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
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.
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 English, Hinge, 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.