London Launch of ‘Spark’ at Poetry Cafe Friday 18th January at 7pm

Spark: a Poetry Anthology Reading

Friday 18 January 2019, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

We asked 44 poets to write poems inspired by Muriel Spark’s 22 novels (2 poets per novel). The result was a striking anthology of poetry and art by some of today’s most provocative and creative practitioners. Readers at this event will be:

Simon Barraclough

Dzifa Benson

Lily Blacksell

Matthew Caley

Rishi Dastidar

Sasha Dugdale

Lisa Kelly

Drew Milne

Richard Price

Judy Brown

Anna Selby


Editors, Rob A. Mackenzie and Louise Peterkin, will MC the event and are happy to answer questions. Copies of the anthology will be on sale for £10. No previous knowledge of Muriel Spark’s work is required!

This is a free event.

SO : To Speak Symposium on Barriers to Engagement with Live Literature

symposium southamptonLearned so much at the Symposium about barriers to engagement with live literature. Louisa Adjoa Parker talked about barriers to engagement from an intersectional perspective, looking at ethnicity, gender, invisible disabilities, income and place that can contribute to more than one ‘need’ and layers of marginalisation, when aiming for inclusivity. Abi Palmer talked about her exciting creative practice and dealing with challenges as a wheelchair user. Her debut collection is out from Penned in the Margins next year, so look out for that. I talked about d/Deafness from a personal perspective as well as an event organiser and the need to consider how d/Deafness is often invisible. BSL interpreters and captions are options for different access needs, but if you can’t afford that, at least reserve seats at the front of venues for people who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and get readers and performers to use a mic even if they think their voice ‘carries’. It might not carry far enough! Thanks to University of Southampton and Matt West from ArtfulScribe for organising a brilliant event.

Philip Levine’s Good Ear Launches

My new pamphlet ‘Philip Levine’s Good Ear’ is now available from Stonewood Press and I am extremely grateful to editors and publishers Jacqueline Gabbitas and Martin Parker for all their amazing hard work in helping this thumbprint get out into the wide world. Many of the poems explore my single-sided deafness and I hope you enjoy them.philip levine

If you’d like to buy a copy, that would be marvellous and you can do so here .

Blackbox Manifold Celebrates its 10th Anniversary with Launch of Issue 20






















Deranged Darling Delight


       •   Light the gas
•   Warm the bell jar
•   Season the parakeet


       •   Betty Blue food colouring, five-parts belief in your novel
to one part slashed publisher’s face
•   A shot of Bertha Mason, a flaming sambuca
with single coffee bean, con la mosca 
•   A fly in the soup you didn’t ask the waitress to remove
like Betty’s gouged eye
•   Pillows of meringue to smother, as she sleep walks
into whisky


       •   Whisk up egg whites, Blanche DuBois fine
as her white suit with a fluffy bodice
•   Discard the soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown
•   Slip something guilt-free from your conscience as she’s consumed
by your strange kindness
•   Wash it all down with, I shall die of eating an unwashed grape 
            one day out on the ocean


       •   O, and Baby Jane, don’t let her near the rats in the basement
(You always knew she’d spoil, after daddy)

Visible Spectrum


I’m Thea / bore three lovely children / rosy-cheeked Dawn /
rich-tressed Selene / tireless Helios whom I chase all day / holidays /
rare / just two weeks to turn golden / designer fake sunglasses / blinded by bling /
Conformité Européene / UV visible spectrophotometer reveals /
23.6% UV-A light passes through / ocular melanoma / no oracular goddess /
lesson / stay out of the light /


I’m Eos / better known as Dawn / red hair / fair skin / red lips / insatiable /
for beautiful young men / Orion / Phaeton / Kephalos / Tithonos /
some say Aphrodite’s curse / some say whore / these grasshopper men /
always shrivel / must look my best / bake / burn / brown / no UV-B protection /
skin reddening / moles raised and rosy / in the borderlands of dark /
lesson / stay out of the light /


I’m Selene / hide my face / half hide my face / appear in a veil of silver light /
child after child / trapped in this cave / he sleeps / the eye of night /
watches / daughter after daughter / he snores / round once more / feels like the fiftieth /
remember my hair / black flowing / now my waxy skull / on the ward /
I see sisters / crescent stomachs / howling / lunatic / UV-C light is used to sterilise /
lesson / stay out of the light

Echo and Narcissus

tempting to begin each new argument with
the last few words you say
Alas, Alas, as you fail to fix your image
                                               in moving glass
molten, before fragility sets, let me blow
the foreign curve of my hips
shattered by your ideal of self-
suppled thighs
                                               troubled sighs
for yes, I mishear and mistake this mist a wreath for
my love
words cannot touch on how I feel, and you cannot feel
what you touch
flees your fingers in a myriad of ripples
dumb to your dying
my bones turn to stone, and you are deaf to
my love
for yes, I repeat, this inward gaze on inward gaze
a shrinking pool
where none can speak not in your image, parched call/response
Oh, let us come together
my outstretched hand clasps air, you seek
your own society
a thirst never quenched, to drink yourself dry
for what
for yes, I question, you think you know, but don’t
listen as I mourn
a gold narcissus, like a star, against a blue flag of sky, picked to fade
to begin each new argument with
the last few words you say
Alas, Alas


[Lisa Kelly is Chair of Magma Poetry and co-edited ‘The Conversation Issue’ and ‘The Deaf Issue’. She hosts poetry evenings at the Torriano Meeting House, London. A selection of her poems features in Carcanet’s New Poetries VII. Her debut collection is forthcoming from Carcanet summer 2019.]

Copyright © 2018 by Lisa Kelly, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.Blackbox ManifoldBlackbox Manifold

Review of Stairs and Whispers Anthology by Wendy French

Wendy French admires an anthology of work by deaf and disabled poets

Stairs and Whispers
Deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back
Edited by Sandra Allad, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman
Nine Arches press 
ISBN 9781911027195   

The poem knows how to enter a room 
                               [“Audience” by Sandra Alland]

And the varied, sensitive but well controlled and intelligent in this collection certainly know how to enter a person’s psyche. Dannie Abse once said that he wanted to enter a poem and come out of it feeling differently; and this collection of poems from deaf and disabled poets do that to reader. There wasn’t one poem in the book that made me wonder why it has been included in this fine collection. None of the writers in this anthology feel sorry for themselves but they are ready to stand up and show the world what it is like to be partially hearing or to have a disability. All manners of disability are represented here including full or partial hearing loss, mental illness, blindness, other physical disabilities, illness and chronic pain.

In between poems there are paragraphs from different writers who identify what it is like for them personally to have a disability and what they perceive it is like for others to see them.

Cathy Bryant writes: ‘Disability informs my poetry because it is part of who I am and how I live my life and perceive the world and how the world sees me. For example, when an article on writing suggests “going for a walk and observing nature,” they assume that the reader can see and walk’.

In “Ms Bryant is Dangerously Delusional from Statements said or written about me and/or my partner Keir” written by Catherine Bryant, the reader enters the world of someone whose life and control of the everyday is taken over by the professionals. I found it a very upsetting poem to read but it is one worthwhile to dwell on as it made me question my own thoughts and sensibilities. That is why it should be read and considered. It is an honest and brave poem.

If she can write a letter then she’s not that disabled. 
In spite of all her disabilities she was able to visit Heptonstall Graveyard – to visit a grave.
You seldom see the curtains open. 

The main body of the book is divided into sections: Bodies, Rules, Maps, Dreams and Legends.

In the section on Dreams, Lisa Kelly provides two fine examples of how poems can be read on different levels to inform, teach, and stand as good poetry without waving a political flag in the face of the reader. In “Hearing Loss” the last three lines:

…as I bang
my head against a brick wall, and hit
upon it was not ‘b’ but ‘d’. Damn!

Kelly writes of her work: ‘Ellen McGrath Smith’s essay in “Beauty is a Verb”, “Hearing a Pear: The Poetry Reading on a New Frequency”, helped me approach my mishearing as something that can generate creativity, word tag and word play being a crucial part of how I compose.’ I warm to this idea of creative play which is surely what writing is about but Kelly has turned her disability into an advantage. The ability to do this is a small compensation for the loss of haring in one ear.

This book is far more than a slim collection of poems. It is an anthology of poetry, essays, photos and valuable links to on-line videos and audio recordings. The book shows us another world of literature that needs further exploring. It is an exceptional piece of work for the poems are well-crafted, informative, intelligent, heart-rendering, angry, happy and sad. It is a remarkable collection written by known and less-known voices but all voices certainly deserve to be heard. Congratulations to the editors and Nine Arches Press for taking on this fine work and bringing it to the attention of us all.

Watching the swelling, I carry my joints
upright, to my side, lift them above
my heart as I edge down concrete stairs.   
                                               [“Structure”, Eleanor Ward]

Wendy French’s latest collection is Thinks Itself A Hawk – poems from UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre (Hippocrates press 2016 ISBN 978-0-957-2571-7-7)