GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Jennie Farley is a poet, workshop leader and teacher and her poetry has featured in many journals and anthologies.
Her first collection ‘My Grandmother Skating’ was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016.
She has performed her work at Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Swindon Poetry Festival, Everyman Theatre, Bristol Revue and deepspaceworks community art centre.
Jennie also founded and runs NewBohemians@CharltonKings which provides regular events of poetry, music and writing workshops.
138 x 216mm
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How did they work it, this dark magic,
our forbears who painted cave walls,
with mammoth, bison, speared
for happy hunting, necromancers
holding worded spells over flame,
mumbling witches stirring a broth of herbs.
Me, I took up my felt-tipped pen, sketched
her face on the back of my note book,
coloured it in to look like Warhol’s
portrait of Marilyn, my fingers poised
with the tip of a sharp and rusty pin.
Grandma Jenkins stirs her porridge
the wrong way. She doesn’t feel
the need for teeth. Her eyes
are sharp as tin. On warm days
she sits at the cottage door, her skirt
stretched wide, shelling peas.
I hurry past on my way to school,
but can’t resist a backward glance.
Would she put a spell on me?
Once I dared myself to stop
and say, Good morning!
Grandma Jenkins beckoned me
close, I could smell her baccy breath,
she leaned forward with a cackle,
chucked me under the chin. I ran
and ran. I haven’t yet turned into a rat
or an owl, but I go to school another way.
The man who stands in the curtained shadow
doesn’t hold out his hands to me as others do
with flowers, gifts, unwanted platitudes.
He never could. Not since that day
when the world tipped over and emptiness
rang in our ears. I say our for I know
his held-in suffering matches mine.
In bed we lie apart, our words
come out all wrong, touch means
nothing. We are like shy young lovers
afraid of corrupting something precious.
One night in a kind of desperation
we clutch each other, thrusting
through pain to a place where
we’ve never been, blood-dark and raw.
Afterwards shrouded in shame
for our mutual forgetting, we return
to our separate shadows, remain there,
waiting for the urgent baby cry that never comes.
This is how things change.
When you step outside a bar
into a glistening street of neon pink
where a man with a moustache is waiting
beneath a lamp with a bunch of lilies.
When you notice that bones
are being worn outside the skin
like gloves, when the scar on your ankle
has become a tattoo of a small curved dagger,
when the autumn bushes in your garden
are a rage of tigers, and rotting geraniums
ooze menstrual blood.
When your pet cat turns feral, all
snarling and claws, and the cushions
in your sitting-room look furious.
When you see the town pigeons
stamping out a code on the pavements,
when one hundred seagulls rise and swoop
in formation over Sainsbury’s.
When you sleep in the afternoon
and your dreams take you to another,
yet familiar, place, when at night every face
in the universe shows itself to you one by one.
When conversation becomes silver sound
like a symphony heard but not understood,
when a glass-bottomed boat upturns
and the sky is full of fish.
A harbour breeze flutters my skirt,
tickle-kisses limbs that feel so strange.
How I miss the languish of blubber,
the thump and flip of fin. I loiter at
the docks, waiting for his ship, for him,
the man I saw leaning on the prow.
I swam up close, arching my neck,
my silvery hair rippling down my back,
my breasts rising above the foam. He smiled,
and I was caught as in a trawler’s net.
I paid the price with my severed tongue,
the waves awash with the blood of my lost
voice as I took the foul paste the sea-witch
fed me. My new legs are two spikes. At each
step I take I tread on blades. But when I think
of him, I feel a quickening at the tender fold
where my legs join, though meshed in pain. I ache
for him. But I know our passion will be a sword.
If I Could
If I could reach the wolf of you,
beyond the sleek lover, the human truth,
down deep through caves of foetid sleep
to the whimpers, the fur, the musk of you,
as lost to our world you suck on dreams.
In feral dark I would lie with you,
adorn your mane with a diamond sheen.
I would lick your paws, anoint your pelt
with my woman’s scent, feed you
apples of the moon.
“Jennie Farley's poems take the familiar as a point of departure, mixing the real with the surreal, the everyday with the imaginary.
In ‘Hex’ Farley encounters new truths by seeking out fresh perspectives.
This is a thought-provoking and engaging collection that invites the reader to accompany the poet on her journey.”
“In ‘Hex’ Jennie Farley skilfully stitches, unstitches and re-attaches mythology, folklore and her own experiences. These tales are barbaric and bewitching in equal measure, constantly asking the reader to question our own identities and the masks we wear.”
“These poems tread a high wire between magic and fantasy. Jennie Farley's exploration of myth and biblical references focus on undercurrent and subtext in unexpected and glorious ways with a storytelling quality of a world in slant. A place you will enter and never want to leave. There is more than a sprinkling of magic in this collection.”
In HEX the everyday is imbued with old magic from myth, legend and folklore. Characters in these tales include deviant goddesses, eccentric old ladies, a female arm-wrestler, a cross- dresser and an erring priest who play out narratives inspired by passion, unrequited love, loneliness and intimations of mortality.