A C Clarke, who lives in Glasgow, is a prize-winning poet who has had three full collections published Breathing Each Other In (Blinking Eye Publishers 2005), Messages of Change (Oversteps Books 2008) and most recently Fr Meslier's Confession, inspired by the atheist priest, Jean Meslier (Oversteps Books 2012). Her pamphlet, A Natural Curiosity, inspired by Glasgow’s Museum of Anatomy, was shortlisted for this year’s Callum Macdonald award for Pamphlet Poetry. She is an active member of Scottish PEN, the organisation which campaigns for imprisoned and persecuted writers and enjoys writing in other voices than her own. She was the first Makar of the Federation of Writers (Scotland).
A Natural Curiosity (New Voices Press 2011)
‘To the bizarre garden of excrescences that is a Victorian Anatomy Museum, A C Clarke brings a steady eye and a gift for delicate metaphor ... and reminds us of the way in which a poem, like a living creature, can find ‘the shape to be itself’. Kona Macphee
‘a sharply-observed collection’, ‘she maintains her usual high standards across this imaginative, impressively sustained sequence’, ‘A C Clarke has translated the museum into something extraordinary’ (comments by three different reviewers in Sphinx)
Fr Meslier’s Confession (Oversteps Books 2012)
‘The writing is vividly atmospheric, combining suspenseful narrative drive with a theological and philosophical gravitas that is never portentous or pretentious’. Donny O’Rourke
‘A collection that should be on every shelf alongside that old gardener Voltaire’ Sam Smith in The Journal
‘I feel thankful for her honouring of a theme so pertinent and cohesive, that has opened a window onto the soul ... of a man long lost to the world yet, thanks to her, with a voice as lively as if he lived here, now.’ Gutter
‘Quite a major achievement’, Sally Evans in Northwords Now
Both books can be ordered direct from A C Clarke (email@example.com) for £4 (A Natural Curiosity), £6 (Fr Meslier's Confession) or £8 the two.
Fr Meslier's Marriage Service
If anyone know any just cause or argument
why these two lackwits
should join in the unholy sacrament
of matrimony, let him speak now. Of all the rites
the Church uses to keep us under
this chaining man to wife begets
the greatest misery. No wonder
we see so many hapless children.
Let no man put asunder
what God has joined together. When
I pronounce that curse
free souls to worse
than slavery. A slave at least
can sometimes purchase
freedom. The marriage feast
is Dead Sea apples, turns
to ash in the mouth. What does a priest
know? I know nature yearns
to create - a healthy animal
desire, which burns
and dies, burns and dies, in natural
rhythm, season to season.
I know there is no hell
to punish us for loving. We make our hells, in treason
to ourselves, blaspheme both flesh and reason.
Previously published in Fr Meslier’s Confession
It's raining the day she gets the letter she's been expecting. Expecting! There's more than one meaning. It strikes cold to her stomach. She doesn't need to think, hurries on her goloshes, stumbles out into the wet streets, almost running, so that people stare. Her long dark hair is shaking loose from its bun, her face is streaked with water, she hasn't even stopped to put on her pelisse. Her fingers fumble the clasp of the reticule as she rummages for her purse. The apothecary hands over the package, doesn't ask questions. For mice, she'd said. Back home she shakes the powder into a glass, stirs it briskly in milk. Three deep breaths and Here's to you and me she says as she drinks the last toast, one hand on her belly. She hadn't expected it would be so painful or take so long. She has time to wish it undone, as she'd wished undone that night when a summer moon and a glass too many
had started the new life her lover had promised so often. New life! For sure there's more meanings than one.
Previously published in A Natural Curiosity
Woman Made Of Glass
She can't remember a time
before she knew to be careful.
No-one told her. She knew.
Her mother used to squeeze her hand so tight
she felt it crack. She's never risked touch since,
spent childhood dodging
the heavy arms of aunts,
washing the smears
of fishmouth kisses from her skin.
She saw a glass frog once, its guts
clustered in its belly like pale grapes,
its small heart pittering:
took to covering herself -
high collars, sleeves to wrists,
thick tights. Like an old maid
said her mother. No boyfriends yet?
the aunts would dig. Afraid of heat
she'd hurry past lovers fused
mouth to mouth in a doorway,
likes cool places still,
country churches on weekday afternoons,
the saints in the windows filtering light
through sightless eyes.
Old glass is her favourite: its pieced
stories jewel-bright, simple, remote
as fairy-tale. Does she notice
how sometimes it bulges towards the base
thick and opaque, as if all these years
it's been sneaking out of the leaden cames,
slipped down, let itself go?
Previously published on the Grey Hen web-site and in Artemis
There’s fishing boats still at the staithe
where fishwives used to cry the herring
gleaming in crateloads, red-rimmed eyes
a mute reproach. It’s winter dusk,
a blood-red sun dropping behind
the far bank of the Tyne, blank windows
fill with light, an hour’s last grace,
goldleaf illumines the scrawled river.
The cobbles reek as you bring me down
to the end of the quay, where a pailful of crabs
jostle each other. We bag a couple,
drive home swerving round blind corners,
cats eyes gleam, go out. You promise a treat,
in your wife’s kitchen take a hammer
split the shells clean down the middle
scoop out the flesh. You know what you’re doing.
I taste the white meat, its faint salt
the dark meat, dangerously rich.
To be published in an anthology for the McLellan awards
One stiff winter
my guinea pigs froze on the verandah.
I’d never read how you could thaw them
in a slow oven
nor thought to bring their hutch inside.
There they were,
two sandy-haired small bodies,
the puddles of their eyes iced over
bedding straw brittle with frost.
I didn’t cry. It was murder.
I’d not keep animals again.
I turned back to the windowseat,
to curl up with the books,
which wouldn’t fail,
tried to ignore
the slow leak deep inside,
its endless cycle,
freeze, thaw, freeze.