Friday 28 October 2022

Ken Evans, "To An Occupier Burning Holes"

Ken Evans’s poems appear in Poetry Scotland, Magma, Under the Radar, Envoi, 14, The High Window, and IS&T. He won the Leeds Peace Prize in 2019; the Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition (2018); and Battered Moons (2016). He has twice been longlisted in the National Poetry Competition (2015 and 2020). His second collection, To An Occupier Burning Holes, was launched by Salt in October. 

About To An Occupier Burning Holes, by Ken Evans

The poems in To An Occupier Burning Holes observe and dissect the minutiae of ordinary relationships and happenings, ranging across daily life, as well as attempting to tackle a larger canvas, of contemporary climate collapse, plagues and war. There’s an interest in historical incident as a comparator, attempting to ‘fix’ and focus a current event or idea in a longer-range view and context.

At times, they play and twist form (there are sonnets, a ghazal, a villanelle) as well as try to update styles largely out of vogue – there’s an eclogue and invocation, for example.

The tone is restless - often dark, surreal, absurd, and sardonic, as well as playful, metaphoric and sometimes downright funny, tackling topics as diverse as lost hearing-aids, AI, funeral invoices, the life of fruit flies, migration, bins, love, family and travel.

You can see more details about To An Occupier Burning Holes on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read three sample poems from the collection. 

From To An Occupier Burning Holes

To an Occupier Burning Holes

Orders to bring our middle names to the Square
on a scrap of paper and throw it on their bonfire:

a ritual purge, our lives crumpled, shorn
in a black smoke of scribble.

A middle name is a second language, a suit
dressed in plastic at the back of a wardrobe,

for weddings and funerals, yet I loathe mine
and am teased for it, so throw it to the fire

without shame, but for others, their names
came down from patriachs, or else starchy

from mothers, family history. Which is the point,
of course. Erasure of ties with the past, but not so

we are made blank, more a reminder of what we
lack, what the regime will provide – revisions.

Those without second names make one up, to leave
scarves up a sleeve, a white rabbit, in hiding. Some

hitch it to their last: Celeste-Smith; Anna-Evans; Andriy-
Brown, Sasha Roberts, the hyphen, a knife cut through

a fraction, divided, yet double-barrelled, twice 
as strong. Others hide it in their first: Bodhan becomes

Bo, Viktoria, Vika – their cut-out centres worn on the out-
side like a smile, with two fingers up, at lapel height.


The invader sends wine to sweeten us,
our fighters in a street in green fatigues. 

They wave and stagger till they fall over, 
red wine pouring from their throats.

Our defenders offer to match an invaders’
rounds, but they refuse, ‘No, this is on us,

drink up. You’re welcome.’ In hospital, 
drunk songs yell from booze-sodden beds.

The invaders largesse knows no bounds: 
fiery vodka, cognac, brandy, Jäger bombs. 

Women jig crazily by open crater-holes, 
children bewildering in the red spills. 

A few appear in a blaze of fancy-dress,
crimson mask for a face, unrecognisable,

fleshy accessories worn on the outside 
like big silver fish burst forth from nets.

One group, all crashed out, smoke  
in the venue. This is not permissable.

No, children should not be given drink,
they chuck it everywhere, singed carpets,

glassy family photos, on the door handles
of blown-out of entrances, too off-their-face

to answer their phones, our emojis calling,
frantic, ‘Kristina, I have aspirin, I have water.’

Anaesthetising Flies in the Lab

Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly

in their glass dungeon, music, sweet and sad, 
can help these young babies with folded wings 
like swaddling bands, settle to their exoskeletons, 
and lull them toward the entrancement of sleep.

You have a god-like half-hour in the fly nursery 
as they rest, for they rise quickly on feeling warm,
and like all newborns, wake hungry for nipagin-
ethanol solution and bio-agar, plus a little water.

Pull the front legs off as they sleep to see 
how they preen. They are spotless, contrary 
to expectation, and polish each body part 
in order, the eyes, antennae, then head. 

Front legs torn off, they adapt in forty-eight hours, 
or eight years in human life and start to clean 
with their middle legs. This learning, beyond all 
my easy metaphor.

No comments:

Post a Comment