Dec 1 2019
LONDON GRIP NEW POETRY – Winter 2019. This issue features:
* Edmund Prestwich * Kate Noakes * Michael Crowley * Maggie Butt * Emma Lee
*Tom Sommerville *Gordon Wood * Thomas Tyrrell *Anthony Dawson * Robert Nisbet
* Wendy French *Stephen Claughton * Anne Ballard * Jan-An Saab * Sue Rose
* Raymond Miller * Morelle Smith * Alex Josephy * Katherine Gallagher * Hilary Hares
* Rosie Johnston * Rebecca Ball * Gerry Stewart * Andrew Shields * Mark Mansfield
* Madelaine Smith * Philip Dunkerley * Hilary Mellon * Alan Price * Sarah James
* Gianna Sannipoli * Stephen Oliver * Oz Hardwick * Jared Carter *R G Jodah
* Keith Howden * Michael Chang
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 Winter 2019-20
London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December
SUBMISSIONS: please send up to THREE poems plus a brief bio to firstname.lastname@example.org
Poems should be in a SINGLE Word attachment or else included in the message body
Our submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October
We have recently begun to wonder if our editor’s notes perform any useful function since they often consist of observations about the contents of the current issue which readers would be able to make for themselves that much sooner if they were not delayed by reading our notes…
… so we turn instead to something that many readers might not easily have found out for themselves. We are very sad to report the death of Joanna Boulter on September 13th, just a few days after two of her poems appeared in our Autumn posting of new poetry. Joanna was a fine poet, perhaps best known for her well-received and widely-praised first collection 24 Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich (Arc 2006). But she was also admired as editor and publisher at Arrowhead Press, which she ran with her husband Roger Collett, producing many excellent collections until her illness caused the press to close in 2013. An eloquent tribute to Joanna’s contributions to poetry is given by Annie Wright at http://www.vanewomen.co.uk/index.html#joanna.
One further editorial observation that readers might not immediately deduce is that our cover picture comes from the illuminated manuscript the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry and thus accompanies Edmund Prestwich’s seasonal poem which opens this issue. It is our pleasure to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and many blessings in the new year.
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Edmund Prestwich: January After the Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry There’s nothing for Christ at this Christmas feast The guests wear dazzling colours. Through a noise of talk and feeding the duke’s hard face studies a gesturing obsequious priest No living flower can breathe in this place but fires ward off cold, there are gold and silver flowers embroidered on men’s clothes and leaves of stone on the capitals of pillars. Thick walls shut out the bitterness of foetid hovels on short days when hunger creeps through snow, and the endless nights when wolves are loud and children die. There, the trumpets of the feast are half-heard notes, caught on the wind like laughter in the sky.
Kate Noakes: Good news from Oslo for Trafalgar Square, batteries included We're sorry we haven't wrapped it, again this year, but, you know, after 70 we didn't think you'd mind. It's a bit awkward with those needles and graduated branches, and we didn't want to risk you putting it upside down in the hidden stand. The guards aren't keen these days either. If we spruced it up, they couldn't keep an eye and a 20 metre green Viking at customs might look like a missile too soon chipped, composted and mulched by the bomb squad.
Michael Crowley: Fire-Bug I wasn’t bothered before. Wasn’t even sure which way I’d vote, I went back and forth. Now people have stopped speaking to me, they don’t let on when I’m walking the dog they’re so angry you’d think I’d been keeping slaves in the shed. Someone stopped me and said they’d been crying - like a child who’s had his iphone taken been given a Nokia instead. I remember there was a holiday with the school, my parents couldn’t afford to pay for it but they wouldn’t say. They told the school I wouldn’t be going because I’d been bad, but I hadn’t. I was left behind with the kids from the bottom stream whose parents didn’t have the money either. I took a holiday in the precinct with Peter Whelan, became his friend, sneaking past his snoring father to get the matches from the kitchen, lighting fires on the dump waiting for fire engines.
Maggie Butt: Past You aren’t there anymore the particular yous who tight-rope walked this mountain ridge track single file into the distance the yous who were frozen in this photograph gazing into the camera the boy leaning forward under the weight of his bag the girl with the bobbed-hair upright and self-contained the tall man with bare feet and sacks balanced on his shoulders. A second after the shutter clicked you had shuffled on past and become the vanished nobody and nowhere and nothing again. Maggie Butt: Crush Like people crowded at the rails rails of emigration ships, waving waving to loved ones on the quay, peeping peeping over and between the heads to snatch snatch a final glimpse of home. That was in the past of course. This ship is now. Its people cram at the rails at the rails and hang from the ladders like mussels mussels from a rope, roil in the seas beneath beneath the ladders, waiting for a hand-hold. Are the others looking down to help them help them, or pushing them off off because there’s no more room? Each one with a breathing heart, a mind a mind teeming with schemes. Each one each one a soft machine of hope. These two poems are from a sequence called Torn, inspired by the work of American painter
Mary Behrens in her series of distorted and reassembled photographs of refugees.
Emma Lee: The Cut of those Cold, Sharp Stars I don't think it's to do with temperature. I feel every piece of grit, every puddle, the cold. There won't be a bus for another hour. I'm used to the cold. Used to shiver like a child, but now I don't even dream of being warm. It's that dead hour before the supermarkets cut food prices and suddenly shoppers will swarm hoping for something easy, filling and hot for dinner. No use getting fresh veg: it needs time to cook and feeding the meter for a pound's worth of telly feels better than feeding it for a pound's worth of stew. You need to sit here to understand. We're not in London, we're not in Europe. We're the living hand to mouth, scraping together what we can today. Give us enough rope... When tomorrow won't be any better, there's no point thinking about it. Just ignore those who ignore us. Trouble is, they're the the people who make the rules, who take our money from us. Can't afford the cafe, the pub's gone, the library's shut. It can't get worse. It's just getting by. I'll go home bereft. That's how it feels. Like we have to forget. We voted leave because we've been left. Emma Lee: Violet Marked My War 1916 He called me Violet. I didn't correct him. I was Dorothy, after an aunt. He said his Violet was prettier than a flower. No one had spoken about me like that. I let him talk while I changed dressings, checked, dispensed. He'd be out of my life as quickly as he'd come into it. He'd come from the Somme, hit on the shoulder, torn on barbed wire and knocked unconscious. His smile, when he said her name, stopped at his mouth. He eyes glazed like a film screen. I'd seen and would continue to see missing limbs and mutilation, but never know how it happened. One day I found a violet for him to press and keep. I hope she waited. I hope she stayed true. 1986 Our work didn't stop on Armistice Day. Patients were still arriving. Patch, suture, prep for surgery: it was drilled into us. Back in London, I stayed in A&E. Even after marriage. It was like an addiction, staying calm in the face of a bloody mess. There's less sense of urgency. I get to know names. My diaries from 1916 just have numbers. When I see a violet, I pause. Just a moment's reflection. A moment can change a life. For some the war never ended. We never had children. Those who've never fought will never learn.
Tom Sommerville: Photo Opportunity “The isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears” (The Tempest) Just keep your trousers on, she softly said, and put your watch and coins in that wee bin. Here, let me help you get up on the bed. You must stay still, so I’ll just wedge you in. You’ll hear some noise, so put these in your ears. OK? A button pressed, and in I went. For ninety minutes, lost souls, ghouls, banshees, off-key sopranos, an avant-garde quartet: satanic cacophonics filled my head— a diabolic prom for the insane; and then, they stopped. Weird silence there instead, and now they’ve got five pictures of my brain. What will they see? The scars of guilt and shame and love? Or things that don’t yet have a name?
Gordon Wood: Outside the bookshop ‘mille volte il di moro’ - Carlo Gesualdo, Sesto Libro di Madrigale (1611) Their smiles precisely cut, they are happy in the choreography of love: the young man, contours caught in jeans and T-shirt; his partner, older, sharp in cap and moustache, takes the photo from the other pavement - a sunny day in front of ‘Gay’s the Word’. Are they looking for the moment of confirmation hidden in the tomography of time’s fast snapping shutter: the icon’s benediction? Can a shutter parse for them love’s syntax? Its ambiguities are well concealed in the sunlit action of their pavement-theatre. Now their voices sing a clear polyphony purged of dissonance; but, when memories hurt and smiles are stained with guilt, the madrigal nails a body to the staves (‘I die a thousand times a day’) and dissonance weaves its thorns round love. Then, after song has walked barefoot on the flinty path to resolution, voices blend again and pain, throwing back its cowl, reveals the embrace of consonance. With lovers now on-stage, nothing mars a T-shirt when the lens devours a torso, and love’s putti hover round the … CLICK! Has the shutter snapped a gilded image, set in the sacred geometry of the gaze? Or is it the slicing thud of a guillotine blade?
Thomas Tyrrell: Labiomancy On The Blink Somewhere around my fifth pint comes the point where my friend’s voices and their mouths dissociate. Pub hubbub swells and overwhelms the table where I sit still trying to resynchronise the sound and picture, like a man hunched by a vintage TV, twiddling knobs, mashing the buttons, torturing the aerial and throwing up despairing hands at last. Nothing to do but keep on drinking till the screen dissolves in snowy interference.
Anthony Dawson: Chance Encounter 1990 Though I haven't travelled far, I stop in el Rocío at a bar to have a snack. And there you are, leaning back in a chair beneath the awning, on the terrace. Despite the chill in the air (it's early spring and mid-morning) you're lightly clad in chinos and a faded red top that timidly suggests your breasts. Your slender arms are bare, while your short hair, tousled and awry, highlights your youthful face. With eyes half-closed against the sun, you turn away from me. (Perhaps you're shy and wish to shun this stranger's visual embrace.) Yet your sun-drenched lips, swollen with a thousand unused kisses, are parted in what seems to me a knowing smile... I'm convinced this is an invitation to start a conversation, so I try. You are polite, but distant, my flight of fantasy crashing in an instant as again you turn away. Now, awkward and embarrassed I don't know what to say. Meanwhile, at another table an old man wearing shades is staring. He can't grasp the meaning of this scene we're playing — any more than I can now after nearly three decades...
Robert Nisbet: Hands: Father, Mother, Daughter A Welsh pub, c 1990 Their hands are ranged for a moment, his and hers and hers, along the table with pint and orange juice and gin. And heigh-ho, lads, it’s Speculation Time. Let’s read those hands, deduce. Father’s thick, scarred, calloused. Miner maybe or steelworker. Heavy labour. Right. Mother’s deeply grained and calloused too. Welsh Mam of the old school, step scrubbing, a lust for earnest cleaning? Right again. She, the daughter, pretty hands, white. Clearly of a softer new regime. But that’s to miss one thing. Forests. As she left school, new jobs in the countryside were burgeoning. She’d have loved, so loved, to be a Ranger, part of Forestry, work with those trees, plant spruce and conifer on high Welsh hills. But after her father’s accident, the need to stay close to home, and Mother feeling .. oh Mother, Mother .. the thing for girls was office jobs and typewriting .. Look closely now at the daughter’s hands, those tiny pads of callous at the fingertips ..
Wendy French: Geranium Nursery Once an hour another old Mam-gu opens her front door, peers and waves in the hope someone will pass, stop, spend a few coppers on a bag of fresh manure. She’s alone, has enough coal for a few days but nothing keeps her warm. A van pulls up and for a rare moment she is happy. A child clambers out, pulls down his trousers by the grass verge and pees in the snow, leaves a yellow trail. The van moves on towards Haverfordwest and the old woman goes inside to persuade her dog to go out, leave his mark before nightfall. Mam-gu is the Welsh word for Grandmother
Stephen Claughton: Ollie’s Geranium It was a kind thought, Ollie, to pick that petal up and try to put it back where you thought it belonged. Bright spark to have made the connection! A shame — it’s not your fault — that hotwiring doesn’t work. Not even your grandpa with his box of tricks, his glues and nails and screws, can mend a bloom that’s blown. We’ll deadhead them instead, so the plants will make some more. Nature, under threat, thrives on a throwaway culture and these newly-forming flowers, already punching the air with their puny, sepaled fists, are going to flare out soon.
Anne Ballard: Dining with Father The first time afterwards you ordered a glass of wine to keep me company. I knew you hated it, never would share a bottle with my mother, who’d minded, wanting more than one glass, fearing the waiters would think her a drunk if she asked for a refill. This had never bothered me but now I felt angry to have served up, gratis, what you had not given her. So the guilt sitting with us already was fanned by resentment. Only now, with long hindsight can I give credit for your shy, bungled effort to say sorry to both of us.
Jan-An Saab: Journey Back in-Time With my grandparents once more; I was little when they waved goodbye. At their House, I discovered mirrors, ate nuts, dates and fig marmalade. From their balcony I saw characters leave and others return, welcomed through their garden gate. Affection and care, generosity offered through decent inherent compassion, carried over from the womb until it blossoms.
Sue Rose: The Ancestors I’m told they lived in a shtetl straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, except the men were less cheerful than Tevye and smacked their hands down on the good book, railing against the goyim, transgressions against kashrut. They were grocers or tailors, their eyes narrowed to assess small measurements, thread needles to sew hemp or jute. The women were dowdy in sepia and didn’t sing about love. They pressed floury hands to their damp aprons as latkes sizzled and boiling gefilte fish filled their rooms with the boneless reek of obedience. Their cheeks were shiny, their bodies chapped under coarse wool. They didn't wear bedsheets on their heads like veils and make fun of Yente. They didn't have time. If lucky, they met their match and fell in love. If not, they were resigned. At Sabbath sundown, candles were lighted as darkness clothed the fields. The family gathered at the long table to thank the Lord for what he gave and what he took, asking for no more than they should, at least not before the flames guttered and they were free under the crisp stars in the silence, the fiddler gone.
Raymond Miller: Adopting At Our Age This poem went places that it shouldn’t have gone in the beer tent listening to a jazz ensemble, who came on after the jazz dance band and are suffering by comparison. I’m trying to examine the difference between flute solos and close harmonies, between thrown together and tightly knit, being here for themselves or the audience. I’m with two of my grown-up daughters and my wife is with the foster kids watching Maleficent at the cinema. I’m digging the songs my dad used to sing and thinking of the time that children thieve and all the things we won’t achieve, like learn how to jive and lindy hop. I’m piling up reasons we shouldn’t adopt. Flowers are not meant to bloom in winter. It looked different in December when the dark days served to blinker us and we fought our tiny Christmas tree corner. It was sisters skipping arm in arm in the absence of a sibling assessment. It was the Solomons presiding at Social Services, their swords discreetly kept from sight, their smiles that ricochet off shiny surfaces; a repertoire of condescension and unanswered questions. Now summer shines a bulb in our faces and mine has started to crack. It’s when the social worker asked if we think we’ll ever harbour some resentment. It’s the sports day when the Downs’ Syndrome trailed in a long last and was clapped all the way up the finishing straight, while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket, like refusing to stand for the National Anthem. It’s the medical when the doctor found there’s something not quite right with my heart. Next week they’re investigating further. I felt a little lightening, the hint of a reprieve, but probably it’s no more than a murmur.
Morelle Smith: Bicycle Man Tight as wire. Muscular, lean, talkative, light, fluid in motion – Hard-edged taut as rubber polished as paint - matt – not shiny - Survives all weather and never cracks
Alex Josephy: Marsh Men The blinkered bridge at Rainham shields me like a nervous horse, as I scuttle across the tracks. Beyond, it’s open acres; blank white sky reaches for the corners of a flat earth, pinned by pylon after pylon, deranged squadrons on the march from one grey-green battleground to the next. Two men trudge past in hoodies, wheeling bikes while I’m reading the sign: Three Crowns, The Concrete Barges. On a concrete sea? A skylark starts up, all the more brimful in this place that lies level, makes a virtue of monotony. Without a backward glance the bike blokes ride off over the edge of the world. Alex Josephy: Afterlife The cats of Castelvecchio sit out on tea towels spread to dry on the warm cobbles of the least damaged street. The Vigili del Fuoco have left their sign on the belltower they shored up with planks and steel pins, after the aftershocks. Women still lay bottles of water on their sides across the locked church threshold; they say it prevents the cats from pissing there. Outside the town gate, prefab huts crouch close to the earth’s provisional horizontals. Someone’s planted strawberries in a broken gutter; lush red fruit spills onto the road. A wall is half-rendered. Everything is perhaps. Perhaps it always was.
Katherine Gallagher: Resonances I This time, approaching from Orleans, we didn’t see the cathedral looming against the wheatlands of La Beauce, but felt its pull, a sacred place saved to witness and to carry tidings. We memorise the faces etched in stone – a tryst with eternity, and more. II In the long dusk, light pierces stained-glass – Chartres radiating candle-glow as a singer enters asking fabled questions where each note, each word is joined to all that has gone before – the openness of prayer and beauty gifting travellers, their pilgrim souls, as finally the cathedral resounds, spills huge applause. Katherine Gallagher: Early Morning, Lake Monte Generoso No one is swimming in the clear lake. All is still except where a fisherman throws in his line. He winds back the reel again, again; a fish leaps behind him as if it were a game. And now the day scoops out its usual place as sun’s first shifts slip over the mountain: flushed, clearing, fresh. I’m in love with the lake and this calm that I cannot pocket, take with me, as engines rev up, the first campers leave, and a steam-train pulls around the lake’s rim; smoke-coils lift over the road that runs alongside houses – burnished, doubled on the water’s fine skin.
Hilary Hares: The pond in winter Your body light as a child’s, I pushed your chair to the edge and a toddler ran up on unsteady legs with a bag of crusts for the frenzy of ducks. I watched your eyes spark and you threw out your wasted arms, scattering bread, on the water, from your empty hands.
Rosie Johnston: Palm Tree Victory For my beloved Auntie Jean and her County Down school house which has,
unusually, a palm tree in the front garden. The doll knew – her eyes swung shut as I laid her flat on my pyjamas beside the toothbrush. Closed the lid. ‘We’re going to the palm tree,’ I whispered. Those little catches on the suitcase, I still feel victory in my thumbs, the way I jiggled that lid, nursed the metallic welcome, pressed hard shut. I felt the doll’s smile as we drove, the lot of us, through the Dark Hedges, round the Cave Hill, south through Saintfield and Crossgar, to the lee of the Mournes, in drizzle. All the way, suitcase on my lap, doll smiling, silent. Beside our car, sunshine slants its goodbyes from Donard’s peak. ‘We’re away now,’ goes my mother. ‘I’ve got my things,’ I say, always the good wee girl. The suitcase swings arm’s length. ‘I’m staying here,’ I say, loud. ‘For ever.’ Mayhem. One brother weeps in the car, hiding. The other – opportunist – takes flying kicks at my shins. I stand my ground. Ignore them, me and the doll smiling. My mother: ‘In the car, now!’ Cracks her knuckles. My father’s lower tones with Jean. The palm tree catches a southerly off Commedagh, loosens one long sword-leaf, khaki, curled at the hilt, twirls it in a flicker-pirouette to tarmac at my feet. Jean smiles: ‘That settles it.’ My father laughs, ‘This once, just once she stays.’ No words. I turn, stride into Auntie Jean’s house and mount her green stairs. Thumbs pulsing.
Rebecca Ball: Branches We cut down the tree today scaled its trunk pulled its branches like veins from the sky As soon as they hit the ground they shattered like the dry iced flowers smashed into benches by our science teachers petals stamens stems in shards on the lab floor We picked up the broken branches white with lichen so light it was hard to tell if we were holding anything We put them on the fire a hiss of breath a flare of white then gone
Gerry Stewart: Signs The snow wears the stains of what settles on tree barks, the faces of flowers and in our lungs, a black glaze of carbonised petrol and toxic chemicals. Rainbow glints in the harbour catch the light, kaleidoscopes of diesel not enough to ward off fish and diving seabirds. A haze of particulates brightens the sunset over the city, brings tears to our eyes, but the car saves us time.
Andrew Shields: Sidewalk I avoid the lines and the cracks and the leaves wet with last night's rain. I avoid the cigarette butts, the pieces of gum, the receipts stuck to the damp pavement. I avoid the plastic wrappers, the lottery tickets, the passers-by I keep passing by. I can't see where I'm going or where I've been, just my feet and the ground beneath.
Mark Mansfield: Lost and Found I found it lying on the ground. And took it home and ran an ad, but no one called. That was summer. By that fall, some nights it began to make a sound— some times like a whisper, or the wind when the snow first comes, or the steady thrum of an old vane that bends. And what it shared I knew I heard, but there was no way I could say just what it meant. Eventually, its sounds all went away without a single word— all but a murmur like the breeze when spring first wakes, or how love aches with a sigh that’s lost to me.
Madelaine Smith: Seeing the Light after Josef Sudek To capture the sunlight as it fell on cobbles you took a dustsheet from the house shook it at just the right moment then slipped behind the camera, fixed shafts in place. You always knew precisely when everything in the universe would fall into place, even if you needed dust particles to show the world you held it in your hand.
Philip Dunkerley: Monochrome They hang, like little windows, black and white with multiple surrounds and clean, sharp lines that meet but never cross, displaying views of a different place, a different country; art does that, picks out what’s different. He’ll be asleep right now, the artist, Juan Torre Barca. The pictures – he chose to render them in monochrome – are of Valparaiso, Chile. They all have names and each name is a palimpsest, a deeper memory of the place itself. ‘Ascensor Espiritu Santo’ is my favourite. The old funicular, a great diagonal cutting across a slope of other structures, running to a cupola that stands above the town. The slant within the frame reminds me of a pyramid, everything floating up towards the sky. I wonder if that’s why it got its name — ‘the Holy Spirit Lift’. I remember you Valparaiso. You burn, you sigh, you sweat, you stink of life, of fish, of diesel, coffee, beer and pee. You have a taste, assail the ear with noise, the eye with vibrancy — blue sea, blue sky, neglected houses, orange, purple, green. But Juan, your monochrome, it works for me; and though you sleep, I’m there, I hear, I see. Juan Torre Barca was the author of a guide to the funicular lifts / elevators of Valparaiso,
of which there were about 30 at one stage. Inaugurated in 1911, the “Espíritu Santo” elevator
was named after the former church that was located in front of Victoria Square.
Hilary Mellon: One Night In March beyond this window the sky is a white sheet indistinguishable from the steep slope of the snow covered roof lying beneath it and night having fallen has been hushed and soothed then gently bandaged and put to bed on hospital linen where perfect corners are lightly starched and creased to a knife edge but fragile as Galanthus opening on a harsh morning
Alan Price: THE LADY VANISHES (1938) directed by Alfred Hitchcock Where did the lady vanish to, Alfred? They searched high and low on the train – even inside an illusionist’s prop where pigeons flew out, white rabbits peered and the magician Doppo menaced with his knife. Margaret Lockwood’s bang on the head, from a dropped flowerpot, became my bang on the head as I struggled to make the governess materialise. A dual concussion: the feeling I was going mad; Miss Froy never existed and Margaret and I needed a doctor. Then her name written on the compartment window; the train psychiatrist turning out to be a spy and the lady returned, bandaged on a stretcher. Your box of Alfred tricks conjured them up. Though a nun wearing high heels; the death of a lawyer and a final gun -fight still conspired up your sleeve. Miss Froy, Miss Froy I’ll hum you a tune containing the secret code. English wit and international intrigue shall not grow old. Many ladies vanished in many films yet to come (some I found, others not.) Yet only one, with welcoming arms, came back to the Foreign Office. After the film I rushed to the toilet and hit my head on its low lying ceiling. Dazed, wanting to go and lie down: re-live your perfectly fluid dream – in spite of its test match ruined by a flood.
Sarah James: the glass impressionist The carriage is a half-empty box of plastic and metal, light and reflections. In the window’s dreamscape glass, passing buildings concrete and brick my face. Almost-wild grass thickens my fringe. Potted flowers freckle me, butterfly bright. Like this, how free I might feel as my body sways with, and against, the train’s tree-less motion. On this day, in this light, I’m a quiet ghost of my weekday/workday self. The window doesn't know if I’m smiling or frowning. It doesn’t know the me that lives beyond the small seat-space claimed here. A flicker outside, this me presses her leafy face, raindrop eyes and twig lips into the window’s metal frame; she stares at me, laughs hysterically, then howls. Twenty years she’s cried out, twenty years she won’t give up, twenty years I refuse to let her in – I fear she might uproot this potted life.
Gianna Sannipoli: No Mercy Love looks a lot like war if you go in with a desired goal and no mercy for the other side. The birds hit the windows like soldiers fallen chasing dreams. I loved one so I became one. Light still cascades through those casements, like tears down his mother’s face. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who can see it. To think that there are some so distracted by the darkness that their minds block out the light is a war crime punishment inconceivable to me.
Stephen Oliver: The Common Good Reassurances are little more than well-meant falsehoods. ‘I do not apologise for the war and subsequent genocide. I did my duty,’ wrote the general in his unpublished memoir, marked: EMBARGOED: 50 YEARS. Combat medals and citations were testament to his fealty. He had served his country with unfaltering distinction, fiercely defended its corporate, global interests. The general wanted to be remembered as the bright star who rode high in the saddle. Inter-Generational Conflict. Mutual Destruction. The End Game. These represented key chapter headings under the section marked ‘Trade Craft’. A tribe is defined by those who oppose it. He argued that this may be strategically interpreted as meaning, ‘The military under his command did not condone ownership in the traditional, cultural sense of first nation peoples, but did with impunity lay claim to another’s territory in the interests of the Common Good.’ Non- Negotiable. ‘History, right there,’ he said. The expediency of a pre-emptive, surgical strike negated calls for restraint or any subordinate opposition to massacre. ‘Women and children first. Spare no one,’ joked the General in the company of fellow officers. He scrawled across the ‘manifesto-cum-memoir’, THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS. He is Everyman. Axis mundi. Earthbound Colossus and Empire Builder. Dream of the Rood. Tree/Cross Incarnate. Redemption and torture. Equalizer in the devil’s DNA. Already become monument without a tomb.
Oz Hardwick: Lonely Planet In the capital city, people speak in capitals, exclaiming, declaiming, vying for attention that you don’t have to spare: HEY! ENGLISH! ENGLISH? HEY! AMERICAN? They want to sell you – no, give you – good luck: YOU TAKE IT! YOU TAKE IT! FROM ME! I HAVE FAMILY! We all have families of one kind or another, and maybe yours is waiting at a café found by a location scout for an American director: a café that shouts EUROPE! all over the world. Or maybe they’re on a bridge, watching tourist boats nudge each other down a grey river, waiting to be cropped from the edges of a hundred or more selfies that spark across Instagram, screaming WE ARE HERE IN THE CENTRE OF EVERYTHING AND WE ARE SO UNBELIEVABLY HAPPY! But you can’t be sure, and your texts go unanswered, and your Google searches draw blank after blank, and HEY! ENGLISH! ENGLISH? HEY! AMERICAN? and you want to release the shift key, listen to the river’s quiet experience, press space space space space
Jared Carter: Reaper Always expected, he appears unannounced – not In that voluminous cloak, years out of date, shot Through with holes – but always on time. No vows to say, No haste, no tragedy to mime, no quick replay. I've come at last, he says. But you cannot reply, Transfixed already by the view of that strange sky.
R G Jodah: Princess Her pockets full of fists, heavy, hard as cannon balls, she stares past the horizon at her feet. The roar of bellows, deafening, hot iron hammers on her tongue where vitriol has etched a bloody scream. Arms locked tight, drawbridge straight, shoulders round as bastions, battlements of a castle under siege. Her skin, a curtain wall of glass, cuts too quick, a poor defence against all of this world's artillery. Alone, she stands, not yet a ruin, reserves remain in her possession, marshalled, that she might yet defend the keep.
Keith Howden: Faugh’s Delph You are a learned woman? I was never schooled. Some things I have knowledge of. The herbs? They have surprising powers. And this, you told the Court was where you met him? Yes, I told you, in Faugh’s Delph. Why there? I have no answer. And what was his appearance? He had no appearance. What form did he take? What shape of familiar did he adopt? Was it as a cat, a dog or perhaps even a goat? Was he tailed? None of those. I have said he was a presence, one that I understood. What name did he have or give? He had no name. He has, as well you know, a million names and they are all the same. And that you believe? That I believe. I have no reason to lie. His mere presence was in the form of its own explanation. An explanation of what? His presence was the world as it is the world, the world continually and consistently as we meet and endure it. And that, you believe? I do. I hold no evidence to tell me other. You will be hanged. I will be hanged. He told me so.
Michael Chang: did you kill those people did you kill those people i ask concerned for her mental state she stares back at me i could tell you but then i’d have to kill you noting my face she says maybe i shouldn’t have said that she wipes grime off her ostrich booties karl lagerfeld for dsw i’ll have the skate in truffle and porcini broth she says why does it smell like a pet shop in here is there not a bottle of pellegrino around she complains crossing then uncrossing her toned legs you look like an idiot on the cusp of not-getting-fucked pyongyang looks just like that town in friday night lights she asserts in any case i will have a stoli and cranberry she bats her lashes and gently positions her card case on the interrogation table hermes matte black alligator you have the right to an attorney i remind her then present the evidence 1 one serrated blade recovered from the scene with her lip gloss on it 2 she was overheard saying quote do you even know the difference between manet and monet you filth close quote 3 our lab confirms that the rosé poured over the victims’ wounds is her preferred vintage 4 she is totally drenched in blood right now aghast she raises a hand clutches her pearls in protest listen my weapons of choice are devastating quips and succulent booty pics and i would have buried them in the bogs red berries sour and glistening apologetic i say sorry but we are all out of the coconut shrimp
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Contributors’ biographical notes
Jan-Ann Saab is a trilingual Fine Arts graduate. She has 2 kids and has worked at various embassies while pursuing further studies into cranial osteopathy. She is now working at Health Clinic of Chelsea Harbour Club. Her first collection of poetry was published online. She reads at venues such as The Troubadour’s Coffee House Poetry.
Rebecca Ball is an English teacher based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has written poems and articles for English in Aotearoa and a narrative study guide, BA: An Insider’s Guide, with Auckland University Press.
Anne Ballard lives in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Magma, Orbis, The Blue Nib and several anthologies. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competition 2015 and 2018. Her pamphlet Family Division was published in 2015.
Maggie Butt is an ex-journalist and BBC television producer turned poet and novelist. Her fifth poetry collection was Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine 2015). A novel, The Prisoner’s Wife, is forthcoming in a number of countries world-wide from May 2020. Maggie is an Associate Professor at Middlesex University and an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. She has judged the 2019 Ware, Segora and Barnet poetry competitions. www.maggiebutt.co.uk
Jared Carter‘s most recent book of poems, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. Carter lives in Indiana.
Michael Chang hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day. Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade. A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal.
Stephen Claughton’s poems have appeared widely in magazines in print and online. His first pamphlet, The War with Hannibal, was published by Poetry Salzburg in October 2019. A second pamphlet, The 3-D Clock, containing poems about his late mother’s dementia, is due out from Dempsey & Windle in February 2020.
Michael Crowley is a writer and dramatist who has written for page, stage and radio. His debut collection of poetry, First Fleet – on the1788 penal settlement at Sydney Cove – was published on 2016 and his second collection, The Battle of Heptonstall will be published next year.
Tony Dawson retired early from public sector higher education (Coventry and Liverpool) in 1989 to take up a post at the University of Seville where he worked for 18 years. He still lives in Seville and has been writing for pleasure for a number of years.
Phil Dunkerley lives in South Lincolnshire where he runs the Stamford Poetry Stanza and a local U3A Poetry Group. He takes part in open mic and other sessions whenever he gets the chance. A number of his poems have made it past incautious editors into their magazines, webzines and anthologies – Magma, Orbis, Dream Catcher, Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Poems for Peace, among others. He reviews for Orbis and has translated poems from both Spanish and Portuguese.
Wendy French has had four books published to date, the last two by Hippocrates Press. She is now trying to write a poem again!
Katherine Gallagher is a North London poet and translator. She has six full books of poetry, including most recently, Acres of Light (Arc Publications, 2016) and Carnival-Edge: New & Selected Poems 2010) also from Arc.
Oz Hardwick is a York-based poet, photographer, and occasional musician, who has published eight poetry collections. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: Recent Work/IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery Book Award.. Most recently he has co-edited (with Anne Caldwell, The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the creative Writing Programmes.
Hilary Hares’ poems have found homes online, in print and in anthologies. She has a Poetry MA from MMU and has achieved success in a number of competitions. Her collection, A Butterfly Lands on the Moon supports Loose Muse, Winchester and Red Queen is forthcoming from Marble Poetry in 2020.
Keith Howden lectured on modern European fiction at Nottingham Trent. Earlier collections (1978 -84) were published by Peterloo: later collections (2012 to the present) by Smokestack, Post Romantic Empire (Rome) and Penniless Press
Sarah James/Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her most recent poetry titles are How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Poetry Press, 2018) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Award. Her website is at http://sarah-james.co.uk.
R.G. Jodah lives in London, enjoying metropolitan anonymity. His work has appeared in: The Lampeter Review, Typishly, Dream Catcher, Southlight, LightenUp Online. London Grip, Three Drops from a Cauldron, PORT (Dunlin Press), Dawntreader.
Rosie Johnston’s four poetry books are published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast where she was born. She has been anthologised by Live Canon and had her poems published and featured in several magazines. She runs Words On Waves, a monthly reading event (prose and poetry) in Whitstable’s Harbour Books, and facilitates writing groups in Cambridge and Canterbury. https://rosiejohnstonwrites.com/
Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. Her pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 and her collection White Roads by Paekakariki Press in 2018. Her poems have won awards such as the McLellan Prize and the Battered Moons Prize, and have appeared in magazines and anthologies in England and Italy. She is currently working on a second collection.
Emma Lee’s publications include Ghosts in the Desert (IDP,2015). The Significance of a Dress is forthcoming from Arachne. She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea, (Five Leaves, 2015) and is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib. She reviews for magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.?
Mark Mansfield is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Strangers Like You (2008, revised 2018, Chester River Press) and Soul Barker (2017, Chester River Press). His poems have appeared in The Adirondack Review, Anthropocene Poetry, Bayou, Blue Mesa Review, Fourteen Hills, Iota, Magma Poetry, Measure, Salt Hill Journal, Staple, Unsplendid, and elsewhere. He holds an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins and was a recent Pushcart Prize nominee. Currently, he lives in upstate New York.
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.
Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has seen nearly 400 of his poems appear, in Britain and the USA, over the past 15 years, with two pamphlet collections, the more recent being Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, the winner of the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017.
Kate Noakes lives in London where she acts as a trustee for Spread the Word and writes poetry reviews. Her most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian 2019)
Stephen Oliver – Australasian poet/voice artist and author of 19 volumes of poetry. Lived in Australia for 20 years. Currently NZ. Published widely in international literary journals and anthologies. Regular contributor of creative nonfiction and poems to Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature. Poems translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. Stephen Oliver’s latest poetry collection is Luxumboug, Greywacke Press, Canberra 2018. email@example.com “Ballad of Miss Goodbar”, from his collection, Gone, is in a video read by the author at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzfHYU1Jj08
Edmund Prestwich grew up in South Africa. He has published two collections, Through the Window with Rockingham Press and Their Mountain Mother with Hearing Eye. He has spent his working life teaching English at the Manchester Grammar School.
Alan Price’s poetry collection Wardrobe Blues for a Japanese Lady was published in 2018 by The High Window Press. His latest book is the 2019 The Illiterate Ghost (Eboinvale Press) a chapbook of short fiction
Sue Rose’s third collection from Cinnamon Press, Scion, is due out in 2020. She is also the author of Heart Archives, a chapbook of sonnets paired with her own photos (Hercules Editions, 2014) and Tonewood, a book of poems written to photos of trees by Lawrence Impey (Eaglesfield Editions, 2019).
Gianna Sannipoli is a student at Masaryk University. Her work has been published in Gold Dust Magazine, One Sentence Poems, Panoply, The Wild Word, and is forthcoming in Edify Fiction and Dodging The Rain. She is a reader for San Antonio Review, living in Brno, Czech Republic.
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.
Madelaine Smith has had poems published on Ink, Sweat & Tears, Paper Swans anthologies (Print and online), Reach Poetry, The South, Northampton Poetry Review, Wellington Street Review and in several local anthologies. In a drawer she has three unpublished novels. Twitter: @MadelaineCSmith
Morelle Smith writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She has worked in the Balkans as English teacher and aid worker and lives in the UK. Her awards include – Audience Award for her poetry, (Ukraine, 2014) and Autumn Voices prize for her prose (UK, 2017). Her most recent books are Shaping the Water Path (poetry collection, diehard, UK, 2017) and (bi-lingual novella, Biblioteca Universalis, Bucharest, 2018). She blogs at https://rivertrain.blogspot.co.uk
Tom Sommerville writes “Having taught poetry, English, Scots and American for more than fifty years I now spend some of my time trying to write it: sometimes in free verse but more often I like to use forms such as the sonnet, ottava rima and others. If you should publish Photo Opportunity, I feel I should say I was in the scanner for a research project.”
Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. In 2019 she won the Selected or Neglected Collection Competition with Hedgehog Poetry Press for her collection Totems. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.
Thomas Tyrrell has recently moved from Cardiff to Birmingham. He is a two-time winner of the poetry prize at the Terry Hetherington Young Writer Awards. His poem ‘Breaking Up With The Bookshelves’ appeared in the Spring 2019 issue, and other recent poetry appeared in Black Bough, Spectral Realms and Three Drops From A Cauldron.
Gordon Wood is a retired teacher of German and lecturer at a College of Education. Now lives near Edinburgh. Enjoyed fourteen years as a freelance contributor to the BBC German Service. Has spent recent years trying to make sense of Ancient Egyptian and then Sumerian. Is working at the moment on a sequence of poems on John Dowland – just to cheer himself up!