Monthly Archives: November 2017

Building Bridges: an International Anthology of Ekphrasis

Building Bridges cover

The cover of Building Bridges, published by Ek Zuban, 2017.

Yesterday was the Manchester launch of this anthology, edited by Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby of Ek Zuban.  It’s truly an international anthology: work by poets from the UK, Finland and elsewhere – several poems have been contributed by asylum seekers.  Many of the poems have been inspired by well-known art work, but the book also contains pictures of contemporary art.

Before the reading some of the contributors took part in a short workshop where I learned a new form – triadic gnome.  There are some examples in the anthology.  Apparently, it’s usually in four lines, where the first line gives the explanation and the following three lines extend on this.  Kieren King’s Three Things I Never Said To You was a clear example.

I took one of the illustrations (Waiting Nightmare) and came up with the following:-

Three ways of keeping the nightmare waiting
Keep walking, skipping over the bulldog, the mastiff, the dead pigeon.
Do not, under any circumstance, take a body-builder to bed.
Keep your crop circles small.

It was good fun practising with this and I’m almost sorry that I’m going to miss the next launch.  That will be Helsinki in January 2018.


Armistice Day


Bodybags, white gown.
Many soldiers drown.

Parade on the down,
fireworks, parties thrown
in May.

She catches your frown.
A mindfield of brown

Now your life’s your own
you wish you’d been blown

This poem is in the form of a lai (virelai), a medieval French lyric form which was revived in the 17th century.  It’s in units of three lines: a rhymed couplet in lines of five syllables, and a third line, containing only two syllables, which rhymes not with the preceding couplet but with the other short tail lines in the stanza.

I wrote it some years ago as an exercise to practise the form.  I think there’s an interesting contrast, some kind of friction, between the short lyric form which here gives a snapshot of the contrast between public display of glory and the personal life of the ex-soldiers struggling with their mental health issues.

Vahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo is one of the guest poets at the next reading organised by Peter Barlow’s Cigarette.  She’ll be reading here in Manchester, UK, on Saturday 25 November.  Her collection Measures of Expatriation was a Poetry Book Society Choice last year.  Leafing through the book, I found it rather daunting at first: all these huge chunks of text and long prose poems.  Once I got reading I was totally taken with it, and have written several poems inspired by it.  To me it is experimental but still approachable.  And I like the way she uses other languages and plays around with the shape of the poem on the page.  Such a treat to hear her read just down the road….