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the online magazine of the Lampeter Creative Writing Centre

issue 5/ JUNE 2012

www.lampeter-review.com/

DENNIS O’DRISCOLL • DAVID CALCUTT • CHRISTOPHER BARNES • SAMANTHA WYNNE-RYDDERCH • TYLER KEEVIL • JOHN FREEMAN • MENNA ELFYN •DIC EDWARDS • HARIS KAROUTSOS • GEORGE SZIRTES • JOHN LAVIN • PAUL HENRY • SAUL HUGHES • WILLIAM WEIL • GILLIAN EATON • michael oliver • ELSIE DAFIS • RHYS MILSOM • RICHIE MCAFFREY • CLAIRE DYER • ROSALIND HUDIS • MARK BLAYNEY • AIDAN FLANAGAN • VANESSA GEBBIE • ANDREW WYNNE-OWEN • JENNIFER COPLEY


THE LAMPETER REVIEW

The online magazine of the Lampeter Creative Writing Centre www.lampeter-review.com | info@lampeter-review.com EDITED by: Chris Cornwell EDITORIAL BOARD: Dik Edwards, John Lavin, Ros Hudis, Chris Cornwell & Thomas Chapman DESIGNED by: Constantinos Andronis (www.c-andronis.gr, constantinos.alpha@gmail.com) COVER PAGE ARTWORK: Haris Karoutsos (hariskaroutsos.com, h.karoutsos@gmail.com) Š Respective authors


MA Creative Writing and MA Creative and Scriptwriting The Creative Writing Degree offers two pathways. It can be taken as a one year taught course with a further writing-up year, or part-time over four years. Staff include internationally renowned poets Menna Elfyn and Samantha WynneRydderch and award winning playwrights Dic Edwards and Lucy Gough Modules are offered in all creative genres Applications to: d.edwards@tsd.ac.uk


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EDITORIAL - CHRIS CORNWELL

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Paper Trail - DENNIS O’DRISCOLL

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Two Poems - DAVID CALCUTT

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Film-making - CHRISTOPHER BARNES

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Ponting - SAMANTHA WYNNE-RYDDERCH

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Scrap Iron - TYLER KEEVIL

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Peasant Girl Hanging Clothes to Dry/ The Bluebell Leaves/ Blackbird and Magpies - JOHN FREEMAN

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The Gate - MENNA ELFYN

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ice poem #08 mojado/ icepoem # 09 athens 2015 - DIC EDWARDS

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Athens - HARIS KAROUTSOS

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Hungary: The Shift to the Far Right - GEORGE SZIRTES

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Deep Blue Days - JOHN LAVIN

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Wardrobe Time - PAUL HENRY

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Honeycomb - SAUL HUGHES

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This Windy Peninsula - WILLIAM WEIL

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One Morning in December/ Messages from the Street - GILLIAN EATON

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Gangs – MICHAEL OLIVER

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Happy Days - ELSIE DAFIS

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Sampler - RICHIE MCAFFREY

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Amnesia - RHYS MILSOM

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Eleven Rooms - CLAIRE DYER

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Photograph - ROSALIND HUDIS

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evening calm over keel lough/ dingle/ valley - MARK BLAYNEY (Images by AIDAN FLANAGAN)

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Kit - VANESSA GEBBIE

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Cardinal Wolsey’s Desert Island Discs - ANDREW WYNNE-OWEN

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The Boyfriend - JENNIFER COPLEY

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Editorial Christopher Cornwell

We are living in a Europe currently defined by financial rancour and political angst. Inevitably the burden of panic and austerity that has ensued has been passed down the social ranks to the poorest nations, the poorest people within which suffer the greatest. The various machinations of the financial and political leaders have enabled and facilitated kleptocracy and fleshmongery to such an extent and for so long that they seem to have almost been excused from an emic standpoint as structurally necessary to the preservation of “our democractic-capitalism.” It is noteworthy that the homeland of democracy is the very place that has suffered the heaviest toll of the recession thus far in Europe. Greece is an example that illustrates the truth that societies that reward their lawmakers and politicians with money rather than esteem will have a privileged financial class the members of which become the brokers of not only money but also legality. The first example of written legislation was in ancient Greece. The administrator, Draco, devised cruel and disproportionate punitive measures for those who broke the law of Athens. The Athenian civil-servant (from whose taste for stringent and extreme penal measures we derive the word draconian) suggested in the first written laws of Greece in the 7th century B.C. that those who owed money to people of higher social caste would be punished in the event of their defaulting by being given over into slavery and serve those to whom they owed money whereas those who were of superior social order to their debtors could postpone payment without significant punishment indefinitely. The Greeks have suffered from their own innovations for many years and this draconian convention may be in ruder health than ever before in Europe and the rest of the “developed world.” As Greece decides either to sell its soul to central Europe or attempt to regroup and recover without the protective wing of Germany under which to nestle we can only hope that the financial problems in Athens inspire a refocusing on the central notion of free-democracy rather than the ground being prepared for the onslaught of another thirty tyrants. But what business is it of writers to diagnose, prognosticate or proselytise on subjects so politicised and pragmatic? It was in Friedrich Holderlin’s poem “Bröt und Wein” that the question was first asked “What use are poets in these penurious times?” The praxis of the poesist is their understanding of a reality constituted not simply as a set of preconditions or truths to be owned as knowledge by the mind or manipulated by rhetoric

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but rather as the ongoing process, the architecture of which is subject to multifarious truths and fictions of all contributors. In short if we cannot recreate the world we can at least realise our free will by recreating the way in which we think of it. We can engage with others in the most profound ways and express ourselves most accurately through art and poetry. To place Ourselves inside the world and not outside of the situation of reality, is the first step to the realisation that all people have the ability and response-ability to choose the shape they apply to reality and not to have their existence diminished by enfeebling their control over all that is the case. Writers and artists can have dramatic impact on the political situation by inviting all others to engage with their reality and their work affects and shapes what cultures can and will believe in, fight for or tolerate. We are proud to be able to present not only writing that is openly and overtly engaged with the current problems the world faces but also to present fresh, innovative and interested writing from seasoned and unfamiliar writers. Friedrich Schlegel said that the essence of poesy is “To be eternally in the process of becoming and never completed.” This is how creation and the arts reflect and indeed embody reality the best by co-operating in this eternal forging of the world; intensifying its greatness; limiting its coarseness and bettering the political “reality” of a situation that all malignant power brokers would attempt to conserve. To this end all art and writing whether overtly political or not enriches and greater understands reality simply by its coming-to-be; protects language from its detractors and abusers, and affirms the sacred position of the free and creative consciousness. In this issue of The Lampeter Review we very proudly present an extract from a lecture delivered by George Szirtes to the L.S.E. earlier this year highlighting the political issues in one of the less spoken of countries in Britain, his homeland, Hungary. We also have photography from H. Karoutsos and poetry from playwright and Trinity Saint David lecturer Dic Edwards: both meditations on the plight of the modern Athenians and the wider implications of the situations that first broke onto the shore of Europe’s media there. The celebrated Irish poet, Dennis O’Driscoll, meanwhile, contributes a poem on the very timely issue of money. Alongside these pieces we have a number of contributions which remind us of the none-but-positive affect of high quality poetry and prose with contributions from the outstanding romantic poet, John Freeman; Trinity Saint David’s own Menna Elfyn and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch (whose extraordinary ‘Ponting’ recently came second in the national poetry prize); together with two prize-winning poems from Trinity Saint David MA in Creative Writing students. There are also brand new stories from Wales Book of the Year winner, Tyler Keevil and Telegraph Novel in a Year winner, Vanessa Gebbie; not to mention impressive contributions from both decorated and up-and-coming poets from all around the U.K. and North America. Many thanks to our writers and readers for contributing to the creation of this issue. Christopher Cornwell, Editor

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Paper Trail Dennis O’Driscoll

Once, money had credibility. Its word was its bond. The story it told was backed up by casket-shaped gold bullion interred in cold, calculating vaults of central banks. Once, money added up, was secure in its identity, knew exactly what it stood for. It had standing: was seed capital, buying power, providence, a healthy reserve for future needs. The love of money was the root of evil. Yet thrift was virtuous. Saving was good for the soul. The poor would always be with you. You gave to God and Caesar, took whatever credit you were due. Prudence was guaranteed. Fixed returns on principal assured. Old money was deferred to, its ancestry traced to slavery, hard labour, patented inventions, plantation estates. The money trail led to the bank’s rock-solid door: time locks, safe deposits, a manager preaching restraint, making you pay for your excesses, demanding deeds to underwrite his trust. Then the bottom line turned notional; losses, gains proved mere statistics, collateral for loans a default mode consigned to timorous, wimpish, bygone times. Labyrinthine instruments were trafficked on global exchanges in the blink of a cursor’s eye, quicker than a bullish broker could roar ‘Buy!’

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Every big deal was a bonus for the Lamborghini-owning trader playing the markets who (such heady discretion, such adrenalin!), with a click of the finger, could drive his pedimented institution to the wall. Now where does the paper trail – demented treasure hunt – lead? When you follow the money, you are directed down a dirt road that denies you purchase on its slippery surface. You are on your own. Press onward? Abandon route? Who knows? The silence, like a bubble, tightens hold. Some miscalculation made has led you down this path.

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Faces behind glass David Calcutt

faces floating beneath a thin skin of water smooth pebbles on the pond’s bed whose features are forming from the little rippled glints on the water’s surface mutable as the moon’s fragile mask who gives them their voices wrapped in its light far off star whispers from outer space.

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They are strange fish David Calcutt

rising soundless from some dream depth stillness it has been a long journey and they have travelled to far places where creatures without names have told them their stories and now is the long and terrible return exhausted easing them into the armchairs where they slip back into their human forms the cardigans and waistcoats the frocks and fluffy slippers but what can they say about the planets they have been to how can they tell what has happened to them there how can we ever interpret their coded messages or translate the soul’s shivered language into its song its gift of healing

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Film-making Christopher Barnes

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Ponting

(Winner of 2nd Prize in The National Poetry Prize 2011) Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

In the end we turned him into a verb: to pont meaning to pose in ice and snow until frozen. On the voyage south he’d be tilting plates in the darkroom, in one hand   the developing dish, in the other a basin of vomit. One minute he’d arrange us   in groups for the cinematograph, then rush to the ship’s side. Once Ponco roped up

his JA Prestwich over Terra Nova’s bow, balanced on three planks. He lost the tip   of his tongue when it stuck to the camera at thirty below. Corneas can freeze   to peep-sight. At one hundred degrees of frost the film’s ribbon will split.   To pont would also mean pontificate. He’d insist on reeling the film slowly to prevent  

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sparks. We’d rehearse the Pole Picture: mount the camera on the theodolite tripod, wind twine over the trigger and guide it round a ski stick to get the direction right.   He’d instruct us on setting the shutter, how to use a flash in the tent with quarter of an inch of powder   and F11. En route to the Pole I sent back negatives with the support teams, a sheet   torn from my sledging log detailing exposure data; how composed we were, how cold.

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Scrap Iron Tyler Keevil

Me and Wilbur are crouched in a pit the size of a shallow grave, dug into the sand and gravel beside the boathouse. There’s no boat in the boathouse. It’s more of a shack, really. The company rents it to a fisherman we call Chinese Henry who keeps his crab traps and lobster pots in there. The shack’s crooked and rickety and looks ready to collapse, teetering above us on rotten pilings. Beyond them, the reflection of our ice barge, the Arctic King, wavers in the river water. The air around us is filled with gnats and flies, engaged in an endless dogfight, and every so often one detaches from the fray to dive-bomb me or Wilbur. The stench down here is something terrible. It must be all those crab traps, baking in the heat of the shack. “What a shitshow,” Wilbur says. “What a total shitshow.” He picks up his magnet and shoves it into the sand. They gave us both magnets – these big red horseshoe-shaped magnets, like the kind you see in cartoons. We’re using them to poke and comb through the sand, picking up old bolts and screws and washers and ingots. We shake

the scrap metal into a bucket, banging our magnets against the side to clear them off. It’s like being a beachcomber – except without the hope of finding anything valuable. “Of all the jobs they ever saddled me with,” Wilbur says, “this tops it.” Wilbur’s the deckhand from our sister barge, the Icecap Rider. For about a week near the end of season they moor up alongside us. The two crews work together, cleaning both the barges and offloading supplies, before a tug comes to drag the Icecap further upriver. “Yeah,” I say. “They sure stuck it to us this time.” “They stuck it in us this time, more like it. Fucked us royally.” Back in the day, the fishing company we work for dumped all this scrap iron along the riverbank, right next to our dock. It was their land and I guess they figured nobody would complain. They didn’t, either. Except, twenty years on, that iron is starting to rust, and some guy from Environment Canada has detected the run-off – traces of iron oxide, leeching into the river downstream. It didn’t take him long to find the source, and contact the company. Roger woke me up early this morning, to break the bad news. At least he had the decency to call it that. He said, “Seems like they want somebody to clean it up. All that iron.” By ‘somebody’ he meant me and Wilbur. 16

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“The thing that gets me,” Wilbur says, shaking off his magnet, “is that I know they’re sitting up in the barge, drinking coffee and watching TV. Sitting on their asses.” “Roger’s oiling the chains in the ice bin.” “Shit – I know that,” Wilbur says. “I wasn’t talking about Roger. I meant Bob and Mabel. It would take a cattle prod to get them off their asses these days.” Bob is Wilbur’s boss, the skipper of the other barge. He runs it with his wife Mabel – just like Roger and Dorothy run ours. All four of them are well into their sixties. I say, “Guess they’re getting older.” “They should fucking retire, then.” Wilbur tosses his magnet down in disgust. He’s a lanky guy with thick-rimmed glasses, held together by a piece of white tape on the nose-bridge. His hair is thinning and stringy, like the silken tufts on the tips of corncobs, and he always wears the same tattered pair of jeans and plaid shirt, whatever the weather or temperature. Today it’s about twenty-five degrees and climbing. His face is already slick with sweat, which the dust sticks to like make-up powder. “Hell – I’ll retire myself if they keep giving me shit jobs like this.” I grunt. He says it like he means it, but I can’t really imagine him quitting. He’s worked on the Icecap for years. I get the impression that he’s vaguely related to Bob and Mabel in some way – a nephew or a cousin or something. It’s hard to tell. Maybe it just seems like that because the three of them have been stuck with each other for so long. “Hopefully we’ll get it licked this afternoon,” I say. “You kidding? We’ll be here for days. Look at all this.” I don’t need to look. Our little sand pit seems to just keep getting bigger and bigger, the sides crumbling like stale cake – each layer revealing more scrap iron to be removed. I don’t know how we’re supposed to clear it all out. It could go on forever. “What would you do?” I ask him. “If you quit, I mean.” He pokes at the sand with his magnet, looking for answers there. “Get a cabin up north. Could maybe grow some weed or something.” That’s all he says, and for awhile we work in silence. I can hear a helicopter circling overhead. Probably a traffic chopper eyeing up the Port Mann bridge. In the shadow of the boathouse our family of ducks – seven in all – are squawking away. Roger will be happy to know they’re doing well. He looks out for them every year – frets and worries about them. “Jesus,” Wilbur says, stretching his back. “I’m dying, here.” By that point, our bucket is almost half-full. It takes the two of us to lift it up and carry it to the parking lot in front of Chinese Henry’s shack. There’s a truck parked up there, the flatbed already covered with a rusty mound of scrap metal. We empty our latest load onto the pile – the bolts and nuts rasping out of the bucket and clanking into place. For a minute or so we take a breather. Just slump against the tailgate and stare out at the dock. Next to it, the two barges are nestled side-by-side like bloated geese, resting in the wide stretch of river. “I’m thinking of quitting, too,” I tell him. “Yeah?” “Might go see a girl I know, in Wales. On a working-break kind of thing.” 17

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“Can’t be any worse than this.” He yawns and checks his watch, rubbing grime off the face so he can read the digital display. “Speaking of breaks, reckon it’s time for ours.” He goes to fetch two cans of Coke from the fridge on the back deck of the Arctic King. I stay up by the truck, walking in circles and stretching my legs, wondering if I’ll manage to do it – if I’ll actually get my shit together and go to Wales. When Wilbur comes back, we crack open our cans and hunker down in the shade of the boathouse. A breeze is wafting in off the water, fanning my face, and with my eyes half-closed I sit listening to the tinny noise of Henry’s radio. He’s hard at work up there, mumbling to himself in Cantonese. Or maybe it’s Mandarin. I’ve never asked where he’s from. I should. I should ask him what it’s like to leave home. He’d probably just smile and nod. That’s all he ever does, really. He doesn’t speak much English. While we’re resting like that, Bob happens to waddle up from the dock to his car. In passing, all he sees is the two of us drinking pop, slacking off in the shade. “Hey!” he calls. “Looks like you guys got it pretty good, eh?” He’s this big guy with an enormous potbelly – one of those potbellies that balloons out, pregnant with lard, right above the waist. I sort of grin and wave him off. He doesn’t really mean anything by it. He knows we got a raw deal. But of course Wilbur is raging. “Plenty of room for you over here, Bob!” he yells back. Bob doesn’t hear, or pretends not to. He’s getting in his car, shutting the door. As he drives off, Wilbur slams down his can of Coke. It bounces once and lays there, fizzing brown froth. Then he grabs his magnet and stabs it into the dirt, over and over, like he’s trying to kill something underneath. “That fat bastard,” he mutters. “Show him. Get off his fat ass.” I sip my Coke, watching, waiting for it to blow over. “You know what?” Wilbur says, and jabs at his can. It’s not magnetic and won’t pick up, so he starts poking it around, leaving a slug-trail of pop. “I’m through taking his shit.” “You gonna grow your weed?” “To hell with growing weed. I don’t need another job. I’ll go on E.I. for awhile. Rake in a fat pay check for sitting on my ass. See what that’s like for a change.” He flips the can up, chipping it towards me. It lands between us in the sand. “I got a friend who done that,” I say. “Good money.” “Damn right. You reckon it’d work for me?” I don’t really know, so I make this sound in my throat and stare at the ground, like I’m considering it. Next to his can I notice this slender piece of metal, exposed by our digging. I bend down to pick it up, and find that it’s a loop of cable, half-buried in the bank. “Hey,” I say, “what the hell?” I tug on the cable. It’s maybe an inch thick, with thin strands woven together like a rope. I stand up, grab it with both hands, and give it a good yank. The loop comes free, and now we can see that it’s connected to a longer line. A section rises up like a snake emerging from the sand, 18

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shaking off dust. I tug loose about two or three feet before it gets stuck again. The rest is buried deep. Wilbur, who’s on his feet now, comes around to join me. “Let’s see what we got,” he says. Together, the two of us get a grip on the loop and really haul on it, throwing all our weight against it, leaning way back on our heels. The cable slithers out a little more, but it looks like the length we’ve freed is just the beginning. There’s more to come – except it’s not coming. We reef and yank for a good five minutes, like two guys playing tug-of-war with themselves. By the end our hands are raw and we’re both panting, sweating, fuming. “This sucker’s huge,” Wilbur says. “It’s the mother load, all right.” “Worth all the ingots and bolts combined.” He pauses, wiping his brow. “It’s got to be the real culprit, here. If we get it out, we’re done. The rest of this crap can probably stay.” “Shit,” I say. “I hadn’t thought of that.” He grabs at the cable again and gives it a quick jerk, like he’s hoping to catch it off-guard, take it by surprise. But it doesn’t budge. For awhile we pace around it, eyeing it up. “We could dig it out,” Wilbur says. “With shovels.” We get the shovels from the barge – the same shovels we use to clear ice from the bins at the end of the season. On the way back, we pass Chinese Henry working in front of his shack. Half a dozen crab traps are strewn around him, in need of mending. He’s scrawny as a scarecrow, draped in baggy blue coveralls, and to shade his face from the sun he wears a widebrimmed straw hat – like the kind you see in photographs of rice-field farmers. “Hot enough for you?” Wilbur calls to him. Henry just smiles and nods, like always. I can’t tell if he gets the joke. Back in the pit, before we take on the cable, we stand over it and eye it up. I like the feel of the shovel in my hand, the weight of it. Wilbur uses his to prod at the cable – as if he expects it to react in some way. “We’ll get her out of there,” he says. “No problem.” Together we set to work, digging a trench on either side of the cable. We take turns ramming our shovels into the gravel. Each impact jars my wrist, rattles in my skull. We strike at the ground again and again – setting off sparks whenever our shovel blades hit a larger stone. Every so often one of us puts down our shovel to tug on the cable, and each time a bit more slides free. For awhile it feels like we’re making progress – real progress – until my shovel comes down with a hard ‘thock’ that I feel right through to my jaw. “Damn,” I say, dropping it and shaking out my hand. We poke around a bit. Testing. Under the ground there’s something big and solid. Wilbur shaves more dirt away with his shovel, and I get down to dig with my hands. It takes us a few minutes of delicate work to reveal the stump. It’s about five feet across, lying on its side, with a snarl of roots sprouting out one end. The remains of an old oak or sycamore tree, maybe. Left19

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over from when they cleared the bank. The cable’s all wrapped and tangled around it – almost as if somebody was trying to use it to drag the stump loose, and gave up. “Well,” Wilbur says. “Now we’re really fucked.” We squat down in the sand, panting. I’ve taken off my shirt and can feel the sun searing my back, my neck, my scalp. A fly settles on my forearm, drawn by the sweat, and I swat it away. We stare at the stump. It’s huge and greyish-white and looks like a fossil that we’ve partially unearthed. Maybe the bone of a dinosaur that died a million years ago. “Shovels aren’t gonna do it.” Wilbur snorts. “That’s the truth.” “What about the forklift?” I say. Roger keeps a forklift in the shed, for loading equipment and supplies onto the barges. “We could use it to haul this bitch out.” We look at each other, and Wilbur punches me in the shoulder. “Damn straight. Use it like a tractor. Think Roger will let us?” “Probably. If I explain it to him.” # I go looking for Roger alone, since he’s not so keen on Wilbur. I check the ice bin first, but Roger’s finished his work in there. So I clamber up to the galley to ask Dorothy. She tells me he’s down in the aft hold, checking on the pump that was acting up all through herring season. Back there the hatch is open, and the air rising out stinks of stale oil. I squat down above it and peer in. I can see Roger lying on his side. In the dark he’s just a shadow, silhouetted by a work lamp. Instead of calling down to him, for a second I sit and watch him work. He’s struggling with something – turning a valve with a pipe wrench, by the looks of it – and grunting every so often. The other day he told me that, at sixty-three, he’s finding it more difficult to do these kinds of tasks: the scrambling and crawling and maneuvering that maintenance work entails. He said it’s one of the reasons he appreciates having me around. “You need a hand, Roger?” I say, raising my voice. “I got it, greenhorn,” he yells, and rolls over. A shaft of light from the open hatch catches his face, which is smudged with grime. He squints up at me. “How you getting on?” “We’re a bit stuck out here, Roger.” He stops what he’s doing and lies there listening as I explain the situation to him. He gives me permission to use the forklift, but I can’t tell if he thinks it’s a good idea. He’s been hard to read, lately – ever since I told him I might not be back next season. “Just stay out of the bite,” he tells me. Roger always worries about the bite – the area where a snapped cable is most likely to recoil. He lost a crewmember one year, in the days when he worked on the seine boats. A tie line broke in a storm, and whipped right back at the guy standing beside Roger. Broke his neck. Nearly tore his 20

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head off. Ever since then Roger’s had this paranoia of the bite – a paranoia he’s passed on to me. When I trudge back up the gangplank, Wilbur’s waiting for me at the edge of the parking lot. “And?” he asks. “We got it.” He whoops and punches the air. Neither of us has a forklift license, but we’ve both driven it before. During pre-season, we use it to lift palettes of supplies off the delivery trucks. I unlock our shed, which is next to Chinese Henry’s shack. The forklift is sitting in the middle of the floor. The grill is black with oil, and in places the yellow paint is peeling and flaking away like sloughed skin. I hop up into the driver’s cage and start the engine. It coughs diesel fumes and the whole frame starts shuddering, raring to go. As I back her out, Henry stands up to watch. I salute him, pivot the forklift around, then rumble past his crab traps. Beneath the wheels, bits of gravel pop and crackle and spit out backwards. I ease the forklift into place at the edge of the parking lot, as close to the sand pit as I can get. Wilbur meets me there with a chain and some tie lines – sturdy lengths of three-core nylon rope. I hop down, putting the brake on and leaving the forklift running, and we discuss our various options. We could use the tie lines as tow ropes, but the stump is stuck so fast the lines would probably snap before it came free. It makes more sense to use the chain. The only problem is attaching it to the cable. We decide to use the tie lines as links – lashing one end of the chain to the loop in the cable, and the other end to the back of the forklift. There’s no hitch, since forklifts aren’t supposed to be used for towing. We tie the rope to the bars of the carriage guard instead, wrapping it around five or six times as a precaution. “She looks solid,” I say, reefing on the chain. Wilbur’s already climbing into the driver’s seat. I stand to one side, making sure I’m out of the bite. He pulls on a lever to lower the forks. Then he puts her in gear. The forklift inches ahead until the slack goes out of the chain and the cable stretches taut, quivering like an elastic. Wilbur half-turns around in his seat and leans out the window to get a better view. “Keep your head inside,” I shout. “You’re right in the bite.” He looks at me blankly. “If something snaps, the chain is going to whip back at the forklift.” He holds up a hand and withdraws, turtle-like. I don’t see him give it more gas, but the forklift lurches forward, straining. I watch the cable. A section slips free, then another. Each time, the forklift gains a bit more ground: lurching and stopping, lurching and stopping. Then it just stops. I can see the whole line – rope and chain and cable – quivering with the reverberations of the engine. But that stump is holding fast. Wilbur gives her a bit more juice, and the forklift wheels start to spin – slipping on the dirt and gravel in the parking lot. “Hold up, Wilbur,” I call to him, raising a hand. “It’s not working.” He lets the engine idle for a second, and when he does the cable actually retracts from 21

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the tension, drawing the forklift backwards a foot. I stand with my hands on my hips, looking at the stump, the cable, the chain, the forklift. I’ve still got my shirt off and I can feel the slap of the sun on my shoulders. In my work boots my socks are squishy with sweat. Henry has come to this side of his boathouse to watch us. There’s a wooden railing up there and he’s leaning on it, his face shadowed by his big straw hat. I can tell he’s still smiling, though. “What if I hit it harder?” Wilbur says. “Like with a burst of gas?” “Uh-huh – just give her.” “I don’t know, man. Seems sketchy.” “It’s all good. Watch.” He stands up and revs the engine suddenly. The forklift pitches forward, like a horse throwing itself into the harness. The line goes taut and the stump seems to tremble. “I think that did something,” I yell at him. He eases up on the throttle, letting the line slacken, and then hits it again, and again – yanking on the cable, jarring the stump. It’s working, too. The stump shifts and shivers in the dirt and looks ready to rear up, roaring, like a prehistoric beast. Seeing that, Wilbur starts hitting the gas even harder, and each time the forklift throws itself forward I swear I can feel the force of the impact as it trembles through the ground. I can see it, too. Not just in the stump, but in the dirt, the gravel, the pilings. The whole area is quivering with aftershocks. “Hold up there, Wilbur,” I call. He pretends not to hear. He’s working the forklift like a rocking horse, forward and back, stuck in a rhythmic trance. His glasses are all fogged up, so I can’t even see his eyes. I wave my arms above my head, trying to get his attention. On the other side, Henry is doing the same thing and shouting at him in Chinese. I think I know what he’s trying to tell us. “It’s stuck in the pilings, Wilbur!” I shout. “The boathouse pilings!” I know he’s heard, but he still doesn’t look at me, still doesn’t stop. “Fuck it,” he yells. “Something’s gotta give!” And he hits it one more time, full throttle. The engine roars as the forklift hurdles forward, belching black smoke. The cable line goes taut and the stump actually moves and for a split second I think he’s done it – he’s torn that sucker free. Then I hear the distinctive shriek of breaking wood, and this deafening moan, like the wail of a dying elephant. I don’t see the recoil of the chain as one of the tielines breaks – it’s too fast – but I see the rear piling on the boathouse topples over gently, slumping into the mud along the bank. The floor it was supporting comes down next, bringing the back wall with it. That whole section tears away with surprising neatness, as if the shack has been cut in half by a giant axe. The wall and floor collapse into our gravel pit, splintering and breaking apart. The impact kicks up a mushroom cloud of dust. Then everything goes quiet. The forklift is lying on its side. The sudden release of tension, combined with the recoil 22

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of the chain, must have knocked it over. I walk up to the cab. I have this vision in my head – this vision of opening the door and finding Wilbur lying there, headless, a victim of the bite. Blood still spurting from his stump neck. When I peer inside, I see blood – but only on his forehead. Other than that he’s fine, lying on his side in the overturned cab, looking as stunned as me. The door won’t open so I help him out through the window. “Oh, shit,” he whispers, when he sees what we’ve done. “Oh, shit.” Neither of us says anything else. We trudge back to the gravel pit, moving like the survivors of a plane crash, to examine the wreckage left behind. The floor and wall of the boathouse has formed a perfect pyramid – almost temple-like – over our stump, which looks as stuck as ever. We squat down outside it, huddled together like penitents. I hear a whoop from above us. Henry is up there, standing at the hole we’ve torn in his boathouse. Behind him crab traps and lobster pots are stacked, neat as Meccano pieces, and a light bulb dangles from the ceiling on bare wires, knocked loose in the accident. He doesn’t look as pissed as I expect. He’s laughing, actually – laughing so hard he can barely breathe. Every so often he stops and points at us and shouts something in Chinese, which makes him roar even louder. I don’t understand any of it.

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Peasant Girl Hanging Clothes to Dry John Freeman

In the Glyptotek, Copenhagen There’s been rain this morning but now there’s a pale sun brightening and even some power in it. Going out into this town garden, so familiar to her, she feels exposed – it’s not that mild – but safe, steadied by the routine of her work, almost unconscious in it. And yet this sharp air and sunlight outside steal up on her, like the neighbours’ cat stalking the sparrows, with a sense of being twice as alive as normal and, while she pegs the washing methodically on the line, complete. All the time this rawness, freshness, and delicate warmth. Haven’t you lived such a moment and forgotten, in childhood perhaps, in youth, in earlier adulthood? What does this painting by Berthe Morisot give you so that you recognise it here among great work by Monet, Cézanne, Sisley, Pissarro, and Bonnard, as the supreme poem in paint of the collection? Give you back.

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The Bluebell Leaves John Freeman

i I used to lean out of the casement window and look down at the dark glossy leaves which came before the bluebells and remained when the flowers were all gone over. The bells were lovely while they bloomed, though not as big, as plentiful, as crowded as I wanted. Those fleshy dark-green leaves, shiny as if sprayed with furniture polish, seemed to me like unnecessary wrapping, someone taking too long to get to the point. Now I see them, under the leaning trunk of the apple-tree, gleam in morning light on a day like this when there’s been a frost, and sun is dispersing the mist above the playing fields beyond the oak tree, railings, and the high embankment. There’s a bubbling sound of busy starlings. I’m so deeply tired no amount of tea can wake me up properly, but I know this is how convalescence has to begin. I’ve been working too hard and for too long, but at last I’ve crossed the country by train, got here late last night to stay for a week. Below me my mother bends over her tubs and borders, wearing navy polyester trousers and a neat dark blue cardigan, 25

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a lilac blouse, her glasses on a chain. Oh, and sandals. Her hair curls at the nape. She bangs a saucepan with a mix of food out on to the sloping home-made bird table – a slab of untreated wood, tied with wire coated in orange plastic to a tripod which had been designed for storing saucepans, though I don’t remember it ever standing next to the stove, a pyramid of steel. Or do I? Forgotten things come back as if, for an instant, they are present again. The comical and dignified sight of her bending low, seen from the window above, is so characteristically her, broad-beamed, short, sturdy, her unsymmetrical legs from polio camouflaged in trousers. That grey hair. The ringing sound made by the thick saucepan against cracked wood. Although in this memory I can’t see them, I know her eyes are the colour of bluebells.

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Blackbird and Magpies John Freeman

For Jan Gibson

There was such a commotion overhead among the branches that she looked up, and there was a click-clicking blackbird, attacking two clack-clacking magpies three times its own size, darting at them. A nest. So she shouted and hissed and, seeing they had not just a blackbird but an angry human being on their case, the magpies flew off. Telling the story, she gestures to show how the blackbird flew down to the ground right in front of where she stood, and she leans slightly

forward, as in an oriental greeting, and we as good as see the magic bird bowing to her on the grass before her, then flying off at once on urgent business. Oh we are all compromised, overlaid by accidentals which obscure what we mean. To me that was the song, the retelling in which we relived with her the bird’s blessing, returned for her help to the bird, the music of what she is distilled, disclosed, applauded.

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The Gate Menna Elfyn

Sometimes a day like a lightning-bolt will remind us that there’s only a breeze under the door between us and death. Yesterday, men died, underground, and I remembered my mother’s sparing words: 1947: pit manager and foreman walking slow down the village street towards her home. The women watching either side of the street to see which house was their journey’s end. But as she heard the gate close my grandmother knew the dark message that came with the knock on the door. Today, I think of them both: my mother, my grandmother, better understand how they’d switch off any mention of underground disasters the minute they started. They remembered the closing of the gate. And this afternoon, there’s news from a friend in Mumbai who tells me of the earthquake in Sikkim; how her parents heard its murmur in Kolkata. Near and far gates are opening, closing, the end of their world for some, and the world coming closer, drawing us to it. And every ghost of a rumour, good or bad, murmurs that we live through bolts, some which close, some which wound. 28

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At the end of the day, we gaze for a long time at the still gate. Given the blessing of peace for today. For today, we were given peace. (trans Elin ap Hywel) Poem from : Menna Elfyn, Murmur, Bloodaxe Books, Oct 2012

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icepoem #08 mojado Dic Edwards

in Nogales just across the border a white painted rudimentary store and over to the side Army surplus landing mats from Vietnam stood on their ends to form a wall /he can see them as he stacks cans of tomatoes knows his refuge in this monkey practice is temporary/ thinks about how she took refuge in their new-born son while he was burnt by the solitude the cemetery gardens and the squandering of time in those windowless rooms/ then he’d made a break for it – you can’t feed a child on dust – and after months holed up in Mexico crossed the Sonora desert in the South West borderlands/ he was told how it had been alright in the past people would come and go recognition it had once been his country before a careless generation years ago lost it then that fuck Clinton in 93 about the time he burnt his own people in Waco put us out to fry beneath the fat-bellied sun/ she’d said how she was losing her mind through the endless night as the mad women screamed in the asylum down the road so I’d said I’ll go I will build an empire 30

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we’ll have embroidered table-cloths silver service and candelabra and we will have imperial cakes and candied flowers and chocolate with aged cheese and mimic the etiquette of the rich I’m not a bum/ but what if you die there like my brother on the Devil’s Highway because people take chances to avoid the patrol/ so what do you want? want to feed phantoms on café con leche and crullers you want me to work for the Sinola cartel or the Beltran Levya brothers?/ he crossed the desert flayed by cacti then walked barefoot over red rock till each foot became a blister from ball to heel like gel pack/ got caught sent back tried again and now he’s here stacking shelves while her and the baby are living off tears and soon the sheriff will come – his own ancestors Mexican – and take him to Maricopa County jail where they’ll make him wear pink underwear wear pink handcuffs and feed him dog puke and make him sleep on a floor you can’t lay on because of the raised joists at narrow intervals and thinking about it he breaks down collapsing beneath the bananas wanting the sink to the ice sea of the southern pole where mind litter’s like floes and the crack of dying like applause

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ice poem #9 athens 2015 Dic Edwards

my wife left could no longer stand the smell of destitution/they have dogs patrolling and men with guns she got drunk on ouzo and’s crossing the city (for a boat she said)/ the austerity has produced a cholera you wake up guts ravaged and fine thoughts banished though I’d dreamed of Melina Mercouri the Never on a Sunday star and minister in front of the Parthenon in white trench coat and rollneck sweater left arm saluting yellow flowers crushed in her right hand diva of the city a kind of substitute for missing Athena/culture is Greece’s heavy industry she said

well that’s the past now I can’t write this cholera the bankers brought has deindustrialised me/cats scavenge from the lips of a litter bin polished in sad gesture for stasis brightly piebald creatures leaning back using their fat tails for balance as they sniff the refuse they’re everywhere halfway to heaven blanketing roofs like the corrugated iron of Monastiraki Station the skeleton of a wrecked café on the limestone plug of Lycabettus Hill/watching human beings challenge gravity is not a new sport/I pick an orange from a street tree bitter beyond words too far for me

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anyway damaged wine-fried poet playing with Utopian blueprints constructing fabulous lands on long lost over-scribbled sheets of paper/the comfortable people (there are still some) of Kolonaki plant their own trees and hate these unclean fruit of the town and occasionally one of the wealthy matrons caught in the rain without dark glasses can be singled out with their Chanel No.5 with its impression of a sleepy panther its rose jasmine and aldehydes perfect in the way a perfect body contains legs and arms and how bold they are even now in the endgame just like those on the coast where impoverished families cluster in beach front bars before panoramas replete with the yachts of oligarchs and hedge fund insurance brokers/I wonder if she’s dead/Greece is killed quartered by the short sellers anything can happen Athens is crying howling the bombs have returned 17N born on the day in 73 when Papodopoulos murdered the students and on the walls and hoardings tags slogans territorial claims for Mao Panathnaikos AEK Athens graffiti in Arabic calligraphy/cops screech around tight bends on the Acropolis ascent and the peddlers with cheap guidebooks and concertinas of photographs scatter in the bushes to regroup and hope for another coach/I won’t find her but somewhere in a gutter of the city I’ll find a picture of her somewhere on the route she took through the streets that now signal despair there is nothing else to walk there for except to feel at least the traces of that lost life

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Athens Haris Karoutsos

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Hungary: The Shift to the Far Right

A contribution to the debate at the London School of Economics George Szirtes

I should first of all make it clear that I come to speak not against Hungary but against the Hungarian government which is not the same thing. I begin like this because all criticism of the current government is regarded as anti-Hungarian. In other words, Fidesz, the governing party of Hungary, is deemed to be Hungary. Furthermore, if one does criticise the actions of the Hungarian government one is regarded not only as a traitor to one’s country, or in the case of foreigners, as an enemy of the state, but also a liar who must be communist or gay, or an agent of international finance (by which one generally understands ‘Jewish’), or indeed all these things at the same time. Because, evidently, it is only communist-capitalist-gay-Jewish liars who could possibly find anything to criticise. I was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a child refugee in 1956. I first returned to Hungary as a writer in 1984 and have visited most years since, including a nine month stint in 1989 when I was not only on the unofficial procession against the then government on 15 March but also in Heroes Square on 16 June when the dead of 1956 were publicly celebrated and the current prime minister, Victor Orbán, made his speech calling on the Soviet troops to be withdrawn. And lastly on a personal level I should add that, besides writing my own books, I have spent every week since May 1984 - including this one - translating Hungarian literature - poetry and fiction - into English and am very proud to have done so. My personal reason for arguing on this side of the debate is less because of this or that specific act of the Fidesz government. My reason is the sum of them all and, through them, the creation of a climate that seems to me inimical to the country I have loved and admired. Little by little I find every part of it is being dismantled and banished. What is interesting about Fidesz’s great slew of constitutional reforms is how specific issues the issue of the central bank, the issue of the lowered retirement age for judges, the question of data protection, the question of state support for varieties of religion - when raised by the EU, are rejected as factually wrong, then, under external pressure, reluctantly addressed. 45

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All these are minor problems that will soon be sorted out, argues the prime minister on an almost daily basis. There are, I think, various problems with the new constitution and its application. I will consider just culture and media. One might dismiss the claim - as some do - that the newly created Media Authority is stuffed with Fidesz supporters by arguing that ‘The members of the Media Authority are professionals; how they vote is immaterial’. In other words that their political affiliations are a coincidence. It might be argued that the power to levy ruinous fines on journals or programmes that do not show the right kind of political balance, or which ‘breach human dignity’ - by doing what precisely? - has not been much used yet. It doesn’t have to be used with great frequency. The threat remains, inviting self-censorship. In this and other respects the Hungarian government acts very much like its bête-noir, the old pre-1989 party-state. One might argue that the sacking or retiring of some 570 members of staff from branches of the media and their replacement by right wing figures, is just clearing dead wood. One might argue that the replacing of an internationally recognized and applauded theatre director, such as the head of Trafó by a relatively inexperienced Fidesz supporter is just the luck of the draw; that the ousting of the heads of provincial theatres and that the appointment of a member of the far right, partly-militarised, party, Jobbik, at the Újszinház or New Theatre was a little local affair; that the refusal of a license to the only independently critical broadcaster, Klubrádió, was purely a commercial matter; that the organisation of a grotesque exhibition of kitsch art to celebrate the new constitution is not an attempt to represent history from a rightwing inter-war Horthyist point of view, and that as such it has no consequences for the future of Hungarian art; that the smearing of leading international philosophers like Ágnes Heller and others is a genuine investigation into corruption even when the case collapses; that the rebuilding of the square in front of parliament so it should correspond to the pre-1943 model with memorials appropriate to that time and ethos, and the moving of the statue of the great left-wing Hungarian poet, Attila József, from its much-loved place by the Danube are interim measures of no political consequence; that the demonising of internationally known Jewish cultural figures such as then Nobel Prize winning writer Imre Kertész, the concert pianist András Schiff, and other leading musical figures like Adam Fischer is unconnected with their criticisms of the Hungarian government; that the take-over of the long-standing major English-language liberal magazine The Hungarian Quarterly is unconnected to any political agenda; that the sacking of headmasters, the reduction in the number of places in Law and Economics at the major universities while building 46

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a new university of governance to follow the Fidesz line in ideology is nothing to do with many economists’ critical view of the government’s economic policy and certainly nothing to do with Victor Orbán’s remark that Hungary needs no law graduates; that although it has adopted some of the policies of Jobbik, who constitute the third biggest force in the Hungarian parliament, the Fidesz government is fiercely opposed to all that Jobbik stands for, and that its refusal to debate with the MSzP, the old deeply centrist, rather Blairite Socialist party, in public while doing so with Jobbik is not a sign of its own political leanings; that the statement of its greatest supporter in the press, the editor of the daily Magyar Hirlap, Zsolt Bayer, to the effect that more Jews should have been massacred while there was an opportunity, is of no consequence to it; that the opening of secret files that Fidesz proposed earlier but which it now wishes to keep closed is the act of a government with nothing to hide; and that the filling of all great institutions with supportive cadres is an act of life-enhancing pluralism. You could argue that Fidesz is not intent on remaking the country in its own image and that its threats to criminalise the one ideologically opposed party, the MSzP because they are supposed to be ideological descendants of post-war Stalinists - a truly laughable proposition - was not an attempt to outlaw any thought that is not sufficiently right wing; you could argue that the police action of 2006 when there was violence on the streets was the precise equivalent of the Soviet armies putting down the revolution of 1956 with its thousands of dead - an idea celebrated in one of the kitsch paintings already mentioned - and that whoever called the police out was therefore the equivalent of Mátyás Rákosi, the Soviet backed tyrant of the Fifties. In other words you could argue that the attempt to deligitemize liberalism, tolerance, internationalism and replace it with an Eastern European version of the Tea Party with greater powers, powers sufficient to carry it beyond elections and to outlaw any opposition to the left of it, is perfectly OK. I haven’t even mentioned the condition of the Roma and the criminalization of homeless roughsleepers. There are many things I haven’t mentioned. However you discount this or that element of the list, however you quibble about the precise reasons and mechanisms for this and that part of it, there is easily enough here to worry us, and for the EU to keep a very wary eye on the actions of the Hungarian government.

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Deep Blue Days John Lavin

It was raining the way it rains when riverbanks break and houses flood and someone old or someone young falls in the water and gets carried away by a strong undercurrent. Isabel Strand - who was neither old nor even so very young anymore - sheltered in the Cathedral doorway. She had let herself be taken in by the warm sun that had come streaming in through her window that morning. The sun that had warmed her skin while she dressed and that had duped her into wearing too-summery clothes to work. That had duped her into wearing too-summery clothes so that she would have to shelter in the Cathedral doorway in a cream blouse and a new chocolate brown skirt patterned with pink flamingos that she had been looking forward to wearing but which had turned out to be a little bit shorter than it looked in the changing room mirror. No jacket, no tights. She had decided to stop by at the Cathedral and light some candles after she had missed her bus waiting in the office until the last minute so as to avoid the rain. She had decided to light some candle because the phone conversation she had had with her mother the previous night about how upsetting they (Isabel’s parents) found it that she never went to church anymore was still upsetting her and making her feel enormously guilty while she in any case suddenly quite liked the idea of praying and lighting candles because she had been all day feeling more lonely and guilty and introverted and desolate and sad than she had been feeling even lately. She had always been like this and she hated herself for it. Why couldn’t she be easy going and fun like almost everyone else she knew? Why did she have to make everything into an ordeal? Her day of bad decision-making had extended to agreeing to go out on a date with Jim who sat opposite her at work and with whom she tended to get on with fairly well albeit largely due to a shared antipathy for the way their colleagues appeared to relish using business-jargon in non-business conversations but for whom it would be safe to say she harboured no romantic inclinations whatsoever. For one thing he was easily almost or even over twenty years older than her and she tended to find the idea of sleeping with someone old enough to be her father almost disgusting if she was honest - let alone a turn on - and couldn’t quite comprehend the friend she had back home who had had a baby with someone maybe ten years older than Jim. Jim who 48

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could make her feel uncomfortable sometimes like say if he came into the staff room when she was in there on her own, standing waiting for the kettle to boil leafing through whatever magazine was lying around; make her feel uncomfortable because she would get the feeling that he had been watching her for a while before he came into the room. Jim who since his divorce six years before had been living on his own in a small over-priced flat in the city centre seemingly spending almost all of his evenings and money in a local pub frequented by men in a similar situation to himself. Jim who would speak to Isabel frankly about the degree to which he hated his ex-wife

and then qualify this with a phrase like ‘don’t worry I don’t think you’re like that’ as though it would have been reasonable if he had have thought she was ‘like that’; as though it would have been reasonable if he had hated all women because he hated his wife. She pressed her back into the dank oak willing herself further out of the rain than was possible, further out of the rain and deeper into the shallow doorway as though it might have been a magic doorway that could expand or better still transport her into another world where there was a log fire and a hot meal and a warm bed and friendly faces. Like Narnia without the witch but still with the snow. And with a Mr Tumnus free to give her delicious food and play her magical flute music without ulterior motive. But the doorway offered next-to-no shelter from the rain, which - because of her having decided to only wear a skirt and a blouse to work that morning because of the lovely, duplicitous sun - was having the effect of making her feel quite naked because the front of her blouse was wet through and cream and stuck to her skin and her cream polka-dotted bra, while her skirt was too short and her legs frozen solid because she wasn’t wearing any tights and yes it was obvious now that Jim had mistaken her friendliness at work for attraction and perhaps even taken today’s disastrous wardrobe choices as some kind of a signal. Jim who she had felt sorry for when the other girls at work laughed at his corny jokes and his loneliness, or at his attempts to impress them with his city centre flat and his tales from the pub. Jim who she had felt sorry for because she knew a thing or two about loneliness herself and because his eyes were so clearly red not only from drinking but from crying too. Jim who had mistaken her empathy for attraction but who now at this moment must feel very far from mistaken because of course for some utterly inexplicable reason she had agreed to go out for dinner with him the following night. Everyone at work would be sniggering about it on Monday. She checked her phone for the time. She would have to make a dash for it if she didn’t want to miss the next bus as well and so holding her handbag over her head she ran out into the relentless rain, her heels splashing and clacking across the cobbled square that faced the front of the cathedral.

The next day was a Saturday and although Isabel could easily have slept all through the morning she forced herself to get up in time to be able to go to the shop to buy croissants and the Guardian and be back for Saturday Kitchen. This confluence of three of her favourite things - four if you counted a cafetiere of Fairtrade organic coffee - was more often than not the highlight of her 49

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week; a period of idleness and luxury in which she sanctioned her mind to think only of fripperies. Reduced to tears by the final soaking she had suffered on the walk from the bus stop back to her flat the night before, she had drank a bottle of wine far too quickly and decided that the best course of action regarding Jim was to tell him straight out that she wasn’t interested. Before she knew what she was doing she had sent him a text message:

Jim I can’t go out with you. Sorry I shouldn’t have said that I would. Isabel

He hadn’t replied and she had become increasingly aware that it was quite a terse message and that it was quite a rude and almost certainly hurtful way to let someone know you didn’t want to go out for dinner with them. But then she hadn’t wanted to encourage him anymore than she than she evidently already had done - and besides, the knowledge that her tranquil Saturday routine had been restored by this one, drunken action meant that quite frankly she didn’t care. She would have to deal with it on Monday but in the meantime she was now free to listen to the radio and bake and bathe and read The Mill on the Floss which she kept stop-starting and then return to the sofa in the early evening to watch more soothingly innocuous TV and perhaps order a takeaway and open a bottle of wine. She had grown to find work so stressful and unfulfilling recently that it no longer bothered her very much that she had not been able to make a social life for herself since she had moved away from her home town to this strange city because all she wanted to do at the weekend was pretty well hibernate. She had moved here simply because it was the only place she had been able to find a job which in any way pertained to her academic qualifications. She put her feet up on the sofa and draped a blanket over her legs and flicked through the Weekend magazine until she got to the recipe pages. Her phone made its text message burble. Trying not to lose what had become a very comfortable position she lowered her arm down to where she had dropped her handbag on the floor and rootled sightlessly around in it until her hand alighted on the phone. The message was from Jim. Without reading it she dropped the phone back into her handbag and pulled the blanket up to her chin. But her peaceable frame of mind was destroyed and her thoughts began to wander away from the reassuringly cash-rich world of the Weekend magazine with its delicious sounding recipes, exquisite interior design spreads and occasionally affordable fashion tips until it alighted on the dark hazel eyes of her Uncle Charlie who had tried to sleep with her when she was fourteen. Isabel had been staying with her mother’s sister Evelyn and her husband Charlie while her chemical engineer parent’s were away in America to attend a conference and have some apparently much needed time to themselves into the bargain. It had been the night after her Aunt Evelyn’s fortieth birthday party and everyone else who was left over from the party had gone into town for drinks at a posh bar where children weren’t allowed. Uncle Charlie had declared himself 50

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to be suffering from a spectacular hangover and so offered to stay and baby-sit Isabel even though she had protested that, at fourteen years of age, this would hardly be necessary. Very well then, to keep you company then he had said with a friendly twinkle in his eye as they had stood in the hallway while everybody milled around them either searching for wallets or handbags or pulling on coats or shoes or applying last minute lipstick in the sudden flurry of activity that had been instigated by the arrival of the taxi. She had tried to give him her sweetest smile then because something in his voice had told her that he really did want to stay and keep her company and it had seemed flattering that an adult would want to stay and keep her company rather than go out to a posh bar with other adults. He hadn’t spoken to her very much during her stay but at least he hadn’t told her off which was all her aunt ever seemed to do. We could order a pizza later he said and she smiled at him again because she thought he must have remembered her saying to him that pizza was her single favourite meal. Once the taxi had finally driven off Uncle Charlie announced his intention of making a bloody Mary to help cure his hangover and made the frankly extraordinary suggestion that she have one too. Isabel wanted to say that she hated tomato juice and could she just have a vodka and coke instead but knowing how whimsical adults could be when it came to bestowing treats she simply said yes please in case Uncle Charlie had been of the opinion that it was only suitable for her to have alcohol in the context of joining him for a bloody Mary. He put on some burbling instrumental music Isabel didn’t know and they went and sat by the fire with their drinks and some cashews and olives. He asked her about what music she liked and she was pleased by the look of appreciation he gave her when she said Suede and the Manics rather than what he must have been expecting considering her age i.e. Take That or at the very best Blur. They talked about books, art and films which were all the things she liked to talk about and she didn’t feel as though she had embarrassed herself too much with her answers. It was then that he said he was going to take a shower and would she like to take one too? At first, even despite the hand he had put on her knee, she still naturally assumed he had meant separately. In separate bathrooms obviously. But then he moved his hand further up her leg far further than could possibly leave any room for doubt - while with his other hand he began to gently massage her shoulder. She stared at him for the moment unable to move. He said I know it’s been difficult during your stay… and then trailed off. Because of his wife being so horrible to her - was that what he meant? No, it wasn’t that. He seemed to be inferring that there had been some kind of unspoken complicity between them. As though they had each been reigning in their stormy passion for one another for the sake of Aunt Evelyn’s feelings. And she felt frightened then because she suddenly thought that he might actually be dangerously insane.

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He moved his hand down her arm and clasped her hand in his all the while fixing her with his dark hazel eyes, which, while distinguishable as hazel, were so dark as to almost blend in with the black of his pupils. You’re really a very beautiful girl, Isabel he had said, taking her hand across the almost-nospace that lay between them and pressing it hard against his protuberant crotch. She had thought she was going to scream but somehow or other what came out wasn’t sound but vomit. Sadly not in a dramatic all-over-Uncle-Charlie sort of way but really rather more in a way that she could have stemmed with her hand if he hadn’t have been holding it so firmly against his penis. So as it was she was just a little bit sick down the front of her exceptionally nice new Breton top. She hadn’t meant or wanted to but she was also crying. He released her hand immediately. Oh fuck! he said, the panic in his voice so pronounced as to be almost a separate physical presence in the room. I’ll just go get you a towel. And a glass of water - would you like a glass of water? The tears were running into the little bit of sick that was stuck to her chin. She realised the music must be by Brian Eno because she recognised the piece that was currently playing as being his ‘Deep Blue Day’ which was the music during the amazing toilet scene in Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor crawls down into a toilet and comes up swimming in water that looks more like crystal blue ocean water than the water in a Glasgow sewer. . She nodded at Uncle Charlie without looking at him - her eyes were closed - and listened to the music swell; the heavy thud of his feet as he went up the stairs sounding muffled and geographically hard-to-place as though she might have been underwater herself.

She must have dozed off. The phone was ringing. She went blearily into the bathroom and ran the taps: the sound of the outpouring water and the aroma of the bath milk immediately soothing her mind and making her think of holidays with her parents. As a matter of fact she bought the particular bath milk that she used because it was the same one that they put in the bathrooms at the hotel that she and her parents had spent most of their summer holidays at when she was a child. She pulled her dress off over her head and looked at what she saw. A slight increase in her stomach and a general increase in a general lack of definition which could only be expected really considering she had more less given up on any form of exercise other than walking. The tremorline of grey running through her fringe hadn’t - and obviously wasn’t - going away. She had long, wavy brown hair which people had used to frequently comment on and a sad, tired look in her grey-green eyes. Even though she was still occasionally ID-ed for alcohol in the supermarket there was no doubt that she was finally beginning to look her age, which was thirty-two. Being thirty and thirty-one hadn’t really felt any different to being in her twenties but there seemed to be something irrevocable about thirty-two; perhaps because it wasn’t one of those ages that people talked about and so you weren’t really expecting anything much to happen 52

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during it; or perhaps because you knew that the years were going so quickly now that you would very soon be thirty-five and there was no two ways about it: thirty-five was old. And perhaps it was mostly because she was thirty-two and unhappy; in a job she didn’t like, in a town she didn’t know and without a boyfriend for almost two years. …And then not wanting a child or anything like that at the moment but at the same time being aware that she was thirty-two and time was getting on and that sooner or later if she carried on like this wanting a child or not would be merely an academic point. She unclasped her bra and wondered idly - to sort of deliberately gross herself out - what it would feel like if it was Jim doing it instead; his hands then reaching up to cup her cold, uncherished breasts. His hands looked leathery and would probably be a little clammy. Jim always looked red and clammy; it was because he drank too much, she supposed. She imagined lying down and looking up at him all red and clammy and out of breath while he fucked her. The phone had started going off again in the other room. It was surely Jim. It almost felt as if she had conjured him. She couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting the message. Wasn’t he aware that this was not a very dignified response to being knocked back? She pulled a towel around her chest and went through to the other room. It was a second missed call from her mother. She appeared to be in the process of leaving a typically lengthy voicemail. Isabel sighed the kind of all-consuming sigh your body performs for you whether you like it or not; the kind of sigh, in other words, which means that your stress and despair levels have attained such alarming heights that your body is making decisions which bypass your own will. She sank down into the sofa, exhausted by the sigh, and waited dutifully for her mother to finish leaving her voicemail. She opened Jim’s text, reflecting that she might as well get everything awful out of the way at once. It simply said

You’re a fucking cunt Isabel

She felt the same as if he had hit her. Not just the visceral impact of a blow but the feeling of lessening that comes with it too. The feeling of being purposefully diminished by another human being. And then a stupid, self-effacing guilt that she was a past master at. He was probably thinking that she had been leading him on and that she was just some awful sort of prick tease. Maybe she had?/Maybe she was? That’s what he would say to everyone at work anyway and everything at work would then be even worse than it already was. It was ridiculous but she found that she was shaking uncontrollably; her teeth clanking and clattering against each other like harbour-moored boats in a storm. She went over to the window and looked out at the road she lived by. It was raining again and almost dark already. The late autumn wind was hurriedly divesting the trees of their few remaining leaves, while the traffic pulsed onwards in both directions, as steady and as constant and as meaningless as it sometimes felt like to be alive. 53

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Isabel opened the window, letting the roar from the road in. She leant out, gasping and laughing at the sheer coldness of the rain as it splattered against her bare shoulders. And she stayed there like that, letting the rain run and listening to the road roar, until she realised that she hadn’t turned the bath taps off and that the insistent banging coming from downstairs must be because of the flood.

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Wardrobe Time Paul Henry

Come close, Catrin Sands. Inside wardrobe time we can still hear them singing – Edith Smart, Nightingale Ann, Geta, Heulwen, St Julia ... And Gwyneth Blue is crying to hear a wardrobe sing in its tomb with such ... gusto! Come close Catrin Sands. A hanger’s metronome tocks after the door has closed. Hold onto me, while you can and keep us dry from the rain before life finds us again. I’ll keep my black umbrella, you keep your black Mercedes but it would have been a fair swap, inside wardrobe time. And don’t ... look at me like that with Gwyneth Blue’s eyes

under the drenched petals of your hat.

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Come close, Catrin Sands. We can still hear them singing in Maeshendre, inside wardrobe time. It is still pouring Ave Maria through a key-hole’s arch of light.

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Honeycomb Saul Hughes

Do I keep it all alive? Am I the pound shop demiurge Merging chance and hell-bent intent To magic up a neighbourhood In which out-of-synch extras Wander, witless through numbskull scripts? A cheapskate genesis Of Action Man measurements Hatched in my huddled headspace? Where will it go when I’m gone? Who’ll take down the flimsy scenery, Unhook the paint-crusted curtains, Massage clean the grease-smeared stage, Turn off those phosphorous lights? These charity shoperatics, Oxfamateur dramatics! Titus secondhandronicus Acted out in an empty room. It all becomes ingrown after, What was me falls in on itself, Ingests its roots, leaving absence. But to think it was all for me, Everything erected For my inspection Is a comfortless reward When I’m honeycombed by earthworms Or kiln-diminished into ash. 57

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This Windy Peninsula William Weil

Not far from the water’s edge past the hermit’s chapel on the headland’s summit is where they used to play. That’s where a dog fell off the cliff and two boys were swept out to sea and a ship’s cargo covered the shore and basking sharks were seen by the village children the same ones that smashed the windows of the coastguard’s hut whenever they felt courageous only to hide in the field where a sailor is buried standing up pointing out to sea from an unmarked grave saying nothing of what’s to come. The ones who play there now are echoes of their predecessors growing up as other people do to build their homes by the sea sculpting the land before leaving in silent waves this windy peninsula. 58

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One Morning in December Gillian Eaton

Τo Mohamed Bouazizi a Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire on December 17. 2010. This act set off a revolution across the Arab world.

Winner of the HUNGRY HILLS POETRY MEETS POLITICS COMPETITION

Your world is the weight of a melon the number of oranges in a kilo sack the difference in price of a peeled or unpeeled prickly pear, a simple scale with small brass weights and a scooped bowl. Without these the children don’t eat and you pay and pay for what you already own. But today something shifts and the cheek will not turn again.

A random cruelty repeated so often, breaks you so suddenly so utterly you hunger to call down a cyclone, a tornado of despair. And in that swift moment of rage with all the petrol you can afford you set yourself on fire a flame of screaming light. But how could you know that your mother would come running that she would come running into the market place into the bright catastrophe of your death raising her hands to shield the sight dropping to her knees, beating the floor 59

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tearing the scarf and the hair from her head scooping the flame onto her breast swallowing the fire And how could you know that ten thousand mothers would kneel beside her, and ten thousand fathers and a hundred thousand children and more and more gather to watch you flare and fade lighting up the dark heart in all of us, lighting up all that’s left.

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From the Street - LA Gillian Eaton

Stoically, with the works of Epictetus deep in my canvas bag, I lingered outside LA Central Library for a bus BOOKS ALONE ARE LIBERAL AND FREE and watched the homeless men meet and greet in masonic parody with low gestures and sly smiles dropping bags and backpacks slouching and spreading along the stone tiles. Under the sleek steel silos of the opulent a crowd simmered at the pedestrian crosswalk, (the type where WALK is a flashing white man bent forward like a pickpocket and the way across is counted until everyone is told to STOP red handed), Then, a dark haired teen with an Olmec face pranced awkwardly across, late, his gait drummed in place by the rolling and tapping of plastic bottles in the gutter and the shriek of buses stopping. I watched him dance on the far side near three women in the tribal uniform of City workers waiting for a ride below a bright banner exclaiming WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY. Hey, he shouted at them pointing, thank you, keep it up, keep it high! 61

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They turned away to scorn this display of probably meth-induced bonhomie with a curse that wiped away the crime of his brief attempt at humor and there he posed on tiptoe under NO STANDING ANY TIME and smiled such a naughty smile across at me as if he knew I would celebrate him with this rhyme. A woman in a wheelchair displayed her amputations, “Change?’ she asked. ‘If only,’ I replied handing over my bus fare. I walked. The Bank Towers forever ranked and allied above Broadway below and Discount Citi, and Allure Bridals hooped, folded and flounced, paste tiaras, cheap sequins, bugle beads and pretty dark girls dressed like southern belles. A flag announced SURREALIST ADVENTURES OF WOMEN ARTISTS with that famous face: Frida, uni-browed, like a young musketeer or semi-feral female and I wondered what she would say if she prowled the Central Market with the pig’s head bike rack next to the Guadalupe Wedding Chapel INCOME TAX, DIVORCE, WEDDINGS $150 in that order; could she bear, could she grapple with her final fortune versus the giddy bride’s, blindfolded with rose satin and white lace, or the ersatz Aztec mural with the hands reaching up out of a man-hole up to a stone maze, ALONG THIS STREET ONLY THE MIST

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Gangs Michael Oliver

If you are reading, take note: Rats, should they stray into Another rats kingdom or Territory, do not put up Any defence. So that No more than one rat Is lost in the fight, In order to preserve Their own kind. On second thoughts, Gang members, defend yourselves to the last; Fight to the death.

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Happy Days Elsie Dafis

The celebrated Widow Elle Al walked down the cannon-shell pitted street towards Alfredo’s, carrying three rescued possessions: a roll of muslin, an AEG prototype hairdryer and the most prized item of all, the last bag of sugar in Newhaven. Since the start of the siege, no supplies had managed to get past General Richard Large’s band of rebels, and the sugar was essential to feed the swarm of honey bees which accompanied the Widow away from her ruined house. Before the war, Alfredo’s had been a renowned tapas bar: but Alfie had announced three weeks ago he was shutting down because his store-room was empty. The closure notice didn’t stop anyone from turning up, even though there was no food and very little wine left: people still congregated at the bar because this was where news of the war was shared, embellished and served up as spicy little snippets of gossip. This is why gossip in Newhaven is still known as ‘hot tapas’. The crowd looked on in silence as the Widow walked in to the bar. The listened as she explained to Alfie that her house had been reduced to rubble and would he mind if she lived under his roof until her own place could be rebuilt. The Widow Elle Al also asked if she could use the empty store-room as her private salon. In return for this kindness, the by-product of her business would give Alfie the wherewithal to produce drink for his thirsty gossip gathering customers. Everybody in the bar knew that the by-product of the Widow’s business was honey. ‘My dear Ellie, you are welcome to stay and ply your trade in my establishment for as long as you please. I will get my cousin, Carlos the Carpenter, to un-board the back-door; he can use the wood to build a hive to house your bees. Your customers can avail themselves of this separate entrance to come and go without suffering the prying eyes of my tongue wagging clientele.’ This was said loudly enough so that every man in the room could hear clearly and were duly warned that they should not pry into the Widow’s business. Of course, they all already knew what her business was, who her customers were and which women favoured what style of brazilian; but decorum was preserved by their supposed ignorance. They also knew it was in their best in64

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terest to maintain the status quo, for two reasons: firstly, so as not to upset their women and also because honey for Alfie meant a continuous supply of drink for them. None of Alfie’s family, as far as he knew, was Spanish, but when he moved to the town and opened Alfredo’s, everyone assumed he must be. To please his new friends, he acquired a Spanish persona, as did his other relatives who followed him to Newhaven: his family subsequently evolved into the town’s Spanish Quarter. But it was his English blood which now came to Alfie’s aid, because he had learnt from his maternal grandmother how to make a quintessentially English drink, bee wine. Soon the sounds coming from the bee hive were echoed by the faint humming emanating from the glass jars which now lined every window-sill in Alfredo’s. The hum was created by the small yeasty mass of the ‘bee’ travelling up and down each jar, transforming the honey sweetened water into wine. The once silent mornings were now filled with the noise of the bees, the soft murmurs of female conversation and intermittent squeals as finely shaped strips of hot wax-soaked muslin were expertly placed and sharply removed, revealing smooth and intricate patterns which enhanced the private beauty of the female sex. The hairdryer’s purr added another note to the morning’s ensemble, as the widow carefully dressed down the curls surrounding the patterns created by the wax. The other regular morning sound was Alfie singing old English folk songs as he prepared the front-of-house for later on in the day. All this was punctuated by occasional cannon-fire booming through their peaceful lives. As the weeks progressed, Alfie slowly won the trust of the women. He provided them with discretion and elegant glasses of bee wine. In return, they furnished him with their deepest confidences. Alfie’s life had always been peppered with good fortune created by the faith women bestowed upon him. Now, alongside the honey, the Widow was providing him with the raw materials needed to produce his tapas. Because in the evenings, while the men were entertaining themselves at Alfredo’s, never questioning why tasty morsels had magically reappeared on the menu, the Widow and her female assistants were busy smuggling supplies into the besieged town.

Before the war, General Richard’s wife and two of his mistresses had been regular customers at Elle Al’s salon. The smuggling operation started when Florrie, the General’s number one mistress, managed to get a message to the Widow. The letter explained that Florrie and a few of the other women were desperate to have their once beautiful brazilians re-animated by the Widow Elle Al’s skilful hand. Florrie requested the Widow visit them at twenty two hundred hours on the 65

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following Tuesday, and stated she would be well rewarded for her troubles. The letter also contained a free pass from the General himself and instructions about the safest route to take to the rebel encampment. Every Tuesday night, for the next few months, the Widow Elle Al and her two most trusted assistants, made the clandestine journey to the rebel encampment, in order to maintain the women’s alluring motifs. This was the beginning of the Widow’s celebrated mobile business: she would discreetly embellish the private chambers of Heads of State, Eastern princesses and Hollywood film stars. But that was much later. Now she acquired urgently needed supplies in exchange for keeping the rebel women’s bedazzling attractions in good order. On Wednesday mornings, an hour before dawn, when all his customers had gone home and were happily dreaming of hot tapas and bejewelled women, Alfie and a few of the women unloaded the goods and carried them back to Alfredo’s. The distribution network was straightforward: Alfie served the men with enough tapas to keep them going for the whole day and the women carried ample supplies home to feed themselves and their children. Everybody was happy. Everybody, that is, apart from General Richard Large. His dreams were filled with the aromas of his wife’s cooking and the home comforts of his marital bed. Waking up to the acrid smell of dying camp fires and ineffectual cannon smoke worsened his temper and strengthened his desire to go home. Florrie could see that the General was unhappy with the stalemate, and she realised that the women would have to engineer a solution, to bring the siege to an end and allow everybody to return to their normal lives. The following Tuesday, Florrie discussed the problem with the Widow Elle Al. They formulated a strategy and put the first stage of their plan into action immediately. A week later, Mrs General arrived at the camp. She had received an anonymous letter informing her that the General’s mistresses had been receiving, with his explicit permission, the Widow Elle Al’s artistic attentions. She was furious: before the war, Mrs General had been Elle Al’s most valued customer, now her private areas had been allowed to return to their wild state, while these women had unlimited access to the Widow’s services. How was the General going to make up for this marital blunder? General Richard Large realised he was in deep trouble and he didn’t know how to get out of it. When Florrie and the Widow approached him with the second phase of their plan, which was a scheme to facilitate an honourable retreat, he was ready to go along with anything. The golden opportunity arrived on the following day with the Field Marshall’s visit to the rebel encampment. His sole reason for this impromptu visit was to give the General and his men a 66

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dressing-down because of their continued failure to take Newhaven. The General was apprehensive about what was about to happen but he did manage to get his motley crew into a semblance of good order for the visit. The men were standing to attention during the Field Marshall’s inspection, when a huge swarm of bees encircled the encampment. The men impressively stood stock still but the Field Marshall screamed like a banshee when he was stung on the tip of his nose and on both cheeks by the attacking bees. The men carried the Field Marshall into the General’s tent and placed him onto the camp-bed. Mrs General soothed the patient and applied honey on to the affected areas. Florrie and a few of the other women danced attendance on Mrs General as she nursed the patient. Once the Field Marshall had calmed down, he addressed the General and told him that he now understood why they had made no progress in this hellish place and he and his men were very brave indeed to have suffered such adverse conditions for so long. He apologised for neglecting his best man and ordered the siege to end immediately. He added that the General deserved a well-earned rest and should go on indefinite leave to spend time with his marvellous wife. Mrs General was happy too because she had been treated like the queen bee in front of this important man. But there can only be one queen bee, and she had returned, with her swarm, to Newhaven. As soon as the Widow Elle Al landed at Alfredo’s, she announced that the siege was finally over and everybody could go back to their ordinary lives. The whole town celebrated that night, and in the midst of the festivities, Elle Al related all the day’s events to Alfie. His smile could not conceal the sadness he felt at the thought of life returning to normal. Three months later, the widow returned to her renovated house. This was when she officially started her renowned mobile venture; from then onwards, she spent very little time in Newhaven. Alfie handed Alfredo’s over to one of his cousins and he proceeded to drift from one place to the next. The days spent during the siege, with the celebrated Widow Elle Al under his roof, followed him wherever he went and it was many years before he again found any sense of direction in his life.

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Sampler Richie McAffrey

This is a damp foxed sampler from 1892 knitted by a girl of ten to prove in stitches that she knew her numbers, the alphabet and an anodyne quatrain from the Bible. She has given up counting until she’s found, in place of her words, these cursive letters. There are spots of blood where she pricked her finger and they grew into whorls of rust.

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Amnesia Rhys Milsom

Getting in at 2 a.m. stinking of other people’s lies and a mouth with tinges of an hour-old cigarette knowing that tomorrow’s going to be no different sort of

makes it easier to understand why some dissolve out of it all perhaps they’re not so cowardly after all perhaps they’re the realists my father’s snores remind me of when I was younger 69

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in my grandparents house with the T.V so loud & the horses racing for the needs of the desperate with my granddad sat in his chair a cigarette burning away between his fingertips shouting at the screen cigarette ash flicking & blemishing the carpet I’m on that carpet watching with a golden Labrador polishing my fingers clean when the race is over it’s quiet and the Labrador, Beauty, sighs and lies down my head falls on her softly breathing body golden splinters sewing into my hair and creased clothes my granddad gets another smoke 10 minutes later he’s asleep snoring like my father the cat settles 70

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curls onto my lap tiny claws pinprickin my skin the sound of a car passing on the bypass my father’s snores I now know why Sleep comes so easily

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Eleven Rooms -after Mondrian Claire Dyer

I’m Alice, she says. Can reach the walls some days. Others I’m a corner dot, so small the canvas could swallow me whole if it wished.  In the vast red room, I’m taken, she says, stretched stiff on sheets, fixed. In the six greys (three dove, three steel), I sometimes rest. 

In the purple and yellow, I’m lost, hazed, spaced. In the two black rooms I’m blind, can’t measure distance or time; Temporary Girl they call me then. There are eleven rooms in wonderland, she says. No doors.

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Photograph

(‘Photograph’ received a commendation at the National Poetry Prize 2011) Rosalind Hudis

This is my daughter asleep in the morning, one hand between the silvery poles of her cot, that remind me of birch trees. She’s going to theatre soon: the surgeon will snap her ribs to reach a heart which can’t wake itself properly inside its blue forest. She mustn’t eat. So when she stirs and calls my arms down for the first feed, I turn to the wall. She beats a fist, the size of a large bee, into air. Her feet swim faster as if racing a blind snow flood, and I am the snow. Later it’s I who can’t reach my child so far under, her face a locked, white egg In the thicket of tubes.

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evening calm over keel lough Mark Blayney (with images by the Irish artist Aidan Flanagan)

you tipped red wine into my heart apart

we cannot function I split from you

like the mountain from the sea it rips us and

we tear jagged strata our cry measured in rock *laid out for collectors

to pore over, examine wonder

our continental shift

the phone line that snapped under water

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I try to speak

but your expression is of an oily sky

its flick of rain a shrug its angles above mountains a gentle, forgiving lie

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dingle

Mark Blayney (with images by the Irish artist Aidan Flanagan)

white spray the sea flicks into the sky

the blue of rain remembering hokusai

he saying, modestly by the time I am ninety

I hope I can be competent our lazy intent

as we watch the spray in the sky to kiss, and idle

while the sea does its work, diligently 76

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we lie in each other’s arms and, you have to watch it, it’s sly; the sea flicks into the sky

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valley

Mark Blayney (with images by the Irish artist Aidan Flanagan) our new house the trees like broccoli our toys the shadows forming windows with you I am five again we play by the fence knowing the house will call us back for tea we both hear, as we run, our mothers’ distant voices

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Kit

- a novel in progress. Vanessa Gebbie

MAMETZ WOOD July 10th 1916 We were to advance in quick time in eight waves and all Harris could talk about was his broken tooth. He talked strangely bright - “I have a broken tooth, Sir. Sir - my tooth, and it will be aching before too long,” and someone said to shurrup, it would be alright that tooth, and we could pull the rest out if he liked, after. “After what?” Harris said, standing facing the sandbags like the rest of us, laughter all around like we were waiting for a friendly. Then the words were gone, and the laughter, in a noise greater than I ever heard. They’d said there was to be a bombardment, flat and even, so we could go in underneath, and I have heard the Lewis guns close before, but nothing, nothing like this. The noise never stopped, thumping our ears like punches, a sound so great it made the spaces inside your chest ring with it all.

The battery was up on the hill to our right, my head split sideways with the pain of noise, and all I wanted was a drink of water. We leaned against the sandbags and could not cover our ears. I wanted to crouch, get out of the way of the sound, but we were too close together. How am I going to climb up with your ruddy leg just there? That’s what I was thinking, nothing more than that. None of us here had gone over the top before except at training - and that was a laugh, the sarge shouting, “Ow many Sir, Ow many? Get over there! Only one in three chance of buying it, lads, don’t fret. Odds are you’ll be back home nowjust, minus a foot, or a few fingers. Easy street!” and the visiting general standing high in his stirrups, smiling and bowing, tapping his stick on his sleeve. I am trying to remember the Special Order of the Day as it was read at 3 am to a crowd of huge, shining faces like moons or shields in the halflight coming from somewhere, nowhere, from the chalk of the soil, the sky, your eyes getting used, gradually - dying for a piss although you’d 79

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just been, and the man next to you, his eyes suddenly shining all milky in the flash of a match. A thousand feet to the edge, it was, to the edge of the wood, in full view. A steep cliff right in front of White Trench - our trench - reconnoitred by Captain Godfrey of B company. A steep cliff, a slope pitted by rabbits and badgers, stumps of trees, brambles as bad as wire, “Watch your feet, men, watch your feet.” The cacophany was complete, all about us. And oh this place. These fields, in July, they should be alive with grasshoppers and we just travellers taking a spell by the side of the track with a bit of bread and cheese, the heat swelling round us, sun bleaching everything, the leaves hanging over by there dark as anything against the blue. Lying on the edge of a field, the edge of a wood, the village over there in the dip, just see the church spire, look - and these flowers - wood sorrel - I have never been so close to wood sorrel. “Here, Brown, take a leaf of this and bite it, isn’t that juice as sharp as any taste you’ve ever had?” “Looks like clover. Have that in Rhyl, mun? Sorrel?” “Naw, but down by the streams, in the valleys, you should see...” “Shut up about the valleys will you, anyone would think you were homesick.” Now, I don’t know what to do or how to move, I don’t know if my legs will do what they have done for almost twenty years without prompting. The July grass where I stood only a few days since in Heilly, will I stand on that grass again? Why did I not take note of the grass? Why did I not just grab one blade to keep it by me? There is no grass here. Oh I would like to see just a blade of grass. The fields here have lost everything. They are growing nothing but bones. And here the dragon’s teeth do not sprout into men, but less. “Two-platoon frontage, eight waves, 676 NCOs and men.” “We’ll be alright lads, tucked in nice by here, the thirteenth Welch on the right of us, the hundred’ n’ thirteenth Brigade on the left. Tucked in nice!” “Pass on the word, 300 yards on the level, then down that cliff and mind your boots in those bloody brambles...” And we are waiting there in rows ready, thick as bracken waiting for a spark, and Harris is being sick over his boots, like a child of three, and I can not look at him in case I catch it. The company moved. I do not remember going up over the top now - like a voice called us from the bottom of the steep bank we could not see. And Brown, he moved in front, maybe missed his footing on a rough patch and trod just to the right, in front of me, and among the noise of the bombardment there is another, a higher noise, then none, then my ears burst and Brown is not there, just mud, and mud, and chalk flinging all over and I carry on towards the edge, just me, there is no one else, they are like shadows moving crouched like monkeys through smoke. They will be shadows before the day is out. 80

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The cliff, the brambles, I can use my rifle as a stave, and slip, and slide, and fall on my arse and tumble down with my foot caught in the snare but it gives thank God, it gives, and there’s a lad not so lucky - “Come back, get my foot out of this buggering stuff will you?” I cannot exactly hear him but his face says that as if we are on a Sunday School picnic and I cannot go back up the slope to him, the smoke from the bombardment is lifting, and the wood is there, vast and clear as anything up the rise, and men running, crouching. Then - oh this strange dance they do when they are picked off, before they become shadows. It goes like this - the run is low, the head down, “Present the smallest target to the enemy, lads, the top of yer hat’ll do...” rifle in both hands and field dressings flying loose, pockets unbuttoned, see and then he stops, and no more presents the top of his hat for his hat has gone and the top of his head with it - knocked down but not down yet, there is the dance to do first, the dance that buys you your ticket, that looks at first as if you are moving your feet in a game, to catch a ball, but it is not that, your life has just escaped through the top of your head and you run to catch it up before it leaves completely... “My head, Sarge. They’ve shot off my bloody head!” “Don’t make a fuss, Harris - that’ll sort your old tooth...” and I’m laughing, watching the last dance of Harris who is picking his feet up so dainty, throwing his rifle high in the air, his arm stretched up after, fingers reaching for it, like the rifle was a lost part of his arm, but he misses. He trips while turning, turning round now, one knee high with the grace of a village girl on May Day, spinning fast then slow with the blood flying from his gone head in a perfect arc, baring his teeth to show us his broken tooth for one last time. You can’t but laugh, for this is a knife-edge day and it will be the bluntest of nights, those of us who get to night. Night in the wood, with the enemy still strapped into their trees. Look, run here, alongside, up there, through the mist, smoke, as it rises away - like great crows perched in their trees, tied there with ruddy gear straps, the machine men who will be raining down bullets on us like hail until they are caught by a shell... look! There is one, now, hit and hanging, shuddering in his tree. Half way to heaven already, Fritz, lad! Run it under a tap if it hurts, there’s a fellow. And say hello to Harris, will you? He’s the dancing Welshman with half a head.

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Cardinal Wolsey’s Desert Island Discs Andrew Wynn Owen

All my winsome win-some-lose-some looks were frittered pig-guts in his pan. Big prob fundamental, pain in the buttress, this so-called king: a fat, arrogant football of a man - who took on God. Frustrated me at every turn. It was Hallelujah, sire and- Hell’s bells, he’s stupid! Blind Cupid I confess (yes, on occasion) never settled on my spire for long. My favourite songs, Kirsty? Gregorian chants- requiems- Radetsky march. My sleeves are red, not green. Ita vero, I speak my mind; to what intent? To shovel out forgiveness as a given or get a king to govern, as was meant?

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The Boyfriend Jennifer Copley

She is putting flowers in water, letting the tap run. All day he has stalked her, hiding behind trees, dustbins, elongated in the shadow of lamp-posts. She is not one of his ‘easy-to-kiss’ girls. Why would she think she could escape just by slamming her own front door? He zooms through the window, knocks to the floor a dish of melon, a bowl of strawberries, her purse.

He has no arms! She gapes as he flies round the edge of her, head twisted back like an eel. Magnetised by the duskiness of his eyes, the goblet of his mouth, what can she do but surrender? She clings to the smooth cool stumps of his shoulders; deaf to water flooding the kitchen. 83

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Contributors

Christopher Barnes’ collection LOVEBITES is published by Chanticleer. He reads at Callender Poetry Weekend hosted by Poetry Scotland each year and is also an art critic. Mark Blaney won the Somerset Maugham Prize for Two Kinds of Silence. He hosts and co-organises National Theatre Wales’ Word4Word events and is a UK Slam Finalist. Commendations include the Arvon Postcard Prize and the Poets Meet Painters Prize, Ireland. Mark lives in Cardiff. David Calcutt is the author of Crowboy, Shadow Bringer and The Map of Marvels. www.davidcalcutt.co.uk http://www.valleyprojects.org/ Jennifer Copley’s latest collection is Beans in Snow. http://www.jennifercopley.co.uk/ Elsie Dafis I’m currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Lampeter with Dic Edwards: it’s turning out to be a terrific writing apprenticeship. Dennis O’Driscoll His eight books of poetry include New and Selected Poems (Anvil Press, 2004), a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, and Reality Check (2007). Among his other publications are Troubled Thoughts, Majestic Dreams: Selected Prose Writings (Gallery Press, 2001), the Bloodaxe Book of Poetry Quotations (2006) and Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney (Faber and Faber, 2008). A new collection, Dear Life, is forthcoming (Anvil Press, 2012; Copper Canyon Press, 2013). 84

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This will be followed by publication of a second selection of his essays and reviews.

His awards include a Lannan Literary Award, the E.M. Forster Award of the American

Academy of Arts and Letters, the O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry from the Center for

Irish Studies in Minnesota, and the Argosy Irish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by University College, Dublin in 2009. Website: http://www.dennisodriscoll.com

Claire Dyer writes poetry and fiction and works part-time for an HR research forum in London. She is widely published and, as a Brickwork Poet, has performed

conversations in poetry on set themes at venues around the UK. She recently

completed an MA in Victorian Literature & Culture at The University of Reading. Gillian Eaton has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint

David. She has spent her life on both sides of the Atlantic as a theatre director, actor and educator

Dic Edwards who was born in Cardiff, is a highly acclaimed, radical playwright with more than twenty productions to his name, including Franco’s Bastard, Utah Blue, and The

Pimp and a collection of poems, Walt Whitman and Other Poems. His last production

was of Casanova Undone in Copenhagen in 2009. In September 2011Manifest Destiny, for which he wrote the libretto, will be produced in London on 10th anniversary of 9/11.

He is director and founder of Creative Writing at Lampeter, Trinity St David, University of Wales. Dic Edward’s work is published by Oberon; his website is www.dic-edwards.com Menna Elfyn is an award-winning poet and playwright who writes with passion of the

Welsh language and identity. She is the best known and most translated of all modern Welsh-language poets. Author of over twenty books of poetry including Aderyn Bach Mewn Llaw (1990), winner of a Welsh Arts Council Prize; the bilingual Eucalyptus: Detholiad o Gerddi / Selected Poems 1978-1994. In 1999, she co-wrote ‘Garden

of Light’, a choral symphony for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra which was

performed at the Lincoln Centre in New York. She is director of the MA in Creative Writing at Trinity Saint David. Her latest collection, Murmur. will be published by Bloodaxe Books in October, 2012. 85

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Aidan Flanagan is a self-taught Irish visual artist who specialises in Original, Limited Edition Screenprints of the landscape of Ireland. These original landscape art prints of scenes in Ireland have been created and hand-printed, using water-based screenprint materials, on Fabriano Artistico HP Watercolour Paper. For more information please visit my website - www.aidanflanagan.com John Freeman has published nine collections, the latest being A Suite for Summer (Worple Press, Tonbridge, 2007). Stride published The Light Is Of Love, I Think: New and Selected Poems in 1997, and a collection of essays, The Less Received: Neglected Modern Poets, in 2000. He teaches at Cardiff University and lives in the Vale of Glamorgan. Vanessa Gebbie is a Welsh writer living in England who writes stories of all lengths from 10 to 100,000 words. Her debut novel, ‘The Coward’s Tale’ (Bloomsbury) was a 2011

Financial Times Book of the Year. She is author of two collections of short fiction, ‘Words from a Glass Bubble’, and ‘Storm Warning’ (Salt Modern Fiction) and contributing editor of ‘Short Circuit, Guide to the Art of the Short Story’ (Salt). She is a freelance creative

writing teacher working with writers of all ages and experience, writes and occasionally publishes poetry, and is rubbish at most other things. You can find her on Twitter @

vanessagebbie, where she tweets a daily #StoryGym writing prompt. Her website is: www.vanessagebbie.com and she blogs at: www.morenewsfromvg.blogspot.com

Paul Henry is one of Wales’s leading poets. The author of five collections of verse, he has read at festivals across the UK and Europe. Originally a songwriter, Henry has guest-

edited Poetry Wales and is a popular Creative Writing tutor. He recently presented the ‘Inspired’ series of arts programmes for BBC Radio Wales.

Rosalind Hudis a one time professional Klezmer accordionist and community musician,

living near Tregaron, began an MA in Creative Writing at TSD, Lampeter in 2009. Since then, she has had poems accepted by a number of magazines, including Stand and

The Interpreter’s House, and been shortlisted for two Cinnamon Press competitions. In 2011 she won the Wilfred Owen Bursary. Her poem ‘Photograph’ was awarded a recommendation in the 2011 National Poetry Competition. 86

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Saul Hughes is a Welsh writer living in Toulouse, France and he has a poetry blog at http://saulspoems.wordpress.com/ Haris Karoutsos is a photographer based in Athens. Visit hariskaroutsos.com Tyler Keevil grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and currently lives in Mid Wales. His short fiction has appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including Brittle Star, New Welsh Review, Planet, and Staple. Parthian Books recently published his debut novel, Fireball, which received the Wales Book of the Year People’s Prize, and was shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize. Find out more at www.fireballnovel. com John Lavin has a doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. He has been published on Dead Ink and in the anthology, The Month had 32 Days. He is a critic for Wales Arts Review.

Richie McCaffery was born in 1986. His poems have been accepted by magazines such

as The Reader, The North, Magma, New Walk, The Rialto, Stand, The Dark Horse, The Manhattan Review. My first pamphlet is due out from HappenStance Press in March 2012. He is a Carnegie scholar at Glasgow University, studying towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.

Rhys Milsom has had poetry and prose published all over the place including Open Wide Magazine, Gutter Eloquence and Red Fez. Like everyone else, he’s writing a novel and is close to finishing his MA in Creative Writing at Trinity Saint David

Michael Oliver was born in Cardiff, Wales. He has co-written and produced performance poetry shows with his sister, John Tripp Award winner Mab Jones, including the sell-

out show ‘Four Readings and a Funeral’. In 2010 Michael created and conducted the

world’s first international poetry orchestra which performed in German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and Russian, to celebrate the opening of his first poetry to painting

collaboration ‘A Kind of Rubaiyat’ with the artist Jemma Bailey. Michael is currently the

poet in residence at the Wales based arts magazine BLOWN (See www.blownmag.com) 87

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George Szirtes’s many books of poetry include The Slant Door (1979) joint-winner of the Faber Memorial Prize, Reel (2004) winner of the T S Eliot Prize, New and Collected

Poems (2008) - named one of The Independent’s Books of the Year, and The Burning of the Books and Other Poems (2009) shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. His new

book, Bad Machine will be published by Bloodaxe in 2013. Since 1984 he has been a

productive translator of poetry and fiction from the Hungarian, including selected poems by Ottó Orbán, Zsuzsa Rakovszky (winner of the European Poetry Translation Prize,

1994) and Ágnes Nemes Nagy (shortlisted for Popescu and Weidenfeld Prizes) as well as novels by Kosztolányi, Krúdy, Márai, Karinthy and László Krasznahorkai. He is a

Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association. He is Reader in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. http://www.georgeszirtes.co.uk http:// georgeszirtes,blogspot.com

William Weil studied modern English literature at Lampeter and graduated in 2009. Since then he’s been reading a lot, staring a bit, preserving a much treasured dislike for peas, and doing his best to avoid noisy people. He currently lives in Devon and is trying to speak Spanish

Andrew Wynne-Owen is a young poet and would-be playwright, born in Kent in 1993.

He has previously won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, the Ledbury poetry

competition and The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation. He is currently reading English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch’s second collection, Not in These Shoes, was shortlisted

for Wales Book of the Year 2009. Her third book, Banjo, will be published by Picador

in June. Samantha’s poems have appeared in Poetry Wales, Poetry London and the Forward Anthology 2002 and 2009. She has received awards for her work from the

Society of Authors (2007), the Hawthornden Foundation (2005) and Literature Wales

(1997 and 2002). In addition to the writing surgeries that she runs at Trinity Saint David University, Samantha is currently Leverhulme Poet in Residence at the National Museum of Wales.

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The Lampeter Review-Issue 5  

The Lampeter Review has developed out of the Creative Writing Centre based at Lampeter, Trinity St David, University of Wales. In this issue...

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