When I lived alone

When I lived alone I was clean. Good.
I drank jasmine tea in the afternoons
working by lamplight in the gloom. At night
I read by candlelight. Drank Rooibos. Played
piano to the guitar, guitar to the piano.
Sometimes I sang, to them both, to the room,
to myself, alone. Sometimes I went out.
If I left for more than a day I’d stroke
the walls and tell the house to be good
without me. Occasionally, people came round
and made the still, contained air busy.

Mostly though it was only me,
me and the house, being good together.
I slept curled up against the cool
stretch of its ribs like a cub. It breathed

gently into me. How I loved
its scent of damp sandstone and old warm
wood. I loved how it touched on my mind
and shifted its light to my mood. How
it helped me be good. In the mornings
I’d sit in its eye with a pot of good black coffee,
reheating it on the hob as it cooled.

by Polly Atkin

This is a very exciting and busy week for the Poetry Centre, and we hope you’ll join us at one of our events! Tonight (Tuesday), we’ll be hosting an open mic at Oxford Brookes on the topic of identity, together with the Oxford Human Rights Festival and Oxford Brookes LGBT+ Staff Forum. All are welcome! This week also sees the launch of ignitionpress and our first pamphlets by Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington: we’re in London on Wednesday and Oxford on Thursday. Both events are free and we’d love to see you! We also have a series of readings and a workshop with Alan Buckley lined up for the coming months. Find more information about those here.

‘When I lived alone’ is copyright © Polly Atkin, 2017, and reprinted from Basic Nest Architecture by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her second poetry pamphlet, Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize. In 2014 her poem ‘A Short History of the Moon’ won the Wigtown Poetry Prize, and she was awarded New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Prize for work in progress ‘reflect[ing] a strong sense of place or the natural environment’. Her 2017 collection from Seren is Basic Nest Architecture. She has taught at the Universities of Lancaster and Strathclyde. You can read more about Polly’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

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 Familyand 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 and follow Seren 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.