Perhaps Other Reasons
by Emily Critchley
That cat gut you’ve inserted through my mouth,
It travels down my spine, fires & tugs
With every movement, specially in my loins ~
It is the fruit of all seasons; a bird
For every journey ~ on each vital organ.
It has a tension you wouldn’t believe, a sssssspiccato
Belonging to the ‘60s. I mean the 1660s.
It is a little heinous corpus when I
Bend under. If you squared it with the up stroke,
You might smooth things over for a while ~
At least till I return to some other
Decimated breeding ground where the mood
Is fertile & the land more perchy.
Such times are tough, & I get easily strung out.
Also, I find with every era that goes by
This little throat gets less & less tuneful /
More grating to the ear. I hate to catch you
On the wing for such discussions.
& there are perhaps other reasons why
It’s not the best idea
Emily Critchley (St Peter’s, 1999) was born in Athens, Greece, and grew up in Dorset. She studied at the Universities of Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge. She gained a PhD in contemporary American women’s experimental writing and philosophy from Cambridge. She now lectures in English & creative writing at the University of Greenwich. This poem comes from Love / All That / & OK (Penned in the Margins, 2010).
Excerpts from a work in progress
by Geoffrey Hill
Medusas, basilisks, dragons in fens,
Eternal in their demands. Dragon's teeth
I have learned use of; with Coriolan's
Obliviousness also a plundered myth;
Determination of necessity;
Past recklessness in bruised misreckoning;
That blazed Yeatsian thing
Of savage joy:
The reed lake; wintering
Wild geese a-clang.
The comprehension of its vanes,
Lividness in fettle. Something unclear
Scales the escarpment of this eightieth year,
Prays the child's terrified
Comfort of bed.
Who is best able to
Choose whom to fable to,
Horse away on a laugh,
Appear both ends of the school photograph?
Such purity and sweetness of tone, that
Exquisite modulation: must I beg
The old twister's pardon for this late spate
Of malediction, stabbings infra dig
Into the weasand and underbelly,
Putting questions with stump ingratitude
As you but lately did
On the telly;
The bidders the outbid
For a signed nod?
A promptitude long sought
To squinny lust of the unbought
Grace of life miscalled – ah well! – bonuses
For known abuses, high-toned tonelessness.
Go bless the little ships,
The splendid chaps,
Brave Duke of York his men
Swept off by bursts of fun;
The nation in its loss
About the tumuli of bard and boss.
Gauche poet does right by wronged general:
There is a lilt to that, it takes the truth.
In part you're Cincinnatus or de Gaulle;
One or the other, less likely both;
Famed as a holding spirit in the breach;
Brave scar emblazoned through the palimpsest;
Some call to readjust
The Ides of March;
The mob ranged in its dust
Crying the cost:
The slow trajectory
Of peace imploding victory.
So to this grave, this avenue; you have
The verdured gods, the flood, the architrave;
A marbled floor through which
The light may glitch
And run like wax; here turn
A torso or an urn;v The painted shadow-keel,
A pool of nymphs wherein you sway and reel.
Bless hierarchy, dismiss hegemony,
Thus I grind to conclusion. Politics
Make sensate the maligned and monstrous play –
Shakespeare's apprentices rattling their sticks,
The aristocrats as such, like driving
Out Huguenots or Lombards. Their brain-flux
Cloacal muck-fix, grex
Up and jiving,
Faex Romuli in Rex
Ist Gresham's Law degrades People.
Hierarchy yet: Blake's lordly plates to Job
And he was a sworn Leveller. The mob
Is never the Nation
Says John Milton.
Say I repeat myself,
Beleaguered better half.
No doubt even this grame
Backlog of monsters for another time.
Geoffrey Hill, whom AN Wilson once described as “probably the best writer alive, in verse or in prose”, was elected oxford's Professor of Poetry in June. Having beaten nine other candidates to win by a large majority, he becomes the 44th occupant of one of the most distinguished literary chairs in existence, succeeding Christopher ricks in a line of incumbents that includes Matthew Arnold, WH Auden, Robert Graves and Seamus Heaney.
This is the sweet season. Black and red gums
decorate the hedge.Virginia creeper
every colour of peardrop swathes the shed,
and acorns range from cocoa to lime green.
I am pricking sloes for gin. Last year's crop
glows garnet on the shelf. A comb of honey
warms on the stove, luring drunken wasps.
Summers condense to this, and clothes outgrown.
On the floor, a Matchbox car, paint
peeling to lead grey. Septeniber steers us
towards Hallowe'en, relentless Catherine wheels,
bitter cordite and evenings dark early
Around the eaves the martins dance aerobics.
The future goes all ways, like pick-up sticks
by Michael Curtis
This surprise in the clouds
flocking silver, white
uplit by the million lamps
of Kuala Lumpur
that bucks and eddies
wet equatorial sky
in bellies of light, then
veers towards Singapore
leaves us behind
on the low-railed roof
to retrieve cocktails
for its return. Billowed left
or right, out of sight
it tugs our minds
as we step into the lift
descend without a word
to the airless streets
disappointed by gravity
and tripping on our feet,
heads in the clouds.
Michael Curtis (Corpus Christi, 1967) grew up in Liverpool and now lives in Kent. His latest collection Walking Water was published in Picardy by Editions des Vanneux in 2009 and Latvian translations of selected poetry and prose Melnais suns were published in Riga in 2010. He is currently collaborating on four Poems by Post with artists in Charente and completing his next collection, The Fire in Me Now.
The Other Side
by Patrick McGuinness
…that eventless realm, neither cold nor hot, neither
hilly nor flat, where the dead, each at their own best
age and marooned in an eternal afternoon, pass
the ages with sod all going on. Hilary Mantel,
The dead flit lightly by. They have no ballast,
nothing can keep them down. Slowly,
like Zeppelins on the horizon, or thoughts
coming into view, they go about our lives.
Death has not altered their priorities.
They keep things in perspective.
They are as down to earth as ever,
shop locally, mow their universal lawns.
Around them a civil breeze of trespass
rustles in the trees, bends the flowers
in their flowerbeds, pries their shutters
open as the darkness rolls in from our day.
But they are not nostalgic. 'Life goes on'
they seem to say – 'all is much the same:
Eternity is just a small town age
and Night a darker shade of beige.'
Tunisian-born poet, editor and translator Patrick McGuinness lives in Cardiff and is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at St Anne's College. 'The Other Side' is from Jilted City (Carcanet, 2010), "a rough guide to a lonely planet, full of unquenchable cultural curiosity".
by Peter Dale
After so long to fetch up with silver birch,
bracken inflating with the breeze, the dry
springy mat of needles, the mind's purchase,
where only homely ghosts retrace the by-ways.
That trunk, with all the torsion of a girl
Elbowing her slip above her head, dead wish
or memory. (A life-long stepper-out, you were,
foot over silken splash with a cat's precision.)
No walks by still waters, hoping for seas,
nor where oaks writhe. These silver birch
will do; they always have, beyond all reason.
I shall not wander into you round here.
Winter is mine, the bare boughs emerging.
My ways have narrowed, these dry sticks my clearing.
Peter Dale (St Peter's, 1960) edited the poetry page for Oxford Today between 1999 and 2010. 'Clearing' is one of a sequence of 60 sonnets describing a relationship, published as One Another (The Waywiser Press, 2002). Dale has also been widely praised for translations of Villon, Laforgue and Dante's Divine Comedy, all published by Anvil Press. The same press will later this year publish Dale's collected works under the title Diffractions.
by Rowan Williams
Lying back broadly, arms flung out,
curling like feathers; the blood has dried
now, and it is quiet in the wet, ridged bed
where only minutes back voice, flesh,
air split so loudly open. Now
work is over, others must take it up,
connect the tubes, wash things away, arrange
for labelling the anonymous flesh.
Curling luxuriously upwards, a hollow dove,
the body waits to cuddle to itself
the scrap of a small cry, of a large
emptiness, inside the frozen wings,
below the broad smile on a face
absolved, unfocused, long past hearing.
Dr Rowan Williams was elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. He gained a DPhil in 1975 (Wadham) and served as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Christ Church from 1986 to 1991. His volumes of poetry include The Poems of Rowan Williams (2002), and Headwaters (2008), both published by Perpetua Press.
by Ruth Bidgood
The year you left
your garden fought off drought
to give you its best summer.
Even in autumn,
to the last day, almost,
you brought in armfuls of roses.
A long time, twenty years,
as long as a day.
Voices overlapping in lit rooms,
laughter, rasp of crisp leaves
blown over stone.
We are held here in amber.
Coming down a half-cleared path
I find you, planting roses.
A long time, twenty years,
as long as a day, a summer, a dream.
Born in Wales, at Seven Sisters, near Neath, Ruth Bidgood was educated at Oxford. During the Second World War she worked as a coder in Alexandria. She returned to Wales in the 1960s and now lives near Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys. Well known as a local historian as well as poet, her work is perhaps not so surprisingly, rooted in the natural surroundings, its nature and history. The poem that follows is from her latest book, For the Time Being (2009), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, reprinted here by permission of Seren Books.
Wild Boar of New York
by Sarah Hesketh
Remembering how Aristotle felt
metal-bound and hard to the throat,
the swart boar flirts the stoop.
Snaffling for trash, his ridgeback wig
stands stiff as a disguise.
He bides his time.
Haunted by the cuff of his feet
in sweet grass,
the burst flute of Aphrodite’s calls
as he put her young god to the gore.
Sarah Hesketh (Merton, 2001) was born in 1983 and grew up in Pendle, East Lancashire. Her debut collection, Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf (2010), from which this poem comes, is published by Penned in the Margins and was described by Bernard O’Donoghue as “original and utterly convincing”. She currently works as Assistant Director at the writers’ charity English PEN.
by Thomas Marks
A game of chess but not my country’s rules.
These halting friendlies tend to stalemate.
The usual Saxon gambits out of luck,
I feel for squares and how the pieces move.
For days, my stutter-play in church and square.
Each night a lingering at single moves...
Know if I blunder into false attack,
J’adoube, my dear, j’adoube. I take it back.
Thomas Marks (Magdalen, 2004) is from London. He gained an MSt and a DPhil at Magdalen, the latter on Victorian poetry and architecture. He is one of the editors of online magazine thejunket.org, and works as a freelance writer, reviewer and educational tour director.
by Tom Chivers
On the fifth day we sailed our frozen island out
into the shipping lanes. We counted all the evil things
and cast them in an ice-hole. They were only numbers.
On the fourth day we opened high-yield savings accounts.
The refugee camps were fast becoming commuter towns
encircling the crater. Jets of steam were seen from the tor.
On the third day we left our cars in short stay.
The air was pine-fresh. Pebbles nuzzled at our shoes.
We began to doubt the alignment of the trackway.
On the second day we shopped. You carried your foot
like a dead weight. Some youths got on TV
pretending to be trainee customer service assistants.
On the first day the fridge defrosted itself.
Wearing Halloween masks we made love and
you said something really evil about a mutual friend.
On the day before the first day we fell into geometry
like children. The sky was a chemical peel.
We slept alone and restlessly through the shipping news.
Tom Chivers (St Anne’s, 2001) was born in 1983 in South London. His books include How To Build A City (Salt Publishing, 2009) and The Terrors (Nine Arches Press, 2009) and, as editor, Stress Fractures: Essays on Poetry and the anthologies Generation Txt and City State: New London Poetry (Penned in the Margins, 2010, 2006 & 2009). He is Director of independent publisher Penned in the Margins and co-Director of London Word Festival.
Image by Phil Gyford under Creative Commons license