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.