a black cloth over your face isn’t the same as night

I used up the summer controlling people
[in a video game]. I made him handsome
and tall and I made her patent the peanut
-size sheath that keeps umbrellas open that keeps
them from collapse. She got picked up for work in
a mint green Datsun each morning and one day
I made him drop his soft wallet in the street
and I made her DING DING hurtle after him
like a sneeze. I watched their nailless fingers touch
and then I intervened because god! think of
a pursuit less fruitful than affinity!
I made them go about their days. He married
a dentist and she died young and he ran down
his years evading the diagnoses of
bruxism and she died young. Neither handed
the damp debasement of a life spent wanting.
Their lives were lilac aldehyde there was no
asbestos slung behind their walls. Now Autumn                                                                                               

is here and I need a life soft-edged with heart
motif a small girl’s ring-bound notebook. I need
insight. It oozes from the corners navy
damp DING DING You’re a product of your choices
you’re a totem pole you’re hunger on top of
caprice on top of the grazed cheeks of debauched
nights spent folded your face in the gravel like
an animal. I decide to fix things I
streamline my practices. I wear a yellow
mini dress in an always temperate clime.
My house is pristine now and if not I’ll eat
or fuck or swim to lessen the scores of it
all. I’ll buy a dog and then I’ll teach that dog
to die and when it does my children will be
prepared for everything in the world and then
– when my life is panacea smooth – a new
person will enter the game through the back door
DING DING yes it is attainment and we’ll dance.
We’ll dance to the open fire on the stove
top to the graceless wordless music to all
the things I mistook for the sky and we’ll dance
to the entombed cockatoo moans of my dog
– buried neat beneath the geranium bush.

by Susannah Dickey

The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or the usual podcast providers.

‘a black cloth over your face isn’t the same as night’ is copyright © Susannah Dickey, 2020 and is reprinted here from bloodthirsty for marriage (Bad Betty Press, 2020) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

There is an arresting and profound specificity to Susannah Dickey’s astute tragicomedy, in which the sky is ‘the colour of a cous cous salad’, gods rub shoulders with video game characters and everyone is enslaved to desire.

Corrupting the classically male, reportedly frivolous hendecasyllabic form, Dickey forges a register that feels both ancient and millennial. At the centre of this work beats a star-bright pain, seen through the poems’ breezy vacillations and squandered love, crushed to a shimmer. You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

Susannah Dickey is the author of three pamphlets, bloodthirsty for marriage (Bad Betty Press, 2020), I had some very slight concerns and genuine human values (The Lifeboat). Her first novel, Tennis Lessons, was published in July 2020 by Doubleday. You can follow Susannah 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.

barmouth


mawddach estuary is a glittermouth.
sand breaches both land and sea, half-waves.
coming from two islands supposedly in enmity, i relate.
javanese keep our knives at our backs,
sumatrans at our fronts; is middle ground
a chest prepared for both to pierce.
is seawater planetary blood overflowing. 

would make sense then, what they say will happen,
water’s haemorrhage into habitation. the threatened bajau
have had us all beat, as ocean-based peoples.
i close my eyes and imagine a bajau boy
who knows how to hold his breath until
the body quietly demands inhalation, who could survive
floods, heat, and isolation in white spaces
simply by going for the swims that are birthright,
each gulf a bay of earth-wound spilling welkin-tint
blood, a harbour in which to grieve and return.

by Khairani Barokka

News from the Centre: we’re delighted to say that tomorrow (Tuesday 20 April), this week’s poet, Khairani Barokka, will be giving a talk (via Zoom) at an English and Modern Languages Research Seminar at Oxford Brookes. Her talk is entitled ‘What We Owe the Dead: Multisensorial Materialities, Poem-Ethics, and Digital Surveillance’. The event is free for anyone to attend, and if you’d like the full Zoom details, visit the Poetry Centre Twitter account or contact Niall Munro (niall.munro@brookes.ac.uk).

The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or via the usual podcast providers. 

‘barmouth’ is copyright © Khairani Barokka, 2021 and is reprinted here from Ultimatum Orangutan (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can watch Khairani Barokka read poems from her collection on the Nine Arches YouTube channel, where you can also find a recording of the launch of her new collection.

Notes from Khairani Barokka and Nine Arches Press:

In the poem, Bajau refers to sea-oriented peoples in Southeast Asia. As with other sea-based indigenous communities, their way of life is continually threatened by environmentally and socially destructive processes.

Khairani Barokka’s second poetry collection, Ultimatum Orangutan, is an intricate exploration of colonialism and environmental injustice: her acute, interlaced language draws clear connections between colonial exploitation of fellow humans, landscapes, animals, and ecosystems. Amidst the horrifying damage that has resulted for peoples as interlinked with places, there is firm resistance. Resonant and deeply attentive, the lyricism of these poems is juxtaposed with the traumatic circumstances from which they emerge. Through these defiant, potent verses, the body—particularly the disabled body—is centred as an ecosystem in its own right. Barokka’s poems are every bit as alarming, urgent and luminous as is necessary in the age of climate catastrophe as outgrowth of colonial violence. 

You can watch Khairani Barokka read poems from her collection on the Nine Arches YouTube channel, where you can also find a recording of the launch of her new collection.

Khairani Barokka is a writer and artist from Jakarta, based in London. Her work has been presented widely, in over 15 countries, and work from her Annah, Infinite series of performance installations has been an Artforum Must-See. Among Okka’s honours, she was a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change, an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow, and Modern Poetry in Translation’s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence. She is currently Associate Artist at the National Centre for Writing and Research Fellow at UAL’s Decolonising Arts Institute. Okka’s books include Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis; Vietnamese translation, AJAR Press) and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (as co-editor; Nine Arches), and debut collection Rope (Nine Arches). Find out more about Okka’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter

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 one hundred 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.

The winter inside my mother

Winter was never nailed down, would slip
from my mother like an expletive that had
her reverting to forty below, trawling wastes
of blizzard-bent woods. Evenings, stretched
out on our sofa, she’d place her toes, lunatic
with cold, to burn in my lap. And I pictured her
in stinging drifts, hoar-scald on her face, nearly
a corpse yet scavenging berries for a child
growled to life in the gaping white.
Always the Hibernian in her.
To worship snowfall. To cover her tracks.
And if I could say she ever found her way back
intact, it was only to bequeath the ice-melt stain
in the bureau drawer, with snapshot of her party trick –
to stand out on the road, join a line of leafless maples
and simply go bare.

by Katie Griffiths

The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or via the usual podcast providers.

‘The winter inside my mother’ is copyright © Katie Griffiths, 2021 and is reprinted here from The Attitudes (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can sign up for the launch of The Attitudes on 22 April via Eventbrite.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Katie Griffiths’ debut poetry collection, The Attitudes, is a search for trust and faith – in the body, in the mind, in all those things we seek to hold on to but cannot. Here, we intimately encounter mortality and tread the balance between visceral wisdom and the intellect, between fragile, fallible bodies, and the mind’s hold over them, between the bright spaces and the haunted ones.

In poems that are bold, effervescent, frequently playful, Griffiths approaches serious subjects – eating disorders, ageing, grieving – with a precise and inventive lyricism. The Attitudes compiles multitudes, with layer upon layer of counterpoints, juxtaposing and exploring the unresolvable, all the while seeking to move towards a place of deeper reflection and stillness away from the noise and distraction of the daily business of being alive. An astute and accomplished book which transforms. Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website and sign up for the launch of The Attitudes on 22 April via Eventbrite.

Katie Griffiths grew up in Ottawa, Canada, in a family originally from Northern Ireland. In 2019 she was awarded second prize in the National Poetry Competition with ‘Do not indulge indigo’ and had the pleasure of reading her own Spanish translation of the poem at the Cosmopoética festival in Cordoba, Spain. Her pamphlet My Shrink is Pregnant (illustrated by Anna Steinberg) was a winner in the Live Canon pamphlet competition. In 2016 she was published in Primers Volume One by Nine Arches Press. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and Red Door Poets, Katie is also singer-songwriter in the band A Woman in Goggles. You can find out more about Katie’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

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 one hundred 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.

10th April 2020

Dad has mowed the lawn two days in a row.
It explains our lives now – the pushing along

of a machine, blades with nothing to cut –
acting our lives out just to be purposeful.

I got dressed up for a zoom conference
and cried at a kind letter which landed on the doormat.

I need two witnesses who aren’t beneficiaries
to finalise my will. My lawyer suggests

I ask my neighbours to watch through the window,
because even with expected deaths the Government

aren’t changing the rules. The GP rang this afternoon
trying to talk about a DNR order. I refused,

instead told him about starlings murmurating
and all the living I have left to do.


by Hannah Hodgson

News from the Poetry Centre: our latest podcast is now available! Tune in to hear Scottish Gaelic poet Niall O’Gallagher read and discuss three poems – in Gaelic & English – and talk about issues of translation, traditional forms, and the Gaelic community in Glasgow/Ghlaschu. You can find the podcast on our website and also on the usual podcast providers – just search for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Podcast’ – and do let us know what you think! We’re on social media @brookespoetry and you can e-mail us via the website.

‘10th April 2020’ is copyright © Hannah Hodgson, 2021. It is reprinted from Where I’d Watch Plastic Trees Not Grow (Verve Poetry Press, 2021) by permission of Verve Poetry Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and order a copy on the Verve website. Verve is offering a special bundle of all four of its recent pamphlets at a reduced price (all of which have been featured as Weekly Poems in recent instalments), and you can find out more about that offer on the Verve site.

Notes from Verve Poetry Press:

Hannah has taken her regular hospitalisations due to serious illness and made it into astonishing poetry in her pamphlet Where I’d Watch Plastic Trees Not Grow. Her world of the hospital is sometimes like a zoo, sometimes like a gallery and sometimes a crowded town square. The wards contain tigers and crows, butterflies – doctors become poets, the dead turn into an art installation, while outside, the trees are plastic – as unchanging as Hannah’s shielding days that ‘drag like a foot.’ But between the pulled curtains of these words the details of real-life amongst the terminally ill are depicted in full colour. A daughter ‘cries neatly in a corner’ while her mourning father spins ‘his wedding band around his finger.’ Nurses fill ‘carrier bags marked ‘patient’s property’,’ while ‘the industrial plastic’ crinkles as a body is lifted from bed to trolley in its bag. The poet’s eye feels unblinking at times – unable but also unwilling to blink. How could it when it has so much to show? These poems are heavy with import, but they are light with the liveliness of art that is beautifully rendered. Read more about the pamphlet on the Verve website.

Hannah Hodgson is a poet living with life-limiting illness. Her work has been published by the Poetry SocietyTeen Vogue and Poetry Salzburg , amongst others. She is the recipient of a 2020 Northern Writers Award for Poetry. Her first poetry pamphlet Dear Body was published by Wayleave Press in 2018. You can read more about Hannah’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

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 and prize-winning pamphlet series featuring poets who have previously performed at our sister festival and a debut performance poetry series, which has 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.