Willow Tit

Her beak is a split thorn
carving a zipline,
undressing the seedpod.

Ignore her calls,
those sudden shudders
of breath in a pinetree.

Ignore her completely.
Some birds in China
sculpt nests from spit;

she’ll hammer a home
in your huge neglect,
eyeshadowed, black-capped.

In the land of the dead
the judges will balance
your heart and her feather.

by John Clegg

Happy World Poetry Day! This Thursday, our Visiting Professor Michael Parker and Aleksandra Parker discuss the new English edition of Andrzej Franaszek’s biography of Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, which they have translated and edited, and his relationship with Seamus Heaney. There is more information about the book on the Harvard Press website. The event takes place in room JHB 205 of the John Henry Brookes Building at Oxford Brookes University, is free to attend, and refreshments will be served. All are welcome!

Our next poetry workshop will be led by poet and teacher Sarah Hesketh and is entitled ‘“more than skin can hold”: Writing People’. It will take place on Saturday 1 April from 10.30-4.30pm in the John Henry Brookes Building here at Oxford Brookes University. The workshop will consider the questions that arise when we attempt to represent and remember others in our writing, and all are welcome! Visit our website for more information and to sign up. Please note that places are limited!

Finally, this Sunday, the Director of the Poetry Centre, Niall Munro, will be in conversation with poet and publisher Andy Croft at the Oxford Literary Festival about why poetry matters. More details can be found on the OLF website.

‘The Willow Tit’ is copyright © John Clegg, 2011. It is reprinted from Birdbook I: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland (Sidekick Books, 2011) by permission of Sidekick Books

John Clegg was born in Chester in 1986, and grew up in Cambridge. In 2013, he won an Eric Gregory Award. He has published a pamphlet, Captain Love and the Five Joaquins (The Emma Press, 2014) and a full-length collection, Holy Toledo! (Carcanet, 2016) He works as a bookseller in London.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

With this poem we continue our 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.

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.