Undisturbed Circles

Lapwing - Bethany-Pope_cover-page1

I am pleased to announce the publication of my third full collection, Undisturbed Circles. It’s composed of a series of double-acrostic sonnet crowns. The acrostics run down the left hand margin of each sonnet, and continue down the right, adding another layer of complexity to the narrative.

If that’s not confusing enough, here is the Form Key:

Forward and Form Key

Fox Cycle is a traditional sonnet crown; adorned with a continuous double-acrostic that runs down the left and right margins of each sonnet and which, taken together, form another poem. It details the life of a vixen as she (being trickster) slips between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

The Labyrinth is a heroic sonnet crown. This piece is technically intricate. Each sonnet is prefaced by a brief narrative prose-poem that I used to set the tone for the grouping. The sonnets themselves are enhanced by 28-character double-acrostics that runs down the left hand margin and continues down the right hand side of the lines. There are fifteen acrostics for fifteen sections and, taken together, they form a poem that contributes to the narrative. The first fourteen poems end with the same line, drawing the reader further into the story. Since this is a heroic crown of sonnets, the final sonnet is constructed of the first lines of the previous sonnets, laid out in order. Each sonnet is followed by a 5×5 (five lines of five syllables) that tells a dreamlike parallel narrative. ‘The Labyrinth’ is a map of my mind; not all of it, of course, but it hits a few of the highlights.

The Metamorphosis of Physis is very much like ‘Fox Cycle’ in terms of structure, but the story is a Jungian allegory of the spiritual and artistic development of a dear friend. It is also a rather fun drama involving unexpected romance, transformation, and a chase.

Three Legged Crow is a double-acrostic three-sonnet cycle exploring the mythologies attached to crows and contrasting them with observable natural realities. Each sonnet is separated from the others by a 5×5 (a poem composed of five five-syllable lines) that focuses on the Crow’s culture-hero nature.

The Tower is a dreamlike experiment in Gothic drama, adorned with acrostic, and featuring a Dantesque journey from the primordial ooze to a meeting with God. St Christopher features (he wears a dog’s head, as he is depicted in Greek orthodox icons) and he plays the role of Virgil. This, like all of the previous poems, comes with a double-acrostic.

Double Helix is a double-acrostic sonnet crown – with a very literal twist. The acrostics (numbered 1 and 2) switch sides from sonnet to sonnet. The sonnets in this series describe the evolution of man as an animal and, simultaneously, as a spiritual being. Both acrostics begin ‘There are always two stories…’ From there, the paths diverge.

If that has whetted your interest, here’s the shortest cycle from the book:

Three-Legged Crow


Crows have incredible intelligence.
Rarely does it take more than a few hours
Of work to find their daily food. If you
Watch them, out on the lawn, their sense of fun
Frequently overwhelms them. One finds a
Little red-plastic jar-lid. He lifts it,
Examines the shape, before gripping the
Weird thing in one talon. He flies off with
Incredible grace, perches gently so
Not one feather can fall out of place. That
Tin roof (rain slicked) becomes a slide for him.
Over and over he sits snug in the
Tiny sled, launching himself off with a
Harsh, happy croak at this new kind of flight.

When the world ends, Crow
Will switch off the lights
And shut the last door.
Crow will see us all
Out into the night.


Some crows are natural care-givers. I
Understand that’s hard to accept. Happen
Near a messy spring-time nest site, nothing
Further from your mind than illness, mystic
Rhythms threading through your veins, one crow – far
Underdeveloped – grabs your eye. There’s no
Indication of injury – a crow
That seems a little … off. Strange. His siblings
In feathers will take him to wing. Just watch.
See how he cries, croaking constantly, a
Fair imitation of an infant? That
Is avian mental illness. See him
List a little to the left? Now, if you
Look, the murder will feed him like a child.

When the world ends, crow
Will perch on Deaths Throne.
Crow is a god, crow
Is not a god. Crow
Is fit to judge souls.

A Small, Impetuous God

There is truth to Crow’s trickster image. No
Hero is hero all the way through. I
Expect you’ve all heard stories. How Crow eats
Meat torn from the eye-sockets of the small,
Unsteady Spring lambs. Crow has his fun. A
Damnably intelligent birdy, pain-
Drinking monkey without thumbs. He gets bored
Ruminating, flying through town with his
Inexpressible ideas. Crow goes off
Exploring; nests in traffic lights, sees no
Danger in tormenting farmers or their
Irritable, imbecile dogs. It’s harm,
Not food, that Crow is after, breaking the
Tightly-sealed barrels of next-years seed corn.

When the world ends, Crow
Will eat the salty
Eyes of the wicked
And glue strong, coal-black
Wings onto the good.

Undisturbed Circles costs ten pounds


3 thoughts on “Undisturbed Circles

  1. Wow. And wow to the two poems on The Open Mouse that brought me here. Although, on the downside, I now realise how shit my own poetry is.

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