Blue – by Amelia Walker

 

The first blue I knew was blood.

Later there would be skies and oceans,
eyes and sapphires, petals, ink, plastic lids
of pens my teachers said, don’t chew.
The skin-ripple of a hushed tattoo.

The blue of singers, songs, the sounds
and shoes, jeans, dresses, uniforms
I wore reluctantly, eyeliner brandished with glee.
There would be bruises. Planets. Marbles.

But first, the blood.
And when we cut ourselves we rust.
A kind of blossoming, a bloom
of buds unfolding just to die.

We are fields of roses, yes,
in lips and finger tips, the speckled light.
We could not be fire were we not also smoke.
Could not be red without the blue.

The first blue I knew was living.
The first blue I knew was blood.

 

 

 

Amelia Walker is a South Australian writer. She works at a university and lives near the coast.

Winners – Jan/Mar Poem Awards

The votes are all in and the poll-winning Readers’ Choice poem is…

Hearing Things – by Mat Riches

Mat will (eventually) receive the usual winner’s mug, and thanks to everyone who voted.

The Editor’s choice was selected by Rachel Bower and she picked out

A Place on the Sofa – by Lesley Burt

Rachel had these comments to make.

It was a pleasure to read this pile of wonderful poems as Guest Editor this month, but not an easy task to choose a winner! On first reading, I was struck by the range of form, as well as by recurring subjects and tropes, particularly running, keys in hands, the child’s perspective and coming to terms with the past. I was drawn to several poems before deciding on my winner.

I was struck by “Five-Year Survival”, for the intensity created by its patterns of repetition (I find it hard to resist a pantoum!). This poem is full of mystery and delicacy, and I didn’t want it to end. I also loved the ‘‘chemistry of cakes’ and ‘physics of flans’ in “Girl’s Education”: a seemingly simple poem which is layered with meaning. The violence simmering under “How You Will Identify My Body” and the ‘creamy breasts of pigeons’ which ‘turn crimson’ in “First Deaths” were also powerful. “August 1947” effectively captured the human aspects of a moment of great political upheaval, and this poem was a close contender for the winning spot.

The winning poem stood out on first reading, and got better every time I read it. By the third or fourth reading I was sure this was the one. “A Place on the Sofa” is an understated, taut account of a single moment in a girl’s family life. The poem skilfully enables the reader to share the perspective of the young girl, sent off to the kitchen by the grandma so that her brother can take her place on the sofa. I love the way that we look through the gap between the hinges with her, and share her rage at this injustice. The poem is tight: there are no wasted adjectives or articles, and the rage bristles against the tight tercets of the poem. The ending is also wonderful – the rage ‘rests in her diaphragm’, as in this restrained poem, and we wait for the day that it will finally be breathed out. This is a powerful poem about the moments that make us (and mark us), and the ways in which the personal and everyday are always political. Thank you!

Congratulations to both our winners.

The Octopus Dreams on its Skin – by Nigel King 

 

She read this somewhere. 
She thinks about it now
while she watches his restless sleep, 
 
his hand tensed as if gripping hers 
tight, outside the closed door 
to her parents’ living room, 
 
his lips moving 
as if to the words 
of their song that summer, 
 
a corner of his mouth moist 
as if from the last drops of Sangria  
shared on the hotel terrace, 
 
his hair wild, like it was  
on the promenade last November  
when the salt wind lashed. 
 
She turns her eyes to the tubes  
that snake from his body, 
hears the beeps and thrums, 
 
pictures him, an old time diver 
lowered into the depths, 
through kelp, scatters of small fry, 
 
into a kaleidoscopic burst  
of colour, lighting the murk, 
the welcoming Host.  

 

 

Nigel King lives in Almondbury, Huddersfield. His poems have been published recently in The High Window, Poetry Salzburg Review and Three Drops From A Cauldron. His first collection, What I Love About Daleks, was published by Calder Valley Poetry in 2017.

Bear with squeeze box – by Andrea Small

 

arrives in the night
gap-toothed    goggling
 
grunts into bed 
frayed rope dragging
 
rough head on my pillow
plays nightmares into me
 
I wake under his ragged paws
his hot stink    glass button eyes

 

 

 
Andrea Small lives in Sheffield. She is a member of Heeley Women Writers and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan.University. She runs singing groups for all sorts of people, believing that we all can – and should – sing.

To a French Girl – by Mihai Marcaş

 

you greet me with flowers,
zig-zag roses, and sapphires roz,
and, I greet you dressed in a dotted
plain-coloured blue and peach cloak.
your crystal daisies shimmer and you are
wearing the nightstars as a necklace,
so I compliment my blue velvet voice.
a circus of improvised choreography
that ended with neither of us bowing,
a sign that both of our minds have
been lost, and so I do not know,
whether it is the act of a madman
or a sober one, if I smile, from the dark
backstage to you on the other side.
I stick out my tongue instead.

 

 

 

Mihai is a twenty-something Romanian, who grew up in Scotland. Inclined to existential literature and despair. Lover of poetry and film. Teacher of Economics by trade. Unpublished.

These Tiny Stars – by Marie-Louise Eyres

 

There is a constellation
of calcifications
 
these tiny stars 
sit tight
amongst grey matter
 
like fireflies 
in the branches                     
of a thick pine
after dark
 
and nearby loom                   
the larger moons, 
glowing from i.v contrast,
 
white snakes 
with full bellies
coiling 
around
my brain.

 

 

 

In 2018 Marie-Louise was shortlisted for the Bridport poetry prize and the Myslexia poetry competition. She lives in Washington DC but hails from the UK. 

Time to Vote – Jan/Mar Poem Awards

…and here we are again with four poems that have stood out from the crowd in terms of how our readers have responded to them. Please vote for your favourite, and the winning poet will receive the customary Algebra of Owls Prize mug, once I figure out how to pay for it.

August 1947

Hearing Things

If You Hold It To Your Ear

First Deaths

The poll will close with the announcement of the winning poem on 13th April.