Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2023: My Cancer as a Ring-Tailed Lemur

We both know one day she’ll eat me.
But, for now, we dance: a little game
of catch me if you can. Tracking her
is difficult. But specialists are interested
and, bit by bit, they creep inside my body’s

forest, stalk her with their fancy cameras,
take images, write reports. On ultrasound,
she’s punk-rock stripes of white and black.
On mammograms, she sunbathes, downy
as a dandelion gone to seed.

The child I am divines the time by blowing.
Five years, ten years, twenty, more. That’s
when they spy her, up in the canopy,
her tail Rapunzel’s plait looped
round a single sentinel node. Now, on MRI,

they spot her kindly spaniel’s face
crammed into the lettuce of my breast.
At last, on PET-CT, they catch her
on the move. She’s up and off alright: a lope,
a leap. She careens through my branches,

omnivorous for bone and liver, brain.
Because her nature is to double herself
again, again, she and her sisters huddle, tails
conjoined, tiny arms about each other’s necks.
The child I am learns to prophesy afresh,

blows one year, two years, four years, five.
Friends say this is war and I’m a warrior,
a tower of strength. But the lemur and I
get on okay. I figure she has a right to be here.
She is, in some important sense, endangered too.

I draw the line at poisoning but let
the hunters starve her, most days. She looks
at me with orange eyes of ire as we witness our
habitat’s destruction. My new need for naps,
my breathlessness – for both of us a forest fire.

Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2023 Winners

Poetry Archive Now! was established in 2020 to enable us to gather recordings from a much wider pool of talented poets from the UK and ...

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Kathryn Bevis

My pamphlet 'Flamingo' (Seren) was a Poetry Society’s ‘Book of the Year,’ 2022, shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet, and my collection 'The Butterfly House' (Seren) is due in 2024. Poems of mine have won the: Wales Poetry Award, Crysse Morrison Award and co-won the Mairtín Crawford Award and the Poetry Society Members’ Competition. A poem of mine is currently shortlisted for the Forward Prize, Best Single Poem (Written).

A special thank you to our WordView 2023 poets.

Here's what our PAN Wordview 2023 judges have to say about this year's competition. Robert Seatter, says "ever a joy and a privilege to co-judge the Poetry Archive Now annual competition, tapping into a pulse of thought and feeling from around the globe, condensed into intensely crafted poems. The entries came from all continents, covered myriad themes, spoke in different voices, but all shared a fundamental belief in the power of poetry to speak from the soul."

Courtney Conrad says "the poets who participated in this competition reminded us that poetry is a tool for change, a medium for reflection, and a source of inspiration. These poets have left an indelible mark on me and the world, and I can't wait to see how their words continue to shape our collective consciousness in the future."

Merrie Joy Williams says "The Poetry Archive is such an indispensable resource - the idea that a poem read in a poet’s own voice can outlast those seemingly endless moments tinkering until a poem feels right, or at least robust enough to convey a memory or insight - so exploring these entries was a privilege and joy. Selecting a final twenty was tortuous. So many captured the spirit of these times, when so many things are at risk of erosion or at a critical juncture: the environment, the misuse of AI, truthfulness, the modus operandi of those who run our countries, and issues of social justice and humanity. Others captured personal moments of reckoning in bold and intimate and surprising ways. Somehow we’ve managed to narrow them down and here we have, I think, a wide range of voices and approaches, personal and political, national and international, witty and wise, often proving that these dialectic notions are one and the same."

See the collectionWatch the full Wordview 2023 playlist