Afterwards, we went to a Dance. All
leg kicks and colour we
joined in making shapes so
fresh they were as yet unnamed.
We patted hands, moving
in straight lines of black,
with waves of orange and
multi-greens either side
We created that
casual rainbow, glimpsing
at those purple dots
below us as we twirled
up beyond the ceiling.
A ballet pump glided back down
to the floor, accidentally dropped
by neither one of us.
Kat Franceska is twenty-three. She is the proud owner of a BA(Hons) Fine Art with First Class Hons. Credits include The Cannon’s Mouth, The Delinquent, DOG-EAR, The Journal, The Moth, The New Writer and Poetry Cornwall. www.franceskadot.wordpress.com Twitter@KatFranceskaRead More
The Plucking Shed, 2010. Cinnamon Press. Rise, 2012. Cinnamon Press.
To survive cancer, as this poet has done, and to write about the experience without fear or bitterness is remarkable, and yet life’s journey is not necessarily laden with gilded ornaments, rousing sex, and unforgettable adventure. No, it is most frequently a harrowing experience the older one gets. Gill McEvoy was born in 1944, when the buzz bombs from Germany were wreaking havoc and despair although it was well seen to be the last maniacal act of Britain’s greatest European antagonist of the twentieth century. As an adult, McEvoy endured a problematic marriage to a violently ill man, raised their children, saw her husband die and leave her with the domestic mess, as it were, to clean up. On top of that, she then became sick herself, but now – approaching seventy – she has come out on top of her troubles. Or so one gathers from these two collections of verse.
McEvoy’s poems, collected late in book form, are not only statements of fact to her readers but reminders to her (now grown) children that the poet endures not without effort. More than that, an intelligent good will marks both of these books, published within two years of each other. She makes art from the quotidian elements of her life, and we see that a British woman’s life is no different in essence than someone working hard in Salt Lake City or in Winnipeg, in Warsaw or down in Rio. From The Plucking Shed, here are the opening and closing stanzas of “Preparing Fish”:
I have lived inland all my life,
got no further than sticklebacks
glowering in jars,
never once ate trout.
Here in my new kitchen
this strange fish slips from my grip,
slithers and slaps against the sink.
It smells of foreign things.
When you walk in – starving, as you say –
you find me lining out the frail specks
of starlight on the drainer’s edge.
The recognition of effort in daily life, not slothfulness, even after the anxiety and physical pain of a bout with cancer, is what informs McEvoy’s poems. This is not a diction borne of dilettantism or overly cerebral mirages. Neither is it conscious of itself entirely, either. The poet can be blunt as well, as in these final lines from “Message to the Well-Meaning”: “So // the next person to come along and say, Think positive, and all that sort of crap / will get it right between the eyes. / For I’m a hard woman now; / I am diamond, carborundum, / and I wipe out fools.” Now, can you argue with that? I can’t, and I only remark that putting frustration into a succinct, “in-your-face” poem meant to be both serious and good-humored is what all poets and artists – those who create something from supposedly nothing – strive for constantly.
Rise is more concisely ordered in some ways than The Plucking Shed, but no less vivid and memorable in facing quandaries and uncertainties. For McEvoy, observing – for that is all one should do – natural life, not wrought with human structures but certainly so affected – is what makes her life bearable, or at least that’s the message throughout these poems, succinctly crafted, sculpted (as Sigrid Bergie might say), to fit recognition, understanding, and in the end our admiration. Here is the entirety of “Magpie”:
Outside my window
he’s a pure sun in an aura of black.
Brilliance pings from his feathers,
blinds me, shrinks my room
Later in this second collection, there is the “Nuala” sequence, about a small girl in her mother’s company who is learning the limits of what she can have and experience. McEvoy captures this frustration convincingly, as in the opening lines of “The Balloon Man” – the child doesn’t see danger, but her mother does:
She stops to look at the man
twisting balloons into animal shapes.
She tugs her mother’s arm:
What? Snaps her mother whose mind’s
on shopping and the fearful price
of children’s shoes . . . .
McEvoy also plumbs the vortex of a single woman living alone – more than just an empty nest “syndrome” but both a horror and a freedom, as if leaving her house and just walking in the woods for a spell, not being home, could alarm the neighbors. The sequences of “Almond Street” poems evoke this plurality of oneness very well, at least to this critic’s American sensibility.
In sum, then, both The Plucking Shed and Rise give ample testimony, if such could be said, of a significant poet – Gill McEvoy – living in non-London England, one who has married, raised children to adulthood, been widowed, survived cancer – at least for now – and has written masterfully about her life and those of others, characters in a novel or play of poetry – for that’s what good depictions are, essentially: how to describe this journey of life from childhood through adulthood and trying to keep death at bay, and writing delicious poems not always mellifluous or delicate, but facing difficulties head on. Would that we all had such courage!
A Child’s Tale
This is your father, my mum whispers.
Her hands telling me to call him ‘dad’.
Tonight I find the dad sprawled across mum’s bed.
Like a hairy spider, like a beetle on its back, like a black octopus.
There is no room for me in the sea.
You are too old, my mum whispers -
her voice a sort of sly sound like a snake makes
before swallowing its eggs.
Later, shivering and awake, I hear vipers hissing -
coiling beneath my damp bed.
During breakfast the snap, crackle and pop
are muffled in the fly-clotted air.
He is Lord of the Flies.
A blue bottle bloated with sea-dreams.
The knife purrs as mum spreads butter on toast.
This room smells of bacon fat,
pink flesh speckled black,
the egg yolk blotched red, mushrooms buttoned brown.
It’s a full English for the dad.
Later I play footie for my school tribe -
kitted in amber and black, swarming
like a frenzy of bees.
I wait as a king, the drones do their insect thing-
and as quick as a cobra blinds I strike the ball
an egg nests in a spider’s web.
The dad’s face is a crimson moon,
his voice like a squealing hyena,
all the swarm get wind of him
and my mate asks -
is the dad your new dad?
After supper I let them be.
I have an early night.
Good night son, they smile
with sun-hardened skin.
Phil Wood: Poetry is a lifestyle outside the place of work, which is a statistics office. Recently published work can be found in London Grip and The Open Mouse.Read More
You Turn Into Birds
A flock taking fright as I clump into the field
You dot the October sky like painting a myth by numbers.
I try to call you down with a handful of rough seeds
But already you’re a vee of geese migrating and I can do nothing but follow.
When you land it’s in high branches as a crow, blacker than rain
On an exposed hillside in winter, to gleam your eyes through me.
I’m mesmerised by that trickster shine of Satan curled ‘round harlequin,
And you leap into the air somersaulting with a flap into a thrush,
You want to dig worms out of my belly, so I let you.
And when you Kingfisher rise you’re as big and bright as Whitby
On a summer Saturday, all feather people and battery beaked.
On your huge Woodpecking shoulder the Abbey sits like a premonition of us.
Now the Kittiwake you are holds all the bay in wind bent wings,
You’re flung at me by weather, where you pierce me as a hawk; the clang
Of your talons magenting to my iron heart and you yank me up with you
Into the sky where you know every current and I know nothing.
Paul Ebbs has published stories about Doctor Who and Harry Hammer, with stints as a screenwriter on Casualty, Doctors, The Bill and East Enders in between. You can find Telling the Page, his first poetry collection here.Read More
This is the house
With or without hope
We always return home
(Jaroslav Seifert )
This is the house of lost joys
The house where all things come together
This is the house
Where the humming of the sun is heard
Through the cracks of the door
This is the house
Where deepest night
Drips from the wall
This is the house of those we forget each day
Where all things come together.
Rafael Ayala Paez (Zaraza, Guarico, April 24, 1988). Poet and writer. His poems have been published in literary magazines nationally and worldwide. He published Bocados de Silencio and The Lightness of Matter. Some of his poems have been translated into German, English, French and Hebrew.
Roger Hickin (b. 1951) is a New Zealand poet, visual artist, book designer & publisher. He is the director of Cold Hub Press which publishes poetry in several languages, including bi-lingual chapbooks of poems by two Chilean poets: Juan Cameron (with translations by the celebrated US translator Cola Franzen) and Sergio Badilla Castillo (with translations by Roger Hickin and the author).Read More