Salt Creatures

We try at first to still the rush, the roar, but
as the swell reaches our chins we reconsider.
We will be sanded down, polished like seaglass

—the current rips and foams around us, 

capricious. We boast burns shaped like open mouths,
blood-bright anemones on our necks, breasts; fingers swim.
I will drift with you over the ocean’s edge

—our shoulders gleam, dolphin backs silver 

and leaping. Held in an exhaled breath, small mercy,
our closeness carves a grotto between us, shivering with thunder.
You are a salt creature, let your spine dissolve
—we curl up in a periwinkle. 

It dawns. You ebb and unravel, leave me clutching at
cloudy handfuls of sand, that curdle in the air as I retrieve them.
You will hear my breath in every murex shell

—the sea cave in me roars, cracks—opens.

by Katie Byford
Listen to Katie Byford read ‘Salt Creatures’

This week we’re delighted to feature the first of three poems by new ignitionpress poets Katie Byford, Zein Sa’dedin and Fathima Zahra, all of whom have pamphlets forthcomingfrom our press. We’re very excited to be launching them (online) on Wednesday 25 August at 7pm BST and hope that you will join us! You can sign up for the Zoom webinar via this link.

‘Salt Creatures’ is copyright © Katie Byford, 2021, and is reprinted here from He Said I Was a Peach (ignitionpress, 2021).

In her new pamphlet, He Said I Was a Peach, Katie Byford’s vital poems resound with a chorus of restless voices. Stifled by male power and drunken violence, the women of these verses nevertheless speak, alive in Byford’s compelling writing. Persephone defies her ‘mud king’, Pygmalion’s creation describes her own drowning, Clytemnestra plots revenge in a hotel bathroom. Encountered alongside stories from contemporary life, myth embodies profound wounds which will not heal. Yet in this pamphlet, the women can be heard, enduring in their pain and fear and calling us to see them differently.

Katie Byford is a poet and filmmaker from London. She has a BA in Classics from Durham University, where she received the Maltby Exhibition Prize for her dissertation on Sappho’s work as translated and interpreted by contemporary poets and artists. She regularly delivers guest lectures at Durham on the use of Greek and Roman sources in her poetry. Katie’s poem ‘Appetit, for Persephone’ placed first in the open category of the 2020 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition; her poem ‘Son, for Thetis’ was also shortlisted. She was part of the Barbican Young Poets from 2011 to 2014, and since then has worked extensively with the Barbican Centre, most recently delivering workshops and performing commissions for 2019 exhibitions AI: More than Human and Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Other commissions and performances include those at Durham Castle, the Wellcome Collection, Spread the Word and the Houses of Parliament. Her work has featured in MagmaPopshotModern Poetry in Translation and anthologies Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe Books) and She is Fierce: brave, bold & beautiful poems by women (Macmillan). Find out more about Katie on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Established by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre in 2017, ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets. Pamphlets published by the press have so far received three Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice selections (for A Hurry of EnglishHinge, and Ripe) and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020. Read more about the press on our website.

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.