Sue Wood works as a creative writer in various health care situations. She is widely published in anthologies and journals, including the Forward Poetry Anthology, 2010. Her first collection Imagine yourself as water won a Cinnamon Press Award for Poetry.
Bernd Sauermann has contributed an excellent poem, ‘The Give and Take’, to Lines Underwater. Here, you can read another of his poems, ‘Recessional’. He explains,
“My writing process is, for the most part, mysterious to me. My poems often begin with random lines presenting themselves to me. If a given line catches my attention, I just sort of flap in the breeze behind it in the composition process, often not fully realizing what the poem is going to be about until the poem’s rough draft is fairly complete. Then, in the revision process, I tighten things up, paying close attention to the nuances of words’ sounds and meanings in the context of the poem’s dramatic situation. I’ve been drawn to prose poems lately, partly because the form (or lack of) I think forces readers to focus more exclusively on content and idea, vs. focusing on content and idea as a part of a “poem,” though I guess a “prose” poem is still, ultimately, just another “form” of poetry.”
I float on the warmth of fingers through warm hair. A
future is strung like Spanish moss in the trees, and the
bayou rises to meet the laughter of a woman. Later, a
truce is drawn: I gather moss, and a laughing girl
watches the rain wet my hair. She describes the rain
to me in glances, and I take in her glistening syllables,
someone who used to wallow in a dry heat, the glare
of a red sun setting on a highway receding in the
cracked rearview mirror.
Bernd Sauermann teaches at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and is also the poetry editor at Whole Beast Rag, an online (and sometimes print) journal of art, ideas, and literature. He has poems, stories and photographs published in The McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets, Southern Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, The Kansas Quarterly Review of Literature, Leveler, Mad Hat Review, ežRatio, Vinyl Poetry, and many other publications, a chapbook titled Diesel Generator from Horse Less Press, and his first full-length collection, Seven Notes of a Dead Man’s Song, will be published in the coming year by Mad Hat Press.
Luciana Francis’ beautiful song Canto Para Sereias appears in Lines Underwater. The song is based on a poem she wrote in her native Portugese, and translated especially for us. Have a listen:
Under the waves they roam
Sea, galloping, horses
Rafts slide by unnoticed
Where mermaids pay their visits
And I know that they call
Out for you, and I know that they
Sing to enchant you
Their hair bares curls like waves
Starfish are ever so daring
Alluring sailors to the deep
Promising their invisible kingdom
And I know that they call
Out for you, and I know that they
Sing to enchant you.
Luciana also writes novels and short stories. Below, you can download one of her short stories, Memoria, which, like Phoebe Power’s poem Stella’s Body in our anthology, links a siren-theme with Marian devotion.
Luciana Francis was born Luciana Saldanha in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She moved to London in 1998, where she still resides. She graduated in Anthropology & Media at Goldsmiths College and is currently writing a novella in her native Portuguese.
Polly Atkin’s poem ‘Lake Fever’ appears for the first time in Lines Underwater – an anthology of new art work and writing re-envisioning mermaids in the twenty first century. Here, you can read four more water-themed poems by Polly, as well as her great piece ‘Writ on Water’ in which she explains how water inspires her poetry.
Writ in Water
“I was born and brought up in Nottinghamshire, one of the most landlocked counties in Britain, by two parents who love the sea.
“This is how I came to spend the first weeks of my life by or on water. My arrival four weeks ahead of schedule interrupted the family holiday by the sea in Devon. Instead of changing plans, they accommodated the extra person and carried on. The overwhelming atmosphere of my first weeks was salt air and sand; waves and sea breezes; unsteady footing. The medium of being was water. I spent most of that summer floating on an estuary, neither one place nor another.
“It is this, in my mind, which explains my intense and particular love of water. My need for water. When I don’t swim regularly I dream of it. When I find myself flying in dreams I am really swimming through the thin water of the air. As a child I came to think my very slightly webbed fingers and toes marked me out as the descendant of Selkies – those seal-women who put off their skins for a chance to walk, and love, as a human, and too often find themselves stranded, beached in human form, when their skin is taken from them. It seemed the worst cruelty in the world – not to be able to return to the ocean. I became determined to live by the sea. My best friend and I developed a way to soar underwater we called Mermaid Stroke. I became convinced of my paradoxical nature. I saw myself as a peculiar monster – a big cat happiest in her skin when her fur is scaled.
“For me, a hot day is wasted if it does not include a swim. On land I am clumsy. I trip over my own limbs. I fall off the solid ground. I stumble. My joints are too loosely strung together. When I run I rattle. In the water I am faster, smoother: a completed creature. Comfortable in my body in a way I find rarely, dry.
“At 10 I discovered the wonders of lake-swimming. All that pellucid freshwater; the mountains inverted in the lake surface as you propelled your sleek shape through them. My ideal landscape shifted: there now must be mountains and lakes running down to the permanent sea. I found this in many ways when I moved to the Lake District 2006 to start my phD. I’ve come to think of the Lake District as underpinned, culturally and structurally, not by rock, but by water. It is, as Samuel Baker calls is, essentially ‘a maritime region’. In his Cumbrian poetry, Norman Nicholson conceptualised the fells as constantly tumbling into the ‘sea to the west’.
“This vision – this need for water – to be on it, in it, around it – underpins all my thinking. It appears and reappears in my writing from my earliest childish adventure stories to my latest poems and even my academic work.
‘Lake Fever’ was written during 10 months of self-imposed exile in 2010 as I wrote up my thesis back in Nottingham. It came directly out of a link I made in my academic work between Calenture – a tropical disease believed in Wordsworth’s time to make infected Sailors throw themselves into the waves in an effort to return to their distant homes – and Wordsworth’s descriptions of the inland waters of the Lake District. Alan Bewell describes the Calenture as a kind of pathological homesickness. I began to see in Wordsworth’s work a kind of cold-climate Calenture, a Lake Fever. Then, of course, I diagnosed it in myself.”
Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her poetry has been published widely, recently in Pilot Pocket Book, Magma, Rialto, and 1110. Her debut pamphlet bone song (Clitheroe: Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award. Her second pamphletShadow Dispatches (Bridgend: Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize 2012. She is happiest in or by water, with the sun on her face.
Phoebe Power’s poem ‘Stella’s Body’ appears in Lines Underwater – get yourself a copy to read it! Here, she explains her inspiration behind the poem, and also lets us read another one of her poems, ‘Clarsach’.
“‘Stella’s Body’ is inspired by the phrase ‘Stella Maris’ meaning ‘Star of the Sea’, an epithet of the Virgin Mary. This beautiful image encouraged me to try to write something that combined the mermaid of folklore with the icon of Mary. For my poem I imagined a woman dense with stars, like a goddess-giant stretched across the ocean.
“A 14th century lyric in English and Latin begins with the phrase ‘of one that is so fair and bright, / Velut maris stella [as the star of the sea]’ (this is set beautifully to music by Benjamin Britten – listen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5mYOPhKO38). I don’t speak Latin, but love those words associated with Mary which appear in medieval texts, like integra, effecta, electa, salutis. Even the sound of these words is pure, star-like, almost icy, washed, salty and marine.
“Several of my poems start with a single word or group of words in mind and try to explore the possibilities of their symbolism, sound and feel. This poem takes the word ‘clarsach’, the name of a type of small metal-stringed harp, and gives it a female persona perhaps also obliquely related to an idea of Mary.”
They lift the girl-harp in a hammock
of silver wire not to touch the ground or snap
a clavicle. Her feet are blades
not pedals. They change the key in naturals
and sharps. On the lawn, she tingles
her clitoris, and notes sprinkle with the grass-seed in the air.
Phoebe Power was an Eric Gregory Award winner in 2012 and a Foyle Young Poet in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Magma, Cadaverine and Orbis.
and he half expected her
to kiss like a woman.
Porno tableau: pink
hair mermaid cries pearl tears.
Hunger leaves a stain.
Vision: stoned fish tank
glow, her face pokes out just past
the plastic castle.
What Happens on Tour/Generational Spokes-Mermaid Haibun
I still live in those cold unknowing journeys, eternally half-asleep but
with the deepest recess of my brain violently awake. Everything is passing
unreal when you can’t read road signs or advertising, or even the syntax of
the visual clues a culture leaves for itself. In total night I was walking
through some barely real town, my head barely fastened on. I looked up at
the light bulb areolae as they set the face of a young German
spokes-mermaid gleaming. In the end, I managed to wrestle something about
broadband from it. I slept that night next to the train station because it
was lighter there than anywhere else.
In the station moon-
light, everything is possible
even this mermaid.
William Kherbek is the visual art critic for Port Magazine, his weekly reviews can be found Fridays at http://www.port-magazine.com. His writing has also appeared in several publications produced by the London gallery Arcadia Missa including in the forthcoming edition of How to Sleep Faster. For more informationwww.arcadiamissa.com.
How to Kill a Mermaid
To split her tail, you take her fins and pull.
(There is no blood, but the smell
of rotting fish, and saltwater stinging
in the wound.)
Put her on the land
and make her dance, shedding scales
and stumbling, undressing her skin:
raw and pink and shining like a burn.
Hear her wailing like a curlew,
fingers wrinkled into fists against her eyes,
and tie her wrists
(it will not hurt) –
then push the girl away, and watch her
hobble back towards the sea and drown.
Born in Cumbria, Katie Hale is the founder of poetry project ‘[insert text here]’ (sic). Her work has been published in Poetry Review, The Frogmore Papers and Cadaverine, among others. She is currently studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, and working on her debut pamphlet. More at: noordinaryblog.wordpress.com
Katie has written another mermaid-related poem, Siren Song, which you can read soon! She said of it:
My writing process various from poem to poem. Where the raw idea originates is nearly always a mystery to me, but the finished piece usually ends up a couple of steps removed from that initial thought anyway. This particular piece presented its own challenges because of the rhyme. In some ways, this limited what I could say, but it was also a generative process: if there’s something you want to say that won’t fit the rhyme scheme, you either have to find a different way to express it, or say something different. This element of rhyme was key to the creation of this poem, and is something I’m being drawn to more and more – it forces me not only to think outside the box, but to examine the box from every angle as well.
Agnes Marton has contributed a wonderful poem to the anthology, which is currently available to pre-order. In addition, she has allowed us to show you some more of her poetry, along with accompanying art works by Midori McCabe and Malgorzata Lazarek.
Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, editor, linguist. She also takes part in international art projects. Most recent publications include the award-winning ‘Estuary: a Confluence of Art and Poetry’ (USA; editor and contributor); ‘Penning Perfumes’, ‘Binders Full of Women’, ‘Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot’ (UK); ‘Gateway’ (USA); ‘For Rhino in the Shrinking World’ (South Africa).
We’re also posting today about another collaboration between Agnes and Midori – take a look!
One of the contributors to the book, Christopher Mulrooney, has written a lot of mermaid poems. As well as those that you can read in the anthology, have a look at another two of his poems – short, restrained and lower-case.
The pool is my palace, the pool is my place, safe place, haven place. Loved up place, love locked down place. Desert park place, the river heart place. Never mind place, muck about place. NO DIVING, NO RUNNING, NO BOMBING, NO JUMPING