Our Reticent Neighbour

A bakelite telephone rings on the mortuary desk.
Voice recognition kicks in, whirrs awkwardly.

They’re tapping doors and shutters tonight
the gas-lit length of our street. By the time
you’ve pounded stairs, crossed a lobby
insinuated Yales into mortices, they’ve vanished.

Retread the four flights and try again for sleep,
despite search-beams searing the dark. Despite
unmarked ambulances that trawl the suburbs,
half-trained mastiffs that jangle and snarl.

No one’s readying for this night’s shift.
Word’s out. Declassified resumés are destined
for lock waters. A currency broker wakes
in a Third Street tailors’ doorway, coughing.

Lutheran rooming-house occupants
make hasty atonements on discovering
their Gideon Bibles bookmarked at Samuel.
The town ursologist leaves one safety-gate unlatched.

The bakelite instrument’s terrible jangle subsides.
But surely that’s a normally reticent neighbour
rehearsing his C-sharp-minor mazurkas?

by Anne-Marie Fyfe

‘Our Reticent Neighbour’ is copyright © Anne-Marie Fyfe, 2010. It is reprinted from Understudies: New and Selected Poems, published by Seren Books in 2010.

Anne-Marie Fyfe was born in Cushendall on Ireland’s Antrim Coast. She now lives in West London where she has taught literature and creative-writing and programmed poetry events and festivals for many years, including organising and hosting the reading series at London’s famous Troubadour coffee house. She was until recently Chair of the Poetry Society.

‘Our Reticent Neighbour’ is from Understudies: New and Selected Poems, compiled from three earlier collections and including a section of new poems. Anne-Marie Fyfe has read throughout the world at festivals and events and on BBC radio and television. The poet Tom Paulin has described her work as having ‘a lyric clarity, an ontological accuracy and unflinching vigilance that is both spiritual and revelatory.’ Understudies: New and Selected Poems includes selections from her previous books: Late Crossing (1999), Tickets from a Blank Window (2002) – both from Rockingham Press, and The Ghost Twin (Peterloo, 2005). You can learn more about Anne-Marie Fyfe on her website, watch her read a poem from this recent collection here, and read an interview she gave to Pam Johnson at Words Unlimited.

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.

In Praise of Reconnecting

When I was a boy in Lushoto school, Tanganyika,
playing marbles with Robin and Henry, one marble bounced in the dust
and sprang off down a steep bank of scrubby grasses.
It was gone at once. The sun-hot air
carried no memory and no trace of its passing.
We stood and looked helplessly down the almost vertical slope.
Nothing but shrivelled grass and dust, and the occasional ant, the occasional fly…
And we would have given up, shrugging our shoulders,
had not Patrick the brother of Henry said: let’s set
another marble to find it, put
another marble where you last saw the lost one –

and Henry picked up a shiny blue marble
from our small supply
and held it between two grass tussocks at the crest of the slope
and let go. It vanished at once among the dusty grass-stems –
and nothing happened a moment –
and the moment grew longer –
and then, from the grass far down on the bank, there came
a quiet, unostentatious clink
I have heard for six decades.

by D.M. Black

‘In Praise of Reconnecting’ is copyright © D.M. Black, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from Claiming Kindred (Arc Publications, 2011).

D.M. Black is a Scottish poet, born in South Africa in 1941, brought up in Scotland from 1950. He now lives in London and Wiltshire. In 1991 he produced a Collected Poems (Polygon), having previously published four collections of poems and a number of pamphlets. He was included in the first series of Penguin Modern Poets (no. 11, 1968) and his poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. Since 1991 he has published a collection of translations of Goethe, Love as Landscape Painter, and individual poems in a variety of journals including Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry London, Stand, Thumbscrew, and the TLS. You can read two more poems from this new collection on Arc’s site here, and read a review of his work from the Observer here.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications 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. As well as its page on Facebook, you can now find Arc on Twitter; search for @Arc_Poetry. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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.

Swan, As the Light Was Changing

Fall, when everything was turning
dark. & the fog moved in
like a wolf, circling the park,

& the holiday children parading
in the bodies of witches & bears.
All skins gleamed orange

as the sun made tricks out of us,
brilliant as new coins or foxes
until the sun left, all the way,

& the only light, then, was
the white of the swan,
animal in the park pond. So long—

I held it in my eye the way a person
sometimes carries a flash,
again & again; like light, that swan shape burned

into the screen of my eyes. & when I stood
to leave it, the white peony of its body,
for life, had marked my visions. Now everything

I see, even today, even this “trace”: a swan.

by Aracelis Girmay

‘Swan, As the Light Was Changing’ is copyright © Aracelis Girmay, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from Aracelis Girmay’s latest book of poems Kingdom Animalia (BOA, 2011).

Aracelis Girmay was born and raised in Southern California, with roots in Puerto Rico, Eritrea, and African America. She is also the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing, and the poetry collection Teeth, for which she was awarded a GCLA New Writers Award. Girmay has taught youth writing workshops in schools and community centers for the past ten years. She is assistant professor of poetry writing at Hampshire College, and also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University in New Jersey. Kingdom Animalia won the 2011 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, and was recently shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. You can read another poem from the book at BOA’s site here, and watch Aracelis Girmay read from her work here.

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. In 2011, BOA celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary. To find out more about BOA Editions, click here. You can also sign up for the publisher’s newsletter here, find and ‘like’ BOA on Facebook, and follow the publisher on Twitter by searching for @boaeditions.

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.