Please join us on zoom for live readings from George Szirtes, Moniza Alvi and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese
This is part of our monthly award-winning ‘Live from the Butchery’ series, hosted by Helen Ivory and Martin Figura from their home (an old CoOp butcher’s shop), and IS&T publisher Kate Birch.
One cuts into a fresh apple
One admires the colour of beans on a plate
One stops to notice a shadow as it falls
One orders pistachio ice cream
One cheers a goal on a screen
One is surprised by a beam of light
One unwraps a bar of chocolate
One longs for a presence in the middle of the night
One reads a sentence for its music alone
One runs just for the sheer exhilaration of it
One dives into a cold sea
One pops a grape into one’s mouth
One is filled with frivolity
One laughs at a joke
One tells a joke
One kisses a loved one
George Szirtes’s twelfth book of poems, Reel (2004) won the T S Eliot Prize for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Fresh Out of the Sky. (2021). His memoir The Photographer at Sixteen (2019) was awarded the James Tait Black Prize in 2020. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a co-winner of the International Booker translator’s prize, with his own books in various languages including Italian, German, Chinese and Hungarian as well as individual poems in many others. His international prizes include the Déry Prize in Hungary, the People and Poetry Prize in China, and the Bess Hokin Prize in the USA. He has also written for children, radio, stage and texts for music.
For an hour or two God lay down
in the shade of a wide-canopied tree.
‘Wake up!’ laughed the Devil who
always had to keep track of him.
‘You don’t have time to sleep!’
I’m not asleep,’ said God. And sighed.
Each eyelid was as heavy as a war.
(from Fairoz, Bloodaxe 2022)
Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore to an English mother and a Pakistani father. She grew up in Hertfordshire. Her first collection The Country at My Shoulder (Oxford University Press, 1993) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and the Whitbread poetry prizes. Europa (Bloodaxe, 2008) and At the Time of Partition (Bloodaxe, 2013) were also shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Fairoz is published this spring. After a long career as a teacher in a London comprehensive school, Moniza now lives in Norfolk where she is completing a PhD at UEA on the poetry of Stevie Smith.
Heden, Jameson Land
If this high-arctic heath could moult,
every July its dwarf-shrub body
would shed its bruises and trace the coast
in white, brown and black: the moult
of pink-footed geese returning here from Iceland.
Now flightless for nearly a month, wary,
they keep close to the sea or early thawing lakes
and gobble sedge shoots and tufts of cotton grass.
They wait for their remiges to regrow strong
to once again create dependable thrust
on the downstroke and feel their primaries
rotate on the upstroke reducing air resistance,
wingtip vortices and drag on their long
migration south to the British Isles,
vocalized in high-pitched echelons of wink-wink
with rows of prolonged ahng-ahng-ahng.
Grounded, the heath remains bruised:
two elongated grooves pressed deep into the skin
of this tundra lowland. For over a decade now,
after a camping trailer traversed the waterlogged
fellfields and snowbeds in a seismic survey,
these ruts have eased in thermokarst,
the pulse disturbance to the permafrost.
This ice-rich soil is melting: the tracks bulge
into hummocks and dip into marshy hollows,
ready to morph again and again. In winters,
frost heaves small domes of grassland;
in summers, these cupolas slump
to boggy concaves. Meltwater pools
in pingos. Sinkholes rupture the heath.
Here bruise replenishes bruise.
[An earlier version of this poem was published in The Island Review.]
Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese writes with/in English, Polish and Danish. Her multilingual texts have appeared in, among others, Wretched Strangers: Borders, Movement, Homes; Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History; Metropoetica. Poetry and Urban Space: Women Writing Cities and such journals as Finished Creatures, Long Poem Magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, Shearsman and Tears in the Fence. Her selection from Marcin Świetlicki, Night Truck Driver, finalist for the Big Other Book Award for Translation, was longlisted for the 2021 PEN for Poetry in Translation. She co-curates and runs ‘Transreading’ courses on translocal and hybrid poetries for the Poetry School. She lives in Copenhagen.