On reading Karen McCarthy Woolf

This is not a review. This is a short piece about spending eight hours on trains last week, getting to and from a reading, and having uninterrupted time to open several neglected books, including Karen McCarthy Woolf’s An Aviary of Small Birds.

The collection, about the poet’s stillborn son, is something I have been keen to read. For obvious reasons, some may say, and yes I was deeply curious to see how another poet and mother writes about the death of a child. By the sixth poem, and the ‘tiny white vests, unworn’ I was crying so much I had to put the book back in my bag. I was surprised to be upset. That may sound naive but I’ve got used to keeping myself together for Her Birth readings. I thought I could cope with the subject matter. Talking to poet Martin Figura once, about his performance of Whistle – a mesmerising, autobiographical piece about the death of his mother, we both agreed that keeping a boundary between how we felt about our experiences and what we revealed to the audience was essential. It would be detrimental for the audience to see us upset. He did make me laugh when he said, ‘Nobody wants to see that Rebecca.’ True.

But this time, reading An Aviary of Small Birds, I was in the audience. I did finish the book, later, at home, and at the end of it, I was thinking about the poet’s dead baby, not mine. I was immersed in McCarthy Woolf’s acute, sensory images. I was immersed in all the beauty she has been able to create. I was immersed in the water ‘…because it is a comfort,/this return to water, to the stream, to the earth;//the mindless torrent of the brook,’ (from ‘Hawk’).  It made me think of Robert Peake’s moving, elegiac pamphlet The Silence Teacher with its many watery images and scenes. I mentioned the connection between water and bereavement to Robert. ‘I suppose grief is fluid somehow’, was his response. The fluidity of McCarthy Woolf’s book carries us through her experience. Rivers ‘press, insinuate, overwhelm, insist, endure,’ and we are passengers, sometimes clinging to the sides, sometimes peering over the edge to look more closely.  There were harrowing parts:

‘Under Other requests or concerns:
hands, feet, face, hair – all must be left intact.
Brain restored to head, skin
stitched neatly and correctly.’

(from ‘The Paperwork’)

Harrowing yes, but it felt right to read them, because such experiences need to be exposed and discovered if we are to understand ‘difficult’ things. McCarthy Woolf’s poems have made me understand more about this very particular grief and its impact. There was a lot I could relate to, obviously, but the experience was so uniquely hers, the poems became illuminating. I may not have gained comfort from reading An Aviary of Small Birds, but what I did glean from its pages was knowledge.

 

Karen McCarthy Woolf will be appearing at The 2014 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this weekend.

Next Generation Poets – 1994, 2004 and now

My daughter started school last week. Only just four, and looking far too tiny in her blue pinafore uniform, she has skipped in quite happily every day so far. A relief. Then the news was announced that I had been selected for the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation 2014 promotion, meaning September has been slightly more eventful than planned.  I am fully aware of the Next Generation backlash on social media, only because I have read the considered blog posts by Helen Mort, Melissa-Lee Houghton and Andrew Oldham, but I have not read a single word of the unpleasant comments myself.  There’s a lot to be said for not being on Facebook.  The Poetry Book Society (PBS) was keen for us to blog about the announcement.  Part of me wants to keep my head down because I know it’s been horrible out there, but at the same time, I don’t want to pretend it hasn’t happened.  I’m really pleased to be on this list.  The Poetry Book Society has launched a Next Generation website. Like all the poets on the list, I’m interviewed and read a few poems.  But as Helen Mort recently mentioned on her blog, the site is worth visiting, just to hear Ian McMillan’s comments on all the poets’ work. They really are heartening poetry moments: I defy you not to beam when you hear what he has to say about the work of Luke Kennard and Tara Bergin. When considering what to write as a ‘response’ to my Next Generation news, I kept thinking about the poets who were included in the previous generations.  I remember keeping the Sunday supplement issue with its picture of the 2004 NG line-up in my pile of poetry cuttings for years. I am fortunate enough to know two poets from previous generations:  Pauline Stainer and Catherine Smith. I thought it might be interesting to ask them a few questions about being a New and Next Generation poet respectively – and ask them what life is like, on a list.

Catherine Smith was selected for the Next Generation promotion in 2004.  She writes poetry, fiction and radio drama, and teaches for the Arvon Foundation, The Poetry School, The Creative Writing Programme in Brighton and Varndean 6th Form College, Brighton. She was chosen as one of Mslexia’s ‘Top Ten Women Poets’ list in 2004 and the ‘Next Generation’ promotion of the same year. Two of her poetry collections have been short-listed for Forward prizes. Three of her short stories were adapted for a Live Literature performance,  Weight, which was performed in Reading, Brighton and Lewes. Her current project is  ‘The New Cockaigne’, a pamphlet-length satirical, supernatural poem imagining the declaration of a surreal revolution and its aftermath, which will be published by Frogmore Press and adapted as Live Literature in collaboration with Mark Hewitt (at www.leweslivelit.co.uk)   She is also working on a fiction project.  Website  www.catherinesmithwriter.co.uk

Catherine and I met this summer, at Latitude festival.  Reading at a festival was a whole new ball game for me, and I was nervous.  Catherine was a warm, welcome presence back stage, instantly putting me at my ease, showing me the ropes and making me laugh.  I got to hear her read for the first time too, which was a treat.

1. So here we are, both in receipt of the same ‘accolade’, albeit a decade apart. It’s very exciting, but the first thing I want to ask you is how did you cope? Does that make sense? Why is that do you think? 
I was completely surprised to be on the list. No doubt many people say that, but in my case – I was with a well-thought of but small publisher, I certainly wasn’t well known – I was not as interested in the promotion as many people, hadn’t thought much about it as I assumed it wouldn’t affect me in any way.  I was excited, but a bit nervous. I wasn’t sure what it would mean. Opinions from poet friends varied – ‘You can give up teaching now and just write, everyone will want to publish you’ (hahaha) to ‘Everyone will resent you.’ Neither of these rather extreme positions came to pass. I hate having my photo taken so the photo-shoot for the Guardian was uncomfortable (literally as well as metaphorically – I decided the photographer was a sadist as he made me sit on the edge of a hard white cube for what seemed like hours, so my expression is pretty grim).  I enjoyed the nice, fun, glamorous  bits, post-announcement, the readings etc - who wouldn’t? The PBS was lovely and did their best for everyone, and being invited to read and take part in a ‘Next Gen’ discussion at the Hay Festival was thrilling – Arthur Smith was very charming and held a portaloo door open for me, which was a personal highlight. But I found the negativity and sniping wearisome and occasionally hurtful. None of us asked/demanded/paid to be on that list – it was a decision by committee, no doubt with a lot of heartache and argument behind the scenes. I heard that a few poets were ‘outraged’ that they were not included. It all seemed a bit melodramatic and daft to me. Weren’t there bigger and better things in the world  to worry about?
2. You’ve said some interesting things about the relevance of lists, in your response to Helen Mort’s recent blog post. Can you expand a little here? How did being on the list change your writing life? 
‘Best of’ lists are imperfect. They reflect a majority decision, so there are, inevitably, casualties and omissions. There’s no ‘perfect’ mechanism for constructing a ‘Best of…’ list, as far as I can tell – the people charged with that responsibility just have to be honest and do their best. I think, unfortunately, in our culture, lists can be divisive. Those ‘excluded’ can feel hurt and diminished. If we writers were all absolutely honest, we’d admit to jealousy.  I’m regularly jealous – of others’ talent, industry, success. There are many, many people writing to a high standard, and not enough accolades to go round. That’s life. Maybe it’ll change, but I doubt it.  Poetry publishing in the UK isn’t perfect, or even fair.  I think Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra were absolutely right to call attention to the fact that pitifully few black and Asian writers were published by mainstream publishers. They are good people, prepared to stick their necks out and make a fuss about injustice. I have much more respect for those who work to change what they consider to be an unfair system than those who are  obsessed with their own place in the pecking order, and feel the need to be vicious online.  Being on the list opened doors that would have remained firmly closed – no doubt about that. It was, and is, a lovely thing to have on my CV. It would be ungracious and dishonest to pretend otherwise. But would I have written different books, attempted different creative projects, if I hadn’t been on the list? No, I don’t think so. If you need to write – you’ll write. If you don’t – you won’t.
3. How influential was the ‘Generation’ before you? 
I think they influenced a great many ‘up and coming’ poets; I’m assuming their work was more widely read because of the publicity of the promotion. Certain poets became very visible, not just in terms of readings, but also on radio, TV, etc.  Confession – I didn’t start writing poetry until years after the ‘New Gen’ so it wasn’t particularly on my radar.  I read Susan Wicks’ work before realising she was ‘one of the chosen.’ It blew me away, and still does.
4. Can you tell me the good bits? The high points of being a Next Generation poet?
The readings, the question and answer sessions with audiences, the chance to mentor other writers, whose work and commitment I admire hugely. Arthur Smith, portaloo door…..
5. You and I met reading together at an event called ‘Pram in the Hall’, about writing and motherhood. At what stage of motherhood were you, when the announcement was made and what impact did it have?
In 2004, my sons were 12 and 14, so already at secondary school. I had more time and head-space to write by then. How anyone manages to write poems with babies in situ is a mystery and a miracle to me, but then my babies were of the ‘sleep is for wimps’ school of thought.
When I told them about the list, before the announcement was made public, I would love to say they were impressed, but I think ‘bemused’ is probably a more accurate description.
I’d written about them a bit, but not very much; the older one objected and the younger one complained that I didn’t write about him enough. A mother’s place is, of course, in the wrong. Some years ago, I was commissioned to write a poem for a postcard on the theme of ‘identity’ and couldn’t think of a single interesting idea. The deadline was approaching. I felt a failure, a fraud. Then my older son came home from the last day of secondary school with his school shirt signed in felt-pen with colourful, funny and touching messages from his mates. This seemed an interesting take on ‘identity’ – their view of him, at this significant stage of his life, at that strange place between childhood and adulthood.  I asked if I could use this in my poem. He refused. I begged. He still refused. In desperation, I offered to pay him part of the fee. He grudgingly consented, but made me change all the names.
6. I love reading short stories, and sometimes see myself as a frustrated short story writer.  When did you begin to write fiction?  How easy do you find it, switching between poetry and prose?
I wrote short fiction before writing poetry as an adult, (though I had written poetry as a child/teenager) and it still feels like ‘home’ in many ways. I’ve always loved reading short stories, and listening to them on radio.  I’d say a lot of my poetry is ‘narrative’ and I love the way poems can function as condensed stories; I’m about to start teaching an online ‘verse poetry’ course for the Poetry School. As Ian Duhig famously said – ‘A poem is a novel without the waffle.’  I feel  short stories and poems often have more points of similarity than short stories and novels: there’s the compression, often the use of an extended metaphor/image to shape the story, the need for each word to pull its weight. In terms of switching between poetry and prose – often when I have an idea – I tend to visualise somebody doing something in a particular location, or sometimes a phrase or an image just pops into my head – I don’t always know if it’s a poem or a story. I go with the flow and see what happens, and if it changes ‘genre’ at some stage – so be it. I’ve written short stories that have started as poems, and one narrative poem, ‘The New Bride’ was also the basis for a short story, ‘Reclamation.’ I like to be surprised by what I write, to let my imagination go where it will, and not have too much sense of control over an initial idea.
My current project, a long narrative supernatural/satirical poem called ‘The New Cockaigne’, could also be read as ‘a short story in verse’, and it’s about to be adapted as a Live Literature project, in conjunction with Lewes Live Lit. It’s been great fun and I’d like to write more long poems (though it was very challenging, and increased my admiration for those poets regularly writing long poems or sequences!)

Pauline Stainer was included in the first Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation project in 1994, then called New Generation. After many years in rural Essex and then on the Orkney island of Rousay, Pauline now lives in Suffolk. Her Bloodaxe titles include The Lady & the Hare: New & Selected Poems (2003), which draws on five previous books, as well as a new collection, A Litany of High Waters, and two later collections, Crossing the Snowline (2008) and Tiger Facing the Mist(2013). Along with The Lady & the Hare, her collections The HoneycombSighting the Slave Ship and The Ice-Pilot Speaks were all Poetry Book Society Recommendations. Her fourth collection The Wound-dresser’s Dream was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award in 1996. Pauline Stainer received a 2009 Cholmondeley award for her poetry.

Pauline and I met last year, after I moved to Suffolk and discovered through a mutual friend, that we lived in the same village. It’s been good getting to know Pauline and I’ve felt some comfort knowing she was on the first list.

1.You were part of the first list in 1994, the New Generation, twenty years ago. You’ve talked to me about ‘the unexpected publicity’.  Can you describe how you felt in the beginning? Apart from being pleased no doubt, did you feel a pressure of any sort?  That things would now be expected of you?

When I found out I had been included in the New Generation list I was pleased and hugely surprised. I had not had that much recognition.  I had always scribbled away, for many years, but I did not start submitting my work until I was forty. I was a mother of four children, that was my life. My first book was published in 1989, my second in 1992,  and my third was published in 1994, the same year as getting on the list. I was 53 and my family still needed me. I am not a naturally public person. Suddenly, I had to get used to going to events and reading my work a lot more. Twenty years ago, the ‘pressure’ came from knowing you were going to have to perform.

2. How did being on the list change your writing life?

My writing life didn’t change much.  I was busier.  I was asked to do more things.  I was writing for a long time before my first manuscript was accepted. This meant I had a backlog of poems.  Being on the list gave me the confidence to continue and know that the backlog of work could become books.

3. Twenty years ago, the world of social media was yet to take over our lives. This decade’s Generation has a website, YouTube videos, blogs and so on.  Are you a part of that world now, or have you felt you’ve needed it? How different was it then to promote the project?

I do not engage with the world of social media.  I’d say I am more Antediluvian!  Back in 1994, there was initial coverage of the list in the national press, but public readings were the main way of promotion. The poets on the list ran writing workshops too.  Partaking in those events, meant that my name became more widely known and I was asked to do other things, like judge poetry competitions.  The New Generation promotion did require more physical commitment then. You had to actually appear somewhere, whereas now, with the internet, you can read and promote your work from your computer at home.  It is such a huge change in twenty years.

4. The Next Generation projects, for me, are not simply about promoting the poets.  They are about encouraging the reading of poetry by presenting an eclectic list of writers. From there, hopefully, people will go on to explore the wider world of contemporary poetry.  Do you feel the past two lists have achieved this?

Poetry is a funny thing.  People are afraid of it. I remember meeting a man and telling him I wrote poetry.  His response was ‘Oh, I can’t grapple with that’!  I was so struck by his word ‘grapple’, implying poetry needs to be wrestled and held down in order to be understood. Poetry is not regarded here, as it is say in South America, where poetry is a part of every day life and culture. It is still regarded as difficult here.  But there is so much more available now, so many more resources and better access to poetry. The New/Next Generation lists certainly have played a part in ensuring poetry reaches a wider audience. And it is broader now, the list is eclectic this year, as proved with the inclusion of Kate Tempest.

5. Motherhood is a big topic of mine. Once you were on the list, how did you deal with new creative opportunities and being a mother of young children?

When you are a mother and at home, but also writing from home, it is difficult to be perceived as ‘working’.  I often felt what I did was not regarded as work.  I was seen as someone who had the time to take two hours off in the middle of the day because I didn’t really ‘do’ anything.  But I saw writing as my job. It is a craft, a skill. I had to be disciplined and ruthless, and people had to know that I couldn’t ‘give’ all the time. I do feel women have a better deal now, when it comes to writing and publishing.  I’m not saying it’s perfect, but there are more opportunities, more support with the likes of Second Light Network for example. And you see more women taking on editorial roles now.

6.  You have written many collections.  I regard you as very successful and prolific in your output. How do you regard the past twenty years of your life, as a poet? High points? Regrets?  The future, what next?

The ‘Next Generation’ high point was being recognised as a writer of quality.  I was very pleased to be selected and placed alongside poets I admired.  I don’t feel a pressure to publish anymore. I have a very good relationship with my editor and publisher (Neil Astley at Bloodaxe) and have written eight books of poetry, with plans for another, but I also paint.  I have been painting for five years. I’m part of an artists collective called Stour Valley Artists and I enjoy it very much. I am retaining a connection to poetry – using it as inspiration.  I’m currently experimenting – taking a single line of poetry and seeing what I paint as a result of reading it. I began to exhibit two years ago, but I would like to treat the painting as I did the writing. To be creative, but not have to think about where it’s going.  Whether it be a gallery wall or published page, I prefer to concentrate on the craft, not its destination. And no, no regrets. I felt privileged to be part of the New Generation. It was a good thing to happen.

Transatlantic Poetry

Technically, it was a big deal for me – suddenly in the world of Google Hangouts – but my live, online reading on Sunday night for Transatlantic Poetry turned out to be a really enjoyable thing.  It helped that the knackered laptop in my life had been upgraded to mark a recent (and significant) birthday, so I felt a lot more confident when I switched the necessary equipment on. And of course guidance from the two delightful hosts – Robert Peake and Robert Harper - was invaluable. Transatlantic Poetry is the brainchild of Peake and a wonderful thing it is too, pairing poets from around the globe for readings, available to view live, on the internet.  Harper is editor of Bare Fiction magazine, and has published four new poems of mine, in the most recent issue. My thanks to them both for inviting me to be part of Sunday’s event.

I read from my sitting room in Suffolk, thankful the dog remained snoring on the sofa throughout. Poet Dan O’Brien read from his home, on a bright morning in LA. I read Dan’s Forward Prize shortlisted book War Reporter earlier this year and still think about it. It comes in flashbacks. Harrowing, honest, brutal and necessary, the poems about the Pulitzer prize winning war photographer Paul Watson, and O’Brien’s unique acquaintance with the man, make vital reading in our times.

During the Q&A afterwards Dan described himself as lucky to have met Paul Watson.  I think Paul Watson is lucky to have met Dan. I wonder how Watson’s experiences would have been articulated if he had not met the poet?  Could anyone else have got to the core of what he saw and felt?

Do watch the reading below, Dan is a terrific reader, and remained very calm during an early technical hitch. I would have wept.  I follow him, beginning with a batch of new poems, which felt good to air, after quite a lot of Her Birth stuff of late. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vFDFbFqIJo

 

Healthy Heart Poetry – call for submissions

My thanks to all those who followed the week of Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week earlier this month. The response was extremely positive. I’m very grateful to the poets involved for sharing their work, it was a good seven days. The poems will remain here, on my blog.  Do take time to dip in and enjoy them again.

Now for more heart-related poetry, but a little different. This summer, I will be co-editing the Healthy Heart anthology of children’s poetry with Wendy French, to be published by the Hippocrates Press later in 2014.  The idea behind the anthology – a joint initiative between the Hippocrates Society and the Cardiovascular Research Trust (CVRT) – is to encourage children and young people to maintain a healthy lifestyle and look after their hearts. Poems are invited on the theme of ‘Healthy Hearts’. Entries are welcome from anywhere in the world from schools or individually from children and young people.

The anthology will be divided into sections: selected poems by primary school children, selected poems by secondary school students, and a section devoted to heart healthy recipes supplied by anyone of school age. Medical professor Donald Singer said: “ I will be adding a section in the book on how to keep the heart healthy so that book could be used in schools for teaching about health as well as just for pure enjoyment of the poems. This looks a very interesting way to engage children and young people actively in understanding ways to prevent heart disease.”

Wendy French said: “The aim is to bring to children, from an early age, awareness of the importance of keeping the heart healthy through diet and exercise.  Please do get your pupils writing! We would like as many children and older school students to enter as possible so we have a wide selection of poems to choose from.”

The book will be published in print and online by the Hippocrates Press. The book will be launched at a celebration in London on December 4th 2014, which children and older school students and their teachers will be invited to attend.

The closing date for entries is 12 midnight GMT July 16th 2014.

Poems may be entered on-line (see the Hippocrates website link) or sent to:
Wendy French at 4 Myton Road, West Dulwich, London, SE21 8EB or by email to: wendy.french6@btinternet.com

You can read more about the Healthy Heart Poetry initiative on the Hippocrates website.

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Seven

SUNDAY: ‘Think HEART’ CAMPAIGN

 

Think_HEART

 

The Children’s Heart Federation is launching a new national information campaign directed towards parents and medical professionals. The Think HEART campaign aims to empower and inform parents, as well as better educate medical professionals about the key early signs of a possible heart problem in children. Think HEART provides parents with five easy to spot signs to help identify if their child may have a heart problem and it gives them the confidence to raise the issue with their doctor or a health professional. Heart problems go undiagnosed in far too many children and Think HEART will increase early diagnosis and help to save children’s lives. To see what you can do to help, click here.

 

Squeezed Out
by Rosie Sandler

You’re primed for that final dive
towards the light; but my heart

is misbehaving – racing yours
in misplaced sympathy.

We move from home
to hospital:

“Blue light,” says the midwife,
“Blue light, please.”

And it’s only afterwards
I understand I could have died:

that my body, primed to push,
could have pushed too hard:

my heart bursting into her hands
with the eagerness of birth.

Would she have caught it,
wrapped it in a blanket,

handed it to your father
to take home – your cot-twin,

wheezing its leaky refrain
to your new breaths?

Rosie Sandler’s poems have been published in, among others: The Poetry of Sex, ed. Sophie Hannah, Penguin, 2014, The Rialto, London Grip, Lighthouse Journal, the 2013 Essex Poetry Festival anthology From the City to the Saltings, and Bugged: Writings from Overhearings, ed. Jo Bell and David Calcutt. She will be reading at the 2014 Essex Poetry Festival (http://www.essex-poetry-festival.co.uk/prog.html) and she hosts a blog for poets at: http://thepoetsresource.wordpress.com/

 

RED LINE (HE LOVES ME)
by John Siddique

There is a red line extending through
a past from my heart all the way back through
a series of cut out paper shapes,
images of my father, his large presence
when I am a small boy, the gaps in between
his returns after my parents’ split,
the moments of each of his reappearances.

The red line has been covered in leaves,
covered in footprints, forgotten from the map.
I have driven other roads, taken different trains,
eavesdropping conversations, holding on
to love so tightly in the absence of the line.

It lay untraced for thirty years, there but unseen,
present but not spoken about, walkable
in the space of heartbeats once rediscovered.

His large presence when I am a small boy.
The man of now wanting his father’s love.
The gaps between his returns, when I am full
of other stories so that I don’t need him.
The moments between each returning,
when in his losing his grip on his family
he tried over and again to demonstrate his love.

There is a red line extending from
my father’s heart to my heart. I have swept
the leaves and cleared the dirt from it.
The grown man can love his loves, kiss rather
than fear loss, pull tension into the bow of love,
launching arrows tied with red streamers
into the very sky

(First published in RECITAL – An Almanac, John Siddique, Salt, 2009)

John Siddique is the author of six books, the most recent of which is Full Blood. His work has featured in many places, including Granta, The Guardian, Poetry Review and BBC RADIO 4. The Spectator refers to him as ‘A stellar British poet.’ The Times of India calls him ‘Rebellious by nature, pure at heart.’ John is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is the current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at York St. John University. Website: www.johnsiddique.co.uk  Twitter: @johnsiddique

 

Wish Lists
by Philip Hancock

Moon face with pig eyes,
copper tuft, striped pyjamas,
came shrieking, shaking
the chain link fencing
of the end house, jump-started
our hearts, made us run.

One sticky afternoon,
must have been his dad
sat on the stoop, sleeves rolled up,
a tattoo, scalp showing
through his grey. The quiet
before the school bus with the ramp.

Toys scattering the yard
always too dear for us:
Captain Scarlet’s patrol car
in bronze, mighty Tonkas,
a David Brown pedal tractor.
Maybe next Christmas.

Likely he’d be no different,
ticking them in the catalogue,
outside Playlands kicking up a fuss.
Lie for ages on his belly
on the wonky concrete flags,
inventing engine noises.

Philip Hancock’s pamphlet Hearing Ourselves Think (Smiths Knoll 2009) was a Guardian Books of the Year 2010. Further work featured in OxfordPoets 2010 (Carcanet), and more recent poems in Areté, New Statesman, and Spectator. More about Philip and more poems here.

 

Variations
by Wendy French

A newly dug grave covered in fresh flowers –
the ground takes time to settle –
the roses need to be replaced.
There’s something bewildering about a wilting heart.
                                *
A woman in Jersey rises at dawn to attend
to her greenhouses. The florist who chooses,
cuts, displays each flower, weaves her wreaths to order.
Colours straight from a child’s paint box.
                                *
The turning of the lock, the opening of a front door.
Nails perfectly manicured, pale, mauve,
against the whiteness of a woman’s face.
Roses in the blue ceramic bowl.
                                *
This mother runs after the coffin,
believes that the moment, this moment has stopped,
has ceased to be. We wear the same colour jumper,
pale pink of the Albertine – the rose that climbs my fence.
                                *
There’s another place far from here where she calls
Rosie, Cariad, and a child runs out of school, head down,
not understanding the colour of her name – oblivious
to everything except a mother calling.
                                *
Blue-black cherries that glisten in the bowl –
stones discarded having forced herself to eat, waiting
for the moon to sink and set against a darkening light.
She takes herself to a seaside town to hear some Brahms.
                                *
This is not a place to visit in the dark,
The gull flies through night, red valerian blows on cliffs.
And at the sea-front, the waves upside down
don’t know which way to hit the shore.

(First published in Born in the NHS, by Wendy French and Jane Kirwan, Hippocrates Press, 2013

Wendy French has published several volumes of poetry and won first prize in The Hippocrates Poetry Prize in 2010, NHS category. She is currently Poet in Residence at the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre. Find out more here: http://wendyfrench.co.uk Twitter: @WendyFrench6

Ketchup Hearts
by Natalya Anderson

Our weekend place was called The Goof, because a portion
of Good Food had flickered out years before

At hushed diner booths French fries drew ketchup
hearts. Hot pecan tarts made cream puddles. In whispers

were mysteries of clasped arms, swinging through flakes
of snow. Flurries leavened heavy bellies, so we shuffled, slipped

to buy bars of marshmallow dreams, scalding them
down with frothing cups while I clutched at your coat

Natalya Anderson is a writer and former ballet dancer from Toronto, Canada. She was wooed by an Irish man from south Dublin, so they set-up shop in England as neutral territory to make a baby son and live life as a mishmash. She completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Website: www.natalyaanderson.com Twitter: @AndersonNatalya

 

(All poets have given their permission for their poems to be included on this site)

 

Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Six

SATURDAY: FUNDRAISING

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is a registered charity. There are lots of ways you can help this charity raise important funds by organising your own event or taking part in some of the CHF events. There’s The Big Heart Bike Ride, The Dragon Boat Challenge or the slightly less strenuous Bring a Bear Day – to work or school.  There are fundraising opportunities for all ages, things that you can get involved in independently or as a group. Find out more about fundraising for the CHF here: http://www.chfed.org.uk/events-and-fundraising/

Oh England Heal My Hackneyed Heart
by Luke Wright

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
it’s shot with guilt and all those nights
I’ve shared it far too often, England;
bled it almost dry for eager eyes;
traded it for other hearts
that turned to gristle in my grasp.
Nothing stirs this heart these days
the party tricks have left it sick.
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
show me clumps of homes on hills
a couple holding hands in Hayle
or chalk stone words of love in Dorset fields.
Give me roads the motor clings to
herons over tidal mud
or skinny kids on wild swims
make me hike to The Hurlers on a whim.
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Oh England heal my hackneyed heart
wash it in the North Sea foam
wrap it up in honey dawn
make poultices from May Day dusk
and chicken soup from sleepy days
until it leaps and bangs its cage
until it thumps me with its thud
and gives me all the grief it should
Oh England heal my hackneyed heart.

Luke Wright is the winner of Channel 4′s 4Talent Award for poetry. Since 2006 he has written and performed eight one man shows, garnering stacks of five star reviews and touring all over the world. His debut collection, Mondeo Man (Penned in the Margins), was described by The Huffington Post as “a riot of cheek, giggles, boobs, tears and Facebook.” He’s known to millions of Radio 4 listeners for his witty and empathetic contributions to Saturday Live. His verse documentary The Seven Ages of Love was nominated for a Gierson Award. He curates Latitude’s Poetry Arena and is editor at Nasty Little Press.  Website: http://www.lukewright.co.uk/ Twitter: @lukewrightpoet

Cyanotic Child
by Denise Bundred

Klee scatters hearts on paper, pink with wash.
Black lines walk a checkerboard across the page,
divide his hearts into rectangles and triangles.

            I can name each chamber by its shape,
            the position of valves, relationships
            to spine and sternum, the twist of arteries.

Klee’s crayon smudges cyanotic blue
on nursery pink, expels the oxygen,
drives to the pit of his creation.

            My hearts hold the beauty of muscle
            where systole follows diastole, as certain
            as the progress of a pencil.

Klee’s hearts remain fixed,
flat, functionless and flawed.
And he hangs them on a wall.

            If I could create a heart, I would sketch a scaffold
            of lines and intersections to separate the chambers
            sculpt muscle layer upon layer.

I have seen endocardium reflecting
theatre lights. I know what a heart can do,
            how many ways it can fail.

 (‘Cyanotic Child’ was commended in the 2014 Hippocrates Prize and first appeared in the 2014 Hippocrates Prize anthology, edited by Michael Hulse and Donald Singer.)

Denise Bundred trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and as paediatric cardiologist in Liverpool. In 2011 she completed an MA in Writing. She has poems commended and published in The Hippocrates Prize Anthology in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2013 she read with Rebecca Goss at the Manchester Literature Festival as part of a ‘Poetry & Medicine’ event. A review of that reading can be read here.

 

The Glass Heart
by Anne Caldwell

I’m rather fragile, transparent,
full of possibilities. I’ve been threaded
with a ribbon, wrapped in tissue, stuffed
in the loft for ten months with fairy lights,
a paper angel, the artificial spruce.

Dust me down, darling,
warm me in the palm of your hand.
I’ll remember my genesis:
the glass blower, a St Helen’s furnace.
I’ll remember sand, soda ash,
limestone, my dark Obsidian roots.

Let me be the jar that holds
your morning marmalade,
the mirror in which you brush
your teeth or the window on a bus
where you rest your cheek
as you head North.

Anne Caldwell is a poet, lecturer and Programme Director for NAWE. She is based in West Yorkshire. Her latest collection is Talking with the Dead, Cinnamon Press, 2011.  Blog: http://annecaldwell.net  Twitter: @caldwell_anne

 

Today
(for Lydia and Alex)

By Hannah Copley

Today, the congregation’s murmur
is a heartbeat, and reminds me

of sonar’s echoing ping,
of the metal detector’s steady beep

as it combs the beach for a coin or ring.
Today, each of us can be acoustic

and hold the power to map –
with our own echoes of love

the hidden parts of icebergs,
whale pods, birds in flight.

Because today, as I put my ear
to the cold stone floor of this church

I hear a heart beat in
the footsteps of a bride:

the quickening pulse
of love love, love love along the aisle:

a common enough miracle, but I swear
that even the stained glass shivers

with the force of it, and the bells rise
and peel themselves in their reply.

Hannah Copley, 26, works as an editorial assistant at Stand magazine, and is the current co-editor of Poetry & Audience. She is currently working towards her first collection of poems.  Blog: http://hannahcopley.wordpress.com  Twitter: @HCopley and @Poetry_Audience

 

Photograph
by Rosalind Hudis

This is my daughter asleep in the morning,
one hand between the silvery poles
of her cot, that remind me of birch trees.

She’s going to theatre soon.
The surgeon will snap her ribs
to reach a heart which can’t wake

itself properly inside its blue forest.
She mustn’t eat, so when she stirs and calls
my arms down for the first feed, I turn

to the wall. She beats a fist,
the size of a large bee, into air.
Her feet swim faster as if racing

a blind snow flood
and I am the snow. Later
it’s I who can’t reach

my child so far under,
her face a locked, white egg
in the thicket of tubes.

(Forthcoming in Tilt, by Rosalind Hudis, Cinnamon Press, 2014)

Rosalind Hudis is a poet based near Tregaron in West Wales. In 2013 she received a New Writers Bursary from Literature Wales. Her début pamphlet, Terra Ignota, was published by Rack Press in January 2013 and a full collection, Tilt, will be published by Cinnamon Press in October 2014. She co-edits the online literary journal, The Lampeter Review, and has collaborated on joint poetry and visual art projects with the artist and ceramicist Ian Rylatt. Twitter: @roshudis

Hush
by Robert Harper

Brighten my days, my dark days in which the tower falls
broken, in static sacrifice to failure. What cost this debt?
Fatal, as sudden wrench-gripped heart, clenched
without release—a timed precision controlling final tick.

Broken by failures debt, this static sacrifice has cost
more than a winter’s frost, more than a crying baby
without release from precise control until the final tick,
before a mother’s sodden skin can wash its face.

More than a winter’s frost scars that crying baby
as it dips frail head into a close Sunday bath
before a mother’s sodden skin can wash its face
in calm caress, denying nothing of her heart.

As bathing sun dips, the frail tulip heads close, day
falls into a powdered hush that chokes away the warmth
in calm caress, denies nothing of her heart
after noon is left to puddle as the shadow

falls into a powdered hush. That choking warmth weighs
heavy on a broken heart, idle as a buried bone in the
afternoon, left to puddle in the shadow
of her former self. Gripped in final contraction,

a heavy broken heart idles. Bones are buried,
broken, in static sacrifice to failure. What debt costs this
of her former self, gripped in final contraction,
without release? A timed precision controls the final tick.

Robert Harper has performed at poetry nights and events across Wales and the West Midlands. He is founding editor of Bare Fiction Magazine, runs the Shrewsbury Poetry Stanza, and is currently collaborating with composer Zakiya Leeming on a new piece for four voices which is based on the poem ‘Hush’. Robert is studying part time for an MA in Creative Writing.

 

 

 (All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

 

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Five

FRIDAY: HELP & SUPPORT

Discovering your child has a heart condition can be very traumatic.  The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) offer support. There’s  Heart Helpline, Children’s helplines and online forums.  For very young children, facing surgery the CHF has introduced MOLLY’S DOLLY, a rag doll with surgical scars to help explain scarring.  For children growing up with heart conditions there is BRIGHTHEARTS ‘an exclusive forum especially for 13-21 year olds from the Children’s Heart Federation. It’s a place to meet people of a similar age from around the UK with a heart condition.’  At the BHF there’s Meet@teenheart, a forum for teenagers with heart conditions offering advice on hospital visits and surgery, as well as providing online glossaries, diagrams and factsheets.

 

Adhesion
by Heidi Williamson

The way I heard it,
she said the rain would slip down, and each blade
lift beneath the weight of drops in ecstasy.
She said, sleep now, close the folds of your eyes
and see blankness, those lights that only you can know.
Forget the empty screen, the full book, the broken words.
The largest animals on earth have bones the same as yours,
and the smallest. The fingers of a bat’s wing, the massive
heart of a giraffe all connect their instruments to you.
She said this is prayer, if anything is, the simple lift
and fall of a lung beneath ribs beneath skin and all
the myriad functions that spawn it. Forget the frogs
beneath frozen ponds, waiting motionless for winter
to break. Hear only this breath, its air. Help form
the clouds with each out-take. Watch each breath
coast towards other lands and creatures. Let it go.

(First published in The Rialto, 2011)

Heidi Williamson’s first collection Electric Shadow (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the 2012 Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. In 2008 and 2009 she was poet-in-residence at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre. She is currently poet-in-residence at the John Jarrold Printing Museum. Find out more about her at www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com Twitter: @heidiwilliamson See her read ‘Adhesion’ here.

 

From: Opera di Cera 
by Kelley Swain

My love, with your scents of sunlight and myrrh: you carry
the greatest gift. Take this crown of oregano, rosemary, bay;

this ring with an emerald like your eyes. We are promised
to one another, and to the planted babe. A humble trinity.

First, he’ll be a pine nut; precious woody kernel tucked safe
within your sheathes; evergreen-strength yet to be released.

His green pistachio-limbs will begin to take shape, wax-pliant,
and he will branch into humanness slowly, in dark fertile terrain.

His almond-mind will grow sharp; his almond-spirit sweet; dust
of mother’s saffron, of father’s paints. Patience, stillness, he’ll gain.

Head and heart will round with the tenderness of walnut. No
more certain shape: the two sides of brain; left and right hemisphere.

Blessed chestnut will make our child sure. From thence, in range
of mother’s womb, his tiny form secure. We with joy await him.

(First published in Opera di Cera, Kelley Swain, Valley Press, 2014)

Kelley Swain is a poet, writer, and guest lecturer in Imperial College London’s Medical Humanities programmes. Learn more at www.kelleyswain.com Twitter: @thenakedmuse

 

Kaddish for Amy
by Joanne Limburg

Let us now magnify and sanctify the name of Him who made and warned us,
according to his Will,

who placed in us our soft or hardened hearts,
then blessed or punished us for what they made us do

who put an evil spirit into Saul, then gave a song to David
so he could drive the spirit out.

Let us bless and extol Him, exalt and praise Him,
who, beyond the reach of any song performable,
commands us still to sing.

(First published on Eyewear, 2011)

Joanne Limburg’s collections include Femenismo , Paraphernalia, the pamphlet The Oxygen Man and the children’s collection, Bookside Down. She has also published a memoir, The Woman Who Thought Too Much and has recently completed her first novel, Kindness.  Website: www.joannelimburg.net Twitter: @JoanneLimburg

 

Felling a Maiden
i.m. Maria Dimitri-Orthodoxou

by Maria Taylor

And what did she bring to the altar?
A dowry sack of vowels, a grinding toothache
of consonants. In a few inky moments
she would no longer be foreign or hard to spell.

She was not from round here, was torn
from fig and oleander, eucalyptus and sea,
though she didn’t speak with a faraway voice
or make lace with her grandmother’s needle.

After the wedding, I dismembered her.
I placed her in boxes, archived her into files
her atoms looped among cobwebs and dust,
under attic beams. A suburban oubliette.

I swallowed the heart whole. She was gone.
The silence was everywhere.

(First published in Melanchrini, by Maria Taylor, Nine Arches Press, 2012)

Maria Taylor’s first collection Melanchrini was published by Nine Arches Press and shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize in 2013. She blogs at http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk/ and tweets @MariaTaylor_

 

Putty
by Jon Glover

Some form of stupidity its
asking and telling beyond
silly playthings alarmed, stiff blood
ring, ring, so squeeze this, game on,
it’s bodily fluids, had it
putty stops going on round,
I suppose it’s quite satisfied,
already memorial
to heart, or hearts, now holding glass
windows in place with tacks and
linseed thumbed in the frame all round
as if in a house wall as

Jon Glover’s last book with Carcanet was Glass is Elastic. He is the managing editor of Stand. He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Bolton, and Honoroury Fellow of the School of English, University of Leeds. He is editing the Complete Poems of Jon Silkin. You can read an interview with Jon, about his life as a poet and editor here.

(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Four

THURSDAY:  PAEDIATRIC CARDIAC LIAISON NURSES      

Rebecca Goss writes: Within hours of my daughter Ella’s admission to Alder Hey Children’s Hopsital in 2007, we were introduced to Gill, our paediatric cardiac liaison nurse (PCLN). I had never heard of such a role within a hospital before, but soon realised how vital that role was. Gill was there to answer any questions we had about our daughter’s condition, explain hospital procedures and give practical advice.  The emotional support she provided to me, my husband and my extended family was invaluable too. 

I’m still in touch with Gill, years after Ella’s death and I asked her how she would describe the role of PCLN, (or Cardiac Nurse Specialist as they’re now more commonly known) in the world of cardiac care: ‘ We provide support, information and ensure you understand that information. We are a lynchpin between the family and the cardiologist. We are a resource of specialist information for the wider health and education community, particularly for health visitors, community nurses and teachers.  I think I have an amazing job. To be able to sit down with a new family, an older child, a teacher who will be terrified/devastated/completely in the dark and by the end to have been able to reduce that fear, answer those questions is so incredible that sometimes I forget how powerful just sitting down and talking can be.’ 

See the British Heart Foundation website for more:  http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/treatment/healthcare-professionals/paediatric-and-guch-nurses.aspx

 

 

Pendle
by Lucy Burnett

(from the cumbric word
‘pen’ meaning hill or head)

i did not dream
euphoria of hillsong
failing nothing but

if the heart might
stop a moment
like a photograph:

my questions wore
the hillside
from the poem
and this pulse of pen

a hill a head

a gravity eroding
moments like

if my failures
were a kind of memory
i put my heart into

Lucy Burnett was born in South West Scotland but over recent years has made a home in the north of England. Her first poetry collection, Leaf Graffiti, was published by Northern House/Carcanet Press in 2013. ‘Pendle’ is taken from a pamphlet she is currently writing for Knives Forks & Spoons Press – due out in late 2014. Lucy has taught creative writing at the Universities of Salford and Strathclyde; she is currently Centre Director of Arvon Lumb Bank. Twitter @LucyBurnett14

 

Arrhythmia
by Eve Lacey

A flutter on the cardiogram, where the heart could not keep time.
Curious – a syncopated judder – in a body grown full size:

I took each breath like the first. It was not entirely adult
the compulsion to rehearse a mechanism just as natural

as rainfall to the quaking earth. To undergo full body shudder
with the weight of every breath, I had misconstrued the curse –

the Sisyphus link of lungs to heart, the cogs and gore of the work.
Life, said the nurse, should be took as a matter of course:

most will grow to withstand the shock of the pump
or the echo of blood that returns to its source.

Eve Lacey is Poetry Editor at For Books’ Sake and a judge for the Commonwealth Book Prize. Her work has been published in The Emma Press Anthology of Motherhood and longlisted for the Hot Key Young Writers Prize. Furies, an anthology of contemporary women’s poetry, is forthcoming this autumn. Twitter @eve_lacey

 

The Heart at Ten to Six
by Mike Barlow

A borrowed house of light,
junkshop mirrors on the walls
and an old clock’s engine by the door –
intricate and beautiful,
but only true at ten to six.

Out here we never listen to The News.
Talk like that just baffles us.
With dumbstruck shrugs we turn back
to the view, register some minute change,
like a shift in the way light hits the sea
or a red yacht on a different tack.

Night-roaming beasts leave hoofprints
by the shore. I sleep well, dreaming
their obsidian stare, the pop
of bladderwrack, then wake
to the tricks of twilight mirrors play.

The bed sags where our bodies touch.
The chairs doze in their covers.
The stove says nothing.
The view that changes by the hour
will be the same each morning.
And when we tap the glass
the needle will be rising.

Mike Barlow won first prize in the 2006 National Poetry Competition and has published several volumes of poetry.  His most recent collection is Charmed Lives (Smith/Doorstop 2012) www.mikebarlow.org.uk

 

My Heart
by Sarah James

I tried to find it once, drew
a paper shape like a dog rose petal,
pink and unthorned.

My head nested in his chest,
I heard his steady tonal note.
Still, my pulse spat apple pips,

shat bird seeds, a febrile blip
on flat screen.                 Everything false-paced
by this thing I have not seen.

Hand rested on my breast bone,
I imagine flesh cleaved, then a muscle fist
slabbed raw on meat counter…

The deepening disappointment
that it will not sound braver, louder, longer
before its fragile song fades.

Sarah James’s latest collection is Be[yond] (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2013). Her first collection, Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010), won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011. Sarah’s website and blog is at http://www.sarah-james.co.uk . Twitter: @Sarah_James

 

Dear Heart
by Peter Kennedy

Ah, dear heart, these fifty years
on each St Valentine’s you’ve found
at breakfast time, or with your morning tea,

a simple heart shape, red, unsigned
but that’s no matter. For my dear
you know it comes from me.

When Peter Kennedy retired from his medical work he found a new life in poetry, and is a founder member and now administrator of the poetry organisation poetrywivenhoe: http://poetrywivenhoe.org/

 

(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

 

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Three

WEDNESDAY: THE PULSE OXIMETRY CAMPAIGN

Rebecca Goss writes: My daughter Ella was diagnosed with Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly 36 hours after birth. Until then, I thought my daughter was a healthy baby.  The shock of discovering she was ill, just  as I was about to take her home, added to the trauma of Ella’s first days and my early hours as a parent. A simple check could test every newborn for possible heart conditions. That is why I’m supporting the Pulse Oximetry Campaign: 

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is campaigning for the introduction of Pulse Oximetry screening for all newborn babies in the UK. The test measures the oxygen levels in the blood and evidence shows it is an effective test in detecting three quarters of congenital heart conditions. The CHF is leading this campaign and pushing for its inclusion in the national screening programme of all newborns. To sign the Pulse OximetryPetition and/or write to your MP about screening, visit the CHF website here: http://www.chfed.org.uk/campaigns/chf-pulse-oximetry-campaign/

UPDATE! May 2014: The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) welcomes the announcement from Public Health England to pilot Pulse Oximetry screening on newborns and hopes testing will be rolled out to all hospitals as soon as possible.This quick, painless and cheap test measures oxygen levels in blood and can detect over 90% of life threatening heart defects at birth.  

Read more about this wonderful news herehttp://www.chfed.org.uk/babies-are-set-to-receive-heart-test-to-save-lives/

 

Conceive
By Eleanor Hooker

Let us imagine sleep suddenly like a child’s shadow leaping round the corner.
George Szirtes [Tweet, March 21 2014]

They are shown
back lit negatives.
Trembling there
a caged pump,
fugitive and rare. They’re told
to hope for winter.

Latin name,
chordae tendineae.
Heart strings torn
from their winch,
fastened to a fleet, dropped fall,
that cannot winter.

No keepsakes.
None. They’re wrought by the
negatives
but must cope -
he carves Yew, while she unlearns
their child’s winter cry.

Eleanor Hooker’s debut collection The Shadow Owner’s Companion (Dedalus Press) was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine award for best first collection for 2012. Eleanor is Programme Curator for the Dromineer Literary Festival. She is Helm & Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat. Book: http://www.dedaluspress.com/p/q
Bio: http://www.dedaluspress.com/sp/directory/details/eleanor-hooker Twitter: @HookerEleanor

Prickly Pears
after Frida Kahlo

by Pascale Petit

With his soft painter’s hands
how quickly he peels me –

like a prickly pear,
removing my thorns.

In one flash
he becomes Diego the butcher

whose third eye can see
into the abattoir of my chest

where my heart hangs
from a meat-hook.

(First published in What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo, Pascale Petit, Seren, 2010)

Pascale Petit’s fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren, 2010) was shortlisted for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year, and was Book of the Year in The Observer. Poems from her sixth collection Fauverie (Seren, 2014) won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize. http://www.pascalepetit.co.uk
http://www.pascalepetit.blogspot.com Twitter: @pascalepoet

 

Lambskin
by Sarah Westcott

Write me a lambsong,
sing me a skin, yellow curls
coming through, curling to wool,
to warmth, long as a long tongue licking me -
filling my cells with milk.

We stole the lambskin -
I roll on its song,
we took its song, its young song,
unrolled the curves
laid them over our flat hills.

She places me at the core
where its heart grew -
I am naked in a pool of wool
floating my bones in chambers of air,
lamb wool singing me.

Outside the ewes are calling,
I am the cry and she comes.

(First published in The Poetry Review, Spring 2014 http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/publications/review/current)

Sarah Westcott is a poet and journalist who lives near London with her family. Her debut pamphlet, Inklings,(Flipped Eye, 2013) was the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2013 and she is working towards her first full collection. She blogs at  http://literary-loper.blogspot.co.uk/ Twitter: @sarahwestcott1

 

Heart Song For A Watch
by Rebecca Audra Smith

I wind you up, flick my nails against your face
to make you start, your battery heart complies.

You are the hourglass that shapes my sapling clock,
trickles away the grains of sand.

Look what a beach we’ve built, so many years,
so many seconds, you keep count while I sleep.

Steadfast partner in the night, my lapping heart,
your regular chant, my inward tock.

Bound as a puppy at the feet of the girl who spent
three hundred pounds on his beautiful pure breed eyes.

But you are just the one on a band strapped to my wrist
which I wear like a second skin, next to my pulse.

What do you get from me? I ask your pauses, at least
make time for a thought, a heartfelt word or two.

Press my lips to you and mouth
dear warmth on your stark world.

Rebecca Audra Smith is a post-MA poetry student, she is one half of Stirred Feminist Poetry Collective based in Manchester. She blogs at beccaaudra.wordpress.com, tweet her @BeccaAudra

 

( May Day) or how sunshine feels
for Claire and Keith

by Maureen Jivani

Like the brink
of sleep

or that almost dream
purpled with ghosts,

heavy like Queensland’s
jacarandas,

their velvet scent
the heart

of avenues
where we greet

our children
as old as toddlers,

Disney on their lips
and blossoms in their hair.

Maureen Jivani’s poetry has been published in the UK, America, Australia, and New Zealand. She has a pamphlet, My Shinji Noon published in the Mulfran Miniatures Series. Her first full collection: Insensible Heart ( Mulfran Press 2009) was shortlisted for the London Fringe Festival Poetry Award 2010. She also writes flash fiction, and is currently working on her second collection of poems. http://www.mulfran.co.uk/MaureenJivani.html

 

(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)

Heart Poems for Children’s Heart Week – Day Two

TUESDAY:  HEART DISEASE

Congenital heart disease is a term which covers any heart abnormality present from birth. One in every 133 babies in the UK is born with a heart condition, over 5,000 babies per year.
Acquired heart defect is a term which covers a heart abnormality that develops after a baby is born. An estimated 500 -1000 children each year develop heart conditions after they are born.
Improvements in paediatric heart surgery and clinical care have led to more children with heart conditions surviving into adulthood. The number of adults with heart conditions is now increasing at an estimated rate of 5% per year. (Source: www.chfed.org.uk)

 

What Would You Say?
by John Harvey

What would you say of a man who can play
three instruments at once – saxophone,
manzello and stritch – but who can neither
tie his shoelace nor button his fly?

Who stumbles through basements,
fumbles open lacquered boxes,
a child’s set of drawers,
strews their contents across bare boards –
seeds, vestments, rabbit paws?

Whose favourite words are vertiginous,
gourd, dilate? Whose fantasy is snow?
Who can trace in the dirt the articular process
of the spine, the pulmonary action of the heart?

Would you say he was blind?

Would you say he was missing you?

(from ‘Out of Silence: New & Selected Poems, Smith/Doorstop, May, 2014)

Poet, dramatist, publisher and occasional broadcaster, John Harvey’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, the first of his twelve Charlie Resnick novels, Lonely Hearts, being named by The Times as one of the ‘100 Best Crime Novels of the Century’; the most recent, and final novel in the series, ‘Darkness, Darkness’, will be published this May. Website: www.mellotone.co.uk  Blog: http://mellotone70up.wordpress.com  Twitter: @John_BHarvey

 

Electrocardiogram
by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

This machine              listens to me.

In my pulse,                            it hears                        the mysterious melodies

of valves and vessels

closing and opening              in symphony.

 

By some unseen alchemy,

it deciphers                             these cyphers

sends

messages         along coiled cables     and      long  leads      to where

a needle          scrapes                        a scribbled script

rising

and falling

in spiked ink scrawl.

 

I

watch

the needle’s crawl

as my heart, my broken muscle                    scratches         dispatches of despair.

Electrocardiogram.    Telegram.

 

The cardiologist approaches             (white coat, stitched brow, stethoscope)

unrolls the scroll

nods                            peers at the pointed peaks, the low valleys

contemplates and translates

this undeniable diary of days

this most recent history of my heart.

 

I am                             caught between recollection  and     premonition

imagining

both the blade            that cut           my cord          and     the surgeon’s scalpel

hurtling toward me

as

my history and future                        unfold                         from this machine

irrevocably.

(first published The Stinging Fly, Winter 2013)

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual poet based in Ireland, writing both in Irish and in English. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair  are both published by Coiscéim, and her bilingual chapbook A Hummingbird, Your Heart  is available as a free download from Smithereens Press. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her bursaries in literature. Doireann was the winner of a Wigtown Award (Scotland) in 2012 and in 2013 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize (USA). www.doireannnighriofa.com  Twitter: @DoireannNiG

 

Stephen Lawrence isn’t on the National Curriculum
by Josephine Corcoran

I tuck you in
with long ago & far away,
pull the blanket of it wasn’t us, it wasn’t
here, around your heart although I know
that five inches is 13 centimetres,
that 130 yards would cost a lot
of blood. There’ll be Rosa Parks
& Martin Luther King for homework,
there always is & someone saying it’s good
we teach them that,
but no-one has a map of south east London,
today your teacher didn’t say his name.
I teach you this: he spelled it with a ‘PH’
not a ‘V’, in 1993
he was eighteen,
he wanted to be an architect,
he was waiting for a bus.

(previously published in The Morning Star)

Josephine Corcoran works part-time for The Reader Organisation in Wiltshire. She runs the ‘And Other Poems’ poetry blog: www.andotherpoems.wordpress.com Twitter @And_OtherPoems She has a pamphlet forthcoming with Tall-Lighthouse later this year.

 

Touchstone
by Kaddy Benyon

Held on the map of my palm
I have a sense of a different ending.
Each threaded vein of it reaching
beyond the pebble’s edge
connects to the carved pink leys
and channels of my skin. Here –
a heartline not stopping at loss,

but breaking free to ramble now
in search of finer trails: scents, traces
of life unsevered by my other hand.
There – a new passage overlays
a violet twist of hate and shame, wipes
out a fatal double-helix long enough
to let your gift’s bright tributaries

reroute the past and navigate a
continent of trust. My heart’s needle
shivers and spins, settling for
a true north where this wander lust
must begin, must end, each new
territory crossed taking me further
from your touchstone: closer to myself.

Kaddy Benyon was born in Cambridge and worked as a television scriptwriter for a number of years. In 2010 she was shortlisted for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize. She won the Crashaw Prize 2011 with her debut collection, Milk Fever. In 2012 she was named a Granta New Poet. She is currently Invited Poet at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge where she is writing her second collection. Twitter: @KaddyBenyon

 

Poem
by Anthony Wilson

Let me invade your heart.

Let me into your hurt

and heal where no one sees.

I place a kiss, here, on your eyes.

 

(Let me invade your hurt).

Let me infect where it tears

at you, unseen, in the heart.

Let me dry your eyes.

 

Let me in. (Your hurt

might burst and invade the world).

I cradle it, as a baby

crying out in the dark.

 

Let me. I come as a child

comes, with open hands,

into your dark. To hurt me,

let me invade your heart.

Anthony Wilson is a poet, blogger and researcher. His most recent books are Riddance (Worple, 2012) and Love for Now (Impress Books, 2012), a memoir of cancer. Love for Now  is available here He lives and works in Exeter. He can be found online at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com Twitter: @awilsonpoet

 

(All poets have given permission for their poems to be included on this site)