5 Poets in Artemis

5 Poets in Artemis

Artemis is a showcase for women poets, reviewers and artists. It is published by Second Light Publications as a 60 pp + magazine twice a year, and especially features older poets who have been writing for years without proper recognition. The reviews in particular provide a handy round-up of who’s doing what on the UK poetry publishing scene.

I have chosen five poems to illustrate the work available on line by courtesy of the London South Bank’s Poetry Library. Many are winners or runners-up in competitions.

To start on a light-hearted note, Caroline Carver’s If you are stolen, call police (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=25960) puts together a list of delightful warnings from those whose first language isn’t English. It starts:

The sea is dangerous
Please don’t swim
Once happen any accident
At his own risk
If going out
hold walking lane
always cross road
with pelicans

Goes on through its title line to what I suspect was not actually seen – but who knows?

tender fragrant grass
how hardhearted to trample them
they are delicate blossom
not for feet

Leah Fritz’s Postscript to an Obit (i.m. Louise Armstrong) at
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=25774 also seems a little throw-away but knows its business well enough. It starts:

Gee, I’m sad she’s dead.
She wouldn’t like it either,
being dead. Some people do,
or think they will before they go.
Some people try. Some succeed.

Then follow a few personal details before the lines snap shut:

On the phone
6,000 miles away, she raised bloody hell.

Gee, it’s hard to think she’s dead.           Gee.

Simple and effective: saying just what is needed to make us think. Quite different is Pat Marum’s Insect Parlour at
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=25612 which opens by setting the scene:

She would watch
exquisite damsel-flies air-skate
the lake, the wide arcs of dragon-flies,

But then takes off on a course that can only be called magical, where the insects become the embodiment of the female psyche, the poem ending in transparent understatement:

magician who watched the subtle sky in the door,
elliptical glasswork, spirals of smoke
embracing the girders

and station gates, the warmed petals
of the rose. She knew there were pupae
in the woods, shivered as through the window

she saw the young men on the grass,
their unseen wings,
their white shirts shimmering in the dusk.

Margaret Speak’s The Elder Brides (
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=25993 ) pursues some of that theme, but here matters are sadder and more explicit:

Mostly I see the elder brides through May and June
their walk between two lives,
the slender one, her hair the colour of fox.

One is imagined sitting in her attic, and the other is in the graveyard. The speaker lingers over the dresses:

I remember all those dresses, dimity, organdie,
taffeta, satin, the winter velvet, ivory tones,
buttermilk creams, the pristine froth of white
and occasionally a sad girl who walks in a hurry,
a friend linked either side in their lavenders
or greys, five or six months before a ‘premature’ birth.

More descriptions follow of thwarted marriage: the dresses, the posies, how the hair is done. But they are all dead.

Sometimes I open the sandalwood chest, scatter florets
over my wedding dress, the War Office telegram.

A poem that lingers in the mind.  The best may be one of the simplest, an uncollected poem by Linda Smith, presented in an affectionate tribute by Penelope Shuttle. It’s dated 14th January 2007 and can be read at http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=25899

The quality of this sustained meditation on evanescent beauty is apparent in the opening stanza:

The day drains its beauty into the bowl
which night holds out collecting light
blue the colour of darkening silk
in folds between pure hills of shadow
like bedding; a moment later and a moment later
day waits, each day a little more.

Two stanzas later the poem ends with:

Light and spring and evening astound me so.

Excellent throughout.

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