El Alto Fairytale
Where did you say
you wanted to capture the portrait?
In the backyard, when the sun sets?
...thick ochre dust coating our throats,
coughing in time with each step;
the rubbish-riddled pavements
flanked by funeral parlours
plying their trade with neon crosses...
You see, we were shut out of the house
(no reason given – lack of food, I suppose)
aged six and nine respectively.
Sheffield’s spun in an outbreak of half-hearted snow –
the kind that doesn’t stick but blusters up streets
where cars, trams and bikes come and go
while workers trudge pavements on lunch breaks.
I don’t know what the hell I’ll say to you
when it comes to this catching up, four years on –
what else but to make small talk on the who
what where and whens of those years gone
like this flurry of sudden, street-sweeping whiteness?
The Cavendish spills open as the 95 pulls up:
six or so kids drift off towards campus
when suddenly my mobile’s relentless as gossip –
Hi – no worries – I’ve booked us this place to eat…(hell, I know why I’m doing this…)
So, where shall we meet?
Notting Hill Carnival
August bank holiday in Notting Hill,
Stuck in a two-thirds empty sushi bar,
I drink the cheapest soup dish on the menu
And discuss tactics: entry points, how far,
To walk or haggle, Who’s Who. Then the bill
Comes, and I pay. Pay cash, says Jimmy, then you
Won’t waste your cash on beer. We all decide
Vaguely to join the one-way crowd outside,
And it begins, this packed conveyor belt
Of costumes, crowded streets, and creditcards.
Scaffolded billboards boast of low gun-crime,
Trailing back, smitten through the small hours,
I thought of Anna’s bedhead languor
unchanged these many years,
her unreformed Romanticism
of the first wave – ein Uber-Kunst,
the All in One, the One in All ! –
her Decadence of the last,
draped women, green fairy, industrial smoke
from a Rimbaud pipe –
of her delectable heart-shaped lostness,
« What then is my Destiny ? », and
« I thought the Germans not much fun,
but then I came to live in France ! »
Under the Greenwood Tree
See the songthrush and the barn owl
pray, each ensconced in its hood
of light: brown Franciscan cowl
whose alms, fat panoply of food,
swell to plenty in the twin globes
of the world, one eye at each side
of the head; while slits in robes
peer lustily at the unconfirmed bride,
equally watchful in their facial disc,
huge devil’s eyes computing the distance
from an angel, exterminating risk,
the iron will of happenstance
About Tower Poetry
Tower Poetry exists to encourage and challenge everyone who reads or writes poetry. Funded by a generous bequest to Christ Church, Oxford, by the late Christopher Tower, the aims of Tower Poetry are clear: to stimulate an enjoyment and critical appreciation of poetry, particularly among young people in education, and to challenge people to write their own poetry. Creative writing should be a central element in literary education, and learning about writing poetry can help students to think about ways of reading poetry.
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Poetry Matters magazine
Poetry Matters is an exciting on-line poetry magazine which provides a fresh, dynamic perspective on poetry issues through a mix of news, reviews and comment. It should appeal to students in the final stages of their secondary education, but its content and scope will also be of interest and relevance to the wider poetry community.
The 2014 Tower Poetry Summer School will be held at Christ Church from Tuesday 26 - Friday 29 August 2014. Full details of the tutors and how to apply will be announced by May 2014.
The 2014 Christopher Tower Poetry competition was launched on National Poetry Day (3 October). This year's theme is News and the judges are Olivia McCannon, Kei Miller and Peter McDonald. Full details on our Competition pages.
Listen to the prizewinners read their poems from recent Christopher Tower Poetry Competitions.
Listen to 'Feather - small and still', one of the 2009 prizewinning poems, by Sophie Stephenson-Wright, set to music by Jonathan Pitkin and sung by Heather Uren, accompanied
by Guy Newbury - first performed on 24 March 2010.
2013 prizewinners read their poems; co-judge Carrie Etter talks to Jennifer Orr about the judging process; and John McBride from Strathearn School, Belfast talks to Jennifer Orr about teaching poetry at the school.
2012 prize-giving introduced by Mishtooni Bose; Christopher Reid talks about the poetry; John Cartwright presents the prizes; and the winner, Sarah Fletcher from The American School in London, reads her poem 'Papa's Epilogue'.
'Feather -- small and still', one of the shortlisted poems from Tower Poetry's 2009 competition -- Villanelle - by Sophie Stephenson-Wright, set to music by Jonathan Pitkin and sung by Christ Church undergraduate, Heather Uren, accompanied by Guy Newbury. Part 1.
Tower Poetry's 2010 competition winner, Emily Harrison, reading Love has no Larynx.