Indie Poetry Please! 03: Vanessa Kisuule, Chris Black and Ann Hartigan
This is a summary of this fortnight’s #indiepoetryplease, my Instagram TV poetry reading, in which I read some of my own poetry and some poems from other indie poets I admire.
The aim of #indiepoetryplease is to introduce viewers to some of the most exciting, inspiring, and dynamic voices working in poetry today.
The live readings run every second Monday. Register here for an alert.
Tag your poems on Instagram with the hashtag #indiepoetryplease to be considered. Further submission details here.
This weekend, I lost a dear friend Marianne and I am finding that poetry is, as ever, a huge consolation at such a time. So I thought I’d do our session tonight in commemoration of my dear, beautiful, artistic friend, who was so full of life and grace and elegance, I cannot believe we won’t get to meet again.
The first poem I’d like to read was written for another friend after she lost her husband. It’s called “Raindrop Spray”.
“Look,” she starts to say.
“Look at that spray of raindrops
on that pink petal there, the way
it holds the sun…” And then stops
as she recalls that he—the only one
who ever saw such things the same—
will never see such things again.
With the knowledge of years
she knows there’s nothing for it now
but to take her stand
and hold in place
while outraged heart again beats out
its rants of pain.
To stay—as she knows he
would have done—
and stare at spray of raindrops
all the brighter for her tears,
and there remain
until, storm passed,
the teardrops and the petals
shining in the sun
are felt, again, as one.
Bereavement isn’t just about losing a person, loss isn’t just about breakups. We lose out and are bereaved politically, socially, in all sorts of ways across time. This wonderful poem explores such a loss, that was experienced and allowed by the slave trade.
And a Black Lives Matter protest that led to one slave trader statue being taken down, with quite a splash, as you’ll see in this poem by Bristol City poet, Vanessa Kisuule. You can hear and see the poet read this poem herself on YouTube.
Hollow by Vanessa Kisuule
You came down easy in the end
the righteous wrench of two ropes in a grand plie
briefly, you flew
corkscrewed, then met the ground
with the clang of toy guns, loose change
a rain of cheers.
Standing ovation on the platform of your neck
punk ballet. Act 1.
there is more to come.
And who carved you?
They took such care with that stately pose and propped chin.
Wise and virtuous the plaque assured us.
Victors wish history odourless and static
but history is a sneaky mistress
moves like smoke, Colston,
like saliva in a hungry mouth.
This is your rightful home
here, in the pit of chaos with the rest of us.
Take your twisted glory and feed it to the tadpoles.
Kids will write raps to that syncopated splash.
I think of you lying in that harbour
with the horrors you hosted.
There is no poem more succinct than that.
You who perfected the ratio.
Blood to sugar to money to bricks.
Each bougie building we flaunt
haunted by bones.
Children learn and titans sing
under the stubborn rust of your name.
But the air is gently throbbing with newness.
Can you feel it?
Colston, I can’t get the sound of you from my head.
Countless times I passed that plinth
its heavy threat of metal and marble.
But as you landed a piece of you fell off
nothing but air.
This whole time
You were hollow.
The next poem is New Day by Chris Black, also known as The Wexford Poet.
I only know Chris from Instagram, I got to know him when he wrote a poem about the lanes of Wexford–the county where I grew up–that made me feel instantly homesick.
I don’t have the text to reproduce here but you can read it on his Instagram account.
My last poem this evening is one that has just been released from being exclusive to my patrons on Patreon. It summarises my philosophy of life in death.
Dear one whom I have loved,
my time has run. Breath and flesh
have passed along, and left
these words behind,
to thank you from beyond,
for all that you have done.
And to remind you: I am not gone.
Look for me in my children;
in those who understood my work;
the friends I’ve known and loved;
the birth family where for me
it all began. And the older origin:
the seas and trees, who’ll bring you
news from here, where I now am.
And if you find you need to cry
I ask that when you do,
you cry with all the others
passing through, beside you,
along the street of need.
And when you yearn for our times gone,
wrap your dear arms around
or lay soft hands upon
someone. Give then to them what,
in that hour, you long to give to me.
Now all that’s left of me is love,
pass love along so that I might live on.
And my final poem is for the mother of my dear friend Marianne whom we lost at the weekend. I had the privilege, years ago, of working on her book To Keep the Light Burning, Reflections in Time of Loss.
This poem is from that collection and I’d like to thank her for it, and for her beautiful daughter who was, as her husband said at her funeral, “simply the best person I ever met”. I didn’t quite know it until she left us.
La Pennelle by Ann Hartigan
After rain, things clear.
Although the soft hills
Lie dumb in the rising mist,
And over the hanging barley
Swifts curve and twist
Letters into the moist air.
Birds sing back the sun,
Now no blasting,
Only poppies scream, but muted,
We need gentling,
The winds are not around.
Insects are out;
Grass head and butterflies
Is being born.
If you’re a poet and would like to submit a poem for consideration, tag your poem with #indiepoetryplease. More details at OrnaRoss.com/submit
Thank you for reading and listening. I’ll be back with more poems in two weeks’ time. Take care, until next time, may your lives be filled with poetry.