Friday Poem – ‘Sailing by Silvership’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Sailing by Silvership’ by Polly Atkin from her most recent collection Much With Body.

This cover shows a painting of a swimmer floating on her back in a blue-green lake.

Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

Sailing by Silvership
The moon is a ship
and we are sailing in her
how can we not talk about her?
She glistens
and we glisten
she throws out nets of herself, trailing
clouds like weeds
and we walk them as bridges
to the stars, arm in arm, singing.
And the stars themselves
are glistening aren’t they?
like specks of quartz in dark rock, spangling
the great unknowable
expanse as it squeezes
into this particular wedge of night
the swell of this road
the dark fell sea
soon, we will be there, sister
waving from the deck
of the one you call
dipper – so big we can sit in it! – no
so big
it will carry us away.

Much With Body is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Guest Post – Polly Atkin: On Co-Tenancy 

In Much With Body I wanted to write into and around the relationship between us – as individuals, as humans – and the ecosystems we live in. I wanted explore to what Sarah Jaquette Ray and Jay Sibara call the ‘contingency between environments and bodies’ that is central to disability poetics, with a focus on the particular environment I have made my home.[1] In many ways this is an extension of conversations begun in my previous collection, Basic Nest Architecture, which revolve around questions of belonging, of location and dislocation, of co-habitation, of what it is to live in a sick body in an ailing world. I’ve always found it difficult to separate myself from my environment, to draw a clear line or apprehend a solid barrier between me and the rest of the world, to be certain what is internal or external. This sense of permeability, coupled with a complicated sense of bodily risk, determines all of my encounters with the world, all of my movements through it.

Photo of a deer on a hillside.

I wanted to bring that sense of permeability into these poems – from those drawn from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Rydal Journals, that place rain and pain in parallel, both leaching in an out of the body – to the poems about the frogs and toads who come into our house every summer. We are none of us able to call ourself separate from one another.

Photo of a frog

There is a kind of eco-poetry, and a broader kind of nature writing, that wants to remove the human observer from the observation, to cut out the body of the writer from the writing. It sees the human as degrading the nonhuman, as distracting, diverting essential attention. I can’t help seeing this tendency in nature writing to blot out the body of the writer as coupled to the tendency Virginia Woolf writes about in her essay ‘On Being Ill’ to present the body as a clear pane of glass to see the world through. I am not a clear pane of glass. My noisy, interrupting body never lets me forget its presence. As Woolf writes, ‘all day, all night, the body intervenes’. To me the relationship between the intervening body and the other outside is the poem. To pretend otherwise is the distraction.

Photo of an owl amongst the branches of a tree.

I wanted to bring the intervention of the body into the foreground of these poems, whether they are centred on an encounter with a deer, or an owl that won’t be photographed, or a disappearing hospital, or the body’s internal machinations. I cannot write an owl, but I can write myself observing an owl, what observing it in my body gives me, what the co-presence of our bodies in the same space does, what it changes, what it enables. I wanted to write about co-habitation, about co-tenancy of a shared home, whether that is a woodland, society, or our bodies. Luckily for me, my co-tenants were obliging.

Polly Atkin

This cover shows a painting of a swimmer floating on her back in a blue green lake.

Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

Polly Atkin’s latest collection Much With Body is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.


[1] Sarah Jaquette Ray and Jay Sibara, ‘Introduction’, in Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities Toward an Eco- Crip Theory, ed by Sarah Jaquette Ray and Jay Sibara (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 2017), p.1.

Friday Poem – ‘Lakeclean’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Lakeclean’ by Polly Atkin from her latest collection Much With Body which is a Poetry Book Society Winter Choice.

This cover shows a painting of a swimmer floating on her back in a blue green lake.

Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

Lakeclean

Still damp hours after I sank myself under the surface my hair
smells like violets when I run my hand through it

not the ones crushed at the edge of the path through the wood,
yesterday’s shampoo. My skin smells of heat and mud.

I don’t swim because it’s challenging I swim because I can. For the body
released from the tyranny of gravity, resistance of air. Land

is the enemy. We are comfortable here, suspended, above,
in, and under. We dwell in transparency.

We sweep mountains aside with our arms without wincing.
We move with something like ease.

Much With Body is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us online for the virtual launch of Much With Body on Wednesday 20th October from 7pm. Polly will be reading from the collection alongside guest readers Hannah Hodgson, Éireann Lorsung and Claudine Toutoungi. Register for free via Eventbrite www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/186887905757.

Friday Poem – ‘The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs’ by Polly Atkin from her collection Basic Nest Architecture. Polly’s new collection Much With Body is forthcoming this October.

Polly Atkin. Basic Nest Architecture.

Polly Atkin’s debut poetry collection, Basic Nest Architecture, is complex, vivid and moving. It opens with poems inspired by her home in the Lake District, and the landscape and famous Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Keats, who have walked there and written about the fells and lakes. Nature is a guiding presence, but the author’s personal story, of enduring a little-known and sometimes debilitating illness, is also the backdrop to this striking poetry. Formally, this work is more akin to the metaphysical poets in its fervent use of metaphor, in its multiple layers of meaning and in its quest for answers to the most pressing questions of mortality.

The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs
When we gather we greet each other
by lifting tentatively one hand to one eye.
We meet in darkened rooms, quietly;
share no wine. Nobody speaks
but often our voices join to moan
the migraineurs psalm, low and holy.
The hours before fizz brilliantly, scented
with burnt toast and oranges, petrol, sparking
fireworks, fireflies, stars. Everyone
dons a halo, everyone’s soul
shines out through their pores, whether unnaturally
small or wrapped in a skin of water.
We sleep the night together, slip off
one by one on waking from
a dream we pass between us, in which
the structure of the sky is revealed. We make
no dates, but palm to temple, salute
in a migraineur’s kiss, our transcendence.

Basic Nest Architecture is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Pre-order Polly’s new collection Much With Body on the Seren website: £9.99

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