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”.
Last view of the island
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
They say it doesn’t rain here much, often, but
when it does, canopies of merciless cloud snuff out
every last square of the sky, hanging about the fields
like a quarrel, forgotten without ever being resolved,
and empty themselves in angled swipes that paste
both barley and nettles to the red earth, bleeding into
the leather boots and loafers of commuters on trains,
who steam coolly in their seats all the way into Waverley.
first published in Southlight Magazine, 2017
I’m really pleased to have had two of my poems published in the latest issue of Otoliths, which is – as usual – full of intriguing things. You can check out “Living next door to a man who keeps pigeons” and “I want to kill your dog” here.
Many thanks to Otoliths editor Mark Young for choosing to include these two pieces.
Sometimes it’s as though we’re cradling it,
nurturing it gently, nomads with a flame,
carrying it with us, between us, wherever we go.
How carefully we feed it when necessary:
a dry fist of kindling to make the sore,
red embers burst back into life again;
a brooding log to see us through the night;
the quick volleys of our breathing, spat as words,
the oxygen it would perish without.
first published in Shot Glass Journal, issue #22, 2017
I’m very pleased to have had one of my poems published in The Magnolia Review. My thanks to editor Suzanna Anderson for choosing the poem, and for putting together such a great collection of art, poetry and prose – the largest issue of TMR to date.
You can read the whole issue here, and will find “Little Grey Cloud” hogging the horizon about a fifth of the way in.
Somewhere within me I rarely choose to visit,
I suspect this is perhaps not going to work, and
she’s insisting it should only ever be made
with all-purpose flour, though I’ve been
coping fine with cornflour, or store-brand
packet mixes for years, and it comes out OK
three, possibly, four times out of seven.
And everything in her kitchen matches like
it was all bought with a flawless shrug
and a customary swipe of the store card.
But then we share uncannily similar tastes
in music – Wagner, Kid Creole – and I like
the way she likes the way I smell, even if
I don’t. I’m rafted to this quaint belief that
if you put the work in, there’s no limit
to the lumps that can’t be smoothed out.
first published in Cacti Fur, 2016
This week I received a copy of issue 66 of The Interpreter’s House magazine, which – as well as being a lovely thing – contains a poem of mine entitled “Up at Nancy’s”.
It’s amazing to be in the company of so many stellar poets, and I’m very grateful to the editorial team of TIH for choosing to include my poem. Subscriptions to the magazine – as well as copies of individual issues – can be purchased here.
Big thanks to co-editors Trini Decombe and Nikki Dudley for including my poem “Purged” in issue 54 of Streetcake, which is now live.