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Siegfried Baber, featured poet

Sieg

Siegfried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989. Since graduating from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing, he lives and works in the city as a freelance writer, and as a barman in Bath’s finest pub, The Star Inn. His work has featured in various publications including Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine and as part of the Bath Literature Festival.

I was lucky enough to catch Siegfried at a reading in Lewes which featured Martin Malone, Helen Fletcher and Peter Kenny (whose work I was pleased to share in my last post,) where he had stepped in at very short notice to fill in for a poet who had been unable to attend.  You can read more about that evening and the new and the very lovely pamphlets available from Telltale Press here.

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Siegfried read from his new pamphlet, ‘When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid’ , which I can highly recommend, along with Peter Kenny’s ‘The Nightwork’ and Robin Houghton’s ‘The Great Vowel Shift’. All three are available from Telltale Press here.

I was impressed both by the quality of his work and by Siegfried’s assured delivery. After reading the pamphlet, I asked Sieg for the three poems bellow. For those who are a bit slow on the uptake, as I was on first reading, LHO is Lee Harvey Oswald, and there is another poem featuring Oswald entitled ‘Three Shots’ which bookends the pamphlet.  I’d buy the pamphlet on the strength of his poem ‘Rabbit’ alone, which includes detail of skinning the said creature during Siegfried’s childhood on his father’s farm, and features the unforgettable lines ‘ After yanking it free from those overalls of brown fur,/ I was faced, for the first time,/ with that compact machinery of muscle/ spread out cold on yesterday’s paper.’
Between the two Oswald poems you will find a wide variety of subjects are covered in sure-footed and surprising poems from a young poet whose
work  we will surely be seeing much more of in the very near future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,  Siegfried Baber.

For LHO

Instead of some rifle, superimposed,
you hold a prism of light in your hands –
this glittering bottle of Coca-Cola,
now obliterated by sunshine, pressed
ice-cold against your forehead.
On the street below, the President’s
motorcade crawls harmlessly out of view.
The Sun is the yawn of a great cat.
Fifty years from now, you doubt
anyone will remember this afternoon
or the rainbows you cast on the wall.


Shit-Street Nativity

Onstage, three chairs –
Mary in a blue shell-suit,
cradling her swollen
stomach, mascara running
down both cheeks;

Gabriel, stuck in the middle,
dressed to the nines
in his white linen suit,
trim, slim, glowing
and showing-off
his angelic smile;

then poor Joseph,
demanding a DNA test,
slouched in shorts
and sandals, fingers
shot through with splinters,
wine-stains on his vest.

And in the audience, everywhere,
is God rolling a fag,
wearing a baseball cap,
head back and laughing.

The tattoo on his neck:
World’s Best Dad.

A Few Phobias

Fear of reading the Post-It note on my desk
and your handwriting, strong, cool and clear.

Fear of this half-empty flat, swallowed by space,
with missing chairs, no television, and the cutlery

left hugging itself in the drawer. Or worse,
months from now, fear of finding your books

lost between mine. That favourite dress
clinging to my clothes like gossamer.

 

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Featured Poet, Peter Kenny

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.’

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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)

Minotaur

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)

Cicada 

Another Greek island,
gravestones
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)