Heraclitus

A winter’s day is ringing after rain.
Doves bedazzled in the walnut tree
My garden flowers drip with silver
Beyond, the fields are slashed with mercury
As if a star had dropped from outer space
Impacting into streaks of wobbling light;
With fireflies the hedges flicker
And gritty rutted tracks up-spurt sparks.

My soul is fiery aether, and stares
From mediating flesh, translucent eyes
In rapture at the shorn transfigured land
In sympathy, like with like,
At nights so dark the stars recede to bort;
Flaring, a mystery to itself, a dove
Erupting into snowy flames.

by James Harpur

‘Heraclitus’ is copyright © James Harpur, 2001. It is reprinted from Oracle Bones (2001) by permission of Anvil Press.

Notes from Anvil Press:

An Irish monk watching the Black Death edging towards him; a priest at Delphi lamenting the passing of an era; an Assyrian extispicist receiving more inspiration than is good for him – these are some of the voices in James Harpur‘s third collection. Drawing on legend, myth and sacred traditions, his poems explore universal forces – seen and unseen, personal and cosmic – shaping people’s destinies, and the signs by which their patterns are revealed. These central issues coalesce in ‘Dies Irae’, a long poem in which a Dark Age churchman tries to reconcile his mission to save souls in a sinking world with his own sickness, both physical and spiritual.

James Harpur’s previous collections include A Vision of Comets and The Monk’s Dream, plus a subsequent collection The Dark Age and a translation of Boethius’s poems entitled Fortune’s Prisoner. He was born in 1956 of Irish-British parents and works as a freelance writer. He has received an Eric Gregory Award, bursaries from the Arts Council and the Society of Authors, and a Year of the Artist award to be poet in residence at Exeter Cathedral in 2001. He was also winner of the 1995 National Poetry Competition. His new collection Angels and Harvesters was published by Anvil in May 2012. Visit James Harpur’s website, where you can read a further selection of his poems.

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.

Your Father on the Train of Ghosts

Your father steps on board the train of ghosts.
You watch him from the platform:

somehow, he doesn’t look as old
as you expected him to be.

You think this must have something to do
with the light, or maybe

how much bigger the train is.
It stretches down the track
a long way, as far as your eyes can make out.

It’s like a black bullet
that keeps speeding toward you,
you think, and then:

No, it’s like a very long train, that’s all.

Somewhere on board the train, your father
is choosing a seat. Maybe

he’s already found one, has settled in,

picked up a magazine or newspaper
someone else left lying there,

is flipping through it, idly.
Maybe he’s looking out the window, for you
you would like to think, waving,

only you’ll never see it
because of the reflected glare.

Or maybe he’s not looking for you at all.
Maybe he’s watching the hot-air balloons
that have just appeared

all over the sky, ribbed like airborne hearts
of the giants Jack killed.

In the stories, Jack has no father.
This would explain a lot, you are thinking

as the train begins to pull away:

his misplaced affections,
stealing the harp of gold that played
all by itself. Around you,

men and women and children
are standing on the platform, shouting, waving,
hugging themselves.
The wind is cold; it must be March.

You would want that kind of music
if you were Jack, wouldn’t you?

by G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher

‘Your Father on the Train of Ghosts’ is copyright © G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher, 2011. It is the title poem from Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, which was co-written by G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher and published by BOA Editions in 2011.

Notes from BOA Editions:

G.C. Waldrep was born in the small town of South Boston, Va., in 1968, and currently lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  He holds degrees in American history from Harvard and Duke and a MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa. He teaches at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where he directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. John Gallaher’s previous collections of poetry include The Little Book of Guesses (2007), winner of the Levis Poetry Prize, and Map of the Folded World (2009). His work has appeared in such journals as Field, Denver Quarterly, Ploughshares, New American Writing, Colorado Review, and The Kenyon Review, as well as in The Best American Poetry 2008. In 2010, he won the Boston Review poetry prize. He is currently co-editor of The Laurel Review, and, with Mary Biddinger, the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics.

Your Father on the Train of Ghosts is one of the most extensive collaborations in American poetry. Over the course of a year, acclaimed poets G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher wrote poems back and forth, sometimes once or twice a week, sometimes five or six a day. As the collaboration deepened, a third ‘voice’ emerged that neither poet can claim as solely their own. The poems of Your Father on the Train of Ghosts read as lyric snapshots of a culture we are all too familiar with, even as it slips from us: malls and supermarkets, museums and parades, toxic waste and cheesecakes, ghosts and fire, fathers and sons. Ultimately, these fables and confessions constitute a sort of gentle apocalypse, a user-friendly self-help manual for the end of time. You can find out more about Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by visiting BOA’s website here and hear John Gallaher read the poem 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.

To a Fraud Whose Work Has Come to Be Canonical

Now all the lies are told
go public and seek praise
as prizes now unfold
like afternoons on days
dishonor schemes in groves
and shame lurks in the eyes
and lips can only love
a self which they contrive.

Born to charm and born
for easy triumph, turn
this way and like some
weeping thing amid a field
of bones, anthologize despair
and cry at last Forlorn!
because in all this barren yield
there is no living air.

by John Matthias

If you are around Oxford this weekend, the Poetry Centre warmly invites you to attend our performance poetry event on Sunday 17 June at the Old Fire Station. It features six leading local voices: George Chopping, Paul Askew, Tina Sederholm, Alan Buckley, Jennifer A. McGowan, and Vahni Capildeo. We also have a guest headlining act: Rose Solari. Tickets will be available on the door or in advance from WeGotTickets.com. Find out more about the event and some of the poets taking part by visiting our new Poets in Oxford page.

‘To a Fraud Whose Work Has Come to Be Canonical’ is copyright © John Matthias, 2011. It is reprinted from Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 2 by permission of Shearsman Books.

Notes from Shearsman:

John Matthias was born in 1941 in Columbus, Ohio. For many years he taught at the University of Notre Dame and continues to serve as poetry editor of Notre Dame Review. He has been a Visiting Fellow in poetry at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and lived for much of the 70s and 80s in East Anglia. His books of verse include TurnsCrossingNorthern Summer, A Gathering of Ways, Swimming at Midnight, Beltane at Aphelion, Pages, Working Progress, Working Title, New Selected Poems and Kedging. He has also published translations from the Swedish, editions of David Jones’s work, and a volume of literary criticism, Reading Old Friends. In 1998 Robert Archambeau edited Word Play Place, a selection of essays on Matthias’s work.  Another book of essays on his poetry appeared in 2011 in the Salt Companion series, edited by Joe Francis Doerr. In 2011, Shearsman Books also published his essays in Who was Cousin Alice? And Other Questions. His collected poems are being published in three volumes, with the Collected Longer Poems slated to appear in October, and the Collected Shorter Poems Vol. 1 in 2013. You can watch John Matthias reading from his shorter poems at UC Berkeley here (his reading begins at around 10:30).

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.