Featured Publication – Eighty Four anthology, Curated by Helen Calcutt

Our featured publication for June is Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope, curated by Helen Calcutt, published by Verve Poetry Press.

“Eighty Four is a new anthology of poetry on the subject of male suicide in aid of CALM.

Curated by poet Helen Calcutt, the anthology features a host of male and female voices sharing their experiences of suicide, mental health, or grief – from those who have been on the brink of suicide, to those who have lost a loved one, or been moved more generally by the campaign. It is both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year.” Verve Poetry Press

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A Dream

You were on the river, heading away downstream,
your powerful shoulders working the paddle –
dip, pull, lift, dip, pull – each stoke a perfect slice
through the black water, that gathered and ruckled
about the blade – lift, dip, pull –

as in the time we were on the river together,
that autumn morning of mist drifting up through
the highbanked trees and the fine rain that soaked
our clothes and skin and hair and made us happy.
A good time. The two of us together on the river.

Now you were alone and it was night.
I was leaning on the windowsill, looking out
and if you had turned you would have seen me there,
a ghost face at the glass haunting your leaving.
You did not look back. All your concentration

strained towards the journey you were making
and I was powerless to stop you, just as I was powerless
to turn away from watching. No call of mine
would bring you back. For payment, the river
had taken my voice, and I was forbidden to enter

where you were going.

David Calcutt

 

The decision room

There’s a deep frost, salt-crisp, and if I lick it
I’ll taste the very end of the night before,
when you shut your front door, went upstairs
to where there was only just enough air left for
one breath and only just enough time to decide.

And somewhere in that pitch-dark space
where your breath finished in your lungs
you shaped the beginning of your end.

It is your pre-jump. Your vault. You step from
your body, two foot from where my bed is now,
without the slightest hope of a second chance ‒
leave it behind like a moon blighted by clouds.

You tugged open every drawer and they stuttered
on rough wooden runners, hung lopsided and you
pulled sweater after sweater, shirt after shirt, until
deciding what to die in became impossible.

It is 5am when the police come. Ice-white fields
aren’t yet disturbed, nothing creaks.
The doorbell’s shrill is a terrible wrong.

I’m thinking about the coldness of morgues
and have so many clothes to keep me warm ‒
a shoddy dropped mess of them, a pulled out,
thrown down, skinless you.

Most times I remember the whole of you, but
sometimes I can’t help remembering how far you fell.

Abegail Morley

 

An incident with a train

The local news will describe this as an incident with a train,
because no-one wants to read what really happens
when a solitary human being collides with that velocity
of despair. Official statements will be performed as
preformed – with intent to still. Stress the fullness of investigation,
the minimised disruption to your commute. There will
be no dwelling on the life or the death of it. The convulsing
mother, degraded to salt. The junior police officer
fighting back puke, weighing alternative career options
against the chances of promotion and a desk.
The trembling, day-glo railway worker who yells
at the edging crows, fuck off, fuck OFF. Throwing
stones to ward them from the spoils:

it’s hard, even at the best of times,
to look solemn in a hi-vis vest. It’s hard to hold together.

Paul Howarth

 

Seven Senryu in Memory of Brian Karr Harter (1969-1987)

 

stepping up to the casket my noisy heartbeat

 

my reflection huge in the funeral parlor mirror

 

nearing his gravestone
the letters begin to blur—
January fog

 

remembering his suicide
winter hardens
the soil

 

visiting the graves
my legs sink
in deepening snow

 

remembering his suicide—
……stepping slowly
……across the moonlit bridge

 

remembering his suicide all these acorns

Carrie Etter

 

The Eighty Four anthology is available to buy from the Verve Poetry Press website, in aid of CALM.

Featured Publication – Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid

Our featured publication for November is Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid, published by Verve Poetry Press.

Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?

Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.

As she treads the shifting line between woman and daughter, between Pakistan and the West, between conservative Islam and liberal, Nafeesa has almost had to find a new language to try to communicate the difficulties of her situation. And what a language! At times hard and pointed, at other times wonderfully and colourfully evocative, erupting with femininity, empowerment and rebellion. It is this language that makes Besharam such a pleasure to read in spite of the pain it contains – Besharam really is a magical first book of poetry.

A necessary and potent meditation on the meaning of Womanhood‘ Joelle Taylor

Besharam is an outstanding collection from Nafeesa… I think her poems are very special.’ Imtiaz Dharker

Love this collection and finding it deeply affecting. The fearlessness is astonishing. Bravo!’ –Roz Goddard

 

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Missing

My father walks from door to door,
hands held together like he is doing dua(1).
They are covered in blood.
He splutters
‘beti(2) ’ to anyone who will listen,
blood spraying from his grieving mouth.
He is covered in blood,
Jummah(3) salwaar kameez
bleached white before.
(I wonder how my mother got out the stains.)
A blood vessel has erupted
and my father thinks he is beyond repair.

I wonder if my mother bothered scrubbing the stains out
or if she buried the whole thing instead.

My mother is a suburban English village;
quiet and collected,
she has not made a sound yet,
Tasbeeh(4) against her chest.

I think me and my mother found Womanhood that day.

In her absence
and in mine
I felt like she was praying to me.
I heard her words as clear as the call to prayer on a Friday afternoon,
yet the congregation sat at home and wept.
The muazzin(5) answers questions from police.

Later I find out she was praying
for me.
She rebirthed me that night
as part jawan(6) , part still child, still nine.
The string of her tasbeeh beads is fraying

with the dampness of her hands.
Her blooming chest has lost count of the
Alhamdulilah(7)
and SubhanAllah(8)
and Allahu Akbar’s(9)

but here she is,
still praying for my return.

Footnotes:
(1) Prayer
(2) Daughter
(3) Friday; religious day for Muslims
(4) Rosary beads
(5) Muslim official who announces the call to prayer
(6) Of age, mature
(Three phrases that make up Tasbih of Fatima)
(7) All praise is due to God
(8) God is perfect
(9) Allah is greatest

 

Upon finding your daughter

Pulled up from
the pavement on
Cotterills Lane crying,
by strange women
with kind faces.
They tell Girl
it’ll be okay.
Inside their home,
her mother tumbles
through door, falls
at feet – pink
scarf throttling around
her neck – unashamed.
Eyes bloodshot sockets,
noosed hair hitting
against her face.
Father follows slow
and soft like
he has seen
and known death.
He tries to
smile, but cries
over head of
Girl instead. He
fathers. They Speak
with strange voices.
Girl does not
listen, but hears.

 

Giving her away

From daughter to dhulan,
Bismillah,
You are someone else’s problem now.

 

In this one no one notices

In this one no one notices
how time has ground itself into dust,
how a lost brown girl
was just that –
a lost brown girl.
No one will notice
that the Weeping Fig
and Madagascan Dragon Tree
and Purple Hearts
had dried out weeks ago,
how the glasses with vodka mixers
had gathered dead flies and dust,
how ripped out hairs and split ends became carpet,
how the lamp was never switched off,
how the curtains had not moved in months,
their lips as tightly bound as her limbs to bed,
how the bin overflowed with diabetes,
how the blue glow from the laptop
had tinged her skin.
No one notices how
the mirror had cracked,
the flowers in her vase dried out to a crisp,
because in this one
we are representing fragility,
how vulnerability is ugly,
how cows do come home,
how chickens do come home to roost.
How we all just want
something or someone or somewhere
to call home.
In this one no one notices
that the brown girl
does not return home.

 

Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham. Her work covers taboo themes such as sex, domestic violence and mental health, using personal experience as a basis for her writing. She has been writing and performing for 6 years at nights around the UK. She has featured at Outspoken (London), Poetry is Dead Good (Nottingham), Find the Right Words (Leicester) and Hit The Ode (Birmingham). She was invited to perform at TedxBrum 2016 (Power of Us).
Nafeesa has also performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Literature Festivals as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology publication by Saqi Books, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. She is an alumni of Mouthy Poets and Derby Theatre Graduate Associate Artists. She runs Twisted Tongues, an open-mic only poetry night at The Station in Kings Heath.

Besharam is available to purchase from the Verve Poetry Press website.