GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Abegail Morley has been named as one of the five British poets to watch in 2017 – Huffington Post.
Her most recent collection, The Skin Diary is published by Nine Arches Press and is reviewed in the TLS.
She was Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Kent, Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year and commissioned poet on The Globe Theatre’s Autumn season “The Voice and the Echo”.
She is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: SEPTEMBER 2017
In Abegail Morley’s latest work, she takes on the voices of books, paper, documents, photographs and characters to create and curate a dystopian archive.
‘I’ve learnt how to undo in perfect order: this exemplary collection is poetry as inventory, played out in rich calibrations of textured and inventive language. Abegail Morley’s poems exist in an exciting tension of stasis and fluidity, as the curator’s paper, objects, artefacts, the body itself seek to unhusk
their inner life and liberate their own
true inky voices.’
'These are claustrophobic poems about degradation: of matter, the body, relationships, knowledge, and the certainty of words. In the underworld of the archive, Morley aims to ‘complicate the darkness.’ Her poems work as preservation techniques to ‘recall the names of those I’ve hoarded.’ Morley knows how to grip her readers’ attention and destabilise certainties in intriguing ways. In the Curator’s Hands is disturbing, intelligent and absorbing.’
In the Curator's Hands
She borrows her pelt from the cat, lies back,
wallows in its stunted silken threads, the weave
of its stitching, how fur overlaps, silver hair on hair,
hind legs soft, subtle as saplings. She takes her eyes
from the ancients ‒ black rocks, thick set, as if put in place
by a salt gale. She fumbles for lips, hits on a breadth
of red horizon brimming from the window ‒
sculpts her nose from ice found in shattered pools,
melts, shapes like soft wet cloth or tacky clay.
She makes herself every day from lost particles, snippets
of sentences, things hidden from view. One day
she’ll show him all this, undress, exhibit herself
unaware he’s waited for years. Absent words jabber
from the ache of silence, burrow in his foolish head.
Sometimes late at night he’ll hear her after rain,
her raw voice will hang in the air for hours.
Ever since I remodelled my sister’s hair
they’ve hidden scissors, pen knives,
sometimes needles in a locked room.
The key’s hidden under a stone somewhere
in the nettled-yard. I recognise its glint,
slip it in my shirt pocket, squeeze it
in my schoolboy’s clench, release cutlery,
tweezers, a small toffee hammer.
I make loud thumps on tiles, run fingers
down walls until paper curls under nails,
holler up the hallway, kiss the cat’s paws,
taste dead bird. I snort like a pig,
take radiator-draped pants,
wave them flag-like, break my heart
so parts of it can’t be found. I roll marbles
in the dark, hear occasional clinks,
crawl upstairs, pins between lips,
wait for the moon to throw up her arms
then tack them down like a cold-slabbed
corpse that insists it’s murder. I snatch
a twist of her hair from under my pillow,
coil it around my fingers, stretch it
to full-length until each strand snaps.
I crack knuckles as if they’re nuts, fasten
string from the window to the bed so when
wind blows, my cold-pressed hands summon
a prayer from my core to complicate the darkness.
At its darkest point, nothing shifts. In this breathless
place we’re foxed-paper, dip-penned letters
scrawling Indian ink, assembled sheet by sheet
next to people camera-stilled in black and white.
We rot in tattered boxes, dusty as lazy Sundays
lost to heat, wine, the slow pull of work.
The curator swears he never catalogued us,
throws up his arms in shock. He can crease us,
snap open our spines, yet leaves us to blindly
drift in a land of locked boxes, slip-cased
in polyester pockets, sealed behind closed doors.
Tonight I wait at the front of the alphabet,
shucking knife rattling like a heartbeat. Hooked
in my other hand his joined-up writing moans,
ruffles the edges of each page as if to stem blood.
Sometimes I just let air shift,
unscent itself of relics,
open all the drawers in the collection,
recall the names of those I’ve hoarded here,
transpose them on to carbon paper
to print, reprint. Reprint.
I risk my touch on them,
wonder why I didn’t let them leave
this autumnal storehouse, knowing their boxes
unhusk themselves each night, inky voices
clamour in an eternal darkness grazing
walls and ceilings in their bid to escape.
The Curator’s Obsession
I wake on the edge of forgetting a dream ‒ mice skitter
under sheets, tails in the folds of my grip still warm,
widowed from their bodies. Sun creaks in, an intruder
unshutting night ‒ neat hands untuck bedclothes,
clock’s tick now faint, the man on the radio speaks
in Russian, says he holds a flower to the microphone
and the traffic on the London Orbital stops. I write
down number plates because numbers are important,
they’re hatched chickens. I wonder if I’m awake
or a spine of lightning in a November sky.
When I reach for her, the box is dumbstruck, limbless.
Somewhere in the curve of night she left for good.