nonrestorative sleep


& sometimes this sick can be beautiful
I suck in air wake up all stomach all breath 

                                          can I tell you
how each minute of dead quiet morning
will taste of course I can I have
almost all night awake in my lungs
I am a space I practice expanding
often I make rooms I fill them up
with pain can I fill you 

             up to survive
is to name everything you own 

if it hurts name it
                                  beautiful 

pain flowers in my back

all night all over
a beautiful boy exists    

his breath filling me
    up to name him 

beautiful beautiful boy

by William Gee

This is the final Weekly Poem before a Christmas break. We wish you and your family all the very best for the holidays and look forward to sharing more poems with you from early January!

We were delighted to learn recently that one of our new ignitionpress pamphlets, Ripe by Isabelle Baafi, has been selected as the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Spring 2021! You can read more about the pamphlet, hear Isabelle talk about it, and buy a copy on our website. You can also still watch the online launch of Ripe, which we featured alongside two other exciting pamphlets: Lung Iron by Daniel Fraser and Ephebos by Kostya Tsolakis. Find out more about them on the website.

‘nonrestorative sleep’ is copyright © William Gee, 2020. It is reprinted from Rheuma, published by Bad Betty Press by permission of the publisher. You can read about the pamphlet on the Bad Betty Press website

William Gee’s breathtaking, disruptive debut is written in the language of the body. A song from somewhere deep within, it sings of what the body remembers, how it rebels. These are dizzying poems, opening up and obscuring, primal and elusive. To read them is to understand the precariousness and the violence of love, of living with secrets, of being in a body that won’t conform. The pamphlet was chosen as the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2020.

You can read more about William’s pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty Press website, and follow William on Twitter.

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 on our website and follow Bad Betty 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.

The Gift of the Lotus/Liánhuā

Penang Island

At the equator, night falls as suddenly
as a plane can land. The whirr of the wing flap  

shifts its tone, as my father’s boyhood
reels past on the runway, new lights and factories 

in a fluorescent glare where rice fields used to be,
and the roadside food stall  

he liked to stop at
for fish congee after a long flight. 

December may seem an empty month for her,
who radiantly came across the ferry from Mainland 

as his bride one Christmas day.
Now there is no moon to chart the tide  

that ebbs and flows around her feet.
A grief that never leaves her – 

as ghosts of the past always seem to,
though they wash up abandoned 

on beaches, silver
in the thick, hot dark. 

Alone too, I can only offer kinship,
marzipan, M&S fruitcake, faint carols,  

mixed spice of winter, holly-wreathed.
A foreign daughter come home 

who must remind herself to unfold as a quiet lotus,
silent character of my father’s mother’s name. 

Touchdown into this deep silt, hold on for dear life,
into the muck of it. When the monsoon thunders  

overhead, zen circle zen circle is a whisper
round-leaved to myself. A perfect brushstroke  

lightning-fast, gathering
enough strength  

to lift my face up waiting –
for the balm of rain.

by Pey Oh

Many congratulations to our ignitionpress poet Alycia Pirmohamed for being shortlisted for this year’s Michael Marks Award for Poetry. In last night’s awards, Alycia’s pamphlet Hinge was named in second place behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, who won the award for his sonically-similar pamphlet Binge! You can find out more about Alycia’s pamphlet on our website

Our latest podcast features the poetry anthologist Ana Sampson. Ana recently edited She Will Soar: Bright, Brave Poems about Freedom by Women (Pan Macmillan, 2020) and in the podcast she talks about how she goes about editing anthologies, how she chooses poems, and why it has been particularly important for her to edit two anthologies that include only works by women. You can listen to the podcast on our website and find it via the usual podcast providers – just search for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’. We are delighted to say that this podcast also features a very special guest reader: the internationally-acclaimed actress Romola Garai, who reads an extract from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘The Sea-Shore’ by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and ‘Sonnet XXXI’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

‘The Gift of the Lotus/ Liánhuā’ is copyright © Pey Oh, 2020. It is reprinted from Christmas Presents: Ten Poems to Give and Receive published by Candlestick Press (November 2020) by permission of Candlestick. You can read about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Candlestick website

Pey Oh is a Bath-based poet from Malaysia. She has an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales. Her first pamphlet, Pictograph, was published by Flarestack Poetry in 2018. Her recent work can be found in Long Poem Magazine, and The Scores – A Journal of Poetry and Prose and Butcher’s Dog. You can follow Pey on Twitter.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online. In 2019 Candlestick sold over 100,000 pamphlets, supporting its nominated charities with donations equivalent to around 49% of pre-tax net profit. Since 2008 nearly 600,000 pamphlets have been sold, which means that some six million poems have been read via its publications. Find out more about the press from the Candlestick website and follow the press 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.

from Aurora Leigh

Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father’s name;
Piled high, packed large, – where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning’s dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books! At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
                                         As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom – thus, my soul,
At poetry’s divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

News from the Centre! We are delighted to say that one of our recent ignitionpress pamphlets, Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed, has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award! The winner from the five pamphlet shortlist will be announced on 14 December, and you can register for the free online event via the Michael Marks website, where you can also find details of the pamphlet and publisher shortlists. You can learn more about Alycia’s pamphlet and buy a copy on our website (scroll down the Pamphlets page).

This week’s choice of poem is a bit of a departure for the Weekly Poem, since we normally feature contemporary writing. However, this excerpt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s verse novel Aurora Leigh is one of the pieces featured in our latest podcast, in which we meet the poetry anthologist Ana Sampson. Ana recently edited She Will Soar: Bright, Brave Poems about Freedom by Women (Pan Macmillan, 2020) and in the podcast she talks about how she goes about editing anthologies, how she chooses poems, and why it has been particularly important for her to edit two anthologies that include only works by women. You can listen to the podcast on our website and find it via the usual podcast providers – just search for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’.

We are delighted to say that this podcast also features a very special guest reader: the internationally-acclaimed actress Romola Garai, who reads this extract, ‘The Sea-Shore’ by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and ‘Sonnet XXXI’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

This extract from Aurora Leigh (1856) is in the public domain. It appears in She Will Soar: Bright, Brave Poems about Freedom by Women (2020), edited by Ana Sampson.

Pan Macmillan writes: ‘With poems from classic, well-loved poets as well as innovative and bold modern voices, She Will Soar is a stunning collection and an essential addition to any bookshelf. From the ancient world right up to the present day, it includes poems on wanderlust, travel, daydreams, flights of fancy, escaping into books, tranquillity, courage, hope and resilience. From frustrated housewives to passionate activists, from servants and suffragettes to some of today’s most gifted writers, here is a bold choir of voices demanding independence and celebrating their hard-won power. Immerse yourself in poems by Carol Ann Duffy, Christina Rossetti, Stevie Smith, Sarah Crossan, Emily Dickinson, Salena Godden, Mary Jean Chan, Charly Cox, Nikita Gill, Fiona Benson, Hollie McNish and Grace Nichols to name but a few.’

Elizabeth Barrett Browning received an excellent education at home from her adoring but overprotective father, and published poetry from her teens onwards. Despite living as an invalid and recluse – perhaps devastated at her brother drowning, perhaps injured in a fall from a horse – her poetry was hugely popular. She attracted fan mail from Robert Browning – then an aspiring poet, six years her junior – and their relationship revived her sufficiently to elope with him to Italy, get married and have a son. Her father never forgave them. A greater celebrity than her husband during their lifetimes, Elizabeth also involved herself in contemporary politics. She was a passionate critic of slavery and child labour, and her epic poem Aurora Leigh was remarkable for its strong heroine and contemporary setting.

Ana Sampson is Deputy Publicity Editor at Quercus Books and a poetry anthologist. By the end of 2021, she will have edited eleven poetry anthologies, including I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, that came out in 2009 and was the third bestselling poetry title that year; Ten Poems for Breakfast, a pamphlet published by Candlestick Press; Poems to Learn by Heart, published by Michael O’Mara Books in 2013; and – most recently – two anthologies of poems by women, published by Pan Macmillan: She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women, which contains 150 poems and came out in 2018, and She Will Soar: Bright, Brave Poems about Freedom by Women, which was published in September this year and includes 130 poems. Ana’s books have sold over 230,000 copies and she makes frequent appearances in the media and at book festivals to talk about poetry and women’s writing. Ana lives with her husband, two young daughters and two middle-aged cats. You can find out more about Ana’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.