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In a universe of infinite possibilities… by Jane Sharp

In a universe of infinite possibilities…

1.

I am a green budgerigar trapped in a metal cage,
I flap my green wings in frenzy, flustered, flightless: fearful
of that other bird head that continuously attacks,
as though I were Prometheus. It’s eternal torment.

I know that this flapping, this fidgeting, this hopping from
perch to perch, draws attention to my plight, in this open
box, swinging from the top of an up-cycled lampstand.
I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, come on, Joey’s a pretty boy.

2.

In this universe of infinite possibilities,
I am an alien flying a pre-war, post concord
paper aeroplane. Gliding in to land on a cornfield,
up to my ears in corn, reborn, fearing nothing, my wing
feathers tickling , settling down, smooth, green as a parakeet.

I know my arrival might draw attention from earthlings
so I pull a Bruce Willis (I’ve done my research) vest down
over my head, slide my legs into a pair of tight tights
till I resemble an Olympic gymnast, chalk my hands
my face, my feet – white, I am told, being better than green.

3.

In this universe of infinite possibilities,
I am the person sitting here writing this poem, green
as the greenest of poets, flexing invisible wings,
calm as a cross-legged yogi, quiet as the space between
semitones, unruffled as a well fed budgerigar.

Yet I feel like an alien in a pair of tight tights,
just landed on earth after being regurgitated
out of some black hole of the universe. I am bespoke,
modified, evolving into the space of my future.

.

Jane Sharp lives near Barnsley; she has been published in The Yorkshire Anthology, and The Dalesman. Her work has been read on Radio 4. She is a member of the Poetry Society Stanza North Kent group, and Shortlands Poetry Circle. Her novel Tears From the Sun – A Cretan Journey was written during her 18-year adventure in Crete. She has just completed her second novel (not yet published). Her blog can be found at: janesharp.org

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SW12 by Robert Ford

SW12

See it skulk away beyond the stewing river, failing
to hide its fraying underclothes, its grey jigsaw
of rooftops, ventilator pipes and rusting fire-escapes.
From the window seat of a coast-bound train, it
seems made from a sheet of crumpled foil, floating
across the looming skyline, punctured randomly by
chimney stacks and humourless towers, Victorian
attics studded with satellite dishes and praying mantis
aerials. Defunct white goods collect like bewildered
sheep in backyard pens ringed with brambles.
Even above the barking of the wheels at the rails,
its mutterings are audible, its fists shaking angrily at
midwinter stratus, forgetting yesterday, when every
single slate shone like a pilgrim, after the morning’s rain.

.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, Clear Poetry, Whale Road Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/

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The Gross & Fine Geography/New & Selected Poems by Stephen Bett reviewed by E. E. Nobbs

Nick Laird in a March 2017 Guardian article  [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/17/donald-trump-poetry-nick-laird-don-paterson-zoo-of-the-new] reminds us that …

[r]eading poems, embodying in words a chain of apprehensions, is to know something of a particular writer’s way of being in the world. It says, “And there’s this.” We experience some part – lexically, chemically, electrically, emotionally – of what the writer felt. What knowledge could be more consoling – or more difficult to bear in mind?

And that’s how I feel about Stephen Bett’s big 178 page collection. It covers many years (starting with poems from 1983), and includes poems from over a dozen of his previous books. It’s an impressive showcase of how Bett writes about human conundrums and modern life. The book’s title with its multiple puns suggest a broad swath of possibilities —and that’s what Bett gives us , using a wide variety of poetic techniques and an ironic, self-aware sense of humour.

bett

 

Check out Bett’s home page [ http://www.stephenbett.com/ ] where you will find out more about him and his many books. He’s a West Coast Canadian who has “read and written poetry for over 50 years”. He was also a college English teacher for over 30 years. Here’s an interesting 2015 interview with him about influences, methods, likes & dislikes and opinions on the poetry world.
[ http://www.stephenbett.com/chin-wag-at-the-slaughterhouse-interview-with-stephen-bett.shtml ]

The speaker(s) in Bett’s poems often feel like the voice of the poet himself – they are strong, candid and frank in sharing their views on our society’s weird techno-times and their place in it.

A lot of the poems are first person, personal and close to home. There are family poems which address children. A daughter. A son. These are heartfelt, with a parent’s concerns, and the situational irony of life

Many poems are about love and marriage situations – (mis)communications, frustrations, the breaking down of a long-term relationship, and the building of a new one. Bett uses long sequences effectively – the method acts a metaphor for life, life as a journey, a car trip, a journal, how life and relationships never stay the same and how we need to keep our eyes on the road! There is lots of wry humour and “sass”, (a term that Bett likes to use), but also genuine emotional investment. The speaker uses his ability to laugh at himself, and situations as a way to help him get through them. But he doesn’t sugar-coat. In the poems that involve the breakdown of a long term but relationship, the speaker makes no bones about his anger.

But then, the wonder of a new love, how it develops into a new marriage is presented as a kind of miracle which the speaker eventually accepts as reality. And as a reader, I shared in the surprise, relief and the happiness. There are some extremely minimalist poems.

You

You

— just

you

just

there

Do

Such a poem is a bit odd to look at if considered by itself, but gains significance, as a part of sequence. It is preceded by the not quite as minimalist, stand-out titular poem of the collection:

The Gross & Fine Geography

The gross & fine geography
of our hearts

Big sweep
tight corners

I reach
for you

For you

Geographies
that desire

As another example of how a poet can share his world – what’s important to him –Bett writes about his passion for jazz with a series of poems in homage to jazz musicians – who are presumably well known for those who are in the know (I am not one, but now he’s got me wondering what I am missing). Again – it shows Bett’s versatility and I liked the way he used quotes and other source material, and formatted the poems to suggest the riffs and improvisation of the music. And I smiled at the repeated use of “gorgeous”. I got the happy mood even without being an aficionado.

I admire Bett’s use of minimalist poems in sequences, but the piece in this book that I keep coming back to and re-reading, has more conventional rhythms & form, and was the single piece with which he started the book. It feels like an offering.

My reading of it is that — life is strange, but doing the work, making the effort, living as fully as possible in this world — is what life is “about”.

The first poem in full:

Preparation for a Gift

How true it is that we need to be
close to the brink of language when
we speak now. I recall saying to you
at the time I read them
how acute John Ashbery’s remarks on
Pollack were. That the ‘excitement’

lies with the ‘very real possibility’
of the work coming to nothing (the ‘random
splashes of a careless housepainter’).
I watched on film how he would

tack his unstretched canvas on the ground
and walk around it choosing from various
cans of paint; not systemically, it seemed,
and certainly not according to the fixed laws
of ritual — or even chance (that being an art
both the body and will surely deny). But simply
because a particular color was at hand

to what he was doing; whereupon the
success or failure must lie right
at the heart of his having chosen
to do it that way at all. It cannot be
done over. And seeing that, he must have had
a tremendous faith in his materials to go a-
long with his own equally determined and supple
contortions. I mean the ability of the paint to
fall where it will find least resistance, and of
the canvas to absorb it there. (I wanted to call
such faith “ambition,” and — if it could be
divested of the vulgarity of systems —
relate it to a program for language.
Then I’d offer it to you
in place of tedious conversation;
difficult to rely on, perhaps,
but significant in its intractable resolve.

Stephen Bett is a mature, experienced poet, who uses language in a wide variety of ways. He has serious things to say, but says them with a sharp wit. His poems deal with the contemporary. They are pertinent to the lives we live, and have much to offer. I am glad for the chance to review this collection and be introduced to his work.

.

E.E. Nobbs lives in Prince Edward Island, Canada. She won the Doire Press Second Annual International Poetry Chapbook Contest (2013)  which saw publication of her first collection,  The Invisible Girl  which is available here.

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Forgotten by Reuben Woolley

forgotten

write
in colours
of bright bones
burning

………………ash
& darker tones
these fields of wire &
cut flesh

……………..a slighter
theme fading
to greynote / a hungered
slope this
skeleton
shout

dispersing

.

Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Stare’s Nest, And Other Poems, The Poetry Shed, and Goose among others. He has a collection, the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros Books; a chapbook, dying notes, 2015, Erbacce Press; a short collection on the refugee crisis, skins, 2016, Hesterglock Press. Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize, both in 2015. He edits the online poetry magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

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THROUGH LOSS AND LONGING: MARIA ISAKOVA BENNETT REVIEWS THE SKIN DIARY

The Skin Diary by Abegail Morley, 72pp, £9.99, Nine Arches Press

An impressive collection, full of echoing motifs: birds fluttering through the pages, references to anatomy abounding, animal and human worlds colliding, and poems moving from air (for instance in ‘Summer’, ‘Nesting in the wardrobe’, ‘Bleeding’, ‘The winter gatherer’, and ‘The Ice Hotel’) to rain (‘Summer’s end in Hackney’, ‘After you’ve died’, ‘Afterwards in ink’, and ‘Night planting’). The Skin Diary contains 57 poems which create a sense of emptiness and loss, starting as it continues, from what is spoken at the end of the opening poem, ‘ I miss you, I miss you .’ (‘Before you write off your imaginary sister’). Loss, and the threat of it, permeates the collection. This is not focused on one person, rather, it shifts, coming to settle variously on, for instance: a missing imaginary sister; an imaginary friend (‘Losing Elena’); the ‘he’, and ‘you’ as an oncology patient (‘The Oncology Community’); ‘the lake of lost children’ (‘Counter turn’) and the stranger in the train whose funeral the narrator considers, ‘I can’t help wondering what name they’ll grind // on your gravestone,…’ (‘Paddock Wood to Charing Cross’).

Abegail

The book is punctuated with references to warnings of heartbreak (‘Post-’, ‘The carrier bag’), disappearance, drowning (‘Mayday’), and death (‘Pause’). These forebodings build tension and add poignancy to the later poems in which disappearance or death are faced: ‘But this morning I lie awake // You’re still unvarnished, unravelled in my temporal lobe –’, (‘Forgetting you’); ‘We didn’t know how drunk you were / At St. Peter’s Bridge, standing on the edge’ (‘Presence’); and in the extremely moving ‘text’, ‘But you weren’t back. Later. Or ever.’ Pieces about fertility and fertilization, and the motif of eggs, highlight another poignant loss. These are made beautifully memorable through references to the sea, ‘…You’re the thinness / that laps shorelines at night when oceans / hanker after dunes, barge up beaches…’ (‘Miracle’). Throughout, a sense of liminality and space is created, whether on a staircase such as in ‘Brighton flat’, ‘Last night’, or ‘Living with Bats’ (‘I’m listening for your tread / on the stairs’), or the raw exposure of the insides of the body in, for example, ‘The Archive of Lost Lives’, ‘After the funeral’, ‘The horologist and the body clock’, or imagination, akin to magical realism:

.
I touch his sleeve and it comes to life, like it’s full of swallows,
swifts, nightjars nesting in its folds –
[‘Jacket’]

.
and,

.
I said everything I could before you stopped me, sifted skin through hourglass after hourglass [‘Time Keeper’]

The Skin Diary provides much insight, a journal of survival despite loss, which closes with a charm: ‘I plant for you / agapanthus, dahlia, harebell’ (‘Night Planting’). Raw reality is contained between the imaginative, magical first and last poems. Throughout, thoughts are raised about the power of the imagination, and of spell-like charms helping to elevate us above loss and longing.

First published in Orbis 177

Maria Isakova Bennett lives in Liverpool and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry and reviews have been published online and in print in Ireland, UK, and US. She has won and has been placed in many open poetry competitions, collaborates with artists and writers, and runs workshops in galleries.

Amlanjyoti Goswami

A different Shore (for Leonard Cohen) by Amlanjyoti Goswami

A different shore

(for Leonard Cohen)

Hum those perfect words of song
In your body.
Till they come, hum,
You are all there is.

The perfect words breathe a demon
In your heart
You are all there is.

Later, seek, the kindness
Of those who believe
In feeling – imperfect –

The twisted turns of leaves
Jagged in the storm…

The unfinished house, standing on four stilted feet,
The jar without a cover –
Marking your bones.

Things don’t quite add up
Yet you go searching – the hunt
for perfect feelings, words, deeds.
You are sure – you won’t be
Disappointed – or –
Appointed.

A new leaf turns up
At your door
You flutter your wings.
Window a morning opening.
Finally, find the calm
Becoming,
More humane.

You have left seeking
A different shore…

 

.

AMLANJYOTI GOSWAMI’s poems have appeared in publications in India, Nepal, the UK, Hong Kong, South Africa, Kenya and the USA, including the recent Forty under Forty: An Anthology of Post-Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala, 2016). He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.

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Five poems from Matthew Stewart

 

Reappearance

 

Among the criss-crossing shoppers,
I spot you: the curve of your jaw,
slope of your shoulders in a queue
or slow stoop to a shelf at Boots.

My steps stall, the back of my neck
sparks, a smile about to break out.
The angle opens. A stranger
glances through me.

.

Straight from the airport

My fingertips shudder
by your bed. I tell you
how David did in Maths,
how his forehand’s flowing
much better. Anything
to forget the smoothness
of your twitching cheek.

I read the night away
in time to your wrenched breaths
as if the plot could turn,
could end on a flashback.
You’re home, scooping me up
from my book to the rasp
of your fresh stubble.

.

Weights

My last year at primary school,
Mrs Travers brought out a set
of weights. We all took turns to test
our strength. Everybody but me
managed to lift a kilo.

Mr Kemp, one disobedient curl
escaping across his shiny temple,
offers me your clothes in a plastic bag.
I discover, thirty-five years later,
I still can’t lift that kilo.

.

The rings

They tinkle out of their velvet draw-bag.
The valuer leers. His mottled jowls twitch
as he points, That one, that’s the one to keep.

I grab the lot and warm them in my palm.
These buttery hoops long for their fingers.
They miss my family as much as me.

.

The shirts

Three years later, all my shirts are waiting
for the iron when I’m summoned to close
a deal. I pick yours out of the wardrobe
and ease my shoulders in, squeeze through the cuffs.
My nose doesn’t notice, but my heart gulps.
Even after a wash, it smells of you.

 

(All poems from The Knives of Villalejo due out from Eyewear Publishing in June 2017)

.

Matthew Stewart lives between Extremadura and West Sussex, and works in the Spanish wine trade. His first full collection, The Knives of Villalejo, will be published by Eyewear Books in June this year, following two previous pamphlets from HappenStance Press. He blogs at http://roguestrands.blogspot.com

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BATTERED MOONS POETRY COMPETITION 2017

battered

BATTERED MOONS POETRY COMPETITION 2017

The eighth Battered Moons Poetry Competition is open to all UK residents aged 18 or over and accepts poems on any topic and style of up to 40 lines. Guest judge Malika Booker and Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton will both read all the poems.

The 3 winners and 4 commended poets are invited to read their poems at the Poetry Swindon Festival on Saturday 7th October 2017, when Malika Booker will present the prizes and read from her own work. Malika is an international writer whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. Her writing spans poetry, theatre, monologue, installation, and education. Clients and organisations she has worked with include Arts Council England, BBC, British Council, Wellcome Trust, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Arvon, and Hampton Court Palace.

Malika

Winning and commended poems will appear in the Battered Moons pamphlet and website.

First prize, £700; second, £200; third, £100, plus four commendations of £25 each. Entry fee: £5 for the first poem and £3.5 thereafter. Closing date for entries is 30th June 2017. On-line and postal entries accepted. For further information and to enter online, visit http://batteredmoons.com

Part of Poetry Swindon Festival. Supported by Arts Council England.

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Twilight Sleep by Marion McCready

Twilight Sleep
I

Its tiny hands, curling like feather sticks,
wave above the cot.
It seems to know me.

My baby appeared suddenly
the way a toadstool appears overnight
in a garden. My little puffball,

my stinkhorn and witch’s egg,
my death cap.
My destroying angel

has a toadstool head.
They took him from me. For three days
I lay in this damp bed –

the Firth of Clyde stretching before me
in all its medical glitter.
Somehow I lost my shoes.

Barefoot, I ran across motorways,
ran up the grassy hill, Tony calling
on the phone. I don’t answer.

I can’t remember the last time I peed.
Nightly I’m giving birth
though the baby never comes.

And the wooden doll beside me
grows woodier by the day.

II

Honey, could you open the suitcase
and get me my head?

I woke with a sharp pain –
they injected me.
I woke the next morning –
they brought me my baby.

I am flat and light as the horizon.
Where did the baby come from?
It evaporated in my belly;
turned into a fog
and drifted through my skin.

What a din of hospital trolleys
and cry of squeaky wheels.
The smokes of winter rise
like incense from the tarmac
outside my window.
A night
has dropped out of my life.
An infant pulled
from between my legs.

I lie like a female Christ –
marks on my wrists, my ankles;

There are two of me now –
the one who gave birth
and the one with a stone baby
calcifying inside.

My body aches and burns;
the bruises talk to me.
I came to – hair and makeup
fixed in place.
The smell of lambswool
makes me vomit.

The baby at my side is a dummy;
though it moves and wails.

I stroke my sunken belly –
for I feel it growing still;
growing and stretching
inside of me.

.

Marion McCready lives in Argyll. She won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award (2013) and the Melita Hume Poetry Prize (2013). She has two collections of poetry published by Eyewear Publishing – Tree Language (2014) and Madame Ecosse (2017).