An Illustrated Guide to the Ruins

Maybe you’ve read my poems, and you share some of my approach to the mundanities of life and / or the horrible shit that can happen.  Maybe, like me, you read or write poetry as a way to navigate, reimagine and attempt to make sense of the world.

An Illustrated Guide to the Ruins is a new offering for my readers. 

It’s also the title of a key poem in Wristwatch, one which ends the Risky breasts sequence about my cancer treatment, leading into the new-life-and-love part of the story.  It’s about rebuilding your life after disaster, and although it’s deliberately wry and self-deprecating, it’s ultimately positive.

An illustrated guide to the ruins

This bombed-out husk (established 1968),
roof sheared by the initial blast,
internal fittings razed by subsequent fire,
appears as derelict as a structure twice its age.
The shell remains serviceable.

Further excavations reveal pervasive rot
spreading through timbers.
An extensive course of damp proofing
reinstates the original look and feel,
but note: joists permanently weakened.

And of the future? The occupier,
once tempted to abandon to lichen,
ivy, has realised the space
(no longer fit for its former purpose)
has fabulous potential for parties.

All rights reserved. Jay Whittaker

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February round up

Late February colour in the garden

I made the most of pandemic poetry life, joining online launches and readings far beyond my usual haunts. I caught a few events at the Kendal Poetry Festival, and particularly enjoyed Alison Brackenbury‘s supple, precise poems with a focus on the natural world, & Ian Humphries‘ engaging, lively and poignant poems about gay life. I appreciate the practice of screensharing poems during the Zoom reading – I certainly benefit from seeing the words on-screen. Other readings included Anthony Anaxagorou at the Grasmere Readings, and Joelle Taylor performing compelling poems about the 80s dyke scene from her new collection C*nto at Incite Poetry (London).

It was a privilege to read a very personal feature set as part of LGBT+ History month for the event I have a que(e)ry about LGBT+ Disabled representation.

Last but not least, I was thrilled to be interviewed about Sweet Anaesthetist, political poetry, feminism (and more!) for Lighthouse bookshop’s Life Raft …

Radical (for LGBT+ History month)

It’s February, so in recognition of and solidarity with LGBT+ History Month, I’m posting a link to me reading Radical, my poem about how a radical bookshop helped me work out who I was and how I might come out in the days before the internet and in a time of wholly negative disinformation about LGBT+ folx. It was first published in Shooter, and is republished in Sweet Anaesthetist.

I was a teenager in suburban Nottingham in the early 1980s, a few years younger than the characters in It’s a Sin, and remember the iceberg leaflets about AIDS landing on the doormat and the casual, pervasive homophobia that was usual at the time. In the papers, on the telly, at school, in the street, at home. My family wouldn’t tolerate racism but “nancy boys” and “mannish women” (chapwench was my Dad’s word) were fair game. At home, as at school, I shut down, kept my head down, played Bronski Beat’s Age of Consent on repeat, and took a long time to join the dots. A friend introduced me to Mushroom, Nottingham’s radical bookshop at that time. In a world before the internet a radical bookshop provided access to information otherwise unavailable, and my world began to open up.

Soundcloud link to Jay Whittaker reading Radical