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The lover

It is always in winter that he grows another hand. This new hand is
smaller, softer, but it is his nevertheless. The new hand keeps his old
hand warm, finger locked with finger, palm pressing palm. Then the
spring comes, his palms are sweaty again and he slowly sheds the
miraculous winter hand. First all the baby fat, then the skin sags off
and finally one day he finds himself clutching the bare bones, like a
handful of broken birch twigs.

Aleksandra Lane

Birds of Clay is Aleksandra Lane’s first book in English, after two published in Serbian. Aleks moved to New Zealand in 1996, and completed her MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters in 2010, receiving the Biggs Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in Jacket2, Sport, Turbine, Takahe, Snorkel, Side Stream and Swamp. She lives in Wellington and is studying for a PhD in English at Massey University.

I was lucky enough to be at the launch of ‘Birds of Clay’ a couple of weeks ago, which featured delicious Serbian delicacies, a very entertaining gypsy music duo from Melbourne and, of course, Aleks’ wonderful poetry.   I very much enjoyed reading the book and I know I’ll be going back to it.

Here’s the link to more great Tuesday poems at the Tuesday poem blog, or you can click on the scroll to the left.

Scottish Poetry Library

A highlight of our recent trip to Edinburgh was the Scottish Poetry Library – a lovely tranquil space where you can while away the hours browsing the shelves, checking out the poetry magazines, buying the odd book, writing your own poetry or being impressed by the lovely little sculptures made out of books that have been anonymously appearing there.  There were more to be found at the Writers Museum.  Well worth a visits if you’re in Edinburgh and you like poetry (or little paper sculptures made out of books).  Best to check the opening times first, if you’re planning to drop by.    I gather there are other poetry libraries in London (South Bank Centre) and Morpeth, Northumberland (the Northern Poetry Library).  Something else to look forward to exploring.

Night Watch

Town of a thousand holes, at the bottom
Of each a dark boggart lurks, cunningly
Creating mischief for careless souls who’re
Simply passing. Urban plastic tendrils
Squirm, coil and wrap around the bed-ridden
Riding alive through comatose dreaming.
All the while tower blocks round and about
(Facades irritated by rashes of light,
Scratched by bitter wind, hardly soothed with rain )
Pluck up their concrete roots and, like golems,
Lurch along through pedestrian precincts,
Passed shops and stores blinded by steel shutters
Billed with vainglorious posters proclaiming
Imminent revolution, this week’s sales,
Or the immanence of God and the end
Of Days. Even as ungainly tower blocks
Retreat beyond traffic lights, boggarts
Emerge from excavations flimsily
Fenced round with barbers’ poles, in such a way
Shadows might ease free from corporeal
Bodies responsible for casting them.
Night is the product of curtains being drawn
Against streets that have to be abandoned
To darkness, light so selfishly horded
In living rooms, in the eyes of voyeurs
Who do not realise televisions
Are vampires existing by sucking life-time
From fascinated victims. Far too late
They switch off, for it’s bed time, deathbed time.
The night watch is running slow, leaden hands
Weighing every heavy second, holding
Each one just too long, making the minutes
Fall behind the clock. A hospital cot
Easily contains these remains of a man,
So little of him left, his shadow gone.
Even breath can be no longer his own,
Generous town sharing its air with him
Via one of those serpentine urban tendrils
Worming its way through the wall to his nostrils.
Hardly a burden with so little left
Him to draw from his account. Family
Come and sit and sit and go in relays
Of concern, keeping his lips barely moist
With final kisses and cool water soaked
Into pink sponge swabs on thin lollysticks
Looking like unspun candyfloss. Night watch
Knits or reads or plugs into World Service
While drowsing on the one comfy armchair.
For all that time is tardy dawn still comes,
Shift changes, while night and day will remain
All the same to him even as tower blocks
Step back into place, boggarts burrow back
Into earth and the curtains are drawn back,
Back and back, releasing light from their rooms
To illuminate awakening streets
And the living realising they still are.


English: Clock of Church of St Lawrence, Alton

Dave Alton is a Newcastle-based poet who was a member of the Tyneside Poets in the 1970s.  He is joint editor (with Keith Armstrong – see last week’s post) of the  Poetry Tyneside blog,which publishes contemporary poetry and examples from the archives of “Poetry North East”.

As well as performing his poetry and being published in magazines and newspapers, Dave has co-edited two collections of young people’s writing under the title Don’t Tell My Friends, and has written scripts for pantomimes.  Dave is also a regular contributor of spoken ballads to the monthly podcast Folkcast  , developing traditional folk tales, many from the North East of England, into verse.

Dave made links with the New Zealand Poetry Society on a recent visit to New Zealand and is including NZPS poets  on the Poetry Tyneside blog.  If you would like to contribute a poem, please email two or three poems to tynesidesubs at hotmail dot co dot uk

Dave was kind enough to arrange for Peter and I to meet up with him and fellow poet Keith Armstrong (who featured in last week’s post) on our recent trip to the UK.

Dave Alton at the Bridge, Newcastle



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February 2012

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