Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 24 February 2021

  • Pharmacopoeia

    And suddenly the plagues
    are the most interesting parts
    of a city’s history.

    1635 stands out as the year
    Yersinia Pestis
    took another tithe
    from Amsterdam’s population
    and Doctor Tulp published his pharmacopoeia
    to counter all the bad plague literature. 

    Later, he made a Book of Monsters,
    wherein blacksmith Jan de Doot
    sharpened his knife
    and cut out his own bladder stone. 

    Tulp signed the fitness reports
    for the first Manhattan settlers,
    whose ancestors are still singing
    Trip a Trap a Tronjes
    (The father’s knee is a throne)
    four hundred years on –
    the old rhyme meaning as much
    or as little
    as Ring a Ring a Roses.

    I imagine a hotel bed,
    two plane seats,
    empty, waiting.

    A space in front of ‘Wheatfield with Crows’,
    where he will be overwhelmed by beauty
    in a way I am trying to understand
    while I brim with dark blue connective ribbons
    obscuring, or highlighting,
    the place where the path
    meets the horizon.


    by Kate Fox

    News from the Poetry Centre: tune in now to hear
    ignitionpress poet Belinda Zhawi imagine life as a southern African plains zebra in the Becoming Animal series on Radio 3’s The Essay programme. It’s available to listen to on the BBC website.

    ‘Pharmacopoeia’ is copyright © Kate Fox, 2021 and is reprinted here from The Oscillations (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book on the Nine Arches website, and register for free to attend the book launch on Eventbrite (please sign up by 12pm on Thursday). If you can’t register in time, you can still watch the launch by visiting the Nine Arches YouTube channel from 7.30pm.

    Notes from Nine Arches Press:

    The poem ‘Pharmacopoeia’ begins poet Kate Fox’s distinctive new collection The Oscillations. The book explores distance and isolation in the age of the pandemic, refracted through the lenses of neurodiversity and trauma in poems that are bold, often frank and funny but also multifarious, dazzling and open-hearted in their self-discoveries. Fox’s poetry explores difference and community, silence and communication, danger and belonging – and a world that has been distinctly broken into a ‘before’ and ‘after’ by the pandemic. Throughout, a strong voice sings of what it means to be many things at once – autistic, creative, northern, a woman. Fox measures not only distances, social or otherwise, but how we breach them, and what the view might be from beyond them. 

    Read more about the collection on the Nine Arches website, and register to attend the online launch on 25 February via Eventbrite (or tune into the Nine Arches YouTube channel from 7.30pm).

    Kate Fox is a poet based in Northern England who has made two comedy series for Radio 4 and written and performed numerous broadcast poetry commissions as a regular on Radio 3’s The Verb and Radio 4’s Saturday Live. She won the Andrew Waterhouse Award for poetry from New Writing North in 2006. Her previous publications include We Are Not Stone (Ek Zuban, 2006), Fox Populi (Smokestack, 2013) and Chronotopia (Burning Eye Books, 2017). She completed a PhD in performance in 2017 from the University of Leeds, researching Northernness and comedy. She loves swimming outside, spaniels, Doctor Who and big skies. You can read more about Kate’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

    Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin's book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke's debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here and follow Nine Arches on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    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.