Alex Josephy – Cradles

Cradles

Wakeful in a carry-cot, decked with flowered cotton.
Promenaded in a pram, the hood rounded
like a heavenly sphere.

Quiet in the bows of a stranger’s boat.

Abandoned in a carpet bag, stashed in a toolbag,
rolled in chamois leather. Snuggled in a drawer
pulled from the bedroom chest.

Crying in a rubber dinghy far from land.

Wide-eyed in a glove compartment, lined
with nylon stockings. Hidden in a shoebox,
rustling among tissues.

Declared lost at sea in a boat full of holes.

Swaddled, hung alongside others from a hook
on the wall. Tucked inside a wicker basket
down among the rushes.

Pulled alive from winter waves, bound tight
to the muscles of her back.

Pressed against her bodice, flowered cotton.
Fast asleep beside her in a shack
built of cardboard.

Held to her breast.

 

Alex lives in London and Italy. Her poetry pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press in March 2016. Her poems have also appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, and have won awards including the McLellan prize 2014 and the Battered Moons prize 2013. During May/June 2016, she was Poet in Residence at Rainham Hall gardens, Essex.

You can find out more about Alex’s work and read her poetry blog, The Latest, at www.alexjosephy.eu

Michael Guiney – Vondelpark, Amsterdam

Vondelpark, Amsterdam

The names of certain articles of dress,
And the women therein,
Are clothed in soft memory and pleasures.
And in the reading of their memory
They are not always given to pleasures,
To a sinful and delicate fragrance.
They are like a veil of silk, like the soft mouths of horses.
The summer is ended, the light on the roofline
Has been there a long time
And slinks in slow movement across the terracotta tiles.
There have been afternoons like this,
And there has been light like this, for centuries.
Late afternoon, late in the history of the world,
External, oblique, slanted particles, photons, grains of light,
Softer than the movement of a soul or the body of a woman,
As soft as life, as a people at ease in their skins.
And the old tree,
Heavy in his boughs and in the sight of a dove
Seems to call up a breeze
And makes me glad that I came here
And exchanged low- woven insular skies
For these high cirrus- strewn heavens.

 

Michael Guiney can’t give us a bio because he technically doesn’t exist, except as a figment of his own imagination. He did, however, write five novels about a pair of Victorian detectives.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Caversham-Lock-first-Furnivall-Stubbs-ebook/dp/B00A3VLV68

More EuroPoems.

Here at the Stare’s Nest we haven’t forgotten the Referendum. With some bitterness we’re watching the Tory government wrestling with the issue we spotted months ago: that the Four Freedoms of the EU are indivisible – the free movement of capital, trade, services and labour are linked, and so far, the EU doesn’t think the arbitrary desires of the UK are important enough to break those freedoms apart.

So as we watch Theresa May’s attempts to get us a deal that won’t trash the economy but will “take back control” of immigration, there will be one more batch of EuroPoems to remind us what’s at risk.

Starting tomorrow – September 21st.

Paul Vaughan – A Poem for Hillsborough

 Paul Vaughan is a Yorkshire poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in I Am Not A Silent Poet, The Curly Mind, Eunoia Review and Sarasvati among others. He also edits a poetry e-zine at https://algebraofowls.com

Marilyn Francis – It’s a new morning

It’s a new morning
pay attention
to the pig’s head
and its mouthful  
of flesh
pay attention
to the workers
in stolen trainers
and nowhere 
to run.
 
It’s a new morning
over fields
over orchards
and broke-back pickers
picking for next-to-nothing
pay attention
to the baby
ripping up books
in his cot.
 
It’s a new morning
over Gotham City
a distracted bat-bird
smashes into its reflection
on the thirty-third floor
pay attention 
to the weather forecast
you think it’s June
it’s fucking January
the trees have fallen.
 
 
Marilyn Francis lives, works, and writes poems near Radstock in the wild south-west of England. She has had one collection of poems, red silk slippers, published by Circaidy Gregory Press. She also has some other poems out and about in the world, though she has even more lazing in her notebooks.

Claire Sexton – Ruislip Spartacus

Ruislip Spartacus

I don’t care what the naysayers say, what the ‘hold your horses’, ‘get you’, ‘stand in line’ people say. 

I don’t care what the teflon people say, what the ‘ do what you want, ‘get what you want’, ball-busting, ‘bring it on’ people say. 

I don’t care what the venom spurting, ambulance chasing, gossip mongering say. What the blood sucking, people smuggling, dog baiting, tax evading say. 

I don’t care what the politicians, rhetoricians, statisticians, ‘me first’, attention grabbing, back stabbing, avaricious, ferret people say. 

What the terrorising, pulpit hogging, hostage taking, water boarding, banner waving, knuckle dragging, ‘press the button’ people say. 

What the empty vessel, mobile clutching, status hugging, social climbing, emoji loving, toilet retching, window dressing, plastic people say. 

What the misogynistic, homophobic, migrant bashing, xenophobic, grinding, sidling, wheedling, gushing, forcing, thrusting, dodging, mocking, apoplectic mess of vagrant souls in torment say to me because…

I am Samson, I am David. I am Jude the unsure. I am Laura on the prairie and Annie grab your guns. I am Morgan of the Fairies and the Lady of the Lake. I am Freya and Lagertha, not to mention, SPARTACUS. 

Sally Long – Clearing Out

Clearing out

The paper shredder hums then judders to a halt. I curse and check the paper feed. I’ve miscounted and fed in six sheets. Now the shredder is well and truly jammed. I tug at the paper but it tears in my hand making the situation worse. I switch the shredder on again and turn it to fast in the hope of clearing the paper. It remains static. I put the machine into reverse and to my relief the paper begins to move. With a small amount of coaxing the mangled sheets are released. I turn the shredder back to forward and try to tempt it with a single sheet of paper. Nothing happens. I swear again. Clearing out ready for my move had been going well: now I will have a thirty minute delay while I wait for the shredder to cool down.

I turn on the TV. A politician speaks about “strong, proven leadership.”  She promises “a country that works not for the privileged few but that works for every one of us.” A vision of a future where there can be no going back, “Brexit means Brexit.” I zap her with the remote and step through my patio door into the garden.

Bare feet leave their tracks
scarlet hollyhocks bow down
unexpected rain
 
 

Sally Long has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East London and is a PhD student at Exeter. She has had poems published in magazines including Agenda, , Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Poetry Salzburg Review, Snakeskin and The Stare’s Nest. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine www.allegropoetry.org .

Rebecca Lyon – It will be alright, I tell Gabor

 
It will be alright, I tell Gabor
 
It will be alright, I tell Gabor.
It’ll just blow over, a storm in a tea cup.
I swish the nets aside.
Graffiti swiftly hosed away.
Just kids.
 
It will be alright here, don’t worry about it.
Nothing much will happen, not in Britain.
Long knives, broken glass, bloody pangas – we won’t
Stand for that, I tell Gabor.
Just a protest, let it be.
 
It will be alright, there are idiots everywhere,
I tell Gabor.
What will be will be.
Don’t think hate will rear its ugly head for long;
 It won’t; Keep calm, kiss me, drink your tea.
 
Gabor will be alright, won’t he?
Generally speaking, people aren’t like that.
History isn’t here, is it?
It will be alright, won’t it?

Rebecca Lyon tweets: @Lyon_naise 
 

Onwards!

The Stare is back from holiday and will be taking a look at what’s in the Nest over the next couple of days. Thank you to everybody who has sent post-Brexit poems. I’ll be in touch soon!

And the Winner is…

The fabulous Martin Figura has finished judging the Fledgling Award for the best “first book” by a poet over the age of forty, and we are both delighted to announce that the prize goes to:

Jemma Borg – The Illuminated World.

Jemma BW-14 (2)

Photo: Anne-Sophie Olive

Martin sent generous comments in his Judge’s Report about the ten books he read:

“A couple of years ago, I flippantly posted on Facebook that I was too old for a Gregory, too Young to die. It got a certain mileage, a good old moan about the young taking everything, or the usual suspects winning existing prizes. There was talk of creating a prize for the over fifties publishing a first collection. I got as far as setting up an event, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of The Who’s My Generation and then failed to organise it. Luckily Judi Sutherland is made of sterner stuff and via her Stare’s Nest instigated the Fledgling Award for a first collection from a writer over 40 and asked me to judge the first one; I could hardly say no.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to receive ten collections/pamphlets ( filtered from 35 by Judi) , they were:

Jemma Borg The Illuminated World (Eyewear Publishing)
Meg Cox Looking at Sodom Over My Shoulder (Hen Run)
Barbara Cumbers A Gap in the Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing)
Leslie Ingrams Scumbled (Cinnamon Press)
Camilla Lambert Grapes in the Crater (Indigo Dreams Publishing)
Di Slaney Dad’s Slideshow (Stonewood Press)
Frances Spurrier The Pilgrim’s Trail (Cinnamon Press)
Mark Totterdell This Patter of Traces (Overstep Books)
Matthew West Seagulls and Spitfires (Ravenshead Press)
Ruth Wiggins Myrtle (The Emma Press)

After much deliberation, the result is . . .

1st Jemma Borg The Illuminated World (Eyewear Publishing)
2nd Ruth Wiggins Myrtle (The Emma Press)

Highly Commended:

Di Slaney Dad’s Slideshow (Stonewood Press)
Leslie Ingram Scumbled (Cinnamon Press)
Barbara Cumbers A Gap in the Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

I’m sorry not to reward the dry wit of Meg Cox, the explorations of Camilla Lambert, Matthew West’s curious take on Southampton’s historical connection to the Spitfire, Frances Spurrier’s keen observations and Mark Totterdell’s respectful and erudite elegies to the Earth’s creatures; but choices must be made.

Highly commended is Lesley Ingram’s Scumbled. Scumbled is a full collection of ekphrastic poems that take as their starting point the narrative collages and stylised works by the digital artist Maggie Taylor. It is easy to get ekphrastic poetry wrong, to simply describe what you see or drift off into abstract notions. To sustain a full collection on a single artist, especially one whose work is so distinctive, is a considerable achievement. Lesley Ingram’s love of Taylor’s work is palpable which gives the poems a strong foundation, but it’s where she takes them that is the key to the poems’ success. I must confess I find the images themselves a little slick and (dreaded word) ‘dreamlike’. They make seductive book covers, as is the case here. I prefer the poems within. Lesley will probably hate me for this, but I would read the poems without looking at the images, or at least read the poems first and let them feed your imagination. She succeeds by taking the images and creating new mysteries, that awaken the imagination – I love the Zebra, I use/its stripes/like a comb.

Also Highly Commended is Di Slaney’s Dad’s Slideshow – a beautifully designed small pamphlet from Stonewood Press. Another ekphrastic collection! As a photographer I’m wary of poems that use photography (it’s alright for me to do it, obviously). It’s a bit like when you see your job portrayed in a television drama – it’s nothing like that! you shout at the screen. Fortunately Di Slaney has produced a beautiful and evocative book, which gets photography exactly right. There’s a Roland Barthes quote, that defines this book better than anything I might say: ‘All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.’ This is from his seminal Camera Lucida (a perfect companion to this collection), where his stated aim was to explore photography for sentimental reasons, not as a question, but as a wound. The title Dad’s Slideshow made me worry that the poems might be too sentimental, but they walk that line with great skill. The raw love and emotion of family is unravelled poem by poem like a loose thread: Now you’ve mentioned it, I can see clearly// There’s wool in every frame. Background/and foreground, on bodies, on shelves – nearly everyone is wearing something knitted. ….with just enough stitches keeping us protected.

The third highly commended goes to Barbara Cumbers for her collection A Gap in the Rain. Barbara Cumbers is a geologist and she draws on this to great effect; this collection has us scrabbling about in the rocks amongst the rattlesnakes and scorpions. In the first two thirds many of the poems are metaphors for the writer’s own life and its struggles. What saves them from self-involvement is what has brought her through, her love and gentle engagements with the natural world. On Page 48, those earlier contemplations come joyfully to life in the poem Hibernation’s End an elegy to the hedgehog, old boot brush of benevolence. Here’s the last stanza in its entirety:

Small pig of undergrowth, fill the nights
with your huge piggy noises. The earth
is turned. Shake winter from your spiky hair.
Wake up now, and eat.

From here on in, there is a glorious parade: cats, wasps, surprising goats and stag beetles to name but a few. Music issues forth too, even a traffic jam becomes a haven: Glenn Gould still plays/like water flowing, singing to himself/as water does…. Towards the end of this book, I’ve turned over the corner of nearly every page for repeated reading, just for the pleasure of it.

The Runner Up is Myrtle by Ruth Wiggins, a small riot of a book and another nicely designed one (The Emma Press). There are only twenty-two poems in this pamphlet, but they fizzle and crack along, searing themselves on to your retina. Ruth Wiggins harnesses the ancient and modern to bring us love and death at their most visceral; here is someone who has found a confident distinctive voice. It can be poignant, laugh out loud funny and rude all in one breath – This afternoon you fucked me, right out/of my pyjamas and into yours. It is razor sharp in its dissection. And probably/ usurping girls to boot, /who I suppose I’ll just/have to learn to kill. She can also handle subjects with great sensitivity and insight, as in On Fear of Your Flying – I Place a palm to my belly, kick-start/your clutch of cells feel them startle//into memento mori, keepsakes,/poppets, a widow’s company. She comes at myths such as Leda with a pleasing originality: her furious/knit-one-purl throughout the night. Above all she celebrates language, as in Crawk – Prefers the glitter/of earthworms to trinkets, /gutterwater to fizz.

The winner, Jemma Borg’s The Illuminated World is breath-taking in its scope and ambition. I think it’s worth saying that many small presses such outshine the big boys in designing books that are a pleasure to behold – none more so than Eyewear – I digress. It takes some nerve, and time, to build a collection like this and pull it off. Jemma Borg is a well-travelled scientist and environmentalist and brings a fierce intelligence and the wonder of the whole universe to her work, and yet the poems remain human in scale, as expressed at the end of The MathematicianThere were some things/of which he could be certain. The rest was love. This is the balance she manages to hold with great elegance and skill – the jellyfish – /drop again as a heart does into sorrow…..we invented heaven,/imagining sky as a fish might the land:/alien, beautiful on our tongue. These are poems, that, to quote Paul Farley, ‘get around the back of these Big Safe Themes’. She brings us grandeur, but also the humble sensory detail of the everyday as demonstrated in The Black Paintings of Hong Kong.- ….in this city of glass,/from its irreligious towers, perpetually lit,/and from the street sellers’ oil and fizz//and oxtail broth, among the writhing crabs/and the stink of incense and piss,/and the ringing bell… The collection is at its most moving, when at its most personal, as in A summer diary, a poem about the struggle to conceive, is a tender poem of longing and for life, ending with: on the nothingness/ an ’O’ of breath and then another ‘O’ and another.

This is a book with science at its heart, but it is a beating heart that continues to reward, even after three readings and will I’m sure give more over time. It is a clear and deserved winner.”

So, copious thanks to everyone who sent a submission – it has been a pleasure to read them – and a huge thank you to Martin for judging. We are thinking about a prizegiving / winners’ reading in the autumn. Please watch this space!