Friday Poem – ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens from her collection De Chirico’s Threads, chosen by our new poetry editors Rhian Edwards and Zoë Brigley.

This cover shows a colourful painting  of two abstract figures by Georges De Chirico

De Chirico’s Threads by Carol Rumens features an unusual centre-piece, a verse-play, fizzing with ideas and surrealist imagery, based on the life and work of the Italian painter Georges De Chirico, as well as distinctive and beautifully crafted individual poems by one of the UK’s best poets.

Off the Hook
For Isabella
In those complicated days, only the rich
Had ‘phones. The rest of us queued
To get into a tall red box: its windows were sticky
And it smelt of damp concrete and cigarette-smoke.
The telephone didn’t look friendly,
Shiny-black on its ledge, a bakelite toad.
You’d pick the hand-set up, and hate the purr,
That rumble of hunger unappeasable.
You counted out heavy pennies, pushed Button A.
Fingered the wheel around and let it re-roll
- Three letters, four numbers. You wanted to run
When the paired rings resounded. How hopeless you were!
You stabbed Button B, and thought you might die.
The money clanked through loudly:
Your voice came out super-polite, as it did in ‘Phone Land,
Leaving your mind quite dead behind one ear,
Telling him you couldn’t come to the party,
You had too much homework. A complete lie.
Some live with their mobiles snug to their lips,
Or melting against their cheeks.
They belong to a different race. They sound so happy.
I bury mine, and panic at its warble.
And only in deepest love would I make a call
And not be relieved when I heard the ‘engaged’ beeps.
But when it’s your voice, Isabella, saying hello,
So brave and clear, with nothing at all phoney
(Ahem) in your yes and no, I see why it’s good
To talk. I wish you a lifetime of easy phoning.
Be mobile-merry, and never mind the bills
Or curse the bells. I’ll stick to e-mail, though.

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Friday Poem – ‘March Morning, Pearson Park’, Carol Rumens

Friday Poem March Morning Pearson Park Carol Rumens

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘March Morning, Pearson Park’ by Carol Rumens, from her latest collection, Animal People.

Animal People Carol RumensThe setting for this poem is Hull’s Pearson Park, which was established on land that was given to the people by Zachariah Pearson in 1862 – hence the park’s original name of ‘People’s Park’. At this time, the lack of public spaces for working classes to enjoy and exercise in was a public cause, and approximately 30,000 visitors came to watch the park’s grand unveiling.
The poems of Animal People are frequently inspired by places, either wild landscapes as in ‘Fire, Stone, Snowdonia’ or the urban scenes of our featured poem. Often, a setting will be a pretext for a theme that has a political, sociological, aesthetic, philosophical or even metaphysical focus.


Carol Rumens March Morning Pearson Park















The dedication is to the Hull poet Maurice Rutherford, born in the same year as Philip Larkin, and still writing. Find out more on his website:


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Friday Poem – ‘Song for the Unburied’, Carol Rumens

Carol Rumens Song for the Unburied Friday Poem

Our thoughts are with Manchester, and we don’t have words to express our sorrow. In tribute we feature Carol Rumens’ ‘Song for the Unburied’ as this week’s Friday Poem.

Blind Spots Carol Rumens‘Song for the Unburied’ is taken from Carol Rumens’ 2008 collection Blind Spots, a masterclass of inventive, intelligent, original, and relevant modern poetry. A major voice in contemporary verse, Rumens is admired as much for her technical brilliance as for the range, breadth and subtlety of her subject matter. You might find a sonnet, a sestina, a villanelle but you’ll also chance across a pantoum or a ghazal, or a fluid free verse poem where birdsong flickers off the edges of the page. Most uncommonly, these poems are informed by a consciousness that is as fiercely personal and tender as it is public-minded and political.



Carol Rumens Song for the Unburied



















Friday Poem – ‘Her to Apollo’, Carol Rumens

Image credit

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Her to Apollo’ by Carol Rumens from her latest collection, Animal People.

animal people‘The title, ‘Her to Apollo’, contains a pun on Hymn to Apollo. I don’t have a particular Hymn in mind; it’s simply an allusion the classical genre. I wanted to signal a feminist ‘take’ on the theme. The speaker is a woman addressing the Sun God as her lover, though with no great reverence towards him.’ says Carol Rumens.
A power struggle sits at the heart of this poem, the spiky female voice biting back against the god figure’s assumed importance. Their dialogue, hard and violent in nature, breaks apart the classical base of the poem, and so although it opens with a mythological premise, ‘Her to Apollo’ instead turns out to be a sort of modern morality tale.


Her to Apollo

I fall in love and sunbathe less these days –
I must be old, the bark-legged woman says.
Stuff your Olympics. I’ll be in my black,
pissing on you, Apollo. But the star
that spikes earth’s drinks and rapes her slow, sings back,
my face is all you got, bitch, all you are.
The woman spreads her thighs. Such green light beckons,
and gods, however cracked, must claim their tokens

from flesh that knows it’s trees and cloud and slate,
and not too tall to stretch a prayer. Gold pieces
wink in her eyes like birch-leaves, ripple out
like baby cephalopods. And still he lies,
that god – I’m all you need, I’m all you are;
your genesis, baby, and your nemesis.
He oils her richly, and turns up the power;
she’s barbecued, and calls it paradise.

Iron insouciance that dawns with love’s
self-love, and gilds earth’s have-nots into haves,
you win, she thinks, and sees next autumn scatter
the little, light-stunned faces, plain as scars,
and as unique – each leaf uniquely spoiled
by cell-death, yet each death the same. Who’ll matter?
Apollo, know yourself – you’re gas, not gold,
and one of around two-hundred billion stars.


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Aspie-Chromatics | Carol Rumens on Asberger’s, ASC and Poetry

aspie-chromatics carol rumens asberger's syndrome poetry

Carol Rumens is the author of sixteen collections of poems, as well as occasional fiction, drama and translation. Here she talks about Asperger’s Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), the misunderstandings and mysteries still surrounding these conditions, and how her awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome has affected her understanding of her own creative process.

Aspie –  someone with Asperger’s Syndrome

Chromaticsthe study of colour

When my grandson was diagnosed with autism it was as if a stone had been hurled into a quiet pool. The ripples spread through his immediate family, particularly affecting my two daughters (one being his mother) and myself. We re-evaluated our lives from a dizzy perspective. Autistic spectrum condition is a genetic condition. It’s a doubtful gift passed from generation to generation. A lot of us were implicated!

At first I was very uncomfortable with the idea that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. I’d always considered myself eccentric. My self-esteem relied on a sense, since earliest childhood, that I was creative, one of those people who could paint, draw, play music and write, even if they weren’t always very good at thinking straight or mixing with the other kids. I was an introvert – fine. So were a lot of intelligent people. I didn’t need close friends: I needed a room of my own, plus a typewriter. So what?

Perhaps being an Aspie made me less guilty of the wrongs I’d done to others in my life, but, equally, I was less responsible for the good. The best of my ‘good’ self – my poetry – was just a symptom, an expression of pathology.

I began the “On the Spectrum” sequence partly to express that grief. But I soon struck notes of defiance and humour. I remembered strange, disconcerting experiences I’d had as a child, and I measured them against some of the diagnostic criteria of Asperger’s Syndrome. Some were in tune with the criteria. But others weren’t.

I will have more questions in future: I haven’t finished telling the story. For instance, it’s said that Aspies lack empathy, and that we misunderstand metaphor. I wonder where this leaves the Aspergers poets – or indeed the women with Aspergers.

Sensory over-stimulation is one of the affects of Autistic Spectrum Condition: there’s neurological and experiential evidence. But wouldn’t that susceptibility be more likely to increase empathy? Perhaps autistic people, especially women (the gender which is socially conditioned for empathy) have an excess rather than a lack of response to others, but deny it because it feels chaotic and scary? An inability to grasp metaphor might be the result of a similar subconscious defence-mechanism –because metaphor is also sensuously stimulating, and therefore potentially disruptive.

Poetry might attract people with ASC because it provides techniques of controlling sensation. It allows heightened experience in the safe ‘environment’ of the page, line and stanza. It foregrounds pattern-making. It allows repeated patterns to be safely interrupted. I realise now that, whatever the genetic ‘prompt’ towards an activity for an individual, it doesn’t invalidate the activity. Being an Aspie poet doesn’t damage the poetry, but the pride.

And so, having overcome my pride and prejudice, a faintly crusading element entered my attitude to autism. The condition needs a lot more fresh thinking. I’m not generally someone who wants poetry to earn its bread as a foot-soldier in the army of good causes. But I want to speak for a greater understanding of autism, and I choose to do it through the medium I’m best able to employ. Rather than use poetry as propaganda, I would simply ask it to report back sometimes from the field, like a travel correspondent in the complex, many-coloured terrain of a newly discovered country.

What I’d like to do now, besides filing more dispatches, is to edit an anthology of poems by autistic poets. Certain poets have already ‘come out’ and I suspect there are potentially many more. Autism is a richer, wider, more polychromatic spectrum than so far defined. In fact, to know autism would be to know consciousness, which would be to see God. I don’t think anyone can, but I hope we can build some better microscopes.


Animal People Carol RumensCarol Rumens’ latest collection, Animal People, is available on the Seren website. The striking final sequence, ‘On the Spectrum’, focuses particularly on Asperger’s Syndrome and how it may be experienced by young women, as well as exploring some of the effects of Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC).

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Friday Poem – On Standby

Friday Poem On Standby from Animal People by Carol Rumens

This week’s Friday Poem is taken from Carol Rumens’ hot-off-the-press new collection, Animal People.

Friday Poem On Standby from Animal People by Carol RumensAs the author says in her brief introduction, ‘the vertebrae of this collection are the seasons of a sometimes Welsh and sometimes English year.’ Rumens’ poems are frequently inspired by places, either wild landscapes as in ‘Fire, Stone, Snowdonia’ or urban scenes as in ‘March Morning, Pearson Park’. But just as often a setting will be a pretext for a theme that has a political, sociological, aesthetic, philosophical or even metaphysical focus. The striking ten-page title poem explores some of the effects and affects of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), focusing particularly on Asperger’s Syndrome and how it may be experienced by young women. Rumens opens up this topic with all her characteristic energy, empathy and curiosity.
This is a beautifully intelligent collection of poetry, sure to delight and inspire.

Friday Poem On Standby Carol Rumens















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