Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Nuala Ní Chonchúir


My body is a palimpsest
under your hands,
a papyrus scroll
unfurled beneath you,
waiting for your mark.
I clean my skin,
scrape it back to
a pale parchment,
so that your touch
can sink as deep
as the tattooist's ink,
and leave its tracery
over the erased lines
of other men.

You are all that's
written on my body.


Is pailmseist mo chorp
faoi do lámha,
paipír ársa
scrollaithe fút,
ag tnúth le do rian.
Glanaim mo chraiceann,
sciúraim siar é
go pár báiteach
ionas go bpúchfaidh
do lámh mar
dhúch tatuála,
ag líníocht thar
línte dofheicthe
gach fir eile

Níl faic ach tusa
scrábáilte ar mo chorp.

Born in Dublin in 1970, Nuala Ní Chonchúir lives in County Galway, Ireland. Her third short fiction collection Nude will be published by Salt Publishing in September 2009. Poems and an essay will appear in The Watchful Heart – A New Generation of Irish Poets, edited by Joan McBreen (Salmon, April 2009).

Nuala was chosen by The Irish Times as a writer to watch in 2009. Her website is She blogs at These poems are taken from Tattoo-Tatú (Arlen House, 2007) which you can buy here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Andrew Philip

Andrew Philip writes:
This set of three tankas arose out of a couple of days’ walking with a friend in the Netherlands during the summer before the Iraq war. The storm clouds were just visibly brewing at that point, and we were walking between towns with significant WWII history. The title is taken from the Dutch book my friend used to plan the walks. It translates as “Walking holidays close to home”.


                     in sight

We stopped in our tracks—
someone flicked on the poppies,
squinted at us down
the length of dyke we trod, down
the long-barreled afternoon.

    bird life on the march to Arnhem

A stork fled the calm.
Perhaps it saw them coming,
those rains that caught us
marching the edge of the field
to the call Strengthen! Strengthen!

       it was on a day such as this

A wave of barley.
Poplars painted on thin air.
The light cracks like paint—
a twig beneath a jackboot—
a mind beneath the white lamp.

Andrew Philip was born in Aberdeen and grew up near Falkirk. He lived in Berlin for a short spell in the 1990s before studying linguistics at Edinburgh University. He has published two poetry pamphlets with HappenStance PressTonguefire (2005) and Andrew Philip: A Sampler (2008)— and was chosen as a Scottish Poetry Library “New Voice” in 2006. His first book of poems, The Ambulance Box, is just out from Salt.

Joining Salt as a Commissioning Editor

Sorry to interrupt A Short Season of Other Poets in this abrupt manner, but the big news is finally out. I have skipped the usual publishing tradition of tea-making and dutiful licking of envelopes for five years, and am joining Salt Publishing as a Commissioning Editor.

You can find the full story on the Salt Confidential site.

For those eagerly awaiting a new poem, another poet will be up on Raw Light very shortly. Though there's a bit of a queue now, to be honest, and indeed I may have to say to any further hopefuls, 'Namore, thanks.'

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Paul Violi

Thief Tempted by the Grandeur of February

Wake up! I can’t wait to tell you
How much I learned in my sleep.
And though I remain somewhat modest
And completely charming,
I have indeed changed.

Do you know that taxidermy students
Begin with a mastodon
And end by stuffing a flea?
And as for poetry, it’s easy
And impossible—like stealing from yourself.

Do you know that whenever a weatherman
Grows alarmingly unpredictable,
As long as he retains
A bit of modesty and charm,
He’s promoted to astronomer?

And that like an astronomer in the mist,
I am coaxed onward, in love
With the blessings of sleep,
The lustre of sleeplessness, more and more
Aware of how serious I’ve become
Because of you—serious
And yet somehow remarkably pleasant.

The beauties of the night, I already know
What it’s like to feel cold
And beautiful hair slide through my hands.
Beyond the edge of forgetfulness
Or the last of a fine rain,
A few memories flare
And sputter in a final appeal.
What once seemed true,
What once seemed wrong,
I let them disappear, blown away
By a caress, a spray of light here
And there across slick, wide avenues.
Distant pleasures, distant strife,
I now can say, modestly
But not without significant charm,
I know the errors of my life.

I've 'known' Paul Violi for about twelve years, as much as you can know someone who lives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and whom you have never actually met, by virtue of having published him in my now defunct little poetry magazine, Blade, and admiring his work tremendously. Paul Violi was one of my entrées into the world of the NY poet, of the kind that had such an influence on the Northern School - and many individual poets - here in England, particularly over the past few decades.

He is published (largely) by Hanging Loose Press, and the poem above comes from his eleventh book of poems, this one entitled Overnight.

You can visit Paul's personal website which features all manner of interesting pieces of information and other details.

Meanwhile, to kick you off, here are a few Violi facts:

Violi was born in New York in 1944. He grew up in Greenlawn, Long Island, and graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Art History. He has written eleven books of poetry, including Overnight, Fracas, The Curious Builder, and Likewise, from Hanging Loose Press, and a selection of his longer poems, Breakers, from Coffee House Press.

Widely published and anthologized both in the US and abroad, Paul has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, as well as grants from the Ingram Merrrill Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and a John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001 he received The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Claire Crowther

Claire Crowther's imminent collection The Clockwork Gift from Shearsman Books


The schizoid boy who never takes his pills
and has been ordered not to visit any female
family member, here he comes, half-naked,
down to my basement. Later, a police dog bites
his scrotum. I buy chips and biscuits. Mutter
names. I take care of these grandchildren.
Like that unfed, sleepless child - the number
of games I thought up, but she's live, a grenade,
buried and ready to explode, dug up
decades after the war, lost in a sack
of potatoes. They come for my expertise.
It's worth their battering the door
to share my anger. Nonna, oma, nain.

Claire Crowther has worked as a consumer journalist, editor and communications director. She lives in the West Country and is currently poet in residence at Dorich House. Her collection Stretch of Closures (2006) was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection prize.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Ben Wilkinson


Out from the quay, and the trawler heading away
     to foreign waters
wobbles as if an apple bobbing in the kitchen basin
     of All Hallows’ Eve.

Its dragnet of dregs, settling on the sea’s black-misted
of low-lying cod, haddock, the monstrous sub of the
     deep Atlantic salmon,

almost looks to be catching the water’s beady-eyed
as if to expel its forty-one million square miles
     of swallowing depression.

Returning, with so much fresh fish for tomorrow’s
     hungry morning,
and the bulk of boat slow-shifts from foot to foot,
     tethered down to its cobblestone jetty.

And yet, through some fathomless way of sunless
     ferment, next day
sees the sea ten strong or more, as if the trawler had
     never flounced

its many tons, shook its shivering skin above,
     the freezing depths
rippling beneath. The way the ocean filters up
     its once salt-ridden waters

to the streams and brooks inland, or how the Egyptian
     cobra shed its skin,
intact, carefully rubbing its head, leaving behind a perfect
     replica of itself.

From the sparks (tall-lighthouse, 2008)
First published in Poetry Review 97:1, Spring 2007

Ben Wilkinson was born in Stafford and lives and works in Sheffield. As well as poetry, he writes reviews and criticism which have appeared in publications including Poetry Review, Stand and the TLS. His pamphlet of poems, the sparks, was published last year by tall-lighthouse as part of their talent-spotting Pilot series. He blogs at Deconstructive Wasteland.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Angela France

The Real Bedtime Story

I’m the thing that’s under your bed
to bite at tender night-time toes.
I’m not in any Disney films;
no little girlies’ noxious squeaks
and nauseous frills disturb my rest.
You won’t find me on nursery walls
nor caught in plush and gummed to death,
dissolved in slime from puking whelps.

I’m the worm that gripes old women
to yearn for young flesh and the itch
that sends the wolf to speak in tongues.
I’m the knife that hacks at heels,
the bloody smear on crystal slippers,
the hex in the apple. You need me.

previously published in ‘A Twist of Malice’ (Grey Hen, 2008)

Angela France will have her second poetry collection out later this year with Bluechrome - pictured above and entitled 'Occupation' - to be launched at the Ledbury Festival this summer. She has had work accepted by a number of magazines including Iota, Acumen, The Frogmore Papers, Rain Dog, Obsessed with Pipework, Orbis and Envoi. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies The White Car, When Pigs Chew Stones (Ragged Raven Press) and Mind Mutations (Sun Rising Books). Angela regularly participates in poetry festivals and online workshops; she is also a co-editor of both 'Iota' and 'The Shit Creek review', and an Admin for the popular Poets on Fire poetry forums. Since September 2007 she has been studying at the University of Gloucestershire, for an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing.

You can find more of Angela's poems on Poetry pf.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Short Season of ... No, wait, hold that thought

Would you like to rupture something vital laughing? Try this from probably the UK's fastest growing poetry publisher:

"The poems are simply a triumph of emulation and mimicry, yet they smack of professional banality. My god, Lionel, you must have workshopped them to death. If these poems had a soundtrack, Lionel, it would be Enya on Mogadon. If they were food they would be lard butties. They're stodgy. They're inert.

... I would rather stick forks in my eyes than read another line."

And more of the same, over at the crazy Salt blogosphere, right now, featuring Letters From Our Editor. More scurrilous than one of my own gently stinging ripostes on the Poets on Fire forum.

"Thank you so much for contacting me again on Facebook, it’s so convenient isn’t it? I’m sorry to have been unable to give you more positive feedback on your poems, if I may describe them as such."

Don't go there without protective goggles and a bowl for catching sputum.

"I think we’ll take something new on this year as long as it's young and Welsh ... Am I still guest of horror at Lumb Bank next month? I’ll see you there. Keep me a cadaver."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Matt Merritt

The Memory Of Water

It is not in the same way,
say, that those essential oils, diluted a thousand times over,
defied all common sense to do what science couldn’t

but maybe how
the Laphroaig clouds and piques, to recall the snap and lash
of the Atlantic with the least splash from the jug.

Tonight rain slathers the pavement
while you dissolve into distance, the evening suddenly
liquid, each huge drop hitting the ground

with the sound of a half-kiss, and it’s you who lingers
on the lips, almost too faint to place, then a slow, insistent heat
and the salt tang of deep waters.

"I finally wrote this a couple of years ago, after a June deluge of Biblical proportions, but in common with a few other poems in Troy Town, it had been a long, long time in the making - since the very rainy summer (is there any other kind now?) of 1996. I like to think that it was just taking its time to mature, a bit like the Laphroaig it mentions, but then that's the perfect excuse for working at snail's pace."

Matt Merritt

Troy Town is published by Arrowhead, and is a 76-page hardback costing £8.99. The book is available at Arrowhead Press or direct from Matt Merritt (at £8), through his excellent blog, Polyolbion.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Rob Mackenzie

I wrote this poem after a road journey from North Derbyshire back to my home in Edinburgh. I was struck by many of the place names and wondered who had invented them. It was a wet, grey day and the fairgrounds, which popped up regularly around the moors and farmland, seemed at odds with their surroundings. I’d also been reading Milton’s Paradise Lost, which must explain something.

Rob Mackenzie


Fallen Villages of the North

Given the unreliable climate on the moors,
Longhorsley’s priest supplies intercession
for pineapple experiments at Pauperhaugh
and genetically modified okra in Cockle Park.

Although he is diminutive in height
his giant thumbs drum up post-lapsarian boredom
long before the drone of cauliflower florets
ripens to a ceremonial trumpeting

at fairground season: time for merry-go-rounds
to recycle appearances, for technology to calculate
the caterpillar train’s freight capacity
during its climactic, right-angled nosedive.

The rain runs amok with a chemical stink.
Cabbage allotments between rival chair-o-planes
raise leaves to heaven, green umbrellas
punctured in the heart of hail-bitten earth.

The old-timers still believe in growth
by steady grace, though most are stunted,
which keeps in mind their need for God, in love,
to sling thunderclouds above evil

Shilbottle’s battered crèpe stall awnings,
to give hurricanes the run of its skyscraping
big wheel. Bananas, force-fed ethylene, sweat
carbon dioxide, the priest’s basso profundo shakes

coconuts from the shy, And did those feet…
through sunburn, sandblast and snowstorm,
while all-weather saviours drop like shells
in triumph to the leaky inflatable slide.


Rob A. Mackenzie was born in Glasgow and lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. His chapbook collection, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press. It has sold out, but he recommends all the others there. He blogs at Surroundings. His debut full-length collection, The Opposite of Cabbage, has just been published by Salt. You can find a review of his new book at Tony Williams's blog.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Katy Evans-Bush

No Strings

Let’s celebrate no
strings: those things
that tie you down,
bind you up,
attach you to
somebody who,
every time they move,
you jerk.
Let’s rejoice in no
knots tied: no eternity,
no double hitch; no
slip. No tangled webs,
no getting caught
in a loop,
nothing entwined.
When you talk
into your tin can, no one’s
at the other end.
There is no end
of the line, the rope.
No reins, no golden thread,
no tether, nobody
holding on,
or back, or forth,
or letting go.
No piece of ribbon,
no love letters,
nothing holding
your shoes together,
no moorings
or anchor, no leash,
no cord:
umbilical, silken,
or rip-

'No Strings' is an unpublished - until now! - poem from a poet friend of mine, Katy Evans-Bush, who has the rare distinction of being only the second poet ever to have stayed at my house for the weekend (and regretted it ever since, I imagine). (Since I know you're all itching to ask, the first ever poet to have stayed with me for the weekend was Peter Mortimer, of Iron Press fame, and he definitely regretted it!)

That's the cover of her debut poetry collection, Me and the Dead, above.

Born in New York City, no less, Katy has lived in London since she was 19. Her poetry and essays have been published on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a regular contributor to the Contemporary Poetry Review and writes the literary blog Baroque in Hackney. Her debut poetry collection, Me and the Dead, is published by Salt.

Katy E-B opens A Short Season of Other Poets on Raw Light. Other poets to be featured will remain a secret. Come back regularly to see who else will appear on these pages. Another poet - and poem - to follow very shortly!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day Tripping at Peony Moon

The opening poem of Camper Van Blues is now up at Peony Moon, Michelle McGrane's excellent blog.

After last night's exuberant post, I rolled into bed at about 2am and was up again, too restless to sleep, by 6am. Feeling pretty wired now, as you can imagine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Poetry Like Absinthe

You know how sometimes, often quite inexplicably, you're suddenly electrifyingly alive and tingling with excitement? Because that's how I feel tonight. Absolutely no reason why, of course. But my whole being is bursting with it. I feel ridiculously romantic and keep remembering one old flame in particular - the one that got away; will I ever shake myself free of this? - and wanting so badly to write a love poem that it's practically scratching itself out on the tabletop with my nails. Yet here I am, knee-deep in Horizon files for the next issue of the magazine, and have no time to stop and write the thing that's driving me to distraction; besides which, this frustration is rather entertaining. Much better to be immolated by unrequited desire whilst pushing on regardless with my work, than to slump in a corner somewhere and drown myself uselessly in whisky. Besides which, I've already written one love poem recently - almost good, approaching good, certainly interesting at least - and it'll be out in the forthcoming Poetry Review. And I feel uncertain that I can repeat that success, or rather burn in the same way in a new and different poem. Love poems are so hard, almost impossible. It's still ringing in my head, that one. Ringing and shivering and burning. The poetic equivalent of absinthe.

A Short Season of Other Poets

Paeonia Suffruticosa

Inspired by Michelle McGrane at Peony Moon, who is going to be featuring a poem from Camper Van Blues on her blog this week, I have decided to forego the pleasure of thinking up something intelligent for Raw Light and follow her example by posting up already-published poems by other people.

So I'm now officially putting out feelers for poems from new or recent (i.e. no earlier than 2007) poetry collections.

Basically, if you have a previously published poem which might fit the sharp, cynical and paradoxically romantic tone of Raw Light, find the link in the sidebar and drop me an email. I'll be asking a few friends directly too, with my usual charm, and hope to post up my first Other Poet's Poem in the next few days.

Not sure how many poems I'll feature, of course. As many as it takes for me to get bored of such selfless behaviour, I guess.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Single Column! Single Column!

It's been ages since my last post, for which mea culpa, I've been enormously busy with some Latin texts I've been studying, plus there's the small matter of Horizon Review which is due to launch around the end of this month.

I shall cobble together something about poetry for next week, as I do have a few things on the back burner which I'd like to discuss on Raw Light, with perhaps the odd snippet from recent poems.

Meanwhile, this is my mood this morning: gladiatorial!