Thursday, January 20, 2011


“the essays gathered here collectively examine the ways in which a poem can travel across continents & years between poets and readers of different ages and (…) how these readers (sometimes themselves also poets) can understand and speak back.”

Karen Leeder, Flaschenpost, a special edition of German Life and Letters, 2007

If you could climb a ladder with no end

would you find yourself here? In the upper stacks

of the Periodicals Room? Turning, a woman

with whispered hair wrinkles her forehead

as she shelves books back-to-back, the way a mother might

frame photographs: careful to see she doesn’t

crease the corners; checking

that the inks don’t fade.

This collection is her

pride & joy. This room: her message in a bottle

encoded in these alphabetized walls, then sealed and stowed

away in stacks, her life measured in reams

holding the voices of the past. Preserved to last.

How long before she too

has a dusty spine and threadbare seams,

a coffin-cover that keeps pristine

her own story, now far too faint to read?

Ages have passed since she has seen

anything like the girl with crumpled chestnut hair, skin brighter

than the yellow tint of time, who wanders in here

to half-disrupt antiquity, flick through dust-speckled silence

with intriguing eyes looking for German Life & Letters

(now confined)

Instead she finds

washed up on this cold coast

a poem in herself;

a living, breathing Flaschenpost.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Berlin bombed with poetry

We have bombing, and love-bombing, but poetry-bombing? Now there's a new concept. Berlin's been the victim of an alphabetic assault this month, with millions of poems by German and Chilean artists raining down on the city... It's a CND wet dream. What better place to be poetically pulverized than Berlin, that cultural capital with its poetic edginess and (in)tense history...?

here's the story:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

memory and the Pergamon

How does memory function? Christa Wolf writes about electrical impulses and neurones, but also describes memory as though it were a kind of awesome organism, a thing with a mind of its own. Memory's often described as a palimpsest, with new memories inscribed over old ones and the beautiful script of a life all entwined, inbetween blossoming and fading, to become the crumpled loops and lumps of a life well written.

I think memory's more fickle than that; the most recently written moments can sometimes be the most quickly forgotten. It's not all totally chronological, as a palimpsest is, with the oldest script fading fastest. Ancient, instinctive, primeval memories - of fear, love, of mother and father - are the oldest ones, yet they are also the ones that stick the strongest. The most easily legible memory in our brains can sometimes be the one that was written long ago.

Perhaps here, in the Pergamon museum in Berlin - a place brimming with relics of the past, with memory made literal - I can find a better metaphor for memory, a blueprint of how and why we remember what we do.

Everyone is moving to Berlin

It’s all going down in East Berlin.She swept her long hair over her shoulder and swayed the table decisively. He looked at her and took a little sip of his cool beer. He'll never be able to fit me in, she thought, between that faded old sofa and the cranky fridge with half-drunk bottles of Weisswein and the hung-up washing and steaming cups of dark tea on the sideboard of the shop. Never, if not tonight. She thought he'd liked her that day on the U-Bahn. She couldn’t work out what was a memory and what she’d invented. Was he itching to take her bottom lip between his teeth, as she was, and gently bite?

He paid for her drink and winced. “Sorry, my contacts, hang on a sec.” He was so polite, it was exhausting. It was a little cold. She wanted him to warm her up, to put his electrifying fingers on her shoulders and squeeze.

“Got a light?”

“Sure.” He flicked a flame between their lips, briefly. Crumpled lung chrysalis. Was it just breath, or was there something else forming between them, as sweet and flickering as smoke?

(This post was inspired by Lail Arad's song, Everyone is moving to Berlin and first appeared on The Doodle Caboodle)

Blackberry Sonnet

I love this man, now and for forever. His pupils were split berries, black on
white irises. Her hair was spilt libation on his forehead. She tipped
her liquid lips to his, and drank to the world he'd turned his back on.
She turned and said a silent thanks to the world that had stripped her
of him, that had held his neck crooked across the cliff
and wondered
what the sea tasted like
------------from that great height

-------------------------what bones sound like
--------------------------------------when the whole world sucks them stiff.
She turned, kiss still on mouth, and cursed the world that never really let them be.
As silence rose, she caught sight of his snagged arms, poured earth
over his forehead and turned and fled, weeping
--------------------------------------------------------to the silent sea.

This sonnet was inspired byLaura Marling's song, Blackberry Stone
and was first published on The Doodle Caboodle

Dental Trauma

I have bit
my tongue for too long
on this one.

I know that conscience
and the cold bite hard,
and rhyme is a twisting

tongue, is a sound leaf
caught between
two lines of teeth,

but this was torture.

Your cigarette
was a lovebite at the night's
cold neck

a brush of teeth along her black
back, a perfect kiss
in the cold air. So when

your lips brushed mine
I could not help but wonder

between the rush
of teenage lust and tooth
and tongue, salivasap,

your lip
managed to trap
itself between my metal brace

and gum, biting
itself into submission
bleeding, suffering, then numb

as kisses became kickboxing
to escape, save face,

to free your tongue
like a bird of song
from its newfound cage:

my bruising, glinting brace.

This poem first appeared here: The Doodle Caboodle

The Doodle Caboodle

OK, so this is a bit of a shameless plug; my apologies. I'm writing for an art blog called "The Doodle Caboodle". It's run by a friend of mine (Alex Moore; her website is the Threepenny Orchestra). One day she rang me up and said that she was starting a blog with a group of her friends from art school, and would I like to contribute? The blog is a space to collect work by all kinds of people, centred around a theme that changed monthly.

Yes please. So I am now writing for the blog. I'll post my pieces here too. In the meanwhile, do visit The Doodle Caboodle if you have time, as it's supercool and the artists illustrating on it are very talented indeed.