Six Million Hand-driven Rivets

My father is dying – tentatively, unhappily –
and I give him a bridge.

Precisely, I give him Sydney Harbour Bridge,
this Christmas, this turning year,

as I travel under it, gazing up at all its iron.
Girder-strong, massive, the old world built this

into the new. There are photos of Englishmen
in 1930 in waistcoats and cufflinks

and neat bowties, straddling the sky, hammering
rivets into air. My father would approve:

How many rivets? he’d ask me.
Facts, hard facts. I’d tell him the answers

to ease the time – and the number of man hours,
the number of years, before they could journey

over the water with perfect confidence,
step on step, to reach the other side.

by Robert Seatter

This is the last of the weekly poems for this year. Poems will start appearing in your inbox again on Monday 9th January. Many thanks to all our readers for your continued support of the Weekly Poem. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, don’t forget you can catch up with us there. In the meantime, the Poetry Centre hopes that you enjoy a very happy Christmas and an excellent start to 2012.

‘Six Million Hand-driven Rivets’ is copyright © Robert Seatter, 2011. It is reprinted from Writing King Kong, published by Seren Books in 2011.

Robert Seatter has published two previous collections with Seren: Travelling to the Fish Orchards and On the Beach with Chet Baker. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked as an EFL teacher in Italy and France, as an actor and journalist, and also in publishing and broadcasting. He lives in London where he currently works for the BBC. You can read further selections from Writing King Kong here (click on the book’s cover), and here, and you can see and hear Robert Seatter reading from his work on this page.

Seren is based in Wales (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) and recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Begun as an offshoot of the magazine Poetry Wales by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea, the press has now grown and employs a number of staff. It is known for publishing prize-winning poetry, including collections by recent Forward winners, Hilary Menos and Kathryn Simmonds, as well as books by Owen Sheers, Pascale Petit, Deryn Rees-Jones, and many others. The fiction list features a new title by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, that was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The high-quality arts books include the recent collaboration between the poet John Fuller and the photographer David Hurn, Writing the Picture. For more details about Seren, visit the publisher’s new website, where there is a blog about Seren’s news and events. You can also find Seren on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube, where there are videos of a number of poets reading from their work.

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.

Backpacking Across Pangea

In its last throes, when the earth huddled back together
for warmth, a single crust floating in a soup bowl,
you could walk ten thousand miles and never reach the sea.

We packed The Rough Guide to Pangea, a work in seven parts,
a stack of t-shirts, and a compass that did nothing but spin.
We crossed the great land bridge that rose out of the Channel.

We stepped from Eurasia to Gondwana while they scanned
our retinas and rummaged through our DNA.
In the mountains of Oman, we met musicians

who plied us with Yak blood and sweet potatoes
while we listened to their songs of a separated world: the spindle
of central America; the anachronism of island nations.

In the old Aegean, the sole of my boot peeled off
like a transfer; within six steps the other did the same.
Our navigation implants made our heads ache.

This was many years ago, before the mantle
began to melt, when you could tread the earth in bare feet,
all of the world a golden outback.

In the hills of Matabeleland, the devil appeared to us
in the form of a toad, while an angel drove by
disguised as a tractor driver with a swollen hand.

It was possible we had skipped an injection or two.
When we awoke we found ourselves on a white headland
with a single red hut selling herring and Coca-Cola.

We returned on the Trans-Pangea Express – forty three days
without a stop. On the train a beautiful old woman smiled at us
with our golden hair and brown skin

while we drifted into sleep; we dreamt of the slow dance
of the continents joining hands in a ceilidh of lithospheric plates
parting and drifting back together.

We arrived on The Last Night of The Proms
and sang ‘Rule Pangea, Pangea Rules the Waves’.
As the waters rose, we waved our single flag of woe.

by Christopher James

The One Who Writes

You write. About the things that already exist.
And they say you fantasize.

You keep quiet. Like the sunken nets
of poachers. Like an angel
who knows what the night may bring.

And you travel. You forget,
so that you can come back.

You write and you don’t want to remember
the stone, the sea, the believers
sleeping with their hands apart.

by Nikola Madzirov

‘The One Who Writes’ is copyright © Nikola Madzirov, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from Remnants of Another Age, translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid, Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed, and with a Foreword by Carolyn Forché. BOA has today featured Nikola Madzirov’s work on its blog.

Notes from BOA Editions:

Born into a family of Balkan Wars refugees in 1973 in Strumica, Macedonia, poet, essayist and translator Nikola Madzirov has emerged as one of the most powerful voices of the new European poetry. His work has been translated into thirty languages and published in collections and anthologies in the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Two short films based on his poetry have been shot in Bulgaria and Croatia. Oliver Lake, the contemporary jazz composer who has previously collaborated with Björk and Lou Reed, has composed music based on Madzirov’s poetry, which was performed at the Jazz-Poetry Concert in Pittsburgh in 2008. You can read another poem from Remnants of Another Age here, and a recent interview with Madzirov here. You can also see and hear Madzirov reading from his work in this video from March 2011.

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. This year BOA celebrates its thirty-fifth anniversary. To find out more about BOA Editions, click here. You can also find and ‘like’ BOA on Facebook, and follow the publisher on Twitter by searching for @boaeditions.