Pantry Prose: In America by Connor Owen

in america

A spatter of salt is a chess board, and the players sit concentrating on the nothing between them, their elbows on the table and their hands clasped tight beneath their chins. Glum and bored. Clamour from the street sneaks into the restaurant whenever the door opens, on and off like the staccato tuning of a radio.

The nephew’s nothings of thought are sweet, whilst the aunt’s are bitter and sarcastic.

“Go on then, give me an idea,” says the nephew, “something to write this about.”

Rolling her shoulders into a pedantically smug, straight back, the aunt mocks, “Tell a story about two people sat in a café, waiting for an expensive, full breakfast.”

The nephew raises one eyebrow.

“All right.” She pauses. “Tell a story about a boy who meets a rabbit in the park.”

He throws a half-grin aside. “It has to have interesting characters, something sinister too.”

“Gosh, isn’t a rabbit interesting enough for you? All right. A boy meets a girl in the park. And he shoots her.”

“Ha!”

“Or a boy and girl both shoot a rabbit together… in the park.”

“That’s just silly.”

“Well, sorry.”

He sips his coke. “It has to have meaning. S’gotta be deep. Throw in a couple of political undertones and an existential commentary.”

“In America.”

“What?”

“He shoots her in America.”

“Ha ha, right, sure.”

“Well, I’m sorry, just because I don’t have as good an imagination as you young lot do.” She’s still grinning. A waitress summons a clatter as she knocks over a wet floor sign; they turn to observe her throw despair at the ceiling fan. “By heck lad, look at her, afraid God’s unhappy that she’s clumsy and that she’s gonna get smitten.”

“Smote.”

“Smote?”

“Yes.”

“Well, include her, getting smote.” She fails to stifle a laugh. “In America!”

 

Inkspeak: Quick! Get Your Lows, While Stocks Last! by Deborah Edgeley

Quick

 

 

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Inkspeak: Managed by Mark Sheeky

hamster-wheel

 

 

I wonder if I’ll have some money soon,
to calm my nerves,
as I walk up and down, and up and down my dead cube room.
The wide window looks out,
upon a city of grey filaments.
Tiny people and their machines, moving in ant-like industry.
Are these people rich, or struggling too?
All of these people, trapped,
in invisible hamster-wheels to live in concrete boxes, like this.
Putting products in boxes,
trees in boxes.
Animals in tins.
Where is the land?
In a box, with a plough, in a museum.
It’s all managed now.

 

Mark Sheeky’s website

 

Inkspeak: If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper by Charles Tomlinson, guitar by Dave Hulatt

 

Musical-Bee

 

 

If Bach had been a beekeeper

he would have heard

all those notes

suspended above one another

in the air of his ear

as the differentiated swarm returning

to the exact hive,

and place in the hive

topping up the cells

with the honey of C major,

food for the listening generations,

key to their comfort

and solace of their distress

as they return and return

to those counterpointed levels

of hovering wings where

movement is dance and the air itself

a scented garden

 

 

Poetry Drawer: Afternoon Tea with Grandfather Crampton by Faye Joy

tea

Plaited Patricia sits gawky and awkward:

long legs, short dress, tight bodice, puffed sleeves.

She clasps shiny knees with rough red hands,

swollen fingers catching in fancy laced linen.

 

Pin-striped legs tucked under his chair,

with bony knees so carefully aligned,

grandfather Crampton’s copper plate fingers

clasp a bone china handle. He lowers his lips

 

to a porcelain rim. Such Edwardian restraint.

An elegant gesture accomplished with ease.

She cannot do likewise, plaited Patricia,

her fingers scramble to find any purchase

 

on willow pattern handles. Her efforts slip slop

spooling hot tea over misaligned knees,

down purple calves to her leather tongued shoes.

Fumbling and scrabbling in her dress pocket

 

miscellaneous crumbs join tea trails and

fine crocheted doilies are caught in the snag.

A tumble down teatime descends to the lawn.

 

Those pin-striped knees engineer a small turn

and a genteel white head with a weak wan smile

responds to this mishap, with scarcely a nod.

 

Inky Interview Special: Elisabeth Sennitt Clough by Kev Milsom

Eliz

Hello Elisabeth, it’s lovely to meet you. Can I start by asking about the foundations of your early writing inspirations? Who inspired you during your youth and adolescent years, and also can you see any aspects of your literary heroes within your own writing?

Hello, Kev, lovely to meet you too. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.

The foundations of my early writing inspirations have to be fairy tales! At a young age, I read many traditional British fairy tales, such as the two volumes collated by Amabel Williams-Ellis. Like many myths and legends, these offered an alternative explanation for events, happenings, geography, etc. and inspired my imagination. I was particularly drawn to the opposite forces at play: how the darker side was a constant threat, undermining any sentimentality in the tale.

Also, from the age of nine or ten, I read many of my mother’s paperbacks – typical pulp horror stories from the 1960s and ’70s, such as the Pan Books. I think the cover art – feral cats and zombies – drew me to these books. Ever the rebel, I probably felt as though I was reading something I shouldn’t.

My mother was (is) also a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier. Novels such as Jamaica Inn and Rebecca have definitely influenced my poetry, and the synopses of these two novels have parallels with my own life. My father died when I was a baby and shortly thereafter my mother moved in with a man who was very domineering – I grew up believing he was my biological father.

As such, the fairy tales, the Pan Books and the Du Maurier novels showed me early on that writers let their imaginations take them into very dark places sometimes and that it is okay to allow that to happen – although for me it feels uncomfortable at times. In a way, this echoes what Don Paterson says when he remarks, ‘Write about whatever you’re avoiding writing about. There are dragons guarding all the good stuff.’

From reading a selection of your poems, I am immediately struck by the breadth of the topics covered – ranging from conversations based on historical characters (‘Grazini’s Hourglass’), to personal memories (‘My Father’s Coat’ & ‘1979’), fantasy fairy-tales and much more. Is there one particular poetical genre that ‘calls’ to you most, or are you more focused on producing creative writing with a wide scope of feelings, topics and emotions?

I like to experiment with poetry. Several of my poems in my pamphlet and debut collection correspond to the three-part lyric poem principle and are narrative. I’ve heard that there is a movement against the lyric poem by some feminists; I consider myself a feminist, but don’t have an issue with writing lyric poems (in a non-ironical way). I grew up in a violent household with a domineering stepfather – just because I’ve written about him, this does not mean I’m celebrating what he did.

I’m also writing a sequence, possibly a second pamphlet, of poems inspired by the Bauhaus and titled, ‘Form Without Ornament’. You might define these as more experimental, minimalist and loosely ekphrastic pieces.

I read a lot of contemporary US poetry and am in complete awe of poets such as Robin Coste Lewis, Rickey Laurentis and Aracelis Girmay – the way they take the page and are not afraid to own the words they put on it. Thinking of contemporary UK poets – Andrew McMillan’s poetry has a similar effect on me.

Thank you, I’m now immediately researching ‘ekphrastic’ poetry; a term I’ve not heard of but which appears fascinating. Speaking of inspiration, do you utilise a specific pattern of planning before writing, Elisabeth, or is it a much freer and flowing process that creates your poetry?

I’ve become a bit of a workshop junkie of late, and the seeds of many of my poems were planted in workshop sessions. On occasion, I do sit down and plan a poem or its premise, but this is after the inspirational idea – what my mentor, Mona Arshi, explains is le vers donne (from Baudelaire) – has already come to me. Similarly, even with ‘gift poems,’ those that unfold themselves easily and quickly, there is a process of editing and sharpening – le vers calcule.

You’ve travelled across the globe and lived in several continents. How much affect do you think this has had upon your writing style? In your view, has experiencing different countries and cultures enhanced your own creative abilities?

Certainly, living in different countries changed my outlook. For instance, when I first went to Indonesia (in 1995), there were of course very few people there who looked like me, and I was pointed at and/or photographed in the street. This was a new experience for me, and I began to question my knowledge and beliefs. I visited the colonial section of Jakarta and began to think about the way in which Western history has continually asserted itself as superior to all others, through cartography (the Mercator projection, for example) and other processes. When I returned to the UK, I became interested in post-colonialism and spent the next decade studying and writing academically about various aspects of postcolonial theory.

Similarly, when I lived and studied in Iceland, I learned that the Icelanders who emigrated to Canada were subject to being called ‘white Inuit’ by British and French settlers and that there was a hierarchy of settler races in Canada, with white British and French considered superior to all others.

More recently, I was fortunate enough to live in Fresno, California, the city where former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine taught and spent the latter years of his life. Due to the fact that Levine ran the MFA programme at Fresno State University, even after he had retired, there was a thriving poetry scene in Fresno. Poetry had found its way from the university and independent cafes to the everyday – I lived a block away from my public library, and there were rows dedicated to poetry in there, as well as several readings. I discovered the works of several wonderful poets in my local library – poets such as Ada Limon – whom I might never have come across.

In terms of how you write, could you share with our readers how you usually put words down? Does this involve notebooks and pens/pencils, or are you someone who feels the need to write on a word processor, or perhaps using some other form of modern technology?

I love notebooks. I fill them quickly and so am always in places like Papercase. I also only write in pencil with an eraser on the end. Typing up is the final stage of the process for me. I like the rhythm of writing, the cursive flow on the page – it helps with the music of the poem somehow: the breaths, the line-breaks, the momentum, etc.

When I visited Sri Lanka, I learned that Sanskrit poets would write on palm leaves. There’s something very organic and beautiful about that idea – writing on actual leaves.

To follow on from about how you write, could you share with our readers something about where your writing process takes place, Elisabeth? Is there one specific location that you visit daily/nightly in order to get the words down? Or is the process more random in nature?

I find that motion helps with the writing process – Ian Duhig told me that he writes on buses! For me, it’s trains. Some of my strongest poems have been written on the Great Northern line!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our readers, Elisabeth! It’s always a pleasure to read poetry that moves the soul and excites the senses. I’d like to end by asking you how you think your poetry has changed over the last few years (especially since the influences of university), also what creative plans you have for the rest of this year and 2017.

I feel it’s very important for me as a writer to keep reading contemporary poetry and understand what is happening with poetry around the world, as well as how it fits with, or works against, what went before. I’ve just read a poem in a sequence by Robin Coste Lewis, for instance, that lists thirteen statuettes of black women, such as ‘Venus of Willendorf’, and ends with the parenthetical statement ‘thirteen ways of looking at a black girl.’ This poem gains added meaning when considering the racially-charged titles of Wallace Stevens’s poetry.

I am proof-reading my pamphlet Glass at present (with my editor Ellie Danak), ready for publication in August, as well as polishing my debut collection manuscript, which is fifty or so pages long. I am also working on ‘Form without Ornament’, which might possibly be a second pamphlet.

For further information, please visit: Elisabeth’s website

 

Poetry Drawer: I Sniff Books by Faye Joy

sniff

When I wanted to run a home

for stray elephants, my parents

gave me a big book – Wild Animals.

 

I opened it. Smooth

semi-gloss pages

slipped and slithered

through anxious little fingers,

hundreds of heavy pages.

 

I picked it up, its heft was great,

and set it splat on a table,

leaned over and placed

my nose right there

into its folded down wings,

closed my eyes,

eased into the jungle,

into a mystery

that has never left me.

 

I know all the aromas,

I’m expert now,

all the papers, printing inks,

the surface similarities,

the differences, PH values,

antique and azure laid,

bible paper, thin, opaque,

bond or base or clay-coated,

laminate or plain, off-white,

or low opaque to minimise

the show through text.

Add cold-set

lithographic ink,

head-set, sheetset or web offset.

 

And now my son,

via Gunter Grass and Gerhard Steidl,

Robert Frank and Tony Chamber’s

Wallpaper,

has sent a birthday gift:

a bottle in a book, a book in a bottle:

 

Paper Passion – sniff me!

 

Poetry Drawer: Carbon Copies by Pat Edwards

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have known death

have been close to it

watched a man die

heard my own death

whisper in the room

 

I am fifty-eight

each year of me

has seen violent death

in the name of causes

for this regime that power

to start something

end something

remember something

 

these detached deaths down the ages

did not touch me at my core

I did not know their smell

fragrance of oils that seep

from skin and hair

I did not know their voice

or know their breathing

I did not wave them off

to war to work to shop to play

 

I did not properly love them

 

these deaths will churn

in the loop of time

that holds the Earth

I will suck molecules

that held their last breath

I will feel their currents

timeless waves of lost

our carbon converging

in footprints of gone

 

I could not properly love them

 

Pat’s Blog

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer who arrived late to the poetry party, but ready for an all-nighter. She has recently appeared at Wenlock Poetry Festival where she read with Keith Chandler and Nick Pearson. No subject is off-limits for Pat, as her recent book “Flux” asserts. Pat lives in Mid Wales on the Powys-Shropshire border where she hosts Verbatim open mic sessions in Welshpool. She is currently helping to organise the Welshpool Poetry Festival which is on the 10th and 11th of June.
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Poetry Drawer: Hole by Mark Sheeky

 

fire

How can I explain,
thirty years of hole
now filled, like an electric light
in a sea-storm of cyan
salt and introspective madness.

How can I portray
red boot-lace nerves
that weep, now relaxed after
a life of brass piano-string tension
and grating humming burning.

How can I convey nothing,
nothingness,
blackness,
blackness,
hole, and
hole,
except by something
lovely and hot, melting, flying,
rays like arms of fire that stretch
and connect and feel, caress,
weep, and love.

 

Poetry Drawer: Current Affairs by Nathan Pleavin

rock

In a sea full of fish, there was a Rock.

The Rock had been beyond the waves a long time ago, but had been cast out by the only others it had cared about, deep into the depths.

All the fish swam by, ignoring the Rock, but the Rock cared not about the fish, the Rock just wanted to return above the waves.

One day the Rock saw a Buoy floating on the surface, it was beautiful yet flawed, but impossibly out of reach.

The Rock wanted nothing more than to join the Buoy on the surface, but so long passed that the Rock began to give up on the idea.

Every day the Rock looked up to the Buoy, years had passed; for too long the Rock had longed to be together with the Buoy upon the glistening surface.

One day a violent storm crashed down and struck the Buoy, the Rock was filled with a bittersweet feeling; sad that the Buoy had been cast from the surface yet happy it would no longer be alone.

The Buoy slowly drifted down into the sea and settled beside the Rock.

The Rock had wanted for so long to be taken above the waves, but it seemed that the Buoy was broken; no longer capable of surfacing even itself.

The Rock realised this, which made it sad, however it did not blame the Buoy, it wasn’t the fault of the Buoy that it could not be the one to return the Rock to the surface, even if it had wanted to.

The Buoy may have no longer been capable of helping the Rock escape from the waves, but at least the Rock wasn’t quite as lonely anymore.

To this day the Rock still dreams of the surface it may never see, but maybe, for now, the Buoy’s company was enough.

The Rock still worried that one day it or the Buoy may find another to drift with, and bring forth the currents that would distance them.

The Rock longed for this not to happen, but it a part of it could not stop its eternal yearning for the surface.

The Rock also knew that nothing, stone nor glass lasted forever, the current of time would slowly erode them into dust.

The Rock didn’t want to be alone when this time came.

The Rock longed to be wanted with as much passion that it had felt towards the Buoy long ago, when it glistened on the surface.

Where the sun shines down upon the darkness.