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.