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Halfcircle Poetry Journal

Stephen Ross

foerThomas Graham & Arabella Currie, eds.
£2 (Issue 1);
£3 (Issue 2)



The Oxford-based poetry journal Halfcircle celebrated the launch of its second issue Sunday evening at Albion Beatnik Bookshop. Founded last year and edited by Oxford students Thomas Graham and Arabella Currie, Halfcircle aims to bridge the gap between the dominant “experimental” and “mainstream” tendencies in contemporary British poetry—tendencies characterised by the editors in a recent statement as “the British Poetry Revival, Movement poets, and their respective sons and daughters.”

Within each of these slim pamphlets readers will find 20 pages of work from writers on both sides of the divide, staple-bound and featuring letter-pressed covers produced at the Bodleian bibliography room, with an off-white A5 interior.

The first issue inclines more toward the experimental camp. Some of it sounds a lot like secondhand Cambridge School, though this is balanced out in a poised sequence by Anselm Hollo, a slangy bagatelle by Louis Eastwood, and a translation of Sappho’s “Fragment 13” by Nakul Krishna. The excerpts from Gerry Loose’s “Fault Line” alone are worth the price of admission:


some of us still live
in the woods
by candlelight
sewing new lines
drinking with hoolets
it will end soon
a knitted glove
no hand


name this one the nucleus
brighter than fission
lighting the woods
bitter sorrel
blood cleanser

Things really begin to get interesting, however, in the second issue. The editors should win an award for managing to publish Don Paterson and Drew Milne on facing pages. As if mocking the rhyming Paterson piece, Milne’s selection, written in four-line stanza-blocks, sequesters two words to its margin in alternating lines, as if to say “these are the rhyme words.” But they don’t rhyme:

nick tones show for where read were for
cold read pale for wretched do wreathed toes
and here are the further designs ready
for after party ampersands in dark blue slid

The issue opens with an elegant two-part reverie on “Essex Skies” by Peter Riley. Other highlights include work by Steve McCaffery, Peter McDonald, two fine minimalist pieces by Alexander Booth, and Vidyan Ravinthiran’s “America”, a witty meditation on the unlikely pair Helen Keller and Phineas Gage.

Copies of the journal are now available at Blackwell’s, Albion Beatnik Bookshop, and by order online from the Halfcircle website. It will be interesting to see what Halfcircle come up with next. If they follow up on what they have already achieved, it certainly won’t disappoint.

Stephen Ross is reading for a DPhil in English Literature at St. John’s College, Oxford. Stephen is a senior editor at the Oxonian Review.