when life gives you super-absorbent polymers

it doesn’t matter
how many times
you punch a pillow.
it always takes
the shock. i

wish i wish i was

like a punnet
of milky feathers

like a luminous
orange mouldable jelly

like the rubber
tiles under swings
at the playground

like things exhibited
at science fairs

like a crash
test dummy i

wish i wish i wish

it didn’t matter
how many times
you slice a lemon.
it always cuts
me up.

when life gives you super-absorbent polymers

reindeer heart soup

you are a delicacy here.
your silvery hide
like a dusty mirror.
your fluttering lashes

hide eyes like windows.
hoping you are
seen but not watched.
save your appetite.

you are a platinum fixture
in a golden ceiling.
alive but not moving,
willing but not hopeful.

no word is too long for you;
no heart too closed.
they must pour boiling water
down your throat.

reindeer heart soup

100 books pt. 1

so my nye resolution this year was to read 100 books. I don’t feel like I’ve read nearly enough stuff to do this whole poetry thing properly, so that’s part of the reason. (also I’m goddamn competitive.) here’s the list so far (I’ll do this in chunks; this is pt.1; the first 15.) There’s novels, books of short stories, and poetry chapbooks. I’ve also done brief reviews of all the books (more for me to remember how I felt about them than anything else, my brain is like a sieve…)

Also, recommendations for more books appreciated 🙂

1. A Manual For Cleaning Women (Lucia Berlin)

I’m slightly in love with Lucia Berlin. I would have loved to have met her. Her writing is punchy and funny and self-deprecating and dark; mostly autobiographical. She led an incredibly interesting life, and I feel like she’s pretty criminally overlooked really. Some of her short stories are seriously short (“Macadam” is less than a page) but she never fails to craft a detailed image.

2. The Outrun (Amy Liptrot)

Reading “The Outrun” was weird for me because it focusses on both the Orkney Isles (where I’ve been going on holiday most years since I was maybe 11) and London, where I’ve lived for the last 3 years. Apart from the constant “I know that place!” going on in my head, this book is really important. The author’s struggle with alcoholism is intertwined with her move to London and the tech-heavy existence she leads there. Her move back to Orkney is literally a breath of fresh air. Life-affirming. I hate that term, but there you have it. Life-affirming.

3. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Max Porter)

A short, sweet, beautiful story-poem. It’s very introverted and close-knit; the way it focusses in on the father’s vs. the sons’ reactions to the mother’s death via a third party (the crow) works amazingly. It’s funny, moving, and somehow dark and light at the same time.

4. The Glorious Heresies (Lisa McInnery)

Couldn’t put this down. Almost physically. I think I read it in a day. I love, love, love noir; so this was right up my darkened alley. Lots of anti-heroes and seediness, plus written in brilliant, punch-to-the-gut prose. (Makes me even happier that it was written by a woman.)

5. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Raymond Carver)

This is actually my mum’s book; she also has the version of Carver’s short stories that hasn’t been brutally attacked by an editor, “Beginners”, which I also want to read at some point. WWTAWWTAL (whoah) is fairly Chekhovian in style (but worlds away from Lucia Berlin’s work, which I actually prefer). Having read snippets of “Beginners”, the editing seems to have had a very strong impact on the tone of some of the stories (some more than others). This is interesting in itself. I like Carver’s sense of detail; his focus on the small things which might seem mundane at first glance.

6. Fast-Speaking Woman (Anne Waldman)

A lot of Waldman’s poetry focusses on the incredibly broad and colourful nature of woman-ness. I love her stream-of-consciousness style, and I wish I could write poetry like her. Her work owes a lot to First Nation chants, something I would like to know more about.

7. The Beat Road (edited by Arthur & Kit Knight)

Kinda does what it says on the tin; through pieces written at various times by people involved in the movement, “The Beat Road” paints a pretty succinct picture of the mood of the time. It’s allowed me to take one more step along the journey to being obsessed to the point of cliche with the Beats.

8. Like (Ali Smith)

I didn’t know much about Ali Smith’s work before. Having read up on other peoples’ response to this (her first novel; I thought I may as well start at the beginning), I actually had kind of the opposite reaction to most people. I preferred the second section of the book; critics seemed to prefer the first. For some reason the tone of the first part irritated me (I felt like the prose was almost too oversimplified, which is weird because usually I like really straightforward, clear prose). It didn’t help that I felt like I was being kept in the dark as a reader; for not much reason, as it turned out. The idea behind the novel was interesting, definitely; but maybe I should’ve tried one of her later works. The story it turned out to be wasn’t the one I was expecting from the tone of the first part; I thought it was going to be grittier, and that the characters would elicit more empathy from the reader.

9. A Place of Greater Safety (Hilary Mantel)

Bloody brilliant. Seriously. Not even really sure what to say. As a reader, you get a window into even the most minor characters’ heads. The contrast between the wider brutality, and the camaraderie between the main characters, is incredible. Speaking as someone who only knew the very basics about the French Revolution before reading this, I now feel kind of like I knew the people involved personally (I know, a lot of it had to be fictionalised because there weren’t enough records available, but damn).

10. Ariel (Sylvia Plath)

“Death & Co.” & “The Munich Mannequins” are my favourites. I don’t know what else to say- she’s Sylvia bloody Plath.

11. Feelings: Soft Art (published by Rizzoli)

So this is an art book, which may be cheating (it’s not, though, because I made up the rules). Some of the pieces in here have directly inspired poems. I love the idea of “soft art”, not just because of the pastel colours and gradients and general squishiness, but the general squishy-ness of it all; artists putting all the delicate parts of themselves into their work.

12. Sunshine (Melissa Lee-Houghton)

“Sunshine” has a grimy, gorgeous, fucked-up beauty to it. The subject matter of these poems is often bleak, but they also involve a lot of wit and dark humour. Emotionally difficult to read and process, but a lot of the best poetry is. (Not that I feel like I currently know enough poetry.)

13. Just Kids (Patti Smith)

I’ve read it before, anyway. Just fancied it again because it’s a beautifully emotive book, which once made me cry on the bus to work. The purity of her relationship with Mapplethorpe shines through in this, and it’s an amazing memorial to him and his work.

14. Illuminations (Arthur Rimbaud)

Well, I guess I can’t be a poet if I haven’t read Rimbaud. I really love “Illuminations”. I’ve gotta admit, “Just Kids” is the only reason I would’ve thought to read Rimbaud’s work, but I’m particularly a fan of his more mystic stuff (i.e. “Mystic”… also “Flowers”, “Marine”, “Metropolitan”).

15. Text & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Simon Warner)

I have to say, this was a struggle. I find any even mildly academic book to be something of a struggle; especially one about a literary movement (the Beats) whose “First thought best thought” approach to writing was/is basically the antithesis of academia. Personally I felt like the whole thing was over-analysing a movement which is probably best communicated through interviews with the people who were involved (which has been done anyway in various other formats). I found out some interesting new stuff about people I admire, though, which is always good.

I’m currently reading number 16: Herman Hesse’s “Steppenwolf”.





100 books pt. 1

BINSEY (rewrite)

i stood in that hollow
once before
you raised me well
taught no feeling

bound up in tape
image projected
on concrete wall

dug out by shovel
gouged by fist
i’ve been away
too long

what made you cold?
who made you
all angles
and darkness?

just a scrawl, child
down the cave wall
vowels at the mouth

windows, unhinged
white plastic wings
on cold stucco birds

what held you apart?
pushed you
in the black?

broken now into blue
face burned out
standing on the other shore

how do i
to you through this water
two whole feet deep?

i stood in that hollow
once before
neon tubes flickering
too far can’t reach

bring me up to speed now; who
did what, who
died? i’ve been away
too long

fibreglass boards for eyes
salvaged from bin bonfires
gas leaks

cards in wheel spokes
deal after
deal, loud, dressed
in red, yellow, blue

colours running, the sun
replaced by

i stood in that hollow
once before
i’ve been away
too long

BINSEY (rewrite)

A Hole To Crawl Through

5 am siren wakes you, sits you

bolt upright into the bleached-pink

sulfur-yellow sun birth

crooked arms reaching ether, extending

hooked tree-claws, bed

full of muttering feathered shadows

unseen pavement glitters

with remnants of night

(stacks & accidents & lost things)

that unknown distant roaring;

same in every city, provincial town,

on mountains; morning earth chant

clouds cream up curved walls of sky

stirred by the sun’s golden spoon

and poured into shining mirror-windows

through two layers to be absorbed by

your eyes; upside-down and distilled

into one stinging fluorescent needle

sound is clearer, brighter

in the hours between, reserved

for being round-edged and murmuring

lie back on pillows, drinking

soft brownness from a chipped pastel cup

light slowly crystallising your form

into something harder, less

prophetic; likely not to witness

an accidental sunrise.

A Hole To Crawl Through

the cake is just for show

sleeping in silk for safety; a nest
i only wanted to give you a name
buying in suede to win a night’s rest
dreams of glitter drip through my brain

i, ever searching for this pearly sheen
fairy dust stuck to the soles of my shoes
take weight off my shoulders, lighten me
but i’d rather shop than sit watching the news

where do you keep it, this faraway song
latex and lashings of shining faux fur
i’m always wishing, drifting along
unwrapping, unboxing, a shimmery blur

i only wanted to warm up my feet
cash in your cheque, spend all the dollar
dressing correctly just / off the beat
velvet and lace, lush from hem to the collar

give me a shelter, tell me my star sign
it’s on my tongue, oh it’s just on the tip of it
i only ever wanted what was mine
i only ever wanted what was mine
i only ever wanted what was mine

the cake is just for show

koi carp

under the surface
a show of shining perfection
pure beauty

it is a shame

as on a dragon
puffing fire, brimstone in myth
cover flesh

it is a waste

rearing up for air
oblique bubbles breaking surface
streaming tears


growing from nothing
in warm wet culture of cells and
this makes you

it is a myth

under the surface
groaning in silence uh uh uh
your beauty:

is only shame.

koi carp