London Aquatics Centre, Stratford

The first time you wear a bikini
in public, it’s ladies’ hour at the local
pool — your mother’s disapproving
brows follow you. The changing
room is filled with the ghosts of
middle school girls’ staccato laughter.
Your skin winces with no place
to hide. Stand in front of the mirror,
wishing you could be reduced to a sliver
of light. Picture knives caressing your hips,
walk down the hall to a symphony
of rapid Bengali, breathe it all in
and jump. Here, I could be rain
bow fish or electric eel.

by Fathima Zahra

Listen to Fathima Zahra read ‘London Aquatics Centre, Stratford’

This week we’re delighted to feature the final of three poems by new ignitionpress poets Katie Byford, Zein Sa’dedin and Fathima Zahra, all of whom have pamphlets forthcoming from 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.

‘London Aquatics Centre, Stratford’ is copyright © Fathima Zahra, 2021, and is reprinted here from Sargam / Swargam (ignitionpress, 2021).

Sargam / Swargam evokes a deep sense of precarity in being, belonging and in the very words we choose to mean home. This pamphlet, simultaneously forthright and fragile, touches on themes of girlhood, shame, desire and an uneasy burgeoning into maturity. Through exquisitely-wrought language and precise character observations, these poems capture what it is to grow up in three different locations, illuminating the legacies of that experience. Find out more about the pamphlet on the Poetry Centre website.

Fathima Zahra is an Indian poet based in Essex. She is a Barbican Young Poet and a Roundhouse Poetry Collective alum. She has won the Bridport Prize, the Wells Fest Young Poets Prize and the Asia House Poetry Slam 2019. Her work has been published or are forthcoming in Tentacular Magazine and Khidr Zine; has been anthologised in SLAM! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This (Pan Macmillan, 2020), A Letter, A Poem, A Home (Red River Press, 2020). She been featured across BBC World News, The New Indian Express and Young Poets Network. Commissions include Poet in the City, Adrian Brinkerhoff Foundation and Bedtime Stories for the End of the World. She has performed at various festivals including Hay, Latitude, VERVE poetry festival, The Last Word and Brainchild. She is currently completing her MA in Creative Writing and Education at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Follow Zahra on Twitter and Instagram and find her on Linktree.

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.