moving on or going back to where you came from


                                               Amy Clampitt


                   it is not the substance of a man’s fault

                   it is the shape of it

                   is what lives with him, is what shows


                                               Charles Olson


a room crammed with sharp toys                              


a field zesty with fire   


                   history as historia        


        cool as a shot to the mouth    




                                      in pinched shoes  



                            merely to show up


                   the birdlime viscidity of the garden

                   the scalpel-like finger

                              of a shriveled leaf—                     


                   not accusatory   

                                               shadowed only

                                                         by itself

                   not pointing

         towards a balance-act 

                                             but balancing         




I was six and made of violins


                            by metronomic light 


I wanted to energise him away

         like glucose


         into whiteness—


         a voice spoken slantwise

                            but faraway—    


                                      sleeping it off


                   I traveled in the dark

                   so as not to be seen    





         in what is             unclaimed


I wait and fail      

         paying off warders

                   at your door—    


                                               the thrillbox

                                               of birthdays


                   whalecalls from waterclotted



                                      the gazebladed kitchen 


                   the uplander silences of television


                                      blackish fingernails

                                                         from window-mould


                            eyes goggled

                                      towards a lit hearth 

                                               fringe fraying


                            or cupping at the curtain frame

                                      fearful of fire 

                                               on the domestic zodiac


bees cried in their flower-coats

                   collecting honey




                   how the air divides      

                            like cutting a loaf—


         as much childed           

                   as fevered


                                      left alone

                            in the dry season         


         to feed from the day’s nutrients—


                                                                  naphtha mirage 

                                                                            over the wheatfield

                                                                                              at sunset


                                               foxfur grinning on a spidersweb


                                                                  dialysis of rain

                                                                            inside a garden well     


                                                                  equal to breath             




         —to hear the substance of the earth

                                      to know its shape        


                   blessèd as an egg

   and yet—


                   and yet bombarded

                            by the radio impulse

                                      of survival


                   the whistlework of money—


her ivied hair       

                   trenched at the oven or

         admonished at the fire-grate




shuffle-worn cards

                                      blanked-out letters

                                               from the on-dead 


how life tickles the palm         at twenty




                   dreaming up worser devils


thinking the lesser disease might be



no-one to ignite

                   the red-eyed bird

                            of your mind


no-one told you why






if the bones sing          


if chaos is chaos         



                                               no atom nuclei

                   no definitive cure         




enter fortune


         a ransacked house   



that which remains

preserved in boxes


                   now bulges

         like a museum   




baffled voices     vow trounces

         —as if from any archive—


I lean over and touch my ear

         to the grid complex—


                            like hearing ritual cannibalism

                                      in the byways of a river


by James Byrne

Please join us on Friday 19 February from 6-8pm here at Oxford Brookesto celebrate the prize-winning poets of the ‘Open’ and ‘English as a Second Language’categories in our inaugural International Poetry Competition. The event willinclude readings from the winners, as well as an exciting showcase of work fromlocal young poets, mentored by award-winning writer, Kate Clanchy. Lightrefreshments will follow. If you would like to attend, please let us know viae-mail: poetrycomp@brookes.ac.ukby 10 February. 

‘Historia’ is copyright © James Byrne, 2015. It is reprinted from White Coins (Arc Publications, 2015) by permission of Arc Publications.

James Byrne’s most recent poetry collection Blood/Sugar, was published by Arc Publications in 2009. Byrne is the editor of The Wolf, an internationally-renowned poetry magazine, which he co-founded in 2002. He won the Treci Trg poetry festival prize in Serbia and his Selected Poems: The Vanishing House was published in Belgrade. Byrne lives in Liverpool and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. His poems have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Burmese and Chinese and he is the International Editor for Arc Publications.

White Coins rewards the reader with a nomadic poetry for the 21st century; one that mingles personal, social and historical spaces whilst celebrating, at all times, linguistic versatility and innovation. Read more about the book on Arc’s website, and hear James read from his work on the Archive of the Now site.

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.