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

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