September 10, 2016


Sometimes we are girls, and sometimes horses.

When we’re horses, we can gallop, but there aren’t so many stories.

When we’re girls, we wear calico dresses and never any shoes.

Calico is always striped, like sticks of rock, and crackles when we run.

Sometimes we live in the dug-out, and sometimes in the new house.

The new house is made of shiny yellow wood, and has real glass windows that really open.

The new house is square, like a doll’s house, and sits exactly flat on the ground.

The new house smells of yellow wood, and all the rooms are clean and empty, bright boxes of yellow air.

There are no other houses anywhere, only prairie.

The dug-out is dark and cool and makes us feel like hunters.

The dug-out smells of earth and is full of the sound of water, the creek running just below.

We lie flat on our bellies and watch the water-creatures, and we are something like the water-creatures, or like otters perhaps, thin and brown and sharp-eyed, slipping silently into the water, speaking the urgent language of hunters.

This is the unrolling of prairie.

Prairie is the widest word we know.

Helen Tookey

Helen Tookey lives in Liverpool. Her full-length collection, Missel-Child, was published by Carcanet in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection 2015. If You Put Out Your Hand, a CD/booklet in collaboration with musician Sharron Kraus, came out in April this year from Wounded Wolf Press, and her pamphlet In the Glasshouse is published by HappenStance Press.


September 10, 2016


At dusk the streetlights
stand like beacons to the underworld,
a girl runs toward me beaded with rain
and sweat. I think husk, wheels
seeds rattle, shake loose and a candle
is held to the egg’s red mass she is
too young to see. In Pompeii those bodies
are not bodies but plaster poured
into the cavity where a body once lay,
no less a hand pushing back ash,
no less a woman with her unborn child
twisting for a pocket of air,
the forge, the fire, the glimpsed blade,
a door we close quickly, just as my brother
said Now I know I will die, and I thought
of course and not me in the same second.
We kept driving, arrived at the airport
and the next day our father did die —
aria, the birds rising at the sound
of the explosion and plums, succulent
ashy, burnished. Walking down the Spanish
Steps on a Sunday morning in October,
no one there yet, Keats’ window open,
you said Ten or fifteen years from now
when I am gone, come back
. You touched
our absence from each other,
the fifteen years ahead you’ve always had —
when in dreams I am older and you
remain as you were when we first met,
before devotion was returned,
or was it that I let it be — our lives together
suddenly recognizable as if seared pages
fallen from a larger book.

Maxine Scates

life and death…

September 10, 2016


I write because I would like to live forever. The fact of my future death offends me. Part of this derives from my sense of my own insignificance in the universe. My life and death are a barely momentary flicker. I would like to become more than that. That the people and things I love will die wounds me as well. I seek to immortalize the world I have found and made for myself, even knowing that I won’t be there to witness that immortality, mine or my works, that by definition I will never know whether my endeavour has been successful. But when has impossibility ever deterred anyone from a cherished goal? As the brilliant poet and teacher Alvin Feinman once said to me, “Poetry is always close kin to the impossible, isn’t it?”

Reginald Shepherd
Why I Write
(From: Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry, published by the University of Michigan Press)

That special duality…

September 10, 2016


All that sultry May evening I danced physically with Christie, but in spirit with Tina. That special duality of the Davenports, of being able to haunt in absence, was so manifestly strong that several times I only saved myself by the sheerest miracle from calling the girl in the pale primrose dress by the wrong name.

H.E. Bates
The Four Beauties

great unread poem…

September 10, 2016


This summer I plan to tackle poetry’s “great unread poem”: Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. The list of poets, seemingly influenced by this “great unread poem,” is long and distinguished. Sisson, Davie, Zukosfsky, and Olson, to name just a few. My motivation: to be properly influenced, to finally become a Poundian. Though making it new and out-pounding Pound is not on the agenda. As of now, I am familiar with cantos 1, 2, 3, 13, 45, 81 and 116. That’s about it for me. Tackling 120 Cantos in search of Davie’s proverbial “water spouts” (for instance, “Pull down thy Vanity” section of Canto 81) would be impossible even in a summer six months long. So I will be turning to one of my favorite poets, Thom Gunn, whose brief selection of cantos in Ezra Pound: Poems Selected by Thom Gunn will suffice. As per Gunn’s advice I will be armed with commentaries and Christine Froula’s A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems.

Raza Ali Hasan
Essay for “Summer Reading Recommendations”
The Academy of American Poets