Issue: Issue 5 10th July 2017

Featured Poet Therese Kieran

Therese Kieran lives in Belfast. She enjoys writing poetry.  In 2016, with Arts Council funding for the Death Box project, she conceived and curated an exhibition of poetry and prose that included contributions from 25 writers. As part of this project, she and project partner, Lucy Beevor, hosted Northern Ireland’s first Death Café. In October 2016, she collaborated with a graphic designer, to develop her piece, ‘Try Me’, which was exhibited in The Free Word Centre, London. In 2015, she was a runner up in the Poetry Ireland/Trocaire poetry competition as well as being long-listed for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her work has featured in a variety of anthologies including those published by Arlen House, Shalom, Community Arts Partnership, Queen’s University, Panning for Poems, Poetry NI, 26 Writer’s group, The Incubator magazine and Tales from the Forest. In 2017, she was again long-listed for the Lava Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing, had two poems short-listed in Poems for Patience, University Hospital Galway and was highly commended in Imagine Belfast Poetry & Politics Competition.



Staring out at the Mångata*


She closes her eyes on the mångata and sleeps; 
slips into its strip of silver road; a slick of moonlight shimmering on the ocean,
believing she can walk that road should morning fail to follow night,

so consider her malaise, when, at 2am she wakes
to see mågnata moved on, counts the seconds as each wave
washes ashore; all the while wrestling the stillness.


(*mångata – Swedish for moon’s shimmering light on water)



Out of Black


We fly JFK to Washington Dulles. 
The guy at the car rental laughs and says,

‘you guys, the Outer Banks – OBX – 
hah, that’s somethin’… 
I’ve never been to the Outer Banks.’

And on a long stretch of road,
miles off the highway,
a bear lollops across our path, 
clears the safety barrier then disappears
long before we zoom by.

I’m pretty sure he dived headfirst into bramble,
tumbled and rolled like a boulder into the woods.
Faster than we could cough the fur balls from 
the backs of our throats or in a breath shout,


One year on, I lie in blackness,
digging up this moment,
considering timing and other things.


One January Morning for Conor


Look at you!
Your acrobatic confidence puts me to shame
as I sit slumped, staring out my kitchen window,
you hurry, scurry from bare branch to bare branch
some thinning to nothing to make it seem 
as though you bob on air

then a stretch and cheeky flash of white underbelly,
then a flick and furl – you curl yourself around another twig
and upright drop your tail for balance, its slight swing
allowing the mastication of a seasoned leaf 
fed between pincers so small I cannot see the detail,
only the twitching and busy determination of your task.

You act alone today. Out there on a limb
you jump and roll and twist and turn,
oh you squiggle of a thing – how bold,
how well you know your place in the world.


The Writing Shed


I built a room to write in
words are spare there
letters float in midair 
flutter to the floor
           C clings to O
open-mouthed like Edvard’s Scream
           L kicks D to a far corner
where it disintegrates to dust and doubles
in dark
              A arcs and falls, then climbs
descends, climbs descends
then leaps and bungee drops
down, up and round again.

I built a room to write in
it’s full of cold and damp.


In the Psychiatrist’s Rooms waiting with my Son


I think I might shrink, shrink to the size of a pea, roll off this chair
onto threadbare carpet where someone is bound to crush me to a pulp.
I’m halfway there – mashed, beaten, squeezed but wonder, 
how does she do it?
How does she listen to swing and moody blues?
You’d feel like giving them a shake 
but they’re already all shook up 
and this isn’t rock ’n’ roll – 
and now this too hot room is filling with a balloon, 
swelling up, puffing out, pinning us to walls,
                                                                  and its too thin skin is about to burst.






Poetry 1

A Book

by Colin Dardis


It is yellowed, a sign of either affection or neglect,

but not worn, fingered through with dog ears and tears;

a picture will not wear from having eyes laid upon it.

The poems are slow, spoken in the tongue of maturity

where the pace is deliberate, a meander of thoughts

and observations: not Proustian, but perhaps of so much

unnecessary detail, it would be hard for the casual reader

to differentiate between the garnish and the meat.


I place a few joints onto my tongue, roll them around

to try out the taste, sampling mustang flavours,

old world spices presented in archaic vernaculars,

lines soaked in gin, pickled in barrels of rum,

a lifetime’s inebriation affecting interpretation.

In my young mouth, the words fail to spark,

promised fire snuff out with the snap of closed pages

as I coughed out the cold whispers of shallow smoke.


Through Bulrushes

by Colin Dardis


You ran on through bulrush fields,

greenbelt employed by children

in their playground love.


I remember welted legs as you

rummaged for dock leaves

to bandage crying shins;


Hayfever hit that summer,

enough to stay indoors;

You were there in counterpoise.


I forgot these few childhoods,

never mentioned. At least now,

we have the pollen count.


.A Perfect Circle

by Colin Dardis


The road out of this town

is elusive: a dirt track

through marshland, a meadow path,

a cobblestone street, twisting river

forming banks from broken earth,

searching for the sea.


I followed the water,

hoping not to find a delta

or the mouth of the bay,

but for captured rain

to turn into itself, creating

a perfect circle, a circle of distance,

of indifference to take

out of this town and afford me

a variant of viewpoint.


Colin Dardis is a poet, editor and freelance arts facilitator from Northern Ireland.  He co-runs Poetry NI, and is editor for Lagan Online. One of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, a collection with Eyewear, ‘the x of y’, is forthcoming in 2018.



Jacob Swam The River

by Ken Dronsfield


Motley dressed

with holy socks

matching shoes

gray thinning hair

lives by the bridge

last ate on Sunday

fought in Vietnam

hides in plain sight

raucous lost dreams

fire and icy breath

in spite, death calls

peace finally found

a cold November day

socks, shoes unlaced

placed upon the bank

his war finally ends,

Jacob swam the river.



by Ken Dronsfield


Clustering wildflowers

unkempt in meadows

alder leaves shimmer

like wings of teal flying

winding along the river

dandelions dreaming

a red rose promised

rust devours a tractor

broken old tree swing

clusters of wildflowers

by an unkempt garden

tears of a homestead

free-fall unto memory.


Ken Allan Dronsfield is a published poet originally from New Hampshire, now residing in Oklahoma. He loves thunderstorms, walking in the woods at night, and spending time with his cat Willa. Ken’s new book, “The Cellaring”, a collection of 80 haunting/paranormal/weird and wonderful poems, has been released and is available through

He is the co-editor of two poetry anthologies titled, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze and Dandelion in a Vase of Roses, available at His published work can be found in reviews, journals, magazines and anthologies throughout the web and in print venues including: The Burningword Journal, The Literary Hatchet Magazine,  The Stray Branch, Belle Reve Journal, Peeking Cat Magazine, The Australia Times, Bewildering Stories, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine and many others. Ken’s poetry has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Awards and Best of the Net for 2016. 



Wrung Out

by Vicky


Bill’s gait, a left-over from trench foot,

spoke of a silent stoic

who tried to walk tall, looking pained

as a pencil sharpened by a knife.

He cushioned his bones from sores

and sat to crank the mangle,

lamenting a loss of strength

that would never return.

Hilda, like her wooden dolly pegs,

on sturdy legs held up and hung out

as sheets cast shadows

bespattered by splashes of sun,

transient stains on the lime-washed, 

back yard walls.

Heavy weather days

that gave way to a yawn of sky,

copper-coloured as their whisky nightcaps.






Poetry 2

When things will get better

by Zebra Black



my arthritis abates
im better looking
im smarter
im taller with better bones
my hair grows back
nice and wavy
i lose thirty ponds of fat
im filthy rich
my eyes are bluer
i have a PhD
without guile
and i don’t have any
ticks ticks ticks
and no longer
still hate my dead father
who never let me forget that
the hand that feeds me
is the boot that kicks me


im celebrated for my myriad talents
my singing brings the house down
im forty years younger
and know everything i know now
im a world class boxer and poet
and can dance
the pachanga
with the stars
and exhibit my edgy brilliant sculpture
and elegant paintings
at the museum of modern art
and live in a big malibu beach house
a big chested hero
with a nice suntan
and a bugatti chiron
in the drive way
tough guy tattoos
and four hundred dollar sunglasses


all men admire me
all women adore me
and want to take me home
for pussy kiss cocktails
leg shows
and sing giggling
throwing fluttering kisses
at me
during their fluffy bubble baths
while i photograph them
with my perfect


i can win marathons
running backwards
while smoking a cigar
never tiring
and party like hell boy
inhaling drugs and booze
with out the slightest ill affects

i can beat gravity
and fly at will
my health is perfect
and my teeth brush themselves
and my breath smells like bay rum
im never to hot or cold
but always cool
i can breath underwater and kiss fishes
and ride neptunium whales
and giant squids
and fly through deep space
without a rocket ship
hows it hangin xeno

i cant help
but love everybody all the time
and all animals are happy
and have plenty to eat
thats not each other
and i play with lions
who kiss to lick me
and every where i go
death war and disease
are vanquished
and every body is in ecstasy
when life is chocolate kisses
multiculturalism means
that every body is falling in love with everybody
and kisses never cease
when trees are made of lolly pops
and no one ever gets diabetes
and flowers dance to latin rhythms
and everybody stops arguing about god
while in a state of immortal joy

better !


Zebra Black: My education spanned the geographical locations from New York to San Francisco where I studied fine arts and obtained a Master of Fine Arts.

I live in North Western Massachusetts in an old stone mill where I with my lovely wife run a small art publishing company. I love astrology, occultism, art, literature, music, working quietly to incubate poems and visual art. Many of my poems remain explorations rooted in the experience of super consciousness as the anima descends through the world soul into the subconscious labyrinths of innerness. Where lunar anamorphic streams of consciousness radiate out creating the nature of our reality and shape our lives




by Akshaya Pawaskar


The mountains don’t
call us, we call them
when we are lost and
wandering stilted into
They do not speak to
us, their stony mouth
echoing the unheard
Voice of an inner child
that froze
the thoughts seeming
lucid than when holed

In tired city

When we hit the roads, 
defying away from all
When the minds open
like a flower in fullest
Our soul opens radiant 
as we saunter towards
the moon.


Palaces of Illusion

by Akshaya Pawaskar


I strolled Carmel by the sea 
streets pretending I was in 
Mist hung low and frost made
me pull my fleece tighter still
And all the Turkish art shops
dodged by as there were quite
a few.
I remembered you, the ornate
light lamps that you hung at 
our house
And how we lay on our divan
and admired them until dawn,
We were playing the staring 
game and you had to swiftly
look away 
to peek death in the eye and 
you smiled. I was so proud 
of you, 
You swiveled to gaze back into
my rainy eyes instead and said 
catch me 
If you can. Since then I have 
been trying to catch you across 
The Pacific 
hoping to find you, as a soul
cruising afloat over the awed
titanic ocean
A fear you wanted to overcome
with me. Didn’t you say?  Then
I begin to
wonder what is it I wish verily?

To find or lose you or just pick

Scattered pieces 
of my own and make sense out
of them. Make intricate Turkish

Glittering, a palace of illusions,
where we are still holding hands 
Into the night.


Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor by profession and poet by passion. Her poems have been published in Efiction India, Writer’s ezine, Tipton poetry Journal, Ink drift, Awake in the world anthology by Riverfeet press and few anthologies by Lost tower publications.



Day after rainstorms

by Ash Slade


Rain spatter 

Brown water spatter

Long week old spatter 

Splashing your car spatter.

Making big mess spatter.    Muddy water

Unclear water. Trail of brokenness water. 

Empty sereneness in spite of no bitter bite.


Ash Slade considers himself to be a mysterious person. Poetry has been his passion since 12 years old in 7th grade. A poem can take minutes or days to write, each one is important. Ash lives in Connecticut in a small New England town. Hobbies included collecting notebooks and poetry books. 







Poetry 3

blue is the magic number

by Joseph Powell


though I’m not one to adhere to,
or be defined by, labels;
nor inclined to be fitted into certain parameters;
if you were to press me,
or choose to dig down,
to my very essence,
to the core of who I am–
you would find
that blue
is my favorite color;

the color 
that inspired rhapsodies
and baseball teams;
it is the signifier of a particular mood,
the foundation 
of nearly every musical genre
on this planet,
if the pictures from space 
are to be believed,
is also blue;

it is the color of harmony–
if you don’t believe me,
imagine our country’s flag without it;
could be one of the reasons,
why we’re called the United States
(could you imagine if we
were only made up of 
only red states?);

is the color of life;
it is
the color of God’s glory,
one of the primary colors
in His divine palette;

is the color of this poem,
if its words
could be enveloped 
in any particular color,
each letter,
a different shade
or variation
of indigo,
even those words
make blue sound beautiful,
which it is.

I give you
which is,
in a sense,
giving of myself;
and I hope,
that you will accept it,
in the spirit 
of which it was given,
which is also




Beware — Nostalgia

by D.L Hume


There is no flame.

No explosive ignition.

No crackling spark,

or giggling combustion.

No beginning no end.

It tumbles like fairy fluff.

Flickers like wind blown embers,

unannounced into the light

to trap you in knitted northern Decembers.

As the beginning sneaks closer to the end.

With the hushed breath of dust disturbed

from Bangkok to Beijing, London to Paris,

along familiar lanes, boulevards and railway tracks

it clouds your thought so you cannot tell what is.

Until the beginning feels much like the end.

In a fug, of old photographs, a musty aroma

rises from ticket stubs, posters, newspaper clippings,

unearthed from suitcases, worn out backpacks,

to drag you back to forgotten beginnings.

Beginnings that seem closer than the end.

With warm hooks beneath the skin

and peppered kisses it holds and suffocates.

Like a sun warmed feather pillow

Held firm across your face.

And the beginning really is the end.



Downsizing – A short story in ten poems

by D.L Hume



The Window to the City


The glass through which they stared

out to the decking

with its creaky boards

and sun twisted railing

had never been so clean.

The crust of ten summers

washed away.

As too the finger smears

of those that lived

and had lived there,

lifted the view

across the river.

It gleamed shyly

in the dull dusk of Autumn.

The lights of the city

flicked on is spasms,

emerging from the gloom.

Then fell away

in topographic sequence,

to the one square monolith

that marked the CBD.

To call it a city was a stretch.

More a big country town.

That’s what someone

important once said

and everyone agreed.

Others spoke of it as a big heavy coat.

Warm and insulating

against the cold west wind

that wheezed

and rattled down the organ pipe face

of the mountain.

A coat that looked

just as handsome

and unimposing

hung on the peg.


for the two or three months

that the sun shone

and the flat top

hung up its own fleecy cape.



Saying Goodbye


The house was empty.

Bar a dozen big heavy boxes

bound and gagged

in the front room.

And the flopping flesh of a bed

in the room opposite.

The scent of fresh paint

Had almost vanished,

hanging only vaguely

beneath the must

of twenty year old

single malt whisky.

That the spirit survived

from the day they moved in

was a near miracle.

They caressed the glasses

and snorted the peaty fumes.

“I swear, if I had to give up alcohol

I’d keep a bottle of this just to sniff.”

He said,

as he had been saying

for the last twenty years.

They raised their glasses

To the house that had sheltered them.


to do the same

To the city that had nourished them,

when a small raptor

Alighted on the railing.

Beneath one yellow talon

a daggerd carcass,

skull intact.

“Sparrowhawk” he said.

“Goshawk” she said.

Without another sound

they watched

as the hook beaked bird,

wearing the same colour suit

as the real estate agent

that sold their house,

ripped stringy strips

from the breast of an ex pigeon.

Dark feathers

fell onto

and we’re blown along the deck,

becoming snagged

in the skeletal

plum tree

that had,

over the years,

become entwined in the railing.

They feasted their eyes.

drained their glasses.

Then drained the bottle

of the last dram.

With the final fall of light

the hawk departed

almost vertically,

for a more wild eyrie.

Its takeaway prey

clasped tight in its claws.


They rinsed the glasses,

wrapped them in bubble wrap,

and slipped them into the corner of a box

marked “glasses.”

The tape dispenser

broke the quiet,

ripping orange tape

across the box.

“That’s it, we’ve done it.” He said

and wrapped her

in his arms.

She smiled,

stood back,

took a breath

“Excited” she said

“You bet, can’t wait.”



The Promise


They had promised each other

that when the children were off hand

they would return

to the bush.

Off grid






Shitting in bucket.

Time to fish.

Time to write.

Time to live.

Time to be.

The demands of teenagers

dragged them from the bush,

from the almost fifty acres

of thin soiled

dry forest.

On an island

an hour from town.





There would be no kidults in this family.

Inter race relationships,

homosexual, lesbian, bi,

or any other,

so called, deviation.

No problem.

But kidultery:

adult size creatures,

lolling around the house.

footless and feckless.

Emptying the pantry.

Not bloody likely



First Born


They left one by one.

The eldest to her family.

The bright lights

and sunshine

of the harbour city.

Like his father and mother

he rejected

the chosen lifestyle

of his parents,

No frugal

do it yourself

anti establishment


social conscious

half baked hippy

punk attitude

for him.

Money would satisfy

his every desire.

He would go on

to imagine himself

a poor boy from the country,

deprived of the luxuries of suburbia.



Second Son


Or middle child,

as he prefers to be known,

departed a year later.

A one way ticket

had been promised

upon academic success.

If uni was an option

it could wait.


they always said,

should be followed.

No half measures for him.


to his father’s family.

The land of fish and chips,

where a cuppa solved everything.

He would come to realize

and reject

the numbing pain

of the treadmill.

On high peaks

and in the jungles of Brazil

he would find his prize.





The last

was more difficult

to dislodge.

She sought a challenge

in study.

She would remain

at home

another four years.

Plodding through books

at her own sweet,

enigmatic pace.

He saw in her

his own

unhinged curiosity.

Floating on the waves,

buoyant enough

to be beached in the morning

and catch a riptide

at night.





Faced with the prospect of parenting

for four more years

they packed their bags,

abandoned the baby

and took to the road.

They flitted between

a dozen apartments,

over nearly as many years.

Almost equivalent

to the contracts

they had taken,

that took them to

African snows

and troglodyte caves.

They hacked through

rattan jungles

to colonial ruins.

Cycled walled cities

and encroaching forests.

Ventured into triangles

once golden.

Trekked to seated icons

and where rivers

carved gorges

through the highest ranges.

And lost themselves

in the hutongs

of unmapped towns

There was no intention

To stay away so long.

But there was

always another bend,

another corner

to look around.

There they learned

about transience.

There they learned

how to leave.





Over the winter

they had fixed the house

on the inside.

Wide floor boards,



Gone were the bright colours,


personal touches.

In their place

all neutral



and off whites.

No foot scuffs

or gadges

from out of control

pets and toys.

They had replaced

the taped and broken pane.

The result of high spirited


They had,

with a grudge,

for the last month,

been living

in a show house.

Even purchased a couch

to set it off.

That with its coat

of shiny pinstripe satin

lent a refined

elegant note.

But creaked its legs

and sagged

and groaned when sat in.


their mark persisted.

The salmon pink

with sky blue trim

they lavished upon

old weatherboards

when first moved in


A stubborn marker

of daring

to be different,

among creams and greens

and strict red brick.





Would they miss the place?


Ten years

they’d been away.

Long enough

for the dream of returning

to a simple life

to take root.

To become



was another corner.


D L Hume lives off grid in the south of Tasmania. As well as poetry he contributes to the critique of ceramic art and has many years teaching and travelling. Many of his papers and other works can be found at



Oh! mother Nature

by Kapardeli Eftichia


In contaminated water and air in acid rain
to the dramatic appeal to a planet
who “slowly dies” and who irresponsibly
and indifferently man destroys
Oh! Mother nature you
In the cement state the birds were lost
In the corner of the street and on
Roots of the pale Eucalyptus, piles of rubbish………

The apple tree in the garden of an old uninhabited residence
With fallen leaves and with the roots tightly embraced
Deserted and naked …… thirsty
In the arms of the earth
the Rose underfoot
Deserted Our villages
And the city’s children in cements are no longer playing
But a new garden grows, oh! mother Nature
In your constant flow, nothing is missing, nothing is left over
God, you
A fair protector in the cycle of the Sun
Human actions will drown
for fertile and saving rich seasons
of the color tides


Dr. Kapardeli Eftichia has a Doctorate from ARTS AND CULTURE WORLD ACADEMY

Born in Athens and live in Patras

She writes poetry, stories, short stories, xai-kou , essays

She studied journalism AKEM (Athenian training center).

She has many awards in national competitions 

Her work there is to many national and international anthologies Has a section at the University of Cyprus in Greek culture is a member of the world poets society. The official website is http://world-poets.blogspot. com / is a member of the IWA (international writers and artists Association) chaired by Teresinka Pereira,had from IWA Certify 2017 as the best translation and is a member of the POETAS DEL MUNDO - 




by Frances J Yule


in large letters
scrawled in red crayon
on the wall
of his bedroom….
the last word
of the young man
barely 18
found dead in his car
engine still running
parked in a field
only this morning….
she stood
til the weight of her grief
bore down
and she sank to the floor….
she doesn’t know
how long she wailed
and raged
and screamed 
at the word on the wall
or the moment 
she picked up the crayon
where he’d left it
and underneath


Frances J Yule: Please excuse me for being short on details because as far as I’m concerned my writing tells you everything you will ever need to know about me, my life and inspirations. 

I began writing poetry while incarcerated in a South Australian mental hospital 1965 and I’m still writing in 2017. 

People watching is my favourite past time.






Poetry 4


by Ashleigh Walker


Behind the safety of a cracked window, 

I drink in the black-out storm. Dad yells

at the new car huddled under the old oak

and mother softly reminds him the garage is full.

She shadows him, lighting candles in his flickering

wake. With the hiss of a new match, our house

is lit with an archaic light. It is dusty and unused

in the scrutiny of a sky under waves. I imagine

this is what mermaids see: rolling skies, fading patches 

of cold sun, the swimming shadow of a faceless shark.



Fools Gold

by William Bennett


You may hide behind
And wear the lies
Of modern medicine’s trickery
Botox : Dysport : Xeomin
And all of the like
But try as you might
With all your tom foolery
You can’t cheat age
And it’s fragile flickering

So wear it well
Wear it proud!
Wear it loud!

Wear the wonder of you
To announce
Every beautiful
And groove
Tracing back your ancestry
Returning to your roots
While earning the scars and stripes
Of all the memories
Of your life

Honored to show off
The truth
Of your sacred face

Who instead remains
Hidden behind the plastic mask
Of a false prophet facade

A buried treasure
Of heaven now
Lost to the world

{ but not to God }

Where somewhere
Under the mirage
Of the one
Who believes
Their age is a disgrace

The real you
Is displayed
In all its
Naked glorious

{ show me that face }


William Bennett was born and currently still lives and breathes in Illinois. He is written ever since he can remember and believes writing and creative expression have the capacity to create a safe space for healing and transformation to occur, and is powerful as a form of therapy. He is currently in the process of creating his business called “Heron Heartistry” that will support his talents as a writer, massage therapist, movement practitioner, cultivating and spreading compassion and selling his own line of gluten free granola called “Uncle Will-E’s Crack-a-lackin’ Lip Smackin’ Kick Assin’ Gluten Free Granola,” as well as, whatever else unfolds under the sun in cultivating Love…



the art of making snowflakes

by Danielle Taylor


i bury myself, cold heart, 

to be still for an unsoiled 

answer to my sterile cries

but i won’t commit to any funeral 

unless my prayers stop 

coming back a question- i dig

i plant my garden but only surface

soundless pets, eyes sagging

mouths open like mine

faces still at the gates wondering

what happened


what happened was a lifetime of burials:

a window too full of life and sun and breath

to see yourself who is none of those things,

an ocean made of spit and salt and bird shit and 

bodies alive or not alive or half eaten, and 

virulent storms working their ejaculate 

leaving everyone wondering

what happened 


it’s just the weather 

we are working, we

are burying we are

singing, just

a death

we are 



blank hue

by Patrick Murphy


i seemed to like it.

the way you looked away from me

the way life tends to keep us distant



distant from truths turned into fiction.

where we once wanted to see each other

in full color no remorse all picket fenced up.

where the color white needed paint

instead of faded realizations that we

can be turned blank.


i wish you painted me on your doors

the cherry red we always wanted.

where my auburn lights reflect the stone pathway

of the hidden color we wanted so much.


let my hazel eyes reflect on the surface of our grass

where your tinted beige skin seemed oh so tantalizing.

i wish to stay with you, as you paint my colors

all around you.


but color always fades, and life together seems

only oh so faint.


its hard to paint when you have the wrong



its hard to paint when our canvas isn’t large enough

to harness any kind of future,

sooner or later you get tired of the layered paint,

and you just let it drip.


that is exactly what we did,

we let it drip and fade away

in the grey hues and blank whites

we created.





Like Before

by James Dennis Casey IV


Dig out the old
Time for new

Worn to a remnant
Fighting the evil back
Feel it rise

Move in shadow
Like before

Be whole again
Like before

The absence of the mask
Left face exposed
Feelings run rampant

Place it back
Tie it tight
For now

Remember how good
Hiding was
Dancing in rainstorms
With a long legged owl

Clapping hands
Calling down thunder
Receiving lighting
From a kiss

Never expecting
Receiving the world

Experiencing intimate wanting
Of light
Behind darkness
Of masks


James D. Casey IV is a published author of three volumes of poetry: “Metaphorically Esoteric,” “Dark Days Inside the Light While Drunk on Wine,” and “Tin Foil Hats & Hadacol Coins.” His books are available for purchase through his Amazon Author Profile. Mr. Casey’s writings have been published in print and online several times at places like Triadæ MagazinePink LitterIn Between HangoversIndiana Voice JournalPoetry BreakfastBeatnik CowboyDissident VoiceScarlet Leaf ReviewHorror Sleaze TrashZombie Logic Review and others.







My Road Map to Writing a Poem

By Dave Kavanagh

People write poetry for all sorts of reasons, I will often write a poem to record an event in my own life, a meeting with a friend, a particularly moving event, a sight that inspired me. Sometimes these poems are a way of recording these deeply personal experiences and are not written for others but written only for myself.

How you approach the writing of such a poem is as personal as the reason for writing them.

If however you are writing a poem and your goal is to communicate with an audience then you must draw in your readers, your poem needs to follow certain conventions and rules. If you wish to draw an emotional response from your readers then simply writing a poem from your own standpoint will not always be enough.


In this article, I am aiming to reinforce a few golden rules that I think are common to most commercial poetry. These rules are not for everyone, they are a step away from those personal poems which all of us enjoy writing and a step towards writing for others.

Before writing a poem which I intend for readers I like to draw a road map. I like to set down objectives and then I pin a list to my workspace to help me avoid common pitfalls. The list reads as follows.


  1. What are my goals in this poem?
  2. Avoid cheap cliche at all cost.
  3. Remove/Avoid sentimentality
  4. Avoid abstract words
  5. Create strong visual/aural/tactile images.
  6. Use creative / unique Metaphor/Simile
  7. Flip the commonplace on its head
  8. Be cautious of rhyme
  9. Check that my theme is well communicated.
  10. Edit/Edit/Edit.


So to step one: Goal setting

I ask myself the hard question. What do I wish to communicate with this poem? Do I wish to convey a personal experience so my reader sees or feels the experience as I did? Do I want my poem to be a protest? Am I describing a scene? It is vital for me that I know what my goal is before I start and that I then write to serve that goal only. Deviation from a goal will often lead you in new and fascinating directions but more often it will reduce your work and turn the possibility of something wonderful into something mundane.

With my goals set I will write a rough draft, I will let words flow and allow the writer within to work towards communicating meaning through text. This is the storytelling element of my poem.

What I will produce will seldom be a poem in any conventional sense, it will be an outline only. Because I have allowed my muse to write unchecked I will by necessity have to edit this draft several times.

The first phase of editing will be to strike out all cliche. Cliche, in this case, will be instances of metaphor or simile that are so common place that they have entered the lexicon. Obvious examples of these will be cold as stone, sick as a dog etc.

I also look for the less obvious cliche, old as oak, ink flowing like blood. Or words that have become so commonplace in poetry as to be considered cliche, Obsidian is one such word, overused and thus cliche.

The rule of thumb I use is to read my poem and if I find a line that sounds familiar or hackneyed then I will mark it and replace it.

When editing out cliche it is my job as a poet to remodel cliche, to express the meaning of the cliched lines using unique but understandable language. The art of the poet is to communicate the commonplace in a new and extraordinary way or to illustrate the beauty in an everyday scene in such a way as to raise it above the ordinary.

If I take the phrase ‘Cold as Stone’ as an example of a cliche I have used then I ask myself the question. ‘How do I communicate this meaning in a new way, how do I subvert the much-used cliche and give it wings.

The key word in this cliche is ‘COLD’ so I will write a list of words that say cold to me. It may look something like this.








From these words, I will fashion an image that most readers will emphasise with but not view as obvious.

‘The feel of frozen steel on ungloved hands’ is an image that comes to mind. The line may read



as the hard, blue-tinged steel,

on the paint bared handles

of the dairy wheel borrow’.


Ok, ok…… so this is convoluted and long but it is a vast improvement on the cliched line ‘Cold as Stone’ The line will need to be improved by further editing but it succeeds in communicating cold in a clear way while avoiding cliche.

Once I have eliminated cliched words and phrases from my poem I will then edit to remove sentimentality from my poem. In this case, I am talking about what I like to call ‘Chocolate Box’ sentimentality. IE Fluffy kittens, puppies, grinning grey-haired grannies. Those stock images which we are fed in Christmas cards and on the covers of biscuit boxes.

This type of sentimentality could be described as visual cliche and is so overused that it will not appeal to readers of poetry who are looking for a fresh unique approach. Readers do not want overly mushy language, they want instead, a poet who will show them the world through fresh intelligent eyes. So I eliminate and replace all sentimentality with fresh clean and none-cliched images.

Avoid abstract words.

So having eliminated sentimentality and cliche. I will now read my poem again and I will weigh the words I have used to eliminate ABSTRACT WORDS.

A common pitfall for many poets, myself included is the use of abstract words. We fall into using these words because they are not without meaning. In my case, many of these words will include in first and second drafts of my poetry.

ABSTRACT in terms of poetry are words that do not communicate a concrete image. Examples of abstract words are Sad, Happy, Angry, Freedom, Beauty and Love. All of these words have one thing in common, they are all abstract, they describe a state, the state of being happy or sad, or an emotion, anger but these words lack visual impact.

If I write ‘He is angry’…. the reader is left without a question mark, he or she has no anchor on which to hang the word.

If I instead use a line to SHOW anger ‘His bloodless knuckles’ or ‘Her twisted lips’ then the reader can visualise the anger.

Abstract words dampen a readers interest, showing through strong imagery draws in the reader.

Eliminating abstract words is all about the oft-repeated rule in poetry ‘Don’t tell…Show’.

Creating strong visual images

Images in poetry will appeal to a reader’s senses and/or emotions. The senses which I as a poet am trying to trigger with my words are the primary human senses.

1 Smell

2 Taste

3 Touch

4 Hearing

5 Sight

One of the very best ways that I can demonstrate the use of all of these senses in poetry is to ask you to imagine the making of an Irish Stew. If I was to write a poem about this it is easy to appeal to all the human senses.

The smell of earthbound vegetables, carrots & potatoes.

The Taste of the combined flavours

The feel of heat on lips and in a stomach

The sound of the concoction bubbling

The sight of pan braised meat crumbling


All of these can easily be described poetically and so a poem can be written to draw the reader into the whole experience of making and eating an Irish Stew. (I would be interested to see what poets reading this piece could produce using these ideas and images.)

Of course this is a very clear and easy example of using the senses in a poem, not all subjects or themes will lend themselves so easily to this but if you stop and consider the senses while you write then I assure you that your poem will connect on a deeper and more meaningful level with your audience.

Using Metaphors & Similes

to a large part, the art of poetry is in the creative and uncommon use of both simile and metaphor. Poets are those individuals who see the world in a slightly different way and have an innate ability to communicate this eccentricity through their writing.


A metaphor is a statement that pretends/states one thing is really something else.

‘Murphy was an eel, slippery, his skin oily and awful to the touch.’

In this example, the poet is saying that Murphy was an eel so this is a metaphor.


A simile is a statement where you say one object is similar to another object. Similes use the words “like” or “as.”

‘Murphy was as slippery as an eel, his skin as oily as a pooled slick’

In this example, we are saying Murphy was like an eel and his skin as oily as a pooled slick. This example uses two similes with the Like & As bridge words.

Both of these examples are cliched and obvious but I use them to demonstrate the differences between simile and metaphor. As poets, it is our duty to paint Murphy as a sly man in a more subtle way. Again I would love to see how any poet reading this would build the character of Murphy using less cliched images (Perhaps an idea for future submissions to the magazine)

Flipping the commonplace on its head.

A clever poet can utilise poetic device (Metaphor, simile, assonance, consonance, prosody) to take a common scene and make it uncommon, to show something mundane in a totally new way. I am currently on the island of Fuerteventura and as I write I am looking out over a long row of young palm trees that are weaving in the breeze.

So the scene is young palms in a row, the breeze is twisting them and turning them and I want to create an uncommon image to use in my poem.

What about using metaphor to describe the trees not as young palms but as a line of teenage girls bending to whisper secrets in each other’s ears, and what if I say the secrets were told to them by the blue Atlantic.

‘As one they dip and turn, repeating the secrets the water swore them to tell no one.’

Ok so again this is simple and a little obvious but it turns the scene into something more than a line of palm trees.

This is how a poet views the world, not seeing trees but seeing something else entirely. I try in as far as possible to flip the ordinary in all my poems and thus leave a lasting impression and indelible image in the mind of my reader.

Once I have edited my poem to remove sentimentality, cliche and I have built my images using simile and metaphor I then edit it to stip away all words that do not advance the goal which I set at the beginning. I will of course use other poetic devices, I will consider the musicality of the piece and then I will put my poem away and forget about it for a few days.

You will often find a poem that makes perfect sense to you on the day of writing will not read so well a week later, this is, for me at least, a vital part of the finished poem. If I reread my poem some days later and am happy with it then I consider it finished but more often I will discover that the poem is not as smooth or as polished as I had thought. I can not stress enough how important it is for me to edit, edit edit.

After all if I am not willing to give time to my work then why should a reader.


Have a wonderful writing week

Dave Kavanagh July 2017

John Foster’s advice on getting your poems written for children published.

Following on from my piece in issue four about writing for children I wanted to write a little about getting children’s poetry published. During the course of my research, I stumbled across this excellent piece by John Foster and decided to share it with you whole and unedited. I hope you find it as interesting and as useful as I did. Much of Foster’s advice here is pertinent to finding publishers not just for children’s poetry but for any work.



Riding on the poetry roundabout

Poet and anthologist John Foster writes about the difficulties involved in getting children’s poetry published and offers some practical advice.

Today’s children’s poetry roundabout started spinning in the 1960s, when it was given a push-start by Spike Milligan, gathered momentum in the 1970s and 1980s with helping hands from the likes of Roger McGough, Allan Ahlberg and Michael Rosen, and increased in speed during the 1990s. You would think, therefore, that it might be easier for a newcomer to break in and to get their poems published these days than it was when I started anthologising and writing poetry some 30 years ago. However, the roundabout has slowed somewhat in the past decade and for the aspiring children’s poet it can be as hard to get your poems published.

One reason, of course, is that there are now many more people specialising in writing children’s poetry than there used to be and the competition is more fierce. Another is that there’s an increasing number of established children’s poets and that those people inevitably stand much more chance of getting a collection of their poems into print than someone who is unknown.

That said, anthologists like myself are always on the lookout for new voices, and if a good poem is submitted for an anthology, it doesn’t matter who has written it – it will go in. When you’re starting out, you have far more chance of getting one or two of your poems into some of the anthologies that are published annually than you have of getting a complete collection of your poems published. So if you are keen to find a ride on the poetry roundabout, it is better to discover what anthologies are in the pipeline and what specific poems are required than to try to place a single author collection. I had been anthologising and contributing poems to other anthologies for over ten years before my first book of original poems, Four O’Clock Friday, was accepted. And there are some very good children’s poets – Julie Holder and John Kitching, for example – who have contributed to anthologies for many years, yet have never had collections of their own published.

Ask a publisher why there are many more anthologies than single poet collections and they will give you a simple answer: anthologies sell more copies. It is much easier to sell an anthology of school poems, such as ‘Why do we have to go to school today?’ than it is to sell ‘The Very Best of A.N.Other Children’s Poet’.


Get inspired by children

If you are undaunted by what I have said so far and still determined that you are going to write children’s poetry and get it published, what tips can I offer?

Starting with the most obvious, get to know children’s language. If you are writing poems about children’s experiences from a child’s point of view you must get the language right. It is, perhaps, not surprising that many of the most successful children’s poets are from a teaching background – for example, Tony Mitton, Wes Magee, Judith Nicholls, Paul Cookson and Brian Moses. Teachers not only know what children’s interests are, but they also know how children think and how they express themselves. So steep yourself in children’s language, not just the language of your children or the children of friends, but of children from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures.

Try to arrange to visit schools in different areas. But always go through the correct channels with a letter to the literacy coordinator, copied to the head teacher, explaining the reasons you would like to visit. Schools these days are, quite rightly, very security-conscious. Visiting schools will give you the opportunity not only to talk with children, but to try out your poems too. There’s nothing like a deafening wall of silence greeting that punchline you thought they would find so amusing to let you know that, in fact, the poem doesn’t work!

    Schools are also a good source of ideas. Many a poem comes from a child’s tale or a teacher’s comment. In one school I met a teacher called Mr Little, who was six foot six inches tall. He told me a story about a girl who had asked him: Were you big when you were little? This led to my poem ‘Size-Wise’ (below).


    Our teacher Mr Little’s really tall.

    He’s twice the size of our helper Mrs Small.

    ‘Were you big when you were little?’

    Sandra asked him.

    ‘I was Little when I was little,

    but I’ve always been big!’

    he said with a grin.

    ‘Have you always been small?’

    Sandra asked Mrs Small.

    ‘No,’ said Mrs Small.

    ‘I was Short before I got married,

    then I became Small.

    But,’ she added, ‘I’ve always been little.’

    ‘That’s the long and the short of it,’

     said Mr Little.

    ‘I’ve always been big and Little,

    but she used to be little and Short,

    and now she’s little and Small.’


Visiting schools is worthwhile, too, because you can bring yourself up to date with how poetry is being used in the classroom. The literacy curriculum requires that children be introduced in the primary years to a wide range of poetic forms. There is an educational as well as a trade market for children’s poems and it is worth knowing what the educational publishers might be looking out for.



Successful children’s poets will tell you that many of their poems have been triggered by an anthologist’s request for a poem on a particular theme. What then is the secret of getting a poem into an anthology?

It may seem to be stating the obvious but the first thing to do is to read the submissions letter closely. My filing cabinets are full of poems that have been given only a cursory glance, because it has become apparent from the first line that they are neither relevant to the theme of the anthology in question nor appropriate for the age group at which the anthology is aimed.

Having read the letter, one’s first impulse is to consider whether any of the poems you have already written are suitable. There may well be one or two, particularly among those that are already published, but simply trawling through your file of unpublished poems to see if some of them can be made to fit in with the anthologist’s demands is less likely to be successful than actually writing something new.

The key very often is to come up with something slightly different. Let’s say you have been asked to contribute to a book of poems about pirates. You probably stand more chance of getting your poem selected if you write a poem about pirates who have become film stars, specialising in gangster parts, than if you write a poem about traditional pirates burying their treasure or making a captive walk the plank. Similarly, if you are writing about dragons, you are more likely to succeed in placing a poem about young dragons having a flying lesson (as I have done myself), or about a young dragon doing his party trick of lighting the candles on his birthday cake (as Ian McMillan has done) than a poem about a dragon fighting a knight. The wackier and more bizarre your idea is, the more chance you will have of your poem being chosen.

Another way of making your poem stand out from the crowd is to write it in a more unusual form. For example, instead of writing your poem about St George and the dragon in couplets, you could write it in the form of an encyclopedia entry, as a series of extracts from St George’s diary or even as a text message. The more contemporary the form, the more likely it is to appeal, both to the anthologist and the reader.

Getting the idea is, of course, the hardest part. If you are stuck for a humorous idea, one way of trying to find one is to look in a book of jokes. I was racking my brains to come up with a new poem for a book of magic poems, when I came across this joke: Why are the ghosts of magicians no good at conjuring? Because you can see right through their tricks! This led to:


    The ghost of the magician said:

    ‘I’m really in a fix.

    The trouble is the audience

    Sees right through all my tricks!’


A word of caution: whereas it can pay to be risqué, both in terms of getting your poem selected and entertaining your readers, don’t be rude just for the sake of it and, especially, don’t be crude. Besides, you could easily get yourself labelled! During a performance in Glasgow, I included one or two poems which made references to ‘bottoms’ and ‘knickers’, getting the usual delighted response from the audience. However, I was taken aback when I asked them to suggest why the publishers won’t allow me to illustrate my poetry books. Instead of giving me the expected – and correct – answer that my drawings are no good, the first boy I asked said: ‘Because your poems are dirty!’

Before sending off your poems, make sure your name and contact details are given clearly beneath every poem. It is usually better, too, to put each poem on a separate page. Check with the anthologist before you submit your poems by email. Many anthologists prefer to receive hard copies, since they assemble the anthology by hand, rather than on the computer, and it saves them the chore of

Also, don’t send too many poems. As a rule of thumb it’s usually best to send about five, and not more than ten. Of course, you will include what you think is your best and most suitable poem. But don’t be surprised if it’s not chosen and another one is. I’m constantly being asked why that happens. Usually it’s because someone else has written a poem that’s similar in content or form to your best one and it would not be appropriate to include two such similar poems. Whereas, with regard to your other poem, it either looks at the topic from a different angle or fills a gap that needs to be filled.

You won’t make a fortune from getting your poem into an anthology, but once it is in print there’s also the chance that it will be picked up and used by another anthologist. So my advice is: be prepared to accept any minor changes that the editor proposes, even if you prefer your original version of the poem. My own experience is that nine times out of ten any changes that have been suggested to my poems have actually improved them. One established poet actually calls me ‘the poetry surgeon’ because on several occasions I have suggested cutting whole verses from some of his poems. Professional that he is, he has agreed to accept the cuts, even if privately he knows, and I know, that he does not totally agree with them. And, of course, he has pocketed the fee!

Finally, the big question: how do you get yourself onto the anthologists’ mailing lists? A simple request to have your name added won’t necessarily do the trick. The anthologist needs to know that it is worth taking the time to send you a letter. So it’s worth sending a sample of your poems (about five is enough) with a covering letter. But don’t expect to be flooded with requests. There are only a very limited number of anthologies published annually. However, if the anthologist thinks your poems have potential, your name will be added to the list – the first step towards getting a ride on the children’s poetry roundabout.


Do rhymed couplets — the kind that make nursery rhymes or 32 page picture books — sneak into your head at all hours of the day and night? Do you leave refrigerator notes for your spouse or child that could put Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky out of circulation? If you answer “Yes!” to either or both of these questions, you qualify as a children’s poet “wanna-be.” With some concerted effort and a focused action plan, you could morph into a “has been” — published children’s poet, that is.


Read, Read, Read

If you think poetry, chances are you have already read and collected a variety of favorite children’s poems. It’s time to read outside your comfort zone. Try reading the classics, or a particular genre, or poems and/or poets that you have previously labeled “boring.” After all, there is some good reason why they are in the book, and you aren’t. Try picking out a poet’s favorite techniques; read with an eye for the unique twist that sets a poem apart; jot down the defining characteristics of a certain poet’s voice.

For example, read William Blake’s “The Tiger” and “The Lamb” several times through, deciding for yourself what makes him one of the immortal poets of the English language. Read Edward Lear’s limericks (19th century) to see how they compare with Arnold Lobel’s Pigericks(21st century). Find out what images give Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Autumn,” its lyrical quality, and what rhyming technique she used to add interest.

Maybe you have had trouble reading or writing anything that doesn’t rhyme. Discover the importance of rhythm in Carl Sandburg’s “Buffalo Dusk” and notice how the dramatic use of repetition brings this free verse to life. Dig into the haiku of the masters (Basho, Buson, Issa) and compare them to the haiku in Jane Yolen’s Water Music. Study the divergent approaches to free verse of two African American poets, Langston Hughes and Arnold Adoff. Notice how Adoff uses his trademark, shaped speech, to speak to a diversity of cultures in contemporary America. Contrast that with the quiet, gentle voice of Langston Hughes.

Take another look at some seemingly simple poems, the kind that make you say “I could do this.” Karla Kuskin’s often short, whimsical poems capture the essence of childhood experience, as in “I Woke Up This Morning.” In Dogs and Dragons, Trees and Dreams she offers short anecdotes and insights into the writing process of selected poems. Dip into David McCord who has been called “an acrobat with language” with his surprising usage of rhythm, sound effects and word play. One of his best collections is All Small, including his classic and clever “Pome.”



Techniques and Terminology

It’s a fact that many published children’s poets do not have MFA’ or even much formal training. But one way or another, they have acquired a working knowledge of some basic terminology.

A viable question among children’s poets today is to rhyme or not to rhyme. Be very careful how, when and where you use rhyme. It is far more difficult to write good rhyme than free verse, and far easier to come off blatantly awful. Rhyme should add tonal variety, offer the possibility of discovery, and emphasize rhythm. It is NOT essential to a good poem.

Alliteration, or the repetition of the first sound of several words or phrases, is a popular form of rhyming that young readers love. Jack Prelutsky puts it to good use in many of his books including Something Big Has Happened Here, as does David Kirk in Miss Spider’s ABC’s.

Assonance (stressed vowels in two words agree, but final consonants do not), and consonance (final consonants of stressed syllables agree but vowels differ) both fall into the category of near rhyme. The beginning poet must tread lightly when using either of these rhyming devices, lest they be called near misses by unimpressed editors who mistake them for ignorance or carelessness. Jane Yolen, Mem Fox, Arnold Adoff and Myra Cohn Livingston are among the contemporary poets who use them effectively.

Internal and initial rhyme and repetition do just as the names imply and are often found in simple poems for the very young. Read Karla Kuskin’s “Snow” or David McCord’s “Four Little Ducks” for good examples of internal rhyming. David Kirk uses Initial rhyme well in his Miss Spider’s ABC’s. Repetition, a device derived from Hebrew poetry, is most often, but not always used in poems of a serious tone. Karla Kuskin’s “Spring Again” and Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song” are good examples.

If you are a poet who loves to pull out all the stops, wordplay, including puns, portmanteau, and exceptional words used in an exceptional way are right up your alley. Reading or re-visiting Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is a must. He gave us portmanteau, or suitcase words, named so because they collapsed together as if slammed in a suitcase. Chortle, derived from snort and chuckle, is one of his best. Ogden Nash, one of the most widely acclaimed writers of light verse, e.e. cummings and David McCord are all masters at this art.

While rhyming is optional, rhythm is essential to every poem. Extremely hard to define, it is easy enough to recognize by its ebb and flow. It is, in fact, derived from the Greek word meaning “flow.” Rhythm is as necessary to a poem as breathing is to life. It gives a poem balance or symmetry, is satisfying to hear, and is dependent on the use of pauses and vocabulary. While many children’s poems today do not have meter(pattern of formally organized rhythm), they do have cadence, or some kind of rhythmical pattern.



Write, Write, Write

Now that you’ve read a wide variety of poets and boned up on some popular techniques and terminology, how do you find your voice? What type of poem will you write? To take the pressure off yourself and ward off writer’s block, try this exercise:

1. Set up shoe box word banks numbered and labeled as follows:

◦ #1 RULES – Example: If it’s Tuesday, write a poem that includes three action verbs, five scary adjectives, and six hot nouns.


◦ #2 TOPICS – Example: words (skateboards, kittens, fishing) or phrases (Mommy has road rage…; My sister did it…;We’re out of cereal AGAIN…) that would make interesting topics.


◦ #3, #4, etc. – Number of boxes and categories of words limited only by your imagination. Examples: ACTION VERBS, ANIMAL SOUNDS, SCARY ADJECTIVES, HOT NOUNS, WHISPER WORDS.


2. Draw a rule from box #1.


3. Draw from the other boxes according to the rule.


4. Write a poem using the criteria. Remember who your audience is (kids)


Stretch Yourself

Ready for a bit more stretching? Add another dimension (box) from which to choose, labeled GENRE.

Among the many categories of poetry according to style, form and purpose, the epigram (short, and usually pointed, rhymed couplet) is the simplest. Try outdoing Robert Louis Stevenson’s well-known epigram:

The world is so full of such wonderful things

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Another must in the rhyming department is the limerick, a humorous verse of three long lines and two short lines with an a/ a/ b/ b/ a/ rhyme scheme. In addition to Edward Lear, who popularized this form in 1846, read John Ciardi’s work to prime the pump.

Are you great with images but short on words? Include haiku, a seventeen-syllable poem in three lines, of five, seven, and five syllables respectively. These little gems originated as the first stanzas of long Japanese poems, describing the season and setting in which the poem was composed. Now they stand on their own, usually describing a natural object and a second image or insight that gives energy to the first image.

If you choose not to follow any rules of metrical verse, but have a sense of cadence similar to phrasing in musical composition, try free verse.Images are essential, rhythm is less important, and rhyming is out. Newbery award winner Karen Hess’s novel, Out of the Dust, is worth consulting as you consider this genre.

Do you love to tell stories? Narrative poems do just that, and can be written in rhyme or free verse, with fictional or real subjects. Read these classics: Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

For those who have an artistic bent, concrete poems will offer a challenge. These poems substitute for conventional elements of poetry (rhyme, rhythm, form and syntax) by creating a picture with the words or letters. Walking Talking Words by Ivan Sherman and Space Songs by Myra Cohn Livingston will provide good examples.


On Becoming a “Has Been” (Published)

Believe it or not, the easy part is writing the poem. The hard part is marketing. But you’ve come this far; don’t stop now. Your strategy should go something like this:

1. Research the market


2. Start with magazines


3. Send for writer’s guidelines, catalogues or free copies


4. Follow the submission format and requirements


5. Consider entering contests


6. Join a critique group or professional organization


7. Buy a supply of stamps and envelopes and start submitting your poems

The point is to read widely, acquire new skills and techniques, and get busy writing. You’ll never be a “wanna-be” children’s poet again.





Escaping the dead hand of writer’s block 2

3 Writers’ Prompts

You are a poet. Words creep into your head and you rush to write them down, then you sharpen them, revise them, polish them until you have a poem you are proud of. Maybe you submit it and finally, you see it in print.

But what if the words don’t come?  You can sit and wait for inspiration. And wait. And wait. And wait. Or you can act instead, and try some writing exercises which might get the cogs turning and give you a whole new set of ideas to make into poetry.

Never despise writers’ prompts however experienced you are. Just like found poetry last week you can suddenly find a whole new route opening in front of you, directions you did not know you could follow. Or you have freed up the blockage and your usual poems are there again for you to write.

Strict form

This means finding a poetic form and making yourself write within it. Here are some definitions of poetic forms for you  to try

A Sonnet, which consists of three quatrains and a couplet with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg also known as the Shakespearean sonnet.
Haiku,  a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.

Pantoum, a Malay verse form consisting of an indefinite number of quatrains with the second and fourth lines of each quatrain repeated as the first and third lines of the following one.
Villanelle, a verse form of French origin consisting of 19 lines arranged in five tercets and a quatrain. The first and third lines of the first tercet recur alternately at the end of each subsequent tercet and both together at the end of the quatrain. It is like putting someone else’s jacket on and finding a new identity.



Take down one of your poetry books (because of course, you read contemporary poetry all the time so you have a feel for the pulse of the time. Or browse the web, of course). Find a poem you like, take the end word of each line of the poem and make your own new poem.

Try this one, it’s a challenge.

(It would be interesting for you to submit the result of some Endings in The Blue Nib and we could maybe have a section for a selection of your poems in the next issue – these are obviously not publishable in the normal sense because of the element of plagiarism).


from Tom Thumb


We should accept the obvious facts of physics.

The world is made entirely of particles in

fields of force. Of course. Tell it to Jack. Except it

doesn’t seem to be enough tonight. Not because

he’s had his supper and the upper regions are

cerulean, as they have been each evening

since the rain. Nor just because it’s nine pm and

this is when, each evening since we came, the fifty

swifts, as passionately excited as any

particles in a forcefield, are about to end

their vesper flight by escalating with thin shrieks

to such a height that my poor sight won’t see them go.

Though I imagine instantly what it might be

to separate and, sleeping, drift so far beyond

discovery that any flicker which is left

signs with a scribble underneath the galaxy.

RF Langley


‘Tom Thumb’ appears in R?F Langley’s ‘Collected Poems’, published by Carcanet at £6.95

Railway Children



Some people experience the senses differently – we have the 5 senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste and some people taste colour, see music, hear textures etc, like “You tasted of violet, and I heard the salty tang of olives in your words; I saw the shout of rage when you thought I had betrayed you, and when I touched you, you were indigo and green”… try to describe a relationship in contradictory terms