Ymir’s skull 

Scraped clean of its skin, the ice-white skull
of Ymir, first and greatest of the frost giants,
still rinsed in a thin wash of sunset blood,
was shoved and shouldered like blue stone and sarsen;
rigged over the earth like a bone awning.  

This brain-hall filled quickly with bright guests;
the go-cart sun; the hospital-trolley moon
wheeled through on its cast-iron casters;
planets like wandering lute players;
shoals of stars swimming in circles. 

Some, the sources note, evolved to live
further from earth in the thinnest air.
Polaris, the North Star, say the sagas
is furthest of all, as it moves least –
a piece of false but plausible logic  

held like a hand towel over this tall tale
to lend it some shreds of specious sense
perhaps. Or perhaps to counterpoint the truth
that we are as ephemeral as thoughts
bubbling and bursting under a bone sky.

by Ross Cogan

News! The Poetry Centre is delighted to announce three new ignitionpress poets, whose work will be appearing in 2019. They are: Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, and Sarah Shapiro, and we’re excited to share their poetry with you soon! You can find out more about these three writers on the ignitionpress pages

To coincide with the publication of this week’s poem, our Brookes colleague Brian McMahon (an expert on Old Norse), has written a review of Ross Cogan’s Bragr, and you can read it on our blog.

This is the final Weekly Poem of the year. We wish you a very happy and poetical Christmas and look forward to sharing more poems with you in 2019. Thank you for reading! 

‘Ymir’s Skull’ is copyright © Ross Cogan, 2018. It is reprinted from Bragr (Seren, 2018) by permission of Seren

Notes from Seren:

Ross Cogan studied philosophy, gaining a PhD from Bristol University and, in 1999, received a Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. He has published two collections, Stalin’s Desk (2005) and The Book I Never Wrote (2012) and his verse play Achyncourt was performed at several literary festivals and broadcast on radio. Bragr is the Norse God of Poetry and this book is inspired by readings of Norse myth. Ross now works as a freelance writer/editor, as well as being Creative Director of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and an Associate Tutor at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Widely published, he has won first place in The Exeter Prize, The Staple Open Poetry Competition, The Frogmore Poetry Prize, The Crabbe Memorial Prize, and The Cannon Poets Sonnet Competition and second prize in the Troubadour International Poetry Competition. Ross takes a keen interest in environmental matters and is semi-self-sufficient, growing most of his own vegetables, raising goats, ducks and chickens, and brewing his own mead.

Whether it’s myth intended to explain the constellations, the secret of eternal life, or the bloodthirsty tale of the mead of poetry, Ross Cogan’s collection Bragr (meaning ‘poetry’ in Old Norse) is a reimagining of Norse mythology for our times. In particular, the collection focuses on environmental concerns. The earth’s incredible beauty seems all the more fragile in the face of habitat loss and global warming. Read more about the book on the Seren website, and read an assessment of the poems in Brian McMahon’s review.

Seren is Wales’ leading independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Many of our books are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across the UK and America. At the heart of our list is a good poem, a story told well, or an idea or history presented interestingly or provocatively. We’re international in authorship and readership, though our roots remain here in Wales, where we prove that writers from a small country with an intricate culture have a worldwide relevance. Amy Wack has been Poetry Editor since the early 90s. Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience. Find out more on the Seren website and via Twitter and 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.

I Am My Own Parent

I love my red shoes,
all of the shoes I have loved,
they are.

I swing my legs against the wall,
scuffing them slightly.
My Dad is not here to pick them up

by the scruffs of their dirty necks
and leave them shining in the morning.
Instead, the arc of my swing

not quite so high,
the shoes every day a little duller.
At night I leave them in the hall like hope.

In the morning,
absentmindedly dreaming of old loves
and reading poetry until it hurts,

I spring out of bed and decide
to roll up my life into a fist,
smelling of patchouli and roses, and then

unroll it; and to my surprise
it becomes a snail’s yellow shell,
unravelling. On and on it goes,

I tap tap my red shoes,
find I’m already home.

by Deborah Alma 

‘I Am My Own Parent’ is copyright © Deborah Alma, 2018. It is reprinted from Dirty Laundry (Nine Arches Press, 2018) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Deborah Alma’s debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic.The collection brims with poems which are unafraid of airing secrets, desires and untold stories. From growing up mixed-race and learning to survive as a woman in the world, to tales of the countryside and themes of escape and finding joy, this book of poems is as vivid as it is frank and fearless. There’ll be no need for any tears, it’ll all come out in the wash… Read more about the collection on the Nine Arches website.

Deborah Alma was born in North London, has lived on the Welsh/ Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and she lives with the poet James Sheard. She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970’s ambulance. She edited The Emergency Poet: an anti-stress poetry anthology and The Everyday Poet: Poems to Live By (Michael O’Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press. She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University. You can follow Deborah on Twitter.

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.

Unspoken Conversations

The fate of words is
to emulate the river.
I had seen her there before,
the Asian woman by the weir,
rapt in a greyhooded shawl,
watching the water go over. 

Police posters faded
on lamp-posts and trees.
A body washed up
nine miles away and I flinched,
shamed by the figure
of a drowning thought.

She had hired an afternoon taxi
to take her from roads and rooms.
She had a secret to keep
and disappeared like footprints
across a snow-black wood.
Would talking have helped?

They tried to fathom her,
all those unspoken conversations.
The river she embraced
swept her away and then forgot.
Each day is an unopened letter
behind the Town Hall clock.

by Jim Greenhalf 

‘Unspoken Conversations’ is copyright © Jim Greenhalf, 2018. It is reprinted from Breakfast at Wetherspoons (Smokestack Books, 2018) by permission of Smokestack Books.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

Breakfast at Wetherspoons is a meditation on the idea that ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chainstores.’ It’s a book about freedom and necessity, mortality and time, Tolstoy, Diogenes and Jihadi John. It’s a book about poetry and comradeship, and old friends like Sebastian Barker, Barry MacSweeney and David Tipton. It’s a late-flowering 40-year old love story. And it’s a kind of bleak Bradford noir, in which Greenhalf explores life among the Struldbrugs queuing in the Co-op, stays too long in the Hard Day’s Night Hotel and catches the last train to Skipton. And at the end of Dead Pan Alley there is always a view of Salts Mill and the green hill rising steeply to Baildon, where John Wesley preached love’s holy connexion on the eve of the French Revolution. Read more about the book on the Smokestack website.

Jim Greenhalf was born in 1949 and grew up in East London. A news and feature writer for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus for almost forty years, he has written eighteen books of poetry, including The Dog’s Not LaughingThe Unlikelihood of Intimacy in the Next Six HoursHinterlandBlue on BlueGrassington’s Reflex and The Man in the Mirror. He lives in Saltaire, West Yorkshire.

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.