Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cyndi Lauper "True Colors"

To the Reader

Last night I whittled down more than 16 lines of a draft to a four line poem. In the end the draft was waffle and the quatrain captured exactly what I wanted to say. It didn't need to be said again.

I jotted it down between checking my emails and putting some chips in the oven. I was also listening to a pre-match report on the radio. My wife was upstairs putting our daughter to bed.

The revision took place on its own in my mind throughout the day, and perhaps longer, and the actual jotting was spontaneous. It felt good to write though I barely knew I had written it. Momentarily I felt lighter and whole, whatever that means. A number of things coming together, perhaps. Then I left it and got on with making dinner.

More recently I am letting myself write the poems I am able to write rather than the ones I want to write, or which I've learned to write. I could write a lot more this way, and feel more authentically myself, though I worry about finding a place to publish them. Might be a blog's the best place for them, at least until I find the right magazines to place them. Suggestions welcome.

The poem is my contribution to the 'to the reader' poems that many poets get round to writing. I'm often struck by their length and that they come from the poet's frame of reference. (In the back of my mind is an admirable Billy Collins exception.) I thought it important to think about where the reader might be coming from, and if I was being honest, ultimately turn them away. Not much of a strategy for developing a readership, but it does express something of the importance I attach to autonomy in personal development.

Anyway, that's enough about a four-liner so here it is.

To the Reader

Whatever you want
from this poem
you already possess
yourself in abundance.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Two Poems by John Clegg


Lie still. This is the cusp of comfortable.
One thin towel can’t muffle the hot slats
and a mist is pressing on you like cement.

You’ve become the confluence of two rivers,
one of liquid salt and one of steam, which
pour over your bones and work them edgeless –

and the tiered box is so crisp and angular,
it carves up even light like church windows.
You lie perfectly still. You are what flows.


A silent accordion
she cools her hands to play
in the kitchen corner.

I try and it seems
to writhe against my grip.
In her firm press

it doesn’t struggle,
it flows through the shapes
she offers it: she leads

but makes the dough
an equal partner. Hard stem
of the palm is what she

works with. Sometimes
you can see a medic working
to restore a heartbeat:

bread needs breath,
unspooling yeast needs air.
I need that strength

of touch, that medium
which yields as it strains
to rise. So I kiss her hands.

John Clegg was born in 1986 and is studying for a PhD at Durham University on the Eastern European influence in contemporary English poetry. His e-chapbook, Advancer, was published in 2010 by Silkworms Ink, and other poems have been published in Magma, The Rialto, Succour and Pomegranate, while others are forthcoming in Horizon Review and The Salt Book of Younger Poets. He is currently assembling a first collection.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Esther Morgan


You’ve been living for this for weeks
without knowing it:

the moment the house empties like a city in August
so completely
it forgets you exist.

Light withdraws slowly
is almost gone before you notice.

In the stillness, everything becomes itself:
the circle of white plates on the kitchen table
the serious chairs that attend them

even the roses on the papered walls
seem to open a little wider.

It looks simple: the glass vase holding
whatever is offered –
cut flowers, or the thought of them –

simple, though not easy
this waiting without hunger in the near dark
for what you may be about to receive.

(From 'Grace', due to be published by Bloodaxe in October 2011.)


This morning don’t go down to the kitchen
in bare feet. Put on your gardening gloves,
fetch the dustpan and brush from the cellar
and sweep these pieces up quickly but carefully,
making sure you get every last sliver
from the darkest corners of the room
(later they may be held against you).
Wrap the fragments in newspaper
so no one cuts themselves.
Put back the dustpan and brush, the gloves’
upturned, amputated hands.
Make yourself a large mug of tea
with six sugars and a nip of whisky.
Stop shaking – he’ll be down soon –
you can hear his alarm going off,
heavy footsteps above your head, thudding down stairs.
Stop shaking I said. Swallow this note.

(From 'The Silence Living in Houses', Bloodaxe, 2005)


I want to go to your head tonight,
shake you up like a grand prix winner,
rocket to the ditzy stars,
set the moon's mirror ball spinning,
lead you on a merry dance.
I want to fizz right past your brim
and keep on fizzing.
I want to get the wolf in you to whistle,
the world to wobble
God to get the giggles.

Tonight I'm Marilyn
lying in this bath
of creamy magnolia.
I'm just dreamy,
blowing frothy kisses,
flirting in my foam bikini.
Can't you see
I want you in a lather?
Darling I'm your upper.
Pop me.

(From 'Beyond Calling Distance', Bloodaxe, 2001)

Esther Morgan studied at UEA and received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. She edited the poetry magazine 'Reactions' for four years during which time her first collection 'Beyond Calling Distance' was published by Bloodaxe (2001) and was awarded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival First Collection Prize. Her second collection 'Silence Living in Houses' (Bloodaxe, 2005) enhanced her reputation and among other things led to her tutoring for the Arvon Foundation. 'Grace' is her third collection.

All poems reproduced with the permission of the poet.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Guardian Review

Delighted to get a review in Saturday's Guardian. Archiving it here.