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GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Doreen Hinchliffe comes from Yorkshire and received her first degree from Leeds University. She taught English in a grammar school near Bradford for a number of years before doing an MA in Twentieth Century Literature at Newcastle University.
Since moving to South East London in 1979, she has worked in a charity for people with cerebral palsy and has also been Director of Studies in an EFL school for adults. Now retired, she is able to devote more time to her writing.
Her poems have won or been placed in many competitions and have been published in a wide variety of poetry anthologies and magazines. She has also had a sonnet sequence recorded by Live Canon on their Poems For Christmas CD.
Doreen is currently chair of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop and is also a regular member of the Poetry Society’s Greenwich Stanza group, the Meantime Poets. Her interests include watching tennis (she was a county tennis player and tennis coach), theatre-going and teaching herself to play the piano.
138 x 216mm
£7.99 + P&P UK
PUB: 9th OCTOBER 2017
Dark Italics is a collection in which the poet often inhabits different voices to reflect diverse experience. Sometimes humorous, sometimes filled with pathos, these voices are many and varied, including those of famous historical or literary figures as well as those of individuals rooted in the concerns of modern life. A single voice dominates the latter part of the book – that of the poet as a child, through whose eyes we are introduced to life in the Yorkshire pub run by her parents and the striking array of regular customers who made it their second home.
'This is a rich and varied collection drawing together the tragic, humorous and empathic, and packed with vivid and varied voices, historic, literary and personal.
Hinchliffe is a poet truly in her element with rhyme and metre, a formal virtuoso who marries form and content with
consummate ease and beauty.’
‘In Dark Italics, Doreen Hinchliffe often turns to the past, asking the question: how can you preserve memory? She poses this question many ways. Sometimes she is the child, looking to adults to make sense of the world (her sequence ‘Opening Time’, set in the Yorkshire pub managed by her parents, introduces us to a cast of singular characters and is infused with humour and pathos). Sometimes she inhabits other voices, always with ease and grace, like the best ventriloquist. She has an exceptional skill with traditional forms, which feels wholly natural and contemporary.
This is an assured debut from a poet who deserves to be read and reread. Tamar Yoseloff
Tap Room Ted
He came in every lunch time, parched,
his thirst made keener by the furnace he stoked.
Grime clung to him like lichen,
stuck to the bristles on his chin, the grease round his collar.
His eyes were two gigantic plums astride
the wide bridge of his nose
and when he took off his cap, the line of its pressure mark
circled the sweaty remains of his grey hair.
He didn’t stay long in the public bar.
The tap room was his element.
He’d plant his boots on the stone floor to light a Woodbine,
then delve inside a pocket for his tarnished box of snuff.
His nostrils flared as he snorted it up.
Once, he even offered some to me –
Come on little lass,’av a sniff o’ this.
Go steady, though. It’ll mek’ thee eyes water!
Every Thursday he taught me to play cribbage
on an old wooden table ringed with beer stains,
his rasping voice as rough as the cracked bark
of his hands … fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six,
two for his heels, one for his nob … a new language,
laced with smells of strong tobacco and mastered
through a blue haze to the rhythmic thud
of dart on board, the steady shuffle of dominoes.
Nowt Nor Summat
Nay, I’m neither nowt nor summat
gran would say, conquering the summit
of the stairs. I’m nobbut a nuisance
these days, always spouting nonsense
and both legs shoved into my arse
any road. It’ll only get worse.
Afore too long, I shouldn’t wonder,
they’ll be calling me over yonder.
Wheelchairs were never even an option.
Tha’ won’t get me in that contraption
(her words when offered one in chapel).
What does ’ter think I am – a cripple?
At bedtime, eyes alight with laughter
she downed her nightly ‘shimmy lifter’ –
egg flip laced with Johnny Walker,
her guarantee not a sound would wake her.
It’s no good being teetotal, now,
on my last legs with a bar below.
She took to drink to forget her cares,
was fading fast for fifteen years.
He talked of Lancasters, a bomber’s moon,
his midnight raid on Dresden, navigating
only by the stars; of coming home
on a wing and a prayer, underbelly vibrating,
fuselage pockmarked with ack-ack fire; of how
he learned to fly in strict formation, turn
and dive through turbulent skies, swoop down low
on enemy targets, then head for the Channel at dawn.
He’d kept the moustache, his love of black and tan.
His wings and flying suit were traded for
a job in sales, a house with wife and son;
his compass for a road map, company car.
Now, every night, he drowned out salesman’s patter
by reaching for the only life that mattered.
In Fading Light
She works beneath the window in the pause
between dusk and dark, embroidery frame
upon her lap, needle unpicking flaws
in a tapestry that bears her name.
Hope is rare and fleeting now, leaves
a mark as faint as the flecks of sun that came
to her at dawn, flickering on her sleeves.
Happiness no longer lasts for days,
no longer folds itself around her or weaves
across the fabric of her soul in a blaze
of gold. She knows more sombre tones: the deep
browns of Rembrandt, the misty blues and greys
of Whistler. They would want to paint her, keep
the way the light catches her face, the white
in her hair and how she’ll be too proud to weep
when all her colours fade into the night.
Machiavelli Struts His Stuff
My habits are nocturnal. I conceal
my form, seek darkness, lurk in shadow, skulk
round every corner, reluctant to reveal
myself in honest light of day. My bulk
is heavy with the weight of subterfuge.
Crammed full of all the lies on which I feed,
my brain’s capacity has swelled to huge
proportions. I thrive upon connivance, breed
hypocrisy, I’ll con you every time.
I curry favours, promise to deliver
and then don’t. My element is slime,
through which I crawl or worm my way or slither.
I’m underhand. I take you in then preen
when you have gone. I bask in my self-praise,
inhabiting a world that, being green,
is easy prey to disingenuous ways.
I’ll scheme in any currency. My stacks
of notes are all crisp counterfeit, so each
transaction made below the counter smacks
of double-dealing. I never overreach
myself. In fact, my artistry complete,
I rest assured posterity will make
my name a synonym of cool deceit.
I’m the genuine article – a fake.
War Dead, The Devonshire Cemetery, Mametz
They lie no more in blood-filled trenches,
free, now, to dream of hawthorn hedges
or moonlight falling on the black-tipped tails of foxes.
They hear again the old, familiar noises,
not of guns, but home – the chitter of finches,
the ringing of bells, the slow clip-clop of horses.
Their smooth white bones, fragile as lilies,
recall young boys with newly-whiskered faces,
embarrassed by their mothers’ farewell kisses.
Tucked beneath the rows of stones and crosses,
they’re meant to sing of duty, sacrifices,
courage in battle and how short life is.
They don’t. They can’t. Their canticles
are only of the sun, the manacles
of war long gone. They’ve slipped their shackles.