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Poem of the Week: 'Portballintrae Harbour' by Jan Carson

Posted on August 25, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

Portballintrae Harbour

Every New Year’s at midday we meet at the harbour and
cast our ghosted bodies into the sea. We are no longer
seventeen and , over the years, have progressed from last
night’s underwear to trunks and t-shirts and, finally,
oil-sleep wetsuits, straining to contain our spreading
guts. Like soldiers returning from the Front we are fewer
with each passing year. This morning we are two- and
a handful of bemused children sheltering beneath their
anorak hoods.

Afterwards, shivering, we say ‘Same time, next year?’ and
mean, as our fathers must once have meant, ‘All good
things come to an end, even the sea.’

Something a bit different this week- flash fiction. Flash fiction often straddles the awkward line between poetry and prose, but there is something distinctly poetic about this story, particularly in the last two lines. Like most of the entries in this anthology (Postcard Stories), it is slightly surreal and unbelievable. The thought of a group of people trekking out to Portballintrae Harbour, which Google tells me is in Northern Ireland, in January, and jumping into the sea, even purchasing wetsuits, perhaps only for this occasion, brings to mind such a stubborn narrator, a stickler for tradition even after the group dissipates. To create such a charmingly bizarre character in so few words is such a gift. Often short poems which try to tell a story leave you feeling as if you need a bit more, like the characters could have been interesting, had it been longer, or the story could have been more entertaining, had there been more words. In this story, however, I feel it is exactly as long as it needs to be, providing a simple, sweet story from a fun protagonist’s perspective, and ending in a thought-provoking manner. Overall, the slightly bizarre and perhaps metaphorical nature of this story begs the reader to question, in a world of free verse and flash fiction, what it is that differentiates poetry from prose.

This poem comes from Postcard Stories, which is available for purchase on our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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Poem of the Week: 'Tattoo' by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Posted on August 18, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

Tattoo

My body is a palimpsest
under your hands,
a papyrus scroll
unfurled beneath you,
waiting for your mark.
I clean my skin,
scrape it back to
a pale parchment,
so that your touch
can sink as deep
as the tattooist’s ink,
and leave its tracery
over the erased lines
of other men.

You are all that’s
written on my body.

For me, what’s so brilliant about this poem is how unashamed of its emotions it is. The feelings are so raw, reminiscent of teenage heartbreak, rendering the speaker a young, vulnerable woman. She does not shy away from her emotions. When I first read it, I interpreted it as a love poem, to a present lover, someone the speaker sees a future with. However, in the anthology it is taken from, Ní Chonchúir goes on to explain that it was written soon after a horrible breakup, making it all the more poignant, and the desperation for some tangible, permanent mark of the man she has left behind. Although half the joy of reading poetry is taking a personal interpretation, it’s always fascinating to see what the poet was thinking at the time, and Ní Chonchúir’s explanation of her feelings at the time adds a new level of interest to an already-beautiful poem. It is also interesting to see her opinion on tense, as in retrospect, using the present tense makes it far less permanent than the past, ironically.

This poem is taken from The Deep Heart's Core, an anthology of Irish poets revisiting their own poems, and which is available for purchase on our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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Poem of the Week: 'Flora' by Siobhán Campbell

Posted on August 11, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

Flora

The cow is on top of her game,
her haunches fat, her bones rounded.
She feels the goddess power of her udder
in the mould-damp dark of the milking shed.

If she stays still, all may be well.
If she thinks of the cool absence of horns,
feels their undead weight balancing her head,
she may contain herself.

But if she kicks the bucket at full froth,
tips it from the milker’s raw-red hand-
then she begins a hell which gathers heat
all through the livelong days without that milk.

This poem takes such a pastoral theme- milking a cow- and turns it on its head. Here, the cow is in control, not the human, and she is ‘on top of her game’, and a ‘goddess’. Personally, I’ve never seen a poem talk about a cow in such a manner as this. The power of the cow is to deprive the people of their refreshment on a long hard day, and so the people rely on her patience and tranquility. The metaphor is clear, and it’s brilliant. The quiet power of women, their potential to overturn and overthrow, a secret, brooding power, that women, like dairy cows, are too gentle to abuse. To take the comparison of women to cows, so often used as an insult, and subtly turn it into a symbol of female power and virtue, is a beautiful thing, making this poem very unique and powerful.

'Flora' is taken from Campbell's anthology Heat Signature, which is available to purchase from our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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Poem of the Week: 'I Stop Writing the Poem' by Tess Gallagher

Posted on August 04, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

 

I stop writing the poem
to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
In my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.

Taken from a collection of poetry about motherhood, this poem considers the role of a woman. Both a poet and a mother, the speaker performs her wifely duties, setting aside her poetry for later. However as she does this, she finds herself aware that she is being watched by her daughter, learning from her, following her example. This poem therefore explores the impact mothers have on their children, and forces the reader to consider the duty, therefore, for women to act in certain ways. The speaker does not resent doing laundry, even implying she chooses to do it out of her feminine ‘tenderness’, but there is still a sense of duty. The poem ending is almost sinister- will history repeat? Will the daughter grow up to set her own dreams, literary or otherwise, aside in favour of being a housewife? The moment is sweet, a mother passing down skills and the quality of tenderness down to her daughter, but cannot be read from a feminist perspective without a tinge of concern, causing this poem to linger on in the mind long after it is read.

This week's poem taken from Writing Motherhood: A Creative Anthology, available to purchase from our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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Poem of the Week: 'iii. Music' by Raymond Antrobus

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

iii. Music

My mum cleans the kitchen,
opens all the windows, blaring
mixtapes dad made in the 80s.
The ones he would bring round
after he beat her.
His smooth DJ voice croons
Ain’t Nobody’s Fault But Mine
from the tape deck, treating
the wound with music.
In a year she’ll leave him
but for now she sings along,
sweeping cake crumbs
under the table.

Trying to choose just one poem from this anthology was nigh impossible. It’s a thin collection of short, incredibly readable poetry, taking the reader through a story that jumps around in time and space between England and Jamaica, between a young boy with two parents, to his mother leaving her abusive husband, to his reconciliation with his lost father, right up until he dies, an old man with dementia, grievously mourned despite his wrongdoings. I settled for this poem because I think it encapsulates the story as a whole quite well. The last image in particular, a metaphor for his mother’s initial forgiveness, which he will later demonstrate himself. On the whole, it’s a very real, emotive journey through a life, realistic and mature in its presentation of feelings.

Raymond Antrobus' second pamphlet, To Sweeten Bitter is available to purchase on our website here.

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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