Five New Poems from Annabel Banks


These poems are part of Annabel Bank’s practice-based PhD, ‘Poetry and the Archive’, which brings together material from the eighteenth-century letters of the Boulton and Watt Mining Company, archived in the Truro Record Office, and contemporary narratives of the Cornish post-industrial landscape, gathered by interview and observation.




In relation to the stream works it appears to me that as
you have water it is needless to think of an Engine
– James Watt

When you live this far west, coast touching coast,

rocks split like meaning, straight then away

ooo in relation to stream works, the best running down,


but you’ll find the evidence in that monied bank

with shillings for shingle. It is sand you can eat,

oooocassiterite coinage and soon the water’s hoard


appears to you in dreams, dripping tricks

a roll of silted currency asking to be counted,

ooothen spent on houses for your children


who trust your hammer hands. Waking up

with aching shoulders, broken nails,

ooo0for a while you feel it is enough,


that you have it all, the ownership of rain

the tumbling rock and a certainty

ooowithout need. And then it happens again.





For all transactions are here recorded:

dog walk, bronze-age bone, nimbus cloud

soil recording of Corineus, the first king


that old Trojan, retiring to a cold island

to soothe the heat of war from his sick flesh.

This place heals. He wrote that in the sand.


There are no restrictions once you are over

ooooofor river droplets stain like a stamp

(but bring some identification: some eyes,

oooooan ear or two)


& a ticket will be issued

ooooofrom surrounding information,

drawn from Cornwall’s digits,

ooooooooooooooooooooosomething like


ooooooA30   Twelveheads   Threemilestone

ooooooFour Lanes Nine Maidens Down


ooand you’re in. As easy as that.





I have yours of the 24th but cannot give an answer to it
till I see Mr Boulton which I could not do today
as it has rained incessantly, and I am not very well
– James Watt


Water doesn’t know the word contaminated

so tumbles its cargo, the weight of the wash

and gives up its duty on shingles and sands


carries and cleans, invites paddling, those cold toes

like nuggets to be rolled over and reclaimed

a treasure of heat flint-struck by egg and sausage

0000stoked by ice-cream at St Agnes

0000as the canoeists fight their way out


fighting the swell and those old knowers

who always understood that this dry day is rare

getting how the power will be greater

if the packing of that piston is taken out

or a hole made through it, leaving the oar

working to preserve appearances


for when the packing of that piston is taken out

0000there is room for more voices

these wet watchers, the sanddiggers

one eye to the sky and the West Briton

waiting for water, that paradox

of problem and solution


I have yours of the 24th but cannot give an answer

as it has rained incessantly

but I wish you well of your free fuel.


Rain. Cornwall’s water is in correspondence

an argument drawn from both sides

0000elementally alive, basic,

roadblocks and police chasers

jumping into gaps and dips

forcing the way down to broach

and brim the land beyond the passing point

0000until — flood!


The warnings, the hotlines. No pumps at work here,

no shafts to drain away the sweet swimside slip

0000of a summer game

a passage cut to provide ease of route

no: this is boundaries bashed

this is filling beyond the point

oooooooooooooooooooooowhere the word fill has meaning.


Dig a hole in Cornwall and watch it fill—

I have been informed that it was not usual

to charge for their Engines

till the water was out of the mine


oooooooooin that case the charge should commence

(overran the buckets) and it’s proper flood


It’s gleeful, this emptying of the sky

oooooas the evaporated           aggravated sea

flings into itself with the rage of the rebel


the prodigal water, all energy driving downwards

not just rainfall, not any more

this is rainsmack, rainthrust, rainpush, rain with

oooomass and vector

ooooa velocity of rain

that hits the road, hurls the trees,

ooooooooooooooooohate the river channels

and people die


bridges disappear, the government governs

with plans in place but no one tells the rain

incessant, air-to-ground water with a mission

to beat the settling ponds, back up pumps

and liberate the Wheal Jane shaftwater once again


because water doesn’t know the word contaminated

so tumbles its cargo, the weight of the wash

it has rained incessantly, and is very well flooded


to swell the Carnon Downs like an insult swallowed

and wash again the redness back into the river

those particular poisons of tailing and slime

and gives up its duty on shingles and sands

where gappy smiles searched for shells

and wet toes were dried on mum’s sarong.





Here are the effects as ordered:

1) Rotation – words like curve, spin, round and cycle. Come round and I will tell you. Adventurers reel, re-turned. The pinned point of a beginning, set in motion. Wind to rhyme with mind, wind to chime with copper bells that dangle in the beech wood tree. Her husband is travelling home tonight; the casserole dish is as deep as it is. Sometimes, direction is the only difference.

2) Location – the here and the nowadays. Cornwall, yes, and the time of Cornwall. Overhead, underfoot, around and in. Prepositions, the grammar of community, & deixis (person, place,time) becomes the triple-helix of Cornish DNA, a strand rammed in by radon and catching in its extremes: I was just over the Tamar when I knew. Felt it right here.

3) Transportation – like how the words of others are brought here, re-contained and yet as rambling as the bramble branch, where to plan for a bus is as much a gamble as a first kiss now the cuts are here. This is a train of thought propelled by the outfitted engine but see, as long as my lungs allow, we will continue curving forward. (See above, colon, rotation). After all, it’s the wheelchair that’s heavy, not her.

4) Destination – Hedgerows holding hands, edging fences with certainty while outsiders stand, well, you know. Hesitant, not seeing the gate, the friendly puzzle of a stone style. It is all here if you want it, and you want the whole experience, rain and all. And see, if time turns out to be a coppice, roots tangled underground, actually one tree, then we were right, weren’t we, to scrabble toes into the mulch. Nothing withheld, for nothing about this is ‘only’. Come here. It’s touching. Let us have these beginnings and these barkcrack ends.

5) Remuneration – money matters, of course it does. These engines worked it out. They clattered their escaping heat, cooled smoke enough to heave and huff their way into technology’s procession of progression. Ever celebrated, not really dismantled, not in the mind, for solid physics can be read as finance and the other way round in double-action. Some letters are all numbers, after all. Not this one. But it does calculate your entry fee in coal.





A Whisper. Money poured into a pit

ooomisplaced sweat, undeserved of effort

ooobits drilling down to the lodeless land


We are always asking for minerals     for specimens unfound

oooooooobut demanded by proxy. This is wrong,

oooooooofor what is a collector who does not collect?


It is the failing of a process     something stuck, perhaps,

ooand yet that sparkle in a cabinet can bring in the cash

ooooooh yes. Very good specimens can be found

ooooooooo (somewhere else. Weigh to provide postage.)

and like honest Moses Jacobs we will not slant the assay,


not while you are looking, anyway.


He does not need a witness

oooooooooproves his samples with hammer

oooooooootap views of veins

ooooooooocolour chart shot though like rumour


brutal slate from Delabole       Lost Lelant sand

corrupt limestone               Jane and Wellington

had open-palmed collectors, yes.

ooooooooooooooooooooooBut only Crofty had the ore.

Annabel Banks won both of Cambridge University’s writing prizes (the Ryan/Kinsella Poetry Prize and the RSC “Other” Prize for theatre), and awarded full funding for both her MA in prose and her practice-based PhD. Her poetry and prose can be found in literary journals, magazines and anthologies including The Manchester Review, International TimesLitroEnvoi, and 3:AM.  In 2015 her work received three nominations for the Pushcart Prize (two for fiction and one for poetry) and nominations for the Queen’s Ferry Press Best Short Fictions 2016, Blazevox’s Bettering American Poetry and the 2016 Derringer Awards. Her poetry will also be included in Eyewear’s Best New British & Irish Poets 2016. Learn more at

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