villagers in photos stuck on the walls began to talk to me…’
Here are three poems from Broadcasting, which is launched this evening at Cafe Writers, Take 5 in Tombland, Norwich.
- Mousehall cottages are asleep with bramble,
the pin pricks of a fierce witch riding on the wind.
A wasp knocks at the window, cracked chimneys
whistle in the like of a farmer for his dog.
The bricks shift in their sleep, remembering kitchen
fires and children. The dog at the heels
of an orphan lamb.
- Birds and weed sew seed in the crop-less field,
hand-stitched into sleep: white bryony, nettles,
fat hen and night shade. We are broadcasting
with them. We are rooted in the sestina of sleep
and seed. The ring of pines which line the fields
watch over thirteen-thousand sheep who ignore
the trees’ summons, come by, come by.
for breakfast, a little gritty off the bone
but meat is meat and the rest is for
the chickens and dog.
Cold rabbit for lunch and windfalls
a blessing, for afters.
Rabbit for supper in a grey stew,
propped up by fat parsnips and potatoes
knuckled with gout.
Sinew, pelt, claw and bone: the trap
as provider, above churn or chicken.
The black skins of rabbit lie
across Nana’s knees as the fire
The rabbits dream of warreners,
legs jerking as if already caught by the black
The warreners dream of rabbits,
fingers jumping as if to ready for the snap
of each small neck.
Five Prepositions at the Village School
five bicycles of seven in the racks
need oil in the chain. Just before playtime,
the roof shakes under machine gun strafe
like freak hail.
the shale-coloured slate the school walls
tremble: They learn the German for punish
is strafe, as in Gott Strafe England.
pale lidded desks, amongst inkwells stained
with the knowledge of blue, children continue
their sums: Adding up and subtraction is easy,
division is more difficult for some.
the cloakroom door, a boy touches the waist
of a nervous girl; his father is in France,
in six weeks time their house will be empty.
the playground, boys count empty casings
and girls cartwheel home, both firmly
located in space and time.
Andrea Holland’s first collection Borrowed was published by Smith/Doorstop Press. She was a runner-up for the 2010 Mslexia poetry competition. She also writes short stories and has been commissioned to work with visual artists for several collaborative projects, including for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and for Creative Arts East. Andrea teaches Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and works as a freelance editor, as an Editor for The Poetry Archive and tutor in writing and English as a second language.
On Friday, US poet Charles O Hartman (current Professor and Poet in Residence at Connecticut College) contacted us to let us know that the poem ‘Dead Wife Singing’, posted on IS&T on 8th April, is virtually identical to ‘A Little Song’ which he wrote more than three decades ago and subsequently published in his collections of 1982 & 2008.
We quickly removed the poem from the site and have also sidelined any further contributions from the plagiarist (who, to his credit, has apologised) after it was revealed that his practice was widespread. We will do the same to any contributor found to have committed extensive plagiarism even if IS&T is not initially affected.
We do not take plagiarism lightly. Actions like this devalue our webzine, hurt the reputation of poetry in general and are an affront to the creative efforts and emotional experiences of the plundered poets. As frustrating as it may be to be at the end of constant rejection slips and emails, please believe that your worst poem is far better than a cut and paste version of someone else’s. And there are any number of residential weeks, courses, surgeries and on-line feedback services (including our own) to help hone your craft.
From now on, we will be conducting random checks on accepted submissions. However, we cannot catch everything and we therefore encourage anyone who suspects that one of our posts may be ‘borrowing’, in whole or in part, to let us know immediately.
Professor Hartman’s original, emphatically superior and quite breathtaking ‘A Little Song’, can be found in his collection The Pigfoot Rebellion archived in the Contemporary American Poetry Archive (CAPA)
Kate Birch Publisher IS&TRead More
A poem and an interview with Jennifer Grey, the 2012 recipient of the new Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia.
Seven Conversations with the Undertaker
You turn the lights on when you come home: tobaccoflame, click, spark.
You put splinters in your hands at work again, shutting the lids one by one. You close your eyes. I ask about tetanus jabs. You put your green thumbpalm on my blue wristvein, stifle the pulse.
you touch my hand/my bones fray/your bones touch/my hand is frayed/you fray my touch/my hand bones/hands on bones/you fray me/you fray me
We turn our backs in bed. Your fingertips leave cysts, hiving up my breast. I count them one on one on one.
At the dinner table, you fiddle with your fork. I send you smoke signals. You lick out the ashtray.
i dreamed my lungs – grew little trees – within each alveoli – which grew and shed – and split out through me – slid right through my ribs - my god just watch me grow a headdress headstone headpiece over this
At the twelve week scan, doctors slam out cardiacspeak. You send a text: don’t wait up.
1. Where do you write? (do you have an office, room, bus journey that you find yourself and your writing?)
I mainly write in my bedroom with the curtains closed, sometimes in the absolute dark. This can make it very hard to see what I’m doing. I also have to have black tea, no sugar, preferably by the gallon.
2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)
I always write onto a computer. I’m a big fan of the delete key. My notebooks are just lots of lines crossed out for the first three pages and then blank, because the mess has upset me so much I’ve been forced to abandon the notebook.
3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)
I’d like to say I try for at least seven hours (an hour a day) but that might be a lie. Sometimes lots more, sometimes lots less. It depends how much tea there is in the house.
4. What time of day do you usually write?
Any of the times during which I can wear pyjamas. I’d like to say that means either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but it’s more likely to actually be halfway through Sunday lunch. I like pyjamas.
5. What does it feel like to write?
Like a cross between a massive relief and a massive panic attack. Exactly like falling into a fast flowing river and simultaneously remembering that you’re both an Olympic standard swimmer and hydrophobic.
6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?
If I could pinpoint that, I’d be a much better writer! Or at least a more prolific one. I tend to be in the middle of something completely unrelated and just find myself playing word games in my head. If I find them acceptable, I write them down.
7. What are you working on now?
A poem for the Writers’ Centre Norwich 26 for Norwich project about the writer Amelia Opie. Unfortunately, all of the poems I’ve tried to write about Amelia Opie recently have ended up being about something completely unrelated, such as the Apocalypse, which is a bit daunting.
This annual Scholarship is available for students wishing to study for the MA Creative Writing: Poetry degree course and will contribute to the recipient’s full course fees for one year. Established by Kate Birch, a friend of the University, the Scholarship is named after Ink Sweat & Tears – a creative writing webzine run by Kate and edited by Bloodaxe poet Helen Ivory – which celebrates poetry, prose poetry and short fiction and promotes work that combines word and image. The Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship will be awarded by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) on the recommendation of a Selection Committee from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Find out more about the IS&T Scholarship here.
The 2012 Poetry Festival is less than a week away and from tomorrow, Ink Sweat and Tears will be featuring poems on the theme ‘Poetry as a Lifeline’ which is the subject of the IS&T-supported Discussions and Short Takes this year. Contributors include a number of the poets involved in these events and we are also featuring a poem, from Short Takes poet Andrea Porter, on our new postcards which will be available at the Snape venues.Read More
Ink Sweat and Tears is thrilled to announce that we are once again supporting the Discussion and its associated Short Takes at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, which runs from 2-4 November.
The theme of this year’s Discussion is ‘Poetry as a Lifeline’ which topic will be debated and dissected, vigorously no doubt, on the Saturday afternoon by Ingrid de Kok, Fellow and Professor in Extra Mural Studies at the University of Cape Town, Palestinian- American physician and translator Fady Joudah, Jackie Kay, professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle (who also brings a Nigerian perspective to the table) and Palestinian novelist, editor and poet Ghassan Zaqtan. This collective of ’intimate knowledge of the way that poetry can offer survival strategies when faced with a range of extreme situations’ will be chaired by Robert Seatter.
In the perfect little 15 minute vignettes that are the Short Takes, D. Nurkse, Andrea Porter, Sam Willets and Warsan Shire will all ‘speak for themselves’ on the theme.
For the week leading up to the Festival and throughout it, we will be posting work on the ‘Lifeline’ theme and invite anyone interested in being a part of this to submit in the usual way with the Subject Heading ‘IS&T SUBMISSIONS: LIFELINE.’ Closing date for submissions will be 10th October.
And if all this does not have you excited about Aldeburgh then have a look at the short film here from The Poetry Trust that looks at the Festival’s journey over the years and its natural expansion into the superb facilities at Snape Maltings.Read More
Based at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library and launched on this year’s World Book Night with readings from George Szirtes and Heidi Williamson, Poetry Unbound is a new project which aims to extend the audience for contemporary poetry in Norfolk by showcasing the work of local poets in the UK’s busiest public library. Open to submissions from poets of all ages and levels of experience, the project comprises a prominent display of the poems selected on the library’s ground floor along with a new collection of poetry titles and regular poetry events. Selected poems will also be added to an online archive to be enjoyed by readers around the globe.