Big thanks to editor Mark Antony Rossi for including these.
Not only is The Pangolin Review named after my favourite creature I’ve never seen, it’s editor Amit Parmessur has been kind enough to publish one of my poems in the latest issue.
You can find “An old friend” by clicking here and scrolling down about two-thirds of the way, though you’re very likely to get distracted as you go. My thanks to Amit for including my poem.
As well as publishing my poem “Little Grey Cloud” earlier this year, The Magnolia Review was also kind enough to ask me a few questions as part of their series of contributor interviews.
Suzanna Anderson, editor of TMR, has now posted the interview, which you can read by following the link from the original post below. I’m really grateful to Suzanna for giving me the opportunity to share a little of my experience as a writer.
Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.? Although it sounds fun to have an office, shack or cave set up deliberately to facilitate writing, I don’t have one. So I write wherever I am, whenever I can. Which can be inconvenient. What kind of materials do you use? Do […]
M. Stone is one of the most talented poets I’ve had the good fortune to discover since I started using WordPress, and she currently has a new micro-chapbook out – “Evolving God” – which is a truly remarkable read. Highly recommended. Follow the links from the original post below to get hold of a copy.
My micro-chapbook Evolving God is now available at Ghost City Press! Many thanks to Editor Kevin Bertolero and the Ghost City Press team for believing in this little book and including it in the 2018 summer series.
If horses – as per the title of Alice Walker’s poetry collection – make a landscape look more beautiful, then perhaps islands do the same for seascapes. Or mountains do. Or islands with mountains. You get the idea, I hope.
Sifting and resifting through the photographs I took back in May when visiting RSPB Campfield Marsh and the Solway Estuary, I’m struck by two things.
The first is how many of the images are looking outwards from the land towards the estuary, with its rivers emptying out into the Irish Sea. And so – inevitably – across to the coast of Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. And how few were taken facing back towards the land. Because the tide is out, the sea itself, its water, is largely absent, invisible, but nonetheless I find myself looking for it.
This is reflected in my memories of the day. I remember spending far more of it gazing out at and thinking about the sea. I’d travelled for almost two hours across land to get to the coast, so maybe it’s inevitable to focus on what you’ve been heading towards, rather than what you’ve passed through. It makes me wonder whether the experience of arriving somewhere over water leads the traveller to turn their back instinctively on that which has been crossed, and instead focus landwards? (I will make a mental note next time I arrive at the sea to check back and look behind me more carefully).
The second thing to strike me is the effect that the horizon can have on the watcher looking out to sea. Looming faintly on the skyline in most of the images is Criffel; neither the tallest by any means, nor the shapeliest of Scotland’s mountains, it still draws the eye.
This is not to suggest at all that without the mountain there, there’s be no point looking out to sea. But it does make me realise how easy it can be to observe something without adequately considering the frame, the context, the accompaniment that completes the image. And how sometimes we can – even when we think we’re paying attention – need a second look to fully appreciate what is going on.
I thought I was doing them properly, the way
you’re supposed to, crayoning out raw shapes
that were, if not quite exactly lollipops, then
certainly something lickable, perhaps clouds
of candy floss wound onto sticks, or ice cream.
I filled them in with a pistachio green to avoid
any ambiguity, ticking in a circle of birds above,
a butterfly the size of a moose. A sun, smiling.
Those, she told me would lose their leaves
in the autumn, spend fingerbone winters naked
and heartless. She didn’t say why. I didn’t ask.
Hers were drilled brigades of triangles, isosceles,
getting smaller towards the top of the page
to suggest distance, within which you could
see each and every Starbucks needle, every
chocolate-coloured cone a dangling reproach.
first published in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine Anthology, 2017
You ruminate – as the wheels spin on a mossier stretch
of the cobbles – on how they’d never build a road like this
these days, all the way up the hill to where field and moor
merge indifferently into one another, where the improved
becomes the unimproved. They wouldn’t even build a house.
She’ll be long dead by now, of course, so there’ll be no more
of those illicit cans of sweet stout skulking in the refrigerator,
rubbing shoulders with the UHT milk cartons; no more
coal-black surprises coiled in the plastic commode for you
to deal with. No more memories of George, ‘God rest his soul’.
She’ll have stopped wondering what might lurk about the upstairs,
where she last went over a decade ago, when her knees
were still behaving; stopped smiling in that borrowed way
of hers, with those flawless dentures, that surely belonged in
someone else’s mouth. They never mirrored the eyes.
‘This property would benefit from substantial modernisation’
bleats the brochure from the auctioneers. The images show only
the views across the dale on a high pressure, July afternoon,
and the centuries-old defiance of the stonework. Not the interior.
No mention of the ghosts you know you’d be sharing it with.
first published in The Interpreter’s House, issue 66, 2017
Niggling away amongst the thoughts and notes I collected recently up at the Solway estuary – in addition to those about careful observation, and where poetry comes from – have been some insights into what I choose to write about. And what I’ve realised is that no matter where I am, whatever I’m looking at, the thing I’m interested in is people.
This might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but wouldn’t always have been. I can recall a time – back when I first began writing “seriously” – when I was more interested in reflecting on what I would’ve considered “nature”, meaning land- and seascape where human beings were either absent, ignored or unwanted. I was always trying to look beyond people and lose myself in these places, or feel inspired by them with my ego at arm’s length, if possible (reliably not).
I find people and what we do far too fascinating now. I’m one of those irritating creatures you see in art galleries who – after about twenty minutes of wandering around – occupies the most advantageous seat in the biggest room and spends their time looking at what everyone else is doing. It’s not that I don’t like art. It’s just that I find our interactions with art and public spaces more intriguing. Admittedly, art is a human business anyway, but the ways people interact with and imprint themselves into landscape is of equal interest to me.
I live in a relatively crowded country, where it’s pretty much impossible to find yourself in a landscape that hasn’t been engineered to some degree by humans. The Solway estuary is a beautiful place, but people have been living here for thousands of years – farming, fishing, mining, extracting whatever we need – and helping to shape it, for better or for worse. These days I’m far more likely to be drawn by traces and consequences of these activities, and find inspiration for writing there.
Anthony Brown, editor of Stickman Review, has been kind enough to include three of my poems – “Driving around town, 2 a.m.”, “Eddie’s” and “In which you are still leaving” – in Volume 17, Number 1, which has just been released online.
Big thanks to Anthony for finding space for these three amongst some very fine poems indeed. I’d particularly recommend checking out David Lohrey’s “Saturday, the 19th or the 20th”.
The ferry banks, only five minutes out
beyond the stone corral of harbour wall
and into the channel, the broad crescent
of its wake painting plumes across the
glass of the ocean, engines humming a
rhythmless vibrato. Smoke funnels skywards.
Cars hunch like crated eggs on the lower deck.
Over the tannoy, our cheery captain announces
a bottlenose pod, surfing in the bow-waves.
My eyes lock over the stern, watching as
those grey mountains begin to melt on
the horizon, taking a lifetime to disappear.
first published in Red River Review, 2018