"a clangorous, jazzy fanfare…" - Peter Forbes
SMOOTHIE, my debut collection with Carcanet, was published on National Poetry Day 2017. You can order it here.
My work has also been published in magazines including Poetry (Chicago), The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Spectator, Magma, PN Review, The North, The Literateur, The Delinquent, Poems In Which, erbacce and in Carcanet's New Poetries VI.
II have also been a prize-winner in Oxford University’s COMPAS competition, judged by Ruth Padel, in the Café Writers International Poetry Competition and in the 2014 Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition, judged by Pascale Petit.
Here’s a selection of some of my work...
(after Lorca’s ‘A Poet in New York’)
Some of those edge-of-the-precipice
people are circling
smiling at breasts
asking directions to places of worship.
Sunlight glares through gaps in metal towers.
You are always walking
towards the Norman Foster building.
Men rise again
from a hole in the street.
A red hand flashes.
You reach for a cocktail
swallow a cab.
The Stock Exchange is not yet
covered in moss
but everyone’s timing is off.
The sense of scale is mortifying.
A man wants to explore your bag/
your heart/your mind
You lie upside down on his couch.
Vermont Clothbound Cheddar fills your throat.
He blames the axial
pull of the vertical.
You choke. He suggests
you try to be less literal.
(This poem was longlisted in the 2014 National Poetry Competition and published in PN Review 217, volume 40, number 5,May-June 2014)
i.m. Niall McCabe
In the space between two worlds
I poach an egg. It’s early.
I have fasted all night, a long night,
spent mainly talking with my spirit guide,
or rather, listening.
And when I say spirit guide, I mean
Niall, the Omagh boy from Drama School,
who used to be all thunder in the pub.
He wore his cloud-mass like a crown,
daring you to come and try and break it,
but in the dream, if he was weather,
he was a gulf-stream,
he was a golden O reciting Shakespeare
in a parlour-room with chintzy décor.
Once I was afraid to catch his eye during a love-scene,
but in the parlour-room we gazed and gazed.
No-one could look away.
Of course, I begged him, “How do you do it, Niaill?”
because, in truth, I was desperate for his secret,
I was parched for his charisma,
but I couldn’t hear his answer.
Still it was enough to see him back again and shining
resplendent in that parlour room,
after his miserable December passing.
(This poem was published in PN Review 217, volume 40, number 5
(after John Craxton’s painting ‘Cretan Cats’)
The meat of the fish is long gone.
Its smiling bones intersect with the back of a chair,
laid out pat, one more rung in a stack
and the velvety cats can’t leave it alone.
There’s no word for this in the language of cat,
this pawing furore, vertiginous spitting,
cats here then there, then not here and not there,
a hair’s breadth between them and their skeleton love.
Tails, bones, chair, paw, they are spinning and the picture is
spinning, as they hiss in their fit, little beasts,
wild for the flesh of it, leaping in tempera strokes,
implacable button-blue eyes driven so strong
they could lick the egg-yolk from the paint they’re made from.
(This poem was published in Magma 59, Summer 2014).
The Opposite of Confidential
Nobody questions the birds.
Their trills are never subject to inspection or
forced to satisfy requirements.
(the opposite of confidential)
they cannot keep it in.
You will not see them lining up in rows
reeling off content-approved medleys
to a committee of creatures who know
nothing of song and who
certainly don’t have wings.
(This poem was published in erbacce 32).
THIS IS NOT A FAD
A gull takes me to the edge of the town,
It is only grey here; great slates of it
and the roll and smash of sea into stone.
What must he have thought? No hint
of orange-blossom, not a palm in sight
and all the light drained from the sky.
The Northern tales as strange as tides,
like the Newtown Boggle disguised as a loaf,
’till a foolish lass took him home to toast.
And what of the olive-trees, the spices
on the wind, the boulevard lovers?
No-one can be a flâneur in the mist.
Against the railings, the ocean holds me.
Spray soaks my face. I breathe it in,
leaning towards my father’s country.
(This poem was highly commended in Oxford University’s COMPAS Poetry Competition 2013 and is published on their website)
Because I think you’d like me better as an artefact
I sit for ages in the sculpture park.
Flies settle on my arms.
Because I think you’d keep me close, if I’d been customized
in a foundry, I will myself to turn to bronze.
J’ai la verticale
dans mon esprit I tell my spine,
This is not a fad, like the long weekend I spent
being Danish in monochrome knitwear,
saying tak in exchange for tea,
this is for real. I shall remain here,
unmoved by sheep and hedge-trimmers,
until you notice me.
(This poem first appeared in Carcanet's New Poetries VI )