Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 9
Welcome to the ninth episode of Poetry Worth Hearing. In this episode we have four poets reading from their recent books:
Jules Whiting with Folding Time, published by Dempsey & Windle, 2022
Jules Whiting grew up in Cholsey, Oxfordshire and much of the inspiration for her poetry comes from the village and the surrounding countryside. She obtained an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University. Short listed for Gloucester Prize 2020, commended in the Poetry Society Members Competition 2020, short listed, Buzzwords 2020, special mention in the Spelt Poetry Competition 2021. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Orbis, South, Envoi, The Interpreter's House, The High Window, Haibun Journal and various anthologies including Stanley Spencer Poems, Two Rivers Press, Best of British, PaPer Swans Press, A Hatchery of Shadows, SciPo 2019, Angled by the Flood, SciPo 2020, Despite Knowing,Fore Street Press 2021, Rebel Talk, Extinction Rebellion 2021. What the Peacock Replied, Dempsey& Windle 2019. A micro pamphlet What colour is my Brain? Hedgehog Press, came out this year as did her debut collection Folding Time.
Rachel Piercey reads poems from Disappointing Alice,published by Happenstance in 2019.
She also reads a poem from her anthology for children, Falling Out of the Sky: Poems about Myths and Monsters (2015, shortlisted for the CLPE’s children's poetry award),from Emma Press.
Rachel Piercey is a poet and editor who studied at Oxford and now lives in London. Her third pamphlet, Disappointing Alice, was published by HappenStance in 2019; she also has two pamphlets with the Emma Press. Her poems have appeared in magazines including The Rialto, Butcher's Dog, Magma and The Poetry Review. Rachel also writes for children and runs an online journal of new poems for children called Tyger Tyger Magazine. rachelpierceypoet.com
Elizabeth Barton reads a sequence from her recent collection, If Grief Were a Bird, published by Agenda Editions, 2022.
Elizabeth Barton is the stanza rep for Mole Valley Poets. Her work has been published in magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Orbis, South and The High Window. She read English at Cambridge University, after which she worked as a teacher. She has lived in Spain and the U.S. and now lives in Surrey where she is Stanza Rep for Mole Valley Poets. If Grief Were a Bird is her first book.
Jennifer A. McGowan reads poems from her latest collection, How to be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager), published this month by Arachne Press.
Jennifer A. McGowan took her PhD from the University of Wales, and taught there (and at several other universities which began with a W, including Warwick) until her disability became too severe to work. She is in her third year of Long Covid as well. She has won several competitions and been commended in many more. She generally prefers the 15th century to the 21st, and is an early Tudor re-enactor. This is her second full collection Other publications include:Still Lives with Apocalypse , Prole Pamphlets The Weight of Coming Home, Indigo Dreams With Paper for Feet (dramatic monologues and folk tales), also from Arachne Press
Hugin and Munin
(Thought & Memory - The Poetic Edda)
Your ravens flew at daybreak for decades
casting sense nets on the yawning world
rustle of slow silk as they scudded and soared
then diamond tail rudders would guide them home
these days they come back aching, confused,
weak boned, looking for long rest and release
mornings they are momentarily muddled,
unwilling to leave the roost in our tree
they caw into the bright of day,
dream of the flight to Valhalla.
Speeding in North Wales
I wrote back and asked for proof
It arrived two days after your funeral,
a low-res printout of our Sunday drive,
the two of us, roof down, windy heads,
the croeso gatso spying to the side.
Gwneud tri deg wyth mewn preswylfa.
Doing thirty-eight in a residential.
On the way home, with fresh rosemary
and two dozen honesty box eggs,
you’d sung the Cambrian road signs -
Ardudwy, Trawsfyndd, Cwn Penant,
Betws-yn-Rhos, Talacre, Bodelwyddan.
When we got back it was the end of summer,
Autumn was already in the pot, the roof went up,
the battery came out and the cover went on.
I’ve not been out in her since,
it’s been a damp and rainy spring.
Jane has recently been highly commended in The Rialto Pamphlet, Poetry Wales Pamphlet and Live Canon Collection. Single poems have been highly commended in the Bridport, Fish, and Hippocrates prizes and published in: Stand, The Rialto, Envoi, Mslexia and The ORB. Her work has been included in anthologies including NAHR, Ver Poets, Hippocrates and Glean & Graft.
She is an active member of Oxford Stanza II and Ver Poets and occasional reviewer for Sphinx.
‘And don’t forget the teacakes!’
Your voice vaults over the banister
follows me, as you cannot.
I pull on red boots, lift the shopping bag,
ancient Pan Am blue,
‘I won’t be long.’
In air devoid of Glade Vanilla
untainted by the cute commode
Pan Am flying by my side
I reach the corner shop too soon.
In air now cheese and pork pie filled
I read my list to Mr. Bail
‘Andrex double, must be pink,
half of cheddar, apples, Mother’s Pride,
a dozen rashers of best back, no rind,
Gold Blend, or Maxwell House she doesn’t mind.’
The Pan Am bag, its handles frayed,
bulges and I’m on my way.
One last gasp of autumn air
and I unlock the thick front door,
‘I’m back,’ my words float up, ‘I’ll put the kettle on.’
Your voice, anticipation like a child
‘I’ll have my teacake toasted please.’
Blocks beneath her chair
prevent her rocking,
the window, quite secure,
reveals the garden of her past.
She gazes, from today to then,
inhales the autumn blanket
in her mind.
Such days as these,
mist on fallen apples,
provide soft comfort,
russet plump decay,
not yet death,
keeping her alive.
This was their season,
her cold fingers
safe in his warm hand,
snatches of his voice
though not his words,
stroke her memory.
round her shrunken breasts
she tilts the heart-shaped face
his fingers once caressed,
smiles at the ceiling stain
rocks despite the blocks.
Daylight, a Pantoum
You and I did not have daylight,
we didn’t talk, reveal our dreams.
Love, secret, lent us starry night,
so very long ago it seems.
We didn’t talk, reveal our dreams,
although we shared a love of books.
So very long ago it seems.
The nights were filled with longing looks.
Although we shared a love of books,
we didn’t dig deep into life.
The nights were filled with longing looks,
awareness that you had a wife.
We didn’t dig deep into life,
time robbed us of that luxury,
awareness that you had a wife
cut short our own discovery.
Time robbed us of that luxury,
love, secret, lent us starry night,
cut short our own discovery.
You and I did not have daylight.
The Ghost at the Funeral
And there you were,
had been all the time,
yet I had noticed nothing.
I had not heard a whisper of your voice
nor sensed your smile, alive
even in a darkest of moments.
Someone else’s smile looked out,
a photo in the room,
to celebrate a young life lived,
no time to live it full.
We sat in suits, unworn of late,
polished shoes pinched tight.
Closed-mouths smiling silence,
interspersed with spontaneous bursts
of well-worn words.
Our eyes on each others’ ageing,
while we hid, poorly, our wish to go home,
disrobe, fill comfy clothes.
And there you were
to ease my sorrow,
unnoticed until a lull
when others rose to refill glasses,
leaving me, alone,
to notice you.
Trisha has had three pamphlets published by Dempsey and Windle, contributed to Surrey Libraries Poetry Blog, Surrey Libraries Words in Focus and Places of Poetry. She read regularly on her local radio during Lockdown and has contributed to BBC Radio Surrey. In 2021 she was short listed for the Roger McGough Poetry Prize, performing with other finalists at The Exchange in Twickenham. Her poems can be found on Facebook, Trisha Broomfield Poetry, Instagram magentapink22 and have been featured in the online magazine Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis. Observations, memories and humour are never far away from her work.
Prince with Companions
(conjectured from an early 17th century Mughal miniature)
Listen : you can raid your memory to summon the clink
of our delicate cups, but not the words the scholar spoke
moments ago to our ruler, his lips now pursed, awaiting answer.
The appearance of a ghostly ship may give a clue to the sound
of lake water washing against the piers beneath this dais,
but you'd be hard put to catch the buzz of minuscule wasps
attending the purple figs, for they have eluded the artist
whose gold oblong has snared eight cross-legged figures,
yet as your eye dances from leaf to leaf to painted leaf
the looking time he folded into his brushwork will unfurl better
than from the brief word banyan. Think how many verses
it would take to letter out his hair-fine depiction of us men,
no two alike, held in a circle &, at its apex, picked out
in light-swallowing black, the crimson-cushioned royal he.
If none are shown in the act of talking, this hush may be
a reflective lull before the group debates bookish ideas,
or the inbreath preceding an explosion of princely temper.
There can be no revelation, the artist having put down his brush
& died to his creation, taking the narrative with him.
Neither you nor I can know what befalls me when I step out
of this temporary frame – perhaps long life as a favoured
musician : or, for some imagined slight, my throat ordered slit
tonight as I sleep in my bed. For now, unpaintable as the hum
of insects, unwordable as the details of a tree, conjured
by my scarcely-moving fingers, the secret atmosphere of picture
& poem lies in the slow drone of my tambura, charging
the air with a tint more subtle than colour, underscoring
first word to full stop - my enduring transient gift: listen.
Steve Xerri (https://stevexerripoetry.co.uk) was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 and has appeared in numerous publications including Atrium, Brittle Star, The Clearing, Fortnightly Review, Golden Handcuffs Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, One Hand Clapping, The Poetry Shed, Poetry Society Newsletter, Raceme, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly.
His work has been shortlisted in the Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition and the Fish Publishing poetry contest (three times) and in 2021 he was longlisted for the Live Canon International Poetry Competition, appearing in the resulting Anthology.
His first pamphlet Mutter/Land was published in 2020 by Oystercatcher Press.
What we come to believe is what we want to believe
when the streets are paused to a standstill,
the surrounding hills our only retreat. For me,
the snapping of beech, the stirring of foliage,
was more real than the light that shone,
late afternoon, across from Marriage Wood.
When the two of them ran, we thought they were dogs
at first from the sound of their movement alone.
How quickly they made their way, one behind the other,
a maverick convoy of muscle and flesh
passing steadfastly to a destination only they knew.
Through the cover of branches, nothing was certain.
I could swear there was the lowering of bird song
and the sudden glint of an eye as they gathered pace,
surging uphill where no way seemed possible.
Still at that point of half believing they were dogs,
we waited patiently for their owner walking behind,
for a call at least. In the moments afterwards, the birds
regained their confidence but no voice was heard.
Of all those who ventured
to the island of Torcello
(walked down the narrow path,
past the wooden footbridge,
the old farm house, some nodding hens)
to sit on Attila’s Chair
believing that by doing so they would,
as folklore has it, wed within a year
how many felt a hand in theirs as they touched
the chair’s worn and pitted surface,
tapped their feet against its solid base,
pressed their calves together like children
waiting for something to happen?
And how many in some quiet moment since
taken from a life of conjugal bickering,
or stymied ambition, or singlehood,
or in the short breath between
the I and do recalled what it was
that first brought them here,
or the time of day, the tint and texture
of the light, the journey back by boat
across the pale green lagoon?
Christopher Horton's poems have appeared in Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Ambit, Iota, Magma, Dreamcatcher, The Wolf, Stand, and in anthologies with Penned in the Margins, Broken Sleep Books, tall-lighthouse and Days of Roses. He was a prize winner in the National Poetry Competition and the Bridport Prize. He won first prize in the South Downs Poetry Festival Competition in 2021 and had another poem highly commended in the same year of the competition. He was also commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition and shortlisted for the Canterbury Festival Poetry of the Year Competition in 2022. His pamphlet, Perfect Timing, was released by tall-lighthouse press in 2021.
A present from an unloved Aunt,
the sort that came round on Boxing Day.
I took you up the British Legion,
got signatures from Chelsea
Plus the local pop group down
the Conservative Club.
And someone wrote –
“By hook or by crook, I am
the last to be in this book.”
It wasn’t even funny!
My biggest coup was Cliff Richard,
his eyes hidden behind dark glasses.
The biro’d scrawl immortalised
on your yellow page.
But a girl from school scribbled
and you were passé by then
Oh Ingeborg, where are you now?
You wrote to me from your
beautiful German valley
to my house by the Off Licence.
Crinkly letters written with your
fine felt tip, in halting English,
a flower drawn at the end.
You came to England so bright
while I was full of puppy fat
and period pains.
Taking you to the Palladium –
Derek Nimmo in pantomime.
What a culture shock that must
But you stayed cheerful and upbeat
while I had a face like a lemon.
My Mum was sorry to see you go,
When you started writing to a boy
in my class,
I knew it was the kiss of death.
One more casualty lost to romance.
But I stayed brave, and
wrote to Andre in Yugoslavia.
Heather Moulson has been writing and performing poetry since 2017 and co-founded Poetry Performance at the Adelaide in Teddington. She has performed extensively around London and Surrey, and her poems are focused on nostalgia. Her debut pamphlet Bunty, I Miss You was published in 2019. She lives in Twickenham with her family and a grumpy black cat. She also likes to do sketching, mainly of the black cat.
That's all for this episode.
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