The Winter 2021 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:
*Robert Cole *Ceinwen Haydon * Myra Schneider *Steve Komarnyckyj
*Chrissy Banks *Merryn Williams *Norton Hodges *Martin Bennett
*Julia Stothard *Rodney Wood * Tony Dawson *Tristan Moss
*Rachel Carney *Ramona Herdman *J R Solonche *Teoti Jardine
*David Flynn *Briege Duffaud *John Grey *Zack Rogow *David Parsley
* Hilary Mellon *John Freeman *Wendy French *Sarah Wimbush
*Pratibha Castle *R A Allen *Tony Beyer *John Roe *Sue Spiers
*Tom Sommerville *Kenneth Pobo *Colin Pink *Andrew Shields
*Oliver Comins * Robert Nisbet *Bruce Christianson *Ben Banyard
*Thomas Ovans *Mary Michaels *Steve Black
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 Winter 2021-22
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
We may be repeating ourselves in using the Three Wise Men as a header picture. But it does fit well with the Robert Cole poem which opens this issue. And since there aren’t many overt Christmas references in the other offerings here is another seasonal piece with the editor’s compliments
Joseph and the Magi
Eyes as dark as mine looked past me
at Mary and the child: but what
did these men’s alien wisdom have
to do with knowing God? And yet
they worshipped, having come so far
to find the place where we, so far,
had kept our secret. We’d grown used
to living with a promise, thinking
years would pass before our God
completed it among His people.
Now the word, somehow, was out:
what in the world would be the outcome?
We would especially like to thank all our contributors for entrusting us with their work and our team of hard-working reviewers for their careful attention to so many of the year’s new poetry collections. We hope that they, along with all our readers, will be able to enjoy a more convivial and communal Christmas than most of us were able to manage last year.
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Robert Cole: Following the Magi Watching the skies over the desert; The enchanted, ghost light Following the sapphire star chart; A wilderness in the woods, Moving through the ecliptic; Looking into the intergalactic Nomads bound for the sun Descending from the craft A salamander burning in the sky: Walking from a Magellanic Cloud Encompassing the galaxy From beyond the ionosphere Heading home to Mesopotamia For the harvest in Chaldea.
Ceinwen Haydon: Stargazers You drag me here, beyond my bedtime, to see the Northern Lights. I sigh and go along with you, as usual. Infuriated by my lack of enthusiasm, you push me too far and I fall into another’s arms. She speaks softly, explains the amazing Aurora Borealis. She’s inviting me to go away. You’ll rage and call me faithless, shallow. Yet I don’t believe you’ve ever seen the beauty of the stars. Now, I know I will.
Myra Schneider: Past Midnight Past midnight but the fan hardly touches the heat in my south-facing room. I can’t sleep and it’s almost unbearable lying on my bed beneath nothing but a sheet. I keep getting out and spreading my unhappy limbs on my exercise mat. It offers no relief. All day the sun beat on the garden. The butterflies on the buddleia bushes adored it but I hated its hard stare, found moments of relief by snaking the end of the tangled hose through the yellows and purples of flowers on the crumbling terraces and pouring water from the can on the tomato plant outside the back door and the terracotta pot of Moroccan mint beside it. I peer outside now – coolth has crept up from the night-laden garden but it hasn’t entered my room. To escape I lean out of the window, breathe in the smell of damp grass and a mistiness which calms me. Suddenly I’m aware of a huge orange moon so low in the sky it’s almost on the horizon. Its colour is intense, deeper than apricot, than amber, almost the flame-red of the sun. And now – it could be Keats’ thing of beauty – it’s lodged above the railway bridge and patterned by the fine calligraphy of branches.
passengers, only rarely run and often travel to
stations no one wants to go to. They are called
Parliamentary Trains after the now archaic
legislation requiring companies to run some
unprofitable train services Someone must step from the Parliamentary train, Onto the empty platform at Buckenham, And peer into the weak radiance cast By the neon light to the fence at the other side, Where the fields of Norfolk roll into the dark, Noting the weather is cloudy for August. Someone must feel their heart lift when the moon, Peers through a gap in the clouds at Buckenham And briefly casts the horizon into relief, Beyond the fields where acres of wheat and rye Lisp in the barely perceptible breeze, And North Sea breaks and sighs listlessly. Someone must walk on the dark road That leads to nowhere in particular, Through villages where everyone is asleep Past fields of oilseed rape, its flowers Phosphorescent in the moonlight And hear the hiss of a car on the damp asphalt. Someone must be the footstep heard outside In villages and houses miles away, The shadow you might have seen recede Past the streetlight and into the fields, Or perhaps it was only a cat or a bird, Or the boom of the North Sea that woke you. Someone must stand on the Norfolk coast At five o'clock and watch the tide come in While the waves relapse and foam, And note the sky has cleared at last And be lost for words or someone to hear them Except for the sea and the harvest moon.
Chrissy Banks: Eine Kleine Nacht Musik after Dorothea Tanning At night, they slip through the walls’ veins, soft and easy as smoke. Voiceless as mist, they try to whisper our names, then must stand around, louche and purposeless, or merge with the sunflowers big as gongs staring out from their black eyes. Sometimes they stream into light, any light. See where that door is ajar how a beam reaches out to touch me. Where did you think the dead went? My head is on fire with all this. Chrissy Banks: And Then the Young Dust hangs in the air like bad news; a plague of heat fries lilies in a vase. Breathe & raise a threat of breathlessness. Impossible to settle. Impossible to know what to do with yourself. Sit down, pick up a book. Walk to the window & gaze outside. Field without features, unpeopled track. One cow, dead or asleep. One anonymous bird on a shrub. And then the young come tumbling through the door, drunk on summer, laughing at nothing, singing out your name.
Merryn Williams: The Strangers At The Residents’ Summer Party Some years ago, that family moved next door, a neighbour’s guests, but only for the summer, that time the Residents held their annual party. I went; it was a lovely July evening. Each household brought along some food and wine to share, and urged the strangers to join in. I fetched a Lego chest. Their little boy chatted away in fluent Arabic to me, enchanted by each coloured brick. I answered him with gestures, smilingly. Around us drifted adult conversations; sun, chestnut shade, and his delight was obvious. I thought of Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and prayed, just keep him here, don’t send him back. Where next that family went, I wouldn’t know; the neighbour died, and others live there now. From time to time, I do recall those visitors (their names, if once we knew them, irretrievable), and just today was jerked back to the past, spotting a Lego fragment in the grass.
Norton Hodges: Real-Estate Dream pace, Deborah Levy Find me a broken-down bungalow in an overgrown garden someone gave up on. The For Sale sign had stood there for months if not years and even the blue-suited whippersnapper from the agent’s hadn’t been able to sell it on with his smart talk. Hand me the keys with the minimum of fuss. Someone else took care of completion and exchange. My role was simple: to give up all that kept me there and bring my essentials here, now I knew what they were. Yes, I’d rejoice to see the stained sink again and shadows of old appliances. Leave me alone to live without perfection. In the morning, I’d stroll from my boho-chic kitchen into the unkempt wilderness with a chipped mug of tea, sit at the baseless excuse for a patio table and listen out for the sea, just a short grumpy walk away with a hat pulled down in case of strangers.
Martin Bennett: Decorator Grey-haired prodigal and divorcee Back at his mother’s house after twenty - No – she corrects him – more like thirty years, He has discovered a new vocation In decorating walls, windows, doors. Inside or out, annexe, shed, no matter – Down he lays another coat of white On white: The pure wordlessness of it - Improbable luxe, calme et volupté, No ocean voyage, no exile needed...! That, or some lenient Purgatory Plus stepladder, penitence made easy, Effect and effort benignly linked – His imprint set now in fresh emulsions, Now in gloss, Kilroy with a difference.
Julia Stothard: Broken Springs We climbed ladders to hang wallpaper in the lounge and stuck it to the wall with sweat and paste. We didn't go to the races to rise in the stands on the final furlong and cheer our bets home. We shopped each week for the best bargains; meal deal for two and wine in our downtime. On our anniversary, we didn't visit the Ritz to dine on oysters and clink flutes. On a seaside holiday, you sunbathed on the sand whilst I fussed around collecting quartz and shells. You didn’t become an author, and I didn't become an actress so we went back to the B&B to make love on broken springs.
Rodney Wood: Love Locks On The Pont Des Arts Ballroom dancers from the thirties spinning tops skidding across the floor dinner jackets and chiffon dresses laced with strips of reflective metal. Shuffle and click on the sprung wood with rehearsed steps – sways, rotations, double reverse spins, flourishes and whisks. Paris, dancers wander as lovers by the Seine or along boulevards beneath the shade of sequoia or plane trees with occasional flashes of sunlight but the fountain of youth has dried up and disappeared under tarmac and the crunch of polished leather jackboots. Years later young lovers return in caps, jeans and tees with their own moves. Dancing frantic as a berserker or as slow as clouds of fluffy pink. On chain-link they secure a padlock, which represents their love, that will stay on the fence for all of eternity. After dramatically hurling keys into the water under the bridge they kiss longingly, make out a bit before leaving for their Airbnb, wander as lovers by the Seine or boulevards beneath sequoia or plane trees with occasional flashes of sunlight.
Tony Dawson: Love’s a Laugh “La capacité de rire ensemble, voilà ce qu’est l’amour” - Françoise Sagan. “Love’s the ability to laugh together, says the author of Bonjour Tristesse, without a hint of irony…”, my wife scoffed. “Maybe she’s implying she never loved… After all, laughter therapy’s one thing but laughing your way through life’s a tall order,” I replied, with a smile. “What about pessimists? Aren’t they allowed to be gloomy and still love?” she growled. “It’s true,” I said, “some people love being miserable. They love to wallow.” “But one wallow doesn’t make a depression, unless you’re a water buffalo,” she quipped. “Is that supposed to make me laugh?” I asked. “If so, I’m not so sure we love each other!”
Tristan Moss: The Beauty of Understanding I cannot decide if her breath has damaged or sculpted this dandelion’s head. Tristan Moss: Left behind Some leave behind tractor tracks across a newly ploughed field, while others the footprints of a sparrow
Rachel Carney: Hover I tried to sleep last summer but the seagulls were at war screeching through the dark and the helicopters hovered and the pollen drifted in as I tossed and turned fighting that invisible force – the pull of you inside my head mechanical and raw each day was worse than the one before and each look shot deep or bounced back and the BBQs were rained off and no-one could pretend there wasn’t something going on but neither of us said and now it’s summer again and the day after tomorrow that’s the day I think I am determined yes I will this time Yes Rachel Carney: Wish I imagine you climbing up Saint Sunday Crag, your hood pulled low against the fog, rain swirling in on every side, as you wonder why you put yourself through this, sweat drips down your back, your ankles shift on scree and, as the clouds lift, you turn and catch a breath, at this: the most amazing sight you’ve ever seen, and do you wish that you could share it?
Ramona Herdman: dear life as if it’s just the two of you hanging above a crevasse poorly prepared and equipped frozen hand in frozen hand slipping a bit more each week rope-numb snow-blind a disappointingly predictable paunch weighing down whichever one of you has fallen all your weight on the chain-links of shoulder - elbow - wrist - grip - wrist - elbow - shoulder and like everyone your joints not what they used to be you thought your life would be different you didn’t think to plan how those mornings walking home still party-eyed against the flow of workers have evaporated into the skyline up here the windchill on your ears wet cold oozing your bad back the breath of a fox or something on the hand above that’s gripping the muddy rock for dear life and the dark coming down so you can’t even see who it is your hand is holding
J R Solonche: To Tim I would have written Dear Tim, but I reserve that word for the woman, you know the woman I mean, the one that once I call that word I will call by that word exclusively, so, Tim, thanks for your letter, I’m unable to be casual about it, about that word dear, probably because I’m a poet but more likely because I’m a damned fool, so anyway thanks for your kind letter, I haven’t found her yet, the woman for whom I’m saving dear, I’m sure I never will, I’m seventy-four, cool photo of you playing the guitar, I’d give a hundred poems to be able to play an instrument, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known my share of women, but none measured up to the ideal woman we all discover in our heads at puberty and then carry around in there for the rest of our lives, to answer your question, I’m doing it now, sitting outside in what remains of daylight, drinking what remains of Jim Beam, writing this, I don’t know how the Dear salutation started, do you? I should look it up, I do it every day, preferably outdoors, but everyday is the main thing, do you have a word that you simply refuse to use in a poem? send me a poem using the word you hold most sacred, that you value most dearly, that you have sworn never to use, I looked it up, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, “As a polite introductory word to letters, it is attested from mid 15-c. The military man’s dreaded Dear John letter is attested from 1945. As a noun, From late 14c, perhaps short for dear one, etc.” Best, JR
Teoti Jardine: Superb Writer 4215 HB I picked up my pencil, sharpened it. I scribbled and jibbled and mizziled across the page, until a few lines were filled. I rested. Returning to read it over, found I couldn’t. Not a word had been written. Then, I saw around the pencil strokes, in those precious spaces, there was the poem, patiently waiting. Teoti Jardine: Moth The flickering flame. An irristible invitation. I accept it, with a hesitant longing. Torn between desire and fear. I flutter closer to the flame. I’m almost, but, not quite, perhaps another day or night, I will be ready. My eyes catch a glimpse, a distant, even more inviting flicker. Ah, another candle calling. Is this the one I have been, waiting for?
David Flynn: Dialogue: the Future Dot, ideals are like forks. I’ve got a whole drawerful. He said. Tahiti. A Manhattan penthouse. A log cabin. Red-head blonde black. Thin, busty. Adventure in Antarctica. A quiet evening before the fire. Two sons. Three daughters. A dozen. None. My own business: bed and breakfast; internet; import shop. Winning the lottery. Making movies. Building furniture. Writing a novel. Ted, she stopped him. I have spent thirty years. On one ideal. Accumulated money. Step by step. Setbacks and bursts. Until now I have what I want: a house, though not the Victorian of my dream; a husband, though not the movie star romantic of my dream; a child with problems; a career, at a company bought by another company I don’t like. I am happy. I’m not happy, he admitted. But my story isn’t finished, and never can be. And mine is? she asked. Smiling down. Yes, he said. Smiling down. My love of change will not change. Your love of permanence cannot last. Set in ways. Stubborn. Will you marry me? He got down on one knee. I’m married, Ted. I don’t love you. Yes, but will you marry me? If my husband dies. Maybe. Someday. You have made me the happiest man on Earth. Because. he will die. Someday. Come see the world with me then. Come live in my house. Raise my kid. Someday. Settle down. You are my second choice, he said. You are my second choice, she said. Till death. When none of this matters. Till death. When this will be judged. Where is that waiter?—Ted. Yes, where is that waiter?—Dot. Starting on their dream.
Briege Duffaud: Remembering, In Strange Times Entwined like the lovers we were not, we drifted along Kalverstraat, my dyslexic brain matched by yours (dimmed they said by that beating in Bangkok). We smoked all day in gay bars, in Melkweg, Akhenaton, pretty children, swaddled in our clouds of hair. We talked of your writing and my travel plans, you like some parent warning me of dangers. You knew, you said. I laughed and held your damaged hands, said my wounds were made at home, not in some foreign alleyway. Midnight we wandered back to Weespersijde, my eyes already absent tracking the lights of a south-flying plane, you spellbound by moon and stars floating in the Amstel. Fifty years ago you dived to join those drowning stars. Or was it yesterday? Time twists and turns and doubles on itself in these last formless days, months, years I’m drifting through. I walk again among the damaged and the dying. No plane to fly me south. No return ticket.
John Grey: To A Woman Somewhere in Europe Bloodless days without you, my listlessness so obvious that those around me tally up my sighs, mark them down on an invisible chalk board. You’re somewhere without my knowing, a place with cafes that can’t seat me, hotels where my name’s missing from the register, streets where you walk and I cannot. Through the window, I see other lives going on as normal. The audacity, the arrogance. I make my breakfast. A couple of fried eggs. Toast. Coffee. As exotic as an aunt’s lower leg. Sure an email pops into my inbox from time to time. But written in haste. And with entire lifetimes unsaid. Meanwhile, I travel roads to places where I expect to be. I meet up with those who are right where they belong. Tonight, I’ll fold up in the bed, dream remnants of the past but nothing of the present. You’re traipsing around Europe. It’s a cruel world that makes such places possible.
Zack Rogow: Elegy for My Therapist in memory of Dr. Alla Volovich (1962–2021) Right before I heard the news about you I saw a tightrope walker who had strung his cable across a gorge and before I could take it all in he fell headfirst I held my breath The tightrope walker bounced back up caught by his safety cord He dangled upside down like the tarot card The Hanged Man You never told me much about yourself so generously examining the thorns and thistles I gathered for you every week You accepted them like a bouquet I didn’t even know you had a husband the one who called to tell me you drowned while diving among eels and mushroom coral You were not a shrink You expanded expanded my childhood till I saw it in sharp focus for the first time and the way it throbbed in the present Some days I walk a tightrope I was so lucky that for years you were the safety cord
David Parsley: Harsh Penance In addition to its Keatsian elements, this poem is influenced by the Kubrick/Spielberg film, A.I.,
in which the prospective parent activates an android child by uttering a predetermined sequence
of unrelated words, the initial three of which are cirrus, particle, and Socrates. First thing seen as he answers her call: immense eggshells lying on the keyboard, cirrus white like pieces from the particle of Socrates. She is picking up smaller shards littered across desk and floor careful to leave console and mouse undisturbed. He steps outside. The newspaper has not arrived again. How same the houses are on the frozen grass (no trembling hare to limp across) lined beneath that yellowing sky, sheep out of the yards their pleasing precise formations motionless as a snapshot. The avenues’ frosted breath. “The sun may be rising,” he announces. He finds her beadless, maskless, seated with the remote pressing off. A face looks out from the screen does not flicker. He kneels unable to tell if the numbness spreads from her fingers or the dark plastic they ply. David Parsley: Transuxorial Soles chilled by floorboards at her bedroom door. Yes she's sure she did not call.
Hilary Mellon: Life Model a yellow sheet of sunlight spreads across the floor she settles it around her stretched out body feels heat seeping out of warm wood soaking through the pores of her very public skin
John Freeman: A Hand of Crib Did you shuffle these cards wasn’t a question, it was a rhetoric of disappointment. Take these cards back, he’d say, scanning the hand I’d dealt him in the overheated room where I went fortnightly to visit him, or, Mother, was it worth it. After each round he’d count, and soon I learned how to say it: fifteen two, fifteen four, and a pair is six, and, if he had a Jack, one for his nob. I’ll take a large amount of nineteen meant no points, and if I’d gone first with a score better than his he said, with the same deadpan expression he kept to almost always, after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dung cart. I must, he said, smartly lifting himself sideways out of his winged armchair to let out a little fart I might have scarcely heard if he hadn’t alerted me beforehand. I came to anticipate the moment when he’d progress slowly past me to the hall, open the wardrobe where he kept the hat and coat he hardly ever wore in those days, pull out the bottle of White Horse, bring it in, and though his hand shook fill two little glasses up to the brim and never spill a drop. He raised his toward the ceiling, said gravely, success to temperance, and tipped it down. Your aunt will be in directly, he said, glancing at the clock. Nobody else said that. I’d grown up with the idioms and accents of south London and the East End in my ears, but come across ‘directly’ only in books. I hadn’t realised that vernaculars, like more formal registers, change over time. I thought Sam Weller’s funny way of saying w for v must have been made up, until I heard this man born in the year Charles Dickens died say, laying his cards down, as he must have said all his life, wery good.
Wendy French: Grandfather ask me about the sheep long gone and the chapel with broken windows ask me about the miners’ wives washing down doorsteps and their children playing waiting for the doctor with his penny sweets ask me about his midder-bag and all the tools he needs to relieve women in labour ask me about the hills and streets he walks carrying this bag early mornings late at night ask me about why he stays in this forsaken part of Wales where daily living is hard and rewards are few. And I’ll tell you how sometimes there are no answers but I’ll tell you how in dreams I meet this man and how strange this life is where the people we most love we never know and I’ll tell you how love is lost in the ether where those who would have guided us over mountains pushed us so hard that we fall, been there to cradle us up – how they would have been the ones to tell us when it is time to go or stay Wendy French: Pontrhydyfen The bridge over the ford in the River Afan My breath stretches a bridge. That’s all it takes to land me in this disused cemetery in a corner of almost forgotten Wales. How bones buried here must turn underground and wonder who still remembers them. How restless they must be, morning until night, as they lie forgotten like a hungry child. Does my body carry their cries as I read these unknown names with dates like my breath stretching far back to an unknown time. If I had lived then would I have cared for every hurt, injustice, fear and joy for some of them? I am breathing the air that was once theirs, now I am the air they don’t know. In the moonlight this chapel looks welcoming, the windows broken by hooligans. No feelings for the past. Yet. There is something here that carries me alongside of my body and when I look to the right the sheep on the green, green hills stare back.
Sarah Wimbush: Peasholme Park Aunty Ann skips down the path, at double speed. She’s wearing a grey flower-power dress in fact, the whole park is monochrome - the grass, the dragon boats. Uncle John waves from Granddad’s shoulders, same cheeky grins. Mum is sitting on a picnic rug, ankles crossed. Like Bridget Bardot she leans back and laughs in mute; the picture hangs, reels in, and in, till it’s a close-up: doe eyes, porcelain skin. Sixty frames per second and it’s a photo shoot she’s a David Bailey smiling across time directly at me. A sea breeze blows a lock of hair across her face and with a delayed blink, she pushes it away an astronaut with Barbarella fingers. Pouts. I’m as young as my daughter, hair thinner than Dad’s on Nan’s knee in a deckchair she’ll never get out of. Same boiled eggs, same cornet mitten, except the rug is technicolour tartan with a plate of real meat sandwiches. Nan spits into a hanky and scrubs my toothless grin. White screen.
Pratibha Castle: Hug My mother’s heart was a lake, its frozen surface cracked, when I was young, with insults hurled her way, and I hurled many, wounding like rocks, till her cool glaze became a starburst of splintered love. Even her delight in daffodils withered since the bunch of yellow bells she gave me on my 15th birthday, whose whole heads I bit off, mad at her for some imagined slight and in an acid spritz of blame, spat her way. And my mother, murmuring to herself, sure the poor girl’s tired, patted my arm, our only physical exchange, for we never hugged. Having learnt, years later, how an infant monkey languishes if deprived of its mother’s touch, I subjected her to a lingering clinch. Not just a brief ooh-la-la peck on either cheek, stay two feet away from-one-another sort of hug, but a bellytobelly chesttochest clinch, palming up and down her back as though grooming the silk-eyed Persian hunkered on the couch, glaring, and on a normal day, the only flesh my mother or myself would handle. And when she tried to edge away, I fastened my grip like now I’ve got you ma, you’re going nowhere. The way, when small, I ached for her to hold me, limpet tight.
R A Allen: The Crosswalker was a version of you from back in our day. Also, she was a version of that film star who reminded me of you whose name I cannot recall at the moment. You probably have a new name by now. The girl at the crosswalk has passed from view— the closing fragment in a stream of memories, like ice floes in Niagara, out of sight so soon.
Tony Beyer: Homage to Olav Hauge I tell my students that some of the best poems are written on the blank insides of opened out tea packets after the bags or loose leaves have been transferred to the caddy often they don’t believe me or perhaps don’t drink tea but those who do either recognise how the smell is just right while the opposite hand holds still on the coarse pine surface of the table in the kitchen and the other with the pen in it recalls straightforward masters and mistresses of the word in many languages who wrote this way decently and extraordinarily
John Roe: Arnold Bennett He plumbed the depths of the British ‘stiff upper lip’, knew the abundance of Its currency; saw how to build, a hide bound shield, against the threatened nemesis of a dream, to avoid the wreckage of its spreading Identity.
Sue Spiers: House After Wallace Stevens The reader sits in her house, regards the books on shelves, takes one into her hand, reads it at night before sleep. The house is built of sleep and the reader has a room lined with books she collects from the world and its writers. The world is full of writers daydreaming of a summer when books will move readers into a house of the page. The page covers a life; words of comfort and despair, distance and proximity, measures of night and summer. The summer is three months between the pages of the book in the diary of the house, its reader. The book as lifeline. The book trades in lives; stretches out the summer, its known and unknown world. The reader sleeps each night. The night feels empty like a reader without a book, drained of summer’s warmth, the page closed and dark.
Tom Sommerville: Love Stories I love books: the stored words that hoard another’s love of the uttered syllable. But I am not one that grieves over the odd stain, the casual fold or feels disdain for fingerprints. Lovers must learn to touch and time creates a kind of beauty in the lines that amorous fingers trace: the filled-out body; the known face.
Kenneth Pobo: Bobolinko Eats Cherries and Reads A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym. His fingers stain yellowed pages, one more book he’s been meaning to get to--one decade starts, then another, and soon time is a hive where worker bees swarm out and you hide in the living room trying to decide if a Bette Davis film would relax you more than a Judy Garland film. The Pym book ripples with Vicars and low-grade intrigues. You don’t know any Vicars and your intrigues are stopped clocks. You put the book down until naptime when you pick it up again, hands clean, a few pages looking like blood seeped into them, probably Pym’s blood .
Colin Pink: P is for Poetry I should have given it back at the end of term but kept it instead, through some affection for the poems it contained. Poets of Our Time an ‘O’ level English Literature set book of then contemporary poets, some still familiar names, others lost in the dust of unfrequented shelves. The groovy cover is a Vasarely. Back then we didn’t even noticed none of the poets let in are women, all are white, one is gay, but no one mentions that. We “did” four of them and my favourites were Charles Causley and Ted Hughes. In many ways they still are. I had annotated the book, in pencil, explaining obscure words (somnambulist), pointing out allusions (to nursery rhymes) and techniques like alliteration and symbols: “laurel” equals “honour”. My handwriting is all over the place, as if the scribe is trying to decide who they are or want to be, and perhaps, like an insect trapped in amber, there is some future self lurking, beyond the horizon of a working class kid, held within the thin clasp of those pages, which explains why I kept it.
Andrew Shields: Homework What with her eyes, her face, her hair, what with her long, long legs, he cannot say a thing, but still his posture begs and begs. To his surprise, she turns to him as if he were alive and asks him what the homework was they got in period five. Why does he have to have these hands that don't know where to go? He sticks them deep into his pockets and mumbles, "I don't know." She smiles and smiles, then laughs a bit, "I didn't write it down." She shakes her head. "I thought you'd know," she goes on with a frown. "Just let me—let me—let me check," he stutters his reply. He has to act as if he weren't about to die and die. He drops his backpack and digs out his notebook for that class. "Oh here—oh here—oh here it is." He sounds like such an ass. "It's partner work." He tries to speak as if he were real cool. "Will you be mine?" she asks. "We could meet here right after school." She smiles and smiles, and smiles some more, and he can't say a word. He nods and tries to smile back; he's sure he looks absurd. "That's great," she says. "It will be fun. I'll see you later then." Did she just really touch his wrist and smile at him again? Her eyes! Her face! She turns away. Her hair! Her long, long legs! He cannot say a thing, but still his posture begs and begs.
Oliver Comins: Football in the Park Huff and puff in slippery morning sunshine. They found enough players for ten-a-side, then pumped the ball tight within its skin. That team of boys takes on another, of girls. One of them plays football with such delicacy, their swift tip-tap is lovely, even on this pitch. The other has chosen a brutal route. The only subtlety on display is whether to boot it long, from out to in, or hit it sweetly, inside to out. Some play to play, while others play to win, barking demands that would not be heard elsewhere and shock the people watching. A ball skids from one foot to another, curling over grass. A voice is calling “Mine, mine”, but no-one useful hears or tries to understand.
Robert Nisbet: Mating Walking by the water’s edge that summer, he showed her the world of nature’s mating, the nests and the offspring, the stamen, pollen, plumage, preening, thrust, in trees, mid-air and even sunk in sludge. He was a boy brought up in the country and she’d watched all of Planet Earth, so they enthused together. Both of them back in London, autumn term, and in his tense, expectant flat, after the pubs and the coffee, he found another side to the mating ritual, the shouldn’t-we-wait-until-we’re-sures, the would-it-not-be-betters. And then, alone one Sunday, watching a wildlife programme, he saw a stag beating serious shit out of another stag, saw rattlesnakes in writhing rivalry. He started going out with a pretty Danish girl from the department. They’d visit galleries, art cinemas, and sit in quiet bistros, talking of books and art. But in time he felt that in their seminars, the tutor, Dr. Rutter, a man well sunk in middle age, was just too warm towards the girl, and when he praised the Renoir nudes, the doctor called them “chocolate box” and sentiment. Outsmarted once again. That winter time, alone, in the vacation, he trudged to the peak of the Preseli hills, searching for starkness, stillness, anonymity. Above and below him, in air and grass and burrow and sett, the world of animal was hibernating, waiting the mating spring.
Bruce Christianson: Sex in the City sex crosses the road abruptly to avoid the bistro where she & love first met they’re now messily divorced & love has custody sex needs a better lawyer sex is thinking about death her current live-in they’re still at the stage of finding out about each other but there’s definitely something happening there sex isn’t one to carry baggage but in her life there is a gap the size & shape of the handbag in the window as she comes out the heavens open & sex thinks what the hell she quite likes getting wet the handbag is waterproof
Ben Banyard: The Plight of the Beta Male There are many of us, but we don't like to make a fuss. We sit quietly waiting for delayed public transport while our Alpha brothers gnash their teeth in anguish. We will swallow any lie a mechanic tells us, gladly pay through the nose to get our car back. Attempt small talk with electricians, roofers, plumbers when really all they want us to do is go and put the kettle on. We get lost in DIY stores, traipse mile-long aisles bereft and clueless, watch men in paint-splattered cargo pants march full trolleys to their vans. We enjoy watching sport but gave up playing it at school as soon as the skilled lads flexed their muscles through clouds of Lynx Africa. At work we sit mute on conference calls, stare out the window as chest-beating brown-nosers run through their repertoire of buzzwords. They say that the meek will inherit the earth, but in doing so we would need to run it, so we'll leave it, if it's all the same.
Thomas Ovans: “… but he knows what he likes” After “The Policeman’s Daughter” and other works by Paula Rego Tate Britain October 2021 When someone mentions half the human race he mostly sees them wearing suits and trousers. Subjects here are dominantly female, each one focussed on her own intentions even when performing useful tasks for male relations. Fist thrust deep inside a scuffed policeman’s boot for polishing she’s dressed to dance by moonlight, doesn’t watch a cat bring in a moth for questioning. These women cradle failed adventurers because they must; they unclothe waxen fathers with averted eyes when they would rather hold the gaze and paws of trusting dogs. While feminine assertiveness disturbs him he likes the pictures which include a spanking. Elsewhere in auction rooms, the artist’s merits are displayed in many currencies. Sleek men put up with low opinions of themselves that fetch high prices. Feminism’s an investment not by any means to be converted to the kind of cash he pulls out of his wallet everyday to spend on gentlemanly entertainments – less these days on escort services since he’s been worrying about his prostate.
Mary Michaels : Dogs, Cats On the promenade a small white dog jumps onto the lap of a woman on a bench. Maybe you’d like that, if you liked dogs. But the sudden landing of its tough little feet on your thighs would be a shock. And you might not like to have your face licked. The woman on the bench looks a bit dismayed but is too polite to say, ‘Get off!’ (which another might have said) while the dog looks pleased. Its owner is smiling. The owner’s friends (there are three – female) are beaming ear to ear. ‘She’s as big as the sky!’ says one of them. ‘Her heart is as big as the sky,’ says the next. ‘As big as her name,’ says the third, ‘isn’t she?’ Callum has a cat. The cat sits on the window sill. The cat is striped, silver and gunmetal grey. Callum has a wife. Every night at supper she mashes the potato on her plate into the gravy. Every night he takes exception to her doing so. Every time she counters; ‘But what does it matter, it’s only the same as duchess potato!’ Fact is, he sees a problem here and she does not. A tuber pulverised with butter and cream apart from the meat and then placed next to it – that is legitimate. Otherwise, the vegetable intact on the plate. Her action with the fork creates an intolerable confusion of categories – like crayfish or bat – impossible to countenance. Nevertheless, she goes on doing it. They separate. This doesn’t last. They conceive a baby. The child grows up into a woman who, at thirty, transitions from given name Jenny to Jeffery. ‘Who is this Jeffery?’ her parents’ friends say, scanning the Christmas card, ‘Whose is this signature, what’s happened to Jenny?’ Put your hand out the door – the sky is neutral – there’s a very faint dampness in the air, a prickling on the skin, that might be the beginning of precipitation, the be-gin-ning of pre-ci-pi-ta-tion. This morning I become the old woman with a single glove. Staring at her naked palm with astonishment. What’s happened to the other one? Not in the shopping bag, not in her backpack, not on the counter. The man at the till kindly gets up, lifting red plastic baskets off the self-service stack, but they are all empty. I look along the pavement outside the shop, bend over the gutter, in case the wind has caught it – there’s a gusty breeze today. It doesn’t turn up. Callum has a cat. His cat has gone missing. Hide and hair. Nine cats have gone from the neighbourhood this year. Callum’s is one of them.
Steve Black: Two Tanka mrs jones is still alive and the police were no help with regards to the parking in the cul-de-sac i phone everyday she planted out her shut-in mother's favourites should have known better sown in full sun when they hungered for shade
Back to poet list…
R.A. Allen’s poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, RHINO, En Bloc, The Penn Review, B O D Y, Alba, Northampton Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He is a Pushcartand Best of the Net 2020nominee. R. A. lives in Memphis and was born on the same day the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism: December 26th. More at https://bodyliterature.com/2020/02/17/r-a-allen/
Chrissy Banks’ recent publications are The Uninvited (Indigo Dreams, 2019) and Frank (The Poetry Business, 2021). This year she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and Commended in the Winchester and Teignmouth Poetry Competitions. www.chrissybankspoetry.com
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary near Bristol. His third collection of poetry, Hi-Viz, will be published by Yaffle in 2021. He blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com and tweets @bbanyard
Martin Bennett lives in Rome. He was 2015 winner of the John Dryden Translation prize
Tony Beyer writes in Taranaki, New Zealand. Among his print titles, Anchor Stone (Cold Hub Press) was a finalist in the poetry category of the 2018 NZ Book Awards. More recent work has appeared internationally in Atlanta Review, Hamilton Stone Review, Landfall, London Grip, Mayhem, Molly Bloom, Mudlark, Otoliths, Tarot, and elsewhere.
Steve Black has been published here and there, now and then and can be found in the Thames Valley propping up the gig economy.
Rachel Carney is a poet, creative writing tutor and PhD student based in Cardiff. Her poems, reviews and articles have been published in magazines such as Poetry Wales, Under the Radar and Acumen. Two of her poems have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.
Pratibha Castle’s award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) publishes the end of 2021 An Irish poet living in England, her work appears in literary journals including Agenda, Dreich, Honest Ulsterman, Blue Nib, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Saraswati, Reach. Highly commended in a number of poetry competitions, she is featured on Home Stage, Meet the Poet and broadcasts regularly on West Wilts Radio. pratibhacastlepoetry.wordpress.com @pratibhacastle
Bruce Christianson is a mathematician from New Zealand who has been living in Hertfordshire while his own country is closed for repairs. An injunction prohibits him from making eye contact with Sex.
Robert Cole lives in Brittany & with his wife Susie Reynolds featured on David Leo Sirois’ Spoken World. They are writing scenarios & planning to relaunch Chimera, in the Spring. He is recently published in Opal & October Hill.
Oliver Comins lives in West London, not far from where Football in the Park “occurred”. Poems in the same setting have also appeared in Finished Creatures and Wild Court. Earlier work is collected in Oak Fish Island (Templar Poetry 2018).
Tony Dawson has lived in Seville since 1989. He has published poems in English in Critical Survey, Shoestring Press and online at London Grip, The Five-Two, The Syndic Literary Journal, Poems for All, and Poetry and Covid. In November 2021, Home Planet News will publish two poems in English and two short stories in Spanish. A short story in English was published in Chiron Review, summer 2021.
Briege Duffaud is an Irish poet and fiction writer who has been published in a variety of English and European magazines. She has spent most of her life outside of Ireland. She is now living in West London.
John Freeman taught for many years at Cardiff University and lives in the Vale of Glamorgan. His most recent books are Strata Smith and the Anthropocene (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press), and What Possessed Me (Worple Press) which won the Roland Mathias Award in 2017.
Wendy French’s latest book, Bread without Butter was published by Rockingham press in 2020. Lockdown was not a good time to bring out a new book! The poems are stories about her farming family in Wales.
David Flynn’s literary publications total more than 220. His background includes reporter for a daily newspaper, editor of a commercial magazine, and teacher. He currently lives in Nashville, TN.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.
Ceinwen Haydon lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in online magazines and print anthologies. She is developing practice as a participatory arts facilitator. She believes everyone’s voice counts.
Ramona Herdman’s latest pamphlet, A warm and snouting thing is published by The Emma Press. Her previous pamphlet, Bottle (HappenStance Press), was a PBS Pamphlet Choice
Norton Hodges is a poet, editor and translator. His work is widely published on the internet and in hard copy. He is the author of Bare Bones (The High Window Press, Grimsby, UK, 2018). He lives in Lincoln UK.
Teoti Jardine is Maori, Irish and Scottish. His tribal affiliations: Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu. He attended the Hagley Writers School in 2011. His poetry published in the Christchurch Press, London Grip, Te Karaka, Te P?nui R?n?ka, Ora Nui, Catalyst, JAAM and Aotearotica. He and his dog Amie live in the township of Aparima Riverton on the beautiful southern coast of New Zealand.
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 a highly regarded English language poet who has taught at The Poetry School. He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie.
Hilary Mellon has been involved in the poetry scene since the early 80s, read at venues all over the country, judged several poetry competitions and is very widely published. She lives in Norwich, where she runs writing workshops and sometimes works as a life model
Mary Michaels is a widely-published writer of both poetry and prose. She is a Londoner, born and bred. Among her publication, The Shape of the Rock: New and Selected Poems (Sea Cow Press) was selected for the first British ‘Alternative Next Generation’ list. Two collections of prose pieces My Life in Films and Squint have appeared from The Other Press.
Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two youngish children. He has recently had poems published in Dreich, Snakeskin, London Grip and Poems in the Waiting Room.
Robert Nisbet lives and writes in rural West Wales. His poems have appeared widely in Britain, the the USA and in Canada, India, Ireland and Mauritius
Thomas Ovans is one of London Grip’s regular reviewers. He tries to be as critical of his own work as he is of anyone else’s
David Parsley is a semi-retired rocket engineer/manager, working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is also a poet whose work has appeared in Poetry Panorama, Autumn Sky Poetry, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Poetry LA, and other publications.
Colin Pink’s poems have appeared in a various literary magazines and in two full-length and two pamphlet collections, most recently Typicity (Vole) and Wreck of the Jeanne Gougy (Paekakariki) both 2021.
Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). His work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Brittle Star, Orbis, Hawaii Review, and elsewhere.
John Roe has been writing poetry for a number of decades. He was a prize winner at the Poetry London Competition in 2001 and obtained a Masters in Poetry with Manchester Met in 2014, where he was categorised as being influenced by the seventeenth century English metaphysical poets. His first pamphlet Surveyor was published by Eyewear in 2017.
Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of more than twenty books or plays. His ninth book of poems, Irreverent Litanies was issued by Regal House Publishing. His blog, Advice for Writers, features more than 250 posts on topics of interest to writers. He serves as a contributing editor of Catamaran Literary Reader. www.zackrogow.com
Myra Schneider has had many collections of poetry published, most of them from Enitharmon Press. Her new book, Siege and Symphony came out this October from Second Light Publications. Other publications include books about personal writing. She has been a poetry tutor for the last 24 years.
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.
Nominated for the National Book Award and twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of twenty-four books of poetry and co-author of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley
Tom Sommerville writes “As a high school teacher and later on as a lecturer I taught and loved poetry. It seemed only logical to try my hand at writing it.”
Sue Spiers lives in Hampshire and her poetry appears in Acumen, Dream Catcher, South and Stand and on-line at The High Window and Ink, Sweat & Tears. Sue tweets @spiropoetry.
Julia Stothard is a data analyst living in Surrey. Her poems have appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake, Prole and Obsessed with Pipework.
Merryn Williams lives in Oxford and has spent the lockdown collecting poems about the crisis. Poems for the Year 2020: Eighty Poets on the Pandemic was published by Shoestring Press in 2021
Sarah Wimbush is a Leeds poet who hails from Doncaster. She is the author of two prize-winning pamphlets: The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster (Smith|Doorstop 2021) and Bloodlines (Seren 2020). Her first collection Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands will be published by Bloodaxe in 2022.
Rodney Wood lives in Farnborough. He has been published in many magazines, including Magma (the Deaf Issue) and is currently co-host of a monthly open mic and leader of the Woking Stanza.