Natalie Shaw – Oh be quiet

Natalie Shaw is one of four poets whose pamphlets we’re excited to be publishing next year. Natalie N Shaw photostarted writing poetry in 2014 after discovering that she didn’t need special permission or a secret key to a secret garden. She spent a very exciting year as part of Jo Bell’s online group 52 and since then has had her work published in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has just finished editing Medusa and Her Sisters, a book of sonnets inspired by a series of drawings by artist Natalie Sirett. This year she was commended in the National Poetry Competition. Oh be quiet is her first pamphlet.

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

I’ve been impressed by lots of things about Against the Grain. I’ve read some incredible work from its poets, and I’ve noticed that even as a small press, it has a really fantastic reach.

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

The poems in this pamphlet explore several different small moments of realisation. They sometimes take place at a threshold moment, when someone is crossing from one state to another.

Things that I say to my enemy

While my enemy sleeps, I stand outside her house.
I send beetles into her dreams, a cockroach, a man
who hates her, someone running, the sly but persistent
notion her friends are only pretending to listen.

While my enemy sleeps, I turn others against her. I mention
things she has said that sound unpleasant, I kick
her leg while no one is watching. I let her see
letters from others in which she barely features.

I ask her a question I know she can’t answer, I snub her
at parties, I steal her ideas; I pretend I can’t hear her,
I say she looks lovely then laugh at her dress. I delight
in the shadows that  lengthen under her eyes, and note

with glee that her hair is quite greasy but mostly I shiver
to think of her lying awake and alone. I whisper
it’s true that she’ll never have boyfriends, a wedding, or babies
with soft little hands, her milk in their soft little mouths.

Eleven days

I was on Wikipedia looking for something
and I found eleven missing days, imagine.

I spent a couple as a man
in his early thirties. I had a convertible,

I wore sunglasses. I parked wherever I wanted.
I had fun like people in adverts have fun, Lynx for example.

Then I went back to the stately home we visited
and had tea on the lawn. I was

Isabel Archer at the beginning of
Portrait of a Lady, except this time

I knew to avoid the grand European Tour
and instead I stayed at home

and practised the pieces
that normally I don’t have time to.

Now I can play them all really well.
I learnt how to cha cha cha too,

all those dances we were going to dance together
but never got round to, you’ll be amazed

when you see me. It went really quickly,
on the whole. All those beautiful, empty minutes

to spend in the sun, drinking espressos
and eating ice creams in Venice, Siena. I’m sure

any one of you would’ve done the same,
but I found them first and I’m sorry, they’re gone.

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