Thursday, October 15, 2009

Introducing Cliff Yates

Cliff Yates is the author of Henry’s Clock (Smith/Doorstop) which won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Poetry Business competition, and Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School (Poetry Society). He currently teaches at Maharishi School, where his students are renowned for winning poetry competitions, and runs courses and workshops in the UK and abroad. His latest collection is Frank Freeman’s Dancing School (Salt). He is a founder member of the Edge Hill University Poetry and Poetics Research Group.

See his website at

More on Frank Freeman’s Dancing School:

Read his Guardian interview

More online poems may be read at

including his review of The Poetry of Saying here:


No, I don’t read French.
Do you have a translation?
I’m from Birmingham.
Let’s go for a walk in the woods. It’s raining.

Bring the billiard table.
I have the balls in my trouser pockets.
Can you manage?
Here, let me hold the door.

Yes I agree, the rain. Did I mention
the importance of parks in the black country?
It’s not that interesting. Mind
the rosa rugosas, their thorns,
and the climber with the orange hips.

All the other woods are memories
preparing us for this one.

If I tell anyone she’ll kill me.
No, really – a dart through the forehead.
Look at my hands – people call it stigmata
but really it’s darts.

We quarrelled in the autumn.
We quarrelled about the milk.
In the morning she left, took the bed with her.


head back, a single drop of blood from its beak
on the concrete like a red coin. Dead eyes
white feathers. It flew into the window and life left it.

I keep doing that. I’m covered in bruises
but amazingly still alive...

Vittel’s autumn gold and red. Strange
after the mountains, the pines, snow,
the sky’s unbelievable blue
from the train crossing the border…

Drums, drums for the bird in flight.
A different sound when it hits the window.


He unzips his jacket, freeing first one head,
then the other. Three necks stretch this way
and that, eyes squint in the glow from the fire.

Rain hisses on the brazier. I pull up my hood,
take off my gloves, rub my hands together.
He looks at me. ‘Why’d you come back?’

‘Curiosity. Time for a change.’
Earth beckoned. A speck of dust
in the eye of the sky.

‘Where are the others?’ ‘Early yet.’
They’ll come with their bottles
and stories. There are no secrets here.

The noise of the city. Orange fog
across the waste. No clouds. Stars.
Kevin dreams of pond weed and fish

the hollow drumming of a heart
the sky through a few feet of water.


Everyone watches the child walk
through security and spread out her arms.
Today she’ll fly. You can always tell an Italian.
The Cuban landlady sings ‘when you’ve had black
there’s no going back.’
Her Slovakian cleaner has no papers.
We have an appointment, remember?

My hearing went and my head exploded I’ve never had that before.
Remember Klaus? He sent a postcard, hey British how you doing.

We missed the headlines on that day
man with backpack on CCTV.

In Hintersee Gasthof the framed cartoon
the king, the farmer, the bishop, the worker
and top of the pyramid the man in black
‘Der Jude - er nimmt das Geld’.

Where does the roof end and the wall start?

She said she found herself joining in
throwing flowers at Hitler. When he’d gone
she rushed into church, feeling
she’d slept with someone she shouldn’t have.

Anna went to collect her rabbit
‘that’s not my rabbit’ she said.
He held it by the ears, back legs spread-eagled
and put his hand around its balls.

This is my second favourite café in Vienna.

Cliff will be reading at the Rose Theatre, Edge Hill University on 11 November 2009. Tonight he is speaking with Andrew Taylor at the PPRG Tenth Aniiversary series Going Public.