Creative Work: ‘Withdrawal’ by Francesca Lo Basso

Creative WorksThis week we are bringing you another piece fresh from the Kingston MFA programme. Francesca Lo Basso takes us to the front lines in this poem whose rhythm echoes that of soldiers’ footsteps. ‘Harrowing’ would be the best way to describe this piece, which uses the sonnet form to hammer out a poignant point. 

Withdrawal

The question is: how do you stop a war?
Your body frozen, your mouth metallic—
through what new breach will you attack this chore?
As bullets rain from gun barrels phallic
and blistering bombs burden, burst, and blaze,
do you lay down your rifle, mock defeat?
Turn tanks in their tracks, greyed blur in the haze—
reliance, defiance, chivalrous retreat?
Do you beg? Do you wheedle? Do you con?
Does your voice resound? Does it rattle, roar?
The question still remains as we move on
to the refrain: how do you stop a war?
Empty words for soldiers now departed
because the hallowed truth is you don’t start it.

This poem finds its strength where most pieces might fail, in asking questions. The rhythmic questioning of outdated practices only emphasises the underlying theme – the pointlessness of war. 

Join us again next week for another jaw-dropping piece!

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Creative Work: ‘lessons from mum (the hardest poem I’ve ever wrote)’ by Yessica Klein

Creative WorksThis week we have a poem from the talented writer and photographer Yessica Klein.

The power of this poem comes from its potent honesty. As a discussion of feminism through the view of someone not familiarised with the lofty theories behind it, this poem shines a refreshing and forceful light on the core of relationships between mother and daughter.

lessons from mum (the hardest poem I’ve ever wrote)

mum married a man who drank as her father
whom she lost at 15 due to alcohol poisoning

motherhood was her dream
so she gave up her job to raise her daughters properly
and both left
one to Berlin
one to Stockholm
at 22 and 20 respectively
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Creative Work: ‘Aphasia’ by Goirick Brahmachari

Creative WorksThis week we have a poem from New Delhi-based poet Goirick Brahmachari.

‘Aphasia’ explores the relationship between language, words, and our sense of place in the world. The poem has a frenetic quality which pulls the reader in, and doesn’t let them go.

Aphasia

Hollowness grows
like a pink boil in my feet
framing tinted nightmares
at right angles
gripping my neck
after you have left
for office, out of breath
a studio apartment in web
garbage bins,
bad breath
burning
my poems
in morning toothpaste,
breaking into tears
biting my tongue
bleeding distance
from self
a thousand miles
and a sea away,
waiting
for a crazy alienating hunger to fill me up—
and I cannot understand a word.

Using tactile images and biting words, Brahmachari creates a sense of tumbling momentum in this piece which hints at the panic and pain of losing one’s words. The repetition of the breath, along with the taste and feel of the mouth and neck, makes reading the poem a very vivid experience.

Join us again next week for more exciting work!

Creative Work: ‘Julie’ by Subramanian K. S.

Creative WorksThis week we have the pleasure of featuring a poet from India. Subramanian K.S. shares his distinctive style and jaunty use of language in ‘Julie’, a piece which harkens back with a harrowing message. This poem is nostalgic for any reader who knows what i means to be hampered down with responsibilities. 

Julie

Some leer, a few jeer
the rest cheer at Julie,
Circus girl, flexing her
sinewy frame; acrobatics Continue reading

Creative Work: ‘Fall’ by Bhaswati Ghosh

Creative WorksThe leaves are changing, the wind is growing cold, and the smell of fall is in our noses.

We herald the arrival of Autumn with the poem ‘Fall’ by repeat contributor Bhaswati Ghosh—a celebration of the changing seasons and a reminder of the sweetness that comes with the chill in the air.

Fall

The air has sinusitis.
It spits out cold,
skin-tingling sneezes.

Sunsets morph into giant
pumpkins and sink
down grocery store shelves.
The earth, tired of bareness,
covers her breast with
fallen leaves.

Gold-tangerine-crimson colonize
trees; chlorophyll fades
like the vaporous
dream called summer.

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Creative Work: ‘The Letter’ by Karima Kanji

Creative WorksThis week, we take you on a journey into the thoughts of a trapped mind, where reflection and heartache go hand in hand. Karima Kanji’s short fiction piece ‘The Letter’ captures the morose musings of an ageing narrator stuck in a nursing centre—and in thoughts of days long gone.

The Letter

I’m writing a letter to myself in a room I share with another patient in Lakewood’s Nursing Centre. My room is quaint. The wilted potted plants, the stark bare window sill, the view of the ravine from my bed and the soft, melancholic hum of the highway are comforts to me. Destiny is fixed, fixed like the position of your heart, our heart that is slowly dying. Fate cannot be altered by a secret letter to a part of yourself from the past, the you that has already existed, but still longs to exist. Exist.

Regret. A strong word to associate with life, but all life bears regret, all life bears suffering; sweet, silent, soulful suffering. During the day, usually after my bath, or after I’ve eaten my breakfast of fluffy scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast I feel futility trickling into my soul, into my bones and into the very depths of my being. Pieces of my past have gone missing, have vanished and all I have left to remember are moments, mere moments, but even these are diminishing from my mind. The memory of my childhood is fading. What I miss most is my mother with her sad, puffy eyes and my father bending over his work. One day they will be dead and you will still be alive.

There will be a point in your life where you will lose love. A girl will give you her heart and you will destroy it.

Destroyer of love.

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Creative Work: ‘Soul Child’ by Sophie Jama

Creative WorksWe have a dreamy little piece of fiction for you this week from Ethiopian-born writer Sophie Jama.

‘Soul Child’ is a metaphorical imagining of a child’s internal process when facing a traumatising experience. “It is a way to show how the wise and resilient soul of a child can wisely detect how to survive during times of difficulty,” says Jama, whose own experiences living apart from her parents as a child give her a unique insight into coping with separation and loss. The result is a series of lovely images haunted by oncoming tragedy.

Soul Child

I was five when my soul left. I was not surprised. I let it go, for safekeeping. It was destiny. We forget that as children, we already know the answers to life’s deepest questions. That is why at five I knew that something was coming. Something big. What it was, I did not know. But I needed to protect my beautiful soul.

My soul existed as a colour. It was shapeless. But it had a light that looked like a glimmering moon. It flowed like a waterfall and yet it sat still like a mountain. Unmoved and unfazed by changing seasons. It was a wise soul. I sat near the water as I prepared for the ritual of letting my soul go. I whispered gently to her and promised that I would let my adult-self know how to recognize her. It would be difficult. But I would guide her. She slipped off my fingertips and into the water. I gave her a gentle nudge and watched her float away, farther and farther into the moonlight. I paused and closed my eyes. I was trying to capture the picture in my head. I opened my eyes and with sadness I saw her white light sparkle in the water. She drifted towards the moon until I could not tell where my soul ended and the moon began.

I sat for a moment longer and drank in the gentle dusk. The sun had almost fully gone down. Night was approaching but I was not scared. I relished the quiet. The only sound was the gently swaying waves and sound of a cooling breeze. I welcomed the night. Even as a child, I knew solitude was a time for the soul. A time when the stillness of the night quieted our mind such that answers came easily. Finally, I walked away from the edge of the water without looking back. She was better off now. I had to get back home before anyone noticed I had gone.

Beautifully mournful, ‘Soul Child’ speaks to everyone’s need to protect themselves from the traumatic experiences life hands us.

Stop by next week for a change of pace: our end-of-summer reading list!

Creative Work: ‘Letter to a Friend (After Tu Fu)’ by George Freek

Creative WorksThis week’s poem by George Freek is inspired by early Chinese poetry. The images it concocts are beautiful and moving. 

Letter to a Friend (After Tu Fu) 

Cherry blossoms fall unheard
in the middle of a forest.
So it seems with my life,
when I visit the grave of my wife.

I have lived another year
and accomplished nothing.
I have not written a word.
If I live another spring,
it will be the same.
Everything I see
seems less meaningful
than a child’s game to me.
I think a short life
is the best. There is
less harm done,
and much less to regret.

This poem is powerful in the parallels it draws between nature and human relationships. This theme is introduced at the beginning and flows throughout without mention, but is heard in the softness of the last refrain. 

Tune in next week for another amazing piece!

Competition Winner – Short Fiction: ‘Dad and the Romans’ by Diana Beharrell

Creative WorksWe are pleased to present the winning entry in the genre of Short Fiction from our 2015 Creative Writing Competition, ‘Dad and the Romans’ by Diana Beharrell.

Reading this story was a simple pleasure for us editors. It has a graceful pace, and a strikes a warm and, at times, wistful note.

Our fiction judge thought that “‘Dad and the Romans’ offers a thoughtful contemplation of life and death through a depiction of a trip to some ruins by a father and son. It has a lovely shape and a good eye for detail and place description. There’s a layered depth and metaphorical richness to this understated story, which excels in showing rather than telling.”

Dad and the Romans

We are off for an outing, Dad and I. We have left the slice of a house on the Market Place, passing the pele tower, stony and windowless, standing close up to St Andrew’s. Passing the Blue Bell; passing the gracious homes of Victorian industrialists; passing the bungalows of the polite and the retired; and soon out of Corbridge entirely, finding the turning off the old Hexham Road and swinging left into the car park of the Roman site.

Dad points to the disabled parking bay near the entrance. There is only sixty pence off concessions, and Dad is very definite about requiring a guidebook. I push through the swing doors, holding them open for Dad to follow, and find the site spread out in front of us, reduced to its foundations. We can see little more than a two-dimensional outline, the stones pilfered long ago. Where the fence borders the site and separates it from the field beyond, the foundations disappear underground, and sheep are now grazing and lambs skitter in the early summer sunshine a foot or so above the Roman remains.

‘The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to sit’, says Dad. He looks around. He stoops and has to peer up to see what is on offer here, straining like a tortoise sticking its head out from its shell.

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Competition Winner – Poetry: ‘Drag King’ by Lauren Merin

Creative WorksWe are pleased to present the winning entry in Poetry from our 2015 Creative Writing Competition, ‘Drag King’ by Lauren Merin.

This poem really stood out for us. It pushes language to its limits and paints a vivid picture, and it was a delicious read.

Our judge felt that this poem crafts language beautifully, and is well-balanced and structurally sound. She found the poet’s use of language to be exploratory, exciting and fresh, and that the language is used in an original way to describe the darkness and glitz of a particular world, where as a reader, we enter on many levels. The poem pushes the boundaries of literal meanings without losing the sense, the core of what the poem sets out to explore. What engages the reader is the poet’s ability to look at how language can be used to express complicated ideas and the poet’s attention to detail. The final line in the poem, ‘I can see you by sequin,’ summarises the multifaceted sphere of this accomplished poem. 

We would like to note that this poem uses a particular structural form which our blog platform does not allow us to replicate. Thus, we have included a photo of below the poem so the reader may see how it is intended to look on the page.

Drag King

Shoals of shaved heads
An asymmetrical pin
Plunged through
Thin skin
You kiss

flash/flash/flash

Silver glint of slit lids
A hip-switching swish

Flippant

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