A popular history of urban planning

Concrete says
any shape you can dream

The streets say damp, rubble
rat, wind, rack-rent and fist. 

The best view from here is of the future
a sky in a frame on the wall 

morning blue or neon-bright
full of pleasuredomes and expressways. 

The apartment has doors you can close at will.
Enough space for your thoughts 

an inside toilet. A life
without layers: just thin fabric 

between you and the room. There is even
hot water. England says yes 

breathes in the dust that was a ceiling rose
rescues fireplaces for the suburbs 

growls, from the new artery
at the sober dawn of its promise 

stained, broken, lonely
its own brief surrender to hope.  


by Tom Sastry

You can watch Tom read this poem on Nine Arches Press’s YouTube channel.


Some news about this e-mail! For a number of years, the Weekly Poem e-mail has been a space both to share poetry and as the Poetry Centre’s newsletter. Later this week we are launching a new newsletter that will appear every month, so the Weekly Poem will now just feature each week’s poem. 

So, if you’d like to keep up with the Poetry Centre’s activities and receive information about ignitionpress, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter at this link or follow us on social media (links at the bottom of this message).

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‘A popular history of urban planning’ is copyright © Tom Sastry, 2022, and is reprinted here from You have no normal country to return to (Nine Arches Press, 2022) by permission of Nine Arches. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy from the press website.

Tune in to Tom’s joint online book launch with Julia Webb on 26 May. To register, visit this Eventbrite page.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

In You have no normal country to return to, Tom Sastry explores questions of national identity and ‘the end of history’. A blistering, bleakly funny and timely second poetry collection, following his Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize shortlisted debut, A Man’s House Catches Fire

By turns crisply satirical and questioning, You have no normal country to return to ranges across the legacies of Empire, postwar migration and the current crisis in English identity. Sastry’s precise, brilliantly attuned poetry asks how the times we live in and the tales we tell about them affect us; how our emotional landscapes are shaped by national myths and the more personal stories we tell about ourselves. It is a book about illusion, and discovering, again and again, that what was once taken for granted was never really there; a guidebook for an age of ‘enchantments collapsing on themselves’. 

Find out more about the collection and buy a copy on the Nine Arches website.

Tom Sastry has been described by Hera Lindsay Bird as a ‘magician of deadpan’. He was chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as one the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. Since then, his poems have appeared in The GuardianPoetry Review and he has been highly commended in the Forward Prize. 

Tom’s first collection A Man’s House Catches Fire was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize. His pamphlet, Complicity was a Poetry School Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society pamphlet choice. Tom lives and works in Bristol. You can follow him on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. 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.

that night, I saw god under a traffic light

he told me how he’d had to leave his wife and son that week.
dreams that drop him in a ditch of cold sweat in the night.
how they’re better off without him: without him, a better life.
I offered him a rollie. he said they made him think of burnt hair

and we are there: shrapnel and mist, dead friends fizzing
around him like leaves; a body twisting against his camo vest
but he can’t get close enough, he’s using his bare hands
to put out the little girl on fire – and I remember him

reaching with raw eyes underneath a traffic light: guilt
for the part he played, hunger and hatred for himself; grief
is a heavy thing that’s difficult to put down, even now
he’s handing me this story, as if to say: hold her.


by Shaun Hill

he Poetry Centre is delighted to announce two new ignitionpoets! Pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Ramírez will be published in June and you can find out more about the poets on our website.

‘that night, I saw god under a traffic light’ is copyright © Shaun Hill, 2021 and is reprinted from warm blooded things (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Shaun Hill’s debut poetry collection, warm blooded things, is a radical and intimate encounter with boyhood, sexuality, and violence, love, desire and solitude. Wandering the nocturnal city streets, through random encounters, co-opting space and capturing conversations in a multitude of voices, this collection evokes alienation whilst longing for tenderness.

Hill’s agile poems are alive to fear, loss, danger – and to the possibility of other ways of being, other, better stories that we can write. The poems also explore a uniquely queer archive of time and place, the legacy of AIDS, and draw strength from giving voice to unheard histories. Seeking sanctuary and alternatives to a capitalist reality, these precise, humane poems gesture towards hope, survival and the necessity to be responsible for one another.

Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Shaun Hill is a queer writer exploring post-capitalist ways of being. He is a recipient of an Apple and Snakes | Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance Award for 2020. Shaun has shared his words widely at festivals across the UK and has facilitated for a range of organisations including: Birmingham Buddhist Centre, City of Culture, and Out on the Page. He has completed commissions for Overhear, Verve Poetry Festival, and appeared on BBC Radio 4. Thirty of his poems have been published, in anthologies such as Eighty-Four: Poems on Male Suicide, and magazines like Magma and StreetCakewarm blooded things is his first collection.

You can find out more about Shaun and his work on his website and follow him on Instagram.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press  here 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.

Drokpa

‘Longing, we say, because desire is full / of endless distances.’
– Robert Hass
In another life, my father
must have been a nomad.
He drinks butter tea,
knows his way around a saddle,
turns the living room into open rangeland.
There are horses at the door,
nudging their big noses into the hallway,
familiar to him as brothers.
Everywhere we turn they are
stamping down the carpet, swinging wide,
sweating hard, and right in the centre
of that heaving bunch of muscle,
dad pours out the door like wind,
loose bridle, easy seat, running like hell.
In Tibetan, drokpa means ‘people of the solitudes’,
as if solitude was open country
in which we learn early
to lean into the gale, to forage old ground.
He does not dwell long,
disappears for seasons at a time
and we came to realise the way he loves
is the way a horse makes a break for it,
steaming, impatient, expectant,
body corded tight. Horses like clouds
scudding across fields of grass, wild iris,
lashed canvas. He takes off, bad back and all.
His heart opens like a valley.

by Cynthia Miller

The Poetry Centre has 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. 

‘Drokpa’ is copyright © Cynthia Miller, 2021 and is reprinted from Honorifics (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Cynthia Miller’s debut poetry collection, Honorifics, is an astonishing, adventurous, and innovative exploration of family, Malaysian-Chinese cultural identity, and immigration. From jellyfish blooms to glitch art and distant stars, taking in Greek gods, space shuttles and wedding china along the way, Miller’s mesmerizing approach is experimental, luscious, and expansive with longing – ‘My skin hunger could fill a galaxy’.

Here, the poetry is interwoven with the words for all the things we honour – our loved ones and our ancestors, home and homecomings, and all that is precious and makes us feel that we belong and are beloved. It is also a book that examines contemporary issues of migration in sharp and enquiring relief. Language itself becomes a radical power for reimaging, challenging, and making change, and Miller’s distinctive and multifaceted poetry creates an extraordinary space for multiplicity and celebration.

You can read more about the collection – and buy a copy – on the Nine Arches website, and watch the recent launch of the book via YouTube.

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AmbitThe RialtoButcher’s DogPoetry Birmingham Literary Journalharana poetryThe Best New British and Irish Poets and Primers Volume Two. She is also Co-Founder of the Verve Poetry Festival. Honorifics has been shortlisted for the 2021 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

Read more about Cynthia’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. You can also read an interview with Cynthia that was conducted to celebrate her shortlisting for the Forward Prize.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

Learning to Love in Greek


They said beware eros, though many
begin with madness. Learn to fall
in love with dancing – this is ludic,
the love you felt for skipping ropes
or bikes. If eros and ludus combine
you may suffer mania, the white blood
of the moon that petrifies. Grow phillia,
the love of football fans on terraces.
Chant together. Fight with the same heart. 

If you have children or a puppy
you’ll know storgi, it rhymes with be.
It sits at kitchen tables, magnetises
crayon drawings to fridges. If you don’t
have these, you may feel storgi
from an old aunt, a mate. A lover
might see the child hiding in you
from a cowlick of grey that won’t
be brushed straight. Then philautia,
loving the self. Not so easy. For others,
who dive into pools of themselves,
too easy. Be your own best friend.
When love moves into a house
with a mortgage and enough space
for the future, this is pragma.
To stand in love comes after falling.
Pray you’ll land on your feet. 

Above all, agapè – when you forget
who you are and take someone’s hand.

by Maria Taylor

‘Learning to Live in Greek’ is copyright © Maria Taylor, 2020 and is reprinted from Dressing for the Afterlife (Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Dressing for the Afterlife is a diamond-tough and tender second collection of poems from British Cypriot poet Maria Taylor, which explores love, life, and how we adapt to the passage of time. From the steely glamour of silent film-star goddesses to moonlit seasons and the ghosts of other possible, parallel lives, these poems shimmy and glimmer bittersweet with humour and brio, as Taylor conjures afresh a world where Joan Crawford feistily simmers and James Bond’s modern incarnation is mistaken for an illicit lover.

Consistently crisp and vivid, these poems examine motherhood, heritage and inheritance, finding stories woven in girlhood’s faltering dance-steps, the thrum of the sewing-machine at the end-days of the rag trade, or the fizz and bubble of a chip-shop fryer. And throughout, breaking through, is the sense of women finding their wings and taking flight – “and her wings, what wings she has” – as Taylor’s own poems soar and defiantly choose their own adventures.

You can read more about the collection and watch Maria read a selection of poems from it on the Nine Arches website. You can also watch the launch of the book on YouTube. In addition to Maria, the launch event featured readings from Mona Arshi and ignitionpress poet Kostya Tsolakis.

Maria Taylor is a British Cypriot poet, critic and reviewer who has been published in The Rialto, Magma and the TLS, among other publications. Her debut collection of poetry, Melanchrini, was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize, and her poetry featured in the Penguin anthology The Poetry of Sex, edited by Sophie Hannah. She has a pamphlet, Instructions for Making Me (2016), and is also the creator of Poetry Bingo, a quirky set of cards which are part-game and part-concrete poem, both from HappenStance. She is also a keen runner and walker and lives in Leicestershire. Read more about Maria’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press  here 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.

Parliament Hill Lido

The clockwork of my father’s body wakes him at 6am,
pulls him by the eyelids out of bed toward the swim,

even in December dawn-drunk lunatics gather on goose-pimpled tiles,
the moon still floating, a lonely body in the sky.

The slap of water rearranges his synapses and as his feet kick
the ripple, his veins turn a serrated blue.

When I tell people about my father and his weirdness
I don’t mention how he speaks less if not for swimming

or those mornings when he returns
hair still wet, the blood bright in his cheeks,

how we cross on the doorstep both trying
to stay in our lane, our bodies in sharper focus.

by Lewis Buxton

We’re excited to announce a new online course from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre designed for anyone who wants to develop their poetry and publish it more widely. Fire Up Your Poetry Practice takes place this June and features outstanding, award-winning tutors like Isabelle Baafi, Kostya Tsolakis, Les Robinson, Susie Campbell, and Mary Jean Chan. Find out more about the course on our website. Please note that the full course option and the session on 15 June are now fully booked up, but you can still book for other individual sessions. See the website for more details.

‘Parliament Hill Lido’ is copyright © Lewis Buxton, 2021 and is reprinted here from Boy in Various Poses (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Boy in Various Poses, a debut collection of poems from Lewis Buxton, explores all the different types of boy you can be – tender, awful, thoughtful, vulnerable. Here, a maelstrom of mental health, male bodies, and sexuality is laid bare with wit and curiosity, and the complexity and multiplicity of gender itself is revealed.

The boy in question is often shapeshifting, slippery, unreliable, close yet never quite in focus, moving too fast to pause and take a breath – yet Buxton studies these boys, their bodies and behaviours, with a disarming intimacy and precision. These poems are provocative, nuanced and often laugh-out-loud funny, shining with a naked, shameless brilliance. Find out more about the collection on the Nine Arches website, where you can also pre-order a copy of the book.

Lewis Buxton was born in 1993 and is a poet, performer and arts producer. His poems have appeared in The RialtoMagmaAmbit and Oxford Poetry. In 2018 he received the UEA Literary Festival Bursary and was named one of The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press’ Primers Volume Four poets. He is Director of the poetry project TOAST and teaches writing in schools and libraries around the country. He currently lives in Norfolk. Boy in Various Poses is his first collection. You can find out more about Lewis’s work from his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

barmouth


mawddach estuary is a glittermouth.
sand breaches both land and sea, half-waves.
coming from two islands supposedly in enmity, i relate.
javanese keep our knives at our backs,
sumatrans at our fronts; is middle ground
a chest prepared for both to pierce.
is seawater planetary blood overflowing. 

would make sense then, what they say will happen,
water’s haemorrhage into habitation. the threatened bajau
have had us all beat, as ocean-based peoples.
i close my eyes and imagine a bajau boy
who knows how to hold his breath until
the body quietly demands inhalation, who could survive
floods, heat, and isolation in white spaces
simply by going for the swims that are birthright,
each gulf a bay of earth-wound spilling welkin-tint
blood, a harbour in which to grieve and return.

by Khairani Barokka

News from the Centre: we’re delighted to say that tomorrow (Tuesday 20 April), this week’s poet, Khairani Barokka, will be giving a talk (via Zoom) at an English and Modern Languages Research Seminar at Oxford Brookes. Her talk is entitled ‘What We Owe the Dead: Multisensorial Materialities, Poem-Ethics, and Digital Surveillance’. The event is free for anyone to attend, and if you’d like the full Zoom details, visit the Poetry Centre Twitter account or contact Niall Munro (niall.munro@brookes.ac.uk).

The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or via the usual podcast providers. 

‘barmouth’ is copyright © Khairani Barokka, 2021 and is reprinted here from Ultimatum Orangutan (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can watch Khairani Barokka read poems from her collection on the Nine Arches YouTube channel, where you can also find a recording of the launch of her new collection.

Notes from Khairani Barokka and Nine Arches Press:

In the poem, Bajau refers to sea-oriented peoples in Southeast Asia. As with other sea-based indigenous communities, their way of life is continually threatened by environmentally and socially destructive processes.

Khairani Barokka’s second poetry collection, Ultimatum Orangutan, is an intricate exploration of colonialism and environmental injustice: her acute, interlaced language draws clear connections between colonial exploitation of fellow humans, landscapes, animals, and ecosystems. Amidst the horrifying damage that has resulted for peoples as interlinked with places, there is firm resistance. Resonant and deeply attentive, the lyricism of these poems is juxtaposed with the traumatic circumstances from which they emerge. Through these defiant, potent verses, the body—particularly the disabled body—is centred as an ecosystem in its own right. Barokka’s poems are every bit as alarming, urgent and luminous as is necessary in the age of climate catastrophe as outgrowth of colonial violence. 

You can watch Khairani Barokka read poems from her collection on the Nine Arches YouTube channel, where you can also find a recording of the launch of her new collection.

Khairani Barokka is a writer and artist from Jakarta, based in London. Her work has been presented widely, in over 15 countries, and work from her Annah, Infinite series of performance installations has been an Artforum Must-See. Among Okka’s honours, she was a UNFPA Indonesian Young Leader Driving Social Change, an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow, and Modern Poetry in Translation’s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence. She is currently Associate Artist at the National Centre for Writing and Research Fellow at UAL’s Decolonising Arts Institute. Okka’s books include Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis; Vietnamese translation, AJAR Press) and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (as co-editor; Nine Arches), and debut collection Rope (Nine Arches). Find out more about Okka’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

The winter inside my mother

Winter was never nailed down, would slip
from my mother like an expletive that had
her reverting to forty below, trawling wastes
of blizzard-bent woods. Evenings, stretched
out on our sofa, she’d place her toes, lunatic
with cold, to burn in my lap. And I pictured her
in stinging drifts, hoar-scald on her face, nearly
a corpse yet scavenging berries for a child
growled to life in the gaping white.
Always the Hibernian in her.
To worship snowfall. To cover her tracks.
And if I could say she ever found her way back
intact, it was only to bequeath the ice-melt stain
in the bureau drawer, with snapshot of her party trick –
to stand out on the road, join a line of leafless maples
and simply go bare.

by Katie Griffiths

The latest Poetry Centre podcast is now live! Poet celeste doaks talks about her wonderful chapbook American Herstory (Backbone Press, 2019), which explores Michelle Obama’s time in the White House and her choice of artwork for the White House walls! Listen via our website or via the usual podcast providers.

‘The winter inside my mother’ is copyright © Katie Griffiths, 2021 and is reprinted here from The Attitudes (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can sign up for the launch of The Attitudes on 22 April via Eventbrite.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Katie Griffiths’ debut poetry collection, The Attitudes, is a search for trust and faith – in the body, in the mind, in all those things we seek to hold on to but cannot. Here, we intimately encounter mortality and tread the balance between visceral wisdom and the intellect, between fragile, fallible bodies, and the mind’s hold over them, between the bright spaces and the haunted ones.

In poems that are bold, effervescent, frequently playful, Griffiths approaches serious subjects – eating disorders, ageing, grieving – with a precise and inventive lyricism. The Attitudes compiles multitudes, with layer upon layer of counterpoints, juxtaposing and exploring the unresolvable, all the while seeking to move towards a place of deeper reflection and stillness away from the noise and distraction of the daily business of being alive. An astute and accomplished book which transforms. Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website and sign up for the launch of The Attitudes on 22 April via Eventbrite.

Katie Griffiths grew up in Ottawa, Canada, in a family originally from Northern Ireland. In 2019 she was awarded second prize in the National Poetry Competition with ‘Do not indulge indigo’ and had the pleasure of reading her own Spanish translation of the poem at the Cosmopoética festival in Cordoba, Spain. Her pamphlet My Shrink is Pregnant (illustrated by Anna Steinberg) was a winner in the Live Canon pamphlet competition. In 2016 she was published in Primers Volume One by Nine Arches Press. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and Red Door Poets, Katie is also singer-songwriter in the band A Woman in Goggles. You can find out more about Katie’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

Pharmacopoeia

And suddenly the plagues
are the most interesting parts
of a city’s history.

1635 stands out as the year
Yersinia Pestis
 took another tithe
from Amsterdam’s population
and Doctor Tulp published his pharmacopoeia
to counter all the bad plague literature. 

Later, he made a Book of Monsters,
wherein blacksmith Jan de Doot
sharpened his knife
and cut out his own bladder stone. 

Tulp signed the fitness reports
for the first Manhattan settlers,
whose ancestors are still singing
Trip a Trap a Tronjes
(The father’s knee is a throne)
four hundred years on –
the old rhyme meaning as much
or as little
as Ring a Ring a Roses.

I imagine a hotel bed,
two plane seats,
empty, waiting.

A space in front of ‘Wheatfield with Crows’,
where he will be overwhelmed by beauty
in a way I am trying to understand
while I brim with dark blue connective ribbons
obscuring, or highlighting,
the place where the path
meets the horizon.

by Kate Fox

News from the Poetry Centre: tune in now to hear ignitionpress poet Belinda Zhawi imagine life as a southern African plains zebra in the Becoming Animal series on Radio 3’s The Essay programme. It’s available to listen to on the BBC website.

‘Pharmacopoeia’ is copyright © Kate Fox, 2021 and is reprinted here from The Oscillations (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website, and register for free to attend the book launch on Eventbrite (please sign up by 12pm on Thursday). If you can’t register in time, you can still watch the launch by visiting the Nine Arches YouTube channel from 7.30pm.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

The poem ‘Pharmacopoeia’ begins poet Kate Fox’s distinctive new collection The Oscillations. The book explores distance and isolation in the age of the pandemic, refracted through the lenses of neurodiversity and trauma in poems that are bold, often frank and funny but also multifarious, dazzling and open-hearted in their self-discoveries. Fox’s poetry explores difference and community, silence and communication, danger and belonging – and a world that has been distinctly broken into a ‘before’ and ‘after’ by the pandemic. Throughout, a strong voice sings of what it means to be many things at once – autistic, creative, northern, a woman. Fox measures not only distances, social or otherwise, but how we breach them, and what the view might be from beyond them. 

Read more about the collection on the Nine Arches website, and register to attend the online launch on 25 February via Eventbrite (or tune into the Nine Arches YouTube channel from 7.30pm).

Kate Fox is a poet based in Northern England who has made two comedy series for Radio 4 and written and performed numerous broadcast poetry commissions as a regular on Radio 3’s The Verb and Radio 4’s Saturday Live. She won the Andrew Waterhouse Award for poetry from New Writing North in 2006. Her previous publications include We Are Not Stone (Ek Zuban, 2006), Fox Populi (Smokestack, 2013) and Chronotopia (Burning Eye Books, 2017). She completed a PhD in performance in 2017 from the University of Leeds, researching Northernness and comedy. She loves swimming outside, spaniels, Doctor Who and big skies. You can read more about Kate’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

City of forbidden shrines

I was almost born in the lunar month of padded clothing
             in the solar term of almost summer
in the season of ringing cicadas
             in the city of forbidden shrines

almost spent a girlhood watching sandstorms
             tearing through the almost golden sunlight
I almost scraped dust off my knees each day for fifteen years
             almost painted paper tigers each year to burn

I could almost hold all the meanings of 家 in my mouth
             without swallowing: [homefamilydomestic
measure word for every almost-place I’ve ever been]
             like the swimming pool turning almost blue
or the mausoleum of almost ten thousand oranges 

here I would have never breathed an ocean
             never held mountains in my hands
                         except in almost-dreams
in which long white clouds drift
                         almost close enough to touch


by Nina Mingya Powles

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition for 2020 is closing for entries soon! 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 £1000, with £200 for the runners up. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visitour website.

‘City of forbidden shrines’ is copyright © Nina Mingya Powles, 2020. It was originally published (in a slightly different form) in Literary Shanghai, and is reprinted here from Magnolia, 木蘭(Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press. Read more about the book here, and watch the book launch on the Nine Arches YouTube channel.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Magnolia, 
木蘭, Nina Mingya Powles’ first full collection, dwells within the tender, shifting borderland between languages, and between poetic forms, to examine the shape and texture of memories, of myths, and of a mixed-race girlhood. Abundant with multiplicities, these poems find profound, distinctive joy in sensory nourishment – in the sharing of food, in the recounting of memoirs, or vividly within nature. This is a poetry deeply attuned to the possibilities within layers of written, spoken and inherited words. A journal of sound, colour, rain and light, these poems also wield their own precise and radical power to name and reclaim, draw afresh their own bold lines. Learn more about the book and buy a copy here.

Nina Mingya Powles is a poet and zinemaker from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently living in London. She is the author of a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai (The Emma Press, 2020), and several poetry pamphlet collections including Luminescent (Seraph Press, 2017) and Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014). In 2018 she was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize, and in 2019 won the Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing. She is the founding editor of Bitter Melon苦瓜, a risograph press that publishes limited-edition poetry pamphlets by Asian writers. Find out more about Nina’s work on  her website and follow her  on Twitter.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.

My mother’s aria

My mother went into labour holding a sledge hammer
in a house with no floorboards or hot water.

My mother went to a hospital with black iron gates
6 weeks early in snow in December.
My dad took cheese sandwiches;
Wear your hair down
 he said.

I was backwards moving forwards
leaving my shoulder behind – my mother roared
while outside the snow got deep.

We are sorry for your loss, we will take care of your wife.
But my mother roared
and the doctor arrived from the Opera

wearing a cape to reach into my mother
and pull me out broken
to my mother’s singing.

We will look after your wife, they told my dad,
as the doctor in his cape left to catch the last aria.


by Hannah Jane Walker

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition for 2020 is open for entries! 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. The deadline for entries is 14 September. For more details and to enter, visit our website.

‘My mother’s aria is copyright © Hannah Jane Walker, 2020. It is reprinted from Primers Volume Five (Nine Arches Press, 2020) by permission of Nine Arches Press. Read more about the book here, and watch the book launch on the Nine Arches YouTube channel.

Hannah Jane Walker is a writer from Essex. She makes work that uses poetry as a way of talking, in theatres, public spaces and for radio, working with BBC Radio 4, the British Council, and Apples and Snakes. With collaborator Chris Thorpe, she has created interactive shows exploring questions which seem too simple to ask, winning a Fringe First and touring the world. Her plays are published by Oberon and her performance poetry by Nasty Little Press, whilst she has published poems in anthologies by Forest Fringe and Penned in the Margins. She often works with vulnerable groups, collaborating to create artworks. She is an Associate Artist for Cambridge Junction and National Centre for Writing. You can find out more about Hannah Jane on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In 2019, Nine Arches Press launched their nationwide Primers scheme for a fifth time, in search of exciting new voices in poetry, with Jacqueline Saphra and Jane Commane as selecting editors. After reading through hundreds of anonymous entries, and narrowing down the choices from longlist to shortlist, three poets emerged as clear choices: Krystelle Bamford, Claire Cox, and Hannah Jane Walker.

Primers Volume Five now brings together a showcase from each of the three poets. At the core of these poems are the milestones and critical moments of our lives and, vitally, the ties that bind us to those we love: from childhood and daughterhood, through motherhood in all its array of emotions and experiences, and to beloved brothers and fathers. From the tides of grief to surfing the wave of birth, these often courageous and candid poems are distinctive in their engagement with fear, loss and self-discovery, and how they emerge afresh, bold and illuminating. An essential, insightful collection of new work from some of poetry’s most talented emerging voices. Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here 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.