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Vol. 4:

Summer 2008

Conversation Poetry Quarterly


Improvisational Conversation Poetry:

Arwen Bird Nancy Charley Ben Hickman Christopher Hobday Anne Kenny Luigi Marchini Maria McCarthy Louise McCudden Joshua Seigal Gary Studley

Edited by: Christopher Hobday & David Nettleingham who would like to acknowledge: All those who submitted poems to the volume, Katherine Blythe, Beverley Smith, friends and family, The Secret Cellar Cafe of Canterbury & Waterstones of Rose Lane in Canterbury.

Editorial: Improvisational Conversation by Christopher Hobday

p. 1

Christopher Hobday Titan Lampshade

p. 4 p. 5

Joshua Seigal The Circus People (Untitled)

p. 6 p. 7

Nancy Charley Mirage Blessed Be The Tie That Binds

p. 8 p. 9

Gary Studley To Peter Heritage

p. 10 p. 11


Hickman Click Here To Talk To A Mormon I’m Going To Kill You The Customer Is Always Right-Wing

p. 12 p. 13 p. 14

Arwen Bird Birdclaw Hiding In The Library Love

p. 15 p. 16 p. 17

Maria McCarthy Blithe Spirits

p. 18

Anne Kenny Seventeen

p. 19

Louise McCudden Open Letter To His Girlfriend Back To America Luigi Marchini A Matter Of Timing The Contributors About Us Submissions

p. 20 p. 22 p. 24 p. 28 p. 30 p. 31

Editorial: Improvisational Conversation At a recent event I found myself having to explain the mission statement of Conversation Poetry Quarterly in as pithy a way as possible*. It was not enough to say that it was a poetry publication. I had to think about why we selected one submission over another, and what it was that gave rise to the project in the first place. With this in mind, I reiterate the analogy I made on the night. For me, Conversation is aptly named, in so far as that the work within it reveals, in the same way as an actual conversation might reveal, certain particulars about the individual. When someone speaks with you, they reveal some of their philosophy of life, their political beliefs, their character. Experiences from their past seep through. You notice something of their penchants, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. We say, the writer should never be afraid to reveal themselves. Nor should they be afraid to write of their political and social beliefs. They should not be afraid of being thought arrogant for believing that their opinions matter. They should wear their hearts – and their minds - on their sleeves. Therefore, Conversation is about the celebration of self and the social, of the individual in their construction, through poetry. It is about psychology, philosophy, sociology, history and a whole lot else. It is about who and what and why you are, and the wonderful differences between how each of us sees the world.


At least, that’s how this individual sees it. Christopher Hobday *This was at the Corner Stone Writers event organised by Gary Studley, that took place on the 19th of June immediately after the EarthWorks Conference at the University of Kent.



Titan and you go everywhere bolting down your path chased by responsibilities. The voices of your parasites vagrant colonies in the marrow of your girder drowned by your whale-boom. Where will you go next? Through a mountain or beneath the water or be pressed against the wall and held there by a hungry body that refuses to slow down? Christopher Hobday


Lampshade What is your job, exactly? Shielding their eyes from light by holding the light inside your hand, a limiter. I have felt like you, still and thin, approaching a kind of usefulness. The things that glow can be latched on to, isolated and obscured. Your job, then, is to hold the light in, to maintain the balance. If too much got out, and glowered over the East Cliffs, and led the boats onto the rocks, and brought the children out of their dreams too early, bringing them down for breakfast when they should be in space, or on mountains, or racking up hat-tricks – well, think what could happen. Your job, then, is to shield the world from this light. Her little boats, her little children, must not be disturbed. The cliffs must remain in darkness now. It might burn your hands, but you must hold tight. Christopher Hobday


The Circus People Jessie is two, she’s scared of me – my hands to her are ursine paws, my beard is tangled foliage wrapped around a stony jaw and when I smile at her my teeth seem sharp, my eyes are dark, I try to offer her my paw. She cries. This reminds me of a programme I saw, about circus-people. One had a bulbous foot-long nose, one had strange bubbles on his skin, but the one who the children were really scared of had claws for hands. He said to the kids, “I don’t bite” but still they wouldn’t go near. Jessie is two, I’m five-foot-ten, looming over her, a bumbling hulk. I see her eyes wide open with fear as I wait for the door to chime and the ringleader to take me away. Joshua Seigal


(Untitled) cross-cultural differences in food preferences humanity inversely related to edibility (according to Douglas’s analysis of Leviticus) all animals carry parasites don’t fall cleanly into God’s categories unholy blind people shouldn’t attend the altar cloven hooves but doesn’t chew the cud (etc etc etc) commentary not explanation (bad) roots, tubers, game &, occasionally, pig protein necessary at times of stress pork solves conflicts and forms alliances fight then plant a tree men dance to show wealth & longevity Joshua Seigal


Mirage A still day shattered by glass fragments flying conjuring colours from countless directions leaping, grasping, kaleidoscope scrying alerted, provoked to make sacred connections of falsehood and freedom, of spoken and speechless loosing my mania to exhaust in the breeze I’m fixing, unravelling this twisted completeness minutely concentrating – until I cease to notice the echoes of sifting and shaking, to care if the crust is erupting or leaking, I’m chasing the contours the rainbow is making finding its sanctuary, hastily seeking each purposed step, overwhelmed by a destiny I’ve mirrored, wrapped round by the colours’ intensity. Nancy Charley


Blessed Be The Tie That Binds Why do they have to learn life for themselves so my dreams drown in disappointment pooling where I’d like to wash my hands, walk away but I’m caught in their web, intricate filaments woven round my mother heart. They’ll fly, break boundaries, oblivious to each thread stretched taut. I cut apron strings, release brash butterflies and gasp as each one hovering bends to kiss my face. Nancy Charley First appeared in Red Ink


To Peter And it is anything but silent. It is everything else.

A hissing rush of ears sucking popping emptying, yanked buttons from cotton splitting coat torn asunder, boot-cut jeans with a wind-sock’s billow sagging filling, the flip snap dance of wrists twisting in and out of vision past anti-glare glass blinds ledges ventilator mouths and bird-shit, eyes at consuls cuffs and shoulders by water coolers faces to faces over desk dividers plastic jungle plants, hands in drawers scratching on mice texting under desks. On a spiral coursing towards cranked up roaring coach horns bike chains car boots JCBs bus stop huddle swallowed burp an Ipod’s tish tish tish, there’s mobile signals market barkers larky prices dogs creaking hinges shop bells kerbed prams and above the yawning prattling chatter, flailing tossed lettuce limbs and chicken heart vulture pulsing hysterically near skin paper thin bowels loose eyes white. There’s no grace no freedom no lunatic joy, just one raw mince plummet into the deck spinal chord through cortex

dead Gary Studley


Heritage Sky hugs heavy this land today, allowing no passes of lightness or grace no fly-by formations of geese or jets, remitting nothing hoarding winter from dawn to dusk. Water skins it wind-smoothed or rushed, full to the brim with secrets porous and sallow, held in check at the dyke under the thinnest of Vaseline films. We have History by the bucket and dredge it up daily, unable to utter forwards past islander rantings or our Little American foster-child raps. Failing whole-hearted to give shape to what ills us most, we are cowards in illusion tricks, call girls and evasionists in what clearly shall be known as darkening times. Gary Studley


Click Here To Talk To A Mormon In the not-very-significant year ahead I will fail to serve my indifferent people. We have no wonderful opportunities, no solid foundations to build on, no forefathers. I would like not to thank my colleagues. I have no vision to go forward with. I know the most important changes in my life have been small inheritances from relatives. Sometimes I get mad about public transport. I never feel inspired, I’m tired, no one helps me, no one directs or channels my enthusiasm. I’ve never had a fun-packed afternoon. These words are even more relevant today when the very tenets of our faith are being attacked daily. We must stand firm. The response so far has been marvellous. Ben Hickman


I’m Going To Kill You Step by step, trepid, the twentieth century has passed into breathlessness, a blue alarm poured into the discipline of others. Your lip creaks under a crooked tooth dreaming of reciprocal love. The light is cut like a key. It lets the cry lay out on the night. Along the barrel of a gun, your breath in your ears is a roaring sea along the barrel of a gun. Ben Hickman


The Customer Is Always Right-Wing ‘We look after the mystery though many have begun to play her. She walks the white aisle, given away. Some fear her, some love her bonanza. It is a poor, a lonely life, with no reward. Smile for the sketches she scratches.’ Ben Hickman


Birdclaw Listen: the storm, the dead beehive, the sea, a grey flag torn out behind red cliffs, trees drip fat like hung pigs,

I wait like eight long years of blade to flesh, the rain’s one finger on my neck. My arms are slabs of hard red skin carved up like pork with crackling, the roasted hairs erect. Arwen Bird 15

Hiding in the Library Ribbons of tiger’s eye Wrap the wet planet Outside. Inside A white lamp shines like a tooth In a soft closed mouth of books. Arwen Bird


Love Back to the clean earth, the sky is a sleepless blue cradle. When I was elevenish I left the window open and listened to the church bells chime in parachutes of song. Now wind knocks the bluebells like tiny feet on a tambourine and I get the same feeling – That you are here again, your hot red heart entwined with mine, like wire mending a fence. Arwen Bird


Blithe Spirits Do women spirits glide ethereal in chiffon, ectoplasm-green, like in that Noel Coward film, or do they haunt as when the angels came – flannelette pyjamas; half-dressed in bra and slip; safety pins clasping at too-tight trousers – or well turned out as for a viewing of the deceased? Do they hobble round in slippers, toes wrapped over toes, or does the afterlife’s chiropodist pumice, balm, remould, render them to dance in six-inch high stilettos, forever bunionless? Maria McCarthy


Seventeen We stretch awning across a sodden lawn space poles, beat pegs, knot ties, will sunlight to slip from its prison of grey cloud to celebrate a time only you and I remember. We were changed that night his red raw flesh spat into a stranger’s hands, concave chest rising, fragile breath drawing life to a pulsing heart. For weeks, we clung to each passing minute as though time could anchor his life to ours, whilst he in turn ebbed back and forth within the walls of a perspex cot. Once fitting the length of my lap, now he gathers friends, sips his first beer, finds his way through breaking tides. Anne Kenny


Open Letter to His Girlfriend It makes me sick to look at you. Your voice is horrible; strange. As I sip my beer, your eyes squirm and squint. You don’t see anything. The door swings, and I feel him in the room. It rises up in me, this knowing of his presence, before I even see the slouchy, irascible figure of him. It’s all under control until your hands pass over each other, in a quick teasing of skins. And then, our table swoops out from under me, and my stomach thickens with jealous acid. My mind is seething with memories. I thought I’d blacked them out, but here they come, swarming through me like wasps. His confident hands racing over me. His unblinking brown eyes seeing through me. His silly too-large clown lips painting out words of encouragement. He looks everywhere but at me. (He keeps the affection between you brief – but that’s his style anyway.) Why don’t you see it? Why don’t you know him? After all, you’re supposed to love him. But, your sort of love isn’t love. And the heavy prize you clutch in your piggish sausage fingers isn’t him. You do not love him. You love an imposter, hiding behind 20

crumpled open-button shirts, clumsy looping ties, ironed black jackets, with ‘decency’ scrawled across his forehead. It’s a costume, like the gentle ugliness, the vulnerable charm. To love – to really love – you have to know the worst. Your heart has to grope in the dark, past the sick thudding hurt of damp morning parting gifts, closed snoring eyes, short-changed fast food junk sex, of spiteful lips withholding kisses, the gasping of pillows across your face. Your heart has to love him through hands pinning you fast, getting nailed against the headboard like a bleeding saint. This is the kind of love that wouldn’t falter even if his thick-knuckled fist met your jaw. Besides. I want for his touch so hard a punch would feel good. You need to search past the sea of brown and know him. You can’t be his until you do. His long private silences burn holes in me, why not in you? And, let me promise you, the biggest silence has always been on the subject of you. Louise McCudden


Back to America We always knew you’d go back. It’s gravitational. Knew they’d sniff out the way your lip sweats gold; our shivering magic goose. We knew their tongues would taste the cold cash in your blood. They can smell the power between your legs. The ocean is already growling its claim, and we can’t fight the ocean, not even for you. They will spread you on their pancakes like butter. You, honey, are for dessert. It won’t be long now. Soon you will be minted into pieces of cold common coinage. Then, dust. And then, shrapnel. Deserted hands, sifting through bloodied sands. Brown-faced children exploding into red, on your diamond watch. I’ve polished my ticking heart for you. A goodbye present. Then I tied it up in rags. No need to see what you’re packing. No need for you to feel stained; red-handed. With a monster of ocean between us, my heart knows where you are. The tugging in my chest makes the waves writhe and 22

leap, crashing like foaming white hearts as they break, spraying up silvery pearls of light; the tears of the moon. Louise McCudden


A Matter of Timing It lies before him and behind, colourless scrubland, dead hills. Above, low large skies. Thorns, stones flay his red wet feet; body aching, lips crumbling like the walls of Jericho. Head raised to the sun, searching for something he knows he will not find, not up there; he sniffs, smells nothing, not himself, no sulphur, nor the shit by his feet. Head aching, he stumbles forward to the nearing peaks looking for shelter, puzzled that the dry-skinned landscape does not acknowledge him, that the rocks do not soften, the path does not clear, the hills do not flatten water springs do not appear. Even the shrubs too salty to eat. On hands and knees 24

skin raw this quasi man struggles upwards to a cave in a cliff top lies on earth and stones cries dreams of lacerated limbs bleeding bodies haemorrhaging torsos of stick insect figures, hungrier than he, breathing in new air custom - made. Names, strange names form a loud rhythm like the regular beat of his mallet back home. He has lost count of time, of days wasted in this land, wishes he had been born someone, somewhere else. He half rolls, half scrambles down, sees a scorpion, smashes it with bare hand, eats. It doesn’t matter any more, he is heading home where the hills are green, light shivers, 25

winds sing, the sheep are fat. Home to his real father, the rhythm louder than ever: Arsuf Antioch Damietta Bełżec Chełmno Treblinka Arsuf Antioch Damietta Bełżec Chełmno Treblinka Arsuf Antioch Damietta Bełżec Chełmno Treblinka Luigi Marchini



The Contributors Christopher Hobday was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1979. He studied English and American Literature at the University of Kent where he also helped edit Logos, the University’s Poetry and Prose magazine. His work has appeared in Night Train and he has been shortlisted twice for the University’s T.S. Eliot prize. A selection of his poetry can be found in Stubborn Mule Orchestra, a collection of material that also includes the work of Luigi Marchini and Gary Studley, published 2008. Joshua Seigal studies philosophy at University College London. “When I see or hear something interesting I usually write a poem about it. If my poems are boring this can only be because I’m a boring kinda guy.” Nancy Charley lives in Ramsgate. After having had five children, she discovered there were other creative things to do and is now enjoying experimenting with different forms of writing especially poetry. Gary Studley was born and raised in the Beauty-in-Decay town of Hastings. He was educated poorly in Politics, English and Art throughout Sussex, London, America and Kent, eventually majoring in Dis-satisfaction and Hope for Better. He’s written for as long as he has been able, trying to say something better with a pen or key-pad than the attempts his mouth blunders with all too frequently. He talks, watches films and sucks on music ‘til the cows come home, but his biggest love is writing. As he can’t play guitar to save his life, nothing competes with scribbling away, and hitting that elusive seam every now and again. Ben Hickman is studying at Kent and lives in Gillingham. Arwen Bird has been passionate about writing since she learned to read. Age 5, her reception teacher noted on her school report, “Arwen fancies herself as a writer”. She is 20 years old, female, bipolar, bisexual, five foot seven shoeless and six foot one in platforms, original hair colour unknown. She loves snakes, cats, poetry, and day-glo colours. Arwen is studying English and American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent.


Her work has been included in Night Train and she was shortlisted for the 2008 University of Kent T.S. Eliot prize. She intends to learn as much about life, the universe and everything as she possibly can, doing whatever it is she ends up doing, by writing about it. Maria McCarthy is currently working on a collection of stories, when she isn’t being distracted by poetry or her new website She writes in A5 spiral bound notebooks with a well-sharpened pencil. Anne Kenny started writing poetry whilst living in Melbourne for a year. Her poems have been published in a range of journals including Blue Dog: Australian Poetry, Equinox and South. Louise McCudden lives in London. Her poetry demonstrates a genuine love of language, objective observations and celebration of the deeper meaning within the ordinary. Luigi Marchini was born in London in the 20th century, and escaped to Kent as soon as he could. He runs the Save As writer’s group, and is currently joyfully suffering from writer’s block whilst working on his first novel.


About Us Established in 2007, Conversation is a poetry magazine born of the ideas and discussion between a group of poets based in East Kent. Beginning as a group for readings and criticism in the basement of an Art Gallery in Canterbury, the publication emerged through the combined efforts of everyone involved. The aim was to get a high standard of poetry circulating in a free magazine full of the most well-crafted, thoughtful, meaningful and moving poetry we could find. Since then we have raised the funds to get ourselves into print, lost it all again, and in that time gained enough of a reputation to make the decision to carry on regardless. So today, all current and back issues are available online at to download free in pdf format. Currently edited by Christopher Hobday and David Nettleingham, Conversation sets its bar high in an attempt to bring out the best in Kentish poetry and increasingly further afield. We aim to print the work of new and established poets, published and unpublished alike. We hope to open up a dialogue between the poet and the reader, and so choose writers who present interesting opportunities for people to engage with poetry. We hope that you are moved by the poetry in these volumes, and that you may feel inclined to take part in the tradition that we are attempting to both develop and establish anew. The copyright for all poems remains with the poet. Any opinions expressed are those of the poet, not necessarily of the editors. 30

Submissions • Up to 6 poems of any length, style or subject. • Include a short biography explaining a little about yourself. • Copyright for submitted work must lie with the author. We will not be held responsible for any breach of copyright that may occur. • Online submissions can be in .doc or .wps format and should be sent to: The submission deadline for Volume 5 is 30th September 2008. Any submissions received late may be considered for a future issue.


© 2008

Conversation Poetry Quarterly: Issue 4 Summer 2008  

Part of The Conversation International Poetry Project.

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