Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 24 October 2016

  • Self-Portrait at Primary School

    I was so obliging I let the weirdest, smelliest kid pick on me
    because I thought it might make him feel better.
    He smelled like an opened can. They called him the weirdo.

    Instead of the red sweatshirt with the school logo on the right breast,
    he had a generic red jumper which wasn’t even the right shade of red.

    I remember the grain of the wood on the prefab classroom’s base
    against my scalp as he gently, then firmly, rolled my head against it.
    I remember the rolling turned to knocking, a tuft of my hair in his fist.

    I didn’t say: Don’t do that because that hurts me. I didn’t
    want to hurt his feelings. I remember smiling quizzically at him
    and he beamed back, delighted with this human doll.

    The relationship continued for a week until a dinner lady
    marched us both to my teacher. The Weirdo was sent for counselling
    and never allowed to go near me again.

    And even at the time it struck me: maybe I was the dangerous one.


    by Luke Kennard


    News from the Centre! This week join us at Oxford Brookes for two terrific readings. First, acclaimed conceptual poet and public artist Ira Lightman will be with us on Wednesday at lunchtime (12-1pm, Special Collections, basement of the Main Library, Headington Campus). Then Forward Prize-shortlisted poet Sarah Corbett will read from her verse novel And She Was on Friday between 2.30-3.30pm (JHB 201, John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus). The readings are free, and everyone is very welcome to attend! Please share the news with colleagues and friends.

    ‘Self-Portrait at Primary School’ is copyright © Luke Kennard, 2016. It is reprinted from Cain (Penned in the Margins, 2016) by permission of Penned in the Margins.

    Notes from Penned in the Margins:


    Luke Kennard
    has published five collections of poetry. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2007. He lectures at the University of Birmingham. In 2014 he was selected by the Poetry Book Society as one of the Next Generation Poets. His debut novel, The Transition, is published in 2017 by Fourth Estate. Read more about Cain on the Penned in the Margins website, and hear Luke read from his work on the Poetry Archive website.

    Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. The company believes in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. It operates across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. Read more about its work on its website. You can also follow Penned in the Margins on Twitter and on Facebook.

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