Eleventh Day – Mermaids And Sea Monsters
Lyonesse front cover
-Penelope Shuttle (from her new Bloodaxe collection “Lyonesse”)
-Helen Laycock (as it appeared in Visual Verse)
Wedded to the sea,
I am sheened in salt-glint.
A froth veil trails
from my seaweed crown
as he shows me the shore
then scoops me back down
to the deep
where we sleep
in a blue lilt,
a mosaic of sun
tilting mirrors on our backs.
In that secret place, a sea lantern swings,
splashing shards of jade and teal
into the folded silk of the rock.
The bowed hag’s watery grief
seeps its magic into the splinters
as she waits with clamped wings.
She is frozen into a waterfall of stone,
onyx daggers pinning her into the strata
like a fingerprint.
Hooded and veiled, charmed hands
draped, she sucks the light as she dreams
of conjuring marble into cloud.
He saw the advert in the local paper, on the right-hand side right next to the one about the missing cat. Mermaid for Sale. Price on application. He called the number and, later in the day, found himself at a small red-brick house with geraniums in the window. A woman answered the door, wearing faded jeans and a splattered T-shirt. She led him down the stairs to the basement where the light flickered blue and dim. There were fish in tanks, a small shark; three pink crabs. ‘Here,’ the woman said. ‘She doesn’t say much.’ The mermaid was sat under a disco ball. In the moving light her tail glittered and sparkled, like sun catching the waves. How beautiful she looked, and strange. Those sea green eyes, the hair that reminded him of old ropes, breasts like limpet shells. He’d have to sell his car to afford the price of her but he’d do it, yes he would.
He knew deep down she’d be a fake. Even though he’d had hope. He always had hope. His mother said that was his trouble. Head in the clouds. Feet not even touching the ground.
The mermaid spoke with a funny accent. When he asked where she’d come from she said she’d hitched a lift in a cargo boat. She’d hated wearing the tail. It made her itch all over. He said he loved her anyway. He brought her tea and cake. She said she’d stay. She liked the house. She was from Birmingham, she claimed. No sea there. Just a few reservoirs and some sickly fish.
(Late night serenade)
He sang in hoof gallop canto
which slowed to canter
as waves rippled lightning
into a dark waiting grave
The heat of his words
were a barometric headache
lyrics that drowned in heads
all closed thump-pulsed eyes
A lusty brook horse
he played through pitch
a, star shaking, violin whinny
steam snorting out his heat
Until shutters swang wide
as prickled arms broke
through flume and flotsam suck
for lapping kisses in black
or to banish him
for being so wet and blue
-Z.D. Dicks (First published in Runcible Spoon)
-Katie Byford (This was yesterday’s Weekly poem on Oxford Brookes University Poetry (Weekly Poem for 02 August 2021 – Oxford Brookes University)
Mermaids and Monopods
The Mappa Mundi shows mermaids and monopods;
the former, basking attractively,
the latter, using its huge foot as a sun hat.
The Medieval map of the world
depicts weird creatures from unknown lands –
a Cylops and Cynocephalus,
with a man’s body and a dog’s head;
Blemmye, headless men with eyes in their chest,
an early form of V.A.R.
Of course, we know now,
that mermaids are seals and sea lions,
giving voice to their fishy frustrations,
Or, inebriated, they might be manatees
flatulating among sea grass.
There are no Krakens, but Humboldt squid,
and if you like ecology you can study it in degrees –
Monopods are military amputees
after life-changing injuries with IED’s.
Cyclops are those people who walk around with one eye open,
Politicians not Terra incognita.
You’d have to dive to land on Mars now,
to get far enough to imagine how they saw the world.
From the mystery and romance of ancient ways,
something has been lost in translation.
We need mermaids and monopods
because being unique and different
teaches us a valuable lesson.
We’ve got their modern equivalents in the ocean –
evolutionary marvels like bivalves
who anchor with a single leg
extruded from a razor shell.
Are they able-bodied or adaption-assisted ?
Took the minority status route.
They’ve both been given clearance
to compete at the Paralympics
though nobody can decide in what category.
Blemmye, not from Motorhead –
suggested that we go with our gut.
-John Wolf 3rd August 2021
-Sonja Benskin Mesher
Below the waters of the German Sea rests
imagination bound with histories.
Massive creatures roamed valleys and forests,
folk hunted them down for wondrous stories.
In firelight told how they killed great toothed beasts
whilst feasting on the monster’s meat and bones,
Then the landslide., waters rose and all ceased.
Their remains tell tales to fish, crabs and stones.
Above they farm the gust that turns the blades.
Ferries wend their way to the other shore.
The sea now beast that harbours other trades.
A sunken land to be discovered once more.
A sea becomes land, as land becomes sea
Geography of our narratives legacy
Bios And Links
lives in Cornwall. Her thirteenth collection, Lyonesse, appears from Bloodaxe, June 2021. Covid/Corvid, a pamphlet written in collaboration with Alyson Hallett, appears from Broken Sleep Books, November 2021. Father Lear, a pamphlet, was published by Poetry Salzburg in June 2020. Shuttle is President of the Falmouth Poetry Group, founded in 1972. She is widely published, and her radio poem, Conversations on a Bench, set in Falmouth, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2020. She is currently working on a new collection, History of the Child.
is a poet and filmmaker from London. She has a BA in Classics from Durham University, where she received the Maltby Exhibition Prize for her dissertation on Sappho’s work as translated and interpreted by contemporary poets and artists. She regularly delivers guest lectures at Durham on the use of Greek and Roman sources in her poetry. Katie’s poem ‘Appetit, for Persephone’ placed first in the open category of the 2020 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition; her poem ‘Son, for Thetis’ was also shortlisted. She was part of the Barbican Young Poets from 2011 to 2014, and since then has worked extensively with the Barbican Centre, most recently delivering workshops and performing commissions for 2019 exhibitions AI: More than Human and Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Other commissions and performances include those at Durham Castle, the Wellcome Collection, Spread the Word and the Houses of Parliament. Her work has featured in Magma, Popshot, Modern Poetry in Translation and anthologies Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe Books) and She is Fierce: brave, bold & beautiful poems by women (Macmillan). Find out more about Katie on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
is a Derbyshire-based artist and illustrator creating captioned drawings, fragments of stories and uncanny happenings, presented under the collective banner, INKY CONDITIONS. He works with ink and brush and some deliberately lo-grade technology. Amongst a playfulness, themes of personal loss emerge. Part therapy: a loving and cathartic catalogue of everyday life – and death.
Stevie shows and sells INKY CONDITIONS work at arts trails and fairs across Derbyshire and Staffordshire, including the Wirksworth Festival, and is a Staff Illustrator with The Hungry Ghost magazine. Alongside this, he works as an independent commercial illustrator, making useful drawings for beer branding, businesses, and for Barnsley Museums, including visitor guides and poetry anthologies.
Instagram & Twitter: @mitchsteve / #inkyconditions
sixth poetry collection, The Celery Forest, was named a CBC Best Book of the Year and was a finalist for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. She was a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize, featured in Exile Magazine and published in Poetry Daily, Gutter Magazine, The Malahat Review, Southwordand more. A previous winner of the Toronto International Festival of Author’s Poetry NOW, she leads their monthly book club. Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric, her most recent collection, was nominated for the Toronto Book Awards. Her second novel, The Most Cunning Heart, is forthcoming. http://www.catherinegraham.com @catgrahampoet
-Z. D. Dicks
holds an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire.
In 2016 he founded the Gloucestershire Poetry Society and the Gloucester Poetry Festival. His poetry is widely published.
He currently has three collections ‘Malcontent’ and ‘Intimate Nature’ with Black Eyes publishing (2019) and one ‘Vexed’ with Hedgehog Poetry Press (2020).
Helen Ivory (Ink, Sweat and Tears) described his work as ‘muscular language’ and is himself ‘a gothic Seamus Heaney’ according to Anna Saunders.
Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published widely in literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print, and placed in several writing competitions, winning one. She is a nominee for Best of the Net 2021.
is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash fiction has been widely published both online and in print anthologies. She is currently working on a novella. There is no mermaid in the novella but it features a distant rocky island, a lighthouse and a strange bird.”
writing has been showcased in Visual Verse, The Best of CafeLit, the Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, the Ekphrastic Review and Lucent Dreaming, whose inaugural flash fiction competition she won. Poetry has been published in Popshot, Poems for Grenfell, Full Moon and Foxglove and The Caterpillar.