The Stolen Child
I am the stolen child,
peasant of air,
with my gift of spring,
who plays with animals of light.
In crowded cities owners
of death pay me in trances.
I shine like the sun of blood.
Outcasts with blind stories
stare at my religions.
I find a way made of coarse
rope and steel convulsions.
I stand on a platform without eyes.
I share in the fate of broken revelations.
I fall like smoke out of unknown stars,
treading water in a sea of crimes.
All around me I search for silver
spires and masks of hidden races.
Turning, I find my soul, floating
past me, red with painted sounds.
*Austin McCarron says: I'm from New Zealand but have lived in London for many years. I've appeared in numerous small press magazines in the U.K., France and the U.S.A. over the past five years.
vii. millions of eyes, henning
i wonder if in germany you ever watch old american
gangster films. in them, everything is heavy … cars,
telephones, and radios. in them, men take unexpected
taxi rides, light streaked across their faces so we can
know their full intent.
before they ever leave, they tell their women they ve
gotten themselves in a jam, or they must collect the
dough, and they ll be back shortly.
often, they re shot at the base of stairs, at entrances to
buildings that were meant to save them.
when their women hear the knock on the door, a
violin plays. the women pause, sequins on their
clothes sparkling like millions of eyes.
the women open the door and say …
come in, i ve been waiting for you.
*Theresa Williams' work has appeared or will appear soon in many magazines, including Chattahoochee Review, Hunger Mountain, Midwestern Gothic, Danse Macabre, and The Sun. Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. She has a husband, dogs, and cats, and stays up late at night, writing.
Theresa says: “millions of eyes, henning” is part vii of series of epistolary prose poems called “the eternal network” (which is what the mailart community calls itself). The poem was sent through the mail to a man in Germany, a complete stranger I met on a mailart site, called Henning and was accompanied by mailart.
Another Breath of Fresh Air
The Hitcher by Hannah Lowe, pub. The Rialto (Aylsham, England), 2011, price £5.50, ISBN 978-0-9551273-5-9
Subsequent readings of this pamphlet confirmed my first impressions, that this is an exciting debut collection by a gutsy poet.
I’ve been very pleased to notice a growing strand in contemporary British poetry of independent women whose subject-matter takes you on a journey along with them: sometimes actual travel to quite risky places and sometimes an edgy, emotional or psychological voyage – which might just take place at the local café, but the fallout is no less devastating than hitch-hiking alone in a foreign country.
Hannah Lowe’s poems take many different forms, but are frequently first-person narratives. Her stories of friendships, partying hard and youthful heart-break are redolent of events most of us have survived, but may prefer not to remember! Some of the poems reminded me of work I admire by Katrina Naomi, e.g. ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Lunch at the Elephant & Castle’, and what a pleasure it is (albeit an uncomfortable one) to have brave female poets set down in words the routine humiliations and questionable decisions of our formative years – specifically as experienced by young women – and transform them into emblematic rites-de-passage.
Although sometimes subject to the actions of males, Hannah Lowe’s female personas are self-defined and, despite making the occasional bad choice (well, haven’t we all?), never evince victim status but accept responsibility for their own actions, flawed as these may seem in hindsight:
I turned twenty-one that week and dialled
my mother from a greasy booth along the Boulevard,
sobbed soundlessly into the static fuzz as punk-haired girls
flew by on roller skates, a tramp with tattooed stars
under his eyes was thumping on the glass. An orange Dodge
pulled up and I climbed wordlessly into the car
beside a man I’d seen somewhere before…
As in this extract from ‘Room’, some of the poems in The Hitcher take place abroad – in California, for example, where the poet lived for a time – and give access to both glamorous locations and the seamier side of life. But most of the poems are set in the London area and revolve around family and social contacts. The possible stasis and isolation of life in a big city are glimpsed lurking under the fragile carapace of confidence in ‘Lucky Dip’ and in mentions of people seeing their therapist; and I’ll never forget the true-to-life female friends in ‘Ink’ who discuss the possibility of long-haul travel, but seem unlikely to get as far as the nearest airport:
Seems that everyone at lunch is pregnant again. I paint
my life in lurid detail. Let them sip lemonade
and see what they’re missing.
Siobahn talks about taking off. At Brechon Bouton, it’s Paris.
In El Rincon, it’s Peru or Chile…
And – yes – I think something is surfacing in the work of this poet and also in the attitudes expressed by a number of other British females writing in recent years, something that has long been accepted in other areas of culture, like popular music… Dare I say it? Yes, let’s be bold for once: finally mainstream British poetry is admitting to the lives of real, modern women. Of course, this is just a personal view – and I’m sure there have been many fine examples in the past of poems reflecting a wide range of female experiences – but at long last I am beginning to see a canon of work of British women depicting lives that I actually recognise: including women who might get drunk once in a while and have a one-night stand; women who rarely see a kitchen and have no plans to do so any time soon; or (horror of horrors) even some women who dare to suggest that having a sprog may not be the ultimate expression of their femininity. Perhaps the welcome sea-change I’m beginning to detect is that – slowly, gradually – a wider variety of female outlooks is finding more tolerance socially so that these are able to be expressed more directly in poetry, making it truly optional whether or not to displace real experience into oblique metaphor or myth.
Like the women in her narratives, Hannah Lowe’s poems stand on their own two feet. Whether expressed via the most subtle of sonnets, or in her longer pieces, each poem tells its tale without the need for a game of hide-and-seek. Her work revels in a wealth of sensuous detail and sinuous language, the effect of which is somehow filmic; each poem whisks you away somewhere and you can’t quite work out how you got there, but even when danger threatens – as in ‘The Hitcher’ or ‘Jason’ – you are always reluctant to exit that world when the poem ends.
At the summit on women’s poetry, chaired by Jo Shapcott at Aldeburgh a couple of years ago, part of the conclusion reached was that – whilst it has in fact been around for thousands of years – women’s poetry is, in another sense, still quite a recent phenomenon, continuing to diversify and find its own path. I am very pleased to report that Hannah Lowe’s poems have definitely come of age, with no need to ask Dad’s permission to stay out late.
I like the Woods in Winter
I like the woods in winter
When there’s no snow on the ground
And the shadows of long lean trees
Hidden by summers green
That just as the air turns cooler
The days shorter
Just as we add more protection,
More covering for our spare,
The trees drop their clothes;
Just as we go into hiding
(some call it hibernation)
the trees are revealed.
All the words I was to say were said
and so I waited, while you said good-bye
while you leaned over the edge
of your beloved’s last bed
and kissed his cheek
whispering some words of love that in my leisure
I like to consider
Stack up your few words against
my thousands and see
which ones come out on top.
*Rev. Judith Mensch served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. She began writing poetry in the last years of her life, as a way of responding to and coping with breast cancer. She passed away in 2003.
Word was out we should
Get the red stars. The yellow ones
Were going to expire.
So we spent all morning
Queuing for the new version.
I thought What if they change
Their minds again?
And in the confusion
Managed to keep the old model,
Just in case. Mind you,
It wasn’t long before
Green was all the rage.
Yellow and red went
Completely out of favour.
We queued up for them all.
Word then went round
You could buy a black star
That was looked on better
And distinctly less eye-catching.
I could only afford one of those.
Then it was announced
That the design would change
And all the old stars were
To be handed in. I was
Fed up and didn’t go.
No one, no one at all,
Came back from that queue.
You can cross safely here,
Reasonably safely –
You could always slip,
On the stones,
Stepping too lightly,
Too quickly or too hard.
You may not get across.
It is up to you
To assess the risk.
The other side is much
The same as over here.
You have been informed.
*Peter Eustace was born in Birmingham, England, in 1954, and has lived in Italy for 35 years. His poems have appeared several times in Equinox (including once with a water colour by Russi Dordi) , as well as The French Literary Review, Borderlines, Carillon, Trespass and Obsessed with Pipework. He has published two books of poems in English and Italian (Vistas, 2006, and Weathering, 2010) and a pamphlet (Brink, 2009) with erbacce press, Liverpool.
The Kitten and the Brick-layer’s Cap
After Allen Ginsberg’s The Brick-Layer’s Lunch Hour
It’s a dark rain that threatens
an unlikely new-found womb.
It’s a dark rain that threatens
and yet the wall beckons,
the cellar nature of it luring the kitten.
He strokes the kitten
the way he strokes his chin.
A volley of clouds eclipses the sun,
the tree tops mouthing above him.
He takes off his red cap,
voiding the cradle of bones curling in his lap.
The body of fur, part-child, part-cat,
huddles between the bloodied hue
of hat and the fat pulse of cloth and skin,
an unlikely new-found womb.
*Marion McCready lives in Dunoon, Argyll. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publication including The Edinburgh Review, Northwords Now and The Glasgow Herald. Calder Wood Press published her pamphlet collection Vintage Sea earlier this year.
This poem was first published in the pamphlet Starry Rhymes (Read This Press)
Anatomy of a Headache
I’ve tried everything else;
the blister packs, the fizzing orange juice,
the pressure points between the thumbs,
now I will ask poetry to help:
Please come and papercut
my face apart
and have a look about.
* * *
The poem as an endoscope:
let words fill the asyndeton
of passageways linking nose to eye to ear
let the page show
what should not be there,
that which wants to escape.
* * *
We can see rooms within rooms
strip-lit and a-buzz
with someone laughing
for a thousand years
and if those years were sped up
and crammed into one day;
played back at full volume
to the centre
of the head,
then, would we be getting close?
Would we be tapping on the window?
* * *
Headaches can take on human form –
the light bleeding across the face
of someone on the edge of a family photo;
the half-form of an old lady
in the back seat
of a Ford;
a man poking out of the corn;
a ghost baby in the scan;
the extra in our midst
in census figures,
on the phone.
* * *
You can pull a duvet from the throat,
start with the corners and pull.
Whereas a headache
is a bubble in a spirit gauge.
(if you break it,
it’s as if it was never
there at all.)
* * *
I’ve lost track of the days
under a smog of heavy felt.
“Roll invisible bandages around the head
dispensed from a cold can of coke”
(I follow the instructions through the undergrowth)
“whilst slowly removing the endoscope.”
* * *
The headache is becoming shy,
slipping back to its own shadows,
rustling as it moves, like someone opening tin foil
during a film.
* * *
*Andrew McDonnell (b.1977) is a poet who is (creatively) interested in gaps and elisions. He lives in Norwich.