Big hands

I remember your big felted charcoal wool coat,
boxy as a coffin. You hugged me, wearing it,
and the felt was so thick that it bent in straight lines,
like cardboard does. It was Barbican station,
lemon yellow tiles and a busker somewhere doing
Blister in the Sun. No one in London stays still
that long, but you held on, like you knew
we wouldn’t meet again. I didn’t want to
let go or take the steps or get on the next
Hammersmith & City heading west.
I could have been your friend.
It would have been hard to settle for,
but I’d have done it.

by Claire Askew

Three brief notes from the Poetry Centre… This is the final Weekly Poem before a summer break. Poems will return to your inbox from 5 September. Thanks for reading! Secondly, our International Poetry Competition is still open for entries until 31 August and is judged by Caroline Bird. For more details, visit our website. And finally, our two newest ignitionpress pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Anthony Ramírez have just been launched! You can find out more about these exciting additions to the press’s list on our site.

‘Big hands’ is copyright © Claire Askew, 2021, and is reprinted here from How to burn a woman (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) by permission of Bloodaxe. You can read more about the book on the Bloodaxe website.

Notes from Bloodaxe Books:

Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It licks flame across the imagination, and rewrites narratives of human desire. It is a collection for anyone who has ever run through their life ‘backwards/ in the dark,/ with no map’ – these bright poems illuminate the way.

How to burn a woman throngs with witches, outsiders, and women who do not fit the ordinary moulds of the world. It is a collection which traces historic atrocities, and celebrates the lives of those accused of witchcraft with empathy, tenderness and rage. It lifts a mirror up to contemporary systems of oppression and, in language that is both vivid and accessible, asks hard questions of our current world.

Find out more about the collection and read further sample poems on the Bloodaxe website.

Claire Askew was born in 1986 and grew up in the rural Scottish Borders. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing & Contemporary Women’s Poetry from the University of Edinburgh. After living in Edinburgh for many years, she is currently based in Carlisle.

In 2013 she won the International Salt Prize for Poetry, and in 2014 was runner-up for the inaugural Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for Scottish poets under 30 for an earlier version of her first book-length collection, This changes things, which was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. This changes things was also shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award 2016, the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for First Full Collection 2017 and the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize 2017.

Claire has been a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion (2016/7), a Jessie Kesson Fellow (2017) and the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (2017-2019). Also a novelist, her award-winning Edinburgh-based DI Birch series is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Find out more about Claire and her work on her website and follow her 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.

The Lives of Jazz Fathers

Let’s resurrect the trumpet players;
           the saxophonists named for fauna gone 
extinct in the Congos and Barrios, 
           the worship and wail, the shadow song

of 40s Noir — black and white ailments
           of New York’s terminally cool.
There are no more quartets —
           only quartered ensemble split from 

cities coated to chin, faces blurred white
           in pedestrian winds and yellow cabs.
Now, the drummers search estate sales, rummage
           for swivel stools to post on Etsy. The bassists 

study Phlebotomy, read blood panels for Diabetes.
           The pianists work dental offices, drill tartars
to reveal the whites of cuspids. The saxophonists
           teach Tai Chi classes, sleep at the Chinatown Y. 

I mean to say I miss them: the notes who stroll
           October for pick up chess in parks
with coffees and fingerless gloves; the chop
           chords at brick-and-mortar steak houses; 

the soloists smile in the amber memory
           of nightclubs numb with intoxication.
They’re dead – the blue veranda is silent
           where they jammed, moon drift in palm
leaves and ivory; notes of copper and zinc.

by Jacob Anthony Ramírez

Listen to Jacob reading ‘The Lives of Jazz Fathers’

We’re delighted to share the second of two poems from new pamphlets published by our own ignitionpress. This week we feature work by Jacob Anthony Ramírez from his pamphlet Kitchen Boombox, that we’ll soon be launching alongside Finishing School by Michaela Coplen (which we featured last week). Join us online on Saturday 16 July or in person at our London launch on Tuesday 19 July to hear from these wonderful collections! We’re delighted to say that the London event, which will be taking place at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, will also include readings from three other ignitionpress poets: Fathima Zahra, Katie Byford, and Joanna Ingham. Both the online and in-person events are free to attend, and we hope to see you there! You can read more about the two pamphlets, hear the poets discuss them, and buy copies on our website now.

‘The Lives of Jazz Fathers’ is copyright © Jacob Anthony Ramírez, 2022, and is reprinted here from Kitchen Boombox (ignitionpress, 2022).

In these vulnerable, revelatory poems, Jacob Anthony Ramírez conjures the voices of his past, the matriarchs, and the ghosts, to confess his longing for love and acceptance. Influenced by American Jazz and Mexican magic, Kitchen Boombox sings its blues of family, grief, and identity to celebrate a survival of tenderness. Where the kitchen meets the concert and the streets meet the church, Ramírez swerves from measured line to fractured form in this prismatic soundscape where dangers lurk and the sacred awaits. 

You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on our website.

Jacob Anthony Ramírez is a poet, educator, and visual artist from California. He is the recipient of Lancaster University’s Portfolio Prize where he earned his Creative Writing MA with distinction. He is the founding editor-in-chief of Cloverse – a literary magazine celebrating Sonoma County’s teen poetry in English, Spanish, and Spanglish.

His poetry appears in various publications, among them, Haymarket Books’ The Breakbeat Poets – LatiNEXT, 2021’s Latino Book Review MagazineThe Indianapolis Review, and The Santa Fe Writers Project. Jacob is pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. His poetry project, tentatively titled ‘The Men We Bury’, investigates heteronormative and machismo culture in Latinx diasporic communities through lenses of dual-identity, fatherhood, and American roots music. His first full-length collection is currently in progress. He teaches literature in California where he lives with his wife and two children.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter.

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 four Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice selections (for A Hurry of EnglishHingeRipe, and Sargam / Swargam) and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020. In 2021, the press won the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. 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.

View

If I were more like my mother, I’d know what to do 
with all these ends — chicken bones, tomato stems, 
the inner ribs of peppers. Another thing for the list of things 

I’ll ignore until I can’t: spiderwebs just out of reach, 
the puddles beneath the fridge. Honestly, I don’t 
remember much about her cancer. It happened 

in a different room it was happening so fast.
Last night, in a fit of genius, we nailed the doorstop
to the floor. Now I can see almost everything: 

the triplets in the garden, the women smoking 
on their steps, a collection of silver cans.
The windows of the funeral home on the corner 

are papered over — crosswords and the tabloid ads
for local naked ladies. Where I grew up, the major roads
are lined with these invitations. Trucks 

shudder to a stop. The pawn shops are always open.
The ghost town only miles away has smouldered
for sixty years — fire caught a vein of coal 

and no one can put it out. Here,
I watch the city trains emerge
from underground. We brace against 

the frequency — they pass at different speeds.
You’re going somewhere, aren’t you? The pavement
winks like a lesson, and the mattress they pushed 

from the neighbour’s house when she died
is still on the kerb — folded, holding its
ankles, flashing the whole wide street. 


by Michaela Coplen


Listen to Michaela read ‘View’


We’re excited this week to share the first of two poems from new pamphlets published by our own ignitionpress. This week we feature work by Michaela Coplen from her pamphlet Finishing School, which we’ll be launching alongside Kitchen Boombox by Jacob Anthony Ramírez. Join us online on Saturday 16 July or in person at our London launch on Tuesday 19 July to hear from these wonderful collections! We’re delighted to say that the London event, which will be taking place at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, will also include readings from three other ignitionpress poets: Fathima Zahra, Katie Byford, and Joanna Ingham. Both the online and in-person events are free to attend, and we hope to see you there!

‘View’ is copyright © Michaela Coplen, 2022, and is reprinted here from Finishing School (ignitionpress, 2022).

From the first poem in Michaela Coplen’s pamphlet, ‘the mind begins this squeaking’ — an urgent impulse that never stops. Finishing School charts a young woman’s growth through an abecedarian form, each poem a letter of the alphabet that marks a different stage of learning. Encountering ‘lessons’ ranging from childhood dress-up games, to instances of intimacy, academic interviews, and funeral planning, the subject navigates an education in womanhood and power — developing her own understandings of vulnerability, ambition, escape. You can find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy (available later this week!) on our website.

Michaela Coplen is a poet and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. She earned her BA from Vassar College, where she served as a poetry editor for the Vassar Review. She was appointed a National Student Poet by First Lady Michelle Obama, and has performed her poetry in venues including Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and the White House.

In 2018, Michaela was awarded a Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in the UK. She completed her MPhil in International Relations at the University of Oxford in 2020, and has continued her studies as a DPhil candidate. Her poems have been published online with The Atlantic and Poets.org as well as in the Bellevue Literary Review and in The Oxonian Review. She won the 2019 Troubadour International Poetry Prize, the 2020 York Poetry Prize, and is included in Here: Poems for the Planet and the 2020 Best New Poets anthology.

You can read more about Michaela’s work 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 four Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice selections (for A Hurry of EnglishHinge, Ripe, and Sargam / Swargam) and Hinge by Alycia Pirmohamed was also shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020. In 2021, the press won the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. 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.