The North Side


I took a job at the Arnold Grill,
topping off drafts with a paddle
for the St Johnsbury truckers.

Tuesday nights my father came in
to buy a shot of muscatel
and nurse it in a far booth
beside a small jukebox
which he plied with quarters.

He was dead so the smoke
and obscenities did not bother him.

At three a.m. I began tallying my tips –
a fortune in Canadian pennies.

Once, I confronted him:
Why do you keep coming?
Can’t you rest? And why Tuesday?

He was hurt. He averted his fine eyes
and joined a conversation
about Billy Martin –

had he ruined Vida Blue?
A waitress laughed –  apparently
my father knew nothing of the forkball –
and next Tuesday he did not come.

No one missed him.
The pool players cleaned the table,
rack after rack, adjusting the score
with beads on a string in midair,

the dart players paused, with pursed lips,
pushing the feathers through air
as if they had just found an opening,

but my father had not returned,
not even as a ghost, not even
as a tremor in a bettor’s hand.

I locked the iron door at first light,
lowered the steel shutters,
clicked the seven padlocks,
and instead of my father,
to whom I’d spoken all my life
with bitterness, with sarcasm,

I spoke to that uncertain moment
between false dawn and dawn
when the traffic roars north,
just streaks of trapped light,
lamps go out in the charity ward,
and the tenements light up,
the highest floors first:

Why can’t you rest, I said.
by D. Nurkse

Two important announcements! First, to all Brookes staff and students: do you have a favourite poem? The Poetry Centre invites you to share your love of poetry with the community in our exciting new project for National Poetry Day. If chosen to participate, you will be filmed reading your favourite poem and sharing why it is memorable to you. Filming will take place in September 2014 and videos will be posted to the Poetry Centre website via the Oxford Brookes YouTube channel for National Poetry Day on 2 October. If you wish to participate, all you need to do is send an e-mail to favouritepoem@gmail.com including your name, your role at Brookes (student or member of staff), the title and author of your favourite poem, and a brief description of the poem’s significance to you, by Friday 16 May, 2014. No original poems, please!

Secondly, there are a number of poetry and creative writing events coming up at this year’s OutBurst Festival (6-10 May). OutBurst showcases cutting-edge research and expertise from across the university in a variety of stimulating and fun events for students, staff, and the local community, including installations, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and discussions for all ages. Find out more from the website, via Facebook, or on Twitter, and book your tickets now!

‘The North Side’ is copyright © D. Nurkse, 2012, and is reprinted from A Night in Brooklyn (CB editions, 2013) by permission of CB editions.

Notes from CB editions:

D. Nurkse lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is a former poet laureate of that borough. His parents fled Nazi Europe during World War Two. His Voices over Water, published by CBe in 2011, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. He has also written on human rights issues and worked with Amnesty International. You can read further selections from A Night in Brooklyn on the CB editions website.

CB editions, founded in 2007, publishes poetry alongside short fiction and other writing, including work in translation. Its poetry titles have won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2013), and have been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize.

In 2011 CBe inaugurated Free Verse, a one-day book fair for poetry publishers to show their work and sell direct to the public; the event was repeated in 2012 and 2013, with over 50 publishers taking part, and has become an annual event. The next fair will take place on 6 September at Conway Hall in London. Find out more about the publisher from the website, where you can also sign up to the CB editions mailing list, or ‘like’ the publisher on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its activities.

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.

what comes to mind is meadow

nasuwa się łąka, łąka łąk ta jedna na starość

przywykam do mijania twarzy

grobek w piasku, kwiatki krzyżyk „muszę zobaczyć kto
tam czy mewa ryba nic”, za falę będzie po nim

morza mam tyle ile przy nim stoję, nie pilnowane
rozpływa się w szare nie wiem

what comes to mind is meadow the meadow of meadows

the one for my old age

slowly I’m getting used to the passage of faces

a small grave in the sand a small cross and some flowers
‘I need to see who it is, seagull fish nothing’ in a wave
it’ll be gone

sea that much of it as I stand on its shore unattended it
spills slurs into the grey I don’t know

by Krystyna Miłobędzka, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

Owing to essential maintenance work, the Poetry Centre website will not be available on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 April, and so this week’s poem is being distributed early. Happy Easter to all our readers!

News from the Centre: for the first time since its establishment, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre has established a formal link with another academic centre dedicated to the study of poetry. In March 2014 Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre entered into a partnership with the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies, which is based at Mater Dei Institute, Dublin City University, and is under the direction of Dr Michael Hinds. The link will raise the international profile of Brookes’ Poetry Centre, and facilitate collaborations based on existing and emerging research areas at both centres. Learn more about the Irish Centre for Poetry Studies at the Centre’s website.


‘what comes to mind is meadow’ by Krystyna Miłobędzka is copyright © Krystyna Miłobędzka, 2013, and translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from the book  Nothing More , which is introduced by Robert Minhinnick, and is part of Arc’s Visible Poets series, edited by Jean Boase-Beier (Arc Publications, 2013).

Notes from Arc Publications:

Krystyna Miłobędzka
 was born in Margonin, Poland, in 1932. She is an author of twelve books of poetry. Her ‘collected’ appeared in 2006 and in 2010. Recipient of numerous awards, she has been nominated for the NIKE Prize in 2006 and won the Silesius Award in 2009, and again in 2013 for Lifetime Achievement. 

Nothing More crystallizes relationships between people from erotic engagements to the bond between mother and child. These are poems rooted in the earth and body, beginning in a physical experience that expands into philosophical questioning. They are not polite, they do not hide their imperfections. They reveal an immediacy of expression. Each text reveals itself seemingly uncontrolled, an unspecified thought: a sentence broken off, a sudden mental leap, an ellipsis, a slip of the tongue.

You can read further poems from Nothing More on Arc’s website, and a short essay by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese about her translations of Miłobędzka’s work on the Voltage Poetry blog.

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. 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.

Sooner or Later Frank


You end up listening to his quotient
  of rainy day, blue-mooded songs,
Sinatra sounding like he’s in a bar
  by drizzly New York docks, the voice
a lived-in confidential baritone
  that always seems familiar,
bourbon-shot, 2am reminiscent,
  resigned, resistant to the hurt
her phrases neutrally, for bashed about
  means changing partners like a shirt,
a red and white striped Brooks Brothers affair,
  the tie dropped like a hanging man,
the attitude an emotional outlaw
  who never gets the answers right
and talks them into blue and indigo
  inflections, gangsterish felt hat
angled defiantly, tipped north or south
  for studio or for mafia wear,
and always integral to the Frank look
  that’s in the voice: he’s right in life,
so centred in it, he’s like a peach stone
  pivotal to brimming texture,
but at the same time sitting in alone
  on loneliness, an Alka Seltzer glass
fizzing to opalescence in the hand,
  the woman gone, her Chanel scent
left as a fuzzy hangover. It’s loss
  he builds on and converts to gain,
but still it’s trouble, win or lose, and both
  feed into song – the ones you hear –
his pick-up fuming, just a casual bit,
  her lipstick bleeding on a coffee cup,
downtown, while he sits sorting out his socks
  to the soundtrack of steady New York rain.

by Jeremy Reed

Welcome back to the Weekly Poem after its impromptu early Easter break. We’re pleased to tell you about a new poetry event for Oxford! Pass On A Poem gathers together people interested in poetry with the aim of sharing favourite poems by reading them aloud. You can also attend just to sample the selections. This first Oxford meeting will take place on Wednesday 11th June. For more details, and to let people know which poem you’d like to share, contact: james.orton@blackwell.co.uk You can also visit the Pass On A Poem website.


‘Sooner or Later Frank’ is copyright © Jeremy Reed, 2014, and reprinted from his book Sooner or Later Frank (2014) by permission of Enitharmon Books.

Notes from Enitharmon:

Jeremy Reed was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, and read for his PhD at the University of Essex. He is widely acknowledged as the most imaginatively gifted British poet of his generation, praised by Seamus Heaney for his ‘rich and careful writing’ and by David Lodge for his ‘remarkable lyric gift’. Björk simply called his work ‘the most beautiful, outrageously brilliant poetry in the world’. His Selected Poems were published by Penguin in 1987. Subsequent collections have been Nineties (Cape, 1990), Dicing for Pearls (1990), Pop Stars (1994), Sweet Sister Lyric (1996), Saint Billie (2001), Duck and Sally Inside (2004) and This is How You Disappear (2007), all from Enitharmon Press. He has also published Heartbreak Hotel (Orion, 2002), a verse biography of Elvis Presley. Jeremy Reed is currently Marine Society Poet Laureate. Sooner or Later Frank is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and you can find out more about it from the Enitharmon website and more about Jeremy Reed from his own website.

Jeremy Reed’s new book will be launched on Thursday 1 May at The Enitharmon Gallery Bookshop, 
which is located at 10 Bury Place, 
London, WC1A 2JL. The event is not ticketed – entry is free, but places must be reserved by emailing 
Lavinia Singer on 
info@enitharmon.co.uk You can find more details on the Enitharmon website.

‘William Blake dreamed up the original Enitharmon as one of his inspiriting, good, female daemons, and his own spirit as a poet-­artist, printer-publisher still lives in the press which bears the name of his creation. Enitharmon is a rare and wonderful phenomenon, a press where books are shaped into artefacts of lovely handiwork as well as communicators of words and worlds. The writers and the artists published here over the last forty­‐five years represent a truly historic gathering of individuals with an original vision and an original voice, but the energy is not retrospective: it is growing and new ideas enrich the list year by year. Like an ecologist who manages to restock the meadows with a nearly vanished species of wild flower or brings a rare pair of birds back to found a colony, this publisher has dedicatedly and brilliantly made a success of that sharply endangered species, the independent press.’ (Marina Warner.)

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