Big hands

I remember your big felted charcoal wool coat,
boxy as a coffin. You hugged me, wearing it,
and the felt was so thick that it bent in straight lines,
like cardboard does. It was Barbican station,
lemon yellow tiles and a busker somewhere doing
Blister in the Sun. No one in London stays still
that long, but you held on, like you knew
we wouldn’t meet again. I didn’t want to
let go or take the steps or get on the next
Hammersmith & City heading west.
I could have been your friend.
It would have been hard to settle for,
but I’d have done it.

by Claire Askew

Three brief notes from the Poetry Centre… This is the final Weekly Poem before a summer break. Poems will return to your inbox from 5 September. Thanks for reading! Secondly, our International Poetry Competition is still open for entries until 31 August and is judged by Caroline Bird. For more details, visit our website. And finally, our two newest ignitionpress pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Anthony Ramírez have just been launched! You can find out more about these exciting additions to the press’s list on our site.

‘Big hands’ is copyright © Claire Askew, 2021, and is reprinted here from How to burn a woman (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) by permission of Bloodaxe. You can read more about the book on the Bloodaxe website.

Notes from Bloodaxe Books:

Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It licks flame across the imagination, and rewrites narratives of human desire. It is a collection for anyone who has ever run through their life ‘backwards/ in the dark,/ with no map’ – these bright poems illuminate the way.

How to burn a woman throngs with witches, outsiders, and women who do not fit the ordinary moulds of the world. It is a collection which traces historic atrocities, and celebrates the lives of those accused of witchcraft with empathy, tenderness and rage. It lifts a mirror up to contemporary systems of oppression and, in language that is both vivid and accessible, asks hard questions of our current world.

Find out more about the collection and read further sample poems on the Bloodaxe website.

Claire Askew was born in 1986 and grew up in the rural Scottish Borders. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing & Contemporary Women’s Poetry from the University of Edinburgh. After living in Edinburgh for many years, she is currently based in Carlisle.

In 2013 she won the International Salt Prize for Poetry, and in 2014 was runner-up for the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for Scottish poets under 30 for an earlier version of her first book-length collection, This changes things, which was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. This changes things was also shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award 2016, the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for First Full Collection 2017 and the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize 2017.

Claire has been a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion (2016/7), a Jessie Kesson Fellow (2017) and the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (2017-2019). Also a novelist, her award-winning Edinburgh-based DI Birch series is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Find out more about Claire and her work on her website and follow her 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.

The Lives of Jazz Fathers

Let’s resurrect the trumpet players;
           the saxophonists named for fauna gone 
extinct in the Congos and Barrios, 
           the worship and wail, the shadow song

of 40s Noir — black and white ailments
           of New York’s terminally cool.
There are no more quartets —
           only quartered ensemble split from 

cities coated to chin, faces blurred white
           in pedestrian winds and yellow cabs.
Now, the drummers search estate sales, rummage
           for swivel stools to post on Etsy. The bassists 

study Phlebotomy, read blood panels for Diabetes.
           The pianists work dental offices, drill tartars
to reveal the whites of cuspids. The saxophonists
           teach Tai Chi classes, sleep at the Chinatown Y. 

I mean to say I miss them: the notes who stroll
           October for pick up chess in parks
with coffees and fingerless gloves; the chop
           chords at brick-and-mortar steak houses; 

the soloists smile in the amber memory
           of nightclubs numb with intoxication.
They’re dead – the blue veranda is silent
           where they jammed, moon drift in palm
leaves and ivory; notes of copper and zinc.

by Jacob Anthony Ramírez

Listen to Jacob reading ‘The Lives of Jazz Fathers’

We’re delighted to share the second of two poems from new pamphlets published by our own ignitionpress. This week we feature work by Jacob Anthony Ramírez from his pamphlet Kitchen Boombox, that we’ll soon be launching alongside Finishing School by Michaela Coplen (which we featured last week). Join us online on Saturday 16 July or in person at our London launch on Tuesday 19 July to hear from these wonderful collections! We’re delighted to say that the London event, which will be taking place at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, will also include readings from three other ignitionpress poets: Fathima Zahra, Katie Byford, and Joanna Ingham. Both the online and in-person events are free to attend, and we hope to see you there! You can read more about the two pamphlets, hear the poets discuss them, and buy copies on our website now.

‘The Lives of Jazz Fathers’ is copyright © Jacob Anthony Ramírez, 2022, and is reprinted here from Kitchen Boombox (ignitionpress, 2022).

In these vulnerable, revelatory poems, Jacob Anthony Ramírez conjures the voices of his past, the matriarchs, and the ghosts, to confess his longing for love and acceptance. Influenced by American Jazz and Mexican magic, Kitchen Boombox sings its blues of family, grief, and identity to celebrate a survival of tenderness. Where the kitchen meets the concert and the streets meet the church, Ramírez swerves from measured line to fractured form in this prismatic soundscape where dangers lurk and the sacred awaits. 

You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on our website.

Jacob Anthony Ramírez is a poet, educator, and visual artist from California. He is the recipient of Lancaster University’s Portfolio Prize where he earned his Creative Writing MA with distinction. He is the founding editor-in-chief of Cloverse – a literary magazine celebrating Sonoma County’s teen poetry in English, Spanish, and Spanglish.

His poetry appears in various publications, among them, Haymarket Books’ The Breakbeat Poets – LatiNEXT, 2021’s Latino Book Review MagazineThe Indianapolis Review, and The Santa Fe Writers Project. Jacob is pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. His poetry project, tentatively titled ‘The Men We Bury’, investigates heteronormative and machismo culture in Latinx diasporic communities through lenses of dual-identity, fatherhood, and American roots music. His first full-length collection is currently in progress. He teaches literature in California where he lives with his wife and two children.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter.

Established by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre in 2017, ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets. Pamphlets published by the press have so far received four Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice selections (for A Hurry of EnglishHingeRipe, and Sargam / Swargam) and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020. In 2021, the press won the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. Read more about the press on our website.

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.

View

If I were more like my mother, I’d know what to do 
with all these ends — chicken bones, tomato stems, 
the inner ribs of peppers. Another thing for the list of things 

I’ll ignore until I can’t: spiderwebs just out of reach, 
the puddles beneath the fridge. Honestly, I don’t 
remember much about her cancer. It happened 

in a different room it was happening so fast.
Last night, in a fit of genius, we nailed the doorstop
to the floor. Now I can see almost everything: 

the triplets in the garden, the women smoking 
on their steps, a collection of silver cans.
The windows of the funeral home on the corner 

are papered over — crosswords and the tabloid ads
for local naked ladies. Where I grew up, the major roads
are lined with these invitations. Trucks 

shudder to a stop. The pawn shops are always open.
The ghost town only miles away has smouldered
for sixty years — fire caught a vein of coal 

and no one can put it out. Here,
I watch the city trains emerge
from underground. We brace against 

the frequency — they pass at different speeds.
You’re going somewhere, aren’t you? The pavement
winks like a lesson, and the mattress they pushed 

from the neighbour’s house when she died
is still on the kerb — folded, holding its
ankles, flashing the whole wide street. 


by Michaela Coplen


Listen to Michaela read ‘View’


We’re excited this week to share the first of two poems from new pamphlets published by our own ignitionpress. This week we feature work by Michaela Coplen from her pamphlet Finishing School, which we’ll be launching alongside Kitchen Boombox by Jacob Anthony Ramírez. Join us online on Saturday 16 July or in person at our London launch on Tuesday 19 July to hear from these wonderful collections! We’re delighted to say that the London event, which will be taking place at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, will also include readings from three other ignitionpress poets: Fathima Zahra, Katie Byford, and Joanna Ingham. Both the online and in-person events are free to attend, and we hope to see you there!

‘View’ is copyright © Michaela Coplen, 2022, and is reprinted here from Finishing School (ignitionpress, 2022).

From the first poem in Michaela Coplen’s pamphlet, ‘the mind begins this squeaking’ — an urgent impulse that never stops. Finishing School charts a young woman’s growth through an abecedarian form, each poem a letter of the alphabet that marks a different stage of learning. Encountering ‘lessons’ ranging from childhood dress-up games, to instances of intimacy, academic interviews, and funeral planning, the subject navigates an education in womanhood and power — developing her own understandings of vulnerability, ambition, escape. You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy (available later this week!) on our website.

Michaela Coplen is a poet and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. She earned her BA from Vassar College, where she served as a poetry editor for the Vassar Review. She was appointed a National Student Poet by First Lady Michelle Obama, and has performed her poetry in venues including Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and the White House.

In 2018, Michaela was awarded a Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the UK. She completed her MPhil in International Relations at the University of Oxford in 2020, and has continued her studies as a DPhil candidate. Her poems have been published online with The Atlantic and Poets.org as well as in the Bellevue Literary Review and in The Oxonian Review. She won the 2019 Troubadour International Poetry Prize, the 2020 York Poetry Prize, and is included in Here: Poems for the Planet and the 2020 Best New Poets anthology.

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

Established by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre in 2017, ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets. Pamphlets published by the press have so far received four Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice selections (for A Hurry of EnglishHinge, Ripe, and Sargam / Swargam) and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020. In 2021, the press won the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. Read more about the press on our website.

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.

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.