July 24th

Eighty-six years ago today
the Serpentine opened to women
to swim without fear of arrest 

I’m lost on the Heath searching
for these ponds, it’s thirty-degrees
in Hampstead, what’s with all the beards? 

Two girls in front are talking
about their exes, how they’re okay
now they’re with new men 

Don’t tell me fullness is found
from a man, I’ll shoot myself
or dehydrate, a more feasible option 

There’s a lot of holding of hands
and leads, my palms are empty
if my mother were here she’d say 

Find a good book, easy
for her with a husband and a spaniel
now I’m in the water I relish 

The freedom, no one knows I’m here
I could just bob under (not
to get all Virginia Woolf about it) 

At lunchtime today we spoke
on the phone, big literary things
are happening for you, how apt 

I was sat in Bloomsbury Square
remember Southease, cider
along the Ouse, Monk House 

All our Sussex hours? If love
was just lunchtimes of erudite chat
we would have worked completely

But I have this need to swim
with ducks and reeds, you said
it was sweet. It was wild

by Roxy Dunn

‘July 24th’ is copyright © Roxy Dunn, 2020. It is reprinted from Big Sexy Lunch (Verve Poetry Press, 2020) by permission of Verve Poetry Press. You can read more about the pamphlet here.

Roxy Dunn’s debut pamphlet Clowning, published by Eyewear in 2016, is their highest-selling pamphlet to date and was described by PN Review as ‘quick-fire, appealing, lit by humorous warmth.’ Her poetry has appeared in The RialtoOrbis and Ofi Press, and a selection of her poems are also printed in the anthology Podium Poets #2, published by Nasty Little Press. She lives in North London and works as an actor and writer. Follow Roxy on Twitter

Big Sexy Lunch is an irreverent, entertaining account of millennial philosophy and relationships. Roxy Dunn’s observational wit and reflective self-doubt muse on sex, singledom, and falling in and out of love. There’s a directness and an honesty to these poems which humorously scrutinises the conflicts and contradictions of being attached to someone and our ongoing appetite for fulfilment. Read more about the pamphlet and get hold of a copy here

Verve Poetry Press is a fairly new and already award-winning press focussing hard on meeting a need in Birmingham – a need for the vibrant poetry scene here in Brum to find a way to present itself to the poetry world via publication. Co-founded by Stuart Bartholomew and Amerah Saleh, it is publishing poets from all corners of the city – poets that represent the city’s varied and energetic qualities and will communicate its many poetic stories.

Added to this is a colourful pamphlet series featuring poets who have previously performed at our sister festival – and a poetry show series which captures the magic of longer poetry performance pieces by poets such as Polarbear and Matt Abbott. Like the festival, we will strive to think about poetry in inclusive ways and embrace the multiplicity of approaches towards this glorious art. Find out more here.

In 2019 the press was voted Most Innovative Publisher at the Saboteur Awards and won the Publisher’s Award for Poetry Pamphlets at the Michael Marks Awards.

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.

Compassion, the life blood of the NHS

We are here for you 24/7, in your darkest, most vulnerable and weakest moments.
We are the holding of a hand to show you we are here through it all. 
We are people who make porridge at 4am for that eight-year-old boy whose beloved
granddad just died and was in need of distraction. 
We are the first people you see when you wake up after surgery and tell you it all went
We are the ears who listen to that 90-year-old lady recite from memory her favourite poem
perfectly because no family comes to visit. 
We are the eyes you show your wounds to which we dress without batting an eyelid.
We are the assistants who help you learn to walk again, and who motivate you to try again
after failing.
We are the people who make you a cup of tea after you find out the child you were
carrying will never be born alive.
We are the carers who shave you when you can’t, so you look smart for your wife even in
your hospital bed.
We are the staff who learn to sign their name so they can communicate in a way you
We are the staff that turn up every day and see so much. In this neverending battle we still
try. A little compassion goes further than you may ever know.
We are the NHS.

by Sarah Quinn

This week we are very pleased to share a poem by a nursing student at Oxford Brookes, Sarah Quinn. At a moment when the National Health Service is being given more attention and under even more pressure than usual, it’s great to be able to hear from someone like Sarah who is able to reflect on the challenges and rewards that come from working in the NHS. We’d like to thank Sarah for sharing the poem and send our grateful thanks also to all health workers for everything they are doing during such a difficult time.

‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’ is copyright © Sarah Quinn, 2020. It is reprinted by permission of the author. 

Sarah Quinn is a second-year Master’s student in Adult Nursing at Oxford Brookes and lives in Oxford. In addition, she is a nursing assistant – a role which she thoroughly enjoys. She also a keen interest in art, especially how this can be used as a medium for mental health promotion. She is an avid photographer with an eagle eye for seeing the beauty in the everyday. 

Sarah writes: ‘The prompt for writing this poem, ‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’, was a call to arms by an artist who wished to roll out an art project putting up posters in staff break rooms across the whole of the NHS (you can find the artist on Instagram: @notestostrangers). He asked for inspiration of what it was like to work within the NHS and why we do what we do.

At the end of a very busy, stressful and emotionally-tolling twelve-hour shift I was walking home mulling over my day (nearly in tears). In this moment of reflection I started to write on my phone to remind myself I am there for those patients and how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing colleagues.

Now more than ever the NHS is a symbol of hope and needs to be protected. I have personally looked after patients suffering with COVID-19 and seen both sides of this pandemic: the pressure that this puts on family, friends, businesses and people’s way of life. So for people out there reading this, know that your everyday sacrifices are making a difference on the front line. Together we can get through this and a little compassion goes a long way.’

You can find out more about nursing at Oxford Brookes here.

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.

Canal Street, 1984

He watched me for half an hour
from the jukebox. Chain-smoking,
a gold band flashed against a yellowed finger.
             Through a haze of aftershave
Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’ 
                                          assaulted the room.

Lips pursed at the choice of music,
a leather queen sluggishly combed his black
moustache. A fuchsia handkerchief
              stuck out its tongue
from his precision-ripped
                                           left back pocket. 

Jukebox man sunk a double scotch
and three strides later, leaned over my table.
One knuckle was thick with sovereigns,
              his cigarette – limp with an inch of ash – 
jabbed at a beer mat, spat out
                                            small silver rings 

as he spoke. See this sheepskin coat
I’m wearing?
 he said to my half-a-cider.
You like it? I can get you one
               if you come back to my hotel.
It was November 
                                               and I was cold. 

                                              We can become
the clothes on our bones.
             The boys in the youth group
named that man ‘wolf’. He circled us
for a month of Thursday nights, dressed
in shadows and counterfeit skin.

by Ian Humphreys 

The Poetry Centre’s ignitionpress recently published three new pamphlets: Hush by Majella Kelly, City Poems by Mia Kang, and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed. Thanks to all who attended our launches! You can find out more about the pamphlets and buy them here.

The Centre has two more events coming up next month: we’re very excited to be bringing together seven of our ignitionpress poets for a special ignitionpress Collective reading at the Poetry Café in London on Thursday 2 April. The event features Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, Patrick James Errington, Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, Natalie Whittaker, and Belinda Zhawi. It is free to attend and not to be missed! Please register here in advance. 

On Thursday 23 April at Waterstones here in Oxford, join us to hear from André Naffis-Sahely, James Attlee & Hasan Bamyani, This event is also free to attend, but do register here. Thank you! 

‘Canal Street, 1984’ is copyright © Ian Humphreys, 2019. It is reprinted from Zebra (Nine Arches Press, 2019) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book here.

In Zebra, a boy steps tentatively from the shadows onto a strobe-lit dancefloor. Ian Humphreys’ much-anticipated debut shimmers with music, wit and humour while exploring mixed identities, otherness, and coming-of-age as a gay man in 1980s Manchester. These acutely-observed, joyful poems pay homage to those who took the first steps – minority writers, LGBT civil rights activists, 70s queer night-clubbers and the poet’s own mixed-race parents.

Ian Humphreys lives in West Yorkshire. He has been widely published in journals and anthologies, such as The Poetry ReviewThe RialtoAmbitMagma and The Forward Book of Poetry 2019. Awards include first prize in the Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize. In 2018, he was highly commended in the Forward Prizes for Poetry. Ian is a fellow of The Complete Works, which promotes diversity, quality and innovation in British poetry. In 2017, a portfolio of his poems was published in Ten: Poets of the New Generation (Bloodaxe Books). Read more about Ian’s work on his website.

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 ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here and follow Nine Arches on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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.