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A new poem by John Froy

An Egret Moves North

Wren, robin, dunnock, rat
Mandarin ducks in a raft of eight
great-crested grebe, cormorant
Canada and Egyptian geese
on a winter’s afternoon around the lake –
this strangely vacant campus
the traffic now distant, peripheral.
Listen!
Shrill coot’s tewk, moorhen curruc
laughing kwarr of black-headed gulls
perched on the underwater bench
and now a pair of dabbling gadwall
the monogamous shovelers
and squawking
the usurper rose-ringed parakeet.
Then,
true litmus of the change
a little egret, out of the water
showing the world its yellow feet.

~

John Froy is retired and now writes full time. He has published two poetry collections with Two Rivers Press, Eggshell: A Decorator’s Notes (2007) and Sandpaper & Seahorses (2018), and a memoir The Art School Dance (2013).

Poet of the Week – 14: John Froy

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Two poems by Ava Patel

Smokers

When I smoke,

I feel it in my thighs.
When it rains, my fingertips shrivel,
and when I walk along a beach’s shoreline,
my shoulders burn
to turn themselves inside out;
shoulder blades
wriggle ………….through flesh,
ripe for fresh air.

…….My fingers are cold goldfish
nobody won at a summer fair.

They feel heavier …….than a sledgehammer,

………………….almightier

than a deity— ………….and you—
when you smoke,
my appendix knocks against my abdomen,
keen to finish his joke.

A Heat

He thinks I’m a slice of toast.
He brings butter, he brings honey
to the bedroom, looks up at me
through his eyelashes,
the shape of his left iris asking a question.

He wants to coat me, smother me,
does this honey know me?

I swelter in its shroud and stand,
naked and pink, in the middle of the room.

My skin—taut, unyielding—wants
to be stripped away like lurid satsuma peel.

The threads of my hair stick
to the nape of my neck, form rings
around my throat. They smell
overwhelmingly sour, are dark as molasses.

My universe is viscous. It sticks to my teeth
like a piece of toast buttered with tar.

~

Ava Patel studied at the University of Reading and was awarded a first-class MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She has published poems in webzines (Runcible Spoon, London Grip, Ink, Sweat and Tears) and magazines (South Bank Poetry, Orbis, South, Dream Catcher). Her debut pamphlet Dusk in Bloom has recently been published by Prolebooks and she runs an Instagram poetry page: @ava_poetics.

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Caribbean Stories poetry competition winners: a guest post from Jocelyn Chandler-Hawkins

As Black History Month draws to a close, the lived Caribbean migrant experience has given those from outside of the diaspora an insight into the impacts of coming to the ‘Mother Country’ on the Windrush migrants and their descendants.

To commemorate Windrush Day in June, Through A Different Lens (TADL) ran a poetry competition for participants to share their reflections and experiences. The activity received 20 entries with a first prize winner and 2 runner up prizes awarded by a panel of expert judges. The competition along with 2 film making events and a screening night to be held on the 21st November 2020 were supported by Resource Productions with funding from the Windrush Fund from the Ministry of Housing, communities and local Government.

It’s been a really rewarding experience to support this type of creativity from the Caribbean community. The poems evoked the lives of those who came to UK and the impacts on their children. As a person of Barbadian heritage I want to support further creative works and I look forward to planning future activity and events.

To read the poems and to find out about the November film and poetry evening visit the Through A Different Lens website here.

~

Jocelyn Chandler-Hawkins

Through a Different Lens showcases and supports films and other creative works from the Caribbean & African diaspora.

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Poet of the Week – 21: René Noyau

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—21: RENÉ NOYAU

René Noyau (1911/12-84) was a Mauritian poet of African and European descent. He was also an essayist, playwright, chronicler, short story writer and aphorist. He wrote in French and Mauritian Creole and used a number of pseudonyms and initials: Jean Erenne, Jean-Claude Bouais, Michèle Bouais, Prof, Observateur, R., N., R.N., J.E., as well as his own name. He tended to use Jean Erenne for his poetry.

He influenced literary and social events in his island: for example, in 1934 he introduced surrealism with L’Ange aux Pieds d’Airain (The Angel with Feet of Bronze) and importantly in 1971 relaunched Mauritian Creole in literature with the fable Tention Caïma (Beware Crocs About). He was happy to acknowledge and celebrate his origins at a time when African ancestry and heritage were not prized or even mentioned. He was strongly for an independent Mauritius and in the 1950s made writing about politics and the dispossessed his main priority. He described himself as shy but audacious. In his writings he was prepared to stand against what he felt was unjust: he was a strong polemist.

His output is remarkable in quantity and quality. Apart from trying his hand at various genres he was also a prolific letter writer. His commercially published work was limited to two collections of poetry: L’Ange aux Pieds d’Airain (1934), Le Labyrinthe Illuminé (1939) (The Labyrinth Alight), one book of aphorisms and reflections: Le Poinçon de Cristal (1942) (The Cristal Punch). Those three books were signed Jean Erenne. He also published a book of short stories called Passerelles (1936) (Gateways) signed Jean-Claude Bouais. He edited Frontières (1940) (Frontiers) a collection of writings by various authors including two of his own: La Lettre (The Letter)a short story signed Jean Erenne and an essay Filière (Connections) signed Jean-Claude Bouais. Finally, in 1971 he published Tention Caïma, the fable in Mauritian Creole accompanied by a French version, Il y a Toujours des Caïmans (There will Always be Crocodiles), both signed René Noyau. In 2012/13 Gérard Noyau, his son, introduced and edited four volumes of his works, René Noyau, l’oeuvre, in Mauritius with the help of Culture et Avenir (Culture and the Future)a department attached to the office of the then Prime Minister of Mauritius.

As a journalist and chronicler, René Noyau contributed to the dailies Le Mauricien, Le Cernéen, Advance, Action, and to the fortnightly Zamana. In all about 350 of his articles and chronicles have been recovered. The magazine, Le Musée Vivant, Paris, published two of his essays L’Europe et l’Afrique se sont retrouvées dans un tableau de Lapicque (1955) (Europe and Africa meet in a painting by Lapicque) and Présence africaine à l’île Maurice (1956) (African Presence in Mauritius), and three poems: Terre en Feu (1955) (Earth on Fire), Les Arbres Volent et les Oiseaux Tombent (1957)  (Trees Fly and Birds fall) and Sega de Liberté (1959) (Sega of Freedom). His Présence Africaine à l’Île Maurice was republished in Sève, a Mauritian publication, in 1958.

Many of his works were published privately, very often for fear of reprisal by the authorities, and circulated among friends in Mauritius and abroad. His long political poem Les Amis du Peuple Veillent (1965 and1968) (The Friends of the People are Watching) is a good example. It saw the riots and the resulting state of emergency as a scheme by the colonial power to quell the voice of the people and surreptitiously annex part of the Mauritian islands before independence, for their oil deposits.

René Noyau and Two Rivers Press: In March 2021, Two Rivers Press will publish Earth on Fire and Other Poemsa selection of René’s poems in bilingual format, the English versions by his son Gérard Noyau with Peter Pegnall. The three poems that follow give a bare indication of the scope of his poetry. The first Fierté (Pride) is illustrative of his love poems. Sadly, for Noyau, love is a ‘microbe’ always ending in separation or other longing. The second, Nature Morte (Still Life), published posthumously, is a moving sketch of a moment in time. The third is the first part of Légendes de Temps et de Lieu (1939) (Legends of Time and Place) which he described as a poem for children.

~

FIERTÉ (1939)

Mes mains avaient appris à t’appeler parmi les foules.
Je t’avais reconnue au signe simple de la joie
et nous sommes restés longtemps à regarder
les hommes qui passaient au son tumultueux des cuivres de l’amour.

Puis tu m’as demandé d’oublier comme on demande à boire …
je t’ai tendu ma grande coupe débordante de silence.
Et depuis, entre nous, il existe un regard
dont la lumière est déchirante comme un cri !

PRIDE

My hands had learnt to call you in a crowd.
I had recognised you from the simple sign of joy
and we stayed a long time looking at
people who passed to the swirling fanfare of love.

Then you asked me to forget like we’d ask for a drink …
I stretched out my great goblet overflowing with silence.
And since then, between us, there exists a look
whose light is as heartrending as a scream!

~

NATURE MORTE

Sa grâce suspendue
la grenade mordue
les arbres décollés
une chevelure éparse
un étui de violoncelle
un bruit de moteur
un vendeur de journaux
toute une simplicité de femme assise
triant du riz

STILL LIFE

Her gracefulness suspended
the pomegranate bitten into
trees blasted off
hair wind-blown
a cello case
an engine sound
a newspaper seller
all the simplicity of a woman sitting
cleaning rice

~

LÉGENDES DE TEMPS ET DE LIEU (1939)

I

Les étoiles ne sont plus des lampes,
Ce sont des visages qui sourient
Parce que le ciel ainsi que mon cœur est clair.
La lune n’est plus l’écuelle du chien,
C’est une chèvre qui s’en va
Très lentement boire à l’étang
Et qui sème sur la prairie son lait pur
Et dans mon cœur sa laine grise.
Et l’arbre n’est plus l’arbre,
C’est un pauvre au bord du chemin,
Un mendiant qui tend les mains
Au bord du chemin de mon cœur.
Et je chante pour lui qui ne peut plus m’entendre
Que par le beau miracle vivant de ses sèves.

Et je ne chante pas.
Je trace simplement des routes
Parce que des visages me sourient.
Parce que la chèvre va boire
Et que m’écoute un mendiant.

LEGENDS OF TIME AND PLACE

I

The stars are no longer lights,
They are faces that smile
Because the sky as well as my heart is clear.
The moon is no longer the bowl of the dog,
It’s a goat which moves
Very slowly towards the pond for a drink
And which sows its pure milk on the meadow
And its grey wool in my heart.
And the tree is no longer the tree,
It’s a poor man at the side of the road,
A beggar stretching his hands
At the edge of the road to my heart
And I sing for the one who can no longer hear me
Except through the living miracle of his lifeblood.

And I do not sing.
I only map out the way
Because faces smile at me.
Because the goat goes to drink
And because a beggar listens to me.

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Poet of the Week – 20: William Bedford

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—20: WILLIAM BEDFORD

William Bedford has published novels, children’s novels, short stories and several volumes of poetry. He lived in Kensington during the nineteen sixties, working in the City of London before becoming an academic. His novel Happiland was shortlisted for the 1990 Guardian Fiction Prize. His selected poems, Collecting Bottle Tops, and selected short stories, None of the Cadillacs Was Pink, were both published in 2009.

William Bedford writes:

The most important experience in my writing life happened in 1959, when we moved from the east coast of Lincolnshire to USAF Hemswell in north Lincolnshire. My father was the civilian police officer, responsible for seven isolated villages. The Americans were there with their intermediate nuclear missile programme. A group of scientists from the Douglas Company who were working on the fuelling programme were also on the camp. Among their families, I made friendships which have lasted through the decades.

The first serious literature I read – virtually the first books I read – were the great American poets, novelists and dramatists of that generation. By the time I was sixteen, I was reading Lowell, Berryman, Ginsberg, Carlos Williams, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, James Baldwin, Hemingway, Faulkner, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill. I also read Shakespeare and the English classics, but more importantly for my own writing Chekhov’s short stories and plays, and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I was obsessed with Ted Hughes, the one contemporary English writer who attracted Alvarez.

The Americans brought their own way of life with them – cars and fridges and televisions we had never seen – an all-night ten pin bowling alley in one of the empty hangars, cheeseburgers and hi-fi systems. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue was the background music to these experiences, Jackson Pollock the scenery, New York and California the imagery colouring my ambitions.

Though I have written extensively about the farming background of my father’s family, and the east end slums background of my mother’s Sheffield family, the rhythms of American poetry and prose are the deepest influence in what I have tried to write. I never struggled to escape the influence of the iambic pentameter – Eliot and Pound’s ambition – because I came too late to traditional English versification – or at least the dominant tradition until Ted Hughes pointed out the deeper roots of English versification. And in prose, when Saul Bellow begins The Adventures of Augie March with ‘I am an American, Chicago Born’, I immediately fell in love with the declarative tone.

~

WHEN THE AMERICANS CAME

USAF Hemswell: North Lincolnshire 1962

When the Americans came,
they didn’t take to our gardens:
the apple orchard smelling of wild garlic,
foxgloves growing among the runner beans.

‘Do you have vampires around here?’
a visitor from Carolina asked me.
It was a shambles, Wilfred knew that,
nodding wisely as though apologising

for the ill manners of King George,
the clematis purple in the thatched roofing.
But come the softe sonne,
there are oxlips in Fry’s woods,

forget-me-nots in the shallow stream,
lettuce and spring onions for a salad.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat*

I tried to tell them. But they weren’t women,
and didn’t care to listen to a boy.
They preferred the red rosehips
we used for making wine.

Danced outside the village church
round the maypole Jack Parnham made.
Now they’re gone,
the wild garlic has returned.

*W.B.Yeats, ‘A Prayer for my Daughter.’

CAMP PERIMETER

for Trisha: October 1962

I bring you Ezra Pound’s poems,
sliding foxily the fox lanes,
cruising

the six o’clock dawn bristle.
But your father opens the door,
stiffening for duty,

ready for war.
The camp is no place for poets.
Military mowers cut the grass.

The air is nuclear.
‘Traitor!’ flares from his mouth. ‘Mad!’
I run for shelter.

‘Love,’ I want to shout. ‘Love.’
The dawn’s red lunatic.

[from The Dancers of Colbek]