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Book of Sand

frontcover

An alternating sequence of poetry and visual art, where poems inspire art and art inspires poetry. This pamphlet showcases the work of six poets and five artists and is designed, edited and published by Karen Dennison.

Poems by Emer Gillespie, Anna Kisby, Sharon Black, Valerie Morton, Abegail Morley and E.E. Nobbs. Artwork by Chris Ruston, Michaela Ridgway, Gwen Simpson, Sam Smith and Karen Dennison.

The pamphlet takes its name from, and begins with a poem written in response to, the short story The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges. The poem was given to an artist to respond to with any form of visual art and that artwork was in turn given to a poet to respond to and so on, resulting in a sequential chain of responses. The chain is ongoing and so there will be at least one more edition – to find out more about being involved please contact Karen.

“A unique meeting of visionary poets and artists, who enter into a dialogue that at once informs and heightens their individual works. This small collection is a joy, and once again confirms that we need both the visual and the verbal to understand the world as a whole.” — Tamar Yoseloff

The Clearing

Why did I walk naked into the forest
that June morning? Did the sun sweep
its flashlight across my heart
to reveal a sudden herd of longings?

The petals of the flag iris tremble and arch
until they darken with moisture.
A mountain can be a vantage point,
a ledge.

In the patterns of a birch bark I thought I saw
the back of a wolf ’s head. Yes –
half-revealed by the dew
a wolf rising, rising towards the leaves.

Sharon Black

6 Gwen Simpson

Gwen Simpson – Through the Mist; Hand-cut coloured 70lb Canford card; 15cm x 10.7cm. Photographs of this book are in the Book of Sand along with illustrations and paintings from the other artists.

To buy click here

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Questioning a poet

Valerie Morton’s debut collection, Mango Tree is just out from Indigo Dreams. I caught up with her to find out how it all came about…

AM: When did you start writing and what helped you on your way to having a collection?Morton

VM: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write in one form or another – letters, diaries, articles – but my first poem was published when I was seventeen in a now extinct popular magazine. After that I spent a long period in a writing wilderness. Marriage, having a family and working full time never seemed to leave enough time to produce more than a few scribbles (though I did keep a diary) and my writing was put on the back burner. By the time I picked up my pen again in 1993 I found I was very out of date with modern poetry and language and so I took an OU course – Start Writing Poetry (sadly they don’t do this any more) – and from there went on to take a BA Hons Humanities Degree which included Creative Writing.

Poetry had always been my ambition and with the help of poetry workshops and courses (with Bill Greenwell, the Poetry School and the OU) I gradually arrived at 20th century poetry language and met many helpful people along the way.

It was my final assignment for my OU degree that began the journey towards a collection. I had to write 120 lines of poetry in a sequence and that is when Mango Tree was born. I sat on the poems for some time before adding to them and building them into the story they are now.

AM: Did you start by sending out material to magazines and competitions?

VM: It was Bill Greenwell who suggested that my poem Handprints was publishable and so it appeared in The New Writer in 2008 and since then my poems have appeared in various magazines and in 2012 I won the Ver Poets Ten Liner Competition. I am very slow about sending poems out and intend to do so more often from now on.

AM: Which magazines do you/have you subscribed to? Do you have any favourite?

VM: I have been a long time subscriber to The New Writer and Mslexia and occasionally subscribe to The Rialto, Poetry London, Envoi, New Walk, Magma, all of which I enjoy. I also subscribe regularly to Indigo Dreams three publications Reach Poetry, Sarasvati, and The Dawntreader. If I know and enjoy the work of a particular poet who I know is being published I usually subscribe to a copy of that issue of a magazine.

Mango treeAM: How did Mango Tree evolve?

VM: Mango Tree has always been a story I intended to write but had not considered writing in poetry until the opportunity arose with the final assignment of my OU degree. The story is my own and has been a pivotal part of my life since 1967 and I have been so grateful for the opportunity to share it in a wider context. I had originally submitted some of the poems to Indigo Dreams thinking they may be suitable for Sarasvati and no-one was more surprised than me when they asked for more and then offered me the contract to publish. At first I thought it might be possible to build into a longer collection with other poems either side, but somehow the integrity of the collection was lost and my publisher agreed.

AM: Did you find you had a lot of proofing and editing to do after submission?

VM: There was surprisingly little proofing and editing to do after submission apart from putting the poems in the right order and adding some explanatory prose to two of the poems Music of the Monson and Fireflies. All together there were only three proofs. The acknowledgements did present a small problem as I realised it would be easy to run these into quite a list without some discipline. In the end I think I got it right. A lot of work had already gone into these poems before submission so there were only minor alterations to make.

AM: I really like the cover can you tell me about it?

The cover does have its own story. I had envisaged it in my mind but had no idea where to start. I had the original old photograph from Aurangabad as a slide but was told that the resolution was not good enough for the size required. However, a lovely poet friend and artist Karen Dennison came to my rescue and was able to superimpose the picture of a mango tree on the original photograph. If that sounds easy, it was not – it took over 25 attempts and a whole weekend but in the end I was so happy with the result and am very impressed with what Karen has done. The rest was in the hands of Ronnie at Indigo Dreams who put the final touches and the text and, hey presto, we were in business.

Handprints

More often now
I get the urge
………..to break down again;
to sit on the verge
of that motorway in Kent,
………..your oily prints
turning my white dress
into a finger painting,
………..hoping the rescuers
will take their time
to move us on.

first published in The New Writer

Caledonian  Road

After your funeral I take a detour down
to the dodgy end, searching for that house

of chattering rooms, expecting to see Mary
in her too-bright kaftan while the sounds

of reggae rap from her open windows.
And to find you in that ground-brushing

wraparound skirt, sashaying towards me
so I could re-assure you:  I didn’t take lilies,
 
but jazzy gerberas – your favourites.

But I’d never want you to know
that where we once thought the world lived

in our pockets, stands row on row
of pristine mews in bourgeois leafiness;

that the rich mishmash of our footprints
has been demolished to make way

for ‘highly desirable living’.

published in South Bank Poetry magazine Issue 12

Mango Tree is available from Indigo Dreams.

Geraldine Green

Geraldine Green: Featured Poet

Geraldine Green’s poem Oklahoma night

Oklahoma night

Sitting here, watching a daddy longlegs
spin against the window
from a thin thread of spider twine,
I rise, go outside, slip into a white hammock
strung between two posts of hickory
in a small backyard, Oklahoma City.

You come out, say, “awhh, you look so pretty lying there!
You just enjoy the song of that old mockingbird”.

And I take your advice,
doze along on the strung-out hammock
white as a new moth cocoon and mockingbird,
he sings from the top of his telegraph post,
sings his madfool heart right out his breast
tips his tail, bobs his head
looks around, east and west.

No sign of a mate.

So he changes his tune.
He sings like a robin
sings like a siren
sings like an appletree in spring.

Sang that night when the air-con broke
and we lay looking out our open window
at the bared bones of prairie,
mosquito nets covering our flesh
and that tomfool bird mocking us
in the cocooned dark of Oklahoma night.

Previously published in ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ Indigo Dreams 2012
available from:http://www.indigodreamsbookshop.com/#/geraldine-green/4565286878

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Dr. Geraldine Green is a writer, freelance creative writing tutor and mentor and a visiting lecturer at The University of Cumbria.

She has had four collections published. The Skin and Passio Flarestack Pubications, Poems of a Mole Catcher’s Daughter under the pseudonym of Katie A Coyle by Palores Publications. The Other Side of the Bridge by Indigo Dreams formed part of her PhD in Creative Writing: “An Exploration of Identity and Environment through Poetry.” Geraldine was a contributor to a book on therapeutic writing – Writing Works. Her next collection Salt Road will be published summer 2013, also by Indigo Dreams.

Geraldine’s poetry has been widely anthologised in the UK, US and Italy and translated into German and Romanian. She has recently given a talk at the Lawrence Durrell Centenary Celebrations in Corfu and presented a Paper on the works of John Clare and Aldo Leopold at The South West Texas Conference, Albuquerque. Geraldine, who frequently performs her poetry in the US, will shortly be reading at WoodyFest, www.woodyguthrie.com/ on an extended poetry trip to Oklahoma and Kansas. You can listen to her reading on www.kpfa.org/archive/id/81889

She is an Associate Editor of Poetry Bay www.poetrybay.com

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Counting Rain: Karen Dennison

Karen Dennison won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011, and Counting Rain (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is a strong first collection. According to Helen Ivory her poems “bristle with disquiet and transformation” and I have to agree. At times Dennison’s imagery is astonishing. One moment she shines “a light into memory’s cage, / through its mocking bars” where there is a book “with a mummified cover, cracked like old leather” (Memory’s Cage). Another time she tells us that the moons of Saturn “rise in her fingernails / and the Milky Way swirls in her tea.” (Methods of Madness).

Her eye for detail is acute, the poems so well-honed they are literally breathtaking. In Releasing You Dennison regulates our breathing by carefully chosen words and punctuation:

I wind and wind, feel the pressure build.
The key-hole is empty, its key long lost.

At the end of the above stanza, she startles the reader with “Opening the lid, your eyes are my eyes”. In the final couplet, she returns to the image of the eyes with: “Lowering the lid, I catch your scent, / breathe you in, and out again.” She has perfect control over both the poem and the reader.

This collection grows from birth, with the opening poem, Moon Landing, all the way through life’s rich experiences (explored with clarity of language and strong metaphors) to The Final Room the last poem in the collection:

So this is it – the final room.
Empty shelves line each wall
to store your faded memories.

Sometimes ending like this can feel a little clichéd, wrapping things up too tidily. But it is not the case with this collection – Dennison’s finishes with loops and knots pulled so tightly that she grips the reader right down to the very last word.

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The Dancing Sailors: Ann Pilling

The Dancing Sailors (Indigo Dreams) is Ann Pilling’s second full collection. She won the Poetry Business Pamphlet for Growing Pains in 2007 and her first full-length collection, Home Field was published by Arrowhead in 2008.

Pilling’s opening quotation is taken from Stephen Spender’s “I Think Continually of Those Who were Great” and it is that remembrance than runs through this collection.

There is often a sense of reaching out to something that is no longer there. In Watching for the Otter “… something splits the skin of the stream, a bruise / slicks the water then / it’s flat as lily plates again.”

Within in the collection there is a sense of voyeurism; the watcher watching or being watched, whether by bird, man or the past. In Gimmer Lamb things are there and not there at the same time; a sheep looks at one moment like a cast-off t-shirt and another like a face. The poem moves from one of acceptance to one of anxiety as her mind runs ahead in the spread of the land, over fells and summits and beyond, into her own dark imaginings:

“If it’s left, what worms and birds don’t eat

will dry out, whiten

to linen on a bleaching green, a walker

may grind it under foot.”

Pilling goes further to imagine what happens beyond the period of decay and absence, until she draws us back to the scene of a man who has come from a far country to this very spot and

“stands scattering ashes

in a place somebody loved”

which brings us back to remembrance.

In the title poem, The Dancing Sailors Pilling speaks of suicide,  “your slacks bulgy with pebbles”, Woolf in the Ouse and “Van Gogh’s final cornfield” with a fragility which is intensified after reading her note at the back of the book. This is a collection of recollections, memories, and the journey of the human spirit.  I’ll end with the last two lines of Spender’s poem:

“Born of the sun they travelled a short while toward the sun,

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.”

Valerie Morton

Valerie Morton: Featured Poet

After the Dance

We walk home barefoot, past workplaces
dozing with an eye on the morning

and locked houses where cozy sleepers
begin to stretch away from dreams.

An hour ago music had been our only cause
to move and breathe. We’d raised our hands

waving to a false sun, believing
we knew all the answers.

My fingers were raindrops on your back,
your hand a promise of ecstasy.

Dawn sweeps the pavements as we realise
that somewhere along the way

we’ve lost our shoes.

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It was recently said that “Valerie Morton captures the poetry and cherished memory of domestic familiarity through simple, quiet but effective understatement” (Reach Poetry, Indigo Dreams, Norman Bissett, Jan 2011).  She has been placed in various competitions including Ver Poets, Cafe Writers, The New Writer, Cannon Poets and has poems in a number of anthologies.  She leads a Creative Writing Workshop at a mental health charity and is just finishing an Open University degree.  The featured poem appears in the Ragged Raven anthology The World is Made of Glass published in 2010.