I was lucky to attend the launch of issue 62 of The Interpreter’s House magazine at the wonderful Albion Beatnik bookshop in Oxford.
The Albion, a small and enthusiastic bookshop in the Jericho part of town, has been described by the Sunday Times as the “best bookshop in Oxford,” and it is the kind of place where it is hard to tell staff from browsing customers and tea drinkers. The bookshop houses a relaxed cafe and hosts poetry, music, themed literary evenings and general talks and debates.
The Interpreter’s House issue 62 launch event was held in the evening and attended by hard-working editor and co-editors Martin Malone and Charles Lauder.
There were readings by some of the many contributors to the issue, including Elizabeth Parker.
Among the many highlights was Lizzie’s reading of her beautiful poem about walking with her father, ‘At Cannop Ponds’. I asked if Lizzie would like to share the poem and some other work here and I’m delighted that she kindly agreed.
Elizabeth Parker was born in The Forest of Dean and grew up in a garden center which her parents still own and run. She finds The Forest of Dean inspires her writing more and more.
After achieving First Class Hons in English and Creative Writing at Warwick University, she taught secondary English for eight years. Elizabeth’s poems have been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize and Eyewear Publishing’s Melita Hume Prize, which resulted in Eyewear publishing her debut pamphlet Antinopolis.
Elizabeth lives on Bristol harbor and is a member of poetry group The Spoke. Her work was recently Highly Commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, and has been published in Magma, The Stony Thursday Book, Raceme, Southword, The Interpreter’s House and Eyewear’s latest anthology The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016. She is currently working on her first full collection.
A city founded by the Roman emperor Hadrian to commemorate his deified young beloved Antinous, who drowned in the Nile.
The site of excavations by French explorer Albert Gayet, who discovered ‘Mummy Portraits’ at the site- highly realistic head-and-shoulder portraits attached to mummies of the Coptic period, bound into the burial cloth so as to cover the face of the deceased and painted in the classical style of ancient Greece and Rome.
They have locked up the river where you fell
bike-tyre slotting into tramline, tipping you
into water that wants us all
now striped with chrome bars.
There is a photo in a pollypocket
cable-tied to a tube bolt.
Your looks were classical
remind me of the mummified boy
his portrait on a cedar panel
bright lips, thick brush strokes of black hair.
When Albert Gayet opened the dark
their faces gleamed in the tombs
ancient paint still glossy
in egg-yolk eyes, milk cheeks
hair of soot and plant gum
lips a pinch of cinnabar
stirred through beeswax
kept hot and dry
for two thousand years.
After two years
your shrine is fading
carnations threaded through the bars
hemmed brown with rot
rain drawing pale lines
through your inkjet colours.
I want to laminate your picture
so your face shines
unpick metal stitches
slimy weave of dead carnations.
My father’s river has risen
above seams that won’t be softened or stolen
from hard lime and coal
to pennant sandstone that gives
until the water is precious
My sister’s brook is root beer with rot
the dead giving up their tannins
letting riches from their skins
My grandfather’s river floats rafts of flotsam
scum bobs and pops near its walls
He says it has turned from pea to tea
that his favourite part
sometimes flows the wrong way
My friend is afraid
of her river’s urge for her
Despite wide-mouthed sewers
my grandmother’s river still licks up storms
My mother’s river keeps forking
thinning to little more than shine
Her deft eye gathers its frays
slicks them back to their source
My brother’s river
broods behind loch gates
My aunt’s river grazes its banks
Rocks are loosed to salt her river
Some drink from their rivers
morsels of light and water
speck their lips
My uncle’s river remembers its monks
their nights rowing to secret mass
prows cutting water bonds
to rock chapels in the gorge
My river reaches for me
At night I watch my river
slink toward my feet
Stormwater has thickened my grandmother’s river
sluicing darkness from the banks
My father’s river has broken through
soothes dry mud
My friend’s river has dropped
can’t reach its own watermark
etching of sand that flakes as it dries
This morning my river was high
green and urgent with rain
rushing light and leaves toward the estuary
I have seen it slow
ease its freight of yachts and light
thickened with dark loads
a dun afternoon
In summer people meet at my river
their bare legs tassel its banks.
Previously published in The Best New British and Irish poets, 2016
At Cannop Ponds
we take the wettest path.
A nestbox spits a nuthatch.
Dad says they shape the hole
by nibbling it larger then rimming the edge
with mud to keep woodpeckers out.
I ask about sinews in the black beech.
He tells me most trees have a twist in them
changing position for light.
We both press palms against the bark.
Mud sucks our boots, moss is juicy
every tread squeezing
a moat around the foot.
On the jetty a fisherman spins a plastic fish
tricking carp, pike, tench,
bream, perch, gudgeon.
We pause over water
clear spaces where silt is settled
crowfoot birthing silver beads.
He can still name every fish, plant
bird, tree, starting with Latin
forgetting I’ll insist on the Common.
He shows me a slime mould on an oak stump
props a node on the end of his finger.
Light glows inside.
There is a mackerel head
by the bench where we pause
one platinum eye.
He describes stumps of alder as gorgeous
says their sap must be red
so I look for wounds.
Across the water, coots pop up
an oak shakes off birds and bits of gold.
He says there’s more life in the reeds
the yellow smoke of oatgrass.
For him, I want the air peppered with little grebes
lifting and landing on the surface like fleas.
I want to keep asking
make sure he remembers every bird call.
He says he is tired of listing things for me
says, quietly, that he and his mates
used to jump into marl holes.
The Blackhand Gang of 50s Smethwick
finding gaps in the fences
of biscuit factories, building sites
skirting pits of quicklime.
On the biggest rock
we do not find the black crossbow
of the lone Cormorant.