Read Raw Ltd

 

Promoting Creative Writing in Scotland

 

Featured Poet

 

A C Clarke

 

 

 

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).

 

Recent Collections

 

 

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 (acclarke6@btopenworld.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

I condemn

 

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

 

 


 

Expectations

 

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

 

 

 

 

Crab Supper

 

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

 

 

Guilt                                                                   

 

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.

 

  

 

 

All poems on this page are the copyright © of A C Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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