Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 10
Welcome to Episode 10 of Poetry Worth Hearing, the last one for this year. This episode includes an interview with Jenny Lewis where she talks about poetry she has found worth reading. We also have an extended reading from Tristram Fane Saunders and poems from Beth Davyson, Martyn Crucefix, Lucy Ingrams, Damon Young, Diana Bell and Trisha Broomfield.
Tristram Fane Saunders, 29, works in London and lives in his head. He is the author of five pamphlets, including The Rake, and his first full- length collection will be published by Carcanet in 2023. His poems have appeared in the TLS, Poetry London and The White Review. He has judged the Costa and Forward Prizes, and reviewed poetry for The Telegraph, The Herald and Radio 4's Front Row. Publications include: Woodsong, 2019, Smith/Doorstop, The Rake, Poetry Business, 2022, which he reads from here, and Edna St Vincent Millay - Poems and Satires, ed., Carcanet, 2021.
In my country or what I call that every word is an obstacle
Even the garden table here with a geranium
A shell broken in two
Dried soil in a square plastic pot that sits above its container
A small rectangular brick asks for water
This table has too many things on it
My chest has too many blockading pieces
They said near here is a city farm
I wonder if I could connect with a pighouse
Or the bellyside of an aged smallish donkey
I dreamed of the wrong man again in that bed
I leapt from my breathing attempts in the morning at a doorbell
It was the postman he had already moved on to next door
I took the parcel from the recycling bin
and my name in biro so unlikely
The man in the dream is grinning
Such a shame my country’s trees cannot hide me completely
In this house
There are long heart shaped spotted leaves and a kitchen aid,
a coffee frother
My friend is pacing his cigarette bedroom in a country so real when I’m in it
Claro claro mi cancion : como existir en idioma diferente ?
The long length mirrors in this house seem to shrink me
The entry the hallway the kitchen which gives slightly under my bare feet
as though padded is the same shape as one I knew a man in
he’d offer me coffee and make it ever so slowly
that kind of love never stops
does not know stoppage
is water and pebble at the same time
I’d like to imagine these flowers and dried plants and delicate chairs
Cast an eye at by him
I eschew all prettiness
Piglike he really was
He too had cats around he always eyed but did not know how to touch
The bedsheets smelled of otherness yet so British
I muttered oui je dors c’est bon
je vais juste aller dormir
and left the light on
I wrote a message to my Father I will not send
The room up in the top of the house
with white walls on the houses in front
I looked at as I tried to breathe
What folly brings me to want quiet when I crave cockerels
The man I dreamed of rising up again
The sun setting just behind him
Here a lone white cabbage butterfy is navigating the wild flower bed
And I try affirmation over breakfast
I will seek a hairdresser
I will seek a pharmacy
I will breathe later when the house breathes with me
I will explain all this to the pigs
I will wear walking boots today
I will finger all the stone flags in the conservatory
I will put my ear against them
I will cry like the British seagulls
sick of houseplants
hankering not for estuary
not for inlet
but for wide bashing white rift ocean
oh, lieu abrité where the sea is kept down au bout du chemin,
give me a courtyard, two fountains, three high windows with stained glass
I so long to be fragile
the nurses wear soft shoes and bring iced water in terracotta jugs,
the sheets are starched linen.
We take showers in silence with our muscles bent under thick streams.
When my lover comes to call he changes in a small booth outside
so as to look sober, in thin cotton slacks and faded pink espadrilles.
My body stays on the bed and my chin gets its tremors.
Lieu abrité where no music plays and the quiet is underwater quiet.
I hear from my first love today. He has the smallest neatest bones in his great
piano playing hands. I have no
lieu abrité, my old love, my new love, the man I tried kissing who tasted of fermented
abricot. The sea is blood temperature. This place has no doors.
Beth Davyson studied poetry in Sheffield, UK, with Adam Piette and Agnes Lehocksky. She has published in The Poetry Review, the Moth, tearsinthefence and parentheses. Her work has been shortlisted three times for the Bridport Prize and was recently commended for the Ambit competition, "magick". She currently lives and works in Marseille where she is working on her first collection. You can hear more of her work in the next episode of Poetry Worth Hearing.
These 4 short poems come from my new book called Between a Drowning Man – due for publication by Salt in autumn 2023. They appear in the section called ‘Works and Days’ and owe a good deal to the so-called vacana poems associated with religious protest movements in India in the 10-12th century. Using plain language, repetition and refrain they were written to praise but also expressed personal anger, puzzlement, even despair.
‘I have explained you can make them talk’
I have explained you can make them talk
when the madness is on them
there will be days you can urge them to talk
when they are caught
a glancing blow at the crossing
you can persuade them to talk
by ducking their heads under water
sometimes you can lure them into speech
on the pillow afterwards
drawing a trail of hair from their forehead
but try as you might you can’t make them talk
when they’re struck dumb by riches
all the bridges are down
‘that I’m comfortable’
that I’m comfortable
with metre and feet
is not something
you ought to assume
don’t hem me in
with drums and numbers
or the beating
of your fingers
there’s so much more
and about rhopalics
I’ve heard of them—
I will sing dammit
just as I see fit
nothing will hurt me
I have my refrain
but not rivers
all the bridges down
after Mahad eviyakka
of geese across the placid lake
beside the new-varnished boats for hire by the hour
don’t you know
he would watch for chalky smudges in the blue sky
beyond the aerials
above the broken rooftiles don’t you know
those revelatory diaries in the attic undiscovered
more than he could recall don’t you know
above the plaster-boarded ceiling the light rose
above the crackling nylon sheets
above her weary limbs don’t you know
above her slack-muscled limbs wrapped in his arms
the local station playing
all the bridges down
‘the six-pack on the side’
the six-pack on the side of the bus is a god
the jade earring and the hair care
the clock is a sinister and impassive god
for the ancients rumour was a kind of god
the data set the next level my mobile phone
with its allure of a liquid retina screen
the purity of product the window display
all these are gods the parking assist the speed
of delivery the hemp tote bag are also gods
the ill-proof-read prize-winning plaque is a god
the god of WIFI if we curse its absence
and when did difference become a god
and identity we have then made a god
whatever is shredded or faked or redacted is
a god and what is tortured always becomes a god
so many gods O there are so many gods
so little space left to set my feet
how long since I lost a place to lay my head
all the bridges are down
Martyn Crucefix is a poet, translator, teacher and critic. He blogs at https://martyncrucefix.com and his blogs provide excellent insights into contemporary poetry. His most recent collections are The Lovely Disciplines, 2017, Seren and Cargo of Limbs, 2019, Hercules Editions. His next book, Between a Drowning Man, from which these poems are taken, will be published next year by Salt. Martyn has translated Rilke, the Daodejing (Enitharmon) and has recently won the 2020 Schlegel-Tieck prize for his translation of Peter Huchel, These Numbered Days.
Texts referred to by Jenny Lewis.
Ode on Melancholy by John Keats
No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine; Make not your rosary of yew-berries, Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; For shade to shade will come too drowsily, And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul. But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, And hides the green hill in an April shroud; Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, Or on the wealth of globed peonies; Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
Greater Love by Wilfred Owen
Red lips are not so red As the stained stones kissed by the English dead. Kindness of wooed and wooer Seems shame to their love pure. O Love, your eyes lose lure When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!
Your slender attitude Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed, Rolling and rolling there Where God seems not to care; Till the fierce Love they bear Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.
Your voice sings not so soft,— Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,— Your dear voice is not dear, Gentle, and evening clear, As theirs whom none now hear Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.
Heart, you were never hot, Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot; And though your hand be pale, Paler are all which trail Your cross through flame and hail: Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.
Jenny also mentioned John Donne and Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence, Astrophel and Stella before turning to contemporary poetry.
Among the poets she referred to were
Togara Muzanenhamo whose third collection, Virga, was published by Carcanet in 2021.
Emily Berry's most recent collection is Unexhausted Time, Faber, 2022
Jenny also talked about the poet, Harriet Tarlo, and her anthology, The Ground Aslant,Shearsman, 2013, in which she quoted Wendy Mulford. Jenny also read from work by Peter Larkin, but I edited this out of the final recording because it did not really work without seeing the poem on the page. Although Poetry Worth Hearing emphasises the importance of sound I would not wish to discount the importance of the visual presentation of poems and, in fact, some of the most aurally adventurous poets also push the boundaries of the page, which is one reason I try to post the poems on the website and to remain as faithful as possible to the original layout.
The Poison Glen by Annemarie ni Churreáin was published by Gallery Press, 2021
Fiona Benson's publications include Vertigo& Ghost, 2019 and Ephemeron,2022, both from Cape.
Periodicals Jenny subscribes to are PN Review, https://www.pnreview.co.uk/ , The Poetry Review,https://poetrysociety.org.uk/publications-section/the-poetry-review/ , The North Magazine https://poetrybusiness.co.uk/the-north-magazine/ and the American magazine, Rattle, https://www.rattle.com/
You can read Jenny's blogs on the Carcanet blog spot: https://carcanetblog.blogspot.com/
Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright, children’s author, songwriter and translator who teaches poetry at Oxford University. She has had seven plays and poetry cycles performed at major UK theatres and published four poetry collections including Gilgamesh Retold (Carcanet, 2018) which was a New Statesman Book of the Year, a Carcanet Book of the Year and an LRB Bookshop Book of the Week on publication. She has also published three chapbooks from Mulfran Press in English and Arabic with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh which are part of the award-winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. Her collaboration, with Adnan and others of extracts from Adnan’s anti-war epic, Uruk’s Anthem, was published as Let Me Tell You What I Saw (Seren, 2020). Jenny refers to her life in poetry throughout her interview and more information can be found on her website https://jennylewis.org.uk
Kairos ... an opening or ‘opportunity’ – E.C. White
midwinter work to sit out the afternoon and sift the rubble syllables left to you by illness – threading and re- threading sounds listening for messages
‘foi foi acla’ you laugh ‘ooooh- pe compy emmatary’ and slide your hand to mine ‘ohdy’ you sigh then raise an eyebrow ‘somethe wye an tryan’ – this seems important
‘I think so, yes’ I nod ‘I think so too’ I’ve agreed this way so often which often grates on you you look me over quizzically
the year’s nadir mid- winter : all day I’ve held a lantern picture in my mind a bronze-age horse in chalk three hills or four away – that works the seasons’ round to pull the light and draw time’s line across the sky
‘dee-kliton’ now you tell me ‘formarosy’ I smile too widely wildly fending off a grief flare – at dawn exactly this solstice morning the sun rose exactly horse- back to race the short day breakneck
your grip tightens on my fingers ‘I’ll be al- right, darling’ – the fluent sentence passing like an arrow through an opening
I start we stare and meet inside each other’s comprehension and at the window’s instant see the light has won the west sinking pyrite through the dark
6 pm flight
upside down in air – t.s. eliot
always, what is home? peer down : the quiet Earth
-landed into map
at our laps on which the blue hour deepens
the pooling sky (as though then bursts
our knees had streamed the soda cloud) a quick of spark
a model that fastens to
falling flares zodiac streets
steeply away a constellation
city around a beam of river
at our heels
* galaxies of motorway a single planetary farm
squint up : bright-flood of the troposphere
too light yet for homesick as desiring angels
a star hunched at window seats
instead a tiny high-plane chalk we brood the stars-electric hang this heaven
its cursive powder jet trail below
and if, in the half-light, stroke
after stroke, as your paddle slips closer
to night and its double, you caught
the river awakening … if,
in the stream of its sleeve, the road-
bridge trailed graffiti like weed, liquid
geese spill from their brims, deep-water
trees gathered in shoals to net stars
which dream would you meet it
with : a floating canoe to ply
nexus-sure between planes, between
elements, revealed to and revelling
or a falling canoe, dropping through
willow depths, meteorite-giddy,
to close on the floor-mud,
roof to its fright—
Lucy Ingrams has won the Manchester Poetry Prize (2015) and the Magma Poetry Competition (2016). Her poems have been widely published in print and online. Her pamphlet, Light-fall, is published by Flarestack Poets.
carves a belly of rubble
from which to emerge
and sculpts corrosive drops
from the sobs of your daughter,
shapes the echo-waves
of foundation shaking
door-slams and overwhelms
all escape routes,
stiffens a baffled body
reaching for sleepfulness
a crackle of lightning,
is a home with no place
to relax and the inability
to relax elsewhere for fear
of what return will bring,
is your face
sinuous with rage
or dead with punitive silence.
Thomas Bew’s Armistice
My great, great uncle Thomas Bew foretold his death.
In a poem sent home to mother, he wrote of the mounds
of clay that served as graves across the fields of Flanders:
of angelic voices that rose from that earth and carried loving
words to mothers lost in deep grey pockets of grief.
Yet, in 1918, his voice was within his torn body as
he was ferried, still pulsing, back to his mother’s care.
I picture him on Armistice Day, a window cracked open
to skin-pricking November air, bells finding the corners
of his room above sheets stained to the colour of rust.
As peace dropped like blossom, his body remained a battlefield:
a quagmire of white blood cells and sepsis, wounds infected by
the Flanders clay at the moment of their infliction. As life
and rhythm returned to the town’s arteries, he died amidst the rebirth:
he and Rhoda Bew, drops in a wave of loss that outlasted the silence of guns.
Damon Young is a previous winner of The Alzheimer's Society Poetry Prize, has been commended in The Prole Laureate Prize, shortlisted for The Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, The Wells Festival Poetry Prize, The Robert Graves Poetry Prize, The Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize, The Welshpool Poetry Prize and The Renard Press Spectrum Prize. His first short collection 'Family Room' was published by Dempsey and Windle in 2020.
How do we learn about death?
At first it’s a dark magician
that changes the pet rabbit
into a piece of fur
or performs a joke
by throwing the dog by its throat
at the wheels of a car and watching it die
and enjoying you cry.
When we are older we know
our parents must go, they can’t stay
Death will find an excuse
It’s easy in war - ‘Your dad was shot’
they say, ‘He was a brave man’
and your mum ‘She wanted to go
she was getting slow -
so Death slides her away
and leaves us to pray.
Sometimes Death is waiting
It wraps granny in a black shawl
because she can’t walk any more -
she might fall.
Death is greedy for grief
and conjures a trick
to make the loved one sick
when there isn’t a cure.
Then our sorrow is like falling leaves
each day a few more
while Death waits smiling.
Death enjoys power
Sometimes it comes in a blink like a thief
to find a child, a happy one,
a loved one – to steal, to keep.
to make it hurt,
so the family drown -
go down, into the cavern
where grief swirls in dark water.
Death does not always win
for this child has no fear -
She walks smiling into the night
treading on Death’s cloak
without a tear.
As we get old
Death is a visitor outside
who we didn’t invite,
but who might sneak in
and turn off the light.
Sometimes we plead
with Death to come
to extinguish pain
to take our loved one.
Then Death creeps quietly in
smothers life in silent silk
and scatters memories
that glitter on dark days.
Diana Bell Diana is a multi-media visual artist including sculpture, installation and painting. She has won awards for her sculpture and for her work in hospitals. She has always written poetry and worked with poets, but did not try to get any of her work published until joining Oxford Stanza Two.
‘It’s never cold this time of year,’ they said.
We filled plastic water bottles from the kettle,
tucked them between our sheets,
ate our meals in front of the oven’s open door.
‘It’s never this windy this time of year,’ they said.
Gusts strong-armed me away from you,
pitching me towards the rocks and waves below,
your voice singing in my ears.
‘It never snows this time of year,’ they said,
iced confetti biting our cheeks
our legs cramped up the hill to the taverna.
We ate tiny filo pillows of feta and spinach,
the air warm with garlic and oregano.
We rolled bright oranges across the table,
bought daily bread and yoghurt,
missed a decent cuppa.
You taught me backgammon, which I won.
We’d learnt Parrots’ Claw and Ferrets’ Toe,
failing to grasp the lisping perfection of the locals’,
The sun shone mirthlessly on our Englishness
as we wandered downhill to the beach
where tar pinched my bottom.
‘They don’t clean the sand this time of year’, they said.
An ancient man swam, turtle head raised.
Tiptoeing, gritty memories of Skegness,
I pushed out, breast stroke remembered.
You caught me on camera
scrabbling salt water, while the sea ate my breath.
Tea and cake
So good to see your starry eyes,
dark brown shadow emphasised.
Effortless you empathise,
your talent always that way lies.
So good to share that pot of tea,
to stir up laughter with the leaves.
There’s scone for you and cake for me.
I love your hair that side of grey,
back in the day an autumn blaze,
those memories a rosy haze.
So good to hear your voice today.
Your silver flashes as you speak,
with earrings, bangles, chunky rings.
Your zest for life bubbles and sings.
An optimist, you don’t see bleak.
The cake, mere crumbs, the pot, empty,
it’s time for us to say goodbye.
We don’t accept that years will fly,
you are still you and me? I’m me.
Trisha has had three poetry pamphlets published by Dempsey and Windle and featured in many anthologies. Recently she has joined two other poets to form The Booming Lovelies, who performed their poems for the first time at the launch of Poems for Ukraine, an Anthology by Poetry Performance in Kingston, which also included their work. Her poems are featured monthly in a local magazine and she also appears regularly at a local poetry venue. She and the other ‘Lovelies’ will be teaching monthly poetry workshops on poetry forms from January.
If you would like to submit to Poetry Worth Hearing you should send a 4-minute recording of your unpublished poems with the texts and a brief bio to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to comment on this or any other episode, please send your thoughts to the same address. Please share this episode and this invitation. Episode 11 will appear in January,2023.