Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 25 January 2016

  • Historia


                       moving on or going back to where you came from


                                                   Amy Clampitt


                       it is not the substance of a man’s fault

                       it is the shape of it

                       is what lives with him, is what shows


                                                   Charles Olson


    a room crammed with sharp toys                              


    a field zesty with fire   


                       history as historia        


            cool as a shot to the mouth    




                                          in pinched shoes  



                                merely to show up


                       the birdlime viscidity of the garden

                       the scalpel-like finger

                                  of a shriveled leaf—                     


                       not accusatory   

                                                   shadowed only

                                                             by itself

                       not pointing

             towards a balance-act 

                                                 but balancing         




    I was six and made of violins


                                by metronomic light 


    I wanted to energise him away

             like glucose


             into whiteness—


             a voice spoken slantwise

                                but faraway—    


                                          sleeping it off


                       I traveled in the dark

                       so as not to be seen    





             in what is             unclaimed


    I wait and fail      

             paying off warders

                       at your door—    


                                                   the thrillbox

                                                   of birthdays


                       whalecalls from waterclotted



                                          the gazebladed kitchen 


                       the uplander silences of television


                                          blackish fingernails

                                                             from window-mould


                                eyes goggled

                                          towards a lit hearth 

                                                   fringe fraying


                                or cupping at the curtain frame

                                          fearful of fire 

                                                   on the domestic zodiac


    bees cried in their flower-coats

                       collecting honey




                       how the air divides      

                                like cutting a loaf—


             as much childed           

                       as fevered


                                          left alone

                                in the dry season         


             to feed from the day’s nutrients—


                                                                      naphtha mirage 

                                                                                over the wheatfield

                                                                                                  at sunset


                                                   foxfur grinning on a spidersweb


                                                                      dialysis of rain

                                                                                inside a garden well     


                                                                      equal to breath             




             —to hear the substance of the earth

                                          to know its shape        


                       blessèd as an egg

       and yet—


                       and yet bombarded

                                by the radio impulse

                                          of survival


                       the whistlework of money—


    her ivied hair       

                       trenched at the oven or

             admonished at the fire-grate




    shuffle-worn cards

                                          blanked-out letters

                                                   from the on-dead 


    how life tickles the palm         at twenty




                       dreaming up worser devils


    thinking the lesser disease might be



    no-one to ignite

                       the red-eyed bird

                                of your mind


    no-one told you why






    if the bones sing          


    if chaos is chaos         



                                                   no atom nuclei

                       no definitive cure         




    enter fortune


             a ransacked house   



    that which remains

    preserved in boxes


                       now bulges

             like a museum   




    baffled voices     vow trounces

             —as if from any archive—


    I lean over and touch my ear

             to the grid complex—


                                like hearing ritual cannibalism

                                          in the byways of a river


    by James Byrne

    Please join us on Friday 19 February from 6-8pm here at Oxford Brookesto celebrate the prize-winning poets of the 'Open' and 'English as a Second Language'categories in our inaugural International Poetry Competition. The event willinclude readings from the winners, as well as an exciting showcase of work fromlocal young poets, mentored by award-winning writer, Kate Clanchy. Lightrefreshments will follow. If you would like to attend, please let us know viae-mail: poetrycomp@brookes.ac.ukby 10 February. 

    ‘Historia’ is copyright © James Byrne, 2015. It is reprinted from White Coins (Arc Publications, 2015) by permission of Arc Publications.

    James Byrne's most recent poetry collection Blood/Sugar, was published by Arc Publications in 2009. Byrne is the editor of The Wolf, an internationally-renowned poetry magazine, which he co-founded in 2002. He won the Treci Trg poetry festival prize in Serbia and his Selected Poems: The Vanishing House was published in Belgrade. Byrne lives in Liverpool and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. His poems have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Burmese and Chinese and he is the International Editor for Arc Publications.

    White Coins rewards the reader with a nomadic poetry for the 21st century; one that mingles personal, social and historical spaces whilst celebrating, at all times, linguistic versatility and innovation. Read more about the book on Arc’s website, and hear James read from his work on the Archive of the Now site.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

    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.