Issue: Issue 2 Midsummer Madness


Featured Poet Shirley Bell

Shirley Bell is a widely published and anthologised poet as well as an experienced workshop tutor and writer-in-residence. Her poetry is archived in the Special Collection in the University of Lincoln’s Library and as a result, she has collected together all her published poetry from 1982 to early 2016 in her book, Dark is a Way and Light is a Place.

She has been writing poetry since the 1980s, and has read widely all over the country, including appearing at London’s South Bank Centre and the Arvon Centres. She has been a Literature Consultant for Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts and edited their magazine, Proof.

Her poetry has appeared in many magazines, and anthologies including Faber and Faber’s Poetry Introduction 6, Six the Versewagon Poetry Manual and Anvil New Poets, which have featured large selections of her work. The Wide Skirt also published her pamphlet Hanging Windows on the Dark.

 


 

Tell it to the bees.

 

The garden hums. Bees guzzle in the throats

of the lush flowers and butterflies clot the blossoms.

The simple flowers are full of nectar. Sometimes

the hives are dressed in mourning. Someone has

rapped softly and told it to the bees. Their hive servant

who managed their perfect world has gone.

 

As the coffin settles in its grave so gentle hands

lift and set down the colony with its waxen cells

like catacombs. And reverently lay out their share of

funeral meats and drinks at the entrance where the bees

dance their maps; carry the pollen in their baskets

to feed the hive in their secret waxen chambers.

 

Cells dripping with nectar metamorphosing into honey:

that gold that gives the gift of prophecy. Telling the bees.

But there is a stutter in the rituals. Threats grow like

the larvae in those perfect hexagons. The doubled flowers

flounce their skirts. Nectarless. The bees in their quietened hive

are alive instead with Varroa mites, crawling in their plush.

 

And all the words of prophecy roll on the tongue.

Foul Brood and Nosema,

Colony Collapse and neonicotinoids.

 

Tell it to the bees.

 


 

The Lady Chapel and the Virgin

 

You have been my harbour.

Safe as stone, quiet

as the grave slabs beneath

my feet. I have wept here

 

for my damaged vessels;

filled them with hope

and tears. Then

everything was inundated.

 

The sea spilled itself

and filled you up. Kneelers

bobbed along the aisles.

Today there is no altar

 

in the Lady Chapel, it is

flotsam, and two gilded angels

are sulking back to back.

But it has been rinsed clean.

 

And she is still standing,

with a candle at her feet.

Her face is as mild as milk

and her infant’s face is

 

carved with light.

 


 

Full cold moon on Christmas Eve

 

It’s a full moon on Christmas Eve. It hangs above

the blackness of the quiet rooftops, the frantic scribble

of bare branches and the Christmas lights that climb

the walls, surround the window panes, and light the trees

inside, illuminating the waiting packages intermittently.

 

Its frosted face is pocked with the impact

of all those meteors and the tiny tracks of adventurers,

I suppose. I don’t recall seeing this before so I hesitate

on the step, my key in the door, my son’s dogs

howling with their broken loneliness.  I, too, am lonely tonight.

 

But my solitude is as intermittent as those lights and

this moon. I look it up. It’s called the “full cold moon”, for December.

But it last appeared on Christmas Eve in 1977 and won’t come

again until 2034. It’s special then. I think of stockings, presents

and the house, full of family I’m ashamed I didn’t always want to see.

 

This year I’m dodging Christmas. So all the ads are strangely

unimportant, as are the shoppers, frantic in Tesco.

And like the moon, I’m on the outside, looking in.  Somewhere,

someone is going to be born tonight and will lie, fists in mouth, in

the arms of its tired mother. Like any other dying god.

 


 

 

Dr. White

 

Dr. White, last time I came you were counting on your

fingers. “Four and twenty blackbirds”, you said, “baked

in a pie” that just you could see. “You are only as old

as the woman you feel.” No-one answered. “And that’s a joke,”

you told us, sadly, but no-one got it.

 

Today you are rocking and reciting. It is poetry.

My mother says, “Hello,” and so does Dr. White.

“Hello, hello. Hello. Go so, go low, go slow. NO!”

And, “Where? there?” “Would you? Should you? Would you?”

Then, “Go!” says Dr. White again and I’m wishing that I could.

 

But I have only been here for twenty minutes. A carriage clock,

its mechanism slow as treacle, turns to and fro, sealed in its case.

A DVD of Pearl Harbour is cycling through the start page. “Play”

it instructs us. Or “Pick a Scene.” Every now and then a plane flies

across the screen. Dr. White is shouting, “NO, NO” he says.

 

He is surrounded by etiolated women, sitting in special chairs.

Their necks are stretching towards whatever light remains.

“Shut up” they say, often, severally, but Dr. White just goes on

and on, rocking and chanting his dreadful incantations.

” Shall I hit him with my book?” my Mother says, and laughs.

 

Now I say “NO, NO” to her, and I sound like Doctor White.

Violet tells me what a wonderful doctor he was. I look

at his long, clever fingers and his wits are pouring through them,

and joining the other memories lost from all these fogged heads.
I can hear him when I leave. “Where?  he is saying. “Where?”

 


 

Several Tests of Dementia Severity*

 

100      and all is clear and transparent
I know my name
93         my name is  isador browne  ansell  muth  matio finnerty
an artificial construct  legion or noigel  even
86        this is a watch and this is a pencil
with the pencil I draw a watch face
79        it is the 26th November 2012  it is 11.15 am
on a fine spring day in 2012  in autumn
72        I have told you this
no ifs ands or buts
65        I read close your eyes  and
I close my eyes ‘No read it’
59 no 58          ‘What is your name?’ I write what is your name
but you will not answer
51        and is a table like an orange like a dog
I live in this dlrow which is world backwards
44 and 37        say the objects
the objects
37 or 44           did I pass
you are  you you cannot pass or fail
30 11 30          I say the world is creeping away
it is the dlrow now
23        is a banana like a bookcase and a horse
what is your name  what is my name
23        I close my eyes
I do not want to read
23        no buts or ands or ifs
it is 16.15 on a dark day in November  or 15.1
16 /9    in 2012 which I write with my pencil
while consulting my watch
2            I draw on my watch with my licnep
0          I have no nam

 


 

 

 

 

 


6 Ways to face and survive the ‘Block’

For a poet, there are many sources of inspiration but we all occasionally hit that awful wall we know as the black hole of ‘writers block’ Here I am suggesting a few ways to get over that hump and to keep writing.

There are many sources of inspiration for writing poetry. It can be something as simple as an encounter during your day to day routine, or it can be a specific feeling or emotion. If you are looking for inspiration then try a few of these suggestions.

A Photograph: The saying of “A picture is worth 1000 words” always holds true for being inspired to write by looking at pictures. Pictures can do many things – they can invoke a certain feeling or mood. They can often tell a story. Sometimes just a simple description can be considered poetic in of itself. Either pull out some of your own photos, or take some time to browse photo galleries such as Flickr or Morguefile and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll be wanting to write.

An Experience: Your own experiences may not seem as if they would mean a lot, but they often can help inspire others through your own actions and situations. Whether it’s about how you poured your morning coffee or the thrill you felt when riding a roller coaster, your experiences can inspire others.

A Place: Places are where things happen. Any place can be a source of inspiration – be it your favorite relaxation zone of peaceful nature or the busy sidewalks of a large metropolitan city. Capturing the sights and the sounds of a place can also be another great source of inspiration.

A Free Write: Get a Timer, and make yourself write without stopping for 5 minutes. You might not produce anything significant or groundbreaking, but you’ll be surprised at how this very simple exercise can inspire you to create more and give you many different ideas for things to write about and share.

Reading: Sometimes seeing other words can make you gather your own thoughts and begin forming new related ideas with your own words. Whether you read a book, a magazine, a blog, the newspaper, or even a road sign, there’s plenty of things that can help you feel inspired to write something. Many popular songs, books, movies, and more have come from the development of an idea by reading the works of another.

An Object: There are objects all around us. Chances are you are sitting or standing on one right now as you are reading this article! Choose any object, or several objects, and write about them. You can be descriptive, or you can be elusive – it’s all up to you.

Have a great writing week.

 

 


 


Hannah Lowe’s top poetry writing tips

Forward prize-shortlisted poet Hannah Lowe offers her top tips to young poetry writers.

Hannah Lowe (born 1976) is a British writer, known for her collection of poetry Chick (2013) and family memoir Long Time, No See (2015).

Lowe was born in Ilford, Essex, in 1976. She taught English, and went on to teach Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. She began writing poetry at the age of 29 after her Jamaican-Chinese father died and her English mother had a stroke.

Following a suggestion by John Glenday at a course in 2010, she began to write about her father and this formed her debut collection Chick (Bloodaxe Books, 2013). This work was shortlisted for the Forward and Fenton Adelburgh First Collection Prizes. In September 2014, the Poetry Book Society included Lowe in its list of Next Generation Poets, published each decade.

Lowe’s family memoir Long Time, No See was published by Periscope in July 2015 and was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Lowe cites Gerard Manley Hopkins, Anne Sexton, and Mark Doty as influences for her work.

 

Hanna offers the following tips to novice writers who are starting out on their poetic journey.

 

1. Read!

Read lots of different poems, from books at school, home, the library, bookshops, or poems you find online. The Poetry Library in London and the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh are great places to start. Look at their websites if you can’t visit them. Read poems for adults as well as for children. What do you like? What makes a good poem in your opinion? Read poems aloud so you can hear their sound effects and music. Learn a poem off by heart and see how you find reciting it from memory

2. Write!

To be a poet, you have to write poetry. This may sound obvious, but try to make writing your habit. This might be deciding to write a poem a week, or keeping a notebook where you scribble down ideas which are bolts from the blue, or things you see written on the wall, or snatches of overheard conversation – any of these might find their way into one of your poems.

3. What do you know?

Write about it! Many poets draw on their own life experience to write poems. Choose to write about your grandmother, your brother, a good friend, or the memory of a dramatic incident, or a place or an object you love.

4. What don’t you know?

Write about it! The imagination is a wonderful thing and it’s fine to allow yours free rein and write about whatever you want – a monster, or life on the bottom of the ocean, or what goes on in your strange neighbour’s house. Things you do know about may well slip into these sorts of poems. The important thing is to have fun with your writing

5. What can you see?

I often think of poetry as “painting with words” – the poet’s job is to show the reader the people, places and events of the poem. Even the feelings. Try to get the images you have in your mind down on paper. It’s not just the sense of sight that can work brilliantly in poems – think about including details of taste, touch, hearing and smell as well. Remember you don’t have to use flowery or special language – poetry can (and should) be written in every day language

6. Redraft, redraft and redraft again

Your first draft won’t be perfect – it’s better to write freely, without worrying about spelling or line length or getting exactly the right expression – these things can be worked on as you redraft. Many poets redraft tens of times, often cutting down or making small changes – expect to do the same. Poems can be very short but it often takes a long time to write a good short poem.

7. Read your poems aloud

One of the best ways of editing is to read aloud, listening to the sound and music of your poem. Does the rhythm sound right? Have you chosen exactly the words you want? Say your poems aloud when walking down the street, or in the bath, or whisper them before you go to sleep. Sometimes it’s easier to make the changes in your head, than on the paper. But make sure you remember what the changes are!

8. Use writing exercises

Sometimes you might be stuck for an idea for a poem. The mind is like an engine – sometimes it needs cranking up or stimulating to get it going. There’s plenty of writing poetry exercises on the internet (or your teachers may have ideas). Here’s one I learnt from the poet George Szirtes:

Follow these instructions:
 Choose a number between 1 and 20 (eg 15)
 Choose a number between 1 and 100 (eg 30)
 Choose a colour (eg purple), a mood (eg sad), a kind of weather (eg sunny), a place (eg the laundrette), an animal (eg a rat)

Now: The first number is the number of lines your poem should have. All the other choices have to be in the poem eg can you write a sad 15 line poem about a man who goes to the laundrette every day to avoid the rat in his flat? He’s washing 30 pairs of socks a week (some of them purple) to keep out of the house, all through summer. These might be the basic ingredients – where you go with it is up to you…

9. Experiment

Try writing different sorts of poems – poems that rhyme (poems don’t have to rhyme), poems with very long lines or in tall narrow columns; try writing in traditional forms with rhyme schemes, or poems that are shaped to match their content (concrete poetry).

10. Enjoy, learn and share

It takes time to become a good poet. Don’t worry if your poems don’t turn out the way you want. Keep reading and writing. Enjoy the process of learning about poetry and, when you are ready, share what you’ve written. You might look for other poets, join a group, or even start your own.

 

 


 


A 1962 Sylvia Plath Interview with Peter Orr

ORR: Sylvia, what started you writing poetry?

PLATH: I don’t know what started me, I just wrote it from the time was quite small. I guess I liked nursery rhymes and I guess I thought I could do the same thing. I wrote my first poem, my first published poem, when I was eight-and-a-half years old. It came out in The Boston Traveller and from then on, I suppose, I’ve been a bit of a professional.

 

ORR: What sort of thing did you write about when you began?

PLATH: Nature, I think: birds, bees, spring, fall, all those subjects which are absolute gifts to the person who doesn’t have any interior experience to write about. I think the coming of spring, the stars overhead, the first snowfall and so on are gifts for a child, a young poet.

 

ORR: Now, jumping the years, can you say, are there any themes which particularly attract you as a poet, things that you feel you would like to write about?

PLATH: Perhaps this is an American thing: I’ve been very excited by what I feel is the new breakthrough that came with, say, Robert Lowell’s Life Studies, this intense breakthrough into very serious, very personal, emotional experience which I feel has been partly taboo. Robert Lowell’s poems about his experience in a mental hospital, for example, interested me very much. These peculiar, private and taboo subjects, I feel, have been explored in recent American poetry. I think particularly the poetess Ann Sexton, who writes about her experiences as a mother, as a mother who has had a nervous breakdown, is an extremely emotional and feeling young woman and her poems are wonderfully craftsman4ike poems and yet they have a kind of emotional and psychological depth which I think is something perhaps quite new, quite exciting.

ORR: Now you, as a poet, and as a person who straddles the Atlantic, if I can put it that way, being an American yourself…

PLATH: That’s a rather awkward position, but I’ll accept it!

ORR: … on which side does your weight fall, if I can pursue the metaphor?

PLATH: Well, I think that as far as language goes I’m an American, I’m afraid, my accent is American, my way of talk is an American way of talk, I’m an old-fashioned American. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’m in England now and why I’ll always stay in England. I’m about fifty years behind as far as my preferences go and I must say that the poets who excite me most are the Americans. There are very few contemporary English poets that I admire.

ORR: Does this mean that you think contemporary English poetry is behind the times compared with American?

PLATH: No, I think it is in a bit of a strait-jacket, if I may say so. There was an essay by Alvarez, the British critic: his arguments about the dangers of gentility in England are very pertinent, very true. I must say that I am not very genteel and I feel that gentility has a stranglehold: the neatness, the wonderful tidiness, which is so evident everywhere in England is perhaps more dangerous than it would appear on the surface.

ORR: But don’t you think, too, that there is this business of English poets who are labouring under the whole weight of something which in block capitals is called ‘English Literature’?

PLATH: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I know when I was at Cambridge this appeared to me. Young women would come up to me and say ‘How do you dare to write, how do you dare to publish a poem, because of the criticism, the terrible criticism, that falls upon one if one does publish?’ And the criticism is not of the poem as poem. I remember being appalled when someone criticised me for beginning just like John Donne, but not quite managing to finish like John Donne, and I first felt the full weight of English Literature on me at that point. I think the whole emphasis in England, in universities, on practical criticism (but not that so much as on historical criticism, knowing what period a line comes from) this is almost paralysing. In America, in University, we read – what? – T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, that is where we began. Shakespeare flaunted in the background. I’m not sure I agree with this, but I think that’ for the young poet, the writing poet, it is not quite so frightening to go to university in America as it is in England, for these reasons.

ORR: You say, Sylvia, that you consider yourself an American, but when we listen to a poem like ‘Daddy’, which talks about Dachau and Auschwitz and Mein Kampf, I have the impression that this is the sort of poem that a real American could not have written, because it doesn’t mean so much, these names do not mean so much, on the other side of the Atlantic, do they?

PLATH: Well now, you are talking to me as a general American. In particular, my background is, may I say, German and Austrian. On one side I am a first generation American, on one side I’m second generation American, and so my concern with concentration camps and so on is uniquely intense. And then, again, I’m rather a political person as well, so I suppose that’s what part of it comes from.

ORR: And as a poet, do you have a great and keen sense of the historic?

PLATH:I am not a historian, but I find myself being more and more fascinated by history and now I find myself reading more and more about history. I am very interested in Napoleon, at the present: I’m very interested in battles, in wars, in Gallipoli, the First World War and so on, and I think that as I age I am becoming more and more historical. I certainly wasn’t at all in my early twenties.

ORR: Do your poems tend now to come out of books rather than out of your own life?

PLATH: No, no : I would not say that at all. I think my poems immediately come out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have, but I must say I cannot sympathise with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle or a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrific, like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience, and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and an intelligent mini I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn’t be a kind of shut-box and mirror looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things, the bigger things such as Hiroshima and Dachau and so on.

ORR: And so, behind the primitive, emotional reaction there must be an intellectual discipline.

PLATH: I feel that very strongly: having been an academic, having been tempted by the invitation to stay on to become a Ph.D., a professor, and all that, one side of me certainly does respect all disciplines, as long as they don’t ossify.

ORR: What about writers who have influenced you, who have meant a lot to you?

PLATH: There were very few. I find it hard to trace them really. When I was at College I was stunned and astounded by the moderns, by Dylan Thomas, by Yeats, by Auden even: at one point I was absolutely wild for Auden and everything I wrote was desperately Audenesque. Now I again begin to go backwards, I begin to look to Blake, for example. And then, of course, it is presumptuous to say that one is influenced by someone like Shakespeare: one reads Shakespeare, and that is that.

ORR: Sylvia, one notices in reading your poems and listening to your poems that there are two qualities which emerge very quickly and clearly; one is their lucidity (and I think these two qualities have something to do one with the other), their lucidity and the impact they make on reading. Now, do you consciously design your poems to be both lucid and to be effective when they are read aloud?

PLATH: This is something I didn’t do in my earlier poems. For example, my first book, The Colossus, I can’t read any of the poems aloud now. I didn’t write them to be read aloud. They, in fact, quite privately, bore me. These ones that I have just read, the ones that are very recent, I’ve got to say them, I speak them to myself, and I think that this in my own writing development is quite a new thing with me, and whatever lucidity they may have comes from the fact that I say them to myself, I say them aloud.

ORR: Do you think this is an essential ingredient of a good poem, that it should be able to be read aloud effectively?

PLATH: Well, I do feel that now and I feel that this development of recording poems, of speaking poems at readings, of having records of poets, I think this is a wonderful thing. I’m very excited by it. In a sense, there’s a return, isn’t there, to the old role of the poet, which was to speak to a group of people, to come across.

ORR: Or to sing to a group?

PLATH: To sing to a group of people, exactly.

ORR: Setting aside poetry for a moment, are there other things you would like to write, or that you have written?

PLATH: Well, I always was interested in prose. As a teenager, I published short stories. And I always wanted to write the long short story, I wanted to write a novel. Now that I have attained, shall I say, a respectable age, and have had experiences, I feel much more interested in prose, in the novel. I feel that in a novel, for example, you can get in toothbrushes and all the paraphernalia that one finds in dally life, and I find this more difficult in poetry. Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline, you’ve got to go so far, so fast, in such a small space that you’ve just got to turn away all the peripherals. And I miss them! I’m a woman, I like my little Laresand Penates, I like trivia, and I find that in a novel I can get more of life, perhaps not such intense life, but certainly more of life, and so I’ve become very interested in novel writing as a result.

ORR: This is almost a Dr. Johnson sort of view, isn’t it? What was it he said, ‘There are some things that are fit for inclusion in poetry and others which are not’?

PLATH: Well, of course, as a poet I would say pouf! I would say everything should be able to come into a poem, but I can’t put toothbrushes into a poem, I really can’t!

ORR: Do you find yourself much in the company of other writers, of poets?

PLATH: I much prefer doctors, midwives, lawyers, anything but writers. I think writers and artists are the most narcissistic people. I mustn’t say this, I like many of them, in fact a great many of my friends happen to be writers and artists. But I must say what I admire most is the person who masters an area of practical experience, and can teach me something. I mean, my local midwife has taught me how to keep bees. Well, she can’t understand anything I write. And I find myself liking her, may I say, more than most poets. And among my friends I find people who know all about boats or know all about certain sports, or how to cut somebody open and remove an organ. I’m fascinated by this mastery of the practical. As a poet, one lives a bit on air. I always like someone who can teach me something practical.

ORR: Is there anything else you would rather have done than writing poetry? Because this is something, obviously, which takes up a great

deal of one’s private life, if one’s going to succeed at it. Do you ever have any lingering regrets that you didn’t do something else?

PLATH: I think if I had done anything else I would like to have been a doctor. This is the sort of polar opposition to being a writer, I suppose. My best friends when I was young were always doctors. I used to dress up in a white gauze helmet and go round and see babies born and cadavers cut open. This fascinated me, but I could never bring myself to disciplining myself to the point where I could learn all the details that one has to learn to be a good doctor. This is the sort of opposition: somebody who deals directly with human experiences, is able to cure, to mend, to help, this sort of thing. I suppose if I have any nostalgias it’s this, but I console myself because I know so many doctors. And I may say, perhaps, I’m happier writing about doctors than I would have been being one.

ORR: But basically this thing, the writing of poetry, is something which has been a great satisfaction to you in your life, is it?

PLATH: Oh, satisfaction! I don’t think I could live without it. It’s like water or bread, or something absolutely essential to me. I find myself absolutely fulfilled when I have written a poem, when I’m writing one. Having written one, then you fall away very rapidly from having been a poet to becoming a sort of poet in rest, which isn’t the same thing at all. But I think the actual experience of writing a poem is a magnificent one.

from The Poet Speaks: Interviews with Contemporary Poets Conducted by Hilary Morrish, Peter Orr, John Press, and Ian Scott-Kilvery. London: Routledge (1966).

 

 


 


A Very Brief Interview: Pablo Neruda

This is a very brief interview but gives us an insight into the mind of a wonderful, self deprecating poet.

 

Pablo Neruda was interviewed by Rita Guibert in 1970. The setting was the Isla Negra, Neruda’s favourite getaway and the theme for many of his poems. Neruda talked candidly about why he changed his name, political ideas and his staunch belief in Communism, and, of course, his poetry.

Neruda discussed his poetry in terms of his personal life, “A poet’s life must naturally be reflected in his poetry. That is the law of his trade, and one of the laws of life.” Neruda goes on to explain the different stages in his life and where the poems came from.

I thought it was interesting to hear his thoughts on all the different translations of his work:

 

RG (Rita Guibert) – In which language do the best translations exist?

PN (Pablo Neruda)– I would say in Italian, because there’s a similarity of values between the two languages. English and French, the only languages I know besides Italian, are languages which do not correspond to Spanish – neither in vocalization, nor in the placement, nor the color, not the weight of the words… It’s not a question of interpretive equivalents, no; the sense may be correct, indeed the accuracy of the translation itself, of the meaning, may be what destroys the poem. That’s why I think that Italian comes closest, because by keeping the values of the words, the sound helps reflect the sense… in French translations… my poetry seems to me to vanish.

Neruda has made the world laugh, cry, and even despair with his poetry, but what does the great man really think of his poetry?

RG – If you had to save one of your works from a fire, which one would you save?

PN – Possibly none of them. What am I going to need them for? I would rather like to save a girl… or a good collection of detective stories… which would entertain me much more than my own poetry.

And what does Pablo Neruda think of his critics?

PN – Oh, my critics! My critics almost shredded me to pieces. They have analyzed me and chopped me into little bits, with the utmost love or dislike. In life, as in work, one can’t possibly please everyone; it’s always the same thing. And one receives kisses or blows, caresses or kicks – that’s a poet’s life.

Neruda was ever the modest poet.

 

 


 


Poetry Part Four

A TASTELESS SOUP

RJ Williams 

 

 

Nothing will be found there…

He said

“I am the universe experiencing itself”

 

Behind the arterial highways

And nerve spaghetti bowls

And compost that looks shapely, pretty,

He and countless on the planet

Search for self.

 

Now too far

From the playground,

Too grown up to remember

That thing that takes the shape

Of someone called “YOU”

From that hole in space

Where all languages stir in

A tasteless soup.

 

 

THE POISON of SUCH PRETTY THINGS

RJ Williams

 

Carribean Blue,

Just yards from shore…

That kind of shallow wading pond

Is what glanced at me.

Never saw the shark shadow

Circle the drain of her pupil.

She gripped that harpoon

How mother’s save falling babies…

Held it level, upright, with no arch.

This was her tropical paradise

Bathed in crayon box colors

Melted on every flower.

She was queen here

And part lava rock, part tsunami.

I can’t swim. And here I feared

A wayward jellyfish all too happy

To touch me.

No, apparently

I have fallen into the volcano.

Skeletons of my likeness

Fossilizing here.

My heart an echo chamber.

I’ll have to get used to

The underbelly of paradise

And the poison

Of such pretty things.

 

THAT TIME LOVE BENT BACKWARDS

RJ Williams 

 

With a roller coaster cork-screw spine

It more than met you halfway,

Arched like the St. Louis iconic monument.

There it was–LOVE–in all its contortionist glory

And all for you.

Fact was, you weren’t ready.

Somehow you were with the catfish, in the murk

Bottom feeding.

Felt worthy, it seems, only of the

Skeletons of things.

Perhaps blind from being tied to

The end still of the last one

Who had cratered your heart.

Left you shell-shocked, still walking zombie-esque

Within the plumes from bombs.

 

It tried to embrace you face-first, love.

When that didn’t work it became a pretzel

Kind of thing and all for you;

Came calling with a firehouse alarm ruckus–

You didn’t answer or…

Help bend it back upright.

 

 


 

Palermo Street

Vicky

 

We lived where the
factories frayed
in a horizon of terraces
where among three generations
I steeped in patterns
of twitching lips
and silent looks between eyes
that ricocheted a language fluent
to the women.
I once regarded Rene from 23
cradling her cup and crying,
being helped home by Aunt Agnes
who’d just read her leaves in the
front parlour where heavy drapes
hung and drawn served only
to thicken the odour
of polish and mothballs
There, in the carved sideboard cupboard
I would delight in odds and ends,
learning even then
about the process of finding
and how that which I sought most
would more than often emerge
from the bottom of a difficult pile.

 

 

 


 

Poco a poco

Sofia Kioroglou

Following a fallow writing period,
Ideas are now raining down on my head
rat-a-tat,
rat-a-tat,
poco a poco

Like machine gun
In Sectional variations
Monophonic in texture

Pen scribbling with staccato accuracy
Trailing its nib in highfalutin octaves
Hither and thither,
to and fro
and all over the place

With terraced dynamics
Through-composed like ballads
Waltzing around the dance floor of my skull

 

 


 


Poetry Part Three

 

Creatrix

Gregory Broadbent

I

 

I never really set out to do anything

because that would limit my toys

 

and I saw that things, like toys,

were not real

 

because it was me that was imagining

and I wept by the roadside

 

drunken from my lifetime’s bemoaning

when they became real

 

and the story I liked was always the one

that someone was telling next

 

if their stories lay about

in their words with conviction

 

for that was the tell

of whether they had set out to do something.

 

II

 

Passionate exhaletation,

Long live the Sun

 

Impassioned inihilition

Long live Death

 

Compassionate ill,who,me?-nation

Longer live life

 

III

 

On the rock of Terra Firma

the ancestors gather

 

their umbrage

the crow’s eye

 

stalking the last carrion,

joining for Corroboree

 

they dance, scattering soil

and raising dust and paint,

 

to the fire in their tribes

chanting the old songs

 

until the sun burns

the land naked

 

and the crow lets its last

call go, for all the futility.

 

IV

 

Those grey men

that see and know

 

the pantomime

the puppet show

 

are grey as clouds

to hide their sky

 

they peek around

they prod and spy

 

their eyes the dish

that hold starlight

 

and into you

they see your flight

 

but they are grey

and can’t be seen

 

for it is light

they stand between.

 

V

 

The grandmother says

‘stop yer bitchin’

 

steeped in moon’s colors

‘yer lot’s always twitchin’

 

she is elder and sure

‘yer gotta get along’

 

she wants no war

‘gotta be strong, ye know’

 

so listen, listen

the elder is whispering

 

stop bichin, stop twitchin

get along, be strong, ye know

 

VI

 

She told stories that were real

this ice princess

 

dressed in the radiant

skin of confidence

 

breathing youthfulness

aching for usefulness

 

laying out her sex for

curiosity, to know

 

the rhythms of her body

for death brings life brings rebirth brings

 

movement brings change brings chaos

brings death brings life, for ever.

 

She played alone in her frozen castle

as the dreary cold sun festered

 

above her mountain, and told me

that all her beauty is hidden

 

and when she calls I should touch

so she can feel

 

and I should watch

so she can be

 

dressed in her rainbow

of ecstasy.

 

VII

 

And Law states

the children must not be harmed

 

yet we die, most horribly, mostly

and sometimes just live with horror

 

listening to stories that we know lack conviction

because when Owl tore apart

 

the throat of Mouse

to eat the soft, red, flesh,

 

Mouse was victim of Law

but joined immortal wings with Owl

 

and fed the Earth, which is also Child

and must not be harmed.

 

VIII

 

Out of woman all things are born

the male cannot pretend

 

but be a spark

within a storm.

 

IX

 

Dark is the nothing where chaos holds sway

red is the dawn of the feminine day

 

orange the lust about to begin when

yellow sun’s brilliance sparkles in, and

 

greens all the Earth, maturity won

blue as the sky, where sitteth the sun

 

violet the dusk when the moon is bright,

dark, when someone has turned on the light.

 

X

 

Making love and I see you,

conceiving, you see another.

 

Pregnant and we are in the womb of the experience

laboring to get it together, squeezing out,

 

our understanding of us

 

nursing, feeding

 

preparing, releasing

 

that child we now see playing

around the halls of her home

in quiet bliss, observing creation,

needing disturbance.

 

XI

 

Hold me with your strength

in intimacy, worthy of the gifts

of trust and tenderness.

 

Determine with all the passion

you find in yourself at this moment

to receive me with your caring,

 

and my spirit will enter the void with you,

to transform our bodies,

our hearts burning with the fire

 

that erupts from the moment

of creation’s turning

speaking of bliss disturbed

 

we shall become the

magical, the mysterious

character of our love

 

we will ride the ninth wave

that chaos brings

safely to the shore.

 

About Gregory Paul Broadbent

 

 

I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my wife and two children. I have been writing poetry for over 35 years and feel like I’m only just beginning. I love symbolic language in any form and believe that poetry is more than just words. I believe in whittling and honing down from complexity to simplicity in poetry and that some things in life are just so complex that only a poem will get close to describing it, and poetry exists in all art forms. Most of my poetry I compose in my head nowadays, but I envision a day when I will be able to hone out a masterwork.

 


 

Raped

Adiba Anwar

 

“Could the sighs of lustful ardour replenish the myriads of anguished screams ?”

Asked the girl who was raped before being kissed.

 


Northbound with a stack of postcards

Alfred Booth

Dear you,
Craziness overtook the Paris north train station. Surprised, no boisterous crowd invaded my car. Not even a miniature sense of excitement, an eerie calm prevails. Toni Braxton caresses my ears: “hold me in your arms like that Spanish guitar. » I melt like chocolate ice cream every time. You and unrequited love are strangers. I will see Rijksmuseum alone like you did The Hermitage. Together, we compare notes without the spice. I left your Bastille Day bouquet far from the window’s glare, with enough water until your return. Flowers, even those liberated from vases, are not evergreen. The most fortunate spring to life next year. You are an orchid. You say I till your soil. A silent gardener with strong hands, I apply glue to secrets. Our on-again-off-again togetherness has not totally squashed love like book-pressed memorabilia. During the off periods we have never completely wilted. I’m reading Rilke again, The Book of Hours, Love poems to God. Would we be more settled if we still prayed? I remember much poetic verse about loneliness.  No scripture. My long-immobile legs initiate a treasure hunt hoping to win salted almonds. The dining car is filled by an orderly queue, people silently rejoicing, connected elsewhere by free Wifi. I settle for a second prise of dried mangoes. I ask can I  purchase Dutch stamps. Yes. I pay cash for everything using all my small change. In Amsterdam I’ve enrolled in classes to perfect my still life technique.  One day I will surround you with the beauty you inspire. My love letters won’t count in the end. You, not I, enjoy world prestige.  The train stops once again, after crossing into Holland. Windows frame fields and fields and fields, endless fields of tulips. They remind me of your first kisses.
Tenderly, your troubadour

 

About Alfred Booth

 

An American professional pianist who lives in France, Alfred Booth folds origami; its patience often inspires poetry. When he not at the piano learning new arcane repertoire to stretch his horizons, he teaches would-be amateur musicians to put enough bread on the table. In the 90s he studied extensively the harpsichord and his millennial project had him able to play Bach on the cello; this latter duo waits for his retirement years. Currently he has an 82-poem volume journaling a recent dance with cancer and an 34-poem chapbook of ghazals looking for a homes in the professional world of rhyme. A large handful of his poetry can be found in the e-zines Dead Snakes, I am not a silent poet and Spring Fling

 


 

Rage at the rain

Stephen Miles

 

Back in the day you’d rage at the rain
curse out flat beer
help a stranger, slipped in the snow
own the world with a square shoulder walk
under London bridge hid a mudlark
quenching thirst while above traffic flows
opposite the dungeons of London
Belfast awaited to be boarded
style less travel for fifty English pounds
ambling passed pedestrians
trading concrete for grass, flat for frothy
jellied eel for deep fried Mars
plane packaged and burnt to a crisp
two week awakenings to Retsina epiphanies
disbelieving the Alchemy, water taken over
ouzo’s aniseed breath, inducing paralysis
promiscuously bed hop devoid of hivE
without any variety of the E
peer pressure was Lacoste over le shark
Piers Morgan an unacceptable
and who the fuck is Simon Cowell
Bukowski was a drunk and Sean Penn showed him off
Laker was Freddy and Flintoff a twinkle
back in the day when you’d rage at the rain.

 

 


 

The Professor Speaks! Listen.

David Susswein

 

 

‘The true method of being deceived is to think

oneself more cunning than others’

– La Rochefoucauld, Maxims #127.

 

-“literally like I’ve worked so hard,

and uhm I literally can’t work harder,

and like”-

 

A pitter patter patois

for a bleached waxed

and stretched skin,

a vacuole at the start of sentence,

an empty comma for its end.

 

If I taught subjunctive syntax:

you’d only assassinate its innate complexity,

or barter its’ worth for a single manolo blahnik shoe,

 

so I will not be assed to flex my instructive tongue,

and in my ears; used chewing-gum will go,

and all my tympanum could now vibrate to:

your inebriated trilling one-note shrill,

crashed down a stair of still laxest rhythm

 

but I, will still pat and stoke such luxurious thigh,

still place and thrust bent finger and other,

at warm or hottest, hole, and suck, push

 

stick a hand on your face so you cannot speak,

or see anything at all, take down to the floor

your body pressed beneath, fit to this earth;

-you’ll see how better I am in your own scream-

I am superior: just listen to my grunted words!

 


 

just over here fighting off bats in my heart

banjolyn

 

 

the wind throws down–
hair in my face, like my mother
telling me what to do

i fly the kite of calling it quits,
while this desert whines
for a closer storm

it’s probably a bad time
to tug your cross
and tell you i’m not well

i hand the creek
my feet to blame,
while this drought of you goes on

your rocking chair won’t look at me,
your ghost just sits there
scratching love

 

 


 


Poetry Part Two

Turn off the lights on your way out

Naomi Tate Maghen

 

my little sister never ages,
she’ll always be a scribble
of a square house,
two windows, a door
and a flowered garden path

 

i keep my distance
so that my thunderstorm
doesn’t rattle her windows

 

though she invites me in~
she didn’t study biology,
doesn’t understand how
her naive stems
depend on photosynthesis

 

how does one mother
birth a snake plant
and five years later
a patch of grass?

 

 

The Guilt Of Padded Limbs

Naomi Tate Maghen

 

it wasn’t for a lack of money,
the creaky taps
above the mud brown bathtub
barely dribbled,
as if admonishing
my need for comfort,
my need for warmth

 

there was a severity
to being naked
in this room,

the plastic under my feet
had rows of anti-slip stickers,
like the rough slats his father
lay on in auschwitz,
five men deep

 

I couldn’t lie in this tub,
my padded limbs
displacing so much water,
as his frail frame
demanded so little space
from the world

 

I would stand just above the plug,
where his feet must have been
when he bathed
and I’d pay penance
for my thick, healthy hair

 

shivering in a half hour
prayer
that the shampoo would
release me from my reflection
in their mirror,
mingling with denture cream
and the rows of bottles
like little gravestones,
naming their dead

 

I always felt a little dirtier,
as I dressed

 

 

I tell myself he loved me

Naomi Tate Meghen

 

i was an open house,
the kind where parents
confuse teenagers
with the family insignia,
a sabbath candled
stamp they presumed
could withstand
the boiler room
between my thighs

 

there was no key
to my communist
drawers,
a vacant lot
that laughed
at the tyre tracks,
vaseline glistening
as i awoke by
the back door

 

decades later i found
that vaseline isn’t
biodegradable
no matter how many
bottles you steep it in,

 

but becomes a heightened
awareness of membranes
chafing
like the red smear
on my doorpost

 

i’m powerless
to purge

 

 

 

About Naomi Tate Meghen

 

Naomi grew up in London, England, in an orthodox Jewish household. Daughter of an immigrant father from Lybia, she was always very conscious of being an ‘outsider’, which was heightened within her home life by being the only non-believer in the family.  At eighteen, after experiencing many anti-Semitic incidents, Naomi moved to Israel on her own, where she has lived since.

Naomi has always been very creative, she dabbled in poetry from a young age, but her main creative outlet was visual art- painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. In 2015, she completed a Bachelor degree in fine art and education with honours, and in 2016 she taught art to youth at risk. In September of 2016, after undergoing spinal surgery that left her bed-ridden for a number of months, Naomi started focusing on writing.

Today Naomi divides her time between working in her studio on her visual art, and reading and writing poetry.

Naomi has four children and is married for a second time.

 


 

 

Imagine That (on the Grenfell Tower Inferno, London)

Abigail Wyatt

 

Imagine yourself on the phone to your sister
who knows she is going to die.

Imagine your neighbour and your neighbour’s children
pressed against their window hoping against hope.

Picture your father fighting to breathe
as the smoke that fills his lungs half blinds him.

Imagine the mother who must choose for her infant
between certain and probable death.

Now picture the scene as the businessmen gather.
Imagine what they said to each other.

Imagine their smooth, untroubled faces.
Picture their pink and white manicured hands.

Imagine for a moment they knew what they were doing.
Imagine that it adds up to murder.

Picture how the truth might look.
I wonder if you can.

 

 

About Abigail Wyatt

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt was born and raised in Essex but is now happily settled in Penzancd in Cornwall with her singer- songwriter partner, David, and Percy Dog Esq. Formerly a teacher, since around 2010, she has defined herself as a writer. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in well over a hundred journals, magazines and anthologies.

 


Sap Descending
Patricia Walsh

 

 

Inadmissible Heights

 

Searching for books, two storeys high

Passed that test, now down to the wolves

Examining the token tome as examination

Perfect spine, some foxing, all right otherwise.

 

Slitting fortunes on a dream, life permitting

What slinks past won’t pass you by

The unholy type of learning doesn’t register

As long as the library sings its wares.

 

Not more Irish than that.  Even the best ideas

Are prone to cliché after a while

Predictability wearing thick on a borrowed life

The token outsider speedily entering exile.

 

Embracing difference where required

Sleeping on the job a prerequisite aberration

Revealing a diligent present like no other

A pressure cooker employee, good to a fault.

 

Indolent sport spilled over the television

Conquering form, obsession, a fixture of talents

Cracking through satiety for a result

Made more attractive on a higher shelf.

 

One a pedestal, close to prying eyes

The foreground noise plays under a drink’s gaze

Inaccessible to most, unlike the expats

Applauding its signature on borrowed heights.

 



Poetry Part One

Still Life With Fish

Mike Essig

 

The people on the bus go up and down…

Those imagined myriad first choices:
astronaut, fireman, cowboy, hero.
A child’s view of infinite possibility.

So many corners to turn, paths to take.
The smiling illusions of Free Will.

And then arrives the Great Settling.
The dawning middle age of mediocrity.

A turnpike with only one terminal exit.
An awful Interstate leading to nowhere.
An exercise in the only ordinary.
The dominoes that tumble as they must.
A long swim through a drying swamp.

Apprehension and unhappiness.
Hoarded secret humiliations.
The unbeautiful bodies creaking.
A clamorous anticipation of pain.
Mostly misunderstood mysteries.
An emptiness that drives everything.

Not one life chosen from many offered,
but one life offered from none chosen.
A random smattering of lonely events.

Until fixed in its finally failed tableau,
a fish trapped in a dying mud puddle
with sad, shrunken boundaries,
with nowhere left to swim at all.

 


 

Holding On

Chris Tabaka 

 

A single leaf

Survived the winter

Tenaciously hanging

Onto the bare branch

 

The heavy snows

And howling winds

Could not budge it

It remained resilient

 

It stood the test of time

Through many months

Trials and tribulations

Of the fierce season

 

Now spring is here

And the old must yield

To the green buds

Pushing from within

 

It could withstand

The harshest weather

But not the gentle

Nudging of new growth

 

Life goes in cycles

It cannot be stopped

The old must eventually

Make way for the new

 

 

About Chris Tabaka

Ann Christine Tabaka was born and lives in Delaware.  She is a published poet, an artist, a chemist, and a personal trainer.  She loves gardening, cooking, and the ocean.  Chris lives with her husband and two cats.  Her poems have been published in numerous national and international poetry journals, reviews, and anthologies.

 


 

Musica

Diana Devlin

 

At night when the sky stops breathing
And the birds are still
I feel you
Rippling through me
Planting seeds of Ah!
In every corner
And slowly slowly
You expand me
Envelope and lull me
Until the tight screws slacken
And clink like teeth extracted
As one by one
They fall away
Leaving a voice
Free to sing

 

Burn

Diana Devlin

 

and time dripped scalding
candle wax on bare bone
I held you close in memory
but like a poppy plucked
from its growing place you
slipped my grip and
vanished into a thousand shards
of regret and yet I
held tight staring
at embers so light they were
almost
not even
there

 

 

About Diana Devlin

 

I am a linguist and former teacher. Until October 2016, I taught in Glasgow but now devote all my time to writing and painting. My poetry has been published in an anthology of new writing but that was a long time ago and I am only now looking for publishing opportunities again. I am irrepressibly passionate about reading, my greatest love being French poetry of 19th-20th Century.

 


 

 

I Follow Maureen

Liz Balize

 

It was the time of my Auntie Bee summers
I was small then
She had a parakeet that landed on my head
and a bathtub too
with water so deep!
and legs and claws!
Damn thing nearly chased me down the stairs!

She lived in slumbery Windsor Locks
where bugs hung-out in the haze
of teenage August
I played in the tall weeds
with a shoeless Italian boy
who ate tomatoes like apples
and cucumbers right off the vine!
He was dirty free and foreign!
We played— reckless, abandoned
behind the gas pump, under the tractor, in the barn
and through the endless fields
I didn’t know….
His name was Tony
I ate pizza with him—the first time

At Auntie Bee’s I had to go to bed at eight
but I could watch night flowers
bloom on wallpaper
She came in to say good night
slippered, shadowy, night dress slightly open
and I peeped her breasts!
like Tony’s cucumbers!
I had never seen my mother’s wonders….

Night spread its wings from the old fan—
a bird of tireless exhaustion
whipped, whipped, whipped to death in its cage
tireless exhaustion
tic-tocking in time to a wind-up clock
stretched out on the whine
of the overland trucks
Route Five through the night of an open window

In the grape arbor below—
tremulous incessant
crickets    crickets    crickets
tremulous incessant—insides of a child
a summer child
not yet ready for the fall of answers

Auntie Bee had a daughter—Maureen
I followed her everywhere I could
I was small then–
do anything for a stick of Juicy Fruit
I followed Maureen through my dreams
of being sixteen
and woke to Peggy’s “Fever”
while she tied her sneakers
against the mattress by my head

I followed Maureen (in my mind)
tanned and bandanned
to work in the fields of shade tobacco
with all those Puerto Rican boys!
She knew where she was going!

I was small then
…do anything for a stick of  gum

“Mauney! Mauney! Mauney!”
…through the goldenrod of roadside
through the smell of oil that damped the dust
I followed Maureen’s white shorts
and chestnut hair…to the corner store
I followed the way the boys smiled
the way the screen door slammed
on her bright behind
the way her lips taunted and took
the coke-bottle’s green
I followed Maureen

I swear, I tried for hours to get that right!

Must have been Peggy Lee’s “Fever”

Maureen ties her sneakers in my face
Flaunts her years above my head
She has that look—
“We kids don’t know nothin”
(Little turds” that we be)

…followin’ Maureen
through the goldenrod of roadside
tic-tockin’, beboppin’

“Fever— in the morning
Fever all through the night….”

 

About Liz Balise

 

Life— by the time I’m aware, it’s gone by me. I’ve read some important books. Music is sometimes more than I can bear. My favorites: the song of the wood thrush at dusk, the opus of the ocean before a storm, the way white pines mourn when the wind is right.

I am a long-time resident of Scranton, Pennsylvania who grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. My poetry has been published in the Mulberry Poets’ anthology, Palpable Clock, University of Scranton Press and in The Endless Mountain Review. I also wrote short stories and feature articles for ergo, a magazine of Prufrock’s Cafe. Chapter books (unpublished): Hey Kid!,1995; The Worship After, 2017