Archive for July, 2011

Three new poems from Samuel Prince

I met Samuel through Roddy’s group, and I’m a big fan of his combination of  inventiveness, imagination and restraint, as well as his ability to find black cabs which have no understanding of the geography of London.

The Communal

A pinchful of flour has been stolen,
someone has tripped the switch and left
the widower cussing in the bathroom.
Grandpa ails on the divan.

That hair-lipped miser behind the screen,
indexes our visitors, hordes his heirlooms
and buffs his stiletto pristine.
We eavesdrop on his fractured breathing.

Around the phone is an unannexed zone
but we choose to encrypt our idle chatter;
inhale to hello, two coughs to agree,
tomorrow is a whimper.

Birthdays and accordions wheeze, the tension lifts,
a détente observed and we all donor a song
swap wives to serenade, before a rift
is rekindled over musical chairs.

The corridors become conduits to our private nightmares.


Dial the talking threat level,
sadly it has been sabotaged by the pools forecast – just when we need it.
Then there’s this: Us cannibals will come to turn on each other
seems the graffitists have tried their hands at clairvoyance.
Here’s my tips: those steel calypso drums will be out, petitions out,
those spray-can connoisseurs asked to sketch in court.
Us untrustworthy narrators, our stock will rise.
My double-decker, it edges on as if in a sideways scrolling Atari game,
jolts as we wait for the next scene to load, to earn its features.
From this vantage, I can see beneath the panoply of bus shelters,
the braided princesses, the bobbed gamines, all you High Road drifters,
and junctions ahead, to the cut-offs and overtakes, all the intimidatory tactics
of screw loose drivers and their splenetic emissions.  It wasn’t always so.
Come the day, proverbs will be in, temperance will be in, nightsticks will
be back, and as for me, I want to be on a pre-ordained blacklist,
a who’s who of who has to go,
to be herded to the changing rooms in the national stadium,
fingertips tenderised by bull-clips. I want to leave my lodgings and landlady,
her hands finned in hope, to inspect the pavements that morning
and find craters and craters and craters.


Michael started it.  I was a toddler then,
but grew to laud his burglar’s brio;
the chutzpah of seeking his sovereign’s
counsel.  One stunt and he is 80’s lore,
one copycat bid and a movement is born.
          Gone midnight now, en route
to the Kilburn badlands and home by cab
(no FM paeans only the Sat Nav’s dulcet
diktat), past the palace, infirmary sullen,
high-gated, a crèche for the regal mad,
the acolyte in me wants us to pull over,
mount the perimeter wall and sneak
towards the servant’s annex as the wind
bothers the flag at half-mast, limp
as stringy bacon.
                              Believers  should cut
their hands, sup a vintage white, roister
in the banquet hall and retrace what
they imagine was his route.  Irrupt into
her boudoir, sit rambling at the side
of the four-poster, make small talk on
the décor and matters of protocol, then
ask for a smoke, stroke a footstool corgi
as she goes for help and seals your legend.

Read more from Sam here

New Poem by Faber Academy alumnus Rishi Dastidar

A striking poem from last year’s Faber Academy Becoming A Poet Anthology, this. Rishi Dastidar was born in 1977 and educated at Mansfield College, Oxford. Since graduating he’s had poems published in The Delinquent and by Tate Modern, and was a runner-up in this year’s Cardiff International Poetry Competition.

Matchstick Empire

So what do you say, now give me a
nice cup of hot, good, real English tea.
 – Wilhelm II on entering exile, 1918

He followed the laws of expansion
the way his tippling grandmother had,
but alas ended up so unworthy a sovereign

that he could only wear blue serge suits,
loden capes and a hunting hat –
even though he couldn’t any more,

nor ride; just walk, feed the ducks
and cut down trees, twenty thousand
of them by his seventieth birthday.

He joked it was the only gedankensplitting
his people would listen to now.
The logs went to the faithful poor,

the only retinue left, or became matchsticks
given to the curious, with no mention made
of the moral passing between cupped hands.

This year’s  Faber Academy Becoming A Poet course starts in October and counts the incomparable Jo Shapcott, alongside Daljit Nagra, as a course director as well as a list of guest tutors which includes Maurice Riordan, Heather Phillipson and Simon Armitage. Fuller details are here or from Ian Ellard on (0)207 927 3827.

Amy by Sophia Blackwell

Always an old-school girl, you loved your Death Discs.
Car-crash songs to cry to with big-haired, black-eyed chicks
crooning doomed lovers into hairpin bends
on rain-slicked roads at night. The click of a track
as it skipped. Your odds were stacked. The whisper in your blood.
The shakes. The bone-deep aches. The car that wouldn’t stop.
Ghosts spoke to you on vinyl over a screech of brakes.


That voice of yours held years of unknown pain
right from the very start. That blistered, crackling croon
conjured dark rooms that no longer exist, rich with heartbroken notes,
full of sharp-dressed girls with empty purses and old shoes.
You were excited, then. Curvaceous, fresh-skinned, new,
your dirty schoolgirl mouth gave birth to that new-old blues.
Notes flew easy as breath from the ruptured velvet of your throat.


You told us you were trouble. You were magnificent, a star
right to the end, a staggering, ruined queen
far from your old flowered gowns and white guitars.
You teamed that Ronette-high barnet with T-bird jeans
and wore your thin-skinned past like a fret of scars,
brain full of guttering stars, arms laced with ink
as though your veins had opened and leaked sailor’s dreams.


You were gone long ago, eyes like wounded crows
drifting out of the frame. Under the zigzag banner of your name,
you were razored by spotlights, bruised in the red-tops,
used by a rat-faced boy. At nights you lay, eighty-eight pounds or so
of tear-drenched weight curled on the kitchen floor. Money, fame, sure,
but not a shard of bone, a sequin scale, a swatch of hair to call your own,
knowing- until now, anyway – you could never go home any more.

Sophia Blackwell’s site

Three poems from Matthew Stewart’s Inventing Truth

Matthew Stewart

I saw one of Matthew Stewart’s poems on Dan Wyke’s Other Lives blog recently, and was drawn to its combination of emotional impact and impressive restraint. Having since investigated further and discovered his use of syllabics, knack for concision and love of Keith Douglas I’m doubly delighted to have been introduced to his work. Matthew blogs himself, at Rogue Strands, and his debut pamphlet is out now from the high-calibre hothouse that is Happenstance. Here are three of my favourites from the collection, which have previously appeared in Poetry Nottingham International, New Walk and Rain Dog respectively.

After the party

Saturday, gone midnight, and trains
are heading out from Waterloo

with half-a-dozen rows of space
to separate each passenger.

The track’s set on jerking failure
left-left, right-left-left through my skull –

her thumb round the lip of a glass,
her goodnight kiss to cut me off.

I’m ignoring the tidal wave
of a single couple’s laughter.

Guisantes al vino tinto

Crushed and sautéed garlic, smoked paprika,
a long dollop of wine and just-shucked peas –
this is still her dish and far more daring
than sly rummages for battered photos,
especially now I’m serving it to you.


for Josefa

When you trace your wrinkles, criss-crossed
like the fine scars of unknown wounds,
and speculate how they got there;

when you’re sure you hid the stained scarf,
the note and the bent bronze bracelet
for some significant reason;

maybe you can’t remember what
you forgot, but you remember
you forgot, which is worse, far worse.

Read more from Matthew on Ink, Sweat & Tears

Poem from Andrew Motion’s Laurels and Donkeys

Laurels and Donkeys

Andrew released a chapbook with the indomitable Clutag Press last year to coincide with Armistice Day. It’s now sold out, but do check out their other mighty holdings. This poem will be included in Andrew’s next full collection, due from Faber at the end of next year.


General Petraeus, when the death-count of American troops
in Iraq was close to 3,800, said ‘The truth is you never do get
used to losses. There is a kind of bad news vessel with holes,

and sometimes it drains, then it fills up, then it empties again’,
leaving in this particular case the residue of a long story
involving one soldier who, in the course of his street-patrol,

tweaked the antenna on the TV in a bar hoping for baseball,
but found instead the snowy picture of men in a circle talking,
all apparently angry and perhaps Jihadists. They turned out to be

reciting poetry. ‘My life’, said the interpreter, ‘is like a bag of flour
thrown through wind and into thorn bushes.’ Then ‘No, no’, he said,
correcting himself. ‘Like dust in the wind. Like a hopeless man.’

More on Andrew here

Four new poems from Toby Martinez de las Rivas

Toby was one of the first wave of New Faber Poets, and his pamphlet is a thing of grandeur, heart, divinity and sparkling intelligence – in short a must-have. He’s featured in the latest clinic anthology, and is one of the poets whose new work I’m always most excited to read.  The first three poems are very specifically formatted so I’ve uploaded them as image files – click to enlarge.

Three Illustrations From Blake’s Europe: A Prophecy


Kneeling in contrapposto, the shoulders and arms
Twist against the swelling vertical axis of the left leg.
Muscles set in shadow and raucous, oppositional light.
This is one aspect of the ideal nude: arrayed as man,
Pre-democratic and wholly local, wholly sufficient.
The borrowed contortions, the splayed web of fingers
Or wind-blasted hair raddled with age, feebly white.
Heaven adorned with fire, darkness divided against
Itself where he leans to set the bright stars and the law.
Delicate sash of eyelids half closed in concentration.
And what this posture connives with is what is in us,
Is what we are: inexorable, self-willed bowing down.

Plate VIII

Hold yourself to yourself, my lost and keening one.
Beyond this room, and this fire, and this infant body
Stretched in abject stillness on the floor, lies nothing
But the failed State, arming itself against consolation.
What does she want, this duchess, in the cobalt lustre
Of her robes, if not to tax you to death and eat you,
A ring of white pearls at her beating, heron’s throat
As the cruel and  oblatory smoke ascends in clouds?
Who can doubt, now, that he foresaw and foreheard
The full range of tragedy: Passchendaele and Omaha,
Torrejón de Ardoz, Guernica: that in my grandfather’s
Throat seemed the vocables of a paradisal language?

Plate XVII

Gerusalemme. Of which the stylobate at extreme left
Is surely an outrider, the suburbs of the Holy City.
Look at the purpose in the eye of this tall, naked boy,
His right leg planted on the bottom step, his lover
Upon his shoulders, his massive torso twisted to drag,
From the following flames, his bairn, his daughter.
Thís is the ideal nude: not arrayed in flesh, but really
Flesh: sprung from earth, newly risen, individuated.
Beneath whose bare foot the secularity of stone rests
Its cold and dependable mass, begging to be shaped.
He shall make of his own arms a fold, that the gale
May pass them by, the fire not bite them with its teeth.

Read more from Toby at Eyewear and in fine company with James Brookes, Jon Stone and Sarah Howe at the Best American Poetry Blog

Three poems from Claire Trévien’s Low Tide Lottery

Low Tide Lottery
I’d been hearing lots of great things about Claire’s debut pamphlet, Low Tide Lottery, out now from Salt, for a while and having had a chance to read it found it an elegant, finely crafted thing. Here are three of several early favourites from the collection:

The Swan

After Baudelaire

Swan! I think of you as I cross the gutter.
It’s 9 a.m., so it is sweating trash: cans float
down the street like toy boats.
I look at its flow, like a useless mirror.

I am being followed by a weary German shepherd,
I spotted him a while ago walking through a stream
of commuters, soaked and slow, his head hanging low.
He is stalking, or being stalked,
large enough to hunt, but seeming haunted.

A lonely dog should be less incongruous than a swan
but he seems like a god transformed and wandering.
He has no Leda as far as I can tell.

The others barely glance at his mass as they overtake, their eyes
have been trained by beggars to stare at the middle distance.

They have been trained, but my eyes still look down and up,
like dizzy bugs at a light bulb who get stung and burned, but still

Not dulled enough to look away,
not brave enough to open my purse.

You worried at the changes of the city, I worry at its grinding halt,
at the monotony that seems to congeal the most buoyant animal.

previously published in The Warwick Review

L’Air du Temps

As we counted the two diamonds missing
from the cross, I was carried up to the mirror
and told: “one of them is Lou, darling”.

The bottle attracted first, with its embracing
doves, a fragile alabaster-kind creation, almost
transparent, yet palpable. “This one is her too
and the other one’s Barney, before”.

Her heart beats in someone else’s body now
whilst Barney breaks and decays.

It doesn’t stop the doves from kissing,
nor the bottle from opening, releasing
the perfume, free to haunt still.

The Naked House

We used to live at quatre, rue de la gare.
There was no more station by then, or tracks,
or trains, but there was our house.
The buses stank next door; we’d see
their leviathan mass disappear
down traps and never return.

The olive shutters always peeled,
stripped green, curtained by ivy.
When quatre, rue de la gare was sold
the shutters were painted new,
ready to be unwrapped again.

Visit Claire’s own site, the review site she edits and see more from her at Peony Moon