Sedge Warbler

‘The sedge has wither’d from the lake;
And no birds sing.’
John Keats, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

I live on the sedge. I sing
unseen. It is my song
you do not hear, light as air:
willowdown-dweller, reedwalker.

As a bird I have no country. I sing
there to here. Hear my song:
a ‘noisy, rambling warble’ on the air,
summerlong singer, water-neighbour.

When winter withers, it’s away I sing,
the long length of earth. My song
bends from the Arctic to warmer air:
to an Afrikaaner, Europese Vleisanger.

I am a citizen of sedge, of sedge I sing;
of the edge, the water-margin. My song
is pidgin, weird Birdish: plucking from air
English, Namlish, Suomi, Oshiwambo, Xhosa.

Shared sound of rain on reeds: I sing
low morning mist. Your songs
condense in mine. I fill the encircling air,
pale loiterer, sedge warbler.

by Sophie Mayer

Be sure to join us at Oxford Brookes on 31 October for a special event with poet Jay Bernard. Jay will be presenting Surge, an award-winning multimedia project dealing with the 1981 New Cross ‘massacre’ – a fire at a birthday party in south London which killed 13 young black people. This event is part of Black History Month at Brookes and tickets are free, but you must sign up in advance via the website!

‘Sedge Warbler’ is copyright © Sophie Mayer, 2012. It is reprinted from Birdbook II: Freshwater Habitats (Sidekick Books, 2012) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Sophie Mayer is a writer, curator and activist. Her recent books include Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2015) and (O) (Arc, 2015). She has also been involved in projects such as the touring programme Revolt, She Said: Women and Film After ’68 with queer feminist film collective Club des Femmes, and Raising our Game, a report addressing exclusion in the film industry with campaigners Raising Films. Her current writing projects include ‘Disturbing Words’, a tinyletter about language, and a poetry chapbook <jacked a kaddish>, forthcoming from Litmus. Find out more about her work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. Sidekick’s latest books collect poems about bats ( Battalion ) and robots ( No, Robot, No! ). You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via 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.

In the Orchard of Pomegranates

Then you wonder, astonished, who am I? I am a mustard seed in the middle of the sphere of the moon.
Moses Cordovero, Or Ne’erav (The Sweet Light), trans. Ira Robinson

When I was a girl, holy in sending,
alive in receiving, I knew a word
was, like an angel, flaming, both message
and messenger.

Electric the flowerin my eye, the opening of the heart:
if ‘house’ is a prison, ‘home’ is a latticed
(look up) constellation. At such elevation,
this is return under you the harvest moon.                                                


I have nothing withheld in my hands, but
nothing. Doubled. The seed of. Your wish for.

by Sophie Mayer

Two notes from the Centre: on Friday 20 November there will be a free poetry workshop in Oxford on the theme of ‘history’, led by experienced poets. From myths, collective stories or personal narratives, what does history mean to you? To join, email your name and affiliation to The workshop will take place from 3-5pm
 in the Old Library, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High St, Oxford, OX1 4BJ.

And on Wednesday 25 November, the Centre is hosting a spoken word/open mic event in the Main Lecture Theatre, Clerici Bldg, Gipsy Lane on the Headington campus. All are welcome to this event, which will feature numerous local poets and a set from Maddie Godfrey (Australian National Poetry Slam Finalist, 2015). You can find more details and register your interest via the Facebook page.
 ‘In the Orchard of Pomegranates’ is copyright © Sophie Mayer, 2015. It is reprinted from (O) (Arc Publications, 2015) by permission of Arc Publications.

Notes from Arc Publications:

Sophie Mayer 
is a writer, editor and educator. Her poetry has been translated into Russian, Greek, Dutch, and Japanese, and has appeared on poster hoardings in Dublin and as part of Yoko Ono’s Meltdown 2013. Previous collections include Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009), The Private Parts of Girls (Salt, 2011), Kiss Off (Oystercatcher, 2011) and signs of the sistership (with Sarah Crewe, KFS, 2013). She is a film critic and scholar, author of The Cinema of Sally Potter, and (for the Oxford Handbook on Contemporary British and Irish Poetry), ‘Cinema Mon Amour’, the definitive essay on British poetry and film. 

(O) is Sophie Mayer’s fourth published poetry collection. Energetic, determined, politicised, contemporary and classical. Brimming with wit, these poems endeavour into the challenges, obstacles and successes which accompany the path into womanhood. A powerful poetic voice, which serves as a testament to the women who live in the cracks of history. You can read more about the book on the Arc website, and more about the author on her own site. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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.