Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode Four
Welcome to the fourth episode of Poetry Worth Hearing. The first part of this episode is devoted to the theme of co-operation and collaboration, a notion which came up through exchanges with Diana Sanders in Wales, whose project 'Unstoppable', the outcome of collaboration between poets, musicians and sound artists, originated in Lockdown and opens this podcast. Diana talks about turning the "I" to 'us', which started me thinking about how a lot of poetry has moved away from the individual voice of Romanticism so that poets are engaging with musicians, visual artists, scientists and even each other.
Thus, in addition to 'Unstoppable', this episode features a poem shared by plant scientist, Sarah Watkinson, and archaeologist, Romola Parish. To call Romola an archaeologist is seriously to undersell her, as she is also an artist, a harpist, and an environmental lawyer. The poem 'Conversation' is the result of a collaboration between the two poets, rather in the mode of the Japanese form, renga. It was written when Sarah was Writer in Residence in Wytham Woods, the Oxford University ecological research centre.
The episode also includes a collaboration between two poets, Viola Michely and Bill Jenkinson, as they translate one of Viola's poems from German into English. Viola also moves between two disciplines as her poems are very often based on works of art or photographs.
The second part of Episode Four returns to individual poets, with excellent contributions from Jennifer A McGowan, David Ratcliffe, Trisha Broomfield, Claire Cox, Steve Xerri and finally, some poems recorded by Jane Duran following her Zoom Open Mic reading for Oxford Stanza Two in January. These poems are taken from her notable new collection, the clarity of distant things, Carcanet, 2020.
Turner at my door one night—a quiver of brushes and enough paper to blow us out to sea— The weather is fine for the boat to sail— we’ll catch moon’s flower tonight! Shoeless, sleepless, I push him out on the water— one hundred strokes until we’re lonely mid-stream— Chelsea floating from us in a dream and moon so close our voices bounce back changed. He holds up a sheet to the sky— Bonny face—maybe this is the best way to catch you. Stares till the moon starts to wax in his mind and pull on his hand like the tide. Through brushfuls and bladefuls of river water I hold my boat to the stars— our feet awash with versions of the sky. Already, sun is pouring over this night’s work— already bleaching— reclaiming his fugitive light from the page. Gaze over washed out clouds, trace the ghost of a line or a tower’s frayed edge— find a fleck of moonlight lodged in the paper’s grain.
Clive McWilliam has worked throughout the UK and abroad as a landscape architect and illustrator. He has his own practice in Chester where he also lives and writes and paints.
A la sainte terre
There is a map for where she walked. But where did she sleep?
She slept in a field of mixed grazing.
In a bund of fireweed, for privacy.
On the altar of a medieval church, the red carpet
softening the steps against her hips
(her tent drying, strung-out along the pews).
She slept under a single central upright, all-night conifer
tresses radiating out from her face.
She dreamed, in pace.
She slumbered, holding the manes of wild horses
where they graze in numbers on sacred hilltops.
She closed her eyes to a blank wall
from a bare mattress in an empty holiday let.
She crashed against water running downhill
roiling streamers through terraces and startled
at every sudden movement.
She dozed on a gravestone, after using the cool surface
to roll dumplings for rabbit stew.
She slept in the lea of children’s songs
and woke to inky lines of otter spraint.
She lay under a pub table, snored against shoulders, and left gripmarks
either side, in stone floor slabs.
She slept at the confluence of three rivers—
one from the mountain
one passing through farms
and one, making up the border.
Suzanne Iuppa is a poet and conservationist living and working in the Dyfi Valley, mid Wales. Raised in the States, she came to the UK in the 1980s as a young person to study modern British poetry and countryside management.
Poems appear in magazines such as Ambit, Slipstream, Good Dadhood and Words for the Wild. She is currently Writer-In-Residence at Climate.Cymru and is a featured writer in Robert Minhinnick's 2021 climate futures anthology Gorwelion/Shared Horizons.
Dragonfly The wash is dry; cottonwoods crowd the banks—thirsty. Gone are the lupins and orange marigolds that played riparian games. The path crumbles to dust as I climb towards the rocky ridge, careful of where I reach— dark crevices where rattlers lurk. The heat of the day irons me to this barren landscape. I see a lone dragonfly— carefully I follow, as it will lead where water resides. The ancient ones left marks across these rocks— handprints, spirals and waves. I know their secrets, these are signposts to life, route maps to the most precious prize. Perched above the valley in rocky tanks hides water—deep cool fissures in the rocks. Pools of water that have survived the last downpour, months ago. I add my tears to the gift of life as I see the bright, green dragonfly hover across.
Paul Blundell's passion is being in nature and expressing that joy through writing and painting. The inspiration for this poem came from wandering the deserts of Arizona. After studying geography, he has worked as a web developer and trainer for many years. This career has given him the opportunity to roam the countryside as a digital nomad, exploring and wondering. Last year he completed a Masters in Agroecology. His thesis explored the wealth of ideas about human-nature relationships. From deep ecology to natural capital. Paul is currently researching how complex systems theory bridges the gap between our natural and digital worlds.
Red Wharf Bay
Tide out and the great scoop of the bay
lies excavated in strange formations ––
swirling brown sand, plains of mud,
dark clumps of tangled weed
and out in the middle, a gravel mound.
Marooned and inert double-keeled yachts,
black tugs and flat-bottomed motorboats
lean this way and that, each poised
at the angle of water’s last moment.
A toddler hurtles into the sea-bed playground,
father chases, hoists his child
high on his shoulders and the memory
of being airborne surges through me,
a plane, a giant, a bird –– the world
in one swoop miniature and infinite ––
the great height of you beneath me, how steady
you were, like a boat with a single keel,
the kind that heads out into deepest water.
Fiona L Bennett
Fiona Bennett is a writer and director. She is founder of the award-winning project and podcast The Poetry Exchange. Poems have appeared in journals in the UK and USA including The San Pedro River Review and The Rialto, on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb and commended in competitions including The Bridport Prize. She recently curated and directed the poetry of Adrienne Rich as part of a new ballet for Ballet Black, Then or Now.
Rest-less, hot and the faint thrum of the routiers
army pursuing the A10 to Poitiers
or north towards Normandy.
Your battle is for sleep, the enemy
That afternoon there were voices; ripples
and trills. They spilled from the grove. You could see
nothing but the shake of a branch like summer
had caught a shiver, and the steamy air
its breath pierced in cascades of prayer.
A strange god lifts your head and feet. You go
down the dark gravel with only a candle
flame speeding the shadows in their un-neat
steps. Ahead the shaking notes draw you and
the grass dewy and sweet. You may lie down.
The army has retreated. Your slumber
as if that god has seen the flickered light
shine, captured the warbling in a new dream.
This small, fragile-lit corner is heaven.
It has no time or place
for the dark distractions of battle.
Ian M Parr
Ian M Parr was born in Bolton, Lancashire and educated in Manchester and Salford. He developed an early, lifelong interest in poetry and music.
He retired as a mechanical engineer and manager in the chemical industry in 2010.
Many of his poems and songs written over the last 50 years have been published in anthologies, in print and on-line.
He has made radio programmes for the BBC using poetry, folk song and oral history and has appeared in live radio programmes of poetry and music as well as specially staged live themed events.
He has organised, assisted and participated in many poetry readings and poetry workshops, mainly in Shropshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, North and Mid-Wales.
His first collection of poetry “Singing Tomorrows” was launched in 2020.
You can take the river out of the moors but you can’t take the moors out of the river
Zooming past black bogs fizzing over weedy rocks cavorting with dippers and dragonfly nymph until—stopped short and lost in a vast lake, imprisoned with slow moving fish and clinging brown algae. until—forced into a great black pipe hurtled across the black moor spat out in dingy houses on black city streets. Still—the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen contain the memory of zooming, of mimicking the curlew’s call, tumbling with the lapwing, chasing the merlin and the quick, brown Hare.
Sarah Lewis Sarah Lewis has lived on a boat in Greece, seen the top of Everest, smelled the breath of a whale and moved around the country working for the RSPB but continues to have the most amazing adventures right on her own doorstep.
Last night, Elvis returned
from the far side of the moon
and met me in a small town
where he once performed
I remember hearing it
that first student summer
in West End coffee bars
rolling old fag-ends
with my new companions.
I wonder if they recall
those smoke-filled evenings
rock music blazing
as we sipped our expressos.
We didn’t want to leave.
Elvis knows all of them,
those friends without names.
His image blurs as he sings,
flickering in the small hours
in a silent film of young faces.
Martin Zarrop is a retired applied mathematician who wanted certainty but found life more interesting and fulfilling by not getting it. He started writing in May 2006 and is intrigued by the interaction of poetry and science. He has published three pamphlets: ‘No Theory of Everything’ (Cinnamon 2015), ‘Making Waves’ (V.Press 2019) and ‘To Boldly Go’ (V.Press 2020) and two full collections: ‘Moving Pictures’ (Cinnamon 2016) and ‘Is Anyone There?’ (The High Window Press 2020).
235 decibels hard to remember how it was when they improvised and tossed a tune for days on end when small one set his voice free when they all played catch bubbles O O O O when a chorus of bass notes overtones tail-slaps clicks rumbles filled the sea when wind sang the lighthouse there was a time when they could answer songs from beyond the krill place a time when their voices were loudest but now dark ones ____________________ won’t stop ___________________screaming and lurk ___________________in the deep places stealing music and sleep _________________________ sometimes muscles _______________remember old patterns_________________ but they ______________can no longer tell _____________what they sing moon still licks it tongue ________________over their backs but there is no meaning in this water_________________ Diana Sanders
Diana Sanders is a musician and poet who lives on the edge of the Hiraethog Moors in North Wales. She has had music and poetry published in the UK and USA.
Sarah Watkinson is an Oxford University plant scientist and emeritus fellow of St Hilda’s College. With Jenny Lewis, she ran SciPo 2016-2020 and she led O.U. TORCH SciPo New Network, 2018-2020. From 2019 to 2020 she was an inaugural writer in residence at Wytham Woods, the Oxford University ecological research station.
In addition to The Woods of Hazel, 2020, with Romola Parish, Sarah has just published her first full collection, Photovoltaic (Graft Poetry, 20210) She has also published the pamphlet, Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight, Cinnamon, 2016.
Romola Parish is a former academic and lawyer specialising in landscape and environment. She is also an artist are well as a poet. She has published work in The Cardiff Review and The Irish Literary Review amongst other anthologies and publications. She is the author of In Polygonia, a collection arising from a residency at Oxfordshire County Council’s Historic Landscape Classification Project, and Crying in the Silicon Wilderness, containing images of her artwork (currently on display at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford) and poetry in response to the work of R S Thomas, and co-author with Sarah Watkinson of The Woods of Hazel. She is in the final stages of a PhD at Cardiff on medieval hagiography, which includes Embertide, a book-length poetic engagement with the life of St Frideswide of Oxford first performed at Christ Church in October 2021. She lives in West Wales with her harp and is restoring a terraced garden.
Here is a link with information about the origins of The Woods of Hazel, in which 'Conversation' appears, and where to buy it. It must be the only poetry published by Oxford University's Estates Department!
Here is the poem, in German and in English
ein aufgeschlagenes Buch dies Grab
das Gewand Malerei, licht, verkommener Fassadenputz
sie nagt am Stein
der dicke Zeh gebrochen, die anderen krallen fest am Podest
gerät sie ins Wanken
das Tuch löffelt sich daneben, läuft aus, liegt auf, leicht
das ist das Ereignis
es kennt keine Schwere und kein Vergehen
an open book, this grave
the gown like a painting
cast in shade and light, dilapidated plaster
time gnaws the stone
a big toe broken, the rest grip the pedestal
starting to waver
cloth, as if spooned out, softly ruffles up
here is the event
unaware of weight or time
Viola Michely & Bill Jenkinson
© Viola Michely 1/22
Bill Jenkinson and Viola Michely worked together on this project to translate one of Viola's poems. All their communication was virtual so it was an especially remarkable example of collaboration. Viola's practice of working with photographs and words is not exactly cooperation but it is another example of how different artistic practices can work together to inform and inspire each other.
Viola Michely is a Cologne based author, artist and art historian. She is currently working on a book about ways of seeing, combining text and photography. Her publications range from texts on contemporary art (books in 1999,2001,2007) to poetry and prose (9 short stories in 2018) in anthologies and magazines. In cooperation with artists, she has produced several art books.
Bill Jenkinson met Viola Michely in 2020 when Oxford Stanza Two poets visited Bonn to read with Eva Wal and her group “Dada war alles gut”. He is also interested in the relationship between poetry and photographs, as well as in translating. He has been involved with Oxford Stanza Two since 2011 and is preparing a collection of poems under the working title “The Islands”.
The shriek collector
Too tempting, I’m sure, not to try – me,
your little sister, dawdling close to an edge:
a Kashmiri river, Cornish cliffs, an empty
Hong Kong reservoir sweating dust. A push,
a catch, a fresh shriek to add
to your collection. Did you pin
their slightness in neat rows, belly
down like butterflies; or keep them, live,
in jam jars with leaves and twigs,
lids randomly skewered to let in air?
Maybe you slipped them between
cellophane like your stamps, or
pricked each end, blew them clean like eggs.
I remember your sudden grip, the jolt up my neck.
You, forcing my smallness towards the drop.
I’d scream and your arms bear-hugged me
back to a safety I’d never left: you laughing,
me, tiny and furious at your stupid prank.
That morning’s phone call, the shove
between my shoulder blades,
the falling, the falling
and no one to fetch me back.
Claire Cox was born in Hong Kong but now lives and works in Oxfordshire. She is co-founder and Associate Editor for ignitionpress, and is a part-time practice-based research student at Royal Holloway, University of London studying poetry and disaster. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Magma, Envoi, Anthropocene, Butcher’s Dog, Lighthouse and Poetry Salzburg Review. She was one of three winning poets included in Primers: Volume Five (Nine Arches Press, 2020), and is the winner of the 2020 Wigtown Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize.
you rise into the skyline
craggy and austere
misty as anything
storms weather you into
the colours of autumn sighs
I smuggle you
into winter warmth
try you with fire
of your broad lap, your solitude
your thoughts a sudden flurry
your feet bedrock
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. At time of writing she is in her 25th month of Long Covid as well. Her sixth collection comes out in October 2022 from Arachne Press. 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.
The homeboy patrolled the platform
hauling a case full of troubles;
4 minutes from departure.
He could see his half-life below,
wished to wallow in its familiar frown,
allow his timidity licence to return
to the arms of invisibility.
The village presented its sophistry;
July sunrise displayed limestone ripples,
clouds created kaleidoscopic greens,
the old mill beseeched him to remain
within its simplicity,
content to drink life from cupped hands.
A cursory glance to the exit;
would he prove them, right?
'Would he eckerslike',
yet fearing the train's arrival
he hoped it would run out of steam,
hiss to a stop, forever
lost in the tunnel a mile away
from his inward mitherings.
Through branches of dappled summer, he looked down at the bus stop from where his ride,
to that point had
terminated at the limits of imagination, while he chased adventure far beyond ambition.
He channelled patchwork images,
ironed them into solitary thought;
the flighty, flirty, giggles & curls,
wanton, wretched, innocent girls
who’d hit harder than the ballyrag,
chased longer through the night,
laughed louder on wakening.
Maybe he sought self-worth
from lips of experience?
the feature, without outtakes,
maybe he'd return to rule the village
like a fox in an Aesop Fable?
By way of distraction
he allowed himself to imagine;
Manchester, Birmingham, Exeter, Plymouth,
alien places printed on a travel warrant;
thinking them familiar,
reminding him of a football coupon.
Two garrulous women,
with matching expressions
seemed to own his thoughts,
would he, could he? should he?
‘nowt to do with them!’
The echoing announcement of the arrival
of the 08:14 Manchester Victoria train
jolted him, ‘least it offered the opportunity
to relieve his flatulence’.
‘Damn the summit tunnel’
how could it allow this Naglfar carriage
to lap at the corpse of his childhood?
Yet as he slumped into his seat, new life
breathed through an open window.
Nestled in the Pennine vale, blackened, defiled by time, a ‘three-day week’ factory, serves a seven-day need.
Like concert pianists,
in neat rows, they sit ‘mantis-like’ taking turns in shouting “where is that girl with my thread?”
Treadle down, run through, hems sewn, scissors readied, more attire for the wasteful breed in that London.
Burr of machines, piped music, widows, wives, and spinsters sing their own words; vowels flatter than dads cap.
Callused fingers, shoulders burdened, thoughts drift to trading gas money for a chippy tea; large portion feeds five, a midweek treat.
Through desperation and fear they laugh at nothing as if it were everything and sing of brighter days.
David Ratcliffe is a poet, playwright, short story writer from the North West of England.
He has been published in a number of magazines both on-line and in print.
In 2016 his poem ‘Home Straight’ featured at the Fermoy International Festival.
The stage play ‘Intervention’ was produced for World Peace Day.
His poetry has been published in the following publications… Poetry Pacific Magazine, TRR Poetry, Sixteen Magazine, Mad Swirl
Tulip Tree Review (Print Version) Oddball Magazine, Poem Hunter, THE BeZINE, Creative Talents Unleashed, Drawn to the Light Press, Live Encounters & The Galway Review.
His poem ‘He Crawled’ was placed third for the Pushcart Prize in the Blue Nib magazine in 2018.
His debut collection ‘Through an Open Window’ was released in August 2021.
Milestones - a Cotswold Home
Four cottages knocked into one
the ghost inhabited number two
only mum could see, melting aside
to let it pass each time they met
in the doorway to the dining room
the hall was twenty-two yards long,
mum said as long as the cricket pitch
but we were too young to care
we had our own rooms
one each with a window seat
horses clip-clopped down the road
the farmer next door kept pigs
and mud, school was an uphill struggle
and a huddle around a round fire,
Royal Scots washed down with warm school milk
we clambered over dry stone walls
disturbed the sleeping old man’s beard
pink campions, cowslips, egg and bacon weed
sought sunshine, we pined for the sea
built dens beneath the apple tree
we watched, under duress, Yuri Gagarin
his flight a milestone in the race to space
while swinging our legs, bored, hemmed in
by dry stone walls, so much room to roam
so very far from our beachside home.
Trisha Broomfield 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.
Anti-elegy for Simon
The ordered ranks of angels
grown fleshy on our credence
are twiddling their thumbs, observing
ironclad laws play out to our cost
– that the flame
must consume the candle,
a dropped glass shatter,
our firm translucent limbs
come slack & spotted to decay.
They have left our cries
unanswered through the generations :
it's high time
to howl the indifferent hordes
wingless by the storm-force
of our outrage
to turn the tables
on them, hurl them roughly
from their marmoreal halls
& corridors of cloud
so that they wander lost as we do.
An idea : we just withdraw consent,
let them wither unregarded
in a ditch
while we leave our gong-
banging & chants, jazz funerals
& sky burials, plaited wreaths,
the wearing of veils, all the varied
paraphernalia of bereavement.
This to be nailed
to every church door : Notice
is hereby given that we lay claim
to the diamond body
& a run of days on Earth
more numberless than all the dust-
motes of the starpacked galaxies.
New windows will open in the possible,
& the miraculous appear
not singular & rare
but always & everywhere repeating
within hand’s reach
– a vase of backlit daffodils,
let's say, blazing perpetually
on the wooden sill
& our need for an elsewhere
will melt away
like a coped & mitred snowman
in the onslaught of the sun.
The loved ones for whom we think
this dispensation comes too late
will be gathered at some lawn-circled pub,
seated round tables with spreading trees for shade,
looking as fresh as if they’d just turned down
the sheet of turf & stood up stretching,
ready for another round of talk
& the joys
of a well-stocked jukebox,
a tangy slab of Cheddar
& hunks of yeasty bread
with pickles & an apple,
the drifting scent of lime-blossom
& the warm clasp of familiar hands :
& so, in steps as run-of-the-mill as these,
the world will make ecstatics of us all.
I’ll find you with your book
beneath a slender ginkgo
some while before you grew the beard,
your limbs untwisted into painlessness,
gimbals of light at play
in the glass of wine at your elbow
refilling itself continually :
& that will be the end
of this churlish breach in our conversation
of decades, your death
but a shadow that once
darkened a dream.
All the violence
of loss held in so long will be
at last allowed issue, ripping
a great wound in the sky,
a dawn so vivid
it will give the painters
to render the raw blood-
crimsonness, the vermilion
fire of it all :
no matter should they fail
for tubes of fresh paint
& clean paper
will arrive tomorrow,
bringing with them always
from now on
of a new beginning.
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.
The next and final section of the episode features Jane Duran reading some of the poems she read on a recent Oxford Stanza 2 Open Mic event. The poems are taken from her new collection the clarity of distant things (Carcanet, 2021).
Jane Duran was born in Cuba to a Spanish father and an American mother, and brought up in the USA and Chile. Her first collection Breathe Now, Breathe (Enitharmon 1995) won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Enitharmon went on to publish a further four collections. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 2005. She has co-translated Lorca's Gypsy Ballads (Enitharmon, 2011) and his Sonnets of Dark Love (Enitharmon, 2017) with Gloria García Lorca. Her most recent collection of poems, the clarity of distant things,was published by Carcanet in 2021.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode. If, by any chance, you came here first, you can find the audio podcast at anchor.fm/kathleen-mcphilemy , or you can search for Poetry Worth Hearing on Google podcasts or Apple podcasts.
If you would like to submit your work to Poetry Worth Hearing , please send a recording of up to 4 minutes with the texts of your poems and a short paragraph of biographical information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Poems should be previously unpublished.
More details on how to make your recording can be found on this site in the post for December 7th,2021.