Martina Evans is the author of ten books of prose and poetry. Her most recent collection – Burnfort, Las Vegas – has just been published by Anvil Press to rave reviews.
Says Peter Jay, Publisher at Anvil Press: “Memory and observation combine tellingly in poems which spring from every day things – children’s books, shoes, films, The Simpsons, Elvis, cats, bicycles – ordinary things extraordinarily described. Here is a unique blend of poetry and storytelling with astute mimicry and a gift for offbeat humour.”
Her fourth poetry collection, Facing the Public (2009) was a TLS Book of the Year, and received the Piero Ciampi International Poetry Prize in 2011. Petrol a prose poem, a recipient of a Grants for the Arts Award in 2010, was published by Anvil Press in September 2012.
Living On The Border
i.m. J.M.O’Neill novelist 1921-1999
Balls Pond Road has the cream
of sunsets. Rubbish, boarded-up
squatted buildings, heavy traffic that grinds
and grates under the piercing call
of the police and over it all, turquoise
salmon, shell and navy clouds.
My eyes search for each landmark of home –
the plane trees, the big copper beech,
the almshouses, conscious now of the recording
ghost of Jerry O’Neill,
ex-landlord at The Duke of Wellington.
I’ve lived with his words
for weeks – his poetry of London and
the thrust of this poorest of places
in the sixties and seventies
is both a familiar and strange
glimpse of a morphing world.
My eyes return to the empty flat roof
where he stood looking over Hackney to the East
and Islington to the West. It grows dark.
I garden in electric light
exchanging tulip bulbs for old
oyster shells in the sticky London earth
while the traffic like an angry sea
echoes and booms through the
grubby cliffs of our yellow-bricked buildings.
Later, I will scrub my earthy fingernails
rinse my hair with a jug
sitting in the cast-iron tub
unglamorously bolted to the floor.
The bath trembles when the lorries rumble by,
reminds me that Georgian bricks aren’t cemented
so everything keeps shifting.
I want to be like Frank O’Hara
but I’ve never leaned unhurriedly
on a club doorway listening
to Billie Holiday. Most of my time
in this city I’ve been a mother and I know
I’ve spent too much time in Sainsburys,
Dalston branch even if it does
have it’s own inimitable vibe
and a huge range of root vegetables.
My own roots sink deep in the garden.
I can’t bear to leave
in case I miss a single bloom
or one of those odd powder-blue
butterflies passing through
on their way to Hackney Marshes
I swing in the hammock to the echo
of police sirens but I’ve never
leaned in a club doorway, my poems
in my pocket like Frank. My books
are stuffed with shopping lists
and I can’t believe that’s Frank.
Once at eleven a.m. looking
for the new GP surgery in Green Lanes,
I stuck my head in the doorway
of a Turkish men’s club and they scattered
from their chess like leaves.
I felt a bit dangerous then, like Elvis in ‘56
I think Frank would have liked it,
the way one brave man approached me slowly
his palms of his hands held out as if he
was about catch something.