Thursday, April 30, 2020

New Irish Writing / April’s winning poems

Kevin Graham
Kevin Graham

New Irish Writing: April’s winning poems

How to Use This Poem, and Homage to Wendell Berry, both by Kevin Graham

Kevin Graham
April 30, 2020

How to use this poem

Walk out of your life by ducking under
hanging ivy on a summer’s day
and feel the earth culminate underfoot.
Finches and snipes will skitter
in the elms’ leaves, hawthorn seed
spilling into the air. Your broad-leaved
heart will check itself in the shade
of the banks of a river without a name.
Belts of stinging nettle will guide you
under the stone arch of amnesia,
past the grief of bluebells and honesty
of wood-sorrel. Running through time’s
passage will be all the stanzas of light
you meant to experience. Branches
will part like so many good intentions
and the sun will warm your collar bones.
Once near the sea, you’ll be able
to take this page and hold it level
with the horizon, examine it for mistakes.
The current you feel will be equal
to the square root of peace multiplied by sky.

Homage to Wendell Berry

You’d like it here, this picture postcard
where the scenery scans like a Van Gogh –
rolling fields, endless sky. The scent of anemone,
milkweed, blue-eyed grass, bluntleaf.
Cycle paths crisscross like a net of consciousness
reasoning nature’s lot. We know the world’s
in trouble, you called it fifty years ago
yet we live in a bubble of our own making
where temperatures soar and our hearts
are sold to global corporates. Here
the young sustain the earth, sweat gold,
brush away muck and count against death
the loaded basket. Keeping abreast
of life’s fruit takes its toll: an orchard
of plum trees, the green breeze carrying
a patch of wild strawberries. Vineyards
line up like soldiers and the fields are lit
with the yellow flames of courgette flowers.
We cycle knee-deep in an absence
of ignorance unable to see the path ahead,
counting breath, listening carefully.
Kevin Graham’s recent poems have appeared in The Stinging Fly, Causeway/Cabhsair and Crannóg. He lives and works in Dublin

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Carol Ann Duffy leads British poets creating 'living record' of coronavirus

Photograph: Murdo MacLeod
Illustration: Triunfo Arciniegas

Carol Ann Duffy leads British poets creating 'living record' of coronavirus

Major names including Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay and father-and-son poets Ian and Andrew McMillan to document outbreak in verse
Alison Flood
Monday 20 April 2020

Carol Ann Duffy has launched an international poetry project with major names including Imtiaz Dharker, Roger McGough and Ian McMillan, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former poet laureate hopes the project, entitled Write Where We Are Now, “will provide an opportunity for reflection and inspiration in these challenging times, as well as creating a living record of what is happening as seen through our poets’ eyes and ears, in their gardens or garrets”.
Hands, Duffy’s poem, was written on 26 March and sees the author reflecting on how every Thursday, “we clap at the darkness”, and on how she can see the hands of her absent daughter “when I put my head in my own”. Another contribution from the Scottish poet takes a fiercer tone: Since You Ask sees her “Scunnered, stymied, shafted, shaded, / shat on from a great height, spaffed, spooked.” It ends: “OK, OK, OK. Onwards.”

Hands by Carol Ann Duffy

We clap at the darkness.

I hearken for the sound

of my daughter’s small hands,
but she is miles away...
though I can see her hands
when I put my head in my own.  

In Andrew McMillan’s Garden, he writes of how at first the dead “were few / enough to name them / but soon they grew too many / the vast fields of them”.
Duffy is spearheading the project with the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. Contributors range from new and emerging poets to award-winners Raymond Antrobus and Andrew McMillan, and some of British poetry’s biggest names, such as Gillian Clarke and Jackie Kay.
“We need the voice of poetry in times of change and world-grief. A poem only seeks to add to the world and now seems the time to give,” said Duffy, who is creative director of the writing school.
In Cranes Lean In, Dharker writes of a phone call with her daughter while she looks over a London in lockdown: “Petals brush my face. / You say at last // the cherry blossom / has arrived // as if that is what / we were really waiting for.”
She wrote it, she said, “standing at a window looking out over the marooned city. London had stopped its eternal building and the streets and stations were becalmed.”
“That was the day it suddenly came home to many mothers what this meant, this strange waiting time without their children,” Dharker went on. “I could hear the phone calls all over the world, people separated and searching for words of hope and consolation to give each other. The words my daughter gave me were about kindnesses, and something we had both been waiting for: the cherry trees blossoming in the parks and streets of London.”

Cranes Lean In by Imtiaz Dharker

Cranes lean in, waiting for an all-clear

that will not come. 

Forehead pressed to glass,

phone at my ear, I learn

to sail on your voice

over a sadness of building sites, 

past King’s Cross, St Pancras,

to the place where you are.

You say nothing

is too far, mothers

will find their daughters,

strangers will be neighbours,

even saviours

will have names.

You are all flame

in a red dress.  

Petals brush my face.

You say at last

the cherry blossom

has arrived

as if that is what

we were really waiting for.

McMillan, winner of the 2015 Guardian first book award and a contributor alongside his father, Ian, said it was “really important to record as a continuing historical document the times we’re living through”.

“I’ve always believed a poet’s job is to be a witness, and this is just another example of that,” said McMillan, who said he had found it very hard to write his poem.
“There are some things which feel beyond language – huge numbers of deaths, untold suffering, unmanageable fear. We’re dealing with abstracts and the first instinct within that is to reach for abstracts ourselves, but abstracts don’t make for good poetry,” he said. “All I tried to do, and all I think any of us can do, is focus on something small and contained and concrete, and try to tell it that way.”

In Unbecoming Maramot, Romalyn Ante, an award-winning poet who works as an NHS nurse, writes after a shift: “She walks an unlit road on her own, yet not alone. / Look at her now – night after night, shift after shift.” TS Eliot-winning poet George Szirtes is writing a new poem every day for the project, while Moira Egan and David Tait are writing from lockdown in Italy and China respectively.
Prof Malcolm Press, vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, called the initiative inspiring. “I am sure that these outstanding poems will voice the sentiments and feelings that many of us around the world will share,” he said. “At the same time, I am confident that these innovative and imaginative works will inspire creativity and hope.”

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Geoffrey Brock / Weighing light

Weighing light

Often the slightest gesture is most telling, 
as when he reaches tenderly in passing 
to pluck the yellow leaf from the dark fall
of her hair, or even the absence of all gesture:
the way she doesn’t need to turn to know
who, in this gathering of friends, has touched her.
It was as if he dreamed some private garden.
Perhaps he woke from it, mid-reach, to find
his hand too near her hair in this crowded yard,
and maybe even now she’s shuttering in
(she’s even better than you or I at that)
a storm of worry and recrimination—
did anyone notice? how could he do that here!—
by seamlessly continuing to tell you
about her trip to see her favorite Vermeer
this morning in the Delft show at the Met:
“So now they say she isn’t weighing pearls
or gold or anything—it’s just the light
gleaming off empty scales.” So much is hard
to know for sure. If I confronted her,
she’d say it was just a leaf—who could afford
to disagree? Could we? Now she’s explaining
how the girl faces a mirror we can’t see into
and how behind her hands a gloomy painting
of the Last Judgment: “Over her head God
floats in a cloud,” she says, “like a thought balloon.”
But you don’t hear. You’re watching me. I nod.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Mon Laferte / Tormento

Mon Laferte 

Tormento (En Vivo)

Mi amor fue sincero
Te quise de verdad
A pesar de tu silencio
Te quise más.

Un beso en el metro
Fue todo tan violento
A veces tan frenético
Me desespero.

Yo presiento que tú volverás
Mi argumento, yo se que jamás...
Nadie más te amará
Como te pude amar
Nadie más te puede aguantar
Como yo, como yo.

No me grites por favor
De nuevo hueles a licor
De mi cuerpo yo quisiera
Borrar tus besos.

Fue todo en febrero
Un romance sin dinero
Tu sexo tan poético
Como tus celos.

Yo presiento que tú volverás
Mi argumento, yo se que jamás...
Nadie más te amará
Como te pude amar
Nadie más te puede aguantar
Como yo, como yo.

Mi vida es un tormento
Mi vida es un lamento.

Nadie más te amará
Como te pude amar

Nadie más te puede aguantar
Como yo, como yo.

by Mon Laferte

My love was honest
I really loved you
Despite of your silence
I loved you more.

A kiss on the subway
Everything was oh so violent
Sometimes so frantic
I am desperate.

I can feel that you will come back
My argument? I know that...

No one else's gonna love you
Like I could've loved you
No one else's gonna deal with you
Like me,
Like me!

Don't yell at me, please!
You smell like alcohol again
From my body I wish
To erase your kisses

Everything happened in February
It was a penniless romance
Your sex, so poetic
Just as your jealousy

I can feel that you'll be back
my argument? I know that...

No one else's gonna love you
like I could've loved you
No one else's gonna deal with you
like me,
like me!

Oh, my life is a torment
Oh, my life is a pity.