In your telling of it, that farm cottage
held all the detailed charm
of a painting – the sun purring
against its white walls, its half-door
opening onto a yard of hens, and
a tractor standing noble in its red coat.
But touch the paint and it will flake
to half-truths and closed spaces,
to bog-dark silences and pain
tight as a body bag. It has more to do
with rough hands and a young girl's
sudden knowing than playful lambs.
This is the dark within the fairy tale,
the old story dressed up for the neighbors.
* Frank Dullaghan is an Irish poet who has been living in Dubai since Sept 2006. His first collection On the Back of the Wind is published by Cinnamon Press in the UK. Whilst living in the UK, he edited the poetry magazine Seam.
the concept of synchronicity – I mean my favourite movies are always brought up
in my favourite TV shows. That means I’m doing something right, right?
Today I ate more pasta than
any human has
2 sittings of
and now I’m
‘fit to burst’, as they say.
I watch the
girl across from me nibble on salad
and sip a
Last night as I lay awake in bed, eyes open –
I thought up
an entire stand-up comedy routine.
about 5 minutes
and it killed
small red table lights and the
For a moment or two I considered jumping out of bed
it all down.
these jokes were that I had just happened upon,
they would work in real life,
I knew that
without any doubt.
But, laziness plus tiredness,
divided by stupidity, stayed my legs
I closed my eyes and concentrated
on the safer
– imagined success of that fragile moment.
You can’t lose if you don’t try, I thought
as I curled
up to her warm back and ass.
my face in her neck of long brown hair
I felt a
little like a failure –
But I was at
least a warm, comfortable
* Dan Bowan lives in South East London and mainly write
prose/poetry, as well as short stories/flash fiction – some of which
have been published in Creative Week newspaper. He adds “I
have been writing for 13-14 years and work a day job to pay the rent.
I've also performed at The Poetry Society in Betterton Street and a
couple other places.”
Luke Wright: High Performance, Nasty Little Press
Poetry is a hybrid art and a pure one. It is pure because, at one level, in its origins, it is spell and cry, an oral art that enchants and conjures. On the other hand, the history of poetry is bound up in writing – in books, on sheets of paper. Then again, once written, it is memorised, consciously or unconsciously. It becomes hybrid. It is performed both internally and externally. It performs itself through the eye and the internalised ear that interprets as it hears.
It varies even in oral performance depending on context. A man or woman whispering a poem to another in a private space, even in an imagined private space – in a prison or hospital, in the desert – is one form of performance. The figure whispering, or saying, or even chanting it aloud while perfectly alone experiences it differently again. A small gathering on a formal ritual occasion – a wedding, a funeral, a vow, a liturgy – experiences a poem in its own way. A verse remembered round a fire differs from one spoken, chanted, sung or dramatised in a public space, whether that is at a party or in a club, at a cabaret of some kind, or in an auditorium.
There are occasions of greater or lesser intimacy. A book, however, is primarily an intimate form. It addresses people individually. The book was a revolution in consciousness in that people far from us physically could address us as though they were present, on a confidential basis. But they were not present of course. They were not in the room. What was, and remains, in the room is the words they have written, that constitute a different notion of presence. The rise of individual consciousness, the responsibility of interpretation, of being treated on an individual basis, cut people from the immediate pressure of groups. The invention of the printed book was a political moment as much as an aesthetic one.
Describing specific spaces, however, does not mean it is easy to draw hard lines between them. Poems are rarely restricted to contexts. The whole nature of poetry is to travel and cross boundaries.
Luke Wright is known primarily as a performance poet – a rightly popular and successful one. The poems he has written specifically for performance address audience conditions, which is not to say they are written to conjure a particular reaction from that audience, except an intelligent, fun-loving pleasure.
His chapbook, published by his own, Nasty Little Press, is in fact titled High Performance. Here, however, the performer is physically absent. The poems have moved from the stage and entered the private room of the ear. Good poems perform themselves there: the music, the wit, the narrative line invite, and depend on, the reader’s concentrated imagination.
The two poems bang in the middle of the collection convey that sense of crossing over. ‘The Launch’ needs no public performance. It walks and talks like any good poem anywhere. ‘Mr Blank’, opposite, tells a story with a more overt eye to a live audience.
Of course he was going to make me a star
I mean, that’s what happens to poets. Right?
That ironic ‘Right’, after the full stop, is a wink waiting to be given. The space between the poem and the reader is filled by the imagined gesture.
Throughout the collection there are in fact poems that hold a page with no necessary live performance in mind: ‘Stansted’ and ‘Family Funeral’ stand out. There is also a poem about Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney, in which Bleaney is revisited as a party creature. I should admit at this point that if I ever had a first instinct about poetry it was that it was the opposite of parties. It was, as Eliot said, ‘an escape from personality’, not the creation of a public persona. I wanted the genuine, not the entertaining.
Mr Bleaney is partly the point. Larkin is to the point. Luke Wright has clearly been reading Larkin. Larkin wrote about the poignancy and vacancy of ordinary life in plain language, with immense skill, and much greater warmth than he is sometimes credited for. The deep resonance of Larkin is a product of his deep humanity: he comprehends the substance of English Everyman and is as tough on, yet as understanding of, English Everyman’s condition as he is on his own. Wright’s poems share the plain language and the essential warmth. If I were an employment agency, I would say he had a fine range of transferable skills. The range he is primarily aware at the moment is his own specific audience, but there is movement towards a more meditative form of writing there, something that requires silence, concentration and solitude. The range he currently has is very much worth having: it gives pleasure with an increasing sense of depth. It is a party with genuine thinking and feeling thrown in.
The best compliment I can pay the book us that Luke Wright on the page is funny, pretty light on his feet, tells a good story, and can compass both wit and pathos. You can read the poems without actually having to have him read them for you.
My Dad used to work for the CAA
in a round building just off High Holborn.
And whilst there he worked on the planning permission
for the control tower at Stansted.
This was the most tangible of his achievements
and whenever Dads were mentioned I’d say:
My Dad was involved with “The Stansted Project”
I’d say: My Dad was the main boss.
And on occasion, to proud freckle-faced boys
Yeah, well, My Dad built Stansted Airport.
And yet I never really knew what he did.
I didn’t know it like I knew
his mahogany trouser-press,
the brass bowl for his change,
the way his cheek felt cold
when he came back from work in the rain
smelling of trains
and the morning’s aftershave.
Or the skeleton clocks he spent his weekends making
meticulous time-keeping under glass domes,
the way he’d rest his hands
on his stomach after we’d eaten
the brown sweater with the hole in the cuff.
Or how his check shirt would show
at the neck of his workshop overalls
the silver popper at the top undone.
And I’ve never asked.
I just see him out on a flat field
that is not yet a runway
clipboard in hand
directing other men
windsock blowing in the breeze.
* George Szirtes is a poet and translator. He has over 40 publications and has won many awards and prizes including the TS Eliot Prize for Reel in 2005. His most recent book of poetry was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and is The Burning of the Books (Bloodaxe 2009. He is currently a Reader in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
* Luke Wright has four solo poetry stage shows: Poet Laureate, Poet & Man, A Poet's Work is Never Done and his current one – The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright. He is currently developing a fifth – Cynical Ballads. His first book: Who Writes this Crap?,
co-written with Joel Stickley, was published by Penguin in 2007. A live
show based on the book enjoyed a sell-out run at Edinburgh 2008.
Sunday Afternoon Conjuring
Our memories, black backwash,
buckle me this afternoon, my silent discourse with you
darkens the day.
I shove you within the holes of my bones,
but you slip out, and I’m trapped in
our universe that no longer exists. I can’t
chew off a foot, rip away flesh to escape.
Can’t take us into the kitchen, cook the past, season it with resolve, use it to
sop up the gravy of regret, or throw the left over chunks off my patio
into the trees for feral cats and raccoons to eat when the night is darkest.
I conjure you, piercing myself, meticulously,
the way I stick earrings through my lobes
each morning to look pretty; your ghost appears,
knows just when to slide up along my back, brush gently
against my neck, as I lift my chin, close my eyes. I look for cleansing
in new blood but fear clots
blocking my heart, my brain.
Ach du liebe gott. Your passion could make me forget about God.
On these afternoons, I stare out windows,
past trees, past buildings,
into voids where I push, hard,
but seems only through you I breathe,
our hands locked, keeping the band on my finger warm,
as spring begins and dies.
* Carmen Eichman
earned her Masters Degree in Creative Writing & Literature from
Kansas State University and is now an Assistant Professor of English & Honors Chair, living in North Carolina. Eichman’s poetry has
appeared in A
Little Poetry, All Things Girl, The Argotist Online, Subtle Tea,
Invisible Ink, The Dan River Review, Borderline, Thick with Conviction,
and Contemporary American Voices
to name a few. She is currently at work on her fourth novel and third
collection of poetry.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the poetry scene – and one of the original motivations for setting up Ink Sweat & Tears in the first place – is that hazy borderline between poetry and prose, when poetry becomes prose poetry… or is it literary flash fiction?
The balcony was cast in silver moon light. Traffic lights illuminated the sidewalks as people hurried along. He was aware of horns blaring and a siren in the distance. He was alone again with only the stars for company. Once he had believed in wishing upon the stars; now he felt the stars and his wishes were his enemies. She was gone – no explanation – and he hated knowing that she could go on without him. Now only the night understood him and how lonely he was. He embraced the darkness, and for one brief moment, thought he had caught sight of her moving through the crowd and coming toward him, her eyes filled with regret.
* Christina Murphy's writing has been published in a number of journals including most recently Short, Fast, and Deadly, Foundling Review, and Right Hand Pointing. Her work has received an Editor's Choice Award and has been a finalist for national awards from Glimmer Train, Crab Orchard Review, and Open Thread.
March Train Journey, Norfolk
Some daffodils left looking at each other.
A grouse, sidling along trying to avoid its destiny,
overdressed in the fields
with the amazing white collar
and the bright red suit, blue tie.
A lolloping hare dashing off across a wide field
startled by the 2.30 pm train.
Newly-turned soil on allotments.
The cramped madhouses of railway-crossing cottages,
their haphazard cluttered gardens.
The Broads, where the land decides
where the sea ends and soil begins
and all the
time the sky has more to give,
more to deliver.
Nothing else is here.
Not worth breaking that horizon with trees,
their tempting silhouettes.
Only the station names huddle the landscape
into human order –
Reedham, Haddiscoe, Berney Arms, Lowestoft,
stuttering towards the coast
and the accomplished journey
towards that dash and thrust of tides.
* Pat Jourdan's latest book is the novel Finding
and her poetry has been included in last year's Sutton Hoo Poetry Festival and the Voicing
Norwich Twenty Group Exhibition. Earlier this year her poem In the House of the Deceased was featured in the Daily Mirror. Her website is www.patjourdan.co.uk
* Vince Laws
is interested in pushing poetry off the page into performance,
paintings, film, etc. Hear him perform The Small Frayed Knot at: http://www.futureradio.co.uk/podcast/2010/february/platform-280210
This Is What You Did To My Head II will be on display at St Margaret’s Church, St Benedict’s, Norwich from April 11-24.