Poetry Pick #1: Jennifer Copley, ‘Beans in Snow’

‘In fairy tales, only the good fairy wears wings.’

But in Jennifer Copley’s darkly enchanting collection, Beans in Snow, good fairies are few and far between.

Far from the Disney fairies we have grown all too used to (fairies of good magic and household spells, who ensure that true love triumphs in the end), Copley’s collection returns us to the original and unsettling nature of fairy stories: told to disquiet, and even at times to scare. This is a world where beans in snow ‘won’t grow’, where ‘brothers and sisters get separated’, and where ‘children, smelling of gingerbread, cry out to them from cages’.

Copley’s poems whisper dark suggestions to their reader. They display such a control over the stories they reference that, much of the time, we are unsure whether the unsettling occurrence has taken place in the poem itself or in the unexplored caverns of our own imagination. The poems are filled with unanswered questions; we are the ones who must provide the answers, and they are not pleasant ones.

However, Copley is not tied to the realm of the fairy tale. Perhaps the most disturbing, and at the same time most beautiful, aspect of the book is the way it blurs fiction with biography. In the second and third sections of Beans in Snow, Copley writes about the loss of her own brother, who died in his late forties. We see Copley’s own pain in the context of the darkness of the stories. Snow (standing in for death, blankness, and eventually a new start) is a recurring theme. As the collection’s titular poem states: ‘Beans in snow won’t grow’.

But the collection ends on a hopeful note. The third section begins with a poem entitled ‘First Night in Heaven’. This section follows Copley’s brother after death. Here, we witness Copley’s creation of a fairy tale of her own. Building on the first two sections, this final one shows how stories (as well as being dark warnings against wandering alone in the forest) can be a way of healing. In the stories we create ourselves, Copley seems to be telling us, there can always be hope.

Beans in Snow is a beautiful, dark, funny and emotive collection. It draws on traditional fairy stories, but in a way that targets a modern reader. What emerges is the potential to create our own stories and our own potential endings. In the same way that Copley works so skilfully on our imaginations in the first part of the book, she also shows us the power of our own creativity in understanding our own misfortunes.

Giants and Snow Queens there may be, but there is also hope, and the good fairy of our own imagination.

**

This Poetry Pick was chosen by Katie Hale, founder of [insert text here].

Born in Cumbria, Katie’s first story (written aged four and entitled It’s Not Fair) received much critical acclaim from indulgent parents and well-wishing neighbours. Since then she has been published in Velour, anthologies 11 Poets and Above Water, and university magazine The Jam, and has twice won the Anne Pierson Award. She spent a year living in Melbourme, and is about to move to St Andrews to begin a Masters in Creative Writing.

**

Related sites:

http://www.jennifercopley.co.uk/

http://www.smokestack-books.co.uk/book.php?book=21

Poem: ‘Fairy Tales’

Poem: ‘Coma’

Poem: ‘Princess’

Launch Photos

They’re here!

The photos from our launch have arrived!

The launch took place at Deptford Lounge in London, on May 26th 2012. It was a fantastic event – but if you missed it, never fear! We have all the pictures up online, in our Launch Gallery, so you can catch up on all the excitement there. And if you were at the launch, head on over to check out the photos and relive the event!

Below are just a couple of taster photos – check out the rest here.

Above: Harry Wilson reading to the crowd.

Below: Alice Anokhina.

Deptford Lounge teaser photo

Yes, I know, we’re making you wait. But while you’re waiting, here’s another teaser photo from the reading at Deptford Lounge last weekend. Featuring poets: Alice Anokhina, Harry Wilson, Katie Hale, Alex Knox and Dominique Dunne.

More photos to follow, and hopefully some video footage as well. (See how good to you we are?)

IT’S HERE!

The paper copies of the zine are now complete!

And they look beautiful.

‘Dawn Killing Darkness’, poetry zine, May 2012

It’s been great producing them, and we really enjoyed reading through everyone’s submissions. Obviously we couldn’t include everyone because of space, but the amount of material we received was incredibly promising. It got [insert text here] off to a good start. Let’s keep it up, folks!

We will be distributing them over the next couple of days. Keep a wary eye out!

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to send out copies to everyone who would like one. However, if you desperately want one, then contact us, and we should be able to post you one at cost (plus postage).

Meanwhile, check out the content online.

Bundled up ready for distribution…

(Thank you to Royal Holloway Students’ Union for use of their extra long stapler. We couldn’t have done it without you.)

Zine Publication: ‘Dawn Killing Darkness’

That’s right – the zine is here!

The physical copies will take a little longer to complete, owing to the need for superior binding technology (in other words, a bigger stapler). However, because we’re so lovely at [insert text here], we didn’t want to keep you waiting. So we decided to put the pages here on our site for you. They don’t look quite as pretty as they’ll look on the paper version, but the content is all there (minus the blank pages, which we didn’t see the need to upload – after all, everyone knows what a blank page looks like).

You can check the zine out here.

Not too great with on-screen literature? Never fear – the zines will soon be spreading their metaphorical wings and making their way out into the big wide world. Once they’re complete (within the next day or two), we’ll be placing them in strategic top secret locations (well, maybe), where they will await the unsuspecting reader. We’ll keep you posted.

 

Just because we love you

Here is a picture of the [insert text here] staff trying to look both inspired and inspirational on London’s South Bank, and failing because of a combination of wind and hair.

(This is another of a taste-bud tickling photos relating to yesterday’s wonderful event, and is strategically posted in order to whet your appetite for more. In other words, follow the blog, ready for when we take the world by storm with the other pictures. Not convinced? Follow the blog anyway, so you can decide for yourself when the time comes!)

Staff on the Southbank, May 2012

Waiting in the Small Hours

Tonight’s Good Night Gift is admittedly a little self-indulgent.

The Barbican Young Filmmakers recently made a short film of my poem, ‘Waiting in the Small Hours’. It’s a poem about dreams and the space between waking and sleeping. (You can read the poem by itself if you want, as I’ve posted it underneath the video, but the film really brings it to life.)

The film itself is full of gorgeous shots, and is brilliantly put together. A magnificent job by Barbican Young Filmmakers. Much thanks and praise.

Enjoy, and sleep well.

 

Waiting in the Small Hours
by Katie Hale

In the underbelly of night, I count seconds
by the clock’s mechanical heartbeat,
hoping they will transmutate into a dream
of horses’ hooves on the cobblestones of a dead city,
with a soft cotton duvet swirling in the industrial smoke.
Any dream will do, so I hum to the metronome pulse
beating time into a line like a piano teacher’s ruler:

Tick.    Tick     – and every tock is a cross
disapproving my unshuttered eyes. And still I lie
awake. I strain to lighten the darkness, shade by shade,
as birdsong and train-rumbles summon the morning.

Only in the cobweb-grey hours of dust-bin men
and Canary Wharf commuters, only then
I slump into dawn, and dream of empty platforms.

Double Decker Buses

I had a bit of a play around with poetry and Paint. This was the result:

More poetry from our fabulous contributors on our Poetry Page.

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