Self-Portrait at 38 BY JENNIFER TONGE

There are lots of ways in which I can relate to the speaker of this poem who thinks that Courbet ‘might capture’ her. I’d like to think he’d paint me as ‘L’origine du Monde’:A scandalous gift for someone important to keep hidden behind a green curtain.


An unused portion of ‘L’origine du Monde’ by Gustav Courbet

Hair still Titian,
but Botticelli’s grip has loosened—

not now Rubenesque,
and probably never;

Ingres approaches,
but Courbet might capture me.

Could I be surreal?
It seems almost likely—

bells in my ears
and fortresses under;

cones have been set on my eyes.
My spring is gone

and summer’s upon me,
rude in its ripening.

I’m espaliered, strung wide and tied,
pinioned, and thus can I fly.


Origami Man


My man is made of paper,
He is the blank page I write my dreams on,
And re-write my dreams on.
It gets complicated,
He’s complicated,
Or likes to think he is,
But I know each fold and crease of him,
I’ve traced them a million times with my hands
With my mind.
I try hard 
To smooth the edges, the angular corners
That frustrate as I attempt to follow the instructions, like
He frustrates,
Refuses to bend at every turn 
Until, suddenly, there he is
My paper man,
Three dimensional and beautiful,
Words, skin, love, paper dreams, within my hands.


When I see you
My heart doesn’t know what to do with itself;
It wants to leap from my chest
In the same way I want to leap into your arms
Hold on so tightly that I squeeze the breath from you
And kiss your lips, your face, your neck,
A hundred times,
A thousand times,

MUSE by Jo Shapcott

When I kiss you in all the folding places
of your body, you make that noise like a dog
dreaming, dreaming of the long run he makes
in answer to some jolt to his hormones,
running across landfills, running, running
by tips and shorelines from the scent of too much,
but still going with head up and snout
in the air because he loves it all
and has to get away. I have to kiss deeper
and more slowly – your neck, your inner arm,
the neat creases of your toes, the shadow
behind your knee, the white angles of your groin –
until you fall quiet because only then
can I get the damned words to come into my mouth.

Jo Shapcott

The Potter


Throw the clay roughly to your potter’s wheel.
Watch it spin between your legs as you stroke it gently,
Play with it,
Make it wet.

Press thumbs into it, fingers,
Quicker, deeper and with more urgency
As sticky clay opens up and rises to meet you
Threatening at any moment to lose form,
Collapse in on itself: An inverted whirlpool
Of a million possibilities

Stay firm, leather hard and resolute to your task.
Run the dripping clay through your hands
So that you feel every curve and swell,
Hollow and lip of your creation
Slide and slip beneath your godly potter’s touch

Until it comes finally, with kiln and fire, to life.