On this page you will find a library of poems that have been transferred from our current poems page.

Earlier selected poems have been archived to another site.

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Fishing

A great blue heron, as the tide
comes in, follows it in, ransacking each
pool in turn, just before their rims

are overwhelmed and they give
themselves up to the anonymity of the sea.
The fish in the pools are frantic;

knowing in their many bones that,
at any moment, they will be either dead
or free. It is this frisson the heron

loves the most. As he swallows down
the last fish’s forlorn hopes he can almost
taste its fear, seasoned with salt.

Gordon Meade

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Arrival at Rafik Hariri International Airport

The queue wasn’t long for foreigners;
the other for Lebanese, guest workers
home for a few days from the Gulf,
stretched back a bit. I stood on the yellow line.

He stamped the man before me
and beckoned. “Bonjour,” I said and he smiled.
I handed him my passport, he flipped through the pages.
“You are coming from Kuwait?” and I nodded.

“What is your occupation?” “I teach at the University –
English . . . English Literature.”
He looked at me and then at my picture,
again at me and said:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Antony Johae

Published in the North 50 (2013)

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In the reading room at the British Library

you can hear the sea. And in this noiseless place,
a pin drop from a milliner’s grip some ninety years
away, or a wren caught in the eaves of a sudden thought.
There’s a finger, sweat greasing its trigger at dawn
as it eases back to join the volley of twelve Enfields
in the yard, dust falling from the walls as we all
fall in time. A rage of sound exalted to stillness
and it carries down the decades. Even after-hours
the librarians whisper here, afraid to weigh their loss
or private joy against the din. As though one
misplaced word could creak like a nightingale
on a parquet floor, jar like a note in a symphony
of counted bars at rest, could make you miss the atom
cracking with the thunder of a goldcrest’s heart.

Allison McVety

from Miming Happiness (smith|doorstop, 2010)

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IF I WERE PRINCE OF LIECHTENSTEIN

If I were prince of Liechtenstein
and you were princess
you would drink the best champagne
you would eat quinces

I’d not have such a crusty air
nor spike, nor thistle
but I would have love to spare
living in a castle.

Happiness would not come hard
peace would step lightly.
Up on the mountain we would stare
down on the city

see each at his humble hearth
workers with worries
know but for accident of birth
we would be likewise

and our eyes would fill with tears
at how hard their life is
and we’d try to calm their cares
with all our good wishes.

Perhaps the secret of life’s pain
is not so mysterious:
keep happiness a thing one’s own
the misery vicarious.

Easier said than done.
The doctor, my dear one,
until I’m prince of Liechtenstein
gives no such prescription.

Roger Caldwell
(from his Waiting for World 93 collection)

””””””””””””””””””””””””’

Here is a poem from Emily Berry, who was our guest on 27 February 2014:

My Perpendicular Daughter

grew taller than they said she would

when I got her; I wish they hadn’t lied

like that. I thought a daughter would be

light and quiet – not at all; they hung her

upside down inside me: now she sticks

straight out, gets in the way when I stand

close to walls. I tried to take her back

but they said I should be glad a man had

known me, and I’d only got what I’d been

begging for. Would I like a booklet?

Instead I asked for milk and tipped its

long white screech right down; it left my

tongue all feathery. ‘There are no returns

on daughters,’ they pointed out. She was

under my dress like you-know-what: ‘This

is how the end begins,’ I said, and aimed.

 

from Dear Boy by Emily Berry (Faber & Faber, 2013)

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Luke Wright was our guest on 23 January 2014.

A12

England’s crude appendix scar,
the Essex/Suffolk artery
salt-baked, potholed, chocked with cars
across the Orwell, Colne and Lea
the Roman’s great, paved Inter V.

From Blackwall mouth to Breydon Water
worlds away from London noise
the Orbital’s delinquent daughter
friend to suits in suped-up toys
and wood chip-larynxed good ole boys.

Where Witham trees are linocuts
against an endless swirl of blues,
where rat-faced booners slice you up
and eighteen wheelers rumble-snooze
en route to Brussels, Bonn or Bruges.

Worst road in Britain, so they say
the bridesmaid with the snaggletooth
you’ll never be a motorway
your tar tattoos are too uncouth
ground down for years by tyre and hoof.

But I will have you, ruts and all
your grey macadam’s in my bone
transport me from the fug and sprawl
to Suffolk’s icy brine and foam
just take me home, take me home.

Luke Wright

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Martin Newell was our guest reader on 12 December 2013. Here is a topical poem from his own personal experience, published in a national that summer:

Accident & Emergency

In triage on a trolley
Stalled there, like a bus
In and out of consciousness
Amidst the noise and fuss
The medics will discuss:

“Had he eaten? Was he drinking?”
“What exactly did he do?”
You wonder what has happened
And who it’s happened to
You realise that it’s you

Drip in arm and pads on chest
Fellow patients parked in rows
While a surgeon checks his desk
And the screens around you close
A chaplain comes and goes

Stacks of flashbacks from
the years
Time dismantled in your head
Now a nurse-in-charge appears
“Move you in an hour, they said
We’re only waiting for a bed.”

It’s Accident / Emergency
They never said it might be fun
It wasn’t then and won’t be now
This isn’t Centreparcs, old son.
But never mind, they’ll get it done.

Martin Newell

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Here is a poem by Rebecca Goss, our guest reader on 28 November 2013:

LEOTARD

He comes across it by accident.
His washing pile muddled with hers.
It’s slippery, black, has a nice stretch to it.

There’s a mirror, an empty flat,
so he strips, feels goose bumps spread
the back of his thighs. He pulls it up too fast,

has to re-tuck his balls inside the narrow gusset.
Once on, tight and shiny, he distorts his physique
with high arm stretches. The cat purrs approvingly

from the edge of the bed. One last glance,
Lycra wrapping the round of each buttock,
he inhales and exhales, gets ready to leap.

Rebecca Goss
— in collection, The Anatomy of Structures, 2010, Flambard Press, first published in Smiths Knoll, 2007.

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A poem by Tim Cunningham who read for us in September 2013:

HIS LETTER

Opening the letter,
Words flew up like butterflies,
Exploded with rainbow wings.

I part the yellowing pages now,
Brittle as fallen leaves;
Unbandage the past.

He writes of where he is:

Of guard duty tinselled with frost,
And stars like sixpences
Reflecting on his bayonet.

Remembers where he was:

His mother’s fingers sculpting flour,
His father’s feet and his
Welcome through acres of neighbouring fields.

Dreams of where he longs to be:

Alighting from the troop train,
Seeing his Venus’s green coat
Appearing from a cloud of steam.

And, knowing the pencil’s lead would sink
In the pages’ white rapids,
He asks her to re-write his words in pen.

Then the poem’s pencil-sketch of love,
Of life disappearing
Like wrens into a bush.

I read his testament,
Follow the vowel and consonantal
Roads we might have walked.

But mostly I watch her hand,
Observe it tracing faithfully
The loop and line of letters;

Her pen climbing his wordscape,
Its warm ink intimate on pencil
Like skin on skin.

Tim Cunningham
(from his Siege collection)

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