GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Nicola Warwick has been published in several poetry magazines and anthologies. Her first collection, Groundings, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2014.
She is currently studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University while working full-time in local government.
She was born in Kent but has spent most of her life in Suffolk, apart from time spent as a full-time student at Anglia Ruskin University where she studied English, and History and the University of East Anglia where she obtained an MA in Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature.
138 x 216mm
£7.99 + P&P UK
The Knifethrower’s Wishlist explores the nature of love in several guises and the nature of nature itself. Poems take imaginative leaps into the darker side of nature yet retain a light, contemplative touch with detailed and sensitive descriptions of the natural world.
The humans in this world are fallible; brides are too perfect, husbands are occasionally fabulous beasts while fantasy and fairy tale meet in surprising ways.
These are poems of delicate, beautiful language and images that will haunt the reader with their sense of place and mystery.
"To read Nicola Warwick’s haunting collection is to be drawn in like a co-conspirator, attendant on natural and imaginative wonders: “co-conspirators // in a plot, marking a change, / a rite of passage” (‘Dusk’).
Earthed by their precise acquaintance with the physical world, these sensuous, emotionally alive poems relish the unknowable.
The Knifethrower's Wishlist
Winner Geoff Stevens Memorial
Poetry Prize 2016
The Knifethrower’s Wishlist
I will choose her for her skin
which will be so pale
I will see the landscape
of each vein beneath it.
And the atlas of her body
must be such that the glance
of my blade will raise
a rosy lovebite.
I will dress her in sequins
sharp as cut glass
so her fine skin will learn
the thrill of splinters.
She must be sweet and light,
wear heels to make her totter,
her legs constrained
by a mesh of nylons.
Her hair will be fair
with a wave or a curl
for my knife to lop off
on its route from my hand.
See how she quivers as I buckle
her in with rough straps
small as cats’ collars
that chafe her wrists, her ankles.
She trembles to watch
as I put on my blindfold,
the climax of our act,
which I will make her wear
night after night, our finale,
have her wrapped and tied
for our own covert performance,
my steely whispers in her ear.
Crossing to Wonderland
She’s found the key to the dressing-up box.
Words trickle and tumble
down her pinafore in alphabets and anagrams.
She tries spelling her name
in different ways, lengthening
the central vowel to sound exotic
– Alyss, Alysse, Alisse –
Each time it ends in a hiss.
Swapping her dress for ballerina shoes
and a tutu, she hides her scabby knees
in opaque tights. Look at me,
she says I’m good enough to eat.
Balancing on a tightrope,
she stretches out her arms
so as not to fall. Look at me,
she says, drink me all up.
She won’t look down. Her pale hair
shivers like a cloak. Her face
is daubed with make-up. Look at her.
She’s ready to fly.
You might forget that first time
when we stumbled from the pub
and strolled along the lane
to watch the sunset.
On the bridge we stopped
to look down at the water,
its surface as still as the entrance
to another world.
You laughed when I asked
what offering we should make,
so we stood there, making stories,
gifting each other sentences
but my tongue got stuck
when I tried to say yours were best.
Our voices were soon masked
by the calls of owls
cross-hatching the field;
the mist distorted our vision
until we saw nothing
but each other, co-conspirators
in a plot, marking a change,
a rite of passage.
As we walked back from the beach
through the little copse, an owl called out
to no-one but itself.
The light had changed to golden, turning
the leaves russet before their time.
Elderberries were ripening, dark as port.
I’d gathered shells along the shore, stashed
them in my pocket where they chime
together, small as fairies’ bells.
You were ahead, your strong, warrior legs
covering the ground like a deer. Behind you,
I sank into the fading light.
And thought of myself as one lone voice,
calling out to something, I didn’t know what,
another me, my own private echo.
When we return to ourselves
After dark, we become animal.
Night brings the need for pelts,
claws, teeth, horns.
We turn feral, stink of beasts,
prowl the streets like outcasts.
Our victims are strangers
who invite us in
with kindness or boldness.
We don’t know how to stop ourselves
shape-shifting in the night, a stark
compulsion for sex and death,
the need for power.
We roam all night, sniffing and taking
what we want, ram-raiding other people’s lives
until dawn, when we go to roost,
retreat into our dreary bodies,
return to ourselves.