Friday 8 March 2024

Anne Caldwell, "Neither Here Nor There"


Dr Anne Caldwell is a writer and editor, based in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. She lectures in Creative Writing at the Open University as well as working as an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. Her writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and internationally, including The Rialto, Spelt Magazine, Tract, Poetry Wales, Rabbit and Axon. She has published a number of poetry collections including Painting the Spiral Staircase (Cinnamon Press, 2016). In 2019, she was the co-editor of The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, alongside Oz Hardwick. Her fourth collection of prose poetry was Alice and the North (Valley Press). She was the co-editor of Prose Poetry Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2022) with Oz Hardwick. Anne writes about the natural world, our relationship to it, and revels in the stories, place names and characters of the north of England. This year she is a winner of a James Tait Prize, and has a new pamphlet of poetry out called Neither Here nor There, with SurVision Press. Twitter (X): @caldwell_anne 



About Neither Here Nor There 
Neither Here Nor There is a prize-winning pamphlet of prose poems that celebrates the in-between places and states of mind we can inhabit. The writing is firmly rooted in a sense of place and eco-poetics, as well as an exploration of the turbulence of climate change and the pandemic. Prose poetry is a flexible form that is brilliant at holding contradictions and juxtapositions: qualities that are exploited in a search for love and a deep connection with a wilder, natural world in these quietly immersive poems. Inspired by Anne Carson, Anne has used a double justified rectangle of text in each of the poems, so that the work resembles the grid squares on a map. The organising principle of the work is the prose poetry form and the way it can present a series of vignettes that mix the details of ordinary life with dreams and myth, the real and the fairytale, where humans transform into birds and language is lost and found. The world of this pamphlet is spinning out of reach. The prose poems explore landscapes, urban and rural, where our connections to each other have been fragmented and stretched. As the poem "Unrequited" suggests, "The language of now is short and full of gaps." Here is a sense of playfulness in the writing, as the prose poems combine the down-to-earth cadences of prose and the lyrical, musical intensity of poetry at the same time. 

You can read more about Neither Here Nor There on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two sample prose poems from the collection. 

From Neither Here Nor There, by Anne Caldwell


Walls were less rigid when I was young. Bedrooms expanded when love bloomed and contracted as grief swallowed the family, made it lemon-sour and pithy.  Hiding in the bottom of the wardrobe, I would listen to the bitterness of mother and father. I’d a penknife, a lucky stone and a ball of string.  I owned a hand-me-down bike and found a cycle route to Astbury, cutting beneath the canal aqueduct.  The air was damp and cool; the brickwork smothered in moss. 

A stalactite childhood lay here, lingering beneath that body of water. Beneath tadpoles and crested newts; beneath rusty shopping trollies and lead fishing sinkers. 

Glass Blower 

And this dim-lit life is a glass vase in the making. Needs blowing and warming. Alice loads her rod with molten liquid from the furnace, rolling the orange glow to over 900 degrees in wet newspaper. Life begins to cool a little and harden. She doesn’t wear gloves as she dips the glass in powdered cobalt. She blows, then places her thumb over the rod until the glass begins to swell into a sphere, catching an air bubble at its centre. Keep turning. Keep blowing. Find life’s heat and joy. Don’t stop moving. 

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