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.”


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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@PoetrySociety Poetry Review Spring 20: great poems from Joe Carrick-Varty (mysterious father, squeaky trainers, quantum thoughts), Hannah Lowe (tongue-in-cheek sonnet on a bad school lesson, with layers) & Linda Gregerson (a deranged robin, Spenser echoes, perhaps a wedding). Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Stunning issue of The Poetry Review (guest) edited by @soshunetwork & @maryjean_chan. Wonderful to see @TCWPoetry fellow & Jerwood Compton Fellow @YomiSode on the cover along with @RuffneckRefugee. Beautiful poems from them & @leoboix, @arshi_mona, @RaymondAntrobus & @NickMakoha Retweeted by The Poetry Society

'and a Bolivian woman watermelon seller/cursed in Aymara at the vagabond,/shouting that the world's end/was coming/and you'd better prepare.' fierce poem from British Latinx poet @leoboix in this issue of Poetry Review. Retweeted by The Poetry Society… "I was, as they say, on my own." Mona Arshi poem [in most recent Poetry Review] Retweeted by The Poetry Society

It’s so wonderful to have this new poem of mine included in this issue of Poetry Review -thank-you editors @maryjean_chan @soshunetwork 🙏🏽🙏🏽… Retweeted by The Poetry Society

A @BBCRadio4 feature on American poet #PatriciaSmith airs on Sunday, 4.30pm: Part 1 of Bronzeville Beat. She'll be reading poems from her powerful @BloodaxeBooks collection #IncendiaryArt [], along with earlier work.… Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Carol Ann Duffy starts a new series in @guardian, picking poems from her shelves to comfort and inspire us in isolation. Here's 'Adult Fiction' by @IMcMillan…

I’m so happy to have my genetically resequenced ottava rima, “Gallowed Be,” included in this issue of @PoetrySociety’s The Poetry Review. Thank you, @soshunetwork and @maryjean_chan for inclusion. 🙏🕴… #PoetryMonth Retweeted by The Poetry Society