‘Longing, we say, because desire is full / of endless distances.’
– Robert Hass
In another life, my father
must have been a nomad.
He drinks butter tea,
knows his way around a saddle,
turns the living room into open rangeland.
There are horses at the door,
nudging their big noses into the hallway,
familiar to him as brothers.
Everywhere we turn they are
stamping down the carpet, swinging wide,
sweating hard, and right in the centre
of that heaving bunch of muscle,
dad pours out the door like wind,
loose bridle, easy seat, running like hell.
In Tibetan, drokpa means ‘people of the solitudes’,
as if solitude was open country
in which we learn early
to lean into the gale, to forage old ground.
He does not dwell long,
disappears for seasons at a time
and we came to realise the way he loves
is the way a horse makes a break for it,
steaming, impatient, expectant,
body corded tight. Horses like clouds
scudding across fields of grass, wild iris,
lashed canvas. He takes off, bad back and all.
His heart opens like a valley.

by Cynthia Miller

The Poetry Centre has launched the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition for 2021! Our judge this year is the fantastic poet Will Harris, and as usual there are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. Winners in each category receive £1000 and runners-up, £200. For more details and to enter, please visit our website. 

‘Drokpa’ is copyright © Cynthia Miller, 2021 and is reprinted from Honorifics (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Cynthia Miller’s debut poetry collection, Honorifics, is an astonishing, adventurous, and innovative exploration of family, Malaysian-Chinese cultural identity, and immigration. From jellyfish blooms to glitch art and distant stars, taking in Greek gods, space shuttles and wedding china along the way, Miller’s mesmerizing approach is experimental, luscious, and expansive with longing – ‘My skin hunger could fill a galaxy’.

Here, the poetry is interwoven with the words for all the things we honour – our loved ones and our ancestors, home and homecomings, and all that is precious and makes us feel that we belong and are beloved. It is also a book that examines contemporary issues of migration in sharp and enquiring relief. Language itself becomes a radical power for reimaging, challenging, and making change, and Miller’s distinctive and multifaceted poetry creates an extraordinary space for multiplicity and celebration.

You can read more about the collection – and buy a copy – on the Nine Arches website, and watch the recent launch of the book via YouTube.

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AmbitThe RialtoButcher’s DogPoetry Birmingham Literary Journalharana poetryThe Best New British and Irish Poets and Primers Volume Two. She is also Co-Founder of the Verve Poetry Festival. Honorifics has been shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

Read more about Cynthia’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. You can also read an interview with Cynthia that was conducted to celebrate her shortlisting for the Forward Prize.

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.