Introducing the 8th May 2011 Poets – 3. Claire Askew

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)


Introducing the 8th May 2011 Readers – 2. Gerry Loose

Gerry Loose has lived in England, Ireland, Spain, Morocco (briefly) & now Scotland. A slow-moving nomad. His work has been in poetry, agriculture & horticulture. He also also designs & makes gardens and his poetry is as likely to appear in these (& ungardened landscapes) as on the page. His recent publications include that person himself: a book length poem (Shearsman 2009), the deer path to my door: poems (Oystercatcher 2009), and starworks: poem foldout (Longhouse, Vermont 2009). Forthcoming is fault line – from which the poem below is taken – a set of a hundred lyrical poems each with commentary concerning the Highland Fault Line near Faslane.


how clear shadow is
clearer than lined hand
than veined leaf
than handbones
held to shade eyes


stolen expressions
of existence
there’s one whose name is lost
Tharsuinn the crosswise hill
& Auchengaich
Chaorach hill of the fank
Maol an Fheidh bleak hill of the deer
the dappled hill
Creag Madaidh little crag of the fox
& the lookout hill of the sheiling
here’s the stony hill
the high cracked hill
the red hill & the black hill crowding
litter of the shoreline
& Faslane the homestead of sorrows

Introducing the 8th May 2011 Readers – 1. Tony Williams

Tony Williams grew up in Matlock, Derbyshire and now lives in Sheffield. He has published poems in a range of print and online journals including the TLS, Poetry London, Rialto, The London Magazine, nthposition and Shadow Train. He has carried out research into contemporary pastoral poetry and teaches at the University of Northumbria. The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street (Salt), was one of the most distinctive first collections of 2010.

His video of a poem from it, ‘Homage to Julian Metcalf’, is classic stuff:

And here’s a poem from the book simply written down:


Tenebrio, the fabled Panther, Reynard, local kids,
a dangerous prowler — or just the usual drunk on the skids —
slipping in and out of your names and costumes nightly,
you come around here, rifling bins, screaming your vixen cry,
playing your games, leaving a guano of gum in the bus shelter.
………..The mystery caller that made the dogs bark, the lateness of the hour,
………..the sweet spliff fumes that rise through the air,
………..backlit orange, behind the privet — you’re gone, never were,
………..remain in the bushes as a pair of evil stars,
when some gracious shivering husband stirs
and comes with a torch and pulled-tight dressing gown to see.
Plodding back, he hushes his wife but is awake instantly
when the floodlight’s triggered by your shadow’s tail,
and is taking Nytol when he hears the clatter of disturbed metal.
………..The next day there’s just a smudge of feathers and two
………..twigs lying crossed in the path. Next door’s window
………..has been tampered with: the tracks lead to a high fence and stop.
All those night-time incidents: you move in rumours, stalk and drop,
accost and flash at the elderly and the young
and fade like the Cheshire Cat, leaving a fleshless dong
and a funny turn or tearful scream for mummy.
………..You are a ninja dissembling into the bough of a tree,
………..and now stand huge and awful by the wardrobe shelves,
………..fixed in a rictus of mockery and wrong intent till that too dissolves,
and you depart, drifting across a city of bad sleep and prints on window-sills,
finding sport among its bedroom hells
and day-forsaken alleyways, lurking behind the silence:
………..something and nothing, all the false alarms that diffuse
………..through foolish laughter, all the violence that goes
………..unreported or is shelved for lack of evidence.

(first published in The London Magazine, 2007)

Introducing the April 2011 Readers – 3. Matthew Stewart

Matthew Stewart has lived in Extremadura, Spain, for the last fifteen years, where he works as the export manager and blender for a local winery. His poetry has been widely published in UK magazines, and Happenstance Press have just brought out Inventing Truth, his first pamphlet collection.


Bottles chimed like a clock on the doorstep.
By the ebbs and surges of daily pints
you knew who’d grown, who’d aged, who’d upped and left.
Your float’s low hum was the routine soundtrack
to Ready brek, wonky ties and dull dawns.

Undercut by another out-of-town,
you’ll be my generation’s pie-n-mash,
a tale suffered by countless grandchildren
while something else is also dying out
and patiently rehearsing for your role.

Introducing the April 2011 Readers – 2. Steven Waling

Steven Waling is a poet from Manchester with a growing reputation (one day, he’ll be a grown-up) and several books with his name on them, such as Travelator (Salt) and Captured Yes (Knives, Forks and Spoons). His work veers from humour to experiment, from serious play to playful seriousness, often in the space of one poem. His work can be found all over the internet, and in his professional work as a creative practitioner has been known to get whole rooms cutting and pasting poems to their heart’s abandon.


He talked in feathery question-marks,
you never got the point of. Nice line
in parlour tricks: I died for real.
I like to think I’m fairly ordinary
but it’s like death follows me round.

I tend to do a lot of thinking
but can’t remember much more:
everything is in his voice:
“Come forth!” he boomed
in best stage voice. I stumbled out,

they tell me. Now half the town points:
“Can you tell us a little more
about yourself?” Dogs, parents
of children who died: Mister Miracle
they call me, from one step behind.

How much he must have loved me.
This light is essential to me
because it hurts. I stank of myrhh
tripped over bandages. Don’t look at me,
I can’t bring them back. How much

the dark keeps creeping underfoot –
though when I’m feeling optimistic
he must have needed me to live –
I’m back there wrapped in quiet,
and every night I wake in sweat.

Introducing the April 2011 Readers – 1. Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan Van Winkle is Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and Northwords Now. His first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was released by Salt last year. He lives in Edinburgh but is still an American.

My 100-year-old ghost

sits up with me when the power cuts,

tells about the trout at Unkee’s Lake,
the wood house burned on the hill.

He says he was intimate
with every leaf of grass.

Wore one hat for Griswold,
another for his own field,

the possibilities of the century laid out;
an endless string of fishing pools.

But they never got ahead of my ghost –
he took them like cows, one at a time,

never lusted for the color of trout
in a pool a mile away.

He knew from the smoke in the sky
Mrs. Johnson was starting supper,

and, in March when the candles appeared,
he knew Bobby’s boy had died.

My ghost only ever had one bar
where the keeper didn’t water his drinks,

nor did he feel the need to hide his moth cap,
his potato clothes, or scrub himself birth pink.

My ghost tells me there was a time
you’d look out and not find a Dairy Queen.

You could sit on your porch a whole life
and never think about China.

Sometimes I see my ghost
bringing cut sunflowers to his wife

and it seems so simple.
Then, sometimes, it is dark

he’s just in from work and Griswold says
they ain’t going to raise his pay.

And even back then the power went out,
long nights when they had no kerosene.

And my ghost tries to sell me on simpler times:
the grass soft, endless

lampless nights,
pools of crickets singing.

Introducing the March 2011 Readers – 3. AB Jackson

A.B. Jackson was born in Glasgow in 1965. His first collection of poems, Fire Stations, was awarded the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2003. His poetry is featured in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe Books, 2010) and his poem ‘Treasure Island’ was awarded First Prize in the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize 2010. Andy works as a Senior Information Manager with NHS Education for Scotland. Apocrypha is a series of twenty-one poems which will form part of A.B. Jackson’s second collection. A signed and numbered Donut Press special edition of Apocrypha is limited to 250 copies.


Ruth at sunrise, grooming horses.
The bit, bridle, curry-comb of love
was her business.

Simeon skulked around indoors,
consulted Qabalah, threw sticks,
anything to improve sex.

Clouds were locomotive smoke,
camels or torn pillows,
the imperfect

science of moodswing or a god
in evidence everywhere, the veil
obscuring male from female.

Ruth gathered apples. The Elohim
stamped in their stalls.