Patterns of Sensation – the bodies of dolls by Salma Caller

Silk Velvet Purse Doll

Tiny invisible stitches hold rivets that hold rivulets
Of silk ending in the darkness
Where dreaming continues
The sleeping and dreaming of her invisible body

Silk Velvet Purse Doll


A mille-feuille
A body of a thousand layers
A thousand gauze tissues
A thousand substances
Concealing a darkened chamber
A heavy velvet pouch
Profligate sensual reclining body feeling inwardly
Reaching caressing touching exploring the textures of the inside of a dark and empty space
Where nothing is also everything
A costly ornate body of sensation
Silk velvet skin silk thread silk tassel nerve endings
Silent silken hair spreading
A dense and tactile embroidery surrounds her slits tips lips edges and borders
Wires closely over-sewn create
Her ribs
Brushing stroking heating and burnishing
Made a body that is close textured lustrous gleaming and smooth
Intricate and laborious twisting and twirling of twines
Tiny invisible stitches hold rivets that hold rivulets
                       Of silk ending in the darkness
                       Where dreaming continues
                       The sleeping and dreaming of her invisible body
That dreaming heavy velvet body
Held in the darkness by a skin of sound
Pearl fastenings fasten her breast
                                                    Silk velvet velvet silk
Threads pulled tightly holding her in holding her inwards
Net gauze tissue
Lace wire mesh
Locks of glossy hair
Fine shimmering strands of metal thread
Seeds metal beads sequins
A weaving of delicate traps that subdue mesmerise and enclose
Hiding her in intricacy and leading to labyrinths of the eternal

Chinking of bells
Clicking of shells



Tiny invisible stitches hold rivets that hold rivulets
Of silk ending in the darkness
Where dreaming continues
The sleeping and dreaming of her invisible body


Where nothing is also everything
A costly ornate body of sensation


Seeds metal beads sequins
A weaving of delicate traps that subdue mesmerise and enclose
Hiding her in intricacy

The Shell Bell Shaking Doll

(Aluminium silver wax fur hair beads glass twine carved wooden body musk leather lace shells bells)

She was a multi-purpose object
And made a variety of textural sounds
Chinking of bells
Clicking of shells
The dull thud of organs suspended within a hollow
Their deep and heavy percussion
Tasselling around her
Metallic fragments
Sound out from pale bells
And whitish shells
A chalky body
Carved and curved
Arching over
Her painfully embroidered beaded fabric heart
Lungs of lace rustling
Under a dome
Her shells and her bells
Rang out in another realm
Skeins of silvered twine
Slivers of shivering glass
Pelts of soft fur that cannot warm her
Hand strokes of paint are
Memories of a gentle touch
An aura of sound and movement
Are shaking out of her still

She was a multi-purpose object
And made a variety of textural sounds

Chinking of bells
Clicking of shells

The dull thud of organs suspended within a hollow

The Unravelling Glassfire Doll

Her painfully embroidered beaded fabric heart
Lungs of lace rustling
Under a dome
Her shells and her bells
Rang out in another realm
Skeins of silvered twine
Slivers of shivering glass




Myriad of the hollows
With an eye in every cell
Splitting and spitting
Seeds and jewels
Saint of the hollows
Myriad of the Sorrows
The vessel of the body curves about a sacred hollow of emptiness
Out of which a carved voice unfolds
That dark pod concealed with a shimmering Membrane
Infinitely embracing each pip
Myriad Miriam Maryam Madonna of the Pomegranate
Resurrection of shadows.

Net gauze tissue
Lace wire mesh
Locks of glossy hair
Fine shimmering strands of metal thread

About Patterns of Sensation – the bodies of dolls

This series of works on paper by artist Salma Ahmad Caller, explores the notion of the female body as an idea that is constructed, made like a folk doll’s body, from materials both real and imagined. The folk doll or fashion model is patterned and marked by how a society thinks about femininity. Each material used to make ‘her’ carries it’s own set of cultural notions, sensations and associations. ‘She’ is often ornamented with patterned textiles, jewels, silk, velvet, embroidery, pearls, shells, tassels, bells, or associated with flowers, fruits and fertility, or with lace, nets, knots and webs, creating textures that carve ‘her’ body into zones of social and sexual importance.

Forces of cultural and social expectations mark and carve our bodies but also the things we touch and feel are etched onto us, mapping zones and patterns of our experiences, our traumas and losses, our sensuality and feeling.
Bringing the biological and the ornamental together to subvert the usual imagery of the female body, Salma uses decorative and ornamental forms, arabesques, whiplash and sinuous lines, and curvilinear shapes in her work, as a language of the biological sensational body, to try and capture the body we feel not the body we think we see.

The shape of the bodies of the ‘dolls’ in this series is based on the paisley tear drop shape or Boteh. An ‘Eastern’ ornamental form that has travelled and transformed across time. It has complex origins in many cultures, mainly from Iran, Azerbaijan and India and now has many connotations, of colonial trade, and a feminised and orientalised idea about ornament. Yet it had a previous changing life of meaning across cultures, symbolising or embodying concepts of eternity, life, of humility, of being bent under the weight of conquest, a fruit, a seed, a pine, a flower, a tear, that were not reserved for the feminine only.

These works on paper have been made using graphite, Indian Ink, collage, watercolour, acrylic and gold pigment.

The Infinite Body Of Sensation; visual poetry by Salma Caller

‘Stormriver’ and other poems by Myra Vennard


Along the river bank
street lights are lighting
the darkening waters glow
the sun is low
the mountain crouches low
in shadow
light drops from light
dark creeps back to night …
my mind struggles with a paradox –
gleams from a self-source
and light
falling from a star
love is racked – there
is no owning in the soul
the void is an agitation
fixed habit of a consciousness
unwilling to go into the terror
of going into light of naked night
my tree reaches up winter bare
its star is not yet born.


Sea fog curls
around the cliff face
the island has no contour
still – and I
I am weeping
amid a conflict
the wish for forgetfulness
yet fear of clinging sorrow
intangible dreams are real
a beatitude in the memory
at dawn – an echo
unfathomable – secret
I dream of the dead
as having no subjectivity
all are one – knowing
no aims nor necessities
their focus is on One
sublime infinity
if imperfect love must die
for perfect love to live
when he opens up his eye
will my eye have distance?

he waits outside my door
to share my cup
behind a mask in a theatre of stone
time is instilling essence.


I waken before dawn
to full moonlight
and ships anchored in the bay
my mind still on a street
where he turns away – I am
afraid of thoughts multiple
the street lamp in cavities –
in pools of dark …
I will go wistful
I will go where the river whispers
with trees through branches
to where a moon-ring still trembles
in tentative morning sunlight
after night-storm
waves – cold – fall
and run molten gold on sand …
do not think to dispel love
from a turbulent heart
love has heat
enough for distillation.


A week of black water
out at sea
a month of magic almost
gone to the air
the river keeps away – just
stones navigate
the flood – when poetry
cannot speak
it drowns in the mind
and swoons in the flow

rain has fallen – I walk
against the wind
against a rainbow flame
kissing an ocean – against
a straying sun picking
defining the town …
he has no home here
nor there beyond the island
he touches dusk
his breath is in shadow
his voice is full of tremor
I hear
his aching heartbeat
shake against the wind

he lights a candle
before he puts on the mask
he carries a burden on his back
he lays it on the altar
in the oratory
he puts on a robe
drawing back the curtain
he sleep-walks into my mind
he presses my head
until it hurts – the bread
is in his hands
his declaration my question
behind the mask
has he a changing face?
The supremacy of a pointing spire
does not close the distance
to a sky-god in the brain
nor appease a hurting spirit
abandoned to theatres of stone
and the dark cloisters of a consciousness.
this morning
there is a light over the sea
the island appears impervious
holding close
to dark contours – still
there is tension
in the small wood
crumbs of rock
from brooding cliffs….
at dusk
across the cavern floor
dark – splintered
with glass – nails – wood
the huge door
creaks and groans
in winter wind’s moan
rocking black
the memory of accident
stirring midnight dreams
outside – the evening star
is silence – risen
words mean nothing
they are not what he is
they are a fetish
visible – separate – fettered …
music is his glance
from the mountain
it holds harmony
in the retina
unable to break free
from the moment – this
this is
all he will say
suddenly a white mist
steals the island
cliffs rise
their juts fade in sequence

I take words
out into space
further on
at a bend in the road
Malevola grips
my senses
there is a sickness
in my mind
even the sea is quiet
no gull cries
there is a terrible lack
of flowering
here his eye is dark
its glance will tell me nothing
I cannot make him
what I imagine
the wall is high
he is not – not here
in this mind
in this first death – this
long – long standing
train of consciousness
he sleeps
until I have never been.


The dawn is cold
the road is empty
the lamp
is not yet extinguished
grass has light
grounded white dusk
not wintered – drowsed
taking colour
re-making colour
pushing back
shadows onto a white wall
something transposed
shifted – doubled
unedged – out
the lamp’s intensity …
a fuchsia morning warms the road
for the white moth
for the rabbit
watching my movement
creatures mistrust my step
even a breakfast of berries has its price …
the man behind me says he has peace
his eye is full of April
a low sun shows something double –
shadows – by a wall defined.


Look up – treetops
are meeting in the morning sky
there is a terrible sad
beat in the sea
love has no mind
only this –
light will own the waters
it will rise
before the overhang
darkens the surface
light will bend down
under the bridge
taking the river-rush
running crystal
down – down
over rock and stone
to own the sea
and meet the incoming flux.

Stormriver and other poems are © Myra Vennard, thanks to Moyra Donaldson for sending them to Poethead.

Myra Vennard was born in Belfast and is now retired to Ballycastle, Co Antrim, where she has ancestral roots. Widowed in 1979, she worked in Belfast for several years as a secretary before returning to higher education in the 1990’s as a mature student, graduating at the University of Ulster with Honours BA in English and an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature with a dissertation on the poetic vision of Samuel Beckett. As a postgraduate she attended the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, gaining a diploma in Ecumenics.
Myra Vennard’s two previous poetry books are Easter Saturday (2009) and Blind Angel (2013), both published by Lagan Press. In 2010 she won the Belfast Telegraph’s Woman of the Year in the Arts Award.

‘Ism Writers’ by Susan Millar DuMars

Ism Writers

The world is full of ism writers
sobbing, always sobbing
for many distant victims –
but if they found ‘you’ bobbing
in the river, clearly drowning
they’d explain in patient tones
how your privilege, not the current,
is what’s dragging you down.
They’d talk until the bubbles stopped
pen an elegy then
for now that you’re a soggy corpse
it feels safe to call you friend
while sobbing, always sobbing.
That’s what ism writers do.
Every word they write’s correct
but not one word is true.

© Susan Millar DuMars


Susan Millar DuMars has published four poetry collections with Salmon Poetry, the most recent of which, Bone Fire, appeared in April, 2016. She also published a book of short stories, Lights in the Distance, with Doire Press in 2010. Her work has appeared in publications in the US and Europe and in several anthologies, including The Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She has read from her work in the US, Europe and Australia. Born in Philadelphia, Susan lives in Galway, Ireland, where she and her husband Kevin Higgins have coordinated the Over the Edge readings series since 2003. She is the editor of the 2013 anthology Over the Edge: The First Ten Years.

Madame Matisse is shown her portrait, 1913

Sample of Five Poems from ‘Transmissions’ by Elaine Cosgrove


We become adult
on roads, on lines,
on grids, on greens,
on grey spaces —
you cannot zoom in.

We become older
with the city as seer,
decibels the scale
from stepping dawn
to engine rattling dusk,

to clinking night
and walk-back light.
Chiaroscuro lives
in metered hope.

We become in spite
of what happens, and
we are here, still here
becoming with care,
and listening ears.

We become no matter
the distortion that hopes
to confuse our hearts,
and break them.

We become electric.
On and off beings flowing
again and again,
endless in this sudden
glittering world of interruptions.


Site of a Spanish Armada wreckage
During sea-salt of winter surf, remembrance
of lineage acts like zinc on the blood that swells
from a creviced nick beside my thumbnail.

Streedagh Strand pulls out her linen towel
and I become warm dough on the sea floor
when their bodies appear blood-strewn bits on grain.

Five hundred wiped-out sailors beat, robbed and stripped
ashore by local savages hungry for wealthy bones
and soaked goods falling like crumbs from their dying.

A good savage attending only to castles and mountains
De Cuellar said of O’Ruairc who gave the Spaniards
fresh-cut reeds to sleep on, rye bread to eat

in the Breffni mountains where they hid.
My soft hands roughen to withstand whip of board,
cold knife in December tide earthing me straight to the skin.
Originally published in Issue 3 of The Penny Dreadful


It should have been the old bloomeries of love
during the slow-set: disco lights like Morse Code baubles
roaming our sequins, skirts and shirts
but some smart aleck two plastic, parish seats away from me
belches and says: “Boom. It’s the erection section.”
So I make tracks swift, double-door into a true breather of a night.
The Plough, dazzling points floating in the sky.


Eventually, you learn to wrap the cloth your own way.
First by imitation—online videos by peers, Master’s
and partner’s real-life instructions. What feels assured
is what you come to make yourself
. The snugger the wrap

to experience, the stronger the hand’s form, just before the strike.

from the festival

He is Z beside me
a rise and fall 
of ribcage.
He is too humble,
too loyal to be 
assigned E-U-S.
he is my god
in this scenario.
He does not stir 
to my arrival,
which I am a bruised 
peach about—
all acquired ego,
from the poets.
I am home, love,
ready to graft 
my way out 
of the talk-shop. 
I want to jab his side
with my finger, 
and command 
an alt universe 
for us, 
'Rise and fall 
to the woman 
of your dreaming.' 
Instead, he smells 
like a brewery 
and I fen, 
a half-naked sliver
of tiredness, 
white light keys 
of Notepad, 
as it extends 
and shines upon 
his face and arms, 
my face too — 
a flickering 
         tap tap 
hold down 
wake up	       scoop up 
my body	        become 
my peering 	point

Sample of Five Poems from ‘Transmissions‘,  Elaine Cosgrove’s forthcoming debut poetry collection. Publication Autumn 2017, Dedalus Press, Ireland.

Elaine Cosgrove was born in Sligo, Ireland in 1985. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly Magazine, The Penny Dreadful, The Bohemyth, and New Binary Press. Elaine was selected for the 2017 Fifty Best New British & Irish Poets Anthology (Eyewear Publishing), and longlisted for the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize. Transmissions, her debut collection of poetry will be published by Dedalus Press Autumn 2017.

Four Poems by Rus Khomutoff

I wear you under my skin.
Your hydra cadence sweet spot
Sanity assassin of the nothing agency
With words as instruments of rapture
Mediation prompt
Constellation of intentions,
a gradient of realness in contaminated tones
Jilted designations and counterpoetics
Stabs of conscience off the easel
Absorbent minds…the dark enlightment’s lamentable tragedy
Certainty is now my watchword
Mystagoguery, a bleeding edge of obsolescence
A face of genius in full measure of the spectacular now
Catharsis daily-mother tongue of method and black squares
Words vetted out of nowhere
Deadbeat doth
The new cult of consensus
The famous devil of a perfect vanguard.
Fascinated by the river that is knowledge.
Circumstances that come in to stay-miles from our
mephitic place.
High and low extensions on the threshold of meaning-
sonic intimacies

Read a sample from Immaculate Days by Rus Khomutoff here.

My name is Rus Khomutoff and I am a neo surrealist poet in Brooklyn, NY. My poetry has appeared in Erbacce, Uut Poetry and Burning House Press.Last year I published an ebook called Immaculate Days. I am also on twitter:
Immaculate Days