I recently read with some undergraduate students at New York University in London, based in Bloomsbury, and was taken by their talent, energy and performance ability. Here are four poems by four of the five poets who I read with that night. The fifth is currently reworking the poems they read. Maybe later.
Andrew Karpan is in his second year at New York University.
Waiting in the cue in Pentonville.
Hearing me, begins: “You’re not from here, are you?”
Genuine gut post-colonial interest; can’t help asking
“No, no, you got to go to south London.”
She’s been here a while: wants to help,
Breasts diligently seeming to pop right out of her shirt.
She’s a humanitarian; I listen attentively.
The same voice teaches elementary school kids in Croydon.
“That’s the real London.”
Drinks: tequila shots, and a pint of the cheapest beer I can find for her.
Upstairs: I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor.
I try to impress her, screaming sets of clever words.
But they spill out, all across
Dirty, sticky, booze-stained dance floor.
She says she writes poetry.
Adores: Plath, Kerouac.
Right now, she’s wearing metaphors.
Her purple cocktail dress: a stand in for all the characters
In her unpublished novels.
Tomorrow morning she’s a bobbing head
Swimming from King’s Cross to Euston.
Tonight her name is -
I can feel it on the tip of my tongue, can’t say it, lest it slip away.
Later she spells it out when I ask,
Next to her number.
She puts mine on a colorful piece of construction paper
That she pulls from her purse
Right before she disappears.
Ariel Hairston is in the Core Liberal Studies Program at New York University and spent her first year studying in London.
Leather-bound, white, and covered in a thin film of dust. It's faded like those jeans you've washed fifteen times too many, the ones that barely fit but you keep in the back of your closet.
Through the haze, you can just barely see the glint of gold letters on its surface: B- I -B -L -E. If you were to touch it, you'd realize the word is engraved deep within the fabric of the cover. Even in the darkness of the room, under the layers of years, you know what it is.
If you flipped the cover back, you'd hear the faint crack of a book that's never been opened. It was never meant to be opened. As a child, you shifted through three different homes, caught in the blur of changing addresses, land-lines, and living rooms. In the midst of this fluid want for stability sat the unmoving Bible on display for everyone to see.
Somewhere between your first boyfriend and your first car, someone packed it away. They carefully wrapped it in thick bubble-wrap, stuffing it into a recycled brown box. But it was never unpacked.
You happened to stumble upon it years later, haphazardly cutting the box open with the expectation of finding the old Christmas lights. You held the Bible in your hands, surprised at how heavy it had become. Leather-bound, white, covered in a thin film of dust.
Shannagh Rowland is from Ireland and is studying at New York University. She plans to major in English Literature and minor in a media subject.
All this eternity and youth,
Love and noise
Means seldom to a young heart,
But is simply immeasurable to homely bones.
Tilled skin, ancient limbs
Whose lives are now antique cabinets.
The skeletons are locked within.
All we have are butterflies in jars.
All poems published online with permission of the authors, who retain their copyright.