Featured Poet: Pippa Hennessey
Pippa Hennessy is a publisher who has been writing for ten years. She recently tried to understand quantum theory by writing poetry about it, and in the process learned more about poetry than physics. She is one of three featured poets in “Take Three”, recently published by Soundswrite Press.
Simply Put, Mass Bends Light
It was a day for apple picking,
unburdening old branches.
Sun-spotted, cool and firm,
each apple kissing lightly as it moved
from branch to hand to basket
branch to hand to basket
branch to hand to basket…
… until twilight swallowed the lustre
and, drunk like wasps
on fermented windfalls,
we bedded them in glistening rows
along slat-gaps of new cellar shelves,
stalks downwards, dimpled bottoms
exposed. Picked out bruised ones
for chutney, shut out the light.
Took turns stirring the copper pan
by the flickering oil lamp. Oh look,
you murmur, collapsing the silence.
I think I’ve always known
mass bends light. How else
could sun-spatters startle
from a copper pan of apple chutney?
The Standard Model of Particle Physics
The standard model of particle physics contains four fundamental forces.
The strong nuclear force
explains how we stay whole.
The weak nuclear force
dictates the outcome of our decay.
attracts us to each other.
pushes us apart.
The standard model does not explain
the force of gravity
why I can’t stop my hand
falling on my wife’s grey hair.
The standard model does not explain
the expansion of the universe
how we are all separating
at an increasing rate.
The standard model does not contain
dark matter particles
what else would have pulled
the light from my father’s eyes?
The standard model contains
three generations of quarks and leptons
but no unborn child
though I know mine briefly lived.
The standard model does not explain
the emptiness of my son’s bedroom
or the way the lawn grows
now he’s not here to mow.
The standard model does not explain
how my other child has changed
or how she remains the same white-haired boy
who always arrives late.
The standard model does not reflect
the photograph albums on my shelves
there are no equations for stories
calculated by images.
The standard model imagines
three colours and three anti-colours
but not the greying of my hair
and my need to dye it regularly.
The standard model ignores
a crying baby’s needs
and the inconstant value of time
in my wife’s arms.
White Dwarf (A Day by the Sea)
Five billion years from now, our sun will have finished.
It will collapse into a super-dense ball
of nuclear matter, sharing the leftovers
with an electron sea. Gravity will crush
holidaymakers together until waves engulf all,
devouring their space.
On a crowded beach we set up our windbreak,
catch the sun, settle into the summer together,
slap on the Ambre Solaire. Adults collapse, children dive
to the bottom of the sea. I am young, invincible,
it doesn’t matter that the sandstone making up the cliffs
reaches for space, land slips uncertainly.
We climb into the sunshine until
the foreshadowed lunchtime collapse
onto the tartan blanket, blistering together. My brother and I
fetch lunch, Dad says sand in sandwiches doesn’t matter.
Mum’s smile crunches, collapses. The afternoon
brings icecream, the sun burns fuel ferociously,
pushing us into the sea. We squeeze lips and eyelids
tight together, sink to where crabs escape the sun.
On this beach, the gaps between grains of sand
are ours until the tide comes in and the castle is lost.
What do we care about solar collapse? We have our beach,
our waves, our sea filling our late evening space
while we soak up the sunset together
and crunching sand no longer matters. We’re a family
coloured red by the sun. I learned to swim
in that sea, no matter what came after,
we were together in that space
where the sun, at the far horizon, collapsed.
Featured Poet: Tony Challis
Tony is Chair of Nottingham Poetry Society, and is keen to promote and develop the Society along with an enthusiastic Committee. He has been writing since the 80s, and is still learning. He is a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio, and has had poems published in the magazines of that Studio. Last year the Studio awarded him their Poet of the Year. He has had poems published in odd places, managed to get a merit in a competition, and very much enjoys taking part in spoken word events. Let’s hope this is the year of the breakthrough!
HOW TO ENJOY AN ORANGE
Drifting through breakfast time….
take an orange from the fruit basket,
hold it over a beach of muesli
that has just muttered into a bowl.
Touch the firm skin,
run your finger across and feel that slight tickle….
not so hard, not so soft, definitely not squishy,
and a warm shade of – orange?
that makes you see a seaside café.
Maybe lick, kiss, or feel
the resistance when you try to bite in.
Peel with care, maybe from the top
but only so far, so that it comes to look
like a flower.
Sniff the juicy segments,
pluck out a portion, a slice,
and – no- not onto muesli,
but straight to lips, into mouth,
know the bright, clear acid rush.
Another slice, and –
now you are feeling like an indulged child.
Have to have another one on the muesli…
WHEN WE MEET
As the sun hides amongst red skyribbons
lights and more lights scatter the streets; there…
that large curved cafe at the old green roadmeet,
pregnant with conviviality, twinkling and rumbling.
I walk around the outdoor tables – we are not spartan
enough to use those now; I enter the warm air within,
absorb the reassuring brightness;
the music floods me, from nowhere.
Behind the bar lies a hoard of chequered
bottles, glasses, percolators…
A barmaid dusts lightly, one arm raised
as if a new dance has caught her.
For a moment I see you hold out a hand
and we link, arms raised, swirling round each other,
dropping into a ballroom jive.
Here and now, you sit at a corner table;
greying hair pushed behind your ear,
specs down your nose as you read;
flecked black coat wrapped fully round,
white scarf at your neck.
Maybe I should tell you it is warm in here,
have you open your coat and spread your arms,
put the glasses down and have your eyes glitter,
embracing all that is happening around, and about to happen.
Slowly and quietly I move forward
not wanting the least change till the very last.
A sentinel beside the entrance to the pathway,
on duty, immobile, greeting all walkers.
Its slab of off-white shouts; snails creep in fear.
Dumped, unwanted, no longer pummeled for pleasure,
this melancholy mattress stands firm against the wall,
left carelessly but decisively. Criss-cross binding
holds it in; no flab is showing, no blubbing.
A close inspection is needed to see marks,
But I will not go near. Once a partner in intimacy,
It now forbids touch, as though a small hand
Going forward would be slapped back.
Wet weekend and it changes; it has been punched,
beaten into submission by raging rain.
It has sunk, neck bent, feet out, sodden,
so sorry for its bulk. Small birds
peck on the path beside, but make no contact.
Stones thrown, gum attached, a blade’s caress,
all must be endured.
Rain again, and after passing abuse it lies flat
across half of the path, avoided or trodden,
marked with mud, boots and tyres.
A thin stream runs down from its corner
towards the road; a discreet weeping.
And then it is gone.
Featured Poet: Adrian Buckner
Our poet this month is Adrian Buckner. Adrian is a widely published poet, from whose latest collection, Downshifting, from Five Leaves Press, these poems are taken. He teaches in the Creative Writing Departments of Derby and Nottingham Universities.
It is still possible
to live as if the computer is just
that thing on your desk at work;
to play the waltz all dreamy afternoon,
to read every word of Daniel Deronda;
to recall the trees of childhood,
to name them with your own children;
to look into the heart of one thing,
to stand transfixed
at the side of roads leading
everywhere else and nowhere.
“I’d forgotten how much I love this poem”
Hello, said the poem, how have you been?
I’ve been waiting for you, I haven’t changed.
Did my author die? For real or just in
the seminar? Never mind all that now.
You’ve been out there amid blurred things –
the flashy plots of contemporary novels,
papers from students eager to advance
your argument with the honoured dead.
Then a real death, a house to clear,
a life to face. Take your time –
let my climate enfold you, my landscape
clarify and come into view again
on the heavy grained imprint,
blot-filling a void in e, a void in d
Love Tweets to Naturalism
“Zola’s naturalism is ugly and dirty, but he seems to me to be doing something”
may I hibernate with you?
make my duvet of your pages?
I am back in love with you –
the huge heave
of your grossly humane project,
your vast attention span.
I will read you
in the small hours,
browse your footnotes
I fell asleep
Will I dream
a comprehended world?
October Social Poetry Competition
Our October meeting was a Social with buffet and competition on the theme of ‘Days’. Several poems were entered but the winning poems were: 1st ‘Days’ by Cathy Grindrod, and Joint 2nd ‘Days by Aislinn Forrest and ‘Last Days’ by Teresa Forrest.
Every dog has one.
Groundhogs have special ones
named after them. They go on
and on about this over and over.
Night can be hard for days.
Every tomorrow they become other.
In the cold light of themselves
know they are numbered
but still merge one into another –
rainy ones, lazy, red letter ones,
field, high, holy and salad ones
and despite all of them having seen
better ones, always recall the good old ones.
As clear, as plain as themselves
they fly by, sometimes carrying
their gifts of good deed,
always giving you their time
but hoping most of all
you will seize each and every
one of them, as if, of the rest
of your life, they are the first.
A faltering smile he paints across those porcelain cheeks
Once plump cherries blossoming fro the nourishment of sunlight laughter and youthful radiance
His words to her – elegant brushstrokes, add brightness to her canvas
A still image of one instance in her life.
Crooked reflections coerce a memory: unfeasible feat to sustain such perfection;
For seconds that smile could twitch or her falsely crinkled eyes break gaze
The painting – a lie; a false memory. An optimistic blink into the past, which promised more.
When fate was a young woman’s own sketch of adulthood
With closed eyes she saw him, layering charm as thick as the oil paints he danced into life
Spreading flatteries in an attempt to add honesty to the smile he so masterfully captured
Beauty! They called her …
But oh, days so long ago
How she wished to return to that frame
To trade all wisdom for naked naivety
To return to such gorgeous expired days
The city hollows him, smog settles in his bones
pavements stroke cold against his cheek
in doorways pills and vodka form a cicatrix
They pass him by, invisible as air
Days before his heart stuttered to a halt
he saw his childhood running past with bloodied lip
felt his father’s presence fading in and out
They pass him by, invisible as air
A lifetime sheds itself, curls and flickers
one cold night; last breath unremembered;
the man who no one sees
They pass him by, invisible as air
Featured Poet: Teresa Forrest
Teresa is originally from a small town in Northern Ireland. She lives in Nottingham with her partner Steve and has three grown up(ish) children. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Nottingham, Iota, Dreamcatcher, Nottingham Writers’ Studio Journal and The Interpreter’s House.
Do I leave a bitter taste in your mouth?
When you tighten your fist
and squeeze each drop from me
my acid drips down your fingers
When you tighten your fist
and begin to bruise my flesh
my acid juice drips down your fingers
I sting you with my kiss
You begin to bruise my flesh
I bite into your tongue
then I sting you with my kiss
my tartness fills your mouth
I bite into your tongue,
sour beneath your skin
my tartness fills your mouth
sharp with every breath
Sour beneath your skin
when you squeeze each drop from me
sharp with every breath
I leave a bitter taste in your mouth
you hold me
we are rain
that falls, touches
that glows, stirs
as I hold you
NOTE ON FRIDGE
This is just to say
I have scoured these rooms
in search of light
cleaned uncertain corners
laundered frayed dreams
wiped up fears
polished the smile
on your unblinking face
warmed up your promises
swept myself clear of you
Wide-eyed I have danced
among cobwebs, conversed
with the air, brilliant
as dust motes, sung
low while I rowed
through a river of plates
skydived from the cupboard
rolled over the floor
covered in filth
I have let myself go
Featured Poet: Jan Norton
I come originally from South Wales, but have lived in Nottingham for over 35 years. My poetry is influenced by a sense of place and the people and voices that make its character.
You know how you sit in the bus on a cold evening in February
and it’s dusk. Other people already home have switched on lamps in uncurtained rooms
You flick past the pictures, a man like Bogart with a cigarette at an open window,
a photograph of New York above the fireplace.
After it’s over, all these doors are unlocked. Unreasonably you knock,
find no one in the kitchen, no kettle on the boil, no face at the window.
You switch on the light, look out, see a crowded bus, glowing, passing by.
REST BAY – PORTHCAWL, 1967
Each August,when the Works shut down,
came deckchairs on the pebbled beach,
banana sandwiches and gabardines,
Corona pop and Smith’s blue twists of salt.
The aunts lined up behind the windbreak,
scarves over sugared beehives and Tempting Touch,
dad’s final wisps of hair blown sideways,
my brother’s legs marbled blue from the sea.
On caravan steps we shook out sand from daps.
the curtains spoke of untipped Navy Cut,
cod suppers in newspaper on our laps,
gas mantles spluttered orange light.
Plump feet poked out from new pyjamas
on kitchen benches become beds.
breakfast milk warm from the cow, Mam smiled
and days and hours stretched out ahead.
Happy then, that summer before I knew
that while I slept, my friend at home
had moved away. We never went again.
THE SKY AT NIGHT
On our black and white TV, Patrick Moore
wild-collared, hair pointing due North,
talked of Ursa Minor and Cassoeipia
prospects of comets passing close.
You watch reverently, hands clasped, wide-eyed
as though he mapped out the route to heaven.
Outside I stand beneath the washing line,
neck cricked, as I spin round to find the ones I know,
Orion’s belt, the Great Bear, hot Mars,
Venus and the Pole Star, and I am Eurydice,
pale Galatea or Andromeda, stripped, chained
to the rock, waiting breathless for the Serpent and Perseus’ sword.
Featured Poet: Jeremy Duffield
FROM THIS LIGHT
From this light I make a delicate and eternal flame,
from this attendant garden I find sleep
in the arbour where time’s umbrella shows
See over there the sister in the office
clear and rotund and generous.
We lie like voluminous allegorical frescoes
in festive splendour
with a starry halo, solid and distinctive
using all the space of the moment,
the exacting hours parading like sentries.
Come and walk carefully in the garden,
come and lie solemnly by the temple.
A door, a sill, a sea;
the moon has a profound white face
with bright contoured lines.
Tomorrow we will feast by the tamarind tree
then enter a special night.
The rude star will sing in the heavens,
your hand will be in mine,
the night as dense and vast as the horizon,
as intangible as bones.
THE ‘RUTLAND ARMS’ CHAIR
There, in the high-backed chair,
she talked of old loves,
laughed gaily, and glared,
at her daughter’s disconcerted looks.
‘At eighty,’ she said,
‘I can do as I please,
and though I do not hold with on-line dating
would happily take the arm
of an eligible man, if I liked him.’
Her son-in-law smiled in admiration,
‘More coffee?’ he asked’
‘And a Bakewell pudding, too,
and that man over there is sketching me.’ she whispered,
a gleam in her eyes.
He pictures a mouth, faithful, inviting, smiling,
a starting point for his pastels,
the line of upper lip, rosebud, vermillion,
a full curve beneath,
then shades the indentation above her chin.
Working from delicate nostrils,
he follows the line of her nose
to arch above her eyes, flecked blue,
looking into the distance beyond him,
draws the outline of her face
ears, neck, shoulders.
Now the filling-in begins,
raw umber for shadows,
a mix of ochre and rose the glow of her cheeks,
light a whiteness on hair.
He smudges and blends,
runs his finger-tips across cheeks he may never touch,
traces the fullness of her lips,
draws down the shadows of her neck.
The dyed blueness of her hair is startling in its vividness,
but in the flecked blue of her eyes
he sees unspoken desires.
This month’s poet is Ann Hill
TO MY MATE PAUL
Know a person
Until you go to
Their funeral. That is strange.
Such revelations. We exchange astonished glances,
Shake our heads and think ‘How strange’.
We thought we knew him – well we did, but
How small a part we played in his life.
How large his part in ours, how large our loss.
I love the tip
I really do.
You never know what you might find
It might be nearly new.
I like to go on Tuesdays,
It’s much quieter then.
Women having clear-outs.
Not so many men.
Guess who I saw last week?
There with scrip and quill.
You’ll never guess, I’ll have to tell you!
Mr. Shakespeare! Yes! Our Will!
We talked a bit while rummaging.
Got writers’ block he said.
Then “Eureka” came a cry
“This once was someone’s head”
When I see ‘Hamlet’ on the stage
I smile to see the skull.
The tip inspired his writing,
It made his glass quite full.
The pen is a tool,
But for her it is a midwife,
delivering her thoughts, her babies –
Their swaddling clothes
The clean white sheets of paper.
The pen gives her power
To make her mark on the world.
The Poet of the Month for May is Victor Grocock
Victor writes: I have been writing poetry for over forty years and find it very absorbing. A new poem is a new project. Once finished there’s room for another one.
THE SPACE LEFT BEHIND
In bleak undertones of another world
I stopped to breathe the air
Concocting itself into an unseen haze
The traffic oozed along
Draped in its own box
Unclotting itself from its own malaise
Dripping in and out of the sky
Cluttering the air.
Posturing my head through the car window
The air whispered
With driven energy waxed with its own sleepy tail.
Into its own octave spasms
Eating up the tarmac road
Each calculated mile clumped up in a ball
Unearthed beneath its own shell
Weeds race to fill
A space left behind.
Without any thoughts of the day
Mind and body wake
An alarm clock rings
Between lightness and darkness
The blackbird sings
A postman rings
Before the bell
Sets a light
A mediocrity of life
Ordinates a rhythmic clock
Earthly odours rise
Saddled in a limbo
Spread across fields
A mind unwinds
LOVE AND THE WIND
How many leaves would fall
To lay on earths cold floor?
As autumn came and went
And winter grappled/without a comfort zone
Spring/sang in whispers
Keeping a love/alive
Leaves/from autumn past
Rose up/ and fell amongst daffodils
Love would rekindle
Lightly to waken
Smooth sharp edges/rounded
Fingers gently rustled
Through cool winds
Now the wind would sing
Filtering its somersaulting rhythm
Reliving the days pace
We glide under bridges
Long over from the day before.
This month’s Poet of the Month is Gordon Griffith
Gordon has been married for over 30 years and has three children. The Performance Gospel Poet won several awards for his poetry. Gordon specializes in poetic characterisation which leaves you in stitches or deep contemplation. ‘I joined NPS to learn to write for the page’ says Gordon.
Out of boredom
The still black night
A fragment of time
Out of the anguish of poverty
The nakedness of humanity
And venom of death
Out of the drumbeat
The heat of depression
Dried eye recession
Repression and suppression
Out of negativity and strife
Frustration of life
The cry of survival
Poetry is born.
So much depends on
Those cracked hands
Those withered trousers
Those dingy fingers
Stuffed into white socks
The heavy baton pounding his heart
Into itchy strings of grain
So much depends on
That knock-kneed basket
Wobbling its way through
The early morning breeze
That old dried out standpipe
To the bed rock of existence
Now so much depends on
That next breath,
Those closed curtains
Piled against the window sill
Those strong arms numbed
Those feet that reached their finish line.
So much depends on
Those snores now silenced by a smile.
Burst the womb
The dark narrow channel
Escape into daylight
Cry for food
Reach beyond the dress
For a pulsating breast
Beaten and burped
And spurt with cream
Or stifled with talc
Push from the floor
Steady on my feet
Take a wobbly step
Set my mind on the toy
Dangled in front of me
Navigate, concentrate to stay upright
While they smile and laugh at me
Left in a strange place
No personal space
Tiny hands scratch
And noses run
Feet stomp on matted floors
Small mouths make big noise
Whisked away to school
To short trousers and long socks
To big books, big looks
Drowning in desk space
Live on shoestring budget
Scrape the bottom of the bucket
To find the last dregs of life.
February Poet of the Month is David Holliday
David Holliday was born and educated in London rather too long ago (he says). Now settled in Chesterfield, where he sings bass with Chesterfield Male Voice Choir. With Eric Hermes he edited Deuce general literary magazine 1957-1960; edited Scrip , poetry quarterly 1961-1973, and Iota 1988-2002. Formerly Secretary then Chairman of the Society he is now our President.
Mark Antony installed me on the throne,
my friend Augustus made my place secure,
a foreign king of an unruly folk
drunk on the past awaiting a Messiah
to cast me out and win lost glories back.
They have their dreams; I have to work with facts
to keep for them such freedom as I can.
Once, Jacob cheated Esau of his rights,
but now a son of Esau has returned.
And I have tried all ways to win their hearts,
rebuilt their temple, ruled their country well,
accepted their religion, saved them from
the harsh dominion of imperial Rome.
My vigour ebbs, my ageing body burns
in agonies increasing with each breath;
my women wanton, and my vulture sons,
vicious and dissolute, expect my death.
These sages tell me that in Bethlehem
David’s Messiah lies; if he should rise
and raise the country in rebellion, flame
and death will waste the land; therefore, he dies
or all my life’s work fails and falls to doom.
NOTE ON A STRING THEORY
Taut strings compel the marionette to dance
obedient to the hidden puppeteer,
as unseen powers cause us to advance
down ordained paths, as others may require.
Strings are the mainstay of the symphony,
from singing violin the thunderous bass.
All else supports with needful harmony,
with tonal colour and insistent pace.
And minute strings of energy vibrate
through multiple dimensions, giving rise
to basic particles, and so create
elements, planets, galaxies of stars.
NOTE ON SARTORIAL EXCESS
Most often, one must dress for the occasion,
to meet important persons wear one’s best,
not fitting when the great encounter’s past.
Uniforms show a soldier’s avocation
but do not help one blend into a crowd.
To flaunt a quilted waistband is not wise
when unobtrusively one treads the ways
with hidden purpose secretly endowed.
I understand my mission very well
as through the crowded shopping mall I go.
My handsome quilted belt soon will blow
myself to glory, infidels to hell.
January 2016 Poet of the Month is Cathy Grindrod
Cathy Grindrod is the author of five collections of poetry and was the first Derbyshire Poet Laureate. She also writes plays and memoir.
Close a piano lid and the music inside will die,
keys yellow like tobacco stains on fingers,
strings tighten in their cage. Only milk
will make the ivory shine white again.
My mother taught me this, and how to play;
how to sit with one tune in a beige front room
as dusk is falling and the children call outside;
how to leave the dark wood stool when told,
when note for note is perfect; black, white.
Then Mr Kubilius, who showed me Bach
was silver, red, and stamped his boots;
Debussy turquoise, sea, and crystals
catching light, soft pedalling translucency of air.
My fingers learned to speak for me,
the branches of a lime tree sweeping
over blue draped windows, casting
cooling shadows over amber light. I played,
while Mr Kubilius closed his eyes, and smiled.
(from Fighting Talk, Headland, 2005)
(At Newstead Abbey)
TAKING TEA WITH BYRON
Come back. Let this gentle greenness lure you –
the lovely thwack of cricket balls
beneath the elms. You could crack for me
that code of numbers I have never understood,
beside the old pavilion, taking English tea.
Bad to trample grass round ornamental flower beds.
Let’s do it! Let’s hide out in ivy-covered tunnels,
stir up the stew pond, vault monastic walls,
startle swans beside the lake with manic yells,
shoot antlers off the stags’ heads in the hall.
You considered lobster salad and champagne
the only fitting viands for my sex. You’ll learn.
For a while, I’ll acquiesce – I, in my petticoats, at home,
as we eat supper here, beneath this Japanese pagoda.
Flick of pithy orange peel; coy carp, white stone.
And now I’ll tempt you to a weeping willow’s shade,
lie with you, hidden at its swaying core, while peacocks keen,
yawp-yowling from their turrets to the dark drop below,
grieving for unfinished pasts, or creaking out a warning cry:
Beware! Beware! She may be dangerous to know.
from Fighting Talk, Headland 2005)
A Certain Way
When the light is a certain way
and it is a particular time of evening
late spring, afternoon over, not yet dusk,
and always in the country, some things
up close – bluebells, cow parsley,
a gate you can lean on to look out
over only fields, birdsong,
you stoop, kneel, sometimes
in your best trousers, over a flower,
a bright cuckoo-pint perhaps,
your camera angled precisely.
Always I am walking away,
searching for other flowers for you,
idly, in the late sunshine
and always I turn, happening on you
from a distance, hunched over the flower,
intent, things softening at the edges –
a wood full of bluebells, the road
half-hidden by trees. I look so hard
tears blur the picture till you’re gone,
and only a vague landscape remains
in which you are a memory,
the cuckoo-pint undisturbed. A long time
I bear this. When I wipe my eyes clean
you re-emerge, click into place,
still holding that same pose,
and at last, move, look up, waving
and smiling, disturbing everything.
(from The Sky, Head On, pub Shoestring, 2009
also pub Acumen)
November Poets of the Month
The NPS October meeting was a social, at which members and visitors entered a competition on the theme of ‘Time’. The authors of these top three poems are November’s Poets of the Month.
by Jack Taylor
Lying in the long grass,
Watching the starved weekend waste away.
Crickets count the seconds that I slay.
In this clicking meadow where I lie,
Moments are strewn like scattered pollen
Under the stuttering clouds of a time-lapsed sky.
And in fields underground,
Colourless crickets count strange sounds
With jittering, chattering alien mouths,
Where clicks and ticks are foreign bleating shouts.
The clouds, how quickly
by David Duncombe
Six months to live,
he travelled with the old group
on a last trip to the mountains.
His hearty friends trooped up the trail
Chattering as if to beat the silence,
Only to clatter back down.
He sat alone in the valley,
Looking up to search the sky,
Settles on streaks of cirrus,
trace them across the blue
while cumulus blunted the peaks
and cushioned the jagged ridge.
Nimbus followed, swelling dark,
barrelling across to block
the pale emptiness.
He’d never before realised
how much the clouds moved
and how quickly …
by Jeremy Duffield
Yesterday I counted the leaves falling,
just fifty-five in ten minutes.
Today they are falling faster,
marking the seconds of autumn,
the march to early evening,
smothering the grass;
yet the tree is still full of leaves
and the time of its nakedness is not yet come.
How long will the last leaf cling to its twig
before leaving the tree
to overwinter exposed and silent
October Poet of the Month is David Duncombe
Besides drama and stories for radio and two novels for children, David’s poems have been widely published, including five collections. He was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship and has won first prizes in several competitions.
An Echo of Beethoven
In the forests of Slovakia,
so dark, so thick you lose your trail,
blind to friends and close to danger,
they talk of a bird, how the male sings
his piercing mating call and penetrates
the baffle of the trees so loud,
so shrill, he strikes himself deaf.
He still knows his own song,
but not the music of the breeze, the swish
of branches, rainfall fresh on leaves,
the brush and scuffle in the undergrowth
and does not catch the reply of his mate,
soft and modest, all seeming refusal
until the joy of her swoop and hover
to settle a touch from his side.
There’s an echo of Beethoven here,
Ludwig robbed of all music except
what he composed in his own head,
though for us, the loss was less precious
than the beauty of what remained.
When you can’t hear yourself speak
for the rush of noise through your ears,
what do you miss? Sometimes you wake
in the sweat of a troubled night with a scream
that won’t escape, but chokes in the throat,
jaw locked, while you shake and shake.
Plumply packed in her shiny black basque
with those hourglass splashes of red,
she’s drop-dead tempting for a mate
to swing and scramble his tangled way
to the silky sixteen-legged deed.
There is a chance he won’t be swallowed,
but her taste for protein and puny males
could mean an absent-minded meal.
She’ll wrap him in a vampire embrace
for a needle-fanged love bite, then inject
venom and enzymes to liquidise his guts
and suck them up as nourishing soup.
Then she’ll climb away to spin the finest
and most dependable of all known threads.
Glide into the warmth of the department store,
breathe deeply in the heady suggestions
misting the perfume counters then escalate
to the jet-set world of next season’s fashion.
But first look up: it’s a split second until
you recognise the unremarkable face
of the character crossing the screen
filmed like a robber on Crimewatch.
It’s your own, but older than you remembered.
It catches you like a headstone bearing
your own name, except that here you’re no-one
of interest unless you step out of line.
Poet of the Month for August/September is Tony Challis
I have become more enthusiastic about writing poetry since becoming retired, and am also keen on writing stories and scripts. I have just signed up for a 55+ course in Stand Up Comedy. It’s never too late to make ’em laugh.
I like the reader to see just what is described, and am keen on imagery that sharpens this vision.
I am secretary of Nottingham Poetry Society, which I have enjoyed being a member of for many years. I am a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio, where I facilitate the Rainbow LGBT Writers’ Group.
Evidence of Earthquake
(House destroyed, 3rd July 365 AD, Kourion, Cyprus)
Baby eighteen months old, time enough to name others.
Mother nineteen years; her young body had borne fruit.
Father twenty-five, here seen clutching at meaning.
Child, woman, man; three pelvic bones in line, still.
A fierce inward thrust from male spine, right,
to powdered infant skull, left.
Coming from behind, his femur almost touches hers;
mother’s arms over child’s head, and ribs galore:
a palely ochred nest of bones.
We know much.
What is most important we have always known.
Nurturing warmth pleased these bodies
as they strove to secure their harvest.
The infant bathed in the sun, floated on the sea,
until, the flick of a god’s thumb;
a hiccup of the sustaining planet.
What remains of us is bone-deep.
(This poem was published in a recent issue of Nottingham Writers’ Studio Journal, “A Sense of Place”)
Ten reasons for keeping a Caterpillar
I like to see my caterpillar munching on cabbage leaves I then don’t have to eat.
I like to sense its full stop gaze tying me to the spot.
I like to study it creeping, and think of the lives that would be saved if tanks ran on actual caterpillar tracks.
I like to watch its back rise and fall as it moves, as though it is shrugging off the world’s troubles.
I like the state of incomprehension that it inspires in cat and dog.
I like the way it disappears in leaves, invisible; no future as a fairy’s scarf for this one!
I like the image of the bull caterpillar, masticating the matador’s stocking.
I like to touch its furry back, and imagine a cater pillow.
I like the ease with which it hides under leaves and gnaws, like a green schoolboy smoking.
I like it when it begins its metamorphosis … and I can go on holiday.
(This poem obtained a Merit in a recent Nottingham Poetry Society Competition, judged by David Constantine.)
when laughter strikes,
a genie erupts from our throats,
fumes and forces itself out,
braying like a new-born donkey.
swirl like an eddy
in mind’s lake.
A chorus of lungs is with us.
Time before and after laughter melts,
a bang explodes its own universe,
invades with no permission
seeks no treaty
(Why can a banana skin give delight?)
The fit shrinks,
We know laughter-maker has triumphed before,
made us into jelly-castles then.
Within a fug of warmth
the magician shines.
July’s Poet of the Month is Jack Taylor
I suppose I got into the idea of writing poetry properly from studying English Literature at school as I found it much more fun to write than to study. I’ve only written properly for a couple of years and I’m actually a singer-songwriter so I just write lyrics without music really, and that’s probably why the way words sound is quite important to me.
Getting Laid, To Rest
Interweaved and wreathed. Within a whore
he with release does wheeze a final breath
that they at peace may lie, reclined and sore.
Be this a petit mort, then what is death?
The pleasure they sought out in gasping rave
demanded flaunt, and flout of etiquette,
and now this bed of love becomes a grave
and pact for death, from life’s most desperate.
So let white naked feathers turn to stone,
and let them lay their flowers on our chest.
We’ll have our final breaths, a final moan,
and then with carnal knowledge get laid, to rest.
It’s of the virgin birth, that at our father’s funerals we sang;
of whore-friend Christ, who from the cross did hang.
Let’s live then leave as libertines.
Let’s go out with a bang.
Fag-bearing, the elders
clutch their pension piggy banks,
and two-step strut in frocks.
Fading tattoos worn like medals.
Decorated old heroes showing mettle,
on a pilgrimage to Mecca Bingo.
Penny for thoughts?
First let Saint Peter read my name,
and I will give their worth.
Gambling is a solemn dance
and goodness is a game of chance.
Like static white noise, nighttime rain
that moves the green to grow
crackles, like a scrambled spring transmission,
profane, in ugly wireless language known
only to those plants that weather
this liquefied missivic attrition.
And at the bright dawn,
when the storm-tugged blossom sprawls
like blood-stained snow,
and horned fawns
fetter the youth to wrap phallic poles
in red and white shawls,
I wish I could decode, to know,
what the great dictator, Nature,
meant by this despotic decree.
Our June Poet of the Month is Jeremy Duffield.
Jeremy Duffield has written poetry, short stories and plays for several years. He supports many writing groups and was Chair of Nottingham Poetry Society for 25 years until retiring from the post at this year’s AGM. His other interests include photography, theatre, sketching and painting, and his CD collection probably rivals that of BBC Radio 3.
MEETING GWYNETH PALTROW IN SCARBOROUGH
I tell you, I couldn’t believe it;
11.30pm and she knocks on my door,
asks if I’ve any of those little milk sachets,
I had, as it happened –
there’s never enough so I’d asked reception
for some extra on my way up –
‘Sure’ I says.
It’s then she notices the film I’m watching,
‘Sylvia’, you know,
about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes,
I guess that’s how I recognised her so quickly;
‘I remember making that scene so well,’ she says,
‘mind if I come in and watch?’
Well, I made the coffee – she likes it strong –
and I even raided the mini-bar,
certainly didn’t want to appear mean,
and there we sat, together, watching the film.
There were parts I could see were making her sad;
I would have offered her a shoulder to cry on
but though, ‘No Jay, we don’t want a scandal.’
After the film finished we chatted for a while
until she said ‘I’ll have to be leaving now.’
‘Here, take a few milks for your morning cuppa,’ I said,
‘and sleep well.’
‘I will,’ she smiled,
and kissed me, once, on the nose,
before closing the door.
There is no wild sea inside this bottle,
no spray or foam on breaking rocks,
only a gentle swelling sea of purest blue
and a sky as clear as glass.
This ship will fight no battles,
flounder in the main
nor find herself in weed on the Sargasso Sea.
She needs no light or flare to guide her,
no rise or fall of sun and stars,
and the cries and shanties of her ghost crew
go unheard, stoppered by a sealed cork.
THE UNFINISHED MAN
Past his prime,
yet slim enough to be athletic
he has just risen from the table
and walked away,
leaving an outline of himself,
except for the line of his nose,
the creases around his eyes,
the blue shadow along his chin and jowl.
His lunch over
he has left the table bare,
and he, and his companions,
are as if they never were;
while I scribble a title,
put away my pencil
and close the pages of my sketch-book.
The NWS Poet of the Month for May is Viv Apple.
Viv Apple has been writing since a teenager, short stories, articles and poetry, but for the last twenty years or so has concentrated on poetry. She has been published in several poetry magazines and had a pamphlet ‘Thinking it Over’ published in 2009.
Viv is currently chair of Nottingham Poetry Society, and Vice-President of Nottingham Writers’ Club, where she is also Competition Secretary.
It’s always now for these stones.
They can’t recall the time they were rock, long before we came;
long before starlings swooped and wove their art into the dusk
above the sea. Storms have raged since the beginning,
angry as gods; thrown waves against the hard land for a million years.
Cracks split apart and break and spit new pieces, sharp and strong
to roll and scuff against the tide. A sculptor sea scything
its rhythm on the stones as they’re pulled back,
pulled back to crash upon the strand again.
There’ll be no cities built on them.
Nothing but fleeting things: flotsam, the blood of wars,
a beach hut till it’s washed away.
What can you do on Sunday
to make it seem like other days,
days with some life in them?
Like, for example, Tuesday
when the post arrives
that someone sent on Monday.
Opposite, my neighbour opens her front door,
walks wearily towards her car
then back again to fetch the keys.
We all forget Sunday.
It’s so quiet.
People moan on Monday
that it’s work again
but work is life.
The mind needs things to bite on:
thoughts and sharp ideas
to wind the day along.
Wednesday’s alive with rush and plans;
by Thursday you are tired but no matter –
you managed to complete that task in time. Tonight
you’re going out. Tomorrow’s Friday – that’s good news
and then it’s Saturday and you’re off to town.
But after that the world stops to draw breath
and yet forgets to breathe.
PLAYING OUT, 1948
Running through the open door
I’d hear Mum shout – ‘Be careful now!
in that funny, distant way as if
her mind was somewhere else.
But that was her and I was me
and on my way to Wendle Street I’d call for Joan.
Sometimes the boys would be there first
but then, who cared? We had our stubs of chalk
and soon we’d mark the pavement out again.
Yesterday’s squares were nearly gone
what with our scuffing shoes and all that rain.
I’d only tossed my stone on number three
when they turned up, all noise as usual.
So I ignored them best I could, and carried on
while Joan, the quiet one, sat on the kerb.
The boys had brought some marbles,
big as bantams’ eggs, to show and swap
and hope to win some more – but then
rude Colin with the ginger hair
turned up and wouldn’t go away.
He snatched my chalk – but Joan yelled ‘RAT!’
and he backed off. She was a good best friend.
Our first Poet of the Month is Dawn Hobbs.
I have been writing poetry for about ten years. A friend introduced me to contemporary poetry through an anthology from Bloodaxe. Shortly afterwards I joined a WEA course on writing poetry and found I enjoyed getting my thoughts down on paper. I have had a few poems published in small press magazines and am a member of Nottingham Poetry Society. I also enjoy drawing and going to the theatre.
THE KNIFE THROWER
The only silence he gets
is when he slips my feet into the stirrups
of the drum.
White faced I mime for him,
watch him juggle with knives
start to rotate the drum.
Through his blindfold he finds my voice.
Where the river runs underground
the rhubarb leaves hide the drying stones.
Snails sip in pools
and tadpoles fight to develop legs
before the drought.
The slow-worm’s glistening eye
reflects the maw of Thor’s Cave,
and on the other side of Ecton Hill
my great-grandfather slipped in mud,
clutching his chest,
as he counted his cattle into heaven.
I watch her undressing her mother’s doll,
undressing her mother’s one-hundred years’ old doll.
At some time
it has been clothed in the remains of a wedding dress,
a satin out of keeping with the doll’s age.
I watch as she carefully eases open press-studs,
slips the dress down puny arms,
exposes a soft kid body.
She pulls the dress over satin drawers,
down fat German-sausage legs
to ballerina feet.
Blue eyes stare at me;
the lips are parted
with an intake of breath.
The satin drawers are new,
but she shows me lace-fringed knickers,
an ecru muslin shift.
She has a pretty face,
a too pretty, porcelain, doll face
with blushed cheeks
and hair an ageless softness.
She is laid down;
I watch her eyes close,