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Lesley Curwen



the poet

Plymouth-based poet, broadcaster, sailor and winner of the inaugural Molecules Unlimited poetry competition, Lesley Curwen writes about loss in the natural world – loss she saw inflicted by the global capitalism she used to report on. Together with Jane R Rogers and Tahmina Maula, she collaborated on the pamphlet Invisible Continents. Lesley's solo work, Recovery Attempt, will be published in 2024 by The Hedgehog Poetry Press, and she'll also publish eco-chapbook Sticky with Miles with Dreich the same year. A Wales Poetry Award finalist in 2022, Lesley has found homes for her poems with journals and publishers including Black Bough Poetry, Broken Sleep Books, After..., Atrium, Spelt Magazine, The Alchemy Spoon and Ice Floe Press.

the poems

Running free

00:00 / 00:59

                        rippled mane spits white beads

                        sun gifts endless diamond 

                                       flash on stippled flow 

                        sheets pulled iron taut

                        a cloud-line shadows Plymouth 

                                       slides south to Spain

                        my boat tips and yaws

                        I ride her like a gaucho


                        through seas finite but giant

                        a cornflowerblue bling robe 

                                      to cool a planet 

                        my boat and I plough through 

                        plastic, oil slicks, submarines

                                      shit, bodies, melted ice


                        fleets of sardine, shark

                        whale and cell-wide life in

                                      celebration, grief, what you will

A parent never known

00:00 / 00:42

                        In the gym, mirrors meet at a dark seam

                        where body is apprehended but face is half

                        a line of flesh, a ghosting, nothing real.

                        Impossible to see whose breath is misting 

                        glass. In this fashion, the unmet 

                        father/mother is present and concealed.

                        The solid whole that lies beyond the join 

                        feels close, a step away, just missed. 

                        Faceless, the kin we lost and lose again.

Ocean City

00:00 / 02:52

            We are on the edge of the world.  


            Always the draw                       of water’s tinselled margin,  

                                                         urgent roar.                 

            Tattered pigeons bleach bronze heads of mariners who left 

            Mayflower steps                       flush with gold and hard tack.


            Spattered eyes look to               ocean’s light 

                                                         its crooning, sweet unknown. 

            Monuments to the infinite spivvery of seizing new worlds 

                                                         not new to inhabitants  

                                                         not worlds at all 

                                                         same planet, same air, same cursed seas.


            We are on the edge of              everywhere 


            at stone steps beyond pasty ‘n’ fudge shops  

            decorated by a dozen plaques    copperplate or fat capital. 

            A toxic pink sprayed across the globe 

            from here    this nub and den     of chancers, rogues astride 

            their wooden barkys aching to    leap over the                                                                                  


            It is not the ocean’s fault.            It skitters in morning sun

            without intent, tides swung by moon’s slide

                                                          at gravity’s dictate. 


            Blameless it sighs, waves rainbow-flashed

            by diesel meniscus                    sucking at particled air. 

            No launches now from Mayflower steps 

                                                          though exploits persist. 


            Three frigates anchored in the Sound,                                                                                             

                                                          tankers hauling fossil juice, dark fin  

                                                          of nuclear sub.

            A multi-storied cruise ship squats the bay 

                         its orange shiplets bound for pirate shops. 

            The ocean is not 

                                                         what it was. 

            Neoprene swimmers lash arms through green soup 


            herbed with heavy metals from dead mines 

            fine solution of faeces from overflows 

            swarms of plastic iotas 

                                                         rinsed and smashed by diurnal tides. 

            In the dusty Minster                  clouds of purple fish swim sunlit glass. 

            A creation window hurls scarlet atoms

                                                         on cobalt sea.


            Harbourside, loud horns call.     Another vessel docks in Plymouth’s

            endless back-and-forth. 

            The swell licks iron ring in weathered stone,  

                                                         blurs a rusty edge.

Publishing credits

Running Free: Invisible Continents (Nine Pens Press)

A parent never known / Ocean City:

  exclusive first publication by iamb

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