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

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