Teenager

The only thing he remembered
about the burglary was the dog
as he’d dragged it across the floor,
its claws out in resistance,
fur hooding its eyes. 
His own teeth were bared
as he shook and twisted 
the folds of its neck. 
The dream of his father! 
His mute mother 
had brought him here to
join him and he’d found
a drunk, violent man
who beat her.
He knew at court, that he
had an extra punishment. 
He would be deported when
the others were released.
At the time he didn’t care,
he hated this shit-hole of a country
as much as it hated him. 
But inside, he found
he was good at maths, 
got certificates in fitness, 
reflected on his life. 
But it was down in writing
that he hated his mother
so now they said he hadn’t
got family life. 
He’d told them he was glad
he’d hurt the dog
so they said he had no remorse. 
They told him he was now
nineteen and no longer a child
and would be deported with £46.
They asked him which airport 
he wanted to go back to 
but he didn’t know 
what ones there were. 
He’d left when he was seven. 

by Caroline Smith

News from the Centre! Celebrated poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be returning to Brookes to lead a workshop entitled ‘Poetry and Identity: Creating Character’. The workshop will take place on Saturday 11 February from 10.30-4.30pm and is designed to coincide with an exhibition by acclaimed French photographer Claude Cahun running in Brookes’s Glass Tank Gallery. The cost is £45 (£40 for Brookes staff and students!), and spaces are limited. There are currently only a few left. Please visit our website for more details and to book a place.

We are also excited to invite you to join us at one of the stops on a UK tour by Pia Tafdrup, one of Scandinavia’s leading writers. In a series of events from 15-17 February organized by the Poetry Centre and supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, Pia will read at the University of Reading with Peter Robinson, at Ledbury, where she will be in conversation with Fiona Sampson, and in Oxford, where she will read at Oriel College alongside T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Philip Gross. You can find out more and book tickets via the Centre’s website. Again, places are limited!

‘Teenager’ is copyright © Caroline Smith, 2016. It is reprinted from The Immigration Handbook (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

Vividly detailed and emotionally powerful, The Immigration Handbook is as revealing as it is timely. Here we meet with the traumatised individuals that the news stories only speak of as numbers. These are lives fraught with violence and tragedy that Caroline Smith has encountered in her work as the asylum caseworker for a Wembley MP. We journey with them through the labyrinthine government bureaucracies they must navigate to survive. With clarity and integrity she lays before us stories of stoic resilience and humorous forbearance, of kindness to others and of joy in the midst of sorrow. These are poems that step out of the headlines and into our hearts. You can read more about the book on the Seren website.

Caroline Smith was born in Ilford and grew up in Hertfordshire. She originally trained as a sculptor at Goldsmith’s College. Her first publication was a long narrative poem ‘Edith’ about a Lancashire-born woman who works as a nanny in Glasgow, but is haunted by a secret from her pre-war life. Smith’s first full collection, The Thistles of the Hesperides, is about the community of West Pilton in Scotland where Caroline lived in the 1980s when it was one of the most deprived housing estates in Europe. Published widely in literary journals, she has twice won prizes in the Troubadour Poetry Competition. Smith has had work set to music, broadcast on the BBC and is also the author of a musical play, TheBedseller’s Tale, that was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She lives in Wembley with her family. Find out more about Caroline’s work on her website or by following her on Twitter.

‘These poems are very moving and it’s hard to do justice to the way Caroline Smith conveys the anxieties, hopes and disappointments experienced by immigrants. She never allows the reader to forget that behind the refugee statistics there are suffering human beings; very often the victims of a seemingly insensitive and overstretched bureaucracy.’ Lord Alf Dubs (formerly a Director of the Refugee Council and Chair of Liberty. He was one of 669 Jewish children saved from the Nazis on the Kinderstransport.)

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.

5 (from Clavics)

         Making of mere brightness the air to tremble         
         So the sun’s aurora in deep winter
                               Spiders’ bramble
                               Blazing white floss
                               Silent stentor!—
                      Viscosity and dross
                               No more amass
                               At the centre
         The whole anatomy of heaven and earth
         Shewn as the alchemists declare it
                               Poised beyond wrath
                               Resurrection
                               Of skin and bone
                               To dispirit…
                      The day cuts a chill swath,
                               Dark hunkers down.
         I think we are past Epiphany now.
         Earth billows on, its everlasting
                               Shadow in tow
         And we with it, fake shadows onward casting.

                                              *

             Trust you to be a comic poet manqué
                    Evidence too sweet to dismiss
                      See above. Well, thank you!
                                (Taking the piss,
                                      Donkey?)
                                       Confess
                                  Melancholy
                      A touch too much my thing.
                       Erasmus, In Praise of Folly:
           Grand antidote no substitute for bling
by Geoffrey Hill

We’re delighted that celebrated poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be returning to Brookes to lead a workshop entitled ‘Poetry and Identity: Creating Character’. The workshop will take place on Saturday 11 February from 10.30-4.30pm and is designed to coincide with an exhibition by acclaimed French photographer Claude Cahun running in Brookes’s Glass Tank Gallery. The cost is £45 (£40 for Brookes staff and students), and spaces are limited! Please visit our website for more details and to book a place.

We are also excited to invite you to join us at one of the stops on a UK tour by Pia Tafdrup, one of Scandinavia’s leading writers. In a series of events from 15-17 February organized by the Poetry Centre and supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, Pia will read at the University of Reading with Peter Robinson, at Ledbury, where she will be in conversation with Fiona Sampson, and in Oxford, where she will read at Oriel College alongside T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Philip Gross. You can find out more and book tickets via the Centre’s website.

Section 5 of Clavics is copyright © Geoffrey Hill, 2011. It is reprinted from Clavics (Enitharmon Press, 2011) by permission of Enitharmon Press

Notes from Enitharmon Press:

An elegiac sequence, mourning for the musician William Lawes who was killed at the Battle of Chester in 1645, Clavics is delicately constructed, each page comprised of a section made up of two stanzas, together forming the shape of a key. Before long, however, the tone makes it clear that nothing is to be taken at face value; amongst the lines are provocations and incongruities, playful references and about-turns. Clavics is a celebration of seventeenth-century music and poetry, yet is confrontational and sometimes shockingly modern. From one line to the next you may be pulled out of a potently evoked moment of history, thrust up against the wall of sexual politics and strained meaning in contemporary language, and then dropped back onto a battlefield. Read more about the book on the Enitharmon website.

From working-class Worcestershire roots, Sir Geoffrey Hill (1932-2016) became one of Britain’s most celebrated poets. In his distinguished literary career Hill published 19 books of poetry and also several books of criticism, collated in his award-winning Collected Critical Writings (OUP, 2008). In 2010 he was elected Oxford Professor of Poetry and in 2012 he was knighted for his services to literature. He previously taught at Leeds, Cambridge and Boston University, Massachusetts. His twelfth collection of poems, A Treatise of Civil Power, appeared in 2007, following on Scenes from Comus (2005) and Without Title (2006). Oxford University Press published his Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 in 2013.

‘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.

My Girl

in the nineties Aunty Ann had all eight
rooms wired into the same Sky station
but since we didn’t know we spent each night
of our weekend watching girls undress
while bored men phoned in, telling them to
climb between each other’s legs/and/or
take a nipple into a yielding/heterosexual
mouth, force a simple moan perfected in adolescence.
We had our double bed with its chintz canopy,
our newly pink hair rubbing onto the pillowcases,
the crochet eiderdown heavy upon our
satisfied bodies; she was
sometimes jealous if I looked at the TV
for too long. We’d discuss
which parts in relation to the girls’ parts were normal
or in the dull and balmy half-light of morning
through semi-drawn blinds
which parts looked beautiful

by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Two exciting announcements from the Centre! This Saturday 14 January, the Poetry Centre is privileged to present a reading by internationally-acclaimed critic and poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Forward Prize-shortlisted poet Nancy Campbell. The event will begin at 7pm at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford, and all are welcome. £2 on the door. More details are available on our Facebook page.

We are also delighted to announce that celebrated poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be returning to Brookes to lead a workshop entitled ‘Poetry and Identity: Creating Character’. The workshop will take place on Saturday 11 February from 10.30-4.30pm and is designed to coincide with an exhibition by acclaimed French photographer Claude Cahun running in Brookes’s Glass Tank Gallery. The cost is £45 (£40 for Brookes staff and students), and spaces are limited! Please visit our website for more details and to book a place.

‘My Girl’ is copyright © Melissa Lee-Houghton, 2016. It is reprinted from Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016) by permission of Penned in the Margins.

Notes from Penned in the Margins:

Sunshine is the new collection from Next Generation Poet Melissa Lee-Houghton. A writer of startling confession, her poems inhabit the lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and deserted lanes of austerity Britain. Sunshine combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision. This book, which was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, was also selected as one of the best poetry books of 2016 by both the Guardianand the Poetry School, and includes ‘i am very precious’, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2016.

You can find out more about the book on the Penned in the Margins website, where you can also read further poems from the collection.

MelissaLee-Houghton was announced as a Next Generation Poet in 2014. Her first and second collections are published by Penned in the Margins. BeautifulGirls was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her poem ‘i am very precious’ was shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She has received a Northern Writers’ Award for her fiction. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire.

You can hear Melissa read from her work on the Poetry Archive, read more about her work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Penned in the Marginscreates 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.