Cause of Death

We do not
discuss politics
at the dining table.
We might stab
it with a fork,
lift it to a trembling
mouth and swallow.
We nudge it
to the edge
of our plates,
look past it,
scrub the plates with
barbed wire,
slit our hands,
drain our blood
in the sink.                                                           

These hunger strikes
are a shovel in a graveyard.
Citizen
 is the epitaph.
Cause of death is silence;
cause of death is a scream.
Somewhere between the two
my country buries me. 

by Tanatsei Gambura

This semester the Poetry Centre is showcasing the research being carried out by Dr Eric White into the American avant-gardes, and we invite you to join us! ‘Shaking the Lights’ is a series of free digital events, open to all, and beginning this Thursday 24 February with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Langston Hughes. You can find details of that event and the others in the series on the Poetry Centre website. 

‘Cause of Death’ is copyright © Tanatsei Gambura, 2021, and is reprinted here from Things I Have Forgotten Before (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Brick by brick, Tanatsei Gambura dismantles walls of silence to show us the story behind the story: in a township room in 80s Harare, a straße in Bonn, an otherplace locked into grandmothers’ hips. In her pamphlet, Things I Have Forgotten Before, we find lost brothers, predatory officers, the smiles of women on Fair & Lovely tubes, the concomitance of personal and national cataclysms. We confront our collusion in collective forgetfulness, and the painful but necessary process of rememory. Assured and inventive, Gambura reminds us that words are tools for worldbuilding, engineering language with startling grace.

Find out more about the pamphlet on the Bad Betty Press website, and you can watch her read another poem from her collection via The Poetry Archive.

Tanatsei Gambura is a poet, intermedia artist, and cultural practitioner working transnationally. Her debut pamphlet Things I Have Forgotten Before (Bad Betty, 2021), from which this poem is taken, was the Poetry Book Society’s Autumn 2021 Pamphlet Choice. Tanatsei is the runner-up to the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize (2020), a Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize longlistee (2020), and a recipient of the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) and Savannah Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) Writing Residency (2021). She is an alumnus of the British Council residency, These Images are Stories, the inaugural Obsidian Foundation Writer’s Retreat, and the Writerz & Scribez Griot’s Well residency.

Read more about Tanatsei’s work on her website.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books here 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.

Wild Boars

What we come to believe is what we want to believe
when the streets are paused to a standstill,
the surrounding hills our only retreat. For me,
the snapping of beech, the stirring of foliage,
was more real than the light that shone,
late afternoon, across from Marriage Wood. 

When the two of them ran, we thought they were dogs –
at first – from the sound of their movement alone.
How quickly they made their way, one behind the other,
a maverick convoy of muscle and flesh
passing steadfastly to a destination only they knew.

Through the cover of branches, nothing was certain.
I could swear there was the lowering of bird song
and the sudden glint of an eye as they gathered pace,
surging uphill where no way seemed possible.

Still at that point of half believing they were dogs,
we waited patiently for their owner walking behind,
for a call at least. In the moments afterwards, the birds
regained their confidence but no voice was heard.

by Christopher Horton

You can hear Christopher Horton read the poem on the tall-lighthouse website.

As we mentioned in last week’s e-mail, this semester the Poetry Centre is showcasing the research being carried out by Dr Eric White into the American avant-gardes. Join us for ‘Shaking the Lights’, a series of free digital events, open to all, and beginning on Thursday 24 February with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Langston Hughes. You can find details of that event and the others in the series on the Poetry Centre website. 

And if you’re near London, head along to the Rugby Tavern in Great James Street on Saturday 26 February to hear this week’s poet, Christopher Horton, read at the launch of his new pamphlet. He’ll be reading alongside Sonya Smith, Alan Buckley, Declan Ryan, Mark Wynne, Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving, plus other readers. To sign up for this free event and for more details, visit the Eventbrite page.

‘Wild Boars’ is copyright © Christopher Horton, 2021, and is reprinted here from Perfect Timing (tall-lighthouse, 2021) by permission of tall-lighthouse. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy from the tall-lighthouse website

Notes from tall-lighthouse:

The poetry in Perfect Timing is, at times, unsettling and surreal but for the most part transformative. Christopher Horton writes about what endures among the ephemera of the city, the suburb, the village, office-life, whilst simultaneously peeling back layers of the ‘everyday’ to expose the eccentricity and hypocrisy that lies there. Read more on the tall-lighthouse website.

Christopher Horton studied English Literature and American Studies at University of Wales, Swansea, and subsequently taught in China before working as a Housing Officer and then as a Town Planner. His poetry has been widely published (including in Stand, Iota, AmbitMagmaPoetry WalesPoetry London) and he has been a prize-winner in the National Poetry Competition, the Verve Poetry Festival Competition, the South Downs Poetry Festival Competition (for the poem featured this week) and the Bridport Prize. Find out more about Christopher on his website.

tall-lighthouse, established in 1999, is an independent poetry press publishing full collections of poetry, pamphlets and anthologies with over 100 titles issued from more than 60 poets. The press has a reputation for publishing new talent, being the first in the UK to publish Helen Mort, Sarah Howe, Liz Berry, Adam O’Riordan, Rhian Edwards, Emily Berry, Kate Potts and many others. You can find out more about the press via the tall-lighthouse 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

Some Feel Rain

Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can’t be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you. 


by Joanna Klink

Two notes from the Poetry Centre… After last semester’s focus on Dinah Roe’s research into Christina Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites, this semester we turn our attention to Eric White’s work on the American avant-gardes, as we continue to highlight the exciting research being carried out here at Oxford Brookes. Join us for ‘Shaking the Lights’, a series of digital events, open to all, and beginning on Thursday 24 February with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Langston Hughes. You can find details of that event and the others in the series on the Poetry Centre website.

And if you missed our announcement about our two new ignitionpress poets, you can find more on our website and in a story published in The Bookseller last week. We’re very much looking forward to sharing with you pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Ramírez in the summer!

‘Some Feel Rain’ is copyright © Joanna Klink, 2021, and is reprinted here from 100 Poems to Save the Earth (Seren, 2021) by permission of Seren. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy on the Seren website

Notes from Seren:

Joanna Klink is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Nightfields, which was published by Penguin in July, 2020. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, including ResistanceRebellionLife: 50 Poems Now and The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She teaches at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about Joanna’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram.

Our climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. 100 Poems to Save the Earth presents a positive and determined impulse to change for the better the way we interact with the environment. This landmark anthology, edited by Kristian Evans and Zoë Brigley, reveals the defining crisis of our time to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. For too long, the earth has been exploited. With its incisive Foreword, this anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have.

Featuring a selection of renowned contemporary poets from Britain, Ireland, America and beyond, these poems invite us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, pay attention to what we have been missing, to remember the forgotten. From rural and urban perspectives, linking issues of social injustice with the need to protect the environment, these poems attend carefully to the new evidence, redraw the maps and, full of trust, keep going, proving that in fact, poetry is exactly what we need to save the earth.

You can find out more about the anthology and buy a copy on the Seren website.

Seren is Wales’ leading independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. With a list spanning poetry, fiction and non-fiction, many of our books are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across the UK and America. Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience. At the heart of our list is a beautiful poem, a good story told well or an idea or history presented interestingly or provocatively. We’re international in authorship and readership, though our roots remain here in Wales, where we prove that writers from a small country with an intricate culture have a worldwide relevance.

Since its beginnings in 1981, Seren has developed into one of the most interesting publishing houses in Britain. Based in Bridgend, Seren continues to nurture and publish new talent whose quality is recognised around the world. In 2021 we celebrated our 40th anniversary. We also publish Poetry Wales Magazine and we present the yearly Cardiff Poetry Festival featuring readers from all over the world. Our Managing Editor is Mick Felton, long-time Sales and Publicity Officer is Simon Hicks, Sarah Johnson is our Marketing Officer and Jamie Hill is in Design and Production. Jannat Ahmed is Poetry Wales’ administrative assistant. Find out more by visiting Seren’s 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.

that night, I saw god under a traffic light

he told me how he’d had to leave his wife and son that week.
dreams that drop him in a ditch of cold sweat in the night.
how they’re better off without him: without him, a better life.
I offered him a rollie. he said they made him think of burnt hair

and we are there: shrapnel and mist, dead friends fizzing
around him like leaves; a body twisting against his camo vest
but he can’t get close enough, he’s using his bare hands
to put out the little girl on fire – and I remember him

reaching with raw eyes underneath a traffic light: guilt
for the part he played, hunger and hatred for himself; grief
is a heavy thing that’s difficult to put down, even now
he’s handing me this story, as if to say: hold her.


by Shaun Hill

he Poetry Centre is delighted to announce two new ignitionpoets! Pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Ramírez will be published in June and you can find out more about the poets on our website.

‘that night, I saw god under a traffic light’ is copyright © Shaun Hill, 2021 and is reprinted from warm blooded things (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Shaun Hill’s debut poetry collection, warm blooded things, is a radical and intimate encounter with boyhood, sexuality, and violence, love, desire and solitude. Wandering the nocturnal city streets, through random encounters, co-opting space and capturing conversations in a multitude of voices, this collection evokes alienation whilst longing for tenderness.

Hill’s agile poems are alive to fear, loss, danger – and to the possibility of other ways of being, other, better stories that we can write. The poems also explore a uniquely queer archive of time and place, the legacy of AIDS, and draw strength from giving voice to unheard histories. Seeking sanctuary and alternatives to a capitalist reality, these precise, humane poems gesture towards hope, survival and the necessity to be responsible for one another.

Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Shaun Hill is a queer writer exploring post-capitalist ways of being. He is a recipient of an Apple and Snakes | Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance Award for 2020. Shaun has shared his words widely at festivals across the UK and has facilitated for a range of organisations including: Birmingham Buddhist Centre, City of Culture, and Out on the Page. He has completed commissions for Overhear, Verve Poetry Festival, and appeared on BBC Radio 4. Thirty of his poems have been published, in anthologies such as Eighty-Four: Poems on Male Suicide, and magazines like Magma and StreetCakewarm blooded things is his first collection.

You can find out more about Shaun and his work on his website and follow him on Instagram.

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.