Poem of the week: Sklent by WN Herbert

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WN Herbert’s latest book is in fact two books which – almost – share the same title - Omnesia (Alternative Text) and Omnesia (Remix) (both published by Bloodaxe, £9.95).

He describes the book(s) as “a punk experiment” that draws on the culture of the mash-up, remix, and director’s cut. Both books can be read individually, but when read together, their poems are seen in a new light. In “Sklent” he unhappily contrasts his adopted hometown Newcastle’s shipbuilding past with what has replaced it.

Sometimes, coming home in Shields,

I glance down Stephenson Street

toward its open view across the Tyne,

and a sudden tower blocks my eye, its windows

blind as termites, building under glass.

Sliding like a berg in parallel, it keeps pace

so when I turn right for my house,

Beacon Street’s already stoppered up

until my doorstep shows the whole ship,

blue-funneled, bound for Norway.

Once in, the senses of the old word ‘sklent’

stare at me from the dictionary, like faces

skelling from the photo of the Wallsend yard:

it means both sidling and the sidelong glance –

I recognise our angle to its wake.

You can borrow Omnesia (Alternative Text) and Omnesia (Remix) by WN Herbert from the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT. Tel: 0131-557 2876, e-mail reception@spl.org.uk or see www.spl.org.uk for details.