My hat can keep out
evil and radio waves,
silver foil and wool.
Padrika Tarrant’s novel The Knife Drawer was shortlisted for the 2012 Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. Her second book of short stories The Fates of the Animals will be published by Salt this year.
the wind plays alone
on the rocking horse
sparks and thrills
under the Bridge of Sighs
by the classroom window
dreaming of summer dress
and terracotta sun
under the eyelids of the night
a luna moth’s dream
drawing December straws
who will eat the last chocolate
in the Christmas box?
These haiku were originally published in The Asahi Haikuist Network.
Virginie Colline is a French translator living in Paris. Her poems have appeared in Notes from the Gean, Frostwriting, Prick of the Spindle, Mouse Tales Press, Pure Francis, Jack Move Magazine, The Orris and Bawka Magazine, among others.Read More
Imelda is caught in a thirteen-year-old’s world where sweets and a ‘vodka and Britvic’ are equally attractive, and nineteen-year-old farmer Danny Boy is both desirable and off-limits. The book begins with Imelda under the table at her mother’s funeral, sucking sugar from a spoon ‘shaped like a small spade’. The spade-shaped spoon is well placed – a device for digging a grave, perhaps – since Imelda believes that she is responsible for her mother’s death by wishing for it. However, the women in the ‘thick tan tights’, whom Imelda hears from beneath the table, are sure that her father Justin is blame for the death of his second wife; after twenty-nine miscarriages ‘He might as well have put the gun to her head’.
Imelda lives at a petrol station combined with a shop and bar in County Cork with her two sisters Bertha and Agnes, and her father, Justin (never referred to as father, though the dead mother is ‘Mammy’). Popular culture references give us clues to the 1970s’ setting, such as Aztec chocolate bars, maxi-dresses, The Exorcist, and the cheesecloth shirt that Imelda wears, which Justin describes as a ‘see-through blouse’. Justin is troubled by the possibility of premature sexual ruin of his three daughters. Meanwhile, he is wooing Clodagh, a younger woman, and potential third wife.
Petrol’s back-cover blurb describes the book as ‘a prose poem disguised as a novella’. This is indeed a difficult book to categorise. It looks like a novella, with numbered chapters, the characterisation is sharp, and there is a narrative running through. There is a richness in the prose, which lends itself to reading one or two chapters at a time, in the way that you might read poetry, rather than consuming the book at one sitting, and Petrol bears reading more than once, whereby deeper and different meanings can be gleaned, again as you might return to a book of poems. Martina Evans is best known as a poet, and there is much of the poet’s eye, use of language, metaphor and rhythm in Petrol. A group of ‘rat-filled cats’ have ‘eyes like stringed lights’; Ould Farrell has ‘hands like a pair of coal tongs’; and ‘the roaring man had hair like someone had combed out a sod of turf’. The adjectives used in relation to Granddad, who owns seventeen cats, are magnificent: ‘Granddad was disgusted by the range’; ‘Grandad was glorified as we cut up corned beef and luncheon roll for the cats’.
Evans’s prose, in the voice of Imelda, does not draw breath. Sentences run over several lines, sometimes half-pages, yet not a word is wasted. Imelda is a bookish child, reading Anne Frank, and there is a subtle link between identifying with a trapped adolescent and Imelda describing herself as ‘the Jew’ of the family. She also reads Maupassant, as well as devouring the twenty-five Barbara Cartland books under her sister’s bed: ‘I lay down for the relief of reading them and thinking of Danny Boy even though I wasn’t supposed to’. She lives in an atmosphere where sex and pleasure are hidden (well-masked in Cartland’s novels) and tinged with guilt. Much is learned by eavesdropping and spying. It is difficult to know whether Imelda is shocked and disappointed that Clodagh does not ‘stand up’ for her when she overhears Justin criticising her for ‘that weird fucking thing she has with the Jews’, or at seeing, from the hallway, ‘four of them in the dressing table mirror, two of him lying on top and two of Clodagh’. Afterwards, Justin says to Clodagh, ‘I am sorry, I am sorry’. Later, when Imelda goes into the hay barn with Danny Boy, he shows her the puppies she has supposedly come to see. He hides one in his shirt: ‘and Danny said that I had to take it out and he lay back laughing as if there was no such thing as guilt’. She feels that Justin is watching her ‘in disgust’ as she unbuttons Danny’s shirt.
Although there is movement in the narrative, there is a sense of things staying much the same, like the BP sign outside the petrol station, a recurring symbol, swinging on its pole, though, in the final sentence of the book, it ‘creaked and creaked like a horror in the wind’. Justin confronts Imelda about her liaison Danny Boy, as reported to him by Neily Sheehan, the owner of the rival JFK bar, who spied on them from his car as they walked hand-in-hand. In a reflection of the beginning of the book, when Imelda recalls wishing her mother dead, she now wishes the same for Justin: ‘I was entitled to set fire to him with his own petrol some day’. And the child at the beginning is now a young woman, having to explain to Danny Boy ‘why a nineteen-year-old might go to prison.’
Reviewed by Maria C McCarthy
Walking in Sound
Life is pleasant. Life is good. Virginia Woolf, The Waves
A simple life is not quiet
take an August afternoon
on a street near your home
tumbling red roses
sap rushing everywhere and
birds telling tales in trees
going on and on and on and on
a blue river seems to swoon
between the clouds
people breathe in a house
a dog twitches
once or twice a lost soul
rustles the curtains looking
for a way in or out
as the dead do when it’s hot
all the seas in the world twirl
swirl around you
and then there’s the roaring
spin of the earth
you have to press a palm flat
on your chest and jump
into the regular thud of yourself
the children next door look up
sighing at something
as you walk home
in the summer air
a grotto of sound
sings to you
all the way
Detroit poet, Suzanne Scarfone, is a creative writing professor with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, as well as writer-in-residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project. She has published widely, produced two music and poetry CD’s, and is currently completing a song cycle entitled Wild and Wordless.Read More
An afternoon with the Fates
After they cut the thread,
I just lay there;
each small spine-bone supine,
searching the hard floor beneath me.
There are no maps for moments like this.
If only my bag could open its puckered mouth
and give up an oyster secret.
My heart holds on to a feather that can defy gravity.
My bones partner unwilling hardness.
Split feet introduce the curve of my belly.
I cannot even begin to imagine where my head is.
Words by Helen Pletts whose two collections, Bottle bank and For the chiding dove, are both published by YWO/Legend Press (supported by The Arts Council) and available on Amazon. ‘Bottle bank’ was longlisted for The Bridport Poetry Prize 2006, under Helen’s maiden name of Bannister. Helen is a finalist in the Brit Awards 2012 Scriptwriting and Screenplay category with her full-length feature film script, a period drama entitled ‘The False Bride’.
Image by Romit Berger who says “I am a graphic designer and artist, living in Prague for the past ten years. In 2008 I joined a writing group – English is not my native language but I graduated from an international school, so it is a part of my life ever since. I feel that the dual process of finding words to describe mind images and illustrating written words, opens a new exciting dimension of creativity for me. My work can be seen on www.romitcom.com
You are welcome to browse Helen and Romit’s greetings cards at http://www.helenpletts.com and visit http://www.stem-of-quietly-disarrayed-fertility.com/Read More
Surfin’ Safari for a Small Town Boy
The best pop is like a rush of lust – Alastair McKay
The deuce coupe threads the dunes, back of the sands:
her daddy’s car, but he will understand
that parties must be seized, she says, like days,
thrown as hand-made pots, agreed the way
they’ve signed their surfboards, waxed them down
like documents. In this grey town
the sounds of doo-wop only surface from the drains
that overflow, the malice of late summer rains
determined in their pock-marked progress
over sands and shallows, all that acned skin, to mess
up every wrung out joy that they display,
gleaming in convertibles: the Wilsons, Jardine, Love, gay
in some forgotten sense. The discs stack up,
the portable Dansette slaps platter on to platter, enough
to wind the provost up, his bike a solitary patrol
against the shameless pleasure of it all.
Awful in his cycle clips, flat cap, he gets around, his face
a sucked in breath of disapproval. Go on, chase
the blues away before he gets on to your back.
The surf is up. The wind is from the north. But fuck,
all summer long this is as good as it will get. The needle
hits the groove. Love’s voice. You paddle
out beyond the waves, youth tied on with a cord.
She watches you, God only knows, holds your reward
in supple limbs. You feel the surge. You sing it. Sea
rips at your board. She says: sing it one more time for me.
Brian Johnstone’s latest collection is The Book of Belongings (Arc, 2009). His poetry has appeared throughout Britain, in America and Europe. His poems have been translated into over 10 different languages. In 2009 Terra Incognita was published by L’Officina (Vicenza).
This poem has been commended for the National Poetry Competition and previously published in the Scottish magazine Chapman.
A Necessary Answer:
It runs from me on the pavement, concrete stomp after concrete stomp.
It hides in common corners,
the corner bus stop with its cement bench that smells of other
the corner in the library where my favorite paperback is found,
the corner of my bedroom where it leans against my sand toned walls,
and watches me sleep curled in my bed
I am confused by its presence,
How it sits and eats popcorn out of my favorite red bowl.
It reads my books and magazines before me.
It pisses me off.
It was not invited to my home yet it refuses to slide open the door to
the walk out patio and leave.
Jessica Schmitt lives in St. Paul,Minnesota. She currently studies at Concordia University as a double major in Interdisciplinary Studies and English Literature.
the lion in the lute or
the lion locked in stone
You gave me all the direction I could take;
geographic, plus notes on my performance;
that eyeless iron arrow, a servant of purpose
that pushed me over undulating dunes
thrusting one firm and certain digit at
the smug oasis, far off, in the middle.
One day, I sat down by a succulent.
Sate your thirst and dessicate your mind,
you warned. Drink not from those quills
or choke on your own swollen tongue.
For forty nights I bled for the Northern face,
my skull cracked open, leaking dreams on sand,
the needle spinning in my hand. At the edge
of all you see, a palm tree’s umbra, a mirage.
Oliver Hudson is a father of two, poet by aspiration and journalist by trade. He lives in Warwick and is a regular member of Warwick Words, his local creative writing group. He has had poetry published in the Warwick Words annual anthologies, and by Forward in their 2011 anthology Poetry Rivals. In 2011 he was longlisted for the Plough Prize. His interests (other than poetry) include Travelling, Music, History and Fencing.Read More