Featured Publication – In the Curator’s Hands by Abegail Morley

Our featured publication for May is In the Curator’s Hands by Abegail Morley, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

In this latest work, Abegail Morley takes on the voices of books, paper, documents, photographs and characters to create and curate a dystopian archive.

I’ve learnt how to undo in perfect order: this exemplary collection is poetry as inventory, played out in rich calibrations of textured and inventive language. Abegail Morley’s poems exist in an exciting tension of stasis and fluidity, as the curator’s paper, objects, artefacts, the body itself seek to unhusk their inner life and liberate their own true inky voices.’ Robert Seatter

‘These are claustrophobic poems about degradation: of matter, the body, relationships, knowledge, and the certainty of words. In the underworld of the archive, Morley aims to ‘complicate the darkness.’  Her poems work as preservation techniques to recall the names of those I’ve hoarded.’ Morley knows how to grip her readers’ attention and destabilise certainties in intriguing ways. In the Curator’s Hands is disturbing, intelligent and absorbing.’ Heidi Williamson

Curator cover image

 

The Depository

At its darkest point, nothing shifts. In this breathless
place we’re foxed-paper, dip-penned letters
scrawling Indian ink, assembled sheet by sheet
next to people camera-stilled in black and white.

We rot in tattered boxes, dusty as lazy Sundays
lost to heat, wine, the slow pull of work.
The curator swears he never catalogued us,
throws up his arms in shock. He can crease us,

snap open our spines, yet leaves us to blindly
drift in a land of locked boxes, slip-cased
in polyester pockets, sealed behind closed doors.
Tonight I wait at the front of the alphabet,

shucking knife rattling like a heartbeat. Hooked
in my other hand his joined-up writing moans,
ruffles the edges of each page as if to stem blood.

 

Boxed in

I’m the girl trapped in the box, stomach
an empty honeycomb,
gold drained,
dull lustre,
tinny when struck
by a raised fist.

My sentence noosed, half-said,
latches to lips,
a parasite with arrhythmic heart.
Dust-mouthed,
I recite a shopping list
of incidentals:
daylight
daylight
a quarter pound of cherries

(I can almost taste their sweetness, but not quite).

 

Inventory

Sometimes I just let air shift,
unscent itself of relics,
open all the drawers in the collection,

recall the names of those I’ve hoarded here,
transpose them on to carbon paper
to print, reprint. Reprint.

I risk my touch on them,
wonder why I didn’t let them leave
this autumnal storehouse, knowing their boxes

unhusk themselves each night, inky voices
clamour in an eternal darkness grazing
walls and ceilings in their bid to escape.

 

Occupied (in B&W)

I’m beginning to like strangers for their hollowness,
the way there’s no knowing what’s inside them
no matter how close you stand. You can check out
the lining of their coats for a giveaway shimmer

or search the home-sewn seams of a woman
two seats ahead on the Grimsby bus, note how
she hangs her head as if listening to something far off –
an accordion humming by the Seine,

a French Resistance radio cluttering airwaves:
Ici Londres ! Les Français parlent aux Français.
She has needle-thin lips, a cloud of knitting on her lap,
stains from last night’s supper on her jumper.

I wonder if she sent coded messages after songs –
there’s a flood at the telephone exchange,
a detour on the road to Cleethorpes, a wedding
to rearrange somewhere south of Waltham.

I get off before her, pass her knuckled-down body,
scavenge for a hint, a scent, a secret past.
The doors shudder open – I pour myself out,
hard water in sullen rain, hear the click-click

of the bus sign flicking: Laceby, Healing, Harbrough,
know my stranger will lose herself on Roman roads
and not know how to ask her way home:
Ici Londres ! Les Français parlent aux Français.

 

Abegail Morley’s recent collection is The Skin Diary (Nine Arches). Her debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. In the Curator’s Hands is new from IDP. She’s “One of the Five British Poets to Watch in 2017” (Huffington Post), blogs at The Poetry Shed (https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/) and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

In The Curator’s Hands (Indigo Dreams Publishing) may be purchased from: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/abegail-morley-curator/4593997535

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