GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Michael Curtis grew up in Liverpool, attended Oxford and Sheffield universities, and has worked in library and cultural services and events management, including international poetry tours. He lives in Kent. He is widely published in magazines and anthologies and has given readings and workshops in England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Latvia, and the UN Buffer Zone, Cyprus.
He was Writer in Residence for the Arts Council, England Great Expectations conference, the Metropole Arts Centre, Folkestone, the Maison de Poesie, Nord/Pas de Calais in France, and the Writers and Translators House, Ventspils, Latvia. His work has been studied and translated at the Universities of Liege, Bucharest and the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich and broadcast on radio in England, Ireland, Romania and Latvia. He has also assisted in translation from French, Finnish and Latvian.
His tenth poetry collection, In the Affirmative, was published in 2008 by Redbeck Press, Walking Water, an English/French sequence by Editions des Vanneux, appeared in 2009 and Melnais suns, Latvian translations of his poetry and prose was published in 2010. Horizon, a collection of poems set on the Isle of Man, was launched at the first Manx Litfest in 2012 and his previous collection, The Fire in Me Now, was published by Cultured Llama in 2014.
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: August 2015
When did this happen?
I lived for departure, travelled
in front of myself, anticipation
personified. Fantasies ran ahead
and if I didn’t catch up, so what?
Another twist of fate waited
round the next corner. But now!
How do I look forward if you’re
left behind, dragging my feet
till they home straight back again?
Why take off, fly to faraway heat
on high ambition when I’d rather
make a sideways move and plateau
my career right here, with you?
but you’re in a different place
whole being doing what you are doing
yet to know the meaning of distraction
so you dismiss attempts by daddy
to put a card in your hand, flick it away
and insist on the book you’re studying
after all you’ve just learned to walk, soon
you will talk, and such things demand
a man’s full attention
but then you notice a face looking down
and, on the instant, drop everything
to bring your world to us
smile with all your new teeth
bob your head from side to side
wave both hands and touch the screen
to wish me the happiest of birthdays
anyone could believe -
intently, visibly, incomparably.
I’ll be here to hold your hand
along the sunset beach, share it
to the furthest reach where rocks wait
for the tide to return.
I’ll even join the bunch
around the ice cream van, loom up
above bubbling children, a small talisman
tugging on my arm.
On these and such occasions
we’ll let your fingers settle
into mine, interlocking
warm familiar palms
as we walk back to the bench
where they’ll sit talking
about times past, passers-by,
what has changed and what’s the same
and we’ll take time to perfect the skills
of single-handed cone rotation
and sideways licking, my
dextrous apprentice, before the sun
goes down and colours slip
across the melting sky
and you and I make our goodbyes
with suddenly colder hands.
An invisible signal
carries your laughter
across the planet
brings another world
to radiate ours,
a megahertz first sight
mapped by Shamala
and scanning global.
Your centimetred height
snug between the rafters
of your mother’s heart
astonishes by detail –
real face, real shoulder
briefly bathed in light
quite oblivious to all
the pencilled-in hereafters
your dimensions start
in us outside, where
waves of unconditional
receiving love wait.
Now I know why the house was waiting
how space is found to fit you in
why the kitchen shifts to take your chair
and curtains meet to let you sleep
why the toys tumble the carpet to play
how games grow new rules every day
why the bath delights in lengths you swim
and music dances to your rocking rhythm
why horses whinny to be fed by hand
how sheep disperse at your command
why books open themselves unstintingly
and smiles invent new faces for me
why the body learns tricks overnight
and the world agrees to put things right.
on your bicycle of air you smile
and ascend from the sprung floor
towards your next sporting pinnacle,
tip momentarily, regain your grip
between gasps and laughter,
change down a gear, rise giddily
on the coffee table crossbar, rear
back to show off your best wheelie,
free the brake, bounce the tyres,
stabilise, steer a bevelled circuit till,
suddenly perfecting circling steps,
you learn to pedal light, and, all
momentum, ring an unstoppable bell
round velodromes of cambered laps.
Lullaby Days evokes the relationship between a grandfather and his new grandson. It describes the impact of a new life, its promise of altered futures, and its reshaping of time past. Most of all, it recognises the shift from looking back to looking forward and how the arrival of a child can engender the growth of love.
And now you ascend the steps
to the high board, white rails
slide through easy palms,
feet barely touch the metal
until you reach the summit,
stride to the giddy edge
of open futures, rise on toes,
spring effortlessly into air
dive, accommodate time
and enter a year of wonders
with the slightest ripple, dip
under, emerge to bathe in light
as our admiration echoes
round the chambers of your heart.
The drum of your ear beats
a rhythm for my heart. Arms
fold supplication. Your heat
blankets my chest, begs
questions of love – limits
we’ll never touch. Legs ascend
to circle me as small alarms
rock the cradle of your spine.
Fingers clench, chord dreams
for orchestras to rehearse
under spotlight stars. Driven
forward, each day discovers
continents, crosses oceans.
I sit at your perfect feet