Arrival at Elsewhere – creating characters


By Carl Griffin

Although many of the poems/fragments I received for this project featured family members or neighbours, I didn’t always think it was right to use these as part of a larger poem, although some managed to survive. But by weaving a few minor characters from these fragments with new settings from other fragments, and new sets of circumstances from yet more fragments, I was able to create new characters, or at least give more life to the bit characters. I didn’t do this as much as I would have liked in Arrival at Elsewhere, but here is an example of a successful transition, from the very start of the poem.

I came across an intriguing minor character in a poem sent to me by Rachel Hadas, called Metronorth, Hudson Line, February 29 2020:

How much longer will it be conceivable

for public spaces to be thronged like this?
(The Doges’ Palace: empty.)
A woman in a skin-tight ankle-length
scarlet dress and high-heeled silver sandals,

who looks as if she’ll give birth any minute,
poses, cradling her toddler in her arms,
resting him on the convenient
shelf of her jutting belly.

What cannot be taken away?
Clouds and the shadows of clouds
and the morning light,
metallic, gleaming off grey wrinkled water.

In retrospect, I wish I’d used the clouds in the poem as well. The rest of the poem didn’t fit, location-wise, so I had to find somewhere else for the pregnant woman to be discovered.

I picked out the following fragment by the poet Martyn Crucefix:

Surely an occasion because the man at the roadside café table reminds me of someone who is not my dead father or my dead mother.

The “man” became the “diner”, the pregnant woman. A little later, the woman is given a voice as she starts speaking, lullaby-like, to her children, both the born and the unborn, with words from yet another fragment/poem, this time one by Kerry Darbishire, called Windflowers:

When this is all over
We’ll go to where the windflowers grow
like fallen stars along the river’s edge
among the mossy boulders, water bright,
and see how their night-eyes close.

This moment was threaded in and now concludes the second page of Arrival at Elsewhere. This pregnant mother doesn’t re-surface in the long poem, but throughout the process of setting out the poem, I found this character in her new place, with her new dialogue, staying in my memory.

You can read an excerpt from the book at Arrival at Elsewhere – a glimpse.

Arrival at Elsewhere – a glimpse…

Arrival at Elsewhere is a book-length long-poem response to the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, curated by one poet, Carl Griffin, but written by many (97 to be precise!). Sales are in aid of NHS Charities Together and you can buy it here.

Excerpt from Arrival at Elsewhere

The darkness in the room crackles with static, 
the greater mind in regular telecom 

to maximise survival capabilities. 
The muscles of the dank air flex 

and the room’s dimensions strain and shift. 
I can hear it like the wind in the trees, 

the susurrus filling the lungs 
of birch and ash, thin and laboured

like an after gasp, the smoker’s wheeze 

that yet persists after thirteen years. 
The introvert is so remote in the interior 

there is a risk he will mislay himself 
and never get his bearings back.

It is a day so still I hear, too, the creeping
of the moss. Beauty hurts, as much as pain:

both ride a long-drawn breath. 
A child has carved a heart in a stone. 

It sits at the roadside, tree-lit, not beating.


Lines 1-13 by Julian Turner, lines 14-16 by Kathryn Bevis, lines 17-18 by Rob Hindle

Announcing our poets for 2021 and Spring 2022…

Thank you to all who submitted to our press this year. We had more entries then ever and we marvelled at the shear breadth of subject matter and quality that came to us. We were bowled over. We created a long list that was far too long, and a short list that was heartbreaking because we were turning down poets whose voices need to be heard. In the end we made our selection. We are poets ourselves and we know the impact of rejection from poetry presses. It must not deter you. If only we could have published our whole short list!

The selections we did make were not made on quality alone. In those we selected we found stories we needed to share, words we couldn’t put down, a variety of voices that glowed together – and yes, ultimately, personal tastes that we want to share with the world. Here is our list for 2021 and Spring 2022.

2021 Spring

  • Chaucer Cameron –  In An Ideal World – I’d Not Be Murdered
  • Cheryl Moskowitz – Maternal Impression

2021 Autumn

  • Eleanor Page – Sleeping on the Wing
  • Imogen Downes – Becoming Noah

2022 Spring

  • Joanna Nissel – Guerilla Brightenings
  • Sarah Mnatzaganian – Philosophy Revision