Claire Askew was born in 1986, grew up in the Scottish Borders and lives in Edinburgh. Her work has featured in The Edinburgh Review, Poetry Scotland, The Guardian, The Observer and numerous other publications. In 2010 she won the Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize. The Mermaid and the Sailors (Red Squirrel Press 2011) is her first pamphlet collection, and was shortlisted for a 2010 Eric Gregory Award. Claire is currently reading a PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetry at the University of Edinburgh, and also works as a tutor at the University, and as a lecturer in Literature and Communication at Edinburgh’s Telford College. She blogs at One Night Stanzas.
I like to bend them to my will—
turn their spines inverse like gymnasts,
crack their skin ’til it’s crazed and veined
like an old lady’s palm. I deface the pages:
marginalia scattered and stark as a rash,
corners folded, fingered thin and soft
as a cotton fiver, circled
with the cold, grey footprints of tea.
I like them lived in as a marriage bed,
loose enough to open of their own accord
and shock me with a lucky-dip of verse.
The chatter-spit of ancient binding:
pages coming out in chunks like teeth.
They wait for me on bookstore shelves,
asleep, stiff as exclamation marks—
and my fingers itch to break in every one.
(previously published in Umbrella and nominated for a Best of the Net 2010 Award)