Thursday, 26 May 2016
It's not always been easy with the French.
In sixteen ninety De Tourville's yobos
burned down the town and put ten ships to torch.
Today it's all bon homie at the lunch
for the twinning society art show.
It's not always been easy with the French
and during the chairman's extended speech
the French mayor looked like she might have a go,
(burn down the town and put ten ships to torch)
if she could just find turpentine and matches.
Still peace prevailed - "Have a profiterole!"
It's not always been easy with the French.
Little egrets stand at the high tides' reach
They came from France just twenty years ago
(no plans to burn or put our ships to torch!)
and add a certain eclat along the beach.
Funnily they don't mind the English food
(well, burn my town and put my ships to torch,
-that's never has been easy for the French!)
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
barking at an owl.
I'm watering the starlit lawn
with spent alchemy.
Tawny on her telephone pole
I've heard that owls aren't really wise.
They're not crow clever.
Still she's smart enough to surmise
a yapping puppy
and a urinating poet
are no cause to spook
when all the rodents of the moon
scare below your stoop.
Monday, 14 March 2016
Delighted with this review by Simon Zonenblick at Sabotage Reviews.
Poems about suicide, liberation, the bizarre destruction of a mobile phone in an apparently pre-meditated, insular revolution against technology, and the impact of humanity on the natural world, are somehow packaged neatly into this short, succinct, high quality chapbook, whose author achieves a level of observational exactitude, empathy, and at times, quite frankly, psychological menace, which many would fail to muster in a full-length collection.
The full review is here:
A Fright Of Jays is published by Maquette Press
A Fright Of Jays is published by Maquette Press
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Stunted thorns slump east.
Three red calves stand on the ridge
rumps to the west wind.
Rabbit weary grass
faints at the clump of his boots.
In the house below
she's folding dresses.
A thin surrender of smoke
waves like a torn flag.
By the time she leaves
he's sodden to his white chest
and the hearth is cold.
First published at Clear Poetry 21/1/2016
Monday, 8 February 2016
I will believe the Lord is good.
I will believe the land is kind.
I do believe the fruit will fall
if not picked first and where it falls
must be controlled for fallen fruit will
surely rot and rotten fruit will sour the lawns.
My husband knows the hand of God
and God himself has made it known
that we should pick the ripening fruit
and love and keep the seeds we've sown,
we've sown. The precious seeds we've sown.
The cellar doors have sturdy locks
the windows open just enough.
Enough to let His spirit blow
and keep the darkness holy, holy,
and clean the shade that breathes in there.
Our precious seed that breathes in there.
Published at http://visualverse.org/submissions/pretzl/ 5.2/16
Monday, 25 January 2016
Sunday, 13 December 2015
These dust motes, so gently pirouetting,
can, from certain angles in slanted light,
reform to embody the departed.
Libraries are full of such airborne ghosts
moving quietly between sleeping shelves,
attending to their liminal business.
Open a forgotten book, a fat tome
on Greek history say, and out they come,
liberated to scintillate in beams
sloping from tall windows; to dance in gusts
from the actions of automatic doors.
Closing the pages renders them homeless,
left to circle in whispering limbo
until one day like summoned saints, they sail
up, up, up, to peace on high picture rails.
First published in The Jawline Review 17/3/16
Monday, 23 November 2015
When it rains round here
there are no yellow dogs.
Hematite stains Labradors.
Even Devon cows are red.
High green-haired sandstone bluffs
tumble in bloody surrender.
And along the undercliff
the gravelly sand is red.
Tourists carrying towels
look like accident victims.
Uncharitable souls might say
it looks like Hell at sunset.
Still, we make our choices.
I'd suggest a Red Setter.
Wednesday, 4 November 2015
I went at dawn to Newcomb Hollow,
a war reporter for breaking light.
To see the last-gasp darkness swallowed
down the gullet of a mackerel sky.
I was spied by periscoping seals,
peep holing through the barbed edge ocean;
to command the waves to raid and steal
in constant pillaging incursions.
Resisting them: a Marram band
defended the cold and cratered dunes,
resolute and still in that half land,
waiting for a wind borne call to move.
Later I wrote of the Kingdom of Whales,
every stanza a water-board of light.
Lying down I dreamed of buried shells
and silent seals watching me at night.
First published at Clear Poetry 21st Jan 2016
Wednesday, 21 October 2015
It's not always
isn't in its nature.
to encumber Spi
the unhappy ked
First published in The Broadsheet October 2015
Thursday, 8 October 2015
When he said goodbye
near the holiday flats
and the wind flipped away
her Kiss-me-Quick hat
and he laughed that "No!
It hadn't been 'crap'!"
- he couldn't tell then
that if he had snapped
her slim waist in two
his name was inked there
running all the way through.
Published 8/10/2015 on Clear Poetry
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Flattered by the following review in Canto Poetry magazine 21/9/15:
Marc Woodward: A Fright of Jays
Maquette Press, 2015
This chapbook by Marc Woodward invites the reader into a dark rurality. These are beautifully crafted poems, interweaving ideas of freedom, constraint and expiation, in a depiction of the pastoral that, as a fellow Devon inhabitant, I found simultaneously very recognisable and strangely defamiliarised. Death is dealt in almost every poem, and a walk in the countryside is a dangerous undertaking – the landscape holds darknesses, and not just those of the night.
The first poem, ‘Eel Catching’, takes us into a double darkness where ‘midnight fog […] whispers from the river mouth/the fetid smell of marsh decay’ and obscures the moon and stars. All seems held in stasis – until the eels come. ‘Sliding through underwater grass, current tracers in the blind depth’, the eels are ominous, precursors of something inexplicit but threatening. When the speaker catches one, ‘thrashing fiercely in the torchlight/ as if in tongues before the priest’, we start to believe that some kind of mystical sacrifice is going to take place. But when he does ‘the act’ on his own ‘back door step’, that liminal place between wilderness and civilisation, there is ‘so much dark blood, like thick red oil’, that the killing has become an obscene contamination – the blood that will not wash off the murderer’s hands, and an industrial pollutant that poisons the earth.
These poems are rooted in very real places, and this enables them to bear their cargo of metaphor with ease. In ‘Beyond Broadwoodwidger’, the reader is asked to imagine being stranded in the rural night, a night which is both meticulously observed and metaphorically freighted: here is ‘a justice of darkness’, ‘the weight of condensation/on a vast ocean of bending blades’, where ‘there is nothing to save you’. Do you lie down and let ‘this wet ditch/ […] be your decomposing place?’
This question is answered, in a way, in the next poem, ‘Crisis’. Here the speaker does indeed lie down upon the ground, after yet another act of violence – this time against his mobile phone and all that it signifies. And signification is part of the problem; he sees too much. He says ‘If I could drive blindfold I could go/ …where all the signs are free of symbols’. But he can’t escape that way, so he has to go home and free these particular signs from their symbols by using lies.
One of the things so enjoyable about Woodward's collection is the way in which the poems interact with each other. ‘The Crossing’, in which the speaker steals a dog from a cramped backyard and releases it ‘ten miles from town’ inverts the capture of ‘Eel Catching’. In a later poem, ‘Revival’, the speaker revives a lizard he has found frozen ‘at the red mud edge of a Devon lane’, a place that echoes and refashions the eel-bloodied doorstep.
The idea of escape is a thread running throughout these poems. The stolen dog might or might not survive, but at least it has escaped (unlike the speaker in ‘Crisis’), and been given a freedom to be re-wilded and to ‘howl among the trees/ some ancient dog-breath song’. It is a vicarious escape for the poet, but also, perhaps, an atonement.
In the final poem ‘Sing of the Mountain’ we are, however, returned to imprisonment. The countryside is dark and irresistible, and, having travelled their hard journey, ‘the children of the mountain are tied,/ twisted in bindweed, creeper and ivy’. And, of course, ‘then there’s the wolf-owl night’.
This is a collection which concedes that you can’t escape your own landscape, external or internal, but that you can at least sing, even if only of ‘tangled isolation, / dog-in-the-thicket thoughts’. These are poems that sing in the dark, of darkness.
(Sally Douglas read English and European Literature at Warwick University. She lives in Devon. Poems and short stories have appeared in magazines such as Smiths Knoll, The Rialto, Envoi, Orbis and Interpreter’s House, and in anthologies. Her first poetry collection, Candling the Eggs, won the Cinnamon Press 2009 Poetry Award.)