The Chalk Path – poetry PDF

The Chalk Path - front cover

My latest poetry pamphlet is now available as a free PDF. In The Chalk Path, Joe, Hugh, and myself turn our attention landward from the coast. The poems are drawn from walks over chalk downs, train rides beside white horses etched into hillsides and, in contrast, the bright red sandstone of my Mercian homelands.

Read it online

You can read The Chalk Path here. Please share it with your friends if you enjoy it.

Here’s one of mine from the collection:

PILGRIMAGE OVER CLENT

Red soil. Brown grass. White sky.
A glimpse of Harry-Ca-Nab,
the devil’s hunting man. Keep running.
Through mudbeds of slipping-danger.
Through the place of martyrs, St. Kenelm’s.
Here’s one known to me. I bow my head before
climbing into the cradle of these hills.

At St. Leonard’s, further along Kenelm’s pass,
I find the grave of Eliza Baylie,
unknown to me, her woven cross
symmetrical, upright, organic stone.
The good we’ve wrought becomes nature.
Chapel, trees, and stones are buried in fog.
Eliza’s cross marks the beginning of a hill
we once measured in bpm,
ears pounding with the body’s song,
where my heart stops me again.

Geese creak in the mist above.
Clouds curdle as they’re raked
like ghosts through evergreens. Rain thickens.
Ca-Nab’s hounds are close. Keep running.
Over the rise, leaving a pattern but no prints.
Carry the poem. Kiss the soil with each foot.
Let the hill carry you home.

 

Blurb

An experiential exploration of movement within the landscape, taking you beyond maps to the cries of buzzards, the feeling of chalk dust on fingers, and the glimpse of a white horse.

As always, the cover painting is by Hugh.

You can also read our previous poetry pamphlets in PDF form: The Inner Sea and The Tide Clock.

All feedback welcome in the comments or to mark@markdcooper.com.

154 contemporary poets respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets

154 Shakespeare's Sonnets, Live Canon

Helen Eastman of Live Canon has edited an anthology of 154 responses to Shakespeare’s sonnets. I contributed a response to sonnet XXV, titled ‘Perseids’. It is a testament to Helen’s energy and organisation that this happened at all. They say working with poets is like herding cats. Can you imagine trying to marshall 154 of them to finally decide whether or not the penultimate line needs a comma?

Not only is the book filled with inventive contemporary poetry it has lovely production quality too. And there are one or two decent turns from W.S. himself.

You can buy 154 from Amazon or buy it directly from Live Canon.

154 Shakespeare Live Canon Mark D Cooper

Second place in Poetry Teignmouth’s local competition

‘Murmuration’ took second place in the Keats’ Footsteps prize. Judge Jennie Osborne said:

I loved the use of language here, its visual nature, its fresh, shifting images that conjure the idea of crow, rather than telling us about crows. It is an impossible task to speak in the voice of other beings, but I think an important one, if we are to try to fathom their otherness.

The reading and prize-giving was a wonderful event, with beautiful readings. I particularly enjoyed Martyn Crucefix talking about his translations of the Daodejing. It was great to rub shoulders with poets and writers again.

I don’t expect they’ll mind if I reprint the poem here. It was inspired by a flock of crows shape-shifting above the valley.

 

Murmuration

This is no ordinary murder:
thin as rumour; dense in our folds as coal.
A waveform of curling crows,
crow-consciousness, our own idea of crow
smudged above the wounded combe.

Here we come, and fade again, a ghost
pulling itself out of empty air.
A sketch, a fingerprint of crowing,
contorting wing and sinew into scavenger
and funeralist with an actor’s clever-clever.

We’re riders on our own black wind.
We are pure language: ink cannot trace us.
As soon as our shape is there it’s gone.
And pinning us to the page is to see a shape
where, after tricks and turns, there isn’t one.

Poems in Urthona & Live Canon

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I’ve had some poems published recently, including three in Urthona: Buddhism & the Arts. It’s a great magazine if you’re into Buddhism, meditation, and literature. Here’s ‘Waiting for Al-Khidr’ from the magazine. Also in the issue are ‘The Pearl’ and ‘How I Became a Prophet’. It’s the current issue so consider subscribing if you’re interested to read them.

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‘The Cord’ appeared in Live Canon‘s New Poems for Christmas anthology.


 

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‘Labyrinth’ appeared in Live Canon‘s 2015 competition anthology. See their publishing back catalogue here.

 

Brother Wolf – dream poem

Beaten and bruised, my brother led me
over the wastes to the foot of the mountain
standing like a broken white tooth.
The red light of the sun had no power here.
Below us, the troubled village.

He led me to the pass, and I faltered.
“Please brother!” I begged. “Do you not trust me?”
“From here you go alone,” he said.
“Or I too will hunt you. Do not come among us for food again.
Or we will feed you feathers and bolts.” And he beat me.

A wolf cried in the sky’s great vault.
Those who can live outside the village,
must live outside the village.
“Where will you go, brother,” I asked,
“who can neither leave nor stay?”

He looked doubtful and said, “to family.”
“Get off this mountain before sundown, brother,” I spat,
“for I am not helpless or alone.”

He parted without another word.
The moon rose above the white broken peak.
The mountain cried as a guttural wind
shuddered in its crags and gorge.

My brother was gone.
I threw my head back,
let the pain inside be
and I howled.

The Swing

Wood pigeons burble contentment
from the chimney above my childhood garden
as light falls from the sky
burning at an unknown horizon
beyond the oak leaves and fence.
The compost heap buzzes murkily.
The chains of the swing squeak:
each moment lives on this hinge.
My parents will soon call me to bed.
For now, the rush of falling upward.
How blissful not to want even happiness.

Opaque Poem

This fog has been with us forever,
cross-hatched with rain.
Conifers struggle in the wind.
Removal men haul furniture in hi-vis gear

on the other side of the coombe
where wet tarmac reflects high beams.
Cars leave the suburbs.
Soup bubbles on the hob.

I give it a stir. New steam
rises in silence: a constant mist
that, when looked at, is nothing but
transparency.

 

 

 

The Chalk Path

The Chalk Path - front cover

Joe, Hugh, and I are publishing our third shared poetry pamphlet very soon. Our hope is to have it coincide with the Chalk arts and literary festival in Winchester, which starts on Saturday.

The Chalk Path is the final instalment in our trilogy of pamphlets, which began with The Inner Sea in 2012. Earlier this year we published, The Tide Clock. Publishing a shared collection is a great way for poets to collaborate on a project, experiment with the format, and inspire each other. You can also benefit from exposure to each other’s audiences.

While The Inner Sea began our journey at the ocean, and The Tide Clock continued our journey to the fringe of land and sea, The Chalk Path concludes our odyssey inland, drawing on chalk hills and paths known to us, as well as themes of blankness and absence. The cover painting of Danebury Ring is another by multi-talented Hugh.

Where we might go from here is an open question. The trio of pamphlets seems complete, at least for now, and we may concentrate on publishing independently, or collaborating in a different format.

Blurb

An experiential exploration of movement within the landscape, taking you beyond maps to the cries of buzzards, the feeling of chalk dust on fingers and the glimpse of a white horse.

Contents

Joe Franklin

If You Fall In You Will Be Walking Home
Urban Bee Keeping
Dongas
Living With a Writer
The Chalk Path
Fernhurst

Hugh Greasley

Tap Water
Native Habitat
Rendzinia
Sunrise
Skin
Water Tasting
Whetstone

Mark Cooper

Chalk
Golden Cap
Garden of Opposites
The Lady of the Lake
Teething
Snow Buddha

Preview

Here’s one of mine from The Chalk Path:

GOLDEN CAP

Golden Cap is less brilliant now,
greenery mars its white pyramid, a sign
of climate change, or that our names for things
barely touch the things themselves.

We’ve always been walking this chalk path
and yet we take a Saturday out of the rush
of making our life the way we want it
before it’s over just to live. Just to feel
our footprints on the chalk, this blank grit.
The path we started on, an unfinished thread,
depends on billions of long-dead coccoliths
too small and short-lived to have ideas about living
yet they’ve shaped the land. Shy ammonites
also lie buried in this blank necropolis,
breaking free during an occasional storm.
Whether or not they ever came out of themselves
during their turbulent lives, they’re still here,
solid enough to walk on. It’s we who are ghosts.

 

Perseus’ Flight

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Gustave Moreau – Perseus and Andromeda. 1870.

Perseus’ Flight

Medusa’s murdered head drips blood into the sea.
Curls twitch. Her filthy mane, dead but possessed by hate,
disgorges poison through my grip. Even the white
waves thundering below, Neptune’s loose cavalry,

no longer gallop beneath winged shoes. They’re petrified
by curdled Gorgon’s blood, gold calderas where
volcanoes rise out of the sea. Their liquid fire
cascades above the scab-like rocks. Here blood has dried,

becoming land; steam rises from the ground,
spitting like snakes. I’m drained by this unnatural flight,
adrenaline still quivers in my legs. Red light
collides with clouds and grass, the sky is crowned

with an embarrassed glow. I find beauty. Further West,
bright particles of fire imbue the soil with strange
properties. Golden fruit hangs in the giant’s grange.
Clouds stretch like gauze across a lover’s crimson chest.