The Blueprint is The Oxford Blue’s brand-new arts publication. Following in the footsteps of Creativity in Crisis, it showcases creative work in a range of artistic media, providing a space to share thoughts, stories and personal experiences.

Issue No. 1—Body

“I drink to separate my body from my soul”

Oscar Wilde

The past year has put the vulnerability of our bodies into the spotlight like none other. Difficult though it may be to admit, our bodies play a major role in our experience of the world. This theme presents an opportunity for a raw and honest examination of the relationships we have with ourselves and others.

For our very first issue, we have proudly put together a selection of poetry, fiction and visual art.

Featured illustrator to accompany written work: Eilidh Roberts.

Iris – Joanna McClurg

Old Horse – Ollie Jakes
marrowed around your spine
snow grit licks 
the penultimate vertebra,
jawing your brain
stemmed to a standstill.

bowing and taught,
motionless like a movie 
your long neck’s dead
fixing to fosbury the rainbow
two fields over.

stoic deltoids
oceaned by focus
grave and unsentimental.

there’s a pocket of skin in your 
armpit clasping and unclasping
spring clasps around winter.

palpitations radiate you down rooted
through a central wire,
permeating your stomach
fixed thirty miles 
deep to a mantle reef.

closed honeysuckle seed in march
i wish you would look at me
there are ugly people but 
no ugly eyes
you’re fixating
and i’m only young

To Lie in the Dirt and To Slowly Decay – Siddiq Islam
To lie in the dirt and to slowly decay!
A prospect more noble than all other things.
The righteous career of corroding away,
A subject of earthworms, the Underground Kings.

I see your grand temples with such great potential 
To topple and crumble to dust when they fall,
But hanker for something more experiential –
I too​ should dissolve into nothing at all.

I’d finally be free from the chore of emotions,
The burden of feelings, the labour of thoughts. 
Dismissing you all and your tiresome commotions, 
I’d lie in the peace of my low, earthen courts.

I suffer the same as the last sorry poet
Whose words washed you over like wet seaside stones, 
But damp disrepute, he and I need not know it,
Once sweet, soft erosion has rescued our bones.

So, invisible bodily seams, let me breach thee.
Don't stop me indulging the world’s natural way,
Allow me to sate the starved groaning beneath me, 
To lie in the dirt and to slowly decay.

Les Libertines – Lucie de Gentile
pastels on paper, exhibited in meadow

Zoom video calls – Lucie de Gentile
I am for the first time
Acting my age
I have not bothered with perfume
And hidden the wine bottle behind the video light
Summing up two weeks of my life
In ten minutes—skimming the lines of funny and tragic
We talk deep, there is nothing left to hide behind
I have seen your face, fallen for pixeled dimples
You’ve decided that I am someone who is generally happy
I’ve decided that you like categorisation
In a moment of sweet respite of wine enhanced zoom therapy
We talk about bread and baking and a clever girl playing chess
I get messages from an ex and leave them on read
You tell me about a risky dinner you had this week
Apparently, your neighbour is crying in  the basement
You give me a cause—relatable 
You bemoan our lack of dates in a world where all I 
See is close ups of your face
A mouth which I want to shut with a kiss
But it’s not like you can come near enough to find out
I can’t rely on my usual tricks, or maybe I have become
A master in snail version seduction
I wonder what you smell like? What your trampled hair
Will feel like between my fingers? If we hug, where would your hands land?
I’ve never had a guy be so nice to me so long
Maybe it’s because I have given you time
I like the idea that someone like you exist
In the world beyond my window which lets in soft sighs
Sometimes, I feel like I’ve read a letter
But I have not yet been given the envelope
With the scent of the sender
And its licked-on stamp

Image – Thea Ralph
Last night I dreamt that I was made of clay.
At last, my chest sighed, as I stared in the mirror
And began to repair, reshape, reform.
I took a palette knife and scraped away my stomach 
dumping the excess in the sink
and turning on the tap to melt it,
flowing streams of gunmetal blood.
I carved out my jawline and hollowed my face,
altering everything but my nose, which is my mother’s, 
and the scar above my eyebrow, which is a memory.
I added to my chest and took from my thighs
and smiled throughout. At last.
When the sink was overflowing
and I looked at someone I could bear to look at
I stepped into the kiln and the fire woke me up.

I wish I could say that I learnt something, but I didn’t 
except that my mirror wants to kill me.

No jewels for you. – Daria Maria Koukoleva
Art by Daria Maria Koukoleva

For so long—and still so often—women’s bodies have been commodified to suit the male gaze. In terms of ‘body politics’ and ‘sexual commerce’, the red and injurious mental architecture that comes with viewing women’s bodies as marketable objects is still prevalent today. While women are praised for pleasing the gaze, this behaviour is also weaponised against them, and so they are left trapped. When a woman is able to take control of these expectations and turn them against society instead of herself, she is a powerful being to behold.

Snapshot – Chris Poole

He wipes his palms on his trousers, looks for an excuse. Curry’s gone. Mum. He carries the fogged Tupperware across the morning frost, around to the back of the house. But she’s in the green bin already; her strained smile (a mouth that smiles backwards, not upwards) split at the centre; the rust-ring of one eye; the spidery mess of curls spittled with hairspray, paralysed; the wink of a goldfish, barely a suggestion, as though it’s the pulp squeezed from the fist looming above it. The bag’s gripped tight as Barbara’s ponytail—Cousin Barbara. Barely recognizable. Crumbs of a burst tea-bag. Eggshell. Peel. Last time’s box of clothes (Too small now, Mum, I’ll chuck ‘em) juts in the white bin bag, saving some of the shards on its flat edge. Beneath, he knows, the motion-furrowed fairground lights shift further down, between pink-floss roots and snakes, wet hair, loaves with thumbprints of mould. Beneath, the night sets her tremble off again, a tremble that rage sharpens, that ruins photos, and she parts her hands. Then the day pours through and half her smile worms down to find the rest, or settles, maybe, for a wishbone, a toenail, or half of her sister’s. Or maybe she left that intact.

She looks like you. That’s all he’d said. It froze them. White light flexed on the photo’s sheen; she steadied her lip. The photo slid back into the drawer between them on the carpet. In his room, he tried to gauge how she clung to him, after, when he lifted her to her feet. He thought of pins and needles and school-hall floors, looked at the nail-marks on his arm. Nothing meant by it. Nothing at all. He came downstairs, and set the drawer back into the dresser. She moved that evening as she always had: composed, quiet. And inside, he now knows, an intent formed and worked. Her hands cut the liquid from a yolk. The silverware winked. She shook, and her sister’s features blurred. 

She appears in the doorway. The bin lid drops. He pretends to waft away an awful smell, phooo-eee, throws a cheeky grin that still works. Don’t forget to bring the milk in. 

Then she’s at the front window, watching Pete—The Neighbour. Pete had spoken so calmly down the phone that night. He’d wrapped clumps of newspaper around the glass and whisked it round the back of the house. Blood and milk seeped into the unfussy moss between the slabs. No use crying over it, he’d joked. The urge to hit him came and went. And later, staring at a ludicrously pink razor, at the silver hairs among his in the bowl (unless they were his own—he didn’t know which was worse) and the moonlight, later he’d laugh his mother’s laugh. At breakfast she said she’d dreamed of him, and he wondered if the sound had gotten into her dreams, somehow. Steered them. And he started to step, now and again, on the floorboard on the landing between them. So she could remember when he was the one sneaking downstairs in the night. A blue vein in a streetlight, cold tile underfoot, red hand over the torch’s mouth; light never escaping onto Pete’s china, his cataracted windscreen. Spilling, instead, onto the guilty swim of dust and that old dresser. The bottles perspire in his hands. He smiles. She looks peaceful.

The form to submit your work to future editions of The Blueprint can be found here.

Alternatively, apply here to be our next featured illustrator.

Curated and edited by Yundi Li