Sarah Jackson explores the edges of writing in this uncanny book of touch. Tender, haunting, and yet beautifully poised, the poems in Pelt get right under your skin. The collection takes you on an unsettling journey between infancy and adulthood. Slipping from birds to blindness, from hides to hiding, Pelt uncovers the unfamiliar in the everyday. Pelt is written in the dark. It asks to be read through your fingertips. Striking and elegant, subtle and yet full of desire, this is a brilliant debut.
(Deserted Hotel, Shabla, Bulgaria)
The wind here is devastating.
Hoarding sand on the sills
of a hotel beaten back by shrieks
it brings with it
a certain smell, a certain ring.
Nobody is here.
There is no waiter.
Nobody dances, nobody sleeps.
Just you and me
lying in the dust of the restaurant
holding ourselves –
and out there
the ocean rising and falling
rising and falling
like the skin over our ribs.
I breakfast at the side of the house
where an old Breton plaque rusts
in the gravel beneath the window,
and there, flies worship the sparrow,
which lies, head bent right back
with its beak snapped clean off
like the lid of the margarine tub.
I bend down, lift the beak
between my finger and thumb,
look into the hollow of its throat
to see its vocal chords nestling
like a peach stone, wondering
where music comes from,
and where my voice has gone.
…après ma mort, il ne restera plus rien – Jacques Derrida
1Today, I find I can see through my eyelids.
You are curled over yourself as if reading
but there is no book. I wait, counting the dogwood
on the curtain, listening for the telephone.
You sit in a winged armchair by my head
holding your elbows. I smell you: dirty and sweet.
I think of the way I might have said goodbye.
We tried not to speak of such things.
You turned and your hot face was bright.
I saw myself reflected in it as I left.
2The room grows cold. I am not arranged in a line.
Lift me, please, from my crookedness.
We need to start again but it is always too late
and I am afraid you do not know how to begin.
3Love, you surprise me: turning, dipping a cloth
in a shallow bowl, you wipe my palms in slow circles
and twist my rings so that everything is facing
one way. This is touch without touching,
as it always is. You are so quiet, sounds slip
from the ceiling. I am afraid of you, of your gentleness.
You say, nothing will remain, and I hear my bones
in your voice: At home, the dog will always be searching.
Sarah Jackson was born in 1977, grew up in Berkshire and now lives in Nottingham. Her pamphlet Milk (Pighog, 2008) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and her work appears in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe Books, 2009) and The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt, 2011). She was awarded Arts Council funding in 2009 and has been shortlisted for the Arvon International Poetry Competition (2010) and the Edwin Morgan Prize (2011). Sarah completed a doctorate at the University of Sussex in 2009 and now lectures at Nottingham Trent University, where she runs the MA in Creative Writing. Pelt (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), her first book-length collection, is long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. She read a selection of poems from Pelt on BBC Radio 3's Proms Plus Late programme in August in a series which features 'informal post-prom music and poetry from emerging young artists'.