Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

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A quick interruption of the 16 Days of Activism posts I’ve been doing for some happier news.

My book The Art of Falling was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize yesterday.

The Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize is awarded to a poetry book one year and a novel the next.

I’ve been in London for the last couple of days – on Wednesday evening I went for dinner with my husband and my lovely editor at Seren, Amy Wack, and her husband.

Yesterday at lunchtime we went to the Faber offices and I was presented with the prize.  It was a really lovely event – I just had to read one poem from the book.  Everyone was really friendly.

I also did an interview over the phone with The Guardian, which happened so quickly that there wasn’t much time to get nervous about it – you can read the article here

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/30/kim-moores-thrilling-debut-poetry-collection-wins-geoffrey-faber-prize

The judges this year were Gillian Clarke, Katharine Towers and Tom Gatti.

You can read the judges report here:

https://www.faber.co.uk/blog/kim-moore-wins-the-geoffrey-faber-memorial-prize-2016/

To be honest, I’m still in a state of disbelief.  Obviously the prize money is very nice, but I was really touched by the judges comments, and particularly Gillian’s lovely speech at the event, which made my mum and dad cry!

I also wanted to say thank you to all the lovely people who have been sending messages, commenting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, texting, emailing to say congratulations.  I really do appreciate all of the messages.

Here are some photos from my London adventure

 

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day7

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day7

Reasons you might stay in an abusive relationship

*Perhaps the violence has crept up on you slowly.
*Perhaps he apologises afterwards, and he’s genuinely sorry
*Perhaps he won’t leave.  How do you get someone to leave a house who refuses anyway?
*Perhaps it’s not really violence at all.
*Perhaps the arguments are your fault
*Perhaps you’re imagining it.
*Perhaps you’re making it worse.
*Perhaps he has threatened your family.
*Perhaps he said he was joking
*Perhaps you are tired
*Perhaps you’ve tried to leave and he’s followed you
*

Below is a video of the Army Ants in their Death Spiral.  According to Wikipedia, they are blind, and when separated from the main party, they lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle, until eventually they die of exhaustion.

*Perhaps you’ve lost the way out
*Perhaps you’ve been tricked into thinking you belong where you’ve found yourself
*Perhaps you’ve been tricked

In the poem ‘In That Year’ (Day 1) you will find this couplet

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me. 

The day I wrote this poem, I understood that I was writing a sequence.  Up to that point, I’d been writing poems, and keeping them secret, not showing anybody.

I was supposed to be writing a sequence at the time.  Under strict instructions from Ann and Peter Sansom.  I was a student on their 18 month ‘Writing School’ and that was the task.  Write a sequence.  Except I hated sequences.  Until I started writing one myself.

The Language of Insects 

This is the language of insects, this body
low to the ground, this single purpose,
this living with dirt, this stop-start-stop,
this construction of fabulous structures,
this non-human logic, this cannot-live-without
the-other, this no-good-as-a-single-entity,
this language, this language, please I cannot
meet your kind again, you showed me
what knees were really for, no forgiveness,
none at all, this movement, this movement,
there are spiders that eat one another,
there are ants that follow each other
in a spiral, smaller and smaller
until they take the life from one another,
a black fist, all I know creeps to the edges
of rooms, the flies on the windowsills,
the buzzing, the buzzing that made it begin.

 

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day6

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 6

20171127_213309

The painting above is by a fabulous artist called Fran Riley.  It hangs in my living room to remind me what I know.

Poets have always turned to myth and stories to talk about trauma and violence.  The figure of the woodcutter – just the word ‘woodcutter’ and the word ‘forest’ and all the old childhood stories are summoned from their resting places.

When a poem settles down on its hunches and the poet comes from out of the shadows and says something like ‘Listen’ or ‘I can tell you’ or ‘Let me tell you’ or ‘The story goes’ it can feel like they are with you in the room whilst you’re reading.

One of my favourite poems which does this is by the poet Brigit Pegeen Kelly.  The poem is called Song.  Listen, the poet says.  This poem is also about knowing.  Who knows, and who doesn’t.  Not only who knows, but what they know.  The type of knowing.

I read an article that told me that trees warn each other when there is danger.  That they communicate through an intertwined and complicated root system.  That if one tree is failing in a forest, other trees will divert resources to it to help it.

This poem is about a moment of knowing, of understanding, a moment of change, a moment of knowing. Although it is hidden amongst trees, and behind figures of woodcutters, and clever ravens, and throats, and light coming and going from the room as if it was a person.

 

 

 

 

The Knowing

The story goes that the light slipped past/and entered the
room like a shout/he stood over me/a woodcutter entered
the forest/and the trees began to warn each other/it was
July or maybe June/the knowing settled at my throat/a
clever raven/it never left/does not believe in trees or
flying/the light slipping past/it is sometimes painful/to have
a knowing at your throat/that clever raven/but better than
the alternative/something small and bruised/the raven
knows most things/it remembers nothing/this is really
about the trees/which saw it all

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day5

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One must have a mind of winter

The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens is one of my favourite poems.  It is a poem that has haunted me.  I didn’t love it straight away – the first time I read it, I thought nothing of it, or thought I did.  But then, every time I’ve come across it, I take the time to read it again.

I like that the resolution of the first line, the conclusion, is held off, sustained by the poem until line 8, but then this is only half a resolution, and the poem pushes onward again.

What does a mind of winter feel like?

Who am I talking to in my poem? Not to him.  Maybe to you.  Maybe to myself.

Who is Wallace Stevens talking to?  There is a snow man.  There is a ‘himself’.  There is a male listener in the snow.  Could he be talking to me?  A mind of winter

Who am I telling this story to, where nothing really happened, apart from the snow falling, and everything, almost everything stopping.

Whenever it snows, I think of this poem.  I think of that night.

I am glad I live in a place now where it hardly ever snows.

There is too much salt in the air.  I live too close to the sea.

This is as close to a narrative as I can get.

I hardly ever read this poem out.

Even though it’s made of nothing but snow and air and light

 

 

 

Followed

It fell all day and cut off each street.
Nothing worked the way it was
supposed to.  Cars abandoned
at the sides of roads.  The snow
with a silent, insistent will of its own.
People in suits hurried past,
smiling despite themselves,
despite being late, snowlight
on their faces, opened up
at the slow speed of moving.
The traffic lights flashed
red/amber/green and every bus
brought shuddering to its knees.
In that quiet light he looked
taller than in the morning
when I left, everything black
about him, his coat and shoes
and trousers, his hands and heart
and eyes.  How pleased
he was to see me, his arm heavy
on my shoulders.  The smell
of his leather coat filled my nose
and took the cold away.
I told myself it was just a dog I heard,
that night on the street
when all I could see was snow.
I almost turned but then I followed.
I followed to the darkness of our home.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day4

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day4

Whilst I was writing these poems, this sequence, once I realised that was what I was doing, I started to look around for other poets who had written about violence or trauma.

My friend, the poet David Tait was leaving to live and work in China and asked me to look after part of his collection of books.

Looking through the box, I found Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

It was a huge and heavy book,written in blank verse.  It would only be a slight exaggeration to say I fell in love with it.

This is from Book 1, available online here and translated by Ian Johnston.

                                                    Before the sea,
land, and heavens, which cover everything,
the entire world of nature looked the same.
They called that Chaos, a crude confused mass,
nothing but lifeless stuff and scattered seeds of matter not yet properly combined, all piled up in the same place together.There was no Titan yet providing light to the world, Phoebe did not grow larger and renew her crescent horns, nor did Earth remain hanging in the surrounding air, balanced by her own weight. Amphitrite had not yet pushed her arms through long margins of the coastal shores, and where there was land there was also sea and air, but the ground was not solid, the water was not fit for swimming, and the air lacked any light. No matter retained its own proper shape—one thing would keep obstructing something else, for in one body cold things fought with hot,wet with dry, soft with hard, and heavy thingswith those which had no weight. 

In the Metamorphosis, there are more than 250 transformations as women (and sometimes men, but mostly women) fall afoul of the gods.  They are transformed into trees, birds, animals, flowers.

I started to think of the violence of that act.  The transformation of the self by another.

Which is what happens in an abusive relationship.

The self is transformed.  Maybe this is the most violent act.

Which sounds ridiculous, because physical violence is obviously more painful, more immediate, more obvious, more measurable.

But then, once the self is transformed, it can’t be reversed.

In Ovid, hardly anyone comes back to human form.

If they live, they live a different life.

I also, around this time, before, during, after writing this poem, found this wonderful and positive portrayal of transformation by the poet Liz Berry.  I’ve always wanted to ask her whether she’d read Ovid – the line ‘I found my bones hollowing down to slender pipes’ is particularly Ovidian, in its detail.  You can read her poem ‘Bird’ here.

When I Was a Thing with Feathers

When I turned mimic and could sing only what I’d heard
a hundred times before, when my throat changed shape
and left me unable to articulate the edges of words,
when feathers pierced my skin growing from within,
when I tried to let my head fall to my hands and found
only wings, when I was able to fly but chose never
to stutter from tree to earth and back again, when I
could live on almost nothing, when I saw myself reflected
in windows, my eyes like tiny stones and my beak
the smallest sword, when I knew fear was just a thing
to be bargained with, inside my feathered heart
was another feathered thing, born white but slowly
turning black, the way the crow in all the stories
was turned black for speaking truth.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence – Day 3

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16 Days of Action – day 3

A few years ago – I think maybe the summer of 2014, I booked onto a residential poetry course with Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel at Ty Newydd.

It was a great week – and very productive for me – I wrote a lot of my first collection there.  I wrote my ‘Curse of the Trumpet Teacher’  in one of Ian’s workshops and my poem ‘That Summer’ in Ruth’s workshop (both in my first collection).

And I wrote this poem – ‘He Was the Forgotten Thing’ I think during Ian’s workshop.

Simon Armitage has a great poem here called ‘Not the Furniture Game’ which I think was one of the poems Ian may have used in the workshop. Simon’s poem reminds me a little of a blazon –  defined on the Poetry Foundation website as cataloguing ‘the physical attributes of a subject, usually female’.  It also ‘compares parts of the female body to jewels, celestial bodies, natural phenomenon, and other beautiful or rare objects.’  Simon Armitage’s poem isn’t a blazon but it seems to subvert and answer back to the tradition.

What does ‘forgotten mean anyhow?

There are references to other poems in the sequence in this poem.  When I was writing these poems, I often wrote a line, and then realised there was something, some story, some partial memory I had to write about.  Like ‘he was walking home/through the snow with his arm like a curse/round my neck’ – I had to write a whole poem ‘Followed’ to explain what I meant.  Like the birds, who keep returning throughout the sequence.  Like ‘he was a fist not an eye’ – see Day 10 ‘On Eyes’.  Or the line ‘the language of insects’ from the poem ‘In That Year’ from Day 1.  I didn’t know what I meant when I wrote it then.  I had to write another poem to understand.

Adrienne Rich said ‘Lying is done with words and also with silence’.

and ‘It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath, it will be short/it will not be simple

 

He was the Forgotten Thing

He was the forgotten thing, the blackened tree
that doesn’t grow, that doesn’t fall, he was
the car that wouldn’t pull over, the tide coming in,
he was everything I put my heart against,
the low set and turn of heads when he entered a room,
he was buses roaring past like blind heroes,
he was stolen things.  He was the connecting parts
of train carriages, he was windows with curtains
to keep out the street, he was a car that drove
through the night, he was a fist not an eye, he was
an eye not an ear, he had thoughts that took over
the day like weather, like the rain coming in,
he was nothing I thought of, he was not
what was promised, he was walking home
through the snow with his arm like a curse
round my neck, he was not black and white,
he was nothing like that.  And look at him now,
standing in a field surrounded by crows, one arm
pointing north but his face to the west,
he knows to be still with his black button eyes,
his stitched-on smile.  The birds have come
to pull out the straw that keeps him upright.
Look how they carry him home in their
sharp little beaks once again.

16 Days of Action against Domestic Violence #day2

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence  – Day 2

There is a beautiful poem by the poet C.P. Cavafy called ‘Body, Remember’ or sometimes ‘Remember, Body’ depending on the translation.  You can find one translation of it here but I would recommend looking up different versions of this poem.

This is one of my favourite poems – full of regret and desire and passion and longing.  And there is something shockingly direct about it, as if Cavafy is not talking to his body, but to the readers, to yours, to mine.

And the heartbreak of that line ‘Now that it’s all finally in the past’.  The past as a place you want to return to, the past as a place that the body remembers.

The idea that the body can remember things that the mind can’t.

That sometimes there isn’t a narrative

That sometimes your body knows the narrative but keeps it to itself

That sometimes there are only fragments

The body and the mind separated and able to talk to each other

There’s a dog loose in the woods, there’s a dog loose in the woods  

Watership Down, and a rabbit going ‘tharn’

Body, remember not only how much you were loved

Body, remember that night you pretended 

Once you were full of fields

Remind me, body, so I don’t let it happen again

 

 

 

Body, Remember

Body, remember that night you pretended
it was a film, you had a soundtrack running
through your head, don’t lie to me body,
you know what it is.  You’re keeping it from me,
the stretched white sheets of a bed,
the spinning round of it, the high whining sound
in the head.  Body, you remember how it felt,
surely, surely.  You’re lying to me.  Show me
how to recognise the glint in the eye of the dog,
the rabid dog.  Remind me, O body, of the way
he moved when he drank, that dangerous silence.
Let me feel how I let my eyes drop, birds falling
from a sky, how my heart was a field, and there
was a dog, loose in the field, it was worrying
the sheep, they were running and then
they were still.  O body, let me remember
what it was to have a field in my chest,
O body, let me recognise the dog.

 

Previously published in The Art of Falling by Seren

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence

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16days

I wanted to take part in this last year – but by the time I realised it was happening, half of the 16 days had gone.  It seemed important to start at the beginning, to take part all the way through.

The 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence is linked to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.  

In my first collection The Art of Falling there is a sequence in the middle of the book ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ which is centered around/explores an experience of domestic violence.

I thought that I was putting this sequence at the heart of the collection, right in the middle.  But from another angle, maybe I was hiding it.

A strange/almost coincidence that there are 17 poems in the sequence – it almost/nearly fits into the 16 days.

But not quite.  The poems spill out of the container they should have fitted into.  The experience spills out of the year that it happened in and touches everything that comes after.

When I think back to the process of writing this sequence, when I think of the poems in the sequence, Elizabeth Bishop’s poem ‘The Monument’  always comes into my mind.  ‘The Monument’ is only a monument.  But also an experience.  Something you can walk around, and look at from every angle.  Maybe you can climb on top of it and look down. Or lie on the floor and look up.  You can’t climb inside it and look out.  Or maybe you can. Still, by the end of the poem/experience, could you draw the Monument? Could you testify to the truth of it,to what it really looked like?

This was the first poem I wrote about that time, that place, that year.  I wrote it half-asleep, sitting in front of the fire on the floor.  The same feeling of half-asleep that you might have when you’re driving late at night, and you realise you need to pull over before you drift across a motorway, drift into a fence. I wasn’t driving, or at least I was only driving towards a poem. I woke up at 3am with my head in the dog basket and the house completely silent, and the poem (or at least a first draft) finished.

 

In That Year 

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.

And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and  no use could be found for it.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.

And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.

And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.

 

This poem can be found in The Art of Falling, published by Seren 2015

The Garsdale Retreat – Residential Poetry Course

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ian mcmillan

I’m really excited to be running a residential poetry course on behalf of The Garsdale Retreat,  a creative writing centre ‘set in the heart of the remote and beautiful setting of the Yorkshire Dales’.  The focus of the course is ‘Encounters and Collisions’ and the guest poet is the fabulous Ian McMillan.  The course will run from the 5th-10th March 2018 and prices range from £500-760.

If you’d like to book, or find out more, head over to the website where you will find details of the course, testimonials from previous attendees of The Garsdale Retreat, and some beautiful photographs of the house and the surrounding area: http://thegarsdaleretreat.co.uk/courses/encounters-and-collisions/

Sunday Poem – Matthew Stewart

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Sunday Poem – Matthew Stewart

I’ve had a busy week this week and spent much of it feeling a bit rough with a horrible cold that I only shook off on Wednesday night. On Monday I met my supervisor for a discussion about the poems I’d been writing over the summer for the PhD and to my great relief he is pleased about the way my poems are progressing.  I’ve been experimenting with using form a lot more.  I’ve always wanted to write a specular, or mirror poem and I think I’ve finally managed it, but I’ve also written another poem using a fixed rhyme scheme which I enjoyed.  In both the specular and the poem with the fixed rhyme scheme, the form was actually embedded in the first draft without me noticing, and then when I carry on and develop it, it feels like a much more playful experience than writing in free verse.

I’ve been reading bell hooks again this week and thinking about a particular passage in ‘Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black’.  She writes that

Feminist consciousness-raising sessions were only the first stage in the process of radical transformation.  The next stage would have been the confrontation between women and men, the sharing of this new and radical speech: women speaking to men in a liberated voice.

The use of the word confrontation is interested here, because it’s such a loaded term, with connotations of hostility, arguments,fighting.   However a quick internet search on the etymology of the word is revealing – it means ‘to bring face to face’.  The negative connotations of the word ‘confront’ only came into place later, in the late 16th century, according to https://www.etymonline.com/word/confront

There is a lot to unpack in that short quote, but I like the idea that poetry could be part of a confrontation, part of a ‘new and radical speech, of women speaking to men in a liberated voice’.  This type of poetry might provoke discomfort, but with discomfort comes the possibility or the potential for change and transformation.

So that is part of what I’ve been thinking about – also about the need (is there a need?) for women to write about men, and masculinity, about how this isn’t simple.  In fact, whenever a woman writes about ‘men’ in a plural sense, it feels uncomfortable.  The last time I read, a man came up to me and said ‘you don’t look old enough to have known all of those men.’  Just one of the strange comments I’ve had from audience members when reading these poems which manage to be insulting through their inference to perceived sexual history.

So apart from all these PhD thoughts, I’ve been to one of the Monday night ‘Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’ reading series – the lovely Andrew McMillan as the guest poet and Keith Hutson as the MA student.  Keith took part in a play he’d written as part of the MA course, which was really interesting and made a change from the usual format of the evening, where two or three students read poems.  It was also a real treat to hear Andrew read from his forthcoming collection.  I’ve been really excited to see what Andrew would do next – his first collection was so bloody good, I was wondering how he would move on from it.  But the new poems are pretty amazing – he is still writing about masculinity and sexuality, but from a different angle – I guess more looking at how they emerge or come into being.  And from hearing them, the poems seemed more narrative, less fragmented than some of the poems in the first collection, more expansive somehow.  His second collection ‘Playtime’ will be published by Cape next summer I think – so that is something to look forward to!

Because of my horrible cold, I cancelled my Kendal Poetry Festival meeting, which was supposed to be on Tuesdayand we did as much as we could over the phone instead.  I dragged myself out to do the joint judging of the children’s poetry competition with Geraldine Green and Ron Creer for Dalton Lit Fest on Tuesday afternoon, and made sure I kept a safe distance away from Geraldine and Ron, so hopefully they didn’t catch my germs.  Afterwards I went straight back to bed for a couple of hours and then it was back out to a Soul Survivors gig.  We were playing at a wedding – and I disgraced myself by crying when the bride sang a song.  The singing was lovely, but it was seeing her dad cry that set me off.

On Wednesday I went to a course at Salford University – ‘Writing Critically About Creative Practice’ which was really interesting.  I’m hoping this is going to help with my ‘academic tone’ writing.  As part of the course we get two 50 minute sessions with a Royal Literary Fellow who will look at a short piece of our writing, and then another full days session in January.

The most exciting thing that happened to me this week was doing Park run on Saturday.  I managed to knock about 20 seconds off my PB, so I’m now done to 21.34 for 5k – never would have thought I would get down to that! But now I want to get closer to 21 minutes – and so it never ends…

This week’s Sunday Poem is the marvellous Matthew Stewart, who has just had his first full collection The Knives of Villalejo published by Eyewear.   Matthew lives between West Sussex and Extremadura. Following a comprehensive school education he took a degree in Modern Languages at St Peter’s College, Oxford.  He works in the Spanish wine trade and has published two pamphlets with HappenStance Press (Inventing Truth, 2011 and Tasting Notes, 2012).  He runs an excellent poetry blog Rogue Strands and has been published in Ambit, London Magazine and The Rialto. 

Matthew was kind enough to send me a copy of his pamphlet a while ago and I finally got around to reading it this week.  I’ve really enjoyed it – most of the poems are fairly short and succinct but they contain some beautiful lines.  Take for instance ‘Home Comforts’ where he writes ‘a kettle won’t seem to whistle/like the owner of a loose dog/calling it back, calling it home’ or in ‘El Castillo De Villalejo’ where he writes ‘Dark vines rise up against the sky/like the flailing arms of a man’.

Matthew has kindly said I can post a  poem called ‘Twenty Years Apart’, which was first published in The Next Review.  I thought it was an interesting piece as it seems to pick up on one of the themes that seem to be threaded throughout this collection, which is that of being an outsider, of someone looking in.

This sense, of not quite belonging, is established right from the first line, with that lovely alliterative line ‘With a synchronised swivelling of necks’.  This is a strange poem though.  The speaker says that the ‘they’ in the poem’welcome me in’ yet it doesn’t sound like a welcome, with the ‘swivelling of necks’ and the ‘coughed silence’ and what appear to be locals ‘wincing as I order’.

The outsider is always an outsider, where in Villalejo or Oxford. When the speaker in the poem urges the reader to ‘Ignore the smells, swap Spanish for English’  the reader starts to realise the speaker is an outsider where ever he goes.

The structure of this poem is interesting as well – with the binaries of Spanish/English and Villalejo/Oxford set up to mirror each other, which is also reflected in the mirroring of the first and second stanza with its short last line and then that lovely line which mirrors itself internally: ‘Muttered stories mirror muttered stories’.

In the first stanza you might be forgiven for thinking, when you read the fourth line ‘a soft hubbub resumes’ that the other people are in the background.  However, by the end of the poem,the reader realises that it is in fact, the speaker who is always in the background, looking in.

Thanks to Matthew for letting me post this poem and if you’d like to order The Knives of Villalejo you can do so from Eyewear here.

 

Twenty Years Apart – Matthew Stewart

With a synchronised swivelling of necks
and a coughed silence, they welcome me in,
wincing as I order.  Once I’ve sat down,
a soft hubbub resumes.

Ignore the smells, swap Spanish for English,
back streets of Villalejo for Oxford.
Muttered stories mirror muttered stories.
I’m still in the background.