New Black Country Poetry

 

By Charmaine Host

 

Perspex

 

If you are behind your Perspex
and I behind mine
how can we meet?

Does your mask of protection
mean I must not touch you?
Does mine mean I cannot be reached?

 

But I want to be burned
by the arc lamp of love
scorched and seared
with connection.

For this wounded heart needs
the white heat of healing
cauterisation to stop
the bleeding.

 

Brain Freeze

 

When I freeze like a computer screen
overloaded with data
there has been a signalling error
a system shutdown
a neural pathway derailment.

 

Earlier experience has been evoked.
A sergeant major issuing orders
commanding troops
bullying.

 

I think they call it ‘father transference’.
But there was nothing ‘fathering’ about those times
just yelling, telling, hitting, hating.

 

And I know you are not my father.
I know your desire is to heal, not harm.
But in those moments, minutes, hours of ‘brain freeze’
I forget, and cannot access your tenderness.
It is deleted
or rendered ‘junk mail’.

Good Friday

 

It was a good Friday
the day she realised that the ground
beneath her feet was solid
and that she was safe.

It was a good Friday
when love
was in the field
and shame no longer figural.

It was a good day
when she woke to find her heart was light
for she had found someone
who was her saving grace.

She could say more about Good Friday;
redemption, salvation,
sin and death defeated,
but she has no need
for she knows now about self-giving love
because of a self who gave
And in her understated way
she is so thankful.

 

 

Jericho

 

What if
she is good enough
to be:
wife, mother, friend, lover,
client, counsellor, prophet and priest?
Or even good enough to just be herself?
What if
she deserves:
laughter instead of tears, pleasure rather than shame?
Or even just deserves better?
What if
‘not being good enough’
has been the cornerstone of her life’s building,
the foundation upon which all her choices have been made?
What if
this stone is removed?
What will
the landscape look like when
these walls of Jericho come tumbling down?
What and how will she rebuild?

 

 

First Fire

 

A stone is rolled away
and like the first fire of Easter
she knows resurrection.
Then she remembers her name.
She remembers her name as it is spoken
by the one who loves her.
She remembers her name when she hears it
in the voice of the one she loves.
And in that hearing lie hope, healing, gift, grace and beauty.
In that hearing she remembers she is called by name

 

 

Charmaine Host

Born a long time ago in Walsall, Charmaine spends her time equally between being a Church of England Vicar and a student of Fine Art at Wolverhampton University.

She was one of the first group of women to be ordained priests in the Church of England – this new direction as an undergraduate art student has come much more recently.

Charmaine also has a professional counselling qualification and her writing and art have emerged as part of her own therapeutic process. She started writing poetry in 2012.

 

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Something beyond ourselves: three poems by Jean Atkin

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The Horseman’s Word

I do most solemnly take upon me
the vows and secrets of horsemanship

That Word I know but do not tell, hearing
just the gait of that worked-out Galloway,
all hard mouth & spavinned hocks.

Catch up & halter the pattering
unshod ponies, my Word in their ear –
I shall not cut it or carve it, paint it
or print it, write it or engrave it –
curry their bellies’ fringe of guard hair,
grass-stained skewbald, strawberry roan
Royal, Misty, Dandy, Cherry,
my Bobby Dazzler bonny filly.

Here’s to the lad that can always conceal
And keep a thing hidden
Now the words go, like snow off a dyke.
Give me a good doer without wind galls or vice.
Crupper that Clyde & fettle his feather
& keep somewhere in the kist the fate
of the foundered horse
& the meaning of names –
Breakheart Hill & Killhorse Lane.

The Horseman’s Word was a secret ritual ceremony in 19th century Scotland.

 

Fiddlers Causeway

What there was, was a lane between drystone walls,
that took the hardland down to the mosses.

What there was, was its steepness,
rolling with limestones big as your fist.

You might forget the dairy herd lumbering,
full-bagged, weary, up to the farm.

You might forget the stones that pressed
through the thin bendy soles of our wellies.

Do you remember the rush and stumble of their legs,
their piebald hides, their spattering shit?

Do you remember the wetness and dark of the lame
cow’s eye as she hobbled up last on the causeway?

 

Hard Winter

After two months, it’s about hunger.
The sheep are tamer, come to call.

By day, ice breaks its heart,
weeps heartless tears.

By night, the stars freeze
to our slates.

Just now, in snow by the byre,
a wren like a dead leaf.

In electric light, the cat, on a bale,
washing her paws.

 

Jean Atkin

 

 

Biography

Jean Atkin has published ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books) and also five poetry pamphlets and a children’s novel.   Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Earthlines and The Moth.  She has held residencies in both England and Scotland, and works as a poet in education and community projects.

www.jeanatkin.com

@wordsparks

 

 

Introducing the Arts Foundry editorial team

It’s been a busy few months here at the Arts Foundry. The submissions are flying in, and to get the New Year off to a good start we’ve put an editorial team in place to help bring the best work to publication.

Next stop, Wolverhampton Literature Festival where our freshly-published writers and poets will be performing their poetry and prose.

Without further ado, we’re super excited to introduce you to your new Fiction Editor and Poetry Editor!

Fiction Editor

Storm Mann

Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with stories. When I was a little girl, I used to feed this obsession by curling up in my dad’s old suitcase and reading Roald Dahl. I told people that I wanted to be a Giant Peach when I grew up. I wasn’t sure about the details of this transformation, but I was sure I would figure it out.

Instead of becoming a Giant Peach, I became a student at the University of Wolverhampton. I studied English with Creative and Professional Writing and came out with a First Class Honours degree. I am now studying my English MA and swooning regularly over all things Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelitism, The Lost Generation, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and Sylvia Plath.

I like to write as much as I like to read, and can usually be found jotting story ideas onto my hands, toilet roll, innocent bystanders etc.

This love for reading and writing has quite naturally led to an enjoyment of editing. I love working with other writers to get their work ready for publication. For this reason, I am especially excited to work with those submitting to the Arts Foundry!

 

Poetry Editor

Chris Forrester

As a child, reading was my life… from simple stories by writers like Mary Pope Osborne to classic tales by the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, progressing to grittier sci-fi by Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Gav Thorpe.

Some poetry interested me, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to appreciate and pursue this particular art form.

After gaining a First Class Honours degree at the University of Wolverhampton, my interest in poetry multiplied exponentially, particularly studying Luke Kennard’s work.

Henley’s Invictus has to be my favourite poem, for its message of self-determination and self-mastery.

I continue to write and read new work to develop my understanding of the process of writing. Editing the work of others is a great privilege – my Teaching Writing module first introduced me to this complex and thrilling process.

I am extremely excited to work with Louise and Storm as well as the writers submitting to the Arts Foundry.

Storm and Chris have written for the University of Wolverhampton campus newspaper and both were published in the Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology 2016. Their stories are now being taught on the university’s English course.

 

Romalyn Ante: this year’s rising star of the poetry scene

Her poetry is described as ‘exquisitely detailed’ and ‘a real feast for the senses’… packed with original imagery, it announces a bold new talent.

Romalyn Ante is a poet who came to Wolverhampton and found not only a vocation but also a voice.

Awarded the prestigious Manchester Poetry Prize alongside Laura Webb, Romalyn’s trajectory is set firmly on course as she continues to explore themes of identity, loss, homeland, and what it means to be a Filipino nurse in the UK today.

Her mentor Pascale Petit says: ‘When I first read Romalyn Ante’s submission for the Jerwood/Arvon scheme, I was struck by her sheer raw talent and the naturalness and freshness of her images and language.

‘The twin themes of her Filipino heritage and her work as a nurse combust into poems that shimmy on the very edge. They are vital and full-bodied, yet delicate as a petal that is also a scalpel.

‘They are compassionate and full of warmth, but don’t flinch from the realities of nursing and being a foreigner in Britain. It is a privilege and a delight for me to mentor her.’

Romalyn spoke to ARTS FOUNDRY about her recent win, and about how she approaches writing her poetry…

Romalyn receiving the Manchester Poetry Prize

 

Here’s a karaoke mic.

Sing your soul out till there’s El Niño in your throat

and you can drink all the rain of Wolverhampton.

from ‘Antiemetic for Homesickness’

 

The Manchester judges describe your poems as ‘rich and scrupulously attentive’… which ones did you enter for the prize?

I entered a manuscript of four poems – Nightingale Pledge, Molave, Transform, and Antiemetic for Homesickness. All poems reflect my work as a nurse in the NHS and private sector, and the last one touches on the story of Filipino nurses in the UK and coping with homesickness.

Can you tell us when and how they were written?

They were all written this year. I’ve been trying to write new poems since my debut pamphlet Rice & Rain came out. My 2017 goals were to write much stronger poems and to improve as a poet. I wrote on the theme of nursing experience.

Nightingale Pledge is a found poem which takes from the version of the Hippocratic Oath for nurses, while the idea for Antiemetic for Homesickness came from the medical term ‘antiemetic’ or ‘anti-sickness’.

Molave reflects the story of a man with lung problems (his lungs are compared to an ‘upside down tree’, particularly, the molave tree, native to the Philippines), and Transform is a poem set in a nursing home that transforms into a  mythical, legendary landscape.

When I have an idea in mind, I try to explore it as much as possible to ensure that the poem that will emerge is ‘extra special’.

My Jerwood/Arvon mentor once told me (and I’m paraphrasing):

‘It’s easy to write a very good poem, what’s hard is to write a special poem.’

Now, I always ask myself  ‘is this poem only a ‘good’ poem or a ‘special’ poem?’ What’s the difference between a very good poem and a special poem? I can’t tell you, you’ll have to figure it out yourself…

What are the main themes in your poetry?

The main theme of my poetry, apart from migration and diaspora, is my work as a nurse. The hospital in the city where I live looked to recruit 300 extra Filipino nurses in 2013.

I feel that Filipino migrant nurses’ stories are vital in the culture of poetry in the UK, because we have been an integral part of its healthcare history and yet very little is known of us, our personal and professional struggle, and our culture.

I also want to explore the theme of loss, not only from the perspective of someone who leaves a homeland, but also from the perspective of any human being who suffers loss through the illness of a loved one.

Moreover, in November this year, I travelled back to the Philippines to write about the theme of reconnections, and I hope to develop these poems in the coming year.

Romalyn dancing…

How do you explore loss and your experience of moving across the world without veering into sentimentality?

It is quite hard to explain. I guess I recently started to ask myself:

How much are you willing to give? How ‘cruel’ do you want to be to yourself and to your readers?

This can be interpreted in many ways. I do not have a censor in my head that tells me ‘Ooops, I think I am getting too emotional here’ when I produce a first draft, but when I begin to edit, I try to be more aware of my own vulnerabilities and pain, and share what only I can share.

And of course, I try to be kind to the readers too.

Who are some of your favourite poets, and why?

Wordsworth, Rita Dove, Li-Young Lee, Francisco Balagtas, Rio Alma, Simeon Dumdum Jr. – because their poetry is very accessible yet resonant and timeless.

How do you achieve the very clear voice and sense of place common to your poetry?

Oh thank you!

I guess I just try to be me, and sound like me in my poetry. I’d like to sound more ‘eloquent’ but I’m crap at that! Also, I think having a clear idea of what you want to write is important.

Sometimes I may need to explore an idea over and over again before I get to pen down the first line – but that’s okay – because once that idea has matured, I know I am not just writing it for the sake of writing it but because the poem itself has a purpose and it has something to say.

Having said that, I also have a lot of poems with no clear voice or direction, but I try not to give up on them easily. I am learning to find that one word in a draft that came from my subconscious and tells me:

‘I’m an important idea, explore me’.

jerwood-arvon.jpg
Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Programme 2017-18 

How has mentoring and the support of other poets helped you along the way?

Being a Jerwood/Arvon mentee is one of the best things that happened to me this year as a person and as a writer. My mentor, Pascale Petit, is very supportive and is always challenging me as a poet.

Moreover, I met my poetry-sisters Alice Hiller, Yvonne Reddick, and Seraphima Kennedy. I am learning a lot from them through discussion, feedback, and observing their own writing.

I always say that all the success I have had this year is not only my success, but also the success of those who have helped me develop as a writer.

RR

What was it like being published by V. Press earlier this year?

It gave me a good foundation to introduce my work to the public. My editor, Sarah Leavesley is very supportive and it’s good to know that I am in the company of reputable writers. It also reinforces my belief that I can be a poet.

What would you say to people just starting to write poetry?

Keep writing, keep reading, keep trusting yourself and your voice.

Also, dream – and really believe in it. Enjoy every struggle and piece of bad luck – one day, your struggle will be a sweet reminder of your journey to success.

Lastly, do not forget the people you meet along the way and do not forget the friends who helped you.

Also, treat yourself to chocolate or a cookie from time to time.

467241_4128618807364_848387128_o
Romalyn  (left) with her mother, sister Regine (centre) and brother Marion (right)

 

Biography

 

Romalyn Ante grew up in Lipa, Philippines. She now lives in Wolverhampton.

A Jerwood/Arvon mentee, she is joint winner of this year’s Manchester Poetry Prize, and her debut pamphlet, Rice and Rain, is published by V. Press. She was recently selected to be a part of Primers Volume 3, won the Poetry category of the Creative Future Literary Awards, and was commended in the Battered Moons Poetry Competition 2017.

Romalyn came back from the Philippines in November following her Artists’ International Development Fund project, which allowed her to research and write about culture, identity and reconnection.

She blogs at www.ripplesoftheriver.blogspot.com

Debut Pamphlet Out Now!
V. Press_ Rice & Rain

 

Rice & Rain, Romalyn Ante’s debut poetry pamphlet is available now from V. Press

“She has an instinctive talent for crafting precise and finely-tuned poetry that captures the exact sensations – potent, close to home and as incisive and accurate as a scalpel’s first cut… life’s preciousness is measured here carefully in its proximity to death. These poems are gracefully poised and balanced perfectly, alive with their own irresistible songs of love and longing.” Jane Commane