Mar 1 2023
The Spring 2023 issue of London Grip New Poetry features:
*Jane Frank *Julia Duke *Luigi Coppola *Lara Frankena *Wendy Klein *Sarah James
*Caleb Murdock *Tony Dawson *John Harvey *Peter Devonald *Myra Schneider
*Kelly Davis *Edmund Prestwich *Kevin McManus *Oliver Dixon *Annabelle Markwick-Staff
*Barry Smith *Tom Phillips *Kurt Luchs *David S Lorello *Fred Johnston
*Donald Wetherick *Pamela Job *Vika Gusak *Jane Simpson *Dick Jones
*Abdul Karim Al-Ahmad *Ben Banyard *Leona Gom *Megan Jennings *Jill Harris
*John Short *Roy Duffield *Nolo Segundo *Frederick Pollack *Sally Michaelson
*Lynn White *Kathleen McPhilemy *Cáit O’Neill McCullagh *Fizza Abbas
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 Spring 2023
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
Our readers may observe that the word “because” occurs a great many times in this issue. Perhaps poets are more interested in questions beginning with why than in those that start with who or how and which preoccupy Lieutenant Frank Columbo in the poem by Ben Banyard on page 13.
A poet’s “because” can either be a fresh attempt to account for the world we find ourselves in or else an extract from an existing explanation by some (probably self-appointed) establishment body which is quoted for the purpose of critiquing it. Either way, the many subsequent instances of “because” are indicative of London Grip’s preference for poems which encourage readers to think about the human condition (sometimes by addressing it from a rather oblique angle). We do not of course aim to tell readers what to think.
Perversely – or should that be obliquely? – the issue begins with poems featuring animals; but the human connections and parallels are also in plain sight. After that it’s pretty well people all the way and we find them negotiating relationships, mortality and the meaning of life with varying degrees of success. A now-defunct newspaper used to claim that all human life is there within its pages. While stepping back from making a too-extravagant boast, we hope our readers will find at least a few worthwhile insights in the poems which follow.
London Grip poetry editor
Forward to first poet
Jane Frank: Recollections of the last Male Northern White Rhinoceros We have almost all migrated to a lush savanna of the imagination where there is no need to treat nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, fevers, or sell jewellery and dagger handles. Now we are here, some spare a thought for our square lips, broad chests, convivial family lives that spanned millennia. My eyesight was always poor and my memory of the serene grasslands has now almost faded: the jackal- berry and acacia, the asters and blazing stars, golden rods and wild indigo, the sensation of purple needle grass against my slate hide as I strolled the floodplains. What I can’t forget or forgive are the night vision scopes, the silenced weapons, the helicopters scarring flawless skies. Before I crossed the last wide brown river I appreciated the Tinder account set up for me despite it being too late for love. Who knows? IVF may return us from the far bank, or as hybrids with rhinos from the south or as clones. You’ve frozen our velvet tissues and sperm and ooeytes, but isn’t it best to remember us as the ones who had to fall through time so others can graze the lands of coneflower and psoralea, clover? Lurch in cool mud under a red forever sun.
Julia Duke: Even the Pig’s Content From the Trés Riches Heures du Duc de Berry – November It was a long shot the ball snaking into the undergrowth. He whistled for the dog to retrieve it. The dog sat. He waved his arms, shouted a bit. Peasants ran everywhere, peasants foraging under the trees, peasants raking the shrubbery, peasants worried for their lives if the ball was not found. The Duke waved his arms. Even the pigs, pigs too old for truffling content to do his bidding, truffling trifles, snuffling truffles, seeing if they could turn up a lost ball. The upper classes are like that no matter what their birth sign, creating a song, doing a toddler dance, throwing a wobbly when they’ve lost their balls. The dog looked on with no comment.
Luigi Coppola: Buddy Came Back From Outer Space And Buddy Could Talk When he barked an articulate ‘Thank you,’ after having his helmet removed, given a rub behind the ears and told what a good boy he was, the room erupted with gasps and cries and tears. The next few days were a mix of treats and tests. Every letter stated, a biscuit. Every noun named, a belly rub. Every complete sentence, another squeaky toy added to the pile. They asked him simple maths questions and he gave them the meaning of infinity. They showed him a diagram of the human body and he deciphered every part, cured every illness. They asked him if there was a God and he whispered a truth. A month later, the first interview. The cameras and microphones jostled for space at his collar and they asked about his life, how it had changed, what space was like and if he had anything he wanted to tell the listeners: ‘My best friends, don’t let the fleas eat away at our skin. Throw sticks instead of balls. I’m happy with the scraps. Keep the air for our walks clean. Make sure the puddle I jump in is just water. Let us play together instead of dogfight. For I have seen the Earth as a blue droplet in a vast bowl and it is beautiful.’
Lara Frankena: The Poet Hires a Chemical Toilet On the back of a flatbed truck is a sight I never thought I’d see after 31st January; I’d tried Toilets+, Simply Loos and Premier Flush, but only EuroLoo had a next-day drop, with weekly servicing and bog roll to boot. From a safe distance of two metres I ask, How has business been post-Brexit? My husband thinks I’m taking the piss but the service driver doesn’t miss a beat. What with Covid and all the pub gardens last summer, it’s been good. As he singlehandedly tips it over the low brick wall edging our garden I consider the plastic cubicle; its blue door faces buffeting winds. I ask, Is it likely to blow over? No, he assures me, It’s not going anywhere. So I sit at my desk in front of the bay window to watch a particularly robust gust hit the EuroLoo … We rush outdoors to right it. The EuroLoo, thankfully, is unharmed, and the remnants of our fence preserved our neighbours from invasion. I unstake roses to pin the commode down adding a 60-litre bag of bark mulch for ballast. In Covid times, an outdoor toilet is an attractive proposition, so we padlock it against interlopers. When the scaffolders ask for the combination my husband replies, Battle of Hastings, though the bloke who removed our defunct cooker required some assistance, being eight centuries off.
Wendy Klein: Mending the Fence After Robert Frost Courtesy of Storm Eunice, our fence is down, wooden panels split, sagging, a forlorn aftermath, but today the workers have arrived to put it to rights, a burly bloke with a front tooth missing, and a hearty laugh, his companion, a boy, half-grown, looking to learn the craft, jumping to carry mugs of coffee to fuel the process, but out-faced by an out-sized bag of cement. It all goes quickly, the fallen panels erected, one-by-one, reinstating the boundary between us and our neighbour, who will pay her share – a good neighbour. So why the haste to restore the fence that divides us? A question we hesitate to ask aloud, the motif of the territorial imperative, so firmly entrenched in history, so deftly addressed in poetry. What are we fencing in or fencing out? We both love our dogs, share our pride in their good nature, their beauty, raise a glass together. Something there is that doesn’t love a fence, that wants it down, says Frost, so why this surge of relief as the gap is closed each board nailed firmly in place
Sarah James: The Swan Fingers and wrists aching, Betty origamis another towel into a lopsided swan. Arthritis has slowed every task she used to fly through. Phil’s knees too aren’t what they were, up and down stairs and ladders, changing bulbs, fixing curtain rails and bathroom fittings. At 78, they should have packed this in. Still, only twelve guest rooms to see to, each kept spotless, their ‘home from home’ feel embellished by small flourishes of dated elegance. Just enough income, most weeks, for a careful couple to scrape by on. Their skeleton staff are a similar age. Or college kids like their grandchildren, staying only as long as it takes to get a place at uni or move away for a proper job – city-centre shopwork, cubicle-office filing or a call-centre with loud neon signs. The wild, remote and romantic highlands aren’t all they used to be, not what Phil and Betty’s guests believe, escaping back to 24-7 everything, instant click-call uber and the fast food on every corner delivered free to more addresses than their postman’s round. Betty fans out her last swan’s wings. She dreams of retiring to a small beachside bungalow, warmly windswept and without a hill in sight. Sarah James: Lazy Days Retirement Home Liz is busy knitting, while dear Kwasi is counting up his pennies, tallying a different total every time. Membership is elite: those let in must hold onto big pensions, but not their posts; their stay here is likewise temporary. As she purls one, Liz fumbles and drops another stitch; Kwasi’s tower of coins falls. It doesn’t matter – they’ll keep warm whatever the cost of gas. When the Big Ben replica on the mantelpiece chimes ten, the members all yawn, and somebody, whose name everyone has forgotten, gets up to turn off the news.
Caleb Murdock: Becoming a Sweetie When my hair turned gray, waitresses started to call me “sweetie” and “dear”, not the respect I thought a great lion of letters should get, or the arrogant ass most people took that to mean. But the lion was glad to take a break from his kingly duties, and the ass was thankful
for a better disguise.
Tony Dawson: Tailgating Time I’ve been moving steadily through life for more than eighty years now, occasionally breaking the speed limit, in my youth, of course, only to slow down later, dawdling, allowing time to pass. But time doesn’t really pass anyone. It’s a myth. It’s trying to catch you up, drawing inexorably closer and closer. Suddenly, Andy Marvell’s wingèd chariot has become a tailgating pickup truck like the type you see in the movies driven by some redneck intent on pushing me off the road into the ditch. Why does Time insist on harassing the old?
John Harvey: On Reading Peter Sansom’s “Lanyard” I This isn’t a poem, not even close: we were having lunch out in the garden, and between commenting on the sunlight reflecting back from the leaves of the ivy and how well, newly purchased and potted, the cosmos had taken, I leafed through Peter’s book, searching for something I might read aloud, perhaps, though not loud enough to startle the neighbours, and the more I read the more it seemed like one long poem about growing up in the middle of nowhere, or Derbyshire, as its sometimes called; half-forgotten rooms that people walked into and failed to walk out of, waiting, like memories, to be discovered, commemorated. Not a poem this, not even close. John Harvey: On Reading Peter Sansom’s “Lanyard” II Sunlight slanting through the trees I sit leafing through Peter’s book again, in awe at the ease with which past and present elide, time coalesces and expands, memories filter, like chalk dust, between the fingers of one hand. Cold-eyed, a cormorant breaks the surface of the water, neck wound steeply back to swallow its catch. Across the North Sea our daughter is making art from blocks of ice; the slow beauty of decline and decay: for an instant I see my reflection in her eyes. Abruptly the wind changes direction, a cloud shunts its way across the sun; I count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I might see her again. Peter says it better than ever I could: Sand in our shoes and our shoes in our hands we walk fully clothed into the sea I slide his book back into my pocket, turn and begin my unsteady walk towards home; somewhere, melting ice drips down into a waiting cup; water evaporates leaving salt, the smell, faint, of fresh sea water, the gradual turning of the tide.
Peter Devonald: All The Cricketers Are Dead All the cricketers are dead one line can say so much in a charity shop the yearning broken years separations / anxieties the shameful loss / of pressing certainty horizons and destinies the hour glass runs so fast sand cascades unerring and never lasts. The old lady recalls glorious halcyon days that stretched forever / cricketers flushed with summer youth flashing blades of willow on leather / greenest grass and boundaries crossed / keeping score but not counting the cost heads turned as autumn chill shudders. Now one by one the obituaries come she kept herself together for the longest time till with this perfect cricket Birthday card she is undone a single tear drops softly, respectfully, overcome. Shoppers stare and dodder aghast the casual shattering of years / of shrugs, solitude and silence. Vignettes of sadness and forgetting / loss and shame life will never be the same / again. Memories flood and drown / winter blows so much colder for us all / bending tide and time a lonely life is only half lived meantime. With this epiphany / the old lady smiles nonchalantly purchases the perfect Birthday card with a casual flamboyant swish of her scarf out the door without goodbyes / leaving broken hearts significant sighs / as if she held the universe in her eyes.
Myra Schneider: Pool after David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Normandy 2020 The green thrum doesn’t disturb the silence as I push my way through damp grasses between newly-leaved bushes to the pool where the sun embraces my back as I stand sniffing air untouched by traffic, longing to touch the green pads bearing white petals poised like dancers which are floating on the water’s surface. Green is everywhere and it glorifies the bushes by doubling them in water. Crouching, to watch water boatman gliding over the surface, I sense the busyness of beetles and worms wriggling in the silty darkness below, think myself into it, among larvae and hairy roots. Suddenly I am stripping off smart phones and bombs, stripping off presidents and fossil fuels, stripping off cars and envy, love and poverty, stripping off logic, speech, skin and bone, thinking how my origins, all origins go back four billion years to the dark depths of the sea where single-celled microbes, next-to-nothings, first inhabited this planet. I wonder why it is that thoughts and ideas always begin in a dark which can’t be measured and I feel the inexplicable power of creativity pulsing through this pool even though it’s only a sketch reproduced on a page in a book.
Kelly Davis: I sat opposite Autumn on the Tube I sat opposite Autumn on the Tube, I think it was the Circle Line. She wouldn’t meet my eye, just sat there tight-lipped, reading her book. I noticed a slight fume of poppies from a sad-looking addict lying on a dirty sleeping bag as I followed Autumn through a tunnel to the Northern Line. Her hair was mostly under a woolly hat but as we stood on the platform a few wisps were soft lifted by the winnowing wind when the next train whooshed in. I admit she had a patient look as we rattled all the way to Morden. Leaving the station in the soft-dying day, I batted away a cloud of whining gnats. But there were no lambs, hedge-crickets, robins or swallows to be seen. And then Autumn disappeared down a side street.
Edmund Prestwich: Escape (South Africa, middle sixties) On the world’s far edge, even the seasons were wrong. December’s brutal heat brought exhausted stillness. Iron-roofed bungalows crouched over gardens. While Zulus dug and lifted, moving like languid shadows, watchdogs panted under trees. Christmas beetles shrieked from our willow, but prone on my bed, facing a book, I entered the Golden Wood where cool light fell, discovered Lascaux Cave, heard rock walls ringing with horses’ silent thunder, murmured names of Greek gods like incantations, world on world unscrolling as I read
Kevin McManus: Everything was this Moment The white sash window was open slightly, it was early May. The net curtain waltzed back and forth like the swash and backwash of a wave, as the early, fresh and clean Summer air flowed in. It was quiet, almost silent apart from birdsong from the tree in the garden and the flutter of the green leaves. The afternoon light that shone through the curtain landed on a spot on the brown flower-patterned carpet. Everything was in harmony, everything was this moment.
Oliver Dixon: Second Hand Time had run out; or at least the tiny cell inside my battered Omega. The sweep hand hovered, caught between two seconds, fibrillating like a heart as it faintly enters arrhythmia
Annabelle Markwick-Staff: The Lock-In After a Stanley Schtinter film consisting entirely of pub footage
from the British soap opera East Enders Beneath feverish streets, Akashic soap cools and cleans my mind. This brutal crypt is packed with ghosts – you can smell their pints, frothy with ectoplasm. The TV reliquary preserves undead dogs and St. Dot in cathode-ray jewels, for punters to venerate from their barstools. Phosphorescent pub waveforms are looped, moments that never really were, are locked into single channel eternity. Angie takes Den’s car keys. They are the keys to the archive, the container and meaning-maker of the pencil-kissed universe. The doof doofs sound. What will happen now?
Barry Smith: Between Dream and Sweetheart now the war is no longer top billing on the evening news we may in time forget the bombed theatre at Mariupol with hundreds ground to dust in the cellar the Tochka-U rocket blasting the apartment block the pregnant woman with her legs blown off the bodies piled with tyres the mass graves between the villages of Dream and Sweetheart but we will not forget the sand-bagged statue of the poet and the image of the child in a grey anorak and yellow bobble hat staring wide-eyed with his palm pressed against the cold glass of the carriage window as the train shudders into motion Mria and Myla are two Ukrainian villages whose names translate as Dream and Sweetheart.
Tom Phillips: Cross country to the coast The train is moving off, but lacks determination. A city gull overtakes us, wings beating in slow motion. Your words trail behind us, recalling other departures. From time to time, a station, a market, a stand of trees catches us unawares – we’ve ridden this line before: it was summer and no rain has left land ochre, its earth cataracts on embankments. Today is a ripening quince, it smells of harvest coming. You watch relentless plain, impossibly distant mountains. We are picking up speed, though the sea will have silvered by the time we reach it and you’ll still want to swim, submerge in another element among silent, darting creatures.
Kurt Luchs: The Two Lights Something about the way the human lights come on at this point in the evening, how the first of their glow shines against the last of the natural light, our neon brightness growing as the sun diminishes and the sky’s fierce colors fade from red and orange into pale blue and the clouds become bits of purple-gray seaweed swept back under the wave of dark which is the horizon and the night washes over us and the stars remain, sparkling pebbles on a beach that stretches farther than we can see.
David S Lorello: Prague, March 2014 In Prague they do not know what to do with their streets, so they clean them. It was there that the devil delivered me after we were done drinking, there in Prague. Do you remember how we were walking and imagining ourselves playing game theory against the new Russian emperor?
Fred Johnston: The Russian Version This hotel lobby’s had a make-over Since I was here with Alyona talking of Tolstoi over coffee and biscuits She looked as tidy and colourful as a child’s doll A gift for a child plucked from the yellow light of a Duty-Free window We never met again She took something I’d written and With impressive, cautious efficiency, read it back to me in Russian And made it sound much grander, much better Than it was. I remember the word for a garden, ca¤, sounds like sad That’s what she told me She read like a girl tending flowers What I’d written wasn’t mine anymore, it was hers, I let it go When she folded the page it turned into a white bird Tucking away its wings in the small white nest of her hands And it began to rain Against the gangly tall windows Making a sound between a hiss and a whisper, a breathing sound And the lobby lights shaped like elegant candles Fluttered on. Alyona was not made for that room, or cold rain On tall windows.
Donald Wetherick: Last Word … and when I die Let my last word be my epitaph. Whether it be fair or foul or wise, Or foolish words half gurgled out, half garbled; Let them stand. And let the reader understand that I, Unfinished, incomplete, a word-puzzle, Live engraved beneath, behind my words. I lift my head to speak, to drink a breath, To eat life, cheat at death, to bring to birth Something of the fruit of one life’s gleaning, Or perhaps a seed of future meaning: ‘This birth, this breath, this life, this death…’ No words come. Only silence, and a word; ‘And…
Pamela Job: Clodia hears of the death of Catullus Oh, my youth, you’re gone! Your enigmatic odes roamed every part of me, your punning modes broke all the rules – and so did we. Obsession’s not my bag, I like to keep things light. Passion’s fleet of foot, so’s lust. Young studs, knocking my door day and night – or so you thought! Lesbia, whore. You wrote me off as such but your last bequest sent your sparrow-words to flutter in my breast. Now my heart’s flayed, my body aches, each day’s sky fades into its night like a bruise since you died. The Roman poet Catullus (c. 87 B.C.E. – 57 A.D.) addressed many poems in hendecasyllabic
metre to his older married lover, Clodia Metelli, calling her Lesbia.
Vika Gusak: Me and i I think I will call you i. Pure imaginary. You are not a number. You don't exist in the real world I needed you to solve a very particular problem Now you are everywhere. But still definitely imaginary I can't imagine how I managed without you In mathematics i denotes the “imaginary” square root of -1, a quantity which does not
exist in real arithmetic but which has proved very useful in physical applications
Jane Simpson: Meditations in a galley kitchen Kneeling is the creak of rafters in a country church. It is a woman on the floor wrestling with a can and can opener. A chest is a treasury of beef casseroles and chicken curries. It is sixty individual portions, almost touching. Weight is a display of numbers, fading. It is butter and icing sugar meeting with coffee. The waft of chamomile over a meadow, sleep is an envelope opened after dinner. Jane Simpson: Explanation of radiotherapy no knife no blood just breaking the back of anonymous genes
Dick Jones: Phlebotomy Even as I drive home my blood is talking to the man. My salts and spices are telling my story to a stranger. Confession in absentia. Unremarkable, that antiseptic chapel with its scattered chairs. Then the curly-headed priest in white, drawing the tincture, a communion for two, into its tiny phial. My blood, my talkative blood, spinning my secrets into pixels. He reads through light the narrative of bilorubin, basophils and monocytes, of ace inhibitors and antigens. He knows the names of all the heroes and the villains and he calls them in, the good shepherd, the sweet young physiologist. His way is calm; his song is soft and when it’s run from clef to staff, he turns away. Later, I read it all in words, an altogether sterner judgment: sentence pronounced - its syllables, its commas, its full stops. Dick Jones: The Anarchist Café Anarchists should open cafes. Spill the ill-assorted chairs and tables onto the pavement. Go heavy with the red paprika, shower down the black pepper. Have trans and Roma waiters to glide between the tables, taking orders couched in verse. Decorate the walls with graffito pics of Emma Goldman, Patti Smith, Pete Kropotkin, Allen Ginsberg. Sit the refugee next to the barrister. Welcome dogs of all persuasions. Usher in the teenage truant. Request that those in uniform slip into all-encompassing rainbow robes. Feed the snap-trap eager-beaver TV MPs vegan burgers ‘til they go all Leo Tolstoy, shouting, We are new in heart and soul, come to change the way things are!
Abdul Karim Al-Ahmad: Away from the microscope Translated by Catherine Cobham Away from the scourge of censorship Explain to us how an iron will dissolves in the face of hammer blows And how the sun protects itself from heart attacks And how gardenias bloom on walls that breathe crushed concrete Away from the guardians of virtue Steer clear of the words that sever umbilical cords Rouse them from their slumber with mosquito spray or something harsher Knead them with the music that frees roads from their darkness Let them expel all the sighs suppressed within them Load them with the freedom that shakes the firmness of iron fists And train them To box with sandbags To crush Siberian ice To strain their vocal chords To pull tight the belt round the waist of the wind Steer clear of the words that smell the corpse of nothingness Words that don’t rely on support from any god And let them build and destroy the world you will not see The consequences will not be as great as you imagine There is no longer a marked difference between right and wrong
Ben Banyard: Columbo The twist is that it’s not whodunnit but how, the false trails they laid, watches broken at the wrong time of death, even an electric blanket to warm the corpse in one episode. There’s always a little thread for him to tug at, a mistake they’ve made. I swear, sometimes, he knows the moment he first meets them, something in the way they survey and dismiss him: grubby old mack, scruffy shoes, chewing on a cigar, that car. They underestimate him and perhaps it becomes about class too. He charms them, says how he and his wife are fans, maybe, cosies up and puts them at their ease. And the smile on their face as he shuffles out the door freezes, rictus, when he reappears, finger in the air, play-acts that he’s forgotten about just one more thing.
Leona Gom: Deductions Information from the present moment is held in the working memory for only 15 to 20 seconds. —Lisa Genova “Remember” That flick of chickadee at the window, the coffee cup you set on the bookshelf, the murmur of music from the radio, the handful of peanuts and two of them fall between the cushions and you fumble for them but not convincingly. None of these things will you remember, none will shuffle to the hippocampus and the friendly neurons who might let them stay. They will disappear instantly and forever from your brain and consciousness, all those moments you didn’t flag as important. You can't change your mind. You can’t retroactively pay attention. You realize how much of your memory is deductive, how if this evening you find your missing coffee cup on the bookshelf, how if in a few weeks you find two peanuts between the cushions, you will assume, with only mild surprise, you must have left them there. Most of your life is like that. You must have been there when it happened, but you can’t be sure.
Megan Jennings: Attention Deficit Because there are far worse things than being a dilettante and sometimes cake doesn’t cut it. Because I’ve got a flypaper brain for catastrophe. Because not all doors open equally and a fire in the belly doesn’t always meet opportunity. Because your dull stares contain too many caveats and I don't trust your subterranean policies. Because it all falls apart in your thirties. Because it’s shocking how dark some homes can be even if south facing. Because weeds thrive on ignorance and neglect but can also be beautiful. Because some dreams are only one room wide but even if you choose to hide from the world it will still come find you. Because putting a leaping dolphin sculpture in your garden is awful, no argument. Leaving it stranded and landlocked, destined to exist only in memory. Because driving a car isn’t trivial and requires your full attention. Because you’ve had far too long to write the world and have mostly done it with over half of it missing. Because the spittle on my lip doesn't make my views invalid. Because anthropomorphism is a fallacy and I’m insect-hearted, taking the same delight in the beauty and scent of a bloom as they do. Because I know that good front you put up is to reassure-deflect the unpredictable, fickle pack. Because loving isn’t trivial and requires your full attention. Because it all falls apart in your forties. Because cockatoos might be left-handed, along with kangaroos. Because you should never plant rose bushes under clothes lines and there’s never enough metal to melt down to satisfy man’s madness for munitions. Because SUVs are HRT for those chest-beating and screaming ‘notice me’. Because if poverty makes people mean then so too does prosperity. Because I’m micro-dosing alcohol all day long via cherry liqueur chocolates like a reclusive contessa. Because no one notices the person who replenishes the toilet paper until they stop doing it. Because it takes all sorts of idiots. Because we’re all doing covid air kisses and it all falls apart in your fifties. No your sixties, your seventies. Because the cloud of cheap perfume surrounding that group of girls wasn’t an invitation. Because attention is a kind of goldmine when you’re given it.
Jill Harris: Just because Just because there were shepherds keeping watch in the fields – until angels summoned them to traipse across country in search of a barn – doesn’t mean they came calmly, avidly willing to kneel. Perhaps one or two at least arrived ragged, sore-headed, ready to kill or steal. And just because Christmas cards picture them herded together, a group, gazing in awe at a cradle, doesn’t mean there weren’t some who wished they were anywhere other than there with the newly hatched family sitting in straw in a bleak, unadorable stable. Because after a long night’s vigil in the dark who wouldn’t want to hurry home and sleep, and wake up to olives and fresh milk instead of lurching into a vast trek through stony contours of stark hills, against the body’s tide. And just because there were magi – so-called wise men – who came bearing gifts, like kings – doesn’t mean they didn’t bring as well the usual baggage of human life: insecurity, rivalry, wanting to be admired. Because however it is dressed up, where two or three gather together isn’t there always strife? Perhaps, like us at family Christmases they crafted smiles just strong enough to see them through a few long hours, until the glaze cracked open and they fell into their separateness, beyond any reach at all. They would go home unchanged – why wouldn’t they – being human to the core? Why would one journey through a haze of stars do anything to mend the craziness? Still, for that brief interlude it worked. They were a group. Time stopped. Lulled by the sound of cattle grazing, they could forget themselves. A stable hung in space. Light shone on everyone and through them to each other. Straight from the source.
John Short: Living Pieces As family life continues she’s quiet as death, doesn’t talk much these days. Confused in a corner brotherless her child’s mind trying to make sense of it, left with only photos to remember how they used to be: him in his Spiderman shirt precarious on rubble, her unscarred face smiling at the camera while up above, strangers played chess with living pieces.
Roy Duffield: A Short History of Religion We thanked the sea for the fish We thanked the fish for its life We thanked the river for being so sweet We thanked the forest for its fruit We thanked the land for its soil for the forest’s roots We thanked the sky for its tears We thanked the rock for its stability We thanked the dead for their company We thanked the fire for staying the night We thanked the night for some very much needed peace and quiet We thanked the stars for their guidance We thanked the sun for everything it’d done We lost our way only when we expected, “you’re welcome”
Nolo Segundo: On Eating An Orange And Seeing God I miss the big navels when they are not in season, but almost any orange will do when I really want to see God. But it must be done right, this seeing, this apprehension of the Lord of the Universe, Lord of All the Worlds, both seen and unseen…. First I feel how firm the orange is, rolling it in my hands, the hands of an artist, the hands of a poet, and now the stiff and cracked hands of an old man-- then I slice it in half and look at its flesh, its brightness, its moistness, its color-- if the insides beckon, urging my mouth to bite, I first cut each half into half and then slowly, carefully-- as all rituals demand-- I put one of the cut pieces between my longing lips and gradually, with a sort of grace, bite into the flesh of the sacrificial fruit. I feel the juice flow down my throat and recall the taste of every orange I ever had, even in my childhood—or so it seems, with this little miracle of eating an orange. As I finish absorbing, still slowly and gracefully, its flesh, the last bit of what had been one of the myriad wonders of the world, I look at the ragged pieces of orange peel and I see poetry-- or God-- it’s really the same thing, isn’t it?
Frederick Pollack: The Prophet Stones Years of photos dustier than their subject; faxes and grants stopped by obscure melodramas of believers and governments. Finally I’m financed and invited. Dr. A, with a bodyguard warty with holsters, meets my flight. A for anomaly: only woman at the only university, entubed in traditional garb. No-nonsense; tells me what I know: the Stones were carved by heretics, gnostics or worse. Why ‘heretics,’ I ask, if they predated your Faith? Am ignored. The hotel near the site seems to think all foreigners sleep in brothels. Feet (knees?) of believers on the street all night. Dawn, dust. Hallucinatory mountains. The first Stones were unearthed by bombing two wars back, or two phases of the war. They are what I’ve seen; more fragile. The beauty of those letters, unlike all others. She leads me to Row 4, Stele 6, the subject of her inconclusive book, my tentative articles. The Stone seems to speak in its own right, she says. There’s a ‘stone man,’ or a man who loves stone. The grammar makes clear he’s alone but wise, he spoke or speaks truth; it’s unclear if he comes from heaven. I point out a tail on the pseudo-alpha or -aleph; it resembles a shifter of tense in Sarmatian inscriptions. But those – she begins. The bodyguard approaches at a run. The terrorists have launched a major attack; all Westerners must leave. Explosions north of the road as he drives, madly. At the airport, from what I can interpret of her expression, Dr. A looks lost. On the plane, doubly jetlagged, I manage to sleep, wake up seeing it: Only the materialist understands.
Sally Michaelson : Hiatus Even in the forest our walk was at risk of being curtailed by your need for a short-cut an as the crow flies to get you to the car park so as not to be late for what had just come up by text message… knowing all the paths I could guide you out in record time by ignoring the sign Horseback Riders Only a ban not applicable to you riding roughshod over lives On one occasion when our walk was interruptus you texted after nightfall saying you enjoyed our walk and could we continue it now ?
Lynn White: Plasticine Modelling “Hold it in your hands for a few minutes”, he told her with the wisdom of age. He knew that would make it easier to manipulate, make it softer, more plastic, malleable, flexible. And that would make it easier to make the models true to life real likenesses of the one who had abused her for there should be no mistake. Lots of models. Ready for pins to be inserted in accordance with instruction. Enough to ensure there would be no recovery. The mothers smiled as they watched their children playing so happily.
Kathleen McPhilemy : Keeping the Noise Down She has taken a vow of silence so she can be the handmaid of the Lord the footstool of the Lord the doormat of the Lord so men uninterrupted in long black dresses in long white dresses richly caparisoned -- Isn’t that word for horses? Yes, it’s for horses – in gold threads and purple embroidered by women can move with grace around these spaces these lofty spaces these heaven-scratching spaces incanting, intoning delivering homilies thoughtful reflections on how to live in the world they know a man’s world; the flowers on the altar are beautiful and noiseless placed there earlier noiselessly by noiseless women.
Cáit O'Neill McCullagh : This Fire Across Our Hearts Because you thought it unseemly for girls to careen about the streets, we watched brothers handlebar flaneurs, as they three-wheeled futures we could never imagine. Because it was unheard of to stamp out patriarchy, to put the portraits of leaders to our boots we bound our feet curl-toed, made scarlet the curl of our lips, secreted speech in silks. Because it was not the done thing to shear nor show even the promise of our tresses we covered them (out of sight, not minds) & shaved sigils of blood & milk from our bodies Because it was intolerable that we might feel freedom at our ears, hear the world uncloaked we wove fleeces between us & the wind. These wefts shuttled our shrouds too. Because it was not pleasing for us to know our own minds, nor to have knowledge of yours you policed our morality, while setting us on the precarity of your priapic pedestals. Because of these things … Because it is not de rigueur to name those who sever us from dignity in Hebron, in Wembley we slash our locks & arms raised, hold-up our hair to you like swords. Because never in all your days did you imagine we were more than chattels, trafficked trade we sunder to your shackles & smoor you with the smoke of our sovereignty. Because it is acceptable to you that her head was burst, fig-soft, for two strands unkept we keen the name of Mahsa Amini & our thunder sounds the streets of Saqqez. Because she chose freedom her name will not die, it will be a symbol, because of you we beat the air with our scarves & transform them into ensigns of liberty. We are the storm. We claim them, these sisters: Sarah, Breonna, Munyai, Mahsa ... The memory of them – all our sisters - it is a fire across our hearts.
Fizza Abbas: If depression were a thing, it would be my cellphone I wake up every day to the sound of a notification: X has posted pictures of her recent trip to New York. “A baby is on the way”, writes Z, and here I'm sitting with a big fat book lying on my lap, music in the background thinking about what I should make next. Should it be tea? noodles? Or just grab a bag of chips? because let’s be honest, tea and noodles are the only two things I can make. A notification appears: “I’m making chicken biryani for hubby. Oh baby, muah.” My inadequacy makes me wonder. Do I not care enough for my Habibi? no worries, I can learn it. I open a YouTube video and a message shows up on my screen, “Hey, I was thinking, it’s been ages since we last met. Are you free tonight?” (Of course, babe. I was free, just waiting for you to ping me. And ya, let’s hang out.) I went to the party, met a few more mutual friends, had coffee and conversations like “Why have you and Wiki decided to not have a baby? You’ve no idea what you’re missing out on.” Because apparently, having a baby or not having one is going to affect the global economy. Life wasn’t that bad when I was unmarried. Now I’m answerable to everyone for everything. My phone doesn’t stop buzzing. calls, messages, tags. People find it their duty to remind me of my duties towards my husband. Some even go over the board and send me blogs titled ” 7 ways to be a woman he wants” 10 tricks to get your man in the mood”. Every time this happens, I try to ignore all the crap and focus on reading poems but I get a tweet, “my dream pub has accepted my poem, I’m over the moon.”. I reminisce about the rejection email(s) I received hours ago and all my efforts to snap myself out of a bad mood go in vain. Why god? Why did my poem fail to make the cut? why did I select the wrong font? Ariæl is hurt now. What should I do? Being an EAL writer with zero self-confidence, I shrug it off, calling myself an “imposter”. The syndrome hits hard like a truck and I struggle to fight off my anxiety. Sometimes, I wish my phone would just die, or maybe it’s me I wish were dead, I can’t be sure, if nothing else, I hope it catches a virus, I caught the ‘rona, why does my phone get a free pass
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Fizza Abbas is a writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her work has appeared in more than 90 journals, both online and in print. Her work has also been nominated for Best of The Net and shortlisted for Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2021. She has also authored two books, Ool Jalool (Fahmidan Publishing) and Bakho (Ethel Press). Aside from writing, she runs a YouTube channel where she interviews poets and zine editors. She tweets @fizzawrites.
Abdul Karim Al-Ahmad is an author from Syria. He currently resides in Germany. He writes poetry, stories and novels and a number of them have been published in Arab and international literary magazines & websites. He was recently awarded the Ossi di Seppia Prize for International Poetry
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, just outside Bristol, UK. His third collection, Hi-Viz, was published by Yaffle Press in 2021 and is available via his website: https://benbanyard.wordpress.com. Ben also edits Black Nore Review: https://blacknorereview.wordpress.com
Luigi Coppola is a teacher, poet, first generation immigrant and avid rum and coke drinker. His poems have appeasred in The Worple Press anthology The Tree Line and the magazines Acumen, Ink, Sweat & Tears,Iota, Magma, Rattle and Rialto (see more at www.LuigiCoppolaPoetry.blogspot.co.uk
Kelly Davis lives in Cumbria and works as a freelance editor. Her poetry has appeared in Mslexia, Magma, The Journal and Shooter. She has twice been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and she appears in Best New British and Irish Poets 2019–2021 (Black Spring Press). She has a joint pamphlet, written with Kerry Darbishire, called Glory Days (Grey Hen Press). www.kellydavis.co.uk
Tony Dawson lives in Seville. He has published poems and flash fiction in English both in print and online in the UK, USA, and Australia. He has also published poems and flash fiction in Spanish in Spain and the USA.
Peter Devonald is a Manchester based poet/ screenwriter, winner Waltham Forest Poetry Competition 2022,Winner of FofHCS Poetry Award 2022 and winner Heart Of Heatons Poetry Award 2011.Poet in residence at Haus-a-rest. 80+ poems published including Artists Responding To…, Forget-Me-Not Press and Greenhouse.Featured in Poetic Map of Reading, 5 group poetry gallery shows 50+ film awards (Gold Remi WorldFest), former senior judge/ mentor Peter Ustinov Awards (iemmys) and Children’s Bafta nominated. www.scriptfirst.com
Oliver Dixon writes “My first book of poems Human Form (Penned in the Margins) appeared in 2013 and my philosophy guide Who the Hell is Friedrich Nietzsche?( Bowden & Brazil) in 2019. During the last year I’ve had reviews published in PN Review, Poetry Review, The High Window and World Literature Today and poems published in Tears in the Fence and The Interpreter’s House. As well as being a writer, I’m also a college lecturer working with students with complex needs who lives in Hertfordshire.”
Roy Duffield is a nomadic writer and translator and helps edit Anti-Heroin Chic—a journal that puts those on the outside inside. He is a winner of the Robert Allen Micropoem Contest (2021), was honoured to be chosen to perform at the 2019 Beat Poetry Festival in Barcelona, and his words have recently been spotted entering such establishments as SurVision Magazine, Sein und Werden, streetcake, Untitled: Voices, Dream Catcher, Lune: The Journal of Literary Misrule and The London Reader‘s Raves & Resistance: Counterculture number
Julia Duke is a poet and writer of creative non-fiction, inspired by the landscape and her fellow humans, from diverse artworks and quirky ideas. She has poems included in Fifth Elephant and Digital Elephant (Newtown poets anthologies), the Suffolk Poetry Society magazine Twelve Rivers, Dreich, The Dawntreader and the Ekphrastic Review. ‘Conversations’, her first poetry pamphlet, is published by Dempsey & Windle.
Jane Frank’s latest chapbook is Wide River (Calanthe Press, 2020). Her poems have won awards and been widely published both in Australia and elsewhere, appearing most recently in the ACU Poetry Prize Anthology 2022, StylusLit, The Galway Review, Grieve (Hunter Writers Centre 2022), Spelt, Burrow, Poetry Ireland Review, NOON and The Ekphrastic Review. Jane lives in Brisbane where she lectures in creative and professional writing at Griffith University. Calanthe Press will publish a full collection of her work in May 2023. Find more at https://www.facebook.com/JaneFrankPoet/
Leona Gom is a Canadian writer who has published fifteen books of fiction and poetry and has had work in over a hundred anthologies. At present she lives mostly by deduction
Vika Gusak studied mathematics at Imperial College, London followed by a PhD in statistical mechanics. She created the “Emily Said It Better” iPhone poetry chatbot app.
Jill Harris lives in Bristol, loves the natural world and still manages to live happily without a smartphone.
Crime writer and dramatist as well as poet, between 1977 and 1999 John Harvey was the publisher of Slow Dancer Press. His most recent poetry collection is Aslant (Shoestring Press, 2019)
Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest books are Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press), highly commended in the Forward Prize, and a chapbook Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes (Loughborough University). Website: http://www.sarah-james.co.uk.
Megan Jennings is a New Zealand writer living in Auckland. Her work has appeared in the NZ Poetry Year Book, takah?, Turbine and The Poetry NZ Anthology 2021.
Pam Job lives in Essex. She has co-edited five poetry anthologies. Her poems appear in Fanfare, poems by Contemporary Women Poets, (SLP, 2015), The Migrant waders, (Dunlin Press, 2016), Arrival at Elsewhere, (2020), The Welsh Poetry Competition Anthology, 2017 -2021 and On a Knife Edge, (Suffolk Poetry Society, 2021) among others. She has had poems published in magazines, most recently in London Grip online magazine but mostly she likes the pressure of competition deadlines. Her poem, The Parcel, was included in the oratorio The Affirming Flame by Tom Randle, premiered at Snape Maltings in 2019.
Fred Johnston was born in Belfast in 1951.His most recent publication is a collection of poems, Rogue States (Salmon Poetry, 2019.) He is working on a new collection and compiling a third collection of sort stories, towards which he received an Irish Arts Council Literature Bursary last year. Work has appeared in The Spectator, Stand, Poetry Ireland Review, The Irish Ties and Temenos Academy Review. He lives in Galway.
Dick Jones’ work has been published in many magazines, print and online,His first collection, Ancient Lights, is published by Phoenicia Publishing(www.phoeniciapublishing.com/ancient-lights.html). His translation ofBlaise Cendrars’ influential epic poem ‘La Prose du Transsiberien…’ is published in an illustrated collaborative edition with artist Natalie D’Arbeloff by Old Stile Press
Wendy Klein has four collections and a pamphlet, Let Battle Commence’(2020 Dempsey & Windle Press), the most recent her selected: Out of the Blue, High Window Press, 2019. She is currently trying, unsuccessfully, to place another pamphlet featuring an old friend’s medically assisted death. All ideas welcome.
David Lorello is a lawyer, and lives in London. He has written poetry privately for many years but has only recently sought publication for his work. Over the last year, his poetry has focused on themes relating to the war in Ukraine (a matter of personal significance since he has deep family ties in Ukraine).
Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) won a 2022 Pushcart Prize, a 2021 James Tate Poetry Prize, the 2021 Eyelands Book Award for Short Fiction, and the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He is a Senior Editor of Exacting Clam. His humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny) (2017), and his poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up (2021), are published by Sagging Meniscus Press. His latest poetry chapbook is The Sound of One Hand Slapping (2022) from SurVision Books (Dublin, Ireland). He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan
Annabelle Markwick-Staff is a Glastonbury/London poet. She recently graduated with an MA in Writing Poetry from the Poetry School/ Newcastle University. Her poems have been published in Popshot and Kindred Spirit. She is annabelleocto on Instagram.
Cáit O’Neill McCullagh, a public ethnologist and archaeologist, both has written for academic publications and for popular books concerning cultural life in Scotland. She began writing poetry at home in the Highlands in December 2020. Over forty of her poems have been published online, and in print, and some have been commissioned for exhibitions in Scotland and Ireland. A joint winner of Dreich’s Classic Chapbook Competition 2022, currently she is working on a new poetry pamphlet
Kevin McManus is a poet from County Leitrim in Ireland. In 2021, he published a poetry collection entitled “The Hawthorn Tree” with Lapwing Publishers, Belfast. He has been published in a number of journals including, the Honest Ulsterman, The Madrigal, the Cormorant, the Galway Review, Dreich and An Aitiuil
Kathleen McPhilemy grew up in Belfast but now lives in Oxford. She has published four collections of poetry, the most recent being Back Country, Littoral Press, 2022. She hosts a poetry podcast magazine, Poetry Worth Hearing
Sally Michaelson is a retired conference interpreter living in Brussels. Her poems have been published in Lighthouse, The High Window, Algebra of Owls, The Lake, London Grip, The Jewish Literary Journal, The Bangor Literary Journal, Seventh Quarry, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Lilith and Squawk Back. Her debut collection The Boycott was published by The High Window in 2022
Caleb Perry Murdock is a 72-years-old American. He spent most of his life working as a word-processing operator for law firms. He has written poetry since his twenties but didn’t lose his chronic writer’s block until his late sixties. He is now writing up a storm to make up for lost time.
Tom Phillips is a writer, translator and lecturer who teaches creative writing and translation at Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski. His poetry has been published in journals, anthologies, pamphlets and three full collections: Unknown Translations (Scalino, 2016), Recreation Ground (Two Rivers Press, 2012) and Burning Omaha (Firewater, 2003). His translations of contemporary Bulgarian poetry & prose have also been published widely and his own work has been translated & published in more than a dozen languages. Recent and forthcoming publications include Peter Robinson: A Portrait of his Work (Shearsman, 2021) as editor and Geo Milev: Poems and Prose Poems (Worple Press, 2023) as translator.
Frederick Pollak isauthor of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press; the former reissued 2022 by Red Hen Press), and two collections, A Poverty Of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape With Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Many other poems in print and online journals (London Grip ’20, ’22).
Edmund Prestwich spent most of his first fifteen years in South Africa under apartheid. Retired as a school teacher, he divides his time between seeing grandchildren, writing and reviewing poetry and reading more broadly.
Myra Schneider’s most recent collection is Siege and Symphony (SLP), 2021. Poet Marvin Thompson, Literature Officer for Wales, listed it in Poetry Review as one of his choices for 2021. Her other publications include books about personal writing. She has had 11 full collections of poetry published and her work has been broadcast on Radio BBC4 and BBC3.
Nolo Segundo, pen name of L.J.Carber, 75, only became a widely published poet in his 8th decade in over 110 literary journals/anthologies in 7 countries and three trade book collections: The Enormity of Existence , Of Ether and Earth  and the pending release of Soul Songs in late 2022. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net in 2022, he’s a retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] who has been married 42 years to a smart and beautiful Taiwanese woman.
John Short lives near Liverpool and is active on the local poetry scene. His work has appeared most recently in The High Window, Pennine Platform, Dream Catcher and The Bosphorus Review. His last collection was Those Ghosts (Beaten Track 2021) and his next, In Search of a Subject, will be published by Cerasus Poetry in 2023.
Jane Simpson is a poet, historian and writer of liturgy based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her poems have most recently appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, London Grip, Otoliths, Poetry New Zealand Year Book and takah?. 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 (2021).
Barry Smith is the director of the South Downs Poetry Festival and curates the poetry for Blakefest. Well-published in magazines such as Agenda, Acumen, Orbis, etc., his collection, Performance Rites, is available from Waterloo Press. Barry is also the editor of Poetry & All That Jazz magazine.
Donald Wetherick is a musician, composer and music therapist based in London, with family connections to Edinburgh and the East End. He is also an occasional hymn-writer and poet.
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com