This week’s poem is from Polly Atkin’s Shadow Dispatches, which won Mslexia’s very first pamphlet competition in 2012.
These atmospheric and keenly observational poems offer us a slant perspective on everyday things and events: the ugliness of an elderly mute swan; or a group of migraine sufferers forming a fellowship and holding regular meetings. Poems addressing the complexity of contemporary relationships sit alongside those riffing on traditional themes, even – in the case of ‘Hermes Enodios’ and ‘Potnia Theron’ – revisiting classical gods. These are poems embedded in particular landscapes, in which the real becomes surreal and vice versa. Together they form a poetry which is deeply involved with the natural world – concerned with deer in fields and jays in woods – but which is not in any way removed, encompassing email, photoshop and fighter jets.
Early this morning I got your note.
I can’t recall the words or meaning,
only the light oblique on the screen
and how it made it feel, certain
transmission was real. I could recite
all the messages received in my sleep
which days have tried to prove imagined,
and one correspondence aborted mid-sentence
which sent itself nevertheless, as though
the content refused erasure, arriving
complete through the ether. We dare not believe
these shadow dispatches: corrupted, wishful,
impossible to delete. The same way sheets
I never strung to dry at a window
still fill the room with sails long after
I’ve moved, and how I’m still reading a letter
a man never sent, though I could repeat it
verbatim, clear as the sun through the linen,
billowing yellow and sweet as the wedge
that lit your words I can’t remember,
or that email which backspaced even as I scrolled
down the face of the dream computer.