I let him come. 
He sneaks on tiptoe 
right up to my ear; 
under its ribs my heart 
quivers, quickens 
as the excitement mounts: 
first the forest appears, 
then the woodland-sequel, 
more mist than snow to the touch – 
from the new poem’s 
very first line the paper sucks up 
every waif-word 
and an ugliness steals in, 
a cunning hungry thing 
crouching there incognito, 
pretending to be tame and yet so wolfish 
that he’s the kernel of light 
and then the noise of its cracking; 
he’s lithe on the path, 
doubling back on himself, 
running with the pack, loping alone; 
pussy-footing through the night 
he trails moonlight behind him 
like a mink coat. 
I feel him when the hairs on my skin 
lift, and in the delicious dizziness 
of my private pulse – 
in the midst of my writing, in my dream-life, 
I slip all his clothes slowly off 
and slide him down beside me. 

by Maria Teresa Horta; translated from the Portuguese by Lesley Saunders. You can read the original poem on the Stephen Spender Trust website.

News from the Centre: this Friday at 7pm, we are delighted to welcome the distinguished Canadian poet Richard Harrison to Oxford. Richard is a multiple award-winning poet, essayist and editor. His latest collection, On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood, was awarded the 2017 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. You can find out more and buy tickets for the reading via our website or on the door at the Society Cafe.

The Poetry Centre has just launched its 2018 International Poetry Competition! Open until 6 August, the competition has two categories – Open and English as an Additional Language – and this year is judged by the highly-acclaimed poet Kayo Chingonyi. You can find full details and enter here.

This week’s poem was the winner of the 2016 Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation, and the 2018 Prize is currently open for entries until 6 July. Translate any poem from any language, ancient or modern into English, and be in the running for a cash prize and publication by the Stephen Spender Trust. There are three categories: Open, 18-and-under, and 14-and-under. The judges this year are Margaret Jull Costa, Olivia McCannon, and Sean O’Brien. You can find more details on the Trust’s website.

Lesley Saunders is the author of several books of poetry, most recently Nominy-Dominy (Two Rivers Press). She is currently working on a book of translations of selected poems by Maria Teresa Horta, one of the most revered poets of modern Portugal who has published more than twenty volumes of poetry over a lifetime’s writing career. Horta was born in 1937 and was writing before and during the revolution against the fascist Estado Novo regime; her early work was banned for being ‘an outrage to public morals’. She is renowned for her novels, short stories and journalism, but considers herself a poet first and foremost. As this particular poem indicates, Horta’s work has a syntactical compactness coupled with a psychological passion, even wildness, which makes translation a deeply pleasurable challenge. The book of selected poems in English translation, Point of Honour, will be published by Two Rivers Press in the spring of 2019. You can hear Lesley read the poem and find her reflections it on the Stephen Spender Trust’s website.

The Stephen Spender Trust was established in 1997 to honour Stephen Spender’s achievements as poet and translator of poetry, and as champion of the rights of creative artists and writers to free expression. Founding members who have since died include Valerie Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Czesław Miłosz, Harold Pinter and Natasha Spender. Inspired by Stephen Spender’s literary interests and achievements, the Stephen Spender Trust aims to widen appreciation of the literary legacy of Stephen Spender and his contemporaries and to promote literary translation. You can find out more on the Trust’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.

Building Materials

If I lie on the kitchen floor,
my back shrinking from cold quarry stone,
I can see the night’s purple sky. 

The roof isn’t yet fixed. He tries,
works hard against the weather,
but this is only one of many jobs. 

His arms, that used to reach for me,
are always full of bricks,
his mouth full of clay.

I watch the moon through fallen tiles.
Tomorrow we must steady them
against the threat of rain. 

by Claire Walker

News from the Centre: we urge you not to miss the chance to hear three of the leading poets writing in the UK when they visit us in Oxford next week. Do tell your friends! Tickets to hear Kei Miller (22 May), Sinéad Morrissey (23 May), and Clare Pollard (24 May) are free, but you do need to book. Book for Kei here, Sinéad here, and Clare here, or all three here!

These readings are part of the Think Human Festival at Oxford Brookes, during which we’re also helping to run an exciting event on 25 May called Stanza and Stand-Up, in which poetry and comedy battle it out! Tickets are available here.

Finally, tomorrow at Keble College, Stephanie Burt (US) and Hera Lindsay Bird (New Zealand) will be reading from their work at 6.30pm in the Pusey Room – full details here.

‘Building Materials’ is copyright © Claire Walker, 2017. It is reprinted from the pamphlet Somewhere Between Rose and Black (V. Press, 2017) by permission of  V. Press.

Notes from V. Press:

Claire Walker is a poet based in Worcestershire. Her work has been published in magazines and on websites including The Interpreter’s HouseProleInk Sweat and TearsAnd Other PoemsThe Poetry ShedObsessed with Pipework and Clear Poetry, and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press) and Crystal Voices (Crystal Clear Creators). She is a Poetry Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. Her most recent pamphlet – from which this poem was taken – is entitled Somewhere Between Rose and Black, and it was shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her first pamphlet, The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, is also published by V. Press. You can read more about Claire’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter

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.

Tic tacs at the track

They stood out beaconed on their boxes.
I could only see them from the shoulder up:
White gloves weaving those magic odds
out the eartop of the head, or on the nose.

Punters would follow their semaphore to see
an Up-the-arm, an Ear’ole, or a Major Stevens
flying overhead. Dad joked they were sending
messages to the deaf. The odd time a Double Carpet

flew past the line by a short head, the bookies
cracked a smile, plus the punter whose pin
had pricked the right spot for once. The serious
men, long coated with cigars in hand, strode
up with bags of sand to take on a short one

if it wasn’t odds on it’d be straight up,
shoulder maybe, a bottle max. I’d watch them
walk back like cons, pick out their bins and scan
the track like Churchill overseeing the troops.

My old man had less money but no less sense.
He often lost me amongst the legs when putting
on his bet, laying a sky diver or cock and hen – lowest
he took was top-of-the-headcarpet, or Burlington Bertie,

up to a cockle. If a top jockey was on a macaroni
he’d drop a couple on. Each way he wasn’t going to win
enough for a long coat. He always tried to leave though
with a cigar, blowing smoke all the way home.

by Peter Raynard

News from the Centre: we have a number of exciting poetry readings coming up over the next couple of months, including a reading by this week’s poet, Peter Raynard, who will be with Richard Skinner tomorrow (3 May) at the Society Café in Oxford from 7pm. All are welcome! Tickets (£4) are available here or on the door. For more details, visit our website.

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

Next week, join psychoanalyst and critic Adam Phillips at Keble College for the latest in his seminar series entitled ‘The Poet’s Essay’. The seminar takes place on Wednesday 9th May at 4.30pm in the Pusey Room at Keble, and you can find full details 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.

‘Tic tacs at the track’ is copyright © Peter Raynard, 2018. It is reprinted from Precarious (Smokestack Books, 2018) by permission of  Smokestack Books. An earlier version of the poem was published in the Morning Star in February 2015.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

Peter Raynard’s debut collection Precarious takes questions of masculinity, class, mental health and work head on; issues that many people, especially men and boys, find difficult to address. Rosa Luxemburg, Orgreave, 11-plus failures, tic-tac men, a priest from central casting and a man who only eats sandwiches – it’s a book about precarious times, hard lessons and fragile lives, a defiant celebration of British working-class life and the people ‘who make the wheels go round’, provocative, funny, poignant and bloody angry.

Peter Raynard is the editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives. His debut collection, Precarious, was published by Smokestack Books in April 2018. He has also completed a poetic coupling of The Communist Manifesto, to be published by Culture Matters in May 2018.

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.