GASP: The New North Poets

Page 1

GASPN ewnor thpoe ts

JasmineChatfieldMicha elBrownElizabethGibso nMariaIsakovaBennettR osaWalling−Wefelmeyer


The New North Poets are the recipients of Northern Writers’ Awards from New Writing North, and have received a programme of development delivered by the Poetry School and lead tutor Clare Pollard. Published by the Poetry School The Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, Canada Water, London, SW9 7HW Copyright of poems belongs to their respective authors. Introduction by Clare Pollard. Typeset by Ali Lewis.

CONTENTS 4 7 8 9 10 11 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 23 24 25 27 28 29 31 32 34 35 36 38 40

INTRODUCTION MICHAEL BROWN Binary The Unspeakable The Line Woken JASMINE CHATFIELD a universe explodes somewhere left of my hipbone Licker Synthetic cannabinoids Saltfoot ELIZABETH GIBSON Blood ghazal Leรณn Pilot Missing Leo MARIA ISAKOVA BENNETT Morning Room In her mind Matter of Life Poppies ROSA WALLING-WEFELMEYER Mnemonic Paradox like convalescence at the coast. notes. NOTES

INTRODUCTION Mentoring for the New North Poets has always been one of my favourite poetry jobs. What could be lovelier than watching five talented poets as, over a year, they gain in craft and confidence? And New Writing North and The Poetry School put together such a varied programme. This year we have been in Highgreen in Northumberland on crisp autumn days, the orchard full of vivid pink apples, watching red squirrels climb the trees by the drive; reading favourite poems to each-other curled in front of the fire with a bottle of wine. We have had masterclasses from Antony Dunn and Neil Astley, read at the Poetry Society with Caroline Bird, attended the T.S. Eliot Awards, and chatted online about everything from reviewing to rhyme, before returning to Highgreen in the Spring for one-to-ones (and some cute prancing lambs). It has been a pleasure hanging out with these five poets, who in many ways couldn’t be more different. In just these few pages you’ll experience Jasmine Chatfield’s visceral modern nightmares, Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer’s exuberant experiments, Michael Brown’s spare meditations on body and language, Maria Isakova Bennett’s artful ekphrasis, Elizabeth Gibson’s conjuring of place. It’s always hard to come up with a title, and with five poets as distinct as this it was almost impossible. But I like Gasp. It reminds us that, as Michael Brown puts it in ‘The Line’: poetry is ‘a syncopation / of inhaled breath’. That these are poets playing with shush and space and [ ]. It suggests a

first, hopeful, gasp, but also the last gasps of elegy. Is it a cheeky imperative – an order to gasp at the talent of these audacious new poets? Poetr y as something to shock you out of complacency. Poetry as a kind of coming up for air.

Take a deep breath and enjoy.

Clare Po!ard

 Michael’s work has been published widely in magazines including The Rialto, Southword, The North and many others. He was shortlisted for the Bare Fiction Collection prize judged by Andrew McMillan in 2015 and was placed third in the York Poetry Prize, 2015. He has twice been shortlisted in the Basil Bunting Award, won the Wirral Firsts Poetry Competition in 2018 and was also recently commended in the Mclellan Prize. His pamphlet, Undersong (2014) is available from Eyewear Publishing. His most recent pamphlet, Locations for a Soul, appeared in 2016 from Templar Publishing.

Binary When it enters us we sit in the dark with the breath.
 Our bodies have left the building to this breath. I can’t make out where I end or the borders of you begin.
 I’m not here but possessed by the breath. And close to the machine of the heart 
 I am. I am a metronome of breath. Go back. Go back to each fall and rise and catch,
 the rhyme, a syntax of just one breath. Go back. Go back to find the start of this 
 where we are shades of black and shades of breath. All we do is sit in the dark room of ourselves
 and we are gone and we are breath.

The Unspeakable The Oxford Junior Dictionary has cut a number of words "om its pages and replaced them with more up-to-date terms.

We do not care for what we do not know
 and we do not know catkin, buttercup,
 chestnut. We can’t name what we never thought but, even so, you list the old words:
 magpie, wren, lark fall out of the dark
 sky of your mouth like dead stones. We try to imagine that wild outside our heads.
 Common nouns spill from our lips: syllables
 sounded-out like a spell of notes: hazel, crocus, gorse But we don’t want to go. It’s safer here
 to stay inside ourselves, to cut and paste
 those parts of speech material to our hidden lives. And how the taste of marzipan or mint might be 
 defined, if not felt, by each strange letter
 spoken out from print, well, none of this has any part to play in what we voice,
 in what we think to say,
 this dialect of grey citizenship

The Line Your friend, the poet, has written a line.
 It will end the stanza dead in its tracks.
 It’s going to be the final line —
 a clatter of metre, a syncopation
 of inhaled breath. It will comprise 
 so much of him, his life. No trite climax,
 this line — you hear it read.
 It’s the sort of thing you would say
 is incontestable grace. It’s something 
 you too might have said, the line,
 but it has the ring of truth to it.
 You know you’ve uttered it in prayer before —
 liquid in some other lifetime or bar.
 True — anyone could have said it, 
 but when it comes down to it, this line
 has never been more alive and now it’s his.
 It sets rare once he says it again
 as if for the first time, one-off,
 like no-one had ever noticed it.

Woken The impression of not sleeping. Not sleeping.
 The fetch of a wave held inside the head.
 The thin black turning itself in, becoming sky. A taste of lack. The ghost of your last thought.
 Fibres found on your green toothbrush.
 What shifts in the tissue of body. Of mind. The pebble of a word at the back of your throat.
 The tip of your tongue. The bones of the house.
 What you let enter you, what possessed you. What you let out. The thing you were thinking
 before you knew you were thinking. 
 The thing itself. What you see in yourself. Each stroke of the heart.
 The stuff, the trace. What gets under your skin. 
 What stays.

JASMINE CHATFIELD Jasmine Chatfield is a Manchester-based writer, theatre-maker and comedian. They produce and co-host Arts Council funded experimental interdisciplinary performance series FLIM NITE in Manchester, SheďŹƒeld, Newcastle and beyond. Jasmine cocreated Clonely, a sci-fi two-hander which toured and ran at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, as one half of Me Me Me, and makes clown-poetry performances as one half of duo Dead Lads. Their writing has been published in various places. Their sequence of micro-poems, throat thing, was published as a micro chapbook with Rinky Dink Press. In 2017 Jasmine became a New North Poet at the Northern Writers Awards.

a universe explodes somewhere left of my hipbone and wow I don’t know why Judas did it, his universe
 collapsing, why bring on the Pharisees! who did cometh thither
 the Hellraiser guy too cometh around and around in his frame
 and moving my arm around feels like screaming in my sleep
 clutching a stressball the colour of the Earth, Peter screaming
 the Earth is wrong, Jesus’ hand on his skin is like waves
 and two mugs clinking together wrong is angels singing
 when the cock goes the disciples around my bed, singing
 I get knocked down, and I get up around the pizza boxes
 and not sweet Peter of denial but Barrabas gone free gets up
 by the sweet grey light of morning I clean the mirror
 and Pinhead still grey Judas feeling slick guilt of neck
 feeling grapefruit and judgement thou asketh no more

Licker Inside the crypt of pelvises they swing.
 I will invade the house that’s filled with juice,
 the genderless bones or unwelcome thing in kitchens. Jaws submerged in liquids wring
 you out, and while your teeth are plunging loose
 inside the crypt of pelvises they swing. You asked. I could not answer anything:
 the limbs have made me come obtuse,
 the genderless bones or unwelcome thing. I’m sorry when I hear you cannot sing
 but parts of me have an uneasy truce.
 Inside the crypt of pelvises they swing and up tile walls the cervical spines cling
 to touch my hips and yours they will produce
 the genderless bones. Or, unwelcome thing, that watches from the sink’s edge taking wing.
 The ribs you always wanted to reduce.
 Inside the crypt of pelvises they swing,
 the genderless bones, or unwelcome thing.

Synthetic cannabinoids I am in the breakfast cafe. I order the sleeping pills, think about what he said:
 that dying would be like floating above all your favourite buildings looking down. To enact my mother’s dreams I was supposed to imagine
 pulling myself out of my body with a nylon warp. I can understand this desire, the one in which I pull my chest apart with an anchor. The cruel
 beast shadow noble across the walls. Next to me an elderly lady requests medicinal herbs, her voice thin, I am woozy, the noises are hollow,
 bouncing. A throbbing through the air, like the one in my neck, where a band of flesh like a chain pulls close. The rhythm of my bones, my forearms
 still, a living tree beneath dead wood. I don’t know what it would be like

to sleep forever. I am on the wagon. The carriage chucking me out through the countryside. The train barks out a full flat moan into the valley, then croons long for a response. The clamouring things are silent between the trees. A testing thump against the ground, the carping of a worm-hunting wren. The scenery shudders and leaves. The little gasp of my soulless voice pulsing out into its new darkness. It is winter. The door of the ca is open. On the streets outside they collapse on the edges of roads, epidemically. Out here, a man crouched centre-pavement, cigarette still lit, lighter in hand, kneels with one leg only, praying to a god he even half believes, the light gone flat with my eyes half-spent, our eyelids fluttering in an ecstasy of uselessness.

Saltfoot I’ve heated the house with hate so it feels like summer
 cold weight must touch my jaw to sleep the feet are on the oozing tiles
 near the bin they’ve come in through the crack of the door
 a narrow gap through which the outside seeps sometimes
 I look down in the afternoon and see the sticky trails
 now it is night I’ve seen only a trace intent lunge for the boiler
 move one foot four toes go down the wetness there beside the bin
 it curls away wounding to my clawfoot hunched foot shook up
 I, bolting strip by the grungy pools of toothpastes used up
 tap running recently they bleached away most of the mould
 I think of slugs swimming down a river like eels I do not know
 what happens when salt goes on them like holy water on a demon
 Violet Beauregarde blimping round or sunlight on a vampire’s skin
 it is the opposite of how salt bloats human bellies as if the air itself can swell
 fat hard against its skin to shrink its flesh away
 until it is fizzy and crisp

ELIZABETH GIBSON Elizabeth Gibson’s writing has appeared in Antiphon, Cake, The Cardiff Review, The Compass, Creative Review, Far Off Places, Gigantic Sequins, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Litro and The Poetry Shed and she was featured in Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets. Elizabeth came second in the Poetry Society’s 2016 Timothy Corsellis Prize and was shortlisted for the Poetry Business’s 2018 New Poets Prize. She has performed her poetry at Manchester Central Library, The LGBT Foundation and The Poetry Café. She edits Foxglove Journal and the Word Life section of Now Then Manchester, tweets @Grizonne and blogs at

Blood ghazal When I first moved to France, pride and hope in my blood,
 I swore I would pluck up the courage to give blood. But born at the end of the mad-cow disease years
 I have been blacklisted – France does not want my blood. I regret that I might have backed out anyway:
 as my friends will tell you, I am not good with blood. The last time that a nurse drew my blood out of me
 for testing, I fainted. Oh, that tube of my blood. From me it had just come, in me it had just been:
 I knew in a moment why some baulk at their blood. It was different each month; it was meant to flow then,
 I was told, and I would be intrigued by my blood. When it crept from a wound, from a fault, my mistake,
 was when I felt guilty, mocked and blamed by my blood. I never discovered my blood type – I want to;
 it would calm me to know that bit more of my blood. I have to remember, my blood is no stranger:
 in my own bone garden blossomed flowers of blood. The thing is that mainly, they grow inside only
 and I lose my technique catching petals of blood.

I should learn to picture not a wild mess of red
 but the neat little discs and the orbs in my blood. Feeling my pulse in my wrist makes me nauseous;
 I find fear in the force and the throb of my blood. But imagine how hard the heart and brain battle
 to safeguard from silence the bass-drum beat of blood. The waves go on crashing, the world goes on spinning
 and I wish I could give you that gift – give my blood.

León Pink flower cauldrons bubble
 outside the cathedral with its
 windows of crimson and blue,
 like glitter thrown down and 
 up. The stone is grey here, not 
 gold like I have in Salamanca. You walk me down the hill, 
 past the fragile circles of snow 
 domes, past clocks with curly 
 numerals. You lead me to the 
 basilica, to the low dark room
 where they store the treasures. You show me the fat chalice 
 with its hunks of gem: topaz 
 like cinder toffee, creamy mint 
 jade. You say, this is my city. 
 Come to it and live in it. I go. 
 You reappear as I sit between more bowls of flowers, mauve
 and white. The sky is grey, the
 stone grey. I live in Salamanca,
 I say. You laugh. I wait for you 
 to say it, tell me to do it in love 
 for you. I would. You are silent.

Pilot For a pilot whale that died in 2018 a$er swa!owing more than eighty plastic bags You are such a long way from the first episode,
 but a pilot you are, and I hope you were proud
 as you whistled through waves, navigated kelp clouds,
 studied all of the charts we will never decode.
 And now you are broken, lie still and dissected
 as bags by the dozen are pulled out of your midst:
 you mistook the plastic for the warm glow of squid,
 as your landing strip lights, new fuel you detected.
 We humans are grounded, we disdain the other,
 we forgot just how close you are to our own blood:
 our genes not so different, you felt pain as we would
 as our mess swelled in you and your organs collapsed.
 Your beautiful journey abandoned, you hover
 above us and tell us that we should change our path.

Missing Leo Lying awake on a hot, itchy Spanish night,
 the sky light and teasing, I toss and turn
 and hear somewhere in the soundscape
 a noise, quiet, insistent: a baby crying. 
 It is here, in Salamanca, and it is not here.
 The shifting and motion and kerfuffle of a hospital,
 comings and goings.
 It is you, I know. It is home.
 I sit up and listen, then fall back asleep. I can see it, feel it so sharply, 
 as if it happened to me once 
 – but I have never been pregnant.
 The moments waiting, waiting,
 are so real, a gust of wind from another world, yours;
 from another country, ours. 
 Sweet northern England, with its dark nights and stars. 
 Leo would be so clear right now. It is clear, with you.
 The world goes on turning while I’m not there.
 I have to remember that.
 Tomorrow I will hear 
 your baby girl hasn’t arrived yet
 and a loud child lives near me. But I know it was you and her really.

MARIA ISAKOVA BENNETT Maria, from Liverpool, founded and creates the limited-edition hand-stitched journal Coast to Coast to Coast (co-edited by Michael Brown). She has won, been placed and been shortlisted in several international poetry competitions including the Ver, Bridport, Keats-Shelley, Wigtown, Mslexia, and Plough. Maria works as a teacher, poet and artist for charities including Mersey Care, regularly writes reviews for magazines including Orbis, and conducts interviews for The Honest Ulsterman. In November this year she will be Artist and Poet-in-Residence at Poetry in Aldeburgh. Maria’s pamphlet, All of the Spaces, was published in December 2017 by Eyewear.

Morning Room Seven-thirty, September divided 
 between sunshine and shadow. 
 Through the window: the constancy of holly; 
 beyond: mossed brick, a quibble of buildings. 
 You’re drawn back to the tick of the clock
 though you never see the jolt of its hands, 
 back to the scent of a fire asleep 
 after last night’s mad blaze, and back
 to the objects that move only once or twice a year: 
 Grandma’s bone china; a row of cups that say
 Rutland Fa!s, Oban, and Normandy cider; 
 the table, its third decade, scrubbed,
 no shine, variously naked, or covered in paper 
 or linen for birthdays, Christmas,
 for dozens of Welcome Home meals, 
 and for one last meal before you leave.

In her mind she scoops water to search for him 
 a full moon lights lilies on the lake 
 dunes are laced with salt – like scrim
 minutes pass, and time laps by too soon
 a full moon lights lilies on the lake
 on a table under the half-light of a failing sun 
 minutes pass, and time laps by too soon
 a bowl of olives and a glass of wine are warm
 on a table under the half-light of a failing sun
 they catch hold of sea holly and bleed into marram
 a bowl of olives and a glass of wine are warm
 lost painting she slathers paint on canvas 
 they catch hold of sea holly and bleed into marram
 lie and slip to sleep on a red-green bed
 lost painting she slathers paint on canvas 
 lost singing he squanders notes over the sea 
 they lie and slip to sleep on a red-green bed
 the sun has fallen and she puts out her hand for him
 lost singing he squanders notes over the sea
 she hurries to pocket fistfuls of minutes

the sun has failed and she puts out her hand for him
 she wakes and he is near and far
 she hurries to pocket fistfuls of minutes 
 he lives and breathes deep in her 
 she wakes and he is near and far
 dunes are laced with salt – like scrim
 he lives and breathes deep in her
 she scoops water to search for him

Matter of Life
 I’m priming linen with white acrylic –
 the fabric stiffens and while it dries the girl in the space beside me skewers
 two lambs’ hearts together. She leaves. Blood crusts around the tender fists,
 arteries and veins lie empty now. I hum Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at love,
 but how to prepare hearts mocks the tune. Hearts should be cooked quickly
 over a high heat, or slowly with moist stuffing. I thread needles with shades of ivory,
 bone and porcelain, long-stitch white on white, tighten french knots, and smooth sorbello.
 I am sewing while the hearts’ flesh falls away, want to grab my stitches and run –
 but my threads tangle…

Poppies i.m Mary Hyland 1922-1992

She smells of Yardley pressed powder,
 Californian Poppies hang about her while she kohls her eyes in a mirror
 over a fire of sighs and hisses. Her lips are painted coral 
 and she waves a Maybelline wand. To cover greys and make reds dance,
 she spirals hair in Kirby grips. Daily she eats cold food alone,
 while on a polished piano, a shrine of photographs
 remind her of no tomorrow.


Rosa Walling-Wefelmeyer’s poetry has appeared in, amongst other things, The American Aesthetic and The Minnesota Review and has been performed and commended at, for example, Durham Book Festival, Leeds University and the UK’s Young Poets’ Network. Rosa lives in the North East of England and is currently undertaking a PhD in Sociology, which uses scrapbooking to explore experiences of sexual violence.

Mnemonic Paradox The woodpigeon tells me to take two cows.
 The song thrush asks did I do it?
 The yellowhammer wants bread but no cheese.
 The song thrush asks did I do it? To identify is

to identify with
 and I have made myself so loud 
 with bread and cows 
 and cheese from cows that
 I can’t listen any more.
 But without that with
 would I first hear at all?


cow eyes and he doesn’t speak
 just looks like like simile will only last

until the hedge runs out ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| |||||||| ||||||| |||||| ||||| |||| ||| || || | | | | | | |


and then

he’ll turn to talk for food I can just feel it now. Stampeding behind his eyes. Some word coming ever closer. And only when the fences break, might he say he loves me like its milk I forced from him and churned, when all he wanted was to go back some ten thousand years of breeding and be a beast as heavy and in heat as this silence.*

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. ‘The girl … does not know if the man desires or despises her, because it is also difficult to accept what is sometimes the reality: being desired and despised both together, and being chosen precisely because you can be despised’ (Romito, 2008: 151).






you really think I’d allow that coherent style?




without like







convalescence at the coast. notes. Fed up and hungry and so,
 as an alternative to speaking,
 I’ll bite the apple that you do not offer
 but intimate by being you
 enough to anchor fantasy
 near some real shore. Distant lights supply
 fairy-tales to cabin boys
 longing for [ ]. How tasty this your gift is
 out here where salt preserves
 but cannot [ ]. How filling this your gift is
 out here where salt seasons
 but cannot
 [ ]. Cannot

idealisation & devaluation to burn a log in a cold barn and watch wind put it out
 is to imagine first, that it is cold and second, that there is a barn

what then is the primary harm, little one?
 shush now, put all your eggs in every basket and break and break

Follows Loud Noise They say he spent too long looking out to sea –
 How long is too long?
 One stone’s throw, one crow’s stone –
 Stone the crows – too long, too long. They say that after he spent too long looking out to sea
 Villagers called to him but he was gone –
 How gone is gone? One stone falls, one crow calls
 And in the stoned silence which only follows loud noise
 You know – too long, too gone. I have been here every day since then –
 Has it been days?
 I wouldn’t know – There’s no stones, no crows
 To mark the passage of anything long,
 Of anything gone.

the beach at night is much like the snow in day, much like, as in nothing like, as in how else might sense be made of the


NOTES Quote taken from Patrizia Romito’s book ‘A Deafening Silence: Hidden Violence Against Women and Children’ (2008)