28 April 2018

Carcanet New Poetries VII

Posted by Lily Blacksell

A gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a smack of jellyfish, a packet of crisps; but what does one call a selection of poets? ‘A chine, a prickle, a surfeit, a blessing’ riffs editor Michael Schmidt in his preface to Carcanet’s New Poetries VII, before deciding on the rather more predictable though indubitably accurate ‘a group’.

Join us on Monday, 30th April (at 7) to hear one such group read their new poetry from New Poetries (VII). We are very excited to be welcoming the wonderful Mary Jean Chan, Helen Charman, Lisa Kelly and Toby Litt to the shop. Some tickets are still available here.

In the meantime, here are four snippets from the book:

'Notes Toward an Understanding' by Mary Jean Chan:


When you said: why didn't you warn me
about cultural differences, I didn't know
whether you meant my mother's face all
darkened like a curtain, or the vegetables.


When mother said: the contours of her ears
are calamitous, I momentarily reflected on
my own auditory shells – whether they too
played a part in my irrevocable queerness.


When father said: I find language to be a
very difficult thing, I wondered if he was
apologising for his silences, how he said
nothing when mother detonated my name.


When I said: I want to shout at all of you, but
in which language? – my mind was tuned to
two frequencies –mother’s Cantonese rage/
your soothing English, asking me to choose.

'Horse Whispering' by Helen Charman:

Unclear: is the better freedom to be hunted or
enshrined in chalky worship? Domestication
mostly relies upon a natural horsemanship, but
still, limping, levelled, hurt and rasping, you can’t
shake the memories of the farrier’s hands. Love is
a possible strength in an actual weakness.

If you will insist on riding flat-backed and spine
to spine, head over tail, feet against shoulders,
eyes to the sky, heedless of the trailing trees –
when you do fall, from me expect no sympathy.

'Cuddles are Drying up Like the Sun in a Data Lake' by Lisa Kelly:

Sun is such a hard word, like a boiled sweet
in one of those round travel sweet tins
that nobody wants unless they’re sick,
those citrus colours: lemon, lime and orange
that even without tasting make your mouth water
to counter the churn in your stomach

Sun is such a hard word, with its ’s’ and ’n’
that could have an ‘o’ or an ‘i’ slotted between
for that Donnian pun or a postlapsarian chime
making it harder to give birth to or acknowledge,
spat out in a sibilant spray of spittle
ending in bright, shining negation.

Sun is such a hard word, once part of Microsystems
stalled by Oracle, its SPARC processor in LEON
designed for space use, a fully open-source
implementation that neither you nor I
can understand, the most likely meaning:
cuddles are drying up like the sun in a data lake.

'A glow-in-the-dark-skeleton' by Toby Litt:

See now, the skeleton
that I was built upon –
suspended in the dark
the waters of the dark

Each bone is blue as snow
like icebergs from below –
suspended in the deep
the waters of the deep

They keep one moment more
the form they held before –
and now they fall apart
they start to fall apart

      My skull, like a full moon
      all tumbling and a-swoon

      Each femur, like a whale
      or whale-boat setting sail

      Like gulls, my vertebrae
      swoop downward and away

      My finger-bones cascade –
      a shoal of sprats, afraid

      And twizzling go the ribs
            like sail-sewn corpses, dropped from ships.

See you on the 30th!