Doing the heart in Lower Five

We try not to think of the cows, the empty churches
of their chests. Their hearts are grey now, filmed
and tubed, bigger than two fists and the air smells
like we’ve swallowed money, like we’ve licked
the edge of a knife. My partner retreats to the sickroom
so I probe alone, fingers where the blood should be, 
aorta a handless glove. The valves are bell tents
like Christian Union camp in the RE teacher’s garden,
each ventricle a mouth that opens again and again
when I squeeze it, the preacher from St Matthew’s
telling us he can help us speak in tongues. It’s heavy,
this meat, this site of love we haven’t felt yet
and I wonder if the cow did, if the beating quickened
for the bull, for the wet slicked nose of its calf.
The notes in my drawing are neat – mitral, tricuspid,
inferior venal cava – as if I’m striking a bargain
with knowledge, like the words will keep me safe.
Then it’s break and we can wash our hands, drop
our hearts in a bucket like the babies in the abortion
video they made us watch, let the portacabin,
its swollen walls, pump us out into the light.

by Joanna Ingham

You can hear Joanna read the poem here (scroll down).  

The Poetry Centre’s ignitionpress is very pleased to share with you a poem from the final one of its three new pamphlets to be published imminently! After we featured ‘Love Token’ from Jennifer Lee Tsai’s Kismet, and Sarah Shapiro’s poem ‘When I Turn Thirty, I Have an Epiphany’ from her pamphlet The Bullshit Cosmos, this week we feature work by Joanna Ingham that is included in her pamphlet Naming Bones. All three pamphlets will be available on Monday from the Brookes Shop and will be launched in London on 22 July and in Oxford on 23 July. Please join us for those by signing up here!

And don’t forget that we have launched our International Poetry Competition for 2019! This year we are delighted to say that our judge is the internationally-acclaimed writer Jackie Kay! There are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language, and the winners in each category receive £1000. The competition is open until 2 September, and full details can be found here.

‘Doing the heart in Lower Five’ is copyright © Joanna Ingham, 2019. It is reprinted from Naming Bones by permission of ignitionpress. 

Joanna Ingham grew up in Suffolk and now lives in Hertfordshire. Her work has been published in Ambit, Brittle Star, Envoi, The Fenland Reed, Iota, Lighthouse, Magma, Mslexia, The North and Under the Radar. Her poems have also appeared in the anthology The Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt) and in ‘Poet’s Corner’ in The Sunday Times. She won second prize in BBC Wildlife magazine’s Wildlife Poet of the Year Competition 2008. She studied creative writing at Birkbeck College and was awarded the Michael Donaghy Prize for Poetry on graduating. In 2017 she was a poet-in-residence at London Open Garden Squares Weekend. 

Joanna also writes fiction and is represented by Thérèse Coen of Hardman & Swainson. She has facilitated creative writing workshops in a wide variety of settings including schools, day-centres for older people, prisons, drop-in centres for homeless and vulnerable adults, and with young and adult carers.

In Naming Bones, her engrossing debut pamphlet, Joanna Ingham writes of the things it is difficult to say – about bodies, love, motherhood, the past. Drawing on nature, and a tangible sense of place, she explores the relationships and moments that make us what we are. These are poems of the tongue and the heart, of finding voice and speaking revealingly about what we think we shouldn’t feel.

ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects. Our latest pamphlets are by Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, and Sarah Shapiro, and they will be published in July 2019. The first five pamphlets to be published by ignitionpress: There’s No Such Thing by Lily Blacksell, A Hurry of English by Mary Jean Chan (Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice, 2018), Glean by Patrick James Errington, Shadow Dogs by Natalie Whittaker and Small Inheritances by Belinda Zhawi, are available from our online Shop. Each pamphlet costs £5, and you can buy three for £12. You can find out more about the poets and their work on our dedicated page.

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.