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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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Online Magazines

As The New Writer is girding its loins, embracing the web and moving towards online poetry publication, I have been looking at what is out there and gathering some ideas. The Poetry Library has an impressive and extensive list of e-magazines, blogzines and other online poetry sites “that follow an editorial policy similar to that of traditional printed poetry magazines.” In other words, they have weeded out the unmediated and provided a list worth exploring.

Todd Swift of Eyewear suggests you look at what the sites ask for, and what they offer before sending your work. “If a site doesn’t ask for money from the poet, offers them proper credit for their work, and presents the poetry in an attractive format, with other poets (some of whom are respected, published and recognized as serious) then all should be well.”

So once you’ve done that, what can you expect from publication on these sites and why send your work for online publication rather than print? At Ink, Sweat and Tears they have an enormous international readership, something not achievable with a conventional publication. How enormous is enormous? Charles Christian who launched Ink, Sweat and Tears has a monthly visitorship of 16,000 readers (measured as distinct URLs) and 55,000 page views, so on average each reader visits the site about once every 8 days. Approximately 60% of his readership is located outside the UK. Eyewear receives 17,000 visits on average per month and Michelle McGrane reports that Peony Moon receives between 100 and 200 hundred daily hits.

I find it quite difficult to keep up with all the poetry out there and am currently more comfortable with a printed magazine. But now realise I need to make room for both in my life. Do they co-exist or compete? Charles Christian suggests poetry sites do not compete with printed magazines. “There is still a lot of snobbery associated with printed magazines but this is really a generational thing. The world is changing, dead-tree publications, postage stamps and fountain pens are giving way to digital publications. We are committed to the iPod Generation, we are the future”.

It is not just the young who are online readers. Todd Swift sees everyone becoming more tech-savvy and interested, but thinks “under-40s are more comfortable reading online and more likely to consider an online journal the equivalent (at least) of one made of paper.” Peony Moon has readers from twenty to seventy leaving comments on the site and thinks “online sites and internet stores have made poetry more accessible, particularly to readers who live in places where bookshops don’t stock poetry beyond Keats and A New Anthology of English Verse.”

Poetry is sometimes criticised as elitist. Can online sites break through this barrier by making it more accessible? Todd Swift hopes “that poetry retains some of its elitist image, because any art form that is ‘for everyone’ is likely to be watered down.” Charles Christian suggests that poetry is not elitist but that it is a fringe activity that will never appeal to as wide an audience as other art forms and entertainment. “What I think is the value of online sites is that they are accessible … they allow us to publish digital/experimental forms of poetry that could never be reproduced in a conventional publication.”

So, it’s time to judge for yourself: follow the links to the sites mentioned. Once you’ve done that, I suggest you visit The Poetry Library online and trawl through their list. You might be surprised how many online poetry sites are out there.

First published in The New Writer, Spring 2011

Since writing this article Helen Ivory is now sole editor of Ink, Sweat and Tears.