Caroline Bird’s fifth collection with Carcanet confronts dark regions of the human psyche with surrealism, sharp observation and humour. From the judges: “powerful, disturbing – yet witty and very funny in places; redemptive.”

Stephanie

by Caroline Bird

She was eighteen, used ‘party’ as a verb, lashes
like the whiskers of an oil-soaked seal, devoured
books with names like Steamy L A Nights under
the duvet by flashlight. I was twenty-three, brooding
over John Ashbery between therapy sessions, hunched

at the smokers table like a misunderstood genius.
I was recovering from a bout of ‘goodbye world’.
We were both diligent pleasers. I fell in love
with the reflection of someone charming in her
sunglasses. I always wanted to be charming.

I forgot we were ill. When I finally touched her,
her skin dilated. She shuddered, licked her teeth
and crawled towards me across the bed.
It was like watching a child possessed
by the vengeful spirit of a murdered porn star.

I locked myself in the bathroom and then strode
to the nurse’s station to ‘confess’. Afterwards
my counsellor said, ‘We really dropped the ball
on this one, placing a sex addict in a room
with a lesbian.’ It’d never occurred to them.

She wrote me a ten-page love letter in red ink.
The nurses tried to lull my guilt: ‘If an alcoholic
screams for a whiskey, it’s not the bartender’s fault
if he pours.’ I didn’t like being compared to booze,
like I could’ve been anyone – that acne-scarred chef

who grinned at her once, the mouthy car-washer
at the NA meeting, the pin-eyed new boy – like it was
just because I was her roomie and she was a nympho
and nothing to do with real electricity or Stephanie
somehow spying the part worth saving in me.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

With innovative education and commissioning programmes and a packed calendar of performances, readings and competitions, The Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages.

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Aged 25 or younger? Hurry, the third @BloodaxeArchive challenge on re-re-re-drafting poems closes on Sunday! Give it a go - it's free to enter and you could end up performing at Newcastle Poetry Festival: bit.ly/bloodaxe3 Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Wolverhampton's first Young Poet Laureate inspires youngsters in school visit. Lizzie Stuart, a Year 12 student at Wolverhampton Girls High School, joined pupils at Merridale Primary School to help out with a Key Stage 2 poetry challenge. expressandstar.com/entertainment/…

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Fiona Benson joins Zadie Smith on Rathbone Folio prize shortlist theguardian.com/books/2020/feb…

I’m grateful & still buzzing from the news. Thanks to all the judges & @CGUTuftsAwards for this incredible honor. Deep gratitude for all my poetry friends, workshops, & mentors who helped me craft/whittle my work. Shoutout to my mom! I’m taking you Disneyland after the ceremony! twitter.com/poetrysociety/… Retweeted by The Poetry Society