Two Lies: the deer

creep as only deer can
they don’t consider it creeping though –
we parade on their backs
high gloss   patina-on-death
like palanquins for heartbreak
but I suspect their hearts hold only
tubers sinew bone and teeth 

                         on the last day
                         you didn’t know me anymore
                         from under the morphine’s heavy brocade

so the deer (unmoved) move   are moved
through patterns of light and sound
by some deer-shaped force within;
or they’re still as the character for deer
always bending its fine head
to the ground forever

                         or maybe
                         you knew but couldn’t say
                         mixing as you were
                         with light and sound
                         your words moving away

no the deer in lacquered heels creep
crowned in grief through bracken halls
they creep towards us
under dimmet’s low eaves
embroidered with sorrow
they’re creeping for us 

                         and yes
                         it’s me hold me close
                         hold me higher still
                         I’m coming I’m home
                         I’ll see you soon


by Krystelle Bamford

Our latest podcast features Jennifer Wong, who talks to Niall Munro about her exciting new collection Letters Home 回家. Jennifer reads and talks about three poems, and explores topics such as the Chinese family, her use of Cantonese and English languages in the poems, her formal choices, and the challenges of writing about the recent Hong Kong protests. You can listen to the podcast here, and subscribe via Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Google Podcasts.

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website

‘Two Lies: the deer’ is copyright © Krystelle Bamford, 2020. It is reprinted from Primers Volume Five (Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press. Read more about the book here, and join Nine Arches and the poets for the online book launch on Monday 3 August, which will be live-cast to the Nine Arches YouTube channel at 7.30pm. We’ll be sharing poems from the other two poets featured in the latest volume of Primers over the next fortnight.

Krystelle Bamford’s poetry has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Under the Radar, and a number of anthologies. She was awarded a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Raised in the US, she now lives in Scotland where she has worked at Canongate Books, completed a Creative Writing MLitt at the University of St Andrews, and gave birth to two wee, radge kids. You can read more about Krystelle’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

In 2019, Nine Arches Press launched their nationwide Primers scheme for a fifth time, in search of exciting new voices in poetry, with Jacqueline Saphra and Jane Commane as selecting editors. After reading through hundreds of anonymous entries, and narrowing down the choices from longlist to shortlist, three poets emerged as clear choices: Krystelle Bamford, Claire Cox, and Hannah Jane Walker.

Primers Volume Five now brings together a showcase from each of the three poets. At the core of these poems are the milestones and critical moments of our lives and, vitally, the ties that bind us to those we love: from childhood and daughterhood, through motherhood in all its array of emotions and experiences, and to beloved brothers and fathers. From the tides of grief to surfing the wave of birth, these often courageous and candid poems are distinctive in their engagement with fear, loss and self-discovery, and how they emerge afresh, bold and illuminating. An essential, insightful collection of new work from some of poetry’s most talented emerging voices. Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website, and join Nine Arches and the poets for the online book launch on Monday 3 August, which will be live-cast to the Nine Arches YouTube channel at 7.30pm.

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 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.

of butterflies

Zhuang Zi said              
the man does not know 

if he dreams of a butterfly 
or is it the butterfly dreams 

of a man. It is unclear 
who awakens first   or from where. 

Neither do I  
know      after all these years 

if I am a Chinese girl who 
wanted to go home 

or a woman from Hong Kong 
who will stay in England. 

It’s British summer time 
in my living room 

but my watch in the drawer 
moves seven hours ahead. 

The past: is the door still open? 
The future: am I a filial daughter, 

living so far away from my parents? 
Wearing her marmalade camouflage, 

the butterfly of unknowing 
pollinates in one world              and another.


by Jennifer Wong

Our latest podcast features this week’s poet, Jennifer Wong, who talks to Niall Munro about her exciting new collection Letters Home 回家. Jennifer reads and talks about three poems, including ‘of butterflies’, and explores topics such as the Chinese family, her use of Cantonese and English languages in the poems, her formal choices, and the challenges of writing about the recent Hong Kong protests. You can listen to the podcast here, and subscribe via Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Google Podcasts.

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website 

‘of butterflies’ is copyright © Jennifer Wong, 2020. It is reprinted from Letters Home 回家  (Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press. Read more about the book here.

Jennifer Wong was born and brought up in Hong Kong. She now lives in the UK and works as a writer, translator and teacher. She has published three collections: Goldfish (2013), Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl – a pamphlet with Bitter Melon Poetry (2019), and most recently Letters Home 回家 , published by Nine Arches Press in 2020, which was selected as a Wild Card Choice by the Poetry Book Society. Jennifer is an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and also teaches at The Poetry School and City Lit in London. You can find out more about Jennifer’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Letters Home 回家, Jennifer Wong’s vivid third collection of poems, unravels the complexities of being between nations, languages and cultures. Travelling across multiple borders of history and place, these poems examine what it means to be returning home, and whether it is a return to a location, a country or to a shared dream or language. The poet Hannah Lowe has called it ‘a remarkable collection, which makes a new and bold contribution to the genre of diaspora literature.’ Find out more and order a copy via the Nine Arches 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 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.

Ear of Wheat

Ear of wheat arches
over the pitfalls of the dark
listening keenly to voices
gone by, to calls
drifting from afar, 

ear of wheat bends
silent with weight
in front and back
silent with our weight of hours
with no before
with no after
and all around nothing
but the curt jitters and shivers in sun,

ear of wheat tosses in wind
sweating in calm
in narrow straits
teeming with yet far-reaching length and width,
golden ear laden
listening
up to the highest prominence
and, unaware,
through the petals of the night
the only friend of man
plowing through the evening,
of woman carrying the morning in her arms. 


by Reja-e Busailah

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners in each receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website.

‘Ear of Wheat’ is copyright © Reja-e Busailah, 2019. It is reprinted from Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood (Smokestack Books, 2019) by permission of Smokestack Books.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

In his ninetieth year, Reja-e Busailah looks back in Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood on growing up in a small Palestinian town in the 1930s until the turbulent upheaval of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by the Israelis, and the author was forced to join the Death March from Lydda. Although blind since infancy, Busailah recalls with stunning detail a boyhood shaped by disability, education, family and friends, British soldiers and Zionist settlers. Poems of a Palestinian Boyhood is an extraordinary book: unapologetic, unflinching, raw and beautiful. You can find out more about the book on the Smokestack website and read a review of the collection on the website of World Literature Today

Reja-e Busailah was born in Jerusalem in 1929. He was educated in Hebron and at the Al-’Amiriyyah School in Yafa. He studied English at Cairo University and received a PhD in English literature at New York University. For thirty years he taught English at Indiana University. In 1953 he helped found a school for the blind in Kuwait. From 1967 to 1991 he directed the Palestinian children’s charity, Project Loving Care. His books include The Ordeal: Poems of Anguish, Resistance, and Hope (with Dennis Brutus, Ved Vatuk and Tawkiq Zayyad) and We are Human Too: Poems on the Palestinian Condition and In the Land of My Birth (winner of the 2018 Palestinian Book Award for memoir). He lives with his wife in Kokomo, Indiana. Watch Reja-e Busailah read some of his poems on his YouTube channel and find him on Facebook.

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). David Cain’s Truth Street, an epic-poem that is part oral history and part documentary theatre, draws on eye-witness testimonies of the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2019. 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.

For which we have no names

She works one day a week
in a building which also houses
a Centre for Synaptic Plasticity,
and each time she sees the sign
she wants to go in and say,
Take my brain, bend it,
it’s not behaving. She has 

of late, and for no reason,
been atrabilious, a word
she learned recently
which sums up her state
perfectly: a mix
of irritability and melancholy.
Scientists have suggested 

we can’t feel emotions
we have no names for. This,
she thinks, is impossible
to prove. How do we know
what anyone means when they say anger,
when they say jealousy, when they say love?
She walks past the sign again, longing
to be wired up, explained. Who am I,
she’d say. Tell me my name.


by Tania Hershman

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visitour website


‘For which we have no names’ is copyright © Tania Hershman, 2017. It is reprinted from Terms and Conditions (Nine Arches Press, 2017) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book here

Tania Hershman’s debut poetry collection, Terms and Conditions, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2017 and urges us to consider all the possibilities and read life’s small print before signing on the dotted line. These beautifully measured poems bring their stoical approach to the uncertain business of our daily lives – and ask us to consider what could happen if we were to bend or break the rules, step outside the boundaries and challenge the narrative. In feats of imagination and leaps of probability, falling simply becomes flying, a baby collects the data and scrolls through everything it sees, and there are daring acts of vanishing and recreation. Be wary, for even the evidence here often leads us astray. And in between this, Hershman’s precise poetry elegantly balances the known, unknown and unknowable matter of existence, love and happiness, weighing the atoms of each, finding just the exact words that will draw up the perfect contract of ideas. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Tania Hershman‘s poetry pamphlet, How High Did She Fly, was joint winner of Live Canon’s 2019 Poetry Pamphlet Competition and was published in November 2019, whilst her hybrid particle-physics-inspired book and what if we were all allowed to disappear was published by Guillemot Press in March 2020. Tania is also the author of the poetry collection Terms and Conditions, a poetry chapbook and three short story collections, and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014). She is co-creator of @OnThisDayShe, curator of short story hub ShortStops and has a PhD in creative writing inspired by particle physics. Hear her read her work on Soundcloud, find out more about her work on her website, and follow her 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 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.