Thursday, 8 October 2015

Seaside Conception

When he said goodbye
near the holiday flats
and the wind flipped away
her Kiss-me-Quick hat

and he laughed that "No!
It hadn't been 'crap'!"
- he couldn't tell then
that if he had snapped
her slim waist in two
his name was inked there
running all the way through.

Published 8/10/2015 on Clear Poetry

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Light at Cape Cod.

Motoring under a billowing cape sky,
we pass three lighthouses on yellow dunes,
into the oculus of air and ocean.
Shearwaters run upon the sea then rise,
tripping upwards from their light fantastic,
as we scan for Humpbacks, Minke and Fin.

I look around at the Whale Watchers.
Couples, foreign families, school parties
(kids all lively and brilliantly cagouled,
faces airbrushed bright, bouncing in the sun),
an old pair, his wispy hair thin as pins,
her face dulled to flatness with foundation.

"Thar she blows!" the excited kids explode
as a Humpback breaches on the starboard
and black water slides like silk down his back.
The fluke print shines emerald from his fins,
our naturalist in overdrive explains why
while we watchers press for a better look.

The lady puts an arm round her husband.
I see her bitten nails are painted green,
emerald almost, like the submerged fin.
She smiles up at his liver spotted face:
"I'm so glad you've been able to do this."
He leans over, kisses her cheek, lightly.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

'A Fright Of Jays' review

Flattered by the following review in Canto Poetry magazine 21/9/15:!publications/cnec

Marc Woodward:  A Fright of Jays
Maquette Press, 2015
£4.00     16pp
This chapbook by Marc Woodward invites the reader into a dark rurality. These are beautifully crafted poems, interweaving ideas of freedom, constraint and expiation, in a depiction of the pastoral that, as a fellow Devon inhabitant, I found simultaneously very recognisable and strangely defamiliarised. Death is dealt in almost every poem, and a walk in the countryside is a dangerous undertaking – the landscape holds darknesses, and not just those of the night.
The first poem, ‘Eel Catching’, takes us into a double darkness where ‘midnight fog […] whispers from the river mouth/the fetid smell of marsh decay’ and obscures the moon and stars. All seems held in stasis – until the eels come. ‘Sliding through underwater grass, current tracers in the blind depth’, the eels are ominous, precursors of something inexplicit but threatening. When the speaker catches one, ‘thrashing fiercely in the torchlight/ as if in tongues before the priest’, we start to believe that some kind of mystical sacrifice is going to take place. But when he does ‘the act’ on his own ‘back door step’, that liminal place between wilderness and civilisation, there is ‘so much dark blood, like thick red oil’, that the killing has become an obscene contamination – the blood that will not wash off the murderer’s hands, and an industrial pollutant that poisons the earth.
These poems are rooted in very real places, and this enables them to bear their cargo of metaphor with ease. In ‘Beyond Broadwoodwidger’, the reader is asked to imagine being stranded in the rural night, a night which is both meticulously observed and metaphorically freighted: here is ‘a justice of darkness’, ‘the weight of condensation/on a vast ocean of bending blades’, where ‘there is nothing to save you’. Do you lie down and let ‘this wet ditch/ […] be your decomposing place?’
This question is answered, in a way, in the next poem, ‘Crisis’. Here the speaker does indeed lie down upon the ground, after yet another act of violence – this time against his mobile phone and all that it signifies. And signification is part of the problem; he sees too much. He says ‘If I could drive blindfold I could go/ …where all the signs are free of symbols’. But he can’t escape that way, so he has to go home and free these particular signs from their symbols by using lies.
One of the things so enjoyable about Woodward's collection is the way in which the poems interact with each other. ‘The Crossing’, in which the speaker steals a dog from a cramped backyard and releases it ‘ten miles from town’ inverts the capture of ‘Eel Catching’. In a later poem, ‘Revival’, the speaker revives a lizard he has found frozen ‘at the red mud edge of a Devon lane’, a place that echoes and refashions the eel-bloodied doorstep.
The idea of escape is a thread running throughout these poems. The stolen dog might or might not survive, but at least it has escaped (unlike the speaker in ‘Crisis’), and been given a freedom to be re-wilded and to ‘howl among the trees/ some ancient dog-breath song’. It is a vicarious escape for the poet, but also, perhaps, an atonement.
In the final poem ‘Sing of the Mountain’ we are, however, returned to imprisonment. The countryside is dark and irresistible, and, having travelled their hard journey, ‘the children of the mountain are tied,/ twisted in bindweed, creeper and ivy’. And, of course, ‘then there’s the wolf-owl night’.
This is a collection which concedes that you can’t escape your own landscape, external or internal, but that you can at least sing, even if only of ‘tangled isolation, / dog-in-the-thicket thoughts’. These are poems that sing in the dark, of darkness.

(Sally Douglas read English and European Literature at Warwick University. She lives in Devon. Poems and short stories have appeared in magazines such as Smiths Knoll, The Rialto, Envoi, Orbis and Interpreter’s House, and in anthologies. Her first poetry collection, Candling the Eggs, won the Cinnamon Press 2009 Poetry Award.)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Naledi (Star)

His first go at splicing Angel and Ape
was less than successful. Although smarter
the mutant lacked the Angel's wings and grace
and showed more aggression, more avarice.
He culled the lot, dumped the bones in a cave.

The second go was better. Still no wings
but at least they showed reduced body hair
and the females seemed to have a degree
of Angelic compassion and beauty.

He thought he still might have another try
but left them to it when called away by
supernovas in bursting galaxies.
Under gifting stars the Ape Angels learned
to slaughter and skin - while yearning to fly.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Wanton Agnes

My glowing pink skin belies me
and I know that glint in your eye:
you're hoping we might go to bed?
Would you feel the same
if I was pea-pod green instead?

Before the bang and the ringing bells
that chimed us from cave into sunlight:
that's how I was - and my brother too.
Ah, yes, you know me now?
You've heard the gossiped news...

I'm Agnes, the green girl who lived:
I learned to forsake green beans
and to eat your garish food
then watch at the placid mill
as my skin took on your pig pink hue.

My homesick brother did the same
but his heart was always green.
Constant as malachite,
green as the willows
quivering by the wolf pits;

green as loyalty, green with memory,
green as the bright watermeal
that hides newts and frogs
but couldn't conceal
his bloated pink corpse.

So take me to bed, perhaps make me your wife,
I'll love you as any pink person might.
But  you must know that when I hear
the high bells of St Edmund's
tolling out bold and clear,

I'll want to take the cold hand
of my brother's colourless ghost
and walk where once a way appeared,
down by those lonely traps,
- that left us sun-struck and blinking, here.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Lost boot

When I called on you
I saw a Wellington boot
lying in the road.

A kid's Wellington
dropped from a passing push chair.
It was a fine day

with no chance of rain.
Later, when I left your house
the small boot was gone.

It was still sunny
but the wind had swung around.
I sometimes wonder

if there are signals,
small coded indications,
little messages

that I simply can't
decipher or understand.
Perhaps we're all like

lost boots in the street
waiting for our retrieval
when the wind swings round.

Published 8/10/15 on Clear Poetry

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Golden Hamsters

You're in a city pet store
full of sandy hamsters
whirling in little wheels;
air filled with the scent
of sawdust and sweet hay.

When you leave,
stepping into the din
of chuntering buses,
squeaky raincoats,
wailing kids,
amped up buskers
and all the slow
desultory hope
on a high street
of forlorn folk...

...ain't it good to know
the golden hamsters
are still there,
spinning wildly away,
black eyes bugging,
eagerly weaving
a great cloak of fate
with which to mantle
the stooping shoulders
of this shabby world.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Bowman's Lament

When I let fly and heard the bowstring thwack 
against the yew and saw the arrow loose - 
I knew. Just knew. The sky stepped sideways, 
shivered at the brush of fletching as the shaft  
flew past and rushed on up to the white moon.
Her lonely face punctured and deflated,
skeltered down into the confused sea 
swilling on the beaches in uncertainty.
I was cursed by owls, foxes, moths, voles.
All those nocturnal acolytes of moonlight:
astronauts, dancers, lovers. Poets too. 
Me? I'm the man who shot down the moon, 
who becalmed the turbulent oceans;
who brought the blue green earth to ruin.

Included in 'A Fright Of Jays' published by Maquette Press 6/2015

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Fright Of Jays


I'm delighted to have my chapbook A Fright Of Jays just published by Maquette Press.
It's a small collection of my darker bucolic, lyric poetry.

Some new, some older ones reworked. The poems included aren't on the blog here (although several have been previously, albeit in earlier rougher versions) - so if you want to see them you'll need to drop in on Maquette's website and order a copy!

Which at £4 incl p&p won't break your bank and will support an excellent small press producing collections of high quality writing (*ahem, clears throat*).

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Poem

I completely cracked it yesterday.
Everyone I showed it to agreed.
My friend the Doctor of Creative Writing
covered his mouth and ran from the room.
It even made my sceptical wife swoon.

It wasn't just the best poem I'd written.
It was the best poem ever written.
An Aurora Borealis in your heart.
A Niagara word-fall gushing in your head;
the wild moon: there! - at the bottom of your bed.

I folded it up, put it in a tin,
buried it deep behind the compost patch
near where we interred the family cat.
No poet wants to see poetry like that.

Published 8/10/15 on Clear Poetry

Sunday, 26 April 2015


Guinevere walked through the morning gardens
where primroses partied in slanting light.
A liquidity of songbirds pardoned
the slinkingly slow departure of night

This walking around in meadows at dawn,
this dripping about in ethereal dreams,
was wearing thin on her, losing its  charm
she'd give it all up for Starbucks and jeans.

She'd buried Arthur at Avalon Tor,
that squalid town with its hill of hippies:
already they'd opened souvenir stores,
tarot talkers, spell sellers and chippies.

In a parallel world through a wormhole in time
she'd drink gin and tonic. With Lancelot and lime.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Le morte d'Arthur

Arthur returned to his kingdom in leaf.
Vibrant grass at his feet, overhead
a bursting beech. He took off his armour,
drank from a stream then lay in the April sun
feeling its warmth on his grey stubbled face.
Saracens, Moors, Dervishes. The dust
of foreign lands. He was done with it all.
The wound in his shoulder was still bleeding
and no flowery poultice had staunched it yet.       

The shallow brook clattered through green cresses
and the impatient grass grew taller.
He slept untroubled while blood pooled round him,
until he resembled Ophelia floating
in her willowy glade, the blades of grass,
red as her hair, waving in the Spring breeze.