Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 12 October 2015

  • The Cruel Mother

    after the ballad


    Amongst the leaves I lie
    teeth-bared,

    raw as the sundown.
    Scattered skins hang on the trees

    like prayer flags – I am demon,
    I am the bad-one.

    I am the wild, edible bark.
    You bit my tongue and made me roar.

    I will barren you, bust up your eye,
    scratch at damp dirt with these claws.

    Where are you? Nest of twigs,
    den in the woods,

    hut with smoke at the door.
    The home burns its riches.

    My young slide onto the forest floor like eels.
    They writhe –

    branches hold them. Swaddle
    small forms with dirt. They call

    on into the blistering night.
    Sky bubbles and caws.

    Trees like dogs lick at the sun,
    wide as horizon, large as moon.

    The oak I lean on leans back,
    bark like a spine.

    Over the fence on the well-kept lawn
    I hear them talk –

    O there is nothing to be done,
    Nothing, nothing to be done.

    And hear him say
    It is not his fault.

    And they all agree
    it was all up to me.

    In the green wood
    I sing to hope of rain.

    I sing to blood
    which falls and pours;

    in the garden they sit, drink wine
    and thunder, wonder

    where I have travelled towards
    but don’t stand and search

    but talk, and worse they sigh,
    O there is nothing, nothing to be done.

    I will eat these babies,
    cook them one by one.

    The green wood says I should stay the night.
    The green wood casts a curse

    on those who say nothing can be done
    and leave me, a wild cat, to run

    into their sleep in hot damp beds,
    into their eyes in the dark.

    I am a clawed mother
    and he will not have them back.

    O the cruelty he weighed on me.


    by Eleanor Rees


    Over the next fortnight, we will be featuring two poems drawn from the new collections of Eleanor Rees and Sarah Corbett, and published by Pavilion Poetry. Both Sarah and Eleanor will be visiting Oxford on Friday 23 October – a super opportunity to hear two of the most exciting voices in contemporary poetry. The reading will take place at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Jericho from 7.30pm, and all are very welcome! More details can be found via Facebook.

    The Poetry Centre has announced the winners of its Wellbeing Poetry Competition! Thank you to all who entered. You can see the shortlist and read the winning poems on the Poetry Centre website.

    ‘The Cruel Mother’ is copyright © Eleanor Rees, 2015. It is reprinted from Blood Child (Liverpool University Press, 2015) by permission of Liverpool University Press.

    Notes from Liverpool University Press:

    Eleanor Rees was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside in 1978. Her pamphlet collection Feeding Fire (Spout, 2001) received an Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and her first full-length collection Andraste’s Hair (Salt, 2007) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards. Her second collection
was Eliza and the Bear (Salt, 2009), and her most recent, Blood Child (Liverpool University Press, 2015). Rees has worked extensively as a local poet in the community and has a PhD from the University of Exeter in this practice. She often collaborates with other writers, musicians and artists and works to commission. She lives in Liverpool. You can read more about Eleanor’s book on the LUP website, on her own site, and follow her on Twitter.

    Pavilion Poetry is a new contemporary poetry series from Liverpool University Press, edited by Deryn Rees-Jones, which seeks to publish the very best in contemporary poetry. Always international in its reach, Pavilion Poetry is poetry that takes a risk. Whether by new or established and award-winning writers, this is poetry sure to challenge and delight. Launched in 2015, Pavilion’s first three books are by three exciting voices: Sarah Corbett, Eleanor Rees, and Mona Arshi. Pavilion has already enjoyed considerable success, with Mona Arshi’s book, Small Hands, winning the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection at this year’s Forward Prizes. You can read more about the series on the Liverpool University Press website.

    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.