Hebden Bridge

Wool skies turn over heavy cloud,
the pages of a good book stuck somewhere
between wickedness and flood. A gurgle
of rain meadows, pitches unfit for sport,
long hedgerows littered with chap-sticks, cider
bottles, and damp tubes of old fireworks:
their excitements decidedly past tense. 

This is the place you still call home,
an answer arrived at just by asking
the wrong question too many times.
The landscape an impossible pattern of fields,
drystone and cart tracks, brickwork lines
tangled around dark farms,
terraces milled in childish strokes
of grit; raw-edged and smoky. 

The canal churns through creaking locks,
bleak with weed and fat perch and reeds,
where shadows of imported carp
nudge blunt snouts through the thickened silt.
Men sit switching stories on damp canvas,
stools sunk low in the towpath,
one hand on a sandwich, another dipped
in the red husks of maggots, the fresh bait
struggling free, fluffed like rice, writhing too. 

Shop-fronts boarded or bought-up, shaken dry
and franchised into nowhere: chrome and steel,
exposed light-bulbs, railway salvage,
their high chairs polished by the acutest music.
You can still buy crystals, eye talismans,
and stone webs for catching dreams; false
promise as unorthodox practice, strung out
on silk. Commerce the one sure way to heal
the wounds time has forced you into keeping. 

Fifteen pubs. Three per thousand. More yesterday.
Rooms where you can watch the same face age
through its endless afternoons.
Doorways hung with pretty chimes, wicker
and knotted twigs, scents of incense,
marks of incest, park benches warped
in a fug of weed and needles.
Out beyond the council blocks lie
the sewage plant and dump, broken dye-works
and coal silos; industrial leftovers clumped
with white goods and rust, jaws and iron arms
crushing waste, weary of reconstitution. 

Hold on, there are still the old mills, oak woods,
and carpets of bluebells, millponds
still with sediment, and the great moors swept
hard like a birthplace for the wind.
The whole place picture perfect, yes a land
where poetry comes easy, skimming the dark crags
and fattened beeches growing high
above the river murk, voices cheering, drowning
out the yeasty spume and froth, brimming deep,
lower even than the world.

by Daniel Fraser

Listen to Daniel Fraser reading ‘Hebden Bridge’

This week’s poem by Daniel Fraser is the second in a trio of poems by our new ignitionpress authors! Last week we featured Isabelle Baafi’s poem ‘PG Tips’, and you can read it here. We are very excited to be launching three new pamphlets by Isabelle, Daniel, and Kostya Tsolakis online on Friday 6 November. Please join us! The event will be live-streamed to our YouTube channel. You can find more details about the launch and sign up to attend it here.

We recently announced the winners of this year’s Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, and you can read the winning poems here. Our awards event this year will be held online and everyone is welcome to attend! It will feature readings by the winning poets in both the Open and EAL categories, and a short reading by this year’s judge, Fiona Benson. To register your attendance, please visit this Eventbrite page

‘Hebden Bridge’ is copyright © Daniel Fraser, 2020. It is reprinted from Lung Iron (ignitionpress, 2020) by permission of ignitionpress.

Of this poem, Daniel writes: ‘This poem is named after my hometown. In some ways it’s a kind of settling of scores with my first landscape, both the image it presents to the world and the darker undercurrents below the surface, and contradictory ideas of home. This idea of contradiction and the relation of image/process are central to the way I try to write poetry just as, however far I move away from it, the landscape of Hebden Bridge continues to be too.’

‘Hebden Bridge’ appears in Daniel’s new pamphlet Lung Iron. It is a highly accomplished debut that takes small observations, encounters and moments of awkwardness, intensifying and expanding them in order to explore the place of the word and our place as human beings in the economies of nature and history. These immersive poems thrive in the uncertain space between the natural and industrial, aware of their presence yet always feeling the pull of that something other which lies beyond them.

Daniel Fraser is a writer from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. A graduate of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), his critical work draws on the philosophy of Karl Marx, Maurice Blanchot, and Catherine Malabou. His poetry and prose have featured in: LA Review of BooksAeonAcumenAnthropocene PoetryX-R-A-YEntropyMuteReview 31 and Dublin Review of Books among others. His poems and short fiction have both won prizes in the London Magazine. You can read more about Daniel on his website, read an interview with him on the Wombwell Rainbow site, and follow him on Twitter.

ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects. 

Since its establishment in 2017, two pamphlets (A Hurry of English by Mary Jean Chan and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed) have been selected by the Poetry Book Society as their Pamphlet Choices, and all the pamphlets still in print are available to buy from our online Shop. Each pamphlet costs £5 and you can buy three for £12. You can find out more about the poets and their work on our dedicated page.

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.

PG Tips

PG Tips by Isabelle Baafi
By Isabelle Baafi

Listen to Isabelle Baafi reading ‘PG Tips’

This week’s poem by Isabelle Baafi is the first in a trio of poems by our new ignitionpress authors! We are very excited to be launching three new pamphlets by Isabelle, Daniel Fraser, and Kostya Tsolakis online on Friday 6 November.  Please join us! The event will be held via Zoom and livestreamed to our YouTube channel. You can find more details about the launch and sign up to attend it here.

‘PG Tips’ is copyright © Isabelle Baafi, 2020. It is reprinted from Ripe (ignitionpress, 2020) by permission of ignitionpress.

‘Hunger made me’, reveals one speaker in Ripe, and the desire to be satiated fills these poems. Desperate women hide grains of rice in their hair, baked beans evoke a strained father-daughter relationship, plantains endure the fire. Yet hunger takes many forms, as the risks and rewards of its satisfaction are weighed, and cravings for intimacy are charged with danger. ‘When we’re born, we’re someone else’s’, but in this daring exploration of identity and survival, we hear a thrilling new voice come into its own.

Regarding ‘PG Tips’, Isabelle writes: ‘This poem explores the psychology of postnatal depression. It was inspired by the experience of a family member.’ 

Isabelle Baafi is a writer and poet from London. She was the winner of the 2019 Vincent Cooper Literary Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. Her work has been anthologised by Verve Poetry Press, 20.35 Africa and The Caribbean Writer, and has been published in The Poetry ReviewAnthropoceneFinished Creatures, and harana poetry. She is a Board Member at Magma Poetry. You can read more about Isabelle on her website and follow her on Twitter.

ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects. 

Since its establishment in 2017, two pamphlets (A Hurry of English by Mary Jean Chan and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed) have been selected by the Poetry Book Society as their Pamphlet Choices, and all the pamphlets still in print are available to buy from our online Shop. Each pamphlet costs £5 and you can buy three for £12. You can find out more about the poets and their work on our dedicated page.

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.

Wonderful

Over the years they’ve climbed
to the very lip of the sash,
her fingerprints.
And where she’s knelt, bowing
upwards, a golden reed
the marks have scattered
a constellation of effort;
the hours, days, weeks,
of learning how to grow.
She loops her fingers
around my thumb,
and my heart unlocks. You see,
it’s that she’s touching
me, and whenever someone
touches me (especially
her) I want to cry.
I want to tell her
I love her. But instead
I say, mommy’s sad
today
. She slips
from the bed
to the floor, walks
to her little stool:
opens the window.

by Helen Calcutt

This week’s poet, Helen Calcutt, will be launching her new pamphlet online with Verve Poetry Press on Tuesday 20 October from 7.30-8.45pm and you can join her! She’ll be reading alongside Carrie Etter, Louise Fazackerley and Shazea Quraishi, who have also recently published pamphlets with Verve. Sign up for the launch here.

‘Wonderful’ is copyright © Helen Calcutt, 2020. It is reprinted from Somehow (Verve Poetry Press, 2020) by permission of Verve Poetry Press. You can read more about the pamphlet here.

Notes from Verve Poetry Press:

In September 2017, Helen Calcutt’s brother Matthew took his own life. He was 40 years old. ‘… the phone rang / and when I answered it / you’d killed / yourself, and that was the start / of you being dead.’ This is the starting point of an astonishing new pamphlet of poems by Helen Calcutt. At times harrowing; at others hopeful – always deeply felt and beautifully realised. These poems display the poise and precision of a poet already at the height of her powers, writing the un-writable, weaving the terrible into something relatable and filled with the light of understanding. How do we survive the tumultuous presence of grief? How does the trauma of losing a loved one to suicide affect, our identity, our creativity, and our ability to love? How – in a world shattered by incomparable change and severe loss – do we build a life from the wreckage? Because we do. Somehow, we do. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Verve website.

Helen Calcutt’s poetry and critical writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Brooklyn ReviewUnboundPoetry ScotlandWild CourtEnvoiThe London Magazine and others. Her debut pamphlet, Sudden Rainfall (Perdika, 2014) was a PBS Choice. Her debut collection, Unable Mother, was published by V.Press in 2018. She is the editor and creator of the anthology Eighty-Four (Verve Poetry Press, 2019) which was a Sabotage Best Anthology shortlisted title, and a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, and raised money for CALM’s prevent male suicide campaign. You can follow Helen on Twitter and find out more about her work on her website.

Verve Poetry Press is a Birmingham-based publisher dedicated to promoting and showcasing Birmingham and Midlands poetic talent in colourful and exciting ways – as you would expect from a press that has grown out of the giddy and flamboyant, annual four days of poetry and spoken word that is Verve Poetry Festival, Birmingham. Added to this is a colourful pamphlet series featuring poets who have previously performed at our sister festival – Helen’s pamphlet is the latest addition to this prize-winning series – and a debut performance poetry series, which had seen us working with the brightest rising stars on the UK spoken word scene. We also assert our right to publish any poetry we feel needs and deserves to find print wherever we find it. Verve was awarded the Saboteur Award for Most Innovative Publisher in 2019 and the Michael Marks Publisher’s Award 2019. Find out more about Verve Poetry Press on the publisher’s website and follow the press on 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.