The Summer 2021 issue of London Grip New Poetry features
*Angela Kirby *Ian C Smith *Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana * Denise Bundred
*Deborah Tyler-Bennett *Pam Job *Tess Jolly *Ilse Pedler
*Joan Michelson * Jacqueline Schaalje * Lisa Reily *Gordon Wood
*Jennifer Rogers *Dino Mahoney *Kerrin P Sharpe *Judith Wozniak
*Anne Ballard *Melanie Branton *Paul Stephenson *Mark Carson
*Gareth Culshaw *Pat Edwards *Dennis Tomlinson *Will Stone
*Stuart Handysides *Stuart Pickford *Keith Nunes *Phil Wood
*Antony Mair *Edmund Prestwich *Hilary Mellon *Patrick Wright
*Charles Rammelkamp *Rodney Wood *Jill Sharp *R G Jodah
*Tristan Moss *Jane Simpson *Tony Beyer *John Grey *John Davies
*Ken Cockburn *Tim Dwyer *Edward Lee *Tim Love *Steve Komarnycky
Copyright of all poems remains with the contributors.
Biographical notes on contributors 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 Summer 2021
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
Submission windows are: December-January, March-April, June-July & September-October
I may have mentioned before that each issue of London Grip New Poetry seems to choose its own theme. This time I found that a great many of the submissions were dealing with the nuclear family – some recollecting or imagining experiences of childhood and others portraying complex and changing relationships between mothers or fathers and their grown-up offspring. Such a thematic focus is understandable after a year of Covid restrictions during which some of us have been cut-off from our families and worried about the more vulnerable members while others have been thrown into much more exclusively close quarters than is normally the case. In short, we have discovered that family dynamics are not set in stone, to use a wonderfully mixed metaphor that I was lured into by the Henry Moore sculpture in our header picture.
Our poets have of course explored many other matters and I am confident that, in terms of quality and variety, readers will find this edition is well up to standard. Indeed we always like to think that each issue pushes the standard a little bit higher ….
Since our last posting of new poetry we have been saddened to hear of the deaths of sometime London Grip contributors Paul McLoughlin and Graham Burchell. As well as being accomplished and well-respected poets with competition successes and fine publications to their name they were also active members of their poetry communities and enhanced many events by their enthusiastic presence and stimulating conversation. They will be much missed
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Angela Kirby: Southerners My father thought nowt of them, Southerners, by which he meant anyone born south of a line he’d drawn somewhere between Liverpool and Hull by way of Walton-le-dale so I knew there would be trouble when I brought my future husband home. He was a real no-hoper, born south of the Thames, well-spoken, double damned. Eh lass, said Father, slipping comfortably into his favourite role as stage Lancastrian Thee’s done some daft things in thy life but this beats all - what a taypot. Yet when the lights went off and all the power, it was the southerner who fixed them. I heard my father grumble through the froth that topped his beer Sithee, ‘oo could tell, yon chinless boogger’s not so gormless as ‘ee looks. I hugged him, laughed then cried. It was the nicest thing I’d ever heard him say, high praise, and it was years before I realised that he’d been right first time
Ian C Smith: Coda Browsing on the Internet he comes across the original version of Bob Dylan’s Hurricane, a longer, more leisurely take that makes you want to move, vetoed by the record company’s lawyers due to incriminating lyrics. Music, one of nostalgia’s leading agents, along with smell, whisks him back to the surprise birthday party he threw for his then wife. A small house filled with their friends. The woman he loves attends with her husband. Everybody dances closely in that cramped space where the lovers, who strain against opportunity’s lack, exchange thundercloud glances. When Hurricane’s sensuous insistent beat begins they dance together. During the next eight minutes the others, including their spouses, gradually step back, watching them coiled like an ampersand. Sucked into a vortex, heart at full gallop, he knows repercussion’s danger. Track finished, party gate-crashed by tension, they separate, flushed, sweat- slicked as though emerging from a trance. Too late, they reprise their roles of old friends, awkward in that sultry air. Moustache bristling, her husband grips her arm, marches her to the relative privacy of the kitchen while the host overacts like a soapy star, his wife never taking her eyes from him. Surprise party indeed. Voices hiss. Somebody says, Drunk. An intense growling from the kitchen as the party’s volume gradually increases back to near-normal. He sits alone, a nocturnal retrospective in vignettes: wives, music, surprises, a love-letter in pencil faded to almost nothing, life’s shambolic spark and crackle. A class he taught, a singer-songwriter’s lyrics as a poetry lesson for mid-teenagers, a radical idea then, feels oddly justified now by a Nobel Prize. Logging off, he stands with care, feet permanently numb from too much alcohol over too many years, thinks, How could I dance now with pins like these?
Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana: Her Say that you do not think of her in the coffee shop you adored in Bangor 34 years ago. Say that you did not have nicknames. Say that she did not love the Shetlands as much as you do, or drink as much coffee. Say she did not sound disarming after a glass of wine, and say her hips were not childbearing, like mine, or her eyes compelling. Say that you did not tell her you love her as many times as you do me. Say you did not belly laugh together. And that you did not write poems dedicated to her. Say that you did not have an emoji code on WhatsApp. And say that you have removed her art, once wallpaper, from your laptop. Say that you did not turn to her in the morning and say hello darling did you sleep okay? And say that she did not adore hearing you talk of the distinctive notes of the robin in spring or the chime of great tits. Say that she did not phone you from a copse whilst sitting on a mossy log with teenagers’ empty beer cans at her feet. Say that it does not matter that we will never have children, have yet to make mutual friends. Say that none of this, none of this matters. Because she is not you.
Denise Bundred: Enigma Whose Japanese vase? Whose corner table? Hexagonal in olive green and decorated with twisted stems and blossom, as pale as the faded palette of the roses it contains — the last he painted before that final tumult of wheat and crows. Was this bunch in Gachet’s house with the antiques, Pissarro’s paintings and the nervous atmosphere where he dined each week? Did Marguerite arrange them — yellow pink and blue — in the music room before she played on the piano? A small picture, no clue in any letter, at a time when he completed a new canvas every day. His brother gave it to Gachet’s son for sitting with Vincent the night after he shot himself until he, Theo, came on the next-day train. Whose is the room and whose is the bowl? Questions hover in the air of the Musée d'Orsay. Why another fallen rose?
Deborah Tyler-Bennett: Memento Musee Delacroix, Rue de Furstenberg Museum of memory, within, an artist’s frozen flowers fast in artificial ice. Glacial sprays are fondant macarons gracing Laduree. In Delacroix’s beloved garden white lettering breaking-up the word MEMORIA stark on emerald grass. Such images seduce, memory’s draining blooms, virgin letters broken, somehow whole. Rain. Stepping to the cobbled courtyard, an older woman, snowed hair, skin fading rose, approaches. Takes my hand. Slender, she shadows. In French says: “I had that gown, those brooches, too. The little camels. You dress like someone from another time. I like that.” Her hand’s leaf pressing my skin. She says: “I had that gown, those brooches, too. The little camels. You dress like someone from another time. I like that.” Her Daughter comes, brunette version of her lovely self. Says in English: “I apologise. My Mother is not right.” The older Woman’s led away but turns to smile. Later (a Montparnasse Café) see them wrangling an umbrella. Mother repeats … repeats … Daughter’s exasperation clear. Broken white words against green grass. Complexion? Baby pink … blue eyes … white hair. Studio created winter sealing rose and lupin.
Pam Job: On the train from Avignon to Marseilles I notice the smell first. The couple, backpackers, sprawl on the seat across the aisle and I recollect the particular seeping sourness of hard travelling with the same load – pans, a tent, sleeping bags. They practice songs while their dog, who’s heard them all before, rearranges himself around their feet. Through a window I see trees with trunks pale as milk young birches planted in parallels like grave markers I’d seen stretched out along the lawns at Thiepval . . . And my father, wounded at the Second Battle of Arras in that war, carrying my rucksack to the bus stop seeing me off, his careless daughter, on my travels, my years of vagabondage, and I’m glad all over again he came through. Now I reckon how hard it must have been to let me go, giving me a gift to journey through rips in the sky, finding gaps in whirling wheels . . . on cue, my train passes through a cutting, its rocks still bleeding from blast wounds. A eucalyptus weeps its leaves onto the track. Overhead cables are webs combed out into new meaning. We’re crossing over points, changing lines, and I find myself humming along to the same old tunes, with the dog snoring and the glazed sun, its burnished day done, declining into a soft reddening haze over the sea.
Tess Jolly: The Bus First day at secondary school, first time on the bus with Mum here to show me what to do, in my new brown uniform I’ll soon be known by the boys as another little shit from the whorehouse on the hill, a name we shrugged off as just something they said. The bus is so crowded we stand in the aisle until one of the boys flashes his lovelyyoungman smile and offers Mum his seat, then takes her place at my side. They chat about his future as the bus shudders through town and he shuffles closer; he’s thinking about radiology and holding his palm in front of my pubic bone, not touching, nothing anyone could accuse him of. Avoiding his eye, I fixate on the streets I grew up in blurred on the other side of the glass – a technique honed on sand art when the dentist inserted the needle: here’s a silver river pouring from blue desert dunes, here’s the toy shop brimming with rubbers and glitter, the restaurant where I inhaled chilli flakes not pot pourri before anyone could warn me not to – that sting in the skull when it was fragrance you thought you’d chosen. When Mum reads this and asks why I didn’t tell her, I’ll say there was nothing to tell; when I admit to my daughter that I said nothing, she swears she’d shove his hand away; she knows she’d confront him. .
Ilse Pedler: The Juggling Children started with soft brightly coloured sandbags as soon as they could catch. Teenagers practised tricks, cramming as many balls as they could into their hands, seeing who could throw the highest, twisting their skinny bodies in elaborate spins before they all fell down. For those in their twenties, throwing became cool, a casual one-handed flip as they walked down the street. In families, mothers worried about fitting it all in, fathers took to coaching their children, things got competitive. The old mostly did it indoors with a slow absent-minded rhythm that had become second nature. Over time we saw them less, caught an occasional glimpse through the curtains but eventually they stopped coming out altogether, not wanting anyone to see them when they finally let the balls drop.
Joan Michelson: Care Home Zoom On Sundays the staff sets their mother up to zoom. She has dementia. The doctor warns the daughters she could die at any time. They remind each other this is what their mother wants. But the nurse repeatedly assures them, ‘Your mother’s doing very well.’ So it goes. After years of visiting in turns and rarely seeing one another, the four sisters are together on the screen. They remind each other to speak up and to speak clearly so she can hear. She seems to hear and she speaks, but what she says comes from somewhere else. Where she thinks she is, they’ve no idea. Suppose they stopped. The nurse allows she sleeps a lot. Sometimes during zoom, they watch her dozing off.
Jacqueline Schaalje: Bird Migrations What smells or sights are left when a garden draws empty? Geese gather and mynas shriek before they sleep. My mother is sick so soon I'll have to fly there, leave my city grove. I'll circle above it, accepting though not grasping how my shadow of worry grows pale. My mother, in her wheelchair orbits, is calm as ever. She lights a cigarette and her pink mouth reels smoke, as grey as the Dutch sky. Before I was born, she tells me about that winter the trains were mired and my father gave her a lift, and ploughing through the frozen landscape, they melted. I am still young when I cook my mother's meals, which she spits back. Even baby lettuce, her favourite, spineless and oiled. After dinner, I tinker with the tinfoil angels that thrive above the candle. Those trumpeting trifles reflect in the graphite window, together with all the spinners on their visits of air.
Lisa Reily: painting away grey thread to mouth, moistened thread to needle, again and again, my mother; spectacles on nose, bidding sunlight, windows, her beige sewing machine cold on an old laminex table. my squinted eyes in the steam of shower, gold font on tan, deciphering, is this shampoo or conditioner? I take a leap of faith. one eye closed through glass, a man in a smart black suit holds a little girl’s hand: is that my mother? losing faces in pictures, my eyes a library of stories left unread, now only spoken. hairs on chins hidden till the light of midday, tweezers searching, ineffectually. my mother’s cross-stitched roses on sleeves hang in musty cupboards, beside stacks of records from Ukraine, and a vinok of paper daisies, roses and pretty ribbons; I hold a white blouse in my hands, crimson thread poised, but I cannot find my way. dust of the past entrusted to bookshelves, left unnoticed, the bossiness of clean smoothed over by night; my mother’s house no longer a pristine fortress. the flicker of fire from her television, her hands scratch at imaginary patterns on her bedspread, while bottles of pills hide their names from me. patches of makeup dotted across skin, rouge unblended, my mother, once beautiful, holds a magnifying glass; long brown hair swept over her shoulders, her reflection in the bathroom mirror, a toothbrush dripping hair dye, suspended over her part, painting away grey, only days before she died.
Gordon Wood: Song of the threads (In the Foundling Museum, London) "O Dear, what can the matter be?” - late 18th century folk ballad No names. To identify a child, leave with it a piece of cotton. The mother takes away the rest. A rag of sleeve or ribbon, faded tatters of loving, left with a child, remember, threads run through them. Yet, few return to collect, rags and ribbons remain to sing the song of broken promises, sing the memories in threads, feel them winding pain through the labyrinth of love to its heart of tears. “O Dear, what can the matter be?” Yes, Johnny has gone to the fair. “He promised to buy me ...” Was it tear-stained blue ribbons? “… To tie up my bonny brown hair.” But promises run like threads - pull and memories unravel, garters and ribbons, the tatters of loving and rags of a child.
Jennifer Rogers: Memories of Mother My mother walked once on Putney Bridge. (She lived a while nearby) Now, older than she lived to be, I walk the same ground, by the same water. A daughter was she, a daughter I have, and neither like me. Friendship was a house we never shared, My mother and me. Love was a feeling never declared. No one dared. Sometimes I thought my mother was me. Sometimes she was the enemy. She never excused or explained the past, and at last, when she left, it was on her terms. Sometimes I think I see her there, by the Thames at Putney, walking. I wish she would look back, just once, and see me, hand raised, smile ready. But on she goes, facing forward, No hesitation, no pause. Steady as a sculler, Bending her stroke in the cold winter water. Going somewhere. Going where she wants. Breaking ice if she has to. Never looking back.
Dino Mahoney: Her Voice To one she said she’d come back in her dreams, to the second in her music, to the third, as a voice - she sounded so certain, propped up against hospital pillows, talking between teaspoons of yogurt she later threw up. As a boy, he once made a crystal set – plywood, wire, foil, summoned voices from thin air talking in foreign tongues. Now, through the static whine of tinnitus, he listens for her voice, a message from a foreign station, a distant star.
Kerrin P Sharpe: instead angels minded my mother spinning heat from four tall candles a ring of angels never worn thin with turning bowing angels trumpets flaring threading blessings through her hair kneeling angels never leaving and I hurrying home to tell her this then then remembering she was still in the locked chapel the flickering light how I wish I’d stayed the night
Judith Wozniak: Night Watch She slips out of bed at night to check if her mother is still there, creeps along the edge of the floorboards skimming the landing, like a cat. The streetlight casts lattice patterns on the candlewick cover. It takes time to adjust her eyes to see her mother folded in on her grief. She listens for sounds of breathing, watching until she is sure. .
Anne Ballard: In the Orchard Beneath the turning trees the windfalls lie wasp-riddled, rotting. Our pace is slow, you’re heavy on my arm, unsteady over sodden grass and leaves. I guide you to the brushed brick path where we move more in measure. Once we scrambled heather-crusted hills, chased our dogs on the long sands. You murmur something slurred and pull away. What did you say? I call. Don’t go without me. Stay.
Melanie Branton: Wish You Were Here I found my mother down the back of the radiator with six dead cats, in a black candyfloss of hair. Forty years’ tangled up together came out when I poked it with a stick. Why do the most useless bits of us survive the longest? Souvenir of the days when we were apes. As much help to warm our nakedness as a topless lady apron or a kiss-me-quick hat. Postcards from the past, or from the other side. Melanie Branton: I have killed all the nice things that were in the garden all the rhubarb and strawberries and chives and sage. The tomatoes all wear false eyelashes, but the soil is shagged out, hasn’t washed its hair in weeks. I poke it with a fork. It barely notices. I have done my best to strip back knotted creepers, brambles, uproot the ivy, bindweed. Ground cover can encourage rats. All that’s left is lemon balm, love in a mist. I am a sun-bleached, brittle gardener, degraded as the plastic sheeting my dad seemed to lay down everywhere and now scurfs the bed.
Paul Stephenson: Minor Issue It hardly matters now but you took the toolbox with you. It’s not important in the general scheme of things but sometimes I need a very small screwdriver. Like yesterday, when the bathroom scales arrived and I couldn’t release the tongue of clear plastic wedged behind the silver battery. It’s no biggie but I need to weigh myself, know the extra pounds and for that I need the smallest of screwdrivers, our smallest screwdriver, from the orange plastic toolbox. Until then I’ve no choice but to guess what I’ve put on, must cup my stomach like a white loaf that’s proving, aghast each morning in the bathroom mirror, hold it in. It’s hardly life or death, this excess weight, the bags of sugar since I saw you last summer but I should get on top of it, the pounds of matter. It’s the bit underneath. It needs undoing. I’m not going to IKEA.
Mark Carson: D’Azzo & Houpis* Thank God the book has gone for shredding, worn green cover thinning, and with it years of cumulative reading, shallow understanding. Heavily under-scored in late-night desperation by Patrick, Jake and John before me, each in his generation baffled. What perverse clarity of judgement! highlighting the trite, the useless and the pointless, while camouflaging all the salient points. The scoring’s smudged where sky-blue ink has underslid the rule. Occasional tears are blotted in the margin, ring-stains of coffee, pints and nips. *Feedback Control System Analysis and Synthesis 1960 McGraw-Hill
Gareth Culshaw: Just Letting You Know How Things Are, Pal Our walks this year have gone down to one a day more playing with the ball than sending out her nose. Each day has been a hammer on the nail of time. You escaped at the right moment leaving us both to witness the scars of a dead relationship. As the humans callous it over with work hours. You may be watching from some place walking along the skylight of earth, or following us up the road in a spiritual body. Sometimes I think I see you when I enter a wood or look up at the clouds. Or hear you sigh from the noise of another episode on Netflix. Those days when I would grab the lead and take the three of us out into the open. Released from a sofa, sensory arthritis, and glum tea. Your tails wafted dog hair into the sunlight as she sat there watching it fall like childhood snow.
Pat Edwards: If snow was black The waking, the pulling back of curtains, to reveal a world covered in silent black, would be more than any winter surprise. So try to feel it, those snowflake shapes collecting in ebony drifts like waves of expensive wood. See the luxurious coal dust carpet clothing folded hills in glistening carbon. Watch the light catch in deep blues within the black. Just for a moment breathe the purity of snow black air, tread the crystal crunch of blackened snowy footpaths; let your snow be blacker than any black.
Dennis Tomlinson: Flag of England I lie in the dentist’s chair. In her blue mask she prods at my teeth, speaks matter-of-fact. A radio murmurs. I try to meditate but there comes an image of the church down the road, a flag on its brown tower, a green cross on grey.
Will Stone: Resident 2987 Who are you? I am resident 2987 and I will live in the danger zone of Sizewell C, a nuclear reactor. The builder EDF address me by number as befits a prisoner or one condemned, held back to be exterminated at the optimal moment, or used as a bargaining chip in some prurient deal brokered by a Swiss diplomat of noble birth. My allotted number now appears in all correspondence by email, from the men and women of EDF who have generously offered by way of compensation for our way of life’s destruction, a tunnel for voles and a bat station. But the barn owl’s pale brushstroke along the firs could not be saved according to their calculations, numbers implicated in atrocities elsewhere, but never caught, hiding on passports identity cards, timetables, invoices… numbers ranked to deliver the volley into the white square of paper pinned on the innocent’s heart, numbers that none could dispute. They are coming with their lists. The village halls smell of disinfectant, the floors are polished and buffed before their flowchart peacock display and on the appointed evening we are summoned, our numbers called one at a time… like the condemned, livestock in the narrowing abattoir pens we must go forward. Will Stone: Permanently Deleted Preferring to reject history, they wheeled on their own effigy, like Kokoschka’s Alma Mahler mannequin polar bear fur seemed closest to flesh. There is a European necropolis, sports utility vehicles pass easily over the bleached bones of dragoons, the Staffordshire yeomanry of the 6th June. We know this. Now chased under whips back behind the white cliffs, signalling with our lonely bells in the darkness of monolingualism, Europe’s outcasts discuss the genitalia of contestants on Naked Attraction. In desperation I seek Lord Palmerston on Facebook, but his account had been permanently deleted.
Stuart Handysides: Armistice Day, 2020 (no longer at ease here, T S Eliot) I stand alone to share the ceremonial silence on the radio; await the bugle. To sit in my own quietness would be no different from so much of now. Mourn the frailty of strong men who fall for old lies fawn over flags choose Barabbas vote for Flashman stuffed men from the telly. Remember four bewildering years but which, and why, and where? Over by Christmas. Promises. Recalibrations. At last the guns fall silent. Checkmate. A loser fails to stand down caught with chocolate on his face a child who says it wasn’t him; a mardy kid picks up his ball – if you don’t let me win I’ll sulk it home. The turkey, oven-ready. leads its lemmings over the White Cliffs of Dover. The white cliffs of Normandy look much the same as they fade into the distance. Faint traffic on the voice-free wireless a blackbird’s song the screech of parakeets. Stuart Handysides: ‘Oi!’ It has no consonant, but such is its glottal force and imperative note that, even though none of your acquaintance sounds or addresses you like that, you fail to not turn round, hoping as you do that someone else is being hailed. But no, there’s no one else around and the greeting’s bearer is bearing down on you, and you’d rather not be there but sense that running would be futile that resistance might be useless and try to assume an air of calm, of amiable, ‘Can I help you?’ as you wait to find out why of all people on all days you have been noticed, singled out for such attention. It seems you’ve dropped your aubergines.
Stuart Pickford: Breakfast with Dad In Fruit ’n Veg, you lean on the trolley. As if reading the shopping list, I say Mum’s looking brighter— after the stroke she called so silly. Next? you reply. You limp behind me. We’re lost in the aisles, there’s no jam. You nudge me to ask again. A man in a green overall plucks pots from under our noses, slaps them in our hands. You veer off down Confectionery for two slabs of Dairy Milk on which I swear not to tell. At Customer Service, I buy you extra minutes for the mobile you can hardly turn on. There on a bench, we scan the view of checkouts. Beside us, a Labrador with a slot in its head. Two things to hide all traces: you drop the wrappers into the dog, we stuff our smiling faces.
Keith Nunes: Where we went on our holidays A holiday meant sitting in the family station-wagon in the splintered garage, having a picnic across the bench seats and then sleeping in the car as though camping while our parents spent the holiday in the house, father in a benevolent mood allowing cheese, the children permitted to stay up late and sleep-in late After long years of a listless life and judgmental censures father was promoted to the local graveyard where he rests sullenly under a plain headstone that has his name spelled incorrectly and his date of death precedes his date of birth, we visit him on holidays, enjoy the outdoors, the light relief
Phil Wood: On Becoming An Impressionist I'm told my poem lacks clues. As puzzling as dad, she says. I break my glasses to give up writing. Even her face blurs. Let me glue those frames - for clarity, she says. I paint. All weekend.
Antony Mair: Westerns Watch this with me, your father said. On the screen a man in a wide-brimmed hat reined in his horse on a hilltop, surveyed a landscape of stone and sunlit desert, watching for smoke or trails of dust; then eased his way down a rocky track to confront the bad guys in a burst of gunfire. Death was always quick. Today, in your hospital bed, you zap with your one good hand to find the channel that has a Western on, and stop when you feel that old subliminal comfort: a cowboy with washed blue eyes arrives in Main Street and hitches his horse outside a saloon. He goes in, orders bourbon, finds the barman terse, the drinkers hostile. There’s a fight but he’s unscathed and settles in; destroys the crooked sheriff, hunts out the local villain and guns him down. You’re a child again, caught by an echo, a blur of memory, which warms your clinical room: a scent of tobacco; the safety of your father’s arms. Antony Mair: At Lourdas Beach, Kefalonia My shadow, walking ahead of me, is a boy of fourteen – the shoulders not broad enough for a man. I follow it, tied to my former self. The shadow pulls its future behind it, beside the oleander bushes, across white gravel, to the shop where they sell small pastries thick with honey and custard, sweeter even than lemon sherbets in the corner shop that I used to buy on the way to school. The sun shone then, but with less weight, as if it’s fattened over the years. Now it beams from the sky like the man in the next-door café, displaying his suntanned paunch and wiping the beer from his lips.
Edmund Prestwich: Green Lining Lockdown in Greece: for weeks amid catastrophe for human kind spirits of the sea breathed freely. Under the shearwater’s skimming wing huge eyes looked up, long jet black hair streamed over waves where foam white shoulders rolled. Dryads walked down paths between fields, down city streets and highways; weightless as light, they were tall as the trees they stepped from. Under their feet grass thickened and flowers unfolded, they flooded meadows, burst through cracks in forecourts, waved on building sites and ruins; from all sides fragrant voices rose and the bees flew quickly to their calling. Everywhere, if briefly, only briefly, wild lives enjoyed a respite from our hunger.
Hilary Mellon: A Longing For Marmalade But for the virus you would’ve driven here I would’ve bought marmalade
Patrick Wright: After Lockdown The city is full-on de Chirico, tumbleweed of trash along colonnades. Arcades abuzz with shadow-people, or just the absence of people, just the absence of people – like how playgrounds feel when children are at home. Or porticoes disappearing off to vanishing points, porticoes, plazas, shutters of shops shut and circumspect. At the station is desertedness and dints of final departures, the uncanniness of seagulls. Out of the canals, swans invade the marketplace: the malaise once our human zoo. Closure signs, jokes in windows: ‘no loo-rolls to steal’, the perpetual Sunday anomie, the perpetual Sunday ennui finding its way into my skin, their skin, those coming at me with their masks like surgeons thrown out of theatre. Here is reverie, where cranes over buildings are crane flies, where crane flies cut between key workers, equidistant, where lockdown means a padlocked sky. Suns unbathed under passing from rooftop to rooftop. And bird-shit statues, bird-shit statues part of stage-sets, part of prophylactic trysts on the high-street. And here is my gallery, my gallery, flicking through a book of prints, just prints, which seem like (though aren’t quite) reality.
Charles Rammelkamp: Get Out of Jail Free I’ve never been one who cared for class reunions. Never felt much solidarity with my classmates – what Vonnegut called a “granfalloon,” a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose but whose association is meaningless. Never been to a college reunion, much less one for my high school class. Not that I had bad feelings about my contemporaries in my hometown, just that it seemed a lot of bother to travel hundreds of miles to chit-chat with people I hadn’t kept in touch with, spring for a hotel room, dip into my precious cache of vacation days. But this year’s my fiftieth at Potawatomi Rapids High, class of 1970, and I’m retired now, to boot, no excuses. The planning committee’s even sent a nifty refrigerator magnet with the school mascot (a muskrat) leaping out of the frame. People have sent me letters and emails pressuring me to attend, warning rooms at the Potawatomi Rapids Inn were going fast; I’d better reserve one soon! And I’d even asked myself: If not now, when? Wasn’t I curious to see how Melissa Bakewell had aged, the girl for whom I’d pined all those years ago? But then along came COVID-19. True, the reunion’s not until late July, but really, is this a good idea?
Rodney Wood: There’s Always One In This Fight For Freedom Almost nothing was stolen by the rebels, who declared themselves to be "zealots for
truth and justice, not thieves and robbers". Dunn, Alastair, The Great Rising of 1381:
the Peasants' Revolt and England's Failed Revolution, 2002 thieves travel to Rochester to join the revolt thieves find it best to do their business alone thieves only see and hear the silver and the gold thieves always say this about getting caught: don’t thieves take advantage of chaos: it’s what they do thieves when you go to war: stay safely behind thieves take a personal interest in possessions thieves ransack the Savoy Palace: keep what they find in the thief’s childhood everyone they knew died and soon they too will join them but for now escape across the Thames with a strongbox containing £1,000 and the cry of thief! thief! thief! rippling in their wake
Jill Sharp: Care They must know bringing the boy downstairs a team meeting he has a right to be counsellor social worker tutor tea or coffee? key worker night carer team leader (he sits with his head in a pillow) only right that he hears what they’re doing They must know agree his behavioural contract a broadly gestalt approach only right that he’s was it ten or eleven? seems to have quietened down no sign of his birth mother if you knew your Winnicott he simply refuses what they’re doing They must know the trouble with this kind of eleven foster placements the mattress sodden, the pillows (hasn’t lifted his head) an issue with boundaries I said broadly gestalt towards the male workers how long has it been? what they’re doing They must know daily one-to-one sessions quietened down the bedwetting started was that ten or eleven? he simply refuses when the staff rota changed (hasn’t lifted his head) with this kind of kid what they’re doing
R G Jodah: Repaired Beneath the grime, the years' accretions, sleeping still your child's heart beating waiting for that calm caress of polish, of sweet scented beeswax, of a warm skin soft fabric which effaces carelessness, all those knocks, ill-reminders gone in what seems an instant when it is returned to you whole again and perfect: now you gasp and hear yourself, younger, wonder filled and laughing, whole again.
Tristan Moss: Iron As a child he was told to toughen up and not to take himself so seriously. It was hard at first as criticism felt corrosive, but he didn’t want to seem weak, so brushed off his rust, exposing himself again. But the quips continued, some thinking him arrogant or vain or stupid, while slowly he became smaller and smaller. Tristan Moss: Ideals As soon as I halve the apple, it starts to brown. It won’t taste any different, but I can’t convince my kids: apple must look a certain way for it to taste like apple. Tristan Moss: Faith A spray of feathers is slowly being blown across our perfect lawn never to be gathered in or take the shape of a bird again.
Jane Simpson: Proof Like club sandwiches cut at precise angles, offered at morning teas after funerals, my brothers will be handed my father’s life history on a plate. Three weeks before his 95th birthday I hand my father the birth certificate he has never seen, never thought he could. He tells me how when he was 24 his mother told him why he had been turned down from university – how she started to shake and his shock set in. * The day before his 95th I bake his traditional birthday coffee cake – better than anything he can buy. I’ve baked muffins for our afternoon tea and email him on ahead – best not left to the lawyer to disclose with his Will after his death your birth is the gift I want to you to share with my brothers as you have with me He has typed with his voice the letter he asks me to proof and send without delay – for those from whom no secrets are hid no secrets exist His gift to my brothers will be his new mother’s full name. I suggest an ending. He presses ‘Send’ My father is a choir boy singing in Canterbury again; a language seldom spoken now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
Tony Beyer: The concept in heaven there are no dissenting opinions anyone with other ideas wouldn’t be admitted all the music is gospel and you can’t ask to turn the volume down it’s full of head prefects and functionaries whose conversation is humourless and unswerving only the wretched of the earth have any show of changing the place
John Grey: I Am Not The Little Church Around Your Corner Read my works if you must. But don’t expect religion. My words are not a church. Merely a lost world where lost people roam to their peril. You won’t find comfort here. No greater being watching over you and out for you. No afterlife. Just the soulless. The damned. For I am the god of what I do. I don’t crave worship. Just the tools to create. And anything original is my miracle, not yours. All I can advise is, keep an open mind. I promise not to shut it on you.
John Davies: By the pond A minor deity calls from Gothenburg to tell me what a shit he thinks he is. How he wishes he had other characteristics and doesn’t like himself. How aimless he feels and such a mess. I hear the human planet talking through him, and say to the planet as I say to him Forgive yourself. Learn to love each part of you, each secret compartment of hidden anger or desire, each cess of resentment, each spring of joy. I draw his attention to the eye, the view from the pond. The process continuous in the inexorability of entropy. In the meantime, there’s washing up to be done, a dog to walk, leaves to remove from the darkening water.
Ken Cockburn: Oxford I. Home for a girlfriend from uni, I came in the summer, saw gargoyles and gardens, the still controversial Emperors' heads, played Subbuteo against her brothers, heard an edgy couple at the next table plot an affair, roamed the Pitt-Rivers, failed to notice when the actresses switched in That Obscure Object of Desire. II. My daughter studied here and I came back in summer, saw the Botanic garden, the Emperors' heads, heard a string quartet in the music-room, roamed the Pitt-Rivers, at Evensong watched a flustered couple arrive as the choir began and his phone sudden and unselfconscious as a drunk blurting out that he used to love her but —
Tim Dwyer: What Luke Said I never did real well with happiness, I was better at getting through, keeping it down to a few beers. More or less. Oh, I can smile, tell a joke, speak words of love, but happiness has been a brief stop, not a place I live. But for hours I can watch these birds flying by the window. Especially the gulls, sailing and floating on the smallest breeze. A friend once told me that is happiness. I wasn’t sure if he meant the birds in the air or me looking out the window. I didn’t ask. I just let that one be.
Edward Lee: Cracked Who hasn't, at least once in their life, looked in a cracked mirror, only to realise the mirror is smooth, their hand already in motion to touch the cracks before noticing the truth, before seeing their face fall from sight, the vision of their eyes the last thing to go, the shock on their face remaining in the air like a shimmer of heat on a hot summer’s day? Edward Lee: Chemotherapy He stops, the razor halfway down his foamed cheek, and wonders why he's bothering with this submission to appearance. He finds his answer silently, and finishes his shave, the razor continuing to his skull, taking the hair that remains there, smiling to himself at this small victory.
Tim Love: Adjusting Night made owls' eyes big. What has sadness done to me? I'm adjusting to it, the way eyes adjust to sudden darkness. I know that if I wait I'll see things I didn't see before. Black is nothing to fear. If ink is the pen's fuel, it's the squid's weapon – it helps them make a getaway, which is also why I write. I don't express my feelings in words to understand myself but to rid myself of them, to clear space for something new, something I can only see at night.
Steve Komarnycky: Extracts from a fantasy sequence on Che Guevara his fictitious relationship with a Ukrainian cellist Che takes you in his arms as delicately As Venetian glass That vase with the blue veins Swirling through transparencies You broke once. Bourgeois! Or the sparrow that fell from its nest Its eyes two balls of jet Fluttering in your loose fist. His hand rests on your waist His hand holds your hand He sways to a music Only heard inside, A slow Rumba beat, his hips The sigh And relapse of the sea As it falls back From the Malecon, The chance Rhythm of life, outside, Voices the clang of a dustbin Seems to keep time. You dance with him. *** Che holds the aerial out of the window Against the dusk sky It reminds you of a character From some Chinese calligraphy, Monochrome bees swarm On the TV screen, White noise… Anything? He asks Through the cathode blizzard You see vague shapes, The ghosts that never materialise On the edge of sleep The milling of plankton Yearning for moonlight. Che waves the aerial But it’s no use Two swans fly past, their shadows drift From west to east Their strange grating cries You think of how sound is marble From which you caress The contours of the cello's voice.
Back to poet list…
Anne Ballard returned to her native Edinburgh four years ago after many years in London. Her poems have appeared in Acumen, Orbis, Magma, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Scotland, and various anthologies. She won first prize in the Poetry on the Lake Competitions 2015 and 2018. Her pamphlet Family Division was published by in 2015.
Tony Beyer’s print titles include Anchor Stone, a finalist in the poetry category of the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards, and Friday Prayers (2019), both from Cold Hub Press. Recent poems have appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, Molly Bloom, Mudlark, Otoliths and elsewhere.
Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her published collections are Can You See Where I’m Coming From? (Burning Eye, 2018) and My Cloth-Eared Heart (Oversteps, 2017). She has been published in London Grip, Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Honest Ulsterman
Denise Bundred was a consultant paediatric cardiologist, and has an MA in Creative Writing. She won the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2016, coming second in 2019. She came third in the Ledbury Poetry Competition (2019) and read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2020. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies and poetry magazines. Her pamphlet, Litany of a Cardiologist, is published by Against the Grain Press and was reviewed by Carla Scarano in London Grip in 2020. More recently she has written a narrative sequence about Vincent van Gogh in the final years of his life. Some of the poems are in the voices of the doctors who cared for him during this time
Mark Carson has published two pamphlets with Wayleave Press, Hove-to is a State of MInd (2015), and The Hoopoe’s Eye (2019). The Hoopoe was reviewed in London Grip last year
Ken Cockburn works as project manager with Lapidus Scotland. His new pamphlet, Edinburgh: poems and translations, appears from The Caseroom Press this summer. https://kencockburn.co.uk/
Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. He has two collections, The Miner and A Bard’s View. He is an MA student at Manchester Met.
Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana has a master’s degree in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University. She lived in Japan for 10 years and has an MA in Japanese Language and Society, from Sheffield University. In 2020, she came third in the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. She was also third in the 2020 ‘To Sonnet or Not?’ competition and commended for the Winchester Prize and the Buzzwords Prize. Recent work has appeared in The Moth, Artemis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Fenland Poetry Journal, Tears in the Fence, Orbis and Obsessed with Pipework, and online in Anthropocene and The High Window.
John Davies lives in Brighton. His New & Selected Poems was published in 2018 by Kingston University Press in the UK and by Red Hen Press in the USA. His poems have been published by Words for the Wild, London Grip, The Irish Post, A New Ulster, The Guardian and in the eco poetry anthology Poemish and other languages, amongst others.
Tim Dwyer’s chapbook is entitled Smithy Of Our Longings (Lapwing Publications). His poems have recently appeared in Atrium, Cyphers & Hold Open The Door, the Irish Poetry Chair Anthology. He recently moved from the U.S. and now lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Pat Edwards is a writer, reviewer and workshop leader from mid Wales. She has appeared in Magma, Prole, IS&T, Atrium and others and has pamphlets with Yaffle and Indigo Dreams. Pat hosts Verbatim open mics and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon.
Stuart Handysides began writing as a general practitioner and medical editor. His poems and short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and a play he wrote some years ago was recently performed online. He has organised the Ware Poets competition for several years
Pam Job has poems in magazines including Acumen, Artemis and Magma, and in anthologies. She was included in Arrival at Elsewhere, a collaborative poem published in 2020. She received a Commendation in the Teignmouth Competition 2021.
R.G. Jodah lives in London and has recently appeared in: PORT (Dunlin Press), Dawntreader, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Alien, Issue Two (Fly on the Wall Press).
Tess Jolly has won the Hamish Canham Prize and the Anne Born Prize, and has published two pamphlets: Touchpapers (Eyewear) and Thus the Blue Hour Comes (Indigo Dreams). Her first full collection, Breakfast at the Origami Café, is published by Blue Diode Press.
Lancashire-born Angela Kirby now lives in London. Her poems are widely published. Shoestring Press published her 5 collections and a 6th is due in 2122
Steve Komarnyckyj’s literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals. He is the holder of two PEN awards and also runs a micro publisher, Kalyna Language Press while looking after four rescue dogs in his spare time.
Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, The Blue Nib and Poetry Wales. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com
Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His poetry and prose have appeared in Stand, Rialto, Magma, Short Fiction, etc. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/
London based Greek-English-Irish poet and playwright Konstandinos (Dino) Mahoney, won publication of his collection, TUTTI FRUTTI in the Sentinel Poetry Book Competition 2017, and is winner of the Poetry Society’s 2017 Stanza Competition. He is also part of DINO and the DIAMONDS (shortlisted for Saboteur Award, 2018) a group that performs his poems as songs. He teaches Creative Writing at Hong Kong University (visiting lecturer) and is Rep for Barnes & Chiswick Stanza. Recent poems in Perverse, Live Canon, The New European
Hilary Mellon has been involved in the poetry scene since the early 80s. She’s read at venues all round the country and judged several poetry competitions. Her work has been published in over ninety different magazines and anthologies, four pamphlet books and one full length collection. She runs writing workshops in Norwich
Joan Michelson’s most recent collection,is The Family Kitchen (2018, The Finishing Line Press, KY, USA). A portfolio, Time and Again was a finalist in the Manchester 2020 competition. ‘Care Home Zoom’ is from The Covid Collection, a work in progress.
Antony Mair’s début collection, Bestiary, and Other Animals, was published by Live Canon in June 2018, his second collection, Let The Wounded Speak, by Oversteps Books in October 2018, longlisted in the Poetry Book Awards 2020. See https://antonymair.com.
Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two youngish children. He has recently had poems published in London Grip, Ink Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin and Obsessed with Pipework
Keith Nunes (Aotearoa) has had poetry, fiction, haiku and visuals published around the globe. He creates ethereal manifestations because he’s no good at anything practical or useful
Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish was published by smith/doorstop.
Edmund Prestwich has published two collections, Through the Window with Rockingham Press and Their Mountain Mother with Hearing Eye. He grew up in South Africa, but finished his education in England and has spent his working life teaching English at the Manchester Grammar School.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two full-length collections were published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, has just been published by Clare Songbirds Publishing.
Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry has been published in several journals, such as Amaryllis, The High Window, Panoplyzine, Channel, HCE Magazine, and The Fenland Reed. You can find Lisa at lisareily.wordpress.com
Jennifer Rogers was born in Western Australia. She has lived in Hong Kong, England, Australia and Nigeria and her many occupations have included working as a journalist and being a playwright.
Jacqueline Schaalje has published short fiction and poetry in the Massachusetts Review, Talking Writing, Frontier Poetry, Grist, The Banyan Review, among others. Her stories and poems were finalists for the Epiphany Prize, in the Live Canon and New Guard Competitions. She earned her MA in English from the University of Amsterdam.
Jill Sharp’s poems have appeared most recently in Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Stand, Under the Radar & The High Window. She was joint-second in the 2020 Keats-Shelley Prize
Kerrin P Sharpe has published four collections of poetry (all with Victoria University Press). She has also had her poems published in a wide range of journals both in New Zealand and overseas including Oxford Poets 13 (Carcanet Press UK) and Poetry (USA).
Jane Simpson is a poet, historian and writer of liturgy based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her poems have most recently appeared in London Grip, Otoliths, Poetry New Zealand, takah? and Meniscus. Her collections, A world without maps (2016) and Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano (2019), were published by Interactive Press. Her latest book is The Farewelling of a Home: a liturgy and her website, www.poiema.co.nz
Ian C Smith’s work has been published in Antipodes, BBC Radio 4 Sounds, cordite, The Dalhousie Review, Griffith Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Southword, & The Stony Thursday Book. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island
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-curates the Poetry in Aldeburgh festival and currently lives between Cambridge and Brussels where he takes photos of doors at insta: paulstep456 / paulstep.com / @stephenson_pj
Will Stone is a poet, literary translator and essayist living in Suffolk. His most recent poetry collection is The Slowing Ride, (Shearsman, 2020), his first Glaciation (Salt, 2007) won the International Glen Dimplex Award for poetry in 2008. Will’s poems have also appeared over the last year in the Spectator, The London Magazine, Poetry Review, Agenda, and Ambit. Translations of his poetry have been made into French, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish
Dennis Tomlinson lives in London. His poems have been published on the Ink, Sweat and Tears and Shot Glass Journal websites. Translations from the German recently appeared in Acumen. He brought out a first poetry pamphlet, Sleepless Nights, in 2019
Deborah Tyler-Bennett is a European poet and fiction writer, with eight volumes of poetry and three of linked short stories published. She regularly performs her work, currently on Zoom, but can’t wait to get back to a live audience. Current poems are to be found in The London Reader, Imminent, Songs of Solitude (web), and are forthcoming in Dear Dylan (Indigo Dreams), Poetry Cafe (web), and elsewhere. At present, fifty of her poems are being translated into Romanian for a project at the University of Bucharest
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. Still finds some solace in ancient languages.
Phil Wood was born in Wales. He has worked in statistics, education, shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including: Snakeskin Poetry, Fly on the Wall Magazine (issue 6), Ink Pantry, The Bangor Literary Journal, Allegro.
Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough, co-host the monthly Write Out Loud (Woking) and is widely published in magazines. When Listening Isn’t Enough has just been published.
Judith Wozniak has an MA in Writing Poetry from the Poetry School and Newcastle University. In the last year her poems have appeared in The Poetry Shed, The Cardiff Review, South, The Alchemy Spoon, Artemis and These are the Hands NHS Anthology. She won first prize in the Hippocrates Competition 2020.
Patrick Wright has a collection, Full Sight Of Her, published by Black Spring Press (2020). His poems have appeared in several magazines – most recently Agenda, Wasafiri, The Reader, and Envoi. He has twice been included in the Best New British and Irish Poets anthology, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.