The Humanist

She stands at the sink
runs the cold tap over
wrists raw with eczema,
moving her hands
like a child cradling a doll,
wrist bones kissing,
sore skin drinking in relief.
She cups her hands,
lets water pool over
the blisters in her palms
that match the blisters
on the tops of her feet.
Her ‘stigmata’, she jokes.
though she has no
corresponding wound
in her side. No faith.

by Degna Stone

‘The Humanist’ is copyright © Degna Stone, 2022, and is reprinted here from Proof of Life on Earth (Nine Arches Press, 2022) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

You live and then you die. That’s the only certainty there is, right? Using love as its guide, Proof of Life on Earth, the debut poetry collection by Degna Stone, looks at all the stops between our arrival and our departure. These poems examine matters of the heart (both the metaphorical and medical kind), of race and discrimination, of the body, mind and self – each in forensic detail, attentive and curious of what moves, shapes, and makes us alive.

In between are the landmarks which populate the rich terrain of this collection; not only of our lives through youth to adulthood, but of history, of the long shadows of empire, and of landscapes themselves – especially those of the northeast of England, evocative, rugged and monumental. Stone’s deft and scalpel-sharp poetry explores human existence shaped by mortality and experience, and asks what it means to do more than survive – to live in defiance, openness and awareness.

Originally from the Midlands, Degna Stone is a poet and poetry editor based in north east England. They are co-founder and former Managing Editor of  Butcher’s Dog poetry magazine, and a Contributing Editor at The Rialto. They received a major Northern Writers Award for poetry in 2015. Proof of Life on Earth (Nine Arches Press, 2022) is their debut poetry collection.

You can find more about Degna on their website.

Praise for Proof of Life on Earth

“What a joy, at last, to hold Degna Stone’s debut. They are a spellbinding poet: passionate, political and precise. Their poems lay bare the human heart and what it means to love and be loved in a world full of trouble. Unafraid of the ragged seams of life, they hold us, all our sorrows and failings, with the deepest compassion, urging us to be bold, take the risk and make the world better.” – Liz Berry

“Degna Stone’s measured words, structure and style offers their first full collection as a philosophy on life. It evokes fear as they grapple with the near death of their husband, although simultaneously provides a meditative spirit as they root themselves in wild, beautiful English landscapes as a coping mechanism. Yet there are poems which surprise us, too, knee-jerking us into sharing their harsh realities of life. With Proof of Life on Earth, Degna Stone slides smoothly into a deserved position as one of the polished poetic voices to emerge this year.” – Dr. Kadija Sesay

Proof of Life on Earth takes the weight of a woman’s heart and balances on the scales of life and death.” – Nick Makoha

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.

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.