V. Press is very very excited to share an exciting prize announcement, as well as a wonderful new review and a mini-selection of 'love' poems/flash for readers to enjoy.The Human Portion has won the poetry category of the East Anglian Book Awards 2023!!!
These coveted awards celebrate the very best of the region's publishing, writing, and V. Press is so pleased to see this beautiful pamphlet recognised!
Details of the category winners can be found here and the winning book from each category will next be considered by a final judging panel of representatives from Jarrolds, Eastern Daily Press, National Centre for Writing and University of East Anglia. One of these six finalists will then go on to win the overall Book of the Year Award, with the winner revealed at a celebratory event on Thursday 15 February, 6.30pm, at the National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall.
“Wherever you open this splendid collection you’ll be overwhelmed by tumbling, tumultuous impressionistic images and memories, the sights, sounds and smells of snapshots [...]Davies has a real gift for using simple language to convey powerful complex images, which in turn tell yet more.”
The themed prose and poems here are a small sample of what's on offer in the bookshop. And please do click on the link for each title below to enjoy more work by the same writer, along with information and reviews about the book or pamphlet.
I’ve been reading love poems.
All the images – falling downstairs,
memories in ruins, sleeping by an ocean –
make me want to see him,
even though it wasn’t right then,
and would be wrong still now:
an incorrect answer to a maths problem;
an image that doesn’t quite fit.
But still, I want to see him,
relive the kingfisher and the swans
and the fish and chips by the harbour
and the cinema with armchairs,
in one brief meeting; lunch, perhaps.
We would smile, and talk about our children,
while thinking of other things;
and forget all those hotel rooms.
Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love
If, in a bus station, two people (who will one day fall in love) sit opposite on red benches which fold like cinema seats, bus stations everywhere occupying, dropboxlike, these same coordinates in spacetime where each of us would know the same sparkling floor, remember the place gum is pressed behind pipes, or how all tiled walls are touched with dieselgrime and a crane fly endlessly expires in fluorescence, and if, because such halts are built to expel us, one of these two people (who are soon to fall in love) has sent his mind away to some peak with boulders and peat and melon-red grass, but the other, instead, only lopes his eyes, catching eventually the first’s, so distant with falcons and mist he thinks his gaze is clasped, headlong, such that he smiles a surprised smile which melts through thought, to recognition, and if, suddenly, these two people (who begin to fall in love) find themselves spanning those dimensions without knowing whose long glance first lit whose, is it—on reflection—a mistake?
Gram Joel Davies, from Bolt Down This Earth
Finally, something works.
The tree heaves beneath the weight –
that first flood of fruit; we pick,
Windfall offers enough to deer;
the branches remain full for us.
Green, blushing red in my hands –
life dressed in September colours.
Too sharp to eat raw,
they soften at golden sugar, simmered flames.
Flour and butter crumble through my fingers,
ready to blanket the sweetness.
Much is stored away. Jars, bottles,
anything that holds.
The whole ones nestle together, stalks entwined
in the pantry’s sleeping dark.
We cannot contain it all.
Hot inside our thawing mouths, we smile
for each other, for the turning of earth.
We eat the evening, spoon by spoon.
Claire Walker, Somewhere Between Rose and Black
I had the identical watch to this clock, once.
Bent out of shape, Roman numerals stretching
and shrinking, melting towards the centre.
I didn't know him back then
and yet here is an object
we were both attracted to.
A perfect match.
Glass protects hand and face
but it's nearly always one.
It has no function
except it stands on the second shelf
next to the picture of him with his godchildren –
all smiling and laughing.
A natural moment captured.
Next to time
that has stopped.
Nina Lewis, from Fragile Houses
“What do you mean?”
“Polish? Shoe polish? No, wood polish. Lemons, but not real lemons; artificial lemons, fake lemons. Dusting cloth, artificial lemon polish. Not a fresh cloth, no. That stale cloth lemon. That musty dust of repeated disappointments and disappointing repetitions. What do you reckon it smells like? Here, take a whiff. The outside? Grass or leaves or soil or dirt or mud or rain or sand? A slight hint of ginger? Not ginger-ginger but gingerbread-ginger. Don’t look at me like that; they’re different. Moonlight smells like difficulty. It’s the opposite of triumphant – the word escapes me. It’s too passive to be resilient. You think it smells like the night? Well, what does night smell like? How do you know that the night doesn’t only smell like the night because what you can really smell is moonlight and now we’ve come to associate the smell of moonlight with the smell of the night? Which is which? Does moonlight smell the same everywhere? How about in Hawaii? I bet moonlight smells different there, or the night… Wait – wait! If the moon reflects the sun’s light, what does sunlight smell like? What is this I’m smelling? Day or night, sun or moon, light or reflection? How do we know if we’re smelling day at night-time or night at daytime? Wha–”
“Darling, it’s only a bunch of chemicals to make the candle scented. Put it down so we can go get something to eat.”
Santino Prinzi, from There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This
Trying too hard
When I was younger trying too hard was a good thing;
being “too helpful” wasn’t even a phrase.
I spent my childhood days trying too hard
to stitch trying too hard into my DNA
because trying this hard was thought admirable.
But when he, narrow-eyed and sharp-tongued,
tells grown-up me that I’m trying too damn hard,
he hurls the words like hardball insults.
My best quality is now the one that tests him
and his patience the most.
So I peel back skin, pull out parts
of myself and begin to unpick their stitching.
He catches me, shakes his head, laughs, and leaves –
on his way out he tells me how typical it is
that I’m trying too hard. Again.
Charley Barnes, from A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache
As I peek through the gaps in the lattice fence
I see your face; you are looking back at me
from your seat in the park. There are tears
on your cheeks, which you do not brush away.
You raise your hand to your lips
and blow me a kiss; there are many reasons
why I can’t respond, many reasons
why I should not be here. Your perfection
draws me to you, still. Now, close to my head,
a ladybird walks a ridge, senses my shadow,
senses my breath, before opening its wings
and flying to you. All I can do
is stand here and wish,
wish I was with you
on that seat in the park.
he presses the code she gave him
into the panel, fumbles
in the dark hallway
hearing his own heart quicken
as he taps at the door
tracing the sound —
that move towards him
then seem to slow
there’s time for both to turn
Seeking Miss Aether
“To the woman of my dreams:
I’m a mature, single male
who enjoys the pleasures
of classical physics.”
You’re out there somewhere,
everywhere. I need you
to make sense of my world.
I accept I’m old-fashioned,
It was good enough for Newton.
Young Albert insists
that you’re past it
but what does he know.
Forget about relativity,
the expanding universe.
This is bigger.
Darling, I’ve seen the light
bend, space contort
and I worry.
Where are you, lover?
Invisible siren, sing to me;
there’s still time.
Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
A version of Seeking Miss Aether appeared in The Journal (2018)
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water
just before dusk, its breath unmuzzled musk
as it nuzzle-greets its shape, then falters…
Eyes dip, its jaw unhooks, muscles tauten,
back arches, as fur sleeks to fluid lust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.
The parched beast drinks deep, wide-throated, alters
stance to uncloak her taste from its red husk,
nuzzle-greets her warm-blooded shape, falters,
as nature’s leafy-scented young daughter
lays out her earth bed with its moist wood crust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.
And so she blends, just as nature’s taught her:
two forest torsos, soft-mossed and fern-brushed.
As they nuzzle-greet, their wild shape falters –
a raindrop slides from its red-leaf altar,
a wolf’s tongue laps up the soft-falling dusk.
Their flesh meets like ripples across water,
nuzzle-greets its wild shape, doesn’t falter.
Sarah James, from The Vaginellas
he leans to the sound
of his own hand
tapping the dusk
skimming the music
just within reach
of her tinting her eyes
with blue shadow
Sometimes a heart can break.
Not dropped on an unyielding tile-hard floor
to shatter into gem-sized fragments
Not splintered into the knife-blade-thickness
of rifts in unseasoned kindling
Not like the unearthing of a pit of bones
all with fractures from soldiers’ rifle-butts
Not bread broken into mass-sized pieces
for a line of Sunday half-believers
Not the clean snap of a KitKat bar
between the V of ungloved hands
Not the cracking of a pensioner’s skull
with a baseball bat from JD Sports
Not the curtain of night-cloud parting
for a glimpse of the moon’s borrowed sunlight
Not the unisoned break-down of black-clad mourners
as their loved one finishes dying.
Sometimes a heart can break, but no,
not suddenly like that – a heart can break
like the crazing lines on a fire-glazed vase,
where the ping of the creeping fractures
goes on and on for ever. A muttered no,
a lingering so what, a flicker of hate
in a sideways glance, the unworn ridge
in the middle of the bed, the days
of making-do and the nights of fake-believe;
two trapped half-lives, no longer a whole.
Maybe, sometimes, things can unbreak –
the kindling and the rifle-butts and the baseball bat
are restored to a tree and the dead wake back to life
and in my dream of all dreams you can’t wait
to break the silence with an i-love-you;
yes, I want more of you and you want more of me
and in every crazy day together
there’s a carnival of things unbroken.
Sometimes, a heart can unbreak. Maybe.
John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name
We are made from beautiful atoms
After Keiji Nakazawa
Remember, my sister,
we are made of beautiful atoms,
up there in the doll-eyed darkness,
our world is a teardrop from God,
no water is anywhere else but here –
remember, my sister, we are made from beautiful atoms.
Remember, my brother,
we both were born and wiped unclean;
that blood of birth could connect us –
our mothers are portals to beautiful atoms.
Hold on to me, brother, I shall carry you.
Remember our world was once a beautiful eye
none of us
Antony Owen, from The Nagsaki Elder
A phantom haunts the universe,
a quantum thread that binds our lives
to distant mass, refusing to let go.
Astronomers hold to another truth:
as bodies move apart, attraction fades
and memory weighs nothing out in space.
Shut up and calculate
they tell the homesick astronaut
I thought I saw her yesterday
Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
Entanglement also appeared in Moving Pictures (Cinnamon Press, 2016)
Now and then, Faith likes to switch on her smoke alarm in the middle of the night to wake Denholm. Summoning him next-door to read the electricity or kill her spiders just hasn’t got his attention. She always gets going at about four a.m., because she wants to give Denholm one restful sleep cycle, timing her disruption such as to disarrange him no more than necessary. She leaves her windows closed and switches on the fan oven, dishwasher and tumble dryer simultaneously, since she has discovered that the combined increase in temperature is enough to trigger her temperamental heat-sensitive kitchen alarm, a method that she considers altogether more stylish than resorting to burnt toast. And, once this little monster has begun its relentless middle-of-the-night ear-pain, she leaves it screeching, ignoring the dismay of her only cat, Rupert, until the connecting alarms in the hallway and bedroom are also kicking off. The triple effect of these in the pitch of night is usually enough to rouse her dutiful neighbour. If he is sleeping quite soundly, she nudges him further by clattering chairs and slamming the stick of her broom against the adjoining wall, in a pretence of dealing with the blare. When she’s heard his first tentative step down that creaking staircase, she removes all but a trace of make-up as if caught off-guard; tangles her braid bun into a just-out-of-someone-else’s-bed look; then puts on her lilac slip, which she is certain is his favourite. She does this even though she is a happy widow now and Denholm is fifteen years her senior. She does this even though he struggles down those stairs at nights to get to her with his gammy leg. She does this because she can’t resist her need for these performances: when his fingers press her buzzer and she swings the door open, she’s always beguiled by that look on her own face.
Michael Loveday, from Three Men on the Edge
There was a time for volcanoes,
when lava burned through veins
and sparks spat from my eyes.
But now, I am ready for the sofa of him,
for the thousandth run on his TV
of Toy Story or Love, Actually;
for the sleep that I slip into
as easily as his cats;
for his cats, his cushions, his biscuits;
for his non-explosive central heating.
He should think himself lucky.
Volcanoes are much easier to live with
when they’re dormant.
Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love