Ben Verinder lives in rural Hertfordshire. In recent years his poems have been shortlisted or commended in a variety of competitions, including the Winchester, Wolverhampton, Bedford and Cheltenham Festival prizes. He is an amateur mycologist and a wild food forager and the biographer of the adventurer and writer Mary Burkett. He runs a reputation research agency and is one of fifty founding chartered public relations practitioners. Ben’s work has been published in a wide range of magazines. He was also longlisted for his outstanding poem in our Transformation competition in 2021
Ben is married to a world-class Dolly Parton impersonator.
Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award winner
Ben won the Frosted Fire First Pamphlet competition in 2021. His first collection, Botanicals, is due to be published as a pamphlet by Frosted Fire in the Autumn.
Below are some poems from Ben’s forthcoming pamphlet
Thyme flowers hold the souls of murdered English
but I forget and pluck a sprig
which is why the gamekeeper Puddephat’s Inverness coat and smashed-in-head
appear on the patio.
“This is awkward,” I say, “your great-great-granddaughter lives next door
and if she sees you…”
“She won’t,” he splutters. “I last only as long as this oil and lemon scent.”
Which is enough for him to describe how much he wished
if he had the time again
he had taken a gun up to the Nowers that stormy night
instead of an elder stick
and how long he had lain before puttering out
and which of the poachers did for his friend Crawley
and which for him
his jaw like a gate unlatched by the wind
socket a charcoal pit
and how the skulled and the hanged and the black-throated women
lament their children by ringing these pale pink bells.
Like plague doors, I remember Margaret said
each tree along the ridge splodged with paint.
They felled them all;
sawdust scratching your eyes when you went out with the dog.
Every block of Kerry Gold in the shop sprouted mould
but none of us took it for a sign
and Barbara said it was just the blinking fridge.
Then sweet itch among the horses in the Mason’s field;
the bay mare bit a chunk out of her own backside.
Adders, a nest, in the scrub between the tennis court and the Pyke’s.
Jenny Scattergood found them
said she bloody well knew the difference between a viper and a slow worm thank you
called the RSPCA
but by the time the man arrived they had slithered off.
Five kids on Summer Hill came out in warts.
On their faces! Can you imagine?
It was only then that Margaret cottoned on.
They had already started cutting into Sprockett’s Wood
and that, of course, is when the real trouble starts.
If you pour your voice deep into the cracks
along the footpaths down at Sterling Farm
it will be lost. The world is hotter
than it should be and the fields are mostly
moonlight and dust. Thistle tuft and
seed pods snap like spit on an anvil.
Even the barley has been thirsted
to a maltghost haunting the skillet barns.
When the rain finally arrives
it will fall like good money after bad.
The figs are ripe
and I am back in Cyprus
as we breakfast in the marble light
a salty linseed-blue day stretching over the village
its smell of thyme and ruminants
the fishing boats the quiet sea
cradling the first extraordinary fruit
of my parent’s Nottinghamshire garden
dew burnt off the yellow lawn
summer burst open and already ruining
school bags packed in the hall
back among this cottage’s bowls and baskets
figs hoarded in the stopped clocks of jars
the baking paper tarred in their collapse
skins smeared and furred in the compost bowl
beyond the common cauterising wasps the careless rain
We like to keep it among friends
be sure you’re here for good
before we say the name and mark it on a map.
Some people, naturally, never learn.
You’ll understand if and when we let you know
the way the beech trees meet the bluebells
in the crucible of wood
pure lime and indigo.
First time I saw it I was straight back in chemistry
last lesson Easter term
and tricks they only showed to those who’d stuck around –
that one with acid, blotting paper, sweets.