Eeh, you wait for one poetry pamphlet to come along and then six turn up at once. Below we feature two of the latest from Crystal Clear publications - both by regular LeftLion contributors - as well as Steve Larder’s latest zine, as he chipped in with the illustrations. And if that’s not incestuous enough, the books are reviewed by their respective mentors….oh yeah, there's some poems lobbed in for good measures as well.
Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves
£4, Crystal Clear Creators
I often think poetry celebrates and communicates the urban, as much as landscapes of rural solitude. When I first heard ‘Mulletproof’ perform, I was struck by how he ‘got’ the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire I grew up in just right, as well as tackling themes inspired by popular culture – from Johnny Cash to Alan Moore. Mentoring this debut collection was like being taken on a sartorially sharp roller-coaster ride with a mod soundtrack. I loved it and thought that anyone could read his work, enjoying the visual and verbal dexterity of poems like Middle Aged Mod or thought-provoking pieces rooted in the past such as the wartime-set Blue Bench. When Write Lion asked me if I had a poem that would link to Andrew’s work, I thought of a Quadrophenia-inspired poem from my second collection, Pavilion. Deborah Tyler-Bennett
£4, Crystal Clear Creators
I walked a blank white page / between scarred headland / and storm line
From the beginning humans have always struggled – with the challenges of facing the natural world, and with themselves. The quote above is from Aly Stoneman’s Mermaids, a poem where she sees her own reflection, and the reflections of all of us, in humanoid apparitions commonly called seals. For me poetry is rooted in the gap between dangerous wilderness and cultured shelter, and in Lost Lands Stoneman (with her Neolithic name) walks that gap by imitating water. We can plunge our hands through water, yet water cuts through rock. None of us can live more than four days without water, yet we would all drown without land. Lost Lands is a tight river of poems, with enough unwritten space left free to allow its author to make her graceful struggle a collaboration with Steve Larder’s cobweb-fine drawings. Mark Goodwin
Rum Lad #5
Rum Lad is a zine written and illustrated by Steve Larder, who regularly contributes his cracking artwork to the Write Lion poetry page. However, Steve has another string to his bow – or maybe guitar, as he also plays in a band called Moloch. A tour of the USA in 2010, playing a hectic 30 gigs in 24 days, provided plenty of material for the latest 50-page issue, which combines journal-style observations with his trademark densely detailed black pen-and-ink sketches. Steve brings the gruelling road trip to life, stitching together hairy eccentrics, Oreos and potato crisps for breakfast, an awe-inspiring redwood forest, and slightly nuts road signs spotted en-route. Steve also created the illustrations for my poetry pamphlet Lost Lands, contributing drawings full of atmosphere and depth, evoking journeys through wild landscapes. You can buy Steve’s zines and prints of his original artwork from his website. Aly Stoneman
This is as close as we’ll ever get to ‘rap battles’ as each mentor responds to a selected poem from a poet’s collection. Mulletproof takes us to where Mills and Boon meets the council estate which for Deborah Tyler-Bennett is a scooter trip via Brighton Pier. Mark Goodwin got properly tooled up for the occasion, literally taking a pair of scissors to Aly Stoneman’s Mermaid to give it a unique short, back and sides.
Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves
via pylon mascots and manky roads
homes without names and lost postcodes
from the reek of skunk and Asda beans
strides the Burger King and his Bed-sit Queen
romance born at the corner shop
star-crossed lovers in tracksuit tops
‘valentine’ written on an old scratch card
stolen flowers from a posh house yard
their love spins round like kebab-house meat
wrapped in moonlight and dying streets
till it’s consummated in the underpass
among wet chip-wrappers and broken glass
they emerge embarrassed, wasted and sweaty
to shower in the headlights and raindrop confetti
Jimmy and Steph
That couple on The Pier,
Jimmy and Steph from Quadrophenia,
grown up, grown old, back here
for an all-nighter. Enquires how she’s been,
hears of grand-kids, Hubby’s shed,
anything, except some nights
she hears his scooter pass by Mum and Dads’
hairdryer hum intact. He chats
of ex-wives, ex-jobs, new Time-Share
(still digs back-combed hair
and streamlined skirts), passing Rock Shop
lists past Faces who’ll attend the gig and,
laughing as some fat bloke munches sugar fried-eggs,
takes her hand …
She remembers snaps of them
are back at the hotel, show him later, lets things stand,
he feels her wedding-ring upbraid hard skin,
marvels she doesn’t let him go
as, sharing natter from Mod-Net
discovers who’s in trouble, broke, or dead.
Thinks him unchanged, just chrome-shot hair,
can still look good in Slim Fits.
Who’d’ve twigged they’d date Brighton again,
if only for a weekend?
In her head, unutterable: ‘Stay,
let’s not go back’, they’ll never say.
Cases re-strapped, re-donned beige and grey,
the S-t-a P-r-e-s-t black and blue of yesterday.
Illustration: Steve Larder
I walked a blank white page
between scarred headland
and storm-line heaped with weed
and litter, stinking of the sea.
The tide hung in balance; waves
turned gently inside out, holding
their breath. No stars even,
the blue-rimmed moon
made shadows darker, bleached
the sky clean. Only the hotel bar
pricked a solitary light behind me
on the dark mound of Runswick Bay.
And in the lee of the cliff, I saw them
stripping mussels from the rocks,
and heard their hoarse barking
between the inch-wash waves.
They faced me silently, too late
to slip back to the sea unseen.
Waist down they were seals, silver
underbellies pressed into sharp grey shale;
human torso’s gaunt, pallid, ungraceful,
straining awkwardly upright. Breasts
wrinkled and slack, hair dripping lank,
pinched faces with eyes glittering black,
they hesitated, sighed, fell back; old nets
wound with seaweed held their catch.
Then, hauling across the beach, they plunged
into the sea; lithe suddenly - then gone.
For some time I faced the waves;
an onshore breeze lifted,
brought a harsh snatch of song,
as the tide turned inward.
lank black nets
catch plunged gone
waves’ lifted song