Monthly Archives: September 2014


After Maya Angelou

It’s the way she’s bent
into a bird

Right knee tucked
into shoulder

She’s making a sculpture
as if in a ballet class
for a painter

Her toes, painted red
make a feathery tail

It’s the beak that looks

as if someone has taken
the wet rag mouth and twisted it

into a shape that can’t speak
Lips, mouth and cheeks

gone into the knee
He’s painted a line

down her fine china leg
First blood of a girl turning woman

One ear is open – human
Not of a bird It is listening

First published in John Murphy’s The Lake, July 2014.


Pascale Petit

Les Murray says, No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit, and a comment that particularly resonates with me is from David Morley, Magma when he writes, ..her poetry never behaves itself or betrays itself….

Portraiat PP

When I read The Wounded Deer I was hooked. And as soon as I heard about Pascale’s residential in Ventenac I rushed to book my spot in 2013 with a room overlooking the Canal du Midi. Bliss. This was in the same week that my first collection was being published so I was in a state of high anxiety and not at my best, but it was Pascale in one of our one – to – one sessions who put me at ease me with her tranquil mien and who taught me a vital lesson when she wisely and gently posed the question of one of my poems, What are you trying to say? I have never forgotten it.

I never tire of reading and revisiting Pascale’s dazzling and heartbreaking poems. She invests so much of herself in each work.This recent radio broadcast, Poetica, highlights her depth of spirit, humanity and artistry.

Pascale is the most generous and indefatigable poet I know. She tutors regularly and intensively, often posting sessions from the Tate on her blog. There is a series of workshops on the Mslexia website. She has a punishing schedule on the reading circuit yet still finds the time to keep up with social media and, most surprisingly, finds the mental space and energy to write. In Ventenac I was pleased to see that she enjoys a glass of vin du pays between stanzas and that must help.

I’m very excited to bring you four poems that appear in Fauverie, published early September by Seren. My copy is winging its way and I can’t wait. And what another unforgettable front cover by Dragana Nikolic.

Welcome! Pascale Petit.

pascale Fauverie front


Arrival of the Electric Eel

Each time I open it I feel like a Matsés girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what’s inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that’s left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the small, almost blind eyes.
The day turns murky again,
I’m wading through the bottom of my life
when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness –
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.

Black Jaguar at Twilight

He seems to have sucked
the whole Amazon
into his being, the storm-

clouds of rosettes
through a bronze dusk.
I’ve been there, sheltered

under the buttress
of a giant, felt
the air around me –

its muscles tense,
stalking me
as I stumbled

through dense fur,
my father’s tongue
wet on my neck

as I fell into a gulch,
the blackout of his mouth.
And when I woke

I thought I heard
the jungle cough – this jungle,
the jaguar safe

behind bars. I lean over
and touch his cage – his glance
grazes me like an arrow.


Sleeping Black Jaguar

A solar eclipse – his fur
seems to veil light,
the smoulder

of black rosettes
a zoo of sub-atoms
I try to tame –

tritium, lepton, anti-proton.
They collide
as if smashed inside

a particle accelerator.
But it’s just Aramis sleeping,
twitching himself back

to the jungle, where he leaps
into the pool of a spiral
galaxy, to catch a fish.

Later, the keeper tells me
Aramis has had surgery
for swallowing

a hose–head
where his hank of beef
was lodged. But

what vet could take
a scalpel to this
dreaming universe?

What hand could shave
that pelt, to probe
the organs

of dark matter, untwist
time’s intestines
and stitch

night’s belly
together again, only
to return him to a cage?

 A Tray of Frozen Songbirds

For our last meal together
my father takes out of the freezer
a tray of frozen songbirds.
He’s saved them up, these delicacies
with ice crystals in their beaks,
wings stuck to ribcages.
There are skylarks, blackbirds, doves.
He tells me how some were plucked
while still alive,
about the mist net at dawn,
how one nightingale was thrust
into a sack of discarded heads
and cried, then the poacher licked
the sticky lime from its plumes
tenderly, before slitting its throat.
He pours champagne as if it’s
the river of life.
We eat like two drunks
woken from dreams of flying,
me on his lap, singing the song
I’ve just learnt at school – Alouette,
gentille alouette, alouette je te plumerai.

Back cover PP

Pascale’s mini biography
I’m a French/Welsh poet living in London, UK. My latest collection is Fauverie (Seren, 2014). A portfolio of poems from the book won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize and the manuscript won an Arts Council England award. My fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo, published in 2010 by Seren, 2011 by Black Lawrence Press, US, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year. I tutor poetry courses in the galleries at Tate Modern and for The Poetry School. Two previous books, The Zoo Father and The Huntress, were also shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and my books have been books of the year in the TLS, Independent and Observer. Literary SupplementIndependent and Observer. She tutors courses at Tate Modern and for The Poetry School.


Andy Jackson

Andy was one of the first people to give me the encouragement to keep writing when he judged one of my poems in a competition in 2010. Since then I’ve tracked his career as a poet and it’s clear that it continues to be a rich and full one. It’s exciting to see that his next collection will be published by Whitmore Press and it is a beautiful book to hold and to read and savour. The poems featured here give you a sneak preview of the works in The Thin Bridge which gives you an insight into how it is to love and live with a rare physical condition that informs a whole being and creative life.

As winner of the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize, The Thin Bridge will be launched by Dr Kevin Brophy – poet, writer, academic, on Friday 5 September at Collected Works, First Floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne. 6 for 6.30pm. Andy’s blog is at

Two portraits, no black rectangle

In a basement – Relax, he says, so I
hide the tension somewhere in the stomach.

Move your hands away from your sides, thanks.
This isn’t about aesthetics, but diagnosis.

Can you move your boxers down just a little?
What does it matter what I felt?

Lift your chin up.  That’s it.  Just one more.
There were plenty more, but who’d prefer

the truth to relief?  Years later,
my file arrives with a thump on the mat.

I’d remembered a black rectangle that wasn’t there.
In the photo, my face is visible and a touch out of focus.


Hugo Williams wrote, Given that poems themselves are metaphors,
I find overt metaphors more and more embarrassing in poems,

                        which is interesting because it seems to
he’s also talking about photography,

clocks, chairs, a green lake somewhere, memory
and association, the unstoppable neural flares and leaps –

the white space
of the mind which can never be empty.


This is different, singular
or trying its best to be – lenses facing off

at close range.  Camera-sound,
an automatic sprinkler.  I squint into

a brilliant sun that loves
and ignores us.  One of the garden’s pigeons

tilts her quizzical silver head.
In the beds, the fresh stink of fertiliser.

I remember now the continual labour.
Lines dug into soil.  This face

that looks back at the world that is making it.
The background is a blur.

 First appeared in Land Before Lines (photographic portraits of poets by Nicholas Walton-Healey, 2014)

Fact and resistance

The monthly open mic begins with two bearded men
wheeling Clancy of the Overflow through the room,
the audience mostly chairs.  In the Lancefield Mercury,
I read how Dennis Edwards plans to return to Nui Dat.

In ’69, kept awake by heat and detonations, they build
playground equipment for the local orphanages.  Later,
teachers and nuns are raped and killed by the Viet Cong.
Horse with No Name.  Dirty Old Town.  A song I don’t know.

The guitarists swap mics.  A cough-induced stumbled chord,
their laughter fills the room.  Elderly parents settle
the restless hands of their two disabled adult daughters.
All day, the tables are cleared and wiped clean.

Outside town, small herds of cattle feast on drought grass.
Stones and boulders sit arranged on nearby hillsides
as if miraculous, but what isn’t a collision of fact
and resistance?  Even home, even breath.

First appeared in Unusual Work, (PiO) 2012


Andy Jackson’s collection Among the regulars (papertiger media 2010) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award. His new collection the thin bridge won the 2013 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize and has just been released. He has performed at literary events and arts festivals in Australia, India, USA and Ireland, and his poetry has been featured on Radio Australia, 3CR, 3RRR-FM, Radio National’s Poetica, and at the Melbourne Museum. Andy and Rachael Guy won the Most Innovative Work award at the 2009 Overload Poetry Festival for their poetry-puppetry collaboration Ambiguous Mirrors. He is currently working on a series of portrait poems of other people with Marfan Syndrome.