Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 30 January 2017

  • Teenager

    The only thing he remembered
    about the burglary was the dog
    as he’d dragged it across the floor,
    its claws out in resistance,
    fur hooding its eyes.

    His own teeth were bared
    as he shook and twisted

    the folds of its neck.

    The dream of his father!

    His mute mother

    had brought him here to
    join him and he’d found
    a drunk, violent man
    who beat her.
    He knew at court, that he
    had an extra punishment.

    He would be deported when
    the others were released.
    At the time he didn’t care,
    he hated this shit-hole of a country
    as much as it hated him.

    But inside, he found
    he was good at maths,

    got certificates in fitness,

    reflected on his life.

    But it was down in writing
    that he hated his mother
    so now they said he hadn’t
    got family life.

    He’d told them he was glad
    he’d hurt the dog
    so they said he had no remorse. 
    They told him he was now
    nineteen and no longer a child
    and would be deported with £46.
    They asked him which airport

    he wanted to go back to

    but he didn’t know

    what ones there were.

    He’d left when he was seven.

     

    by Caroline Smith


    News from the Centre! Celebrated poet and teacher Tamar Yoseloff will be returning to Brookes to lead a workshop entitled ‘Poetry and Identity: Creating Character’. The workshop will take place on Saturday 11 February from 10.30-4.30pm and is designed to coincide with an exhibition by acclaimed French photographer Claude Cahun running in Brookes’s Glass Tank Gallery. The cost is £45 (£40 for Brookes staff and students!), and spaces are limited. There are currently only a few left. Please visit our website for more details and to book a place.

    We are also excited to invite you to join us at one of the stops on a UK tour by Pia Tafdrup, one of Scandinavia’s leading writers. In a series of events from 15-17 February organized by the Poetry Centre and supported by the Danish Arts Foundation, Pia will read at the University of Reading with Peter Robinson, at Ledbury, where she will be in conversation with Fiona Sampson, and in Oxford, where she will read at Oriel College alongside T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Philip Gross. You can find out more and book tickets via the Centre’s website. Again, places are limited!

    ‘Teenager’ is copyright © Caroline Smith, 2016. It is reprinted from The Immigration Handbook (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

    Notes from Seren:

    Vividly detailed and emotionally powerful, The Immigration Handbook is as revealing as it is timely. Here we meet with the traumatised individuals that the news stories only speak of as numbers. These are lives fraught with violence and tragedy that Caroline Smith has encountered in her work as the asylum caseworker for a Wembley MP. We journey with them through the labyrinthine government bureaucracies they must navigate to survive. With clarity and integrity she lays before us stories of stoic resilience and humorous forbearance, of kindness to others and of joy in the midst of sorrow. These are poems that step out of the headlines and into our hearts. You can read more about the book on the Seren website.

    Caroline Smith was born in Ilford and grew up in Hertfordshire. She originally trained as a sculptor at Goldsmith’s College. Her first publication was a long narrative poem ‘Edith’ about a Lancashire-born woman who works as a nanny in Glasgow, but is haunted by a secret from her pre-war life. Smith’s first full collection, The Thistles of the Hesperides, is about the community of West Pilton in Scotland where Caroline lived in the 1980s when it was one of the most deprived housing estates in Europe. Published widely in literary journals, she has twice won prizes in the Troubadour Poetry Competition. Smith has had work set to music, broadcast on the BBC and is also the author of a musical play, TheBedseller’s Tale, that was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She lives in Wembley with her family. Find out more about Caroline’s work on her website or by following her on Twitter.

    'These poems are very moving and it's hard to do justice to the way Caroline Smith conveys the anxieties, hopes and disappointments experienced by immigrants. She never allows the reader to forget that behind the refugee statistics there are suffering human beings; very often the victims of a seemingly insensitive and overstretched bureaucracy.' Lord Alf Dubs (formerly a Director of the Refugee Council and Chair of Liberty. He was one of 669 Jewish children saved from the Nazis on the Kinderstransport.)

    Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s 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.