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.