Poems

How I Did It: ‘Poem in which the girl has no door on her mouth’

In Anne Carson’s essay The Gender of Sound (from Glass, Irony and God, printed as Glass and God in the UK edition, and strangely omitting The Gender of Sound altogether) she writes of ‘…the haunting garrulity of the nymph Echo (daughter of Iambe in Athenian legend) who is described by Sophokles as “the girl with…

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How I Did It: ‘The Cattle Farmer’s Tale’

Imagination, being by definition un-willed, often comes in unexpectedly, the result of some chance encounter or coincidence. We can’t will ourselves into a genuinely imaginative space. We can work with what imagination provides – uncover the form, improve the syntax, work to complete the poem – but imagination itself is uncanny, unbiddable. Imagination always takes…

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‘The Garage, Tours’

As to what’s here, I can give you some idea: Various artifacts that Grammie brought back from the Philippines – probably one box                                                              All part of life’s rich tapestry. Shoes and clothing – probably at least two large boxes or equivalent                                                              You can tell a man by his shoes. Your Dad’s…

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‘Globalization Detritus’

Quivering pedal steel Green-winged dove Dilapidated keyboards from an ancient Commodore 64 Hendricks and tonic with a twist Failed expectations Dinner guests arriving early Maasai warrior with 3rd gen. iPhone Heavily-marketed ISIS You Tubes Traffic oceans on the 101 North Impossible bouts of insomnia Pre-planned pregnancies Unfortunate haircuts Hammond organs Cosmologist at his wit’s end…

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How I Did It: ‘On First Meeting Margot’

One Thursday afternoon in May 2014, I left my Poetry School class and headed to Waterloo for the train home. On Lower Marsh, I bumped into my friend Alice, who I had not seen for quite some time. With her was Margot, her small daughter whose father is a close friend of mine, the poet…

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How I Did It: ‘How to Renovate a Morris Minor’

I was having a conversation this week with a brilliant Welsh poet, who’s currently at work on his second collection. He said something about his creative process which resonated strongly with me: he was working hard, he said, to get to the stage where the poems wrote themselves. That’s always been it for me: the…

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‘Sex Education’

When I am asked what I most want to be when I grow up, I think about sex education: to my fourteen year old body hauling itself to the cafeteria, where Mister Jacobs takes the girls and plays film stills of mutts devouring meat outside a butcher’s. In the next room, the boys are handed…

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‘The Drowners’

They will step into you – first a toe, then the ball of a foot. Some will come clothed, though most will leave something behind – a tell-tale coat, a pair of shoes. They will make it seem easy, as if they are stepping into nightfall – not even you, nor the eye of a…

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‘Their letters’

 1st May 1610 Her letter is pressed from flour-damp breast to Judas-hand Joanna, hides in spinster folds to pass the Hall, makes its way first to lips then nose, Peter eager for the hard-worked scent of her, his Rose with lush, wide petals and soft sticky buds, last pinched and tipped on Hollyn Hill St…

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‘Marie Curie’s radium’

Don’t think you can leave me at the lab, locked in, safely far from your flat. Don’t think you can leave me in that rickety shed you stole from anatomists when even they didn’t want it. You shut me in with the white ghosts of skulls that are more space than matter. But I don’t…

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How I Did It: ‘Sow’

Like many of the poems in Black Country, it took a long time for ‘Sow’ to travel from its first notes to its final form.  It began as a scribbled note in my diary in May 2010. I was walking along Highgate Tube platform in a new pair of black boots and, hearing them trip-trapping,…

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‘Object Waiting’

    COMMENT Natasha Flaw (aka Natalie Shaw) features in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Antiphon, Butcher’s Dog and Prole, amongst others. She can also be found at http://natalieshawpoems.wordpress.com. ‘Object Waiting’ was written in response to Richard Osmond’s Open Workshop ‘Written in Juice of Lemon’, where students were challenged to write a poem designed to be published, broadcast…

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How I Did It: ‘Burnt Rose’

I wrote ‘Burnt Rose’ in Newsham Park in Liverpool, on a nature-spotting walk with my son. Sometimes we take our notebooks to the park, along with a football and some snacks, and write down — or draw pictures of — what we see.  That day we found, under a tree, a rose that had been burned: it was…

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‘Arkam’

This street was once a market where a raven bowed down and pecked a boy’s face. As he fainted the others came to feast. They used to steal walnuts and drop them into the road. Cars broke the shells and they ate the insides. Once they came into our house and tore into our parents’…

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‘Pegged Down Square’

As you snuggle down your eyes flutter towards the beauty of REM touching your hair I whisper maybe we should move on from this cracked cold land you dream murmur I barely hear as whining winds whip like bullets through sounding walls quiet you say I delve into thought of our glitzy summer wedding so…

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‘No going back’

She’s made of a million white-fingered sleights of hand, light-touch lies like slight dust traces. Look, an example: a small metal cage, inside, banked-up, shredded pages of The Guardian, a scum-ringed bowl, no food, no animal. He’s hiding, she’s insisting to her school friend, with a blistering of shame. Like bonfire toffee resisting the hammer,…

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‘Eye’

Always a girl’s name – you knew when she was near from the sweltering clamp of your dress on the skin between your shoulder blades and the thunder ants that flew in from the thick night to thud into the standard lamp’s hot silk shade and fall, milling in its circle of light, depositing their…

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‘Hiccups’

and fall up – Toast crumbs dance on the plate hiccups – surprising as they rise askew through bright morning light to the ceiling, spring clouds of bread midges. Beautiful. Wrong. On the table, spoons, knives jolt and jounce;           pounce upright; fire high, stab plaster. Anchored in my chair, I’m braced,…

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‘Free Verse Cento’

There’s a lot at stake on a first line. For novels, the work’s mood is irrevocably set – you know when you read “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new” in Beckett’s Murphy what kind of book you’ve bought. Poetry collections are slightly different. There are multiple points of entry – I…

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‘The Secret Languages of Ireland’

Breaking camp, they left at dawn without waking a soul their wagons consigned to flames. Anna na mBreag Veronica swirled poitín against the light; cautioned me not to smash my teeth with the bottle as we swigged. As I felt her Irish tongue in my mouth, I pondered the significance of words. So the back…

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‘The Day She Dropped’

the trifle, it exploded on the blue floor pain -ting cryptic signs churned in chaos. Raspberries, cream, vanilla custard, glacé cherries, perfect sponge, (home-made of course) secrets hinted by hundreds and thousands no-one would ever understand. The cold glister of broken crystal, the old bowl her ex brought back from Paris at his own risk. She…

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‘Brother tongue’

This song is for my brother across the water, whose raised eyebrow by email is a flicker in which I do believe. I sing the praises of his silences which sweep up the dead leaves of sound I praise his photos of girlfriends leaning on pillars in temples the light hitting them sideways. For he…

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‘The Manacles, at Porthoustock’

This is what you gave me, Salvaged from a memory: Watching from the headland. Pointing from the outside in. You named the rocks, Sung them in a circle, Gave them their voice as they stirred in slack water. Penwin; Morah; Maen Voes. And those that came rising from the sea, The finger bones of witches,…

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‘My Shrink’s Window’

lacks trees. And branches, which can never be placated when they strain forward to rap knuckles. Her branchless window negates the passing of time. What is old is as old as the rising of the sap. Branches fork in endless possibilities making bids for freedom yet are inescapably attached, as though redemption lies in following…

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‘The Fire Station’

is a box of matches wedged in the kitchen drawer between polio jabs, BMX wheelies, oily King marbles like dark planets, the car park sign that made us snigger, asking if you had remembered to pay and display your ticket cock when you took us to Beacon Park in the courgette green Hunter the days…

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