Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Peter Kenny read his some of his poems, as well as, in an intriguing and fabulous twist, a recitation from memory of a poem by someone who shares Peter’s name. The poem, a waking nightmare piece about confronting a doppelganger, was written by a poet Peter described as a ‘younger and better looking’ Peter Kenny.
This reading of another poet’s work struck me as a generous gesture seeing as Peter has enough fine poems of his own to draw upon.
One of many memorable phrases that stayed with me was the ‘Rose-choked’ garden from the poem ‘Minotaur’ which Peter introduced as being about a stepfather. I was struck by the fact that roses are so often used to represent beauty and that the juxtaposition of the assonant ‘choked’ was a concise and extremely powerful way of conveying how beautiful surroundings do not always reflect the state of mind of the inhabitant.
Peter has kindly agreed to let me feature this poem as well as two others from his recent Telltale Press pamphlet, The Nightwork , a pamphlet which the poet and reviewer Charlotte Gann suggests ‘ invites the reader into its own world of atmospheres. There is real anguish here, held securely in poems of reflective subtlety.’
Peter has kindly supplied this biographical note-
Having had my work published in the 80s and early 90s I walked away from the whole scene for about 15 years or so, a change that I see in retrospect was precipitated by the death of Timothy Gallagher, a close friend who I used to do poetry readings and stage plays with. Instead I somehow got a job as an advertising copywriter and sold my soul to the Devil. I still wrote plays, prose and edited a long-defunct e-zine called AnotherSun. In 2010 the wheel turned. Poems about Guernsey (where I lived as a child) were published in a two person collection A Guernsey Double (2010) with Richard Fleming. I also started collaborating with the composer Matthew Pollard resulting in Brighton Festival Fringe performances, and the CD Clameur (2012). Two plays, Wrong, and Betty the Spacegirl were performed in Brighton’s Marlborough Theatre in 2011.
In 2013 I started turning up at Poetry Stanza meetings in Brighton where I met Robin Houghton, who was forming Telltale Press, which published my pamphlet The Nightwork late in 2014.’
Ladies and gentlemen, Peter Kenny
A sparrow at 30,000 ft.
Cattle class, in clear air turbulence,
this shuddering is perfectly normal.
Through the window of this bucking jumbo,
I see the horizon thicken into indigo.
There is something horrific about this,
something about death in the way
night accelerates to meet us.
Life, I recall, is a sparrow
that darts through the fire-lit mead hall.
On bending wings we swoop
through the last slanting of the light.
While the steward is dreaming in the galley
I lurch from the musty box
of the toilet at the back,
take my place again
among the ghost-faced sleepers.
There is nothing to fear,
for we share the same journey
and the crew seems certain
we’ll get there.
(First published in Rogue Scholars)
Forehead gored by migraine;
pain has sharpened my senses.
I hear mosquitoes in the garden,
there are clouds of them conspiring:
one for every promise.
You promised me this garden
somewhere private; somewhere lovely,
now it’s empty – bar some black dog
whose hairs I find everywhere.
And still I sense it panting
among the sculptures, fin de siècle,
made by someone very clever.
Rose-choked, the garden walls break
over the cracked slabs. I tread petals,
I make the divine slime of rose heads
the ecru of ex-white petal falls.
Or I listen to the radio,
snorting with uncontrollable laughter,
or I read my leisurely books
near the ornamental fishpond,
the copper-coloured fishpond,
the one I can never look in.
(First published in Other Poetry)
Another Greek island,
dignified with thyme,
dried flowers, photos.
Cicadas are everywhere.
Plato, I remember,
said they were the souls of poets.
Then I spot one:
its vivid wings retracted
into its cacophonous carapace.
A squat little Cavafy, perhaps,
a drab little Blake,
or someone unknown,
an author in a long-burnt library
shrilling on an island,
from a cypress tree.
(First published in The Frogmore Papers)