It won’t be a normal year

March 2020

I recognise something of myself
in the panicking woman by the sheds
who counsels us to only plant
low-maintenance things this year
and a few quick crops for pleasure.

She almost acts out dashing in
under cover of dark to harvest.
They’re thinking of shutting down the plots
or saying we can only do an hour.
People take the piss, treating it like parks.

There’s a keening edge in her voice.
Her man looks down, stirring the gentle ash
left at the end of their little bonfire.
You can tell they’ve been through years together –
not years like this but still.

She works a while at weeding
and when we go to say goodbye she says
Sorry – I know it’s the way I cope,
to say the worst and hope for better.
Her sorry eyes. I do the same myself.

We’ve learnt, over the fifteen years,
which plants like the dry light soil.
We know the old guys who have been here forever.
Know how to keep the weeds at an ebb –
bindweed gone, couch grass in abeyance.

It’s the last day bonfires are allowed
before the season proper begins.
Birdsong. Buds on bare apple branches,
leaves opening out like hands. Rhubarb stretches
dragons’ wings. We take down the brassica nets.

We squint our eyes against the drifting smoke.
I almost say out loud, I can almost
see apocalypse. The future is acres
of bramble, nettle, the flourishing
of flag-waving luscious seeding grass.

by Ramona Herdman

‘It won’t be a normal year’ is copyright © Ramona Herdman, 2022, and is reprinted here from Glut (Nine Arches Press, 2022) by permission of Nine Arches. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Notes from Nine Arches:

Glut, by Norwich-based writer Ramona Herdman, is a darkly funny and open-hearted book about, as the poet describes, “how we live together and find meaning through the various rules and rituals that surround food, family, alcohol, work, nature, sex and love.”

In these candid and playful poems, appetites of all kinds are explored, from cocktails and cheeseboards, to sex and power. Herdman deftly presents the vulnerable underbelly of human experience, but with kindness and empathy. Poems in Glut look at relationships, interdependence, addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, pain and chaos. Yet overarching all these is  vitality and a lust for life.

Victoria Kennefick, the TS Eliot Prize-nominated poet, observes: “It is appropriate that this miraculous collection ends on the word ‘love’ as the poems pulsate with that most essential of emotions: ‘Come home safe / Come home love.’ Glut is a true and rare gift.” You can read more about Glut on the Nine Arches website.

Ramona Herdman’s latest pamphlet, A warm and snouting thing (The Emma Press), was shortlisted in the poetry category of East Anglican Book Awards. Her previous pamphlet Bottle (HappenStance Press) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. One of her poems was chosen for the Poetry Archive’s WorldView 2021 and another won the Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize, 2017. Ramona lives in Norwich and is a committee member for Café Writers.

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

Nine Arches Press was founded in 2008 and emerged from an awareness of the national literary landscape and a desire to provide a platform for new and emerging poets. Our titles have been widely acclaimed and shortlisted for national prizes including the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize, the Forward Prizes, TS Eliot Poetry Prize, the Ted Hughes Award, the Michael Murphy Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Polari Prize. Nine Arches has published over 120 poetry publications, and 29 issues of Under the Radar magazine, and provides a year-round programme of workshops, events, as well as priding themselves as publisher that uniquely provides writer development and mentoring. Nine Arches Press is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and its Director / Editor is Jane Commane. Read more about the press on the Nine Arches website, and follow Nine Arches on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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