on nomenclature

father knew his place
it was near the north gate
of the auxiliary winter capital
in the quarter of the middling sort

I climbed it for both of us
the mountain of graduated merit
to the thud of plummeting bodies
I examined away my youth
in the hall of indelible nightmares
to the accompaniment of terminal sobbing
then it was farewell happy father

my first posting was an assistantship
in the region of windswept borders
where I gave good calligraphy
in the third war of pointless encroachment

later in the capital
I enjoyed prestigious posts
keeper of the library of unlearned lessons
and later the first curator
of the burnt library museum
yes interesting times

when I was installed on
the committee of unthinkable thoughts
under the prince with the bees in his bonnet
a new title seemed to beckon me
till all that free-form thinking
triggered the great autumn purge
resulting in five uncomfortable days
in the chamber of extruded truth
before a ceremony-free award
of the brown fan of early retirement
second class

where I live now
the locals will direct you to
the famous mountain hut
of the retired administrator
but I’m always careful to point out
it’s really just my dwelling
that I’ve haven’t got round
to calling anything fancy
and my garden is not defined
by willows or chrysanthemums
or that big mountain it clings to

what I’ve learned I think is
how everything under language
slips and slides and bites
and how in the end
language makes its excuses
and leaves for the beach
where every wave is new and gone

and I sit late
night rises from the valley
and one by one the lights come on
like memories and stay
wavering like memories

and later one by one go out
like names

by Alasdair Paterson

Happy Easter to our readers! Remember that if you use social media, you can now find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright © Alasdair Paterson, 2010. ‘on nomenclature’ is taken from the volume On the Governing of Empires by Alasdair Paterson, published by Shearsman Books, 2010. It is reprinted here by permission of Shearsman Books.

Notes courtesy of Shearsman Books:

Alasdair Paterson was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Exeter. He won an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry in 1976; On the Governing of Empires is his first collection for more than 20 years. The intervening time was spent directing the work of academic libraries in Britain and Ireland, and travelling to Samarkand, Salonika, Stamboul, Siberia, Swaziland, San Francisco, Sidmouth and many other places not beginning with an S. You can read more selections from his latest volume here and here, and keep up with him via his blog, ‘return of the crane’, here.

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here.

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.

Serapis from a Postcard

for Zouzi Chebbi Mohamed Hasesen

Inventor-cool that Ptolemy –

smoothed down via dream-dictation,
he discovered the beard of Serapis,
and made dynastic the perfect lie.

Led to the unknown        by the unknown,
(from Macedon to Alexandria)

for your face on this postcard, Mohamed,
Goddio’s magnetometer flashed green –

from the humming cave of a shiphead,
a four-month stint in the Grand Palais.


To Google –

Serapis the amalgamator,
the ghost-bearded messiah,

part-western bull           part son of Geb,
a Jesus decoy agent.

From the ruins of the Daughter Library,
to the Yorkshire garrisons,

brushed / rebrushed
the bunko of his rock face.



because the conclusiveness of one entity
is so crucial, so believed,

it carried Serapis from Alexandria
through Rome                   to the Bishops of Christ,

to these glassy banks of Petrovaradin –

where you are God of Fertility,
God of the White River –

          half-king of the deep.

by James Byrne

Copyright © James Byrne, 2009.

‘Serapis from a Postcard’ is taken from Blood / Sugar by James Byrne, and published by Arc Publications.

Notes courtesy of Arc:

James Byrne was born in Buckinghamshire in 1977 and divides his time between New York City and London. He is Editor of The Wolf, a poetry magazine he co-founded in 2002. His debut collection, Passages of Time, was published by Flipped Eye in 2003. He has translated the Yemeni national anthem and is currently working on a project to publish contemporary Burmese poets. In 2008, he won the Treci Trg Poetry Festival prize in Serbia. In 2009 his New and Selected Poems: The Vanishing House was published by Treci Trg (in a bilingual edition) in Belgrade. In 2009 his poems were translated into Arabic for the Al-Sendian Cultural Festival in Syria. He is the co-editor of Voice Recognition21 Poets for the 21st Century, published by Bloodaxe, and is co-editing Paris and Other Poems by Hope Mirrlees (Fyfield Books, 2011). You can read other poems from his latest collection here, hear him read one of his poems at this link, and read more poems here.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. You can find out more about Arc by joining them on Facebook or by visiting the publisher’s website, where there are discounts available on Arc books .

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 true color of the sea


sages’ gardens, ginger root, and siren
glow of mist, green tongues of light
smoke and portents arousing hungers
magnolia plumed gold moonstone heart
collecting rain in turtle shell hollows
of shoals and shelter, of stones that sing
of coral, of wine, of luminous unnamed


cinnamon groves, veil of monsoon
moonless midnight’s milky stars
the finest gold dust, tinder, mirror
of angels’ tears, of devils’ blood
of cooing doves, a child’s fine bones
of sugarcane, and fistfuls of salt
of silk brocade, of laughter, of waiting

by Barbara Jane Reyes

From Diwata, by Barbara Jane Reyes. Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010. ‘the true color of the sea’ is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of two previous poetry collections including Poeta en San Francisco which was awarded the 2005 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. She was born in Manila and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works as adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco. You can read an interview with Barbara Jane Reyes here, and find out more about her from her website, where she frequently updates her blog. Reyes also recently contributed to Harriet, the news blog for the Poetry Foundation, and you can find her entry here. There are a number of recordings of Reyes reading at this site (scroll to the bottom of the page).

In her book Diwata, from which ‘the true color of the sea’ comes, Reyes uses such Filipino oral tradition devices as meter, repetition and refrain, call and response, incantatory verses which verge on song, and the pantoum (which has Southeast Asian origins). She frames her poems between the Book of Genesis creation story, and the Tagalog creation myth, placing her work somewhere culturally in between both traditions. Also setting the tone for her stories is the death and large shadow cast by her grandfather, a World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor, who has passed on to her the responsibility of remembering. Reyes’ voice is grounded in her community’s traditions and histories, despite war and geographical dislocation.

BOA Editions, Ltd., a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works, fosters readership and appreciation of contemporary literature.  By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public.  Support for this effort comes from the sale of its publications, grant funding, and private donations.  To find out more about BOA Editions, click here.

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.


These days they say she’s sometimes mistaken
for the revving of a little petrol engine –
her propulsive churr-churring lost in the dark.
But age-old tricks can still be made to work.
Launch a white handkerchief into the air
and – if you are lucky – she’s gliding there,
attracted to you like a catch in the throat,
summoned by signs of life – the hot, the salt
of sudden tears you’d rather were hidden,
making your nose run like a child’s again.
Or she’s drawn to the blood-spill of hurt
that opens flesh and bone. Or she will start
from the dusty roof-space above the bed,
find you wiping love from between your legs.
The white flag of individual weakness
is what serves always to conjure her best
as when old habits, uncertain eyes give out,
when it’s dark wherever they put the light,
she comes then – I think – and this time stays,
cover him, cover him, cover his face.

by Martyn Crucefix

A note to our readers: Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre has just joined the social networking site Facebook. Our page there will feature information about the Centre and links to stories about the poets and publishers we feature, as well as general poetry news that we can’t otherwise mention via the weekly e-mail. Such an interactive site matches our aims of encouraging connections between poets, academics, and readers of poetry, and creating space for discussion of issues surrounding C20th and C21st poetry, so we look forward to hearing from you there. If you are a Facebook user, please do ‘like’ us by clicking here, or by searching for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’.

This week’s poem, ‘Invocation’, is copyright © Martyn Crucefix, 2010, and reprinted by permission of Enitharmon Press.

Notes courtesy of Enitharmon:

Martyn Crucefix has won numerous prizes including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has published five collections, including An English Nazareth (Enitharmon, 2004). His translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies was published by Enitharmon in 2006, shortlisted for the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as ‘unlikely to be bettered for very many years’ (Magma). Crucefix’s new collection, Hurt, from which ‘Invocation’ is taken, was published in 2010, and you can find more about it at Enitharmon’s page here, where you can also hear the poet read ‘Stag Beetle’. More of Martyn Crucefix’s work can be read at this link.

Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration. Founded in 1967 with an emphasis on independence and quality, Enitharmon has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally renowned collaborations between artists, including Gilbert & George, and poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon Editions imprint. Discover more about Enitharmon here.

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.