One of our voters when asked ‘Tell us why this gets your vote’ after selecting Mary Ford Neal’s poem simply replied ‘Jane’ and that really sums up this poem of the same name being chosen as May 2020’s Pick of the Month.
We all know Janes; we might be a little in awe of them but we love them as well. And they are the kind of people that we need in the health and social crises that we are currently going through.
Mary lives in the West of Scotland and is an academic based at the University of Strathclyde. Main themes in her poetry include the physicality of emotion, sacredness (in all its forms), and the intersubjectivity of human life. She has asked that her £30 prize be donated to the Beatson Cancer Charity.
Jane shapes the town to herself. Of the spire, the pond,
the iron bridge and the bandstand,
she is undoubted queen.
She cooks and eats, she feeds and clothes the world,
folding bodies and souls into comfortable communion.
She is a ladle, stirring.
She brings back treasures from sun-hardened places,
gives them up to the damp fingers of grass-stained children.
She is a shell haircomb.
She plays cards, quickly. She smells of cocoa powder or of lilac
and vaporises priests with a raised eyebrow.
She is a raised eyebrow.
She hardly writes at all, but when she does
the lines she makes go through to the pages underneath.
She fixes herself to the spot; she pitches tents for the lost. Are you lost?
She is a compass, pointing.
And then she moves away.
She moves away in all her beauty, in all her how-dare-yous.
She moves away in all her certainty, her life its own eloquence.
She moves away in all the crimson of our still-warm love for her.
Voters comments included:
There is a real blend of ethereal mystery but real power and physicality mixed in this – especially the first image of the ladle. That is one I think I will come back to and by voting it and leaving this comment, it will help fix the source in my mind
The vivid imagery and rhythm brings the character so strongly to life. I was moved to tears the first time I read it.
It is a moving and thought provoking poem
Lovely poem with great imagery.
The personification of place draws out aspects of self in a surprising way!
Astute yet approachable
Strong imagery, relatable, best of the bunch
Love the characterisation. Drawn into the narrative.
It was usefully described as “formidable” – I agree!
‘Jane’ reminds me of the women in my family.
I really enjoyed the imagery used. Jane is a relatable figure. Also the poem has a strong underlying spirituality.
We all know a Jane ! Strong yet fragile, always strong.
Line by line, Jane becomes more alive in the reading. I found the poem so readable and the character relatable. It was, for me, a very moving poem
Powerfully moving and well-written. Simply beautiful.
“She is a raised eyebrow” deserves a vote in itself. Paints a great image of something so personal to Mary yet that seems so familiar.
A sublime, evocative and awe-inspiring piece.
Strongly evocative, familiar and accessible, emotional yet grounded and concrete.
I thought the poem created a clear, beautiful image of ‘Jane’ and that the final lines were very poignant.
great images, strong woman, the eyebrow!
Often repetition in poetry does not work, but here the attached imagery makes the pattern unique. She is a ladle, stirring. This set the tone. Wonderful poem.
I liked the rhythm, the pattern and the story this tells.
THE REST OF THE MAY 2020 SHORTLIST
Black Feathers by Dan Dorman
Dan Dorman teaches creative writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and circulates library books. His writing can be found at jubilat, Word for/Word and Jet Fuel Review. Connect with him @dormanpoet.
Daylight and Dust by Tom Dwight
The real horror is a body like an empty glass
slowly forgetting itself – trying to remember
how to hold anything but daylight and dust.
This is how men are taught to feel pain,
learn which parts are allowed to break
whilst they try to make sense
of all the time they can’t trace,
their memory fringed
with the silver of a distant light.
This is how it always was, half-said
in the anaemic spaces of life,
people tangled around themselves
like violets lost in weeds,
like birds declining over an open sky;
as if only empty, meaningless things
can lift off and take flight.
Tom Dwight is a poet currently studying for a PhD in English literature at the University of Bristol. His poetry has appeared in Eye Flash Magazine, Stride Magazine, Peculiars Magazine, and was shortlisted for the Streetcake Experimental Writing Award. Twitter @tomdwightmusic
Today everything is on fire & it’s dangerous by L Kiew
the wind claws
crimson back & forth
running across grass
leaves ember & cinders
save some green
there’s a grasshopper
poised for flight
at the bottom of the page
A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet came out with Offord Road Books in February 2019. She is currently a participant in the London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Website: http://www.lhhkiew.co.uk/
what is missing by Jane Pearn
is touch — is cotton to wool, sheer
is holding hands
is hug — forms moulding each
to each, body to body
rise to hollow
what is missing is skin warm against
cool, is the cheek-scuff
of familiar stubble
is rough sunbrown finger tracing
delicate never-seen-daylight crease
what is missing is
the warm air of whisper in her ear — is folding
into the scent of him — is the long weight
of his arm
across her shoulders like a bracket ending
Jane Pearn lives in Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders. She was of the winners in the 2019 Guernsey International ‘Poems on the Move’ Competition, and recently came second in the Against the Grain poetry competition.
The Romance Languages by Isabelle Thompson
My mother is learning French in stumbling
little phrases. Bonjour, Julien. Bonsoir.
Who is Julien? Merci, Julien.
Salut, Julien. Bonne nuit. I imagine
a man dressed all in blue, drinking a glass
of Badoit. ~Bonjour~, Julien, she says.
My father, in the living room, watches
WW2 films in the darkness, oblivious
to Julien the Frenchman watching his wife
over the rim of high-end sparkling water.
Au revoir, Julien, says my mother.
Les femmes sont toutes les mêmes! cries Julien,
and melts into his glass, where the bubbles
bop and bump against each other, trying
to express everything they feel, like germs
of life connecting and expanding.
My mother goes and makes two cups of tea,
carries them to my father in the lounge
and switches on the lamp. They sit together,
not speaking, fluent in each other’s thoughts.
Isabelle Thompson is a recent graduate of Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing. She has had poetry published previously in Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Lake. Her reviews appear in Sphinx.