Friday Poem – ‘Iraqi Bride in Transit’ by Abeer Ameer

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Iraqi Bride in Transit’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile which has just been shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year!

Cardiff-based poet Abeer Ameer writes of her forebears in her first collection, Inhale/Exile. Dedicated to the “holders of these stories”, the book begins with a poem about a storyteller on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, follows tales of courage and survival, and ends with a woman cooking food for neighbours on the anniversary of her son’s death.

Iraqi Bride in Transit
She’s nineteen, waits in Charles de Gaulle airport
unsure where to go. She hopes that Groom comes for her soon.
Her first experience of a plane journey hasn’t been Oh là là.
Far from her Baghdad home, her white suit is not so white now.
It’s the first time she wears high heels; she has blisters,
struggles to balance.
She wears her mother’s fur coat, a white headscarf,
white clutch bag holds her green passport.
Feels bare without her abaya.
Groom waits in Heathrow arrivals. It’s 23rd December 1974.
Three flights have arrived from Paris in the last eight hours.
No sign of her.
Iraqi Christians who boarded the same plane
from Baghdad waiting for their New York flight
recognise she’s the bride, take her to the gate.
Last flight before Christmas.
He is pupil. He do drugs. She rolls her Rs.
Groom’s lost hope. It’s late.
He gets up, ready to leave Heathrow,
gathers coins to make the international call.
What will he tell her father?
Announcement. Groom is summoned to Immigration.
Your wife says you do drugs.
He realises at that moment he should have taught his bride
the correct English term for pharmacy student.

Inhale/Exile is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Voting is now open for the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. Head to the Wales Arts Review website to vote for your favorite www.walesartsreview.org.

Friday Poem – ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore

To celebrate her collection All The Men I Never Married being shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore.

This cover shows a collage image of the figure of a man made up of tiny pictures of nature. He is against a black background surrounded by butterflies. The text reads: All The Men I Never Married Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s eagerly awaited second collection All The Men I Never Married is pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love.

“All the Men I Never Married is a work of immense focus, intelligence and integrity.” – The Yorkshire Times

43.
When I open my ribs a dragon flies out
and when I open my mouth a sheep trots out
and when I open my eyes silverfish crawl out
and make for a place that’s not mine.
When I open my fists two skylarks soar out
and when I open my legs a horse gallops out
and when I open my heart a wolf slips out
and watches from beneath the trees.
When I open my arms a hare jumps out
and when I show you my wrists a shadow cries out
and when I fall to my knees
a tiger stalks out and will not answer to me.
Now that the beasts that lived in my chest
have turned tail and fled, now that I’m open
and the sky has come in and left me
with nothing but space, now that I’m ready
to lie like a cross and wait for the ghost
of him to float clear away, will my wild things
come back, will the horse of my legs
and the dragon of my ribs, and the gentle sheep
which lived in my throat and the silverfish
of my eyes and the skylarks of my hands
and the wolf of my heart, will they all come back
and live here again, now that he’s left,
now I’ve said the word whisper it rape,
now I’ve said the word whisper it shame,
will my true ones, my wild, my truth,
will my wild come back to me again?

All The Men I Never Married is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Kim at the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival on the 30th July! She’ll be taking part in a session on Poetry & Empowerment and discussing The Result is What You See Today, an anthology about running which she co-edited with Paul Deaton and Ben Wilkinson. See the full programme and buy tickets at cardiffpoetryfestival.com. All our in person events are also being streamed online.

Friday Poem – From ‘You’ by John Haynes

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th February, this week’s Friday Poem is taken from the long-poem You by Costa-Award winning poet John Haynes.

You is a book-length poem by the late poet John Haynes. The ‘You’ of the title is the narrator’s partner and wife of many years. The book is not just a celebration of, and meditation on, personal love and devotion, but a record of how such love moves out of a family and is refracted out into the community and the wider world. The tensions inherent in this are compounded by the cross-cultural nature of the union. The narrator is a white British man and his wife was born and raised in Nigeria. Exploring a partnership based on culturally quite different – and in some aspects painfully incompatible –conceptions of ‘love’, the poem  is knit together by philosophical themes of ‘I’ and ‘you’ seen from many perspectives. Shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize.

that they flew back across the whole Sahara
sleeping on the wing, as you begin
to now, with those small sounds, back to Kagoma –
that house where I met your mother in
her starched tall headtie and her Dutch wax print
and just a little shy to meet your White
Man, but so glad with wrinkles smiling tight –

just as I bend across you, turn the lamp
off, draw the curtains, thinking with what skill
I managed it on that rickety camp
bed, making love with not the faintest squeal
or crunk of springs. Like press-ups, I recall,
rugby-fit then, mouth open while I howled
into the dark not letting out a sound,

or that night, at the dam, when we made love,
remember, there beside the road, half in
the car half out, with confidence enough
to dare the world to drive towards us, then
with full light on, and nights at Number Ten,
insane with flesh, and resurrected new
again each time as neither I nor you.

You is available on the Seren website: £8.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Weaving with Rushes’ by Sarah Wimbush

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Weaving with Rushes’ by Sarah Wimbush from her debut pamphlet Bloodlines which has just been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award 2020.

Bloodlines is an exploration of Sarah Wimbush’s own Gypsy/Traveller heritage, a journey made by piecing together fragments of distant stories and a scattered language. Along the way, we meet people who are ‘tethered to the seasons’; voices that reverberate with a sense of family and resilience, and always with that constant wonder of being part of something colourful, untamed and rare.

“A thrilling debut…” – Daljit Nagra

Bloodlines is available on the Seren website: £5.00

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Enjoy this filmpoem of Sarah reading the pamphlet’s title poem ‘Bloodlines’. Film made by Isobel Turner.

Deryn Rees-Jones shares her poetry advice

It was announced earlier today that Deryn Rees-Jones’ new collection Erato has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2019. It therefore felt only fitting that this week’s poetry advice blog came from her.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

 

What first drew you to poetry?

As a child in primary school we were expected to write at least a poem a week. Each poem then had to be illustrated. I took these tasks very seriously and wonder if my interest in the relationship between text and image stems from there.

Where do you look to for inspiration?

The origins of that word inspiration are interesting, aren’t they, that idea of inhalation, but one that originated in the idea of bringing something divine into the human body. I have recently been working on an exhibition with the artist Charlotte Hodes. She has made a sequence of four images, now engraved on glass, with my captions – heat, heart, in-breath, unfurls. Glass is one of those transformative materials, which I have become fascinated by. I’m thinking about it a great deal, and in my mind it also connects with something that has also preoccupied me in the past — snow. I’m interested more generally in heat, in the idea of fire as a metaphor for the creative process. Those captions on glass, which evolved from our shared working and thinking, are a shorthand for ideas I have explored a little more relentlessy in Erato. I continue this thinking about creativity in a book length lyric essay – Fires — that will be published in November with Shoestring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What poets or writers inspire you?

My work as an editor at Pavilion is a huge privilege, seeing books as they develop, working with closely with poets. I learn a lot from seeing that process, and from the close reading that demands. Current poetry books I am reading – Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, Mei-mei Berssenbruge’s Hello, the Roses. I read a lot of books about psychoanalysis as a theory but also as a practice, and I have also just started reading two quite different but enjoyable and wise books, Mary Midgley’s autobiography The Owl of Minvera, and Rosi Braidotti’s new book, Posthuman Knowledge.

What does poetry mean to you?

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way poetry sometimes gets claimed as this universal panacea or in some way becomes fetishized. Poetry is a very important and particular process, but it’s deeply connected to other things that its processes allows – thinking in deep ways, feeling, paying attention, engaging with a community of thinkers and readers, being in the world. I honour the process and the pleasures and excitement poetry brings. But I am impatient when poetry somehow becomes separated from those other processes of which it is a part, and then gets reduced to a commodity.

How do you balance writing poetry with working? If you write full time, what made you decide to do so?

I have a full and busy life, and I’m starting to trust a bit more that the method I seem to have developed over the years, of setting other critical writing alongside my creative work, is a useful synergy. I don’t feel the need to separate that process.

Do you have a writing routine? What is it?

I have lots of routines, most of which include the balance of full-time work in the university and childcare. School drop-off and pick up times, walking the dog are all structures built in to the day. I was recently on an extended period of study leave and I tried to work for three intense hours writing every morning in the local café. That time was ringfenced for critical writing and research, but poems inevitably creep in. If you parent small children on your own, life can feel very closed down in terms of the freedom to simply leave the house, take a walk, run out for groceries, have some time alone with friends. That has changed a great deal now and I am valuing the new freedoms but also, as I look back, valuing that enforced quietness and what it asked of me. I don’t have a specific writing routine when it comes to poetry, but the other routines mean there might be space when I need it.

How do you prepare yourself before sitting down to write?

I don’t. It’s more organic than that. You could say that even though I’m not writing, in notebooks, of which I have many, or on screen, that I am writing all the time, because writing is much more than sitting down and putting marks on the page.

What advice would you give to poets looking to get their work published?

Concentrate on the poems, read – what is being published now, but also engage with poems that have come before. Read internationally. Having a sense of what poetry means in cultures that are not your own is really important; understanding a poetic history as well as a context is really important.

Is it important to build a reputation by submitting to competitions, magazines and journals?

For some poets it might be, it’s one route. I’m more interested in that process as a testing ground for readership and the poem than I am in the idea of reputation.

Do you have any tips for submitting poems to publishers or magazines?

Write your best poem in the best way you can. It’s going back to the idea of seeing publication as a testing ground. Not all the poems in a book work on their own, but can be vital when assembling a book. Keep a humble and critical judgement. Leave poems alone for a while. Trust that editors, who are usually poets, have a good sense of what is working or not in a poem.

What methods do you use to overcome feeling disheartened or to keep positive?

We live in an age of soundbites, some of which are directed at least in a superficial way, at improving our mental health. Of course we all have feelings when work is returned or doesn’t appear to have been read after publication. Poets need readers, and it can be painful not to feel heard or relevant or understood, but processing that part of your professional life is also part of life. I’m more interested in the life part  — how to live ethically, and joyfully, than some sense that we can guard against difficulty or pain without seeing that as part of a bigger process.

Do you have any other advice for fellow poets?

I wouldn’t presume!

 

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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