Hoppy New Year: a one-legged nursery rhyme

Winter stiff with frosts and freezes.
Spring renews with warming breezes.
Easter sinks us to our kneeses,
Grateful for the griefs of Jesus.
Summer – bright with birds and beeses.
Autumn – leaves forsake the treeses.
Winter, damp with foul diseases,
Rounds in dark: the season seizes.

by Thomas Kinsella

From Something Beginning with P, © the author.

‘… a sumptuous collection of new work by Irish poets. Like all the best anthologies, it offers poems that extend one’s definition of what the art can do, especially for children nine years old and upward. This book should be in all schools where English (and Irish) is spoken. It is a place where poets and children meet, with no condescension from the former. Buy two copies – one will be stolen.’ Times Educational Supplement

Thomas Kinsella was born in Dublin in 1928 and now lives in the USA. His many collections include Butcher’s DozenPoems from City CentreMadonna and Other Poems and A Dublin Documentary. His translations of The Táin and of Gaelic poems in An Duanaire are major contributions to modern poetry. He is the editor of the New Oxford Book of Irish Verse.

The O’Brien Press is one of Ireland’s leading trade publishers and a multi-award-winning children’s publisher. A wide selection of free teaching resources for this title is available from the website. This title and all O’Brien Press books are available to buy direct from the website or from Amazon.

Please note that there will now be a break in the Weekly Poems until late January. Best wishes to you all for a happy holiday.

Division Street

You brought me here to break it off
one muggy Tuesday. A brewing storm,
the pigeons sleek with rain.
My black umbrella flexed its wings.
Damp-skinned, I made for the crush
of bars, where couples slip white pills
from tongue to tongue, light as drizzle,
your fingers through my hair,
the little way you nearly sneaked
a little something in my blood.

At the clinic, they asked if I’d tattoos
and I thought again of here –
the jaundiced walls, the knit-knit whine
of needle dotting bone, and, for a moment,
almost wish you’d left your mark;
subtle as the star I cover with t-shirts,
the memory of rain, or your head-down walk
along Division Street, slower each week, pausing
by the pubs, their windows so dim you see
nothing but yourself reflected.

by Helen Mort

from The shape of every box, published by tall-lighthouse.

“Having moved from Derbyshire to Cambridge, I find my poems often contain a kind of longing for people and places I used to know, and ‘Division Street’ is no exception. The poem is named after a street in Sheffield. So much of poetry is a kind of nostalgia – Michael Donaghy’s poem ‘Upon A Claude Glass’ captures this perfectly for me, the notion that the past is in front of us, not the present:

‘Don’t look so smug. Don’t think you’re any safer
as you blunder forward through your years

squinting to recall some fading pleasure,
or blinded by some private scrim of tears.’

“Like many semi-autobiographical poems, this one started from fact, and took off in the writing process.  That can make you feel as if you aren’t being faithful to your experiences, but it’s important to let a poem write itself, rather than always trying to direct it.”

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985, and now lives in Cambridge. Five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition, Helen’s work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Tower PoetryThe Rialto and Poetry LondonThe shape of every box was published by tall-lighthouse in 2007; that same year she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. In 2008, she won the Manchester Young Writer Prize. Helen is part of the ‘Escalator’ live literature scheme for performance.

tall-lighthouse was founded in 2000. It publishes full collections, pamphlets, chapbooks and anthologies of poetry, and organises poetry readings and events in and around London and South East and South West England, as well as facilitating writing workshops in conjunction with Arts, Education, Library and Community Services.

For the cosmonauts

I, Yuri Gagarin, having not seen God,
wake now to the scrollwork of a body,
to my own white fibres leafing into the bone:
know that beyond this dome of rain there is
only the nothing where the soul sweeps
out its parallax like a distant star and truth
brightens to X, to gamma, through a metal sail.

So I return to you, cramming your pockets
with the atmosphere and evening news,
fumbling for gardens in the moon’s shadow,
in its waterfalls of silence. I wish for you
familiar towns, their piers and amusement arcades
unpeopled at dusk, the unicorn tumbling by
on china hooves behind the high walls
of parks, among congregating lamps.

May you find Earth rising there, between
your steepled hands. May your voyages
end. May you have a cold unfurling
of limbs each morning, when I am fallen
out of the world.

by Meirion Jordan

from Moonrise, published by Seren in November 2008.

Finely held moods and moments resonate throughout this unusually accomplished first book. The rich, complex history of Wales often crops up in expected places, as in the post industrial imagery of ‘A Camera at Senghenydd Pit’, and then, in often unexpected contexts: ‘The New World’ is a vision, a cross between ‘Under Milk Wood’ and an early J.G. Ballad novel, of post-global warming Wales, with a polyglot population: “Ronaldinho Davies/wowing the crowds at the Millennium Stadium” and swamped by tropical vegetation: “cobalt lizards and coral snakes/swallowing the cottages in Llandinam/the mahoganies uprooting Carno’s hearths”. Another apocalyptic scenario prevails in ‘Pirate Music’ where a typical weekend in the binge-drinking culture unravels vividly as one of Dante’s circles of Hell.

Such inversions of myth are rife in this book. There is a freshness with which classical motifs echo in thoroughly modern contexts. A girl on a motorbike: “you fly your hair like a flag” is a glimpse of a goddess at speed. ‘The Head of an athlete in an Ionian shipwreck’ is the past as ghost: “his smile as white as alum”. What starts as portraiture sometimes veers off in darkly mysterious incantatory digressions as in ‘The Magdalen College Chef’ whose “souffles bloom from a dipped fork./Upstairs his ragouts seethe under the grins of dons and demons”.

There are also clever, out-and-out satires like ‘The Nuclear Disaster Appreciation Society’ where “We love to watch/the palm trees beating in the thorium breeze…” and ‘Blockbuster Season’ where the protagonist is bizarrely ensnared by the cliché plots and B-list actors of the cinema “Darth Vader using my Ford Fiesta to escape from Colditz…”. The plot twists and clever inversions available in these poems often recall science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick. Engaging, musically deft, an intelligence that wears its learning lightly, this is a sparkling debut from one of the most promising young poets Wales has seen in some time.

Meirion Jordan was born in 1985 in Swansea, Wales, read Mathematics at Somerville College, Oxford, and is currently studying in the University of East Anglia Writing programme. He won the Newdigate Prize in 2007 and has been published in Poetry Wales, the TLS, and Gallous, amongst other places. He is influenced by poets David Constantine, Andrew Waterhouse, Gillian Clarke, Geoffrey Hill, Byzantine & mediaeval art, music and science fiction.

Seren is an independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Our diverse and eclectic list has something to offer anyone with an interest in excellent writing. Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience.

Please visit our website for more information on our authors and titles.

Apologies to the handful of you who also received this poem by e-mail in October. Our software wasn’t working properly then and the poem only reached the first twenty on the maillist, and we didn’t want the other 650 to miss out.