Jamie McKendrick

Jamie McKendrick’s latest collection is Anomaly.

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick, 23 January 2020

Alexander Cornelius mentions a tree called the lion-tree, the timber of which he says was used to build the Argo . . . which cannot be rotted by water or destroyed by fire . . . This tree is, so far as I am aware, unknown to anyone else.

Pliny the Elder

May well be extinct, and our one authority

is terse, but that surely speaks in his favour.No wonder its timber was used on the Argo– the...

Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 9 May 2019

Court of the Lions

After fifty years to revisit the Alhambra and witness the same water spewing from the lion’s maw: I remember wearing a silver short-sleeved shirt adorned with dragons, and for the first time,

on the airport runway, hearing the night alive with the cicadas’ tiny anvils. This time, the metal plate screwed to my femur vibrates to their call, my heart to the...

Two Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 22 February 2018

The Flight

Others look down on me. As well they might. I look down on myself from a great height: see the tramp’s straggly hair turned white

– the off-white of effluent-polluted sea-foam – the bony shoulders, the incipient bald dome and black wings sprouting that will fly me home.


for Rachel Owen


I keep forgetting if this is Lucerne or Geneva, Geneva...

Poem: ‘Earscape’

Jamie McKendrick, 21 April 2016

Milton lost his sight in libertyes defence and I my hearing in oyles pursuit employed by factors who failed to plug our ears with down I was the fuse-and-dynamite boy who blew up bits of Derbyshire with blasts that lunged through the earth’s crust barrelling out below to stun the blind mole in its burrow and bend the funicles of beetles antennae so now alone or in a crowd I hear the...

Poem: ‘The Hunters’

Jamie McKendrick, 5 February 2015

We that have been hunting all the day are mighty tired, our hair is dank with sweat and by our hunting helmets plastered flat.

As days of hunting go, this must be counted a good day: the horns blew loud and the dogs barked hard as though they knew it was more for them

than us we went out hunting the wild beast all day – so they could teach him just how tame they were, and how wrong to...

Poem: ‘Epithets’

Jamie McKendrick, 22 July 2010

Toledo la rica, Salamanca la fuerte, León la bella, Oviedo la sacra, y Sevilla la grande.

Liverpool the impoverished, the liverish, the void, the full, the self-besotted, the blarney-argoted, the blitzed and blackened, the bella-brutta, the rag-rich, the moss-stained sandstoned, the green-lung’d, the ricket-ridden, the loud and adenoidal.

Liverpool the last-to-be-served, the...

Poem: ‘Teazles’

Jamie McKendrick, 6 August 2009

Out in the vacant lot to gather weeds I found these teazles – their ovoid heads delicately armoured with crowns of thorns. Arthur, from whom I haven’t heard a word in thirty years, who must be ninety if he’s a day, told me they were used to raise the nap on the green felt of billiards tables and, since Roman times, for combing woollen stuff. He also said their seeds were...

Beyond the Human: Dante’s Paradiso

Jamie McKendrick, 26 March 2009

What do humans do in heaven? Not too much, though not too little, according to St Augustine, who foresees ‘leisure for the praises of God’ with ‘no inactivity of idleness, and yet no toil constrained by want’. But eternity is a fair stretch: over millennia, any activity might begin to pall. The 19th-century Roman dialect poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli claims in his...

Poem: ‘The Resort’

Jamie McKendrick, 2 November 2006

Red-eyed and flinching, Flavius was applying a depilatory paste of ivy gum and crushed centipede to little effect. The sudden silence meant they were waiting for that smooth-cheeked decemvir to swivel his thumb over in the arena. Brats of empire – they’d think the world revolved around them if they thought the world revolved which of course it doesn’t. It stays put or gets...

Three Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 5 October 2006


Rosary, pillar, garden, assumption, solitude:the five Marías you and your sisters make,distinguished by the vocations of the Virgin.

Amongst you all resemblance hidesin posture, gesture, hand or voicelike a vein of dusky mauve –

tint of the five figs that Frederic Amat,the Catalan artist as a young man,at home with colour and conjugations,

slyly portrayed the group of you...

Four Poems

Valerio Magrelli, translated by Jamie McKendrick, 23 March 2006

Summertime, like the cinemas, I shut up shop. Thought flies off elsewhere and evaporates. Billboards write white, the air’s warm, the table weighted with fruit.


The moonlight is a work of art, a substance first outlined then polished till it’s flint stone, mineral flame, but flame that’s enfeebled, dead, like grass grown in the dark, a pale, ritual vetch whose glow has the...

Three Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 17 February 2005


Ciao bella! we’re near this stretch of Emerald Coast, but the sea view’s even better: soon as we landed S whisked us off on his motoscafo Magnum for an eyeful. I see how he got his nickname – small as a jockey, all male, gallantries galore. & fun! Stress-free zone, except for a 3-way phone conf with the Prez – cause for concern being the shrine at Najaf....

Five Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 4 April 2002

For Now

I’m up in my watchtower, keeping watch over the beasts of the field, now few enough, the fowls of the air and the crooked ways of men, through binoculars, when the doorbell rings like a tinkling cymbal. Half-dressed, I bound downstairs and find two women who smile at me and ask me what I think of the Bible’s predictions for the future?

Myself, I think it’s safer to...

Two Jackals on a Leash: Eugenio Montale

Jamie McKendrick, 1 July 1999

The entomologist Henri Fabre tells how the cicada’s song is produced by its ‘musical thighs’ and how in Provençal folklore the source of the sound is thought to be the insect’s ‘mirrors’, although he points out that this ‘dry membrane coloured like a soap bubble’ actually dampens the sound. In Provence a singer out of breath or a poet without inspiration is said to have broken mirrors. In ‘Reading Montale’, an essay appended to his translation of the poet’s first three books, Jonathan Galassi considers the old and especially Mediterranean association of poet and cicada and its recurrence in Montale’s poems.‘

Poem: ‘Beyond’

Jamie McKendrick, 18 March 1999

I spent all morning in the cafe talking to a man who’d just survived a car crash. They’d cut him out of the wreck, his legs crushed – and still not cured – his chest a map of some forsaken country no one could live in, as seen from the air, which was where he was then, or felt himself to be – looking down on his own body picked out in a ring of light though at...

Poem: ‘Basilisk’

Jamie McKendrick, 10 December 1998

The grey-green snake of the Grand Canal heels itself behind a fleet of hulls and white marble writes white marble on the face of the water under the façades in a fat oily squiggle straight from the tube. When the tyre-clad flank of the vaporetto thuds against the belly of the dock, we pilgrims watch how in her sky-blue suit the blonde conductress throws an eight around the two...

Poem: ‘The One-Star’

Jamie McKendrick, 8 June 1995

Moving away in the taxi, I could just see myself     climbing the marble steps and stepping through     the plate-glass into a lounge-cum-vestibule,

its floor inlaid with a pink star of mineral grains     and roughage – a breakfast for the after-life.     Beaded oak cladding, electrified oil-lamps,


Poem: ‘Loss’

Jamie McKendrick, 10 June 1993

If what you hear is like a field and the height of a lark above it then the field has dwindled and the wind bells on the razor wire around the verge beyond which nothing but the pointless din of outer space gets through to you. Acoustic junk. The earth itself begins to hum with the infinitesimal tunnelling of umpteen holts and vaults and brood halls and the sky each dawn is lower than the day...

Poem: ‘Kitchener’s Bane’

Jamie McKendrick, 1 April 1983

‘Be sand not oil in the world’s machine’ recommended Günter Eich. I admire Luddites, objectors, all who sabotage the cogs and gears of a lying culture.

Long exile from the hall of thane or hetman leaves the bardlings’ sweet-tooth unappeased, tuning the vocal chords to croon and charm the world in coca-cola harmony.

But who’s this under the silken billboards...

Poem: ‘Earthbound’

Jamie McKendrick, 2 December 1982

She lay mute as an Old Testament sacrifice; nothing so abundant as a thicket – but barbed wire, a secular parallel, the sheep had snagged her horn on, days before

judging by the jaundiced eyes and tantrum of panic, perfunctorily abandoned when we came by. She must have tried grazing the wrong side, where the promised pastures grow,

and ended up like this – involved in a fatally...

As a novelist Giorgio Bassani is both allusive and elusive. Allusive, because he makes a habit of writing as if all the objects of his attention, from the topography of Ferrara, his hometown in...

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Someone Else’s: translating Cesare Pavese

Matthew Reynolds, 6 October 2005

Does an Italian poet need translating even when he writes in English? Two of the poems in Disaffections make you wonder. Pavese addressed them to Constance Dowling, the American actress with whom...

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Imagining the Suburbs

Stan Smith, 9 January 1992

Whole systems of thought have been founded on the French language’s inability to distinguish differing from deferring. Perhaps Napoleon is to blame (‘Not tonight, Josephine’)....

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