The Spring 2020 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:
* Tanner * Glenn Hubbard * Jock Stein * Tim Cunningham * Joe Balaz * Ben Banyard * Teoti Jardine
* Brian Docherty * Frederick Pollack * Jack Collard * Chris Johnson * Phil Connolly * Jim C Wilson
* Carla Scarano * Andrew Shields * Gordon Wood * Marjory Woodfield * David Cooke * Val Richards
* Ruth Valentine * Alex Josephy * Hilary Hares * James Fountain * Paul Waring * Nicky Phillips
* Paul Stephenson * Norbert Hirschhorn * Carolyn Oulton * Jan Hutchison * Mary Franklin
* Stuart Pickford * Cath Drake * Sue Wallace-Shaddad * Susan Utting *Rosemary Norman
* Elizabeth Smither * Clifford Liles
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors. Biographical notes can be found here
London Grip New Poetry appears early in March, June, September & December
A printer-friendly version of this issue can be found at LG new poetry Spring 2020
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
I am drafting these notes on January 31st 2020 as our submission window is about to close. I already have a good idea of the make-up of the magazine which ranges from the ironically dystopian through the reflective to the quietly regretful. Maybe these moods mirror the insecurities of our readers as they look out upon a time of great political change when some are hoping post-Brexit events will be just a little better than they feared while others are beginning to fear they will turn out worse than they had first hoped…
And now we turn from the political to the personal. Our last editorial lamented the death of the Darlington poet and editor Joanna Boulter; and in this issue we mourn the loss of four poets with strong London links: Roddy Lumsden, a highly original poet and much-respected tutor and mentor; Hylda Sims, poet musician and tireless organiser of poetry events north and south of the river; Leah Fritz who, 30 years ago, swapped political activism in New York for a new and successful life as a poet in Primrose Hill; and William Oxley, admired not only for his accomplished poetry but also for his role of convivial host over nineteen iterations of the splendid Torbay Poetry Festival. They are all, in their different ways, irreplaceable and will be greatly missed
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Tanner: irony upon irony you’re just not poetic enough, darling. the lefty editor the pro-working-class lefty editor, he says it’s not proper poetry, darling, when you write about the jobcentre the shop floor and the rabid public you serve but how can you write about being working class in this country without mentioning the jobcentre, the shop floor or the rabid public? your working-class life, it’s just not poetic enough for the leftie editor, darling … you’re confused but then you go to work in a shop where the self-proclaimed pro-working class working class public threaten you for running out of houmous or being the only one serving and you think: this hypocrisy, it’s actually pretty consistent both in the literary world and the real one pretend to be a lefty while rejecting your fellow working-class: that’s the working-class way! so follow their lead, carry on writing your unpoetic poems about the jobcentre and the shop floor, slag off the rabid working-class public you claim to be a part of then send them off to be rejected by the lefty editor and in their rejection and yours you shall belong. just not enough for the lefty editor, darling. Tanner: another election in a small town she wanted refunding and when you couldn’t do it she told you to get the manager but when you got the manager she didn’t say anything to him about the refund policy but she did tell him that she thought you were rude and unhelpful. that’s another write-up. 2 more and you’re out on your arse. you saw her in the street. she was wearing a red rosette yelling at people about unemployment. about the death of working class solidarity. about big business. companies are too powerful! she cried. they’re chewing us up and spitting us out! she cried. wonder how that happened.
Glenn Hubbard: A Volunteer at Calais Refugee Camp Addresses the Local Chief of Police It's not the same, you say, my burning down your house and your having their tents thrown into bins each morning. True. You have somewhere else to stay and you will have had an insurance policy on that nice chalet. Still, it was the best I could do to remind you of how it feels to stare up at the stars through the pissing rain. Every day they defy you by not going away. Much like the bloody-minded citizens of Calais. They would not give way, either. Obstinate buggers, they stuck it out for a year and Edward thought to make them pay. But he thought again and spared the brave burghers, moved by the words of his wife, Philippa of Hainault. Maybe your missus could have a go next time you decide to order in the demolition squad. The town of Calais was besieged by the English for a year following the defeat of the French
at the Battle of Crecy (1346). When the siege ended, Edward III demanded that six citizens
present themselves before him to be punished (presumably executed) for the town's obstinacy.
Jock Stein: Firelight Catch up flickers in the Australian firelight. From our antipodean back yard, ghosts come home, convict us all, and stab their flaming fingers in our faces, leaving climate crushed in a coal-black envelope, waiting for the seal of history.
Tim Cunningham: Lullaby (‘God so loved the world. . .’ John 3.16) God held Earth in the palm of His hand, Earth whose death rattle Echoed through the spheres; Held it as you might hold A sparrow with a broken wing, This Earth exhausted of resources, Its oxygen spent, every wing broken, Never again to spin around the sun. Science, that could have fed the hungry And cured the blind, was steered off course, Its sat-nav speeding towards destruction. Chemicals poisoned land, air and sea, Fell like snow on the screaming skin of children. We were warned. We had our prophets But they were mocked as Jeremiahs, Prophets of doom. The sea was innocent. It was not the sea’s fault that it choked On plastic and nuclear waste. The rivers were innocent. Pollution was not their fault; Neither was the fishes’ extinction. The forests too were innocent. Insatiable logging was not their fault Nor global warming’s indiscriminate torch, No more than spiked thorn bushes Plaited a crown of thorns, Or a rugged cross and nails Crucified God’s son. They too were innocent. As the last bird’s aria died away, The last faint echo of Eden, God cupped Earth in the palm of His hand, Rocked it gently as if rocking it to sleep, And sang a lullaby softer than Brahms’, Like the one Mary sang In that stable in Bethlehem, Like the one she sang At the foot of the cross.
Joe Balaz: Pronto Now You bettah grab da wheel and start reversing backwards cause da tipping point is right around da bend. From wun evidentiary standpoint da projected disastrous weather dat is beginning to arrive upon da earth going fully use all of dose greenhouse gases to make everybody feel da heat. Da petrocapitalists are forcing your hand on da griddle and making you sit on da red hot coils of wun electric stove. Moa bettah you scream wun scream of protest rather den wun scream of agony. Focus on dat corporate fat cat continually pushing fossil fuels wit wun big smile from ear to ear. It’s time to knock out some oily teeth and let moa wind and solar energy flow through da gaps.
Ben Banyard: Planned Obsolescence We get through a lot of lightbulbs, even the ones which the makers claim will last for 15,000 hours. Think of all the smartphones we’ve owned, batteries which lost power with every charge, screens that cracked, updates too big to download. Washing machines, kettles, toasters that conked out after a couple of years, cartridges dearer than the printers themselves. All of it engineered to fail or seem antiquated, not made to last, heirloomed to the grandchildren but heaped into landfill, guarded by seagulls. Much like the planet, it must be said. We are its rogue components, saboteurs flaming the ice caps, coughing lumps out of the ozone. Perhaps everything will fail one day; scientists and engineers will smile and shrug, admit that it was always built to spill.
Teoti Jardine: And No, I Didn’t Ask For Line Maintenance The bill arrives, I phone and listen to mind numbing excuses for music because my call to my internet provider is, as they keep telling me, of the utmost importance to them, or the Power Company, Tax Department, M.S.D., Post Office, Bank, Health Centre, or heaven forbid should I one day call 111. Then a human or, mind now numbed, perhaps an interactive human sounding device, finally answers the phone call I’d made years ago. This voice wraps apologies around me as I give it, my date of birth and where it happened, Mother’s maiden name, the size of my cock. Then, my dam of issues flood out greeted by, ‘I sees, and yes’ and many more apologies. ‘Thank you for calling, it’s all sorted, have a good day.’ And I wish he, she or it a good day too, astonished at how my feelings of frustration have somehow been replaced by a post coital sense of intimacy.
Brian Docherty: Distractions (after Christina Feldman & Jack Kornfeld, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart) There are too many of those in the world. Not just things, or music, art or movies. It is not enough to turn the TV off, or put our laptops or phones away, or stop buying newspapers or magazines, as if not paying attention to events is enough. If the world changes around us, and we have not noticed or are indifferent, what good is that? If you are looking for Enlightenment, where will you find it? If I had that answer, I would ask you to buy my book that will tell you how, but maybe that book, if I have written it, and not been distracted by Poirot repeats, is just another distraction, just a few more words to add to the mind’s chatter. If I said All you need is a pure heart and an empty mind, would you believe me? If I said All you need is Love, or All you need is cash, could you believe both or neither? To be present in the Now, but remember to pay the utility bills, is that a paradox? To love someone wholeheartedly, but let them go their own way, can you do that?
Frederick Pollack: Who Was That Masked Man? The Native American helps. Grudgingly. He questions whether his marginal social status is also ontological. Do his considerable talents mean anything outside his ancestral Lebenswelt? Does he? He tries to explain to the farmers and ranchers willy-nilly involved in an adventure that eventually both sectors will be vertically integrated in immense trusts with many fewer employees. Before that happens, small farms will blow away because of bad practices. They listen to him as if to wind. He would do much better rescuing threatened widows than his principal, but leaves it to him, alert to racist body-contact prejudice. The boss mostly drinks. The Injun reins him in but not by much. Determined like many drunks to prove he’s unimpaired, he’s deadly on the draw; and although he makes a show of stern regret and impassivity, he lives for those blown brains and bloody trunks. Otherwise, he cares for his horse. Whitewashed, its body sagebrush, carefully woven, plaited with strips of pine and madrone, eyes turquoise, tail and mane shreds of a dress; subtly, obsessively worked in, the star of the Law. Vegetable glues. Composed of what it eats, on a good day it can do three miles. In his depths, the Ranger too is troubled: can it be outsider art if he knows it is?
Jack Collard: Double tap X The great game begins. The loading screen, a blueprint map stained by X`s – 1 life left. No resurrections, no pause no time to think or feel or breathe. We`ve been here before. This won`t be the first or last time. But one game`s end is another`s beginning. Can`t be long till the next one`s unveiled anyway. That`s right, you saw it on the news. Can`t wait. It`s gonna be great. Your nervous anticipation bleeds into the familiar contour of the black plastic placed in your hands, scorched by sweaty finger marks. Fingers on triggers, the X buttons, twitching and itching to pinch. You know the routine like the scars that snake down your back. Dance, boy, dance for your life. Show `em what you`re capable of. And we`re off. With rope wrapped round your body you drop down down from the sky into the arena through the confetti dust. Once on the gravel you pound the triggers, double tap; X X, never considering Y. It`s like shooting tin cans of an alley - metallic, soulless, programmed like bait, goons. You feel like a vigilante, no capes or kill caps. Invincible. Next target found, fate, locked, loaded…Bingo - got `em. Bragging points gained, just another tally on the kill streak. Might reach the highest toll of the week. That`ll show `em. Headshot – cool. Isn`t this fun? Your Mum`s call for dinner is drowned out, a distant plea. But you promised you`d finish the mission before tea. You promised to come back, to the real world. You promised you`d unplug. But you`ve come this far, can`t have broken so many, so much, just to lose your kill streak. The sand`s spit and the fireworks of rubble and ruin become an eye sore. Water leaks from your bloodshot eyes, but you mustn’t flinch or falter. Your mouth is as dry as the superficial sand on which you play upon. You find a house, a shadow, and embrace it. But there`s a noise, footsteps. You pivot to the left. Nothing. You glance to the right. You blink. You die. You cry at the TV IT`S NOT FAIR. You throw your weapon at the floor and the battery falls – dead - at your feet. It`s not fair. It never is. Now you`ve lost your kill streak. It`s all fun and games `till the game plays you. Missed out on dinner tonight, but you`ve lost your appetite. Why don`t you just give up the fight? Double Tap X has, quite ironically, a double meaning. In gun training, a `Double tap` is a shooting
technique where 2 shots are fired in quick succession at the same target. When playing video console
games, players must often `double tap` the `X` button on their controller in order for their character
to fire their weapon. Of course, an `X` also symbolises death, which I feel many modern violent video
games turn into sport.
Chris Johnson: March Snowdrops and harebells are emerging from rat-infested trenches. Grateful for winters armistice bayonets made of frost ice mortar shells can no longer harm them. Sunlight is arguing with moonlight about a quota of hours. Crows strut nonchalantly issuing dictatorial demands but only the sky pays attention. A hare rushes behind a bush - a streak of khaki lightening. Thistles and nettles – those bare-knuckle prize-fighters are flexing their muscles. Grass is growing lethargically as if it can't be bothered. The dog-winds hackles have subsided. As for February's lockjaw – resistant to treatment – a miracle has occurred, gradually the earth slackens. And a choir of thrushes sings a plangent requiem.
Phil Connolly: Following Mass Some of the loath-to-leave kneel on. Others throng the porch, or hang their chat around the yard. Dad’s mates’ feet are stardust down the seven steps and out; then blurs across the street dividing church and froth clinging to the sides of a glass, following their Tetley’s to the bottom while they finish on a bull, or clack their dominos like chuckles over tables in the Three Horse Shoes. Dad smacks his lips and sighs. Lame afterthought of years away at war, he has to wheel me home. Home for the guaranteed Sunday row. Home to his Just what the hell will the neighbours think of the steam that steams the kitchen windows up and makes him seethe and sulk through Sunday lunch. Thinking back, a smattering of Physics might have helped. I could have told him: Dad, the steam’s a must, a fact of warm meets cold – hot vapour hitting wintry glass. But I was only eight. And Mum’s teacher fell at Ypres, and Dad’s at the Somme. A hundred and nine, a hundred and ten, I see them now: She’s dishing him a silent Yorkshire pud. He’s simmering and boiling like the veg.
Jim C Wilson: Patience Easter again and Patience Crosbie dons her suit of muted tweed, double locks her door and steps out through the Sunday streets. High tenements loom and there, among black bags, a fox explores, bedraggled. O God of Bethel, by whose hand, she hums, as the steepled hulk of St Stephen’s soars up into view. Her fingers exercise inside her gloves, safe, protected from the morning’s chill. She’s saddened by litter in the churchyard but manages a smile, almost, on seeing Mr Chalmers. The church is cold; it echoes as she ascends the steps once more and seats herself before the organ. Time! Behind her, voices undulate as she picks out perfect notes and chords to accompany His death, His resurrection. There is a green hill far away and Patience Crosbie peers into her mirror, observes the congregation singing – mothers, fathers, the old and young. And soon it’s nearly over. The rustling of coats and the shuffling of feet on cold flagstones. So now she pulls out all the stops. Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music explodes from every organ pipe: celebration, vibration, and just a touch of exultation. Then she closes the lid, clicks off a switch and quietly descends the steps. Some words of thanks from Mr Chalmers as she walks down the aisle; then home, the long way, through the local park.
Carla Scarano: Good Friday I was surprised to see you at church on Good Friday, the day of betrayal and killing, when we kiss the naked body on the cross and cry for all our losses. You were there with your deaf mother, I was there with mine and her elderly friends. We quickly caught up fifteen years, my move to England, the new job, my son’s wedding, graduations, my father’s death and my mum living happily. You were just the same, unmarried, helping old relatives organizing their lives and yours, travelling alone mostly, your sister pulling out. Everything looked under control, neat words ordering a life.
Andrew Shields: Saint Jerome In His Study Antonello da Messina The peacock and the partridge are not on speaking terms. They both ignore the auguries of other passing birds. The lion waits around a corner to be healed again. From his paw, the blood is ink, and the thorn a pen. My patron saint can trace the words of a long-lost age. My patron saint sees nothing else as he turns the page. He does not see the sunlit arches or the aimless birds. All he can see is his open book of miraculous words.
Gordon Wood: In this game (after Paul Cézanne’s paintings of card players) For David at eighty A fall of cards, like Mallarmé’s throw of dice, will not abolish chance; but in this game, when the mistral screams its eldritch song from nor’-nor’-west across the hunkered land, these clay-pipe chewing, weathered men will sit like rocks resisting the curling crash of waves and seek a pattern in the spume of cards.
Marjory Woodfield: Landscape After the painting, ‘Cape Cod Morning’, by Edward Hopper, 1950 like a bird she watches long grass catch the sun among taut shadows just one arrow will reach the mark she counts the mornings remembers the son who doesn't know his father sleeps in the bed he shaped from forest saplings the horizon draws her eyes.
David Cooke: Johann Becher (1635 –1682) Although in his day he was closer than most to understanding combustion, he is known now as a man of simple beliefs. One: that the world is ruled by fools and two: that he had been born to fleece them. In the wake of a war that proved his thesis he ducked and dived and bluffed his way across a crazed empire. Soft-soaping Electors in Mainz and Bavaria, he gained the ear of the Emperor. Embroidering truth, his visionary logic always tipped the scales any time investors required the next good thing: his silkworks that prospered until he decided to bail, abandoning his plans for the Austro-Dutch Canal, and a comprehensive grammar of the lingo he’d invented. On the move again, he headed north, where the Hollanders doubted – all too briefly – that sand can change to gold if it’s primed with silver. And as they stared, transfixed, along their dismal coastline, they never guessed the cleverest part of the trick, when the maestro and their money vanished into mist.
Val Richards: Banned The ever youthful soul Still beats its wings Yet dare not soar To one who All unknowing calls. For the world would cry, ‘See that sad old thing Mounting her broomstick - How sick is that?’ Ought I then abstain, Shut out my soul’s refrain, And stick to sweeping floors? This watered-down self, oh world, Is all you’ve seen of me. But I shall roar such things That empty chapel by the sea, The waves, the gulls, The wind singing through the high grass And
Ruth Valentine: Toxic Shock Anaphylaxis is your soul refusing what the world spikes into it, your throat swelling to stop the words getting out, the groan that’s fine, the whine no problem. When I say soul I don’t mean anything immortal, disparaging the busy lavender. If you happen to be allergic to bee-stings maybe you think it’s frivolous to grab one as metaphor. If you’ve been forced to take jeers or cocks or numbing medication, you’ll know how your skin incinerates, your mind and all your mouths close. Above the rose-garden, the willow shelter, the picnic-bench, the playground, a house-martin cries like a frightened child, a seagull dives, almost stabs it, spirals, swoops again. Ruth Valentine: The Back Wall Horseshoes in a cleft in the stone wall, a cliff, a falling away of sense and shelter, a line of iron outlines, rust and hole, as if a clatter of animals, a shire, a Shetland, an Arab stallion, had galloped on but left a token, a task, to the long-gone cottagers, for their well to be brimming over. A hidden wall, among willowherb and fern, at the back of the house, under bent guttering, ashamed of its rough-cut ragstone and the course of plain red brick, the corrugated iron, though a mirror gives back time and something yellow falters before it, girl in a sun-worn dress twirling into the centuries between the door and the rock-garden, and a tortoiseshell butterfly pauses to watch, and warms the steps.
Alex Josephy: Post Office, County Cork Above the counter, flat caps in a choice of felt or tweed. Nailed to a rafter, ragged round the rims, they look defeated, more like trophies from some hunt or raid on neighbouring homesteads or that pirate clan from Baltimore. No, those are not for sale. Shelves hold fly-blown boxes whose contents, itemised in blue felt-tip, speak of a quiet transformation from everyday need to curation: hair pins, silk hose, children’s woollen vests, slowly becoming history. The bar attracts more trade, longer-lingering, louder than the postal business end, payments and pensions happily getting liquidated. Will I pour you one? Beyond the glow of fairylights, darker shelves. Liver salts. Bull drench. Guess what these are? OK, I’ll tell you. Pig ring pincers. Ha! Not quite what you were thinking? And tightly crammed into a recess over the fridge where cans of ordinary Coke are cooling, a carton labelled ‘Habits’. That’s where he keeps the shrouds. That was when I suspected blarney so she fetched them down to show me: fine black cotton, tassled, embroidered. Sacred heart of Jesus, have mercy on me.
Hilary Hares: Psalm for the City A thought for those who live behind the bars of pinstriped suits. A curse on those who manufacture ceiling glass or raise the bar. A prayer for those whose rise and fall depends on rise and fall. May the goalposts never move. May the scribes and minute-takers have it all.
James Fountain: The Catch of Commerce The leafy cabinets of English scenes slot together like forgotten dreams. Slender conifers sway on distant hillsides, curlews soar, calls rising ever higher. In the city, people teem from glass blocks oblivious to the frivolity of financial gain. Swayed by the rhythm beaten on a drum, attempting to win to show they know the score. The land by the shoreline has been bought already, developers prepare to begin building. As embattled fishermen land empty-handed, the roar of cars from the commuter’s road reminds them of a new catch.
Paul Waring: Unfinished A table-top canvas half-eaten dishes knives and forks askew lip-prints on glasses wine no longer breathing a room where silence feeds inhales exhales days when every passing train might be the one carrying you and elsewhere is a place out of reach and what’s left waits like Laika in space
Nicky Phillips: Finsbury Park Breathless from taking the spiral staircase two by two, I struggle onto the platform, stop. Night sits around me, weighs me down as empty seats and bulging bins look on. November’s wind invades each hiding place, drags shreds of paper and cast out coffee cups into a swirl, leaves no space safe. Sirens stab the lateness, punctuate the background buzz and beat of those who never sleep. I wonder who’s done what, to whom. An express races through without warning, as the button pusher of station announcements turns in bed, dreams of dandelions and gin.
Paul Stephenson: Banisters I began to lose my children playing hide-and-seek, that close August afternoon they never found me or James and his stutter inside the sycamore trunk. And so I went on losing them – one boy, one girl, getting changed for five-a-side and placed in defence, cornered at the Leavers’ Disco on the first bars of Lady in Red. They were verging on lost when I lay with Madonna, Last night I dreamt of San Pedro… and gone for good come the Saturday job selling wills, assured tenancies. Years on I find them – almost, usually at weekends, clinging to banisters with just-cleaned teeth, growing as they watch me eat, in homes of mortgaged friends.
Norbert Hirschhorn: Visitations ...at each beginning of each new beginning – school, job, retreat by the sea – he fell in love. Always with the same person: solemn, thin, no makeup, a way of brushing back a strand that made him nearly cry with longing. They’d walk along a corniche holding hands — something about her hand he could detect even in the dark – or through woods, or through galleries, scarcely speaking. And then – she vanished. Gone. Gone. He looked for her in all the cherished places. Perhaps he saw her, or thought he saw her, threading the crowd off Piccadilly, or across a square in Siena, and he’d wave, or maybe tried to wave, and call out her name but her name choked in his throat. Months later, in the dark, she appeared at the foot of his bed. An avatar. Dear heart, what happened? I’ll do whatever it takes. She only smiled, touched his wrist, turned away. Who are you? he whispered. How did I ever come to know you?
Carolyn Oulton: The Visit This is a privilege only allowed to age. Was he good in bed? (the one so awful I didn’t stay in touch). I don’t know why you’re laughing. You said yourself, you’re 80 plus, bad knee, and I’ve brought you up a cliffside in a storm like this. When I come again the colour of the sea will have shifted. Gulls jumping, chalk whiter. I want to see my father as he was that day. Some nutter scattering luggage down the gangplank. The sea is getting dark. My mother will be waiting in the car, overplayed the radio and run the battery down. She won’t ask where we’ve been.
Jan Hutchison: Five Ways of Parting Also the bee frozen to the stalk of fennel was midway on a journey * the morning when you left the click of your shoes down the path was ahead of the sound of yourself * in a cathedral of memories each braid of your honey-coloured hair is a flying buttress * slippery ground in the backyard corners tighten on the sheets I clipped astringency to the clothes-line * today the wind blows through the grapevine and lifts stems off the fence their leaves are rough-toothed platters
Mary Franklin: Ross The English language grants us words to mask emotions, I say. I cannot find a way to alleviate her anxiety as she struggles to describe the vacuum of dread that engulfs her now her husband is dead. Gone is her usual joie de vivre though a quiet dignity remains. Life isn’t fair and Ross was only thirty-six, she says in the house with many windows through which thick evergreens peer, the house they shared together these last two years. I sense him everywhere here – his spirit pervades the atmosphere. He wanders out to the garage to check his two motorbikes. They stand soundless and still, engines and gears in mourning under their covers of grey. The English language grants us words to mask emotions, I say once more. I am at a loss to explain why he suffered so much pain or why he died so young while the tulips he planted bloom beside the back door.
Stuart Pickford: Guillotine I bump into Jane sorting worksheets, ask how she’s doing. For a second, nothing. Then she slices sheets in two. The bell is about to go. As if losing my brother wasn’t bad enough, Dad’s got Alzheimer’s. Another worksheet identical to the last. Thing is—she lines up the paper—our dad doesn’t remember Pete’s dead. The cut is perfect. Each time we said, he grieved afresh so the doctor advised us to lie. When he asks, we make up holidays for Pete, his cricket scores, the walk up Snowdon on his thirtieth. We’ve created a fine dead life. And Dad’s happy. Her eyes fill until there are only tears. Jane taps and stacks the sheets into a pad, monologues to practise for the mock exam. She brushes herself down, rigs a smile and sets off to teach, starting each lesson with Write the date in the top corner.
Cath Drake: A Respectable Life It's not easy these days in a fully-functioning modern flat. Back when we were students, there was a crumbling hole right through the lounge room wall into the kitchen where random notes were left from a mysterious guy called Alan, a sensitive serial apologist with an intense anger problem. It's not easy in the quiet: just me, the radio, the clock. No Vince with his excessive coat-tails, pockets of poetry and noisy Ramones obsession, or Rach with her husky howl and strapped-on beaten-up guitar, or Joe’s gravelly ramble telling bogus stories on late night talk-back radio. No Brownlow brothers with a philosophical dilemma and a pile of tinnies appearing in the lounge, or Lizzie's ex, who was never really her ex, face pressed to her window singing vodka versions of Eternal Flame at three in the morning. It's not easy always being able to buy what you need without interruption or subterfuge, days flowing like milk. No anticipation of the end-of-week market specials stew, Vince in Rach's polka dot bikini stirring, while she arranges the bottle top collection blu-tacked to the wall and muses on which hangovers are at The Pig & Hound sharing special chips.
Sue Wallace-Shaddad: The Kiss A virgin in Paris, she met the lovers for the first time that afternoon in the Musée de l’Orangerie. Stone cold white, curved marble approximation of flesh, two heads fused into one the frisson of their embrace astounded her sixteen year-old self. She viewed the couple from every direction, noting the book set aside the muscled torso the sweep of skin. She could not imagine being so impassioned – clothes shed – and wondered at the intimacy of their gesture Fifty years later she saw the lovers again still beguiling just the same – she sat down to catch her breath.
Susan Utting: Subjunctive Mood, Venice Were I to go back to the city alone, take it back to my own heart, I would stop in a square by late-night moonshine, listen to the waiters going home, their full throttle vibrato harmonies. And one of them would kiss the air with his fingertips, bellissima! and I would answer quietly, with conviction bravo, bravo, beautiful! And I would turn and go, harmonising in my head, humming myself down side street after square and alley till I saw a lighted window that was strange to me, but that I knew was where I’d find what I was there for, this time, on my own; that this was where I’d stay. Susan Utting: Transitional Object The tin of grips has a shiny black lid with a pattern of tiny red dots at one end and Sally in red at its centre. I love the tin of grips because of its slippery slide-open lid, it makes me think of a school pencil box with a lid that slides open, and shuts to a seamless flat surface. A first school, double pencil box that swings its opened-up top to an underneath hollow for more pencils or crayons, but not for ballpoint pens, which haven’t been invented yet, and when they are will not be allowed. The tin of grips is not a double anything: not a double-decker bus, double-breasted suit, not a double choc chip ice-cream; it is single, flat, shiny, easy-open easy-close, just as perfect as it should be, with its neatly packed grips inside, cushion tips laid top to tail, snug as sardines in a tin, this tin that sweetly slides open without need of a ring-pull or key.
Rosemary Norman: Objets Trouvés Objects are not lost in Lille but found, most often on trains, and are collected under a sign that means art work in English, maybe it’s a wine rack or urinal but it’s certainly umbrellas if the weather improves, left to themselves in sharp light to unroll the work that waits in them, a ballet of skirts on spokes flung in the air over Flandres and Europe stations, passing in and out of Belgium until anyone who saw all this is shaken off and only then they rest back on a seat.
Elizabeth Smither: Skeleton, shop mannequin I’d like to have one of each: the plastic skeleton I shook hands with when the surgeon left the room a mannequin carried fireman’s hoist through the street. I’d have them both in the same room the white plaster mannequin with feet fastened to a base, the skeleton since it can dance, dangling by the open window whose net curtain threatens to clothe it in the lightest bandage. I’d dress the mannequin differently for each season and for the skeleton I’d buy a hat and a black bow tie with polka dots. One wired and flexible hand could hold a cane. Where would they go for a date for the skeleton to play Grand Guignol the mannequin to sip a martini wearing yards of scarves and furs, opera gloves and a jewelled cigarette holder? At the end of the evening they would embrace as he saw her into a taxi and got in himself, into the back seat. ‘I don’t take bones,’ the taxi driver would say. ‘You need flesh first,’ the mannequin would say. Elizabeth Smither writes: I am very fond of shop mannequins and skeletons such as you see in a doctor’s
consulting room. We had a skeleton in our science class who lived inside a cupboard; I can’t remember
her name, but she seemed part of the class.
Clifford Liles: A Seamstress Considers Her Options The trap awaits outside. Its horse, a bay, jangling its traces by dank stone walls. With her income gone, life has spun away like moon-bright shillings dropped down a well. Before a mirror and peonies, red as her nightmares, she begins her theatre of poisons: gathers her powdered white lead; and black moon-shaped patches of taffeta. She mouths a humid oath then covers her scars; touches rouge to her lips, feeling the pink sting. There. Ready, she thinks (but her shaking marks the proximity of panic and skin), for the lamp-lit stage; the candle-lit trysts. For the age-old trap that men can’t resist
Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English).His poetry has appeared in such magazines as Stand Journal, The Lake,Otoliths Magazine, and Hawai’i Review, among others. He is also the author of Pidgin Eye, a book of poetry. Balaz lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, near Bristol, where he writes poetry and short fiction. His first two collections Communing (2016) and We Are All Lucky (2018), are published by Indigo Dreams, while a third, Hi-Viz, is due out in 2020. He founded and edited the Clear Poetry webzine between 2015-2017. Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com and Tweets @bbanyard
Jack Collard is a First Year A-Levels student at Bridgwater and Taunton College, Somerset. He is studying English Literature and is interested in looking at the ordinary as extraordinary, and how life`s subtleties can be substantial.
Phil Connolly is married and lives near York. He taught for many years in North Africa and the Middle East. He was shortlisted in the Wordsworth Trust Competition and has been published in several anthologies and magazines including The North and Dream Catcher.
David Cooke’s poems and reviews have been widely published in the UK, Ireland and beyond. He has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being Reel to Reel ( Dempsey & Windle. 2019). Staring at a Hoopoe, his seventh, will also be published by Dempsey & Windle early next year. He is the founding editor of The High Window, a quarterly online journal of poetry and translations
Tim Cunningham has had seven collections of poetry published since 2001; his eighth, Passports, is due out in April 2020 with Revival Press. Tim has recently returned to live in Ireland, having previously worked in education in London, Delaware and Essex. He was awarded a Patrick Kavanagh fellowship in 2012.
Brian Docherty is part of a growing community of writers, artists and musicians in East Sussex. He has published six collections, most recently Only in St. Leonards: A Year on the Marina.
Cath Drake, an Australian from Perth who lives in London, has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in UK, Australia and US, and performs her work widely. She has been short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School eco-poetry prize (now called Ginkgo) and highly commended in 2019. Sleeping with Rivers won a Mslexia/Seren poetry pamphlet prize and was a Poetry Book Society choice. The Shaking City, her first full collection, is out in 2020 with Seren Books. Her work has included environmental writing, award-winning journalism and teaching mindfulness. http://cathdrake.com/
James Fountain was born 1979 in Hartlepool and has had two pamphlets accepted for publication so far – Glaciation (Poetry International, 2010) and The Last Stop (original plus press, 2018, Runner-Up at Ilkley Literature Festival Pamphlet Competition 2018). Has had individual poems published in The Journal, The Recusant and Dream Catcher. Wrote the first PhD on Scottish modernist poem Joseph Macleod (1903-84, University of Glasgow 2010). He is based in Leeds and teaches English in Saudi Arabia.
Mary Franklin’s poems have appeared in numerous print and online magazines and anthologies including Bonnie’s Crew, Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, London Grip, Nine Muses Poetry, The Stare’s Nest and Three Drops from a Cauldron. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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.
Norbert Hirschhorn is a public health physician, commended by President Bill Clinton as an “American Health Hero,” and proud to follow in the tradition of physician-poets. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has published five collections, the most recent, Stone. Bread. Salt. He is a co-translator with Syrian physician-poet Fouad M. Fouad of the latter’s poems.. A bilingual collection will be launched later in 2020. See his website, www.bertzpoet.com.
Glenn Hubbard has lived in Madrid since 1987. He began writing in 2012 and some years later was delighted to discover that people seemed to enjoy his work. He has had over sixty poems published in magazines. To be able to write poetry is a blessing
Jan Hutchison is a New Zealander and now lives in Auckland. Her most recent collection of poems is Kinds of Hunger. Her interests include forests and bio-diversity and learning the Maori language.
Teoti Jardine of M?ori, Irish, and Scottish bones, lives with his dog Amie in Aparima/ Riverton, on beautiful southern coast of New Zealand. His poetry has often found a home with London Grip. This poem was previously published in Catalyst Volume 16, 2019.
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.
Chris Johnson has poems published or forthcoming in Orbis, Other Poetry, Interpreter’s House, The Journal, Agenda and Acumen. He is a regular visitor to the Reading Poetry Cafe
Clifford Liles was twice Highly Commended at Winchester Writers’ Festival, won the Sandwich Arts Week Local Poet and Canterbury Art in the Underpass competitions. He has been shortlisted at the Canterbury Festival. His works appear in The Cannon’s Mouth, Reach Poetry, Writers’ Forum and Canterbury Festival and Sandwich Arts Week anthologies.
Rosemary Norman was born in London and has worked mainly as a librarian. Shoestring Press published her third collection, For example, in 2016. With video artist Stuart Pound, she makes films with poems as image, soundtrack and sometimes both. See them on Vimeo
Carolyn Oulton’s previous publications include: Acumen, Artemis, Dream Catcher, The Frogmore Papers, Ink Sweat & Tears, Orbis, The Poetry Village, The Moth and Seventh Quarry. Her most recent collection Accidental Fruit is published by Worple Press.
Nicky Phillips has had poems published in Eunoia Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Picaroon, Snakeskin, SOUTH, South Bank Poetry, The Cannon’s Mouth and elsewhere. Her pamphlet Jam in Aisle 3 was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.
Stuart Pickford works as a teacher in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. His latest book is Swimming with Jellyfish published by smith/doorstop.
Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; to be reissued by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, and elsewhere.
Val Richards (1935 – 2019), was a teacher, psychoanalyst, artist and poet, who resided in North London. She deeply touched the lives of many with her entirely individual ways of seeing, her compassion, her welcoming smile, her warmth, her intuition, her loving gentleness and her wisdom. As well as writing poetry , she wrote a book (first published in 2005) on the subject of playing and interpretation in psychotherapy and theatre: The Who You Dream Yourself
Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/ http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/
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. Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewshieldspoems/
Elizabeth Smither’s latest poetry collection, Night Horse, won the Ockham poetry prize in 2018. She also writes short stories and novels; her latest novel, Loving Sylvie was published by Allen & Unwin in 2019
Jock Stein is a piper and preacher from East Lothian. He knows how ‘joined up’ the world is, and suggests that the Australian bush fires remind us of our past links with the continent as well as indicating climate change. Most of his books are available at https://buy.sanctusmedia.com/store/collections/handsel-press-store.
Paul Stephenson has published three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-curated Poetry in Aldeburgh in 2018-19 and interviews poets at paulstep.com.
Tanner’s new collection Shop Talk: Poems For Shop Workers was published by Penniless Press this Halloween. Of himself he says “Tanner congealed in Liverpool tomorrow. He’s been hounding lit mags for donkeys. His star sign is Libido. Hobbies include pillage and colouring in.”
Susan Utting’s poems have been published in The Times, TLS, Forward Book of Poetry, The Poetry Review, Poems on the Underground, and broadcast at London’s South Bank Centre for Poetry International. Her fourth, latest poetry collection is Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems,(Two Rivers Press).
Ruth Valentine’s recent publications include A Grenfell Alphabet (self-published in aid of the Grenfell Tower fund) and Downpour (Smokestack). She lives in Tottenham, North London.
Sue Wallace-Shaddad has had poems published by London Grip, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Poetry Space, Brittle Star,The French Literary Review 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.
Paul Waring’s poems have been published in many journals and online magazines. He was awarded second place in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. Quotidian’ his debut pamphlet, is published by Yaffle Press.
Jim C Wilson’s writing has been widely published for nearly 40 years. His most recent poetry collection is Come Close and Listen (Greenwich Exchange). After teaching his Poetry in Practice classes at Edinburgh University since 1994, he is continuing to do so at the Scottish Poetry Library. More information at www.jimcwilson.com
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 completed a sequence of poems on John Dowland – it has not cheered him up
Marjory Woodfield has appeared in Raven Chronicles, Mudlark, Flash Frontier, takah? and others. She won the 2018/19 Dunedin Burns Poetry Competition, and was commended in the 2019 Hippocrates Poetry Award and Proverse Poetry Prize. She has been anthologised in in Pale Fire (Frogmore Press, 2019), Best Small Fictions 2019, (Sonder Press) and with one eye on the cows (Bath Flash Fiction Volume Four). Much of the inspiration for her writing comes from living in the Middle East.