Emily Blewitt, poet, Featured poet, Keith Hutson poet, Suzannah Evans, poet, Uncategorized

Mark Pajak, featured poet

I first met Mark Pajak last year in Manchester. It was a splendid day for me since I had the great pleasure of reading in the John Rylands library with the wonderful Liz Berry. I bumped into him again at the launch of my friend James Giddings pamphlet in Sheffield. Mark mentioned that he had been invited to read in Leicester, and although I was unable to attend the reading I was able to meet him for a brief chat and a coffee.  He had copies of his newly published pamphlet with him and I duly purchased a copy.

I read through it in one go. The abundance of vivid and inventive imagery makes the collection compelling and many of the pieces are instantly memorable. There are poems which deal with childhood and adolescence but manage to skirt nostalgia. Narratives are coloured with startling word choices. The work is precise, controlled and measured , unfolding carefully and without hurry.  It is economic without being sparse or losing its internal music. While many of the poems deal clinically and chillingly with themes of violence and tragedy, the work never feels emotionally ‘cold’. Other poems confront illness and loss in a way that is moving without being overtly sentimental. And while there are echoes of Heaney, Hughes, and Farley, particularly in thematic concerns such as the interaction between the be spoiled urban environment and its ‘nature’, Mark has a distinctive and unified style of his own. I particularly liked the three poems below and asked Mark if I could them. He kindly agreed.

mark

Biography

Mark Pajak was born in Merseyside. His work has been published in MagmaThe North and The Rialto among others, been highly commended the Cheltenham Poetry Competition and National Poetry Competition and won first place in the Bridport Prize. He has received a substantial Northern Writer’s Award from New Writing North and was 2016’s Apprentice Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival. His first pamphlet, Spitting Distance, was selected as a Laureate’s Choice and is published with smith doorstop.

Tickling the Canal

Believe in the dream… Beware the danger
Marie-Nicole Ryan

Lured to the canal on her dad’s yarn
of Alaska and how he’d tickled fish

from icy rivers. And though this is only Bootle,
Liverpool, and rats wicker in the reeds,

a mallard rasps and a condom eels by
on the current, she thinks herself Inuit

in this northern wind that shivers the water
as a magnet will skitter iron shavings.

So she dips her small hands, motions
as if beckoning and waits for the trout.

But there are no trout. Instead, in the sunk
smoke of algae, sticklebacks scatter

like a shoal of razors. Under the drowned
hull of a bathtub, a pike as long as her arm

slys its snout upwards. The rusty ring
of its gullet ready to slip on a finger.

 

Brood
… and in their glance was permanence
John Berger

At sixteen, I did a day’s work
on an egg farm.
A tin shed the size of a hanger.

Inside its oven dark
two thousand stacked cages,
engines of clatter and squawk.

My job, to pass a torch
through the bars for the dead hens
and pack them tight into a bin bag.

All the time my mind chanting:
there’s only one hen. Just one
ruined hen repeated over and over.

In this way I soothed the sight
of all that caged battery,
their feathers stripped to stems,

their patches of scrotum skin,
their bodies held
in the dead hands of their wings.

But what kept me awake
that hot night in my box room,
as I listened to the brook outside

chew on its stones and the fox’s
human scream, was how
those thousand-thousand birds

had watched me. And really
it was me repeated over and over,
set in the amber of their eyes.

Me, the frightened boy in jeans
stiff with chicken shit, carrying
a bin bag full of small movement.

A foot that opened. An eyelid
that unshelled its blind nut.
A beak mouthing a word.


Camping on Arran, 1992

Dad, you had shared with me your sleeping bag.
And we lay like hands held in one pocket.
When the dark flickered and a pause before

thunder; a sound like the sky waking.
And waking with it, I trembled, trapped,
a boy in a storm, in this tight space

ripe with your sleeping man’s body.
But when the canvas flared again
white with a hem of shadow grass,

you were awake and counting
down the seconds to thunder.
And I, listening, was struck still.

As each count became less
-the storm brighter, louder-
I could feel a closeness

like breath in the air.
And I fell asleep
as rain would fall; soft,

then in a rush.
You counting us
into the eye.


From ‘Spitting Distance’

Featured poet, Uncategorized

Featured poet- Emily Blewitt

I’ve often written here about the opportunities poetry readings and festivals afford for meeting people and making new friends. This year I arrived for my one-day visit to the Aldeburgh Festival and soon bumped into my friends Maria Taylor and Kim Moore. Also in this company of poets were Holly Hopkins and the very smiley Emily Blewitt.

It has been my great pleasure to feature several guest poets on this site over the past couple of years, all of them in their twenties.  I read a couple of Emily’s poems on-line and liked them, and I wondered if she would be interested in sharing some of her work, so I contacted her after the festival.  I’m delighted that Emily responded with the following poems and a short piece I had requested in which she talks a little about herself and her influences.

Ladies and gentlemen, Emily Blewitt.

2014 was a big year for me.  It was a year of firsts: my first poetry residential course (with Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley at Grange-Over-Sands), my first poetry festival (Aldeburgh), my first transatlantic flight (to New York, on holiday) and my first blog post.  I started kickboxing fitness classes at my local gym and wrote a poem about it, which got me in Poetry Wales.  I wrote some poems about recovering from depression and by so doing recovered my voice, which had been lost for a little while amid experiencing the same depression.  I became bolder, irreverent, sexier and louder.  Off the page, I began reading at open mic nights and was invited to be a guest poet at Cardiff’s ‘Made in Roath’ festival.  I got engaged; I embarrassed my fiancé at open mic nights by pointing him out after I’d read a poem about him.  Past his blushes, he didn’t really mind.

I also spent some time discovering poets who were new to me and rereading books that had been waiting patiently on my bookshelf.  Current favourite collections include Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak Like Wolves, Jonathan Edwards’s My Family and Other Superheroes, Bronwyn Lea’s The Deep North and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Lucky Fish.  And there’d be something amiss if I didn’t mention the poets who first touched me and made me want to write poetry – Kate Clanchy, Kathleen Jamie and Sharon Olds. I think you can probably see their influence on my early poems, which are very much concerned with sound and domestic life.

It’s now 2015, and here’s a selection of poetry that I’ve chosen to show where I am now.  These are exciting times. Here’s to the next twelve months.

 

When in Recovery

Get out of bed. Feed the cat.
Add a level teaspoon of sugar to builder’s tea and stir clockwise.
Resist the urge to stick your knife in the toaster.
Be reckless enough to descend hills at a decent pace
but pick your mountains wisely. Get out of breath.
Focus on words, wasting them.  Take citalopram –
four syllables, once a day, behind the tongue.
Understand that there are days you watch yourself
as though you are a balloon held aloft your body
by a slip of string you fear will break.
Grow your hair.  Buy exotic oils at discount stores
and comb them through. Think in colour.  Sit in the salon and explain
no blue is blue enough now.  Try red – pillar-box, satanic red.
Enjoy the sharp press of the needle, its single tear of blood
when you pierce your nostril.  Put a diamond in it so it winks.
Find your meridian by placing your index and middle fingers together
and tapping a tattoo on the top of your head.
Accept that sun-worship is good, the Vitamin D produces serotonin
and sensation. When you cry, howl at the moon.
Wear your rituals lightly.  At the end of each day, step out of them
as though they’re expensive silk lingerie.

Originally published by Carolyn Jess-Cooke in ‘Voicing Shadows, Singing Light’

 

Resolution

I will make myself Morticia Addams.
I will grow my hair to my waist, wear

floor-length black velvet.
I will smoke.

I will hang gilded mirrors, watch myself
pass without reflection.

I will slowly descend great staircases, intricately laced
with antique cobwebs.

I will hold brief but meaningful conversations
with the spiders.

My house will be ruined;
my underwear immaculate.

The bed in which I wrap my tongue
around my husband’s French

will be cast iron, four-postered,
shrouded in silk.

Published in Cheval 7 (Parthian, 2014).

  

When I Think of Bald Men

I think of vultures, the misunderstood deep-cleaners
of the Sahara, immune to disease.  The ones who orderly gather
in committees, who are proud of their collective nouns:
a venue, kettle, or volt of vultures putting together

the agenda before arranging sandwiches for delegates
and mince pies at Christmas; vultures photocopying Any Other Business
in Confidential purple; vultures washing-up and picking clean
leftovers in the staffroom, at the buffet table; a wake of vultures

that dance, dad-style in lines, or bob their heads to a kill in time
to the music.  Vultures that shout And all’s weeeellll! at 3am
after the Office Christmas Party; vultures that tidy up the mess
in the Ladies made by a gaggle of geese, parliament of owls, an exultation

of larks, brood of chickens, tiding of magpies, a murder of crows…
Vultures with their trouser legs rolled up, showing milk-bottle legs
vultures with laughter lines and wrinkled backs-of-necks;
vultures that are nicknamed Bearded Vulture,

Slender-Billed Vulture, Red-Headed Vulture, White-Rumped Vulture
by their vulture friends.  Every office has some –
you know the men I mean.  The ones that are reluctant
to fly; the ones that hiss when threatened.

 

(Previously Unpublished)

 

 

Homecoming

You are man, now.
Stand upright as this house
you were born in, your arms
these green oak beams
which hold us, as you take me

through the finish:
the fine brushed grain
of my smooth round belly,
a perfect curve
so rare in carpentry.

Yet I am undone, too –
frayed as this half-finished shawl
I am knitting, my hands
scrabbling for spools,
unravelling thread –

how you were carried
the Welsh way,
slung high on the hip.
Your cheek to my breast,
crumpled as cloth.

 

First published in Nu2: Memorable Firsts (Parthian, 2012).

 

 

My Colours

First, on my right forearm, a peacock in jade and gold
so when I flick my wrist its feathers unfold
and fan out like the winning hand at cards;

On my left breast, in oyster-grey,
beats the anatomical diagram of a heart;

A tiger’s fierce orange and black stripes stalk my back
to hide the scars, while in plain sight
between my shoulder blades two white wings take off;

On my collarbone a cicada sings
in yellow glory to crimson catkins;

On my right breast, Blodeuwedd, the owl girl with amber eyes
becomes lilac, lavender, foxgloves, daisies,
and above my womb the moon waits in all her phases;

Coiled around my inner thigh a snake hisses, bottle-green,
while at my hips, macaws kiss;

On my right foot, a greyhound sprints straight off the blocks;
At my left heel curls a brown hare and an orange fox;

A mandala in Indian sand circles my elbow;
On my ring finger glitters a diamond in rose gold;

I am strawberry blonde and oriental raven,
an ephemera of red kites wheeling through stormy skies;

Love, when I show you my colours
I am a riot, a cacophony, a bird of paradise, a polka

on mosaic tiles, a gilded kingfisher diving blue.

Previously Unpublished

 

Biography:

Emily Blewitt was born in Carmarthen in 1986. She has published poetry in various print-based and online anthologies, including Poetry Wales, Furies, Cheval, Nu2: Memorable Firsts, Brittle Star, Pomegranate and Cadaverine.  Emily won the 2010 Cadaverine/Unity Day Competition, and was selected as a Honno ‘Poet of the Month’.  She was Highly Commended in the 2014 Terry Hetherington Award and will be a guest poet at Seren/Literature Wales’ First Thursday of the Month event in February.  She is studying for a PhD in English Literature at Cardiff University.  She blogs at emilyblewitt.wordpress.com.

Featured poet, Uncategorized

Featured Poet. James Giddings

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing and reading poems by James Giddings and I asked him to contribute some poems to showcase here. I don’t want to label James’ work as it is varied and obviously evolving, but many of his poems contain dry self-effacing humour and gentle melancholy. This element of wistful tragi-comedy is combined with high narrative energy and neatness and economy of style. I hope James won’t mind me saying that these two aspects make his work sometimes seem like a cross between Simon Armitage and John Hegley, although his own voice is very distinctive.

James is twenty three years old and is currently studying for his MA at Sheffield Hallam University, funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. His poems have appeared in magazines including Black & Blue, Antiphon and The Cadaverine. He once won a silver medal for swimming at Cubs.

Mean Time

‘But we will be dead, as we know
beyond all light.’ Carol Ann Duffy.

Like new, or so they said.
But there’s lines of lead, graphite
graining the pages, some darkened
grey-black, so sure of themselves,
and the asterisk inked in blue,
rushed, not quite a star,
marking the sentences –
Yes, like an angel then,
to be truthful now.’
There’s more on twenty-nine
scribed beneath the title,
struck with potluck candidness;
mad’ they said, scoring
a tally through the thigh
of the letter H, capitalized
to hold its weight.
I rub away at the grey shadings,
thoughts they left
like litter down a side street;
the words ‘I’m falling asleep’
ghosted now, only half there
when held in the light.
And in the contents
there are marks, little hearts
next to the lovey ones
and with them the initial R
which I can’t bring myself
to remove; to do that
would kill love, leave love
in the dark. In my hands
they have a second chance
to stay alive in the light.


Outlet

I couldn’t hate you more than I hate myself
at 3.00am watching cat videos, with this dusting
of orange moustache from all the Cheesey Balls.

Yes, I thought about killing myself, but then
I watched a five-minute clip of a pug barking
at its own reflection, found the bottom of rock

bottom. The car is running in the garage, and I left
the hamster by the bins. I’ve packed five years
into a rucksack. In the bottom drawer are the bills.


Richard

I’d see him every shift; he’d come in,
order a bottle of the house
Shiraz, sit in his booth with the paper,
doodle the quiz, fill in the Sudoku.

I often imagined how he lived
at home, if he had wine there,
a lady-friend who he could argue
over the answers of the crossword with,

or if that was it for him, our forced
friendship: me providing napkins, calling
out to him as he enters, the usual is it?
Him leaving an inheritance through tips.


Aboard

After Miriam Van hee

standing on the embankment you watched
the coast drift through the evening
and thought of your Father and Mother
about the distance keeping everyone apart, but
paths are everywhere, even on the water

you look for signs forming in the foam