I’m glad to bring out another issue of PERVERSE. Reading people’s lovely odd poems has helped me get through this endless third UK lockdown. I hope in some way this new issue will do the same for you too.
I currently use Substack to send out PERVERSE. I’m concerned about this piece that just came out by Annalee Newitz showing that Substack actively pays for and promotes the work of anti-LGBTQ writers. I neither pay nor am paid to use Substack, and am now exploring other options that won’t involve me having to charge subscribers for PERVERSE.
Although I started PERVERSE with the idea of it being fully free to access, there is actually an argument now for charging for subscriptions, in order to pass on some form of payment to the poets. Access to the poems themselves could still be free via the archive and the Twitter account however? There is a lot to think about. I will think. I may do a poll. If you have any reactions or strong feelings in the meantime, please shout.
On to the poems, then. The role of editor is very much one of curator, especially when issues are divided into sections of five poems each. I find the dialogue between these first five poems really striking - they felt so right to put together. I’m interested in how they use pattern, reflection and repetition; how motion is achieved through each piece; what they each reveal about how poems are constructed and how poetry works. And I want PERVERSE to think about what poems are.
With warmest wishes,
(FYI if you are reading this on a mobile phone, it may be best to turn the phone sideways. Some of the poems are displayed as images, so make sure you’ve clicked “show images” at the top of this mail. If you'd rather read these poems in a PDF you can do so here, along with an archive of previous issues.)
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.
—George Fox, 1656
1 2 3 4 five
once I caught a Quaker
full of cheer
briefly clear /
and maker or no maker
I count when I panic. Today
27 plus 30, by the lake six
add 40. Take away five
that makes webbed feet 90.
Dig nails into palms.
My skull’s a collage of numbers.
27 add 72 needs one more.
Not count? Beckett understood.
It was all Rooney wanted.
27 Uhlmans in the gallery
I measured his Danse
Macabre, 1973: 205 by 239.
The pink neon sign in the rain
promises answers if I can find
the question: what is 42?
The receipt in my pocket
divides people I talk to from
those I don’t. I’ll discard outliers.
Walking the Ghetto, 2015
1973: Stained shorts. 1974: Narrow ledge. 1989: Embroidered pillows. 1625: Heart-shaped souvenirs. 1666: Man carrying the world on his shoulders. 1669: Monti-Sardi, Alessandro-Rossi, Manfredi-Vale. 1717: Door bricked up. 1708. 1709: One door only. 69: No way in. 76: Chinese food. 96: Wheelchair and assisted entry. 2013: Passage to dank canal. 2014: Dark alley. 461: Four used mattresses slung, a blue sofa on its side. 2997: Girl with an inflated red lilo. 2920: Seven birds, three cages. 2912: The pawnshop has now reopened. 3659: Time. Space. Existence. 4553: Peter’s Tea House. 4661: Happy yellow pencils. 4662: Super Mario, game over. 465: Charmmykitty, inflatable shark, Tigger and Pooh. 458: Penguin hung inside a window. 492: Pope with beard like a squid. 765: Handbags. 764: Carnival masks. 1979: Scaravelli-Dolza, Cardacci-Fascina, D’Artusio-Serrelli. 5259: Area of video surveillance. 6573: European Union. 6402: To check-in please apply to Hotel Scandinavia.
Deference in the Octagon
So much for puncture and the revelation it brings.
As the filmmaker said, “there is no love in the jungle,
only fornication in the lens”. The natural order is me,
I’m first. That evening the Sphinx gave no clues, but
plenty of edges. What did I expect? It is worth reading
newspapers hidden in hedges, if only to learn about
arrangement. I’m afraid your glass curio exploded
in my hand, so I have arrived at civility’s precipice.
For a while indoor weather passed the time, light
poured in its familiar shape, but you couldn’t help
thinking of other lives. Isn’t it tiresome, feeling for
a way out of our made to measure frame, unaware
of its image: colour, form, the unquestioned answers.
Heather is a social scientist, poet, outdoor swimmer, Quaker and cancer patient. She lives in Penarth, near Cardiff with her husband and four children. Her first collection Sorry About the Mess is available from HappenStance.
Note on ‘WALKING’:
“This poem was written at a Quaker Children’s Meeting I was helping to run. We were reflecting on George Fox’s instruction to ‘Walk cheerfully over the world, responding to that of God in everyone’ — quite a complicated set of ideas, especially given lack of creed and a Quaker emphasis on the role of individual conscience in relationship with [whatever God might be]. We were drawing feet, painting them, writing on them, making collages. This was my response, prompted by the toes on the cut-out feet.”
Mary Mulholland’s poems recently feature in Ambit, Finished Creatures and Under the Radar. She was shortlisted for Trim, Aesthetica, commended for Winchester, Artlyst and co-won a Poetry Society Members’ Competition. She founded Red Door Poets and co-edits The Alchemy Spoon.
Note on ‘Fractured’:
“During Newcastle Summer School we’d been reading John Ashbery’s ‘Two Scenes’ and were challenged to write a poem that included collecting, collage, speech and was beyond our comfort zone. I’d seen an Uhlman exhibition, passed a pink neon sign; we watched a film where someone recites a Tesco receipt as if it’s a poem; on the common there were cows, ducks and geese. I started counting. I wrote a poem.”
Paul Stephenson has three poetry pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh and currently lives between Cambridge and Brussels.
Note on ‘Walking the Ghetto, 2015’:
“Getting lost in Venice can be exhilarating but also scary. The numbering system on the doors is intriguing, the small sequences and massive jumps which can feel almost like time travel. Observations at each address make apparent how tourism and commercial activity sit alongside the regular homes of local Venetians. The result is an unpredictable collage of strange and sometimes surreal objects and signs both inside windows and outside buildings.”
Alex MacDonald’s pamphlet Knowing This Has Changed My Ending was published by Offord Road Books in 2018. His latest pamphlet – Delicious All Day – is out from Sad Press. He lives and works in London.
Note on ‘Deference in the Octagon’:
“This is part of an hour-long writing exercise. I picked five postcards at random (including paintings, photographs and drawings). For fifteen minutes, I wrote about what linked them. I then turned over an Oblique Strategy card (“where is the edge?”) and over another fifteen minutes I rewrote my notes with this card in mind. I then rewrote those notes as a draft of a poem until the hour was up. ‘Deference in the Octagon’ is one of twenty poems I have written using this method.”
James Davies’s poetry includes stack, a book-length minimalist poem (Carcanet) and Plants, a series of conceptual poems (Reality Street). Since 2008 he has edited the poetry press if p then q and between 2008-2018 he co-organised The Other Room reading series & resources website in Manchester.
Note on ‘[untitled]’:
“This untitled two-liner poem from Forty-Four Poems and a Volta (Red Ceilings) is one of over 200 that I have made into bespoke books, sculptures and mobiles. When I write the two lines I have some intuitive sense of them as antonyms or synonyms. The litter and packaging used to make the objects, and the choice of binding that go into making them is also intuitive; I have deliberately shied away from direct meaning. There’s a great pleasure that goes into spending time making these objects and some new embodied understanding that takes place.”