Security Alert

Before you read this
I have to ask you some questions:
Could you tell me if you are any of the following:
migrant, immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, émigré,
clandestine, sans papiers, foreigner,
or a son or daughter of any of the above
or if you LOOK like as if you could be any of the above?
In which case please
state your name, date of birth
height, weight, inside leg measurement, blood group, hospital records,
skin colour, income,
preferred sandwich type.

Are you in receipt of any loans or any imported meat products?
Do you intend to stay in this country longer than two minutes?
Do you intend to study anything that is not maths?
Do you have a wife, husband or both?
Please sing the national anthem when I say the word ‘Queen’
And answer the following questions:
why is Britain great?
why is everywhere else not so great?
what is the Anglo Saxon word for great?
do you wear red, white and blue underwear?

Please step this way.
To see if you have answered all these questions truthfully,
we need to do a rectal examination.
 

by Michael Rosen

There are just a few weeks left to enter our International Poetry Competition! 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.

Our latest podcast, with American poet Maya C. Popa, is now live! You can find it on our website and via the usual podcast providers – just search for brookespoetry. Maya discusses her exciting new collection, American Faith (Sarabande Books, 2019), and you can find the poems she reads and talks about on our Podcasts page.

‘Security Alert’ is copyright © Michael Rosen, 2017. It is reprinted from Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio (Smokestack Books, 2017) by permission of Smokestack Books.

Notes from Smokestack Books:

‘Poetry can stick up for the weak’ according to Michael Rosen, or it can ‘mock the mighty’; it can ‘glorify our rulers or it can dissect them. You choose.’ In these powerful new poems Rosen is clear about his own choices. Listening to a Pogrom on the Radio is a book about anti-Semitism, racism, fascism and war, Trump, Le Pen, and the Tory assaults on the NHS and education – the stupid and the sinister, the ridiculous and the revolting. In his first collection for grown-ups since Don’t Mention the Children (2015), Michael Rosen confirms his reputation as the heir to Jacques Prévert, Ivor Cutler and Adrian Mitchell. Few poets writing today can move so effortlessly between childishness and childlike seriousness, or dare to ask, like the child in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, why the silly emperor is not wearing any clothes. Read more about the book and buy a copy on the  Smokestack website.

Michael Rosen was born in North London in 1946. After university he worked for the BBC on Play School and Schools TV. He has written and edited over 140 books, including Mind Your Own Business, Wouldn’t You Like to Know, Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy, You Tell Me, No Breathing in Class and Quick Let’s Get Out of HereYou Can’t Catch Me! won the Signal Poetry Award. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, won the Smarties Prize. He currently presents Radio Four’s long-running Word of Mouth. His most recent books include The Disappearance of Emile ZolaThe AuthorWorkers’ TalesReading Rebellion and So They Call You Pisher! He was Children’s Laureate from 2007-2009 and is Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmith’s, University of London. Find out more about Michael’s work on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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.

Intermittent Fasting

You remember I held your pinkie
as we watched from the curtain?
Father’s hands tight in prayer
around mother’s soft neck. You remember
we thought he’d wring her like a chicken?                                                           

Your wedding day—Mother sat next to the empty
reservation, her quivering hands
giving you away. White knuckles
clutched the programme with bad print.
Remember as you danced
out of our father’s name,
mum collapsed—beautiful workhorse
with his broken world on her back. 


by Summer Young

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition for 2020 is open for entries! 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 both categories receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website .

‘Intermittent Fasting’ is copyright © Summer Young, 2020. It is reprinted from Sylvanian Family (Bad Betty Press, 2020) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy it here.

Summer Young is a poet from Norwich. She completed a BA in Creative Writing at The University of Winchester, and now lives in London where she co-runs Lemon Curd Magazine. Her work has appeared in Vortex Literary JournalAsterism Literary Journal, and Lemon Curd Magazine. You can follow Summer on Twitter.

Sylvanian Family is Summer Young’s first pamphlet. Reading it is like folding yourself into a deceptively miniature world, a cat’s eye view of a dystopian Wonderland. Here, shoe prints are rabbit snares, a mother is a mountain, the trellis-like family home encompasses a complex ecosystem of cockroaches and fireflies, mice and sea urchins. In this arresting debut, Young invokes the visceral candor of Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, and confronts trauma with a fierce and virtuosic wit. Read more about the pamphlet on the Bad Betty website.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, founded in 2017 by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. We love writing that is bad (in the Foxy Brown sense) and beautiful (‘a Betty’ in 90s slang). We love the strange, raw and risk-taking. We believe strongly in art’s capacity to challenge its own definition, to curve away from the norm, making space for more and varied voices. Find out more about our books here and follow Bad Betty on Facebook,  Twitter 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.

My mother’s aria

My mother went into labour holding a sledge hammer
in a house with no floorboards or hot water.

My mother went to a hospital with black iron gates
6 weeks early in snow in December.
My dad took cheese sandwiches;
Wear your hair down
 he said.

I was backwards moving forwards
leaving my shoulder behind – my mother roared
while outside the snow got deep.

We are sorry for your loss, we will take care of your wife.
But my mother roared
and the doctor arrived from the Opera

wearing a cape to reach into my mother
and pull me out broken
to my mother’s singing.

We will look after your wife, they told my dad,
as the doctor in his cape left to catch the last aria.


by Hannah Jane Walker

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition for 2020 is open for entries! 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.

‘My mother’s aria is copyright © Hannah Jane Walker, 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 watch the book launch on the Nine Arches YouTube channel.

Hannah Jane Walker is a writer from Essex. She makes work that uses poetry as a way of talking, in theatres, public spaces and for radio, working with BBC Radio 4, the British Council, and Apples and Snakes. With collaborator Chris Thorpe, she has created interactive shows exploring questions which seem too simple to ask, winning a Fringe First and touring the world. Her plays are published by Oberon and her performance poetry by Nasty Little Press, whilst she has published poems in anthologies by Forest Fringe and Penned in the Margins. She often works with vulnerable groups, collaborating to create artworks. She is an Associate Artist for Cambridge Junction and National Centre for Writing. You can find out more about Hannah Jane on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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.

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.

My Brother as a Mezzotint

Eager to admire your scans’ monochrome tones
you lean forward in your wheelchair
study the luminous screen:
eclipsing your spinal cord, two dark moons;
the titanium caging your neck, pure black;
grey meat spills from your iliac’s white wing.
The locum’s chest is slim, boy-like,
his tired eyes rimmed by glasses
and concern, he answers our questions
with open hands. Not your own oncologist
he’s unsure why his prognosis seems new.
Returning down the corridor you say I’m glad
it was you who was with me
,  reach across
to flatter an old woman on her tiger-stripe throw
as we pass wheel to wheel, then you charm
from the receptionist, so young and so plump,
the secret of her hidden tattoo.


by Claire Cox

The Poetry Centre’s military veterans’ poetry workshop is being featured all this week on the British Forces Broadcasting Service’s radio station. Tune in online at 11.30 BST each weekday. You can also find out more about the workshop and the anthology that resulted from it on the BFBS website.

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

‘My Brother as a Mezzotint’ is copyright © Claire Cox, 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 TONIGHT (Monday 3 August), which will be live-cast to the Nine Arches YouTube channel at 7.30pm.

Born in Hong Kong, Claire Cox has an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University, where she was awarded the Blackwell’s Prize for best student. She is currently a funded part-time, practice-based research student at Royal Holloway, University of London, studying poetry and disaster. She is also co-founder and Associate Editor of ignitionpress. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Envoi, The Butcher’s Dog, Lighthouse and Ink, Sweat & Tears.

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.