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Ben Ray is an accomplished young poet from the Welsh borders whose work ‘has a unique ability to look at the complexities of the human experience, creating something that seems both to expand and enclose the human heart’ (Rebecca Tantony).  

 

Since releasing his first collection ‘After the Poet, the Bar’ in 2016 (Indigo Dreams) Ben’s work has appeared in an array of journals and websites, and he has gone on to explore a wide range of poetic disciplines. From performing at sold-out venues to mentoring, from leading poetry groups to giving talks and workshops with young people in schools, Ben is a versatile and accomplished poet, performer and mentor.

 

Ben honed his craft in the back rooms of pubs of Oxford, where he graduated in 2017. Since then he has been organising events and giving readings across the country (including a run of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe), as well as spending time under the tutelage of award-winning poet Fiona Sampson.

 

He is passionate about writing and performing poetry, and about sharing the joy of the written word with others.

Poetry

 

138 x 216mm

 

56 pages

 

£8.99 + P&P UK

 

ISBN 978-1-912876-09-9

 

PUB: 21/06/2019

 

 

ORDER HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World

 

Ben Ray

 

 

Part apocalypse, part time travel, part romp through those odd gaps within our everyday lives, ‘What I heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World’ is a fascinating, surreal journey through a plethora of poetic worlds. Follow a twisting journey past a drowning man off the coast of 15th century Gdansk, beyond the day they decimalised the words, and even down the path that leads off the Silk Road…

 

*****

“A fresh and original poetic voice – full of wit, twists, surprises, echoes and challenges.”

Alan Rusbridger

Author, journalist & former editor-in-chief The Guardian newspaper

 

"Ben Ray’s new poems have the gleam and muscle of the river fish he writes about with such feeling. They are story-telling, risk-taking and exact in all the right ways.”

Professor Fiona Sampson MBE FRSL

Poet, editor & biographer

 

"Playful but profound, poignant yet humorous, vibrantly experimental and singing with lyricism, Ben’s new collection is intoxicating.”

Anna Saunders

Poet, founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival

The day they decimalised the words

 

Yes, I remember the day they decimalised the words:

library queues that echoed of soup kitchens

as they curled around the street corners

everyone waiting to exchange their old, jaded letters

for fresh syllables, crisp and hot off the dictionary.

I remember how they tasted of newness and possibility

as I tucked them neatly into the back of my throat.

The older generation, they didn’t understand –

they cried when they opened their mouths

and their old, familiar sounds wouldn’t work.

Even years after, embedded in my new tongue

I’d still come across ones I’d forgotten all about

fossilised – tucked in between the leaves of books

or carefully hidden on stained shopping lists

for shops that no longer existed.

And whenever I found one, I’d hold it up to the light

see how those now-strange symbols danced

and feel a nagging, empty sadness

for everything that had been left unsaid.

 

 

Geese at night

 

On the Thames, the geese all float

a thousand silent beak-tipped boats

an ochre-painted motley crew

asleep upon the drifts, where you

can count them, one by two, by rote –

those weathered, feathered geese afloat.

On sopping, brackish, grass-crowned crests

is where they choose to build their nests

and those of a more patient mind

will sit and wait, and hope to find

one day a squawk, a telling squeak

of life anew – but now, all sleep.

And they seem to know they’re in the right

these landed, candid bulks of flight

for when all is done and heard and said

why are we too not both abed

wrapped up tightly, between the pillows

as they all are, amongst the willows.

So let us go, and find our place

remainder of the human race

awake at such ungodly hour

and, if it is within our power

in slumber, find an inner peace –

to be, in short, more like the geese.

 

 

Something beautiful in Café Nero

for Claud

 

In the antiquated palace of my memories

the frescoes are all in primary colours

and there are doors that I fear to look behind

for fear of structural collapse.

So when you strode back into my present

and pushed aside the walls to finally let in light

I was so utterly grateful that you were still You.

Glasses on, bag slung back, a smile in corporeal form.

We sat down and opened up the dam

swapped our pasts, our love lives and love of life

and found, with relief, that the waters hadn’t ebbed

that our shorelines were still recognisable.

And I’m left thinking, thank god you’re here –

there is too much tea and too much talk in this world

for you not to exist in mine.

 

 

Greenpeace’s final strategy

 

We have to plan not only for our children, but for our children’s children.  - Greenpeace activist interviewed on the BBC

 

When all the ancient ruins in Rome have been destroyed

when Eastern Europe crumbles, and the soldiers are deployed

when the Med’s sea waters are poisoned and over-fished

and the rainforests all go the way the corporations wished

when Australia’s fully eaten up in raging rogue bush fires

and all that’s left of Venice are tips of lone piazza spires

when China plucks up courage and finally nukes the West

and reduces all our governments to puppet states at best

when America walls its borders to create a living tomb

when the population rises and we die from lack of room –

then where the fuck are we going to go on holiday

 

 

Hay Bluff

 

This is where he likes to come

when he finds he is lost again:

up to this point where trees don’t dare tread

and the rock liquidates into wind.

He has a job – somewhere

where there’s so much glass he can’t fathom

in which direction he’s meant to be looking

and the coffee and the smiles and the handshakes

are lukewarm and dry out the tongue.

But that doesn’t matter now.

He’s driven through the night and most of the morning

to join this rupture of geological impropriety

where red sandstone bursts out from millennia

in eternal attempts to become airborne

Penybegwn. Massif in all meanings, he’d said

and she had chuckled, leaned into him –

two figures on the edge of the Black Mountains

surveying a kingdom of possibility.

Just watching the river Wye curl lazily below them.

 

 

The historian lights up

 

This smoke will go down in history.

A nod, a tilted head: some secret sign

and the game begins.

Into the pocket, out with the hallowed packet

held aloft in a showman’s flourish

my friend, in years to come

people will be singing about this, its wisps

passing into legend. They will tell in hushed tones

of the subtle way your fingers danced,

   spooling out the waiting rolling paper

         gently scattering flecks of tobacco

             the satisfying slot of the filter.

Know this: the firelight will flicker in the eyes of storytellers

as though reliving that first, virgin flick of the lighter.

Up to the lips now, breathe in, slow, slow…

that first draw is the best, always, you say

the devil’s divine blend tongue-wrapping around

loosening the mouth, the muscles, the mind

it has the taste of good conversation.

My friend, this smoke will go down in history

but for now, it is just us and we are here, together

so let me have a pull, will you?

 

 

Ben amended 9781912876099