Ben Cusden – Join the Dots

Ben photo for ATG (2)Introducing Ben Cusden and his pamphlet Join the Dots that we’re delighted to be publishing next year…

Ben was an award-winning video editor in the television industry from 1998-2004. Homeless in 2004 and again 2009-2011. He is currently a designer of ethically produced organic cotton garments and carer for his disabled mother.

He has recently been published in Acumen and is about to be published in Prole, The Dawntreader, and an anthology by Salmon Poetry. Previously poems were published by: Salmon Poetry, Poetry Cornwall, Mountain Springs Publishing, Lady Chaos Press, and  Inner Child Press. Shortlisted for The Bridport Prize in 2016.

He is a regular MC for Ruth O’Callaghan’s Lumen and Camden groups and also a regular reader at Peter Evans’ Poets Anonymous in Croydon – appearing on their Croydon FM radio programme twice. He has been a guest reader for Beyond Words (2017), and at Poetryfest, King’s College, London (2018).

What made you decide to submit your pamphlet to Against the Grain Press?

I wanted to submit to Against the Grain Press because of the calibre of the three poets that run it. Their attitude with the aim “to produce beautiful works of art, with high production values and an edgy appeal, that are both provocative and moving” and because I admire that they carry their professionalism  into the quality of the publications they produce. On their website they state: “The beat of our drum is our own” and I was eager to be a part of that rhythm.

Could you give us an idea of the general theme of your pamphlet?

The general theme of my pamphlet is homelessness and resettlement. My poems confront my times of homelessness in the towns and countryside of Cornwall – mainly living on the streets of Falmouth and Truro or pitched in a tent near Ponsanooth – and reflect on my return  to Purley, Surrey, where I now live and care for my disabled mother.

Doorways Are For Daytime Sleeping

As the natural light segues into night’s amber;
when the nocturnal beat and chatter

replaces the daytime drone, it’s time to sink deeper
into shadows – smooth as water would find a way.

Seep through unseen cracks, become less
than silhouette and feed your form to darkness.

Navigate away from well-worn tracks, nimbly mask
your scent – camouflage your being with evening air.

As night falls, sympathy is a starving bird and empathy
an unknown world. Hyaenas hunt in packs.

Pre-recorded Episodes

Although dew still clings onto grass blades, and the daisy
popped lawn embraces sheen, the mist dutifully subsides
and the valley’s viridescence signals the day’s true start.
The roses will be along soon, mum smiles with satisfaction.

Hopefully, a beautiful day ahead, different from yesterday
when the mist hung in the valley and something else was said –
whispered, embarrassed by fear:  I’ve done something silly,
hands clasped on knees, peering from lowered head:

I was watching Monty Don, pinching out his seedlings,
and seem to have popped the blister pack and taken all my pills.
Like sweets, mum picked and mixed along the strip –
from Monday down to Sunday and only stopped

when Monty segued to a piece on Britain’s National Parks.
We pressed pause on a Golden Eagle flying above the Cairngorms,
wing spanned shadow oscillating through Alpine Milk-vetch
and Blue-sow-thistles, to make our way out into springtime mizzle.

You’re lucky it was only a week you took, Maggie, the nurse,
cheerily told us, two and it would’ve been fatal – you wouldn’t
be bothering me at all! The audience click track gasped in horror
at the prospect of mum’s long running show being cancelled;

knowing the next episode – where the herbaceous border
explodes into colour and the clematis finally loses its grip –
would be postponed and season’s finale – where roses bloom on
oak and lilies stand with sympathy – would be shown in its place.

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