On a Forbidden Star

I was born on a forbidden star. From there
driven ashore, I trudge along the sand.
The surf of celestial nothingness takes me up,
and plays with me, then casts me on the land.

Why I repent I do not even know.
It is a puzzle buzzing in my ear.
If any of you should find me on this beach,
this sunken beach, don’t run away, stay here.

And don’t be scared. Don’t run away. Just try
to mitigate the suffering in my life.
Shut your eyes and press me to yourself.
Press me boldly, as you would a knife.

Be reckless too: look on me as the dead
look on the night, seeing it as their own,
your shoulder there to aid my weaker one.
I can no longer bear to be alone.

I never wanted to be born. It was nothingness
who bore and suckled me; with her I started.
so love me darkly. Love me cruelly. Love me
like the one left behind by the departed.

by János Pilinszky

‘On a Forbidden Star’ is copyright © János Pilinszky. It is reprinted by permission of Worple Press from Passio (2012), translated by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri.

Notes from Worple Press:

János Pilinszky (1921-81) is one of the great European poets of an extraordinary generation: that of Paul Celan, Zbigniew Herbert and Yves Bonnefoy. Like them he grew up to a world physically and morally devastated by the Second World War and the Holocaust. Ted Hughes described his achievements and stature thus: His “greatness” […] is not a greatness of imaginative and linguistic abundance. It has more to do with some form of spiritual distinction. The weight and unusual temper of his imagination and language derive from this.’ In Passio, Clive Wilmer translates from Hungarian in collaboration with George Gömöri, whom he first met in 1971. A Hungarian poet himself, George Gömöri belongs to the generation that felt Pilinszky’s influence. Over the past forty years Gömöri and Wilmer have translated work by more than twenty poets, and introduced many British readers to the poems of Miklós Radnóti and György Petri. Many of the poems here are taken from Pilinszky’s second book, Harmadnapon, published in 1959. Find out more about Passio by visiting Worple Press’s page here.

Worple Press was founded by Peter and Amanda Carpenter in 1997. Since then they have published a wide range of authors, including Iain Sinclair, Joseph Woods, Elizabeth Cook, Beverley Bie Brahic, Clive Wilmer and Kevin Jackson. They published the selected poems of the acclaimed American nature poet Peter Kane Dufault for the first time in the UK (Looking in All Directions); this was followed in 2007 by Kane Dufault’s To be in the same world. Peter Robinson’s The Great Friend and Other Translated Poems was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation for Spring 2002. This impressive backlist was augmented in 2012 by three significant titles: Passio: Fourteen Poems by Janos Pilinszky from Clive Wilmer and George Gomori; Riddance by Anthony Wilson; and the republication of William Hayward’s cult novel from 1964, It Never Gets Dark All Night. Over 2013 and 2014 new titles include work from John Greening, Michael McKimm, Peter Robinson, Mary Woodward and Sally Flint.  More information can be found on Worple Press’s new website and Facebook page.

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.

Fairchild’s Mule

A dried specimen of the first artificial hybrid was presented to the Royal Society in 1726.

To be suddenly wide-awake
sowing leaf-shadows
in the moonlit hours.

To attend.

To wait red-eyed
in the gold mist of the city’s dawn
for the opening of the flowers.

Under the breath, to say
a prayer for the soul.

To steady the hand.

With a feather
to harvest the pollen-grains,

brushing only the topmost tips
of the buttery stamens.
Sweet william. Then by feel

with the forefinger and thumb of the left hand
to find the gillyflower’s pistil

and hold it in the fullness of light.

To marry pollen to stigma.
Not to know, this glorious morning,

the seed can never come true.

by Lesley Saunders

‘Fairchild’s Mule’ is copyright © Lesley Saunders, 2012. It is reprinted from Cloud Camera by permission of Two Rivers Press.

Notes from Two Rivers Press:

If scientific instruments and objects – the early twentieth-century cloud camera or Herschel’s ‘comet sweeper’ telescope or Florence Nightingale’s diagram of hospital deaths or Freud’s couch – could have a dream life, the poems in Cloud Camera are an attempt to evoke it. The book inhabits an imagined, even a haunted, world of science and technology – there are poems that conjure anything from the first balloon flight made by a woman or the effect of experiments with laughing-gas, to how Braille was invented, when the first artificial plant hybrid was created and what the impact of static electricity on the human body looks like. The poetry both celebrates and laments the endless human curiosity to find out ‘what the terrestrial body can stand, / at what point the mind turns itself inside out.’ You can read ‘Germ Theory’, another poem from the collection, on the Two Rivers site here.

Lesley Saunders is the author of several books and pamphlets of poetry, including Christina the Astonishing (with Jane Draycott and artist Peter Hay) and Her Leafy Eye (with artist Geoff Carr), both published by Two Rivers Press. Lesley’s work has been widely published in journals and anthologies, and has won major awards; she has held several poetry residencies, and is involved in various collaborations and commissions. Find out more about her work on her website.

Two Rivers Press was founded in Reading in 1994 by Peter Hay (1951–2003), an artist and enthusiast for the town and its two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames. In nearly two decades of publishing and with over seventy titles since its inception, it has been described as ‘one of the most characterful small presses in the country’. It focuses on local poets and a significant part of its work explores and celebrates local history and environment. Bold illustration and striking design are important elements of its work, used to great effect in new editions of classic poems, especially ones with some Reading connection: for example, Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and in collections of contemporary poetry from local poets such as Reading Poetry: an anthology edited by Peter Robinson. It has recently published A Mutual Friend: Poems for Charles Dickens, an anthology with a very distinguished list of contributors, also edited by Peter Robinson. The Press is strongly rooted in the local community and has close links with the University, Poets’ Café, RISC, Museum of English Rural Life and other local groups. Its contribution to Reading’s culture won for it a Pride of Reading award in 2008. You can find more information at the press’s website, and on its Facebook page.

The Same Events

My headscarf has flowered in corners of the sky
I divine the future through clouds
I decipher folds in the moon’s face
time and again
she has lent her heart to a meteor shower

I rust behind the window
I paint
the last leaves of the plane tree
on a winter garden

My ice melts
down the drainpipe, filled with the sound of snow
I shriek from the rooftop

Between my eyebrows, a birthmark,
from which divination of full moons
predict the same events
that I decipher
I have not been enamoured of winter after winter
reading the newspaper behind the window
it warms in my teacup or otherwise
with ice
I divine the future through clouds.

by Farzaneh Ghavami

The poet Patience Agbabi, a Poetry Centre Creative Writing Fellow, will be giving a free reading at Pembroke College in Oxford on Friday 3 May at 7.30pm. This will be a preview of her forthcoming versions of The Canterbury Tales which are being published by Canongate in April 2014. All are welcome. More details can be obtained from the Poetry Centre’s Facebook page.

‘The Same Events’ by Farzaneh Ghavami, translated by John Kinsella and Ali Alizadeh, is copyright © Farzaneh Ghavami, 2012. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from Six Vowels and Twenty-three Consonants: An Anthology of Persian Poetry from Rudaki to Langroodi , selected and edited by John Kinsella and Ali Alizadeh (Arc Publications 2012).

Notes from Arc Publications:

Farzaneh Ghavami was born in Tehran in 1968. She has several poetry collections published.

Six Vowels and Twenty-three Consonants is a groundbreaking new collection of poems presenting the wealth of poetic voices from one of the world’s most important literary cultures. The book covers poetry from the early Middle Ages to the Modernists and Postmodernists of the 20th and 21st centuries. You can read more poems from the book at Arc’s site 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 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.

Lord Forgive Me

Kyrie eleison! I said it in the pub.
I said it to my bitter then I said
it to my heart, with nothing not to dread:
my sins were great: I drank there with my love.

Kyrie iesu christe, God above
and me below, drinking at the Hog’s Head.
‘So. Will you love me better when I’m dead?’
He knew it was a joke, but didn’t laugh

just turned away to look at the TV.
(Arsenal was playing Everton.)
Another man was fixed upon the game

and held his hands together on his knee
and chanted and rebuked. But not my man,
who recognizes neither loss nor blame.

by Kathryn Maris

‘Lord Forgive Me’ is copyright © Kathryn Maris, 2013. It is reprinted from God Loves You, published by Seren Books in 2013.

Notes from Seren:

Kathryn Maris is from New York City and has published poems in The SpectatorPoetry ReviewThe Harvard ReviewModern Poetry in TranslationPoetry, and Slate as well as several anthologies. Among her awards are an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Yaddo, and Hawthornden Castle. She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing and writes essays and reviews.

Kathryn Maris’s first book, The Book of Jobs, appeared in the USA in 2006. Her second collection, God Loves You, is published by Seren this month. In it, she borrows rhythms, vocabulary and themes from the Bible. The result is more than artful parody, although a sly wit is in evidence. It is an approach that accommodates large themes, unravelling them in new ways. Commenting upon her work, Carol Rumens has written that ‘[t]here’s a delicious sense of both open-mindedness and devilry […]. Her company is quirky, stimulating and sparklingly intelligent. You could say she’s like Sylvia Plath with added chutzpah. But, really, Kathryn Maris is like no-one but herself.’ You can read more about Kathryn Maris’s new book at Seren’s site here, read a 2007 interview with Maris here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Seren Books (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) is based in Bridgend, South Wales. Originally conceived by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse as an offshoot of Poetry Wales magazine in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea in the early 80s, under Managing Editor Mick Felton the press has gone from strength to strength and has published a wide range of titles including fiction (which under Editor Penny Thomas has seen the Booker-nominated novel by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, and an acclaimed novella series based on the medieval Welsh tales from the Mabinogion) and non-fiction (including literary criticism such as the new John Redmond title Poetry and Privacy, as well as sumptuous art books like the collaboration between photographer David Hurn and poet John Fuller, Writing the Picture). Seren’s poetry list, edited by Amy Wack since the early 90s, has produced T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated titles by Deryn Rees-Jones and Pascale Petit, Costa winner John Haynes, and a large list of Forward Prize winners and nominees, as well as continuing to publishing classic Welsh writers. Most recently, Seren has also added Irish and American writers to its list.

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.

Petrol (section 3)

Bloody Marys, Jaysus! Granddad was disgusted beside the range, Lucky standing on his lap, wet nose pointing high in the air when Agnes ran in from the bar, her brown velour arm wrapped around the plastic ball of the Coca-Cola ice bucket. It’s far from ice they were reared! Granddad said but Justin always made Bloody Marys for his favourites, slim dark women who wore their clothes like Jackie Kennedy. It was a big operation with all the stuff and the Tabasco sauce stirred with a long clanking spoon. Granddad ground his teeth as Agnes tore the tray from the side of the yellow-iced freezer, staggering on her high brown clogs in her modest A-line corduroy skirt. I, too, was thinking she was too good for this work. They don’t know what they want, Granddad said. Ice one minute, hot whiskeys the next. Those bloody women. The Bloody Mary drinkers. And his last comment when the ice cubes tumbled into the Coca-Cola bucket, every single woman that Justin ever took on suffered from her nerves.

by Martina Evans

An announcement of one Poetry Centre podcast and two readings! This week’s poet, Martina Evans, will be reading from her new collection, Petrol, with the Dutch poet Nachoem Wijnberg & his translator, David Colmer, this Friday 12 April. Nachoem and David will be reading from their latest collection Advance Payment (a Poetry Book Society Translation Choice for Spring 2013). The reading will take place on Friday from 6.30-8.30pm at the Duke of Wellington pub in London. A flyer for the event is available on the Poetry Centre’s Facebook page.

The latest Poetry Centre podcast, featuring Oxford poet Alan Buckley, is now available. Alan discusses his poem ‘Voicemail’ and considers the nature of poetic influence, the roles that breath and the body play in the creation of poetry, and the responsibilities which a poet has towards the subject of an elegy. Alan will also be reading this week in Oxford alongside last week’s poet, Claire Trévien, and Amy Key. That reading is on Thursday at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop on Thursday at 7.30pm. There are more details on our Facebook page and on Claire’s own website here.

‘from Petrol (section 3)’ is copyright © Martina Evans, 2012. It is reprinted by permission of Anvil Press from Petrol (Anvil Press, 2012).

Notes from Anvil Press:

Petrol is a prose poem disguised as a novella of adolescence in Co. Cork, Ireland. With its dizzy pace and perfect narrative timing it is a unique work and a remarkable departure for a writer whose poetry is widely appreciated for its humour and uncompromising depiction of rural Ireland. Writing about Martina Evans’s work, Christopher Reid has observed that ‘she shows an impressive command of what feels like the ideal narrative medium: individual moments and drive of narrative in perfect coordination, language alive and kicking.’ 

Martina Evans has published four collections of poetry and three novels. She was born in Cork, the youngest of ten children, and now lives in London.

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.

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.

Wipe the blade clean on the grass

For Angela Carter

At night, the Korrigan’s silkworm
hair lit up the dandelion seeds,
he made stars retract their claws.
By day, his hair was brittle white,
his eyes two eggs of dried-out blood.

Wipe the blade clean on the grass,
the hair, the eyes, must all come off.

At night, he buried his treasure under
the heaving stomach of the dolmen:
love that shined like a trout’s back.
By day, the gold transformed to dust,
and cork, and skins of spiders.

Wipe the blade clean on the grass,
the heart, the lungs, must be cut off.

At night, his voice was smooth as yolk,
he sang of the moon, but not of God,
he scaled, he furred across the range.
By day, his voice muttered and squeaked,
A mousey phlegm played hide and seek.

Wipe the blade clean on the grass,
the songs, the sounds, must be plucked off.

by Claire Trévien

Happy Easter to all our readers! This week’s poet, Claire Trévien, will be launching her new collection, The Shipwrecked House, on Thursday 11 April with a reading at 7.30pm at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford. The evening will also feature readings by fellow poets Alan Buckley and Amy Key. There are more details on our Facebook page and on Claire’s own website here.

‘Wipe the blade clean on the grass’ is copyright © Claire Trévien, 2013. It is reprinted by permission of Penned in the Margins from The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013).

Notes from Penned in the Margins:

Claire Trévien was born in 1985 in Brittany. She is a poet, critic, and literary translator. Her writing has been published in a wide variety of literary magazines including Under The RadarPoetry Salzburg ReviewInk Sweat & TearsThe Warwick ReviewNth Position, and Fuselit. She has published an e-chapbook of poetry with Silkworms Ink, Patterns of Decay, and a pamphlet, Low-Tide Lottery with Salt Publishing. She is the editor of Sabotage Reviews and Noises OffThe Shipwrecked House is her first book, and was published this month. You can read more about it at the Penned in the Margins site here, and follow Claire Trévien’s work on her blog here and on Twitter here.

Penned in the Margins is an independent publisher and live literature producer specialising in poetry and based in East London. Founded in 2004, the company has produced numerous literature and performance events, toured several successful live literature shows, published over twenty-five books, and continues to run innovative poetry, arts and performance projects in the capital and beyond. Their recent anthology, Adventures in Form, was awarded a Special Commendation by the Poetry Book Society and was chosen as one of 50 Best Summer Reads by The Independent. You can visit the Penned in the Margins website here to sign up to the mailing list, and follow the publisher on Facebook and Twitter.

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.