On Milking Stile Lane
An old house like a dusty afternoon
in a town terrace of June weekdays.
A brown front door propped
on a brick, the step smooth as an arm.
A hall of dazzled dark, as cold
as a beer bottle beaded wet from the fridge.
From bed a parlour view of bay and dado,
respectability swopped for peeling paint
and posters of Virginia Woolf. A house
so easy on its street, worn thin and homely
like cotton sheets laid side to middle.
We lay in the old house, being young.
Jean Atkin has two pamphlets in publication, The Treeless Region (winner of the Ravenglass Poetry Press Competition 2010) and Lost At Sea, (Roncadora Press 2011) which was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Prize. She is a writer in education living in Dumfriesshire and is just finishing off The Dark Farms, her forthcoming pamphlet about the Galloway Forest. Find out more http://jeanatwordsparks.blogspot.co.uk/p/poet.html
Hopeless Cause or Maybe Not
Early November, one Monarch but so late.
Already frost cut the thread that led from summer.
The milkweeds are all dead
with their whitesailed seeds settled down from drifting.
Lone Monarch lingerer
priming for flight on the trestles of the el
where a month ago hordes of his migrating kind
fluttered their wings in orange-black harmony.
Where were you then lone straggler?
Now our solo flyer is off
floating above seaside streets to the empty beach,
and then bobbing on a too chilly wind skimming
over the white capped Atlantic southwest to New Jersey.
You might just make it
late fall bloomer, Mexican-bound voyager, orange-black streamer,
caboose of your entire race.
Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A Chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals.
I breathe earthy wettish smells through mossy planks, and
– prickle –
hearing snuffling close by;
through dark glass
wraiths of milky smoke:
a petrol-blue jumper
into view, then
i’m enveloped a billowing pipe bess the black my whole being
in scratchy oily wool set up on my chimney labrador wags thrums her an
from Inis Oirr, while seems to light a fire through the door ecstatic welcome.
in the gloaming; filling the space with
steamy breath, and
Father Gordon and Daddy crunch off together,
laughing and reciting poems
as they drum deeper
into the trees.
Fianna (Fiona) Russell Dodwell paints, draws and writes from the body, attempting to convey simultaneity of experiencing. She is investigating the felt senses and somatic resonance as literary ‘analysis’ tools; and movement and awareness practices to articulate how texts may meet the generative body-environment continuum.
Counting Rain by Karen Dennison is an interesting first collection. To me it felt like the writing of someone who is on the way to being great. The collection is carefully constructed, Dennison has clearly thought deeply about the order of the poems and the way that they relate to one another. Firstly the book moves through a logical sequence from childhood to more adult themes – relationships etc. In the latter half of the book the narrator is haunted by her past and that of her parents. But there are smaller connections at work here too. The thorns of the blackberry for example in Silhouette (p14) are echoed by the thorny rose of The Fourth Flower (p15) and the bruised legs of the grandma in 123 Corbyn Street (p16) are followed by the limbs of a doll in the following poem The Doll. There are small connections like this all the way through the book and it was pleasing to me, as a reader, to find them. This is clearly a collection that hasn’t just been thrown together. Dennison has worked hard at her craft thinking about the relationship between each poem and its neighbour as well as the wider themes of the work. The result is that the work hangs together well and ends on the rather aptly titled The Final Room.
As to the poems themselves; on the back of the book Bill Greenwell states that “disquiet and tension lie just beneath the surface.” I would have to disagree – for me disquiet and tension were the main themes of the book – almost every poem is brimming over with them. The collection is scratching at the itchy scab of an uncomfortable childhood. Things creep beneath the surface of normality that are half alluded to or hinted at giving the reader a growing sense of alienation. I recognized this uncomfortable place as it is a place that I have visited in my own early poems, and it is a place that we have been taken to by the work of other poets such as Sharon Olds and Martin Figura. But there is more direct reference to dark themes here too: allusions to abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and the collusion that dysfunctional relationships can bring with them.
The poems are spare in language and form; mostly short and making good use of the white space around them. The white space and the sparseness of the language suit the subject matter, enabling the poem to get right to the point. Poems like Recipe for Passion (p38) put me in mind of Lorca’s Poem of the Deep Song; both the lightness yet heaviness of the language and the layout and use of brackets within the poem.
You (flesh that shimmers,
skin of golden brown) scatter
the leaves and burn the season.
The ground is falling and the
sea is draining. Do they matter?
You (flesh the colour of honey,
Fragrant skin and soft) falling
To the ground, draining the sea…
If I had to pick a low point it would be Sestina . I always groan a little inside when I see a poem named after its form – it feels like either the poet is being lazy or that they feel the need to announce to the world that they can do something clever. Any poet reading the collection will recognize that this is a sestina and if they don’t does it matter? The greatest achievement in using form is when it seems so natural you hardly notice it is a form (like Heaney’s Two Lorries). That said Sestina is not a bad poem, but for me it was the least successful in the collection. I liked its echoes but the ending seemed a little clichéd, and this I am guessing, is because of having to adhere to the form.
There is a mythical/mystical quality to Dennison’s work too, an otherworldliness which stops the poems teetering over into pathos or alienating the reader completely. These, however, are not poems to make the reader feel at ease, they are full of grief, pain and loneliness, loss fear and perhaps occasionally a tiny hint of joy. There are echoes of other poets here too: Pascale Petit perhaps and Helen Ivory, but Dennison has her own themes, her own voice. The driving force of the book seems to be grief and loss – although it was unclear to me who exactly has been lost; sometimes a lover, sometimes a mother, sometimes herself or a past self, perhaps all of these and more.
I thought that for a first collection the writing was very strong, well worth reading. Dennison is a poet to watch.
If present trends continue
Scientists believe, predict, that if and should,
we’ll all be – that’s a proven fact.
Scientists assert (and to a man,
or possibly a woman) even if, or when,
or by some chance, Black Swan Event, a blip,
an unforeseen, a bolt from out of –
it will all be so. No doubt about it,
After 2050 it will all be, and if not
because it’s now too late, too soon;
(and in a year or three or when
grandchildren have grown, or if or why),
The figures show, the graphs foretell,
the data proves, the maths add up,
the tests reveal, computer models demonstrate
beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt,
a poem will be written, even though
(if present trends continue)
no-one will be left on earth to read it.
Ann Alexander lives in Cornwall but spent many years in London as an advertising copywriter. She has three collections:Facing Demons (2002) Nasty, British & Short (2006) from Peterloo, and Too Close from Ward Wood (2011).
All day she watches. When I hang
out laundry, ceanothus branches
frame her cloud-cupped face. I peg
socks, shirts, pull down cotton
sleeves. She’s out of place in this
wind battered garden where bruises
play ring o’ roses at my throat.
Later I wash up, fill the bin,
onion skins and broken
crockery. Those plates can’t be replaced.
They came from Germany with a note:
Wir sind hocherfreut!
She peers through dirty panes,
pale face mirrored, avoids my gaze.
Perhaps she detects echoes, words
cruel as teeth, loose threads
running. There’s a tear in the fabric
and a button, hanging on.
I hide the whisky bottle. Futile.
He’s already drunk
it down to where anger lies, sleeping
tight against curved glass. She’s still
wide awake, turns the spotlight
on as keys violate the lock.
Looking up, I’m magnetized.
Alli Davies writes prose, poetry and script. She’s part-time Director for a fair trade jewellery business working with marginalised women in Nepal. Her work has been placed in competitions and published both on and offline, including Listen Up North, Everyday Poets, Slovo and the I Am Woman anthology.
The longest night. The moon
sways close on its string.
We decorate the bed
with figments of light –
tinselly bodies drop sparks
on the carpets, the sheets.
The earth tilts. The stars dip
near enough to waste on our tongues.
Rosie Breese has been a bad musician, an events organiser, a champagne waitress and a civil servant. Her work has appeared in nthposition, Agenda, Poetry Wales and Poetry Review.