Issue: Issue 9 7th August 2017


Featured Poet Joan McNerney

I am from Brooklyn, New York and fell in love with poetry when I was nine years old.  My first publication was in Young America Sings when I was fourteen. It has been a long and wonderful journey. After retiring from the advertising business, I have moved to lovely upstate New York near the Albany area.  The internet has been a boom to my publishing credits and so many of these ezines are outstandingly beautiful.  I feel we are in the middle of a golden age of poetry.

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Three Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 

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Winter in New England

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Night drops like a hammer.

All day sludge grey snow,

slivers of ice.   Fear of falling

on paths covered with snow.

 

Night drops like a hammer

Driving through white outs

listening as the car motor

wheezes while climbing hills.

 

Night drops like a hammer.

Home now with only my

strength, my silence and

no trace of blue in the sky.

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Jazz

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the kitchen sits

in fruit soup…

steamed apricot

mango shadow

 

down thru spinning

smoke into hot light

blink beat

 

body ends dangle

lead eye skin cement

high on tongue

 

night pasted among

buildings Styrofoam clouds

moon hung beneath billboard

 

rolling pass wet

rocked streets

soul tramp

diamond panhandlers watch

paper birds slices of

the daily news drift in air

 

comes cool ether

whispers up door

climbing dusty corridor

 

tree windows lapping lisp

door slams again noise again

then none void nothing syncopates

noise again door slams tree bare frozen

 

caught in the image of 7 candles

within 7 candles flames of air

7 light bulbs growing out of each other

7 silver circles coined from 7 silver rings

 

clear as blazing sheets

of glass yet

vague as dust

an ice cube on wood table

in front of crushed velvet

melt

poured

peeled

 

when this sky now boiling with

stars is strapped black

in pinched air thru sucked mind

swimming pass spaced time

will be one silent

note up.

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Eve Speaks

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Eve speaks

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Although just one snake is well known

in that so-called paradise,  actually

there were tons of them.

 

When we ran away, I was never so

happy.  My feet no longer touching

swarms of mushy poison.

 

Fruit smelled to high heaven in Eden but

berries tasted yum yum good as we filled

our faces hurrying happily to the east.

 

Adam replies

 

She’s so beautiful.  I would have

followed her to the ends of earth.

I am her captive then and now.

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Present 

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You gave me
five brown pods
to grow in
my garden bed.

I put them
in a glass jar
with my locket.

Five brown pods
winding through
heaven. Weaving
night with winter
wishes for wisteria.

In a flower dress
wandering over
perfumed fields
I sleepwalk
searching for
my golden locket
and your embrace.

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Blue Your Eyes

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Blue your eyes

this edge of snow

in silent sky.

Brown eyes soft

tree bark patterns as

yellow flicks

sparkle in wintry sun.

 

And now it seems

your eyes are green

green as spruce

turning to grey eyes

glancing across as if

from a mountainside.

 

Your eyes two violets

hidden beneath frost.

Close your eyes

as sleepless stars

glide through night

in aerial ballet.

 

Black coal eyes

glowing on fire

red flames leaping

out of eyes burning

blue your eyes.

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Art into Poetry, Poetry into Art – or Ekphrasis – 2 Poetry on Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Pieter Bruegel the Elder c1555

By Shirley Bell

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I have now discovered that there is a definition:-

“Ekphrasis generally refers to any written response to art, regardless of the form of the art or the form of the writing. Up until the last twenty years or so, ekphrasis simply meant a  description of a work of art and was mostly used by classicists or historians. “http://teachers.yale.edu/curriculum/viewer/initiative_10.01.11_u

I stumbled across it while I was trying to date Michael Hamburger’s Lines on Brueghel’s “Icarus” which I have not done although I have scoured the web. So if anyone has a date for this I would be very grateful, out of a desire for completion.

I knew the Auden poem from an anthology called Voices from my A level years. It stayed with me because it was such a perfect epitome of the terrible indifference of everyday life to suffering. It is so easy to live a comfortable life here in the UK while the television screen relays an endless scenes of terrible anguish – which we can switch off.

The Breugel painting has fascinated several poets. Auden’s poem dates from 1938, William Carlos Williams from 1960 and I am guessing that Michael Hamburger’s followed these chronologically and recently Ahren Warner has followed suit. (from Confer, Bloodaxe Books, 2011.)

 

 

The tale of Icarus originates in Ovid’s Metamorphoses – see the end of the article for Ovid’s narration of the story*.

Auden has a lucid description of everyday, lumpen banality, someone is “walking dully along”, martyrdom takes place in “some untidy spot”, dogs get on with “their doggy life”, the torturer’s horse “scratches its innocent behind.” This is an amoral space where no-one cares and like the ship they all “sailed calmly on” oblivious or indifferent to “something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky”.

William Carlos Williams gives us a series of brief pictures, but his pictures are full of life. This poem is active and involving, the farmer ploughing, “the pageantry of the year was awake, tingling”, the “edge of the sea concerned with itself sweating in the sun” until “unsignificantly” (Word dislikes that) “a splash quite unnoticed” is the drowning Icarus. In all that fullness of life, a death is  simply overlooked.

Hamburger offers a cool formality. Yet again this an active poem, full of the lives of the sailor in his “world of ropes”, the sheep in the “sheepish present”, the uncertain shepherd gaping at what would surely be an eagle not a falling man. But the poem is contained in its rhyme scheme which gives it an unruffled elegance.

Ahren Warner on the other hand gives a slantwise, witty art historical riff on the old masters and leaves Icarus to oblivion in his watery grave.

 

Auden wrote Musée des Beaux Arts, named for the Museum of fine Arts in Brussels,  after viewing the Bruegel painting there in 1938.

Wikipedia sums up  the poet as: – “Wystan Hugh Auden 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973) was an English-American poet. Auden’s poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form and content”

 

 Musée des Beaux Arts (1940)

W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy
life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

 

“William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was a Puerto Rican-American poet closely associated with modernism and imagism. His work has a great affinity with painting, in which he had a lifelong interest. In addition to his writing, Williams had a long career as a physician practicing both paediatrics and general medicine.” Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
William Carlos Williams

 

According to Brueghel

when Icarus fell

it was spring

 

a farmer was ploughing

his field

the whole pageantry

 

of the year was

awake tingling

near

 

the edge of the sea

concerned

with itself

 

sweating in the sun

that melted

the wings’ wax

 

unsignificantly

off the coast

there was

 

a splash quite unnoticed

this was

Icarus drowning

 

“Michael Hamburger OBE (22 March 1924 – 7 June 2007) was a noted British translator, poet, critic, memoirist and academic. He was known in particular for his translations of Friedrich Hölderlin, Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn and W. G. Sebald from German, and his work in literary criticism”

Lines on Brueghel’s “Icarus”
Michael Hamburger

The ploughman ploughs, the fisherman dreams of fish;
Aloft, the sailor, through a world of ropes
Guides tangled meditations, feverish
With memories of girls forsaken, hopes
Of brief reunions, new discoveries,
Past rum consumed, rum promised, rum potential.
Sheep crop the grass, lift up their heads and gaze
Into a sheepish present: the essential,
Illimitable juiciness of things,
Greens, yellows, browns are what they see.
Churlish and slow, the shepherd, hearing wings —
Perhaps an eagle’s–gapes uncertainly;

Too late. The worst has happened: lost to man,
The angel, Icarus, for ever failed,
Fallen with melted wings when, near the sun
He scorned the ordering planet, which prevailed
And, jeering, now slinks off, to rise once more.
But he–his damaged purpose drags him down —
Too far from his half-brothers on the shore,
Hardly conceivable, is left to drown.

 

“Ahren Warner (born 1986) is a British poet. Warner has published two books of poetry, Confer (Bloodaxe, 2011) and Pretty (Bloodaxe, 2013)” Wikipedia

 

 

ABOUT SUFFERING THEY WERE NEVER WRONG, THE OLD MASTERS

 

Though, when it comes to breasts, it’s a different story.

Cranach, for example, never seems to have progressed

Beyond his pubescent attempts at apprenticeship:

 

tennis balls sewn to a pillow of hay, fingers coming

to terms with the concept of foreplay. So too

with Titian, whose Venus bares handleless plungers

 

or the fruits of a template mocked up at Bellini’s.

For breasts, you want Rochegrosse, his Chevalier

surrounded by breasts real enough to have men

 

gripping their gallery plans discreetly, or Picabia

at his most garish: his naked, peroxidised blonde

stretching to coddle her slavering mutt. Her breasts

 

impress their tender weight upon us, and though

not as lofty as Pieter would have liked, she too

knows something of our weakness; that we fall

 

and are floored as much by the slat lure of skin.

 

 

http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Metamorph8.htm#482327661

Bk VIII:183-235 Daedalus and Icarus

Meanwhile Daedalus, hating Crete, and his long exile, and filled with a desire to stand on his native soil, was imprisoned by the waves. ‘He may thwart our escape by land or sea’ he said ‘but the sky is surely open to us: we will go that way: Minos rules everything but he does not rule the heavens’. So saying he applied his thought to new invention and altered the natural order of things. He laid down lines of feathers, beginning with the smallest, following the shorter with longer ones, so that you might think they had grown like that, on a slant. In that way, long ago, the rustic pan-pipes were graduated, with lengthening reeds. Then he fastened them together with thread at the middle, and bees’-wax at the base, and, when he had arranged them, he flexed each one into a gentle curve, so that they imitated real bird’s wings. His son, Icarus, stood next to him, and, not realising that he was handling things that would endanger him, caught laughingly at the down that blew in the passing breeze, and softened the yellow bees’-wax with his thumb, and, in his play, hindered his father’s marvellous work.

When he had put the last touches to what he had begun, the artificer balanced his own body between the two wings and hovered in the moving air. He instructed the boy as well, saying ‘Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes. And I order you not to aim towards Bootes, the Herdsman, or Helice, the Great Bear, or towards the drawn sword of Orion: take the course I show you!’ At the same time as he laid down the rules of flight, he fitted the newly created wings on the boy’s shoulders. While he worked and issued his warnings the ageing man’s cheeks were wet with tears: the father’s hands trembled.

He gave a never to be repeated kiss to his son, and lifting upwards on his wings, flew ahead, anxious for his companion, like a bird, leading her fledglings out of a nest above, into the empty air. He urged the boy to follow, and showed him the dangerous art of flying, moving his own wings, and then looking back at his son. Some angler catching fish with a quivering rod, or a shepherd leaning on his crook, or a ploughman resting on the handles of his plough, saw them, perhaps, and stood there amazed, believing them to be gods able to travel the sky.

And now Samos, sacred to Juno, lay ahead to the left (Delos and Paros were behind them), Lebinthos, and Calymne, rich in honey, to the right, when the boy began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher. His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air. Even as his mouth was crying his father’s name, it vanished into the dark blue sea, the Icarian Sea, called after him. The unhappy father, now no longer a father, shouted ‘Icarus, Icarus where are you? Which way should I be looking, to see you?’ ‘Icarus’ he called again. Then he caught sight of the feathers on the waves, and cursed his inventions. He laid the body to rest, in a tomb, and the island was named Icaria after his buried child.

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Shirley Bell (Editor)

 


From the other side

By Phil Dunn

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In times of war it does not seem proper to concern ourselves very much with the opinions of our enemies.  In a war there is an obvious priority – to win – and as a rule the only message heard from the other side is that which suits the protagonists.  But after the conflict, when the need to caricature the enemy has passed, the varied thoughts of populations can be examined and seen as an aid to reconciliation.  I think this is especially true of the war against Nazi Germany.

 

One reason for this lies in the scale of the cataclysmic events in Germany and occupied Europe, which affected millions.  These included the war, the Holocaust, and the division of Germany and the displacement of 12 million German-speaking refugees from Eastern Europe after the war’s end.  Some reactions to these events from the perspective of German-speaking poets appear below.

 

Paul Celan (1920-1970) was born in Romania.  His parents were German-speaking Jews.  During the war Romania was invaded by both Soviet and German forces, and both regimes used forced deportation of elements they considered undesirable.  After 1941 the fascist government organised ghettos for Jews and eventually internment camps.  Celan survived the camps but his parents did not.  Celan’s poem ‘Todesfuge’ (Death Fugue) was his response to life in an extermination camp.  It begins:

 

Death Fugue 

 

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening

we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night

we drink and we drink

we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped

A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes

he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta

he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling, he whistles his hounds to come close

he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground

he commands us to play up for the dance. 1

 

 

Gertrud Kolmar was born in Berlin in 1894 into a well-off assimilated Jewish family and died in Auschwitz in 1943.  She is regarded by many as one of the most important woman poets writing in German.  First published in 1917, she continued to write up to her death.   This excerpt gives a flavour of her work.

 

Murder  

 

The murderers are loose! 

They search the world

All through the night,

oh God, all through the night!

To find the fire kindled in me now,

This child so like a light, so still and mild.  

They want to put it out.

Like pouring ink

Their shadows seep from angled walls;

Like scrawny cats they scuttle

Timidly across the footworn steps.  

And I am shackled to my bed

With grating chains all gnawed with rust

That weigh upon me, pitiless and strong.

And bite raw wounds into my helpless arms.  

The murderer has come! … 2

 

 

Günter Grass was born in 1927 and served from February to April 1945 in a Waffen-SS tank regiment before being wounded and then captured by American troops.  He was among those expelled from his home city of Danzig when it was annexed to Poland.  Most famous for the novel ‘The Tin Drum’,  he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.  His first collection of poetry came out in 1957.

 

Music for Brass

 

Those days we slept in a trumpet.

It was very quiet in there,

we never dreamed it would sound,

lay, as if to prove it,

open-mouthed in the gorge –

those days, before we were blown out.

Was it a child, on his head

a helmet of studied newspaper,

was it a scatty hussar

who walked at a command out of the picture,

was it even those days death

who breathed that way on his rubber stamp?

Today, I don’t know who woke us,

disguised as flowers in vases,

or else in sugar bowls,

threatened by anyone who drinks coffee

and questions his conscience:

one lump or two, or even three.

Now we’re on the run and our luggage with us,.

All half-empty paper bags, every crater in our beer,

cast-off coats, clocks that have stopped,

graves paid for by other people,

and women very short of time,

for a while we fill them.

In drawers full of linen and love,

in a stove which says no

and warms its own standpoint only,

in a telephone our ears have stayed behind

and listen, already conciliant,

to the new tone for busy.

Those days we slept in a trumpet.

Backward and forward we dreamed,

avenues, symmetrically planted.

On a tranquil unending back

we lay against that arch,

and never dreamed it would sound. 3

 

Günter Eich, born in 1907 wrote plays, including many radio plays for the Nazi broadcasting system, poems, songs and books.  Although he applied for party membership in 1933 he was rejected, and later wrote about the incompatibility between poetry and politics.  He served throughout the war with the Wehrmacht (army) until he was captured by US forces.  On his release in 1946 he set about forming ‘Gruppe 47’, a group of writers that included Günter Grass and Paul Celan.   In 1953, he married the Jewish Austrian writer Ilse Aichinger.

 

His first collection ‘Abgelegene Gehöfte’ (Outlying Farms) contains ‘Inventory’ one of the best-known poems in German to come from the Second World War.

 

Inventory 

 

This is my cap,

this is my coat,

here’s my shaving gear

in a linen sack.

A can of rations:

my plate, my cup,

I’ve scratched my name

in the tin. 

Scratched it with this

valuable nail

which I hide

from avid eyes. 

In the foodsack is

a pair of wool socks

and something else that I

show to no one, 

It all serves as a pillow

for my head at night.

The cardboard here lies

between me and the earth. 

The lead in my pencil

I love most of all:

in the daytime it writes down

the verses I make at night.

 

This is my notebook,

this is my tarpaulin,

this is my towel,

this is my thread. 4

 

 

Marie Luise Kaschnitz (1901-74) became an important poet after the war, noted for her hopeful viewpoint and original diction.  She and her archaeologist husband had travelled extensively after their marriage in 1925, but became trapped in Frankfurt in 1940 when the city was firebombed.  This experience influenced her writing.

 

Hiroshima

 

The man who dropped death on Hiroshima

Rings bells in the cloister, has taken vows. 

The man who dropped death on Hiroshima

Put his head in a noose and hanged himself.

The man who dropped death on Hiroshima

Is out of his mind, is battling with risen souls

Made of atomic dust who are out to attack him.

Every night. Hundreds and thousands of them.

None of it’s true.

In fact, I saw him the other day

In his front garden, there in the suburb—

With immature hedges and dainty roses.

You need time to make a Forest of Forgetting

Where someone can hide. Plainly on view

Was the naked, suburban house and the young wife

Standing beside him in her floral dress

And the little girl attached to her hand

And the boy hoisted up on his back

And cracking a whip over his head.

And he was easy to pick out

On all fours there on the lawn, his face

Contorted with laughter, because the photographer

               Stood

Behind the hedge, the seeing eye of the world. 5

 

 

If the selection above seems rather short on poets sympathetic to the Nazi cause, it is because the NSDAP had little use for them, preferring volkisch-nationalist novels, plays and films with themes that supported their ideology.  Hitler had few volumes of poetry in his library and the most prominent ‘Nazi’ poet, Hanns Johst, was better known for his play ‘Schlageter’ in which a character utters the much quoted (and misquoted) line, ‘Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meine Browning!’ (‘When I hear the word culture. . . I release the safety catch of my Browning’.)  This excerpt from his early collection ‘Mother’ (1921) shows rather a different side to his personality:

 

God the Father Himself did weave the splendour
with starry light and rays of the sun.
They however pushed the wreath of thorns
down into His hair and head and blood.
I weave for the child
only meadow herbs and larkspur.
Please, God, spare it the cross and thorns! 6

From 1933 the Reich’s Chamber of Literature was under the control of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, and Germany was the major publisher of books in Europe – in 1937, books were third behind coal and steel in value to the German economy.  Yet by restricting the range of new writing permitted, to serve ideological ends, the Nazis effectively strangled their native literature.

 

Germany as a nation is very young by European standards.  Its turbulent history has seen Germans suffer, and cause, almost unimaginable horrors.  A visitor to Berlin today would see many memorials to those horrors; they are not hidden, and there is none of the triumphalism that often characterises memorials to the past all over Europe.  They are clearly and bravely intended as a lesson from History.  If this does not dispel the stereotypical picture of a ‘German’ then the selection of poems above, written by German soldiers and the innocent victims of a perverted ideology, should help.

 

 

Translators: 1 John Felstiner, 2 Henry A. Smith, 3 Christopher Middleton, 4 David Young, 5 Eavan Boland. 6 Wikipedia – translator not cited

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Phil Dunn

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Phil Dunn lives in the lovely cathedral town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire. He is former scientist and Primary School teacher and only recently a writer and performer of poetry. He began writing with a short story and articles, published locally, but now concentrates on poetry, some of which appears in the iBook ‘>Poetry 2016’ and in literary journals.

 

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We shall remember them

by Phil Dunn

 

The well-known poem by Wilfred Owen, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’, was an attack on the pro-war propagandists of his day (who were so successful that young men queued around the block to fight on behalf of ‘plucky little Belgium’, certain that the war would ‘be over by Christmas’).  Owen’s graphic account of a gas attack was meant to give the lie to the widely known Latin motto, ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ (It is sweet and right to die for your country.)

 

Owen was one of several poets, including Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg and Edward Thomas, whose war poems have become well known and widely read.  But when asked to suggest poets who took part in the Second World War, many find it difficult to name a single example.

 

The following are offered as a starting point to redress this imbalance.

 

John Gillespie Magee Jnr wrote one of the most quoted and recited poems to come from WWII, ‘High Flight (An Airman’s Ecstasy)’.

 

Magee was born in Shanghai.  His English mother had met his father there, a rich American who had renounced his wealth to become an Episcopal priest.  He was educated at Rugby School where he won the poetry prize for a sonnet commemorating the burial of another Rugby poet, Rupert Brooke.  In 1939, Magee visited the USA and was unable to return to finish his final year because of the outbreak of war.  Instead, and despite gaining a scholarship to Yale, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  By 1941 he was a qualified Spitfire pilot, and it was while he was training on Spitfires that he wrote ‘High Flight’.  This poem so perfectly captures the ecstasy of flight that it has become the official poem of a number of air forces around the world.

 

High Flight (An Airman’s Ecstasy)

 

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
 

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 

Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of; wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sun-lit silence.  Hovering there

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air;

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

Where never lark or even eagle flew – 

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
 

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

 

Less than six months later he was killed in a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire. He was nineteen.

 

Like Magee, Mervyn Peake was born in China, the son of missionaries.  He is probably best known for his glorious gothic ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy, which follows the life of Titus Groan, last of the dynasty ruling the sprawling Castle Gormenghast.  But he was also the author of more than 200 poems and a celebrated portrait painter and illustrator.  He trained as an artist and exhibited at the Royal Academy and elsewhere, and when war broke out he applied to become a war artist.  His request was refused and he was conscripted into the army.  Some of the frustration he must have experienced at not being able to put his talents to best use can be felt in his poem ‘Fort Darland’, in which the pressures of basic training are revealed:

 

The limbs my mother bore me know the wrench

That shapes them to the square machine of war.

My feet smash gravel and my hands abhor

The butt-plate of the rifle that I clench.

 

Peake suffered a breakdown in 1942 and was invalided out of the army.  He was later commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to produce a painting of glassblowers making cathode ray tubes for radar, which also lead to a poem, ’The Glassblowers,’ considered one of his finest.

 

In ‘The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb’, a self- illustrated epic in 133 verses, Peake’s painter’s eye and poet’s ear combine to produce a stark and harrowing evocation of the aftermath of a bombing raid.

 

For example, these verses from near the beginning vividly depict destruction of a house in an air raid:

 

But a singular song it was, for the house

As it rattled its ribs and danced,

Had a chorus of doors that slammed their jaws

And a chorus of chairs that pranced.

 

And the thud of the double-bass was shot

With the wail of the floating strings,

And the murderous note of the ice-bright glass

Set sail with the clink of wings –

 

Set sail from the bursted window-frame

To stick in the wall like spears,

Or to slice off the heads of the birthday flowers

Or to nest on a chest of drawers.

 

Shortly after the war’s end, Peake was commissioned by a magazine group to travel to France and Germany, and was among the first civilians to enter Belsen concentration camp.  It was still populated by inmates too ill to be moved.  Some measure of the degree to which Peake was affected by his experience is clear in his poem, ‘ The Consumptive. Belsen 1945’ .  It begins:

 

If seeing her an hour before her last

Weak cough into all blackness I could yet

Be held by chalk-white walls, and by the great

Ash coloured bed,

And the pillows hardly creased

By the tapping of her little cough-jerked head –

If such can be a painter’s ecstasy,

(Her limbs like pipes, her head a china skull)

Then where is mercy?

 

 

Louis Simpson was born in Jamaica to Scottish and Russian parents but moved to the United States to study when he was 17.  He was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, well known to viewers of ‘A Band of Brothers’, Stephen Spielberg’s epic account of ‘Easy Company’ and their deep friendship forged in combat all over Europe from D-Day to the fall of Hitler.  During the invasion of Normandy, the 101st Airborne were ordered to take the town of Carentan.  They encountered fierce resistance, and lost many men to sniper fire.  Simpson wrote ‘Carentan, O Carentan’ in the aftermath of an ambush.  It begins with an evocation of a country lane in peacetime, then progressively darkens in tone:

 

There is a whistling in the leaves

And it is not the wind,

The twigs are falling from the knives

That cut men to the ground

 

Tell me, Master-Sergeant,

The way to turn and shoot.

But the Sergeant’s silent

That taught me how to do it.

 

It finishes with a verse of spare simplicity and power:

 

Carentan, O Carentan

Before we met with you

We never yet had lost a man

Or known what death could do.

 

He later won a Pulitzer prize for his collection ‘At the End of the Open Road’.   

 

Brave deeds are not the sole preserve of men, and the exploits of women agents sent into enemy occupied territory by the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) deserve special mention.  Many will have heard of Violette Szabo.  In the film, ‘Carve her Name with Pride’, Violette  (played by Virginia McKenna) is asked to memorise a poem to be used as a key when encrypting messages to be transmitted from France.  Her cryptographer was the poet Leo Marks, and the poem, ‘The Life that I have’, had been written by Marks in memory of his girlfriend.  It was common practice to use poems as a basis for encryption, because they were easier to learn by heart.  But Marks knew that well-known poems were easy for German cryptanalysts to ‘crack’, and preferred to use his own creations, known only to him and his agents.  Given that the life expectancy of wireless operators in the field was about six weeks, anything that made things more difficult for the enemy was surely to be welcomed.

 

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the life that I have

Is yours.

 

The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours.

 

A sleep I shall have

A rest I shall have

Yet death will be but a pause.

For the peace of my years

In the long green grass

Will be yours and yours and yours.

 

 

Keith Douglas was born in Kent in 1920 and had the sort of childhood few would envy.  His mother became seriously ill when he was very young and his father, a retired decorated soldier had to leave the family home in 1928 when his farm business collapsed.  Despite considerable poverty, Douglas won several scholarships, including an Open Exhibition to Merton College Oxford, where his talent for poetry was noted, and his work included in an anthology ‘Eight Oxford Poets’.

 

He served in North Africa in the second Battle of El Alamein against Rommel’s Afrika Korps.  His powerful poem ‘Vergissmeinnicht’ recognises a common humanity shared by for-the-moment enemies.  In it, the body of a fallen foe is described:

 

Look.  Here in the gunpit spoil

the dishonoured picture of his girl

who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht

in a copybook gothic script.

 

The poem ends:

 

For here the lover and killer are mingled

who had one body and one heart.

And death who had the soldier singled

has done the lover mortal hurt. 

 

Vergissmeinnicht is the German for ‘forget-me-not’.

 

Douglas later took part in the D-Day Normandy landings and was killed near Bayeaux only three days later.

*

It is something of a mystery why, nearly eight decades after the start of the war against Hitler, so little attention is paid today to the poems and poets of that conflict compared to those of the Great War.

 

In 1985, on the 67th anniversary of the Armistice, a slate memorial naming sixteen poets of the Great War was unveiled in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.  Among the ninety poets commemorated in the Abbey, three were writing at the time of the Hitler war:  W.H. Auden, in 1939 already resident in the United States, wrote ‘1st September 1939’ in the first few days of the war, and nothing directly concerning it after; John Masefield, Poet Laureate from 1930 to 1967, wrote almost nothing relating to the war, and John Betjeman, though he tried to enlist, spent most of the hostilities in Ireland working for the Ministry of Information.  None of them can properly be considered a war poet.  Of the poets who did fight, who suffered injury or died, and who wrote about the horrors, at home and abroad, of the world’s first truly global war, not one is remembered.

 

Is it simply the quality of their poetry that promotes Owen, Sassoon and Brooke above their later counterparts?  Or could the disparity in recognition have something to do with changes in public engagement with poetry?  Print was almost the sole source of information and comment in 1914-18, but by the start of the 1939-45 war, film and radio enabled a more direct access to the theatre of war.  Or did stylistic changes in the world of poetry itself perhaps distance the art from a more general readership?

 

Whatever the reasons, war poets of Keith Douglas’ generation still await proper recognition for their talent and sacrifice.

 

 

A shorter version of this article appeared in ‘The Southwell Folio’ Issue 24.

 

Phil Dunn

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Phil Dunn lives in the lovely cathedral town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire. He is former scientist and Primary School teacher and only recently a writer and performer of poetry. He began writing with a short story and articles, published locally, but now concentrates on poetry, some of which appears in the iBook ‘>Poetry 2016’ and in literary journals.

 

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Writing From Prompts

by Michael Griffith.

 

I have very little idea HOW creativity works, I only know that it DOES work on many levels. The end product may or may not be any good, but so long as there IS product after honest effort, that’s what’s important to me.

Yes, in art we want quality over quantity, but it takes a lot of trial and error to make great art, thus the need to keep producing. It’s like mining for gold: a huge amount of effort and cost goes into moving many hundreds of pounds of soil and rock to find a single ounce of gold.

Direct and Indirect Prompts (or, “Prompt” can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective):

Some artists use prompts to help them product their art. There are two types of prompts: direct (where a work of art is produced specifically to follow some set of rules) or indirect prompts (where something inspires a work of art).  An example of a direct prompt is when a student paints a bowl of fruit in class  after a teacher sets out that bowl of fruit. Indirect prompts are things which spur us on with no forethought – a muse just comes and whispers softly and then art is created. This happened to me one night as I ate grapes. The last few were so over-ripe as to almost be bursting with wine, which got me thinking about my divorce from years ago, which, in turn, prompted me to write what became a published poem.

Vow

Your lipstick stains my wineglass.
I have loved you long before
the grapes were harvested,
turned to a red deeper than your stain,
yet less intoxicating than your lips.

Stick to stone, hurt the bone
Broken bonds
and words can always
hurt me.

Vow        do us        part.
Death may still kiss my bride,
a willful bride to a willing death
Look how lovely in white!
how handsome in his best suit.
Grey as cloud-layer atop a pyre.

When muses’ whispers are rare, direct prompts are sometimes of incredible help. Even if they just generate work, that work will one day pay off as technique-building, gestation ground for ideas and themes, or one perfect line amid the 99 or so other not-so-perfect lines.

For this reason alone, writing prompts are valuable things every writer should have at his or her ready disposal. They’ll keep you going, creating work promptly. (Get it?)

 

Sources of Direct Prompts:

Writing magazines such as The Writer and The Writer’s Chronicle have prompts in every issue. There are several books comprised solely of writing prompts such as 300 Writing Prompts and 500 Writing Promps, both from piccadillyinc.com. There are countless writing prompts available simply using “writing prompts” as a Google search. The WordPress site People Who Write offers a free pdf book 365 Writing Prompts.  And here are another year’s worth of creative writing prompts from the site Thinkwritten.

(Countless, I tell ya!)

I use direct prompts with creative writing classes and workshops I teach, and while I don’t use them all that often for my own writing, I am not averse to them and understand fully the important place they have in every writer’s toolkit.

 

Sources for Indirect Prompts:

As you’ve probably read many times, keep a notebook or journal handy at all times, everywhere you go. Even if this is just an inexpensive wire-bound notebook, a pricier Moleskine, texting to yourself while on-the-go, or some other organized method of taking and keeping notes, it is vital you jot down remnants of a dream upon waking, snippets of conversations you hear, character ideas for a play you’re working on based on who you see standing in line at the movies, possible titles for your next book, or anything else that may become fodder for your future writing. Again, much of these notes may end up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but some will go on to become major works in your oeuvre

So keep several lists of prompts at-hand to fuel you when you suspect your muse is off whispering in some other writer’s ear. Have notebooks at the ready. Make sure a pencil or pen (or your phone) is always nearby. Doing these simple things will ensure that you’ll never be at a loss of things to write about.

 

Michael Griffith

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Poetry by Akshaya Pawaskar

Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor practicing in India and poetry is
her passion. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry journal, Writer’s Ezine, Efiction India, Ink drift, The blue nib, Her heart poetry, Awake in the world anthology by Riverfeet press and few anthologies by lost tower publications. She had been chosen as ‘Poet of the week’ on Poetry superhighway and featured writer in Wordweavers poetry contest

 

 

 

 

 

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Insurgence

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We were going down the snake river
Like orphans we were trying to search
Faces and nuances of filial connection

We were drawing blood to match color
and scents and shed tears to see clear
Or see through the foundling parents

Justifying the sacrifice or seething at
Abandonment yet the scouting for the
Place to belong and have a totem kept

We dropped our armor on the salver
Dissolved in tea, sugarcubes colorless,
but the stain resurfaced hemosiderin

Things seldom quite under wraps and
Become ballistic, its taste was in the air,
Acrid, of matricide, ire and ambivalence.

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Malignant despair 

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Shadows whisper and glide like death
But the cry is soulful and reminder of
Life.
Ears are clogged with nerves and gum
Valsalva’s maneuver aids with knife
Pain.
Vertigo follows her around the room
Like panorama of your gadget lenses
Circle.
Quilt keeps getting larger and wrinkled
As the frame it ensheaths shrinks to
Marrow.
She smothers the yawning collarbone
As she throws up oftener than often,
Nausea.
Thigh gap widens, but anorexia is not
The thing she brought upon herself,
Cachexia.
She imagines her hair over bald moon
Looking out of the window, now just
A canvas.
And thinks of it as a witch levitating in
Air, harder to breathe without aid of
Prongs.
The loss, not just impinged on a brush
But of jewel called life she won’t trade
For Ophir.
Dreams of being in a Narcopolis arise
All the morphine still couldn’t equal,
Death.

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The Valsalva maneuver or Valsalva manoeuvre is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one’s mouth, pinching one’s nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon.
Cachexia or wasting syndrome is loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness, and significant loss of appetite in someone who is not actively trying to lose weight.
Ophir. : a biblical land of uncertain location but reputedly rich in gold

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Rejection letter

.

Audacity to think of acceptance

Anticipation of a rejection letter

on the monitor on the table top

in the dimmed light of zero watt

bulb, glaring screen vicariously

slaps one on the face. Go have

a look in the mirror. Get fluffy

half spheres under the carapace

of the roof of your body scanned.

 

You send an email out waiting

for the poet’s sweepstake win.

Go about humdrum life, feign

forgetfulness, nonchalance for

all your life blood sucked out of

your fingers, through intricate

Cortico-spinal connections, dull

under turgid prosaic existence.

An Impostor, you are terrified.

 

When the ashes of your soul

arrive in the guise of a ‘sorry,

better luck next time’ gloating.

You remember that which you

had never forgotten. You, that

stolid straight faced dead liar

cannot any longer hold it back

the Grimace of being hit below

the belt, the welt of dried ink.

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Poetry by Robert Knox & Ash Slade

Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet, fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, “Suosso’s Lane.” As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in other journals such as Every Day Poet, Off The Coast, Houseboat, Yellow Chair Review. His chapbook “Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty” was published in May 2017.

http://www.verse-virtual.com/robert-c-knox-2017-august.html

 

 

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American Dream-Time

 

The Pilgrims came,

they prayed, some died

Some natives fed them on the side

The Irish came,

their backs they bowed

unwelcomed oft, dug in uncowed

Germans, Dutch, and those who sprang from Nordic lands

Some traveled west to deeper ground

and worked their plows and new life found

In Factory Days the steamboats bragged

that jobs were waiting for those who dared

uproot their lives, their children dragged,

they ventured, labored, by looms ensnared

From Old World countries flowed the brave,

and to this place their futures gave.

From Russia, Greece and Portugal

ancestors in the old regalia

weeping for those left behind

in shtetl or Italia

Until they filled old neighborhoods

with foreign scents of foreign goods

Then old white heads with whiter blood

impelled a Congress to conclude

We need old laws that will exclude

those who come from birth and brood

too far from Anglo-Saxon at their root:

 

For these we do not give a hoot

 

They settled on a new device

that really wasn’t very nice

And rigged a system, produced a quota

For justice spared not one iota

The new plan keeps the numbers small

too bad that we can’t shut them all

behind cruel doors the men of ICE install

— Maybe we should build a wall!

In time we all may go to sleep,

forget to dream, our souls to keep.

now we’re here, let’s close the door

on the unwanted ones, downcast, and poor

and celebrate what made us great

forgetting the roots of our own estate.

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The Tennis Ball

 

from New Jersey

traveled to Port Authority

then changed to long Island

and began a career in a famous match

that took thirteen sets

without once resembling a black bird

 

I was reminded of the time

I lost my second pair of glasses beneath the driver’s seat of a tired tiny family car

too small for the packages, luggage, holiday gear,

or the weekly garbage

we lugged to the transfer station on the day it was open,

not to mention occasional people

 

Until my son, small enough to see beneath the places

that were blind to me,

mere abstract spaces such as rabbit holes,

shuttered wells, capped mineral seams in Western states of mind

I never visited,

unfinished basements in the houses we rented

or occupied on weekends off from the group house

where we minded disturbed teenaged girls,

the cages of their abominable pets,

and places in my own dark fears…

 

Discovered it there and returned it to me,

proud but sensitive to my discomfiture

 

And when I put old lenses before my eyes,

everything, once more, came into view

He was older:

good for him

And so was I,

a mixed blessing

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Not Saying

 

Guess who’s coming to dinner

He’s neither a saint nor a sinner

His bat is like Hank Aaron

His glove is Willie Mays

He’s taller than Wilt Chamberlain

Every year he runs a marathon

In times that do amaze

 

You’ll see him on the London stage

Or fancy free in Paris, France

He plays the horn in Le Chat Noir

Though she seldom sings in Pinafore

Her songs have taught the world to sing —

and you should see her dance!

 

Guess who’s in the capital

Guess who’s on the phone

Who told us that he had a dream

Whose death made people want to scream

Who Bible verses did intone

In measure analytical

On matters metaphysical

That startled our awakenings

from dreams of ancient queens and kings

And won a verdict mathematical

… on tendencies alone?

 

Guess who’s in the neighborhood

Guess who’s on the train

Guess who’s in the mirror

Guess who’s merely crazy

and who’s driving me insane?

Guess who’s at my shoulder,

guess who’s in my brain

guess who’s not the other

guess who’s everywhere

A secret self and shadow lover

(if you riddles entertain)

the always fated brother

and born to be my twain

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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.

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Autumn Haiku

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leaves scatter cold earth

walking, crunching ‘neath my feet –

they disintegrate.

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Summer Storms

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like hands clapping together booming

meets grayish-black skies.

white n’ silver streaks implode in vaults of chaos. raindrops are

melodies,

housetops, n’ asphalt instruments they play.

blueness appears as clouds roll by.

bravado is captured in storm winds blowing through trees.

branches bending, dancing in the night.

sometimes rubbing each other,  slapping window panes.

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The Page

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My pencil, an arrow of expression.
It’s fine, gray, tip the connection
between thought and paper.
A tool breathing life into
immortalized ideas.
A sword slicing through
what can’t be seen, but
felt. It’s eraser, a magic wand
zapping away fragments
which don’t mesh.
A lever releasing proclamations
of misunderstood spirit and soul.
Misconceived lines a blueprint,
tape measure gauging the
distance between conception
and fulfillment.
Mirrors, simultaneously clear
and cluttered, the writer sees
the best and the worst reflecting
from a single lens,
panoramic.
Page creases are miles
of a struggle, telling a story,
each one a marking, of a
composite.
Stray marks indicate steps
walked, easily perceived
as an unfriendly highway.
My pencil is the ticket,
gets me from point A
to point  Z. A pointer sets apart
the narrow pathway
and untraveled road.
A chisel that carves away
the past engraves a new
future.
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Light in Darkness
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Light in darkness

 

candles lit in windows

flickered glow.

 

Pillow cushioning us from hard fall.

 

House sheltering us from storms.

 

Rock upholding us –
protecting us –
leading us.

 

Pathway to elation

roadway to completeness.

Glue holding shattered pieces
pulled out of rubble.

Ressurected shards of brokenness

reworking us anew.

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Poetry by Patrick Williamson

Patrick Williamson, a British poet and translator, who lives in France. I also work with music and filmpoems (Afterwords, set to music by Mauro Coceano). My work is increasingly focused on Italy, where I have published two collections Beneficato(English-Italian, Samuele Editore, Pordenone, 2015), and Nel Santuario (Samuele Editore, 2013; Menzione Speciale della Giuria in the XV Concorso Guido Gozzano in 2014). Editor and translator of The Parley Tree, An Anthology of Poets from French-speaking Africa and the Arab World (Arc Publications, 2012). Recent and ongoing translations of poetry by Italian writers Guido Cupani and Erri de Luca.

 

 

 

 

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Sculpture

 

I search for the silence of stone

the edge between light and the dark side

a man hunched up

stars glistening along crevasses –

just making the same old decisions I said

working my way down to the centre.

I want to see what is there

 

muffled, sitting

on a street corner, it is raining.

the lights form stars,

the guiding star lost among them

a gaping hole

no-one notices what regret, or what hope

lives on in my eyes

so much unsaid.

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Mother

 

there’ll never be
another
you and I

 

we were joined
until the threshold
suddenly

 

unusually free

a sense of life
love

 

patience sanity
far beyond this

 

simple warmth
you wanted me

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Field

 

Whirl, leaves, see

the old trunk,

 

a bowl & small

packet of herbs,

 

winds blow,

swirl away dust, see

 

life pockets inner

fruit, all else is less

 

important, small deaths,

dusk of winter –

 

the shining field

this untouchable light.

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How comes it then

 

Such is power, so great

so hot I senseless may

alter all the course

dissolved ice to fire

boiling much more

feel my miraculous

device allayed exceeding

that all things melt

how can the day, gentle mind,

reasonably begin

 

 

(after a Petrarch translation)

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May you bury me

 

Morning unveils

rubble they pinpoint

 

faint cries

the restless

 

I spit

I am not a reed

 

I do not crumple

rooted in this soil

 

no small storm

this dusk Alad

 

we tremble, we age,

we hold tight

 

these eyes see

may you bury me

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Poetry by Barry Fentiman Hall

Barry Fentiman Hall is based in Kent, England. He is a writer of place and the ways that we fit around it. He has published a book called The Unbearable Sheerness Of Being (Wordsmithery 2016) and has appeared in City Without A Head (Wordsmithery 2013). He is the editor of Confluence Magazine and has been running a spoken word night called Roundabout Nights in Chatham for the past three years. He gravitates towards hares. They understand him.

https://www.wordsmithery.info/

https://theestuarymonologues.wordpress.com/

 

 

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TALKING WITH A RACIST ABOUT GARDENING

I knew it was coming by
By the roll of the shoulders
The self righteous chest, puffed
Fat and sour as a bean
From his garden
He is spitting his truths
Like bad seeds
From rotten fruit
Suddenly I realise
I am shouting
A scarecrow
Waking the birds
From their blissfully ignorant
Perch on the fence
Only to settle
In the silence after
As though nothing had happened
The way that birds do
There’s still 8 hours to go
Changing the subject
I pour water on
Scorched summer earth
His apple red uncle’s face
Was still laughing
About the murder
When the talk turned
To the lettuces
That were coming up
In the planters I had made
Till we went about our duties
Filling the in trays
Of people who wish
Us good morning
And do not know
That behind their back
The jolly gardener they greet
Calls some of them nigger

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CALLER I.D.

A man on the stairs called out
A woman in the foyer called his name
A boy in the street called home
A girl beside him called an ambulance
A man in a uniform called for calm
A woman in London called a meeting
A man in America called them losers
A woman on the internet called it misogyny
A man in the park called for unity
A woman in London called a halt to the campaign
A man who worked for her immediately called a press conference
A woman on the news called a witness
A man from a talent show called a false flag
A woman from another talent show called for a final solution
A boy in the hospital called his mother
A girl in the hospital couldn’t call anyone
A nurse on the ward called a number that he found
A man who answered called him a liar till he cried and dropped the phone.

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MY MY MY

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The sun rises behind
My back
And whispers things in
My ear
This light is not for
My eyes
It chuckles, tickling
My palm
Turn around if you dare
My lad
It takes possession of
My words
Like the Coke ad girl on
My shelter
It gets what it wants in
My world
By promising things in
My dreams
In a 70s sort of way, from
My childhood
When the dawn was in
My stars
Before the nine to five became
My life

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EARTHBOUND CROW

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I had forgotten somehow
That I once had wings
The aches I get
Across my chest
Are muscle memories
Of a painful loss
My feet are planted
Firmer on the ground
Each passing year
An earthbound crow
Hopping three toed
To officiate
On all that matters
Beneath the sky
We shed our feathers
With our childhood
When we do not
Know their purpose
And only when 
Our wings are gone
Do we remember
We can fly

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I ALWAYS SMILE AT STRANGERS

.

At 15.24 I saw the last of it
Down the corridor a summoner
Rang the bell to call me home
To mark the day that no-one saw
Turner slammed his knife hard
Upon the anvil that burst
Through the old beeches
That marked the boundary
Of my youthful kingdom
I went among these streets
As worlds balanced on mountains
Checking my stride against
Hutches sprouting where
All had been other once
You can now buy cheap oranges
Where I learned not to drown
And dropping in on the old dog
Faces spoke I did not know
Hello and things about my skin
smooth where hair had once been
A cod crooner bid me stand by him
As athletes sporting tribal tattoos
Beat out a meaningless encounter
And food budgets were pissed away
Behind me in the hope of cherries
Hungry Luis fed on carrion
Spooned by hapless Fashers
But I don’t care anymore
This world views me through
Documentary eyes dead with
Pain they haven’t felt yet
And not one of them knows
That a bad thing happened today
Because I always smile at strangers

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Subscribers Poetry

Fluffy Orange

by Eileen Hugo

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Auntie Narretta had chosen an orange dress

not a just dress    a ballgown

layers of fluff, sparkles.

A mother of the groom outfit

even the matching shoes and purse

were to accompany her.

She had outlined the hymns and readings

that would-be part of the services.

She was so proud of her organization skills

she was after all an Operating Room nurse.

Lists were made     she looked forward

to entering heaven on a cloud —

an orange cloud in a fuchsia sunset.

 

Her son buried her in a grey suit.

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My name is Eileen Hugo and I am retired and doing all the things I love.

I have been published in various anthologies. I won first prize in the David Osgood Poetry Contest. I also served time as the Poetry Editor for The Houston Literary Review.

In April 2015 my book Not Too Far was published

 

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Warmth

by Jonathan Terranova

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I feel warm in your bed

the duvet is greater than Zola

and

I can feel Ferrante sleeping above me

on the shelf;

she’s teasing me into her mystery

 

and the question marks I see in your

deep brown eyes I try to circumvent

because I’m still hurt and scared

 

I fear the trap of fate

inside the terror

of elation

 

In spite of this

it’s the softest I’ve felt in a long time

and I could happily stay here

for now

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Jonathan is a poet from Maidstone, Kent who is plagued with the burden of sin and struggles throughout life to overcome his own flawed nature and to attain spiritual redemption. He is a graduate in English Literature from Queen Mary University of London and is currently set to release his first volume of poetry through Wordsmithery.
He is inspired by writers such as John Fante, Lucia Berlin, Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski and Thomas Hardy. You can check out his poetry on  www.jaterranovapoetry.tumb lr.com or Jon Terranova- Writer on Facebook
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Euphonium Blues

by Stella Klein

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After lunch when the chewing is over

the meat and gravy polished off

and the last of the jelly scraped

Mother serves coffee for the grown-ups

from the long silver pot.

 

Father fists a dry cough and folds his arms

pleased with his lunch and the prospect

of a Sunday afternoon.

 

Will you not play a little of the auld’ euphonium for us, lad?

 

Robert gets up from the table.

He opens out the music stand

steadies his book of tunes

cream is poured and Nana Boyd’s eyes shine.

 

From behind the piano

Robert drags out the leathery brown tomb.

He clicks open the clasp, kneels deep

into the red velvet

dazzling the room

with the great curvaceous thing

and gives it a rub down with his soft, yellow rag.

 

Dimpling his cheeks Robert

raises the mouthpiece to his lips

rupturing the air discharging

Three four notes

until a melody unfolds.

 

Nana Boyd’s eyelids flicker like moths

as she draws her own puckered lips

around a shortbread finger.

 

That’s a dark and passionate piece lad.

Have you not something a little brighter?

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Stella lives in London. She completed Birkbeck’s MA in Creative Writing programme in 2016 and continues to write poems as she works towards the completion of her first collection of short stories.

 

 

 

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Ophelia Speaks

by Rhiannon Morris

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Gertrude said my garments, heavy with their drink, pulled me to muddy death.

Made beautiful by my flower companions-

The artists, paint me peaceful, in my sleep.

Silence, stillness, Ophelia gone.

 

“Madness,”

they said it like, “her madness,”

As though it were a chain I clung too, with reverent possession, hoarding it between my breasts,

Caressing it like a lover at night.

Without Ophelia, the court no longer received the garish jester, dancing circles around the lords and ladies.

Instead, it is banished to poverty, to straw and hay, where it starves.

A disease prevented by a cool surgeon,

plague mask hidden beneath his skin, a first flesh; I startled back in horror.

God, God? What do men hide beneath?

Pray, I beg for the judge above, what is right and who is wrong?

 

In a large and shadowed chamber,

A fine-looking woman, a proud and cunning man.

Cornered glances in opulent mirrors:

She no longer disturbs our consciousness,

forget the mind is weak, we cannot break.

 

When trust is lost, trust, what do we grip?

I stumbled down the muddy bank, to find nothing, to find something

 

Those around me frightened me – they

Looked different suddenly, their faces

Blurred, and behind them black

When they spoke, it was empty and they spoke shadowed shivers

That clawed, demonic jumped, pierced my skin.

 

I fought to get them off. But one,

Forced open my mouth, cranking it open as if it were a chest full of treasures

(I thought my jaw would break), and shoved his fist down my throat.

Laughter, so loud I could see it like mist,

Drifted from the convulsing demon.

 

I could not speak.

But when I did again, it was not the same.

 

My words did not make sense to those I’d trusted.

They had not heard before, the songs I sang for them, as high and sweet as I could manage.

 

Flowers I threw,

So they could see themselves how I saw them.

But they aged, wilted, died on the wind.

They did not know my heart had broken, shattered like mirrors.

 

They could see the hive, and the bees that clung, and suckled to its walls; the honeycomb, pregnant with profit, and lustre, lost inside the swarm.

 

The mad can be blamed.

Nonsense is the bird circling above, making you prey in its shadow.

Coherency is the peacock that struts, leading you to the palace gates. Goodbye, farewell –

I said that, my breaths wrapped in it, good bye good bye good bye good bye

Echoing in merriment and mirth, my final strength found in the iron of their eyes and their voices

Never wavering,

how now Ophelia, what is this?

 

Really, they thought they knew, but they forgot

Ghostly, mad, poor Ophelia until she floated,

Flowers found heavy and dead, at the mouth of a stream.

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My name is Rhiannon Morris, and I’m a nineteen year old undergraduate student at Durham University, studying English.

 

 

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pernicious gifts from scar tissue

by Alfred Booth

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sudden skewers of pain, tiny nerves regenerating, I’m told. there is cardboard tightening in my neck, right side collarbone to chin. beyond the eight inch scar, as finely sewn as a new wrinkle. its downward arrow starts just below the earlobe, seven months later still insensitive. I pinch daily. to verify negative progress. it vilifies all sensation of calm. mine is a madman’s crooked smile. muscle blockage. or blockade. there is an intensity in the slowness of healing with a malignant intent to jackhammer my patience. impossible to reach a shelf at head level. above? Laurel and Hardy slapstick. pull a tee-shirt over my head. pour from a full teapot. lay in bed in angel position. my muscle force has melted to skeleton skinny not supposed to happen to good witches. knots in my right shoulder, seven months old. deltoid and trapezius on strike. pain-killer resistant. I massage where the good arm can strain to spread healing oils. therapists knead to stretch every possible threshold. I shudder more than an old brittle rubber band. sleep subdues any sensation akin to burning tar. I’m unconscious longer than a hundred car box train. hot baths with pungent arnica and frankincense. yes. I meditate. recite mantras. relaxes what might be my soul. you know. that mysterious ghost surrounding the heart supposed to transcend death. music remains deliciously soothing but my out-of-synch arm is a whelp beyond a forte, so melodic weaves sound watered down with amateurism, less panache than before the operation. lots of water washes away the toxins. everything has side effects. a miracle for this weakness? time, which is both magic and residual. others are chocolate, wine, sunlight, night skies looking for shooting stars. all poetic responses. damnation. I was the bad boy. beat the crap out of that c demon. its afterlife frames suffering with the finesse of a child’s finger painting. and devours dreams. and the aforementioned patience.

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Alfred Booth is an American professional pianist who lives in France. He 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. He has studied extensively harpsichord and the cello. Currently he has an 82-poem volume journaling a recent dance with cancer and a 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. He keeps an online portfolio at: https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/troubadour.

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