Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 10 July 2019

  • When I Turn Thirty, I Have an Epiphany 


    I will forever be in second grade    acutely aware my classmates’ gold star
    reading comprehension    
    voices sliding over words like snakes slither grass
    great at self-flagellation    no one can hurt me like me    I deserve my
    teachers’ neglect    my classmates’ sneers and taunts    I am not good enough
    pretty enough    smart enough    to learn to read    each day my failure
    reteaches me    the depths of my inabilities    my (dys)abilities


    When I turn thirty, I still stumble aloud, mind ever split
    between recognizing letters and

    processing meaning, in tandem. What’s wrong
    with me? 
    stings the old shame.

    I continue to try and out-chess my falterlurch,
    my vocal careen, but I also lift

    my chin and push my pawn
    two daring spaces forward:

    I ask myself how
    do I think,

    how do I get the




    This year, I question friends on their hows of reading
    and understanding. My classroom curse word 

    reading comprehension is examined,
    thought through, discussed.

    Epiphany lands casually
    one Tuesday afternoon:

    reading out loud,
    with ease and grace,
    has nothing to do
    with understanding.




    It took me all these years to divine this    travel outside my own head
    shame and into others’ vocality    others’ processors and understandings   

    so I write this to remind myself to smile    when others read smoothly
    and smile when I falter for you here and now    because
    when I read    I comprehend    


    by Sarah Shapiro

    You can hear Sarah read the poem here.

    The Poetry Centre’s ignitionpress is excited to share with you a poem from another one of its new pamphlets. After we featured ‘Love Token’ from Jennifer Lee Tsai’s Kismet last week, this week’s offering is from Sarah Shapiro’s pamphlet The Bullshit Cosmos. The pamphlet will be available later this month and will be launched in London on 22 July and in Oxford on 23 July. Please join us to celebrate the launch of Sarah’s pamphlet and the pamphlets by Joanna Ingham and Jennifer Lee Tsai. Sign up here  for the launches. 

    Don’t forget that we recently launched our International Poetry Competition for 2019! This year we are delighted to say that our judge is the internationally-acclaimed writer Jackie Kay! There are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language, and the winners in each category receive £1000. The competition is open until 2 September, and full details can be found here .

    Sarah Shapiro was born in Chicago and lives in Somerville, MA. She is a poetry MFA candidate at University of Massachusetts Boston. Sarah also holds an MA in Place, Environment, and Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a BA in Environmental Studies from Mount Holyoke College. Sarah’s academic career was not a guarantee; she grew up with learning (dys)abilities and did not begin to read until the age of eight. Now, her poems for this project explore the gap between those who read with ease and those who struggle to read.

    Sarah believes that as many people as possible should have access to reading and writing poetry. She teaches university analysis and writing at Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Boston, undergraduate writing and the environment at UMass Boston, and an itinerant writing workshop at the Osher Longlife Institute for adult education at UMass Boston. She has completed a residency with Cove Park, and had an audio-text poem published in TIMBER. Her poems have also appeared in glitterMOBSheGrrrowls, Bunbury, and Poetica Magazine.

    The Bullshit Cosmos is a highly distinctive pamphlet that celebrates triumph over adversity, defiance against the system, success over predicted failure. The poems explore the gap between those who read with ease and those who struggle to read. Honestly written, they provide a starkly refreshing approach to our language in a poetry that is provocative and challenging, compassionate and engaging.

    ignitionpress is a poetry pamphlet press from Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre with an international outlook which publishes original, arresting poetry from emerging poets, and established poets working on interim or special projects.

    Our latest pamphlets are by Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, and Sarah Shapiro, and they will be published in July 2019. The first five pamphlets to be published by ignitionpress: There’sNo Such Thing by Lily Blacksell, AHurry of English by Mary Jean Chan (Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice, 2018), Glean by Patrick James Errington, Shadow Dogs by Natalie Whittaker and Small Inheritances by Belinda Zhawi, are available from our online Shop. Each pamphlet costs £5, and you can buy three for £12. You can find out more about the poets and their work on our dedicated page.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.