We are thrilled that prize-winning poet Jenna Clake has agreed to let us produce her first published pamphlet, Clake/ Interview for, which follows on from her stunning debut collection, Fortune Cookie (Eyewear, 2017). #2 in our Experimental Pamphlet Series, this wonderful work consists of two long poems only. But what glorious long poems they are!
In Clake, a central character, as likely to be the author as any other central character, moves through the unexpected absence of a loved one in a scarily ordinary domestic setting in which cakes become threats, and cats have opinions and give mixed-quality advice.
Told in fifteen short prose poems that will charm and unsettle in equal measure, Clake is a powerful and masterful work.
In Interview for, unnamed characters move through a setting that is half reality, half television show, while voiceovers and interviewers chip in with questions and comments which are only sometimes helpful and rarely accurate. Pages are traversed, but stasis rather than progression is the dominant state.
Both of these masterful works are written in Jenna’s trademark deadpan, wide-eyed, wonderfully observational style, in which her humour is evident but always seem to be engulfed by a deep and undisturbed sadness. These poems will bear reading multiple times, and each time something new will be communicated. Wonderful, wonderful work!
Jenna Clake’s debut collection, Fortune Cookie, was awarded the Melita Hume Prize and shortlisted for a Somerset Maugham Award. In 2018, she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors.
DID YOU HEAR?
Jemma’s second collection has been announced and is due in 2021 from the wonderful Bloodaxe Books. Congratulations Jenna! 😉
SAMPLE POEM BY JENNA
I build a wooden city of all the places I have been with my love. I build the train platform where we met. I build a miniature version of our house, complete with our car sitting out the front like it is waiting for a date. I build all the hotel rooms we have ever stayed in, and put them on a street next to each other. I build all the restaurants, all the evenings our dinner burned when we forgot about it, too busy doing something better, all the clothes we have swapped so that we can no longer remember what is truly ours.
I work on the wooden city every day. I clean the inside of our little wooden house with a paintbrush. My love comes home and asks me how the city is coming along. He touches everything lightly when I hold it up to him, tells me he has never seen anything so magnificent. Before he comes to bed, he stands over the wooden city and studies it, then switches off the light. He kisses my forehead. I feel the walls of the wooden city expand around us.
There is a street for our arguments. It is an alleyway, tucked far away from the centre of everything. There is always a way out of it: a gate into a garden, or a taxi rank, and then home. When my love sees the alleyway, he says, Do you see me like that? and I spend the whole night ripping it out.
Every day, my love takes a train into a real city. I can see the train station from our bedroom window. When he leaves, I spend another hour in bed. If I dream, I dream I am inside the wooden city. Last night, I walked into our house. I felt the papered walls, the bumps like bubble wrap, tripped over my love’s many pairs of shoes.
My love wakes me up in the middle of the night, crying. He says he doesn’t remember anything from the first few months of our relationship. The top left section of the wooden city is a new territory to him. I hold him and tell him it is okay, that I understand. Over breakfast the next morning he is silent. I try to smile at him, orange juice clinging to my lips.
I dedicate the wooden city to my love. I put his name on the surrounding walls. I send him a picture of it while he is at work. When he comes home, he asks me to make dinner. He throws his warm, worn shirt over the city, and leaves it there all week.
I build a new section of the wooden city: our first and only holiday together. I build the moment we talked about getting a bigger real house, the way the sky seemed to turn a light orange when he said it was something he couldn’t think about right now – maybe in a few months? I build the moment as thick as his alcoholic milkshake.
When my love leaves for work, I pretend to be asleep. He says I am working too hard on the wooden city. I lie in bed and think about how much attention the wooden city needs. For many years I dreamed of building a wooden city. Now every day I take care of it. When my love gets to the train platform, he forgets about it, and thinks of something else.
I dream that I am cleaning our wooden house with a paintbrush, as always, but the walls fall apart in my hands. When I look down, I am standing in the middle of the wooden city and I have crushed the buildings with my feet. My love comes through the front door and says, I am starving.
I take a week off from the wooden city. All day I lie in bed and hide my head under the duvet. When my love comes home, I say that I am building a new section of the wooden city; he’ll have to wait for the grand unveiling. He goes straight to the fridge.
I dream I am inside the wooden city. I walk into our wooden house. I feel the papered walls, the bumps like bubble wrap, trip over my love’s many pairs of shoes. Then I set it on fire, and sit down.
My love stops coming home from work, stays late and gets the last train home. I take out the wooden train station from the wooden city and move it right to the edge. In its place I build a garden. I plant real parsley and basil.
I start to move things around in the wooden city. I cut things in half, split them up so that our timeline is scrambled. I make more room for gardens, let them grow over the walls. The wooden city now takes up most of the spare bedroom of our real house. I look out the window for my love.
When I water the plants in the gardens of the wooden city, I pretend that it is raining on me and my love, and that we must run across the city to find each other, since only one of us has an umbrella.
I look out the window for my love, and find him standing on the real corner of our real street. On the day we moved in to our real house, we sat amongst our boxes and ate chips. I told my love about my plan to build the wooden city. He said, It will be the most wonderful thing about you. I washed my hands and started building.
I meet my love on the corner of our real street. I try to smile at him, sweat clinging to my lips. He says, You are not coping well with building the city. You should stay somewhere else for a while. I think, I would build this moment underneath our house. I go inside, to the wooden city. I pull the plants out of their gardens and place them in a plastic bag. My love stands at the top of the stairs. He doesn’t say goodbye.