Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 7
This episode features the work of Oxford Brookes University Poetry Centre and its publishing outlet, ignitionpress. We have an interview with the Centre's development officer, Claire Cox, whose poems you may have heard in earlier episodes. She talks about the work of the Poetry Centre and the inception of the press. She goes on to describe ignition's efforts to encourage diversity and internationalism and to foster poets at the outset of their careers, through the process of editorship and mentoring. At the end of her interview, you will hear sample poems from four ignition poets, Jacob Anthony Ramirez, Michaela Coplen, Daniel Fraser and Patrick James Errington. The first two are the most recently published and their pamphlets have just been launched. The others are a random selection from the increasing list of ignitionpress which reflect the quality of the work it is producing. To hear more about and from all these poets and to buy their pamphlets you should go to https://www.brookes.ac.uk/research/units/hss/centres/poetry-centre/ignitionpress/pamphlets
At the end of this episode you can hear another of the ignition poets, Fathima Zahra, in an extract from the Zoom reading she gave on 30th May, reading from her pamphlet, Sargam/Swargam.
Between these bookends from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, we have a selection of new work from Dinah Livingstone, Richard Lister, Lizzie Ballagher, Vanessa Lampert and Mervyn Linford.
When I wake up it is morning, new light.
I gaze at the sky, today a faint blue
gathering strength. Its shining
fills me, my eyes, my whole being,
lifts up my heart. At this moment
intensely happy I breathe a sigh.
I see the shapely London plane trees
reaching up their summer green
as if to touch it, but they cannot.
They are rooted in Earth.
The sky is not a solid vault above.
It is our atmosphere,
our breathing space surrounding
all us planetary citizens.
It is not a fixed domed lid
keeping us down under it,
governed by an autocratic
supernatural realm on high
to which, if we obey,
we can aspire.
It is what we breathe
here where we are at home
and on a morning like this,
Dinah Livingstone has given many poetry readings in London, throughout Britain and abroad; she has received three Arts Council Writer’s Awards for her poetry. Her tenth poetry collection, Embodiment, was published in 2019. Her most recent prose book is The Making of Humanity: Poetic Vision and Kindness (2017). She is also a translator and edits the magazine Sofia. katabasis.co.uk/dinah.html
In addition, she is my longtime friend and mentor and the next episode will contain an extended feature on her work.
Motherwell's Muse I cross from New York’s
Sunday-softened streets into the Guggenheim Museum
and fall in size until
I am but the few draft lines that populate a sketch
that’s focused on a building’s
shape and space and flow.
Step into a gallery and stop,
like a smashed watch. Vast canvas. A Motherwell.
Three dark and ragged ovals, each unique: the tall, the thin, the fat, on a ground of white and tan,
blocked in by massive columns.
‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic, no.110’,
a lifelong series of lament; strange theme for an American who never saw Spain.
Motherwell as a cod-pale boy stumbles from Californian waves, his lungs rasping, gasping at insufficient air:
death becomes his muse, and grows.
When the artist is 21, Spain detonates into civil war:
neighbour stabbing neighbour,
people with the faces of God tumbled
into mass graves like carcasses
with plague. He pares it all back
to the black husks of lives and the searing white sun.
Celebration in P Major You, the letter p, are of uncertain origin. I taste a tale.
A plosive, popping on my lips, explosive dynamite, bright-bringing, bringing-fright.
You end the jump, spacehopper clumping and clod-hopper thumping.
You punctuate, stepping in stops and pauses, spiking puddles to tether sound.
With a double bang, you’re a power pylon that strides as confident as a giant, frizzed hair crackling with ozone.
The semitic pe from an early sign for mouth. Spun round by the Greeks to suit their left to right writing and turned to pi.
Apply, the ap of ply, the son of slender strip of wood, why so proud of its parenthood?
Apropos sounds like a car struggling to start, in Latin.
You start the prototype, a sponge-blown chair and squeakless springs, a gaunt shape of levers that can never pull, a go-cart tipping at the point of fall, geronimo from crest to toe.
You, the letter p, a precious tale.
Richard Lister draws you into stories of intriguing people, places and cultures. His poetry is ‘a celebration of ordinary magic perceived by a keen eye’. Richard’s work is carved into the Radius sculpture, published in 7 collections and exhibited at Leith Hill Place. He works to address poverty in Africa and Asia.
the pattern on the ground
of feet stepping—stepping
to the skirl of pipes
of pipes to the rhythm of a melody
the pattern of a melody
to the purling of a stream
of a highland stream
to the weft & weave of braided tweed
the pattern of island tweed
to a filigree of lichen fronds
their woven ochre—umber—
the pattern of their weaves
to the herringbone of peat stacks
of peat stacks to the lick & lift
of waves on broken coasts
the pattern of the waves
to chants of psalms in cliff-top chapels
of chants to the splice & twine
of vines upon their wires
the pattern of the vines—Celtic
curlicues on monuments—
infinite & intricate—plashing in & out
on pressed-peat crosses:
the pattern on the peaty earth
of feet stepping—stepping
to the skirl of pipes
of pipes to the ribbon of a melody…
the pattern is no tangle but a purpose
in our wanderings
in meanderings & weavings—
interleavings of our lives…
Feast of Fiddles
I am one
I am many
as brave & bright
as any tapestry
inviting you to clap
I hurtle away without a hint
of mockery to call our clansmen
from their crags & highlands
I switch fizzing with song
puckish with laughter
bowing plucking every note
until you dance with me:
breathless rapturous in awe
& when you’re failing falling
can go no longer cry “enough!”
listen I compel you: hear my eloquence
my doubled strings my tripled voices
stop your toes & singing tongues
wait while I haunt you with gulls
birds that wheel & call along the estuary
sounding wild spaces over water
conjuring journeys journeys over waves & shores
a bard among folk
who once were strangers
I bring you
utterly to a stand
invoking then for you
changes of the mind or heart
laments in valley days of mourning
& giddy effervescent joy
Lizzie Ballagher was educated in England, Ireland and the USA. Diverse experiences on both sides of the water have seasoned her poetry. A member of the Society of Authors and the UK Poetry Society, she now writes mainly about landscapes. She was winner of the Clayhanger Press cinquain competition in 2020 and has been runner up in competitions with the Welsh Poetry Competition and the Geoff Stevens Memorial Competition.
Recently, she has been commissioned to write for two composers, Richard Hubbert (“Pushing back Night”) and Simon Mold (“Merciless Day: Chaconne for the Fallen”, now track 8 on Song Cycles, Heritage Records; also “Hold Me High” and “For Others”: Chichester Music Press).
Some people take their children to church on Sundays. Others go swimming. This is one of the differences between your childhood and mine. You are afraid of water, its depth, its intention to fill your lungs. You favour the shower over the bath. On holiday in a hot country where the swimming pool is an undeniably enticing polished blue, we will enter together if the shallow end is truly shallow by your definition, which is to say that the water must not reach higher than your navel. You will stay in the shallow end standing very close to, or gripping the bar that runs around the pool. Which option you take will be determined by the proximity of others. I swim up and down, quickly becoming bored. I usually join you in the shallow end after 4 or 6 lengths. Sometimes I laugh at you swishing one arm cautiously or lifting one foot off the tiled floor, but while I am not laughing and just standing beside you, the fact that I can swim and you can’t swim doesn’t matter. We are just two people, one man, one woman, both hip high in water but with only the man holding onto the rail running round the side.
Vanessa Lampert is an acupuncturist and poet from Oxfordshire. Since 2019 she has won the Café Writers prize, the Edward Thomas prize, the Sentinel prize and the Ver Poetry prize twice and come second in the Fish, Yeovil, Oxford Brookes, Ware and Kent & Sussex prizes. She was commended in the National Poetry Competition 2020 and listed in 2021.
Vanessa’s work has recently been published in Magma, The Moth, The Oxford Times and Poetry Wales. She co-edits The Alchemy Spoon magazine and teaches children for Learn with Leaders in India. She has run workshops in schools, for Hive, South Yorkshire, Poetry School and Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Her pamphlet ‘On Long Loan’ is published by Live Canon and her first collection will be published by Seren in Spring 2023.
The Weather Man
He often woke early - before sunrise:
neighbours would wonder why as he started
his car and drove between the fields of Suffolk
slowly - deliberately. Often a star
would hang on the cusp of dawn and daylight
with an inquisitive twinkle in its eye.
As the car progressed deer would stop and wait
as he drove on by - wondering. A strange time
to be out and about said the rookery:
Jackdaws in the manner of the liturgy
were antiphonal. A priest opens a book
in the rectory - Wisden not Donne. Words
were beginning to form - epiphanies.
He stopped by the river as usual.
Swallows and swifts were cuneiform as they dipped
to slake their thirst, or was it to peruse
the trick of light, their altered selves, like icons?
By now the sun no longer on the edge -
red and teetering, had risen and moved on
as gold contracted. It was there he pledged
so many years ago to honour Pan -
Pan and pantheist seemed appropriate.
Not prone to panic he wanted to scan
the measure of the earth, the unspoken-
ness of animals and flowers, insects
and birds, rivers and woods. Every day
he drove out before sunrise and listened.
Eventually the world began to say
what he thought he heard. It was like tongues -
Pentecostal, yet pagan. The earth’s own
lingua franca, the quanta of the sun,
the inside of the seed - somehow sown
with a sacred language - translatable.
It was nearly noon, time to drive back home,
wherever home was. The rooks were waiting
and they spoke. A deer was amazed, knowing
what he knew. A priest raised his eyes, closed his book
and thought about sermons. Swallows swerved
around his house cursively. Neighbours looked
out from behind curtains and they observed
a difference - like noticing themselves.
The ring doves were syllabic and meaningful.
The small leaved lime was selfless and the world
was cumuli and blue - the sky, linguistic.
Mervyn Linford has been writing prose and poetry for some 50 years. He runs a small not-for-profit imprint (Littoral Press) and has published some 35 collections of poetry for other authors. He publishers his own poetry but has had 4 collections published by other publishers: Talking to the Bees and Two Essex Poets with the Late Frederic Vanson with the Brentham Press of St Albans, Credo published by the Mica Press of Wivenhoe in 2017 and his latest collection Shepherd’s Warning was published by The High Window Press in 2022. His work has been published by many magazines, newspapers and periodicals including: Ore, Orbis, Outposts, Staple, Envoi, The Countryman, P N Review, The London Magazine, The Independent Newspaper, Seam, Wayfarers, Iota, and New Hope International. His work has also featured on local and national radio and he has been a featured poet at both the Essex and Suffolk poetry festivals. His latest prose work, The Incidental Marshman subtitled Mucking Creek to the Broomway has just been published by Campanula Books.
Fathima Zahra is an Indian poet and performer based in Essex. She is a Barbican Young Poet and a Roundhouse Poetry Collective alum. Her poems have won the Bridport Prize, Wells Fest Poets Prize and Asia House Poetry Slam. Her debut pamphlet ’Sargam / Swargam’ (ignitionpress) was selected for PBS Pamphlet Choice in 2021.
That's all from this month's Poetry Worth Hearing. The next episode should be published in September. Submissions and/or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org