a metallic leaf hanging from a tree with words from The Tempest engraved on it

December 2020 at And Other Poems

I opened submissions at my poetry site And Other Poems in November, after a break of 20 months.  Over 700 poems arrived and I’ve been posting selected poems ever since.  I wrote about November poems here, and this post includes links to all of the poems posted in December, and some snippets.

I hope you find something to enjoy in all or some of these poems.  As always, if reading on a phone or small gadget, it helps to turn the device sideways to appreciate the poem’s layout.  In these days of lockdown, you could create your own poetry workshop by spending time with the poems at And Other Poems and experimenting with each poet’s method and intention.  Let me know if any new poems emerge, or if a poem particularly resonated with you.

The month began with two poems by Penelope Shuttle from her forthcoming Bloodaxe book Lyonesse about the legendary submerged land that was once part of Cornwall:

there was once
a feasting-cup city

pearl and aquamarine
of its precincts and palaces

sea-green peridot
of its square miles

but no one knows a way back
through time

I love the way these poems take the reader on a deep dive into this lost world, so pertinent in our time of climate crisis and the ongoing threat of rising sea levels.  And, talking of pertinence, it was wonderful to sample a taste of Jacqueline Saphra’s next collection in two poems from One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets, coming soon from Nine Arches Press,  a collection of sonnets written in response to the extraordinary time of the global pandemic we continue to live through:

The anthropologists will have their day,
history will come for us. We don’t know what
we’re living through, we see only how high
the walls, how fake the news, how deep the rut.

December included poems inspired by pieces of visual art.  Fiona Larkin’s ‘Testimony’ (after Alberto Giacometti)  pays witness to the fact that Giacometti created his “stark figurines” in response to the suffering he had seen in Europe during the years of WWII, while Peter O’Grady’s ‘The Dress’ was written after Helen Barff’s 2017 drawing The Dress I Wore to my Dad’s Funeral (drawn with fingers in graphite dust).  The title of the drawing is a poem in itself, I think.  Peter is a member of Trowbridge Stanza, the poetry group I organise each month at Drawing Projects UK  and he saw Helen’s drawing at the gallery when it was on show as part of an exhibition of drawings selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize.  It was wonderful to post a poem and a drawing with a connection to Drawing Projects UK, such a fantastic arts space in Trowbridge, and so supportive to poetry and all arts projects!

Cinerarias, 1922, Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport

‘Cineraria’ by Maria Isakova Bennett wasn’t written after the painting by Frank Brangwyn, but I’m so pleased that Maria sent an image of the artwork to accompany her poem, published on Christmas Eve:

What a gift
that you could bring them home:
the whole year in your arms —

Famous artists from other genres featured in poems by Laura Scott and Liz Lefroy.  Liz Lefroy’s two poems are musical in subject matter,  one published to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.  Laura Scott’s poems have Chekhovian themes, one recounting an anecdote about Chekhov finding an ingenious solution to avoid being saddled with a boring travelling companion during a long train journey, the other a meditation on being one of three sisters:

To be a link in that necklace of sisters, to flit between them
and forget sometimes which one I am, the oldest, or the youngest,

or the one in between. To slide into their space and find my way
into the room they spend so much time in talking and talking

Someone commented that Vicky Morris’ two poems about breast cancer show how good poetry can find a way to do hard work.  Purabi Bhattacharya’s two poems also demonstrate this with their heartfelt exploration of exile and loss in northeast India.

Christopher Lanyon sent tender poems about human connections, including ‘Ars poetica with dad’ a poem exploring some of the complications of hope and disappointment in a father/son relationship. Here, the poem itself becomes a physical landscape, in one line possessing its own seaside:

Maybe you’ll say my best boy at the seaside of this poem
or sat opposite me in a University Town coffee shop.

There is more than a touch of surrealism in Adam Warne’s poems which, to me, demonstrate the infinite possibilities of poetry and its ability to simultaneously remove us from and and entrench us within reality.  His poem ‘Broccoli’ deserves to be displayed in every garden centre and allotment!

Richard Skinners’ poems enjoy Oulipian playfulness, lifting readers from the mundane to the sublime of ridiculousness.  I recommend reading if you are ever troubled by writer’s block.

Wordplay also featured in Kirstin Luckin’s poem ‘Semiotics’ which brings signs and symbols of privilege into sharp clarity while punting on the River Cam. Wonderful use of rhyme in this poem, too:

[Sunlight on the Cam.
Bright, synaptic flashes.
Adoringly, the camera pans
Along her backlit lashes.]

Christopher James, meanwhile, in his poem ‘The Sandstorm in the Locket’ takes a true story, that of his grandfather carrying an image of the poet’s grandmother in a locket while on service in WWII, and invests it with his feelings on opening the locket many years later, gifting his grandmother with her own narrative at the same time.

The clasp undone, I felt a blast
of heat, grit in my eye,
then all the sand of Africa
in the palm of my hand.

Love and friendship feature in Rosie Miles two poems.  Her poem ‘Bench’ – a beautiful tribute to a friend who died – is a reminder to me to think about those past lives every time I see a memorial bench.

You’ve weathered well, attracting squirrels, birds
and women who walk their dogs. As yet you’re not
defaced, and ten years on you’re part of what
lives, grows, belongs here in this place.

Snow, lambs and a mid-Wales landscape feature in two poems by Suzanne Iuppa. Lovely to be taken deep into a deeply rural landscape, just as it was enjoyable to be inside a more urban setting in Ramona Herdman’s two poems, including ‘Night heart’ when the speaker is waiting up for a loved-one out late in the pub:

You’re late.
I glum in the dim.
Home on my own.
Night-rain on the roof.

You’re later. I fume
and feed my sulk’s fire
with little broken sticks
of your thoughtlessness.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, Alexandra Citron offered us two poems – a ‘Remedy against new hatreds and the common cold’ and ‘Codicil’ – a poem in praise of weeds and wildflowers:

If I should die I wouldn’t mind
if you buried me under the paving stones.
I would come back through the broken gaps
in waves of blue forget-me-nots opening
their constellating hearts.

My thanks to all poets and readers at And Other Poems.

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