Archive for May, 2011

New poem from Ellen Cranitch

I’ve been a huge admirer of Ellen’s work since meeting her in Roddy’s group, and excited to be able to post a new poem from her today.

Pas de Deux

Two bodies lean in, drink long of one another.
He pulls away – agitated zapateado – curt,
quipping steps that slice the air, raid the stage
stillness. He’s all angles – the jut of his hips,
rack of his spine, his phrases’ jagged edge.
He hankers to connect but the space is against him.

And she is deep within herself, sleepwalking
in the byways of the music. Solitary; the curve
of her back, the careful developee. How softly
she cradles the air. The tilt of her head
is perhaps an acknowledgement, before all
returns within, to one body’s slow awakening.

Ellen’s currently working on a PhD with Don Paterson and was published by Carcanet in last year’s Oxford Poets Anthology.

New poem from Christopher Horton

It’s always a huge personal thrill to see new work from Chris, so I’m delighted to have a new poem from this always fascinating Days of Roses mainstay today. He’ll be reading with Malene and myself tomorrow at the Orchard in Brockley.

A few Recorded Thoughts on Mathematical Theory

‘A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there’ – Charles Darwin

Surely it was the man clad as a bear
crawling the wastes of Newfoundland
on ciné-film – so grainy you would have been forgiven
for thinking it more the outline of an ill-proportioned aardvark –
that came to his attention.

You might have guessed
he’d have honed in on the artist
interviewing a dog about the art of painting
or, the pièce de résistance,
a blind man in a dark room
looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Upon reflection, all those attractions
evaded his careful eye.
It was the full length mirror
pinned halfway up the winding stairway
that captivated – something to do with how
his own body was more or less symmetrical

and yet, on closer inspection, also imperfect
in such a way that you might calculate
his exact age by each imperfection.
Take his diminishing hairline
or the width of his pores as archetype.
Imperfection, he thought, is too a kind of maths.

This is what held him on the stairway
between the art, staring deep into himself,
oblivious to the sound,
of the ciné-film still turning over the reel,
catching, just slightly,
where it had been spliced.

More from Chris here and here

New poems from Malene Engelund and Declan Ryan

Malene and I are reading with Chris Horton on Sunday, here’s a new poem from each of us (one to come from Chris later…)

Malene Engelund

The Loons

What surprised them most? Winter’s
reappearance or the speed at which water freezes?

Light had been returning for months
when at three a.m. we awoke to find ourselves

in the state of winter. You breathed
my hands warm, my body back to life.

That night we slept close as fourteen loons
froze into the lake’s waters.

Read more from Malene here

Declan Ryan


I wait for you at the tube station.
Because I cannot expect you to turn, ever,
into my drive and spring the lock with your own key.
I watch your wrist’s tilt, the shiver
of the gates as they give. I focus on their closing
behind you, your out-of-darkness glide
into this mirrored hall. As we leave, instead
of your mouth I watch your fingers. Outside
we push past dancers in the clothes of the dead.

More from me here

Three new poems from Alan Buckley

Quite a coup this, I’m really chuffed to be able to publish three new poems from the amazing Alan Buckley. Originally from Merseyside, Alan moved to Oxford in the 1980s to study English Literature and has lived there ever since. His debut pamphlet “Shiver” (published by tall-lighthouse) was the Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice for summer 2009. In 2010 he won first prize in the Wigtown Poetry Competition, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize.

Loneliness is Such a Sad Affair

Half a dozen musicians on stage,
but the camera is hungry only for Karen,
cheekbones sharp as a cracked wafer,

her eyelids chlorine blue beneath
the untouchable gloss of her fringe.
The oboe part is the fall of a dying swan:

every instrument, from the muted horns
to the sparse and elliptical bass, follows
her lead of consummate restraint, vibrato

exquisitely sustained, its modulation
just so – neither too much, nor too little.
No histrionics, no push to an upper octave:

those lips have the high-hat’s default
to a thin closure, and only what’s strictly
required may pass them. But she

is a true artist, so cannot avoid betraying
herself. At one minute fifty, between
first chorus, second verse, the camera

closes up tight: the singer’s mask slips
as she turns her head away, revealing
a look of stony desolation – like the face

of a small girl, who sits on the edge
of her bed and does not cry, not
through fear of an adult’s response,

but through knowing no adult will come.
Then the singer returns, to deliver
that line – that line – and execute

her professional trick, convincing us
that somebody else’s words are her own,
that what she sings is for real.

The poem was inspired by this video:


…the route of the Circle line will change
permanently on Sunday 13th December 2009
– Transport for London

Even our urban myths are no longer safe.
Beck’s golden O is severed: who now can speak
of the homeless guy with time to kill,

who stepped on at St James’s Park,
a quarter-bottle of Bells in one coat pocket,
a second-hand Penguin Classic in the other?

His heart packed up near Baker Street, and so
he was carried around in state, for hour after hour:
every platform crowded with downbeat faces,

all hoping to catch a final glimpse
of the man who’d been an icon, really,
a constant figure in their fierce metropolitan lives.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘No worst, there is none’

It happens at some point in every series:
the boy from clay-pit world, with his duff haircut
and BacoFoil tabard, or the loud Aussie
air-hostess, wearing an impractical skirt
and heels, stumbles in through the tired blue door,
then stops, eyes big as dinner-plates, facing
not claustrum but agora. They’re blessed, for sure,
unaware until now just how much space,
emptiness, can be completely hidden there,
inside an ordinary frame. They hear a sound
of orgasmic transistors: the cylinder
standing on the console heaves up and down,
and they’re whisked off, beyond imagination,
to startling new lives in a different dimension.

Alan’s not just a poet, he’s also a musician and can be seen whipping the crowds of Oxford into a wee frenzy here

Music from The Palace Of Justice

These boys are the business (think Beirut meets Wave Pictures), hoping to have them down to an event soon. Until then here’s their FREE album streamable from Bandcamp and a video for their little smasher Hormones

Visit their Myspace here

Poem from Edward Mackay – because George Davis IS innocent

To mark George Davis’ appeal victory today here’s a poem by the fantastic Edward Mackay inspired by the incredible lengths Davis’ supporters went to clearing his name.


for Peter Chappell

Dotting the I and crossing the T: INNOCENT
dangling by your feet from a bridge, an instant
acrobat, the peaks and troughs of your anger nest

in your regular Ns, an earth in each O, tainted
by that ache for an end that brings the onset
of another world, begun by daubing your insistent

haiku across the yawning bridges. Each succinct
OK marks out another battle site and sets
an east end army marching on their better instinct.

With the ghosts of Cable Street, you thumb your nose at
blackshirts. Beneath your brush, policemen are sent
scuttling, judges retreat from your conviction. The long ascent,

the quiet loss of living after George Davis Is In Again
Your dream in tall white letters, their defiant present tense.

Edward’s also got a poem in The Captain’s Tower, Seren’s celebration of Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, which also happens to be today.

Two poems from Kirsten Irving’s What To Do pamphlet

What To DoKirsty, along with Jon Stone, is the brains and nimble fingers behind Fuselit, Sidekick Books, Dr Fulminare’s Irregular Features and many other exciting, hand-crafted poetical schemes. Her debut pamphlet, What To Do, is out now from Happenstance and is a thing of giddy wonder. I’m delighted to post two of the poems from it here, and would encourage its immediate purchase in the strongest possible terms.


When she’s sixteen, when peer discretion
is at a premium, when Belize
is double geography and sweet Dresden
is history, is still broken,
you move in, aiming that barrel at the barrel

and you offer her a lift,
knowing that afternoon is annexed
and she’s itching in grey polyester,
thumbs through school sleeves,
backpack rammed with stupid, stupid books.

And you grin and offer her the bag of ants.
How low we settle – the twist of disgust
that jab between the plates
and the gunman’s laughing,
stumbling, dropping her weapon,

The seedpod body, citrussy,
the bloody industry distilled into smoke
the gin of the abdomen, a flash of sherbert.

As you tell her
ant-eating stories of Koh-Chang,
of Colombia and Australia,
of the tarantula in Cambodia,
she chews toughly
staring you down, guy-roping
the soured corners of her mouth.

She chews these ants to dust
for you, who have become a spear for her,
a rocket launcher she will fire backwards.

She chews past nothing,
past ant-pockets of clarity,
past the ghost ants scaling her body,
and trains her throat to open.

from Recreation Period

ii A Play

Nobody knows how to take Agave.
We put on a play for our families
on visiting day, and she danced like smoke,
slow and serpentine, completely ignoring
the glossy melody, swaying erratically.
She wouldn’t stop
staring at Beechy’s sister, who looked
like she’d rather be anywhere
than here, lapdanced by a crazy.

A huge, polite clap at the end.

Agave doesn’t hear that either.
Beechy’s sister has a toy lion
and it pins her. Martha’s
starting to lead her off, when Agave
crunches on her own tongue,
lunges for the lion, spraying blood,
and abducts it to her room, snotting and wailing.

Beechy’s sister will relate this years later;
will spit at her parents for taking her there,
will wonder how the hell you dance like that,
whether you have to be mental.

We think Agave had kids,
but then a lot of us did.
Kids, or approximations of kids.