After my father died
I sat on the bed in my shorts and vest
the way he would sometimes do,
an ocean of darkness outside.
His laboured breathing still there
from the afternoon, times too he taught me
how to ride a bike, swim, bat, pee –
or recalled flying bombers in the war,
his vow to marry my mother, getting into
Cambridge from a northern grammar.
But never the Depression before:
people laughing as he shovelled droppings
behind a cart loaded with scrap,
his dad with the reins, always coughing;
all working back to the morning
it stopped – news he was told
in front of his class – the allotment shed
spattered with blood, the note
he was never allowed to read,
and what he must have felt going to bed
that night, the dark sky without a star,
a boy in a world all at sea.
Will Kemp studied at Cambridge and UEA before working as an environmental planner in Canada, Holland and New Zealand. He has been published in various journals and well-placed in national competitions.
In 2012, he won the Cinnamon Poetry Award and Envoi International Poetry Competition in 2010.
His first collection, Nocturnes, has just been published by Cinnamon Press. His second collection, Lowland, will be published by Cinnamon in 2013.
Nocturnes: Review by Susan Richardson
Kemp consistently delights and surprises with his ability to invent fresh and resonant images for darkness, the moon, the stars, while the range of tones – from the humorous depiction of the restive insomniac mind to the restrained grief expressed following the death of the poet’s father – is equally impressive. It is, however, Kemp’s brilliant evocation of different nightscapes, the focus on sound when visuals are diminished and the degree to which the dark sharpens and enhances memories, that make this collection especially compelling.