Sunday, 28 June 2020

Poems in the Backroom 105: Pippa Little

Pippa Little is a Scot who lives in the north of England and is therefore one of our honorary poetry reivers. In the first book I remember seeing of hers, ‘Foray', set among reiving women, she skilfully tread the dodgy path between history and imagination that I like to teeter down myself sometimes.

One of the amazing - sometimes depressing- facets of the #plague is the sheer worth of the poetry involved. There are so many individual voices out there and so many skilful makars. Pippa Little is a wonderful poet with a very finely tuned and unique angle of attack on the ordinary and occasionally extraordinary things that confront us. I do hate to go on about drink in case folk think I’ve got a problem but a poem of hers that has stayed with me is ‘Blotto’ which I reprint in full at the bottom of the page. This is not some superficially skilled sketch of a drunkard but the poetic equivalent of the Vulcan mind-meld, describing with psychiatric precision but also aching empathy the subjects drunkenness as

'my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope
of what must come, hope in spite of hope'

Brilliance. Pippa Little reviews, edits, teaches and mentors and is a founding member of Carte Blanche women’s writing group. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University where she leads workshops exploring expressive writing techniques to boost emotional resilience in first year students. She received a Hawthornden Fellowship and has won many awards, been published widely in magazines such as 'Ambit', 'Poetry', 'Poetry Review', 'Rialto, 'New Edinburgh Review', 'Glasgow Review of Books' and 'MsLexia', had work featured in anthologies, collaborations, online, on radio and film and has read at festivals and venues across the world, from StAnza in St. Andrews to Mexico City.

Her pamphlet 'The Spar Box', from Vane Women, was a PBS Choice. Other pamphlets include The 'Snow Globe' from Red Squirrel Press, 'Our Lady of Iguanas' from Black Light Engine Room Press and 'Foray', the reiver poems from Biscuit Press, Her most recent full collection, 'Twist', came out in 2017 from Arc and was shortlisted for The Saltire Society Poetry Collection of the Year.
'Overwintering', published by OxfordPoets/Carcanet, was shortlisted for The Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. She is currently working on her next collection. 

Here she is reading 'At the End of Lockdown':

Pippa's profile and more poems on SPL Website:

Six Poems in 'Live Encounters':

At the End of Lockdown

Something has broken/been broken
in me:

today I walked where
rock pools, like eyes,
fill with tears -
alone but for gulls
and sea-glitter:

forbidden touch, skin remembers how to hold
and be held in tenderness
is holy:

the world is very old
and very frail -
I wonder/will it survive us?

Something has broken/been broken:
this slow, quiet letting go
of our pawnbroker’s innocence:

I have dreamed again and again of extinction

and yet the world goes on

even as something has lain down in us
like an old animal/come to its end

multitudes throng the beaches
in these last days of lockdown
oiling their glistening legs
like flies


On Starbucks’ corner hunched against the cold
I’ve been here since the moon was high;
come morning, blow hard into the knot
of my blue hands, I have no hope
today will be more than the old shuttle
between being sober and being blotto.
It’s a kind of leaving without going, blotto:
an easy travelling farther away than cold,
swift and sure as a loom shuttle
I go clean and I go high,
way past being lost or found – in hope
only that one day I shall free this knot,
memory-knot, hunger knot, knot
that’s the opposite of blotto –
if you see me huddled at your feet I hope
you’d throw me more than a blind cold
stare from your important walking, high
above me, on your commuter shuttle:
to and fro you go, slaves of that great shuttle
faster and faster and for what? A slimy knot
you can never shift from your gut. Only a high
ending and a hurrah and I’ll soon be blotto,
my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope
of what must come, hope in spite of hope.
The north wind’s a blade-sharp shuttle
I’m an impediment to its purpose, cold.
All in the end I’ve got is this ordinary knot
That’s me. Do you know blotto?
Do you know high?

Out cold, high, face kicked to a knot,
small hope of recovery. Found by the airport shuttle, blotto.

(From 'Twist')

1 comment:

  1. "oiling their glistening legs/ like flies": a perfect, chilling, image. Pippa, as ever, thank you.