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Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 17

Welcome to Episode 17 of Poetry Worth Hearing, available on Google, Apple and Audible podcasts. This episode focuses on issues of identity and, in particular, conflicts experienced in relation to identity. The word identity suggests group or a viewpoint that someone can identify with, yet very often the struggle is for a person to assert their own identity against a prevailing group ethos. Even that makes it sound too easy, as if everyone had an identity which they were being prevented from realising because of external forces. Often the conflict is internal, often a person is struggling with the conflict between whom they think they ought to be and who they really are; sometimes, they don't know who they are and are battling to understand themselves. All of these conflicts can give rise to poetry and sometimes poetry is the only way to express the full complexity of the conflict. Here we have poems relating to race, religion, sexuality and gender, political and violent oppression. Some of the poems consider the process of becoming and accepting oneself. Some of the poems look at the struggles experienced by others, some very strongly reflect the pain of those who have struggled themselves.


The episode features an conversation between me and Rachael Clyne who reads poems from her collection You'll Never Be Anyone Else (Seren,2023) and talks about prejudice, discrimination and identity in relation to her experience as a poet, lesbian and Jewish woman. We also have a powerful poem by Adnan Al-Sayegh, read by him in Arabic and and in translation by Jenny Lewis. Simon Maddrell reads from his collection, The Whole Island,(Valley Press, 2023). In addition, there are poems by Fiona Perry, Trisha Broomfield, Deborah Cox-Walker, Martin Jago, Richard Lister, Tom McColl, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Margot Myers, Helen Overell, P. Sriven Srilakshmi, Jane Thomas and Pat Winslow.


You will find poet biographies and texts of unpublished poems below. Where the poems come from published books, you will find the publication details and I encourage you to buy them.


Interview with Rachael Clyne




Rachael Clyne from Glastonbury, is published in journals and anthologies. Now retired, she was a professional actor, and later a psychotherapist. Her collection, Singing at the Bone Tree (Indigo Dreams), concerns our broken connection with nature. Her pamphlet, Girl Golem (4word.org) explores her Jewish heritage and sense of otherness. Her new collection,You'll Never Be Anyone Else (20230 https://www.serenbooks.comexpands on these themes to include childhood, relationships, sexual orientation and ageing.

https://rachaelclyne.blogspot.com/

Simon Maddrell - from The Whole Island



Simon Maddrell is a queer Manx writer, editor and performer living in Brighton & Hove. Simon is published in sixteen anthologies and numerous publications including AMBIT, Butcher’s Dog, The Moth, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, Stand, Under the Radar. Simon’s pamphlets: Throatbone, UnCollected Press, 2020; Queerfella, which jointly-won The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition, 2020; Isle of Sin, Polari Press, March 2023; The Whole Island, Valley Press, July 2023.

Simon Maddrell (he/they) Buy Books: https://simonmaddrell.sumupstore.com/



Fiona Perry


Fusion


When I recount the details of my previous life, I always find myself beginning in the same place.

My first incarnation was as one of twenty-five tin soldiers whose progenitor was an old tin spoon.


My lack of completeness, a missing leg to be exact, was the first sensation I became aware of,

that airy nothingness below my hip, like an optical illusion, melding my body to the surroundings.


But also, that sense of my heart buzzing like a drunken mosquito as her spangly sash came into view.

A paper ballerina frozen in croisé devant. The sublime arm position! The effortless sexual grace!


It took me days to notice the missing crossover leg. That delicious barely-thereness echoing my own.

I was immersed in Edenic trance. When faced with such dazzling beauty, however, the evil beyond us


is rendered invisible. So, to become what we later became, involved agonies; the brazier’s shrieking flames. The maid,Clara, a farmer’s daughter, found us the next morning. My darling’s spangle


and my body, fused together to form a solid tin heart, smothered in ash. Now we serve as the clapper in the mouth of a bell that hangs about the neck of the girl’s favourite heifer. She parades around


the mountains, soft and doe-eyed. It is said, every bell has its own unique tintinnabulation. Ours is mainly the sound of us making merry, chiming out our blessedness deep into the valley.




Fiona Perry currently lives with her family near Oxford. She was born and brought up in the north of Ireland. Her poetry and short fiction have been widely published in journals such as Ink, Sweat, & Tears, Lighthouse, Utopia, and the Ekphrastic Review. Her short story, Sea Change, won first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award (2020). A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and Lancaster University, she worked previously as an environmentalist in a unitary authority and more recently works as an editor and educator. Her first collection of poetry Alchemy (Turas Press)won the Poetry Book Awards (2021) Silver Medal and was shortlisted for the Rubery Prize. This poem was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize, 2021.


P. Sriven Srilakshmi


SKIN


Bare yourself uncovered? It is a free world.

Yet entrapped in your own skin. This cover, what if it peels off, we scrape off?


Would it be different? Would we have different colours? Have Colours of our own?

This skin, is a cover alright, Layers and layers beneath it, lies you.


The you, you know and not just the cover.

A shield that you cannot see for yourself but are obliged to see from another.


The other who sees it as not you.

The other who sees it as not beautiful.


The other who sees not beneath the cover.


How would they know you?

How would they know to see beyond the layer?




I’m Sriven Srilakshmi from India,a beginner in writing. I have a WordPress blog called https://linesofthoughtss.wordpress.com/ I am a bachelor degree holder in Engineering and write when my heart feels heavy. I currently work as an ethical hacker. My work gets quite stressful, so literature and art is something I do to mellow myself down. What inspired me to write this poem is discrimination. Discrimination seeps in stealthily like a snake, spreading its venomous poison in our hearts. It’s like the sigh we see on someone’s face after they ask us to dress up for a fancy dinner . It gets apparent after the “is this the best you can do?” I faced colour discrimination too. I have realized that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder itself.




Roddy Maude-Roxby


Her two feathers



by night the little ghost girl came

to whisper to the Welsh boy

You are a girl in the wrong body


So he grew always uncertain

he married a sympathetic woman

they studied together Native American ways


in the asylum his hair, beard, gentle face and

his white dress attract a crowd

they call him Jesus


he feels like a woman

accepts their prayers

and says nothing


after the operation she takes a new name

and with her wife follows her guide Snow Woman

who sends them to the Albert Hall


they each wear two feathers

The tribal spokesman in his white stetson

rebukes Europeans who wear feathers


She stands and speaks in a foreign tongue

she invokes her spirit grandfather

his voice comes through


You are wrong

You forget your own feathers

the feather is our antennae



Roddy Maude-Roxby, founder member of Keith Johnstone’s Theatre Machine, Improvisation & mask, actor, teacher, artist, mask maker and poet, member of Jane Duran’s Wednesday Group.


Margot Myers


So this is the one of me asleep in my pram


He conceived me with light and shadow

(each shutter-click a little death), exposed me


in the dark cupboard under the stairs — red-shaded bicycle lamp,

clockwork timer, a chemical bath. Unspooled


we were ten in embryo, nine of us rejected for a drooping eye,

a windy grimace, a knitted bonnet pulled askew.


What happened to those other unruly selves, pegged up to dry

like wet knickers over the bath?



Can you hear me?


Remember when I flew over our house?


I had the whole world

rolling in the palm of my hand; crouching hedges

shallow fields — the glint and lure

of spire, of steel,


then in the garden

(or this is how I imagine it)

your upturned face — mouth an O

like an empty cup.


Sometimes I think,

spooning the sprinkles

from my second cappuccino,

that I have become a stranger to myself.


The truth is


I left my lung by the red rose tree

My heart on the hall-stand

My tongue at the bottom of the Peak Freans biscuit tin


... Garibaldi ... Custard Creams … Rich Tea ...


Mum?




Morning


A thin note of birds through the double glazing,

her phone still warm from the pillow, she holds


it like a looking glass; and is charmed by the

symmetry of her eyebrows, the deep blue


dressing-gown and how the silky stitches circle

the collar like ripples on a pond — a bespectacled


nymph emerging from the water, she thinks,


or an oracle’s head rimmed on a plate by a cruel

conjuror. Then, taking a breath, she taps down


on ‘photo’ — and offers up herself to herself.




Margot Myers lives in Oxford. She has a PhD on fairy tales; enjoys the surreal, the ironic, the unexpected. She has been placed or shortlisted in several competitions, and has been widely published including in The Emma Press Anthologies, Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Cinnamon Press online, Poetry News,Snakeskin online.


I Meant to Say (2020) is her debut pamphlet.

https://www.poetshousepamphlets.co.uk


Trisha Broomfield


All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go


Perched on the back seat of the Zephyr,

we watch the tilt of heads in front,

sense the silence in Mum’s shoulders,

the wordless exasperation in Dad’s neck.

Wanting to break the wall between them,

we fight, Sis and I, digging ribs, pulling hair,

ears sharp, hoping for a united rebuke.

We’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.


Mum turns, stills us with a look.

Dad, intent on driving, steers too safely.

We’ve failed.

Mum, desperate to be swept off her feet,

taken somewhere on a whim, sighs.

Dad, needing to know, where? When? What time?

Checks his watch.

He’ll take her to the ends of the earth

if only she will point him in the right direction

but she can’t, she doesn’t know.

We circle town,

pick out pubs in passing, those with gardens for us.

Now Mum says, ‘If you two behave we’ll find somewhere.’

‘What about this one?’ Dad asks, but we drive past.

The air fills with bricks.

We’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.





Thomas McColl


ALWAYS LEFT


I was born left-handed,

and even though I was made to write

with my right hand,

I remain left-handed,


and the only reason I say right hand

is so that people,

in our right-hand dominated world,

can understand,


for as far as I’m concerned,

and as someone on the radical left,

I’m not actually in possession

of something called a right hand.


In fact,

there’s nothing I’m more certain of than that –

that I’m immutably left-handed,

possessing a naturally-on-the-left left hand

and an involuntarily-on-the-right left hand,

and that the difference

between these two left hands

is the difference

between being sober and drunk.




Thomas McColl lives in London, and has published two collections of poetry - Being With Me Will Help You Learn (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and Grenade Genie (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). He's read as a featured poet at many events in London and beyond, including Hearing Eye, Paper Tiger Poetry, Celine's Salon and The Quiet Compere, and was recently featured on London Soho Radio and BBC Radio Kent.


Martin Jago


Ode to Notes


Before your eyes forget to read

you take to notes, the house


adorned with pink and blue Post Its,

forget-me-nots on drawers for socks


or pants, on cabinets for medicine,

cupboards for saucepans, plates and mugs


but these are always notes to self

like the one stuck to the bathroom mirror


that simply reads you, and which curls up

with time, dropping off when it’s done.


The new one that you pen— a reminder

of sorts— still bears your humor


in its kill this and on that note:

the one you leave for us. I find it


in the pocket of your slacks, square

of creased vellum, and know what’s being


unfolded before its even open

and on the subject of farewells


what stares back from the page

is that there’s nothing more to write.




Forecast


Good morning / another grey / and mostly cloudy start for caregivers up and down the country / but still a chance of sunny spells / before some heavy breakfast squalls disrupt your morning / with deeper / larger / depressions set to sweep in from the kitchen after lunch / You’ll notice that the breeze picks up / so stay within reach of facilities that may protect against this cooler / windier / spell / and expect some icy stares / followed by a frosty reception introducing milder air / with temperatures not much above zero degrees / This afternoon / intense high pressure gives way to lows / set to affect us through the weekend / a deep one pushing in through Iceland / cold fronts spreading outside a Greggs / despite strong westerlies / and pleasantries / and medium McFlurrys on the way back to the car / Throughout / we’ll see some indignation / maybe even a sudden drop in patience later in the day / with onlookers set to move over higher / moral / ground / but by early evening / an unexpected change / with sunshine poking through / and the haziness nostalgia brings / with a light precipitation of joy by dinnertime / That’s all for now /



Martin Jago is a British-American poet and author of four critically-acclaimed nonfiction books on Shakespeare (published in the U.S. by Smith & Kraus). He holds a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford where he was a F.H. Pasby Prize finalist. His poetry and prose have appeared in journals such as Agenda, Acumen, The Moth, Presence, LIT Magazine, The Penn Review, HCE Review, Naguatuck River Review and Artillery Magazine. His debut collection Photofit is published by Pindrop Press (2023)



Jane Thomas


Triptychs at Safe Haven Dementia Home


Next door is Mavis, likes the colour yellow and Miles Davis, used to be a nurse.

The other side is Percy, he was in the army, fought in France, likes baked beans.

Across the way is Mary, likes teddy bears, throwing punches and purple peonies.


[Upstairs are the old timers, but don’t worry about the screams, they stop at six]


In the kitchen is Harry, likes Special Brew, B&H and being on parole.

Cleaning the loo is Tia, speaks Tagalog, vegan, misses her daughters.

Front of house is Chloe, likes New Look, amphetamines and Bumble.


Fill in three facts about your father and we will put it in the book

and an aluminium frame on his door.

Welcome...




Over the last few months Jane Thomas has had work published in Mslexia, High Windows and The Stand. She is performing at The Wirral Poetry Festival in October and is currently being mentored by Anthony Anaxagorou at Out Spoken. She is currently completing a collection on the theme of Alzheimer’s.



Helen Overell


Taking steps im MEM Walking felt real even when nothing else did,

one foot in front of the other, an easy pace,

a loped stride that carried her for miles.

Sometimes she would stop if she saw someone

she thought she knew, exchange a few words,

watch that glazed-over look mask a stranger.

She found her way by means of the sea,

restless waves on her right brought her home,

the key, on a lanyard, unlocked the door –

ordered calm, food in the fridge, her tapestry,

stretched on a frame, waiting for stitched attention,

the chart filled with dots, dashes, diamonds.

She would phone her niece before she set off

and again, some hours later, on her return,

good Girl Guide practice, never forgotten,

those calls a lifeline, voice warm as embrace,

muddled words scrabbled into place, tangled

threads of talk understood, straightened out.

She walked further, faster after the move – the houseful of people looked at her askance –

a policeman would find her, take her back.

At the next place, doors to the outside world bolted,

barred, she could no longer roam free,

had to make do with a turn round the garden,


although on a cooped-up, caged-in sort of day,

one of the young workers would walk with her

as far as a glimpse of the ink-blue horizon,

all the while, names lost, faces forgotten,

the slow unpicking of stitches, the tattered

canvas, held to the light, nothing but stars.




Helen Overell has work in several magazines and some of her poems were highly commended or placed in competitions including the Poetry Society Stanza Competition 2018 and the Poetry News Members' poems Summer 2020. Her first collection Inscapes & Horizons was published by St Albert's Press in 2008 and her second collection Thumbprints was published by Oversteps in 2015. A booklet of her poems Measures for lute was published by The Lute Society in 2020.

Deborah Cox


Mirror

That woman in the pane

watches me lining my eyes

in black;

arcing my lips with a seal

reminder of who I am,

she helps me to forget.


Odi ergo sum


I hate the human touch, I feel /

I hate the crowded street my feet

recoil from, the lines.


I hate the warmed seat beneath

the heat of the staring man

that’s beating me to what I am –


a woman, blood let from a bruise with a sharp pen

buried deep inside the heart

of the world I hate and, hating, am.


Never mind

Milk in two pails

lolling on shoulder-bricks,

hardly a splash

if she tries.

Tummies rumble

- rubble sewn in a bad wolf,

now splitting her jeans

(the wrong size).

Leaden toes

on hammered feet

cling to the sand

lest they rise

and fall on a nail.

Such a pretty girl -

a sight for sore eyes -

never mind.



Deborah Cox was born in New York but educated in England where she developed a love of English literature. She graduated from Durham University with a First in the subject and went on to have poetry and essays published before completing her Masters in Film Aesthetics at Oxford University. She then founded Little Ox Press which publishes books written and / or illustrated by children.


Richard Lister


Afghan woman The wind scours the rock

into lines of sinuous sand.

A woman walks in black, wrapped against the wind and the searching eyes

of men who’d squeeze her shut.

Yet her eyes see.



Bulgari's hands

Turns out ‘she does hand-modelling’ has nothing to do with clay clogged nails,

coil pots and selling for a tenner on a trestle table, in the echoes of a Catholic church hall.

So, Anna’s adopted, her hands moulded by a swirl of genes from the streets of Mumbai. Skin, the colour of Gulab Jamun, fingers delicate and poised as ballerinas en pointe.

That’s why the camera’s in close-up,

her face cropped out, locked onto the Bulgari bracelet spun on her wrist:

a fusion of culture and modernity,

mother of pearl, carnelian, lapis lazuli.

In the corner, the G4S security guard, solid as a lump of pummelled clay, eyes the door for strangers and watches her to ensure this model, paid by the scant hour, doesn’t palm the prize.



Richard Lister draws you into stories of intriguing characters, images and places. In his recent collection, 'Edge & Cusp', his poems ‘capture life like a vibrant painting, giving you the time to examine and ponder the hues of existence in all its beauty and tragedy’. His work is published in twelve international magazines including Acumen, Orbis and Ekphrastic Review and is carved into the Radius sculpture. He coaches leaders to bring life-giving transformation in the UK, Asia and Africa.



Pat Winslow


Being British, 1975


In the lounge of the York (you’re safe there)

spilt whiskey, an overturned table and chair.


It only takes seconds to flare.

I leave him staring at the mess he’s made


head for the Ormeau Road

the sandbagged Rose and Crown (don’t go there)


cross the river, turn into Sunnyside

left onto leafy Deramore where the soldiers


never come and stop at a pub

whose name I forget (but alright here)


where a man is playing the whistle

so I go in, order a pint, and sit at the bar


too pissed to notice the songs

he’s playing, till midnight


when rough hands hoist me by the oxters

fingers plunging deep into brachial nerves


and dizzy with pain I surrender

and stand for their queen.



Some Other Game


I saw for myself one Sunday afternoon how close death can come

when two teams faced each other on a rough patch of green

somewhere near the Falls Road. I heard the thump of leather

and hard pumping breaths as the men beat each other down

from one end to the other. It could have been any local league

a good game before a shower and pint and the working week

ahead. The soldiers were lying on their stomachs in the grass

along the touch lines and behind the penalty areas. The ball,

needless to say, never went out of play. A slight pressure

is all it takes to shatter bone and separate muscle from flesh.

Make no mistake, the weapons were loaded, the ammunition live.


Decades later, another sunny afternoon on a thin stretch of beach

in the Gaza Strip, fishermen’s sons were playing in bare feet

their eyes on one thing only - the ball, not the warship anchored

off the coast. What were they thinking as they raced around

shouting and laughing and kicking up soft plumes of sand whilst

the sea roared fabulous and blue behind them? The ball, that’s all.

It’s what you do when you’re nine years old, or ten, or eleven.

How small we are when we’re trapped in someone’s cross hairs

how flat and cartoon-like, how brilliant the fatal burst of light

and how silent the shock wave of cinematic red and café workers’

rescue attempts. Cue music, high fives, a leaderboard, rewards.


Some Things We Might Not Want to Think About


Sometimes I wonder how it feels to have someone else’s heart beating inside your chest. It’s an act of love, isn’t it, to donate a part of you to another person? I knew a man who was waiting for a pair of lungs. He lived in a bubble of food trolleys and daytime telly. Masked visitors made him nostalgic for dogs and fish and chips. An act of love would have saved him, but some people withhold love if they think it’s going to a smoker or a criminal. Today I discovered that keratoplasty leaves a star of tiny stitches inside the eye. Imagine how the world looks. I also learnt that bombers die with such force their flesh and bones embed in victims’ bodies. Organic shrapnel’s like rape. We have no choice. That’s not far removed from a tattooed number, I’d say. What if you’re the grandchild of Mengele or Pinochet? Does it trouble you we all share some DNA, that our atoms have been around for billions of years? The oxygen we breathe has already passed in and out of lungs and leaves. Photons bounce off every one of us, their paths changed forever by our existence. They’re captured by our retinas and encoded in our neurons as memory and sense. All living things have equal value in the end. We’re not so special after all. Except perhaps where acts of love are concerned.



Pat Winslow has been an actor, a writer-in-residence in prisons, a collaborator on projects with the NHS, a storyteller and a humanist celebrant. She has published seven collections including Dreaming of Walls RepeatingThemselves and Kissing Bones with Templar Poetry. A winner of several notable competitions over the years, she is currently enjoying commissioned collaborations with film-makers, composers and artists.






Adnan al-Sayegh - This poem is taken from The Dice of the Text (see below)

Adnan al-Sayegh was born in al-Kufa, Iraq in 1955. His poetry denounces wars and dictatorships. Adnan has published twelve collections of poetry, including the 550-page Uruk's Anthem (Beirut 1996) and the 1380-page The Dice Of The Text (Beirut, Baghdad 2022).

. He left his homeland in 1993, lived in Amman, and Beirut then took refuge in Sweden in 1996. Since 2004 he has been living in exile in London. He has received several international awards, and has been invited to read his poems in many festivals across the world. His poetry had been translated into many languages, including 7 books of poetry in: Swedish, English, Dutch, Iranian, Russian, Spanish and French.



https://www.facebook.com/poet.adnanalsayegh2



https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqIEpBpIZKwdQmwwosWMhjQ

This poem is part-translated and read in English by Jenny Lewis.


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). More information can be found on her website https://jennylewis.org.uk There is an interview with Jenny in Episode 10 of Poetry Worth Hearing.


That's everything for this episode. The next episode will have the theme of sickness and health, to be interpreted as widely as you choose. Submissions, comments and suggestions all very welcome and should be sent to poetryworthhearing@gmail.com.

Recordings should be no longer than 4 minutes, should be unpublished poems and should be accompanied by texts and a short bio of the poet.

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