Trial By Combat- Fry’s Island, Reading
In April 1163, a great concourse of people assembled.
The King himself was there. Essex and Monfort were
ferried over to the island , and were bidden to fight out
their quarrel. Let God judge between them!
Royal Berkshire History
David Nash Ford
Water lapped the island’s edge
and branches swayed in calm.
On banks across the silver-streaked,
carp-brown water, crowds would swarm
anticipating death as righteous judgement.
A faith was placed in truth and falsehood
travelling through the flesh where two men lived.
Startled crows would fleck the near-sky
as metallic crash of combat played.
The accuser’s limbs found ease
in iron confinement and they sprang
heavy-handed blows upon the accused.
Years after disgrace in sinew and muscle,
followed by the ghost-pulse of survival,
came years filled with monastic, faceless living.
The man who’d been Henry of Essex would say
a vision of St Edmund the Martyr loomed
between the island and the clouds,
all vitality draining from his limbs.
Damon Young has been published in a variety of journals, is a winner of the Alzheimer’s Society Poetry Prize, has been commended in the Prole Laureate Prize, long-listed for the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year and short-listed for The Robert Graves Poetry Prize, The Wells Festival of Literature Poetry Prize, The Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize and the Welshpool Poetry Prize. He helps to run the Reading Stanza of the Poetry Society and Reading’s Poets’ Cafe.
Paintings by Ray Atkins, Reading, 1970–1,
oil on board
From under the artist’s feet, always a chaos
of weeds: fresh lime, ochre, blood-brown.
JCBs sink grit-glossed teeth into chalky slopes,
orange and yolk-bright cranes angle extended necks.
The Holy Brook runs through it all: calm, indifferent.
A new road crushes Victorian terraces;
a retail precinct rises from the wreck of ancient shops.
Day after day, from a hidden vantage-point,
the artist observes, records. In impasto strokes,
today’s impressions cover yesterday’s images.
The swarming navvies, loud-voiced, hard-hatted,
muscles roiling under outdoor skin, cement-dust
blotting sweat, are guesswork: only machines
create these chaotic scenes. It’s easy to conjure
the smells – engine-oil and wounded earth.
The soundtrack must be rev. and roar, crash and clang.
But, as the painter swishes his brushes through
a can of turps, from his small transistor lush Mahler,
icy Sibelius, or the jagged harmonies of Bartok
whine and crackle over all.
This poem is pinned on the website ‘Places of poetry’:
Late, the bus is late. I wait.
Imaginings skulk out of the 5am fog. A
Fog thick with portent. Disconcerting fog.
Flummoxing fog. An idle fog. A clingy
fog. Fog. Mist. Smog. Vapour. Miasma.
Haze. Murkiness. Gloom. Opacity.
Hulking charcoal shadows of Victorian homes
edge their way into realisation.
A solitary blackbird sings out into the indolent
obscurity. Condensation confuses the timetable
that I read in vain, bleak efforts.
Waiting for the headlights of the Number 21
to break the creosote-laden grey.
Poem by Elissa Michele Zacher
Elissa Michele Zacher has written for The Epoch Times, Ottawa Natural, Apt (an online literary magazine), the Essence Poetry Journal, and the Dawntreader Magazine. She currently lives in England, on and off in Reading.
People are reading our poetry… Two more great reviews, this time in The High Window.
“Penumbra is replete with … vivid, sometimes startling imagery, unexpected linguistic shifts and carefully patterned verbal dynamics…”
Talking about ‘Aeroplane trails at dusk’, Tom Phillips says, ‘This, then, is one tiny example of how Behrens successfully engages in ‘making strange’ the apparently ordinary and in opening up ways to explore the emotional hinterlands – or indeed penumbras – surrounding often minutely observed details.’
And a less effusive but very interesting review of Precarious Lives by James Roderick Burns which makes me want to read Jean’s poems again, more carefully.
“Watkins is an effortless poet of nature, and the intimate, surprising details of the natural world suffuse every comer of the book, so the theme is fitting as well as urgent. ‘Wasps’ – ‘ton-up boys’ with ‘ hostile hum’ – demonstrate in sharp, plangent and witty ways the tragedy of our impact on the world. The poem meanders in a carefully-drunken concrete pattern around the page, as if to demonstrate the insects’ disorientation. ”
But then, he says: ‘This tendency to move away from supple, intricate verse into something more didactic seems to occur most often when the poet has a ‘big message’ to convey.’
Really? I do like a big message. I must read those poems again…
D A Prince gets to the heart of Kate Behrens’ Penumbra in his review in the recently published edition of South, 60.
In this, her third collection from Two Rivers
Press, Behrens concentrates on ‘…
the dead’s/ irreconcilable parts’ in poems
pervaded by grief and loss. This focus
shapes not only the content of the poems
but also the forms and syntax;
single-word sentences demonstrate the
sensation of thin-skinned vulnerability
and the brittle nature of pain. Her lines
are taut, tightly-held and sometimes
cryptic, as personal poems can be. There
are fragments of dreams and broken
scraps of memory, representations of
how the mind attempts to reconstruct the
past and the dead.
Behrens’ poems give us one way
to connect with an ever-shifting sense