I hope you enjoy these poems. I was going to write something about them, about journeys and silence, and knowing when to speak - but, that being the case, I think it’s best just to invite you to read them.
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.)
It all comes down to fruit flies
Only by rupturing its own symmetry
can an organism achieve its full potential.
Cells are birthed, then change. One side
skates away from the other, anchors,
extends out in columns of specificity.
Balance before injury overwrites
inheritance: a prayer, a shout. A fist.
Breaking is becoming, self-portrait
as palimpsest. Science claims
that interference silences expression. I
have often held my tongue and don’t
Steps to Engraven the Earth (A Prose Poem Book Review of Jo Clement’s Moveable Type)
The horse’s eye like a dark brown lake. / Ah, I see, the first verse page is a pool. / Sparkling / self-reflective / the poems ahead, golden apples, / glinting / at the bottom of the waters, / like the red strike that lines the equine iris. / Apples fallen in a cornea field.
White straw mane curves down onto black horse flesh / like the ink and white of the engraver’s art. / Clement has curled the wood shavings from the block / compacted lines flow with the grain. / Bewick’s candle wick flames down and Clement’s licks up, / and then exchanged, / like leaping fountains, but of flame.
Like the wood block dipped in paint and pressed to the page / Clement holds you to it.
My favourite lines: ‘admit to the skim / of blood that can’t settle’, / the eyes catch on / no reader could skim past. / Sometimes / the poems operate in pairs. / Ironwork and Smithsong are the shoed and sleeved hooves of two women / acting a pantomime horse / sealed / with metal wire cross stitches. / Or land hard and tie themselves to you: ‘bound hooves in hessian and hay to flit town / in the dead of night, wraithing cobbles to keep quiet’; / silence you / like a magician / drawing the unexpected card.
At Appleby Fair / fair words fall like ripe apples / with gravity / and discovery. / Dip / in Eden River, / apple bobbing / in the preservative of Clement’s slick cranial fluids. / She has brought us to the waters / and she has made us drink.
Listen to the hoof clop / the sound her tongue makes / when it leaves the roof of your mouth. / Don’t overlook / the won whinny and snort / of this gift horse’s shout. / Poet, / thank you / for letting us travel with you.
Pilgrimage through Deep Mountain
Beyond the ancient trail, sun threads spread, dazzle me
with my footprints, airy-flow ahead, far behind.
On the trail, I’m a little figure in visitant’s distance.
Buddhism pilgrims have roamed around in silence
for years and years and I do now, too, in the same way
as foregoers, from temple to temple with a rosary,
so often from uphill to uphill with walking sticks,
ringing a small bell hung at my side by green cedars.
When tired, I stop walking, perching on a mossy stump,
or take a short break to drink beryl water of a spring.
Cool wind flows back and forth, then I look back
slowly, gingerly with fear to see what’s behind me,
or see something, or someone follows me with whirs
and makes me lost in thin haze. Only sound of bird’s flight
or nothing there. I feel a modicum of relief
and continue ahead without thoughts.
Over the end of the footpath filled with brightness,
in front of Buddha in a temple. Pray for her life after death.
Monologue of the Colonel’s Right Ear
WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. After he showed the foreigner the sliced unfortunates, I rode along with the Colonel to bed (still tuned to the exhale of rebel automatics, the purr of knives arching through skin, as an ear is only safe as the man it travels with). He lay me flat on his wife’s chest, in the hard spot between her two pressed breasts, skin softer than any sheets she could import, and I thrummed with her downward lilting pulse. The rhythm that nourished her fortunate ears (though let’s admit those lobes have sagged a bit) filled me with the heaviness humans call rest. But the Colonel’s left ear interrupted above: Wake up! The fan could fall while he sleeps! Other nights, I too had feared those three blades swishing above the canopy. I pretended to be deaf, secure between the sternum’s hum and the Colonel’s skull, bone-armoured, rooms from the sliced unfortunates spilled on the floor, surely now swept by the maid who tomorrow will dip her sweet fingers in me as she sponges the Colonel at his morning bath. The unfortunates didn’t know which was a head’s right side, but you know this from the poem the Colonel wrote in the foreigner’s name, the one that sent you seeking the beating of blood in bone caves, louder than a man in falsetto on a page.
Sometimes memories smell like a dictator’s fart.
We once jived to our own shadows under the silver moon and our shadows danced along with us, we rhymed to the nightmares of hyenas and hallucinations of black owls. Our desires sailed along with gowns of fog back and forth at village dawns. Wood smoke smelt like fresh baked bread. Time bewitched us, we ate William Shakespeare and John Donne. We drank lemon jugs of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Soyinka’s lyrical whisky wrecked our tender nerves. We bedded politics with boyish demeanor and dreamt of the black cockerels and black Hitlers.
Sometimes time is stubborn like a sitting tyrant.
Last night, commissars chanted a slogan and you baked a dictator’s poetry sanguage. Zealots sang Castro and Stalin and you brewed a socialist crank, the president is a stinking capitalist. I never said he is Satanist. Back to village nights, hyenas are laughing still, black owls gossiping, silver moon dancing still over rain-beaten paths of our country dawns.
Sometimes time stinks like a dictator’s fart.
Your lyrical satire sneaked imbeciles through back doors. Your praise sonnets recycled suicidal devils and polished revolutionary rejects. Back then, smells of fresh dung and scent of fresh udder milk were our morning brew and under the twilight the moon once disappeared into the earthly womb, Judas, the sun then took over and every dictator is an Iscariot. I never said we are now vagabonds.
Sometimes time smells like a dying autocrat.
Mwedzi wagara ndira uyo tigo tigo ndira – the moon was once sour milk silver white and fresh from the Gods’ mouth and sat on its presidential throne on the zenith of bald headed hills and later with time the moon was ripe to go mwedzi waora ndira tigo tigo ndira.
Sometimes wind gusts whistled their tenor through elephant grass pastures, we sang along the obedient flora Chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chaenda chamupupuri chadzoka.
Our poverty marinated, yellow maize teeth grinned to sudden glows of lightening, the earth gyrated under the grip of thunder, then Gods wept and we drank teardrops with a song mvura ngainaye tidye makavu, mvura ngainaye tidye makavu... Pumpkins bred like rabbits, veldts strutted in Christmas gowns. Wild bees and green bombers sang protest and praise. I never said we are children of drought relief.
Sometimes time grows old like a sitting tyrant.
Tonight the echo of your praise poetry irk the anopheles stranded in tired city gutters to swig the bitter blood of ghetto dwellers, gutter citizens eking hard survival from hard earth of a hard country, their rough hands marked with scars of the August Armageddon, their sandy hearts are rigged ballot boxes stuffed with corruption, they waited and sang for so long.
Chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chaenda
Chamupupuri icho…oo chamupupuri chadzoka
Michelle Penn’s debut pamphlet, Self-portrait as a diviner, failing (2018), won the Paper Swans Prize. Recent poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Nimrod, BODY and Poetry Birmingham. Michelle plans innovative poetry/art/music events as part of Corrupted Poetry.
Note on ‘It all comes down to fruit flies’:
“I wrote this poem while exploring Deconstructing Patterns: Art and Science in Conversation (Francis Crick Institute, London, 2018). I was fascinated by patterns — molecular, cellular, behavioural, personal — and how they develop, how they’re broken… I borrowed the phrase, ‘Interference silences expression,’ from the exhibition text. ‘Only by rupturing its own symmetry can an organism achieve its full potential’ is a slight reworking of another text.”
Daniel Hinds’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The London Magazine, The New European, Wild Court, Stand, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Blackbox Manifold, The Honest Ulsterman, Finished Creatures, Rewilding: An Ecopoetic Anthology, Streetcake Magazine, Amethyst Review, and elsewhere.
Note on ‘Steps to Engraven the Earth’:
“In 2020, I started writing review poems of poetry collections/pamphlets, as I often find myself inspired creatively when reading the work of other poets, as well as thinking analytically about them, and I wanted to create a form that captures both of these responses. The form employs analysis, pastiche, and poetic response. I find this form works best for themed collections, as I can engage creatively with the central conceit.”
Hideko Sueoka is a Japanese poet and translator living in Tokyo. Her debut chapbook was out from Clare Songbirds Publishing House (USA) in 2018. Her poems were published in Arrival at Elsewhere (Against the Grain), and the zine Stay Home Diary (Bitter Melon).
Note on ‘Pilgrimage through Deep Mountain’:
“There are high mountains as sacred sites and pilgrimage routes in Japan. It is believed that the mountains are inhabited by gods, this is called mountain worship. After the death of my beloved grandmother, I climbed Mount Hiei as one of the mountains to visit Enryakuji Temple. Through the woods, I reached the temple where I imagined her reincarnation (fundamental Buddhism thought). The poem sings my feelings at that time.”
April Yee is a writer and literary translator published in Ambit, Electric Literature, and Newsweek. She reads fiction for TriQuarterly and serves as mentor for the Refugee Journalism Project at University of the Arts London.
Note on ‘Monologue of the Colonel’s Right Ear’:
“In the summer I attended a workshop at Kundiman led by Cathy Park Hong on docupoetics, starting with the classic Carolyn Forché piece ‘The Colonel’. Salvadorans in civil war are represented only as cut-off ears brandished by the eponymous colonel. I wanted to use the shape of Forché’s poem to write from the voice of an ear about safety and complicity.”
Mbizo Chirasha is an International Zimbabwean who works across acclaimed literary arts activism projects as originator, publisher, curator, and Writer in Residence. He is a multi-award-winning Arts for Human Rights Fellow and a spoken word artist.
Note on ‘PRESIDENTIAL GRIOT’:
“African politics is toxic, rough and violent. Political leadership is rogue and violent; dictatorships and tyrants. My poetry speaks truth to power and voices against machinations of corruption and moral/cultural/social decadence. I see from the terraces the wrongs and the right of state power.”