Ben Banyard lives in Portishead on the Severn Estuary. His two poetry collections to date, Communing (2016) and We Are All Lucky (2018), are published by Indigo Dreams. Ben’s new collection, Hi-Viz, will be published by YAFFLE in 2021. Ben’s blog is at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com
Map of a Plantation is Jenny Mitchell’s follow up to her prize-winning debut collection Her Lost Language.
The collection gives voice to contrasting characters on a Jamaican cane plantation in order to examine the widespread and ongoing impact of enslavement.
These poems are both tender and uncompromising, always seeking to use the past to heal present-day legacies of a contested and emotive history.
This collection contains the winner of the Segora Prize 2020, the Aryamati Prize 2020 and the winner of a Bread and Roses Poetry Award.
Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Folklore Prize 2020, the Segora Prize 2020, the Aryamati Prize 2020, the Fosseway Prize 2020, a Bread and Roses Award and joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize.
She has been nominated for the Forward Prize: Best Single Poem, and her best-selling debut collection, ‘Her Lost Language’, is one of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales) and a Jhalak Prize #bookerlove recommendation.
Burden of Ownership
He measures cost in body parts. A head pays for a month of food; two eyes, a week of drink. Christmas adds a throat, carved out with care the neck still holds a yoke if the chin is firm weight evenly proportioned.
Four breasts pay for this season’s clothes – a mad extravagance he means to make the norm. His furniture demands a score of navels. One manly chest is paid for every horse. He only wants the ones with heart.
Below the waist is worth the price of land – an acre for two wombs. Twelve manhoods buy a gushing stream to serve his house and fields. A sack of feet placed yearly in a bank account maintains his balance and the boast – he’s always in the black.
Encountering a Slave Girl Held
In a museum cabinet, glass-topped abandoned coffin. Lying straight. Thin-faced, bark-hued. Plaits against her scalp except a reckless horn.
Eyes blink obsidian. Quick movement of the mouth. She’s missing teeth or two in front. A hand cracks glass. Slowly, she steps down, dress caught in the shards.
I back away as fingers work the jag, head lowered left cheek bruised down to the chin she lifts with pride exhibiting a rope burn – choker set with gleaming coals.
Her voice cracks low – This time, I will not leave my breath when I decide to run. Feet hardly dared to touch the ground like waves pulled out from under me.
This time, the trees will fold bend bark knees. No branch to snag my dress or point towards my back surely as an arrow. I will aim
to reach the wall before it’s dark. Climb each brick, big as a baby’s coffin. No dog will bite my heel. No rope turned to a choker.
Our colour-words fell on the back wall of the apartment
the promise of an orchard our legs stuck together
I burst in tears and fed the Landlord
We left each other there and whatever home we had
salttower shadows musclecat-moons memories of wormwood
that backwall apartment that stone-peach memory
Jesse Matas is a father, husband, poet, musician, visual artist and peace scholar. His work has been described as having “more feeling than a bag full of feelings made out from feelings-cloth bought from the shop of feelings on feelings-street in feelings-town”. He is from Manitoba, Canada.
This week we spotlight two publications from Against the Grain Press.
Against the Grain Poetry Press is an innovative small independent poetry publisher dedicated to publishing challenging, well-crafted poetry. They love writing that is moving and provocative from strong, fresh, diverse voices.
They produce beautiful, starkly-designed, high quality books and pamphlets with high production values and an edgy appeal.
In an Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron
Publication date 28th March 2021
In an Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered is part memoir/part fiction and is Chaucer’s debut pamphlet. The poems explore the impact of prostitution.
‘A brave, layered piece of work, in turn heartbreaking and hilarious. Chaucer Cameron is lyrically voicing her own experiences and simultaneously documenting the undocumented and doing it with a bold beauty – I’m in awe.’ – Sabrina Mahfouz
“These poems ring out like gunshots in the night; they will wake you from your sleep. Yet despite its distilled directness, this book is lifted by both mystery and surprise. Listen for the songs emerging from the dark centre of this transformative work of experience and survival.’ Jacqueline Saphra.
Chaucer Cameron is a poet and poetry filmmaker. Her poems have been published in various journals, magazines & online, including Under the Radar, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Blue Nib, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat & Tears. Chaucer’s poetry-films have been screen-published in some of the growing number of journals and sites that are now accepting mixed media, such as Atticus Review.
She has performed at Ledbury Poetry Festival as part of a live performance combining British Sign Language poetry and video poetry (2017), Bath Fringe FestivalStill Points Moving World performance writing exhibition (2014), and her poetry and monologues have been performed at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham.
She has co-edited three poetry anthologies: Salt on the Wind – poetry in response to Ruth Stone (Elephant’s Footprint, 2015) The Museum of Light (Yew Tree Press, 2014), Nothing in the Garden, (Elephant’s Footprint, 2014).
The bus stopped at the edge of The Green.
It was a dark winter evening Ellen still had a twenty-minute walk home.
Bears … wild boars maybe. That rustling crack closing in must be animal.
It took three days to discover the body, reporters said it was hard to identify –
It’s funny what you think of when you’ve had a near miss/ I don’t think my nose is broken/ could’ve been much worse/ no time to check it out/ it doesn’t hurt/ anyway.
It’s funny what you think of/ when you’re gagging/ for your life when you hear the car doors/ click/ when the music is turned up/ and you put on your disguise.
Tonight/ it was the Flintstones/ I watched them as a kid/ you can watch it on YouTube/ it’s a sort of animation/ they used to call them cartoons/ but I can’t tell the difference.
The Flintstones were a family/ there was Fred and Barney/ Wilma/ and a Betty/ I had a crush on Betty/ what a beauty/ lovely legs/ she was a real animation.
Fred and Wilma had a kid/ every family had a kid/ named their daughter Pebbles/ oh/ there was a Bamm-Bamm/ I’m forgetting/ Bamm-Bamm/ they found him on the doorstep/ then took him in.
I loved that show/ I loved the way they loved their kids/ it’s funny what you think of/ when you’ve got a dodgy punter/ bloody Flintstones/ bloody Pebbles/ hell/ a broken nose
Maternal Impression by Cheryl Moskowitz
Publication date 28th March 2021
The term maternal impression refers to the belief that powerful stimuli on the mind of a mother can make a physical or mental mark on the child she is carrying, even before it is born.
‘Reading Maternal Impression is to have the feeling of walking on nails with bare feet, with the assurance of trust. I go tenderly where these fine poems take me, knowing they will advance my pleasure, my empowerment.’ Daljit Nagra
“Every time I have heard Cheryl Moskowitz read “The Donner Party”, strange things have happened – a bell has rung with no-one at the door, candles have guttered in a church setting, and shivers always run down my spine. Moskowitz’s poetry summons spirits and spills beyond the words on the page into a mystical space where we are all connected in body and mind. These are poems that once read or heard, leave their mark. Mesmeric, soul-feeding, uneasy, I come back to them again and again for reassurance, admonishment, and recognition of what it is to hang onto the maternal in our collective journey. Maternal Impression is a call to arms – maternal arms – and all that implies in the Anthropocene. It has a beating heart that needs to be heard, felt, and heeded.” – Lisa Kelly
Cheryl Moskowitz was born in Chicago and came to the UK aged 11. Formerly an actor and playwright, she trained in psychodynamic counselling and dramatherapy, and taught on the Creative Writing and Personal Development MA at Sussex University. She was a 2018 Moth Poetry Prize finalist and her poem Hotel Grief was commended in the 2019 National Poetry Competition. She has published two poetry collections and a novel Wyoming Trail (Granta). She is an editor at Magma Poetry.
Daughter in Garden
It’s the last Sunday in August. I can just see her
standing outside with her back against the wall
facing away. She is poised as if waiting for something
but there is nothing, only summer stillness.
It is early. No one else is up. I hadn’t heard her
unlocking the back door, but she must have.
She looks intent, so intent it hurts to think of
what she wants and how much she wants it.
The view from here is beautiful in this light.
I can see the church spire from the window
and the roof of her school. She’s been away from
both for weeks. The bells will ring again soon.
A pigeon rises suddenly from the branches
of the pear tree. There was no blossom, so there
will be no fruit this year. My daughter takes a step
forward, away from the wall. She raises her arms.
It is as if she is preparing to rise and take flight
like the bird. She points one toe out in front of her –
a ballerina – and propels herself forward onto the lawn.
The whole summer has led to this. A perfect cartwheel.