The Malvern Aviator

My father’s watch. One of only a few hundred.
Dark blue face, Arabic numerals.
It keeps terrible time. I wear it now
only to counterweigh the days,
the equinoxes and leap years. 

When there is an odd jump in time
(the clocks going forward),
it even-keels me, like bike stabilisers,
swimming wings.
I do not fall down, I do not drown.

But if I were to take it off and abandon it
by my large granite basin,
its hands would fail with the iron
and I would venture out in the world,
ending up as a heap of ashes.

by Richard Skinner

We have a number of exciting poetry readings coming up over the next couple of months, including a reading by this week’s poet, Richard Skinner, who will be reading with Peter Raynard on 3 May at the Society Café in Oxford. Book tickets here.

We will also be hosting (as part of the Think Human Festival): Kei Miller on 22 May; Sinéad Morrissey on 23 May; and Clare Pollard on 24 May. We’re also helping to organize Stanza and Stand-Up on 25 May where poetry competes with comedy and the audience decides who wins! Don’t miss these exciting events! You can book tickets here.

And if you haven’t yet seen copies of our ignitionpress pamphlets, including work by Lily Blacksell, Patrick James Errington, and Mary Jean Chan (whose pamphlet A Hurry of English is the Poetry Book Society’s Summer Choice), visit our website. There you can find sample poems as well as audio and video of the poets reading from their work. The pamphlets are £5 each and three for £12. 

‘The Malvern Aviator’ is copyright © Richard Skinner, 2018. It is reprinted from The Malvern Aviator (Smokestack Books, 2018) by permission of Smokestack Books.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

In language that is both precise and strange, Richard Skinner’s poems tip certainties on their heads, making familiar objects in the world unfamiliar: a mountain is not what it seems, a skull contains a universe. Alongside this process of ‘making-strange’ lies a deep connection with sound, colour, temperature and scent that brings the poems fully to life. Questions of faith run through many of these poems, with subjects ranging from the Lollards and Buddhist Bardos to Saint Fabiola. There are personal poems too: a summer affair, family narratives about his grandmother’s difficult marriage and his mother’s time abroad as a young au pair. These poems engage with form – the cento, the cinquain, the unrhymed sonnet, cut-ups and free verse – in enigmatic, other-worldy ways that constantly surprise and please. Find out more about The Malvern Aviator on the Smokestack website

Richard Skinner has published three novels with Faber & Faber and three books of non-fiction. His previous books of poetry, the light user scheme and Terrace are both published by Smokestack. His work is published in eight languages. He is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy. You can read more about Richard’s work on his website and follow him on Twitter.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on 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.

St Jerome and the Chaffinch

More usually with a lion he can’t shake off,
and always with a book – but,
sometimes, he appears with a chaffinch. 

Animals love him. And it’s a symbol
of celibacy to be accompanied by a chaffinch.
The colourful male winters less far away than his mate. 

He becomes known as the bachelor bird
and also the harbinger of rain.
But only sometimes does he sing for rain, 

other times he sings for sun, or for his mate.
The French say gay comme un pinson
but we are not always so gay 

or so serious. Bosch paints him this way.
I cannot say why he sings, only that
the chaffinch, sometimes, appears with St Jerome.


by Emily Hasler

News from the Centre! We have a number of exciting poetry readings coming up over the next couple of months, including a reading by Peter Raynard and Richard Skinner on 3 May; Kei Miller on 22 May; Sinéad Morrissey on 23 May; Clare Pollard on 24 May; and Richard Harrison on 1 June. We’re also helping to organize Stanza and Stand-Up on 25 May where poetry competes with comedy and the audience decides who wins! You can book tickets for all of these events here.

And if you haven’t yet seen copies of our ignitionpress pamphlets, including work by Lily Blacksell, Patrick James Errington, and Mary Jean Chan (whose pamphlet A Hurry of English is the Poetry Book Society’s Summer Choice), visit our website. There you can find sample poems as well as audio and video of the poets reading from their work. The pamphlets are £5 each and three for £12.

Also on our website you can read a new interview with poet and critic Yvonne Reddick, and a review of Jos Smith’s book Subterranea by Jennifer Wong.

‘St Jerome and the Chaffinch’ is copyright © Emily Hasler, 2011. It is reprinted from Birdbook I: Towns, Parks, Gardens & Woodland (Sidekick Books, 2011) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Emily Hasler was born in Felixstowe, Suffolk and studied at the University of Warwick. Her work won second prize in the 2009 Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition, and she won an Eric Gregory Award in 2014. She has published a pamphlet, natural histories, with Salt and writes for Prac Crit. Her first collection, The Built Environment , has just been published by Pavilion Poetry (Liverpool University Press). You can follow Emily on Twitter.

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.

The last fare collector of Hiroshima

They found her fingers in a jelly of yen,
her skin one with the standard issue fare-bag –
a dove in a sen of silver to go to the mountains,
oh, if only she went. 

I have read of a woman
who cooled her burns with figs and persimmon.
She pared away old skin for years; it was the finest paper,
writing its kanji into the papyrus sky. I wish I knew her. 

In the ritual of tea-making,
I learnt how to sip from a widow’s eyes
and learn that some stories are like Hiroshima streetcars –
they always arrive on time then the hour takes them. 

They found her omen in the evening crow
hopping by the river: it is time to see how atoms rise
when another survivor dies;
their story closes with their eyelids. 

I have read of a God-fearing woman
who feared man so much more;
she sliced a cucumber each night for years to cool her skin
and hate had left her years ago with five generations of
fishermen
            horse-breakers
                       librarians
                                 mothers
                                            fathers
                                                      fare-collector.

by Antony Owen

Sen: Old Japanese coins. The sen was taken out of currency in 1953.

Poetry news! If you’re around St. Andrews or Edinburgh, catch our ignitionpress poets (Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan and Patrick James Errington) today (Wednesday) and tomorrow as they launch their pamphlets in Scotland! Find more details on the St. Andrews reading here and the Edinburgh event here. You can buy their pamphlets here.

There are still a few places left for this Saturday’s one-day poetry workshop by ignitionpress editor and Oxford-based poet Alan Buckley. The workshop is entitled ‘First, are you our sort of person? – I, you, they and us’, and will explore how writing in the second and third person and first person plural can broaden our range as writers. Tickets are £45 (£40 for Brookes students and staff). To sign up, visit our website.

Sphinx Theatre will presents the award winning show ‘A Berlin Kabaret’, a vibrant presentation of lyrical anti-war songs, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford on 20 and 21 April. The show features previously undiscovered and newly translated poems by Bertolt Brecht and provocative new voices from Crisis Skylight writing workshops. There is more information on the OFS website.

Finally, John Hegley is in town this Saturday with his family-friendly show ‘All Hail the Snail’, and you can find more information about the event on the North Wall Arts Centre’s website.

‘The last fare collector of Hiroshima’ is copyright © Antony Owen, 2016. It is reprinted from The Nagasaki Elder (V. Press, 2016) by permission of V. Press.

Notes from V. Press:

Antony Owen was born in 1973 in Coventry, and raised by working class parents. The Nagasaki Elder is his fifth collection of poetry, jointly inspired by growing up in Cold War Britain at the peak of nuclear proliferation and, more recently, a self-funded trip to Hiroshima in 2015 to hear testimonies of Atomic bomb survivors. Owen’s war poetry and haiku have been translated into Japanese and Mandarin. In recognition of his 2015 peace trip to Hiroshima, CND Peace Education (UK) selected Owen as one of their first national patrons, and he won a Peace & Reconciliation award in 2016 for Community Cohesion from his home city of Coventry. The Nagasaki Elder was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2017.

V. Press publishes poetry and flash fiction that is very very, with emphasis on quality over any particular style. Established with a launch at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2013 and shortlisted in The Michael Marks Publishers’ Award 2017, V. Press poetry knows what it wants to do and does it well. Find out more on the press’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.