Posted on Leave a comment

Small Witness IV – A poem from Antonia Taylor


As a child life happened in summer. Whole years passed in salt & shade.
When the drought came, you found God leaking from the tap outside,
picking up the past from his pocket, spitting apricot stones, a peace treaty.

You kept the war of dirty hair secret & lately memories come like bullets.
Forgetting is not native to you. You run from it, empty its half-language into a dried well.

Your daughter’s sleeplessness becomes yours, a reverse inheritance.

Become the forest floor, the frozen fountain, in the country
where they disappeared the trees.

It’s a lie that the sun always rises. Last March you woke early to clear darkness
from a wet sleeve. Belonging doesn’t pass through the female line.

It always comes back to a gunshot.

You can wear carelessness like a cast-off shirt. It returns every year like a military parade.
You try not to die from the gleam of it.

Translate this: 1,500 persons missing on both sides. The women still wear black
& die most days.

About the poet: Antonia Taylor is a British Cypriot writer, communications expert, and poet. Her work has appeared in Propel, Ambit, Harana, South, New Contexts, Blood Moon Poetry, Marble Magazine, Dear Reader, and Indelible Literary Journal. She lives in Reading, with her family.

Posted on Leave a comment

Kate Noakes on her new collection: Goldhawk Road

Goldhawk Road front coverI started writing this collection in 2017 as I transitioned from living and working in Paris, where I had been for six years, back to London. There are poems from both cities. I found myself bidding a fond farewell to France, as well as looking at home with fresh eyes. The collection has had to wait a while due to the pandemic, but that is no bad thing.

Opening with ‘Flat holm/Steep holm,’ a poem about cultural identity, where home is is to the fore when you have lived in different places. I’m Welsh, but don’t live in Wales, and British too when living outside the UK. It’s confusing. But what are solid and tangible are the things around us. Hence London in all its colours, seasons and histories. There are poems from Mayfair to Hammersmith Bridge, and an eponymous long poem, well, long for me is if it goes over more than one page, which mines my immediate neighbourhood in Shepherds Bush.  A separate section sings of some of the notable trees of London and other trees important to me.

Home is also the place of my concerns about freedom, the lives of women and my daughters. My thoughts range more widely on these topics too. Trump was U.S. President during my writing of the collection, busy attacking women and the environment. There are poems reflecting these important issues, such as ‘Her name is Margaret Paxton’, ‘Badlands become Badasslands’, ‘Edward’s memory is a hard disk’, and ‘Just not beautiful enough’.

Climate change is ever in my concerns. New poems here concern themselves with birds and insects (‘One thing I meant to do with the girls’ and ‘The curators’ lunchtime game’), sea level rise (‘Gulls perhaps’ and ‘Spring 2042’), and the way we think and write about the natural world (‘Old nature writing’).

And there is always art. I have been looking at painting, prints and sculptures and thinking seriously about art for over forty years. I make art myself as a printmaker. Not surprisingly it makes its presence felt in my work such as poems amongst other things after Georgia O’Keefe (‘Morphology of the black/white places’), Damien Hirst (‘Your table will be about ten minutes’) and Richard Long (‘Explain yourself in 120 miles’). British colonial history pops up in art in ‘Heritage 2020’ and BLM in ‘Season of goodwill,’ and there’s one sly swipe at Brexit.

Place and considerations of otherness are reflected in poems from my childhood in Australia like ‘The Wendy House and ‘Collected in 1968.’ A wonderful visit to Japan in 2018 occasioned a number of poems, and I often turn to the two years I spent in the US, some twenty years ago now, for inspiration from the landscape of its South West, as well as a more recent trip to New Orleans in 2019. As with the art inspired poems, these are, of course, about other things – climate change (‘Learning bottlenose’), homelessness (‘Brown anole lizard on a fence post, watching’), environmental destruction (‘Earth surface sediment transport’), and failed relationships (‘Voodoo to cast away pain and devastation’).

This all sounds rather serious, and it is, but I hope my tone, a kind of sarcastic wit, does not make it overly so. My work is meant to be an entertainment. Having said that, just because it sounds jokey, does not mean it is.

Kate Noakes

January 2023


Buy a copy of Goldhawk Road here

Posted on Leave a comment

Retrieving ‘Retrieved Attachments’ – Peter Robinson reflects on his latest poetry collection

Retrieving Retrieved Attachments


Retrieved Attachments CoverWritten or revised between early April 2017 (‘Night in Nigawa’) and August 2021 (‘Behind the Shops’), the poems in Retrieved Attachments chronologically overlap with those in Ravishing Europa (2019) and Bonjour Mr Inshaw (2020). They are all parts of an evolving response to the turmoil through which we have been living, the one that has given us five prime ministers in the time it has taken me to write and publish three poetry books.

The first in this triptych of publications evidently concerns the fracturing of relations both within this country and with its neighbours, whether those in the British Isles or across Europe, caused by the consequences of the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union. The second is a tribute to the painter David Inshaw, who I first met in 1977, lost touch with, and was then fortunately able to renew our friendship some forty years later. Retrieved Attachments tries to address, among other things, the consequences of the first by employing themes from the second. It began to find its form through another meeting of friends separated for many years.

The origins of the book, though, are a four-month stay in Japan between April and July 2017, when I was a visiting professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, on the railway line from Osaka to Kobe. My wife and I hadn’t been back to the country where I lived between 1989 and 2007, and where our two daughters would spend their early years, for exactly a decade. I was in the middle of writing poems prompted by the breaking of relations that withdrawing from the European Union inevitably involved, and this four-month idyll in Japan came as an interruption in which much revisiting of old haunts took place, where old friendships were renewed, and new acquaintances made. It produced a set of poems that didn’t fit those in Ravishing Europa, whose poems were written both before, during, and after that stay. The Japan-based poems were being accepted for publication in magazines, but what would become of them beyond that I had no idea.

Book cover imageThe poems for David Inshaw were written in a rush of inspiration in the first months of 2019. Not long after they were drafted, someone else I’d lost touch with sent an email saying she had returned to England after many years living in Colombia, and perhaps we might meet. We did, on three occasions before the pandemic descended upon us, and from them came ‘The Revenants’ – which took me back to a poem I had written years before and not included in Collected Poems 1976–2016 (2017), one called ‘Imaginary Portrait’ from Entertaining Fates (1992), whose very addressee had just made contact out of the blue. I revised it to go with the new one and gave it the title ‘Retrieved Attachments’, getting the word ‘Retrieved’ from a posthumous gathering of uncollected Frank O’Hara called Poems Retrieved and ‘Attachments’ both from rummaging around in my laptop to find old drafts and the happy experience of being reunited with people lost for many years.

And it was the dawning realisation of implications in that phrase ‘Retrieved Attachments’ that helped bring together the five sequences which make up the book: the ones written during that return to Japan, those composed out of visits to Switzerland to see my elder daughter and her boyfriend who were attempting to make a life together on the outskirts of Winterthur, a sequence devoted to the district of Parma, Italy, where my wife comes from, written and revised when we couldn’t visit because of the pandemic, various elegies and other poems prompted by partings and losses, as well as a group written during the isolation in our house through lockdowns, when we were allowed out only to exercise, during which I really got to know my neighbourhood in Reading through repeatedly walking its streets and parks.

Living in different time zones, like being on the defeated side in a culture-changing political watershed, is likely to prompt thoughts along the lines of the what-if and might-have-been. It suggests the idea of times running in parallel, like trains on adjacent tracks, the one you are in which will take you wherever it goes, and the one you are not, but wanted to be or should have been on. This sort of theme, not planned, since that is not how the collection emerged, but detectable throughout, gains in definition with the later sections of the book and can be found fully formed in ‘Manifestos for a Lost Cause’, whose ambiguous title, borrowed from a painting by Paula Rego, points in the two directions that many of these poems straddle, like those two trains on parallel but diverging lines.

Retrieved Attachments is being published in what I hope is a new era of renewed relationships, meetings with friends and colleagues not seen for years because of the pandemic. I’ve spent much of my creative life thinking about what the formal orchestrations of poems can or might mean, and the tensions and conflicts I’ve been talking about provide the unshapely disorders that will naturally, in my case at least, prompt the urge to engage with the kinds of coordination in sound and rhythm that poetry foregrounds.

As my book comes out, it enters a world in which the threats of further conflicts and global depredation prompt calls for us to rebuild bridges, enter into new agreements, find accords in place of age-old difference. Fretted with some of the frictions and disappointments indicated above, these poems employ their orchestration to encourage such developments. ‘To explain anything we go back,’ Adrian Stokes writes in Living in Ticino, and if my new collection achieves that, well, perhaps it does so in order to take a great leap forward.

Peter Robinson

30 January 2023


Posted on Leave a comment

Powers of the Air – A poem from Geoff Sawers

Powers of the Air

spirits of blood and vapour
clay wings
paper hearts
clockwork nightingales in drenched thorn scrub
belting silver showers of granite and grain

pike-toothed paths
comet-ice-hair and
so you step up but your body trails behind you
hooked to the shadow of a second to come

where there’s a flame
in your fingers
‘Hush’ on the jukebox
and all the poems you’ll never write because you won’t
drift curling like tender sparks into the night

I feel it
if only sometimes
furred on the inside
you don’t stop to listen that’s a fault but you
face forward to mirror the future your eyes are fins

from Sulhamstead at dusk
to Sheffield Lock
herons stiffen their spines
and all the books that you won’t start although you’ll live them
lie open in the grass for the stars to write

Geoff Sawers

Posted on Leave a comment

Claire Dyer’s poem ‘Raw Material’ is the winner of the 2022 SWWJ poetry prize

We are delighted to learn that Claire Dyer’s poem ‘Raw Material’ was the winner of the 2022 SWWJ poetry prize, announced on the 5th December at the society’s Christmas lunch event, where Claire was awarded the Elizabeth Longford Rose Bowl. A brilliant achievement!

The competition judge described ‘Raw Material’ as ‘A vivid expansive and aching poem with an unusual and striking command of language.’

We are the proud publisher of three of Claire Dyer’s poetry collections.