Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett


Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.




their furniture is sanded
to a cool, transparent sheen.
Incomers, they begin
to feel at home.
Their new republic
is a state of mind


                 from; Shell Island by Ian Parks






Gargoyles in Winter
The Shore Near Viarregio
The Blizzard
Shell Island
The Landing Stage





Ian Parks was born in 1959 and was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. He was made a Hawthornden Fellow in 1991 and received a Travelling Fellowship to the USA in 1994. His first collection, Gargoyles in Winter was published in 1986 and he went on to teach creative writing at the universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Hull and Leeds. His other collections include A Cimb Through Altered Landscapes (1998), Shell Island (2006), The Cage (2008) and Love Poems (2009). A pamphlet collection, A Paston Letter is out from Rack Press and his next book, The Landing Stage is due from Lapwing, Belfast. Recent poems appear in Poetry Review, The Observer, The Liberal, London Magazine, The Independent on Sunday and Poetry (Chicago). A selection is included in the Old City: New Rumours anthology edited by Carol Rumens and Ian Gregson.  Waterloo Press will be publishing a new collection, THE EXILE'S HOUSE in 2011.






Gargoyles in Winter
Each petrified grimace
thrusts out into the elements
to mock and deny grace,
spewing as they do
before purple-glass saints.
Icicles hang from rain-pitted noses,
insects inhabit eye sockets
and the spider stretches
strands like spittle from lip
to twisted lip of their gross distorted mouths.
But for this ice
that chokes them
these janus-headed oracles
would speak more
than the angular gravestones tell.
There the cruelly muted nagging wife;
or that grieving widow
whose face is scored by furrows where rain's
eroding tears have streamed.
And the son who fell in metal
at Towton Field is fierce
despite these deep-gouged gashes. A sardonic grin
has split another's leering face in half
and left its severed jaw
in painful lock.
Some, evil and devout
suffer slow martyrdom to the weather
which has told the truth plainly
by the pox-marks it has made
on bloated heavy jowls.
Some die perpetual deaths,
victims of the plague;
their ghastly agonies
outlined againt the sky.
But most are depicting
our predicament
and meet our gaze
with a sly and horrid smile
or a blind disfigured
downcast eye.


The Shore Near Viarregio
The beautiful cripple
strips to his waist;
too near the blackened limbs
of his drowned friend.
A place like nowhere else
on earth: smoke rising
from the makeshift pyre;
incense drifting bitter-sweet
among the stunted trees.
Each stroke removes him
from that windless shore -
its brackish shallows
pierced with reeds;
the days together
and the years apart.
His breath comes slow
in this thin air
whoi swam the Hellespont.
That night he dreams
of angels, their wing-tips
overlapping, touching down,
searing the rim
of our inconstant sphere.
One plucks at something
in the flames;
another rakes the ashes,
burns his hand. Go back
sometimes to Viareggio,
make supplication
to the gods of place
and in a cask of wine
preserve the heart.

The Blizzard
Sometimes there are four of us
and sometimes there are five
if what the captain says he sees
is true: an unknown other
gliding through the storm
and we bent double, tethered
to a line. And though he says
we haven't lost our way
I know his compass lies.
It leads us back and back again
to that same widening
ravine - pure, sheer-sided,
crystalline - we left before
the avalanche crashed down.
And now I need to sleep.
Who is it kneels beside you
as you try to lift your head,
spreading your shoulders
with a net of gold? She whispers
what you knew and then forgot.
So trust in darkness for a while:
the snow is warm, the ice is hot.

Shell Island
The girl is tall
and never thinks of food
unless he brings her
oysters from the bay
arranged with lemon
on an oval plate.
It is their only
luxury. At night
an oil-lamp swings
above the bed;
an oval mirror glints
across the hall;
their furtniture is sanded
to a cool, transparent sheen.
Incomers, they begin
to feel at home.
Their new republic
is a state of mind
in which the world
of commerce lays no claim.
It has its laws,
its languages - a grove
of olives where
the freed bird sings.
The shells of all
the oceans gather here:
a cache of pint
exotic coils banked up
against the winter tide.
I ask if it's still possible,
this pool of dreams
and solitudes
in which the driftwood
floats at rest
and lives retract,
becoming simplified.
Across the bay
the new refinery
lights up their hemisphere;
a still white centre
pulses and dilates.
complex, entire,
it holds their studied
gaze: as alien, cold
and insecure
as the force it draws
its power from;
the city it anticipates.


The whitewashed cellar
where I never used to go.
My mother's sledge
propped up against the wall.
touching it dislodges
orange rust-flakes from the blade.
Why should it take me by surprise
to find it where she left it
in a recess out of sight,
the frame intact
and all the rest decayed?
I run a finger
down its blunted edge.
Strange how things outlast us
as they too
outlast the limits
of their usefulness.
A gift of sorts
I carry it upstairs
through darkened rooms
into the blinding certitude of snow.


Outiside, the paid-up world begins to freeze
its assets, which are valueless;
but here you lie secure, at ease
with love and what we make of it.
After a day in which the quality of light
dictated everything we did
I let a candle drip itself a shape
around the empty bottle at our feet.
Drystone walls enclose us; the fells
are weighted down with powerlines
and someone somewhere claimed the right
to parcel up the darkness where we sleep
as if the common ground could take
the sealed impression of his signature.
We wake to fresh lucidities;
the frosted window sprouts its new designs.


The Landing Stage
The coin grows warmer in my palm.
I feel it as it starts to burn.
The ferryman pulls on the rope -
deliberate, practiced - hand over fist
and soon the boat is making for
the reed-fringed margin lost from sight.
Left here on the landing stage
I wait uncertain, last in line.
The river isn't very deep.
Not deep but dark and wide.
When it's my turn
I smile and don't glance back.
From the deck the landscape has
a different kind of look:
flatter, thinner, limitless.
I'm in no rush to get across
though everyone I've ever loved
is waving from the other side.

After I brought you back to life
your short death made you frightened of the sun.
I knelt above you, rolled away the stone,
uncoiled the silken thread that filled your throat.
You never caught my whisper, never saw me when I wept.
I called you from the darkness and you came.
You came expecting birdsong, a new world.
Instead, I hauled you up and set you down,
dragged you back choking from the brink.
The others kept their distance, hid their eyes,
refused to hear the flutter of your heart.
You stuttered, disappointed that the world was still the same.
I acted quickly, breathed into your mouth,
astoninished as your blue lips turned to red.
I learned your secret, kept it to myself,
stood silent as you stumbled from the cave.
I loved you for returning, for the effort that you'd made.
You hated me for doing what I'd done.

The cottage has stood empty for too long.
Hunched in the doorway, hidden from the light,
he looks out on the rain that doesn't stop
but streaks the valley and the worked-out mines,
the shop fronts locked and shuttered
now the tourists have all gone.
He peers into the letterbox. Inside
he goes through all the unused rooms,
finds traces of the place where he was born
despite the evidence of other lives;
the unreal fact of someone else's things.
He turns but pauses at the door,
pours out a pool of petrol in the hall
then takes a moment to inhale
its heady scent, its pungent undertow
before he strikes a match and lets it drop.

Before Eve there was Lilith.
She walked the tangled garden,
made no sound. The birds
were all entranced by her,
the serpent quit the tree
and coiuled itself around
her naked feet. Adam knew
it did no good to call her
from her sleep. Ignored
he named the ibex
and the ox. She drank deep
from the purest stream,
enticed the angels
from their emerald thrones,
refused to learn the dance
and disobeyed. She lived
among the shadows, hid from light
and smeared her breasts
with juices from the trees.
Made equal with the man
she hated him. Only later
making love to a soft
and unresisting Eve
did he regret her banishment.
He feared her though he saw her
in a mong the grappling vines
and missed the coldness
of her distant smile;
the calm avoidance of her eyes.


3 - Publishing History

Gargoyles in Winter from Gargoyles in Winter (1986)
The Shore Near Viarregio from Sirens (1991)
The Blizzard from A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998)
Shell Island from Shell Island (2006)
Sledge from The Cage (2008)
Enclosures from Love Poems 1979-2009 (2009)
The Landing Stage from The Landing Stage (2010)
Lazarus from Old City: New Rumours, edited by Carol rumens and Ian Gregson, 2010
Arsonist previously unpublished
Lilith previously unpublished


4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think.  We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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