This issue of London Grip New Poetry features poems by:
* M W Bewick *Frank Dullaghan *Anne Ballard *Mary Michaels *Sanjeev Sethi *Ray Miller
* Richard Lewis *Thomas McColl *Stephen Claughton *Phil Kirby * Stuart Pickford
*Heidi Williamson * Sarah James *Kate Noakes * Carol DeVaughn * Jim C Wilson
* P W Bridgman *Brian Docherty * Josh Ekroy *Jock Stein * John Kitchen
* William Oxley *Alwyn Marriage * Neil Curry * Danielle Hope * Peter Daniels
*Keith Nunes *Lauren Smith *Ruth Bidgood * Marilyn Hammick
*Myra Schneider *Shanta Acharya *Caroline Maldonado *Colin Crewdson
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors
Biographical notes on contributors can be found here
A printer-friendly version of London Grip New Poetry can be found at LG new poetry Spring 2018
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M W Bewick: Unsaid What I meant in my last poem was that I knew it would be cold as I waited for the train and that I was expecting to shiver. I mean so many things so unevenly, and my pacing never quells them, and my fingers search for pockets which, in a not- quite-warm-enough coat, are all sewn up. It is autumn, you see, and the sky is crossed with black ribbons and there is a nervousness at the corner where tied-up dogs turn circles by the shop and every hour is vital. The filament trees begin to glow and it feels more important that we lock our doors and take all the calls now in case we become distracted or if the wind picks up and a signal is lost. And so what I meant to say is that it’s okay if you’re not here for the bonfire because I’m not fond of them either. But just know that there is one should you want. Something smouldering, licking into light, or dark, or some other other.
Frank Dullaghan: No Use Blaming the Choices We Make on the Dead Dundalk 1973 Your dead may travel with you but they don’t interfere. They had their chance to fuck up once. You should have yours. Only your grandmother, maybe, if you ask enough times, will listen. Mostly though, you get yourself out of your own messes and try not to let anyone know. When my first serious girlfriend left me after three teenage years of being the man, growing into the man, I wanted her back, I wanted her to get over the excitement of a boy with a motorbike. I wanted her to see where I was going with my books, my leave-this-town beliefs. When that Halloween party broke, in that sudden surprising way it always did, to play chase and kiss, she ran into the street in that scatter of girls, her new boyfriend out of town, and, as the girls peeled off, she took her own direction. Were the dead watching? I joined in the chase, following first the main group, then her best friend, who slowed into a wall shadow as I caught up, opened her arms to me, kissed me deeply, sweetly. And Mary, coming back to where the action was, slowed seeing us, then turned away as if she could hear the dead chuckling. Whatever chance I might have had was too gone by then even for a grandmother and her entourage to fix,
Anne Ballard: Bus Stop The local school has disgorged its seniors. They prowl, large and strident round the fried-chicken-takeaway. A fight hovers: no action but much swearing and shouting. A bike slumps on the pavement: its owner: He said my name man, I’m not fucking talking. The police are never far off, patrolling in twos. These kids, mostly, are harmless but very many, and loud so you tread egg-shells round them, feel intimidated near this stop where their pack leaders herd them. If you cross the road in avoidance they glower and mutter, shuffle like gathering predators. But today I walk through them, part them, brace myself to meet their eyes, thank them. They smile back and quieten as if relieved: one person at least hasn’t made them invisible.
Mary Michaels: Pleasantly Sunny after “Portrait with Parents #2” a short film by Guy Sherwin Mother and father in front of a mirror a wide mirror on the mantelpiece behind them mother’s and father’s backs in the mirror beyond their backs a hand turning the crank of a camera a head occasionally lifting then bending to look through the viewfinder Once then again the father raises a small black Leica and neatly frames us viewers in a snap a man after all has to do something other than smile and look at the mother and remark on the weather which is pleasantly sunny judging from the light coming into the room brightening the side of his head and the cameraman’s shoulder-length hair from the left as the hand turns winding on winding Lips move the lips of the son of the father of the mother with more smiles it would be impossible over the ticker ticker tick of the projector to hear what’s being said.
Sanjeev Sethi: November 21, 2017 “Please let us pay,” entreats my dearest nephew’s significant other at the tony diner as the steward teeter-totters between us with the tab. The whirl- pools in her eyes draw me deeper and deeper into connections. Not known for a heart set in stone I acquiesce, wishing their togetherness the lasting tint of amaranthine grains.
Ray Miller: Back Foot Defensive He’d been a county cricketer, journeyman all-rounder. clothing always cut to a perfect line and length, except that time his wife was possessed of a pair of garden shears. Always on his guard, back foot defensive – I had to find out about him in his case-notes and Wisden. Each pre-season he was treated with a course of ECT, a means of punishing himself for the time he got caught out and those occasions since he’d edged between the slips. It was like going out to bat without gloves, pads, cap or box, when the opposition pacemen were pin-point, electric. Six treatments to a course and when it was all over, the long walk back from the crease to the pavilion. The vision slowly clearing to a spatter of applause, a pat on the shoulder, a memory that never will quite recover. His wife with a pencil and scorecard in hand.
Richard Lewis: Matchday ‘Mum’. It's a word I've never really known how to say. It feels foreign from my lips as if I am emptying a mouth full of rocks onto a wet beach. I'd try, now and again. But it would stall like my Dad's old Rover after it iced up overnight, and I'd watch from the kitchen window in my red scarf as he went to work with a measuring jug of boiling water from the kettle. Swearing as he looked at his watch. I'd watch the other kids use it without consequence, shout it with the matchday horns and plastic footballs bouncing past me down the street. They'd use it to ask for change, discs of 50ps for cans of off brand cola and stickers for their football albums. Searching for shinies of club crests like Charlie Bucket. Pleading for one more hour to kick tennis balls against the wall with their replica shirts hanging loose and unfilled before bathtime and bed. That word. 'Mum’; When I approached its boundaries barbed wires would shoot up over my dad's eyes under the war of his cracked face. Do not enter. Danger ahead. Cracking save, son. It is a word that is mine, and I keep it for when I am alone, explore it cautiously, release it into my empty room as if it were an addiction; watch it create memories I could not possibly have out of the drug motions of its smoke; wonder what it would be like to have it reach its destination, to turn at the final whistle, in the thrill of victory, and plead for one more hour in the sun.
Thomas McColl: Pearl On the bus, mum opened up the shell she held in her hand as if hoping to find a pearl, but, being just a compact, the shell contained instead a mirror which, when she held it up close to her face, displayed one eye – a pearl of perception – that she now proceeded to fence off with kohl. I always knew, as soon as she put make-up on, that pearl was no longer mine but someone else’s. In just a few minutes, we’d arrive at the usual address. Ah well, a few more minutes with mum on the bus (even if she’d already gone on ahead in spirit). She had in her hand her kohl pen and I had in my hand my felt-tip pen and, on my lap, a pile of pocket war comic books (I knew that if mum bought me anything more than the usual barest ration of treats there’d have to be a trade-off). Today, it meant being banished to that damp-filled room with the woodworm-ridden wardrobe, as pockmarked as the dartboard attached to it. But even if life round here was grim, it was nowhere near as grim as it was for the soldiers in my comics who, having all died just thirty years before, and having now been forcibly reanimated with cold and clinical jet-black ink, were once again being massacred – with hot and furious orange ink. And I didn’t give a Gott in Himmel that I was directing felt-tipped fire as much into the hearts of Tommies as Jerries. I just wanted to kill all men (or kill at least as many as I could) in the hours I spent going mad in that room, in front of a wounded wardrobe – peppered with pockmarks (comic-book-sized bullet holes) – my mind now as infected and damaged as the wood.
Stephen Claughton: Your Funeral She was funny about funerals, had Dad shuffled off with the minimum of fuss, after his heart-attack, then refused to attend her sister’s (Scotland being too far), despite all those lectures we had about keeping the family close. She must have been haunted by something more than death to have tried to dodge her own by leaving her body to science. It’s your funeral, we joked, forgetting they’re for the bereaved and it’s we who’d be left in limbo, until they released the remains. When, in the end, the hospital wouldn’t take her (no point with dementia, they said: the brain doesn’t make any sense), we did the best we could to let her have the last word, arranging a simple send-off: no clergy, no eulogy, no wake, just our own choice of music and readings and only the family there to witness that glitch at the close, which I know she would have hated, when “Nimrod” played on a loop kept everyone in their seats, only stopping when I stood up — like a game of un-musical chairs.
Phil Kirby: Undersong We walk in open land that someone chose to call a park, which falls towards where once a railway ran. Your mother gone in March, our idle conversation falters, lets in spaces which suddenly are filled with birds, their endless songs, as if to herald Spring. We wonder that the sound becomes so strong and loud when the throat is so small, the body weighing nothing; and that the echo carries on so far into the distance.
Stuart Pickford: Flying Visit We scrat about in nettles, the pickings small and dull. The tree had given up its nuts, open husks like hands saying, Where have you two been? Well, there was the funeral followed by your silly stroke. But here you are telling me to throw a stick to get them. Your carrier’s thin as mine. We drift along the field’s edge. Our next tree offers its fruit from shells split in readiness; And just a few feet, you note. We pinch out glossy threes. Our palms brag the fattest. Bags have put on weight. You slip your arm through mine to head back to the bungalow, our way dotted by a robin. Driving north, I vow this time to spend an hour on a recipe for your next visit at Christmas; my fingers tingling on the wheel, barbs pricking under the skin.
Heidi Williamson: Take place “our fleeting lives do not simply ‘happen’ and vanish – they take place” Jane Hirshfield When we left, we left it all: the surface, the current, the stalling clouds. When we left we took it all: the touch of each droplet from first to last. When we left, we left it all: the hazel, the spruce, the Scots pine, the aspen. When we left we took it all: skyscapes and treescapes that frame the season. When we left, we left it all: the bracken, the cabins, the pathways of water. When we left, we took it all: the hollows, chill soil, ice air and snowfall. When we left, we left it all: angular boulders with ashy thin grasses. When we left we took it all: the scent of just-rained-on expanding the stonework. When we left, we left it all: pine martins, red deer, herons and osprey. When we left, we took it all: shell-shapes of supple islands of shingle. When we left, we left it all: the mirror of shadows, fern fronds on hillsides. When we left we took it all: the bend in the loch we can’t see beyond.
Sarah James: Our Street (i) No. 8 is left parcels. No. 20, two figures gazing from an upstairs window. Opposite, tabby cat and green Fiesta. I think it’s the postman who whistles Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah every morning. A ghost plays Paradise late at night. Sometimes, shopping in Morrisons, I almost recognise faces. (ii) I sleep through the morning whistle, wake to blue lights and a siren. No. 20: shapes at the window downstairs. Much later, the same silhouettes walking through a blood-orange sky, to knock opposite. Other cars clustered by the tabby cat’s drive. (iii) Our glances meet, as she picks a fish pie from the supermarket’s chill cabinet. I recognise her pain, then her face. Jean prefers homemade but sharing with the cat is not the same as sharing was with Alan. Perhaps, she ventures, I might like to come over for tea and cake? I nod. Wedges of dislodged ice fall from the cabinet door, even as it closes.
Kate Noakes: Being someone’s cherie Once lost, long held, longed for unattainable, the thing about being someone’s cherie is that most people never discover they are someone’s cherie secreted by their old love in the ash of unrealized ambitions to cross Russia by train, run marathons, fly but for those of us cheries who do the rekindling’s all consuming. We burn, are more aflame than we could ever tinder. Being someone’s cherie has no room for a cool centre. It’s a sizzle a sear right to the heart, no tenderizing in this blaze, no marinade to this fire. It’s a flash fry right onto the plate and I am ravenous, so this someone’s cherie I surprise myself.
Kate Noakes: How to ward off the sky have the crows scream at thunder a caw is a caw is a caw, rolling let the seagulls wheel before shelter white flash, a squawk in the blue black leave my burnt face at the window fat rain, my tears lost, cooling a cry is a cry is bring wood pigeon calling dawn again a coo, soothing and the blackbird to chorus clean air a trill is a trill is a thrill.
Carol DeVaughn: London Fields with Crows A silent canopy of black overhead – the sudden crows eclipse the noonday sun, bring a rush of twilight, neither dawn nor dusk, an atmosphere of first causes. I stare at the crows, hear someone piping: Yes, they live here, high up, build their nests from twigs, moss, scraps of cloth. He goes on: filial piety, mating for life. His words begin to veer, stagger, knock against the air, looking for a place to hide, not wanting to be spoken. The crows hover, draw me into their world where watching and listening take over: I picture van Gogh in Auvers not long before he died his wheatfield with crows their flight path haphazard though his field of wheat shines his sky swirls light and dark blue his green path feels innocent, untried. Perhaps in that field, sixty feet up, there’s part of a shirt, bits of straw hat, a broken paintbrush … Suddenly the canopy of black splits open – light streaks the fabric as the crows fly up, leaving absences of themselves, breaking their silence. I can’t tell which came first: the streaks of light or their caws; and which I prefer: the silent murder with its mystery or thoughts of a treetop home for socks that have walked miles, slept rough; torn scarves, threadbare gloves for all ages, persuasions – lost and found.
Jim C Wilson: The Dry Hibiscus Remembering how a kiss needed courage, the Spanish gardener rose at dawn, before the mountain tops were rimmed with sun. He loved to tend the flowers when moss-cool shadow reached out from the cypresses. Remembering the first brief touch of fingers (and was it accidental?) the Spanish gardener set to work: water for the dry hibiscus, its petals curling, red as blood. He found it easier to toil than think, but could not help but pluck one bloom, recalling how the garden shone beneath an April moon. Late afternoon, the red looked more like rust; an evening wind blew dust in from the fields.
P W Bridgman: Lych Gate And Yews: A Tableau Vivant You’ll often see ’em ’uddled in rows, leading to t’entrances of country churches, or lych gates. Yew trees, I mean. This factoid lands unbidden today as, indeed, do so many on their weekly outings. She’s the boys’ maiden great-auntie from Cleckheaton, West Yorks. Olivia. Olivia Irene Thwaites. Or, “Auntie Olivia Oblivia” as they sometimes call her. Bloody hell. Something boring’s always tumbling out. She can’t remember their names from Sunday to Sunday, but she knows two dozen George Formby songs by heart. If you could see what I can see, When I’m cleanin’ windas … It’s such a bother. They slump, every week-end, into the back seat of their dad’s Renault Clio, their scowls clouding the stuffy air inside as they drive, yet again, to the home to pick her up. (Auntie Olivia Oblivia was placed in Gloucestershire so there would be family nearby.) The boys wonder: What kind of a home has a “the”? Not theirs, that’s certain. These are mean boys. “Here it comes,” one says to the other, “Total eclipse of the sun.” With a carer’s assistance, and dressed as always in the same tracksuit and trainers, she manoeuvres her enormous pink behind into the front seat next to their dad, squealing like a gigantic, bathed and powdered sow: Ooooo! Off we go! Isn’t this just grand? Their dad looks over his shoulder at them, gives them that don’t-you-dare-say-it look. Their eyes roll and cross, starved of screen. As they trace scenic B-roads in the Clio, passing through Chipping Campden and onward, past Stow-on-the-Wold, past Guiting Power, more factoids are offered up: Pagans started it. The Christians took it up. Keep cattle from wandering into the church, they do, those yews. Evidently. “Mm-hmm,” her nephew, the boys’ father, hums. Still nodding, he glances at his watch, gears down, then accelerates through another roundabout. They don’t like yews, them cattle. Evidently. “Fascinating,” their dad answers, endlessly patient, endlessly enthusiastic. “I’ll guess you didn’t know that before, did you, boys?” No response. Then, some miles on, he spots something. The Vauxhall pulls over sharply, rolling to a halt on a verge in Painswick, in New Street in fact, near the entrance to the pathway through the churchyard. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin presides in stately dominion over the churchyard’s expansive green lawns, the stern, admonitory forefinger of its spire pointing heavenward. One of its several surrounding yewy colonnades can be seen to frame the lych gate from where they have halted. “Shall we wander in and have a look?” their dad asks, turning to Auntie Olivia Oblivia and unfastening his seatbelt. Oh no! I should never have brought it up! She says it in a panicky voice, her face crumpling unexpectedly into uncontrollable sobbing. “What is it, Auntie?” their dad asks, bewildered and helpless. There is no consoling her. Her eyes and nose are running freely, her words now unintelligible, folded irretrievably into the dark mystery of her grieving. The mean boys worry in the back seat: Did she hear what they’d been saying? Their own chins begin to tremble. In time she settles, at least a bit. The big sofa cushion that is her bosom heaves a little less, her breathing becomes more regular. There is no more kibitzing in the back seat. The boys’ dad, stricken, rubs Olivia’s back, hands her more tissues. At last she squeaks out something discernible between the nose-blows and the fresh sobs— something about when she was a schoolgirl in Pontefract, something about mean girls and relentless teasing. She gets more out, between big sighs and more sobs— about being condemned by her weight never to marry. She continues, haltingly, about the teasing, about schoolgirls saying that yew trees have been planted in churchyards all over England, for centuries, to keep cows like her well clear of the altar and, thus, of the marriage bed. Her sobbing returns, but quietly. And in the rear seat of the Vauxhall, everything has gone a watery white. The boys’ burning eyes are filled with salt (of their own bodies’ manufacture, evidently). Still, and at long last: They can see what she can see, When she’s cleanin’ windas …
Brian Docherty: Serenity after John Nash, Window Plants Kim could act better than most of the muppets in Soapland, a magnet for weak foolish men like my Nigel; I was more hurt by her deceit till I knew how to deal with the pair of them. You know what I mean, don’t you Tiger. Sometime you can let things go, warn people off, sometimes scratch them a bit, or a lot, sometimes you just have to fight to a finish. Why do you think my plants grow so tall? Not just because you fertilise them, Tiger, but because of the soil, and all its nutrients. The old story about graves & roses is true. But I’ve never liked roses, even as presents, not even when I was young and beautiful. I am still beautiful on the inside, but also serene, because I have only one secret, and that is displayed for all the world to see, even the vulgarly curious, who look in, notice only an old woman, her cat and her canary, never wonder why my pot plants are so red. My geraniums are 40 years old, still vigorous, they might outlive me, and you as well Tiger; the police & Insurance man pried and poked, those cheating hearts right under their noses.
Brian Docherty: Resident Alien This morning (your time) I woke up in Rio. I don’t recall flying down here, or how I made friends with the python in the bath, who gave me the bucket of live crabs, why I was reading a script for EastEnders before I fell asleep clutching my teddy bear. I know, I’m 400 years old, but I’ve had Bruno since 1903, he’s been everywhere with me. I’ve got friends and family back home, but I can’t go back, now that I’ve got used to this form. I don’t mind being a biped now, I’ve almost got the walk & talky right. I think I was auditioning for a Soap part, I like Brazilian TV, will never do a British Soap again, & I’m taking a long rest from Hollywood. I played myself in six Alien Invasion movies, my family got so upset, made me apologise for the silly dialogue. Me, I got paid for it. I live in Malibu, hang out in Venice Beach, I swear I could stroll down the boardwalk, nobody would notice if I went out as myself, but I prefer to get paid for anything I do, and yes, you’ve seen me in lots of things, and I’ve got Oscars going back to 1930.
Josh Ekroy: this piece of planet earth will fly to the moon just as the moon did eons ago I have said repeatedly that since it is I who initiated this process should we resolve to heave ourselves into the heavens I would guide us through the stratosphere from here to there to our final destination however I have worked night and day heart and soul to keep us grounded and earthed here in the cold healthy waters of this planet whose course cannot fundamentally be altered or diverted from its passage round the sun but I now discover that I suffer from a rare form of travel-sickness which renders movement of any kind impossible much less the navigation through unnumbered stars I am minded that it now should fall to someone else more suited to this enterprise however much I might wish to zoom us through the ozone layer and into outer space alas it is with deep regret that I have to inform you that I shall remain in this vacuum where I intend to evolve into a new moonless species more adaptable perhaps and because of this small setback more self-reliant ready at last to make the leap onto a mineral-rich meteorite
Josh Ekroy: Question Time Why is it taking so long to fly to the moon? The reason is clear it is because the flat-earthers are for ever making difficulties the moon bill is thwarted on every side by moaning anti-mooners who claim that they are merely asking questions about what sort of time capsule we should travel in when in fact they have a secret agenda which is to keep us gravity-bound indefinitely * The reason is that flying to the moon is a more complicated business than the mooners would like you to believe first of all not a time capsule but a rocket capable of accommodating sixty million people has to be constructed somehow but inevitably there will be a time and budget overrun * The reason is that there are many many different ways of travelling to the moon It is simply a question of finding the best way and no no no let me also say this let me also say thirty megaspaceships could be built each with a capacity of two million people or sixty bucketships transporting one million each or one hundred and twenty superlightships carrying half a million and so on the details could all be worked out * The reason it is taking so long is because the moon is made from a sticky substance not unlike like honey which when landed upon would cause people to become rooted to the spot now some may say that since there is little or no gravity on the moon then this is a good thing but I wonder about that and I think it is this tension between adhesion and free flight that has given the chief moonie a bit of a headache * The chief moonie long may she continue in office believes that flying to the moon means flying to the moon
Jock Stein: Driving Mr Albert The journalist Michael Paterniti in 1997 went from New Jersey to California with Einstein’s brain
in a grey duffel bag, along with the 84 year old pathologist who removed his brain in 1955 and
kept at his home for over 40 years, in order to present the brain to Einstein’s grand-daughter Evelyn.
In his account of the journey, he imagined the great man in the car beside him I am going to visit her: a Scot would put it so, relatively speaking, relatively speaking, she is my grand-daughter. ‘Mebbes aye, mebbes no!’ Michael wrote me into this. while a Jewish rebbe’d hope Relatively speaking, relatively speaking I am a parenthesis. that a story’d help you cope Where does ‘this’ translate? with every difficult subject. Relatively speaking, Relatively speaking, Planet Earth, US Interstate, I have a worry with this project: velocity of travel slight, what about poor Evelyn? relatively speaking Relatively speaking, to the speed of light. that’s still a question mark within And who am I, ask you? the author’s brain; after all, Relatively speaking, relatively speaking that is a complex issue, life’s uncertain. You can call about philosophy. We’re position or momentum, relatively speaking, relatively speaking, only my brain is really here. but with persons, better shtum Am I more than just my brain? In fact, her sanity to save, Relatively speaking, relatively speaking, once I was, but then again I’ll just give a gravitational wave.
John Kitchen: I tell myself we are small soft things in a world full of fire & hardness & if you’re scared distracted, bored, ecstatic the bullet hits you all the same our lips were full of mischief and each other too long that had been enough we still hadn’t learned that fate couldn’t care less about anyone certainly in many of the multiple universes it would’ve all worked out but time stalls words disintegrate so I may as well be ruthless accept it my dear we’re both as helpless as newborns
John Kitchen: were I …. he would never be and she probably wouldn’t be either but in her case the alternatives weren’t great and now they seem considerably worse of course we would never have gone the way we did and even if we had we wouldn’t have made such a pig’s ear or do I mean dog’s breakfast and like them I get so hung up on the money though the sums are too great to have meaning the sky after all is a big responsibility and doesn’t everyone deserve but it just goes on division dogma obsession and they all seem so certain when they talk of it being simple well they would wouldn’t they but not if I were
William Oxley: The Surrealism Of Everyday Living The man next to me is thinking about living. I am ? ditto – though it's raining buckets. He knows, as I know, `thinking about living' is the only certain thing he too accepts about me sitting on this sullen bench. We neighbour one another in mutual ignorance: he thinks I could be German or French I that his name is `Len' or 'Terence'. Until he speaks we share nothing at all only the pride of our unimportant thoughts: he thinking how heavy is the rain's fall I that it would be useful for water-sports. But when he rises tall as the sky and opens a golfing brolly and sighs I suspect he is living some sort of a lie, but because of it he will continue to surprise and only cease to be when the mad onion in every head is entirely peeled so that it will never again rain for anyone: not `stair-rods', `buckets' or `cats and dogs', and thinking about living will make more sense with its only idioms the idioms of silence.
Alwyn Marriage: Implicit When an enthusiastic fan asked Eliot if in writing part of the Four Quartets he meant what this reader thought, the great man shrugged and replied, ‘I didn’t, but do now’. The French poet, Paul Verlaine, claimed to prefer the vague to the specific in his poetry – l’Impair, plus vague et plus soluble dans l’air. No one demands to know what the violin was saying in its glorious exuberance of notes, – or even the composer, come to that. So if someone asks me to interpret a slightly opaque passage in a poem I’ve written, I generally reply: If I could have said it any other way there would have been no need to write the poem.
Neil Curry: A Poetry Workshop – Grasmere OK. Let’s see what we’ve got here. She dwelt among th’untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove: A maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love. A violet by a mossy stone Half-hidden from the eye! Fair as a star when only one Is shining in the sky! She lived unknown, and few could know When Lucy ceased to be; But she is in her grave, and oh, The difference to me! Now maybe it’s just me, but I do have a little problem with those plurals in your first two lines.
How is it that there were so many “ways” where she lived, particularly if, as you say, they were
“untrodden”? I don’t quite get that. I don’t see it. And again, you have “springs”. But surely a
river only has one spring, doesn’t it? Yes? By the way, I’ve never heard of a River Dove round
here. There’s one that flows into the Trent, but… You didn’t just call it that to rhyme with “love”
did you? No, well, if you say so… But, more important than that, I am really puzzled by the logic of your next two lines. You see,
if there is nobody to praise her, where are these people who love her coming from – even if there
are only a few of them? You see what I mean? I like the imagery in verse two - very striking. I like the way “half-hidden” follows on from the
“untrodden”. A half-hidden half-rhyme? But this star. If there is only one up there, then it’s
going to be a bit conspicuous, isn’t it? You can’t have it both ways; you’re going to have to
choose. Now in line 9, you’ve repeated that word “few”, and we have the same problem that we had in
verse one. If she is “unknown”, how can these “few” know about her? Are they the same “few”
that cropped up earlier? I do find it rather confusing. I see you have named her. Lucy. Did you know this girl then? No, of course, you are quite right:
none of my business. But in that last line, don’t you think. Mr Wordsworth, that you might be
being just a tad egotistical? You are clearly upset by this, but she’s dead. I mean, she’s in her
grave. That’s quite a difference for her. Now again, this may just be me, but do you really need that exclamation mark at the end? And
I’ve just noticed, you’ve already got two others. We could maybe do without them? What do
you think? Well, perhaps you’d like to bring this back next week, when you’ve had a chance to look at some
of the little issues we’ve met up with here. Ok? Great. No problem.
Danielle Hope: Muddlestop for Not-Work Rail Yes. I remember in the chill of January – Boarding at Blackfriars to journey Two stations south on the morning train – I stood unwontedly all the way. The intercom hissed as the train paused. We thumped yellow buttons. But no door Opened onto the glum platform. What I saw was Herne Hill – only the name And people inside pounded Driver Let Us Out. No response came. A baby wept then An old man wailed Oh God I don’t want To end in Sutton. The train already late, Crept on in a new stop-skipping pattern about which sly Thameslink warned no-one trapped within, all doomed to travel farther And farther towards Merton and Wimbledon.
Danielle Hope: Moving escalator, King’s Cross The escalator tosses us up into the basin of the ticket hall and on through barriers we have time so we join the small crowd standing silently at the plaque where lost tourists and commuters jostle by spilling coffee and free brochures and other November scraps bluster about our feet you press my left hand murmur how lucky we are then the tannoy stutters about a good service on all lines except for Piccadilly and you wonder when it will be the right time to tell me.
Peter Daniels: Answers I’ll tell you what happened, shall I? You lost your ring at King’s Cross, in the canal. A fish found it and swallowed it, I caught the fish and now it’s time to cook and eat it, but you won’t believe me when I show you the answer. Man on the train has lost his cherry from off of his Belgian bun from Gregg’s, it’s on the floor and he hasn’t even noticed. I’m not going to tell him, “Ha ha, you’ve lost your cherry”: what would be the point, as he can’t eat it anyway. I have nothing to tell you, now you’ve lost your way, no special treat, nothing you could swallow: nothing will come of nothing and why would it, it’s never a good time for truth now the gilt is off the gingerbread, no one wants to know. We get to King’s Cross another time: I could tell you where you need to go, but it’s all so confusing and you can’t get anywhere without having to ask all over again, though you’ll be too proud to ask, like most lost men, who won’t be told. Your lost cherries and unvarnished gingerbread might have been the answer you didn’t want to ask for but you want the answer you want, not to be shown what’s the truth. You dropped your ring and now the fish can’t even be bothered to swallow it for you.
Keith Nunes: A night of some darkness the night is dark enough to get lost in the stars aren’t interested in this scrounger of a city sat between ice-cream peaks and sandpaper beach my boot heels are in a loop of echo bouncing off flat-faced lifeless office blocks across the redundant convex road a beret rides on a lanky bent ladder of a man striding like Albert Camus cigarette blazing pocketed hands suited to wearing the 1950s on his frame I halt at a four-way junction tucked in the corner of a cross laid down waiting to be picked up and carried the distance the turbaned taxi driver’s smile draws me over inside the dark is nowhere to be seen
Lauren Smith: He likes to tell me… my calves are not quite toned enough and should taper to a slender ankle with a delicate arched foot but I can run still my personal bests are celebrated with ‘next time’ and ‘if you had’ reminding me the sun will only shine if I try harder when I was 15 years old I learned that I could get surgery on my ears but mum loved the way they stuck out so I kept them mum is self-conscious of the tim tam biscuits on her hips she didn’t see it before but now she knows my partner kisses the dimples on my thighs and says the gap between my teeth looks adorable on me I didn’t see it before but now I know I used to listen to the words written about me but now I write them control is a powerful thing
Ruth Bidgood: Losers Glass emptying again, enjoy your fiction — at least you know what should have been the truth. Yearning achieved the golden transmutation we wink at now, of all those well-tipped losers that, seen refracted in the beer, spank in first past the post, the way they should have done. Like towering carnival giants, your fantasies Imply some pattern that life could not match. Stepping from chatter and dazzle into night and glancing back at you, I sigh, not smile. My alchemy too has worked on tawdry fact; behind your silly boasts the pain is mine.
Ruth Bidgood: Death of an Ant So, brother ant, I have your death in my hand..’Quick acting’, says the ant-powder. I hope that’s true. I have no instinctive dislike of your small glossy frame, your purposeful scuttling. I can hardly call you an undesirable alien. I’m aware of much we could learn from you and yours – your worthy social life, its organised complexity, deep dedication to the common good, endless hard work . Perhaps if you came with just a small band, we could co-exist. But there’s the rub. Below these tiles, with their chink, their hardly visible exit into my hall, your compatriots pullulate. I maintain that this is my house, my space, my land. There are too many of you! So, little brother, and all of your ilk, farewell....
Marilyn Hammick: Moth Overnight it was so warm my skin sought the touch of every, any shift in the air. The lights were out, the radio glowing dimly at 03 20 when I woke, not because the puppy whined, or someone pulled the bathroom light switch, or a small hours driver passed my open window, I woke to the sound of a moth flying, not a flitty dusky moth that dissolves at a touch, or a middle sized black and white winged night flyer, somewhere in the dark, settling, flying, settling. Flying around my room was a palm-sized moth that rested on the sheet and spread its wings, their edges the colour of dust and closer in, hugging its body, patterned, bright, beautiful, and there I was, still and searching for ways to rescue both of us.
Myra Schneider: Deer Day or night they reappear from nowhere, the to and fro of their distress an echo of mine when panic rushes upon me and each time I question, as I did then, how someone who’d dreamt up gardens with mango trees, myrtles and herbs from all over the world, could believe captive deer would enhance such an Eden. Their fleet movements belong to the wilds of hills where they can run unseen, their stillness to privacies in woods, their mystery to forests dense with dark where any human glimpsing a head bearing stately branches, eyes which are softly-lit lamps, would sense the animal innerness Artemis revered. Yet there they were inside a wire enclosure, huddled among spindly trunks with nowhere to hide from children’s squawks or prying adults, jerking again and again into flight, shock shrieking from eyes as they raced from end to end of the world that caged them. That was years ago but I can still feel the pulse of their terror. And isn’t this the fear which drives people who live in places where each moment’s weighty with threat, to rip themselves from their homes, risk their lives in frail boats and trudge through dusty miles of languages whose jabber they can’t understand, clinging to the hope of a life which won’t cage them in dread?
Shanta Acharya: No Land, No Home with acknowledgement to Mahmoud Darwish Those who have no land, no home, washed in like debris on a beach, imagine not a painted ceiling, but a sky promising nothing, not even the company of clouds. Those who have no home, no land expect no ceremony, seek refuge in exchange for all we own – dreams sealed in our hearts, names of loved ones dissolving under the tongue. Those who have no land, no home have no hope that glimmers, no heaven that illuminates – only the freedom to die from longing and exile. Those who have no home, no land tossed between unknowns, transformed into stone, continue to believe in miracles, trusting the universe to take us home. Those who have no land, no home know what it means to be effaced – shorn of a self, turned into ghosts. Emptiness expands to fill our days. Only the wind listens to our secrets, chatters at the edge of shivering coasts. How can we thank the wind for revealing the truth to the trees, sky and seas – a home, a home, a life for a home – crying out for those who have no home?
Caroline Maldonado: Emanuel His name was Emanuel: God is with us. When Boko Haram trashed their home and hacked their child to pieces he and Chinyery packed up their pain with their possessions and put one hope before the other to Libya across the sea to Lampedusa, to Fermo where a Catholic mission took them in. Monkey was the mugger’s cry, a metal post his weapon. Chinyeri gathers her friends around her and sings. Her voice comes from who knows where and goes to some other place. She will wash her man's body ready for burial. She will drink the water she washed him in. July 2016
Colin Crewdson: Fisherman 1. Bait On the blackness of night a voice scribbles its graffiti, just a name this time: his tomb is empty of course, but inventions lie scattered in the dust, in the sneer of history. He lowers his line over the harbour wall hooks shiny with lures: boats noisy with inconsequence draw near, the fish don’t bite. He tries bread. Give me the right hook and I could catch these boats, he thinks. 2. Archimedes’ hook He consults the four winds and the gentle see-through waves, drops his line over the wall into the sea where the lures flash like fish and his hunger growls back at him. The sea walls, plump buttocks in their echoing bath, are slippery with noise; he reels in slowly as the catch struggles, falls off the hook, a commotion as the wooden hull rends, flailing oars, missiles, curses as the soldiers spin down in their shiny war gear, flashing like fish in the swirl.
Shanta Acharya, an internationally published poet, critic, reviewer, scholar is the author of eleven books; her latest is Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, India; 2017). www.shantaacharya.com
Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, The Interpreter’s House and elsewhere. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015. Her pamphlet Family Division was published by in 2015.
MW Bewick‘s first poetry collection, Scarecrow, was published in 2017. He lives in Essex, helps to run Poetry Wivenhoe, and is a co-founder of Dunlin Press.
Ruth Bidgood lives in Powys. Her most recent collection is the double-ended Land-Music/Black Mountains, which includes an essay by Matthew Jarvis.
P.W. Bridgman writes poetry and short fiction from Vancouver, Canada. His work hasb een published in The Honest Ulsterman, The Glasgow Review of Books, Ars Medica,The Moth Magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, Litro UK, Litro NY, Praxis, PiF Magazine, Grain, Ascent Aspirations, The Antigonish Review, The New Orphic Review,Easy Street, London Grip, A New Ulster, Section 8 Magazine, Mulberry Fork Review, Aerodrome and other literary periodicals and e-zines. You may learn more about P.W.Bridgman by visiting his website at www.pwbridgman.ca.
Stephen Claughton’s poems have previously appeared in London Grip and other magazines, in print and on line, including Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, Magma, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Poetry Shed and The Warwick Review.
Colin Crewdson lives in Devon; his poems tend to reflect his visits to other countries.
Neil Curry‘s most recent collection Some Letters Never Sent was published by Enitharmon Press.
Peter Daniels has two poetry collections, Counting Eggs (Mulfran Press, 2012) and A Season in Eden (Gatehouse Press, 2016). His translations of Vladislav Khodasevich from Russian appeared from Angel Classics in 2013.
Carol DeVaughn is an American-born poet who has made London her home for many years. Her work has won several prizes, including a Bridport in 2012, and is published in magazines and on-line.
Brian Docherty lives on the Sussex coast as part of a growing community of writers, artists & musicians. His most recent books are In My Dreams, Again (Penniless Press, 2017) and Only In St. Leonards:A Year On The Marina (Special Sorts Press, 2017).
Previously the editor of Seam and co-founder of the Essex Poetry Festival, Frank Dullaghan now lives in Dubai. He was commissioned to provide the final translations (from literal ones) for the Arabic poems of HH Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai and PM of UAE. These poems were published in a bilingual book, Flashes of Verse’ in 2014. His 4th collection Lifting the Latch will be published by Cinnamon Press in May 2018 and will include this poem.
Josh Ekroy’s collection Ways to Build a Roadblock is published by Nine Arches Press. His poems have appeared in The Forward Anthology and the Best of British Poetry (Salt).
Marilyn Hammick writes (and reads) while travelling, during still moments at home in England and France, recalling a childhood in New Zealand and years living in Iran. Other times she can be found stitching, walking or on her yoga mat.
Danielle Hope is a widely published poet, a translator of Italian poetry and a doctor, originally from Lancashire, now living in London. She has 4 collections of poetry (all Rockingham Press), her latest, Mrs Uomo’s Yearbook, charts struggles with life’s complexities, ridiculous and rickety. In PN Review Leah Fritz highlights her ability to use form or not, and concludes that Mrs Uomo’s Yearbook is an elegantly accomplished collection – one for the books. Penelope Shuttle says there’s a beautifully-steady and cleanly-stated respect for and questioning of life. Danielle also runs popular poetry workshops and is judge for the Torbay Poetry Competition in 2018. www.daniellehope.org
Sarah James is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor. Her latest poetry collection is plenty-fish from Nine Arches Press and a pamphlet How to Grow Matches is forthcoming from Against The Grain Press in spring 2018 . Winner of the Overton Poetry Prize 2015, her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she runs the poetry and flash fiction imprint, V. Press.
Phil Kirby spent most of his working life as an English teacher. His first collection, Watermarks (Arrowhead) is ‘sold out’, though the last few copies are available by contacting him. His new collection, The Third History has just been published by Lapwing Publications.
John Kitchen is based in Leicester. He writes plays and poems. The latter have been published in HCE, IS &T, From Dusk to Dawn and others. He has been read on Radio 3 by Imogen Stubbs.
Richard Lewis is a writer from Swansea currently living and working in Cardiff. He won 2nd prize in the 2015 Terry Hetherington Young Writers Award, and is currently working on completion of his first poetry collection.
Thomas McColl lives in London, and his poems have been published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Fat Damsel, Prole and Ink, Sweat and Tears,and in anthologies by Hearing Eye, Flarestack, Eyewear and Shoestring Press. His first full collection of poetry and flash fiction, entitled Being With Me Will Help You Learn, is out now with Listen Softly London Press.
Caroline Maldonado is a poet and translator. Her published work has appeared in Shearsman, The Long Poem Magazine, Tears in the Fence, Poetry Salzburg Review amongst other magazines and anthologies. Publications include Your call keeps us awake, a co-translation with Allen Prowle from Italian of poems by Rocco Scotellaro (Smokestack Books 2013), What they say in Avenale (Indigo Dreams Publishing 2014) and forthcoming Isabella (Smokestack Books 2019)
Alwyn Marriage’s ten books include poetry, non-fiction and, recently, a novel (Rapeseed). She’s widely represented in magazines, anthologies and on-line and gives readings internationally. Formerly a university philosophy lecturer, Director of two international NGOs and a Rockefeller Scholar, she’s currently Managing Editor of Oversteps Books and a research fellow at Surrey University. www.marriages.me.uk/alwyn
Mary Michaels has lived most of her life in London. Her work has appeared in a wide range of magazines and her collection The Shape of the Rock was selected for the ‘Alternative Next Generation’ list. Her most recent poetry pamphlet is Caret Mark, (Hearing Eye) following two prose collections, Squint and My Life in Films. She is also widely known for her reviews and articles on contemporary poets.
Ray Miller describes himself as a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter, faithful husband for 37 years. Life’s been a disappointment.
Kate Noakes’ most recent collection is Paris, Stage Left (Eyewear, 2017). Her next The Filthy Quiet is due from Parthian later this year. She was elected to the Welsh Academy of Letters in 2011 and her website (boomslangpoetry.blogspot.com) is archived by the National Library of Wales. She lives in London.
Keith Nunes is a Citizen of the World who is spending his life writing about everything imaginable with unbounded enthusiasm. Sometimes he’s published, sometimes he has to ride the ‘no thanks’ and scribble on.
William Oxley was born in Manchester. His poems have been published in magazines and journals as diverse as The New York Times, The Observer, The Spectator, The Independent, Agenda, Acumen, The London Magazine and Poetry Ireland Review. A study of his poetry, The Romantic Imagination appeared in 2005 from Poetry Salzburg. His most recent volumes are ISCA – Exeter Moments (Ember Press 2013) and Poems from the Divan of Hafez (translated from the Persian with Parvin Loloi)(Acumen Publications, 2013). His Collected and New Poems came from Rockingham Press in 2014, and Walking Sequence & Other Poems (Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2015). He has given readings throughout the UK, as well as abroad in Nepal, Antibes and elsewhere.
Stuart Pickford works as a teacher in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. His latest book is Swimming with Jellyfish published last year by smith/doorstop.
Myra Schneider’s most recent collection is The Door to Colour (Enitharmon 2014) . Her pamphlet, Persephone in Finsbury Park, came out in 2016 from Second Light Publications. A new collection is due in the autumn from Ward Wood publishing. Other publications include books about personal writing and fiction for young people. She is consultant to the Second Light Network and a Poetry School tutor in London
Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). A Best of the Net 2017 nominee, his poems are in venues around the world: Mad Swirl, The Stray Branch, Ann Arbor Review, Empty Mirror, First Literary Review-East, Right Hand Pointing, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Synesthesia Anthology: 2013-2017, Rasputin: A Poetry Thread Anthology, Scarlet Leaf Review, Peeking Cat Anthology 2017, Communicators League, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.
Lauren J Smith is a 24-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand. Her recent poetry publications can be found in Takahe magazine (Issue 91, 2017) and NZMSJ (Issue 25, 2017). In addition to writing poetry, she is studying to be a doctor at the University of Otago.
Jock Stein is a piper and preacher from East Lothian. He brings to his poetry experience of the Sheffield steel industry, life in East Africa, directing a conference centre, a sabbatical in Hungary, and the politics of Scotland today. He writes poetry in many styles, serious and quirky.
Heidi Williamson is a poetry surgeon for The Poetry Society and mentors poets by Skype worldwide for The Writing Coach and The Poetry School. The Print Museum (Bloodaxe) won the 2016 East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. Electric Shadow (Bloodaxe,2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation & shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre rize. www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com
Jim C Wilson lives in Gullane, East Lothian. His writing has been widely published for 35 years. He has been Writer in Residence for Stirling District and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Napier University and Edinburgh University. He has taught his Poetry in Practice sessions at Edinburgh University since 1994. His latest poetry collection is Come Close and Listen (Greenwich Exchange). More information at www.jimcwilson.com