Monday, August 29, 2011

poetry snapshots: david cooke


The clanking compound of the brewery

where my dad did shifts, whenever

work was slack on the buildings,

is buried now somewhere

beneath the panels of the multi-storey

car park and the chat that drifts across

from the cappuccino pavement.

Born to a scant inheritance

of rushy Sligo acres, my dad was bred

like his brothers to follow the work,

sending remittances home

from London, Reading, and Philadelphia –

for worklessness

would have been their defining shame.

And somewhere in the grainy hinterland

of just remembered childhood

I am watching a drayman

as he guides heraldic, towering horses

through a time-thinned stream of traffic.

Their sinews barely tensed,

they go unfussed about their business.

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984, but stopped writing for twenty years. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals such as Agenda, The Bow Wow Shop, Critical Quarterly, Cyphers, The Frogmore Papers, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, The North, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp, Stand, Staple, and The Use of English. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, has just been published by Night Publishing and a further collection, Work Horses will be published by Ward Wood Publishing in 2012.

Monday, August 22, 2011

poetry snapshots: fiona sinclair

When a sex symbol takes to sensible shoes

Suddenly across the store, through a middle aged

bottle glass blur, I spot blonde hair familiar as a logo,

but hesitate unable to make out that fantasy body

drawn by an adolescent boy on his exercise book.

Close up, these photographs from the ‘Misfits’ are like

meeting an old friend after a debilitating illness.

Trademark eyeliner has become heavy shutters closing

on the empty windows of a house whose occupant has left.

Her body still forms a perfect 8 but is not gift wrapped in

gold lame instead she is a hillbilly’s wife in white cotton

Sunday dress posing in a Steinbeck farm yard.

Looking down the barrel of the camera, lips no longer

part in the throes of an orgasmic O, but are forced into a

localised smile. The confection of a single 1950s picture

draws my eyes like wasps to a baker’s window, leaving me

craving other heyday poses, addictive as sugar.

Paying my last respects to the snapshots from her final film,

I notice, more shocking than being shared around like a

joint by the Kennedy boys’ club, her comfortable shoes.

Fiona Sinclair returned to writing poetry after a very long pause.  University as a mature student and then teaching English for fifteen years meant there was no space in her life for writing creatively.  Ironically, ill health has allowed her to take up poetry again . She aims to write for at least an hour every day.  Fiona still feels she is only as good as her last poem.  Recently she has begun to review collections for both 'Happanstance' and 'Ink Sweat and Tears'.  It took her some while to get the hang of being allowed to express an opinion about literature and she is nevertheless a benevolent critic of other people's work. Her own poetry has been published in numerous reputable magazines. Her second collection is due out late this year from Indigo Dreams Press. She is the editor of the on line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

classic poem and photo: the tamed deer

The Tamed Deer

Like as a huntsman after weary chase

Seeing the game from him escaped away,

Sits down to rest him in some shady place,

With panting hounds beguiled of their prey:

So, after long pursuit and vain assay,

When I all weary had the chase forsook,

The gentle deer returned the self-same way,

Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.

There she beholding me with milder look,

Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide;

Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,

And with her own good-will her firmly tied.

Strange thing, me seemed, to see a beast so wild

So goodly won, with her own will beguiled.

by Edmund Spenser 1552-1599

Photo taken by me in India.

Monday, August 15, 2011

poetry snapshots: jamie mcgarry

The Haunting of Poet by Snail

Has it been four days now?

Must have been. Nearly a week

since I did the deed. It was dark,

and I was hurrying – I didn’t see

his form, the path in front of me.

My careless size-ten shoe came down,

and crushed his hopes and dreams.

My stride stopped mid-step. Sickened

by that sound, the chilling crunch;

I saw him, when I lifted up.

A tragic mix of slime and shrapnel.

And now – although you’ll doubt –

I swear he’s back. I am the mollusc’s

sole unfinished business

on this fast and brutal Earth.

You’ll say it’s in my head, if I report

that I can hear his death

in every mistimed gearshift,

every mouth devouring crisps.

But it’s not my conscience doing this,

it’s him. He’s putting me through hell.

I hear, with every step I take,

the breaking of the tell-tale shell.

Last night, I thought I saw him,

bright and cold, in death.

Slowly sliding next to me,

and felt his tiny, ghostly breath.

‘It was dark!’ I scream. ‘I was hurrying!’

His silence says it all. But still,

you don’t believe me? Come on round,

see the trails across my walls...

and explain the vengeful holes

in my fridge-ridden, cellophaned lettuce.

Published in 'The Dead Snail Diaries'  Valley Press, 2011

Jamie McGarry was born in Norwich, in April 1988, and grew up in North Wales and Yorkshire. He attended university in Scarborough, earning a degree in English Literature and Culture, as well as founding a publishing label, Valley Press, in 2008. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this led to the release of several books by Jamie – including a novel, The Waiting Game (2007), and three volumes of poetry, What Do I Know Anyway? (2008), Autopilot (2009) and most recently, The Dead Snail Diaries (2011). He currently lives in East Yorkshire, where he runs Valley Press full-time, pursuing these bookish interests to his heart’s content.

A slow-moving, brown-hued creature, Jamie regularly enjoys a leafy salad, and has (on occasion) been known to come out of his shell.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

classic poem and photo: london by william blake


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames doth flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appals,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls:

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
and blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Three nights of rioting. London has been mindlessly smashed and burnt. The ministers and police chiefs have preferred to remain in their luxury holiday villas. Mark Duggan's family is only just now getting answers. And the unsustainable financial system is collapsing.

Lines of poems run through my head. Lines from Yeats's 'The Second Coming', as well as the first verse of this poem by William Blake. 'London' was written in 1793, showing Blake's anger at the economic system and the political ideology. After revolutionary riots, harsh anti-seditious laws were passed, and the army was stationed all over London. Blake himself was later put on trial for 'uttering treasonable words'.  

Ominous times.

The image is of the Great Fire of London, 1666.

Friday, August 05, 2011

classic poem and photo: the diary of murasaki shikibu

Painting: Sweet Flowers Soaring High by Lea Prince

"I can see the garden from my room beside the entrance to the gallery. The air is misty, the dew is still on the leaves. The Lord Prime Minister is walking there; he orders his men to cleanse the brook. He breaks off a stalk of omenaishi [flower maiden] which is in full bloom by the south end of the bridge. He peeps in over my screen! His noble appearance embarrasses us, and I am ashamed of my morning [not yet painted and powdered] face. He says, "Your poem on this! If you delay so much the fun is gone!"  and I seize the chance to run away to the writing-box, hiding my face–

Flower-maiden in bloom–

Even more beautiful for the bright dew,

Which is partial, and never favors me.

"So prompt!" said he, smiling, and ordered a writing-box to be brought [for himself].

His answer:

The silver dew is never partial.

From her heart

The flower-maiden's beauty. "

From 'The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu'. Shikibu was a lady of the Japanese court during A.D. 1007-1010.

The entire diary can be found here.

Reading this diary several years ago, I was fascinated by the diarist's world, and was delighted to discover an early woman poet!

Lea Prince's paintings have been exhibited at Ilford Central Library and at the Valentine's Mansion, Gantshill.

Monday, August 01, 2011

poetry snapshots: ian parks


After the chat shows and the bulletins,

the forecasts and the late reviews

I trim the oil-lamp, clear a space

and take one final look across the straits.

I came here to escape a darkening world.

Why should I listen to its news?

The mainland is a purple smudge;

the sea so shallow and so calm

you'd think that you could walk across

instead of waiting for the week it takes

before the ferry makes the harbour mouth

bringing cards and letters, word from home.

There's nothing but a mile

of dry-stone walls and unrelenting rain

between this cottage and the nearest farm

hidden by the intervening ridge.

Suspended here, the moment waits

still stranded in another century

when news was as fast as a gasping horse

and last year's revolution still to come.

Described as 'a heroic figure in Yorkshire poetry' (Points North Review) Ian Parks was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. Poems appear in Poetry Review, Stand, The Observer, The Liberal, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry (Chicago) and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His collections include Shell Island (2006), The Cage (2008), The Landing Stage (2010) and Love Poems 1979-2009. The Exile's House is forthcoming from Waterloo Press.

York Literature Festival HUB 2018 event, Tuesday, 20th March

I'm looking forward to my first event for absolutely ages - at the York Literature Festival HUB. Many thanks to YLF and Valley...