GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Graham Burchell was born in Canterbury and now lives in South Devon. In between he has lived in Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Tenerife, Mexico, France, Chile and the United States.
He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.
Graham's previous collection 'The Chongololo Club' was published in 2012.
He was the 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, and is a 2013 Hawthornden Fellow.
He is also chair of the Dartmoor based Moor Poets and one of four who established the Teignmouth Poetry Festival.
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£8.99 + P&P UK
PUB: May 2015
The best month of our marriage was November.
He led me through frost-cold castle grounds;
his grip light, connected as yellow
beech leaves to their twigs.
I knew his fingers so comfortably well.
Even though they were sheathed in woollen glove,
they did the talking; the occasional tighter grip.
We spoke few words.
I knew if I gushed too much about the colours,
those primrose and golden beeches,
the new-penny copper of oaks and silver barks
of birches, he would offer total silence in return:
a squeeze of my small hand would speak only
of irritation, just as he, thrilling
about the potential for death, for falling,
bouncing off rugged outcrops
into the gorge’s whispering river below,
would bother me.
I can hear him proposing it.
Just imagine, he’d say.
I could. He couldn’t, so we spoke few words,
communicated through touch, listened
to water searching for a sea and our boots
crushing the fallen.
Woman In A Fur Coat Standing At Night By The Sea Looking For A Star
(After a doodle by Derek Sellen)
The music here is suck and clamour,
a light breeze catching ropes, canvas, my hair.
Voices still burn my ears long after the shouting.
When I pull my coat tighter, culled fur
hugs the back of my neck.
I know that stars don’t twinkle. They flame
with heat that would turn me to soot.
That’s how it felt in the soft-plaster rooms
of our house.
The dull acoustics made his voice
too hard to bear, and I left like a gust into the dark.
I maddened down our street
where the only other skins in the night cold,
eyed animal in the coat I’d grabbed to wear.
The woman from that group of four, crossed,
came at me with a mouth full of fire.
Her scorches made my ears want to bleed:
a stranger’s blasts, fresh, when I’m still ringing
from those my husband gave me.
Don’t be so silly, I said. Don’t be silly,
and I walked faster until the land ran out –
steps, sea-wall, icy rail, steps, sand, suck
The sea’s a mercurial reservoir,
and the sky with its frosting,
a velvet hole in the heart.
She could have loved if shown how.
Mother tried but was out of step -
too unloved herself.
Long dead daddy had wanted a boy,
or if a girl, bubbly and pink,
not one who stared at her shoes,
clung like a crab.
She had a beautiful voice.
Nobody knew. Listen for it still,
for her white noise issuing
from the mouth of a green man.
Few come to the funeral.
Her coffin is a stretched hexagon of shadow
until a cloud lifts,
and she’s painted with rubies,
pearls and sapphires from stained glass.
I love it for the gasp in its name O
a constant wetness at its edges
like bleeds on cheap paper
I love it for the islands it makes within itself
they could be organs heart lungs liver
I love the high places it comes from
that it no longer smells of the hard men
that mined up there in rain and snow
I love how it changes its tune
when I approach
how it stops talking to itself
to tell me that it commiserates
then laughs because it is April
and even the rain when it comes
is fresh and green
I love how two fritillaries
circle each other in a love tussle
while they cross to the far side settle
and drink lilac from the same thistle
Coming Home And You’re Not There
When you left, for good, all the air in the house
followed you through the front door. Later
I returned from school with a B plus and a smile
for composition, and too many books in my satchel.
The strap bit my shoulder, chafed
against a half-formed breast, but I was happy.
I had news, sherbet and Donna in my class
said she’d be my friend.
The quiet air waited outside while I let myself in,
called mum like always,
and my voice, flightless in the vacuum,
fell against dead white walls.
After he asked to meet in the park at the weekend,
he was like the caterpillar laid back on a mushroom
and smoking a hookah.
I was his butterfly
making irregular orbits about this circle of his being;
a floppy flight where I was conscious of every wing beat,
of my plainness, brown veins and buff scales.
He took a long drag - blew smoke rings.
He was a master, a wizard, a taciturn hard man.
One day he’d be a moth with a death’s head
tattooed on his back.
He didn’t smile
when he told me he liked my hair,
said he fancied blondes more
than browns or gingers.
I was his butterfly
lost for words, wanting to giggle; his butterfly
in a soundless flutter, fluster – flushed -
looking to the ground past my fine wire legs.
I was the best fuck ever.
He told me so.
He came back and comes back
and I like it.
There’s no romance.
He isn’t like that.
He was on me,
his breath up my nostrils
when words dropped out.
Perhaps we should get married.
Really? (long pause)
Do you want to?
I nodded, head tapping pillow,
That was it. I was engaged.
I would glide through my church
in an ivory dress.
Here are the complexities and conflicts of modern life as seen through the eyes of Kate, a fictional child of dysfunctional parents. You might say, ‘she never stood a chance’. When life becomes unbearable, Kate retreats like Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ into her own fantasy world. This collection takes one on Kate’s life journey from before birth to death.
“Written in ‘Kate’s voice, Graham Burchell’s collection leads us through a girl’s life as she copes with a difficult home and escapes into fantasy. Graham Burchell has a light touch with challenging material and he has a gift for the memorable phrase and image; his use of language delighted me time and time again. In the poem ‘Coming Home and You’re Not There’, Kate says her voice is ‘flightless in the vacuum’. In this collection, he gives her voice flight.”
“Graham Burchell’s poetry is eclectic, spanning the explosive to the meditative. He is unafraid of emotion, exploration or revelation. Burchell’s strength lies in his range of voice and blistering last lines.”