GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Having listened over the years to so many people (called patients) talking, Richard Westcott has found it’s been a relief to talk – and listen – to himself.
His poems have popped up in all sorts of places (such as the Mary Evans Poetry Blog, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Lighten Up Online, and a wall at Exeter University), broad/podcast (East London Radio), and been listed, commended and highly commended in various competitions, including the Hippocrates, York Mix, Camden Lumen, Plough and Poetry on the Lake even winning a prize or two here and there.
He’s often to be found outdoors and is blessed with a large and tolerant family to whom he talks, along with his dog, who happens to be a good listener as well, and is also a keen amateur musician (the man, not the dog).
Cover design Detail from woodcut Picasso and the orchid www.judithwestcott.co.uk
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: 26 MARCH 2018
The protagonists of these poems extend from ancient times to yesterday; they range from the famous to the anonymous, from the real to the imagined, from the historic to the mythic. But they all shared the same fate. The medium of poetry, with its particular privileges and special liberties, offers one way to approach the frightening, almost incomprehensible and so often avoided subject of suicide. Unflinching and at times realistic, naturally and inevitably emotional but never sentimental, these poems – as varied as their subjects – acknowledge the suffering, but seek to find a measure of meaning, to achieve some understanding and ultimately sympathy for, if not kinship with, those who left so abruptly.
“It takes some courage and discipline to mount an expedition into the so-near-yet-so-far-away terrain of suicide. Neither deploring nor romanticising it, but considering with sensitivity a range of lives, each individual to its circumstances and society, these poems widen the perspective in which we can look at an act which our culture in particular finds hard even to contemplate.”
“Having twice awarded Richard Westcott prizes in the YorkMix competition, I was excited to read his first collection. Here is that same clear, intelligent, confident voice inhabiting a wide variety of people from history. It is Westcott’s unique gift to turn these dramatic monologues into pure gold.
I loved every word.”
"These poems are about thresholds, not the physical border from the outside, as a doorway into a home, but the conceptual boundary separating out one space from another. Westcott's preoccupation is with this conceptual boundary as it demarcates life from death. His interest is in this very specific juncture, in the context of suicide. He takes as his examples Primo Levi, Virginia Woolf, Seneca, Robert Fitzroy. and others. He inhabits their innerworlds, takes on their voices and contemplates their situations, their plans, and their final actions. The effect is powerful, mesmerising, and moving. But, it is the language that is most impressive. Westcott has mastered his craft, he writes as if the words themselves were utterly lucid, as if the carefully chosen words, the economy and thrust of the narrative, the rhythm were all composed of the air on a crisp spring day- all luminosity, and without any glare. It is a remarkable achievement for he inhabits a variety of voices yet possesses a uniqueness all his own."
Femi Oyebode MBBS, MD, PhD, FRCPsych
There they live much longer
A Wise Man Takes His Leave
I can already see the earth
in all its fine reality –
a sphere of lovely colours,
the mountains smooth where precious stones
are uncorroded – every sense
is clearer. There they live much longer.
Mighty streams descend and mingle.
Dear friends it is determined –
Echecrates, Simmias, Cebes –
your time will come as mine has now.
It's nearly sunset. Bring in my cup.
I shall ask for a gentle voyage.
The earth awaits. I walk its surface
for a moment I wait too
for descent and rearrangement.
Let me lie down now.
Farewell to you and to myself –
the icy tide is rising
from feet to legs to waist.
Observe the customs. There they live
Lucretia’s Last Words
You do not know what will take place
you who are mine in truth
you do not know. Not yet.
Hear me. Hear my voice
before I leave and give me
give me your word. I beg
you father and beloved husband
attend and act as I will now
so that conquest be avenged
both mine and yours. So brief
brief is beauty. Death leads
to overthrow. He is all.
And after it has taken place
I will not know nor ever hear
those future voices as they sing
these words that once were mine.
How long has passed? Birthdays come and go –
many happy returns – along with many another
death day. Along these meadows here
I walk where once you walked
to exchange harsh air for gentle water
still current carried to a distant bridge.
The children watched, later found you
here. The workman in the ditch
saw you pass, not to come back.
No return, although the birthdays
come and go and I return
in my present now to your passing past.
Across this threshold I have passed
many times between my open hands
an offering, to sustain.
Now I approach the familiar step
once more, hands closed.
No collection dish today –
instead a pillow
like a cushion on the altar
awaits, with comfort.
Through inspiration I shall pass
across this threshold one last time –
my hands will open, to receive
the sustenance I pray for.
(Sylvia Plath laid her head in her unlit gas oven.)
Birds fall silent at this false dusk.
As circles approach the edges of worlds
collide in a blur of first darkness.
An unusual coolness falls upon us.
You do not need to know the pain
when they were both put out. There is
no darkness to approach that black
when light is lost forever.
Worlds travel on to overlap.
At the centre an oval that grows
a widening eye still out of sight.
Nothing so dark as the pupil itself.
You do not need to see the pillars
as bodies move apart. I seized them
in a vision of destruction
and in bowing avenged the loss.
The light returns along with warmth.
From ends new starts are made.
Upon the pile of broken stones
a black bird starts to sing.
The Joy of Flotsam
To float free and be subject
to elements alone
to forego all self will
and abandon assumptions
to forget roles and to drift
from the tyranny of function
to begin in time to lose even identity
to have no need to find or be found...