December: season of wistfulness and mellow fruitcake.

Much of my November and early December has been taken up with proofs for The Magnetic Diaries (due out in April with Knives, Forks and Spoons Press), and audio and video versions of this. I’ve also been busy with my novella, feedback to potential V. Press poets and working on Hearth – a collaborative poetry pamphlet with Angela Topping, due out with Mother’s Milk Books in March. Various festival and guest poet readings are also now in the pipeline, but more details about those next year. (And if anyone has any suggestions for more readings, please do email me at lifeislikeacherrytreeATyeahooDOTcom, as I’m keen to be out and about sharing my various projects and publications next year.)

This is not to say that I’ve not also been enjoying reading various journals and collections in between working, more that I haven’t had time to write about them.

So, a brief summary of some of my recent poetry finds includes:

The Great Vowel Shift by Robin Houghton (Telltale Press). Robin calls this small, beautifully produced pamphlet her calling card. If so, it’s a visit to welcome. These are poems of place and narrative, demonstrating a variety of style and caught through crafted snapshot moments of precision, striking metaphors and emotional response. This pamphlet is a truly lovely thing.

The Whole & Rain-domed Universe by Colette Bryce (Picador) is a poetry collection full of beautiful or striking images and juxtapositions. Summing it up as succinctly as I can, it is filled with a sense of family, sense of history, sense of confrontation, sense of language, sense of place and sense of individual place within a place/family/clan. My repetition of the word ‘sense’ here is not a chance occurrence, for this poetry is also very vivid, tangible, alive, even in its memories.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press) is very different to the other books above, very different in fact to anything that I’ve read in the past few months. One of the blurbs on the back talks in terms of prose poems. I’d prefer to describe as a text that walks the borderline – of prose (journalism/feature/essay) and poetry, black and white. The different sections of the book explore what it is to be a black citizen in the U.S. in the twenty-first century from the perspective of celebrities, newspaper/crime victims and ‘everyday’ Americans. But if the text primarily deals with issues of racism, it also raises questions about ‘American’ identity, citizenship and prejudice more generally. The crafting of this prose-poetry has all the tautness, precision, language-awareness and striking phrases that I associate with poetry. (The photographic and art images included are also striking and thought-provoking.)

I’m not sure whether to describe this book as beguiling or as gripping, certainly it had me hooked and wanting to read on. This both for the beauty of the language use but also to understand or try to find a satisfactory conclusion, emotionally, though logically I feel sure there won’t be one. In this, it is perhaps a mirrored journey – of its own writing (which is in fact beautifully concluded).

Other poetry news of my own includes an environmental (fracking) poem in The Wolf magazine, a truly beautiful beast (see below). I was also delighted to be asked to submit to I am not a silent poet and you can check out my gentle remembrance of different realities across the world here: ‘through winter sun‘.

The past week has also brought me a poem accepted for The Wardrobe, a new online publication and for this year’s Ink, Sweat and Tears’ Twelve Days of Christmas. There are lots of fantastic poets scheduled for this. My poem ‘With Persimmon’ will be posted on December 29.

I tend not to share many of my poems on my own blog, particularly not very fresh ones. But it is the season for giving, and also for me apologising for the lack at sending Christmas cards! Instead then, this small poem of gratitude, thanks and environmental concern (which has been a relatively prominent theme for me this year). This poem is offered still in its fresh, spontaneous form as written while staying with Angela and Dave Topping earlier this month. (If you look carefully, you may even notice my fresh/ ‘natural’ spelling mistake in the canvas version of the original.)

Winter Solstice

for Angela and Dave

After the storm, hearth embers crackle.
Next door, the night’s fairy lights sparkle
more gently as the early sky undarkens.
Raindrops fall in intermittent scattering
from the lit tree’s antennae: a slow drip
of glistening. Others hang as closed buds
of translucent apple and cherry blossom.
The rain starts again: the world a bowl
that should never fill, brim or spill over.
Still, I stand beneath the tree, tongue
ready to catch each fat, luscious drop.

With warmest wishes to everyone for a peaceful, happy and hospitable time this festive season and New Year!