Sunday, 21 December 2014

Denise Riley's Selected Poems (Reality Street, 2000), second selection

More favourite passages from a splendid book:

One afternoon hour burns away until a rust-
coloured light sinks in towards evening

or any time at all when I fall straight through
myself to thud as onto the streaked floor of

a swimming pool drained out for winter, no
greeny depths but lined in blackened leaves. 


The wind sheets slap the sea to ruffled wheatfields.
Angel, fish, paradise, rain of cherries.

from "Knowing in the Real World"

It will come sobbing in my ears
calling my names to me over and over.
I'll think, and try to keep my eyes
wide open as if swimming underwater.

from "What Else"

The violet 
light of snow falling.


It's restless, it can't 
find whiteness.

Its grey and violet
trillion souls.

from "Poor Snow"

I haven't got a body, till it hurts--

from "Pastoral" will keep your beautiful soul glazed as a 
skein of floating hill mist and as quietly as slightly
and as palely lit--

from "Well All Right"

                                --what you need you shall not get until
once you no longer need it then you will, will fall through
jampacked rivers red with thickset fish, through thrashing
muscled rivers' noisy dash pulsing from mud depths up to
air-drenched jumping surfaces in brilliant scales of scarlet


Wait, lean from the topmost window, see over all this city
in its gravely vigorous life the moon hung orange in the 
humming sky, the deeply breathing the electric air, tall
houses dropping glow, one fox-pure shriek, dark gardens'
charcoal pools, faint droning far-off traffic, never sleep
high twists of sirens spiral down the road and palest heads
of swimming roses gape awash in their own light against
the grind of buses starting out as in this night a single
traveller flies home through everything inside one life, its
fearful hesitations, pouncing leaps of speed; at daybreak
an hour's whiteness comes to lie in folds not brushed by
any shadow screens, I act as a fan, I find soul settlement

from "A Drift"

No I don't much like this bland authoritative tone either
but it is what I took from years of reworded loss.
So if my skin slid downwards to the ground
you would see only a standing pillar of blood.
Believe that this would be true also of you.

from "Cruelty without Beauty" become mildly malicious in studying the failed consolations of middle age
that at least some of the people you once mistakenly went to bed with and v.v.
now sometimes look seedier, more despairing than you, though that's only
because you get to use lipstick and hair-dye whereas they on the whole do not--
your vanities, and pleasure in theatrical self-blame, have got you where you are today
that's here: and though you've noticed now that you can breathe again, you do


with how to hook on to the sliding skin of the world in time
or: in time I am going to die, can you be there


an engine of light forgets about everything
but roaring you into it


Not your happy here-we-go-down-together dream of a roseate catastrophe
Not your reassuring conviction that whole governments
Will pale and stagger under the jawbones of your dismembered syntax
Vain boy! it keeps you busy, though you know
That Belgrade and Zagreb still shelter many post-surrealists, as does East Central One.


There was such brilliance lifting off the sea, its aquamarine strip 


Thickened with books again, vexed by the
grave again, falling downstairs and not looking

and going outside again there's
a world, there's one in here also


Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Japanese Garden at Monte Palace Gardens, Funchal, Madeira, December 2014

For me, the most beautiful part of the Monte Palace Tropical Garden was the Japanese garden. These pictures don't render how exquisite it was, so you'll just have to see if for yourself!

 A large pond of koi!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

"Permanent Winter"

My short-short story, "Permanent Winter," appears in the December online issue of Bluestem, available to read here. I wrote it last January, when my brother-in-law Reggie was complaining on Facebook about all the snow days they were having in Illinois.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A mini-interview with Patricia Ann McNair

Some months ago, Chicago fiction writer Patricia Ann McNair interviewed me, and it's now on her website here. My favourite question was "If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be?" That took some thought.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Denise Riley's Selected Poems (Reality Street, 2000), first selection

Some favourite passages as I reread Riley's Selected Poems: 

An unselfconscious wife is raised high as a flag over
                 the playground and burns up


today it is all grandiose domestic visions truly

from Marxism for Infants

the houses are murmuring with many small pockets of emotion

from "Affections Must Not"

                                                             I'm seeing present history
glance round it for support, I'm hearing it at work to stammer its imperfect story
go on too long, be conscientious, grab at straws, then reach its edge of tears.


                       ...I'll leave
as I might leave a party whose guests are venomous yet inconsolable....


What is it that shapes us, whether 
we will or no, that through these

opened and reopened mouths that form
the hollow of a speaking wound, we
come to say, yes, now we are Illyrian.

 from "Laibach Lyrik: Slovenia, 1991"

If I seem mirthful it is tinsel & spangles on a black ground.


To come to the point, avoiding the temptation to impertinent
& superfluous labour. Exactness the common honesty of art.
What is prosperity without it but a violated responsibility.


The solemn & inexhaustible eloquence of rains and mountain.


We are first green and then grey and then nothing in this world.

from "Letters from Palmer"

steady me against inaccuracy, a lyric urge
to showing off. 


representing yourself, desperate to get it right,
as if you could, is that the aim of the writing?
'I haven't got off lightly, but I got off'--that won't
deflect your eyes that track you through the dark.


Will you be good towards
these animals of unease
I can just about call them home.


                                                I'd thought
to ask around, what's lyric poetry?
Its bee noise starts before I can:
You do that; love me; die alone.


Unanxious, today. 
A feeling of rain
and dark happiness.

from "A Shortened Set"

Sunday, 7 December 2014

An audio recording of "A Birthmother's Catechism" available online

My publisher Seren Books asked me to do a recording of the poem they wanted to use as poem of the month for the December newsletter, "A Birthmother's Catechism." You can listen to the recording at SoundCloud here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Crown Inn, Belfast, November 2014

The Crown Inn opened in 1826. I visited both nights I was in Belfast.

 The ceiling

My snug on the first night--all to myself!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Gwendolyn Brooks Illinois Poet Laureate Award, 1986

A local poet had given me the wrong rules for the Illinois Poet Laureate Award, but Brooks bent them for me....

As I was living in a home for pregnant girls when I received this telegram, sadly I didn't attend the ceremony.

Friday, 31 October 2014

A new review and interview in Exeposé

A review of my reading at the Exeter Poetry Festival and an interview appear in Exeposé, the University of Exeter's online student magazine. You can read them here.