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Graham Burchell was born in Canterbury in 1950 and currently lives in South Devon. From 1976 to 2003 he worked as a teacher in Wales, England, Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Tenerife, Mexico, France and Chile. He then lived in Houston, Texas before returning to Devon in 2007.
He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. His collection 'Vermeer's Corner' was published in the United States in 2008 with three other collections following in 2012 and 2015, His last collection ‘Cottage Pi' was one of the winners of the inaugural Sentinel poetry book competition.
He was the 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, a 2013 Hawthornden Fellow, winner of the 2015 National Stanza competition, runner up in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2016 and third prize winner in the 2017 Bridport Prize.
His poem ‘Resurrection’ was also highly commended in the ‘single best poem’ category of the Forward Prizes, 2018. http://www.gburchell.com.
138 x 216mm
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Breakfast Under a Yellow-Bellied Sun
Here’s a well-travelled poet who had to wait until he was sixty-five before he managed to take the long flight to Australia. Breakfast Under A Yellow-bellied Sun offers a slant view of his experiences as he made that journey and travelled wide-eyed around that country for more than five weeks
Chelyabinskans have seven words for pine scents I’ve decided,
but only one for bodies of water.
Nobody, not even the ruler has ever seen the sea.
Chelyabinsk, until today I’d never heard of you,
but the map on the screen on the back of the seat in front of me
suggests that you exist, that you are near.
Chelyabinskans, I think of you shivering within your city walls,
flooding out when the air is right to gather pine straw and fungi,
to harvest resins for burning as offerings in minareted
Chelyabinsk churches to appease the silver messengers
that sometimes pass above, spy, paint the sky with a white tail
on their way to report to an amber-perfumed god.
Satin Bower Bird
Are you spying with your wary violet eye,
from a limb of red cedar?
Are you picking over bins for something blue?
Are you snatching spilled sultanas
from a picnic table before bush turkeys do?
I see your door is open.
I peek between green blade walls to a carpet
of leaf litter bejewelled with drinking straws,
sweet wrappers and lots and lots of bottle tops – all blue.
It’s a splendid layout, the half-built bower,
the way you’ve left a centrepiece of weathered stone.
I love the subtle shades of the chosen colour.
But really, is this how it has to look
to have her fall for you?
Rainforest Love Story
Pandorea pandorana (Wonga vine) I heard
how you played a shy sapling to death,
how you spiralled ambition
with just a hint of lust without love
so that he wept withered
and you became a needy
you searched for another
a black booyong felt your caress
warmed but later wanted you off
too clingy self-absorbed
so you shamelessly looped over
to his mate scrub bloodwood
taken in at first a lover of closeness
but he wouldn’t amount to much
and you reached for a tall redhead
a red carabeen who was loaded
what you were hankering for
he would show you the canopy a sky
full of light where you’d flower
he was happy to let you
suck him dry
I Talk to Cormorants…
time-wasting on a rock defecated white;
pied cormorants that I call mates.
I admire their plumage,
the fit of dark on top of light.
I tell them, and they have no answers,
no taste for words,
though if mine brought fish of course…
But long yellow beaks hold still
above the water’s lift and slap.
I ask if I should go. I tell them it was nice
talking to them. I mean it.
One nods. One starts to preen.
Three others watch their wings dry.
Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Some other bird’s great uncle in a black hat,
a professor, a judge, a Wesleyan minister,
alone on grassy wasteland reflecting
on an academic past.
He wears a favourite lightweight light brown jacket
on his shoulders over a cricket jumper.
Those liver-red trousers he’s had since the eighties
do not disguise his pencil legs.
He’s lived with the jibes. He’s oblivious,
and when they call him masked lapwing,
he alone knows it’s not a mask at all,
but egg on his face for a foolish moment
never to be retold.
Passing Through Wonglepong
I’m not driving,
and I’m totally inured to the flick past of fields,
eucalyptus, occasional signs bearing silhouettes of animals,
or old aboriginal words finding a small home.
Place names that slipped from some other dimension,
that pulled apart those you know and slotted in
woggle or wiggle to become wongle fitted to pong,
where you think of a bad smell, or a word to go with ping.
So it’s difficult to ignore a sign that lets you know
you’re entering Wonglepong,
and you shunt into your seatbelt, sit up,
turn to glimpse the plain white back of it.
It’s a moment passed.
You mouth it like a fish. Send it as a whisper
round your tongue, for it’s child-like ring.
Breakfast Under a Yellow-bellied Sun
The ‘Skin So Soft’ product that you promised
would ward off biting insects, works.
My legs are like satin, the texture of some exotic fruits
found in containers in the fridge; those to be taken
with tea and toast on the veranda,
where sunlight is fragile, ephemeral like life.
Between spoonfuls of soursop and mamey sapote,
there’s a shock of soft torrential rain that passes
like a wavering curtain to leave a tap-dance of drips,
before the yellow-bellied sun dares to show itself again,
before a yellow-bellied sunbird is conjured
between the blush pink spathes of a tropical flower,
its thrumming heart kernelled in quilted patches
of indigo, yellow and brown.