Post-fire Forest

Shadows of shadows without canopy,
phalanxes of carbonized trunks and
snags, their inner momentum shorted-out.
They surround us in early morning
like plutonic pillars, like mute clairvoyants
leading a Sursum Corda, like the excrescence
of some long slaughter. All that moves
is mist lifting, too indistinct to be called
ghostly, from scorched filamental
layers of rain-moistened earth. What
remains of the forest takes place
in the exclamatory mode. Cindered
utterances in a tongue from which
everything trivial has been volatilized,
everything trivial to fire. In a notch,
between near hills stubbled
with black paroxysm, we spot
a familiar sun, liquid glass globed
at the blowpipe’s tip. If this landscape
is dreaming, it must dream itself awake.

You have, everyone notes, a rare talent
for happiness. I wonder how
to value that, walking through wreckage.
On the second day, a black-backed
woodpecker answers your call, but we
search until twilight without finding it.


by Forrest Gander


Two brief notices: we recently launched our international poetry competition, which is judged this year by Caroline Bird. And we’re looking forward to an upcoming poetry event in Oxford with John Hegley and a ‘heartbreak poetry slam’ – join us by getting your tickets from the Old Fire Station website. You can find out more about our work in our latest newsletter or on social media – we’re @brookespoetry.

‘Post-fire Forest’ is copyright © Forrest Gander, 2022, and is reprinted here from Your Nearness (Arc Publications, 2022) by permission of Arc. It was first published in The New Yorker in April 2021, where you can also hear Forrest Gander read it. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Arc Publications:

Forrest Gander’s book Your Nearness explores the relationship between the natural and the human worlds, focussed especially on the state of California, where he lives. As the poet John Burnside has written, ‘Forrest Gander knows that the poet’s first duty is “to see what’s there and not already patterned by familiarity” – and in Your Nearness he brings to that task a combination of vision, generosity of spirit and humility in the face of wonder that singles him out as one of the finest, and most vigilant, poets working in English today.’

You can read more about the book on the Arc website, where you can also buy a copy.

Forrest Gander, a writer and translator with degrees in geology and literature, was born in the Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, and taught at Harvard University before becoming the AK Seaver Professor at Brown University.

His work has long been associated with environmental concerns. Among Gander’s most recent books are Be With, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, the novel The Trace, and Core Samples from the World. Gander’s translations include Alice Iris Red Horse: Poems by Gozo Yoshimasu and Then Come Back: the Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.

He has a history of collaborating with artists such as Ann Hamilton, Sally Mann, Graciela Iturbide and Vic Chesnutt. Recipient of grants from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting and United States Artists foundations, Gander lives in northern California.

You can find out more about Forrest Gander’s work on his website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc 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.

Eye of the Times

This is the eye of the times:
it looks out slant
under a seven-colour brow.
Its lid is bathed in flames,
its tear is steam.

The blind star flies at it
and melts on the hotter lash:
the world grows warm,
and the dead
break bud, and blossom.

Auge der Zeit

Dies ist das Auge der Zeit:
es blickt scheel
unter siebenfarbener Braue.
Sein Lid wird von Feuern gewaschen,
seine Träne ist Dampf.

Der blinde Stern fliegt es an
und zerschmilzt an der heißeren Wimper:
es wird warm in der Welt,
und die Toten
knospen und blühen.

Paul Celan, translated by Jean Boase-Beier


This translation is copyright © Jean Boase-Beier, 2021, and is reprinted here from Eye of the Times (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Jean Boase-Beier and Arc Publications:

Notable in this poem, from the early 1950s, is the use of Jewish symbols – fire, star, eye, the number seven – many of which became personal symbols for Celan. In his poems eyes suggest life, point of view and engagement, but often also the Jewish folk belief in the Evil Eye. And because, in German, dice have eyes rather than dots, eyes also suggest chance.

There have been many translations of Celan, each reflecting a different angle of approach to what is generally agreed to be his very complex poetry. Celan was known to have a special interest in language, in the way words work and the way in which they can be misused and can misrepresent – this is why he so often revised his poetry. Jean Boase-Beier’s particular approach to translating Celan focuses on his use of words, and her illuminating introduction and her notes contextualizing each of the poems in this chapbook are invaluable in helping the reader to their own interpretation. You can watch Celan’s translator, Jean Boase-Beier, discussing the collection with Philip Wilson in a video available on the Arc YouTube channel.

Paul Celan, who was born Paul Antschel, is widely considered to be one of the foremost European poets of the twentieth century. Born in 1920 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Czernowitz, at that time a multicultural city in Romania, he spent a short time studying Medicine in France before the start of the Second World War forced him to return. Back in Czernowitz, he began to write and translate poems, while studying French and Russian, but persecution of the Jews led to the deportation of his parents to a concentration camp, where his father died and his mother was shot. This sudden loss was to lead to severe trauma from which Celan never recovered. After the war he went to Paris, where he worked as a university lecturer in German, and won many awards for his poetry. In spite of his success, he was increasingly troubled by uncertainty, lack of self-belief, and mental disturbance. He drowned himself in the Seine in 1970.

The translator, Jean Boase-Beier, is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded and ran the MA in Literary Translation. Besides her translations of Rose Ausländer , she has translated poetry by Volker von Törne and Ernst Meister, which also appeared with Arc Publications. Jean has written extensively on translation, especially the translation of poetry. Her latest book for Arc is Poetry of the Holocaust: An Anthology (edited with Marian de Vooght, 2019). Find out more about Jean’s work on the Arc website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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.

Green-tinted Roses

I saw in an ice-white
garden the winter light
had coloured
the yellow rose and its stalk
don’t say
it’s a marvellous strain
leaving me nothing
to marvel at
it grew to
some height on its own
by the side of a road
yet nobody
dared
clip its wings
It came to me
like a lover
holding her breath.

by Esther Dischereit

Grünstichige Rosen

sah ich in einem eisweißen Garten
stehen das Winterlicht
hatte die gelbe Rose
mit ihrem Stengel gefärbt
sag nicht
es ist eine wundersame Sorte
damit ich nichts mehr
zu staunen hätte
sie wuchs in
einer Höhe als eine einzige
am Rand einer Straße
und doch wagte es
niemand sie an den Flügeln
zu stutzen
Sie kam mir entgegen
wie eine Geliebte
und hielt inne.


This poem is copyright © Esther Dischereit, 2020, translated by Iain Galbraith, and is reprinted here from Sometimes a Single Leaf: Selected Poems (Arc Publications, 2020) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Whether in poetry, fiction, radio drama or sound installations, Esther Dischereit’s work represents a unique departure in recent European writing: a distinctive, off-beat syntax of German-Jewish intimacy with the fractured consciousness and deeply rutted cultural landscape of today’s Germany. Sometimes a Single Leaf, mirroring the development of Esther Dischereit’s poetry across three decades, includes selections from three of her books as well as a sampling of more recent, uncollected poems. It is her first book of poetry in English translation and was the Poetry Book Society’s Recommended Translation for Winter 2019.

Read more about the book and buy a copy on the Arc website.

‘Born in Germany in 1952 to a Jewish mother who had survived the Holocaust in hiding, Esther Dischereit grew up in a haunted society, where the crimes of the recent past were effectively suppressed despite their omnipresent traces. These poems, drawn from published collections spanning the years 1996 to 2007 as well as from more recent work, give voice to disorientation and pain, as well as endurance and resolve, in the unwelcome work of calling history to account, of witnessing to the ghostly “once-weres,” invisible to her contemporaries. A fine preface by the translator Iain Galbraith provides biographical context and introduces rich avenues of interpretation. Galbraith’s translations render very compellingly the sparse lines and subtle rhythms of Dischereit’s free-verse poems.’ (Karin Schutjer, World Literature Today, Summer 2020.)

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

Untold Histories

The poem is not flammable.
Fire is not a poem.
They gravitate towards each other in separate histories
that, once told, are no longer free.
They sail like shreds of clouds across a paper sky:
amber rosewood fig
 

Nieopowiedziane Historie

Wiersz nie jest łatwopalny.
Ogień nie jest wierszem.
Ciążą ku sobie w osobnych historiach,
które, raz opowiedziane, nigdy nie są wolne,
przepływają jak strzępy obłoków po papierowym niebie:
bursztyn rozeta figowiec

by Jacek Gutorow, trans. by Piotr Florczyk

This poem is copyright © Jacek Gutorow, 2021, translated by Piotr Florczyk, and is reprinted here from Invisible (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Mark Ford, who has written an introduction to Gutorow’s book, Invisible

Invisible is a teasing title for a collection of poetry. [Wallace] Stevens, with whose work Jacek Gutorow has a deep and sustained engagement, suggested in ‘The Creations of Sound’, that poems should “make the visible a little hard / To see”. […] Both Gutorow and Stevens develop a poetic medium that maintains an oscillating dialectic between the seen and the unseen. The invisible operates not as an occlusion of reality, but as an aura saturating what is described; images are gently prised from the contexts of time and place and invested with a mysterious in-between life…’

Invisible was selected by the Poetry Book Society as its Translation Choice for Autumn 2021. You can buy a copy on the Arc website.

Jacek Gutorow was born near Opole (Poland) in 1970. He has published eight volumes of poetry, six collections of critical essays, a monograph on Wallace Stevens and a fake diary. His translations include Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery, Charles Tomlinson, Mark Ford and Simon Armitage. He teaches American literature at the University of Opole and edits Explorations. A Journal of Language and Literature. You can read more about Jacek’s work on the European Writers website and via Culture.pl (in Polish, unless you make use of Google Translate or other online translation!).

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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.

Lines given with a Penwiper

I have compassion on the carpeting,
   And on your back I have compassion too.
The splendid Brussels web is suffering
   In the dimmed lustre of each glowing hue;
And you the everlasting altering
   Of your position with strange aches must rue.
Behold, I come the carpet to preserve,
And save your spine from a continual curve.

by Christina Rossett

Listen to the Poetry Centre’s Dr Dinah Roe read and discuss this poem.

This week’s poem by Christina Rossetti marks the beginning of ‘The Fiery Antidote’: our semester-long celebration both of Rossetti and of our colleague Dr Dinah Roe’s research about her and the Pre-Raphaelite movement in art and writing. 

We invite you to join us! Our first event is an online discussion group this Thursday (28 October) from 12-12.45pm when we’ll be looking at Rossetti’s poem ‘Shut Out’. You can sign up for the group and find out more about our events via this link. Everyone is very welcome to attend – all you need to do beforehand is read the poem, which you can find here.

Also this week we launch a new Poetry Centre initiative: monthly Instagram poetry prompts! Curated by Poetry Centre Interns Maleeha and Rhiannon, they are designed to spark inspiration. Write a poem in response to one or more of these prompts, which you can find on our Instagram page from 12pm today (Monday), and e-mail them to us (oxfordbrookespoetry@gmail.com) by the end of the week. We’ll select the best and post them on Instagram next week!

‘Lines given with a Penwiper’ was composed on 20 November 1847, when Rossetti was a teenager and caring for her father. It was not published during Rossetti’s lifetime and is in the public domain. You can hear Dinah read the poem and discuss it here.

Born in London in 1830, Christina Rossetti was one of four children (her siblings included the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti). Some of her earliest poems were printed privately, but she also published in the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ. (You can find out more about the Pre-Raphaelites in Dinah’s essay on the British Library website and hear her discuss them in this video about a recent Ashmolean Museum exhibition.)

One of Rossetti’s most famous poems is ‘Goblin Market’, a long fairy tale-like piece that was first published in Goblin Market and Other Poems in 1862, the collection which made her name (despite critiques from figures like John Ruskin, who called the poet’s ‘irregular measures’ a ‘calamity of modern poetry’). You can read a commentary about ‘Goblin Market’ by Dinah on the British Library website.

Often inspired by her Christian faith, Rossetti’s subsequent work (in collections such as A Pageant and Other Poems and Verses) established her as a leading Victorian poet and also a poet for children (Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book).

After her death from cancer in 1894, her brother William Michael Rossetti collected many of her poems in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti in 1904, but her complete poems were not published until Rebecca Crump published The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti (Louisiana State University Press, 1979-1990). Dinah is currently editing a new three-volume edition of The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti (Longman Annotated English Poets), due for publication in 2025.

Find out more about Dinah’s research on ‘The Fiery Antidote’ page.

Kitchen Window, Wells-next-the-Sea


The window of the second kitchen
in what was once a railway house
     looks out on salt-flecked

stones hauled from the sea
and a latticed fence
     where sweetpeas climbed

in summer, now flakes of paper
by a single frozen rose.
     Through the middle pane

another window
where a woman wearing an apron
     leans over

a sink of bubbles,
below the clock above the cupboard,
     her pearl earring framed

by a wave of wavy hair
as she leans and dips
     while from somewhere

out of this grey afternoon the sun
alights on the casement
     and a gold leaf rises. Light hovers

then brightens, follows her
as she enters another room,
      then another.

by Mara Bergman

The Poetry Centre has just launched the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition for 2021! Our judge this year is the fantastic poet Will Harris and as usual there are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. Winners in each category receive £1000 and runners-up, £200. For more details and to enter, please visit our website.

This poem is copyright © Mara Bergman, 2021, and it is reprinted here from The Night We Were Dylan Thomas (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy on the Arc website.

Notes from Arc:

Writing about The Night We Were Dylan Thomas, poet Jackie Wills has commented: ‘Like a great photographer, Mara Bergman celebrates the moment and detail at the core of memory. Together, her poems show the great changes families experience – the free and fearless life of a young woman set alongside a dying mother hanging on so she can hold a great-grandchild, the one-sided conversations we have with the dead.

Her dynamism is infectious – you are drawn into this family’s wonder, love, compassion, grief and happiness. Bergman’s poems remind me of Pablo Neruda’s belief in the driving force of love: ‘Hold on to that, don’t let it get away …’ and one of the final poems, ‘The Happiness’, delivers the book’s message: ‘Before it leaves, I will bury it deep enough to save.’

After reading these poems, you’ll feel braced and ready, you’ll feel wiser and more generous, you’ll want to hold on to moments that contain your own astonishment.’

You can read more about the book and buy a copy on the Arc website.

Mara Bergman grew up in Wantagh, New York, and graduated from the State University of New York at Oneonta. During her third year, she studied at Goldsmiths College and later made her home in the UK.

Mara’s poetry has been published widely in the UK and abroad. Her collection The Tailor’s Three Sons and Other New York Poems won the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition and was published by Seren in 2015. In 2016, Crossing Into Tamil Nadu won a Templar Quarterly Pamphlet Competition. Her poems have been awarded prizes in the Troubadour competition and the Kent & Sussex Open Competition, among others. Her first full-length poetry collection, The Disappearing Room, was published by Arc Publications in 2018.

Mara works in London as an editor and is also an award-winning author of more than twenty books for young children. She lives with her husband in Tunbridge Wells and has three grown-up children. Find out more about Mara’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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.

[phlox]

phlox

comes from the Greek for flame 

perhaps whoever named it
was thinking of its bright colour

though in the painting ‘La femme aux Phlox’ it’s the form which impresses
the Cubists’ exhibition at the start of last century

in the language of flowers phloxes are united hearts

in the language of war it’s an artillery unit
remarkable for its accuracy of fire
a journalist writes:
the factory is confident this new weapon
will find its consumer

in the kingdom of war
there are other flowers too

hyacinth: a gun with a 152mm calibre
(like a drainpipe hole)
carnation: a 122mm howitzer
(like a grapefruit)
cornflower: a mortar with a range of 18 metres
(like a bowhead whale)

maybe these are the flowers of evil
to which certain butterflies flock
or rather
butterfly mines
these fit in your palm
and weigh only 90 grams

like a newborn kitten
or a bar of soap
I weigh it in my hand

the bathroom is quiet and safe

trusting naivety

hyacinths carnations and phloxes
blaze in the neighbour’s yard

by Volha Hapeyeva

translated from Belarusian by Annie Rutherford

This poem is copyright © Volha Hapeyeva, 2021, the translation is © Annie Rutherford, and it is reprinted here from In My Garden of Mutants (Arc Publications, 2021) by permission of Arc. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Arc website.

Notes from Arc:

In My Garden of Mutants, a bilingual chapbook, offers an introduction to the work of the prize-winning Belarusian poet Volha Hapeyeva, in Annie Rutherford’s beautifully modulated translations. The chapbook was a winner of an English PEN Translates Award. You can read more about the collection on the Arc website and watch a filmpoem by Clemens Büntig of ‘And She Dreamt about the Word’, another poem from the collection, on YouTube.

Volha Hapeyeva is an award-winning Belarusian poet who also writes prose, drama and occasional books for children, and who collaborates with electronic musicians and visual artists to create audio-visual performances. Her work has been translated into more than 10 languages with poems published in countries including the USA, Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia, Georgia, and Lithuania. She has participated in numerous literary festivals and conferences all over the world. She was awarded the 2019/20 ‘Writer of the City of Graz’, scholarship (Austria) and curated the Days of Poetry and Wine Festival (Slovenia) in 2020. Find out more about Volha’s work on her website.

Annie Rutherford, who has translated Volha’s poems, is a writer, a translator from German, French and Belarusian, and Programme Co-ordinator for StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. She co-founded the literary magazine Far Off Places and Göttingen’s Poetree festival and is currently the fictions editor for The Interpreter’s House. Read more about Annie’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on Facebook and on Twitter.

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.

Flow

from Flow 

The sun is a puppeteer,
stretching the shadows along the day.
They enter the river,
hover like harriers over shimmering reeds.
If the evening fades golden they fold into feathers.
First wings of egrets then black doves of dreams.
When the wind is enraged they huddle like wrens.
Then in the morning the parting of ways.
Some to be gnomons, some to be glades.

[…]

Long quiet here, secluded, safe.
The river has tolerated, sheltered,
Long been their second home.

It was not the river’s fault.
It was the rain; it was the wind.
It was not their fault either.
It was the spin of the earth.
It was the Big Bang.

But the rain fell. The river swelled.
Then the invasion. The run on the bank.
The nest eggs washed away.

The sand martins leave.
No pianos on carts.
They just leave.
They have seen it before.
They may not return.

[…] 

Retirement now.
Slow blood
through delta veins.
Long earned,
short right to digress.
And then the sea.
‘The mouth’, we say?
It’s been talking
since spring.


Words by Phil Madden; images by Paul L. Kershaw

There is just time to enter the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition – it closes for entries today (14 September) at 23.00 BST! Our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson, and as always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1,000, with £200 for the runners up. For more details and to enter, visit our website.   

Text is copyright © Phil Madden and images copyright © Paul L. Kershaw, 2020. It is reprinted from Flow (Grapho Editions, 2020) by permission of the author and illustrator. For more details and to see additional images from the book, visit this page.

Notes from Grapho Editions:

These excerpts from the beginning, middle, and end of the book are from Flow, the fifth collaboration between poet Phil Madden and Paul L. Kershaw, printmaker and printer. Phil and Paul have won a number of awards for their books, including the Judges’ Choice Award at the Oxford International Fine Press Fair.

Through a series of words and images set across the open spread, Flow explores ideas around the movement of water, from estuary to spring. The poems have been written over recent years but not with any specific intention of them being part of a collection. They have been gathered together as the project developed and the idea of upstream progress became central. The images are a mix of the representational and abstract and are relief prints. Occasional small wood engravings combine with much larger shapes and textures. The book has been printed using an Albion press and a cylinder press. There are 50 copies in the edition and it is available to buy.

You can find out more about the book on Paul’s website, where you can also learn more about Phil and Paul’s ongoing collaboration.

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.

Cherwell valley nightscape –14 April 2020


No contrails blur the stars.
The Oxford road is free of cars.

Train wheels ring on distant rails.
Somewhere near a hunting owl screeches for a mate.

The Milky Way’s a champagne spume
unchallenged by an absent moon.

I borrow a breath of this shining air.
The vastness swallows what I offer in return.

by Carl Tomlinson

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. For more details and to enter, visit our website

The Centre also recently released a new online publication: the e-anthology ‘My teeth don’t chew on shrapnel’: an anthology of poetry by military veterans. This anthology features exciting, moving, and provocative work by US and UK veterans who were participants in workshops held by the Poetry Centre in 2019-20 and also includes writing about veterans (including an essay by WWI expert Jane Potter) and some writing prompts by Susie Campbell for anyone interested in developing their own writing. The anthology is free to download from the Poetry Centre website and we would very much welcome your feedback! E-mail us or fill out the short form on the site.

‘Cherwell valley nightscape – 14 April 2020’ is copyright © Carl Tomlinson, 2020. It is reprinted from The Scriptstuff Lockdown Anthology (Scriptstuff Entertainment, 2020) by permission. You can read more about the anthology here.

This week’s poem by Oxfordshire poet Carl Tomlinson comes from The Scriptstuff Lockdown Anthology, published by Leamington-based arts organisation Scriptstuff Entertainment. The anthology, edited by Scriptstuff Poetry founder Mike Took, includes contributions from 45 local poets both amateur and professional, each of whom has written about the impact of the pandemic on their lives, families, health and future and each of whom has previously supported or performed at a Scriptstuff Poetry event. Scriptstuff Poetry has been running several regular and one-off poetry events across the Midlands for a number of years and also organises the annual Leamington Poetry Festival. 

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology will support the rising costs of Scriptstuff’s ongoing activities, including poetry outreach initiatives into new communities and keeping the entire Leamington Poetry Festival free for everyone to attend. Find out more about the anthology and Scriptstuff’s work on the website and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter to see if there is an event near you!

Carl Tomlinson is a poet, an independent business advisor, and a coach. He is a Chartered Accountant with a BA in Spanish and French Language and Literature. He completed his MA in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes University in 2019 during which his dissertation explored the nature of the Romantic Imagination and its applicability to coaching. He has been a regular attendee at the Scriptstuff Poetry night in Banbury, where he became such a popular contributor that in April 2019 he was the headline guest. In late 2019, Carl won the Shout Out for the Oxford Covered Market competition and you can watch Carl read his winning poem, ‘Market Forces’, here.

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.

Compassion, the life blood of the NHS


We are here for you 24/7, in your darkest, most vulnerable and weakest moments.
We are the holding of a hand to show you we are here through it all. 
We are people who make porridge at 4am for that eight-year-old boy whose beloved
granddad just died and was in need of distraction. 
We are the first people you see when you wake up after surgery and tell you it all went
well. 
We are the ears who listen to that 90-year-old lady recite from memory her favourite poem
perfectly because no family comes to visit. 
We are the eyes you show your wounds to which we dress without batting an eyelid.
We are the assistants who help you learn to walk again, and who motivate you to try again
after failing.
We are the people who make you a cup of tea after you find out the child you were
carrying will never be born alive.
We are the carers who shave you when you can’t, so you look smart for your wife even in
your hospital bed.
We are the staff who learn to sign their name so they can communicate in a way you
understand.
We are the staff that turn up every day and see so much. In this neverending battle we still
try. A little compassion goes further than you may ever know.
We are the NHS.

by Sarah Quinn

This week we are very pleased to share a poem by a nursing student at Oxford Brookes, Sarah Quinn. At a moment when the National Health Service is being given more attention and under even more pressure than usual, it’s great to be able to hear from someone like Sarah who is able to reflect on the challenges and rewards that come from working in the NHS. We’d like to thank Sarah for sharing the poem and send our grateful thanks also to all health workers for everything they are doing during such a difficult time.

‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’ is copyright © Sarah Quinn, 2020. It is reprinted by permission of the author. 

Sarah Quinn is a second-year Master’s student in Adult Nursing at Oxford Brookes and lives in Oxford. In addition, she is a nursing assistant – a role which she thoroughly enjoys. She also a keen interest in art, especially how this can be used as a medium for mental health promotion. She is an avid photographer with an eagle eye for seeing the beauty in the everyday. 

Sarah writes: ‘The prompt for writing this poem, ‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’, was a call to arms by an artist who wished to roll out an art project putting up posters in staff break rooms across the whole of the NHS (you can find the artist on Instagram: @notestostrangers). He asked for inspiration of what it was like to work within the NHS and why we do what we do.

At the end of a very busy, stressful and emotionally-tolling twelve-hour shift I was walking home mulling over my day (nearly in tears). In this moment of reflection I started to write on my phone to remind myself I am there for those patients and how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing colleagues.

Now more than ever the NHS is a symbol of hope and needs to be protected. I have personally looked after patients suffering with COVID-19 and seen both sides of this pandemic: the pressure that this puts on family, friends, businesses and people’s way of life. So for people out there reading this, know that your everyday sacrifices are making a difference on the front line. Together we can get through this and a little compassion goes a long way.’

You can find out more about nursing at Oxford Brookes here.

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.