ii         rye lane (foul ecstasy)


black girls don’t do drugs
said the bouncer
at Bussey,
without searching
me. Well, let
me tell it, some
of us sit smug
in our youth.
Full of white
silver powders
in cold smoking
areas, waiting
for the come up
to hit us;
chase the cold
that’s set in
our bones.  

We gurn
on hand rolled cigs;
pray for the peak.
Our mouths dressed,
tongues, the taste
of the foul
ecstasy
curdled in our
gums. We sink in
this. Buzzed smiles
under drooped eyes
sharpened towards
blue lights
which flood the wet
dance floor.  

Our skins
stay open, each
touch from the bass
sending us
in upward spirals
of bright starlight.            

We beg
the night not
to end, plead
with it to spend
its morning cloaked
in darkness.
We want to stay
alive in
this wide blackness
our pupils
become; in this ache
of clenched jaws. 


by Belinda Zhawi 

You can hear Belinda read this poem on our website.

This is the second of two poems this week from our two newest ignitionpress pamphlets (on Monday we shared a poem by Natalie Whittaker). We are excited now to share with you a poem by Belinda Zhawi, which comes from her pamphlet Small Inheritances. Writing of the work, Kayo Chingonyi says: ‘Small Inheritances is a masterclass in what a poem is and can be for in the present moment. There is protest in these pages, but also a glimpse of what healing might look like, whether in a moment of intimacy or in different kinds of intoxication. There are intergenerational kinships and echoes in these poems that illuminate a poetics that so many of us have been crying out for.’

The pamphlets were launched on Thursday at the Poetry Café in London, and we’ll also be at the Woodstock Poetry Festival on 10 November. Do join us there if you can! You can buy the pamphlets via our website

Finally, if you haven’t yet booked to come and see the award-winning poet Jay Bernard at Brookes this coming Wednesday, please visit this link to register (for free). Jay will perform from and talk about their extraordinary work Surge. This is an event not to be missed!

ii  rye lane (foul ecstasy)’ is copyright © Belinda Zhawi, 2018. It is reprinted from Small Inheritances (ignitionpress, 2018).

Belinda Zhawi is a Zimbabwean-born writer and educator. She is an alumnus of the University of Westminster and Goldsmiths, University of London, where she studied on the BA in Politics and the Writer/Teacher MA, respectively. Belinda was a 2015/16 London Laureate and the 2016/17 Institute of Contemporary Arts Associate Poet. She is co-founder of BORN::FREE – a community-based literary movement and zine press. She currently lives and works in South East London. You can follow her work on Twitter

ignitionpress, based at Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, is a poetry pamphlet press with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects. The Managing Editor of the press is Les Robinson, who is the founder and director of the renowned poetry publisher tall-lighthouse. The first group of pamphlets, by Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington, were published in February 2018. Mary Jean’s pamphlet, A Hurry of English, was selected by the Poetry Book Society as its Summer Pamphlet Choice 2018. You can learn more about the press and buy the pamphlets on the Poetry Centre 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. 

96

A chicken box ricochets down the aisle: Hot
& Tasty – just the way you like it! 
Tonight,
the pigeon-shit town washes by, under a cold
and tasteless sky; this place where we’ve wasted
our lives like two spiders circling a sink.
And the plastic seats swing through the streets
and the STOP button shrieks at you to STOP,
but the silver trace of everyone’s day has fogged
the top deck windows, and you dare to wipe
your name in the breath that’s censed a hundred
rain-bedazzled hoods; knowing that the cost
of those letters in condensation – your
wet syllables ghosting sodium light –
is the use of all of those strangers’ breaths.

by Natalie Whittaker 


Listen to Natalie read the poem on our website.

This week we will be sharing two poems from our newest ignitionpress pamphlets which are being launched in London on Thursday (we’ll also be at the Woodstock Poetry Festival on 10 November).

We are delighted to introduce you first of all to Natalie Whittaker, whose pamphlet is called Shadow Dogs. Writing about the pamphlet, John Stammers notes: ‘[t]here is so much to admire in this collection, the reader will surely return repeatedly to the poems to find more to enthral them. The current poetry scene has gained a fresh, exciting voice.’ We very much hope that you’ll be able to join us at the Poetry Café in London to launch Natalie’s pamphlet and Small Inheritances by Belinda Zhawi. We’ll be sharing a poem from Belinda’s pamphlet later this week, and the pamphlets will be available to buy via our online Shop very soon.

Natalie Whittaker is from South East London, where she works as a secondary school teacher. She studied English at New College, Oxford. Her poems have been published in Poetry NewsBrittle StarAesthetica Creative Writing Annual#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology and South Bank Poetry. Natalie was awarded second place in the Poetry on the Lake short poem competition 2018 and the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2017. You can follow Natalie on Twitter.

ignitionpress, based at Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, is a poetry pamphlet press with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects. The Managing Editor of the press is Les Robinson, who was the founder and director of the renowned poetry publisher tall-lighthouse until 2011. The first group of pamphlets, by Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington, were published in February 2018. Mary Jean’s pamphlet, A Hurry of English, was selected by the Poetry Book Society as its Summer Pamphlet Choice 2018. You can learn more about the press and buy the pamphlets on the  Poetry Centre 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.

Winter in the town of three smells

Polish is spoken here
and mountains have appeared
behind the closed down meat-pie factory.
Bears roll their snouts like drunks,
lumber down, lick sticky locked-up gates,
dots of gristle stuck in rusted padlocks.

All of us, bears, wolves, humans,
raise our heads on windswept days,
inhale traces of bubbling hearts,
intestines, ears, blood.
Where there was once a brewery
there is now a flood of frozen weather.

They’re playing violins around the edges,
frying herrings, the smell of beer rising
as skating couples bite into the ice.
Someone has bought clippers
to shave young men’s heads
in kitchens, drinking black Economy tea.

Here is number for room,
for work in nice, clean-smelling factory.

Outside the Catholic Church, old women stamp snow,
wear fur at their throats, dab holy water like cologne.

After Christmas, we’ll open our windows,
fill our houses with tripe and sweetened cabbages.
New Year will drift in
from the sewage treatment works.


by Josephine Corcoran


The Poetry Centre is excited to announce the winners of this year’s Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, judged by Kayo Chingonyi! First Place in the Open category was awarded to Eleni Philippou, Second to Katie Hale, and a Special Commendation to Isabella Sharp. In the EAL category, First Place was awarded to Helena Fornells, and both Second Place and the Special Commendation went to Rachel Ka Yin Leung. Many congratulations to all! You can read the winning poems and see the shortlist on our website. The awards event will take place on Thursday 15 November, and everyone is very welcome! The winning poets will read from their work, and Kayo Chingonyi will also give a short reading of his own poetry. You can register to attend the event here.

Before that, don’t forget about the wonderful chance to see Jay Bernard at Oxford Brookes on Wednesday 31 October. As part of Black History Month, Jay will be performing from and talking about their work Surge, which won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry last year. Don’t miss it! Tickets are free, but you should register here

‘Winter in the town of three smells’ is copyright © Josephine Corcoran, 2018. It is reprinted from What Are You After? (Nine Arches Press, 2018) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Josephine Corcoran’s inventive and unflinching debut poetry collection, What Are You After?, asks us to consider what it is we’re really here for. Bold and unsentimental, her remarkable poems trace the lifelines of where we’ve been and where we’re going to, and they aren’t afraid to ask difficult questions of where we are now. Read more about the collection on the Nine Arches website.

Josephine Corcoran was born in Southport and moved to London when she was 12, to live with an older sister, after the death of her mother. She now lives in Wiltshire. An Arvon course when she was 30 started her writing and she was a mature student at Bournemouth and Chichester Universities before studying for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. Her work as a short story writer and playwright has been broadcast on BBC R4 and a stage play has been produced in London. She is founder and editor of the online journal And Other Poems and Writer in Residence at St Gregory’s Catholic College, Bath. 

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have now published over seventy poetry publications, and 20 issues of Under the Radar magazine (and counting). Follow Nine Arches on Facebook and 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.

Sedge Warbler

‘The sedge has wither’d from the lake;
And no birds sing.’
John Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

I live on the sedge. I sing
unseen. It is my song
you do not hear, light as air:
willowdown-dweller, reedwalker.

As a bird I have no country. I sing
there to here. Hear my song:
a ‘noisy, rambling warble’ on the air,
summerlong singer, water-neighbour.

When winter withers, it’s away I sing,
the long length of earth. My song
bends from the Arctic to warmer air:
to an Afrikaaner, Europese Vleisanger.

I am a citizen of sedge, of sedge I sing;
of the edge, the water-margin. My song
is pidgin, weird Birdish: plucking from air
English, Namlish, Suomi, Oshiwambo, Xhosa.

Shared sound of rain on reeds: I sing
low morning mist. Your songs
condense in mine. I fill the encircling air,
pale loiterer, sedge warbler.

by Sophie Mayer

Be sure to join us at Oxford Brookes on 31 October for a special event with poet Jay Bernard. Jay will be presenting Surge, an award-winning multimedia project dealing with the 1981 New Cross ‘massacre’ – a fire at a birthday party in south London which killed 13 young black people. This event is part of Black History Month at Brookes and tickets are free, but you must sign up in advance via the website!

‘Sedge Warbler’ is copyright © Sophie Mayer, 2012. It is reprinted from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats (Sidekick Books, 2012) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Sophie Mayer is a writer, curator and activist. Her recent books include Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2015) and (O) (Arc, 2015). She has also been involved in projects such as the touring programme Revolt, She Said: Women and Film After ’68 with queer feminist film collective Club des Femmes, and Raising our Game, a report addressing exclusion in the film industry with campaigners Raising Films. Her current writing projects include ‘Disturbing Words’, a tinyletter about language, and a poetry chapbook <jacked a kaddish>, forthcoming from Litmus. Find out more about her work on her website and follow her 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. Sidekick’s latest books collect poems about bats ( Battalion ) and robots ( No, Robot, No! ). 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.