LINES UNDERWATER is a mermaid anthology exploring mermaid myths in the modern world and creating new ones. Featuring artworks, writing and audio from over 40 contributors, here are tales of botched cosmetic surgery, 1950s glamour girls, mermaid chairs and singing sirens, postcards from Jenny Hanivers and memories of love affairs in the navy. Edited by Laura Seymour & Kirsten Tambling
“…this is a long way from the somewhat clichéd traditional view of a mermaid as an enchanting woman with a fish tail. Lines Underwater is by turns playful, thought-provoking and above all packed with original work.” – Caroline Davies, Sabotage
“A beautiful, mesmeric piece of work … there are no low points here. Here is a space that explores the grotesque, amusing and heartbreaking aspects of mermaids, as well as the fairytale portrayals we’re all so familiar with.
“Take a deep breath and jump in.” – Squeamish Bikini
Our brand new full-colour, 52-page anthology is now available for immediate dispatch for £10 + p&p in just one click. Checkout with Paypal below for a safe and secure purchase.
If you’d prefer an alternative method of payment (such as a cheque), feel free to get in touch at poemsunderwater @t gmail dot com.
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If you’re based abroad, we’re happy to ship to you but p&p is probably a little bit more than it is within the UK – please email your location to poemsunderwater @t gmail dot com and we’ll figure out how much this is likely to be.
Thank you very much for purchasing ‘Lines Underwater’, we hope you enjoy it. We’d love it if you could let us know what you think of the book, either by commenting here, sending us an email, or leaving us a comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads pages. This is an independently published anthology, and we appreciate your support!
In order of appearance: William Kherbek, Christopher Brown, Rebecca Gethin, Tony Winn, Katie Hale, Andrew Howell, C.R. Resetarits, Jennifer Brough, Jeanette Stevenson, Ieuan Edwards, Sara Eliot, Agnes Marton, Cheri Allcock, Piotr Cieplak, Karen Tang, Kirsten Tambling, Sarah McKee, Sue Wood, Christopher Mulrooney, Nicola Moorhouse, Phoebe Power, Polly Atkin, Andrew Souter, Bernd Sauermann, Kate Noakes, Ron Carey, Michele Brenton, Charlotte Higgins, Claire Trévien, Luciana Francis, Marie Naughton, Adam Steiner, Hilary Hares, Virginie Colline, Debby Akam, Jo Stanley, Meredith Knowles, Philip Burton, Chelsea Cargill, Jessica Taylor, and Ella Risbridger.
Thank you to everyone who’s been involved in our project, by coming over to our website and submitting work to us. Thanks, too, to people who took the time to let us interview them and gave us comments about mermaids and their doings, especially Susan Wicks, Leo Geyer, and Martin Kratz.
And thank you to everyone whose fabulous work appears (or is soon to appear) on our website: May Dy, Penny Pepper, Sal Jones, RV Williams, Graham Burchell, Gill McEvoy, Katherine Shirley, Stephen Devereux, Denise Weaver-Ross, Kimberley Hayes, Oliver Comins, Loz Atkinson, and Sandra Burnett.
If you are in London this February, you might like to come down to Kilburn Comic & Zine Fair hosted by OOMK Zine on the 15th,
We are going to bring some copies of our mermaid anthology ‘Lines Underwater’ to the fair, so come and say hi and get a copy if you’d like your very own book of new artwork and writing featuring mermaids! Take a look at a couple of the pages. Copies can also be bought right now from our online shop.
Sara Eliot’s song Velvet Skies, feat. Mark Hutin on piano and Ian Peaple on trombone, appears alongside an amazing linocut by Ieuan Edwards in Lines Underwater. Have a listen:
Sara Eliot is a London based poet & singer/songwriter. Her unique sound – soulful vocals with a raspy edge – harmony and a touch of Jazz – delivers smooth lyrical poetry.
If you are interested in the other audio-visual responses to the project, make sure you check out our youtube channel!
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.
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.
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!
Agnes Marton is one of the poets who contributed to the anthology. Here, she describes her collaboration with the artist Midori McCabe (whose recent projects include the wonderful book Estuary). With the kind permission of Midori McCabe, below are six of her paintings, capturing the flows and reflections of water. Unga is inspired by the Navigli Canal in Italy, Dieforella by Schubert’s song Die Forelle (the Trout), and Odori by the Pacific Ocean.
Agnes Marton: ‘Jungelize My Days’
“What made my collaboration with Midori McCabe easy and enjoyable is the similarity between our personalities: positive thinking, searching for adventure and challenges, dynamism (to the extent of restlessness), colour- and playfulness, freedom, absolute honesty; keeping emotions in the centre of attention; making the best of all what we have; finding beauty even in tiny things (a flower, a cloud, a lucky charm) and feeling the immediate urge to show them to others in our own way… A 19-year-old Mauritian poet, Ameerah Arjanee wrote this about Midori’s work:
“Her paintings have a transmuting energy to them, like phoenixes repeatedly burning and being born. Or like rain falling and then draining away.”
“And it matches Midori’s own words quite well:
“Nature inspires me most. I often wonder why; even though ocean waves are repetitive and hit the same sand, they are never the same; I am fascinated by things like this. I would like to paint by nature.”
“On the other hand, just like Björk (whose world we adore; and who is the theme of my poem written for pop culture anthology ‘Double Bill’, to be published in 2014), we would do (almost) anything against boredom; we can’t bear staying stuck. You know the Kerouac quote: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” (On the Road).
“We have special projects.
“The images of Midori’s paintings are transferred into high quality silk using advanced laser printer and non-toxic natural dye colours. They are called dancing scarves because they fly beautifully in the sky. They were also showcased in Milan this May.* Midori had another exhibition in Milan this April within the Fuorisalone Milan Design Week, with one hundred of her digital images in glass frame created by “Le Cornici Di Luna.”
“Her forthcoming project is the “Free Hand” Exhibition at the Gallery House, Palto Alto, USA.
“The poem T-shirts I designed myself (using some key expressions from my own poems) have been exhibited in France, in Germany and in South Africa.
“I’ve joined various poetry projects (most recently the Like This Press Austen/Bronte/ Shakespeare Anthology edited by Angela Topping) but I’m editing anthologies (confluences of poetry and visual art) myself too, together with American sculptor/designer Harriette Lawler.
“Midori began studying music and painting simultaneously as a child. She works intuitively, combining colors, textures, and forms into a fluid whole until she can hear the melody.
“Although her forms appear to be entirely abstract, she derives them from elements in nature, books, movies, songs, or everyday objects, each becoming characters in a musical play on canvas. Her artwork is basically her emotional diary. Even when she travels, she always paints in her head… Whatever she sees contributes to her art… colours, forms, movement… so she takes a note, or a photo, or makes a drawing.
“Similarly, I collect impressions and words everywhere… Strange sentence structures, patterns of leaves, traffic signs, evocative names… they might be used later in my poems, sometimes distorted, most often out of context, surrounded by my own word creations. I love writing about mythical figures too, for example about the Icelandic eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Midori told me about Furaibo, somebody who arrives with the instincts but flies away soon: and Furaibo moved in one of my poems, just like shimenawa, the ‘enclosing rope’: lengths of braided rice straw rope used for ritual purification in the Shinto religion. It happens that Midori doesn’t even realize when she gives me inspiration with a word or comment. She posted some photos of Hollow Bean Beach – and later I used this name in my own way as Hollow Dream Beach; she mentioned some strange ice-cream names and this is when I started to write my poem Flavours:
No bounderies in those dreams.
You melt in my veins
from plates and scoops,
scones and cornets, craters.
I’ll never lose your flavours.
Aileron chevalier des vosges du Nord,
pommes de terre nouvelles et girolles.
Lalande de Pomerol,
Clos des Mouches.
Citrussy, Bramble & Hedge Sherbet.
Miraculum Mundi Fudge Torte.
“Midori says, outside Japan people seem to see more Japanese in her work, and more western in Japan… but it is fine with her. As a child, she used to admire the work of European artists, their vivid colours and free forms… however her brush strokes might have been influenced by the form of Kana, full of curves, taught by her mother who is a calligraphy artist. Now Midori uses this kind of brush stroke with various colours. If it is black and white, it may look like Japanese style.
“I grew up admiring the rhythm of Hungarian poems and folk songs. I formed my own diction step by step, I started the recreation of the language for my own purposes, mainly to express the magical knowledge (I believe) I have.
“In my highly visual, dreamlike poems I make invisible processes (cores of life decisions, changes of emotions, birth and death of doubts and fears, the inner fight between our noble selves and our beasts) recognizable, and smile at them, using my poetic inventions (non-existent words and expressions, distortions, unusual punctuation, ’langwiches’ – mixtures of different language fractions) and juxtaposition.
“I talk about mysterious beings, snakes proud of their new, glorious skin, leopards lying in the middle of the canopy dreaming about their new territories and running free in the sunshine, passages leading to different empires, timeless hills of our private Edens… The word-sparing, airy compositions are full of music.
“As I write in my poem ‘Trespassers’:
‘My enladdered words / leading to secret vaults / of your senses. (…) Our bisons on rock walls / before we go on trace.’
“Both Midori and I feel at home everywhere (and lost everywhere, just a little bit, in our own worlds), have friends everywhere, work everywhere. It’s a very reassuring feeling that people in each corner of the world understand our art. It gives us new energy.”
(The title ‘Jungelize My Days’ is from my poem ‘Attraversiamo.’)
*“DA COSA NASCE COSA” Exhibition at Sala Biagi, Libreria RIZZOLI Galleria, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
‘Estuary’, edited by Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton, Moon and Mountain 2012, $59.95 hardcover, $44.99 softcoverPosted: April 26, 2013
please click on the images in the gallery above to enlarge
Just as an estuary is the interface between land and water, ‘Estuary’ is built around the metaphor of ‘a confluence of art and poetry’. Each page pairs a poem and an art work, in a fabulous moment of symbiosis, fluid interchange, and synchronicity, and the crystallisation of two distinct yet related worlds. An innovative work, ‘Estuary’ also includes scannable barcodes that transport the reader to online videos of the poet reading their work, or the artist at work in their gallery or studio. ‘Estuary’ thus enables a confluence of the printed and digital worlds also, allowing them to live in harmony rather than playing on perceived antagonisms between digital media and the printed book.
One of the striking things about this volume is that it is a place where metaphor is concrete and powerful. Concepts are inextricable from the metaphors that poets and artists have for them, and from the landscape of the estuary. The estuary does not just represent thought, but helps to mould it. In JP Reese’s beautiful poem ‘Sand Dollar’ (pictured above), for instance, shifting sands sculpt, and bring distinction to, the speaker’s thought: ‘ The sand moves, sculpted by wind.| Endings clarify, chasten’.
This collection also brings out the uncanniness that eventuates when two disparate worlds – land and water – overlap. Indeed, Freud’s original definition of the most uncanny involved a description of walking across the bed of a lake where water once was. Kathleen Jones perfectly captures the overlaying of land and water in ‘The Estuary’ (pictured) when she speaks of salt dissolved not in the sea but in the air, and land that ‘wander[s]’ and ‘swills’. Her estuary, that ’empties and fills,| empties and fills’ evokes the temporal nature of the estuary: it is at one time land, and another, water. Imagining these two states of the estuary at once leads to precisely the uncanny experience of walking on dry land underwater. As Ágnes Lehóczky writes in ‘Balaton 2: Spiral’, with a perfectly placed line ending that tips the reader suddenly the right way up, making them realise they had been upside down, the estuary is ‘vertigo,| in reverse’.
Many of the poems in this book are wonderfully surprising. My favourite line comes from ‘Sand Dollar’: ‘I am the arid bone of flowered stars’. With the word ‘arid’ we might well predict the next word ‘bone’, but the movement from ‘bone’ to ‘flowered’ to ‘stars’ is totally unexpected, leading and shaping the reader’s thought in ways it would not possibly go alone. The same goes for Meg Tuite’s startling evocation of sound, an unwieldy instrument, and silence in her description of her mother’s girdle in ‘Unsheathed Behind Locked Doors’ (pictured), ‘The constrained texture of an accordion’s wings| Without the music’, and Lehóczky’s simple statement ‘stars and snails have something in common’. There is so much energy in the language throughout ‘Estuary’, perhaps most so in Agnes’ Marton’s sonorous ‘Apesanteur’, where ‘partless’ echoes ‘Harbour’ and the speaker has ‘no planiverse, no maniverse| no know-all, just naked verse’.
If there is one thing we have learned so far at Poems Underwater it is that writers love to use the sea as a way of evoking the highs and lows of society, commingling and clashing material cultures. They do this pervasively by simply listing objects that jumbled together by the sea (as Linda Ann Strang does in her ‘Wedding Underwear for Mermaids’, reviewed earlier in the project). And ‘Estuary’ is no exception to this celebration of the disparate objects of our society, and the power of the water and the silt to mingle them and to make them monochrome (Mani Bour’s art work beside Lisa Gordon’s wonderful ‘The Uneven U-Turn Poem’, and Pia Lehmann’s piece beside Reese’s ‘The Sand Dollar’, both evoke the weird shapes and part-objects unified by the colouring silt). In ‘Zones of Convergence’, Pippa Little succumbs to this love of collecting as she lists ‘sea glass and souls, bloated ships’ cats,| jellyfish and hag stones,| tampax applicators, drums and sleeves| kettles and car parts, cans of beans in Cyrillic alphabets’.
‘Estuary’ is a gorgeous book to own, full of surprises and of verse held taughtly in the hands that alters the contours of the mind.
All art work and poetry presented here are excerpts from the book “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry.” They are copyrighted by the artists and poets and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the respective artist and poet. The excerpted pages are copyrighted by the publisher Moon and Mountain and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the publisher.
Purchase ‘Estuary’ Online
Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet. She has been working in publishing since 1991.
She participates in exhibitions and art projects: ‘Opposition’ (USA), ‘Flow’ (Switzerland), ‘So What’ (New Zealand), ‘Stone Project’ (USA), ‘Gateway Project’ (USA), ‘Arts et Jardin’ (France), ‘Windows for Burns Night’ (UK), ‘Dharmic Angels’ (UK), ‘European Sculpture: Methods, Materials, Poetry’ (Sweden), ‘For Rhino in a Shrinking World’ (South Africa), ‘Appeal 2012’ (South Africa), ’Wool Symposium’ (Spain).
She collaborated with French sculptor Mani Bour and Japanese/American artist painter Midori McCabe. Both collaborations have been featured in London art magazines. Now she is in collaboration with Polish artist painter Malgorzata Lazarek.
Her Publications include ‘Sculpture/poésie’ (France); ‘Gateway’ (USA); anthologies and literary magazines in the USA, in the UK, Finland and Hungary; ‘The New Encyclopaedia of Hungarian Literature’ (co-author); filmographies; translations.
Her most recent publications are ‘Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry’ (USA, poetry editor and contributor); ‘Poems for Pussy Riot’ (UK), ‘Binders Full of Women’ (UK), ‘Shorelines’ (UK).
She’s a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland, the English PEN and the (Germany-based) international Sculpture Network.
Art editor and designer Harriette Lawler is a sculptor who has shown her work in the USA and in Europe. After living and working in New York City for 20 years, in 2003 she relocated to the tiny mountain village of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, USA, where she currently resides. She also operates a guest retreat in her home there. During her career as an artist, she has curated and organized many exhibitions, was a co-founder and co-director for two artists’ cooperatives, has taught children’s art classes in New York, and is currently a member of the European based artists’ group 3rd Paradigm. Her publishing credentials in New York City include work at Rolling Stone Magazine, The Village Voice, and Popular Mechanics Magazine. Books published are “Privatsphären”, “Gateway: An Artists’ Time Capsule”, and of course “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry”.