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Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 21

In this episode we hear Aleksander Mazey read from his forthcoming collection, Ghost Lives: Cursed Edition.


Alex's two previously published books are prose writings of cultural criticism, strongly influenced by the sociologist, critical theorist and poet, Jean Baudrillard. The influence of Baudrillard is also present in this first collection of poetry, allowing him to move between genres and between elements of high and low culture and to embrace or confront the reality of the superficial and virtual.






The poets Alex read from were

Tao Lin, you are a little bit happier than I am, 2006;

Philip Levine, The Simple Truth, 1994.

Alex's own collection will be published by Bad Betty Press on March 28th.






Alex Mazey won The Roy Fisher Prize from Keele University in 2018 and was the recipient of a Creative Future Writers’ Award the following year. He is a contributing researcher for the international academic journal, Baudrillard Now and author of both Living in Disneyland and Sad Boy Aesthetics. Ghost Lives: Cursed Edition is his debut poetry collection available from the award-winning, Bad Betty Press. 




 


CREATURE


Lizzie Ballagher


Seal

 

You taught me to search

for seals

in unexpected places.

One winter day,

slick in a slack tide

beside gravel dumps

in the muddy estuary

of the Thames:

a sleek head bobbing—

you saw him first.

 

Then none again—not one—

until near your life’s close

 

when in a place we counted holy

(cliffs plunging headlong

into the chop and slap

of a summer sea

and clouds curtaining

the Exmoor sky

in holiday mockery),

when we were grumbling

about unseasonal cold,

a grey seal raised her head:

 

just yards from where

we stood on the shoreline;

watched us, inquisitive.

Shoulder-deep in brisk waves,

our daughter turned.

The seal swam round her,

garlanded her legs,

clapped for her

to frolic in the water.

They played.

 

No one spoke.

We held our breaths.



Today is animal—

 

the furred tongue of torpid heat licks,

laps me round—unwelcome blanket

in the furnace of the day.

 

Even at daybreak, skies steam.

The dragon-breath of dawn kindles.

Thunder stamps, rocks Earth.

 

Chasing its tail, wind snorts,

shakes dust. Lightning kicks

from hangdog clouds.

 

Herds of cumulonimbus

bellow over the day’s

slow savannah.

 

When nights wheel with stars, fireflies

ignite tiger-eyes in striped thorn-scrub.

Sudden dusk cowers down.

 

In the rippling, muscular presence

of mid-summer, I crouch.

Stop still. Quiver.

 



 

Newts

 

They come, in spring, by night,

without a sound:

dun-and-silver shadows slipping

between last year’s rotten leaves

 

when flag-irises shoot yellow arrows,

when mud begins to warm,

when the water’s just right,

when the moon’s in the best quarter….

 

One morning later, I see

delicate toes splayed on the surface

as they feed, turn, dive, leaving

thin trails of bubbles.

 

They are acrobats:

quicksilver

in the dark tent

of spring’s fevered lake.

 



 

I, Bear

 

In wilderness silence, I hear you:

your stealth, as—so clumsily—

you swish across the ice.

 

Man: whatever you think,

this is not your kingdom—

nor your realm to claim—but mine.

 

Trespass on the northern ice

and you’ll learn my speed:

fast as Boreas—glissando.

 

You’ll learn my need

of sweetest flesh—watch as I wait

at seals’ tight breathing holes.

 

You’ll turn to face my patient stalking,

taste the bite of my keen teeth,

the grip of jaws to clamp,

 

strip you to snow bones.

Then you will know the clutch

of my fierce claws.

 

I, bear, am sure-footed:

loping,

loping.

 

I, bear, do not grow weary,

do not grow wet,

and need no water…

 

do not turn bleary,

do not go blind

in blizzards’ white.

 

I, bear, need little light

in my ice-bright province

to search you out.

 

I, bear, can smell my prey

from twenty miles away when I face

into the whetted knives of wind.

 

Beware, you silky seal,

and humankind unkind:

you are my choicest meal.

 

I, bear, will search you out.

Tear you. Beware.




Ballagher's focus is on landscapes, both interior and exterior; also on the beauty (and hostility) of the natural world. She has studied in England, Ireland, and the USA; worked in education and publishing, and is now preparing a second volume of poetry. Her poems have appeared in print and online in all corners of the English-speaking world, most recently in Canada.   lizzieballagherpoetry@gmail.com

                                                   


 

Pat Winslow


Pheasant in the Frost   

 

You stand

feet hooked to hard tussock

 

head a dob of jam

on a strip of clotted cream

 

body a plump oval

of tawny gold.

 

You peck

half-heartedly and move off

 

flapping

to keep warm.

 

Every living thing

knows what it must do.

 

The pussy willow

is locked in

 

trees hold fast

to leaf and bud

 

crows and gulls

scope the land

 

and you

peck peck peck

 

until a dog walker

makes you chortle in panic

 

and rise into a hedge

leaving behind

 

a fine feather

for a Sunday hat.

 

 

 Peewits

 

Because they swung down

like pendulums from east to west

 

and the straight line of an aeroplane

was anathema to their strategy

 

because the strategy relied on

swoop, cry, roll and rise again

 

and their wings were flat

and round as spatulas

 

because their whoops were electronic

and not small and twittery

 

and they wore their crests

like exotic hats

 

because they strutted like grandmothers

looking for china in a car boot sale

 

and were twitchier than your average twitcher

and hunkered low

 

because the floodplain glittered with sunshine

and the grass revealed itself

 

and the river was full of sky

and the mayflies were dancing

 

and the hawthorn smelt of urinals

but still looked cheerful

 

and the post van disappeared

over the hill

 

and the rim of a bicycle wheel gleamed

as it leaned against the hedge

 

and the wind was gentle

and the air was warm

 

and they were everywhere.

 

 

 


The Sisters

After Aardvark Groomed by Widows by Leonora Carrington

 

 

They come to the golden ark

milk-creatures

 

yielding to the bosom

the proffered spoon and terracotta bowl

 

to be brothed in salt and herbs

washed clean.

 

Snouty gatherers wait their turn.

A calf hangs limp.

 

There’s an art to the soft wimpled gaze

into nothing.

 

A nun sweeps the past into enchantment.

All death is magic.

 

The care of the living must go on –

a thing with wings

 

a steadying hand on a broad white back

acts of simplicity.

 

Praise those whose task it is to mend

and send away.

 

Praise the ministry of ochre

dust and clay.

 

 

 The Chewing Factory

 

Slab-heads, great hoofy chunk beasts

hefty-heaving through iron gates to the field.

 

Their mouths set to work immediately.

A fugue that synchronises like clocks.

 

Again and again, their muscular tongues

renew the gleam of their nostrils.

 

Their bodies are huge maps rippling in the sun,

continents and islands straddling white sea.

 

Hay barn stomachs dance the grass about.

Cuds emerge like tight wads of Kleenex.

 

All day they stand, their gable ends to the wind,

eyeing the world and magnifying it.

 

It’s a miracle how grass gets to be so fat,

how sap ends up creamy suds in my blue jug.

 

 

 

 To a Pig in Time of Trouble

 

Do not go to that well-done edge of time,

to the steamy conveyor belt of sliced white

and department store wallets. Keep shovelling

leaves and kitchen parings, up to your shanks

in mucky water, your flanksides wobbling,

your thick skin scumbly with pellety ticks

chasing between the paintbrush hairs.

 

Stay, setae one! Put your neat trotters

to the ground and dig deep. Be a refusenik.

Who will make mini-tornados of hay

and rattle the gates with its pudding head?

Don't let them chop you into pretty pieces,

my kettle truffler, my bucket skirmisher.

Play dead, lie piggo, run away.

 

 

 


Pat Winslow has published seven collections, most recently, Kissing Bones with Templar Poetry. A winner of several notable competitions over the years, she enjoys commissioned collaborations with film-makers, composers and artists.


 

 Fiona Perry


Animal within an animal

 

In the middle of the flanks of women lies the womb,

an animal within an animal. Mine wandered around my body

coordinates unknown, a displacement that caused

a tendency to make trouble for others, so relentless efforts

were made to anchor it into a more suitable position;

to stave off licentiousness, to stem the flow of hysterical

suffocation, to convert lasciviousness into maternal care.

 

Once again, the man downstairs adjusts his tie

in the looking glass. All moustachioed authority and advanced

scientific knowledge, he is here to coax and cajole

that wild beast with fetid and rank smells to the nostrils;

tallow candle when it is blown out, vapour of bird’s

feathers (especially partridge or woodcock), of man’s

hair or goat’s hair, of dead mouseling, of pig trotter, and such like.

 

But my pet refused to return unto its own place, even

when they lowered my body into a bath of lungwort, juniper,

flea-bane, camphire, and green anise (boiled in water). She shifted

only slightly, pricked her ears, when offered sweet and aromatic

fumigations. Hither and thither, she flailed, so I tore the whalebone

from my belly, mounted my broodmare and galloped away.

In the medical notes, perplexed, they surmised this untameable

creature remains a spinning needle on a compass.

 


Fiona Perry grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in Oxfordshire. Fiona mines memory, mythology, family stories, allegory, dreams, and most recently, scientific discovery to create poetry and short fiction.

Her written work features in print journals including Lighthouse, The Alchemy Spoon, Skylight47, and Into The Void. They also appear online in Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Blue Nib, Utopia and Abyss & Apex. She has contributed two poems to the “Poetry Worth Hearing” podcast.

Fiona’s first collection of poetry, Alchemy (Turas Press, Dublin), won the Poetry Book Awards (2021) Silver Medal and was shortlisted for the Rubery Prize. Her flash fiction, Sea Change, won first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards (2020).



Roddy Maude-Roxby 

 

Mostly Cat


the cat looks round the door

makes eye contact and retreats

 

as if he had something to say

without the means to speak

 

the little female enters now

while I am still in bed

 

she pushes with her head

my hand responds

 

her front paws pump my chest

as if expecting milk

 

she bites at my diary book mark

to catch anything ribbon like

 

at last or at least she settles now

on the rocking chair to sleep

 

no use to say ‘Stop it’ to a cat

dogs know words unknown by cats

 

cats purr of course

dogs use their eyebrows

 

cats are somewhat like the weather

may be sunny all day

 

 

 


Roddy Maude-Roxby is an actor, painter and poet.


 

Eva Wal


The Whale in the Void

 

 

The glazing of pain shimmering in a great cold

 

Peter Huchel

 

 

 

Once my psycho-therapist told me that pain caused by emotions had exactly the same effect on the body as physical pain.

 

I used to throw away letters of my mother unopened. Ventriloquist letters, taletelling its toxic content. Finally, I banned my mother.

 

Since I changed my surname, I have received all kinds of whale-gifts, as my chosen name is Whale. I chose it because at that time whales were my saviors in the abyss of dreams.

 

Today I open my mother’s Christmas present, and another whale appears, freed from his brown paper shell, shimmering on the cover of a book.

 

This whale is here to fill the chilly, peaceful void the ban had kept open for so many years.

 

He’s the messenger, the transmitter of my mother’s words; his blow falls over me like a shower of crushed ice. The unrequited love of a mother who never gave birth to a whale.

 

The hunted, the harpooned, the humiliated, the almost extinguished creature, the feared leviathan, the target.

 

We are harmless, don’t you see?

 

Did you know a whale’s skin is as thin as a paper-tissue? Yet it can wear scars like a million interwoven ways of figure-skaters on the vast polar ice.

 

The whale’s got big fat to store memories, hurts, violation, the unrequited love of a child.

 

The whale’s body used to be industrially exploited, a reminiscence of the utmost cruelty of war: flesh and bone and blubber turned into gelatin, margarine, make up, lamp- and lubricating oil, soap, fodder, insecticide, nitroglycerine.

 

It wasn’t his fault.

 

How the pain rises, grows, spreads, roots, bones, needles, stings, fingering, nailing, teething, biting, bitching, pinching, drilling, moving inside the flesh, cutting it up, never leaving, usurping, numbing the brain, silencing the tongue, swallowing words, gulping guts, looming, smoldering, scolding, freezing, molding, rusty, bloodred, dark, conjuring all colours to buzzing white, glistening, blistering, bursting, yelling, screaming, hoarse, harsh, hush, hush, hush, hush…

 

Can the size of a fully grown blue whale ever be an exaggeration?

He’s diving deep, ready to forgive, but he never forgets.

 

 

She has sunk

 

She is in the abyssal sea

 

flawless painless motionless

 

She is just there

floating in the currents

 

 

She comes again, blows fantastic, majestic fountains of water

 

forever proud and beautiful

 

A marvel of the ocean, a mammal at home in two worlds or none

 

 

 

Thaw wind sweeps over the traces of figure-skaters

            holding each other tight, and the blue whale is my savior again.

 

 

I keep the book and send the letter back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvia Whale

 

Eva Wal

 

2023/24




Eva Wal is an visual artist and a poet who lives in Bonn and on the countryside nearby.

She published her first poetry pamphlet Marmorsee, marble lake, in 2009.

In 2017 she encountered Oxford Stanza 2 poets in Bonn on the occasion of Diana Bell’s art project as part of the Bonn-Oxford twinning. It encouraged her to write in English and woke her interest in English poetry and also in translations. As the result of an ongoing collaboration, she was able to publish the pamphlet Poems In The Hourglass, Gedichte im Stundenglas, with German-English poems in 2022 through the Bonn-Oxford link.

Eva runs creative writing workshops for adults at the Arp Museum near Bonn as well as workshops for children and youth. She loves interdisciplinary collaborations with artists around the world and is up to all kind of adventures in art and poetry.

 

www.evawal.blogspot.com

 

www.evawal-kunstprojekte.blogspot.com

 

 

“Whale in the Void” is written in English only.

 

Sylvia Whale is an alter ego who wrote only this poem.


 

 

 Deborah Cox


God’s creature

 

An odd creature has joined our church

- she has Medusa hair.

Though manicured, she has green skin

- she isn’t quite all there.

 

At first we thought she was naive

- but now we know her plan.

She wants to turn our men to stone

- but we hold all the stones.

 

She’ll take you with her eyes, she will

- her feet lead straight to hell.

We’ve studied both her eyes and feet

- they never can keep still.

 

We killed that character today

with just a look or two;

false sympathy, a prayer request

passed on from pew to pew.

 

 



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.

She is currently working on a second novel and continues to write poetry. Her personal website is DeborahCox.co.uk.


 

 

Stephen Wren


Inside creature

 

The glass encloses me.

I share tetrahedra

with other particles.

My lap is silicate.

A local order beams

to form a non-crystal.

The glass exhibits me.

My pliancy has tongues

and sounds do detonate.

My face is moving charge.

The world beyond the glass

cannot detect my frame.

The glass unfreezes me.

I try so hard to pose

as one being with heart.

I cry on other motes.

 



Dr Stephen Paul Wren studied at Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) and

worked in industry for many years. He transitioned back into academia

at Oxford (St Hilda’s College) before joining Kingston University in

2018 where he works as a Senior lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry.


Stephen's poetry can be read at

www.stephenpaulwren.wixsite.com/luke12poetry and you can find him on

Twitter @Stephen34343631. His book ‘Formulations’ (co-written with Dr

Miranda Lynn Barnes) was published by Small Press in 2022. His book 'A

celestial crown of Sonnets' (co-written with Dr Sam Illingworth) was

published by Penteract Press in 2021. Also, Stephen's poetry has

appeared in places such as 14 magazine, Marble Broadsheet,

Consilience, Green Ink Poetry, Tears in the Fence, Fragmented Voices, and Dreich magazine.


 

 Caroline Jackson-Houlston



MAY DAY BANK HOLIDAY, PORT MEADOW, 2020

A Robin-photographer interchange

 

Climate change cancelled all my Christmas gigs.

You know the stuff—snow-covered holly twigs

Topped with a Robin—that’s my classic pose.

No work last winter, due to lack of snows.

May is usually the ‘Cute Nestlings’ spot.

With 60 kph of gale, it’s not.

With every worm and insect out of sight,

How come I’m here up to my knees in white?

Because it’s not snowflakes, it’s hawthorn flowers.

It’s just tree-dandruff coming down in showers.

You’ve a bright notion for a piquant shot?

Stand on that lily pad? No, I will not.

Because they’re the monopoly of frogs.

The industry is going to the dogs—

Hard-line Nature Equity’s union rules:

No frogs on holly, no robins in pools,

Even on May-confettied lily leaves.

Don’t get me started. You would not believe

The intellectual property and patent

Jungle out there. It’s nothing but a blatant

Suppression of the artiste’s right to choose,

By multinationals; protest is no use.

The bright side’s double rates for videos.

 

They forecast snow; it’s cold enough, God knows.

Quick, there’s a jogger coming. Take your snap:

Two profiles, one head-on. Call that a wrap!



TO A MOUSE, ON TURNING IT OUT OF ITS NEST IN THE DARIOLE MOULDS

 

‘It’s got to go!’

The mouse is living in the oven,

in the plate-warmer, with the cake tins.

 

We tried violence last time.

My husband cornered the previous one with an air rifle

in the open country of the lowest bookshelf

between the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde

and the plug sockets.

 

It faced him down.

Three inches of teenage woodmouse

triggered

 

     paralysing existential guilt

 

long enough for a dash to P. G. Wodehouse

and a vanishing act.

 

So, this time it was the live trap, then

decanting you into the small-pet carrier,

shivering at the relentless light

the incomprehensible all-round air

of the perspex walls.

 

We let you out two miles away, in a lay-by,

with berrying trees,

and six foot of dry ditch,

and even a waste bin.

 

Was this a bracing freedom from enclosure

or an extreme rendition, handing you over

to chill deracination, like a tiny John Clare?

 

 



'Hello, I’m Caroline Jackson-Houlston. As an eco-poet, most of my writing is about the relations between the natural world and the now rather less natural human beings that share it. I frequently use dramatic monologues to construct different, though necessarily artificial, viewpoints.  These pieces are from projected collections. The first is likely to be part of an illustrated pamphlet based on the prompts for a day at a science fair encouraging children to write about nature. The second comes from a fully drafted but as yet unpublished book, 50% Banana.'


Corinna Board


Cowrie

 

Under the egg-smooth dome,

a pair of serrated lips –

a mollusc portcullis protecting

your long-gone tenant.

You sat on Nan’s top shelf;

crouching tiger, empty husk,

too precious to play with.

I remember how it felt to touch

you – the electric thrill as I ran

my fingers over your knife-edge

opening, pressed your coolness

to my cheek, tried to understand

how you could hold an ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown-banded carder bee

 

I scoop it up with a leaf in case it isn’t dead.

Its wings are skew-whiff, sugar glass-brittle,

 

body curled into a question mark, coated

in russet fuzz. I explore its mechanics

 

with a pencil tip – the impossible ratio

of abdomen to wing, eyes bright little pins,

 

antennae a Dali moustache.

If you had never seen a bee, it might seem

 

otherworldly: an alien life-form or a

minuscule spaceship, crashed on the grass.

 

But it’s a dead bumblebee, nothing on Earth

can jumpstart its stalled machinery.

 

  

 

 

  

 

Silverfish

 

If the moon were a creature,

she would be you.

Waning crescent,

quicker than mercury.

Midnight dancer,

dusting fingertips with constellations

of precious metal.

Little fish,

sliver of shimmer,

floorboard swimmer.

You show off your silver

then disappear.

Just like her.




Corinna Board teaches English as an additional language in Oxford. She grew up on a farm, and her writing is often inspired by the rural environment. She particularly enjoys exploring our connection to the more-than-human. Her work has appeared in various journals, and she was recently commended in the Verve Eco-poetry competition. Arboreal, her debut pamphlet, was published in January. Find her on Instagram @parole_de_reveuse or X/Twitter @CorinnaBoard. 


Richard Lister






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’ with ‘fiercely original descriptions’ and so provide ‘a truly beautiful collection that will leave you changed.’


Richard enjoys enabling people to further develop their poetry through running engaging and creative workshops.  These include Whetting the Appetite; Weaving the Strands: Using Research and Lines of Thought and Resonance: powerful last lines’.  An active Mole Valley Poet, his work is published in twelve international magazines including Acumen, Orbis and Ekphrastic Review and is carved into the Radius sculpture.  


He’s lived and worked across the UK, in Cambodia during a civil war and in Malawi: ‘The Warm Heart’ of southern Africa.  Contact richardnwlister@gmail.com 07484100450. 



 

 

 That concludes this episode of Poetry Worth Hearing. You can listen to it on https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/kathleen-mcphilemy/episodes/Poetry-Worth-Hearing-Episode-21-e2g692v

Please listen and share. Comments or submissions for future episodes should be sent to poetryworthhearing@gmail.com. Submissions should be a recording of not than 4 minutes of unpublished poems with texts and a short author bio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 














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