Friday, 26 October 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: section 3 of "Torso in the Window" by Ágnes Lehóczky


There are two confessionals in that baroque church, remember? He always queues at the one at the back, the one in shadow. He always disappears so quietly and diplomatically then reappears from the dark as if he was never gone. Into the dusk of the wooden, carved, ornamented box. Coarse coughing gives him away. The evening sieves through its grid between the forgiver, the forgiven. This Sunday morning, you say, one of them is out of order. There is heavy breathing, panting, snoring streaming out of the fissures of the wood. Attention flies out of the building. The priest’s words, disoriented, circulate like the bat’s flight we woke to one summer night, adrift in its circular voyage on our ceiling unable to find an exit. The vet says it might have nested in the invisible cavern behind the pelmet and perhaps by now brought forth a bat family. The ladder he uses is several metres long, he leans it upright, against his own reflection in the window. Directing it towards the sky. He requests silence. Gently tapping along the curtain rod centimetre by centimetre for something as soft, inept, dormant as a dream.

Ágnes Lehóczky is an Hungarian-born poet and translator. Her first full collection, Budapest to Babel, was published by Egg Box in 2008; her second one, Rememberer in 2012 (Egg Box) includes "Torso in the Window". Her collection of essays on the poetry of Ágnes Nemes Nagy, Poetry, the Geometry of Living Substance, was published in 2011 by Cambridge Scholars. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Sheffield.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Somerset Letters 4 by Frances Presley


I need a grammar that will link the channel tunnel to the need for an extra groin in the sea wall.  I mean groin, depression between belly and thigh.  The minimum number and size of groynes necessary to economically contain the beach material is reassessed by the design architects who realise they will have to see things in the light of October’s storm, for which they were not prepared.  The park warden is urging the sea to break through the shingle ridge and create new openings and lagoons, which look lovely from above.  You cannot economically contain the beach.

Swallow the sun before it sets.  Short moment.  Yellow grass and mounds of sawdust.  The old life.

I am reading Brenda Chamberlain’s account of her life on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlii), and the strong dark lines of her drawings.  She says that the nature fancier is the town dweller with a sentimental view of things.  Her sentiments are wild and believed to be archaic, but, like the boat to the island, they cannot always hold water.  Nature leaks through excess diction.  The seal’s nose is nobly aquiline.  She listens for a tongue still vocal in the dust of the island, when we know from a long way off that the dust is still vocal in the tongue.     

Frances Presley

Somerset Letters was originally published as a book by Oasis Books in 2002, with selections, including this one, later included in Paravane: New and Selected Poems 1996-2003 (Salt, 2004). Presley's last two books were published by Shearsman; to learn more about her and her work and read selections, please see her Shearsman author page here

Friday, 12 October 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Lorna Thorpe's "Eclipse"


At the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eighth months of the final year of the millennium, darkness fell.  And they left their homes and their places of work to congregate on the beaches and the sea and on the hillsides surrounding the city.  And for those two minutes the roads were still and business all along the south coast was suspended, even in advertising they left their Powerpoint pitches to gaze up at the wondrous spectacle.  But there was much disappointment throughout the land.  Because in the place where there was totality the sky was thick with clouds and in the place where the sun shone there was a partial eclipse, which meant only a very few saw Bailey’s beads and the corona and diamond ring, talk of which had excited many before the event.  On the beach at Brighton were gathered a multitude with their pinhole cameras and special glasses and they experienced not complete darkness but a strange and eerie light, the like of which they had never known.  It was cold.  A hush fell over the crowd as the sky darkened.  Even the mobile phone ringtones were silent.  Even the birds were still and then, as the sun moved from behind the moon, the pigeons and herring gulls burst forth in song, they circled over the Miss Haversham skeleton of the West Pier and dove through the broken windows of its concert hall.  And the crowds left the beach slowly for they had been moved by nature’s display and were reluctant to return to their keyboards and faxes, their to-do lists.  Even though they had set their videos and knew they would get a better view on TV.

Today's selection comes from Lorna Thorpe's second collection, Sweet Torture of Breathing (Arc, 2011). Thorpe was born in Brighton, where she lived for most of her life before moving to Cornwall in 2011. She has worked as a tour operator, social worker and barmaid. Her first pamphlet, Dancing to Motown (Pighog, 2005), was a Poetry book Society pamphlet choice, and her first full collection, A Ghost in My House, was published by Arc in 2008. Thorpe presently works as a freelance writer and has published features in The GuardianYou can learn more about Thorpe and her work on her blog.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Section V of The Book of Dreams by Vahni Capildeo


For JanaLee Cherneski

It was not a holiday but we were going to this house by the beach. Just my
mother, and a friend who had escaped from her family for half a day. There
were no tourist facilities and the house did not belong to a village. It had a roof
but no ceiling. The main room, hall-like, peaked at around twenty feet. The
trestle table inside was cheap wood but covered with a white cloth. The metal
folding chairs were stackable and chipped, oxblood paint under the gun-grey
paint. A few were set around the table. The house belonged to a man who
was tall. His curly hair, full of sea salt, almost made dreads. I did not like the
way that my mother and my friend both knew him and smiled at him. I had
not expected him or even the presence of his house in this place. Now it was
clear that if all went well perhaps I would marry him.
The dirt where anything could grow ran out abruptly. The rough tussocks of
lawn became skimpier and interspersed with bone-white sand. A graceful
curve of coconut trees huddled up to the house as if marking a garden
boundary. I had never seen coconut trees planted this way before. Their
normality was the wind’s wild punctuation. Planned planting belonged to
inshore mansions, tulip trees and (if there was room) cassia.
Still he was smiling at me and in his cutoff trousers he half-danced his way
into the very turquoise sea. Three-foot waves chopped up the tideline. He
turned around with his back to the horizon. The curls waved. His eyes were
I like the sea. I started walking into it.
He laughed and started walking backwards. Then the sea chopped at me and
laid rope after rope around my calves and ankles. I staggered on the spot.
He laughed and continued walking backwards. I felt drawn towards where the
sun sinks.
Anyone who has been knocked down by a wave in such clear Atlantic water
and kept their eyes open (accustomed from young to the salt) will have seen
the epitome of nothing. The force of the wave’s crash raises a sandstorm
beneath the sea. As the wave retreats, the undertow pulling the felled
bather with it, clouds of sand silently roar in changing formations. The desert
sandstorm advances as the wave retreats. The open-eyed bather feels all her
limbs being dragged under, some of the water chill with the chill of deep sea,
while her eyes are confounded by the utter and absolute darkness beneath
the stirring sand. It is a lightlessness like no other.
He stood too tall and too far immersed in the sea, looking like brightness. It
would be death to join him. Did the women expect it?
With the greatest effort I began to turn and found them looking appalled.
They called my name. I dragged myself upright to shore. Whether or not he in
the sea had vanished I do not know; his satisfaction was at my back and his
house was still in front of me. I felt he was many.
My mother and my friend welcomed me as if there had been no changes.
I asked to leave the seaside and start finding our way home.

Vahni Capildeo (b. Trinidad) writes both poetry and prose. Her fourth collection, Utter (forthcoming 2012-13) was inspired by her time at the Oxford English Dictionary. She teaches at the University of Glasgow. Learn more about her work here.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

First Years' Fifty-Word Flashes

In my taster lecture last week for students taking the first-year creative writing core module, I talked about what makes a piece of writing a story, showed them some fifty-word stories, and then asked them to write their own. I promised to post the best story I received, and out of over fifty entries, I've chosen one story and my partner has chosen another as the winners. 

Here's my selection, untitled, written by Hannah Crouch:

She carefully removed the bag from the box, shifted aside the dirt and measured the hole.
     She wasn't quite sure. Maybe she should have discussed this with her husband. But he didn't know anything about the other plants. He would be annoyed. 
     The baby was so small. Tree on top.

I can't say I understand everything that's going on in this story, but I understand enough, and what isn't entirely clear intrigues me. 

Here's the special judge's selection: 

"One Dog and His Duck" by Ben Halford

The dog came home one day with a duck in his mouth--a dead duck, but still a duck. I wondered how he had caught it so quick--the lake was ten miles up the road. I asked the dog walker, "Where'd he get that?"
     "From the butcher's," he replied.

Honorable mentions, in no particular order, go to Laura Kite, Scott Varnham, Duncan Drury, Bethan Reynolds, Trudy Williams, and Lucy Bushell.