Wednesday, 29 September 2010

UEA Writers #1 - Ágnes Lehóczky

The first UEA-associated writer to be featured is poet Ágnes Lehóczky. Her first collection Budapest to Babel, from which the first poem is taken, is a favourite of mine; a complex and original debut that not only forces and encourages the reader to engage with its tricky syntax and innovative linguistics but rewards them in plentitudes for doing so. There are echoes of Heideggerian and Derridean philosophy in her work, as well as American post-Language poetry (and of course Agnes Nemes Nagy), as it confronts and continually defamiliarises and reinvigorates language without every losing its humane connection with the reader. The second poem we are lucky enough to be featuring is from a second collection currently in progress, more information on which will be forthcoming as and when. Enjoy! [NB. These two poems are supposed to be block formatted, but Blogger refuses to allow me to justify them. So, with apologies to and the consent of Agnes, just pretend there's a straight line of text running down the right hand side of the poems.]

Nárcisz’s breakfast letter

I will simply tell you what I can see on this table, here.
No, not on that table but on the one that floats. In the
window. The one that moves with the hour. Its lustrous
objects, some of them latent, some obvious, layer by
layer half-sheltered behind each other like a mock-up of
some insipid geology, travel by the horizon. I will tell
you. Although it’s not easy to stop. Seeing inside. A
crooked vase. Bursting flowers. They burst on the
glass. I do not know what sort but not sunflowers and
the vase is not blue of any kind. I could ask someone
and if they did not know they could ask someone and if
they did not know. Apples piled on top of each other
buoyant in a bowl relatively visible: curvaceous torsos,
perpendicularly squashing against one another with a
negligible force unit of kilo Pascal. Though, weight
nullifies for those who only watch. Did you know that
despite the apparent struggle, these apples strive for
equalization? They say. A kitchen knife tilted on its
side. Its glossy metal edge reflects another ceiling,
another sky, blurs it, blurs its white. The texture of air
woven between the metal and the white escapes and
floods the room. The razor’s edge facing down the
surface of the table reflects unknown darkness, a
darkness duplicate. The intimate recollections of the
two. A chunk of butter. Left outside sunbathing in the
light yellow light of early afternoon melting into its
own outline. Then the butter expands and steps out of
itself. It becomes smeared on the glass. I read that
objects have no contours, only oscillating transitions. I
don’t know if it is true. Perhaps the replica of it is true.
An eggshell in a gaudy eggcup, its top torn off with a
zigzagged motion. A mineralized minuscule skull,
drained, after an elongated tribal ritual. But this time no
religion, no ideology. An embroidered egg cap, a
Sunday outfit. Still warm from incubating the freshly
boiled egg. If you were here you would slip into the
needlework’s inner textile and reel up the story of the
thread stitched vice versa. If it wasn’t too late. Look,
these objects are travellers. Wait. Only a few more
things here. A light green net bag; it is more pistachio.
A fishnet fishless. Or a marionette collapsed after the
hand dropped it. Yet it seems it wakes again, stretches
with the stretching of the sun. It all changes by the
second. Let’s hurry up. It’s not easy to erect a world.
Outside. A jam jar with lumps of marmalade. Left
open. The lid is chequered; red and white, red and
white. This pattern restricted to the circle of the rim
continues outside the rim too, it brims over it,
inaudibly. But this would be a detour and we must stay,
we must stay here, with a facsimile table that’ll soon
depart. The table that is still here…just

Monday, Midsummer

It’s Monday again. And you are always already gone. I
wanted to spend the longest day with you. Instead
you took the train home shuffling in your head all the
reasons why I am not accompanying you into the
warm tunnels of three enduring midsummer nights.
Why I stand still like a planet unsure whether to
proceed towards the North or the South. For three
never-ending days. You see, the old painter was
curious whether you lived in this town. He sketched
your face still with his eyes. He wanted to smear
silvery blue and copper colours on his canvas. It was
such a bright night, I could not sleep. The most
perseverant insomnia of the sun. The same thing
happened with the actor. He wanted to know about
certain dates and places. He wanted to be your orbit.
He wanted to make you converse. So that he could
secretly erase the line between night and day. So that
you would never go to sleep. I was holding onto a
small pebble in my palm. When I woke I saw it was
your hand. This pebble is a rock. This pebble is a rock
face. The face of a rock. Such a bright night, I could
not sleep. Footsteps in my eardrum. Throbbing
definitely louder. Is there someone leaping up the
stairway? Is this you arriving? That night a ghost
stopped me in the street and asked about words. My
words. He asked how they sell. He was wearing a ten-
gallon hat and smoked a cigar. A drunken spectre. No
outlines. Wingless. Or with very rudimentary wings.
When I queried his knowledge he turned back into a
frog. Into an odd local who swears he never said a
word. And shuts the pub door quietly after himself.
Leaving only a tiny piece of fabric caught by the door.
The corner of his coat. It was such a bright night. I
could not sleep. I saw him again the other day in the
pub. Bespectacled. Old faced. Muttering my words,
telling me that the nights were so bright he couldn’t
sleep. Burying his face in the pages of his notebook.
His notebook was his face. That night I dreamt of
another solstice. I was buried alive in a catacomb
wrapped tightly in white linen. Always the
underground cities after all. Labyrinths of minerals.
Crypts of solar eclipses. Mummified moments. Good
soil. The stunning system of air holes. This way
memory is corporate. This way memories are parched
like the monks of Brno. Many parched monks with
mouths agape resting horizontally in a row. They
almost look alive. I once wrote about this. A long time
ago. But now, since you asked, I must remind myself
of a Monday so unalterably stationary. The
subterranean dialogues of three days and three nights.
What’s a great conversationalist? What is time? You
ask when we pass by an acrylic memorial plaque lost
in a cobbled cul-de-sac. I shrug my shoulders. I do not
know. I can only see an opaque river. Milky. Cloudy.
Transparent. Allowing light to pass. Flicking away in
gallons of silver tea. In porcelain. The earth’s axis tilted.


Ágnes Lehóczky is a Hungarian-born poet and translator. She studied for her Masters in English and Hungarian Literature at Pazmany Peter University of Hungary (1994-2001) then completed a Creative Writing MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia with a distinction in 2006. She is currently completing a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing at UEA where she was teaching Creative Writing on the Undergraduate Programme. She has two short poetry collections, Station X (2000) and Medallion (2002) by Universitas published in Budapest, Hungary, both written in Hungarian.

Her first English collection was published by Egg Box Publishing in 2008 and is entitled Budapest to Babel. She is this year’s recipient of the Arthur Welton Poetry Award and has recently been selected as the winner of the Daniil Pashkoff Prize 2010 in poetry administered by international Writers Ink. She appeared on ‘The Forum’ on the BBC’s World Service. She is currently working on her second collection in English to be published by Egg Box in 2010/2011. Her collection of essays on the poetry of Agnes Nemes Nagy are to be published in 2010/2011 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. From September 2010 she is teaching creative writing on the Masters course at the University of Sheffield.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Three Poems - Nancy Devine w/illustration by Natalie Orme

Less of this

Cold crawls my back while I drive home
January night. No darkness like this,
except on prairie where I have
invested most of my time.
Cars wait along streets’ edges,
some on peninsulas of ice
rutted from melt and freeze,
others on their chassis’ shadows,
countless black pixels of night’s edge.

I am too stupid to wear my gloves,
maybe too interested
in touching zero,
at least resting on its curve,
that bubble where water is solid,
more solid than I am---
something I’ll try to forget, leave
on the stiff upholstery of bucket seats
after I pull into our driveway again.


Wine we’ve drunk still skunk-crazy,
bathwater to a crayfish collection
or something dying in a pot.
But we’re 17, been living
to live like this since middle school
when the halls smelled like cumin was roasting in every locker and
in each arm’s pit.

Now: prairie sky, an over-turned bowl of dark Red River soil;
the flap of the truck’s box down, a metal tongue
where we sip and say stories
we’ll tell 20 years from now:
Remember when or back..

I suspect nothing can ever be like this
not even this;
and because there’s no harm in being young,
we take another swig
of just about anything that’s bottled up inside.

We Do

Hip to hip, we floss;
the chaff of our meals
splatters the mirror
like the beginning of a Pollack painting.
Mascara streaks border
the country of my cheek;
around my eyes,
skin’s puffed like yeasted dough.
Age has softened my husband’s face
to some beauty before liquid,
before this night’s rest.

Nancy Devine teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she lives. She co-directs the Red River Valley Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project. Her poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in online and print journals.

Natalie Orme is a freelance illustrator, co-editor of Etcetera and recent graduate. Her work has been exhibited in various places in Norwich and London, and includes drawing, printmaking and lots of other non-digital design. She is currently working on expanding her portfolio, highlights of which you can see on her blog.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

One Poem - Bobby Parker

Dada House

Today Dada House was alive with the sound
of postcards from lovers torn down the middle
(of the left-hand message side) Phrrrip
with the first half read aloud at breakfast:
‘Dear Tristan, it is raining Welsh dragons
and my new dress is a promenade
full of washed up comedians…’
and the other half read aloud
before going to bed: ‘I like screaming
at the kids can you please feed the house
I wish love soon…
My postcard was blank because
she is afraid of words - the image
on the cover was abstract and blurred,
as if a cracked camera was spun
into the air as it clicked over the scene:
a blue sky blur, my lover waving from a cloud blur,
the dirty big sea blur, his fucking Harley
parked on top of the sun blur.
I squeezed it in my hot hands and simmered
from one end of the day to the other
until the household chuckled itself to sleep.
Of course, Marcel enjoyed the experiment
so much he couldn’t sleep and bounced
a rubber skull against the wall all night.
I hate Marcel! The moon is an out of tune
violin and my heart is a useless confusion
like my lover’s postcard as I wait for her
to leave her ex-husband the artist and come
back to Dada House where it’s safe.

Bobby Parker lives in the West Midlands, UK. His first book of poems, Pictures of Screaming People, is available from Erbacce Press. He also edits the magazine Urban District Writer and is busy writing a crazy book about dreams and ordinary people with weird habits.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Identity Parade, Part Two

Simon Barraclough

I’ve never been especially keen on Barraclough’s poetry. I don’t know, it just doesn’t move me at all. But it does have mainstream appeal without being especially typical of the kind of poetry that generally sells well, and I can respect that. The selection of poems here aren’t doing anything to change my mind. His rhyme works sometimes, annoys at others. ‘Fridgidaire’ is a nicely nasty lyric, with Northern-feeling scenery, a pleasing sense of time and place, and ‘Los Alamos Mon Amour’ is a lovely love poem. He’s simply not for me.

Paul Batchelor

Paul Batchelor’s poetry is engagingly, frustratingly difficult. I’m still not sure quite what I make of it. ‘Secret Papers’, the most immediately accessible and linear piece, is an odd one: both pompous and lovely. Its first half is the old ‘if a tree falls in a forest’ thing. Only the scenario is, to me at least, overwrought. The trunk of an oak has been “Splayed...into a dozen knotted tongues.” No, scrap that, I like that line a lot. It’s this one (and this one only, on reflection) that makes me wince:

‘[...]would its song,

pure fire and air,
have split the ear?’

It may just be me, but I only vaguely ‘get it’ at the end. Nonetheless, there’s a muscularity crossed with a softness, tenderness, in its imagery.

‘Triage’ is the one I keep coming back to, though I honestly don’t understand it. Not in the way when I read, say, Jorie Graham – when I first read Never I was instantly connected to it, in awe of it, even if it took multiple readings, all a pleasure, to work out what the hell she was talking about. With Batchelor, so far, I feel a little bit pushed out by his density. A little bit put off. Yet still engaged, still curious.

I could spend a lot longer on his poetry, but I’d like to continue reading the rest of the book. But Batchelor is definitely one to come back to. The more one enters his work, goes along with it, the more welcoming it becomes. Though I’ll reserve judgment on whether I actually like it or not.

Kate Bingham

Bingham’s poetry, for the most part, does nothing for me. ‘The Island-designing competition’ is a perfectly lovely and perfectly bland poem about childhood, with emptily signifying vague references to politics (or maybe I’m stretching, to justify bothering to comment on a poem like this – yawn): “They stand in public squares, demanding a recount/as the President mouths his acceptance speech”. ‘The Mouths of Babes’ is more interesting, but still does nothing for me. It is a three poem sequence about the mouths of children at various stages. I’m not really the target market for this kind of thing, but I like to think that a good poem will be a good poem to anyone if it is a good poem. There are some nice lines: “your mouth is the shape/of a single, perfectly accomplished gulp”; and some awkwardly twee ones: “where bi-planes have the high blue hemisphere to themselves/and postmen crunch on broken emeralds”. Simply, weak writing.

There’s another bland lyric (I should just dismiss the bog standard bland lyrics I keep encountering as ABLs from now on. I probably won’t.) before the only of her poems worth reading: ‘De Beers’. Named after the diamond manufacturers, it is a complex poem, multi-faceted, with writing that is strong and striking. It is shocking that this was written by the same poet as the rest, and I advise anyone erring on agreeing with my bitching to read this one before dismissing her outright.

Julia Bird

I’m starting to feel bad about disliking so many of the poets in here. Bird is, for me, boring. Her ‘funny’ poem isn’t funny, and the other two are bland enough to have been written by xyz whoever else.

Patrick Brandon

I like Patrick Brandon’s face. It’s both welcoming and scowling. I can imagine a pleasing tone of haughty annoyance in his voice. As for his poetry, Roddy Lumsden probably describes it best: “strangely confident and confidently strange”. I like them a lot. They are rife with brilliant imagery: “the faded denim of a lung”, a lab coming to “with a flutter of strip lights. A room dreaming of itself”, and, in my favourite of his poems, a glitterball “scattering its hoard of coins”, a canal “lying like a pulled ribbon”, hangover a “muffled aftershock”. His writes slightly off-kilter lyric narratives, imbues the commonplace with an idiosyncratic, imagistic aura, one that surprises the reader and perfectly defamiliarises the normal. I’m not entirely sold by the poems here, but I’m pretty sure I’ll pick up one of his collections soon, and I look forward to getting to know his work better. Definitely one to look in to.

David Briggs

Briggs’ poetry is overtly masculine. It is full of Original Description (“sidle crabwise the sag-sad doorframe”) and lots of hard, terse syllabics, a tad reminiscent of Ted Hughes at times. He writes about leeches “bristling on his bell-end” (not Briggs’ bell-end, I must add) and of “slit-ooze/between toes”. It’s all very solid, very strong, very readable, if a bit sharp. He’s good; he has a controlled voice, one that may not break the mould but is definitely very refined. Again, though, they’re not doing anything exceptional. They’re doing masculine lyrics, doing them well, with some engaging descriptive imagery. I recommend you give him a read. But I wouldn’t rave about his work.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Three Poems - Sam Schild

Condylura cristata

tentaclad experts inforaging, ex and in haling bubbles, collected odorant molecules, aquatic olfactory sensations. feeling with 25000 Eimer’s organs, sensing what can and not be eaten. tentacle fingering this is, this isn’t in 250 milliseconds sifting to face from nose finger finders. whithers for some in finding in the dark and mud but not these proboscides with electrosensories, being the water level as rivers pass always still are. searching clouds and what isn’t with noseyes eat or be ate in sediment mounds. these universal infinites will confound, as tortuous passing winds and choosing what’s edible is necessary, still the mud, silt, and loam choke eyes away and alls left is tactilic messages. feeling leeches with sucking fingers 22 fingers bringing bubbles and snails musk to senses we don’t know. in seconds insects ripped from murky to meeting 44 teeth without touching preyer’s hands they become it and. we all eventually crawl blindly, hungry being, s


hola mi sym bio mass is I’ve minimalized being as inverted forest gathers rain with roots through the sky eats leaves from yagrumo hembra mostly and twigs. specialized multiple slow acting compartmental stomach systems process with symbiosis like this still safely jungle being hanging head to the closest ground bacteria surrounds symbiosis around in stomach leaf breakers. hair grown away from extremities easy blanketing for below 30 degrees . non-parasitic cyanobacteria, blue-green algael camouflage, lea fed fur living mites, ticks, beetles, and moths with the same tree this system la tizes with largers as leaving un ves de la semana para ir al baño y bury leaves en la misma cosa, always nourishing what nourished with that which nourished excreted, back in flourishing, not climbing but further. this, like everything, is balance, ed, or will blee, ed. sustaining this symbiosis in thick backwards fur and stomach while also perpetuating cyclical life being a piece through which living glows. yagrumo leaf blows away fluttering down there. it lands on three and two clawed footprints and loosened earth, circular seemingly, where megatherium once walked from pliocene to pleistocene, until bipedemic they shrank greatly, shaking, fled to circulate con las árboles.

*This suborder consists of two extant families of arboreal sloths, Bradypodidae, three-toed sloths, and Megalonychidae, two-toed sloths, along with four extinct families of ground sloths. Bradypus torquatus, a three-toed sloth species, is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN.


beginning forest sinking, streams diverging, being in the lees, dig riverings, really. los sapos su vida peligro en el Tepui, rising from rain, for rest, or is the forest falling? están ocultando. like objects moving laterally across a window scene like magma can jump tiny only rising from trees each piece evolving free. who is moving? here? there? they? with varying levels of tuberclateness and ventral coloration, time snippets on islands of old minutes from when tepuis were a sandstone plateau eaten by streams to many stones on which living grows with intimate knowledge of alone. surrounded in torches, riverfed torches, handled by tourists sporadically burning torches of forest, washing kitchen spills and keeping mucus. smaller than they invertebrate eaters, small separations become chasms and diverging branches of miniature proportion. back modified for jumping limbs on sandstone islands degenerate to at best millimetering centimeter bodies up rock. blend with the mineral plot above tropical tops, black and grey rubbley skin keep to cracks, fissures, and shadow spots. each the shore of mineralistic lifeblood shifting from small and black with four limbs adapted for crawl climbing to small black heating lumps touristas can’t handle. neither can this. can’t swim, can dance, can’t hop, can walk, clinging vertically to black pebbley faces, earthly complexioned section of genus. singing to be unseen silence, geologic structures outlined in violence, need a tissue? compliments of this

*Each species of Bush Toad is listed as Vulnerable or Data Deficient by the IUCN due to their limited ranges; each species is endemic to one or two tepuis (mesas).

Sam Schild is a poet and social activist who currently lives in Philadelphia. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in EOAGH, Upstairs At Duroc, Unlikely 2.0, BlazeVOX, Otoliths, Alice Blue, There, Pinstripe Fedora, Anything Anymore Anywhere, Moria, Raft and Poets for Living Waters. He is an MFA candidate at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Popular Posts



Hit Counter