The Summer 2019 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:
* Ceinwen Haydon * Kathryn Southworth * Tom Sommerville * Joan Michelson * Stuart Gunter
* Elizabeth Smither * Gillie Robic * Claudia Court * Mat Riches * Gareth Culshaw * Brian Docherty
* Stuart Pickford * Jane Frank * Geraldine Gould * Michael O’Brien * Phil Wood *Frances Jackson
* Teoti Jardine * Sue Wallace-Shaddad * Ian C Smith * Thomas Calder: * Jan Hutchison
* Keith Howden * Oliver Comins * Tim Love * Jane McLaughlin * Anne Ballard * Hilary Mellon
* Glenn Hubbard * Stuart Handysides * Andrew Shields
* Jack Shaw * Keith Nunes * Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors
Biographical notes on contributors can be found here
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LG New Poetry Summer 2019
London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December
SUBMISSIONS: please send up to THREE poems plus a brief bio to email@example.com
Poems should be in a SINGLE Word attachment or else included in the message body
Our current submission windows are: December-January, March-April, July only & September-October
Many of the poems in this issue are set, deceptively, in mundane domestic surroundings – a living room glimpsed from a train, a hallway full of boxes packed and ready for a move, a dining table with remnants of an interrupted meal, a doorstep being approached by an unwanted caller. The poetic imaginations of – among others – Elizabeth Smither, Gareth Culshaw, Jane Frank and Stuart Handysides conjure up unsettling possibilities lying behind very ordinary doors.
Elsewhere, readers will find a clutch of poems about writing poetry. This is a theme that is sometimes over-used but on this occasion we are confident that Tom Sommerville, Joan Michelson and Stuart Gunter have approached the subject with freshness and insight.
To precede all the above, our selection begins with a piece of out and out fantasy from Ceinwen Haydon – although our readers should easily discern that this is speculative fiction with a satirical edge.
We conclude with a small but important house-keeping notice. Due to the editor’s travel plans, the submission window for the next issue of London Grip New Poetry will consist only of the month of July so we ask potential contributors please to refrain from filling up our inbox during June.
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Ceinwen Haydon: Time-Traveller B
The Secret Life of Time-Traveller B You long for everything you’re not, attributes you haven’t got. A slim waist would be nice, laced corset-tight, cossetted in silk, and frilled thongs to ride high over your manly buns and thighs. Your deficient height (five foot eight though not short – is quite small), could sway on shapely heels, a fetish to deliberate. Leather gloves could clutch and rub the rough snake beneath your truss as you think of nanny. She smacked you for your rudeness when you panted aloud your boyish desire. Most of all, you’d kill for a lovely head of curls. Then maybe Mam-ma would love you, put down her paintbrush, cuddle you, smile and listen to tunes from your tone-deaf soul. . . Time-Traveller B at Work All the bikes and red buses in London will not assist your escape. Your reputation stalks you, in and out of your enclaves, paths of division and hate. Your loose tongue, acid mind, pallid morals and pointless, priapic dick drive trucks of chaos and ruckus through reasoned debate. Yet know this, you will not escape. Voters are watching America’s Forty-Five: they’re wising up to dangers that lurk under a crass hair-cut. . . Time-Traveller B as Politician The trick is in the oat bran ingested each day to clean your blood, move your bowels, function as a human should. Waste leaves as fast as it builds, in you too fast what you stuff in your mouth passes, hurtled by bursts of gas leaves no nutrition only bottomless greed for ballast to fill holes and vacant places.
Kathryn Southworth: Frailty Where the shale slides dangerously He never dropped the ball before — even when greasy with dew or mud — his grasp was sure. He never dropped the ball before — his run was effortless, he’d dodge and weave as easily as walking through a door. He never dropped the ball before — he’d sail across the line and dive in triumph and be up for more. He never dropped the ball before. Wary of rubble and falling stones But after that, the possibility was always there, and though his skills and flair were still unquestioned he’d come to fear. There was so much to lose — how could he dare embrace the moment, like a longed-for child, once he had learned to care? Like water as it nears the weir speeds up, then hangs a moment — the loss would be too much to bear. He hears the weir. The path narrowing He was the perfect strategist, as they all said, possessed a football brain — without the legs to carry him, leave all the rest for dead. Like a wise grandfather, to mentor was his forte, no hands-on parenting, no heavy lifts, no plunging in the fray. He wasn’t up for kicking in the air and chasing for the catch — the game that he’d prepare was winding down the clock. The way blocked at last He hadn’t dropped the ball before, had never missed a pass, forgot a place, until the curving strands of mind began to tear. He hadn’t missed a beat till when he lost the rhythm of his thoughts, shut down the irksome effort to remember them. He hadn’t looked for peace that comes from wanting nothing any more — that last release. He never dropped the ball before. The italicized sub-headings are taken from lines in Roethke’s poem “Journey into the interior”.
Tom Sommerville: Dry Thoughts In A Dry Season …and not breed one work that wakes Where are the right words? The words have all gone: the images blanked, but the clichés remain, leitmotifs have lain out too long in the sun. I wish some kind muse would send my roots rain. I think that my poetry’s a race that has run; I can’t even sonnetise my nagging pain. I’ve got it so bad, that a measly pantoum might be enough to bring light to my gloom. In the stanza above, I broke all the rules, iambics crumbled under my awful stress. I belong among charlatans, dunces and fools; line by line I keep on compounding the mess. I know lots of words, and all the right tools but the end results don’t now effervesce. Once I was fluent, but fluency collapses: old age playing hell with my synapses. What a moan, you might say, and you would be right; but don’t be too smug, it could happen to you. All I want is a theme, a phrase, an insight, a mellifluous sound, a shrewd aperçu, a flash of pure unexpected delight: a last hurrah before saying adieu. And, as a wee extra, some fire in the belly like Yeats and Macdiarmid but maybe not Shelley . Who will I learn from? Perhaps Ozymandias, I know what I said, don’t look so quizzical. There’s Andrew Marvell’s eloquent randiness. and Keats, a star, but awfully pthisical. Swinburne, perhaps for metrical handiness. John Donne, of course, so sexily physical— but, my god, when he got religion, he turned from an eagle to a wood pigeon. I hear you all thinking what dreadful drivel: such angst because your muse did a runner, all woe-is -me-ness and deplorable snivel, you sound like an archetypal Scotch scunner. Write or don’t write, be decisive, don’t swivel. Suck up to your muse; you seem to shun her. As the man said, I can’t go on…I’ll go on. I’ll heed good advice…blah, blah and so on.
Joan Michelson: Tom’s Poem (Year Two Class Assignment) Tom (seven) had to write a poem about autumn. Katy (mum) found it sad while Lars (dad) loved it for its perfect mood of Swedish. When I asked Tom if I could hear it, he said, ‘If you like I could read it now.’ At the moment he was on his scooter but we were nearly at his front door. However, first he had to demonstrate the features of his Razor A3 scooter. He hurled it down and kicked it hard to scratch against the asphalt. He righted it, then edged the fender in to scratch against the front brick wall. He explained, ‘It’s much more cooler. You bang up your scooter so it looks really battered.’ I got the schoolyard picture. And now the door was opened and Tom push-rode his scooter in. He dropped it beside the couch. Then he took Katy’s phone to read his poem out to me. It was fine tuned music. The words crescendo-ed from the short vowels in autumn-orange-fall-down—flowers to the high i in his last line, Flowers die. Tom said it wasn’t thought. He just wrote it fast.
Stuart Gunter: What I Think About When I Think About Writing For Ron Smith & Brady Earnhart The blank page. The sharpened pencil. My mind wanders right away. To the woodpile where the old axe leans against the stump, ready for me to split some fatwood. What shape will this poem take? Will it be depressed, like Ignatow’s, or will the reader read it like it’s supposed to be read: Collins urging us to waterski across its surface? No, I don’t think about that. I think about Carver’s living room furniture out on the lawn and why didn’t I think of that first? Or Dr Johnson and his broken table. My main man Gilbert wants it to resemble a rectangle. A rectangle with something to say. I think about everything else other than what the writing is doing. The clouds in the sky. The moon. Especially the moon. So, I will write this rectangle, put it in the drawer for a while, send it to my friend Brady for editing and excising, and then send it off into the ether, to be accepted or most likely rejected, and then, perhaps, just maybe, read by dozens and dozens.
Elizabeth Smither: Day after a poetry reading I sit in the hotel dining room eating a late breakfast. French toast, coffee, and a plate glass window to look through at a yellow tree whose leaves seem like a payment in gold for poetry. But here comes the real payment: two ladies who must have been in the audience when eight poets had ten minutes each (two went over, the last was short-changed, the first discursive) but nothing matters, everything is obliterated each poem gone to make a flowing stream. The two ladies smile at me and wave and I wave back as if poetry could be called down like rain. Elizabeth Smither: Family in a London suburb From the passing train I cannot tell whether it is a sofa they are sitting on or a divan five backs, five heads in a row from the largest to the smallest lined up in a row to be briefed by the father who stands in front of them. Perhaps he has an invisible mantelpiece (no coal in the grate, they are poor– being lined up suggests this: a battle plan to get through the day unscathed). The train goes swiftly past. It is shabby too running on its rails between house backs and allotments with vegetables and weeds litter and skips, soil that is said to be acid and yet I find myself thinking of Rodin’s ‘Le Penseur’. Were there time the father might hand them food while they listened grapes and water melon, croissants and jam a cup of milky coffee from a cafetiere as they angled their bodies to lie like Romans.
Gillie Robic: she said it was ok that she just left the room when her brother shouted at his little daughter that she left the house when her father hit her mother turned on her she said it was ok that she left her job when the boss made more than a pass that she left her partner when things became messy she said that was ok but when she brought food for her child she would find it rotting beside the empties on her next visit she said being homeless was ok but she missed being able to cook that she could stay on night buses or tube it to Heathrow use the clean facilities doze near bored travellers waiting in the warmth she said that was all ok until they stopped turning a blind eye told her to move on not unkindly pushing her bags along with her as she left she said it would be ok as soon as she could get lost documents replaced lost benefits renewed lost digs re-assigned her lost life resumed but found she could not imagine it
Claudia Court: Thinking without Trace The lisping child has early seen that life is seldom fair. But when I reach your age, he cries your age will not be there. The lisping child makes brave attempts to keep his world a womb - force feed him with a sibilant, he’ll spit it on your tomb.
Mat Riches: Settling I bought a telescope to show our child the stars beyond the built-up roofs, training it every night on a cottage by the sea. It’s hard to focus. We’ve been here for six years and find ourselves falling into orbit, then locking in on school routines, familiar commutes and certain mobile signals, and these anchors have us converting lofts to keep the pace with the pinch from new demographic groups, Plywood and Anaglypta curls build up in skips. Our neighbours had their first baby six months ago; half the street watched it come home. We’ll ask the parents its name when we’ve taken down all our scaffolding.
Gareth Culshaw: Packing Up The Light The sky has fallen onto the land. Blocks of blackness shorten the eye. Stars glimpse light, and the moon, aching to reach its other side, moves in slow motion. This is how things are down here, lost in the darkness of hope. Boxes are sellotaped once full. Ornaments dusted, glasses cleaned with fairy liquid. We’re filling the house with boxes of the unknown. Adding weight to the hands. Whispering words that may never be heard. While a sky hedge grows around our view, until it flicks on the stars. And we have to sit and wait, for a council letter to give us a new horizon.
Brian Docherty: A Day Will Come When you have to be good to yourself because nobody else is going to do it, perhaps because there is nobody left, having outlived everyone you ever knew. Or left all your friends & family behind, or because the love of your life is gone, and you have lived without love in your life and you are truly a pilgrim and a stranger. Even if you feel stranded where you live, or imagine yourself trapped in your home, surrounded by things from a previous life, and have a drawer full of still-wrapped objects, Time is now, you are older but not yet old, you could move to the city of your dreams and start again, giving your furniture away isn’t giving yourself away, that comes next year. There will be a next year, and another, who knows who you might meet there, walk on friend, you know the rest of the song and believe someone waits to sing with you. Let yourself be passion-struck by someone, know you are still alive, if they are oblivious, let it wash through you, if they do not want to do this dance, say “At least let us be friends.”
Stuart Pickford: Jigsaw After he’d gone, she noticed the sun moving shapes up the wall; found a jigsaw in a cupboard, a thousand pieces in full colour. Margate Pleasure Beach: endless sand a peroxide blonde, turquoise rolls of waves with frayed edges, children jumping the days of the week. And a pier so long you could walk to Southend. Taking in the fresh air, a pastel couple holding hands, a fisherman casting a line in the deep. She didn’t begin with the four corners, the edges, sorting according to colour. She thought she’d start with the centre where sea and sky were the same pieces. As the sun pinched and pulled shadows, the picture became clearer. She recalled something about the pier being wrecked and the army blowing up the girders. Yes, everything went but, somehow, the end of the pier survived, far out in the greys; like a shelter in the park, fancy bargeboards, spikes of rust. She paused at the last piece of the puzzle, the face of the prom clock. Instead of putting in the hand to tell the time with her arm, she swept it all into the bin.
Jane Frank: Still Life with Captions This evening feels like a date with Braque – lamplight monochrome, bottle and plate tessellated, crumpled napkin broken into glass shards, tablecloth shapes interlocking, overlapping. Until I ate them, the chicken and broccoli were perfectly spaced on the plate. I peeled onions for the sauce that fell in trans- lucent layers like days, but when I diced them they became just a formal element on the page. Even my thoughts are captions in papiers collés: just words in typed letters like Remember? and Wouldn’t it be nice? Perhaps it’s a trick of the light, or wishful thinking, but the salt and pepper shakers are moving slowly now like planets to the edges of space, away from ordered patterns within the confines of this frame.
Geraldine Gould: Getting Beyond All is physics says the physicist. Gravity keeps your feet on the ground, physically intact, relatively speaking. Only the turmoil within reflects what you cannot transform. Force meets reaction, you trundle bravely on. All is psychology says the psychologist. You are the driver and the passenger and the car of dreams. But the vehicle is not moving. You press the pedals from the back seat. There is no direction forward, no direction home. All is love says the song. It’s all you need, there is nothing that can’t be sung. The notes pledge pathos and promises to kind hearts, but you are unseen, unsung. The distant chords remember when all could be redone. All is timing says the clock. The metronome keeps on going, perfect time, but if you miss the beat you miss the beat, out of time, locked in expectations of what used to be. Tick tock.
Michael O’Brien: Translucent Rope Baby Penelope sitting in a tiny tub waiting for her bath and playing with the stream of water coming out of the faucet. A thin translucent rope clear and straight. like an icicle. Penelope keeps trying to grab that rope, her laser hand with magical powers cutting through the rope each time. A magic hand that will not grasp. She can’t comprehend. It’s a liquid that only looks like a solid. Trying to hold, trying to hold. All her aspirations are to grab that ungraspable rope. As you get older, Penelope you’ll encounter many optical illusions. You’ll learn not to put all your hopes into that one Impossible dream. The one that can never be held. I hope not.
Phil Wood: Tides Pools closest to the edge are best. Salt water where the hares – sea slugs – graze on gut weed. Squelchy things shrivel in the sun further up the beach. The latest dad clocks a hermit crab in a periwinkle shell. They can't grow their own, he says. I scoop the squatter into mum's Tupperware before it scarpers. This dad thinks he knows stuff that I don't. They all do. A starfish has no brain, heart or blood. If a predator grabs an arm, it drops off and escapes. It grows another one. Fact. And starfish are not happy out of the water. The tips of the arms curl upwards when they're stressed. The new dad has a mermaid tattoo on his arm. It doesn't look like mum. He's wearing flip-flops. Trip-traps when you clamber barnacled rock and over these slippery tongues of bladderwrack. I should know. I find him a Mermaid's Purse. He's a definite maybe. Like the last one.
Frances Jackson: freshwater mermaids freshwater mermaids discovered in lido announced the local paper one morning in june it did not go down well with the freshly shaven father what a load of twaddle he declared, slamming the paper shut and went back to his overdone toast as if that were that fingers already dark with the words that had so disquieted him he scratched at the the blackened surface with the butter knife but the chlorine would play havoc with their beautiful hair just think how green it would end up said his wife, a silly woman nipping at her coffee bitter no sugar she was trying to lose weight mum, they’re freshwater mermaids not that disney rubbish they don’t have beautiful hair they live in marshes all dank and muddy bet you it’s because of the drought everything’s probably dried up where they’re normally found it was true the ground was parched the grass withered and dry barefoot it hurt to walk across the lawn once her father’s pride and joy
Teoti Jardine: The Edge Where once we felt balanced, leaning towards each other, feeling safe and secure. That security and safety now wrenched from us, leaving no place to balance. I had lived in Christchurch for the past 9 years and wrote this on hearing about the shooting of the people
in their Mosques. The Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue I had visited, and the Linwood Mosque is just around
the corner from where I used to live.
Sue Wallace-Shaddad: Sunday Morning Sunday 1926, painting by Edward Hopper. Head in his hands, the man sits alone on the sidewalk. He hears the rumble of the El in a nearby street but his own— deathly quiet. He replays the image, fixed in slow motion, when bicycle met boy all those years ago— the terrible sound of head hitting road, the stain of red. The rusted frame still haunts the alleyway. He has no hand to hold.
Ian C Smith: Trying not to stare To my shame I walk past a woman sitting in fine rain set in, face lined, hair dark-grey
with silver jewels of raindrops, a low cloud glowering in disapproval day shielding
aircraft skirting nearby Heathrow, shrieking jet traffic invisible. Upright on a rug
spread over a grass verge, gradient gentle to a footpath and busy road, she appears
unaware, jets, lorries slamming by on an overpass, wet tyres’ whine a sound of tomcats
squabbling, rain and diesel fumes sharp in the cold; sits, silent, her few possessions
exposed, saturated. Pregnant to a man not her husband, a betrayer, breaker of promises, of hearts, she
clings to belief in him because she has no-one else, waits, interest in life ebbing, a
fallen lady fell from the louring sky. He said they would meet here. He is hours late.
He will never come. A gipsy beggar, face trickling with rain, one of John Clare’s unprotected race, hitch-
hiking to the north, argued with a lorry driver who expected her to pay for the ride
with her body. He pulled over, swearing, she scrambled free. Silver lights glinting in
dark hair, dark eyes furious, nostrils flared, she breathes battlefield cordite. Illegal, evicted, she has come to a stop, sodden, ill, in pain, broke, bereft of language
skill, ideas. She vows never to return home, and if she changed her mind, could
never find her suffering family, scattered, dislocated, gone. Stoic, she remains here
until she collapses. This woman on a wet rug demented by grief, careworn face frozen in anguish, breath
catching but, alas, continuing, oblivious to rain, the cold, to all exposure, remembers
her child who was killed here, a time of innocence, tears misery mingling with soft
rainfall. Pinpricks of diamonds adorn a woman’s greying hair. She runs from the havoc of
marriage, weary, putting miles of road between her and the old life, must remain
hidden, but the going is hard, situation grave, with much hardship ahead. An earthy smell rain releases from soil and vegetation mixed with industrial fumes
stir this resting woman’s memory. She has left the melancholy north to seek better
paid, brighter work in the south, expectation high. Rain stops. Skies will be blue
again. There is no wind. She shall reach shelter tonight, setbacks dealt with.
Thomas Calder: The Malady of Melody My mother was a strict, steely woman. The most passionate advice she ever gave was Never, Ever, Fall in love with a Tenor. They’ll spend their entire lives, And all the families money Fighting their way up the musical ladder. Higher and higher up the scales, And further away from the relationship. And believe me, They always want help getting down. He will have has his way with you, Consume your womanhood during the intermission, And toss you aside, Before the encore. Precious child, If you simply cannot escape The seductive magnetism Of the musical breed, Please, I implore You, At least find yourself a nice, humble Bagpipe player.
Jan Hutchison: My Mother as an Almond Tree Her Disappointment The almond tree leaning across the fence in Hector Street blossom spilling from its shoulders could be my mother on the day I left home for good the wind rose a little flowers blotted or rather smudged every space a stalk tripped me up Her Cunning Because my mother fetched a silver knife because she cut a groove on the trunk of an almond tree because she slid a bud with a bitter scent inside that groove I remembered looking up at the branches my mother was minus one daughter Her Endurance My mother would be an almond tree and bear another daughter yet the sun had already gone to a northern country I said to her my story shall be your story
Keith Howden: Apples for a dying man ‘He loves to sit among his apple trees.’ Alice told spreading orchards to cheer his illness. ‘Out in his summer-house.’ Arthur was watching from his lawn’s square a match of wind and bloom. Six lean trees were losing badly in an enclosure of concrete, on that poor pitch, for his last season’s game. Fragile, immature blossom was being kicked to defeat. His hair had greyed, his cheeks sunk and thinned, the bull-neck lost its force. He nodded at the trees’ flimsy bloom.’ If you come round a bit later, I’ll give you some fruit.’ Wind butting urban sunshine culled unfruiting seed. Sucking at bottled stout for his health, he raised his glass to pour badly, spilling liberal froth that rode towards the trees. Bottle and flower conflicted in his mood. ‘Guinness is good. What did I win but relegation?’ Seen from his shelter, the match had run to its result. The bitter question blew from his mouth, like the froth among the dead leaves and the birdshit, latent to spur a richer life. Maybe. Keith Howden: Blackberry and apple pie ‘He can have his home-grown apples with them –‘ She poured the berries slowly and they ran like blood in an enamelled sunstream, pulsed liquid and uncurdled, from one bag to another. ‘Yes, it’s cancer.’ Thin plastic squealed where her fingers fought. ‘Blackberry and apple pie.’ Her anger held all malignant nature in garotte. She screwed the neck, with deliberation tightened it, to burst the berries’ blood. Ribbons of juice spurted a profusion for vicious lubricant to her mood. ‘With his own apples –‘ Jewelled sun lurched on fruit debauched, bulging as she strained to scorpion anger where she arched and stung herself. Under her blenched hand, swollen and tight, the red membrane burst to spurt slush fruit. I heard her scream of anger the distending bag released. ‘What use are fucking blackberries to him –‘
Oliver Comins: Bramble Jelly For Nell… Bramble jelly is not the same as blackberry jam. There are no pips and roughage is almost non-existent, but a smear on fresh bread, still warm from the oven, leaves me purring. You pick fruit in moderation, to cook at home upon returning, where your scratched fingers might smart, squeezing each lemon. Next, an aroma of hot berries is allowed to permeate the whole house. After slow oozing overnight through muslin, a purée of pulp and seed remains. Underneath, in a saucepan, some purple juice glints, waiting for its dose of sugar, heat from a gentle flame.
Tim Love: A night out Just as a weed's only a flower in the wrong place, so ugliness just needs the right setting to blossom. A flash of flesh goes a long way, especially after a drink or two. So I avoid skin cancer with her in a dingy pub that somehow survived the smoking laws. I let the colours drain from the stained glass windows. By the time we've finished talking about Tangerine Dream and Clockwork Orange it's sunset everywhere. Her eyeballs glow yellow, like cold creamy rice pudding, burnt round the edges. My favourite. "I don't want to cry," she says, smearing her mascara as she opens her bedsit door, "I want all my emotion to go into my songs. Without them I'd be like Milton Keynes without traffic lights." "I hate cycling there after rain," I say, "in case the puddles are pot-holes. In the end I avoid them all." "Like people," she says, "I mean, you never know. Any man could be a rapist. Want to hear my latest song?" She grabs her guitar, strumming to check the tuning. After, I don't need to lie when I say I like it. I get up to open the curtains. If it's pouring, I'll ask to stay.
Jane McLaughlin: Stars ventricular red plush slides into darkness rippling curtains move through rainbow light dust dances in a shaft of silver lips Max Factor red quiver wide as a road on screen the teeth are diamonds a cigarette holder in enamelled fingers smokes into the peopled midnight where bodies rustle a ballet skirt plunges into air mushroom cloud over an island outside pink flowers root in rubble between Saturday afternoon and rationing mouths remembering how to smile go home through lighted streets where no bombs fall
Anne Ballard: Young for my Age yes bit sore today hurt my back aerobics class yes I go with my daughter also spinning yes hard work but cool do think it’s important to keep in shape exercise good for my arthritis no not age- related just heredity and stress you know no I don’t dye it highlights cover the odd strand of grey of course they’re all my own just a few crowns in front yes still the same dress size as in my teens yes I know I look remarkable I’m always being told so genetic possibly but yes I do look after myself well not dating at the moment no I met a man last week a party my son’s friends yes cool of course I was among the older yes much younger forty-five in fact and separated yes like me we had a wicked night oh yes I still well sometimes said he’d ring and we’d go out not yet no
Hilary Mellon: Woman In Landscape i am lost in all this this marriage this merging without agency or root i stumble perpetually across desert a tumbleweed in high wind my life is spring-trapped caught in a new mindset a new language today i wear camouflage in stormy shades of grey and rust look how they reflect the minor disturbance of sandstone of dust now look oh look now look how the colour suddenly changes sour yellow bleeding into orange sharp as a throwing knife watch how it catches the sunlight falling from the sky and cuts it slicing it over and over and over into thin bitter strips
Hilary Mellon: Somewhere Near North Walsham Somewhere near North Walsham you missed the sunset Glancing up and through the carriage window, you were just in time to see the very last lick of it ice-lolly red vanishing inside the earth’s dry mouth
Glenn Hubbard: HVO Sniper Suds on the river Neretva. Bar of soap near an open hand. Damp clothes on a stone. She came down at dawn, hoping it was true, what they said. About drunken soldiery. About late night singing. About dawn being best.
Stuart Handysides: Dawn raid He knocks the door hard, insistently. Before I’ve had time to click save he’s knocked again and I want to tear him off a strip but sense he wouldn’t get it. He’s got a job to do, got to dump it somewhere, get to the next place. OK. I’ve not met number nineteen just seen a small cat in the window; it’s a chance to say hello. Your name? And surname? No please. Fuck you, I think, I’m doing the favour. But I contribute my bit of big data, too honest to make it up. Stuart Handysides: Devaluation It’s always in another room or I’m upstairs, or in the garden and I abandon whatever it is hurry to the un-ignorable summons. Because it might be important, or someone nice I wouldn’t want to miss. But mostly there is silence not so much as heavy breath a recorded invitation heralded with “Hi!" or the fake familiarity of the mountebank the salesman whose fingers travel.
Andrew Shields: Numerology One person called me to ask for a donation. Two were at the door to talk about the Bible. Three stood at the bus stop with earbuds in their ears. Four waited in line at the supermarket. Five sat at the next table in the cafe. Six road workers had dug a hole in the street. Seven horns went by in a marching band. Eight children were dawdling home from school. Nine people were injured in a multi-car pileup. Ten died alone in furnished rooms.
Jack Shaw: A stranger comes knocking A burst on the doorbell not the old paint I’ve grown to hate – something much closer, so close I can feel its breath down my neck Hide behind the bookshelf a finger on pursed lips, a hush is an ambush – the cacophony of silence rips my pulse to shreds And yet, the knocking doesn’t cease – The black mess begins to creep from under floorboards, The tar that sucks the colour from eyes I bolt the door, that old double lock to keep out the nothing that comes knocking mocking with its fleeting follies, like war without the noise
Keith Nunes: Attire The cadaver Wore a cravat His name is Chris Was Chris Will always be Chris Christopher and Catherine Kline She swept him away He wasn't the same when he came back The Klines Inclined Toward bettering themselves Till they couldn't get Any better Then she banished him And his cravat
Deborah Tyler-Bennett: Laying the Ghosts “They’ve got that display, look, in Exotic Pets, Dinosaurs - Veloceraptorsaurasus, and see, them chicken things that run about in groups.” She hasn’t paused for breath since Hack Lane. “You know, I see things here, they take me back. That’s Westfield Road. We lived in Westfield Drive in Skeg. During the war. You know, went there to me Grandparents. I travelled back a month or two ago, they let me see the front room, it’s for dining. But the room where we slept as kids, was all for guests, I didn’t ask to look … wouldn’t have been right.” We stop at traffic lights. “Went there to lay ghosts. I’ve laid ‘em. You laid yours? You want to!” She breathes in, starts again. “Course, the Government just wants to tek it out of you. It’s all a plot. Think back, when we were kids and hadn’t owt. Then came the ‘paper this’ and ‘paper that’, we’re following a bleddy paper trail. Soon you’ll need a chit, just to mek bracelets in a factory. Think on. That cleaning job, I have-to show a form. The Boss chucks paper on the floor, to see me sweep it up. Bastard! Recall, how dog licensing came in? Just after Hitler. Med you pay to have a dog! Still do. You know what sums it up?” He doesn’t. “Mars Bars. Used to be bigger, and more caramel. But now. Well! We all know, they cost more, but they’ve shrunk. Yes, sums us up. Eh, I’ve got our Janine’s Christmas Box down ‘ere. Won’t give it her ‘till Friday week, she’s itchy fingers.” “Will she like it?” “Probably, who knows. Look, see that shed? That’s where they make them lattices we have for lunch. ‘Bit thin on the filling, and they’ve shrunk n’all. They’ll mek a killing, that’s one factory on the ball. Come on, our stop, get Janine’s box, That’s it. And like I said, recall, you lay them ghosts, before it gets too late.” Ringing the bell at Wetherspoon’s, and shuffling off, he’s fraught with bags, she’s talking still, melting into darkening streets, becoming shades of Christmas past, shrinking, becoming shades.
Back to poet list…
Contributors’ biographical notes
Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, Orbis, and other magazines and anthologies. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition, Formal category in 2018. Her pamphlet Family Division was published in 2015.
Thomas Calder is an Australian based creative with a background in music, film-making and creative writing
Oliver Comins lives and works in West London. His first full-length collection, Oak Fish Island, was published by Templar Poetry in 2018.
Claudia Court recently reconnected with her early love of poetry after a long career in journalism, during which she also managed to study with the late Michael Donaghy. She currently attends Caroline Natzler’s workshop at the City Lit and has had work published in South Bank Poetry.
Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He had his first collection out in 2018 by Futurecycle called The Miner. In 2020, his second collection, called Shadows of Tryfan is released. He is currently on an MFA at Manchester Met. His biggest poetry fans are his two dogs, Jasper & Lana.
Brian Docherty has published 6 books, most recently Only In St. Leonards: A Year On The Marina (Special Sorts Press, 2017). He now lives in the Hastings area, as the Beach Bard of St. Leonards.
Jane Frank is a poet who lives and writes in Brisbane, Australia. Her poetry has appeared most recently in The Ekphrastic Review, Not Very Quiet, Meniscus, Stilts Journal and The Poets’ Republic. It is also forthcoming in Cicerone Journal, Antipodes, Hecate and an anthology titled Pale Fire: New Writings on the Moon (The Frogmore Press,2019) in celebration of 50 years since the moon landing. She teaches creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University
Geraldine Gould was born in Glasgow and studied Italian at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently completing a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee. She is a regular contributor to the Dundee University Review of the Arts and she has read her poems at Live Wire in Dundee and Shore Poets and The Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.
Stuart Gunter is working toward a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling and lives in Schuyler, Virginia. He likes to paddle the Rockfish River and play drums in obscure rock bands. His poems have been published in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Streetlight, Gravel, Deep South and New Plains Review, among others.
Stuart Handysides’ poems have appeared in Presence, London Grip New Poetry, Pennine Platform and South. He has run the Ware Poets competition for several years.
Ceinwen Haydon lives in Newcastle upon Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published on the web and in print. She was Highly Commended in the 2018 Blue Nib Chapbook Competition, won the Hedgehog Press Poetry Competition ‘Songs to Learn and Sing’. [August 2018] and was also shortlisted for Hedgehog’s Neatly Folded Paper Pamphlet Competition in October 2018. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University (2017). She believes everyone’s voice counts.
Keith Howden writes “I spent my youth in a moorland village a few miles from Burnley. National Service 1949-1951 took me away from there and following that, I didn’t return but worked casually for almost two years as a laboratory assistant and playing minor league football. By sheer chance, in 1953, Leeds University accepted me despite my ridiculously poor qualifications. I married in 1960, had my first poems accepted by Harry Chambers/ Peterloo in 1978 and in the end, retired from lecturing at Nottingham Trent in 1958 to return again to the moorland where I must suppose it all began.”
Constantly surprised by his ability to write poems that people enjoy, Glenn Hubbard has lived in Madrid for 31 years and has been writing poems since 2012. Though fluent in Spanish, he is poetic only in English and has had poems published in a number of magazines. Last year one of his poems was submitted for the Forward Prize in the UK
Jan Hutchison lives in Christchurch and is published in a variety of publications and has recently been accepted in an anthology on the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Last year her fourth book of poems was published, entitled Kinds of Hunger.
Frances Jackson is originally from the northwest of England, but now lives in Bavaria. Her translations and poetry have appeared in places such as B O D Y, Nine Muses Poetry, The Missing Slate and Your Impossible Voice.
Teoti Jardine is Maori, Irish and Scottish. His tribal affiliations: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Ora Nui, Catalyst, JAAM and Aotearotica Vol 3. Short stories in Flash Frontier. Guest Editor for Pasifika Issue Flash Frontier March 2018. He and his dog Amie live in Aparima/Riverton on the beautiful southern coast of New Zealand.
Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Unthology, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/
Jane McLaughlin writes poetry and fiction. Her work has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. Her poetry collection Lockdown won the Cinnamon Press debut collection award and is available from them. Her story ‘Trio for Four Voices’ was included in Best British short Stories 2018 (Salt Publishing)
Hilary Mellon has been involved in the poetry scene for many years, read at venues all around the country and judged several poetry competitions. Her work has been published in over ninety different magazines and anthologies, four pamphlet books and one full length collection. She runs writing workshops in Norwich.
Joan Michelson’s recent collections are: The Family Kitchen, 2018, The Finishing Line Press, KY, USA, Landing Stage, 2017, (publication prize), SPM Publishers, UK and Bloomvale Home, 2016, an Original Plus Chapbook, UK. The poem here is from a collection-in-progress, poem sketches of London neighbours
Keith Nunes lives in tiny Pahiatua (New Zealand). He has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2019,the Pushcart Prize and won the 2017 Flash Frontier Short Fiction Writing Award. He’s had poetry, haiku, short fiction, Asemic Writing and Foto-Poetry published around the globe.
Michael Terence O’Brien is a playwright, poet, singer/songwriter, and artist who resides in Chesterfield, New Jersey with his wife and daughter. Produced plays include The Curb and Verbal Prostitution, and published poems include Am I lost, Placed on Pegasus, Only One Dance, and Lonely Stars and Stripes. He has BA in political science and a Masters of Teaching degree in Special education and currently works as a teacher of young adults with Autism.
Stuart Pickford works as a teacher in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. His latest book is Swimming with Jellyfish published by smith/doorstop.
Mat Riches is from Norfolk, but lives in Kent. He works for ITV. His work’s been in Poetry Salzburg, Under The Radar, South, Poetry Scotland, Poet’s Republic, Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, And Other Poems and Algebra of Owls. He’s on Twitter as @matriches and blogs at https://matriches76.wordpress.com/
Gillie Robic was born in India, came to boarding school in England and studied at the Sorbonne and Art School in Paris and London. She spent most of her working career as a Puppeteer, working in stage, television and film, directing and designing as well as performing. She returned to writing about 15 years ago and has become more and more happily immersed in poetry since then. She has won or been placed in a few competitions and been published in magazines and anthologies here and in the States. Her first collection – Swimming Through Marble – was shortlisted and published by Live Canon in 2016.
Jack Shaw writes “My name is Jack, I live in the suburbs of Nottingham, and I’m debating whether to tell you I’m 17, as the perception of youth is that of ignorance. I’ve always written poetry to deal with emotions and change, so i thought what better way to have my voice heard”
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 Somebody’s Hometown”in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016.
Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, Poetry New Zealand, Southerly, & 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, Tasmania.
Elizabeth Smither’s latest publications are a collection of poems, Night Horse (Auckland University Press, 2017) which won the poetry award in the Ockham Book Awards 2018 and a novel, Loving Sylvie (Allen & Unwin, 2019)
Tom Sommerville writes “I am a retired lecture in English and Scottish Literature. I was inspired to read and like and write poetry by my English teacher who not only persuade an unlikely number of boys to enjoy a wide variety of poems but also brought the poets in to the class room: mainly Scots poets (Macdiarmid, Maccaig) but I vividly recall the presence of Louis MacNeice. Work followed but retirement renewed my interest in writing the stuff.”
Kathryn Southworth is a retired academic who lives in London and Gloucestershire. She has published in a number of print and on-line magazines and her first collection Someone was here (Indigo Dreams) came out in November 2018. Her pamphlet Wavelengths: a dialogue on light and sound with Belinda Singleton will be published by Dempsey and Windle in June.
Deborah Tyler-Bennett has had eight volumes of poetry and three of linked short stories published. Her current volume from King’s England Press being Mr Bowlly Regrets (poems, 2017). Her forthcoming volume, Ken Dodd Takes a Holiday, is out from the same press in 2019, and she’s working on her first novel for King’s England, Livin’ in a Great Big Way. She regularly facilitates workshops and performs her work.
Sue Wallace-Shaddad has had poems published by Ink, Sweat and Tears, Poetry Space, The French Literary Review and The Dawntreader as well as featuring in several anthologies. Sue is studying the MA in Writing Poetry (Newcastle University/Poetry School, London) and is Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society
Phil Wood was born in Wales. He works in a statistics office, enjoys playing with numbers and words. His writing can be found in various publications, including: The Poetry Shed, Snakeskin, Ink Sweat and Tears, Allegro Poetry.