Stephen Payne’s day job is in academic cognitive science. Currently Professor of Human-Centric Systems at the University of Bath, he’s always been fascinated by language and lyric. He began writing poetry to figure out how the poets he admired worked their tricks. Later, he took part in workshops in Linda Chase’s ‘Village Hall’ in Manchester and grasped the benefits of belonging to a community of poets, something he now enjoys in Bath, Cardiff and beyond.
In this, his first full collection, Payne’s two sides come together: between these pages scientist and poet meet and strike sparks. It’s no surprise to encounter poems that think, and think about thinking.
Shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Prize as part of the Wales Book of the Year award in 2016, this book offers poems that are playful, provocative and lyrical, and the poet’s continuous pleasure in sound and pattern is curiously infectious.
Available in hardback or paperback.
Here’s a sample.
He’d been surprised to find it in his coat pocket on the way to work—
a small plastic chicken from Old MacDonald’s Farm.
That lunchtime he managed to sit beside her in the cafeteria.
He asked her to close her eyes and hold out a hand,
missed a beat as she complied.
He placed the chicken on her palm, What’s this?
Get it right and you can keep it.
She made a fist, unclenched it again.
She cupped the toy in her two hands,
shook it like a die.
She took it in her fingertips, turned it, touched it,
all the time her eyes closed, her tongue just showing.
It feels like a chicken.
As she opened her eyes, he was already wondering
how he’d explain to his daughter.