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Elizabeth Barton Isabel Bermudez Michael Bartholomew-Biggs Dermot Bolger Claire Booker Kayleigh Campbell Alexander Corrin-Tachiban Peter J Donnelly Tim Dwyer Neil Elder Ken Evans Oz Hardwick Wendy Klein Gill Learner Jane Lovell Jenny McRobert Konstandinos Mahoney DS Maolalai Jessica Mookherjee Erica Jane Morris Graham Mort Jan Napier Kate Noakes Jennie Osborne Ilse Pedler Rachel Playforth Lisa Reily Andrew Shields Ian C. Smith Rowena Sommerville Pam Thompson Simon Williams Robin Lindsay Wilson Rodney Wood Shirley Wright Damon Young
THW21: March 8, 2021 THW20: December 4, 2020 THW19: September 5, 2020 THW18: May 4, 2020 THW17: March 7, 2020 THW 16: December 4, 2019 THW 15: September 5, 2019 THW 14: June 3, 2019 THW 13: March 6, 2019 THW 12: December 10, 2018 THW11: September 5, 2018 THW10: May 21, 2018 THW9: March 7, 2018 THW8: December 6, 2017 THW7: September 10, 2017 THW6: June 3, 2017 THW5: March 7, 2017 THW4: December 6, 2016 THW3: September 1, 2016 THW2: June 1, 2016 THW1: March 1, 2016
Elizabeth Barton read English at Christs College, Cambridge, after which she worked as a teacher. She has lived in Spain and the U.S. and now lives in Surrey where she is Stanza Rep for Mole Valley Poets. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Orbis, South, The Curlew and The Frogmore Papers. In 2020, one of her poems was shortlisted for the Enfield Poets Poetry Competition and another was commended in the Poetry Societys Stanza Poetry Competition.
And what of those who did not take the boats? Who roamed the country? Or went to the wars? Like Thomas, a saddler of Glastonbury who married Margaret in Salisbury and had three children, in St Columb, Newton St Cyres and Kentisbeare. He roved the hills up and down for work and stole when the wage fell short. Then begged. Men like these. Their trade could not save them; they dug up roots from hedges to light their meagre fires, supped on rose-hips, potatoes and fat-less milk. Itinerant smiths of the by-ways and bridle paths, they foraged in the fields and knew the nettle-dust. Men like James Gubbins, broken by the exigencies of thrift, who fell, at last, to words. And told the Justice I am tired of this life.
They left for the deep field; took to the road, forsaking the drudgery of the plough and school room slate, the lean years in backwaters. After the eldest were waved off to the red and white uniform of the wars,
the journeymen slipped away, taking with them the tools of their trade: scraps of village songs passed on from tongue to tongue and learnt from the hard crib beside a hearth whose morning ash is the after-light of farm-cart tracks after rain. . The road out
Isabel Bermudez won joint First Prize in the Coast to Coast to Coast Pamphlet Competition in 2018. Another pamphlet, Serenade, poems evoking Spain and the New World, is published with illustrations by Simon Turvey and available from Paekakariki Press (2020).
A simple task has turned out bigger than shed thought. Hard work observed while time is thickening like paint acquires smooth elements of ritual transcending sweaty efforts in one orchard. Gathered apples gleam with luminescent ripeness; white-smocked labourers reach up for more and higher purposes than plucking fruit. Shes given each the stoic mask of everyman, a wooden face imparting dignity like grafted quince enhancing crab-sour rootstock.
The task is not too much for them. Shes made them bigger than they need be and more self-assured than mere performers in some unrehearsed and overdressed production of a pie-in-sky romantic drama to ennoble earthy toil. Going barefoot in the dirt is not degrading. Dont suppose theyre only picking produce for the marketplace and someone elses profit: they will tell you ownership of apples as an asset has long ceased to be an issue.
I wonder if she watched them come back down to size, their evening selves revealed as they stripped off what I would call their shaman camouflage before they poured out measures of the old years cider with a civil nod in her direction. If I dont downgrade these solemn figures to a pair of amiable yokels I must face the fact their working clothes suggest recording angels tasked with harvesting achievements. Mine are some way short of being ripe.
Michael Bartholomew-Biggsis a semi-retired mathematician and a fairly active poetry editor of the on-line magazineLondon Grip. His most recent books arePoems in the Case(Shoestring Press) which embeds a poetry collectionin a murder mystery andThe Man Who Wasnt Ever Here(Wayleave Press) which is a poetic biography of his Irish grandfather.
But if they are shorn of human flaws and only retain The altruistic aspects of their nature, their ability To make us feel wrapped in radiant love when they Were not burdened by self-doubt and insecurity,
Dermot Bolger is the author of fourteen novels published by people like Penguin, Picador, HarperCollins, etc., a clatter of plays (the most recent staged by Irelands National Theatre, the Abbey, in the very different world of the 2019 Dublin Theatre Festival) and various books of poems. Further information, there is a list on http://dermotbolger.com/bibliography/
though she seems happy enough, here in Studio 3, cameras rolling, working from the same familiar script. Im praying its the final cut. The stars all cocky, strolls up, six foot six in his stockinged feet,
makes her an offer: Hollywoods the place for love. Its what she always wanted pia coladas, the happily-ever-after. She tells him shell consider Liverpool. She liked it there: the Wigwam, waterfront buzz, Scouser wit.
I open the front door to something withheld, as though life itself has become the intrusion. Inside, the air feels cordoned hallway blinds still down, the clock oddly loud, her stick fallen against the stair. The kitchen doors ajar, as if shes on the other side, waiting.
Its a hefty weaning her final meal still mapped on pine: a solitary sardine, soup bowl tide-marked, empty glass, the radio tuned to France. Beside it, Le Monde unfolded (in her heart she never truly fitted), filling the long hours with grace, always waiting to set an extra plate.
Claire Booker lives in Brighton. Her poetry has appeared on postcards, the side of Guernsey buses, been set to music, and filmed by Aberystwyth University. Her pamphlets are The Bone That Sang (Indigo Dreams) and Later There Will Be Postcards (Green Bottle Press). She was commended in the Poetry Societys Stanza Competition and has won three of its Members Competitions. Her work has appeared in Ambit, Magma, Morning Star, Rialto, Spectator and Stand among others. More information at http://www.bookerplays.co.uk
We say this too shall pass because our bodies experience seasons like the earth. As the spring blossom opens, we may feel the coldness of deep winter beneath our skin. But everything passes and we can wake with lightness again, blow through streets like a late summer breeze. Just as determined just as aimless as yesterday.
Kayleigh Campbell is a third year Ph.D candidate at Huddersfield University and a member of the editorial board for Grist. Her pamphlet Keepsake was published in 2019 by Maytree Press and her work has appeared in the likes of Butchers Dog and Ink, Sweat & Tears. Her debut collection is forthcoming.
Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana taught in Shizuoka, Japan, for 10 years. She holds MA qualifications in Writing Poetry and in Japanese Language and Culture. In 2020, she was third in the Open category of the Oxford Brookes International Poetry competition and Commended in the Winchester and Buzzword competitions. Her recent work is published in The Moth, Artemis, Fenland Poetry Journal, Tears in the Fence, Orbis and Obsessed with Pipework.
You knew it was the last time you would see me even if I didnt, the day after we moved and I walked across town to our old street to wish you a merry Christmas. I should have, maybe I did really. I could have managed it for a few months, it wasnt as far as it seemed. I wasnt looking far ahead, not thinking of how hard it would become once I got a job, my own place, or, as you feared, met someone. You would have been ninety-nine today, Id have bought you something nicer than the cheap copy of Emma I got you for what I know now was your eightieth birthday, or the tape of Elaine Paige I copied from my CD for your seventy-sixth. I wish I could say I still had the letters you wrote to me at college in far away Ceredigion, postcards of the moors and Robin Hoods Bay. Even the one of a pheasant in a frame did not survive my last house move, though I had it on the wall in the kitchen all the years I lived in Malton. When your daughter called with the news some time next February I cant pretend I wasnt relieved that youd been spared the strain of knowing my visits were over. Now I wonder, were you really spared?
Peter J Donnelly has been published in magazines including Southlight, South Bank, Poetry Village, The Beach Hut, Dreich and Writers Egg, as well as various anthologies. His poem The Second of August was recently a joint runner up in the Buzzwords Competition. He has degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wales Lampeter, and lives in York where he works as a hospital secretary.
A place before history, I peer into where I cannot go, a lattice of chambers and passageways, flutters and fleeting shadows. You are a plain, brown bird smaller than a house sparrow, cocooned in the bush, looking at me.
Tim Dwyers chapbook is Smithy Of Our Longings (Lapwing). His poems have recently appeared in Cyphers, Live Encounters, and Hold Open The Door the Irish Poetry Chair commemorative anthology, and forthcoming in Atrium. He was raised in Brooklyn by parents from Galway. He recently moved from Connecticut and now lives in Bangor, County Down.
Holly and Matt are answering questions onFood & Drink,What type of fruit is a pink lady? Matt thinks he knows. He is laughing at something the host has said.Those teeth. Holly isnt sure, she is laughing as well. Her teeth.
Its the other couples turn now, the subject is TV- Whichsoapstarhas been inEastendersthe longest? Chris isnt sure. That tan. Amy hasnt a clue. Her teeth. They are smiling and Amy is touching her hair. Time is up. Their teeth.Chris wants to go on holiday with any money they win.
Round two is worth double. Smiles. They are glowing, happy living life on television,tanned and shining. Teeth. The host is asking Matt to tell his anecdote about something funnythathappened at work. His teeth. His smile. Holly is laughing. Her storyisvery funny. Her teeth. Chris is laughing. Amy is laughing at Hollys story abouthow she metMatt.
You know all the answers to these questions; you watch the show each night. Then brush your teethand go to sleep withdreams of Matt and Holly. But what no one knows is what might happen to those smiles, those teeth, that tan, when the klaxon sounds.
Having bought paint, a roller, new brushes and masking tape, we really should have got on with painting the hallway that weekend. Instead we took so long to get around to it, a month or two at least, that by the time the paint was on the walls wed fallen out of love with Sugared Lilac, and realised we should have stuck with Frosted Plum, the one wed liked at first.
They try to suspend the end of summer with one last trip to the sea, race to immerse themselves, and hope this final dip provides protection against the chill of winter. The views of big skies and wide seas let them believe in possibilities that keep dark nights away.
Sudden low sun in the eyes makes me blink, and puts in mind the man who sneezed uncontrollably in its glare, before swerving into the path of oncoming traffic, killing three in the vehicle he hit then walking away unscathed.
Neil Elder is widely published in poetry magazines and journals. He won the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize with Codes of Conduct, and then won their debut collection prize with The Space Between Us. He has a chapbook, Being Present, with The Black Light Engine Room, and in 2020 published And The House Watches On. https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/
From my silver undersides, a drip of honeydew. I look down on a mans bald crown, the line on his skull where a grey cap with black band should sit, damp hair sticking to his scalp, the cap discarded in sunshine; buttons open. In his gun hand, a bottle of weissbier.
Lids half-shut, he sees where hes mown, the primped borders of a garden he keeps to welcome and calm them. From up here, nothing to see, only birds in the endless blue of the sky, a scent of lemon and honey, my flowers turned to milky, morning air.
The bees up to their stings in the petals, the children, as many as my green layers queueing, a murmuring in their minds. A dog plays with the children, baring teeth, just as he runs to fetch a branch thrown by the Unterscharfhrer, in holiday-mood.
Over the wall strain as I might I cannot make out the detail: a sound of wood, maple, ebony, rosewood, spruce, made music by men, the sad sawing of their grain passing through thin air, thickening the cloud. Shouts, barking, a dust of confusion that yellows my branches.
Smoke from the trees nearby that are my cousins, cut down by men, small as ants, for their fires. Eine schne Zeit, the label in his own hand, A beautiful time, written on a photo album in the garage they search later, cobwebs on bottles, him riding to a camp perimeter, taking the air.
The House of Shutters was one of six euthanasia centres where 200,000 disabled children were murdered, 1941-45. SS Unterscharfhrer Mentz was later sentenced to life. On release, he became a milkman.
Ken Evans started writing after donating a kidney to his sister who has lupus. In 2018, he won the Kent & Sussex competition. Poems have featured in Magma, 14, Under the Radar, Envoi, The Frogmore Papers, Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework and The Interpreters House. In 2016, Ken won Battered Moons Competition and was runner-up in Poets & Players. A first pamphlet, The Opposite of Defeat, appeared in 2016, and a first collection, True Forensics, in 2018.
Comet trails of fragmented nursery rhymes abrade the sky, close enough to touch, though you decide not to for fear of burning your fingers. Whatever happened to the ducks who never came back? Why was it so important to that spider to make it up the spout, and how did it feel when, rain-shivered and exhausted, it blinked in the bathroom light? These are things you think you should know, should have understood when parents, siblings and teachers repeated them over and over until you were word perfect. But like Perceval before the Fisher King, you never asked the right question, never even suspected that there was a question. And now there are portents in the eastern dark, flaming like dragons, demanding that you step in and do something where all the kings horses and all the kings men have failed time and time again, and that you find that little piggy wherever hes hiding and make him face up to his responsibilities. And you nearly reach up to grab hold of something, but all the people who bow like worms in the church with the steeple turn their blank faces to you, as the Grail procession passes, the red dragon writhes with the white, and the sky turns brittle as burnt books.
While others heard music in the rain, I always heard animal voices, urgent and arrhythmic. In the house my friends grandfather had built on a blunt promontory, the night was kept awake by the light from distant factories, the urgent business of insects deep in the mattress. Paperbacks with lurid covers lined the walls: cheap Pan thrillers from the 70s, chaste romances, memoirs by astronomers and archaeologists. Incomplete packs of playing cards offered a Tarot of sorts, though we ignored their predictions as the storm bundled like bears across the roof, grunting and spitting, murmuring its hunger. In the bright morning, a stranger stood on the lawn, naked but for a dead bear, huge upon her shoulders. When she spoke, we didnt understand a word, but the clouds in her eyes cried in the language of our aching loins.
Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, musician, and academic. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication is Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, most recently The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes.
Dining room, weighty with antiques table lumbering on too-stout legs, the overhead light a fake candelabra, bulbs too bright, showing too much and too little xxxxxxxa chair where my uncle spanked me once for something-or-other
A galley kitchen, too small for anything but forced intimacy, voices snorting with laughter, who did it swinging from whose chandelier and when? Did what? xxxxxxxThe clatter of washing up and on the counter a rusty beer opener, a half empty glass, xxxxxxxa yeasty fug something ugly in the air
U.S. born Wendy Klein has lived in England since 1971. She has published three collections: Cuba in the Blood (2009) and Anything in Turquoise (2013) from Cinnamon Press, Mood Indigo (2016, Oversteps Books) and a selected, In the Blue, from The High Window Press (2019). Her pamphlet, Let Battle Commence, based on letters from her great-grandfather, written when he was serving as a Confederate soldier in the U.S. Civil War, is published by Dempsey & Windle (2020), and is also available as an illustrated film on YouTube https://youtu.be/L2JlbpAdUcU
Before red kites, when buzzards still quartered these chalky slopes, we started coming here, first with one child, then with two. In early months, torpedo buds angled from zig-zag stalks and, long before we saw great swathes of blue, we could smell the flowers. On bright October days, when mist still hung like steam above the Thames, wed all four run, kick up crisp drifts of bronze. In winter, when cheeks were stung to red and breath clouded round our heads, the fallen leaves were rimmed with white. Back then we hadnt learned that prayers would be whisked to heaven by the trees or that theyd rustle disapproval if we cursed.
Maybe one gusty autumn day in nineteen thirty-two a beech nut fell, was swelled by rains and sun, pushed out first root, then stalk. Scrawny at first, it broadened and stretched towards the sky. By the time we found these woods, it would have been ten metres high, its smooth, grey bark already patched with lichen, moss. With luck its been untouched by fungus and disease and, in spite of shallow roots, defied late eighties storms to cling to earth, standing as staunch as you for all those years. But if this coming spring its times arrived then let it go, measure its length, rot down to feed new growth.
Gill Learners poems have been published in magazines including Acumen, Agenda, The North, Mslexia and South. They have also appeared in a number of anthologies e.g. from The Emma Press (https://theemmapress.com), Grey Hen Press http://www.greyhenpress.com) and Two Rivers Press (http://tworiverspress.com); and won a several prizes. Her first collection, The Agisters Experiment, appeared in 2011 and her second, Chill Factor, in 2016, both from Two Rivers Press (tworiverspress.com) who are to publish a third, Change, in Autumn 2021. Web pages: http://www.poetrypf.co.uk.
He begins in the distance, a lead-white sky, wooded hills a blend of azurite and lead-tin-yellow, the sea an exhalation, its flotilla of boats leaning into the wind. Flung against cloud, a skein of geese continues to another land.
On panels cut from Baltic oak he creates his own heaven and earth. A ground of chalk bound with bone glue reflects light falling through paint, the illusion of depth a luminosity that steals your breath.
It takes months for the ziggurat to spiral out of control. Brickwork baked the colour of sunset red and yellow ochres and umber rises to balance on rock, its structure barely held by stairways rising to the temple, the smouldering altar.
She reclines on golden pillows, waiting. Only the priests come near. Doorways are low and hidden, steps lead to chasms. He paints clouds to enclose her. A red-backed shrike circles high above, cries haunting the wind.
In trees thin as spiders, he imagines birds, stipples invisibly with his thinnest brush gangs of crows and jackdaws, bone-black, plant-black. Paint dries. They become shadow, their calls a darkness no one understands.
Jane Lovell is an award-winning poet whose work focuses on our relationship with the planet and its wildlife. She is Writer-in-Residence at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Her latest collection is The God of Lost Ways (Indigo Dreams Press). Jane also writes for Dark Mountain, Photographers Against Wildlife Crime and Elementum Journal.
Yasha still walks down Jewry Street, sometimes arm in arm with Licoricia, sampling the fare at Greens Wine Bar, the strangeness of Wagamama. If anyone notices, he can say, Hey presto I was never here.
Making the transition from Psychologist to poet has been Jenny McRoberts most pleasurable journey. Her poems have appeared in Dream Catcher Magazine, and online Journals: Ink Sweat & Tears, Picaroon Poetry, The High Window and Words for the Wild. Jenny is a founder member and helps to organise Winchester Muse, a local poetry platform in association with North Hampshire Stanza Group. She lives near Winchester in a house on The Watercress Way.
Three days, a continent slips by; Dover, Brussels, Munich, Belgrade, Athens. Im mobbed at the station, kissed, hugged, pinched, squeezed, Costaki! K ! X ! My Heart! My Golden One! We drive off like film stars in Granddads limousine.
He takes me to pavement cafes, watches me scoff honey cakes, flicks worry beads as he listens to my anglo-flow, says hes never met a boy who talks so much, asks mum if he can borrow me, send me to college, learn Greek.
Baptism day, I stand six years tall in a font for dunking babies, shy skinny schoolboy in white underpants. Crammed underwater, I surface to a slathering of olive oil, taste sunshine, soil, mums lettuce salads.
Dried and dressed; white shirt, blue shorts, choir chanting, hearts crossed up down, right left, right left, Granddad leads me three times round the water, then out, crucifix glinting, into the dissolving blaze of the cathedral square.
Enthroned on a glistening black bag on a street corner rubbish cart, paws folded, she observes me with imperial indifference biped in baggy shorts, battered panama, circumventing the sun-ripe stink of garbage. A ginger face juts up, glares, fearful Ill dive in, devour all the savoury scraps, gristle and bones. By the bin wheels, a litter of scruffy kittens spikey toilet brushes.
London based Greek-English-Irish poet and playwright Konstandinos (Dino) Mahoney, won publication of his collection, Tutti Frutti, in the Sentinel Poetry Book Competition 2017, and is winner of the Poetry Societys 2017 Stanza Competition. He is also part of Dino and the Diamonds , a group that performs his poems as songs. He teaches Creative Writing at Hong Kong University and is Rep for Barnes & Chiswick Stanza. Recent poems have appeared in in Perverse, Butchers Dog, Live Canon, The New European.
he carried himself quite well, I would say, in the manner of a broken piano there was this sense, I mean, of music there, even though he didnt make music. I admired him; he was witty, quite literary, with a good-looking skull and some well- defined politics. and he came by a month ago and we drank wine with aodhain. I dont know what we said but we must have said something he moved back to paris soon afterward.
and we sat in the sitting room; me on the sofa, him in a chair while the dog walked between us begging for treats. we had been drinking since 8, and ordering sandwiches and both of us had work the next day. talking about movies which is what we usually talk about when theres something else to talk about. at 11:05 I said maybe they werent doing it after all with the storms which were supposed to be coming. at 11:10 I was proven wrong.
everything went off and somewhere a house alarm sounded. using phones for torches, and both of us somewhat pissed, we took our turns pissing and brushed our teeth together. I put the dog to sleep in the kitchen. we felt our way to bed. I didnt remember to hit the switch in my bedroom woke at 3:30 with the lights all on.
DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and four times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019)
When god visits me hes covered in glitter, slippery, quiet in his mime costume, with little to tell me; pretends to cry at my sad falls, does the trapped- in-a-box thing with his hands, pulls on an invisible rope, hangs his head. Sometimes Prospero, sometimes Miranda, sometimes Ariel, cant always tell if he tries to scare or soothe as prayers are answered in cryptic clues and dance moves. Whimsical, he turns up as a woman clothed in tropical fish, bower bird or sharp suited magpie whatever the mood, tells me things in shrieks and spears a word or two my way, cut up from magazines. He did fall to earth in my dream once, dressed as a blue-jay with a wide brimmed hat, told me secrets, but I suspect he tells everyone, says knowledge is the answer and I know thats a trick to get me to keep listening.
Jessica Mookherjee is of Bengali origin, grew up in Wales and now lives in Kent. Her work appears in many journals and anthologies Her pamphlets are The Swell (TellTale Press 2016) and Joyride (BLER Press 2017). Her collections are Flood (Cultured Llama, 2018) and Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019). She is an editor at Against the Grain Poetry Press. Her next pamphlet will be published by Broken Sleep Books later in 2021.
Take her ashes to Achencoil. Before the rains, find the road to the south of Shencottah, go by bus through the forest to the rest house on the hill where the silk cotton trees grow. Follow the rocky trail to return her to the red soil, the low waters of the river.
There she left her dress on the raised roots of the fig tree to bathe with her sisters. They rushed in and out, pretended to dive from the rough washing stone, palms together, felt the cloak of the river, sent floating petals to the temple of black stone, filled coconut shells with yellow blossom, silt sucking their toes, saw a silver bowl drifting, a candle burning.
After my grandmother died, my grandfather could not stop crying at night, all day. He had grown runner beans, gooseberries, silverskin onions, took us to Epping Forest where we clambered on fallen beech. He bought a green Morgan. And I heard her: Ted, Ted, you mustnt show off. He had saved for years, working in the foundry, through night classes, and later, woke early to creeping worry, tears. She could no longer see. He took her for spins, sent for audio books for her long hours. Along the path, he set a line of twine from the backdoor to the garden bench: she could feel her way, sit by the hollyhocks. Each summer, they covered the armchairs and sideboard with old curtains, sheets. She washed their ornaments, wrapped framed photographs in newspaper. He swept the chimney, turning the rod, twisting on another rod, turning and twisting. Soot, leaves, twigs falling, spilling out. His eyes itchy, watering. Salty. Dripping. Ted, Oh, Ted.
A dimly lit corridor, cabinets, life depicted xxxxxxxon tiles: hawksbill turtle, figeater beetle. A glass jar of silkworm moths, drowned, wisps inside: xxxxxxxthreads, white bodies, upturned. A head of a dogfish shortspine spurdog, neck cut, xxxxxxxedge of bone, eyes mottled, stare. A fox showing teeth, submerged in amber liquid, xxxxxxxbody dark, hunched to the curve. A vessel of cutthroat eels: a snarl of grey tongues, xxxxxxxno ends, one jaw ajar. A midwife toad suspended in pale yellow swollen, xxxxxxxeggs encrusted on legs, his back. A manta ray, wafer-thin. Black knots, unformed eyes, xxxxxxxa ridge of cartilage, protruding. A rat, head twisted at the bottom, feet grasping, tail coiled xxxxxxxFound dead outside the Spirit Building, 1999.
Erica Jane Morris has an MA in Writing Poetry from the University of Newcastle. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2020, and has recently been published in Channel, and Lunate. She grew up in the South of England, studied Psychology at the University of Sussex and gained her doctorate at The Open University, UK. She works in higher education on degree standards. She loves to run and swim.
Graham Mort lives in rural North Yorkshire and has published ten books of poetry and three books of short fiction as well as writing for BBC Radio.Visibility: New & Selected Poems, appeared from Seren in 2007, when he was also winner of the Bridport short story prize. His book of storiesTouchwon the Edge Hill prize in 2011.Black Shiver Moss(poems) appeared from Seren in 2017.Like Fado and Other Stories, a new collection of short fiction, will appear from Salt Publishing in December 2020.
Jan Napier is a Western Australian poet. Her words have been show cased in journals and anthologies within Australia and overseas, including The High Window. Jans poem Apricots recently won the City of Rockingham prize.
Kate Noakes is a PhD candidate at the University of Reading researching contemporary British and American poetry. Her most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian, 2019). She lives in London and acts as a trustee to writer development organisation, Spread the Word.
Its those hands that still land in her nightmares, not the face she knows will be bent low, intent on stamping his will on that ivory grin his cobra back dressed in fusty black staccato punch, the horde held in.
Hands tapdancing like bantamweights battering away at the mahogany frame extracting its confession in two four time, no need for the score no need for the pint glass, its gold measure bruised blue, its cracked comfort seeping to the floor.
Jennie Osborne lives near Teignmouth. She has two collections from Oversteps, How to be Naked and Colouring Outside the Lines. Her next collection will address our relationship with the other. One of the organisers of Teignmouth Poetry Festival, Jennie runs workshops mentors and loves performing. She is inspired by many things chance encounters with wildlife, visual arts, music from jazz to Mendelssohn and of course the messy business of being human, and the sad state of the planet.
Ilse Pedler has had poems published in Magma, Stand, The Compasss. She won the 2015 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition. Her pamphlet, The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels was published by Seren in 2016. She was long listed in the National Poetry Competition in 2018 and is poet in residence at Sidmouth Folk Festival . She lives and works as a Veterinary Surgeon in Kendal, her first collection is due to be published by Seren next year. http://www.ilsepedler.com
Its covers were a blue Id never seen, deep dyed as if steeped in a bath of ink or ocean, bloomed with darker patches. Its pages were a thinness almost edible, petal-orange with frayed edges, imperfections pressed like freckles inside layers of pulp. I wrote lightly, trying not to tear the fragile skin, words gathered from all my books and records settling in drifts. My own words crept in later, smaller. And later still the handwriting of other people crowds the margins, messages to an unknown year when we might lift and turn these pages with the hands of all our future selves. Each line looks like a tiny epitaph, our unformed thoughts that circled round that one inexpressible loss, trapped in a blue notebook.
We began a childhood made of bridges, staggered the length of a park or copse. Even the youngest learned balance early, shared a language of where to meet, to leap the gaps and stretch from hand to hand.
The adult world told its different story, the storm unlooked for, breaking down the night. A hundred things theyd built were crushed like toys. A friend woke up to see the roof torn off, her attic bedroom open to the sky.
In this year of listening shes always interruptible tuned and rotating like a satellite to all the yelled and whispered problems of kitchen, bathroom, pillow, chair until it happens: the curves of her body open wide flare into delicate ridges welcoming alcoves the sweep and contour spiralling in to the deep canal soft and uncloseable.
Rachel Playforth is a medical librarian, writer, editor and crossword setter based in Sussex. She is a member of the Frogmore Press editorial board and co-edited the wild swimming anthology Watermarks. Her recent poetry of place project, Twitten, is online at http://rachelplayforth.com/twitten/.
a small outline in the distance, by the lake, an insignificant shape in the footsteps of two teenage girls; one stops to take your photo. I feel your presence coming into focus, narrow frame, cream body marked in black and white, patches of caramel. snow still marks the mountain hard white, and cold. step-by-step, eyes ahead, your frail edges pause only to receive me, surrender, my hand gentle on your head. the first pink blossoms in the trees, crisp sun in the air, your footsteps on and on; absent faces, one after the other, pass you by. you stop to lap a meagre splash of water and I follow; on and on, your eyes ahead, me beside you, hands full of food, scattered on concrete, which you sniff and continue past, ribs protruding, eyes to the ground.
the space where you lay, unnoticed; an outline in chalk on dirty concrete. black steel railings and stifled shadows, torn posters glued one-on-the-other, messages lost in peeling layers. you are the faceless woman who is the one-in-ten followed home by a stranger, the one-per-week murdered by her partner. they said we were the lucky country, a safe place, but you were never welcome here. three women mark your life, your work in a small room, your mothers hopes for a daughters dream; a border around your body, they bring you back, a single white line in dust, their gentle hands across the cold. crammed together, paid a pittance for your handiwork, family so far away, you never made it home. these women mark your life, live on as the one-in-three who deserves a beating, the one-in-five who asks for it; three women on a filthy floor, stairs above, uninhabited, they bring you back.
Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and stories have been published in several journals, such as Amaryllis, London Grip, The High Window, Epoch, Panoplyzine, Riggwelter, Wanderlust and The Fenland Reed. You can find Lisa at lisareily.wordpress.com
He stands at the blackboard and says the same things, year by year, hour by hour not just that Napoleon was Emperor from then to then, that the watersheds in Ohio flow into Lake Erie and the Ohio River. He also repeats himself when he praises or chastens his pupils for answers, interruptions, misbehavior. Yet though his words have become formulas, when he takes up an old yearbook and recognizes the fading faces, he remembers so many of them and the things that made them themselves: how she held her arms akimbo and blew away her bangs at the end of sentences; how he looked down at the floor whenever he spoke in class but looked up with eyes that understood the geometry and genius of every player and the ball on every court or field; how those twins would try to trick him but he could always tell the one because of that tiny forehead scar he never learned the story of and wondered if they knew it themselves. Its all the same thing and the same thing except when its not, at every moment his voice spins out the words again while his eyes take in the astonishment of this group, in this room, on this day, in this world, inscribed on the flyleaf of a book that is always being written.
Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems, Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong, was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album, Somebodys Hometown, in 2015 and the EP, Dfense de jouer, in 2016. Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewshieldspoems/
My bad-tempered mother had a lot on her plate, as she put it, which was what I needed, my extra rations sneaked past her martial frugality from the hoarded past, energy for an uncharted frontier. Emigrating from England to Australia was like the pivotal point in a play, this play being my life. Aussie English was a lingua franca back then. Mother, trouble dogging her life, didnt get the nuances of local idiom, whereas a boy starting school with wild larrikins absorbs slang quicksmart, as we used to say.
Australians swore. Everyone swears now but back then perhaps the English didnt. Home from school, ripe language saturating my mind, I playfully called my pre-school brother a little bastard. Mother, face ashen, threatened me with her copper stick, itself the colour of her shocked expression, again. No washing-machines for frontierswomen. Accustomed to patient queueing in blitzed London, she challenged locals waiting for service in a higgledy mob like their sheep, pointing out to shopkeepers when they pushed in, her strident accent overriding soft drawls exchanged with sneers that pierced me.
My new cobbers, clattering bikes against our front gate, come to swap comics, yelled my name, a symphony to my ears, instead of knocking, my mothers reputation spreading. She complained about their dearth of manners. I said, Theyre just singing out. Their phrase for this. She said, Theres nothing musical about that lot.
She thought doing your block meant working hard when it actually meant losing your temper, exclaiming in the presence of other migrants more assimilated who knew her well that nobody could accuse her of not doing her block, her eyes then going from face to face trying to decipher shared yet cautious smirks.
In one year alone during the sorrow of war she lost her mother, two sailor brothers, a grandfather, and her father-in-law, after burying a baby son earlier. Three months after the shock of arrival in Australia she said was like journeying back into the past, her father died, this further morbid news arriving in a blue aerogramme. She loved flowering gum trees, and always the warm weather. No more chilblains. The sand in her glass nearly emptied, her remaining English relatives commented on her raucous Aussie accent, impressive acquired idiom.
Ian C Smiths work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds, cordite, The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review ,Poetry Salzburg Review, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.
The seas a distant dazzle, the airs a hot caress, bees are trampolining in the honeysuckle, butterflies flicker through the hedge, house martins whisper the African news as they arrowhead my windows, and next doors cat is writhing in ecstasies of heat on the concrete path.
Rowena Sommerville has written poems and made things all her life, the last thirty years of which have been lived in lovely Robin Hoods Bay. She has worked in a huge variety of community settings and arts organisations. Having left full-time work in 2017, she is now freelance, both as a creative and as a project producer. She also sings with and writes for the acappella band Henwen which has been performing locally and nationally for a long and harmonious time.
We have driven here in a 44. This couple have climbed the whole way. Tough Mudder his teeshirt proclaims. Soon, Kastro, the deserted village, whose houses, despite desolate appearances have not been deserted so much as temporarily abandoned holiday homes, reclaimed every January for the fiesta.
Our guide tells us that black and green olives are the same olives. I hug a three hundred year old olive tree my arms cant stretch round its middle. It feels like an ancestor, a great, great grandparent. The air is so thin some younger trees have stopped growing.
Pam Thompson is a writer and lecturer based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time (Smith | Doorstop, 2006) and Strange Fashion( Pindrop Press, 2017). She is a recent Hawthornden Fellow.
Simon Williams (www.simonwilliams.info) has been writing since his teens, when he was mentored at university by Roger McGough and Pete Morgan. He has had nine collections published, the latest being The Magpie Almanack (www.simonwilliams.info), published December 2020 by Vole. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet and published the PLAY anthology, in memory of his young grandson, in 2018. He is currently developing a one-man poetry show, Cosmic Latte, centred on astronomy, animals and sub-atomic particles.
Robin Lindsay Wilson was born in Australia but lives and works in Scotland. He is a lecturer in Acting & Performance at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He has had three collections of poetry published by Cinnamon Press and his poetry has appeared in many UK poetry magazines and journals His new book, Rehearsals for the Real World has just been published and it is is a collection of short monologues, microfiction and poetry, also published by Cinnamon Press.
Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, his poetry has appeared recently in The High Window Press, The Ofi Press, Magma and Envoi. His debut pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice ( Red Ceiling Press) was published in 2017. He is a Stanza Rep and joint MC of the monthly open mic nights at The Lightbox in Woking, both of which are now Zooming.
Im greasing the axles, mending the wheels, ready for when you lot go to hell in it. Theres only room for half a dozen, mind, so youll have to form an orderly queue. I work out every day to build muscle, practise pushing. The woods a bit scorched and flimsy which means youll have to sit still. No writhing and screaming and tearing your hair out.
My other project is to devise a sign system for the future that doesnt rely on words because who knows what theyll speak. Or if. The half-life of Plutonium539 is 24,000 years. Storage facilities may be deep but, accidents, you know? Earthquakes? Weve got to warn them. Whoever they might be.
My mate here is busy on the Ark Mark II though with 350 billion tons of ice melt a year the Boss has set a tight deadline. Modern materials will make it stronger, and its bigger inside than out. Room for all the species you lot havent managed to kill off. By the way, no latter-day Noahs needed. Its got the latest driverless technology.
Which brings us back to my old cart with dodgy wood, not up to several billion treks at high speed and a bloody soaking. Inundation, eh! Does exactly what it says on the tin. Right now though Im worrying about the perfect sign to say sorry, cos someone should. Homo sapiens? What a fuckwit deny everything, wage war over it, ignore it, blame someone else.
Shirley Wright is a former French teacher and poet who lives in Bristol . In 2008 her poem, My Father,won the Sunday Telegraph Poetry for Performance competition, judged by Ben Okri and Andrew Motion. Since then her work has won or been placed in various competitions and appeared in magazines such as The Interpreters House, Butchers Dog, the French Literary Review. Her two poetry collections, The Last Green Field (2013) and Sticks and Stones (2017) are published by Indigo Dreams.
I am 22 and suffering, drawn to decadence but discovering that I am without the thick skin or sociopathic glee that one needs to cope. I am paddling in the legend of this place, this daytime cove of tripped up bohemians.
A man swivels on his bar stool of frayed gold fabric and punched in studs to share of himself; whoring for a refill. His beard is saliva flecked, the corners of his mouth skin-crisped and sore. He is coated with the brickdust of street living.
My new drinking partner has the low, disjointed murmur of pub tosspots I have long indulged, due to a deep-veined civility to elders and notions of the path to the palace of wisdom. He mentions his time in a band, I naturally enquire of their name.
He declares Fleetwood Mac to be his alma-mater and he sounds like every beer mat fingering fantasist with whom I have spoken. The band in question mean little to me, but I know enough of their mythos to have heard of brain damaged slides into incoherence for
several of that tribe. He mumbles something about getting on a plane in America when he was 22. Or not getting on a plane in America. Its not terribly clear. The woman for whom I have been waiting has finished her days sex work and she whisks me away.
An article written upon his death in 2018 clarifies which of the trio of casualties had been my company. An evasive martyr, yet a well-known Greek Street ligger. Belatedly I investigate the footage of a radiant, glossy guitar-slinger with lolloping limbs and a face twisted
I do not chase clarity, but lean into the shadow of your words and contain my umbrage at the suggested whiff of indecency. I feel the prick of self-investigation scanning for the occasions when my instinctual eye ran over the softness of her hip.
Your words are a kick that I quietly absorb, my eyes reach sideways on the pillow to ascertain if the dust cloud over this morning has been dispersed. I must balance your impulses and respect your disease.
Damon Young was winner of The Alzheimers Society Prize in 2019 and was commended in the 2019 Prole Laureate Prize. He has been shortlisted for the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, The Wells Festival Poetry Prize, The Welshpool Poetry Prize, The Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize and The Robert Graves Poetry Prize. His debut short collection was published by Dempsey and Windle in September 2020.Get in Touch with Mechanic