Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 29 February 2016

  • Oystercatchers

    We were too far away
    and walking too slowly
    to have spooked them.
    So then why did they rise,
    flicker to life,
    like something uplifting
    for the butler to see,
    with a crow in their midst
    like a small dog with many small masters,
    shuffling their repertoire
    with a conjuror’s flair,
    slow flurry of arrows,
    falling in sprinkles
    on the skin of the shore
    further away?

    And then why rise again,
    and then handbrake turn
    not screeching like swifts,
    to swirl their way back
    to return to exactly
    the point where they started.
    To settle again,
    piping down, down, down?
    Why else but the sheer
    species élan
    of being alive?


    by Phil Madden, with illustrations by Paul L. Kershaw 


    ‘Oystercatchers’ is copyright © Phil Madden, 2015, and the illustrations are copyright © Paul L. Kershaw. It is reprinted from The Amphibious Place (Grapho Editions, 2015) by permission of Grapho Editions.

    Phil Madden has worked with Paul Kershaw on two other limited-edition works: Wings Take Us (2009) and Paths (2013). Both are published by Grapho Editions. He has also produced limited-edition works with the engraver Peter Lazarov: The Urban Moon (2009) and The Puppeteer and the Puppet (2012), published by Pepel Press. Phil has had exhibitions of concrete poetry in Brussels and the UK and won the Cinnamon Press Concrete Poetry Competition in 2012. The Tea Way (Gean Tree Press) was published electronically in 2012.

    After many years as a printmaker specialising in wood engraving, during which time he has become recognised as one of the country’s leading wood engravers, Paul Kershaw has extended his interests towards the design, printing and publishing of handmade books in small editions. The three books created in collaboration with Phil Madden have been printed using hand presses, on fine-quality paper and display a variety of graphic techniques to find new ways of combining text and image. Paths received a Judges' Choice Award at the 2013 Fine Press International Book Fair in Oxford. The Amphibious Place was also chosen for this award in the 2015 Book Fair, as well as receiving the Toby English Prize for the most original book.

    The Amphibious Place (215 x 175mm, 20pp, published by Grapho Editions, October 2015; price: £125, plus postage & packing). The book is printed on Atsukuchi and Kozuke paper, using an Albion handpress and a cylinder press. There are 60 copies in the edition. The setting is Magma. It is cloth bound with a stab binding and housed in a matching slipcase. This book has as its theme the seashore, the space shared by sea and land. Both text and image are centred horizontally along a single line, and the in/out cycle of the tides has inspired various structural pairings and dualities. The binding style, which doesn’t allow the book to lie open, is in part intended to suggest restless motion.

    Phil Madden’s poem ‘Oystercatchers’ is divided between two pages, a recto and the following verso, using one sheet of thin paper folded at the fore edge. The inner face has been printed as well as the outer one so that is possible to see through the paper to the layers underneath. To learn more about the book and see further pages from it, visit Paul Kershaw’s website.

    You can also get in touch with Paul via e-mail: plkershaw@mac.com

    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.