Today’s featured poem is by Debris Stevenson from her pamphlet collection Pigeon Party. Quality Street takes a family day out by the seaside (Skegness) ‘Forgetting about Christmas and holiday pay’ and shows the love between parents, ‘Mum and Dad, one cod, one kipper, sit on the pier, touch knees’, and the real existential threat posed by seagulls to our staple fish and chips, as they ‘see pick-nick families – unhappy and hungry’.
Debris is one of a growing number of young British poets who, in her own words, ‘like poems spoken, written, sung’. I saw her at Wordsmith’s & Co at Warwick University where I could see the performance of her poetry but also its lyricism, which really came through when I read Pigeon Party.
But as with many poets Debris is also a committed educator and social entrepreneur; she is the founder and Artistic Director of The Mouthy Poets, a collective of 50 young poets in Nottingham Playhouse and is currently a Mentee on the prestigious Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring scheme
Debris was also recently short-listed for the Young Poet Laureate of London.
Pigeon Party is published by Flipped Eye Books
Small metal buckets filled with chips proper.
Hot and English. Windy cheese and onion cobs
sea-wet and salt-dry. Tinned mushy pea sky,
seagulls move the tide like prayer.
Our tongues chase melting vanilla.
Forgetting about Christmas or holiday pay.
We fight for the right vinegar,
blow the steam from wooden fork wishes.
We struggle over the orange and pink Quality Street.
Whilst Mum and Dad, one cod, one kipper, sit
on the pier, touch knees, tear open sachets
and eat quickly for fear of sand.
The seagulls see pick-nick families –
unhappy and hungry. One drives down
takes the batter, wooden fork, and sandwiched knees
with the last cod in the shop, from Dad’s pile of newspaper
and cheese, firmly in distancing beak.
We take cover, crouch under hands and white plastic tables,
watch through telescope gaps in fingers
as Mum eats her kipper like a kiss
and Dad licks onion vinegar, laughing, from his fist.