This segment brings us to the mid-point of this issue of PERVERSE. We’ll be going till Monday 13th December, and then going into holiday sleep mode for a little while.
The “Writing After David Lynch” class I’ve been teaching is at its mid-point as well, which has been extremely interesting and enjoyable to pull together materials for - definitely for me, anyway, and hopefully for the students too.
I also led a workshop recently for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival on “Writing Around Pop Culture”, and in researching various things about Freddie Mercury, I found this wonderful quote which I’ll leave you with (excuse the male-only pronouns):
“Does it mean this, does it mean that, that’s all anybody wants to know. I’d say what any decent poet would say if anyone dared ask him to analyze his work: if you see it, darling, then it’s there!” — Freddie Mercury
Enjoy this week’s poems!
(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, in this archive of previous issues.)
We half-squelched slugs sat slack-spined, cross-legged on a second-class stamp backstage from rat-pink four eyes—mine yours, yours mine—both riding one sine wave, bareback in my coarse ground mind. My caked lungfish tongue struggled with syntax, let’s die right here, right now…then we swapped salt in a trance passed down from times when grubs knew their place—tugging their forelocks on Saint John’s single use plastic plate as he bleached Christ’s head satin white with Citrus Force Cillit Bang. We lived off nothing but salt, traced balm on sore cracked lips, lay Dead Sea low, unbuttoned flannel plaid shirts. And you coaxed slug trails to make lionlimbs of mine all summer long.
y = tan 90°
Where was the tenderness lost?
Sunk, somehow, like custard skin.
Touchable glow on the surface of the lava field,
sweet and shell-less crab, and become petrified,
with thanks given to the sun.
And if not lost, exactly, then what?
In-taken instead, reconstituted, clustering
around the pit of the person. Tenderness
of wet moss in March, tenderness of mollusc,
water shallow overhead.
Tenderness of first thoughts,
of the folded backs of my smallest
stepson’s knees in their newness.
Touchable sweet and shell-less glow.
Thanks given by lava to the heat in the stone,
to the run downhill first custard then cluster
then slowing, not petrified no, not bound
but sunk, not lost but kept
in the pit of the heart
safe and crabshell sure, with thanks
given, with thanks.
In the Halls of the Future Tense
A brass door in the halls of syntax clanging open
and we are in the long echoing gallery of the future tense.
All the retainers, in period costumes, scarcely to be believed...
A clerk drafting a code of best practice for the coming day:
‘The successful guest will comport themself so, walking backwards
to the exit, not turning their back on the gaze of the Now.’
The henchman thug whose one drawn breath says You’ll be sorry.
In a darker corner, cobweb-sticky whispers of a small conspiracy.
Ever to act on what they’re thinking, that would be the ruin
of such beautiful intensity. Here’s aunt Cassandra
with the spoilers for every plotline history affords,
and here’s the future perfect looking on,
smooth bugger; he’s smuggled the past in with him
under the folds of his coat. From wall to wall,
the threadbare carpet, all frayed good intentions, of everyone
who’s ever entered here. All that you can desire
is waiting, somewhere just beyond the glass – the self-seductions
of a wide-screen TV in its century-long commercial break,
bright condominiums on the shoreline, soothed by the lap
of icecaps melting, where the futures of the past retire to die.
Claire Collison was one of three winners of the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize. Her poems have been placed in Winchester, Hippocrates, and Resurgence Prizes, and are published in Bad Betty, Valley Press, Emma Press and Verve anthologies, as well as in The Rialto, Magma, Butcher’s Dog and Finished Creatures.
Note on ‘Palomares ’66’:
“This poem is from a project I’m developing about the nuclear accident that happened in 1966 in Palomares, Southern Spain, close to where my mother lived and died. The area still produces tomatoes.”
Aysar Ghassan was a core poet at Contains Strong Language, 2021. His poems have been published in Magma, Strix, Under The Radar, Ambit and The Interpreter’s House, and he and is currently a dynamo mentee with Nine Arches Press.
Note on ‘Salt’:
“Were you ever an adolescent? Perhaps you are right now? In either case, this poem is for you. Writing ‘Salt’ involved letting go of who I am now and catapulting myself back to headier days. If you’re older, perhaps reading it will take you back? If you’re younger, squeeze all the enjoyment you can out of being there.”
A 2019 winner of the Bread & Roses poetry prize, Dave is a member of the Ghost River poetry collective. He is widely published and wrote the Style & Technique chapter for Spoken Word in the UK (Routledge, 2021).
Note on ‘y = tan 90°’:
“The title refers to an equation, in particular its asymptote, a value that its graph approaches ever more closely but never reaches as it ascends to infinity. This idea is used to ask whether we similarly strive for happiness, contentment etc that we never quite reach. Whatever we do achieve, we always want more. The zoo imagery plays further on this idea of seeing but not being able to touch.”
Martha Sprackland is an editor, writer and translator, and runs independent publisher Offord Road Books. Her collection Citadel (LUP, 2020) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Costa Poetry Award.
Note on ‘Where was the tenderness lost?’:
“Since my book was published in 2020 – into the middle of the first lockdown – I’ve hardly been able to write poetry at all. I don’t know why; it’s just not happening. The one thing that keeps my eye in is the radio show I co-present (with Joe Dunthorne and John Osborne) called Stress Test, in which we write new poems under timed conditions. The title of this one came from a song by Ahmed Fakroun called ‘Nisyan’, with the lyrics roughly translated.”
Philip Gross’ latest collections are Between The Islands (2020) and Troeon/Turnings (2021) with Cyril Jones. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 2017, and is a keen collaborator, e.g. with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold In The River (2015).
Note on ‘In the Halls of the Future Tense’:
“How many different things can the future tense be saying? Somewhere in the free-flow mêlée of my notebook, some months after asking the question, I noticed this clump of something that cohered, an organism, with a mind of its own. A submissions call from PERVERSE accelerated the process, excusing the emerging thing from any need to sound like me, into the freedom poetry most needs: to be its own unaccountable self.”