My Girl

in the nineties Aunty Ann had all eight
rooms wired into the same Sky station
but since we didn’t know we spent each night
of our weekend watching girls undress
while bored men phoned in, telling them to
climb between each other’s legs/and/or
take a nipple into a yielding/heterosexual
mouth, force a simple moan perfected in adolescence.
We had our double bed with its chintz canopy,
our newly pink hair rubbing onto the pillowcases,
the crochet eiderdown heavy upon our
satisfied bodies; she was
sometimes jealous if I looked at the TV
for too long. We’d discuss
which parts in relation to the girls’ parts were normal
or in the dull and balmy half-light of morning
through semi-drawn blinds
which parts looked beautiful

by Melissa Lee-Houghton

Two exciting announcements from the Centre! This Saturday 14 January, the Poetry Centre is privileged to present a reading by internationally-acclaimed critic and poet Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Forward Prize-shortlisted poet Nancy Campbell. The event will begin at 7pm at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford, and all are welcome. £2 on the door. More details are available on our Facebook page.

We are also delighted to announce that celebrated poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be returning to Brookes to lead a workshop entitled ‘Poetry and Identity: Creating Character’. The workshop will take place on Saturday 11 February from 10.30-4.30pm and is designed to coincide with an exhibition by acclaimed French photographer Claude Cahun running in Brookes’s Glass Tank Gallery. The cost is £45 (£40 for Brookes staff and students), and spaces are limited! Please visit our website for more details and to book a place.

‘My Girl’ is copyright © Melissa Lee-Houghton, 2016. It is reprinted from Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016) by permission of Penned in the Margins.

Notes from Penned in the Margins:

Sunshine is the new collection from Next Generation Poet Melissa Lee-Houghton. A writer of startling confession, her poems inhabit the lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and deserted lanes of austerity Britain. Sunshine combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision. This book, which was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, was also selected as one of the best poetry books of 2016 by both the Guardianand the Poetry School, and includes ‘i am very precious’, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2016.

You can find out more about the book on the Penned in the Margins website, where you can also read further poems from the collection.

MelissaLee-Houghton was announced as a Next Generation Poet in 2014. Her first and second collections are published by Penned in the Margins. BeautifulGirls was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her poem ‘i am very precious’ was shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She has received a Northern Writers’ Award for her fiction. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire.

You can hear Melissa read from her work on the Poetry Archive, read more about her work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Penned in the Marginscreates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. The company believes in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. It operates across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. Read more about its work on its website. You can also follow Penned in the Margins on Twitter and on Facebook.

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.

Town Show ’82

The photograph is all the colours of a headache;
muted, almost sepia, a khaki sleeveless jacket, a belt, a camera,
you smoking over my mother’s shoulder.
Hot blood collects behind my eyes.
Until my eleventh year you were dead. Not there
in the misplaced picture in your plimsoll shoes and fat silver watch
you probably couldn’t afford.
I want to be inside this frame, between the two white billygoats,
burn the show tent down, stand in the ashes and say
daddy, it matters not where you have been,
if you come with me now I will write you poems,
push you around in a wheelchair in your old age.
I will sit with you around hospital beds,
contract MRSA and light your cigarettes.
I scan every last centimetre now as though it holds a clue.
Joe, your name is Joe.

by Melissa Lee-Houghton

‘Town Show ’82’ is copyright © Melissa Lee-Houghton, 2013. It is reprinted by permission of Penned in the Margins from Beautiful Girls (Penned in the Margins, 2013). 

Notes from Penned in the Margins: 

Melissa Lee-Houghton was born in Wythenshawe, Manchester in 1982. Her poetry, short fiction and reviews have been published in literary magazines such as SuccourThe Short ReviewMagma, and Tears in the Fence. Her first collection, A Body Made of You, was published in 2011. She lives in Blackburn, Lancashire.

Beautiful Girls was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Writing about the collection, Chris McCabe has commented that ‘Beautiful Girls is not a book for the faint-hearted. The reader has been invited to a sleepover at the asylum, a night in which five-year old girls drift alone through the wards, where the mentally unstable do sit-ups when nobody is watching, and where heaven is a place between “the sky and the planets” reserved for those with personality disorders. This collection will be a home-to-home for sufferers and a journey through terrible night for those who’ve been fortunate enough to take the non-scenic route in life.’

You can read more about Melissa Lee-Houghton from her blog, and also follow her on Twitter

Penned in the Margins is an independent publisher and live literature producer specialising in poetry and based in East London. Founded in 2004, the company has produced numerous literature and performance events, toured several successful live literature shows, published over twenty-five books, and continues to run innovative poetry, arts and performance projects in the capital and beyond.

Their recent anthology, Adventures in Form, was awarded a Special Commendation by the Poetry Book Society and was chosen as one of 50 Best Summer Reads by The Independent. You can visit the Penned in the Margins website  here to sign up to the mailing list, and follow the publisher on  Facebook and  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.