Sandeep Parmar

Writer, Critic, interested in issues of migration, race, avant garde literary traditions

Born in Nottingham, England. Based in Liverpool, England, UK


Dr Sandeep Parmar is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Liverpool. Her research interests are primarily British and American women’s writing of the early twentieth century, modernism, women’s autobiographical writing, innovative/avant-garde twentieth-century and twenty-first-century poetry in English, women’s writing, feminist literature and the literary archive.

Her books include: Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies: Myth of the Modern Woman (a critical study of the modernist writer Mina Loy’s literary archive), a scholarly edition of the Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees, and two books of her own poetry: The Marble Orchard and Eidolon (the latter is a rewriting of the myth of Helen of Troy in modern America). Her Collected Poems of Nancy Cunard will appear from Carcanet in 2016.

Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Guardian, The Los Angeles Review of Books, the Financial Times and the Times Higher Education.

She is writing a novel, which is partly set during India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, for which she has received a British Council/Arts Council International Artist’s Development Fund Grant.

She is a BBC New Generation Thinker for 2015 and Co-Director of Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing.

Podcast with Sandeep on the Poetry Archive website.

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Editor, Selected Poems of Nancy Cunard, 2016, Carcanet

Eidolon, 2015, Shearsman

Reading Mina Loy's Autobiographies, 2014, Bloomsbury Academic

The Marble Orchard, 2012, Shearsman

Editor, Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees, 2011, Carcanet

Extract: Eidolon


It was not me, but a phantom            
whose oath
           a variable star            
moldering in the reliquary
           is doubt.

            I have not unsealed love, its taproot
                       mouthing blackness
                       nor seized the fairer woman
to purge from her her song—

            This hell-house of primogeniture, bookish
                       and pale          quartering what is also
           its own and only rule  
                                   this: fire
and the fire that comes            from fire.



Helen, dispirited
           camera-bound             Helen
fetching the paper from the front lawn in her dressing gown a lot of the time
           and knowing when the phone will ring
           seconds before            by the click of its current

Demi-goddess—not woman, not god
           disembodied like a bowl turned over and its loaf thumping out
           Queen of never-mind-the-time, of you can’t run on gin for all the everlasting
                       And such

            moths, broiling airlessly in a sodium bulb
                       smell of it on her front porch
                                   lights on          home



Waking to a November morning
           to pins running across a yardage of wool
or headaches               the circular world
           by food
                                   corn cobs in the sink gleam like teeth up her spine
Hurry up the bus goes
and its déshabillement goes                loaming on after it



I do not insist               that we retain the old names
         I would              know you

     ever, light               as the seed



Marketting the daylong          detente       for a sliver of profit
           does not appear           to bother the kingdom of saints

Ascetics her brothers—          
           Spartans                      whose only god is [insert here
the death of eleven days for ten silent piano-filled ones]

                        Wash the man by the road who turns
                                   and seeing or not seeing
                                                 is soundless, animal
                                                           wash him
                                   he is your brother
           enter his encampment (of fuel-scarred fabrics)
                                   and listen to his black pronouncements
                                               void of exhaust
                          scramble up
           the highway’s escarpment
                                   inviolate, good
                                               wash him
                       be without       brothers



Helen denuded           Helen
           a place of palor where
           silk shrinks around her throat
           exits     the office

            mindless purposeless walking
           into and out of
           through and over
           up and around
           into and out of
           hands waving mindless purpose

metal tint to everything           Stesichoros blinded
           for watching her
           cross the street
           outside and into
           the car, horn blaring



We are going—shall we go—let us go
and if we do go, knowing little of where,
who will put the lamp out as we leave?

(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)



In her wine-coloured suit
and burgundy shoes
she asks the night manager
to make a reverse call
and he is struck
by her poise

In her hand
the receiver becomes               some object
           cut loose

In 1985 she drove away
from the Britannia Range                   of the North Shore
whose wealth heaved silently                         out to sea
gathered its silver cuff—
                       uncertain of its allegiance

Helen enclosed in a lantern                 carried at arm’s length
           Helen               sleeping
                                               but never lifted off the earth

Her father                    turbaned
           and dead these many years now
           sings cross-legged           into some luted harmonium

                       once we had so much time
                                   most rare and unseen world




Fear     testimony                   
            wrought across a battlefield
her ghost
            speaks not for itself
            from the painful womb
            of reincarnation

 What roads and what gates
            we are always standing in how is it
I am so far again from your gate?



            ‘As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,
           Around the idea of thee’.

            Helen of Sparta           of Troy            in Egypt
                       of no known address              of no known nationality
                                   refugee of no known conflict
                                               stateless           without property
                                                           disappearing under a veil
                                                                       of treason



Her father in his dotage                      wielded reason like a butcher

            As a child                    his hands on the heavy barrow
                       he cried open-mouthed
                                   at labouring so young

Father wishing now to retire               and divide his kingdom
           summoned his daughters to court
           posturing at the pulpit            
                                   and though he would never take hot irons
                                               to their dissident arms
                                                           or change the locks
                                                                       on the temple doors
                                                                                   (as they do with widows)
                                                                                   his daughters could not



An idea is not a woman          but many women          
            the composite of an idea

Ours is an older civilization                re-made
           dramatis personae       recast by different troupes
                       rebuilt in the style
                       of Ionian capitals
                       and fluted pilasters
           put through the ringer of the magisterium

                                    we see the real Helen
                                   is the false we
                                   is the eidolon