GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Hannah Brockbank is joint winner of the 2016 Kate Betts Award.
Publications featuring her work include Hallelujah for 50ft Women Anthology (Bloodaxe), A Way through the Woods Anthology (Binsted Arts), Full Moon & Foxglove Anthology (Three Drops Press), The London Magazine, Envoi, and When Women Waken Journal.
Her poems also featured in the Chalk Poets Anthology as part of the 2016 Winchester Poetry Festival.
She has also written feature essays for Thresholds International Short Story Forum.
Hannah is currently studying for a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: 8th December 2017
Through a linked sequence of poems, Bloodlines gives witness to a woman’s struggle to find connection with an absent father. Encompassing themes of biological inheritance and cultural disinheritance, the poems are compellingly intense. Rooted in landscape, the language is elemental, coursing through a series of imaginary encounters and moments of clarity.
‘Brockbank makes concrete the absence of a father she’s never known in a series of vividly imagined poetic encounters. The poems are elegant, imagistic and finely tuned to love and loss. Most importantly, her poetry packs an emotional punch that resonates beyond an individual’s story. A wonderful new voice.’
‘This is a book about an absent father, but its metaphors explore a range of distances, not only those within a family, but also the distances that we have put between ourselves and the natural world. Bloodlines skilfully deploys folklore and history and marks the arrival of a talented poet.’
The Myling girl has been left by her father
in dark woods to die. Her pale hair has grown dull
under the mulch, where shrews burrow and gnaw
at her fingertips, until she rises, changed.
Now, she can smell the hot blood of lost men;
stray woodcutters and hunters.
She tracks them down. Picks them off one by one.
Who sees her jump on their backs?
They buck and pitch beneath her,
try to discard her again
on impure ground.
She may be dead,
but she won’t forget.
She licks sweat off their necks,
clamps blue thighs around their ribs.
She clings to them,
begs for proper burial,
but the weight of her despair
sinks them into the ground.
Their throats choke with dirt.
I wonder now,
if I am dead to you,
should I let go, before you pull me under?
Mylings feature in Scandinavian folk-belief. They are the spirits of unbaptised children abandoned in the wilderness by their relations.
I don’t know why I’m here. The air
is sweet and tight like the ligature
of strawberry liquorice lace tied
around her soft wrist.
Quick! Daddy’s coming!
Her cool arm brushes past me.
She lifts a pastel card
from the rack to her chest,
presses its paper-thin sentiment
to her heart, floats down
the aisle and disappears.
I don’t know why I’m here.
After a long search, I caught sight of you
circling above me, before you perched
on top of a light pole, out of arm’s reach.
You’d survived all this time in the wild;
riddled with parasites, survived mid-air collisions
that sent you tumbling, but when I called, you
felt no danger, swooped down on my arm,
my fist-full of diced quail and pulled
at the sinews, released flesh from its bonds.
I walked to the mews house, its smooth white walls,
to stop you damaging your feathers,
laid a silver dish of newborn mice at your feet.
You let me hood you, shield your quick eyes
with leather blinkers to free you from distraction,
so you’d only see me; only see straight.
The midwife scans the waiting room,
calls out my married name.
For a beat or two, I don't grasp it;
a name with tangible history,
felt in the knock of my unborn,
a name with heritage, mapped through counties
with traceable routes.
Blue veined motorways travel my arm,
amass under the soft hollow of my elbow crook.
Slap, slap-slap, she hits vessels to wake
some unconscious part.
She talks genetics.
What about your father’s side? A history of stroke?
Cancer? Problems of the heart?
She slides the point under my skin,
lets my blood spill what it knows,
through a thin steel needle.
Before you throw in the towel,
you spend most weekends in the ring,
your ear-splitting fists muffled in mittens
laced over your wrists.
Your arms blur in a flurry of punches
cleaving lips and chins apart,
spattering canvas floors with gobs of blood.
You bob, weave, tire too fast,
never notice your opponent’s hips turn,
the rising arc of his heavy brown arm.
A sucker-punch cracks your nose.
You squint, blinded by tears,
in front of the changing room mirror.
You plug the bloody fall-out
with twists of paper.
You put on a brave face,
before returning home,
the place, that really beats you.
I forget how quickly time passes,
these days. I hurry, decide
to take a short cut through
the estate. Not much has changed;
rainwater still pools in the same place
on the tarmac. I step back
onto the pavement, where as a youth,
I cussed, pushed crisp packets
into the privet; behind it, the flats;
their thick, black pipes shin up
the walls, cling like espalier spurs,
to mark off all the floors
to the top, where once, a man
was clubbed to death
by his woman, who couldn’t
take it anymore. I stop
by the hedge, see something
between the leaves and litter; a grave
the size of a shoe box
amongst the roots. A miniature
rose struggles for light between
the pickets of an ornamental
fence and a cross of ice cream sticks.
I realise, now, that I’m probably too late.