The importance of family connections prevailed in voters’ minds and the wonderful ‘Eagle’ by Joanna Nissel is our Pick of the Month for July 2020, but it was an extraordinarily tight race with only a few votes in it.
Voters commented again and again on the beauty of Joanna’s writing and imagery and the poignancy of the poem, how it felt very personal and how they kept going back to it.
Joanna is a Brighton-based poet. She was the runner up for the 2018 New Poets Prize and has been published widely, including Tears in the Fence, The Fenland Reed, Eyeflash, and Atrium.
After Kathryn O’ Driscoll
Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?
Wasn’t it the yellow-joy chirp overheard
on the dawn walk to work
–a reminder of the things in this life
that are delicate and made of more
than the hollow-boned expanses
between their filaments of cartilage?
These days I break over a disapproving glance,
forgotten change, the endless endlessness
of doing a little better every day.
But I remember when,
before his heart stopped, my father
and I used to sit on the flint wall
in the garden and listen to the gurgle
of wood pigeons he swore were eagles.
I raised an eyebrow; he snorted, smiled,
and told me he pitied the man who married me,
this great, wise queen to whom he offered his arm.
I took it and rose, stood on the wall’s flinty precipice
and under the glow of moonlight
I could almost see the feathers sprouting,
their glint of gold so bright against the garden
and my legs, wings, ready to kick off, to dive.
Other comments included:
I loved the imagery and delicateness of the piece.
So beautiful, and resonates on many levels
It’s beauty and originality
‘Yellow-joy’ along with many other stunning uses of imagery will always get my vote. Joanna is an incredible writer.
As feel part of your life, and current to whats going on. It’s a very personal touch to real life.
Poignant and moving, I really love the imagery this poem evokes.
When I read Joanna’s poem this morning I didn’t think much of it, but throughout my work day it kept popping back into my head and made me think more and more about it. I’m a fan of things that get me thinking about them and when they make me come back and read them I really enjoy them.
Because it shows the humorous and loving relationship between father and daughter. Wonderful
Emotional and evocative piece.
I was moved by it. The expectant paternal love that has resonated through this poem brought me to tears.
Beautifully delicate and calming
Love the way it’s written you almost feel in the moment there with the author
Beautifully written, felt completely captivated by the prose
Its beautiful, powerful, and skillfully written
A beautiful snapshot of a child’s memory of her father and the mystery of nature we can’t quite see but know is there.
Captures the emotion of a loved one in a beautiful and elegant way.
it reminds me of the moments with my grandparents, filled with the imagination they induced into my childhood mind; the journey and language within the poem was really resonant and it flowed really well to the pay off of becoming an eagle to the backdrop of pigeons!
The emotional narrative compels immersion, with the writing being truly memorable.
Beautiful imagery and perfect pace. The poem has a strong sense of humanity and juxtaposes sadness & hope most effectively.
It just had me enthralled from ‘Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?’ The images of fragility are so compelling and the way she relates it back to ‘stronger’ times with her father. The woman he saw in her and how she has become a little broken. I just love this.
Jo’s relationship with her father is beautifully described and brings a tear to my eyes.
THE REST OF THE JULY 2020 SHORTLIST
Haiku by Gopal Lahiri
on the skylight
from kitchen table
edges of dawn..
dooms day scrolling
Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 20 books published mostly in English and a few in Bengali, including three joint books. His poetry is published in twelve countries and translated in eight languages. Twitter@gopallahiri
Sprout by Katherine Meehan
I confess I am an idiot
who believes in luck
and the mania
of new projects.
If you drive these up
to the mountains
for the weekend,
they may grow
a sprout, and you may
be allowed a tinfoil hat
and a bird familiar.
in rural fields,
finger the limbs
of young trees;
select one for
Strip away the bark,
the lichen: here
is a fine walking stick.
It sprouts in your hands
like it wanted
to be the tree
with its unstoppable
blossoms. Now nothing
will get in the way
of your dreams.
If it does,
you’ve got a stick
and can beat it.
Katherine Meehan lives in Reading. She’s recently received her Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. Her poetry has appeared in Brittle Star and she is working towards her first collection.
Year of the Plague by Bethany W Pope
There have been plagues, before. There has been death,
spreading like a blanket drawn across
the face of the world. There will always be fear,
of war, of famine, all of those abysmal
things which are too big for us to picture,
but when the world ends it’s always small,
unbearably personal — and just for us.
You told me, after my heart had stopped,
and I came back, that the loss of me
would be apocalyptic. And when I woke
your face seemed to glow. Certainly, you fed
me something good, and warm. My blood mattered
less. My spilled blood, replaced with drippings
from a plastic bag. And now you are cold,
sequestered — a plague curls its claws against
the windowpane and there is no shelter,
not for me, inside or out. I taste
blood in my throat. And I can’t see you.
Bethany W Pope has won many literary awards and published several novels and collections of poetry. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’ She currently lives and works in China.
Runes by Amit Shankar Saha
The water was everywhere
but not our awareness of it.
We only knew the ice —
the age of ice was when
we lived our mammoth lives,
sabre toothed towards extinction.
At the onset of the great thaw
we were reborn evolved,
The searing blast of a call back
touched the Mesozoic frost bite.
We never got out of the ark
or smelled the waves before,
never knew the texture
of the latent ripples.
We now know each other’s sin.
The age of ice is long past,
it has rained in the woods.
Each drop of water writes a rune
on the submerged bed of extinctions.
Amit Shankar Saha is a widely-published award-winning poet and short story writer. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the author of two collections of poems, Balconies of Time and Fugitive Words. Twitter: @amit_shankar
The New Testament of Dog by Grant Tarbard
Dog, elemental creature delving in puddles,
fully formed in mud, this body earth, all love
without mechanism, he is the murmur that nestles
into these delightful sounds of apocalypse. Enemy fire
turns off the crickets chirping. Dog’s rolling papers
are crickets wings, he hunts them when they’re out
to dinner, when they’re as unsuspecting
as a box of kittens. Dog, din of hair, promises
stored in his nostrils, every time he sneezes
my luck gets better. When I’m at my naked self
my heels are to be regarded as mineral deposits,
when they’re wrapped in the rags of a bedfellow
it’s as if I have strange clothes, a lush coat, dog
whispers sawdust into the ears of my pockets,
after all, the ghosts that dog feared
were just children in mother’s best sheets.
Grant Tarbard is the author of Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams). His new pamphlet This is the Carousel Mother Warned You About (Three Drops Press) and new collection dog (Gatehouse Press) will be out this year.