Gavia stellata

Who calls to the dark?

Who, when the shadows
are converted to morning,
when light pours out, when
day is turned to darkness
once more, when dark
is on the face of the sea,
who dives down, who
brings back a speck
to build on? I do. I did.

Who is the smallest
and brightest
and speckled
with stars? I am.

All things that gather
to shine I bear on my back
I raise on my wings
in the black of the waters,
in the deep vault of space.

Who dips and dives?
Dense bones take me down.

Who rose with a twin,
with another, who breasted
the face of the night, who
stitched the belt of stars
in Orion? Who speeds
without drag: bill like an awl
and flattened tarsus, neatest
and fleetest in streamlined
propulsion? Who took
Arcturus like a morsel of light,
a pinch of snuff, returned
to the surface?

Who calls to the dark;
who calls to the wind on
the surface of the water?
Who prompts the others
to dip and rise? Eyes like
seeds of garnet. Lightest
and brightest: gavia stellata,
the red-throated diver.

by Alexander Hutchison

This Thursday, Isy Mead, Head of Learning at The Story Museum here in Oxford, will launch a new monthly poetry workshop, held on the last Thursday of each month (except December). The workshop is open to anyone interested in writing poetry, from beginners to advanced. You can find more details on the Story Museum website.

And this Friday the Poetry Centre holds its International Poetry Competition awards event at Oxford Brookes, featuring readings from a number of the winning and shortlisted poets, from local young poets mentored by Kate Clanchy, and from the judge, Daljit Nagra. You can find more details of the winning and shortlisted poems on the Poetry Centre website

‘Gavia stellata’ is copyright © Alexander Hutchison, 2012. It is reprinted from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats (Sidekick Books, 2012) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

With this poem we begin a selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

Alexander Hutchison (1943-2015) was born in Buckie, lived in Glasgow, and was RLF Writing Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He published Scales Dog: Poems New and Selected (Salt Publishing) in 2007, and his first book, Deep-Tap Tree (University of Massachusetts Press, 1978) is still in print, He wrote in English and Scots – and his poem ‘Deil Tak the Hinmaist’ was more than a token dialect piece in The Best British Poetry2011. His poem ‘Gavia stellata’ comes from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via 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.

Happy Seventieth Birthday Blues, Mr Zimmerman 

I’m staring into seventy, staring at that old bad news,
Yeah, staring into seventy, staring at the rank bad news.
I’m getting slowly smashed, but it’s not the getting smashed you’d choose.

It’s a wall that’s got no garden shining on the other side,
A wall that’s got no pardon, smiling on the other side –
Just ask any angel who ever crossed that divide.

I heard the devil singing, he was singing to me long ago,
He sang me through the sixties, he sang me years and years ago –
Sang Man, if you’re a woman you just have to grow and grow.
I’m a long-born woman, and it’s the shortest straw.
I’m a long-born woman, smoking my cheroot of straw.
But I’m no damned angel, I was born to be a whole lot more.

I’m looking at the wall. Are you telling me it’s a gate?
I’m looking at a wall, yeah, he’s telling me it’s the gate.
You can find it if you’re blind, baby blue, it’s not too late.

We’re only ever twenty, we’re only ever at the start.
We’re only ever peddling that iconic parabolic start.
And there’s no wall, baby, it’s the shadow of an empty heart.

Go cruising into seventy: seventy’s a broad highway;
Cruise along at seventy, along that broad highway –
You’ll soon be doing eighty, if the angels get out the way.

by Carol Rumens

The latest Poetry Review blog review is now available! Written by Alex Wortley, who recently completed his MA by Research about Seamus Heaney at Brookes, it examines a new collection of poetry by Michelle Cahill. You can read Alex’s review here.

The awards event for the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition takes place on Friday 25 November from 6-8pm. It will feature a reading by the judge, Daljit Nagra, as well as a number of the winning and shortlisted poets. If you would like to attend, please let us know by the end of this week. Simply reply to this e-mail.

‘Happy Seventieth Birthday Blues, Mr Zimmerman’ is copyright © Carol Rumens, 2016. It is reprinted from Animal People (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

Animal People is the new collection by distinguished poet Carol Rumens. Often inspired by and infused with the weathers of various seasons of the year, many poems also feature a strong sense of place, whether it be the dramatic mountain rock-scapes of Snowdonia or the gritty streets of London and Hull. This particular poem has also appeared in the Seren anthology The Captain’s Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at 70 edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Wooley. There is a strong sense of commemoration in this collection, of time passing and of the challenges of mortality, and also a number of brilliant pieces that are influenced by translations or re-readings of classic works of literature. The title poem refers to a sequence devoted to themes inspired by autism and what it means to be ‘on the spectrum’. Read more about Animal People on the Seren website.

Carol Rumens was born in South London. She has taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, Queen’s University Belfast, University College Cork, University of Stockholm, and the University of Hull; she is currently Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Bangor. The author of sixteen collections of poems, as well as occasional fiction, drama and translation, Rumens has received the Cholmondeley Award and the Prudence Farmer Prize for her poetry, and has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her work has appeared regularly in publications such as The GuardianThe Observer and Poetry Review, and she currently writes the hugely popular ‘Poem of the Week’ feature for The Guardian. Writing about Rumens’s work in the Times Literary Supplement, Isobel Armstrong described her as ‘a European poet whose imagination goes beyond the confines of Europe, a poet of borders and transit, and of movement across frontiers which makes both the experience of alienation and that of “home” a relative matter.’ Read more about Rumens’ work on her website.

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.