A Bowlful of Tongues

As we are swallowed by the city’s
lips, open like a kiss,
we all find something to shout about,

the jib of the rain sheared pure
from the backs of pullover clouds
by the falling nuts and bolts
of swearing sprayed by sentimental truckers.

A booing flight of volleyed songbirds
drop shadows all across villa park, croaky throated
with joining in that famous folksong sung
by the proud Tilton singers,
who have proved, that if you keep right on,
eventually, paradise will be yours.

If you happen too quick you’ll remember
to forget the grief that greets as you look back
at the big bloke you’ll never meet until
it’s too late, confronting those who’ve lost
the plot banged against the bumper in front.

Spaghetti steams with a hiss pop cackle of radios
on the blink and a tape of the Status Quo unspooling
like the roads straightening beyond Birmingham calling
in our accent crafted from bitter and graft.

When you bleed out from the Heart towards wherever
it is you feel comfortably zipped,
through suburbs coupled up to share a name
and Somewhere towns someone, somehow,
must love,
but not us,

by Matt Nunn

Matt Nunn was born in West Bromwich in 1971. This poem comes from Happy Cos I’m Blue, his second collection. He is a freelance writer and poetry workshop leader and lives in Birmingham. ‘A Bowlful of Tongues’ was commissioned by BBC Radio to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of Spaghetti Junction.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy Happy Cos I’m Blue, please visit the Heaventree Press website. 

Break of Day in the Trenches

The darkness crumbles away,
It is the same old Druid Time as ever.
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand,
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems, odd thing, you grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Helpless whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurl’d through still heavens?
What quaver – what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping,
But mine in my ear is safe – 
Just a little white with the dust.

by Isaac Rosenberg

from Poetry Out of My Head and Heart (2007), edited by Jean Liddiard

An astonishing discovery was made in 1995 during the British Library’s removal from the British Museum. Thirty-four letters and eighteen draft poems, including  ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’, ‘Dead Man’s Dump’ and ‘Returning, We Hear the Larks’ by the major First World War poet Isaac Rosenberg, were found in a bundle of papers stored by former museum keeper Laurence Binyon, himself a poet and Rosenberg’s mentor. The newly discovered papers include all Rosenberg’s complete letters and draft poems to Binyon and the poet Gordon Bottomley, together with material about Rosenberg from family, friends and mentors such as his sister Annie, Whitechapel librarian Morley Dainow, schoolteacher Winifreda Seaton, and patron Frank Emanuel. All are published here, most for the first time.

Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol in 1890 to Jewish immigrant parents from Lithuania. His family moved to the East End of London in 1897, and after a rudimentary education Rosenberg at 14 was apprenticed to an engraver. Wealthy patrons enabled him to study at the Slade School of Art (1911-14) and for nine months in 1914-15 he lived in South Africa. The only poems to be collected in his lifetime were self-published in a pamphlet form – Night and Day (1912), Youth (1915) and Moses (1916). Enlisting in the Army in October 1915 he served on the Western Front until his death on night patrol on 1 April 1918.

Founded in 1967, Enitharmon Press publishes fine quality literary editions. While specialising in poetry, we also publish fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, and an extensive list of artists’ books.

SIX

I am getting sick of trying to temper my tantrums. It’s true that it’s very frustrating when the tortilla doesn’t just slide out of the pan. I don’t care about the number of the beast it’s too predictable. Six – in six days work was complete and Larry Fagin invited us over for dinner. Who is the sky who is the universe who made the universe who wills the birds as the butterflies as the flowers which drop at the feet of the gods.  Six sheep rapt on shore. A covenant was made with the children of Israel. She wondered if he really loved her. My other wife is a Cadillac.  I came with my wife six times we loved it so much. Sheaf or sheep or sheer. They tried not to face the facts that they were being lied to by the men in power but after a while they realized they’d rather be fishing anyway. Votes count. Six days you shall labor. I lived in Mexico for six years and therefore compared to you I am exotic. Backstage at Radio City Music Hall past the Rockettes’ dressing rooms three camels six sheep two donkeys and a horse keep a woman awake each night. Desire tremble your rhyme this is my hand your hand we are kissing in time.

by Daniel Kane

from Seven by Daniel Kane (Landfill, 2004)

Copyright © Daniel Kane

Seven is a prose poem that mixes everyday emotions, jokes, memories and found language with an increasingly mystical vision of numbers in the universe. In the penultimate section, the Apocalyptic number of the beast (666) is impatiently dismissed, but recollection of the Biblical six-day Creation introduces a more lyrical mood, which breaks into rhyme with the final sentence. As Gertrude Stein said: ‘A sentence is not emotional a paragraph is.’

Daniel Kane is a Senior Lecturer in the School of American Studies at the University of Sussex. He is the author of All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s (University of California, 2003). His long prose poem ‘Ostentation of Peacock’ can also be read online here.

Landfill Press was founded in Norwich in 2004 as a publisher of contemporary poetic sequences