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Yang Lian: A Tower Built Downwards 座向下修建的塔

A Tower Built Downwards is the latest instalment of Yang Lian's remarkable poetry, written between 2019 and 2022. The different sections – short poems, sequences, and two long poems – form a single comprehensive statement of Yang’s recent explorations. It is rooted in his living experience of the historical retrogression of Hong Kong, the disaster of Covid-19, the global spiritual crisis, as well as his personal sadness at events such as his father’s death.

The book's cover, designed especially for Yang Lian by Ai Weiwei, features CCTV cameras and chains made of gold stretching around the whole book, across French flaps and then continuing inside the front and back covers, becoming an extraordinary visual metaphor for the book’s content.

Before and since his enforced exile from China in 1989, Yang Lian has been one of the most innovative and influential poets Chinese poets. Widely hailed in America and Europe as a highly individual voice in world literature, he has been translated into many languages. 

‘With an introduction and cover by Ai Weiwei, this is Yang Lian’s twelfth collection with his long-term translator, Brian Holton. An important poet of the Misty School (banned in China), his poems “grow in the direction of both life and death” (Ai Weiwei), dwelling on the pandemic in Wuhan and the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. Containing poems rich in image and metaphor, this masterful translation won a PEN Translates award.’ - Shash Trevett, Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Spring 2023

A Tower Built Downwards is available direct from Bloodaxe Books here.

A poem from A Tower Built Downwards

致身边消失的陌生人 — 给武汉
To the Vanished Stranger Beside Us

Written for Wuhan

the sky is bluer than Auschwitz      like a bottle of hand
sanitiser     so closely     balconies guard the field
hear the sound of a bed being shot full of holes
that is where your silhouette sinks     with frosted glass edge
you hold your very last breath     don’t believe in final farewells
bit by bit saying farewell to yourself     an exquisitely decorated last will
thrice whitewashed     with coughs     with amazement     with ignorance

a question of suffocation     frozen in the bottom of empty robbed eyes
skin turns transparent     coldly transparent as the air
clotted into a solid untouchable isolation zone everywhere
your life is there     your gas chamber is here
but where are you? where is this perfectly ordinary day?
separation an inch away     has isolated the wailing between two reincarnations
everything happens before your eyes     nothing can be seen

the frosted glass stove door you don’t know shuts     tongues of flame
are shut off      in your flesh     in fractured bone the fire you don’t know
spits out      incandescent as Valentine’s Day     an illusory rose
love     a lie      lives     a rumour
yet who speaks?     that for once rushes off with no last words
with a history unreconciled to vanishing     from within the fire
turn over and sit up     a ghost     unwilling to leave

can’t not leave     freezing so many betrayals that take you under armed guard
a destroyed Valentine’s Day     who disappeared you?
isolated in the ashes     crowned with shining coloured feelers
small as an emptied-out argument     weightless as a destiny
home is a silhouette     man is a silhouette     howling darkness
nothing can be called back     a mind has to painfully endure deafness
utterly unfamiliar     only then no longer nostalgically recalled

22 February 2020

Yang Lian
Translated by Brian Holton
David Harsent: A Broken Man in Flower: Versions of Yannis Ritsos

A Broken Man in Flower presents new versions of poems by Yannis Ritsos (1909–90), one of the most significant Greek poets of the last century, translated by one of the UK's most renowned contemporary poets. David Harsent's versions of Ritsos' poems express the revolutionary and experimental nature of his work while remaining accurate translations from the Greek.

Ritsos' poem Epitaphios (1936), a lament for a young man shot dead by the police during a tobacco workers’ strike, was publicly burned by the Metaxas regime. Throughout his lifetime, his books were repeatedly banned in his home country and he was confined to prison camps and house arrest for his outspoken political poetry.

A Broken Man in Flower has an introduction by John Kittmer and includes the text of an illuminating and vivid letter sent by Ritsos to his publisher in 1969 while under house arrest on Samos describing his life – and the lives of Greeks – under the repressive rule of the Colonels. Six poems from the book were featured in the online journal One Hand Clapping, along with an introduction by David Harsent in which he writes about the process of producing his versions of Ritsos' poems. 

A Broken Man in Flower is available direct from Bloodaxe Books here.

A poem from A Broken Man in Flower


Vangelis never came back. The house has been locked
and the shutters up for years. Dead vines, thorn-bushes, stones,
the garden patch laid waste. A broken jug.

There’s a view of the sea if you look beyond the stable.
He sold the horse but that didn’t save the day.
A bay gelding with white fetlocks, I remember…

A seagull shed a feather. An old woman sat in her doorway.
The feather fell at her feet. She said:
‘Small moments such as that can seem a blessing.’

That man in the doorway opposite seemed lost in thought,
but he crossed himself and went to her and stooped
as if to kiss her hand, or lift the feather.

Yannis Ritsos
Version by David Harsent
Harry Clifton: Gone Self Storm

For half a century of ever-broadening vision, award-winning poet Harry Clifton has addressed what the Irish Times calls ‘his large concerns and his angular relationship to Ireland, one that produces extraordinary verbal and emotional effects’. His tenth book of poetry, Gone Self Storm, is a quest, through origin and migration, South America to the North of Ireland, Khao I Dang refugee camp to Glasnevin graveyard, for a lost maternal ground.

Harry Clifton will be launching Gone Self Storm at Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin at 6pm on Wednesday 5th April, where he will be introduced by Benjamin Keatinge.  For more information on this and other forthcoming in person events, see our website here

Harry will be joining Maura Dooley and Matthew Hollis for a joint Bloodaxe online launch event on Tuesday 25 April at 7pm GMT. More information on this event here

Harry Clifton has published nine other books of poetry, most recently The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass (2012), The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 (2014), Portobello Sonnets (2017) and Herod’s Dispensations (2019).

An interview with Harry Clifton is due to appear in the Sunday Independent's 'My Life in Books' feature on 19 March.

Gone Self Storm is available direct from Bloodaxe Books here.

A poem from Gone Self Storm


If I go there, it will be in my own time –
And what will I find there? Things foresuffered

From childhood, dumped like baggage on a runway,
Such the hurry of Mother and Father to leave.

A language all conditionals, subjunctives
In a land of might-have-been, where the cloudscapes thicken

Like myth, on the hiddenness of the Andes,
And it rains but once a year, in the far, far north,

In the space before I was born, the oldest space on earth
Where you can see too far for your own good

And emptiness dogs you like a shadow, through the salt-flats
And the foothills, far into Bolivia,

And the sky is impossibly blue, or call it the void.
And the waves of Mejillones, self-destroyed,

Break endlessly off the Pacific… Ante-natal,
Father swims, and Mother, among prehistoric life-forms,

In the amniotic warmth. I have yet to be born,
To come into the knowledge of myself and go back home

To the locus of pure suffering, before history,
Picking up baggage along the runway,

Keeping the orphan in me loved, and the salt-mine worker fed,
Claiming as birthright, all that was left unsaid.

Harry Clifton

World Poetry Day 2023: Launch reading for David Harsent and Yang Lian

This month's online launch event will be livestreamed at 7pm GMT on World Poetry Day, Tuesday 21 March.

John Kittmer will introduce David Harsent reading his new versions of Yannis Ritsos from A Broken Man in Flower and then Yang Lian (in Morocco) will read in Chinese from his new book A Tower Built Downwards in tandem with Brian Holton reading his English translations, followed by a discussion with the host, Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley.

This free Bloodaxe launch event will be streamed on YouTube Live. Watch live or later via YouTube here: Register on Eventbrite before noon on 20 March to receive reminder emails for the event.

Recordings of all of our previous online launches are also available to view on our YouTube channel.

Jessica Traynor receives the Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry

Irish poet Jessica Traynor is to receive the Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry 2023. She will be the 27th recipient of this prestigious American award for poetry, which honours both the literary achievement of the poet and their contribution to the community of writers in Ireland. Jessica, who is based in Dublin, has been invited to go to the US in early May to give readings and to receive her award at the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota.

The Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry was established at the University of St Thomas in 1997 to honour outstanding Irish poets. Previous recipients of the award include fellow Bloodaxe poets Louis de Paor (2000); Frank Ormsby (2002); Kerry Hardie (2005), Leanne O'Sullivan (2011) and Katie Donovan (2017).

Jessica Traynor’s third collection Pit Lullabies was published by Bloodaxe Books in March 2022. It was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a Poetry Book of the Year in The Irish Times. Pit Lullabies followed two acclaimed collections from Dedalus Press: Liffey Swim (2014) and The Quick (2018).

Jessica will be reading alongside Alice Kinsella at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway on 21 April. More details are available on our website here. She was recently interviewed for the 'My Life in Books' feature in Ireland's Sunday Independent. A link to read this interview online can be found here.

'Fierce and profound, Pit Lullabies is one of the vital books of the new Irish poetry.'
- Ciarán O’Rourke, New Hibernia Review

Jo Clement's Outlandish on John Pollard Poetry Prize shortlist 

Jo Clement's powerful debut collection Outlandish has been shortlisted for the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize 2023. This is the fifth year of the prize, awarded annually for an outstanding debut collection of poetry in the English language.  Announcing the shortlist, chair of the judging panel, Professor Eoin McNamee, Director of the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre, said:

'Every book had something to make the reader stop and stare, the range and diversity of the work astounded.  It was a privilege for myself and fellow judges Phillip Coleman, Vona Groarke and Alice Lyons to read and debate this work.'

Jo Clement was born in Darlington in the North East of England, and lives in North Shields. Outlandish, her first full collection, was published in May 2022 and explores her Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnicity, inviting us to consider notions of otherness, trespass and craft. A recording of Jo's excellent joint online launch reading for Outlandish can be found on our website here.

The winner of this year's John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize will be announced at a ceremony in Trinity College Dublin on 3 May 2023. Full details of the award are on our website here.

Ruth Fainlight exhibition opens in Nottingham

Somewhere Else Entirely, a multi-channel film installation from internationally-acclaimed photographer Emily Andersen, is on display at Bonington Gallery, Nottingham from 25 March to 13 May 2023. The exhibition explores the work and life of American-born poet Ruth Fainlight. Ruth’s intensely visual poetry and fiction touch on themes of psychological and domestic situations, time, memory and loss. The immersive installation features projections representing different fragments of her work, which visitors are invited to explore and reflect upon.

Ruth Fainlight is one of Britain's most distinguished poets. Born in New York City, she has lived mostly in England since the age of 15, publishing her first collection, Cages, in 1966, and her retrospective, New & Collected Poems, in 2010. This was followed in 2018 by a new collection of poems written in her 80s, Somewhere Else Entirely. A photograph by Emily Andersen was used as the cover picture of this collection.

More information about the exhibition is on the Bonington Gallery website here, where you can also book tickets for the free launch event on Friday 24 March, 6 pm – 8 pm.

Observer review and Guardian Poem of the Week for The Hopeful Hat

'The calm, wit and grace with which she writes makes reading her poems moving but never depressing.' - Kate Kellaway, The Observer (Poetry book of the month)

The late Carole Satyamurti’s collection The Hopeful Hat was featured as Kate Kellaway's poetry book of the month in The Observer of 12 March. 

The collection was also given a very warm review in The High Window on 1 March. Edmund Prestwich began by looking in detail at the poem ‘Small Change’, which was also selected by Carol Rumens as The Guardian's Poem of the Week on 6 March. A link to Carol Rumens' discussion of the poem, and to reviews in The Observer, The Guardian and elsewhere, can be found on our website here.

The Hopeful Hat is the final collection by Carole Satyamurti (1939-2019). It was published by Bloodaxe in February 2023, and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Spring 2023.

‘Small Change is a brave piece of writing, an exposure of inadequacies of personal and civic responsibility which few of us will fail to shudder at. Not least because of its cold honesty, it’s a silver coin dropped into the hopeful hat of any reader aspiring to the examined life. There are many more such gifts in this posthumous collection, beautifully edited and introduced by the poet’s daughter Emma Satyamurti.’ – Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, The Guardian

Peter Bennet launched his new retrospective Nayler & Folly Wood at St Chad's College, Durham on 1st March at a special event which also paid tribute to Anne Stevenson, marking the publication of her Collected Poems. A review of both of their books was featured in New Writing North's Northern Bookshelf for Spring 2023 here

‘Bloodaxe published landmark editions by two remarkable northern poets in February. Nayler & Folly Wood by Peter Bennet includes work from different stages of the poet’s career, including his masterful Flambard collections, offering a wide-ranging selection of precise, mystical and often astonishing poems.’ – Will Mackie, New Writing North (New & recent poetry from the North)

Find hundreds more videos of poets reading their work on our Vimeo and YouTube channels.

Diana Anphimiadi on Poems on the Underground

The poem 'Bond' by Georgian poet Diana Anphimiadi is currently featured on Poems on the Underground posters displayed on London Underground and Overground trains. This set of posters will remain in place for four weeks from 27 February. See the poster online here.

'Bond' is taken from Why I No Longer Write Poems, which was co-published in February 2022 by Bloodaxe Books and the Poetry Translation Centre. This Georgian-English selection, translated by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Jean Sprackland, draws on Diana Anphimiadi’s four collections in Georgian. Her award-winning work glides between classical allusions and surreal imagery – it is witty, shocking and surprising, at once ancient and modern. This first full-length selection of her poetry in English was longlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2022.

Fiona Sampson interviewed Diana and her translator Natalia Bukia-Peters for Trafika Europe Radio in 2022. Audio of this interview can be found on our website here, along with a review of Why I No Longer Write Poems by Fiona in The Guardian of 5 February 2022.

'...this is gorgeous, fabulising verse.... Bloodaxe is especially to be commended for publishing this important work in bilingual edition.' - Fiona Sampson, The Guardian, Best recent poetry

Titles to look forward to from Bloodaxe Books in April

Matthew Hollis: Earth House

Maura Dooley: Five Fifty-Five

Maura Dooley and Matthew Hollis will be joined by Harry Clifton for a joint Bloodaxe online launch event on Tuesday 25 April at 7pm GMT. More information on this event here

Read more about these and the rest of our forthcoming books here.
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