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.

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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.

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Related sites:

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

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

Poem: ‘Fairy Tales’

Poem: ‘Coma’

Poem: ‘Princess’

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Poetry Picks

‘The time has come, the walrus said…’

…to launch a new venture!


It’s all very well [insert text here] recommending the odd poem now and again, but there are a lot of brilliant poets out there, who have entire books filled with incredible poems. So why shouldn’t we recommend those as well?

So, we’re launching a monthly venture, called Poetry Picks. It’s pretty simple, really. At the start of each month, we’ll post a review of a book we’ve really really enjoyed, which will hopefully serve as an encouragement for our readers to go out and find a copy, and read it themselves.

But that is not all…

As with everything, we would like to include as many people as possible in this venture. So, we’re asking for open submissions.

If you’ve read a collection of poetry recently, and think that other people deserve to know about it, then why not write your own Poetry Pick and send it in to us? You can send it to us via the Submit section of the site, or via email: manage.noordinaryblog@gmail.com

A few things to remember when submitting:

  • Only say nice things, please! Poetry Picks is about finding collections of poetry that are really really good, so pick a collection that you love, and take it from there.
  • Make sure you include ‘Poetry Picks’ in the subject of your email, or at the start of the ‘submission’ box if submitting through the site.
  • Include a short bio of yourself (max 50 words), either in the body of your email, or in the ‘additional information’ box on the site. We may also post this on our Who We Are section, and put you down as a Contributor, so if you don’t want us to do this, make sure you let us know.
  • If possible, please include a picture. This can be a photo of you with the book, a photo related to the themes of the book, a photo of your cat reading the book – the choice is yours. Just make sure you’re the photographer – or that you have the permission of whoever is the photographer. (Legal battles over copyright would really put a dampener on things.) You can either attach this to the email, or (if submitting through the site) send a separate email with the photo.
  • We might edit your review a bit, mainly if there are any spelling mistakes or anything – but don’t worry! We’ll make sure we don’t change the meaning of any of your sentences. After all, you’re the reviewer – not us.
  • Of course, if you want to recommend a collection in the form of video, or write a poem saying why these poems are great, that’s also fine by us. We love unusual ways of doing things!

If you’re confused about anything, you can either get in touch with us, or have a look at the first Poetry Pick for inspiration.

Poetry Pick #1 coming soon: August 2012

July

Ok. We know it doesn’t really feel like July in England at the moment. In fact, it feels more like April, so perhaps we ought to be posting poems about lambs and Easter… But we’re going to go by the calendar, rather than all our other senses (a rare thing for poets), and give you something summer-based.
The following poem is by Kazim Ali, born in the UK and currently living in American. You can read a far more detailed biography of him here, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation.

July

By Kazim Ali

We lay down in the graveyard, hinged there.
Emerald moss growing thickly in the chiseled letters.
You’re explaining how trees actually breathe.
Green in the names and trees went up to join gray in the sky.
Then the gray-green sky came down in breaths to my lips and sipped me.
Poem taken from the Poetry Foundation.

Congratulations!

A massive congratulations to zine contributor, Phoebe Power, on winning an Eric Gregory Award this year!

Phoebe is a young Cumbrian poet, who was also a Foyle Young Poet in 2009. You can read her poem, ‘SANS PEUR’,  in our zine.

You can also visit Phoebe’s own blog and check out her work here.

Once again, a massive congratulations to Phoebe from the staff at [insert text here]. Well deserved!

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

This is a beautiful poem by Billy Collins (former US Poet Laureate). As the title suggests, it is about forgetfulness.

Thanks to the Wordsworth Bookshop in Penrith, Cumbria, for flagging this one up as their ‘poem of the day’ on Wednesday. (NOTE: the Wordsworth Bookshop are now displaying copies of our zines on their tables. Pop along for a coffee and a read!)

Watch this great animated version of Collins’ poem:

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Check out our previous post on Billy Collins’ poem ‘The Dead’ here.