Post-fire Forest

Shadows of shadows without canopy,
phalanxes of carbonized trunks and
snags, their inner momentum shorted-out.
They surround us in early morning
like plutonic pillars, like mute clairvoyants
leading a Sursum Corda, like the excrescence
of some long slaughter. All that moves
is mist lifting, too indistinct to be called
ghostly, from scorched filamental
layers of rain-moistened earth. What
remains of the forest takes place
in the exclamatory mode. Cindered
utterances in a tongue from which
everything trivial has been volatilized,
everything trivial to fire. In a notch,
between near hills stubbled
with black paroxysm, we spot
a familiar sun, liquid glass globed
at the blowpipe’s tip. If this landscape
is dreaming, it must dream itself awake.

You have, everyone notes, a rare talent
for happiness. I wonder how
to value that, walking through wreckage.
On the second day, a black-backed
woodpecker answers your call, but we
search until twilight without finding it.


by Forrest Gander


Two brief notices: we recently launched our international poetry competition, which is judged this year by Caroline Bird. And we’re looking forward to an upcoming poetry event in Oxford with John Hegley and a ‘heartbreak poetry slam’ – join us by getting your tickets from the Old Fire Station website. You can find out more about our work in our latest newsletter or on social media – we’re @brookespoetry.

‘Post-fire Forest’ is copyright © Forrest Gander, 2022, and is reprinted here from Your Nearness (Arc Publications, 2022) by permission of Arc. It was first published in The New Yorker in April 2021, where you can also hear Forrest Gander read it. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Arc Publications:

Forrest Gander’s book Your Nearness explores the relationship between the natural and the human worlds, focussed especially on the state of California, where he lives. As the poet John Burnside has written, ‘Forrest Gander knows that the poet’s first duty is “to see what’s there and not already patterned by familiarity” – and in Your Nearness he brings to that task a combination of vision, generosity of spirit and humility in the face of wonder that singles him out as one of the finest, and most vigilant, poets working in English today.’

You can read more about the book on the Arc website, where you can also buy a copy.

Forrest Gander, a writer and translator with degrees in geology and literature, was born in the Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, and taught at Harvard University before becoming the AK Seaver Professor at Brown University.

His work has long been associated with environmental concerns. Among Gander’s most recent books are Be With, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, the novel The Trace, and Core Samples from the World. Gander’s translations include Alice Iris Red Horse: Poems by Gozo Yoshimasu and Then Come Back: the Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.

He has a history of collaborating with artists such as Ann Hamilton, Sally Mann, Graciela Iturbide and Vic Chesnutt. Recipient of grants from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting and United States Artists foundations, Gander lives in northern California.

You can find out more about Forrest Gander’s work on his website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Landscape

After Lili Elbe

In the history of medical arts I do not exist.
The archive is destroyed.

A simple white frame illuminates my skin.

Hands clasped, neck and jaw one continual line,
painted bow mouth and my eye drawn                

to the muscles in my face, the cut of this shirt,
the false unevenness of these breasts.

This landscape is a brute.

It is not with my brain, not with my eyes,
not my hands that I want to create

but with my heart and with my blood.
Lay your body over mine like a stencil,

know that nothing stranger will ever happen,
that nothing stranger could.


by Nicola Bray                                


If you’re interested in finding out more about the Poetry Centre’s work, including our international poetry competition, judged this year by Caroline Bird, and news of two new ignitionpress pamphlets launching next month, please sign up to receive our newsletter. You can read the latest newsletter on this page, and follow us on social media – we’re @brookespoetry.

‘Landscape’ is copyright © Nicola Bray, 2021, and is reprinted here from Boi (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet on the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

In Boi, Nicola Bray recasts gender as poetry, as a grounding, as blurred ink, slippery and fishlike. This speaker reminds us that selfhood is not a mast to which we are tied, but the waves we traverse, still or stormy, pulling us under, lifting us up. The journey here speaks to predecessors, to an ancient story with no archive. Bray’s linguistic and narrative art is both precise and instinctive: we feel our way through it, knowing by touch rather than sight, that we have been here before.

Find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

Nicola Bray lives in London where she graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA. Her poems were highly commended in the 2015 Faber New Poets scheme and in 2017 she was selected for the inaugural Poetry London mentoring scheme. Boi (Bad Betty Press) is her debut pamphlet.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’.

Find out more about our books on our website and follow Bad Betty on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

from Girls, Singing

A train runs right across Russia
Along a mighty river’s bank
In third class they go barefoot
The stewards are drunk

In crusts of sweetly familiar grease
Chicken legs dance
Held upright in fists, like the trees
Shivering past

Through teeming carriages I go,
As a soul in paradise’s throng,
Wrapped in an army blanket
Singing my wild song

It’s a far riskier business
Than the conductor will allow
Because any right song
Always rises to a howl

In the purest voice, while women sigh,
To a whispered stream of obscenity,
I sing of poppies on the trackside
I sing of war’s pity

Piercing the carriage’s fug,
My voice, sharp like an awl
I made them miserable
They beat me in the vestibule

In the honest song there is such ferocity
That the heart is braced.
And all fortification
Stands like a tear on the face


by Maria Stepanova, translated by Sasha Dugdale


We recently launched a new monthly Poetry Centre newsletter and the latest issue is out today (Wednesday 1 June). If you’re interested in finding out more about our work, including the launch of our international poetry competition, judged this year by Caroline Bird, and news of two new ignitionpress pamphlets launching in June, please sign up to receive it. You can read the latest newsletter on this page, and follow us on social media (links at the foot of this message).

This excerpt from ‘Girls, Singing’ is © Maria Stepanova, 2021, and the translation is © Sasha Dugdale, 2021. Originally published in Russian in Киреевский (Kireevsky) (2012), it is taken from War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova, trans. Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe Books, 2021).

You can find out more about the collection on the Bloodaxe site. You can also watch the launch of the book (a joint event with Danish poet Pia Tafdrup) on the Bloodaxe YouTube channel.

Notes from Bloodaxe Books:

War of the Beasts and the Animals is Russian poet Maria Stepanova’s first full English-language collection. It was a Poetry Book Society Translation Choice and shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021. The book includes Stepanova’s recent long poems of conflict ‘Spolia’ and ‘War of the Beasts and Animals’, written during the Donbas conflict in Ukraine, as well as a third long poem ‘The Body Returns’, commissioned by Hay International Festival in 2018 to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. This collection also includes two sequences of poems from her collection Kireevsky: sequences of ‘weird’ ballads and songs, subtly changed folk and popular songs and poems which combine historical lyricism and a contemporary understanding of the effects of conflict and trauma.

Find out more about the book, read further sample poems, and buy a copy on the Bloodaxe website.

Maria Stepanova is a poet, novelist, essayist, journalist and the author of ten poetry collections and three books of essays. Stepanova has received several Russian and international literary awards (including the prestigious Andrey Bely Prize and Joseph Brodsky Fellowship).

Her documentary novel In Memory of Memory won Russia’s Big Book Award in 2018 and was published in English in Sasha Dugdale’s translation by Fitzcarraldo in the UK and New Directions in the US in 2021. In Memory of Memory was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021, and the 2022 James Tait Black Prize for Biography, and was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2021.

Stepanova is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online independent crowd-sourced journal Colta.ru, which covers the cultural, social and political reality of contemporary Russia.

Sasha Dugdale was editor of Modern Poetry in Translation from 2013 to 2017, and is co-editor of the anthology Centres of Cataclysm: Celebrating Fifty Years of Modern Poetry in Translation (Bloodaxe Books/MPT, 2016). She has translated many works of Russian poetry, prose and drama and has published five poetry collections with Oxford/Carcanet, including Joy (2017), and Deformations (2020), which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Sasha has also worked as a consultant for the Royal Court Theatre and other companies in addition to writing her own plays, and from 1995 to 2000 worked for the British Council in Russia. She stepped down from her role as co-director of the Winchester Poetry Festival in October 2021.

Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978 and has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive series have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers.

Find out more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website and follow the press on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Dear Sophie, 14th November

Dear Sophie,                         
14th November

A sunspot sharpens a shadow on the gate making me see both shadow and gate.
You sit on the old sofa. The leather arms cool under your skin.
A sunspot through the yellow curtains making me see you are made of gold.
The weather changes. Clouds take away the gold and the gate.
Can we talk about the dark that’s coming? 

Kirsten Luckins


If you haven’t yet signed up to the Poetry Centre’s new monthly newsletter, please do! The first newsletter included details of our Fire Up Your Poetry Practice course designed to help you get your poetry published (and there are still a couple of places available for upcoming sessions). You can sign up to receive the newsletter via this page. You can also follow us on social media (links at the foot of this message).

And with the launch of a new website, we have also relocated our archive of Weekly Poems, which stretches back to 2007! You can now find them on our dedicated pages.

‘Dear Sophie, 14th November’ is copyright © Kirsten Luckins, 2021, and is reprinted here from Passerine (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the book and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

In PasserineKirsten Luckins’ epistolary poems distill the daily process of grieving, healing, remembering, through nature’s wild and atomic industry. Reading this collection is like pressing your ear to the ground to hear the orchestra of the world: alive with buzzing hum and beating wing; death, all the while, lurking on the doorstep. The language is lush, tack-sharp and playful, capturing both the contradictions of being in and of the world, and the rare honesty of a true and fierce friendship. It’s this friendship that binds the collection: a golden thread of sunlight.

Find out more about Passerine on the Bad Betty website.

Kirsten Luckins is a poet, performer, and creative producer who lives on the North East coast, as close to the sea as possible. Her practice is centred on poetry but driven by playfulness, collaboration and experimentation, so encompasses film, collage and text art, performance and theatre-making. She has toured two award-nominated spoken word shows, and worked as dramaturg to many poets and projects, including the award-winning The Empathy Experiment. She is artistic director of the Tees Women Poets collective, and co-founder of the Celebrating Change digital storytelling project where she teaches creative memoir writing. Passerine is her third collection.

You can read more about Kirsten’s work on her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books here and follow Bad Betty on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Eye of the Times

This is the eye of the times:
it looks out slant
under a seven-colour brow.
Its lid is bathed in flames,
its tear is steam.

The blind star flies at it
and melts on the hotter lash:
the world grows warm,
and the dead
break bud, and blossom.

Auge der Zeit

Dies ist das Auge der Zeit:
es blickt scheel
unter siebenfarbener Braue.
Sein Lid wird von Feuern gewaschen,
seine Träne ist Dampf.

Der blinde Stern fliegt es an
und zerschmilzt an der heißeren Wimper:
es wird warm in der Welt,
und die Toten
knospen und blühen.

Paul Celan, translated by Jean Boase-Beier


This translation is copyright © Jean Boase-Beier, 2021, and is reprinted here from Eye of the Times (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Jean Boase-Beier and Arc Publications:

Notable in this poem, from the early 1950s, is the use of Jewish symbols – fire, star, eye, the number seven – many of which became personal symbols for Celan. In his poems eyes suggest life, point of view and engagement, but often also the Jewish folk belief in the Evil Eye. And because, in German, dice have eyes rather than dots, eyes also suggest chance.

There have been many translations of Celan, each reflecting a different angle of approach to what is generally agreed to be his very complex poetry. Celan was known to have a special interest in language, in the way words work and the way in which they can be misused and can misrepresent – this is why he so often revised his poetry. Jean Boase-Beier’s particular approach to translating Celan focuses on his use of words, and her illuminating introduction and her notes contextualizing each of the poems in this chapbook are invaluable in helping the reader to their own interpretation. You can watch Celan’s translator, Jean Boase-Beier, discussing the collection with Philip Wilson in a video available on the Arc YouTube channel.

Paul Celan, who was born Paul Antschel, is widely considered to be one of the foremost European poets of the twentieth century. Born in 1920 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Czernowitz, at that time a multicultural city in Romania, he spent a short time studying Medicine in France before the start of the Second World War forced him to return. Back in Czernowitz, he began to write and translate poems, while studying French and Russian, but persecution of the Jews led to the deportation of his parents to a concentration camp, where his father died and his mother was shot. This sudden loss was to lead to severe trauma from which Celan never recovered. After the war he went to Paris, where he worked as a university lecturer in German, and won many awards for his poetry. In spite of his success, he was increasingly troubled by uncertainty, lack of self-belief, and mental disturbance. He drowned himself in the Seine in 1970.

The translator, Jean Boase-Beier, is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded and ran the MA in Literary Translation. Besides her translations of Rose Ausländer , she has translated poetry by Volker von Törne and Ernst Meister, which also appeared with Arc Publications. Jean has written extensively on translation, especially the translation of poetry. Her latest book for Arc is Poetry of the Holocaust: An Anthology (edited with Marian de Vooght, 2019). Find out more about Jean’s work on the Arc website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Hellmouth

The weather fiercely dragonish
         with strong headwinds
the brothers’ faith a cotton thread
         their minds bobbins
 
Ahead a coastline visible
         a scene most cruel
volcanic blast that feeds on air
         and human fuel
 
A packed crowd in that fiery pit
         who writhe and gurn
then some by detonation fly
         and fleck the sun
 
Devils with forks and leather flails
         maintain these lands
breeding horse-flies and leeches fat
         as Kerry lambs
 
Brendan spies a devil on shore
         and loudly cries
Who are these tortured kindling folks?
         What are their crimes?
 
The figure hocks up phlegm and yells
         Dead-eye loan sharks
crap-wigged kleptocratic bampots
         with shilling hearts
 
These parasites made profit off
         poor citizens
their flesh is now a reddish clay
         we fire their skins
 
A vile stench envelops the Cog
         her retching crew
as terraced theatres of flame
         slow-fade from view

A.B. Jackson

As mentioned last week, we recently launched a new monthly Poetry Centre newsletter. If you’re interested in finding out more about our work, including our Fire Up Your Poetry Practice course (currently recruiting!) and ignitionpress, please sign up to receive it. You can also read the latest newsletter on this page, and follow us on social media (links at the foot of this message).

‘Hellmouth’ is © A.B. Jackson, 2021 and the accompanying image is © Kathleen Neeley, 2021. The poem and image are reprinted with permission from The Voyage of St Brendan (Bloodaxe Books, 2021). Find out more about the collection on the Bloodaxe site, where you can read further sample poems. You can also watch the launch (a joint event with Penelope Shuttle and John Challis) on the Bloodaxe YouTube channel.

Notes from Bloodaxe Books:

In The Voyage of St Brendan, A.B. Jackson tells the tale of the legendary seafaring Irish abbot. After burning a book of fantastical stories, Brendan is compelled to sail the ocean with a crew of six monks in a leather-skinned currach; his task, to prove the existence of wonders in the world and create a new book of marvels. Discoveries include Jasconius the island-whale, a troop of Arctic ghosts, a hellmouth of tortured souls, a rock-bound Judas, and the magical castle of the boar-headed Walserands.

Although the roots of this legend lie in early Irish tales and the Latin Voyage of Brendan the Abbot of the ninth century, Jackson has taken the 14th-century Middle Dutch version of Brendan’s voyage as the template for this engaging, witty and spirited interpretation, notable for its humour and inventiveness.

Find out more about the book, read further sample poems, and buy a copy on the Bloodaxe website.

The book is illustrated with a series of black and white linocuts by the American artist Kathleen Neeley. Kathleen is an artist specializing in relief printmaking and illustration. She received a B.F.A. and M.A. from the University of Oklahoma. She lives in Tulsa. Find out more about her art on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A.B. Jackson was born in Glasgow in 1965 and raised in the village of Bramhall, Cheshire. After moving to Cupar in Fife he studied English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. His first book, Fire Stations (Anvil), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2003, and a limited edition pamphlet, Apocrypha (Donut Press), was published in 2011. In 2010 he won first prize in the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. His second collection, The Wilderness Party (Bloodaxe Books, 2015), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Voyage of St Brendan was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2021. After a number of years in Yorkshire he now lives in Pitlochry.

You can read more about A. B. Jackson’s work on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978 and has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive series have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers. Find out more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website and follow the press on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers

A popular history of urban planning

Concrete says
any shape you can dream

The streets say damp, rubble
rat, wind, rack-rent and fist. 

The best view from here is of the future
a sky in a frame on the wall 

morning blue or neon-bright
full of pleasuredomes and expressways. 

The apartment has doors you can close at will.
Enough space for your thoughts 

an inside toilet. A life
without layers: just thin fabric 

between you and the room. There is even
hot water. England says yes 

breathes in the dust that was a ceiling rose
rescues fireplaces for the suburbs 

growls, from the new artery
at the sober dawn of its promise 

stained, broken, lonely
its own brief surrender to hope.  


by Tom Sastry

You can watch Tom read this poem on Nine Arches Press’s YouTube channel.


Some news about this e-mail! For a number of years, the Weekly Poem e-mail has been a space both to share poetry and as the Poetry Centre’s newsletter. Later this week we are launching a new newsletter that will appear every month, so the Weekly Poem will now just feature each week’s poem. 

So, if you’d like to keep up with the Poetry Centre’s activities and receive information about ignitionpress, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter at this link or follow us on social media (links at the bottom of this message).

And if you’d prefer just to continue to receive the Weekly Poem, you don’t need to do anything! Your subscription will remain the same. If at any time you’d like to unsubscribe from this weekly e-mail, you can do so by clicking on the link at the very bottom of this message. Many thanks for your attention and support!

‘A popular history of urban planning’ is copyright © Tom Sastry, 2022, and is reprinted here from You have no normal country to return to (Nine Arches Press, 2022) by permission of Nine Arches. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy from the press website.

Tune in to Tom’s joint online book launch with Julia Webb on 26 May. To register, visit this Eventbrite page.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

In You have no normal country to return to, Tom Sastry explores questions of national identity and ‘the end of history’. A blistering, bleakly funny and timely second poetry collection, following his Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize shortlisted debut, A Man’s House Catches Fire

By turns crisply satirical and questioning, You have no normal country to return to ranges across the legacies of Empire, postwar migration and the current crisis in English identity. Sastry’s precise, brilliantly attuned poetry asks how the times we live in and the tales we tell about them affect us; how our emotional landscapes are shaped by national myths and the more personal stories we tell about ourselves. It is a book about illusion, and discovering, again and again, that what was once taken for granted was never really there; a guidebook for an age of ‘enchantments collapsing on themselves’. 

Find out more about the collection and buy a copy on the Nine Arches website.

Tom Sastry has been described by Hera Lindsay Bird as a ‘magician of deadpan’. He was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. Since then, his poems have appeared in The GuardianPoetry Review and he has been highly commended in the Forward Prize. 

Tom’s first collection A Man’s House Catches Fire was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize. His pamphlet, Complicity was a Poetry School Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. Tom lives and works in Bristol. You can follow him on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press on the Nine Arches website, and follow Nine Arches on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

A Bitter Plum

See this plum. See how this plum fits my mouth;
its furry pit revolves between my tongue until I spit it out.
I use the back of my hand to wipe my lips which wait for—                                                           

Actually my love, it’s not a plum but a stone. See how this stone
fits the palm of that little brown girl’s hand as she plays along the sea’s
edge. Isn’t she so pretty, the way she holds it with such—                                                           

Forgive me, this is really inexcusable of me. It’s not a stone
but a bullet. See how this bullet travels through air, enters the abdomen
of that man with the green vest and heavy satchel—not old, not young,
with the beautiful brown eyes.                                                           

This isn’t a poem about how that bullet fit my mouth, fit the palm
of that little brown girl’s hand as she played along the sea’s edge
and entered the abdomen of that man with the green vest and heavy satchel—
not old, not young, with the beautiful brown eyes.                                                           

It’s a much, much more tangled story.

by S. Niroshini        

Two notes from the Poetry Centre: this evening (Thursday 21 April), join us and Granta Poetry as we bring together the acclaimed Canadian poet Sylvia Legris and our colleague, award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan, in a joint reading and conversation. Hosted by poet and Granta editor Rachael Allen, the event is online and starts at 7pm. To find out more and register, please visit this Zoom link.

This semester the Centre is showcasing the research being carried out by Dr Eric White into the American avant-gardes, and we invite you to join us! ‘Shaking the Lights’ is a series of free digital events, open to all, and continues on Tuesday 26 April with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Kathleen Tankersley Young. You can register for the event and find copies of the poems we’ll talk about on the Poetry Centre website.  

‘A Bitter Plum’ is copyright © S. Niroshini, 2021, and is reprinted here from Darling Girl (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Niroshini’s poems live at the intersection of beauty, history and violence. They embody the stillness within the maelstrom required to reclaim oneself from unlawful ownership, from colonial and gender-based trauma. We find ourselves on a rooftop in Colombo, in Neruda’s latrine, submerged in the waters of the Indian Ocean, and on the battlefield with Kali, imagined as a mother in conversation with her daughter. The voices contained within each tableau are tenderly devastating, entreating girls, like the gods, to call out their one thousand and eight names.

Find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

S. Niroshini is a writer and poet based in London. She received Third Prize in the Poetry London Prize 2020 and a London Writers Award for Literary Fiction. Born in Sri Lanka, she was educated in Colombo, Melbourne and Oxford and worked as a solicitor before starting to write poetry, fiction and essays. Darling Girl is her first pamphlet (Bad Betty, 2021). 

You can find out more about Niroshini’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books here and follow Bad Betty on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Jenny

She pulls things from the earth
with bare hands, clipped fingernails crusted,
compact with the black.
Roll the stem, between this finger and that,
then ease; out of that musty damp
the bulk of root, to straggling tip.
Japanese radish, long as thumbs, lobster pink with
peppered, brittle flesh;
beet that bleed into scored wood
stain fingertips in violent ink –
she shakes all this life in her hands,
sieves the clotted soil and breadcrumbs dirt.
Plucking at broad beans, freeing
full fat pods from strained seams,
peering at pale bright flesh, their bitter caps
she’ll not look up.
‘There’s something pressing in my head.’
She pulls things from the earth.

by Katie Hourigan

There are three Poetry Centre events coming up soon and we hope you can join us at one – or more! This evening, Tuesday 5 April, from 7.30-8.30pm, we’re taking part in Oxford Brookes’s Think Human Festival with an online event called All Fired Up! It features our colleague Dr Mary Jean Chan, who will be reading from her work alongside nine poets who took part in our Fire Up Your Poetry Practice short course last year. For more information and to register, please visit this Zoom link

Then on Tuesday 12 April from 5-6pm, we’re delighted to be hosting the leading Argentine poet Diana Bellessi (the ‘godmother of feminist / LGBTQI+ / Lesbian poetry’ in Argentina), who will be reading from her work with her translator, Leo Boix, in an in-person event here at Brookes that will be hosted by Mary Jean Chan. It’s free to attend, and you can find more details on this Poetry Translation Centre page. If you’d like to come along, please e-mail Dr Niall Munro via niall.munro@brookes.ac.uk

And finally, join us online on Thursday 21 April from 7-8pm for reading and conversation with Canadian poet Sylvia Legris (whose new book, Garden Physic, is forthcoming from Granta and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation), and Mary Jean Chan. You can sign up to attend via Eventbrite. 

‘Jenny’ is copyright © Katie Hourigan, 2022. It is reprinted from Ten Poems of the Soil (Candlestick Press, 2022) by permission of Candlestick. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Candlestick website.

Notes from Candlestick Press:

Soil, earth, clay, sod, clod: there’s no shortage of one-syllable words for the stuff that gets behind our fingernails and sticks to our wellies. And it’s strangely enjoyable to say these words out loud – as if they remind us of childhood and sitting in the dirt to make mud pies. This mini-anthology – arriving just as spring makes its glorious return – delights in all things earthy, including those often unseen creatures like moles and worms who live and work underground. There are also poems celebrating the human toil of keeping soil in good order and the satisfaction this brings.As we’re reminded elsewhere, ‘the soil never sleeps’. These poems recognise good earth as something that’s living and precious, which is why we’re delighted to include a message from the Soil Association about their important work. The pamphlet includes poems by Margaret Atwood, Verne Bright, Carl Dennis, Jacqueline Gabbitas, Adam Horovitz, Katie Hourigan, Yusef Komunyakaa, PK Page, Ruth Pitter and George Szirtes.

Read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Candlestick website.

Katie Hourigan was born in Devon. She is currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her work has been published in the magazines Spelt and Porridge. You can follow Katie on Twitter.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press based in Nottingham and has been publishing its sumptuous ‘instead of a card’ poetry pamphlets since 2008. Subjects range from Birds and Clouds to Tea, Kindness, Home and Sheep. Candlestick Press titles are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, as well as by galleries, museums and garden centres. They can also be ordered online via the Candlestick website, where you can find out more about the full range of titles.  Since 2008 Candlestick has sold over 800,000 pamphlets which means more than 8 million poems have been read via its publications. 

You can follow Candlestick on Twitter @poetrycandle, on Instagram @candlestickpress, and you can find the press on Facebook.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers. 

Back Story

So I made myself a seagull
dyed everything grey and white
glued sexless feathers to a Weetabix box
and circled the school carpark                                                           

bombing children with lip-shaped
sweets if I liked them
and smaller creatures’ eggs
if I didn’t                                                           

hovered by the gates studying
how girls in bunches became bananas
still green and hard
but not as hard as me                                                           

I was an unblinking seagull
always out of reach
I was the chip-stealer
the sky-klaxon                                                           

a squawk so loud
nobody would want
to hurt me
couldn’t if they tried                                                   

and I beat my wings
till the white vans and boys
in their bad uniforms
blew out out out to sea

by Helen Bowell

Happy World Poetry Day! It’s a busy week for the Poetry Centre and we invite you to join us for one (or both!) of the events we have coming up. Tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6-7pm online, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Showcase will gather together Brookes poets from undergraduate to PhD level to share a sample of their work. Join us to hear a wonderful range of writing. To register and receive the Zoom link, please visit this Zoom page.

Then on Friday from 7-8pm online, as part of the university’s Creative Industries Festival, we’ll be hosting a panel about independent poetry presses. We’ll be in conversation with three of the leading indie presses in the UK: Bad Betty Press, represented by Amy Acre; Out-Spoken Press (Anthony Anaxagorou); and Nine Arches Press, represented by Jane Commane. We’ll be discussing topics such as how presses select poets, editorial policy, funding models, markets and sales, and how we enable people from a broader range of backgrounds to get involved in publishing. To register to attend, visit this Zoom page.

‘Back Story’ is copyright © Helen Bowell, 2022, and is reprinted here from The Barman (Bad Betty Press, 2022) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet on the  press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Helen Bowell and The Barman form a relationship from which you won’t easily look away. This debut pamphlet is a sharp, witty exploration of the nuances of a sometimes reluctant co-dependency. At times it feels like you are the third housemate, unashamedly pressing your ear to the wall to hear conversations as intimate as they are absurd. Bowell deftly interrogates what it means to feel both othered and adored, comfortable and wary. The Barman is an introduction to a poetic voice unique in its ability to subtly express its desires, leaving enough room for the reader to find parts of themselves in the world it creates.

You can read more about The Barman and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

Helen Bowell is a poet, critic and producer based in London. She is a co-director of Dead [Women] Poets Society, a live literature organisation which ‘resurrects’ women poets of the past. Helen is a Ledbury Poetry Critic and an alumna of The Writing Squad, Roundhouse Poetry Collective, London Writers Awards and London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Her work has appeared in MagmaThe NorthPoetry WalesAmbitharana poetry and elsewhere. Since 2017, she has worked at The Poetry Society.

You can read more about Helen’s work on her website, follow her on Twitter and watch her read from her work in this Creative Future Writers’ Award video.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books  here and follow Bad Betty on  Facebook,  Twitter and  Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.