A conversation between Paul Violi and Martin Stannard
A conversation between Paul Farley and John Stammers
An appreciation of Thom Gunn's poetry; and several articles on the work of Michael Laskey
'Ozmosis': extracts from an Australian Journal, by John Killick
Reviews of recent books, plus 'Blind Criticism', 'Poets I Go Back To' and 'The Collection'
Paul Farley 'Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second'
(This poem has been short-listed for the 2005 Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem)
Liverpool disappears for a billionth of a second
Shorter than the blink inside a blink
The National Grid will sometimes make, when
turn to a room and say: Was that just me?
People sitting down for dinner don’t feel
their chairs taken away/put back again
much faster than that trick with tablecloths.
A train entering the Olive Mount cutting
shudders, but not a single passenger
complains when it pulls in almost on time.
The birds feel it, though, and if you see
starlings in shoal, seagulls abandoning
cathedral ledges, or a mob of pigeons
lifting from a square as at gunfire,
be warned, it may be happening, but then
those sensitive to bat-squeak in the backs
of necks, who claim to hear the distant roar
of comets on the turn – these may well smile
at a world restored, in one piece; though each
where mineral Liverpool goes wouldn’t believe
what hit it: all that sandstone out to sea
or meshed into the quarters of Cologne.
I’ve felt it a few times when I’ve gone home,
if anything, more often now I’m old,
and the gaps between get shorter all the time
A poem by Glyn Hughes
I’m in the pub taproom where Milton did his ironing
but mostly Mrs Buckley’s
and hung it on a ‘maiden’ by the fire
that he had lit and polished the brasses.
A tough and self-contained ex-farmer
fallen on bad, or was it good, times,
he hand-washed and ironed
the undies of his dumpy odalisque
and served her in her hidden place
(their teeth in mild bleach by the bed, fancy that)
then fetched beer in a jug
where Buckley dared not enter and Mrs didn’t
among starched underwear and blouses.
He swept it, scrubbed it, ruled it,
choosing never to leave his bed and board
except to bring warm eggs in from the grass
or hang out washing above the roaming hens.
I catch it fortunately in its near-silence
and warmth of embers trapped from last night.
An hour like those of their endless honeymoon;
that time when calls of poultry, curlews, larks
and Buckley’s grumbles invaded their window.
One pint of beer in the early evening
and I could almost live again here –
just as I almost did in the past,
like Milton with ‘my feet under the table’
as welcome as any for my wit and my money.
The moor outside, and this taproom-kitchen –
‘the poor man’s study’, as one dialect poet said –
is still the same; a stone floor, and a flagged ceiling,
and through the peephole window a damp green light
where crows tossed in the breaths
of thermals over the wood are dancing
but are really just blown on threads of air.
They have nests to steady them somewhere
and I, a pint of Lees dark bitter in my hand,
hold a dim thought of not being chucked out at eleven,
of not being chucked out ever – Milton’s ghost.