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.

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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.