Poems of the Month: Peter Cowlam

The landscape of social media is a noisy place! Sometimes the poets who shout little about their work are often difficult to discover! Hence, at Ars Notoria, the team has no hesitation in celebrating Peter Cowlam’s poem. Frequently his poems have a subterranean political message lurking under the great word-choice and music. Crossovers for novelists to be excellent poets and vice versa are not commonly successful endeavours. But as a successful novelist, Peter seems to do it with grace. During my promotional work for the others, Steven O’Brien once told me that at The London Magazine we look for the lyrical quality of prose in a short story. He meant a poet in a writer, not speaking prominently in any story-telling. Well, Peter Cowlam proves with these poems that while he has won accolades for his novels, he can deliver the music for our ears naturally in his poems; and that it must have come from that lyrical quality of prose O’Brien insists on.

Yogesh Patel MBE

Yogesh Patel MBE

Cold Manna

We could not fathom its orthography,
when flakes from an ice-bound
alphabet fell in broken sentences,
and settled into disarticulated watermarks.

The temperature dropped, the wind
too. All that’s now recorded
is a fragment in sentence case,
where no morphology or gathering drift
marks any page or pavement we can read.

Chronologically Speaking

A new theory
of time, where one only
is the unifying ‘law’.

‘Action’, ‘events’,
the record of a passage
or a sequence, are terms
banished when applied to written

‘Time’ is curvilinear,
beginning randomly wherever
you start to internalise or reflect,

and runs
in every direction.


It happened once and began
a repeat pattern, when thinkers
left their mountaintops, and students
fled their colleges. Even the hermits
abandoned the communes. Stranger
than that, ladders were left for the stylites.
News went round from a ruddy-faced
farmhand, who had seen us walk in train
from the Senate’s chalk-white building
as far as the forum. Under a shower
of red petals and blue promissory notes
I raised my hand, about to speak.

Peter Cowlam
Peter Cowlam

Peter Cowlam has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates.

Cowlam is also a freelance editor and the author of plays and poetry. His first novel was published in 1998, by CentreHouse Press. His second novel, New Suit for King Diamond, published in 2002, was nominated for the Booker Prize. His brief stint as a commissioning editor saw two issues of The Finger, a journal of politics, literature and culture. His fiction, poems and reviews are published in a wide range of print and online journals.

The cover image “macroscopic model of pedestrian flow in urban spaces” by aluedt is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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