Sunday, 17 November 2019

Three poems from a forthcoming poetry collection

With more concrete news to come, I am very happy to reveal that in early 2020, I will have a collection of poetry published by Brambleby Books, Nottingham, which is currently undergoing the final editing stages.  I would like to share three poems and photographs from the book, below:


GARDEN SNAIL (Cornu aspersum)

Like a hollowed hazelnut
your shell, round-mouthed,
thin-lipped,
is whorled
in spiral bands.



EVENING SCENE

Slugs, like fat black seals on sea-front snow,
crowd the drizzled concrete,
ebony clouds massing
in a sky of raindrop stars,
bistre blisters,
bronze brigades,
maroon platoons
and coral mobs,
slugs the colour of satsumas
sousing steps and driveways,
announcing saponaceous presences,
making themselves at home,
kicking back, and settling in for the night.



LADYBIRD

Like a blob of lipstick
splodged with mascara,
the ladybird catches light,
pedal-legging over leaves
in twilight rain,
like a small
spray-painted bubble.
Ruby globule,
sliding over stems,
a glutton for greenfly -
this domino-goblin
is a manic ember,
summer's gloss tar-toughening,
hardening this delicate diablo
into a pearly fist.














Two Poems About Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillars

With more concrete news to come, I am very happy to reveal that in early 2020, I will have a collection of poetry published by Brambleby Books, Nottingham, which is currently undergoing the final editing stages.
The book begins with a poem about Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars, originally part of a sequence. I have retained the two related poems fromthe sequence, and would like to share them here, with a photograph by Ian Parker. The first poem is a meditation on the appearance of the caterpillars, while the second relates to a time when such a caterpillar was brought into my workplace by a young boy.


THOUGHTS ON ELEPHANT HAWK MOTH CATERPILLARS

To me, your onyx bodies,
sloeberry-black
and striped in browny-grey,
your shuffled shapes of crumpled
and pre-pupal flesh,
disc eyes
glassy
and sad
suggest space-trawling creatures,
galactic gastropods,
lonely aliens
sailing through the wastes
of distant star systems.





JOURNEY OF AN ELEPHANT HAWK MOTH CATERPILLAR

Once, I saw one,
brought into the library I worked in,
like a chubby tube of plasticine,
folded into sluggish chunks,
rolling eyes gaping
at a galaxy of books.

We returned this bundle of  


muscle


ocelli


tentacles


and prolegs,


ecdysone,


thorax,


abdomen


and nerves


onto the grass outside,
where it wobbingly
wiggled, wriggling instinctively,
escaping into green familiarity.






Copyright Ian Parker

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

My poem Autumn Hawk


 On  a walk outside Sowerby Bridge this morning, I came across the hawk in the photograph above, hovering above the hills at the foot of the moors. I thought, gien the time of year, it was a good excuse for posting the poem below, from my collection Dove, Deferred - for which I'm currently seeking a publisher. The poem was originally written seven years ago but has been edited.

AUTUMN HAWK

Hill's fog-swaddled pinnacle peels
in stony scrub to moorland gorse,
you loom,
a lowering
hooked hawk,
carving-knife body
bonfire coloured,
swaying like a sapling
but patient as the onset of winter.

Whip-sharp candle,
you dream of tucking talons
into flesh,
desire rooted
in millenia of hunger,
and as daylight wickers out
the contours of a dream dissolve,
your wavering flame of dusk-dulled ruby
twists into a svelte,
jack-knifing dive,
a swoop through twilight,
swerve, quicksilver tilt,
and then the landing,
stabbing rusting grass
with a fleet, inch-perfect, lethal kiss.

Monday, 2 September 2019

White Hare, a poem about the moon, from a forthcoming collection

I am delighted to announce the publication of a collection of poetry, coming in early 2020, in three sections. The poems will focus on natural history and mythology, and include the piece below, originally written nearly a decade ago.  The title is taken from an Asian legend about the moon, in which it is associated with a white rabbit. The myth originated in 3rd Century BC China, with a hare as companion to the Moon Goddess.


WHITE HARE

Dim stars, scuffs of half-light
like the simmering tab-ends
of ash-fat fags
decomposing in ashtrays.

Soils vibrate with slugs, alive with hunger,
converging on gardens in the depths of dawn,
large soft eyes aglow and fixed
on leaves like compasses.
Owl sorrow pierces the silence
spread like a duvet over roofs and floodlit car-parks.

Moonshine filters in.

The silver gem irradiates.
Slanting streaks are couched
within a bosom of black gas.

Horizon’s diamond,
owl eye.

Insanity’s insignia,
the secret sphere
which gradually comes quartering to life
orb of mountains and canals,
light-dark
ornamental as an asteroid.

You are a cleanly coloured mint
hanging beyond grasp,
a ball of ice,
a sunken cathedral
splintering like memories.











Monday, 12 August 2019

River of Poems

I spend a lot of time beside and around rivers.  The Calder flows by my window, just out of view beyond the canal, but a stone's throw down the road it surges over a rocky dam, frothing down towards Copley, or meandering more peacefully east, shaded by willow trees and studded with rocky outcrops and cormorant nests.
 



 

I walk the courses of small rivers across the hilly hinterlands of Yorkshire, seek out their sources on the moors, follow as they seep into Littleborough, Smithy Bridge, Clough, the tiny towns which dot the eastern edge of Lancashire, navigate the banks of the Ryburn along its sylvan course, follow the courses of tributaries and see where they take me.


The wildlife of rivers flies, swims and drifts into my poetry, often:

SWANS

Like wedding dresses
drifting over moonlit glass
these wisps of silvery stillness
are soft as nitroglycerin




GOOSE

Sweeping through the river's mist
this late summer evening,
body white as winter,
I watch you bend and plummet,
swerve upwards once again
and appear to dissolve
into a skyline blurred
by chimneys, hills
and ash-grey twilight.



and the plethoras of life that they support are an almost constant backdrop to my days.

 





The poetry of rivers is frequent in my reading. Wordworth, Southey, Coleridge - all wrote memorably of rivers.  Alice Oswald's poetry of the River Dart, John Burnside's Swimming in the Flood,  the poems of Oriental antiquity, with their invocations of willows, peach blossom springs, and reflected stars, have woven their impressions like currents, flowing through the years. The beauty, biodiversity and drama offered by rivers makes for much imaginitive stimulation, but of late, the strains of private life buffeted by the daily woes of a turbulent world, amid the growing sense of despair at a worsening environmental nightmare, it has been the sadness of rivers that has tugged at me.  The river's mists and billows, wrote 8th Century Chinese poet Cui Hao, make my heart forlorn, and it was perhaps for this reason that a poem discovered in the 1980's journal Kunapipi - an Australian publication which, taking its name from an Aboriginal deity - collected "Post-Colonial Writing and Culture" from across the world - struck such resonance. 


...you came gently with poems once

walked my banks
swam in my clean body
you wrote poems
as lovers wrote poems

Bruce Cudney's River of Poems is narrated from the viewpoint of a river - of rivers? - and when I came across it the other day after an absence of more than fifteen years, it knocked me for six.


say nothing to me now
pass over me on your high bridges
turn your face
from my dissipation
build your factories about my hills
dump your garbage   your urine   your feces    into me
cut the flesh from my banks
that you may twist me to your use


 This was published in 1982, when what we now know as the environmental movement was in its early stages, but when abuse of the planet through pollution and waste were clearly of mounting concern.  I have been unable to find out anything about the author, other than that he was a Canadian poet born in 1933, who worked for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and was living, at the time of Kunapipi's publication, in that city.  Apparently, he began writing poetry in 1970. For me, though, even if River of Poems were his only published work, it would stand out as a stark rejoinder to Man's abuse of nature, and his hypocrisy.


...tell in your houses of laws / how you will restore me mocks Cudney's river, before cynically countering: 

do not let me hear it. 
kill me with your poisons
but write no poems to me


For my part, I shall go on writing river-themed poems, and if anything the perilous state of our cimate and environment compels me to celebrate more urgently their place in the global ecosystem, and to speak out against forces threatening their - and, by association, our - survival.  But Cudney's poem, along with delivering a sharp condemnation of humanity, also serves as a reminder that whatever catastrophes may befall the human race as a resut of its polluting plunder of the planet, the Earth herself shall overcome, and its closing image represents a powerful riposte to the savagery and madness of the Anthropocene:


the stars sang in me
a thousand years
before the poets came
they will sing again.












Tuesday, 30 July 2019

July Octolunes


We have lately been blessed by some stunning moons, luring my focus to the lunar. I've produced a fair few Octolunes*, and as usual am unsure quite what to do with them.  Since inventing the form in December 2014, I have chalked up several hundred, and, as readers of these pages will know, others have taken up the baton from time to time as well.  I'm still hoping to launch some Octolune events, workshops, and collaborative pamphlets, as well as publishing some collections of my own - and from time to time Octolunes find their ways into regular collections - but the truth is I now have so many of them on my hands that they are running riot, and short of devoting an entire website to their publication, the most sensible thing seems to be to feed a few in periodic posts, starting with these, a few of my most recent.

*8-line verse form, addressed to the moon, in which the opening word is always "Moon."  That's it!

 


Moon,
astro-tycoon, like a sky-bound rune,
you're a lunar balloon over lakes and lagoons,
baboons, racoons, and protozoons,
from Rangoon to Cameroon,
to the dunes of Saskatoon.
I've written a poem about the moon
without once even thinking of mentioning June.


 


Moon,
globe of gloop,
a frozen scoop
of ice cream, hoop
filled-in, you sloop
through starry soup,
like a giant, silver, sup-
er drupe.

 

Moon,
you rise in skies
like a slimy eye's
reflected twinkle.
Your distance belies
your actual size
as you crystallize, a crescent kinkle
like a glittery Rip Van Winkle.

 

Moon,
permafrost pearl,
hinterland's glim,
Pre-Raphaelite ferris wheel,
like a frozen ocean, condensed
into a skull-like phial,
like a shrunken Jupiter
you seethe.


Moon,
inflated raindrop,
atop the dripping treetops,
crescented, a haloed halebopp
gloppy fop, your astral hop's
a crinkled cough-drop,
soothing the sunburnt throat of space
like a snowy glottal stop.


 Moon,
murk's quirk,
like a cool quark
star-clad,
you smirk,
sky-scythingly,
sawn smile,
glinting grinner,
swollen ghost.


Moon,
in  crescent jest
you wince,
silver-lipped,
like a quartered quince
slicing sky's blackness
in an icy stripe
of plucky light.

 

Moon,
ice heart,
tubular fuse
of post-river,
rocks of yore galore,
crescent twist,
glistening in mist,
like a pearl of frozen dew.


Moon,
soapsud moon
who, like a sheen of silky sherbet
sprinkles silver showers of icy light,
you bask,
illuminated lunar beauty,
against the licorice black
of frozen night.



Monday, 8 July 2019

Feeling Foxy - Four Fox Poems


 I was horrified to hear last week that the spectre of fox-hunting had resurfaced over British politics - dragged out of its 19th Century tomb by aptly-named Tory Leadership contender Jeremy Hunt, who had enthused to an audience of party members about his hopes to overturn the 2004 Hunting Act (its self a lukewarm rule change rather than an outright "ban") and ressurect the discredited activity.  Interestingly, Hunt never bothered to attemp the old lies about conservation - he opted for the honest rationale of "tradition" and described the practise of riding to hounds as they rip a terrified animal to bits as "part of the heritage of the countryside." Presumably he also thinks that muggings and stabbings are part of the heritage of cities?
Predictably, Hunt  - like Theresa May in the 2017 General Election - has since backtracked, faced with an outcry from not only members of the public (85% of whom want hunting banned, including, overwhelmingly, in rural areas) but from his own party.  I did wonder if his statement had been calculated to gauge the risk such a policy might carry, or to leak votes to his stag-hunting opponent, whose owncampaign is partly funded by a fox-hunter, in a strategy designed to ensure a Boris Johnson premiership while maintaining the pretence of a democratic party contest ather than a coronation - indeed I took to social meda to accuse him of this latter step - but as time has gone by I've come to the conclusion that this expressed support for hunting was apparently genuine, a reminder that for all of their feigned preference for progressive politics, there are some people who are so detached from modern thinking that they and their communities really are just a Parliamentary vote away from dredging up the cruelties of the past and re-establishing a Britain that went out with chimney sweeps and child labour.
The whole disturbing episode prompted me to collect my various poems on the subject of foxes, which I have reproduced below. I have excluded poems in which foxes feature, but not as the "main" thematic focus.  Instead, all are fundamentally foxy poems, inspired by real life sightings of the animals.


MIDNIGHT FOX

Limbs dangle
lazy-elegant,
a raffish mooch,
each furry step slots promptly
into a moonlit loop -

in and out of lamplight,
smooth as a glob of honey
dissolving into coffee
the midnight searcher tries his luck among the backstreets -

East-end terraces tangle into criss-crossed  sprawl,
estaes expand into outgrown concrete crushes,
bottlenecking into pub backyards and warehouse forecourts,
deserted car-parks, scrubland, a grid of lanes where drinkers
straggle out of pubs, prostitutes cross paths, the urban wastelands
and a frosty Wanstead Flats, which veer into the spiderweb of sliproads
pre-empting the M11.
Turning down the High Road, into a block of buildings tightly tucked
into the bricked in ghetto of east London, I am startled by his stare:

Seeing me, his gait assumes rigidity,
a temporary tightening of muscles.
Frozen stiff, this stiffened frame
of burnt-oak,
this nameless midnight wanderer,
mammal of the alleyways,
once more slipped into a casual insouicance
shuffling into shadow.

What I caught last
was not the shapely outline, gingery tint or snow-fluff
tail-tip, as fox fleet-footed out of visibility
but, a souveinir from its shoot-back glance,
two amber eyes half answering,
half questioning.




URBAN FOX

Bullet of russet muscularity,
knee high and up to your eyes in dandelion,
most feline of your kind,
the always searching canid,
sinewy and taut,
prodigal child of the copse:
no sooner had you brushed against a fence
emerging from sedge as if to prove,
“I still exist,”
than the glimpse of you was gone—
a second’s shred in which to see that tail, ash- white copper-coalesced
trailing like a newly lit cigar.




SUBURBAN FOX

An unknown quantity, you flow like a tributary
trickling over stones out of the nettled backstreet -

after the deluge as if post-exile, ear-pricked stealthy shuffler
you trot in nonchalance but with half an eye to suss out danger cocked,
or as a compass in the search for sustenance.  You're a tilted glass of single malt,
a whisker of rural English charm in the urban incongruity of house-heavy east Leeds,
a shadow bleeding ginger on the blackboard of the night as squeezed between
the takeaways and parked-up cars,
you flip flop-footedly across a road which sparkles in the drizzle and on seeing me
nosedive behind a shed, displaying that quicksilver quirk of fight-or-flight survival
that has paved your way through centuries of persecution and will be needed
in this trap of fumes and concrete, cans and glass laid like tripwire
in the single enormous precinct all of England's become.




 EVENING FOX

Ginger plunge
into coppiced copse,
stabbing into bramble,
a whisk of fire singeing darkness
like a shot of almond syrup
in black coffee.

Your Jack-o-lantern crafty dance
sees you rop up in oak woods,
combing alleys behind takeaways,
Pulcinello of the suburbs;
combing cobbled streets
in late summer midnights,
wolf-shaped shadow,
crooked penny glinting in the moonlight.