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.