Dear Sophie, 14th November

Dear Sophie,                         
14th November

A sunspot sharpens a shadow on the gate making me see both shadow and gate.
You sit on the old sofa. The leather arms cool under your skin.
A sunspot through the yellow curtains making me see you are made of gold.
The weather changes. Clouds take away the gold and the gate.
Can we talk about the dark that’s coming? 

Kirsten Luckins

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‘Dear Sophie, 14th November’ is copyright © Kirsten Luckins, 2021, and is reprinted here from Passerine (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the book and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

In PasserineKirsten Luckins’ epistolary poems distill the daily process of grieving, healing, remembering, through nature’s wild and atomic industry. Reading this collection is like pressing your ear to the ground to hear the orchestra of the world: alive with buzzing hum and beating wing; death, all the while, lurking on the doorstep. The language is lush, tack-sharp and playful, capturing both the contradictions of being in and of the world, and the rare honesty of a true and fierce friendship. It’s this friendship that binds the collection: a golden thread of sunlight.

Find out more about Passerine on the Bad Betty website.

Kirsten Luckins is a poet, performer, and creative producer who lives on the North East coast, as close to the sea as possible. Her practice is centred on poetry but driven by playfulness, collaboration and experimentation, so encompasses film, collage and text art, performance and theatre-making. She has toured two award-nominated spoken word shows, and worked as dramaturg to many poets and projects, including the award-winning The Empathy Experiment. She is artistic director of the Tees Women Poets collective, and co-founder of the Celebrating Change digital storytelling project where she teaches creative memoir writing. Passerine is her third collection.

You can read more about Kirsten’s work on her website, and follow her on Twitter.

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.

Eye of the Times

This is the eye of the times:
it looks out slant
under a seven-colour brow.
Its lid is bathed in flames,
its tear is steam.

The blind star flies at it
and melts on the hotter lash:
the world grows warm,
and the dead
break bud, and blossom.

Auge der Zeit

Dies ist das Auge der Zeit:
es blickt scheel
unter siebenfarbener Braue.
Sein Lid wird von Feuern gewaschen,
seine Träne ist Dampf.

Der blinde Stern fliegt es an
und zerschmilzt an der heißeren Wimper:
es wird warm in der Welt,
und die Toten
knospen und blühen.

Paul Celan, translated by Jean Boase-Beier

This translation is copyright © Jean Boase-Beier, 2021, and is reprinted here from Eye of the Times (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Jean Boase-Beier and Arc Publications:

Notable in this poem, from the early 1950s, is the use of Jewish symbols – fire, star, eye, the number seven – many of which became personal symbols for Celan. In his poems eyes suggest life, point of view and engagement, but often also the Jewish folk belief in the Evil Eye. And because, in German, dice have eyes rather than dots, eyes also suggest chance.

There have been many translations of Celan, each reflecting a different angle of approach to what is generally agreed to be his very complex poetry. Celan was known to have a special interest in language, in the way words work and the way in which they can be misused and can misrepresent – this is why he so often revised his poetry. Jean Boase-Beier’s particular approach to translating Celan focuses on his use of words, and her illuminating introduction and her notes contextualizing each of the poems in this chapbook are invaluable in helping the reader to their own interpretation. You can watch Celan’s translator, Jean Boase-Beier, discussing the collection with Philip Wilson in a video available on the Arc YouTube channel.

Paul Celan, who was born Paul Antschel, is widely considered to be one of the foremost European poets of the twentieth century. Born in 1920 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Czernowitz, at that time a multicultural city in Romania, he spent a short time studying Medicine in France before the start of the Second World War forced him to return. Back in Czernowitz, he began to write and translate poems, while studying French and Russian, but persecution of the Jews led to the deportation of his parents to a concentration camp, where his father died and his mother was shot. This sudden loss was to lead to severe trauma from which Celan never recovered. After the war he went to Paris, where he worked as a university lecturer in German, and won many awards for his poetry. In spite of his success, he was increasingly troubled by uncertainty, lack of self-belief, and mental disturbance. He drowned himself in the Seine in 1970.

The translator, Jean Boase-Beier, is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded and ran the MA in Literary Translation. Besides her translations of Rose Ausländer , she has translated poetry by Volker von Törne and Ernst Meister, which also appeared with Arc Publications. Jean has written extensively on translation, especially the translation of poetry. Her latest book for Arc is Poetry of the Holocaust: An Anthology (edited with Marian de Vooght, 2019). Find out more about Jean’s work on the Arc website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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 weather fiercely dragonish
         with strong headwinds
the brothers’ faith a cotton thread
         their minds bobbins
Ahead a coastline visible
         a scene most cruel
volcanic blast that feeds on air
         and human fuel
A packed crowd in that fiery pit
         who writhe and gurn
then some by detonation fly
         and fleck the sun
Devils with forks and leather flails
         maintain these lands
breeding horse-flies and leeches fat
         as Kerry lambs
Brendan spies a devil on shore
         and loudly cries
Who are these tortured kindling folks?
         What are their crimes?
The figure hocks up phlegm and yells
         Dead-eye loan sharks
crap-wigged kleptocratic bampots
         with shilling hearts
These parasites made profit off
         poor citizens
their flesh is now a reddish clay
         we fire their skins
A vile stench envelops the Cog
         her retching crew
as terraced theatres of flame
         slow-fade from view

A.B. Jackson

As mentioned last week, we recently launched a new monthly Poetry Centre newsletter. If you’re interested in finding out more about our work, including our Fire Up Your Poetry Practice course (currently recruiting!) and ignitionpress, please sign up to receive it. You can also read the latest newsletter on this page, and follow us on social media (links at the foot of this message).

‘Hellmouth’ is © A.B. Jackson, 2021 and the accompanying image is © Kathleen Neeley, 2021. The poem and image are reprinted with permission from The Voyage of St Brendan (Bloodaxe Books, 2021). Find out more about the collection on the Bloodaxe site, where you can read further sample poems. You can also watch the launch (a joint event with Penelope Shuttle and John Challis) on the Bloodaxe YouTube channel.

Notes from Bloodaxe Books:

In The Voyage of St Brendan, A.B. Jackson tells the tale of the legendary seafaring Irish abbot. After burning a book of fantastical stories, Brendan is compelled to sail the ocean with a crew of six monks in a leather-skinned currach; his task, to prove the existence of wonders in the world and create a new book of marvels. Discoveries include Jasconius the island-whale, a troop of Arctic ghosts, a hellmouth of tortured souls, a rock-bound Judas, and the magical castle of the boar-headed Walserands.

Although the roots of this legend lie in early Irish tales and the Latin Voyage of Brendan the Abbot of the ninth century, Jackson has taken the 14th-century Middle Dutch version of Brendan’s voyage as the template for this engaging, witty and spirited interpretation, notable for its humour and inventiveness.

Find out more about the book, read further sample poems, and buy a copy on the Bloodaxe website.

The book is illustrated with a series of black and white linocuts by the American artist Kathleen Neeley. Kathleen is an artist specializing in relief printmaking and illustration. She received a B.F.A. and M.A. from the University of Oklahoma. She lives in Tulsa. Find out more about her art on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A.B. Jackson was born in Glasgow in 1965 and raised in the village of Bramhall, Cheshire. After moving to Cupar in Fife he studied English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. His first book, Fire Stations (Anvil), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2003, and a limited edition pamphlet, Apocrypha (Donut Press), was published in 2011. In 2010 he won first prize in the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. His second collection, The Wilderness Party (Bloodaxe Books, 2015), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Voyage of St Brendan was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2021. After a number of years in Yorkshire he now lives in Pitlochry.

You can read more about A. B. Jackson’s work on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978 and has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive series have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers. Find out more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website and follow the press 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

A popular history of urban planning

Concrete says
any shape you can dream

The streets say damp, rubble
rat, wind, rack-rent and fist. 

The best view from here is of the future
a sky in a frame on the wall 

morning blue or neon-bright
full of pleasuredomes and expressways. 

The apartment has doors you can close at will.
Enough space for your thoughts 

an inside toilet. A life
without layers: just thin fabric 

between you and the room. There is even
hot water. England says yes 

breathes in the dust that was a ceiling rose
rescues fireplaces for the suburbs 

growls, from the new artery
at the sober dawn of its promise 

stained, broken, lonely
its own brief surrender to hope.  

by Tom Sastry

You can watch Tom read this poem on Nine Arches Press’s YouTube channel.

Some news about this e-mail! For a number of years, the Weekly Poem e-mail has been a space both to share poetry and as the Poetry Centre’s newsletter. Later this week we are launching a new newsletter that will appear every month, so the Weekly Poem will now just feature each week’s poem. 

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‘A popular history of urban planning’ is copyright © Tom Sastry, 2022, and is reprinted here from You have no normal country to return to (Nine Arches Press, 2022) by permission of Nine Arches. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy from the press website.

Tune in to Tom’s joint online book launch with Julia Webb on 26 May. To register, visit this Eventbrite page.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

In You have no normal country to return to, Tom Sastry explores questions of national identity and ‘the end of history’. A blistering, bleakly funny and timely second poetry collection, following his Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize shortlisted debut, A Man’s House Catches Fire

By turns crisply satirical and questioning, You have no normal country to return to ranges across the legacies of Empire, postwar migration and the current crisis in English identity. Sastry’s precise, brilliantly attuned poetry asks how the times we live in and the tales we tell about them affect us; how our emotional landscapes are shaped by national myths and the more personal stories we tell about ourselves. It is a book about illusion, and discovering, again and again, that what was once taken for granted was never really there; a guidebook for an age of ‘enchantments collapsing on themselves’. 

Find out more about the collection and buy a copy on the Nine Arches website.

Tom Sastry has been described by Hera Lindsay Bird as a ‘magician of deadpan’. He was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. Since then, his poems have appeared in The GuardianPoetry Review and he has been highly commended in the Forward Prize. 

Tom’s first collection A Man’s House Catches Fire was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize. His pamphlet, Complicity was a Poetry School Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. Tom lives and works in Bristol. You can follow him 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 on the Nine Arches website, 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.