Sunday, 14 June 2020

Poems in the Backroom 90: Holly Magill

As I've said previously, I'm delighted to have been associated with the 'Poet's Republic', a magazine, publishing house and sort of family which has often provided a counter-point to the sleeker more established magazines out there. It's sort of getting towards the defunct magazines in Scotland you miss as much for their excellent commentary as their excellent poetry, like 'West Coast Magazine', 'Radical Scotland' and 'Cencrastus'. By commentary I'm meaning the place of poets and poetry in the radical stream of consciousness. 'Poet's Republic' set up a 'Poets React' platform for ...well...angry poets. Don Paterson said, sensibly, that poetry should not be "being in love with your own sensitivity as opposed to actually feeling anything." I find myself operating at a level of barely controlled rage some of the time, as I'm sure many do. It's difficult not to make a poem expressing anger into a rant, which should perhaps be an art form in itself. It's brilliant therefore to feature a poet today in the Backroom whose poetry is as at home on the back page of the Morning Star as it is in more established literary magazines, and who is good enough for both.  

Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including 'The Interpreter’s House', 'Bare Fiction', and 'Under The Radar', and anthologies –'Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back'  from Nine Arches Press and '#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology' from Fair Acre Press. She won first prize in the 2019 Cannon Poets ‘sonnet or Not’ competition. She co-edits 'Atrium'.  Her debut pamphlet, 'The Becoming of Lady Flambé', is a wonderful collection centring around the life of a fictional circus girl and issues like identity and loneliness is out now and available from Indigo Dreams Publishing. There is a link to purchase this below.

Here Holly reads 'The Politest Riot'. It is transcribed below, along with two other poems:

Link to 'The Becoming of Lady Flambe' in Indigo Dreams Press:

Three More poems from 'Clear Poetry':

A Review of 'The Becoming of Lady Flambe':

The Politest Riot

I will not play into hands that would beckon
close only to shuck me off before they
plunge into vats of antibacterial.

I will not play – screaming, swearing, kicking, spitting –
though God, I know the urge.

Far too easy for you to dismiss as emotional, erratic,
unstable hysteric.

I will not play. Because this is no game.

I am no cleverer – and no more thick – than those bawling the odds.
You would prefer their anarchy, fists through windows,
disorderly arrests to make an example.

Shame them as yobs in the press,
don’t know any better, any excuse for a ruck.
Waste of taxpayers’ money to educate the dross.

That would serve your policies well, I see that:
the NHS literally gave me vision.

I’m trying, I’m a good girl. I try…

courtesy and reason – a surprise to you
that shouldn’t be.

Yes, I have benefitted – from free uni education,
from Social Housing, from scrounging and school milk.
Been told I don’t talk like a DWP claimant.

In public libraries I learned
the lightning and violence of language.

Yes, officer, I will come quietly, so very quietly.

But not silent. I use the words you don’t
want the rough ’uns to comprehend.

O, still small voice not taped to a flying brick.

Every day more hands join in the dark.

Everyone deserves quality…’

The incumbent Conservative will cut
the shiny red ribbon, celebrate

130 jobs created – including artisan bakers,
sushi chefs, specialist prosecco pourers.

(The paper doesn’t mention the cleaners.)

There’s free wifi and 285 parking spaces;
a wine bar featuring a microbrewery draft pump
– only the second of their UK stores to have that.

Come on in, feel posh – look, you can
vote for their next charity of the month
with a plastic token, not have to give

a penny or a fuck.

(From 'The Morning Star')


Zhinnia sparks her lighter, watches
the flame bloom the face she loves
to a lie of rosiness.

They’ve got candles, filched vodka, cheapest cider.
Brisket’s purrs make warm storm-clouds
of the old sofa cushions and crochet blankets
they’d saved from a skip.

You’re different, Zee, special, like.

Kayla’s dad isn’t around to haunt the shed anymore;
her mum keeps talking about knocking it down,
getting a pergola.

Zee, I’ve fallen for someone.

Everything is purring, purring, purring,
baccy flake confetti freefall,
creosote tang and White Musk,
The most beautiful firetrap

just aching to burn.