Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly is a freelance journalist and co-Chair of Magma Poetry. Her first collection, 'A Map Towards Fluency' is published by Carcanet and was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021.

Credit: NASA
Sunday, 21 January 2024 12:36

Peregrine Mission One

Published in Poetry

Peregrine Mission One

by Lisa Kelly

for Gene Roddenberry, aka the Great Bird of the Galaxy, 18 January 2024

Peregrine was supposed to boldly go
where no man’s ashes have gone before.
The remains of Star Trek creator,
Gene Roddenberry, were part of the payload –
for the first-ever planned lunar landing
by a private company, a precursor perhaps
to a regular public transport stop in space.
Sadly, his ashes failed to mix with moondust
after the lander sprung a propellant leak,
and its controllers, back at the depot,
deliberately crashed it into the earth’s atmosphere.
Gene’s incinerated bone fragments
burnt up once more in the doomed spacecraft,
joining yet more space junk orbiting earth.
Navajo Nation will not mourn this failure,
protesting that landing human remains
on the moon is desecration of a sacred space,
and Gene, after writing so many Star Trek scripts,
surely should have predicted any attempted takeover
of territory by an alien species rarely goes well –
but like the rest of us who hope for a bus,
not to get a puncture, the engine to start,
the train to arrive on time, our ambitions
to boldly go anywhere by private or public
transport are often thwarted and turn to ashes.

The Present
Friday, 15 December 2023 13:30

The Present

Published in Poetry

The Present

by Lisa Kelly

is very hard to determine
with any of our senses.
I am trying to live in its abstract noun –
a gift as the old joke goes,
but unwrapping
the sound of more bombs,
the rotting under rubble,
the bitter taste of politicians’ hypocrisy,
the sights of abject horror
touched upon in news reports
make the past or future, abstract nouns
we might live in more easily.

I have put up the Christmas tree.
I have draped it in fairy lights,
and dangled it with decorations
my children made when they were children.

I like to think that everyone has a past
that can make it to the future.
Underneath the tree, not one present –
just fallen pine needles.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022 11:14


Published in Poetry


by Lisa Kelly

The man who confronted the tank captured
by drone footage. His hands held up.
His wife in the front seat, his child in the back.
What’s next is blurred, what’s later is burned.
The evidence remains. Pepper holes
of bullets in car doors. Shot after shot.

A body lies in the street. A camera shot
of hands tied behind a back. Another victim captured,
wrists bound with white cloth. Bullet holes
fired in backs of heads. Who would stand up
to their oppressor? Images of war crimes burned
in the mind – revealed once the occupiers drew back.

Calling a war, a special military operation takes us back
to calling a publicity stunt a wildlife campaign: a tiger shot
with a tranquiliser gun, a Siberian tiger that burned
brightly for a photo opportunity – captured
and over-sedated. It died for this. Its time up
when he got what he wanted. Amber eyes darkening holes.

All these holes
impossible to piece together, to bring back
meaning. No let up
in uncovering mass graves, basements where citizens were tortured, shot.
What they did…so many people were killed…just for nothing. Have we captured
enough eye-witness accounts? A burned

swastika on a woman’s body. Raped, killed, and burned.
Another generation falling through holes.
More cities like Bucha, more cities captured
with the same horrors unfolding. We roll the film back
and forward to where the past and future show the same shot.
Yet, there are denials, claims this is all made up.

If only the far-right was not on the up:
Putin, Orban, Vucic, Le Pen, Trump, Johnson. Civil rights burned
as they stoke the flames of nationalism. The cheap shots
at immigrants; the illiberalism; the bribes; the gaping holes
in their accounts. Always the fight back.
Complacency is the route to being captured.

Bucha citizens did not give up their right to live whole
lives. After Bucha burned, they took their city back.
For every despot’s shot, the people’s spirit uncaptured.

Writing a poem bursting into tears having misheard deforestation for defenestration
Monday, 21 March 2022 16:50

Writing a poem bursting into tears having misheard deforestation for defenestration

Published in Poetry

Writing a poem bursting into tears having misheard deforestation for defenestration

by Lisa Kelly, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Image above: Defenestrace, by Karel Svoboda

but before the mishearing and the frustration,
can we deal with

the bursting into tears, and whether the poem is
bursting into tears,

            those leaky, lachrymose drips, or tears,
those ripped up, papery bits,

propelled by frustration and closer to
deforestation, like felling trees

and chopping them into logs, little pieces of what
they once aspired to,

            a composite whole reaching up like
dreamy spires to inspire,

reaching past the highest window in the highest building,
where a general might resist, momentarily, against clear glass
someone tears away from the crowd

           and lifts the latch and everyone sees the

which might befall the general, the fate he
deserves, and surges forward,

             as if a valve has burst and liquid motion rushes
at the general who is stiff

as the trunk of a tall tree, whose bark is
bigger than his bite,

whose bite is a chunk taken out of his uniformed
arm by a black bear

which has stripped back bark for the sweet
sapwood, and uses every tool available

             from the sharpness of his incisors to the
tearing of his canines,

and naturally he is tearing up at the injustice of
his predicament for not giving

the right intelligence, for not speaking truth to
power, for not refusing the yacht,

            made of 40 cubic metres of mahogany,
50 cubic metres of cedar

and 50,000 hours of craftmanship, and now here
he is, framed, and about to

fall 40, maybe 50, maybe 50,000 feet to a landing
of broken glass and ransacked rubble

           with the unrelenting view of barren land
where once a forest grew,

where not even his bones nor blood will fertilise
the dirt, so what can he do

but scratch with his thumbnail in the
condensation on the glass a line about

            about tearing up or tearing up, and watch
the self-pitying rivulets

run down the pane, but of course he has no time
for any last words, all thought

evaporated, as he rushes towards his shadow,
leaving a snag of thread

           from his tearing uniform on the lintel as
proof he lived, as we consider

the venerable history of defenestration, Queen Jezebel,
who worshipped a nature god,

defenestrated by her eunuchs, her body eaten by
dogs, as we consider the irreversible

           history of deforestation, and write a poem
bursting into tears or tears having misheard
           deforestation for defenestration.

This poem has a title
Tuesday, 14 May 2019 10:40

This poem has a title

Published in Poetry

This Poem has a Title

by Lisa Kelly

This poem must take medication in order to be read

at any future event. It has been found that this poem

has an unfair natural advantage which makes it stand

out at festivals and open mic spots, and streak ahead

of its competitors. In order for the competition not to

feel demoralised, this poem must take aural contraceptives

to suppress its innate ability to propagate and inspire

other poems to try as hard as this poem. This poem

must be sterilised, and wake up lethargic and drugged,

so it becomes a non-starter and will be stripped of its title.

This poem has too many phonemes which must significantly

be reduced to sub-haiku levels. However, if this poem

refuses to subscribe to its prescription, it may be allowed

to focus on becoming a long poem of 5,000 lines

where new rules regarding the phoneme levels do not

apply. It is accepted that this ruling is discriminatory,

but is necessary, reasonable and proportionate

to ensure fair competition for all poems that are just not

as good as this poem. Any argument that this poem

should be celebrated, not regulated, will be ignored.

The future of this poem has been brought to you by

a panel despite its serious concerns about this poem

having to take frequent medication, absence of evidence

and potential harmful side-effects of phoneme treatment.

This poem has promised to fight. This poem will be heard.