My Review of Polly Robert’s ‘Grieving with the Animals’ up at The High Window Press

It’s been a while since I posted anything. I just can’t seem to find the time despite a multitude of things I’d love to write & post, owing to my recent indulgence into an MA in English Literary Studies at Exeter University. My studies are mycorrhizally fruitful, bringing me up-to-yet uncharted insights. The future of this blog will no doubt benefit from them, eventually.

For now, & belatedly, I have a review I wrote & which I really should have posted 2 weeks ago when it was published by the amiable David Cooke, editor of The High Window. My thanks to him, as ever, for publishing this review. You’ll need to scroll a bit down the page, here: to find my review, but of course, take some time to read the others.

Here are the D & W page for Polly & her website:

I have an essay on Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which, when I receive my mark, I will post. As a little insight, it regards the exchange (& my identification) of a desiccated mushroom, which I have linked to Americanization in the early 20th Century & Gift Exchange, as expressed by the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss.


“Animals are in Communion” and other poems by Polly Roberts

I met Polly through friends, & being told she was a poet, meeting her I just got a good feeling she was legit; she sent me her latest book ‘Grieving with the Animals’ & reading just the first few pages I knew that my initial assumption was correct. Here is a body of poems, authentic in their tone of feeling, pressing in their effect & imperative as an annex to the growing oeuvre of Anthropocene poetry.
In October a review I wrote for The High Window will be published, so I am glad you can get a window into the poems before then through Chris Murray’s inimitable Poet Head. Enjoy.


Animals are in Communion

I came home

to find him

doing nothing.

Limp armed.

Could do nothing.

Sat on the sofa

lost to the world.

I have some bad news

I’ve been seeing ghosts. Birds on water.

The day before I received the news, two swans flew low over my head. Their wings thrummed
like a helicopter.
Eyes turned to watch the rescue vehicle, and instead saw white bellies.
The sound travelled, nothing like their usual flapping, as they soared over and onto water.

Returning to my boat, a shadow shifted on the river bank. A furry creature – small, sleek – edged
its way through the grass, took a moment to drink, then slop, slipped in.

Animals are in communion for you.

As are we,

nosing each other’s armpits

as we bed in

for warm companionship.

Because you went cold.

Though the civility of civilisation frightens me, I visit…

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Machine Learning

A machine enters the forest.
The trees, the endorphined air as well as the birds’ circumspection
play dead.
Until they start intuiting the machine’s curiosity, its
authentic verisimilitude, its making note,
they will not dare resume as usual. 
Resigned to it being, in their midst.
They reorient, relate-to the significant
cause, toward the artificial, a made enormity
—a magnet in the eye, beholding
: the birds gravitate to it like migration.
The machine, discovers a memorial
to someone’s relative, arranged at the foot of a pine tree, is
attracted to it, finding itself in it somewhere
: battery operated lanterns with PIR sensors that pick
up the footsteps of the dead trudging the night, discovering
their memorial, the bits of coloured ribbon, a drinking cup
with a butterfly decorating the lip, ceramic figurines &
a perimeter of smooth white stones with a circumference of white fence
: hallowed ground made out of love, satisfied with longevity.
The relatives should never come here.
The machine will return each night
attracted by the 3W ampoule of electricity, vestige
of day—pulled energy like pulled teeth.
It will learn its own becoming. 

The cannibalism of the matter

An object oriented poem with a little savoury biology.

We eat, mashing the meat of the matter
with calcium evolved enough to cope with it.
Flesh of its flesh become flesh of our flesh.
Nothing, not even death can be inert.
The meat of it never thought, despite
the organisms nattering via calendar
& root, sparked by chemical, the vital, secret push.
One process sustaining the lung’s mood.
Who would have guessed ideas need
the nourishment that comes from edibles?
There isn’t just an it behind
the thing imbibed with taste, nor its minor aroma.
It is an active stuff: an agent in a poem.
Stuff: carrot: soil: microbe: weather: farm
: town: trade: money: sight: touch: smell…
We see, touch, smell & meet each other become.
You rip a thing limb from its limb;
their metempsychosis: to be one crowd;
a left alone leitmotif, lip reading sound.
To host & to be hosted by a crumb
of thing, in short supply & long demand
as they eat away at one another in a glue
of time I cannot stop; it sticks with you.
When we finally part, there’ll be no time. 

Two poems ‘Brixham Triptych’ & ‘Nightmare in a Hyperobject’ up as ‘Supplementary’ over @The High Window

Thanks to David Cooke for taking these two very different, very new poems; one written in December while I was in Brixham over Christmas & the other written only a week or so ago. Accompanying the poems are a few hundred words of explanatory prose on the hyperobject, a term I use in the poem Nightmare in a Hyperobject, an eco-poem borrowing terms from contemporary ecological philosophy. All can be read here.

I edited the zen space

Title says it all. I edited the inimitable Marie Marshall’s journal of zen bones, the zen space. I was asked in winter & due to snowballing circumstances it took me a while to snap myself round; but I did, it is done, you can read it here, there’s some good stuff & photography by me. Thanks.


A new poem, written since moving back to England. My themes are altered & I am now beginning to find my stride with them, especially owing to my access to books being greatly improved; having a marked effect on my perceptions. I apologize for my tardiness, I read with gusto, insatiably; finding little time for much else, even submissions, blog posts etc. I have an unconditional offer for a place on the MA in English Literary Studies at the university of Exeter. Therefore, in anticipation I am reading a lot of Speculative Realism & Object Oriented Ontology (Graham Harman & Timothy Morton) as well as their usage in ecological studies. I am thinking of pursuing environmental studies in literature & these philosophies feel the right zone to be dabbling in to write something on eco-poetry, such as that of John Wedgewood Clarke, especially his book Landfill. However, I need to improve my breadth of reading in these areas so when it comes to begin my studies I’ll be ready. Give me some more time to ruminate & I foresee the formulation of something more than this brief aside. I hope you enjoy the poem, I think I am still there.

The daily orbit, the quarry-lake peripheral,
its wrinkled skin, dark & worrisome
—a skull with all its fuel scooped out.
DANGER DO NOT ENTER sign left up,
no longer meaning what it had to mean
when it deterred heroic youth with myth.
I took a northerly path, a colonnade of pines;
on my right, mature, my left, adolescent, barbed-off
with rusted razor-wire, the reformed quarry
now banked into a sea of knee-high grass,
pampas & soft mud rimming the lake.
At the rise of the path, I turned back
& unexpectedly, there was another weather system
: pristine skies, to my dim covering gloom.
A mountain—terrain laddering from grassland
into granite until an immutable taper of snow
couched under membranous cloud.
Fields of panicles in luminous rows.
Moving toward was moving against this portal, super-imposing
—confounding the expectations of my cortex.
I know the place, it’s on the tip of my tongue.
My struggle for recall, similar to my struggle
to hear the voices of dead relatives.
My exodus to southern climes no longer barred
by the blubbering wind, the uddery swell of furze spines;
nah… it’s this phantasmagoria now.
I’ll never travel anywhere again trapped
in this limbo between here & then.

Call for Zen subs & More Insight from Yoon Yong

Before the next poem from Yoon Yong I should mention that Marie Marshall has asked me to be editor for the zen space spring edition. So what I need from people are little poems: haiku, tanka, sijo. Send these poems to my email address: if you want to get your tiny poems into zen space this spring. 
 More insight
…There is so little effort needed to be alive |
it’s mostly automated. I sound so old | or responsible.
Most people are still animals. Aren’t we beyond that?
“Man is not a beast” (thanks Kim Chi-ha).
Why does low intelligence equate to lower entropy?
“Ought implies can should be zapped
into people’s heads every morning.”
If I overthink do I miss my environment shrieking
when I should be overlooking  | looking for patterns?
This is probably why I fail as a poet & translator
: I am a terrible onlooker & poets need good eyes
& translators need to wear another’s skin.
Why does meaning increase the less we think |
the more animal we behave?
I can’t just stop
“like a person who has been an atheist their whole life suddenly
becoming a Catholic | it simply doesn’t add up!”
I’d do anything to have an empty head.
“But then you’d be doing a disservice to
the personality of that which makes us unique
to nature | which makes us human beings.
It is the intelligence which sees the ship
safe to shore & puts a bowl of rice on the table.
In its extremity it can move mountains.”
That was a good one teacher. But a load of bollocks.
I sound stupid when I swear |
but British swear words are so satisfying.
She watches two people | intimate & vulnerable with
their distinct humanness | a married couple running a restaurant
in a quiet moment sharing a kiss
& a few kind words of encouragement
even though they’re tired & fed up
—it makes me sad | it’s so obvious & simple
yet | I’ve never seen it happen before
& nothing like it ever happened to me.
She cries while watching the news.
I want to translate it into anything but what it is
: the confirmation of man the fiction…

New Year, new poem up @Riggwelter Press

Happy New Year. Going to refrain from repeating my message from last year (something about not celebrating the passage of precious time).

I find myself this year, back home after 8 years living in Korea, teething in my own culture & wondering what the future has in store. This period of adjustment is challenging & those who follow this blog will understand what I have given up to return to England. My departure from Korea was sad, it just felt like time to move on. I suppose somewhere within myself, an ordeal felt like a peculiarly logical step; which I have John Berryman to blame for.

My decision to leave didn’t make leaving any easier, parting from my ex-wife was very upsetting, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment having to leave her after so many trials & experiences together. Parting from the guesthouse was also difficult, a place I built myself, put a great deal of energy into establishing & making sure it functioned; but also a home. I am glad my ex-wife will continue to run it & I can go back to visit in the future.

Moving on, this poem @RiggwelterPress is hopefully a harbinger of a year of publications in such quality journals & more besides.

I hope all are well with hopes for the coming year.