Two poems by Paul Waring

Today we have a couple of poems by Paul Waring who, in his own words ‘is a retired clinical psychologist from Wirral, UK who once designed menswear and sang in several Liverpool bands. His poems have been published in anthologies, print journals and online magazines, most recently in Prole, Atrium, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Dear Reader and London Grip. He came second in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and was commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. His debut pamphlet Quotidian is published by Yaffle Press.

I’ve read lots of secondary literature about Auden and his partner Chester Kallman over the years, a lot of it gossipy and prurient, but still endlessly fascinating. Paul’s poem is about an imaginary meeting with Auden and Kallman towards the very end of Auden’s life. What particularly struck me was the level of detail about the everyday tastes and foibles of the two men who were clearly amazing bon-vivants…

 

Lunch On Audenstrasse, 1971

At Kirchstetten station Auden greets, states in assured Oxonian
lunch is at one; face creased into ruts and grooves like a relief
map of the Balkans – but to Chester Kallman he’s 
cutesy poo.

They summer at this two-tone green farmhouse on Audenstrasse,
named in his honour. He smokes, heavily, but only half cigarettes,
as the last half is most dangerous.

Chester fetches Bloody Mary’s and lunch: cold cucumber and spicy
sorrel soup, ham and redcurrant jelly, fresh raspberries, local beer,
oil-thick espresso.

Our loft study talk of Isherwood, Spender and MacNiece; T.S. Eliot,
the influence of dead poets. The many collaborations: forthcoming
book of clerihews; Stravinsky and Mozart librettos.

On the blue and cream express to Vienna I picture Auden on long
summer days in his study; giants like Eliot, Yeats and Housman
looking over his shoulder – breaking bread with the dead.

 

When All This Is Over

When all this is over I’ll start afresh,
master the art of losing myself,
seek wide open space to stretch
out like a Thomson gazelle, take time
to study, see things in gap-stone stiles,
turn up in gardens unannounced,
observe and practice dance steps
of exotic insects, hear stamen tongues
wag in flowerbeds. I’ll stay up late,
tune into night orchestra; knit neurons
to needleclack beat of unclosed taps,
make ambient fridge belly rumbles,
banshee car and ambulance alarms
the soundtrack to my new life.

Four poems by Eileen Carney Hulme

As promised, today’s offerings come again courtesy of Eileen Carney Hulme. The previous set of poems by Eileen on this site were ‘prompt’ poems and they’ve elicited some of the most views of all entries and poems previously posted on this site. These poems come from Eileen’s upcoming pamphlet of love poems which is due from Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2021.

 

Come here

And I do
one step
I am leaves
to your branch.
It is summer
a storm
is holding itself
out at sea.
We are silent
this moment
has been long
in the making.
Let’s not move
let’s wait until
we taste rain
on our tongues.

 

Skerry

Like island waves
you continue to return
rippling a sideways grin
holding out a hand
saying
come dance with me

I gather pebbles, shells
pocketfuls of sunsets
sandcastles
and when I walk towards
or away
I leave a trail
so you will always know
where to find me

Sometimes
I call your name
out loud and the breeze
carries it to the shore
and like island waves
you continue to return

My heart waits
like sea glass tossed
shaped
as my former self.

 

Lovers

The swifts came late
from their wintering grounds
keeping secret their routes
searching for dragonflies
building indoor nests.
You and I
blow as thistledown
wandering beachward
seeking the sea
where you tease
with your stone-skimming
skills and spin me
towards incoming tide.
I laugh and scream
repeating your name
you respond with silence,
lips finding the pale
shift of my throat.

 

In the slip of night

When worlds shift
and I cannot find
myself, I search for you.
In a house with no windows
I walk from room to room
opening doors into empty
spaces.
I’ve brought no gifts
to tease you from your hiding
place. I call out your name
and the air does not stir.
And this pain, this small thing
I carry in my heart, travels
as the ghost of you.

Three prompt poems by Eileen Carney Hulme

Today we have something a little bit novel. The Scottish poet Eileen Carney Hulme has been much taken up recently with a poetry writing challenge. One day Eileen came across a post on the Twitter page of Cobh Readers and Writers Festival which was urging poets in lockdown to write a poem a day according to five randomly chosen ‘prompt’ words. Eileen now has over 90 ‘prompt’ poems as a result, so the three published here today represent but a tiny fraction of her recent output! I will follow up this post with another selection of Eileen’s poems, but ones written for a new pamphlet of love poems she’s working on (expected 2021 from Indigo Dreams Publishing). Her most recent collection is The Stone Messenger (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015).

 

Time stops
a younger skinny me
clumsy and self-conscious
in a post war mining village
posing with friends
and here I am again
skinny still
sitting on a doorstep
with my aunt
arms around each other.
I don’t remember those shoes
I’m wearing
how mum could afford them.
Two jobs to make ends meet
after dad died.
These memories, dusted
washed by rain
close the gap between
then and now,
ghosts from a box
comfort me
as the world splits
spills its pain.

Prompt words: 
Skinny, friends, war, box, clumsy

 

We place each cork
upon the windowsill
reminding us of celebrations,
a birthday, an anniversary
the festive season,
or the day our daughter
came safely through an operation,
distance a punishment
in times of crisis.
Eventually the windowsill becomes
crowded and we motion them along,
each one having absorbed our happiness,
life’s little miracles.

Prompt words:
Cork, punishment, operation, absorbed, motion

 

I wonder how my childhood
friends would classify me.
Only child, loner.
I am still that same person
who loved a spelling bee
hated maths
won an English prize
whose favourite toy
was a blackboard
to chalk up little stories
then rub them out
begin again tomorrow.
Currently I’m daily
trying to optimize 5 words.
I still write by hand
my crossings-out
part of my journey.

Prompt words:
Classify, chalk, toy, optimize, person

One poem by James Aitchison

Today’s poem is a rather poignant one, not in tone but in the circumstances surrouding it. James Aitchison is a poet who lives in Stirling. He was born in Stirlingshire in 1938 and has written a number of superb poetry collections over the years including a study of Edwin Muir’s poetry (The Golden Harvester) and the fascinating and ambitious New Guide to Poetry and Poetics (Rodopi, 2013) which explores the nature of poetic creativity. He’s a poet I discovered when I was starting to write poetry in earnest myself and he’s someone whose work I treasure very highly and return to regularly for guidance.

People who have encountered Aitchison’s poetry before probably know that one of his main themes is the mind itself, an epistemological focus on how it works (or not!), ranging from an awareness of our primeval pre-human consciousness to the very heights of artistic endeavour and how this is achieved. Today’s poem is a playful meditation on the mistakes we make as learners and looks at the eventual decline of the mind.

I began my intro here saying that this poem is a poignant one. This is because last year, shortly after this poem was written, Aitchison had a near-fatal stroke which resulted in some serious neurological and physical impairments. But he remains hopeful for recovery and is looking forward to writing poems and gardening once more. I wish him the very best and I am honoured that he has given me his consent to share this poem with you. His most recent collection is Learning How to Sing (Mica Press, 2018).

 

Default

‘Have you crossed your teas and dotted your eyes?’
The headmaster was a gentle man.
I thought he’d spotted something on my face.
I was seven and barely literate.
I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ to agree with him.

*

I don’t notice my default spelling faults
until I’m keying in my longhand text.
Twowords are fused; a word’s las letter is los;
in ‘gentle’ and other ‘tl’ words
I often cross the ‘l’ and not the ‘t’;
the dot is usually adrift from the letter ‘i’.

Twigs and small branches of my brain’s dentrites
die back or break off. I’m seven years old again.

Three poems by Robert Selby

Today I have the great pleasure of showcasing a trio of excellent poems by Robert Selby, whose debut full collection The Coming-Down Time (Shoestring Press, 2020) is due to be released on the 25th of June. Having had a good look in advance at this book, I can assure you it’s a very finely crafted piece of work. These three poems are consecutive and complementary and are taken from the book’s opening sequence, written in memory of the poet’s late grandfather.

Robert is also the editor of Wild Courta terrific online literary magazine attached to the English Department of the King’s College London. He’s a very active, dynamic and supportive presence on the UK poetry scene and I wish him all the best with this new collection which I implore you all to order from this link.

 

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New pamphlet from Mariscat

I’m deleriously happy to announce that I have a new pamphlet collection of 26 poems due out very soon from Mariscat Press in Edinburgh. These are all poems written since my return to the UK and to my native Northumberland after four years away in Belgium.

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with Hamish Whyte and Diana Hendryon this collection. Robert Dalrymple has done an amazing design job on the pamphelt and I am honoured that the artist Brent Millar has allowed one of his artworks to be used for the cover image. Here it is:

First hare cover

For anyone who might be interested, here’s a flyer about the collection with details of Mariscat Press and how to go about ordering it, which I dearly hope you will:

MARISCAT PRESS – Latest

 

Richie McCaffery, First Hare

 

The Duke’s selling off his farmland

to the developers,

and still there’s nowhere

we seem to be able to live.

 

We move so much I sometimes

think we’re stolen goods.

I helped you spot your first hare.

This fact seems important now.

 

from ‘Northumbrian’

 

A new gathering of McCaffery’s pellucid poems of love, life

and family – imbued with a Northumbrian flavour.

 

Richie McCaffery is a poet, critic and independent scholar of Scottish

literature. He has published two collections with Nine Arches Press

and two pamphlets, including Spinning Plates (HappenStance 2012).

He lives in Alnwick, Northumberland.

 

MARISCAT PRESS         ISBN 978 1 9160609 5 1               £6.00

 

Order by post (Mariscat Press, 10 Bell Place, Edinburgh EH3 5HT)

or by email: hamish.whyte@btinternet.com  (www.mariscatpress.com)

 

Pay by cheque (made out to Mariscat Press and sent to the press at above address)

or BACS (Bank of Scotland / Sort code 80 15 59 / Account no. 00413102)

 

Three poems by Hayden Murphy for Bloomsday

Today is Bloomsday and as promised, we have another small selection of poems to mark this occasion written by Hayden Murphy. Two Bloomsday poemshave already appeared on this site, but these three are of an altogether more personal import. ‘Telemachus’ was written to commemorate Bloomsday 100 in 2004 and has appeared in an eighteen poem sequence relating to Joyce’s Ulysses entitled Modalities (Roncadora Press, 2005). ‘A Modest Proposal’ was for Bloomsday 2008 and ‘Second Sight’ for Bloomsday 2013.

Here Hayden himself explains the poems for Bloomsday project which he has been engaged in for over fifty years:

Since June 16th 1969, in Paris, I have attempted to mark Bloomsday with a “word offering”, in a limited edition (50), for distribution among friends. I have always tried to collaborate with a visual artist in these publications. I have been fortunate since 1992 to work with the Scottish artist and publisher Hugh Bryden. In 2014, to mark the 110 commemoration of the events related in James Joyce’s Ulysses, The Consulate of Ireland to Scotland, in Edinburgh, mounted a retrospective exhibition of our work together and a selection of correspondence with recipients down the years including the poets Brendan Kennelly, Edwin Morgan and Seamus Heaney and the dramatist Brian Friel ( Bloomsdays Abroad: June 16th-21st, ).

 

Hayden Murphy

Edinburgh: April 2020.

 

 

TELEMACHUS

 

In a bright silent instant

Stephen saw his own image in cheapdusty

Mourning between their gay attires.

–  It’s  a wonderful tale, Haines said,

– Bringing them to a halt again.

                                                           Ulysses

 

Wave shaves wave in the tower shadow. Let

Day begin on this watercolouring trampoline.

Razor sharp summersaulting sentences

 

Let loose their words. They walk the tight

Rope held by their circus animals half

Tamed. Associate with strangers. Press on.

 

Recite again.    Stop, be  slow.       Recite

Again until the wordweave’s right. Now

Abandon silence. Sea salmon sirens leap.

 

Now we are tenderly safe to declare love.

 

 

A MODEST PROPOSAL

For Frances

 

Say a few simple words

he could twist how he liked

not acting with precipit

precipitancy with equal candour

the greatest earthly happiness

answer to a gentlemans proposal

                                                              Ulysses

 

Take this hand

To tongue and tell

Its palm to salt

The moment for all

 

It’s worth. A moment

Of much that stills

The mouth until, word

Wise, abandoned silence

 

Tells of the taste

Of love’s song

Flavouring the air’s

Rhodendron breath.

 

Grace note be born.

 

The watchman going about

serene with his lamp….

Oh and the sea the sea crimson

sometimes like fire

and the glorious sunsets..where

I was a flower of the mountain yes

                                                               Ulysses

 

 

SECOND SIGHT

The kind of understanding that consists in seeing connections.

                                                                                                Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

Holding fast to the tender contradiction

Between sight and vision. A voyage on water.

Only a heart-beat lies in the eye-blink. The pause.

I hold fast to the words treasured in my tender lies.

 

Confuse me with brightness, please. Preferably by water.

 

Now let me leave the Joycewords for another day.

Now let sight associate with sound.

 

The eyes become curator rather than narrator.

 

The heart’s perspective, the peripheral slight of echo

In the memory. Nuance’s imperative. The distracting line.

The bird flight heard but unseen. A ship drydocked.

A dream stranded in these nights when eyes are closed.

 

Sailing towards Ithaca my Third Eye blinked.

 

The seal cavorting on the seaside of my eyes became

The night’s bat fornicating with the abandoned owl of day.

 

Holding fast now to the inside vision in this dream

Of this voyage in a returning ship narrated not curated

By my crew composed of my internal bestiary:

Owls, dragons, belfry bats and The Yellow Bittern’s ghost.

 

I travel only by water.

 

Now as this poem is ending I am blind

                                      To all but the weight of this poem non-ending.

 

Two poems by Hayden Murphy

For many years, the Edinburgh-based Irish poet Hayden Murphy has been producing wonderful keepsake poems to mark Bloomsday and since 1992 he has been collaborating with the artist and publisher Hugh Bryden. Hayden himself will no doubt be known to many of you as not only a poet, but a fine critic and man-of-letters as well as the editor of the legendary literary periodical Broadsheet (1967-1978). These two examples of Hayden’s Bloomsday poems are part of a series I will be publishing on this site in the run-up to Bloomsday proper. The first poem here, an elegy for one of Scotland’s greatest poets, Hugh MacDiarmid, hails from 1992 and the second, a birthday celebration for the 80th birthday of another of Scotland’s finest poets, Edwin Morgan, is from 2000. The latter is particularly pertinent now, considering that 2020 marks Morgan’s centenary. In the photo below, taken in 2014 at the Irish consulate in Edinburgh, Hayden Murphy (left) drinks a jar of Guinness with Hugh Bryden, his collaborator.

Scan_H&H 20200605

 

 

FEATHER  AND STONE

I.M. Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978)

 

Eel nouns, crowned

Teeth, capped on Riding

Day with sombre headdress.

 

Handed over the grave,

Blown needle thin

Are tree-drawn wind

Flayed words

Into memory.

                                                     Feather

Testimony of tribe.

Scribe, chieftain

Of rock-hewn terms

Of agreement. Water

Gently marking

Divides.

               Red

Woven into black

Meeting blue

Flat on the palm

Against the palm

Handing over the grave

A leaf grained feather.

                                                       Stone

Earthed. Against

Grey skin, the watching

Sky, a white veiled

Rose is worn. Stubborn

As black.

                  Plain,

Pale, brave.

 

Mole verbs, tapped

Tongue , horse-drawn

Freeman crowned.

 

 

 

ANAPHORA

For Edwin Morgan beyond 80

 

Grey blue

                                  River laid against

The key stone polishes

                                                         Low

Pebbles   sounding   out   an    eddy

Echo

              River fluid

                                                      Under

                                                    bridges

Hymns the sentence

                                              Greek blue

River rhetoric

                                  Moves to whisper

Out a liquid line

                                      Retelling

                                                           Sins

Recalling crossing journeys

Greek blue

                               Waters tippling over

An untidy tale as two

                                           Remembering

To cojoin within

                              Loose pages

                                                                All

All memory meandering

                                                     Between

Embrace

                     Condensed

                                                Greek blue.

 

Three poems by Oliver Comins

Today we have a timely trio of poems from the very able pen of Oliver Comins. Although Oliver’s most recent collection is 2018’s Oak Fish Island (Templar), one of his poems reproduced today (‘Hello’) actually hails from his 2015 pamphlet Staying in Touch. Naturally, the resonances with 2020 are all too obvious and I like the poem for its advocacy of writing letters in fountain pen on paper. In Oliver’s own words ‘The original recipient of the poem (in long hand on real paper) was my very close friend Paul Munden (poet, screen writer and former Director of NAWE) who lives in a quiet village not far from Castle Howard’.

 

Timing

Yes, something caught my eye:
your lovely shoulder winking,
exposed and shapely, showing
where skin was just like skin.

We happened to be together
when I didn’t look but saw.
There was no intent on my part.
You felt no need to cover up.

That day was blue and green,
the rhythmic air was swaying.
It may not help for me to say,
precisely, when this occurred.

Telling you wasn’t an option
at the time, so nothing much
has changed. I think you knew,
but did not feel inclined to act.

 

Late Flowering

Each new late flowering is strangely reassuring –
a surge of creation somehow different to anything
we might have encountered in the earlier work.

This is especially true where no precedent exists –
the phase under consideration here occurring after
long silence with minimal or no meaningful output.

By the time our subject reached the age of xxxty-x,
it was clear a considerable body of work remained
to be commenced, much more than that completed.

If Late Flowering normally implies an Early Flowering
has also occurred, in a few cases it simply denotes
an overdue prelude compressed with a swift finale.

 

Hello

I wanted to send a message, something terse
and heartening. Txt would have been a perfect
vehicle, but then I remembered where you live –
how the signal’s consistently weak, barely present.

There’s no point in transmitting a moment’s insight
when I know it won’t arrive until you’re leaving,
setting off from home on a purposeful errand
or travelling further on a more significant mission.

Having abandoned the idea of creating an effect
that would be instantaneous if it wasn’t dependent
on some dodgy cell phone connection, I’ve chosen
a riskier mode – attempting to use a fountain pen.

This missive was written slowly to be sent by post,
knowing you will make time for a bunch of words
on paper – even though it is unlikely either of us
will comprehend the original urgency or meaning.

Two poems by Olivia Hodgson

One thing I like about publishing poems on The Lyrical Aye is the chance to educate myself in public. Today it’s a pleasure to bring you two new poems from a poet who, until they kindly sent me some work, I’d not heard of or read before. Olivia Hodgson is completing her MA in Creative Writing at Birmingham City University. In 2016, she won their Mercian Prize for Poetry and is currently on the editorial committee for the annual BCU anthology. Her poetry and short fiction has been published in Strix and The Coffin Bell journals.

 

 

Spindrift

The river reaches over its bed like an aching woman.
The tide will persuade a shifting North shore to a slip of sea.
Lighthouse and lover notice a precipice of bodies –
intuition made flesh; gravity grown wakeful.
A sinking city spills into the hearth and over
the anchor of sleeping skin.

What paused in the folds of the water
when a creature the size of a thigh crested
on the sheets of foam, doubled back
in bliss?

Let’s lap at these shores. In a life
lit by what’s lonely and now at the hearth, I wonder
how this stokes, how this tends
to the embers of anxiety; the kick of gravity
sated by the beat of an offshore heart.

 

Dead weight
After ‘The New Bride’ by Catherine Smith

I tried to evict her: turned down the simpering
of the pilot light. How can I comfort, be sisterly,
to her outside the pains of teeth and hair,
a gum caught on the floss of a late-night
row? I picked the cotton from its loose
roots in percale, boiled clean the rushing world.
I tested what might be forgiven in the milk-thin hours
before a cast-iron honeymoon, hid the ash away.
I lost cuticles in the hardwood and nail,
my arms thinning to needles.

Later, in bed, I tried again
without the polyester slip he bought
lashed with pink. Naked as a crescent moon,
I held, then counted, the bolts of his vertebrae,
the urn in the wardrobe stirring.
The tectonics of the mattress shifted
from the double, split to the single.
I lay talking to the new husband’s nape
when the slip stayed there for a week,
living like coral on the floor.

I felt a bottle swung at the dead weight
of my laced, lingering brow – reached
to seal the breach; my kisses like wax.
That bawling brute, smashing the china
for me to hold, palms-up; its sharp peaks
misaligned, like jawbones spared of a mouth.
White as bile, I feel eyes on the shards of me
behind shower curtains; through fingers
striking matches for no candles, her smile
through a yellowing nylon nothing.

One morning, after the tender blue eggs
had burst before heat, I cradled the sting
at my ribs in their silent, elliptical orbits.
I took fistfuls of the dust of her, enclosed it
like a child’s trembling hand. I dissolved
between the gates at St. Adelaide’s, then lost
her still, like small change in the lining of my coat.
I opened my mouth to call for the lock
through which she must come
but was met by my own dry silence, communing

for something with two open, shattering hands.
Eviction is the harder part, darling – no light
left to spiral down the hallway toward you –
so I leave my bath water level as ice, my bread half eaten.
Often, when the wind has played the dark,
I press my shoulder to the curve of something
not yet sleeping, still blue with pulmonary blood.
Ah, sister – couldn’t you have warned me,
before you existed in the gap between
a funeral and a home?