This is what happens to poetry after years of under-investment – Tim Love

This is what happens to poetry after years of under-investment

Depression’s a shadow that doesn’t fade
when you turn the light off in this cheap hotel.
Extras are paid more here if they speak,
so they go “Uh Uh Uh” in the next room.

At least it rhymes. Unable to sleep, you take a walk
in the snow where the cable-cars keep going all night.
You’ve never seen stray dogs with such expressive eyes,
or roads so bright with moonlight.

If you could hold back the tears
you could write about how you’re not always
like this – it’s just that some reactions
bypass the mind. You don’t know why.

You’d prefer to sway between cafe tables
singing about how sad love is, your
heirloom accordion keys yellowed except
for one you got a grant to mend, brilliantly white.

Back at your hotel they’re still at it next door.
You sit on your bed, your boots dripping, wondering
why you wrote a poem instead of a prayer, though
you’ve always been confused about the difference.

 

Tim Love’s publications are Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

When it’s all over, I’ll go to Thailand – Catherine Baker

When it’s all over, I’ll go to Thailand

I will walk down Soi Suanplu 8, again, in the early morning,
when the tuk tuk drivers are eating and laughing over their rice bowls.

My granddaughter will be wearing a dress printed with forget-me-nots,
I’ll wear my long shorts and old red flip-flops.

We’ll wander through the scent of frangipani and fried egg
and examine every bright flower in the pavement cracks,
notice stones and insects, puzzle over the water drains.

I will hold her hand as we look at the carp in the hotel pool
and nod to the three-legged dog outside 7 Eleven.

When we reach the banana lady’s stall, she’ll be there
shining in her wrinkles, she will call “Sawasdee kaa, hallo”,
to Lyla, who will be shy and cling to my bare leg.

Then she  will choose a small, perfectly cooled,
grilled banana and place it on my baby girl’s golden palm.
And I will bow and say thank you.

 

Catherine Baker has been published by Stand, Snakeskin and Amaryllis. She was highly commended in The Prole Poet Laureate competition in April 2020.  She has poems in anthologies such as Poetry from Gloucestershire and Ways to Peace. She was runner up in GWN poetry competition, 2018, the poem was read at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

Featured Publication – The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee

Our featured publication for August is The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee, published by Arachne Press.

Nothing is unimportant in The Significance of A Dress, where next year is not the future but a question. Each refugee, suffragette or shushed voice and narrative encompassed by the poems is personal and individual, yet simultaneously universal in its reach and significance. In ‘Dismantling The Jungle’, flames form “an echo of a former life”. This vivid collection is full of such flames and echoes. Whether it’s “Each dress hangs from a noose” (‘Bridal Dresses in Beirut’) or “Everything Abdel sees is smeared, despite his glasses” (Stories from The Jungle), Emma Lee’s focus is precise, poised and packs emotional punch. Her evocative imagery is reinforced by taut lines, striking juxtapositions and intimate, moving details. The Significance of A Dress is a beautiful, powerful and haunting collection.‘ S A Leavesley

From the title page of The Significance of a Dress, Emma Lee cleverly fashions a feminist metaphor for #MeToo into uncompromising forms. These include the terrible symbol of bridal dresses hung from nooses in Beirut, signifying rapists absolved of their crimes through marrying their victims, a figure walking home in the UK uncertain whether she is safe from rape after a recent attack in the area, and further victims of rape and domestic abuse. The reader is never let go, with head dunked into the murky waters of domestic life until forced to accept Lee’s compelling argument of a grossly unequal world. The poet does this with immense skill in versification, giving her audience no option but to pay attention. This is daring, well-imagined poetry with global scope, giving voice to women from myriad backgrounds and cultures. It goes far beyond the boundaries of #MeToo, arguing the world has become one of disturbing realm of sexual inequality, in an atmosphere of constant threat. Lee’s collection addresses unfairness, advocating for those who have been denied the ability to speak for themselves.‘ Dr James Fountain

Front Cover Emma Lee

 

I saw life jackets left on the beach
Kos, Summer 2015

I asked the waiter, but he shrugged.
Later he loaded crates into the manager’s car.
She looked dead on her feet, said something
about an extra sitting at dinner.
But there weren’t any new guests.
It was my two weeks in the sun.
I’d eaten nothing but lettuce
for weeks to look OK in my bikini.

The waiter stopped flirting, went quiet.
I followed him to the derelict hotel where tents
had sprung up like mushrooms overnight.
He didn’t want to talk. I didn’t push it.
You learn that at a call centre. Some people
think you’re a machine and they just poke buttons.
Others, you’re the only person they’ve talked to all day.
I’d only come to sunbathe
so helping give out food didn’t seem much.

One mother told me men drifted around
and she didn’t think her daughters were safe.
After their journey, they didn’t want confinement
to a crowded room. I became a chaperone.
I taught them hopscotch on the beach.
Their laughter such a strange sound.
Paperwork’s slow at the best of times.
I left my euros for the hotel to pass on.
I hope it helped. I bought them sanitary pads.
People don’t think about that:
their bodies capable of creating life.

Previously published in The Morning Star

 

The significance of a dress
(Refugee camp northern Iraq)

Even if home is makeshift and her carriage is a borrowed
pair of shoes that dance over gravel baked in the desert heat,
a bride still wants to feel special, at least for one day.
No one can afford to buy when twenty neighbours share
a latrine and there’s a constant vigil against disease.
Tulin, named after a daughter, offers gown hire, make-up
and hairstyling that will withstand humid evenings.
“I don’t ask how old they are,” says the beautician. A mural
outside shows a girl in a white gown holding a teddy bear.
The future is tomorrow. Next year is a question.
A wedding is a party, a welcome, a sign of hope.
The dresses sparkle with sun-reflected diamante
but the gravel paths of the camp leave the hems stained.

Previously published in “A Scream of Many Colours” (Poetry Space 2018)

 

The Bridal Dresses in Beirut

Each dress hangs from a noose.
One is plain satin with scalloped lace,
another an orgy of tulle,
dreamy organza with applique flowers
hanging from wire
strung between palm trees.
One is short, a shift with a tulip skirt,
the sort of dress picked
in a hurry to satisfy a shotgun
or Article 522.
The breeze breathes through them,
bullies the dresses into ghosts,
brides with no substance,
angels bereft of their voices.

[Part of a protest against Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code which exonerates rapists if they marry their victim. The Article has now been repealed.]

Previously published in Dreamcatcher (UK) and Red Earth Review (USA)

 

How a Dress Lost its Sparkle

“Why did they discard their clothes on the beach?”
he repeats as if another asking will adjust the answer
to one he wants to hear. He thinks mothers should launder

their own children’s clothes. He’s not placated by the answer
that discarded clothes are washed, dried and recycled
for the next boatload, for the next and the next.

Above him is Arabella Dorman’s “Suspended”,
discarded clothing gathered from beaches held
by wires and illuminated by a spherical lamp

that alternates between yellow and bright
white light, sun and moon. The clothes are flat,
no longer needing three dimensions to cover bodies.

Amongst them is a long-sleeved, ankle length pink dress
to fit a five-year-old, covered in a layer of gold gauze.
A special occasion dress that sparkles as the light changes.

A dress that doesn’t warm on cold nights, that shows dirt
and sweat, that absorbs salt water and fears, that if pulled
over a mouth would hide the bit lip that stops tears.

It won’t launder without soap and what does its wearer wear
while it’s washed? A closer look reveals a tide mark of salt,
an obstinate, rusty stain. Mementos no one wants to keep.

[“Suspended” by Arabella Dorman is an art installation hosted by Leicester Cathedral during the Journeys Festival.]

Previously published in The Bosporus Review

 

Emma Lee was born in South Gloucestershire and now lives in Leicestershire. Her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in many anthologies and magazines worldwide. Emma’s most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK 2015).  She has performed her work at The Poetry Cafe in London, all three Leicestershire universities, at LCFC, the Jam Factory in Oxford, Hatherley Manor in Cheltenham, amongst other venues. She’s also read poems for BBC Radio and EAVA FM and joined panels organised by the University of Leicester’s Sociology, Communications and Media department to talk about artistic responses to the refugee crisis arising from her co-editing of “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” and curation of Journeys in Translation. Currently she is on the committee of Leicester Writers’ Club and the steering group for the Leicester Writers’ Showcase. Emma Lee also reviews for five poetry magazines, and is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.

The Significance of a Dress is available to purchase from the Arachne Press website.

Attercliffe – Iain Twiddy

Attercliffe
 
The tram stands and spits at Attercliffe:
its litter of chicken shops and strip clubs,
the close testosterone swell of spliffs.
Three skids get on, a duffer from the pub,
a bulling woman huffing a buggy,
another son behind: fluffy, gawky,
a long drained face and limbs. A black
tracksuit top, bottoms lit by white socks.

He stands by his mum, sniffs, against the rail,
absorbed in his chewed-up book: How to Care
for Your Giant African Land Snail.
Three grey minutes to Nunnery Square.
He zips the book in his top, gets in line,
slips out thinly into the dissolving rain.

 

Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. His poetry has appeared in StandPoetry Ireland ReviewThe Stinging Fly, and elsewhere.

The Wait – Rachael Clyne

The Wait

The image of a bleach bottle
at her lips, lingers in the room.
Its walls echo with car-crash sounds.
I feel the draw of a noose, her urge to jump.

Each week, she pleads to stay.
With fixed eyes, she forces me
to deny her, make her leave.
I cling to my professional chair.

She’s already had her week’s ration,
so pills are off the menu. I wonder
if she’ll be here next week, she asks
for a method that is certain. I am silent.

The crisis team can’t do home visits,
they too are in a critical state.
An overdose merits a day in A&E
then a cab, or a twenty-mile walk home.

Her GP has become a placebo
‘somehow they muddle through’,
he says. I know he cares, but like me,
must wait for her storm to break.

 

Rachael Clyne is widely published in journals. Her recent pamphlet, Girl Golem (4Word press.org) is about her migrant origins and sense of otherness. She is involved in climate activism and hopes the lockdown has changed our ways.

Known for Sure – Dane Holt

Known for Sure

They reported what was known for sure. Last seen on the veranda
of the new hotel wearing a wool suit that warmest day of June.
So, who saw him later that night, similarly suited, nailing something
to his own front door? (A late invoice, though no later than the others.)
Questions across the board. Like, who added in big red letters
that misquotation from The Rubaiyat the three detectives wasted

three days deciphering? Now they begun finding teeth, how
innocent is his dentist-wife? Who stood him that fateful gin while
he sat – where we are now – threatening, like a binbag, to spill all?
Can any of us say they never felt the silk of his suit lining? Who didn’t
know the width of his sleeve? Honestly. Yes, I offered the suitcase
he folded himself into. But who cut his throat for good measure?

 

Dane Holt’s poems have appeared in The White ReviewPoetry Ireland ReviewThe Tangerine and HU.

Eggshells and fontanelles – Finola Scott

Eggshells and fontanelles

I bring eggs from the farm
in brown paper bag,
no protection at all.
Free range they’re stuck
with fluff feathers.

Pale as thick cream, so tiny.
My palm reaches to stroke
newborn curves.
Thin strongboxes
cradle ripening treasure.

With sharp taps of spoons
my wee ones scoop past
membranes to silky whites
sun bright yolks.
Bantie gifts.

 

* Bantie is short for bantam – a breed of small hen

Finola Scott’s poems are widely published including in Scottish Writers Centre Anthology, The Fenland Reed, and New Writing Scotland. Red Squirrel published her pamphlet last year. Tapsalteerie will publish her Scots poems this Spring. A winner of various competitions, and runner-up in Coast to Coast’s competition her work can be read on Facebook at Finola Scott Poems.

Rosy apples – Richie McCaffery

Rosy apples

The old tuck shop’s now a vaping place,
passing it reminds me of walking home
from school with my best friend Dane
and buying a bag of rosy apple sweets.

Slurping on one, Dane laughed and it fell –
bagatelle-like – down his windpipe.
Somehow, as he choked, I managed
to knock the thing back out again.

Had it stayed put, he’d be dead now.
Instead, it moved up and he thrives.
I live only a few miles from here,
Dane’s a flight away. His mother says

he’s big up in management, doing well.
We’ve not spoken a word since school.

 

Richie McCaffery lives in Alnwick, Northumberland. He’s the author of two poetry collections from Nine Arches Press – Cairn (2014) and Passport (2018) as well as two pamphlets, including Spinning Plates (2012, HappenStance Press). He also has another pamphlet due out later this year from Mariscat Press. His blog / website also hosts poems by fellow poets and can be found at: https://richiemccafferypoetry.wordpress.com/

Ritual – Jonathan Totman

Ritual

Need more, you say,
as we slosh our way
back and forth across the crazy paving,

seeing to our family of pots,
new shoots reaching like language
from their open mouths.

You’re right, they’re thirsty,
water trickling
through their fine compost,

leaking from their hidden holes,
the woodlouse caves at their base.
It’s the muck they hang on to:

cat shit, petals,
our too-tough bits of veg
blended up by the worms.

Daily, this ritual:
the three-handed hoist of the can,
the spray bouncing off your hand,

compelled to feel,
the pooling at your feet
and the going back for more.

 

Jonathan’s pamphlet ‘Explosives Licence’ was a winner in Templar Poetry’s 2018 IOTA Shot competition. His first collection will be published by Pindrop Press in 2020.

Another Impulse Purchase at the Map Shop – Fiona Larkin

Another Impulse Purchase at the Map Shop

the bestselling globe is organic cotton
an Ecological Cloth Planet
stuffed with recycled plastic bottles

here maps are dispatched
as scratch-away posters
lampshades, confetti

and a laundry bag for your travels
glows by the till, an atlas
printed on its foldable void

polyester land-masses
the colour of sand
capital cities a blur of brown

the red seams
of each coastline
seeping into the sea

and a drawstring
which cuts off the Pole

 

Fiona Larkin’s debut pamphlet, A Dovetail of Breath, was published by Rack Press in 2020. She was highly commended by the Forward Prizes 2019 in the best single poem category, and she organises innovative poetry events with Corrupted Poetry. https://fionalarkinpoetry.wordpress.com  @fionalarkin