GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Ben Ray is a successful young poet from the Welsh Borders.
His work has been published in various local journals and newspapers.
Ben was previously Herefordshire Young Poet Laureate, and currently publishes a small poetry pamphlet in Oxford University, where he studies History.
As well as running various poetry and writing workshops for local schools and charities he takes part in the SevenVoices project, showcasing creative talent from around his university, and has been shortlisted for the 2016 Martin Starkie Poetry Award.
Ben has read with Carol Ann Duffy and other eminent poets on the Shore to Shore Tour, Monmouth.
‘After the Poet, the Bar’ is his first published collection of work.
Cover art by DAVID DAY
138 x 216mm
£7.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 26th AUGUST 2016
" ‘One sip, and I fall down the spout of the teapot of my past.’ Falling into the poems in Ben Ray’s engrossing debut collection allows the reader to enter a world of such brilliantly arresting images.
Ray is a poet who is closely in touch with landscape, producing delicate descriptions of the day he wakes to find ‘the house wrapped/Gently, tenderly in cotton wool,’ or the way ‘The hill wears the road like a belt…Stretching the tarmac…over the bloated land.’ He’s particularly interested in the intersection between the natural and the modern: in ‘New Landscapes,’ a tender love poem, he plans ‘to roll the skyline up,/Pack up the card-deck of hills and valleys/And bring them to you,’ but only knows he can do so because he’s ‘sure the car is big enough.’ Ray’s writing is particularly powerful in poems where he writes to a loved one, enhancing the natural tenderness of his work. There’s a lyrical minimalism about some of the short poems in the collection which reminds me of the work of the great Daniel Huws but, just as Ray is interested in combining the natural with the modern, so his delicate music broadens in places to forms that are almost performative. Here is a wide-ranging and distinctive poet who has already marked out his territory
– a writer to watch."
Winner Costa Poetry Prize
“These poems reveal a canny understanding of life and language - and the landscapes that give rise to them, from northern no-man's-lands to the circuitous paths of the Pacific island exile. In this engaging first collection, Ben Ray has built a fascinating 'future library of shades' ('Autumn Winds') which will haunt the reader long after the book has been closed.”
Writer Artist Poet
“Touching, heartfelt, disarming; Ben Ray’s poetry rings like music, chimes of place, quavers in passing time — and lets one feel the world anew.”
Award-winning Travel Writer
After the Poet, the Bar
Painting by Dick Ray (Ben's grandfather)
THE GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2015
Rain Clouds over Edinburgh
There is a moment,
just before the beginning,
where the light slides up the walls
to avoid oncoming traffic
and is draped boldly over buildings
until it is one bright, burning canvas
with house fronts sketched loosely on
ready to be washed away
by the incoming ending.
There is a moment,
as the very air breathes slowly in
and the darkness of the sky above
accentuates the bright aliveness below –
and the whole unfurls lily-like
begging for the sky’s caresses.
There is a moment,
just before the world collapses inwards,
on all the corbels, the towers,
the rooftops, the doorways,
the pub fronts, the bus stops,
the cobbles, the church spires,
the gnarled and twisted trees
that lean on the fences of Tron Kirk:
when all the world undresses
and waits for the wash of the rain.
Night Walking for Wild Beasts
It is the kind of tree-infested black that lives
in the sluggish, silted seabed of your mind.
The footsteps I leave on the dark sink back in
like a palimpsest on the inside of my eyelid.
Ahead, the waterlogged path dives away
shining in the reflections of the moon,
a silver thread waiting for a Theseus to follow.
Not me. I tread on, hoof slipping as if reluctant
to obey orders. Even the lack of noise is black.
The sides of nothing pushing, matting on my fur,
a dense emptiness somehow shrinking to smother you.
Open claustrophobia. I can sense it behind me.
Then, suddenly, a hole in the world,
night retreating to reveal the stars in a puddle.
I gaze at the distance reflected up at me
and feel the weight of the horns on my head.
Back to Pen and Paper
Letters, my love, I have longed for your dulcet tones
like a lemming dreams of Dover Cliffs.
How I tingle for your alphabetical arms
around my waist, rising, tightening round my neck;
your soft, sesquipedalian murmurings
have transmogrified me into a placid masochist
injecting injunctions and sniffing sentences.
Your allure and aphorisms
aid my attacks of alliteration addiction.
Ours is not the love of the tabloid journalist,
hacking and bending you to fit his large-print pleasure,
no, nor that of the politician, twisting you cruelly,
or the religious preacher, the primary school teacher,
the early-language learner, the Mills & Boon churner:
they let your fire expire on some bookish back-burner.
They do not feel your glorious anthropomorphic abuse,
your unstoppable, drowning murmurings, that I sense
Like ink in my skin as I sink, poisoned veins of verse.
I smile, willing myself under.
Now, perhaps, I can breathe.
First day of October (any October, you choose):
down by the church, an Act of God,
the tiniest localised apocalypse the world
(or maybe the village) has ever seen.
Trees float off into the ether
so light are they now their leaves have fallen,
plastering the ground to create a future library
of shades, scuff-marks and skeletons.
Pluck an October (it doesn’t matter which),
bringing the trailing nip of cold
nagging like a shopping list you left at home
dragging the wellies out and the spiders in
exchanging one brief clock-change-lie-in for evening darkness
and the ever predictable start of bloody Christmas shopping.
Pick an October (any October, go on),
they’re all the same to me
there’s nothing I can do, I can’t stop
After the Poet, the Bar
We talk the candle into submission
and then swap breaths over its dying cough.
And if we spat out poetry like phlegm
and extinguished the small light with our voices
we can leave knowing that we have just lit another.
This collection was a joint winner of The Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize 2015 with
Purchase both winning collections and save £4.00