Self-Portrait at Primary School


I was so obliging I let the weirdest, smelliest kid pick on me
because I thought it might make him feel better.
He smelled like an opened can. They called him the weirdo.

Instead of the red sweatshirt with the school logo on the right breast,
he had a generic red jumper which wasn’t even the right shade of red.

I remember the grain of the wood on the prefab classroom’s base
against my scalp as he gently, then firmly, rolled my head against it.
I remember the rolling turned to knocking, a tuft of my hair in his fist.

I didn’t say: Don’t do that because that hurts me. I didn’t
want to hurt his feelings. I remember smiling quizzically at him
and he beamed back, delighted with this human doll.

The relationship continued for a week until a dinner lady
marched us both to my teacher. The Weirdo was sent for counselling
and never allowed to go near me again.

And even at the time it struck me: maybe I was the dangerous one.
by Luke Kennard

News from the Centre! This week join us at Oxford Brookes for two terrific readings. First, acclaimed conceptual poet and public artist Ira Lightman will be with us on Wednesday at lunchtime (12-1pm, Special Collections, basement of the Main Library, Headington Campus). Then Forward Prize-shortlisted poet Sarah Corbett will read from her verse novel And She Was on Friday between 2.30-3.30pm (JHB 201, John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus). The readings are free, and everyone is very welcome to attend! Please share the news with colleagues and friends.

‘Self-Portrait at Primary School’ is copyright © Luke Kennard, 2016. It is reprinted from Cain (Penned in the Margins, 2016) by permission of Penned in the Margins.Notes from Penned in the Margins:


Luke Kennard
 has published five collections of poetry. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2007. He lectures at the University of Birmingham. In 2014 he was selected by the Poetry Book Society as one of the Next Generation Poets. His debut novel, The Transition, is published in 2017 by Fourth Estate. Read more about Cain on the Penned in the Margins website, and hear Luke read from his work on the Poetry Archive website.

Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. The company believes in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. It operates across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. Read more about its work on its website. You can also follow Penned in the Margins on Twitter and 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.

Belle Étoile

(after Paul Louis Rossi)

One more time
I’ve let myself drift
Through the network of darkened streets
Once more the boat has left harbour
And I’ve forgotten oars and compassMysterious
Women, or statues,
Stone façades or plaster faces
You steal my nights from me
You mix your blood with mine, in spite of me

Nothing welcomes me nothing
In the solitude where I wander
Not a single opening door
And the fluttering of handkerchiefs can’t hold me
The current is too strong, the rudder’s broken

Let it go give up
Don’t stretch out a hand to the drowned man
I’ll roll like a pebble to the sea
And don’t go grieving over him he has
His eternity of recollection innocence and forgetfulness

In the bitter strictness of the night
The stars are extinguished after so many glances
It’s between two waves that the voyage ends
The lighthouses winking to each other on the coast
I’m lit up suddenly like phosphorescence, glowing algae

by John Kinsella and Alan Jenkins

Booking for our exciting poetry writing/visual art workshop with Tamar Yoseloff closes tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm! Just a couple of places remain, so move fast if you would like to join us! Visit the Poetry Centre page for more details.

We invite all our Weekly Poem subscribers to join us at the awards evening for our International Poetry Competition on Friday 25 November at Oxford Brookes from 6-8pm. The event will feature readings from our judge, Daljit Nagra, and the winning and shortlisted poets. To attend, please e-mail poetrycomp@brookes.ac.uk by 11 November with details of how many places you require. We hope to see you there!   

‘Belle Étoile’ is copyright © John Kinsella and Alan Jenkins, 2015. It is reprinted from Marine (Enitharmon Press, 2015) by permission of Enitharmon Press

Notes from Enitharmon Press:

This remarkable collaboration had its origins when John Kinsella and Alan Jenkins, two very different poets who had long admired and enjoyed each other’s work, discovered by chance that the new poems they were working on shared a preoccupation with the sea. Marine brings together those poems and others written since, all dealing with the sea in its many moods and weathers, with people’s relationship to and exploitation of their marine environment, from the Indian Ocean to the shores of the Atlantic; the two poets’ highly distinctive voices, while drawing on a dazzling variety of forms and sources, complementing each other in a powerful counterpoint. Read more about the book on the Enitharmon website.

Alan Jenkins’s volumes of poetry include Harm, which won the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 1994, A Shorter Life (2005), Drunken Boats (2008), and Revenants (2013). He is Deputy Editor and Poetry Editor of the Times Literary Supplement. He is a Fellow of the RSL. Learn more about Alan Jenkins’s work from his page on the British Council website

John Kinsella’s recent works of poetry include Armour (Picador, 2011) and Jam Tree Gully (WW Norton, 2012). Picador published Sack in November, 2014. He is editor and the author of anthologies, works of criticism, fiction and poetry. He is an Extraordinary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University. You can find out more about John Kinsella’s work from his 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.

The Things She Burned That Year

Whole nights claimed her on sooty knees,
worshipping the heat of a first open fire.
She tended it with the caution of a mistress,

offered her past and part of her future.
She kindled her half-filled diary; each curling
page exposed the inky, unburned next.

All afternoon it read itself to the blaze,
settled down at dusk to a soft grey bed.
She was watching someone she knew grow old.

Then she’d fed the fire a banquet of porn
that she no longer had an attic to store.
The printed bodies, the breasts and cocks

were nibbled off by a bright green flame
before the paper charred in the usual way.
And the final text that lanterned out

in the beige-tiled fireplace flared so fast
that the thing she wanted to erase
was lost: even its capsicum name is dust.

by Judy Brown

News from the Centre! This Friday sees the first of our lunchtime readings at Brookes for the semester, featuring Seán Street and Jennifer Wong. All are welcome! Please feel free to bring your lunch!

There are just a couple of places left on the workshop led by Tamar Yoseloff entitled ‘The Space of the Poem’ on Saturday 22 October. Inspired by the exhibition by Pan Gongkai running at Brookes’ Glass Tank, we will look at examples of Chinese painting, concrete poetry and text-based sculpture as a way of generating new poems. You can read more about the workshop on the Brookes website, where you can also book your place. There is a reduced price for Brookes students and staff.

Threads Across Water is an exhibition of painting, print and sculpture by Carola Colley inspired by the poetry of Usha Kishore, which is currently running at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire. To tie in with the show, there will be a workshop and reading by Usha Kishore on Saturday 15 October. The workshop, entitled ‘Poetising Myth’, will take place at the Mill Arts Centre from 2.30-4 p.m on Saturday, and the reading will take place at 5.30pm. Email carola.colley@gmail.com for details and to book your place, or visit the Facebook page for more details.

‘The Things She Burned That Year’ is copyright © Judy Brown, 2016. It is reprinted from Crowd Sensations (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

Driven as much by thoughtful speculation and metaphysics as by personal experience and relationships, Judy Brown‘s poems surprise and delight at every turn. Crowds and isolation, and city and the country collide in Judy’s second collection. Spells living in London and Hong Kong and the author’s recent residencies in Grasmere and North Wales provide key moments of inspiration. Crowd Sensations is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Judy’s debut, Loudness, was shortlisted for the Forward and Fenton Aldeburgh first collection prizes. Judy writes and teaches in Derbyshire and London and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She was the Wordsworth Trust’s poet-in-residence for 2013 and was a 2014 Gladstone’s Library writer-in-residence. Judy won the Manchester Poetry Prize in 2010. Carol Rumens has described her as ‘a poet who instinctively sees the possibilities of defamiliarisation wherever she casts her penetrating, colour-loving eye.’

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website.

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.

Reader, listener,

come in. I’m opening my door to you – the trap
door of a modern barn conversion with lots of little rooms,
vast paintings on the bare brick walls, a daring colour scheme,
sofas and awkward plastic chairs for interrogating guests

in that looking way. There’s soup. Bread in the oven to warm.
Take off your shoes. Take some spare socks – I know your own feet
offend you. I know your deepest thread, like a baked-in hair.
You wish someone would think of you, spontaneously

in the middle of the night; call you out of the dark like a comet
landing on your duvet. Come in, make yourself at home.
The walls here don’t have eyes. They’re dumb surfaces
onto which shadows of stags are cast like stalking giants.

by Ruby Robinson

Happy National Poetry Day! We hope that wherever you are you’ll have time to enjoy some poetry today, starting with this poem! The Poetry Centre will be handing out free poetry postcards in the John Henry Brookes Building at Oxford Brookes today for you to mail to friends and family who need poetry. You might also be interested to know that we have just announced the winners of our International Poetry Competition, and you can find more details on our website. There will be a special awards ceremony on 25 November, and all are welcome to attend.

And next Friday sees the first of our lunchtime readings at Brookes for the semester, featuring Seán Street and Jennifer Wong. All are welcome!

Finally, there are just a few places left on the workshop led by Tamar Yoseloff entitled ‘The Space of the Poem’ on Saturday 22 October. Inspired by the exhibition by Pan Gongkai running at Brookes’ Glass Tank, we will look at examples of Chinese painting, concrete poetry and text-based sculpture as a way of generating new poems – participants will be encouraged to share their first drafts during the session. You can read more about the workshop on the Brookes website, where you can also book your place. There is a reduced price for Brookes students and staff.
‘Reader, listener,’ is copyright © Ruby Robinson, 2016. It is reprinted from Every Little Sound (Liverpool University Press, 2016) by permission of Liverpool University Press.

Notes from Pavilion Poetry:

Drawing from neuroscience on the idea of ‘internal gain’, an internal volume control which helps us amplify and focus on quiet sounds in times of threat, danger or intense concentration, Ruby Robinson’s brilliant debut, Every Little Sound, introduces a poet whose work is governed by a scrupulous attention to the detail of the contemporary world. Moving and original, her poems invite us to listen carefully and use ideas of hearing and listening to explore the legacies of trauma. The book celebrates the separateness and connectedness of human experience in relationships and our capacity to harm and love. You can read more about the collection on the Pavilion Poetry webpages.

Ruby Robinson was born in Manchester in 1985 and lives in Sheffield. She studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia and has an MA from Sheffield Hallam University where she also won the Ictus Prize for poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Poetry ReviewPoetry (Chicago) and elsewhere. You can follow Ruby on Twitter.

Pavilion Poetry is a new contemporary poetry series from Liverpool University Press, edited by Deryn Rees-Jones, which seeks to publish the very best in contemporary poetry. Always international in its reach, Pavilion Poetry is poetry that takes a risk. Whether by new or established and award-winning writers, this is poetry sure to challenge and delight. Launched in 2015, Pavilion has already enjoyed considerable success, with Mona Arshi’s book, Small Hands, winning the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection at the 2015 Forward Prizes, and Ruby Robinson’s Every Little Sound being shortlisted for the same prize in 2016. You can read more about the series on the Liverpool University Press website.

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.