Thanks to London Grip for Review of ‘Philip Levine’s Good Ear’

London Grip Poetry Review – Lisa Kelly

Julie Hogg is impressed by the unorthodox but skilfully crafted poetry of Lisa Kelly

Philip Levine’s Good Ear
Lisa Kelly
Stonewood Press
ISBN 9781910413296 

The title of this pocket volume, the seventh book in the Thumbprint series by Stonewood Press, caught my attention. Lisa Kelly has single-sided deafness from childhood mumps and since my son is partially sighted this shared variance of a sense intrigued me.

This is a hugely satisfying chapbook. I found the contents page similar to a selection box of artisan chocolates and so I dipped into the title poem, after Levine’ “Nightship”, an exploration into the complexity, or not, of what may be heard:

in what you hear – the three layers of sound: water crashing into
the hull & beneath that the steady beating of the engine & beneath
that the wind whispering “Ceuta” into your good ear.

As a stream of consciousness piece with long lines, the form of this poem delights me. In fact, the variety of form within this whole book delights me; each choice being perfect for each work. The momentum of the poems together, often jostling for attention with exuberance and attractive energy, is delightful too. Quirkily, the unpunctuated “Aphid Reproduction and Unpunctuated White Noise”, has punctuation solely demarcating each section. Even when poring over intricate familial observations (“Slant of Summer”), these poems travel over each page; free-spirited, carefree and resilient.

Back to the sweet index. Poems that explore hearing and its loss are compelling and vital:

How close, if notes are missed, 
Is melody to malady, 
                                                     (“How to Explain Melodious”) 

Bisect me: discover my left eardrum lined with rockwool 
                                                    (‘Ghost Heritage’), 

How many times has someone mistaken
my leaning in as an attempt to get amorous, 
                                                    (‘The Flesh Made Mobile’). 

The rhythm of “Deaf Dance” is infectious. In the way that Philip Levine’s poem asks us ‘know what work is?’ I wanted to know what deafness is and now I do, in a small beginning way.

Delving again, “Saltatorium” is particularly moreish, with wickedly playful realism and I relished the sensation of the sounds on my tongue: ‘O drear, O dreary, dreary dirge for this deer.’ Those mutes! Each line over five feet, this poem sprints breathlessly, resembling the fleeing, magnificent creature:

its formerly fine fetlock, fends off the dog howls,
fends off the fender of the four-by-four Ford, 

This work revels shamelessly in sibilance:

sometimes in a sensitive somewhat sensory
rush hour of solemnity sensed its shadow? 

Then, after these flowing alliterations, it becomes stilted by those mutes once more: ‘its ditch down’

In “Ø” (Kelly is half Danish) the pleasure of sounds is again savoured and shared from poet to reader, ardently:

Danish for Island
a new word
new world
to explore

my tongue
tastes the sound of Ø
touches its shores
its limits

The poet’s voice treats limits with respect, although always keen to wink and take a risk with freshness and vigour. “Aubade for an Artist” is a veritable, addictive earworm; a timeless lyrical poem, rhyming couplets in quatrains and refrain in the final stanza neatly wrapping up an evening with imagery so intoxicatingly precise:

the blunt edge, notched tip of a fish knife –
I thought, Can we possibly still our lives.

This appetizer of a collection hurtles, in a pleasingly unorthodox manner, engaging in a myriad of frequencies. It has longevity. I will return to it again and again, and it tantalizes for more.

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