Small Sorrows

You can start anywhere,
you can start with the hummingbird
that quivers at the feeder, or with a moon
lost in the corner, or the stray dog who creeps
to my window and breathes. But not with
the Lebanese woman on TV who sobs as she
trudges back to her house of rubble.

How can I tell you my small sorrows?
In Slovenia, at the Nazi prison in Begunje,
you can see the last writing of two British
soldiers. On the stone of a shared cell, each
scraped the facts he pared himself down to:
name, address, parents, schools, date of enlistment,
rank, battalion, date and place taken prisoner, and
the date which became the year of death.

I didn’t want to start there.
I don’t want to end there. But no matter where I start,
or end, I will tell you—that if I could
touch you, I would become a hummingbird, a hidden,
shining center. And the dog—she would
press her small, strong back into my hip.

by Deborah Brown

Poetry Centre announcements: Two poets based at Oxford Brookes, Steven Matthews and Claire Cox, have written poems in response to photographs by a Brookes colleague, Sabine Chaouche. The opening of the exhibition, ‘Poetry of Forms, Forms of Poetry’, is on Thursday 3 May from 12-1pm in the Tonge Building, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford. All are welcome.

On Friday 4 May, the Poetry Centre launches its monthly podcast. The first episode features local poet Claire Cox, who reads and discusses her poem ‘Tolstoy at Astapovo Station’. You will be able to listen to the podcast via the Poetry Centre website, or download it from iTunes.

‘Small Sorrows’ is copyright © Deborah Brown, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions from Deborah Brown’s book Walking the Dog’s Shadow, which was selected by Tony Hoagland as the 2010 winner of BOA’s annual A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize and published by BOA in 2011. Together with another BOA poet, Michael Waters, whose work we featured on 24 October, Deborah Brown was recently announced as a Pushcart Prize winner, with the title poem from her collection selected to appear in the Pushcart Prize anthology, due out in November.

Notes from BOA Editions:

Deborah Brown was co-editor, with Maxine Kumin and Annie Finch, of Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics, and co-translator, with Richard Jackson and Susan Thomas, of The Last Voyage: Selected Poems by Giovanni Pascoli (Red Hen Press, 2010). Her poems have appeared in Margie, Rattle, The Alaska Quarterly, Stand, The Mississippi Review, and others. Brown teaches literature and writing at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, where she won an award for Excellence in Teaching. She lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband, George Brown, and four cats. You can read two further poems by Deborah Brown at

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.

Alfie Does Not Speak Much Now

Dorset tenor does not speak much. Harsh mum.
Acquiescent dad. Storm forms and lasts.
Gradual to sudden invasion of dying people,
houses priced out of local reach, cows in fields.

Was lean to shed, doing time, mind slant
numinous creature to the locked lollard,
keeper of birds, hens and beans, skull herd,
hot room surgeon to flinch and buckle.

Was gaunt in the sun and rented room, crew
cut, get it right cheese maker, not so cheeky,
sing a long, what’s that in the magician’s hat,
that T. Cooper moment, mild analgesic, aspirin.

Alfie spits tobacco, his first and index fingers
tightly holding a roll-up, his right arm arcing
outwards and down. His stare fixed, seemingly
intent upon some distant object. Quiet bull.

Now owl, lady’s bedding, dace out of school,
ace in the hole in an underworld of muteness,
nod and nudge, flutterer of bets, plough of silence,
confederacy of dunces, apocrypha and apocryphal.

by David Caddy

‘Alfie Does Not Speak Much Now’, is copyright © David Caddy, 2011. It is reprinted by permission of Shearsman Books from The Bunny Poems (2011).

Notes from Shearsman:

David Caddy is a poet and critic from the Blackmore Vale in north Dorset. He was educated as a literary sociologist at the University of Essex. He founded and organised the East Street Poets, the UK’s largest rural poetry group from 1985 to 2001. He directed the legendary Wessex Poetry Festival from 1995 to 2001, and later the Tears in the Fence festival from 2003 to 2005. He has edited the independent and eclectic literary magazine, Tears in the Fence, since 1984. He co-wrote a literary companion to London in 2006, has written and edited drama scripts and podcasts, and regularly contributes essays, articles and reviews to books and journals. Read more selections from The Bunny Poems by visiting Shearsman’s page about the book here, and watch David Caddy reading from his work at Whittier College’s Dezember House last year.

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, and find Shearsman on Facebook.

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 log flared on the grate
as I poked its side, poor demon

left to its own devices, hissed
blue lipped, then shriveled

into itself like a stunned
worm, before turning to ashes;

I stirred in my chair, half conscious
of darkness lapping –

even you, my lambent fawn, soft
hammered in copper,

leapt back into the shadows
of the holy mountain

(whose rock makes us fierce)
with nothing to confess

when I rose without ceremony
and called it a night.

by Gabriel Levin

‘Vigil’ is copyright © Gabriel Levin, 2008. It is reprinted from The Maltese Dreambook (2008) by permission of Anvil Press.

Notes from Anvil Press:

With Jerusalem as its epicentre, The Maltese Dreambook extends Gabriel Levin‘s quarter-century-long ramble through the Levant, his adopted homeland. On a Greek island, in the desert wastes of southern Jordan, and in Malta, whose Stone Age temples serve as a backdrop to the title poem, this collection abounds in unforeseen encounters that blur the borders between the phantasmal and the real, the modern and the archaic, the rational and the imaginary.

Gabriel Levin was born in France, grew up in the United States, and has been living in Jerusalem since 1972. He has published two collections of poetry, Sleepers of Beulah (1992) and Ostraca (1999), and several translations from the Hebrew, French, and Arabic, including a selection of Yehuda Halevi’s poetry, Poems from the Diwan (Anvil, 2002). He is one of the founding editors of Ibis Editions, a small press established in Jerusalem in 1997 and dedicated to the publication, in English, of literature from the Levant. His new collection To These Dark Steps will be published by Anvil this month. You can find out more about Levin’s books on Anvil’s site, and read a review of The Maltese Dreambook here.

Anvil Press, founded in 1968, is based in Greenwich, south-east London, in a building off Royal Hill that has been used at various points in its 150-year history as a dance-hall and a printing works. Anvil grew out of a poetry magazine which Peter Jay ran as a student in Oxford and retains its small company ethos. Visit Anvil’s website here, where you can sign up to their mailing list to find out about new publications and events.

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 Nutwood, Rupert’s father wore a bracken-
coloured jacket when he did the garden;
his mother stayed indoors, in an apron

frilled like the mantelpiece. Bluebell woods
had winding paths which led him home again
after his visit to the elves, deep in their caves

where lanterns flamed with trapped sunshine.
On the next page you could make an elf
by folding paper on the dotted line.

One day in Bournemouth, my teenage heroine
hopped on a bus because she liked its name,
then spent a golden summer out of time;

the hidden house she camped in, she revived:
pulled paper off the wainscot, scrubbed it white,
trundled the mildewed chairs off-stage, repaired

a lacquered bed inlaid with tourmaline;
then, dead on cue, right on the final page
our hero returned to claim his lost domaine.

Jan Morris made up Hav from everywhere
she’d been: the iron dog from Venice, a bridge
from Newport in South Wales; she wove it all

together. We’re the same, framed by the dots
we’ve joined as bandage, hammock, parachute.
We glut on stories, we slip between their lines

to sleep, still in their dream-mesh caught.
In a cocooned trance we are re-formed:
this is where we come from, how we make our home.

by Ellie Evans

‘Seedcorn’ is copyright © Ellie Evans, 2011. It is reprinted from The Ivy Hides the Fig-Ripe Duchess, published by Seren Books in 2011.

Ellie Evans is Welsh-speaking and lives in Powys, mid-Wales. The Ivy Hides the Fig-Ripe Duchess is her first poetry collection, but she has already been widely published in magazines and anthologies, and has read at many poetry festivals. Using a surrealist palette of imagery and a tightly focused idiom, the author takes us on strange journeys: to the post-apocalyptic world of the title poem, or into a skewed 18th century Venice in ‘The Zograscope’. These strange worlds are always to the purpose; they are, as Marianne Moore famously said of poetry, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them.’ The novelist and poet Gerard Woodward has written that ‘Evans has an extraordinary ability to conjure startling and surprising images out of the most commonplace material. There is a very interesting juxtaposition of the domestic and the exotic in her work.’ You can read more about Ellie Evans and see her read from her work here, and visit her website at this link.

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 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.

Yves Tanguy

The worlds are breaking in my head
Blown by the brainless wind
That comes from afar
Swollen with dusk and dust
And hysterical rain

The fading cries of the light
Awaken the endless desert
Engrossed in its tropical slumber
Enclosed by the dead grey oceans
Enclasped by the arms of the night

The worlds are breaking in my head
Their fragments are crumbs of despair
The food of the solitary damned
Who await the gross tumult of turbulent
Days bringing change without end.

The worlds are breaking in my head
The fuming future sleeps no more
For their seeds are beginning to grow
To creep and to cry midst the
Rocks of the deserts to come

Planetary seed
Sown by the grotesque wind
Whose head is so swollen with rumours
Whose hands are so urgent with tumours
Whose feet are so deep in the sand.

by David Gascoyne

‘Yves Tanguy’ is copyright © David Gascoyne, 1995. It is reprinted from Selected Poems by permission of Enitharmon Press.

Notes from Enitharmon:

David Gascoyne’s death in November 2001 was marked by lead obituaries in all the British broadsheets as well as in Le Monde. As a poet and translator he had been internationally renowned since the 1930s. He was the first chronicler in English of the Surrealist movement (whose members numbered the painter Yves Tanguy, the subject of this poem), and an essayist and reviewer of dazzling range. His association with Enitharmon Press dates back to 1970 and in the past decade there have been eight publications which will be lasting testaments of his importance. As well as his poetry, Enitharmon also publishes Gascoyne’s Selected Prose 1934-1996, and his Journal 1936-1937. You can read more about his Selected Poems at Enitharmon’s website here, where it is possible to hear Gascoyne read two other poems from the collection. You can also hear the poet read more of his work at the Poetry Archive. Ian Sinclair reviewed a new biography of Gascoyne in Saturday’s Guardian.

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. You can sign up to the publisher’s mailing list here to receive a newsletter with special offers, details of readings & events and new titles and Enitharmon’s Poem of the Month.

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.