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You will find poet biographies and texts of unpublished poems below.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.
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/
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
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
Trisha has always told stories and as one third of the Booming Lovelies, she performs them, most recently at the Guildford Fringe Festival. Along with Heather Moulson and Sharron Green she tells it like it was, and occasionally how it is for women of a certain age, hoping to stir memories in some, while educating baffled partners and those young enough to have missed out on the fun. With the Booming Lovelies she recently appeared at the Guildford Fringe Festival and is planning more dates locally. Her poems blend humour and pathos.
Her Poem Immac-ulate was featured on BBC Radio Berkshire’s UPLOAD on7th September.
Trisha’s published pamphlets (Dempsey and Windle), include Husbands for Breakfast and When Peter Sellers Came to Tea. Her poems feature in many anthologies including Poems for Ukraine, and A Question of Identity (Arts Richmond).
Instagram @magentapink22 and @boominglovelies
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,
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
That woman in the pane
watches me lining my eyes
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.
Milk in two pails
lolling on shoulder-bricks,
hardly a splash
if she tries.
- rubble sewn in a bad wolf,
now splitting her jeans
(the wrong size).
on hammered feet
cling to the sand
lest they rise
and fall on a nail.
Such a pretty girl -
a sight for sore eyes -
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.