Frozen

We pooled out into a field at dawn,
a scattering of angry men
and me, fierce at the heart of them,
my back still wet with blood,
shining from the whip. I was calm,
like water. The pressure of it
frozen. Men, my men. I had those
marks on my bare legs
from damp grass, my bodice
was open, they could see
my breasts. But I was their sister,
their goddess, their queen;
my lightning grief was theirs,
my thunder anger rolled
across the milky fields, a star
for them to follow – on foot
or broken, on their knees.

by Jane Holland

This poem is taken from Jane Holland’s second collection, Boudicca & Co., a provocative  and vibrant exploration of women and their roles in society. The perennial themes of motherhood, love and sex jostle for space here with elegies, poetry written for performance, and Celtic-inspired mythological pieces. Richly allusive, these poems create networks between each other, tell stories, make music and ask unexpected questions of the reader.  

A collection with a powerful sense of place, Boudicca & Co. is located mainly within the British Isles, though not always in the present day. Often retrospective in mood, these poems deal with the poet’s own difficult past and with historical Britain, reinventing Celtic and Medieval stories and myths in particular. Yet there is also a Britain here that never existed, a landscape of the imagination, where a restless questioning spirituality tries to make sense of the gaps between expectation and reality. 

Sensual and politically engaged, Boudicca & Co. drives narrative poetry in new feminist directions, creating a host of female characters with strong individual voices and complex agendas. The title poem is a long ambitious sequence in the voice of Boudicca, disenfranchised Queen of the Iceni who leads the Ancient Britons in rebellion against the Roman settlers. It follows Boudicca’s transition from wife and mother to warrior queen, prepared to kill in the pursuit of freedom, blindly ruthless in her desire for revenge. The sequence explores the themes of national identity, personal betrayal and civil war with dark anarchic humour and an uncompromising starkness not for the faint-hearted.

Jane Holland is an English poet, novelist, editor and former professional snooker player, born in Essex in 1966. She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 1996. Her first collection, The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman, was published by Bloodaxe in 1997. A first novel, Kissing the Pink, followed from Sceptre in 1999. One of the top poetry performers in the Midlands, she lives in Warwickshire with her husband and five children. She was named Warwick Poet Laureate in 2007.

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Please note: we’ll be taking a break over Easter – the Weekly Poem service will resume at the beginning of April.

Falling Asleep with Henry James

The wrongly placed (as it had seemed to him)
Apostrophe got up upon its several
Tiny feet, strode purposefully across

The margin and began a traverse
Of the ridges of his index fingernail.
In the meantime, Miles had passed his arm

Around his little sister and was reading
To her as they walked together, up and down,
In the garden.   No doubt an English

Garden with flowerbeds ─ nothing to match
The Villa Rincon and its high, cool terraces,
The grey-green leaves of the olive trees

Set off by the wrinkling blue of the sea.
Page fifty-six was where his marker was.
The children had evidently gone inside.

But not the pair of ladies, who were deep
In agitated conversation.   Fifty-eight.
The cicadas had stopped, leaving behind

One of those silent moments when the world
Seems to have gathered itself together
And be crouching.  The younger of the ladies

Was threatening to leave.   A pine cone dropped,
And he had the uneasy feeling there was
Someone else looking out from underneath

His eyelids and leaning their elbows
(Could it be Quint?) on the sills of his skull.
And in that instant nothing seemed to him

More natural than that these things, as he
Had read somewhere, should be those other things
Which clearly they were absolutely not.

by Neil Curry

from Other Rooms: New & Selected Poems (2007)

There is a powerfully dramatic and narrative quality to the new poems which preface Neil Curry’s Other Rooms, and we hear in them a wide variety of voices speaking to us from different times and different places, but speaking to us of things which nevertheless concern us deeply today.  Whatever form Curry adopts is handled with flexibility and skill, and wherever the poems are set there is a geographical and linguistic exactness which makes them as compelling as his acclaimed translations of the classics.    

Neil Curry was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in Ulverston in the Lake District. His verse translations of Euripides, published by Methuen and Cambridge University Press, and in the USA by Doubleday, have been performed in many countries. Enitharmon has published his four earlier collections:  Ships in Bottles (1988), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Walking to Santiago (1992), The Bending of the Bow (1993) and The Road to the Gunpowder House (2003).

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.

“the poem is nothing”

i

the poem is nothing
if not an anvil

scolding spikes of tangerine get
hammered into various shapes on its surface

maybe a wild black horse or
a scrap of the moon or a girl
sitting on the rim of a fountain
about to fall in or not
about to fall in & ruin her good summer dress
or a set of steel teeth with a winding mechanism
big enough to chew the entire city up
munch munch off it goes

glaring sparks rainbow through the air
they could start fires but the poem
stays cool black motionless & there
you can’t shift it now

ii

the poem is nothing if not an anvil
it whistles down the coyote gets it

by Simon Turner

Simon Turner has been writing poetry for ten years and this poem comes from his collection, You Are Here, recently published by Heaventree. He lives and works in Warwickshire. Alongside other West Midlands poets, Matt Nunn and Milorad Krystanovich, Simon Turner’s work is part of a larger-scale movement in innovative contemporary poetry in the region, supported by Heaventree.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy You Are Here, please visit the Heaventree Press website.