Our featured publication for July is Threat by Julia Webb, published by Nine Arches Press.
The poems in Threat, Julia Webb’s second collection, train their eagle-eyes on life
at the margins, and on family, love, loss, belonging and not belonging. They are
not afraid to visit the uncomfortable places where true humanity resides. Threat
is an examination of self from multiple perspectives. Its narratives of both past
and present tread a fine line between fantasy and reality – these are the lives we
have led, the lives we could have led, the lives we are leading or could still lead.
Forensically detailed and disturbing, the dark and sometimes brutal undertow of
small-town life seeps to the surface of these unsettling poems.
“Threat is a powerful and unsettling telling of how it feels to be a girl living in
small town whose surfaces are seethed with graffiti, and home life bristles with
disquiet. A girl whose body grows into a woman’s shape and becomes instant
prey to the lurkers in bars and those who snuffle the playgrounds with bags of
hot chips. Julia Webb’s voice here is magical realism at its most gritty, full of loss
and longing. I found myself in these poems; know their streets and forest
pathways and felt their dangers as a visceral ache.” Helen Ivory
“Threat is a collection which brilliantly manages to be both surreal and of the
body; it’s a reminder that within the perfect metaphor can live a depth of truth
that ordinary language might not be able to discover. Threat knows how closely
love and loss, comedy and tragedy, violence and sexuality can be bound together
within the tight confines of a poem.” Andrew McMillan
“In Julia Webb’s audacious new collection the past is as claustrophobic as one of
the cramped houses she so vividly describes, where families are cooped up
together in dangerous proximity. Tensions simmer in poems of startling
physicality, where the body’s desires and rages make their – sometimes brutal –
presence felt. By turns horrifying, comic and tender, the poems crackle like a
nylon sheet in the dark – full of hair-raising energy. Highly recommended.” Esther Morgan
The language of home hurts my mouth
It spies on me at night, peering in through the letterbox.
Though I left years ago, it hasn’t let me go;
when I was six it tied a bit of elastic to my ankle
so I would always bounce back again,
when I was ten it inked its name on the insides of my thighs,
enjoying slipping its hand between my legs.
This is how it is with us – me running, it pouncing.
Mostly it speaks in screeches, the rising voice of accusation.
My hometown doesn’t have an s, an a,
or any other friendly letter. All its sounds are hard.
Weeks and months go by now where I barely say its name
but its language lives inside me,
spills out at odd moments as fucks and cunts,
a whole town teeming with swear words.
Beyond that the shush of pines;
shoulder to shoulder silence, shoulder to shoulder dark.
Previously published in Lampeter Review (#16, summer 2018)
was in our father’s arms,
he butchered her daily,
first cutting off her head and arms
then her legs and feet.
He waved at us with her hands
from the kitchen window
as we bounced tennis balls onto the flat roof,
any excuse to climb on the fence.
By tea-time she was sewn back together,
her stitches clumsy, her head on wrong.
She crashed around the kitchen,
dropping hot fat onto delicate skin.
I’m all fingers and thumbs today,
she would say.
Previously published in Domestic Cherry (2018)
Your mother is landlady of the dead house
She slides a drink to you along the bar –
where did she learn such tricks?
She used to be an ordinary woman,
with her peasant dresses and handicrafts,
she is even handier now, the landlord says.
Your mother pushes her breasts up and together
as if she has just discovered them.
Now she is out of her dress-tents she feels invincible.
You want to make her one of those warning signs
like the ones they have at the swimming pool
to help steer her through the choppy waters of lust:
no heavy petting, no bombing.
Your mother is pulling a pint,
the muscles in her arm bulge,
she leans across the counter
and whispers in a customer’s ear,
her voice is breathy, girlish.
You want to sweep her into your arms
but instead you knock back your drink
and call for another shot –
tequila with its line of salt.
Oh mother you are a public bar
and I am the scratches on the counter
you tried so hard to remove.
All the Women
“all the women, all the women
of Texas flock towards it”
(Hilda Sheehan, The Box of Books 1)
all the women, all the women
are inside me now
shouting that this is a fine day for it
that they needn’t have brought their brollies,
their rain faces, their fold-up kagoules
whose voice is loudest I couldn’t tell you
I speak acorns and buttresses
I speak water lilies and doves
the day is a wedding
and shortly we will all climb with our brimming glasses
aboard a vintage double decker
but the women, the women
they are building their bakeries inside me
they are making baklava and baking exquisite cakes
they are replacing my blood with confectioner’s custard
and icing the insides of my breasts
and they are right it is a fine day for it
the sky is smiling widely showing its teeth of birds
no bombs are falling
we have 24 hour supermarkets and online shopping
and there are books, books galore on ebay and in libraries
we can pick them up and check them out
we can put them under our jumpers and take them home
but the women, the women
are camped on the edge of the deep dark pool
they are writing their epic poems on the inside of my skin
they are filling me up with shopping lists
chapters of novels, letters and bills
I am word confetti
I open my book beak and inadvertently sing
Previously Published in Ink, Sweat and Tears (2018)
Julia Webb grew up in Thetford, a small town in rural Norfolk . She has a BA in
Creative Writing From Norwich University College of the Arts and an MA
(poetry) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich where she
teaches creative writing and is a poetry editor for Lighthouse, a journal for new
writing. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition. Her poem
‘Sisters’ was highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prize. In 2016 she was
writer in residence on Norwich Market. Her first collection Bird Sisters was
published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.
Threat is available to buy from the Nine Arches Press website.