INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
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The Thousand Natural Shocks
£8.99 + P&P
Publication Date 1st September 2011
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Char March is a multi-award-winning poet, playwright and fiction writer. Her credits include: four poetry collections, six BBC Radio 4 plays, seven stage plays and numerous short stories. She is a highly-experienced tutor in creative writing, and is Creative Writing Lecturer at Leeds College of Art & Design.
Char has been a Fellow at Hawthornden Trust twice, and has won many regional and national awards for her writing. She was Writer-in-Residence for Leeds Hospitals Trust, and for Ty Newydd (the National Writing Centre in Wales), and she is currently Writer-in-Residence for both the Pennine Watershed Initiative and Hull University Business School.
Char grew up in Central Scotland and loves playing with different accents and dialect words in her writing and performances. She now lives happily in the Yorkshire Pennines as well as spending lots of time up in the North West Highlands.
Char worked for 20 years in a range of equal opportunities jobs before turning to fulltime writing – the experience of her own disabilities, as well as all her contact with disabled people throughout her work has given a truly vibrant tang to this powerful new collection.
She has worked as a writer everywhere from bus stations to Opera North, and Literature Festivals to café-bars. She loves mashed potato, laughing, kite-flying and sea-kayaking.
For information on the full range of Char’s work, please see: www.charmarch.co.uk
“Char March delights in the hidden strengths of words, her poems have a healthy toughness at their heart – the ability to surprise the reader with a candour that forces us not just to feel but also to think.” Philip Gross (2009 TS Eliot Prize Winner)
“This collection (The thousand natural shocks) is wonderful: so perfectly balanced, the emotion, the right amount of distance, the voices so individual, the language so rich in so many registers, but all of them hers... the images so telling, yet so lightly placed.”
97 ways to be Scots
be chieftain o’ the puddin’ race
be Soor Plooms; be tablet
be peat-smoked wild salmon; be deep-fried Mars bar
be tartan; be leather-mini-kilt; be bunnet made o’ the pie-crust
be clarsach; be bagpipe; be crack pipe
be Kelvinsidey; be I’m-proud-to-be-a-Scot bumper sticker
be Castlemilk; be East Windy West Endy;
be Dunblane; be Lockerbie;
be Bannockburn; be Culloden
be clearanced; be Wallaced and Bruced;
be Margo MacDonald; be canni-agree-oan-the-colour-of-shite
be Gay Gordons; be Glasgae kiss;
be Mod; be acid house
be Bay City Rollers; be Annie Lennox; be Shooglenifty
be heedrum-hodrum; be Kenneth McKellar
be Gael; be Sassenach; be Doric; be reiver; be teuchter; be Lallans
be Local Hero; be Braveheart; be Trainspotting
be Black Watch; be Cameron Highlanders
be Islay single malt; be meths and a gas canister
be Old Firm; be shinty
be a high heid yin; be a heidcase
be a stoater; be a hoor
be a jannie; be a jessie
be a Wee Free; be a Piskie
be a Fenian bastard; be a Proddy bastard
be a lad o’ pairts; be a lang-luggit
be a pan-loafie; be a numpty
be auld claes and parritch; be in the Cabinet
be anti-English; be European
be abroad; be The Caledonian Society of Eastern Samoa
be Daily Record; be Scotsman
be Oban Times; be People’s Friend
be Monarch of the Glen; be Rab C Nesbitt
be Jamessh Bond; be Gordon Brown; be The Broons
be laird; be gillie; be Oor Wullie
be having a wee dram; be puggled; be well on; be pished
be fou; be guttered; be miraculous; be wellied; be steamin; be fleein
be stoatin; be honkin; be stotious; be blootered; be steamboats; be plootered
be plans ganged agley
Teenage son eats honey
A veiled man stole it
in the choking confusion of smoke;
cut waxy chunks heavy with scent
from the clagged ochre of the frames;
whirred them with the steady sound
of pigeon wings in a steel drum;
ran the amber into each fat jar.
You sit picking at yourself
with stubbed fingers that smell
of Marlboro and your last wank.
I spread pupae-fuel on your toast;
the thrum of a thousand insects.
Behind your blank eyes fizzes
a furious hormonal hive.
It was 1962, in Anstruther,
with Auntie Eileen who snorted
when she spoke. I wore my floppy velvet
hat that I refused to use fleaspray on
and she had on her dung-yard wellies so
not many sat near us. And the rest
moved when we brought out our sardines
and started cracking the boiled eggs
on the armrests. And the place emptied
when she opened up in her opera baritone
about cunnilingus not being great
when Morag had just done an all-nighter
in the lambing shed. I slept through the film
– something with David Niven in, as ever –
my head cushioned against her missing
left breast, the armrest welding in
like another rib. Barbour was embossed
backwards on my cheek when I woke – her
carrying me up the back-lanes home.
We were parents
You played hide and seek
through our dreams for years
before you arrived.
Then, once we’d tigged you
– that squirm of blur
inside that pulsing screen –
we lay at night trying
not to giggle; straining
to hear your heartbeat.
You made us laugh a lot,
and disagree, and talk till 3am
of names, and whose nose you’d get.
And then you, who had lived
with us such a blink of time,
And we are left, holding
onto nothing but naming books,
and our lurching world.
For you braced your whole
6cm self, and threw our
planet off its axis.
I was writer-in-residence for Leeds Hospitals for 18 months and, while there, I worked a lot with parents who had had miscarriages, stillborn babies or disabled babies. As well as being a writer, I also take Humanist funeral ceremonies. I wrote this poem for the parents of a stillborn child whose funeral I was taking. The parents had not only lost her, but they’d also had to go through several miscarriages. My mother had 5 late miscarriages before she was able – after taking an experimental drug – to have me. (The drug was later banned because they found it wrecks the foetus’ immune systems.) My story in Some Girl’s Mothers (Route; 2008) more fully explores the impact of my Mum’s miscarriages.
I wonder what the Japanese for Top Withens sounds like
Today a 67-year-old woman
from Nagasaki wept
on my shoulder, sobbing out to me
her longing to stand here since,
age 13, she had devoured
Wuthering Heights, hearing
the moor wind, and Cathy’s longing,
in the sound of Shinto temple bells
and the parping traffic
on the Shianbashi road.
We stand today, my arm around
her tiny waist, as she dabs her eyes
and smiles and smiles
and we listen, together,
to the bubbling trills of curlew above
and the heavy breath below of
The Keighley and Worth Valley steam train
and to Kate Bush warbling from the Bronte Balti House.
I pull my blissed-out companion
onto the narrow gritstone pavement
as gaudy mountain bikers judder
down the cobbles where cholera flowed
in Branwell’s day, and the apothecary
didn’t sell retro pinnies,
but raw opium to ignite his dreams
of knocking his sisters’ talents
into an early grave.