The Autumn 2012 issue of London Grip New Poetry features poems by:
*Charles Lauder Jr *Jane Kirwan *Mike Barlow *Rehan Qayoom *Matthew Stewart *Thomas Roberts
*Pippa Little *David R Morgan *Murray Bodo *James Norcliffe *Janet Simon *Peter Branson
*Wendy French *Robert Nisbet *Elizabeth Smither *Teoti Jardine *Amado Storni *Angela Kirby
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors
A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be obtained at LG new poetry Autumn 2012
Properly speaking, the cover image for this issue relates to Pippa Little’s poem Buster Keaton Risks His Life Again. But it might also represent my own feelings a year or so ago when (thanks to Patricia Morris) the duties of a poetry editor were about to descend on me. Happily I have survived …
… and can reflect on “my” first postings of London Grip New Poetry. What, for instance, have I learned about my own poetic preferences while reading some fine and varied submissions? Is there now an LG house-style?
What can be expected of a poem randomly selected from London Grip in 2011/12 (apart from the roughly 10% likelihood it was written by a poet from New Zealand)? We may take it for granted that any sample poem will be well-crafted, and display energy, rhythm and inventiveness in its language; but aside from this there is perhaps a 50-50 chance it will have a narrative element and/or some degree of structure – even if this only means a fairly regular stanza pattern. It’s also highly probable that the poet will be “present” – maybe not as the centre of attention, but as a flesh-and-blood observer expressing compassion, understanding or possibly anger. That being said, however, a typical London Grip poem is more likely to be understated than overwrought; and if it shocks it will be as a sharp-edged word-knife between the ribs and not as a stream of outrage over the reader’s head.
Readers may now care to amuse themselves looking for exceptions to these rough guidelines gleaned from a not-very-scientific analysis. But maybe it will be better just to set out to enjoy the poems…
Please send submissions for the next issue (December 2012) to firstname.lastname@example.org, enclosing no more than three poems and including a brief, 2-3 line, biography. Previous issues of London Grip New Poetry can still be found on the London Grip site, under the category ‘poetry-archve’.
Charles Lauder Jr : Night Bus
Night buses gather in Trafalgar like drunks red-faced bleary-eyed prop up lamp-posts swap stories then with a sigh and a slash heave away all the aches and pains of a teeter around the corner as if on the verge of falling over pass among barflies and film buffs fresh from marathons concert-goers adrift like hashish smoke. Pockmarked tarmac shakes the skull a blind stumble where neon fears to tread the underpass streets of brick wall and barbed wire guided through by quiet steady humming that blocks out the shouting knife fights to the next oasis of light where a few gather asleep on their feet from waiting tables walking the wards. Conversations thick in the throat are slippery in the ear. There are songs of wild mountain thyme a tussle on the steps on the next corner someone is waving wanting directions to Victoria tags along to Leyton talking nonstop about the girl he met the week before. Last stop: the chippie if it’s still open then stretched out against a back lane curb head empty and dark.
Charles Lauder Jr is an American poet currently living in Leicestershire. His poetry has been published in British, Irish, and American journals, including Stand, Agenda, Orbis, Envoi, The SHOp, California Quarterly, and Texas Observer. His pamphlet, Bleeds, was published earlier this year by Crystal Clear Creators.
Jane Kirwan : Tram Number 20
She’s lost to the world, blanking out turrets, domes, misses the tap on her shoulder. The tram’s full. Trees below the castle – leaves of buttercup and crimson – pretend it's autumn, though nearly the end of the year. A sharper tap on her shoulder. He’s large, rough – a man you’d look away from – scruffy, even for Prague. The face of someone settled outdoors, busking at a fairground, palming coins for a Ghost Train, or in a black cape scything the top field. He has no appeal; a question of luck or pay-up. She stays looking away, doesn’t check his ID. She knows who he is. He takes her ticket, squints, nods at the time shrugs. So it will come, out of the blue and seedy. No view.
Jane Kirwan : Taking Care
The music’s too loud a CD of Brahms that he claims will stir her he knows he can’t has put bulbs she needed to plant in a bowl on the bedside table he forgets what they are – gold, the shape of his nail as he strokes their velvet protection – he should stop sitting there so idle move them out of the light buds break through where they ought not fat ones slit their papery cases tense skin striped with purple stained with yellow crusts he presses replay moistens her lips picks scabs from the edges of her mouth gently
Jane Kirwan has had two poetry collections, Stealing The Eiffel Tower, 1997 and The Man Who Sold Mirrors, 2003 and a prose-poetry collaboration, Second Exile, with Ales Machacek, 2011, published by Rockingham Press. She is working with Wendy French on a poetry/anecdote/fact collection in response to the threats to the NHS.
Mike Barlow : Black Sauce
The phone rings while I’m on with the sauce, the crucial moment – how much mustard? I’m at it again, attributing malice to the inanimate (the gate that shuts hard on my hand, the beam that’ll drop two centimetres as I duck). Each curse spits and boils in its black soup. But it could be good news or a friend so I swallow my cook’s bile and lift the receiver in an oil-smeared hand to hear your distress, the involuntary sniff of a body in its habit of pain, a mind aware of losing itself and wanting to tell what it knows before its gone. White sauce, black soup, what the hell. I crook the phone and carry on, grate a gouge in my thumb, cry over the onion, throw in enough chilli from the jar to juggle all five vowels on the palate. My appetite’s lost and my throat makes dough with the words I’m looking for.
Mike Barlow won the National Poetry Competition in 2006. His third collection, Charmed Lives, is published by Smith/Doorstop.
Rehan Qayoom : Post-dinner Item
After Parveen Shakir
Already we were among the prisoners of your locks But today we want to kiss your hands as well For today you have adorned the dinner-table With such a delightful variety of delicacies That we are all perplexed About where to start It's amazing that in spite of being occupied By your so-demanding social duties You remained kitchen-bound for so long Surrounded by foolish cooks and unruly servants All this much! And such appetising food Seems a miracle to us On top of which is the astounding fact That you must be so tired Yet you're so jocund Lady so-and-so's feast was nothing in comparison with this Thanks Thank You so much for all this gratitude Now, what shall I present to you Tea, coffee or the poet?
Rehan Qayoom : To a Friend
After Parveen Shakir
Girl! These moments are clouds You let them pass and they're gone Soak up their moist touch Don't waste a single drop Drench yourself for as long as Your inner earth remains thirsty Listen to me, learn from me Downpours don't remember their way back The summer brightness you go out to dry your hair in Cannot read the road signs!
Rehan Qayoom is a poet and author of English and Urdu. He has appeared in numerous magazines, and anthologies and performed his work across the world. He lives in London surrounded by books
Matthew Stewart : The Club Player
“Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun…”
Always the latest cars out front, dabbed-at sweat and slopped-on perfume, token handshakes over the net by the spotless pre-war clubhouse with its wall-to-wall honour boards and lists of double-barrelled names.
Nobody puts a face to them. The floodlights cool and midges swarm, time to stand his last round of drinks. He moved here for the short commute and he’s leaving for 5K more. A doppelganger town awaits.
Matthew Stewart works in the Spanish wine trade and lives between Extremadura, Spain, and West Sussex, England. Happenstance Press published his pamphlet collection, Inventing Truth, in April 2011, and he blogs at http://roguestrands.blogspot.com
Thomas Roberts : Cycle Race
We leaned into its apex as the curve propelled us and we braced to accelerate. A blur of bay windows reached out to touch hedges’ leafless bristles of brush. We flowed. Words performed somersaults as clips of the crowd’s cheers missed our ears, to pass in the slipstream. I glanced behind and right: like popcorn on heat a kaleidoscope of vests bobbed on their pedals. I just didn’t see his veering arc closening; my muscles pump-primed from the sprint, putty. I just didn’t see him, to decelerate.
Thomas Roberts is a poet and songwriter based in London where he also works as a lawyer. He is originally from County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
Pippa Little : Buster Keaton Risks His Life Again
This is your house wafer-thin, all-American, nondescript – anyone could live here, anyone whose life drags on, fathered by scars, a grown man who never smiles
I could have been happy here
I could have been unmarked
I could have been grateful.
You do not rehearse: your life less to you than the next cigarette. Step, count, listen. The camera’s rolling. In that last second before the stunt you wonder if your calculations were correct: that high window right over you black as leather, rectangular as a hangman’s drop might save your neck, or not - the trick is to step out into the abyss as if you could fly :
and through I will go
from the next world
back into this.
In ‘Steamboat Bill Jr’, 1927, Buster Keaton stood on a precisely-calculated spot while the frontage of a house fell on him leaving him unscathed, due to the window space.
Pippa Little is Scots, born in Tanzania, raised in Scotland and now lives in Northumberland. She has received many awards and prizes and her work has appeared in Magma, Poetry Review, Orbis, and many other journals and anthologies. The Spar Box, (Vane Women 2006) was a PBS Pamphlet Choice, and her other books are Foray (Biscuit Press 2009) and The Snow Globe (Red Squirrel 2011). Overwintering will be published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet in October 2012.
David R Morgan : Methuselah
Soon most die, embracing and alone – losing nothing.
But this ancient man is tired. Those insurance men who sold him life with policies are long dead. He paid them out, he gathers interest now, and scrawls his memoirs in his retro Apple Mac.
There were women. Their bones fill his grey bed. He thinks he has them yet, like ghosts whose breath is soft as his. All his snows have melted their seas in the same sun each year. He does not sleep.
He learned what there was to learn, left doubts room, even reached this uninhabitable present: what were limits to him? But I'm his descendant. I'll pay my own way, thanks. One day I'll bury him.
You should have expectations when you die ...
David R Morgan has been an arts worker, literature officer, festival organiser and writer-in-residence for education authorities, Littlehay Prison and Fairfield Psychiatric Hospital. He has had two plays screened on ITV and his poems have been widely published. His latest collections are Beneath The Dreaming Tree (Poetry Space Ltd 2011) and Lightbulbs In The Sea (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press 2011). He has also written many books for children.
Murray Bodo : Hagar
Light so dry it could kill Anyone who stays outside Light heavy as hot curses Nothing to do but crawl Into the shade and pour well- Water over her body Lift the sun’s heavy burden From bent scorched shoulders Close her eyes surrender to Imaginary mountains Heat waves are cool breezes The hot sand cold lake water And she is somewhere other Where an Angel speaks to her Sends her back to the duel Between Sarai and her And the birth of Ishmael Who grows up wild and cruel She prays to God the Other The one she saw seeing her By the fountain of water For her Ishmael, the other What will become of her son Will he be replaced, undone
Murray Bodo : Anointing Don Aldo Brunacci
You’re sitting up waiting for the anointing, telling me War horses pound through the walls menacing hooves above you Knights rear back in their saddles their swords slice the stagnant air Some say it’s the morphine which can’t be true in 1209 you say Bocce balls bang hard outside hooves thrash in a mad frenzy You scream mutely as in dreams bracing yourself for the kill And no one hears or answers though the fresco teems with life For hours the hooves delay pounding your head to pieces You wonder why you see knights not Nazis and Fascists in Assisi in war time or Jews you hid from the evil I answer, “They’re now in your soul’s peace where there are no walls” I minister healing oil hooves drop, slide off your forehead Your eyes close, you dream good dreams
Don Aldo Brunacci, famed priest of Assisi who helped hide Jewish refugees during the second World War, died February 2, 2007. He was inducted among “The Righteous of Israel” for his heroic efforts.
Murray Bodo is a Franciscan Priest who resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. The author of 27 books, including the best selling, Francis: The Journey and the Dream, his poems, stories and articles have appeared in magazines and literary journals. His latest book of poems, Something Like Jasmine, with accompanying CD of Fr. Murray reading selected poems, was released by Tau Publishing in 2012
James Norcliffe : Forgiveness at Ramadan’s End
When she returns to the world she wishes me well and asks for my forgiveness, but I am puzzled as to what I can forgive. She does not offer a catalogue of wrongs or any one specific sin and I understand it is a blanket she wants of soft wool and ritual. There is a cold breeze off the river and a shudder in the grass that I see all but hides a brave grey rabbit staring at us, one eye bright with forgiveness. So I point out that the commodity she desires can be found there, but she tells me that the rabbit had eyes only for me and besides it has gone; it is my hand she needs to shake and when I give her what she wants she seems happy enough, though I am troubled wondering what it was that the rabbit knew. So I hurry back to the grassy bank, but the rabbit might never have been and when I turn again I find myself alone once more by a stone too cold to sit on and nothing else to do but return to my room watch candidates on television smiling with love, with knowledge, with forgiveness.
James Norcliffe : my alien vegetable my alien vegetable has three small buttons each is marked press
my alien vegetable completely eschews the earth preferring the atmosphere preferring to chew doggedly at the very air with small cogged teeth there are fine capillary hairs caressing my alien vegetable they are spectral and spectrum they glow like ghostly rainbows my alien vegetable disdains auto-erotica nevertheless has three small buttons each marked bliss
my alien vegetable has no need at all of a life-support system although it does exult in the flat-lining electronic music of the spheres my alien vegetable has three small buttons each is marked peace
like the buttons marked press
it is a small alien joke whereas the buttons marked bliss
are an aptitude test nobody has yet passed my alien vegetable which does not suck at the sun follow the stars nor leave anything to chance has three small buttons each is marked once
my alien vegetable is a riddle poem, after the Anglo Saxon tradition. The solution can be found below the poet’s biography.
James Norcliffe is an award-winning New Zealand poet, editor and writer of fantasy novels for young people. The most recent of his six collections of poetry are Along Blueskin Road, 2005, Canterbury University Press, and Villon in Millerton, 2008, Auckland University Press. Two new collections are due in 2012: Shadow Play, a finalist for the Proverse International Writing Prize, will be published by Proverse in November, and Packing a Bag for Mars, a collection for younger readers will be published by Clerestory Press. His work has appeared in many journals including Verse, Gargoyle, Harvard Review, The Literary Review, Poetry International & The Rialto. He was a guest poet at the XX International Poetry Festival in Medellin, Colombia in 2010 and at the Trois Rivieres International Festival in Quebec in 2011. He is currently Children’s Writer in Residence at the Otago University College of Education
The correct answer to the my alien vegetable riddle is a suicide bomb.
Peter Branson : Farmers’ Market
What draws them here to swarm, first Saturday each month, come cold or warm? Not home-spun cakes and ale in truth, venison pasty, cheese, preserves, jewellery, craft stalls, garden plants. Hemmed in old barns and tents like words in books, strong bloods and dolly birds of yesteryear trump card each other, grandkids, holidays, ‘Can’t shakes it off’s, problems with waterworks. It’s upstairs-Downton Abbey, therapy, time warped and whiled; small sheep beyond the ha ha, wilderness and lake snapped up, returned, cling-wrapped, like chestnut pate, marrow jam, to terrace, semi, bungalow or flat, lawn picture-postcard, framed with flowers to match.
Peter Branson : Gobby
Tag you got lumbered with first day; real name I’ve no recall. You hardly ever spoke; gestures with single words attached made do, but symbols raised you up, 11plus and all. Bolted, thin as an unstrung bow, all eyes, you stooped to suit, With Tonka hands and feet, stilt arms and legs like loose-strung bags of bones, pure pantomime, it never worked. I joined your scourging, swallowed pride; when things died down, played faithless Peter by your side,
for you, pie crust of permanent surprise baked on your doughy face, were indispensible. A natural, you’d spy a nesting hole at thirty yards. With birds, somehow you knew. Outside your territory you’d point which patch the garden warbler’s nest would be, spot where the barn owl should appear and she’d be there, pale as a ghost, gilded and quartering. You taught me how to crouch low down against the sun, spot fertile shapes in silhouette. Unlike most kids, you never took the eggs; your pockets bulged with pellets, feathers, skulls.
Peter Branson’s poetry has been widely published in journals and he has won the Grace Dieu and the Envoi International poetry competitions. His first collection, The Accidental Tourist, was published in May 2008 and his latest one has been accepted for publication by Salmon Press
Wendy French : Terence
Terence wanted to be a bird his therapist once accused him of being a magpie. He wasn’t a magpie, didn’t covet anything that belonged to anyone else. Just wanted what was his. And sleep. He dreamed of being a kestrel, hovering. At school a teacher had once shouted Cuckoo, sent him to the back of the line. He vowed one day people would see how it was never his fault. Now was his chance to grow wings, a beak. Circle round the back of the stage. He’d watched the kites feeding at Tregaron, observed how they knew the exact moment to dive, swoop for their prey and then with a flourish spread wings, reach up extravagant against a sky.
Wendy French : As It Is
She tells me that stars hiss and planets whisper, that's when you know where to get out. There won't be any darkness left and the hunter will guide your way. There are no white dragons or midnight swans and the rain will crackle as the taxi draws to a halt. Looking out over the cold vicarage lawn to where graveyards have held the dead for hundreds of years, I don't question this, but now, glancing back over my shoulder, there’s a six year-old child who had no idea what she was on about.
Wendy French lives in London and facilitates writing in healthcare and educational settings. She has two full collections of poetry; the latest surely you know this, was published in 2009 by tall-lighthouse press. (The title is a fragment from Sappho.) Wendy won 1st prize in the NHS section of the Hippocrates Poetry & Medicine prize in 2010 and was awarded 2nd prize in 2011. She is currently working with Jane Kirwan on a collection about the NHS.
Robert Nisbet : Underlings
Sublunary (adj.): Situated beneath the moon; hence, of or pertaining to this world, terrestrial, earthly.
The moon’s light is shed generously some August nights, some white quiet winter’s evenings. It is not much seen in committee rooms, reception rooms or engine rooms, but those underlings, such as walk dogs at night, who sometimes leave the pub a little early, walk round the block, look at the cast and colour of a back garden, its stubs and pots and stems; those who look sometimes from study bedrooms, from top floor flats, alone such evenings, to read or think – they, looking from the window, will know how the gardens, streets, back yards are stilled by the moonlight’s unreservedness, its grace.
Robert Nisbet lives in Haverfordwest, West Wales. He teaches English literature classes for Swansea University and creative writing classes for University of Wales Trinity Saint David, as well as being concerned with local history and sports journalism. His chapbook Merlin’s Lane appeared from Prolebooks last year.
Elizabeth Smither : Old lemon tree The lemons in shops are smooth and gleam as if they’ve been handed down from the moon a light yellow with no blemishes. This old tree which receives its moonlight sparsely through taller spreading trees has fruit that should hide under leaves old clasped hands trying to hold a ball and press it tight for exercise each year another layer of flaws skin so rough no one could suspect the strange clear sweetness within when halves are impaled on the lemon squeezer.
Elizabeth Smither has published 17 collections of poetry as well as novels and short stories. Her most recent publication is a writer’s journal: The commonplace book; a writer’s journey through quotations (Auckland University Press, 2011). A new collection of poems, The blue coat, will be published in early 2013.
Teoti Jardine : The Time Has Come
the wind is blowing timely echoes gardeners try to rake them in the watering cans are filled with sand rainbows weave a blackbirds wing oranges ring lemons no bells to toll in old St Clements no dawn chorus greets the day the sun now rises in the west there’s puzzle in the eyes of mind pasts have hitched-hiked home to rest oranges ring lemons no bells to toll in old St Clements owls no longer screech or hoot nights stories left untold locusts line the pillows devouring dreams as they unfold oranges ring lemons no bells to toll in old St Clements rhymes have turned the other cheek words have joined the fray cliché cannot see for looking reason shrugs and walks away oranges ring lemons no bells to toll in old St Clements the buzzard tides are ebbing they leave no traces on the strand the time to come is left unsaid the hour glass has no sand oranges ring lemons no bells to toll in old St Clements
Teoti Jardine, was born in Queenstown New Zealand, of Maori, Irish and Scottish descent . His Maori tribal affiliations are Waitaha, Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu. He has been writing poetry off and on most of his life and has had poems published in Te Panui Runaka, the Burwood Hospital News Letter and the Christchurch Press Poetry section.
Amado Storni : Si Tu Estuvieras Aquí Amado Storni : If you were here English versión by GW and MBB SI tu estuvieras aquí If you were here el mundo giraría más deprisa que mi soledad the spinning world would overtake my loneliness y el Amor no sería un pájaro sin alas and Love would cease to be a wingless bird al que tengo que enseñar a volar todos los días. I’d have to teach to fly again each day. Si tu estuvieras aquí If you were here mis sueños que son tuyos dormirían a tu lado my dreams of you would sleep beside you; y el deseo no sería una ventana enladrillada desire would cease to be a bricked-up window con vistas a los besos que te debo. overlooking kisses I still owe you. Mis futuros no serían pasados imperfectos My futures would not be unfinished pasts y mis labios, adúlteros de ausencias, and my lips, unfaithful through your absence, aprenderían a decir “te necesito”. would learn to say “I need you”once again. De no haberte conocido, If I’d not met you, ¿qué parte de mi alma se habría quedado estéril, how fruitless would my life have been estéril para siempre? how barren might my soul have stayed?
Amado Storni (a pseudonym adopted in honour of the Argentinan poet Alfonsina Storni) was born in Madrid. He has published four poetry collections, most recently Post no Passes (Net Vision Publishing, 2008). He has also won prizes for poems and short stories. For more information see http://amadostorni.blogspot.com/.
GW is a professional translator working in New York; MBB edits London Grip New Poetry
Angela Kirby : How It Is
i.m. Sam Alexander MC, 1982-2011
Trestles slid away, folded and put aside, candles snuffed, the singing stops, the music dies, mourners drift off and regroup by the gate. Dear God, there seems little now to show for it all - nothing but a rolled-up flag, a scatter of wreaths, a bugle call, this shock of fresh-dug earth.
Angela Kirby was born in Lancashire and now lives in London. Her poems are widely published and have won a handful of prizes. She was the BBC’s Wildlife Poet of the Year in 1996 and 2001. Her two collections, Mr Irresistible and Dirty Work, are published by Shoestring Press
Janet Simon : New River - Hackney
The canal is a grey god, cut and straight, A fake tributary with arcades of east space To stroll through by concrete horizons. This thick viaduct is an old misnomer. It stops at the reservoir with boats Lazy over it and tea at the last café. Taking its path I try to remember What has been dismembered, the traffic Once flowing, warehouses and cranes. Blackberries sweet as the end of summer Still stain my fingers purple and bloody. New bushes invade and the stream carries flotsam As time hurtles past the Downs of London And slime covers its ersatz waters.
Janet Simon : Losing Weight
She leaves the house with its solid stuff turning off her taps, feeling for keys, her purse, her pass, her legs, her facts which she knows are there, but she's still not sure if she'll see them again, once the door is shut. Just one more check to see if she's missed a tie that binds. A frantic pull at an inside pleat where a license is stored, one last assurance that she has substance. The gate is closed. The sky is up. The wind begins. It blows her away down the street. She hovers an inch or two over the surface of paving and leaves along a corridor leading her on, lighter, away from her things. A comb and mobile drop from her bag. Maps and money fall out of her pocket and what she knows she must leave behind rings its last alarm, a final flicker fluttering the heart, before it all flies like a swarm of swallows from England. Paper and plastic, leather and metal, memories, batteries, circuitry, chips dissolve into clouds that carry away the panic that made her clutch at the rubbish that weighed her down.
Janet Simon is a native Londoner. A previous runner up in the National Poetry Competition, she has two published collections; Victoria Park and Asylum.