The Dazzling Oppression of the Real #8: Gillian Prew

Jude Dillon presents: The poet Gillian Prew for “Happy There in My Agony” #8


Gillian Prew lives in Scotland. She has a philosophy degree and a succession of low-paid, menial jobs to her credit. Some of her poems can be found at Eviscerator Heaven, Up the Staircase, The Glasgow Review, Eleutheria, The Recusant, Heavy Bear, Counterexample Poetics and ditch.  She is responsible for three collections of poems. She likes coffee, crow, cats and ice-cream.

dream caused by the need to speak


They sit stooped

like staggered hillsides howling 

a language of incurable need

a promenade of bitten tongues

in the swell of world.

Come, they say

spit your black days

the taste of bile

the metal pangs

distract your knees from kneeling

ditch your hats and gloves

and Sunday smells


for an end to prayer

vision has been razed in the fury ofAmen”.


They sit staggered
howling hillsides stooped
like a promenade of incurable need
a language of world
in the swell of bitten tongues.

In the blood,
in the bile,
in the blackened spit
I sit swollen
by the incurable need
to speak. 


dream caused by the homogeny of states


There is a broken story in this land.

It is called History. It is written

that the birds have ragged beaks

because a smooth edge is impossible

that they fly to mock the sorry men

of the plains who pray for wings, who

exist in the shadow of gravity

moored by inherited ideology.

The birds

are untamed libertines. The chasm

that separates them is more than

a scale of altitude.

I am a visitor here. I know this

because of my face on this passport. It is

my permission to travel.

Always permission

even in dreams.

Where is this freedom they speak of?

There is no more of it where I came from

than there is here. This land screams

for emancipation. I can hear its echoes

billowing from underground

like desperate geysers of dry sound.

But I have my own echoes

of a waking place

where freedom is sold as a lie.

The women here grieve for the men

(who are not dead)

but are always gone. They pray

too long.

They fill the women’s wombs

with seeds

then leave.

I am a visitor…

I am a visitor…


Up on the hill they are killing cats.

Down by the shore they are drowning dogs.

What else do they expect from their children?



dream caused by the ceding of souls


the crowd


the cloth, lacerated

the count of the search. failure

to accumulate. disintegration

of number

building birds from bones

crush of the ticking clock

a smoothing Sisyphus with a worn hand

driving with the suicide doors open

tethered comets

airborne stone

the laws of the universe dissolved

the scandal of the silk noose

the still ones with their mossy backs

the peppery eyes of the lost

names on the wind hollow

 as a stolen idea

                I am blind now. pecked

by the blackness. how

can we close our eyes upon this?


dream caused by an adjacent love


Speak slow of this time in binding this sweet

time of night where our skin switches cells

and memory where our worlds are

our own creation. We are two dreams

here; two unavoidable worlds. I know nothing

of yours and the romance of mine is only

a slow suicide.

See here

these dead horses. They are my failure

to love


the saddest thing I have seen

in many a long dream

only horses but

they have painted faces

smiling red still.

Escape. Is that what

your shuddering eyeballs are telling me?

Someone told me men only dream of sex.

She was a thwarted woman and made massive


all bad. Still

I think she was at least 90% right

in this case.

This is a dream I want to climb out of

return to a warm breathing.

Love is not dead horses. Love is

the moment of waking

and not quite knowing.

Love is the death of surety.


a moment of incomparable ennui

Here, it reeks of amateur despair. It is all

a vague embarrassment: a dull dinner party

where the guests are terminal and talk only

of the unoriginality of their disease.

How common cancer is. How utterly bored am I.

No pathology can shake this ennui, no raconteur, no

fingers placed and squirming. Sex does, normally,

but not now. Nothing now.

I thought of writing

but sometimes poetry is a treadmill

and now it would only be a slug

and who wants that?

I thought of reading but the pages are too heavy.

I thought of thinking

and even though that might seem

inherent proof of that very thing

I can’t do it.

In fact

this moment is eating me alive.

If it doesn’t pass soon I

will be found a monotonous corpse.


in the lap of soft torture

I am famous somewhere.

What a pointless place it is.

Here, I am stuffed long in the shell of mother. The shadows

are translucent; cornered bugs in the stench of morning.

But what pretty bugs! And what perfume stench!

And the light…

What bids the things I cannot write?

The crying of lost is screaming across the sky. The birds

are vessels full of wisdom and gizzard. I am mapped solid

into a question.

Don’t talk of God. It is a mistake.

The tyranny of love tortures me softly.

How exquisite.

I am famous somewhere.

I never want to go there.


the size of gloom can grow


We are a mourning version of the sun, clear

as a cloudy eyeball in the drip of age

all our shadows in the shape of disquiet

paging the sea to hear our skin

and why not drink it with the rain?

All the skill is in living, say the dead, as

they try to preserve a dignified memory.

We are undeniable unless doubted.

We are unimaginable unless imagined.

We are human…

or something else.

We throb with the stings of generations

and the dead bees not as dead as us.

We are the size of gloom but grow; poems

but not of words; love but always loss.


while reading the spines of books

Up, is a diary of clouds. The sky

tucked into them. There is the

meaning of a bird. There is a quiet belief.

 Down, we are bare bones of an isolated incident

and we cleanse ourselves in mere water.

We are played; music unable to hear itself.

Deaf instruments that skirt shine but

 want to build monuments: cold stone and dates.

We do not need war to be a broken soldier.

The time we have taken

– rehearsing our exit lines in black seconds.

Here, in the spines of books,

it is an expensive place to die.


alone one night in the midst of 43



Body –  intricate mortuary. Elaborate

shadows are its shifting art.

Kinetic dark,

smooth as haunted ballet. It falls –

eventually – like apples,

boozy and rotten,


but with the grace of widows who

never loved their husbands. Love,

I am ashamed to show you. The sound

of decline is blood rushing to a bruise.

Quiet – unless you are under skin –

where it deafens like the retreating heat

of a new corpse. The hardest thing – being

unable to slide into the self without anguish

– to see more beauty than grotesque.

Body – I have known you touched and fallow.

Now you are a crazy bitch in a ball trying to

keep warm in the realisation that memory is

no more reliable than imagination. Body –

you are in the midst of 43.

Recall if you must.

This is only one night

then morning. But

there will be more and

they will be endless.


all their proud spots and solitudes


There is a leaving sometimes in the gift of Other. A

drag. Dry peace sinks in the shape of its confinement

– and nothing else: a locked peace that waits

for the swing of time to unlock its cold variety.

And the sun – all coiled like a snake round an egg –

ready to devour my golden yolk. More golden than

the sun itself which ties me to the scaffold of its neck.

Down dark in clotted breath – and cool string hands

tying me wet. Other is summer enough until turned and

tumbled in the glass: aborted, in vitro – unwillingly.


the dead do not stir

Half as blue as before I

boycott the colossus of my defeat.

Raging, biscuit-boned; dunked

soft and coffee-soaked, melting into

the thrown cup of life so deftly cracked

– but there is a style descending

the ladder of my blood…

the essential symptom of my name.

About me I have only an idea.

Where is my place that contains not me?

I cannot go there.

It is all dislocated music.

There will be more of this before the end

as some summers the sun dries me out

enough to collect a few more years.

My buttocks sting still from the leather

thwack of love. Even my hair sighs long

into its rebellion. I am carried forward

for a while (yet undisclosed) moving

along what seems like time. They say

we only get a piece of it, so fill it somehow.

The dead do not stir even in the wind.


black, salt and kittens

The waves are black today. It is I who inked them

with my black eyes and my leaden pen; a toil of a pen

shaped and tinted as a shadow. And yet I am far enough

from the sea to imagine it the iris of a newborn. I am far

enough that I can taste the salt of sea and semen

on a tongue that curls for love

…and stretches.

I am near enough to the waves to hear them caress the shore

in mourning: soft, black kitten paws squeezing life back out of

the sand – shelled, shocked and damp still from moist gestation.

I am far enough from birth to doubt its existence and

near enough to death to lick its salty crotch…

but tongue and salt…

such a favoured union of mine. Who cares

for seas of black and heavy pens that cleave the page

with every stroke? Always

there will be black. But dive down

into your lover’s salty crotch: it too

will be black, black as the centre of love

whose core is unknown

…but felt.

Dive down and lap your kitten milk.


the old, wedded ones


She has smoothed her waves of wanting

into floor and trod them keeping.

Have you more than this?

Her churches reeked once. Now

dead and odourless they are replaced.

She had a cunt of tangled flowers

now musty as dead bark, now

crumbling like the walls of weeping rooms.

There are ways of moving.

There are ways of doing

almost everything. Ways and ways

of it, but mostly

ways of seeing.

See HER she is not invisible her colours have not faded

into the grey of your working suit her life not fast as

a commuter train going nowhere her slow gait beautiful

as a fading dance her eyes smaller than they were

all sucked up with seeing see her skin it is poets’ paper,

and yet…

the skin of a newborn mouse

to a man who sees only legs and

breasts, but not to him…

OLD M  A    N

He sees complete all love and despair all fucking and hobbling

all her black hair and the exiguous white between her legs all

her dreams all her dark days all her screaming births and each

one of her whimpering deaths all her wild successes all her

wilder failures her white teeth her yellow teeth the banquet

of her bosom the famine of her vanity

measuring time in the patina of her veins, and she

 by his dangling scrotum, both

OLD M  A    N


lumbering into a kind of beauty.



the death of poetry

All our colours demand circuses. Only black

is humble; it collects itself discretely and

remains silent when the laughter

is viole(n)t. Blue is beautiful but

wants to conquer the world in swathes

of drowning. Our words are red and

always slaughtered. Their little deaths

make us smile and feel less alone.

All our cancers are stones

heavy and impenetrable

claiming white from the rainbow

where each bird wraps an untold wing

around frozen number

the thin of bone

the calling hours

in graceful murder


feet over feet.

All our corpses coagulate

a bleeding past

a foreign church

moving away from language

into the worship of

The Act.

All our coins are for spending.

There is nothing left beautiful

enough to be free.


where love resembles a dying bird

The speed of love is the slowness of a dying bird

breast pressed against unknown and bleeding

from the moment of born. Shape

cancels itself out when morphing. Always new

and old in synchronicity. The moment of change

is life and death. Love

gathers in the failing quills, in the labour

of a dignified finish, in the black pupils of mortality.

And what of me? Am I onlooker

or participant? The answer is always ‘both’

whatever the question. Love

sinks with the rot and grows in the nourished

renaissance of libido. Yes, that love, the one

that shouts in satisfaction sighs under

its own enormity and is prepared to die for

its very existence. And the bird

still fading second by second. What scavengers

are waiting to dine upon it? What empty creatures?


temporal atrophy


I am destined for the shape of old woman [boxed]

worn into time passing at a dance while I slow

to a laboured crawl and chipped with some elegance

to the point of reckless love. That was ago (now, in fact)

as I type these lines in knowledge

though I have never been one for being

sure. But I feel with a whole burst

that if love is reckless then to be human

is a reckless undertaking. What else is there

but to step in?


we are erased                     


Published by lenavanelslander

Lena Vanelslander swam many waters. History, Comparative Culture Analysis, Languages, Mythology, Literature, Poetry, too many to sum up. After a life of tribulations the turning point came in her mid twenties: she started to write actively poetry in English. Her melancholic and darkminded nature colour her poems to an individual signature in both time and space. Poems got published in the Stray Branch, Savage Manners, the Delinquent and The Sylvan Echo. Her first chapbook ‘Ma Chanson de Rien du Tout’ has been released in September this year. Her first book of poetry, written with Marilyn Campiz, Quills of Fire, will appear in November 2009. Currently she edits writers' profiles for and

2 thoughts on “The Dazzling Oppression of the Real #8: Gillian Prew

  1. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing Gillian’s work–it is always immaculate! I especially enjoyed “THe Death of Poetry,” “Dream Caused by the Homogony of States” and “Gloom Can Grow.” She has such a visceral tone and message.

    “All our coins are for spending. / There is nothing left beautiful/ enough to be free.”

  2. She’s a fantastic poet,I really loved all her pieces. It’s not common, in contemporary poetry, to find such a sensibility and voices like this. Thank you for sharing her work. As a poet, I’m so encouraged to write when reading good stuff like this, her imagery is so vivid. I’d really like to translate her poems in italian and publish them on my lit-blog. Please, be so kind to tell her I’m at her disposal in case she decides to submit some work. My lit blog
    My e-mail:
    Thank you again for sharing.

    Federica Nightingale

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