Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award winner 2019
Janet Lees, a poet, artist and filmmaker, won the 2019 Frosted Fire Firsts pamphlet competition. Her poetry has been published in a wide range of journals, including Magma, Poetry News and Lighthouse. Her work has also featured in several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry, the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual, and Fanfare: Poems by Contemporary Women Poets. Her film-based works have been selected for international festivals including the Zebra Poetry Film Festival, the International Videopoetry Festival and the Aesthetica Art Prize, and her visual work has been exhibited around the world.
Janet Lees website
Janet Lees’ book displays a broad range of fine-tuned emotions.
Its moods range through ironic, comedic, raunchy, wistful, nostalgic, or grieving.
The contest judges write:
Here are well constructed poems of candour, strangeness, and warmth. They are a pleasure to read. Neil Richards
I was drawn into the sparkling language, precise, fresh imagery, and careful shaping which flew these poems to the top of the short list. Angela France
Lees offers us a richness of language and imagery that convinces in every poem. David Clarke
The first poem in A bag of sky sets the book’s theme, and heads an excellent trailer of the book’s poetry
We two girls together singing
A Young Lady’s Adventure’, by Paul Klee after David Hockney and Walt Whitman
I am drawn in
to your adventure;
its signature scent
of line-dried hope-white linen
cut with black coffee and frosted city air,
velvet growl of French cigarettes
rising up from pumping bass notes
of undiluted girlblood;
the skin-tight harmony of our raw code
tripping off our tongues of gold lamé.
Two maids unmade,
holding a bag of sky behind our backs,
laughing, stealing, slashing, burning,
catwalking the canyons of every next yearning,
our stormforce heartbeat scrawled across the night.
Me-you, sharpened and fluid,
doing the bump with each new moon,
wrapped in clouds of our own breath
and the ghosts we can’t see yet –
treading the dusk above our heads, offering
our hearts in their outstretched hands –
as a spiral staircase builds itself around our legs
and goat-eyed birds put their beaks to our necks
and the grinning lizard runs ahead,
its tiny crown flashing in the light
from our unquenchable momentary blaze.
The Gewgaw Man
HE’S OUT there. Right outside the whitewashed walls of our cottages of sorrow.
Sometimes he lies low, making noises in the night – random yelps and yowls that overcharge our jumpy hearts.
Sometimes he slips round to flimsy back doors and rat-tats on the glass with a grin. Every time a different face revealed then reclaimed by the dark.
Other times he’s brazen, parading up and down, clothed in gold: a one-man big brand show. Making us look, making us ache, filling us up with clouded longing.
It’s a scandal, what he’s doing to us. Replacing the fire in our veins with tissue paper flames. Laying traps on the routes that lead out of this town – to places we now only hazily recall.
It’s no good going to the Neighbourhood Watch – he’s given them all new iPhones.
We’d ask the police, but one of them confessed to having a thing for bling.
We could try appealing to his better nature, but they say there’s not an authentic bone in his body, and that his heart was made in China.
The scissors curve like a zoo-bird’s beak, catching the sunlight that makes her shine even brighter. I shudder at my dullness. A hundred tiny likenesses strut up my arms and in through my ears; melt into red shadows that jump and grin inside my head. The eyes I have in there won’t close. They’re stitched open, like my knitted elephant’s eyes – except his look at everything kindly.
Cut. Cut. Cut. Hair gone in three quick hacks. I stick the scissors in her left eye and twist them. Her Miss Beautiful gown, shredded. Elastic bands snapped around her chest, scribbled over with thick black. I push drawing pins into her toilet brush head, push that into the toilet; drag it screeching round the rim as I squeeze the life out of too-smooth too-long legs.
‘You’ll never look like me,’ she says, lying in the mud where I flung her from the bathroom window – her smile sweet as cough mixture, making my thoughts taste of the place where granddad went to die. ‘I know,’ I say. ‘But I can make you look like you make me feel.’
Then she stands up and smiles into my inside eyes, as perfect as she was before I took the scissors to her.