Thursday, 22 March 2018

A poem by Kevin Reid


and pre-heated,
I was the kink
that had to get out the kitchen.

Hand on the back
of my tired neck, nodding,
always nodding. Yes. Yes. YES…

…the en-suite was to fuck for.
Everyday I showered
with a different goose.

They all came with a voice,
hard, soft, like back home.
I'm not one for saying ‘No'.

Kevin Reid lives between Scotland and other lands. He is the founding creator of the online multimedia collaborations >erasure and >erasure ii and Wordless, an image and text collaboration with George Szirtes published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. He’s also the editor of Nutshells and Nuggets, a blogzine for short poems. His work can be read in various journals such as, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Under The Radar, Seagate III, Scotia Extremis, Domestic Cherry, And Other Poems. A mini pamphlet Burdlife (Tapsalteerie) was published in 2017.

Twitter: @eyeosphere

Monday, 19 March 2018

A poem by Sonja Besford


i drink wine in a dank bar on the bank of a brown river
i drum on the table with my left thumb
five beats in a bar simultaneously (that’s what i hear)
thinking about a woman who doesn’t belong
to anyone, anywhere, perhaps doesn’t even exist
it’s not relevant, no, it is relevant, so-o-o relevant,
i pray no one will find me in this hell-hole
intent on confessing his real or imaginary sins,
demanding my understanding,
my pauses and grunts taken for wisdom;
that is why i’ve come down here to the wrong river-bank
so i might become invisible, saturated with the smells
of fish soup, vinegar and the live infection sitting
at the table opposite, her face lit by a cigarette;

on the stained table cloth i project that woman who doesn’t
know that she exists, who doesn’t belong to anyone but me,
i see eleven ways of our skins meeting,
a free entwining of ghosts, subsiding shyness, togetherness,
i am a thread on her supple spool, bewitched executor of her
flights, she is the map-maker, the key holder to all my locks,
the opener of my unyielding secrets and the stories i’ve had
no one to tell, not until i imagined her listening to me —
i inhale the kitchen stink, feel real and possible, even cheerful,
but someone opens the front door and the inward draught
brings familiar voices, anxious, hungry, eager to find
my listening presence and reinstate my void

Sonja Besford was born in Belgrade (Serbia). She now lives in London and has thirteen books published. Her work has appeared in many magazines, and has been translated into various languages.
She is president of the Association of Serbian Writers and Artists Abroad (ASWA).

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A poem by Marg Roberts

Role reversal

or what I wish had happened when dad nearly missed the train to visit Grandma…

Wouldn’t it have been grand, Mum
if it had been you, in your fawn coat
hat like a squashed cushion
who had jumped, at the very last minute
into the carriage to join us
five tickets waved aloft

wouldn’t it have been fair
if, just once, Dad had nursed
my baby sister on his lap
her snot dribbling down his jacket
his stomach clenched from waiting
his hand swotting my other sister
he had picked and wrapped in newspaper for Grandma
while I chanted, she’s gonna’ miss it
miss, miss, miss it
and the engine chuffed steam
clouding the platform and his mood

and what if
instead of you muffling the thought:
how unreasonable of you, my husband
to leave the house ten minutes after
his family, so having struggled with the baby
a toddler and a little girl uphill
to the railway station, Mum,
you’d let him have it
full on

if it had been you who pulled the communication cord
because the guard, an old man
was left standing on the platform
and when he leapt into our carriage
with his flag
it had been you, he’d thanked and shaken by the hand

wouldn’t that have been grand?

Biography: I am a poet and fiction writer. My poetry has been published in magazines (Orbis, Reach, Cannon’s Mouth) and on-line (Ink sweat and tears, Algebra of Owls). My first novel was published by Cinnamon Press in October 2016. I have an MA in creative writing. I love reading and writing. My website:

Monday, 12 March 2018

A poem by Deborah Alma

That Summer of Rats

they came, four or five big ones
their tails overlapped,
slipped around the chicken feeder
outside the window where we sat

one in each of our mustard yellow chairs
his and hers, yours with its straight back
and mine with the fluffy red rug
and you raised an eyebrow

and laid out the poison
and we watched as the babies took it first,
with our own satisfaction
at the sweetness of the trap.

Deborah Alma is a UK poet, with an MA in Creative Writing, taught Writing Poetry at Worcester University and works with people with dementia and in hospice care. She is also Emergency Poet prescribing poetry from her vintage ambulance.

She is editor of Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology, The Everyday Poet- Poems to live by (both Michael O’Mara), and her True Tales of the Countryside is published by The Emma Press. She is the editor of #Me Too – rallying against sexual assault & harassment- a women’s poetry anthology (Fair Acre Press, March 2018). Her first full collection Dirty Laundry is published by Nine Arches Press (May 2018). She lives with her partner the poet James Sheard on a hillside in Powys, Wales. website is:

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A poem by Steve Xerri

poem : machine

after William Carlos Williams

a glimpse of the welling and unfurling
of what we cannot then have known
it would come to mean / once the days
had notched on a bit and you gamely
took up the pen in spite of misgivings /
to set down facts no-one else in the room
would assent to / swearing so help them
there was no frame to the picture
only some strips of masking tape
holding its corners / no single rose
dropping petals from a long-necked vase /
but a jamjar with some marguerites
shoved in / the scene a painter might
have called interior with painting
and flowers / this wrenching moment
complete with actualité

when you said / what you said / but this
does not make it real or about love

Steve Xerri has been a teacher, musician, illustrator and web designer but now prefers writing poetry and making pottery. Published recently in Acumen, Clear Poetry, Stride Magazine, Brittle Star and The Interpreter's House, won the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 competition. Poems forthcoming in The Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat & Tears and Envoi.

Monday, 5 March 2018

A poem by Roddy Williams


I think I would like to die in July
but not this year, not just yet, not so soon.
July is a pause at the apex of joy
before the swandive to Morrissey world.
So if I must die I’ll die in July
while the sky’s filled with rolling Simpsons clouds
and trees on heat are Mexican-waving;

when the air is treacly and dormant,
not keen to move itself out of the way
and light is sluggish, clinging to the
undersides of leaves slipping downhill at
dusk to sleep as day dissolves into night
sticky with promises of a naked moon
perhaps, to dance me through the last few days.

Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams lives and works in London. His poetry has appeared in 'Smiths Knoll'. 'Magma', 'The North', 'The Frogmore Papers', 'The Rialto', 'Envoi' and other magazines. He is a keen surrealist photographer, printmaker and painter.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A poem by Michael Dwayne Smith


I do experience loss, a sense of one’s own illness,
and I don’t like idle talk or being judged. Probably

I’ve visited her twenty times. I didn’t want to be
invisible in California, or sadly surprised, so she

taught me a different way of working, challenged
play to become something more. Look, this is just

fucking madness here, Ted Kaczynski not a disease
but a symptom and all they do is blame Islam now

because Scientology, Marilyn, and Rock ’n Roll ain’t
workin’ anymore. You only need to take a cab in L.A.

to understand the many intersections here, straight
white men trying to steer through HIV, assault rifles,

Tijuana, Big Pharma, Black America, Hollywood
playgrounds, Playboy sans nudity, Red Lobster,

bankruptcy, hecklers, open questions about Queer.
I’m here, lodged between the Airport Hilton and

homemade fear, and she’s driving down to save me.
I’ve given her nothing, deserve nothing. Imagine

dragging yourself, she said on the phone last night,
So then you’d get to decide where to be pulled…

pre-9/11 simplicity, pre-Katrina NOLA, anytime
anywhere pre-Internet…

I said no, none of those. Maybe something in a new
comic book hero, with a noir passion for isolation,

a future-sick sense of here, now, of one’s own loss.

Michael Dwayne Smith lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued animals. His most recent book is Roadside Epiphanies (Cholla Needles Press, 2017). Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, recipient of both the Hinderaker Award for poetry and Polonsky Prize for fiction, his work haunts many literary houses--including The Cortland Review, New World Writing, Skidrow Penthouse, Word Riot, Heron Tree, Pirene's Fountain, Gravel, San Pedro River Review, Monkeybicycle, burntdistrict--and has been widely anthologized. When not writing or teaching, MDS is editor of Mojave River Press & Review.

Monday, 26 February 2018

A poem by Claire Walker

Red Plans her Escape

An axe fells the forest a little more each day.
She knows the sadness of this:
The branches that will miss facing sky;
leaves cut down before they have a chance to fall.

And yet there is the thrill of dark
fear that blazes through her.
Every sawn trunk is a notch on an escape plan,
each new stump a hop-scotch pad to freedom.

Yes, she knows the sadness:
That wood will be planed from natural shape,
made to hold the weight of a roof.
But for now there is space – all this space –
to feel the sun and test new paths.

Claire Walker's poetry has been published in magazines, anthologies and webzines including The Interpreter's House, Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, The Poetry Shed, and The Chronicles of Eve. She is a Reader for Three Drops Press, and Co-Editor of Atrium poetry webzine. She has two pamphlets published by V. Press - The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile (2015), and Somewhere Between Rose and Black (2017).

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A poem by Kitty Coles


These trees have eyes deep in their green trunks:
we feel them creeping on our skin, lifting
the fine hairs on our arms, making
our scalps shift. We are silent under them.

There are no paths. We walk and push aside
thin whip-like branches that spring back
in our wake, creepers that hang and move
like hanks of hair. There are holes

in the trunks, odd gaps that gape and o,
filmed thick with webs, stuffed with a muttering
of leaves becoming mulch, a stink of rot.
An apple rests in one, shiny and clean

and green and startling in its virulence.
The birds that scuffle in the canopy,
run in the undergrowth, won’t pierce its flesh.
It burns, a jewel in the tree’s dark throat,

and the bark sloughs itself in sunburnt strips
that drift, translucent scales, through hazy air.
The old roots break the earth, impede
our progress. We falter under

the arch of this cathedral, which lifts
its arms to the sun and shadows our way
so we receive light sieved and secondhand,
only that apple bright for miles ahead.

Kitty Coles lives in Surrey with her husband and works as a senior adviser for a charity supporting disabled people. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. 'Seal Wife' her first pamphlet was published in 2017 by Indigo Dreams.

Monday, 19 February 2018

A poem by Emma Jenkins

Do You Stock it in Any Other Colour?

you are either sick or,
you’re not.
You’re either better or,
you’re not.’

So, depression is a newspaper.
It could also be a zebra.
Grazing, nibbling, running,
fast from
invisible lions.
It’s a blob of ink on a pristine


But it isn’t black and white.
It’s not even grey,
is it.


It’s a purplish wine stain
on a white work shirt.

It’s the mottled patchiness
of old skin.

It’s my paint brush water in
a small glass jar.

Regret, shame,
creation, pain.

Is that a colour or a shade?

Can I buy it in a tube?
Can I wash my canvas in it?

What if I go to Homebase?
And scan the home décor aisle,
could I find it in a drum?

I wonder what the name on the label would be.

‘Eggshell despair’
Subtle, cold overtones of,
Overtones of fear of
dying alone.
Hues of
‘I’ll be fine’

I’ll dip my brush in
that bucket.
Slather my walls in it, with
a sodden roller.

I’ll bathe in it.
I’ll drink it.

It’s so very becoming.

Emma, originally from London, currently lives and writes in a sleepy village nestled in the hills of Kent where she was fortunate enough to work alongside fantastic poets during her degree in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent. Since graduating, she has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live and work in Japan, teaching children English through creative writing and poetry, while also learning about the art form of the Japanese haiku. Emma is hoping to begin a MA in creative writing in 2018.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

A poem by Marissa Glover

Truth We Cannot Tell 

Before they burn down our house
our bodies singed, the beds black dust

before they drag us 3.8 miles
behind a pickup truck down gravel road

before they tie us to a barbed wire fence,
beat us with baseball bats and a cattle prod

before they anoint us with honey
and plant us in the ground for ants

before they hang us from the southern
magnolia—wind chimes, a warning to others

they will break into our throat and rip out
the words too close to the tongue.

Marissa Glover teaches and writes in Florida. She shares her thoughts more than necessary, which she considers a form of charitable giving. If it counted as a tax deduction, she'd be rich. Her work has appeared in various places including Gyroscope Review and Solstice Sounds and on her parents' refrigerator.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A poem by Louise Wilford

Love me like a wake

Love me like a wake:
the sweetheart’s eulogy, the fizz of beer
across the tongue. Revere my form,
laid out on the bier of your gaze,
twenty summers gone, as I was
when I wish you’d known me.

Cheer me to a new heaven,
elsewhere on this mindless ball;
spin me out a new thread
as I fall.

               Love me like a feast,
mouth greased and juices rising, ready
for more than the dessicated core
thrown, thoughtless, to the floor.

Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around 50 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshots, Pushing Out The Boat and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children's fantasy novel.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A poem by Tina Edwards


The capitalisation of words hang
within a frame  like a rhetoric painting
on the gallery’s closed doors

people push past without a glance
even the polite please is not noticed
hold glossy foolscaps  stroke glass stems

a tall red haired woman wears McQueen
her tendrilly hair a nod to Guinevere
in black leather boots   minus her ride

stands back from the huddle  stares hard
at canvases hung on exposed brickwork
responds with a mix of facial contortions

bites of salmon  beluga  grace mother of pearl
mingle with Dior   absent linen napkins
a subtle reminder not to touch

before the night’s over and lights dim
Prosecco fuelled limbs stagger
hands reach out to walls for support

Tina Edwards lives in the rural and coastal county of North Somerset. A keen walker and keeper of ducks she is a new Poet recently published in Reach Poetry, Visual Verse, Clear Poetry and Poetry Super Highway (USA) amongst others. Her first collection of ekphrastic poems was recently long-listed for the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet prize 2017.

Monday, 5 February 2018

A poem by Susan Richardson


You hid a diamond in an old jar of
vitamin E, a glimmering secret that
you showed me only once a year.
You said it was valuable, payment
from a client who was suspiciously
low on cash and lacking in character.
As the years passed, it took on the
distinct scent of fish oil, slick across
edges that cut grooves into the moon
and sparkled against the tips of fingers.
It was supposed to be a legacy, passed
to me on the bitter tongue of death, but
I sold it to pay my rent and buy booze.
The diamond was polished and displayed
under glass, in a case filled with guilt
and heirlooms from other dead mothers.
I hope it still smells like the vitamin jar,
and that you forgive me for letting it go.

Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry and short-fiction, she writes a blog called “Stories from the Edge of Blindness”. Her work has most recently been published in, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal and Literary Juice. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

A poem by Caroline Hardaker


We're tied into carrying clusters of plants with us
at all times, like respirators, or portable dialysis machines.
'It's your civic duty', 'fulfil your O2 quota',
'here's your weekly batch of filtered water'

and with each new birthday a fresh crate of Boston ferns.
We rock around the streets like medieval milk maids
staying clear of other people lest we bruise a root
or drop a leaf. It’s always a relief to reach home unscathed.

I received a spotted tiger lily last year, and a rare orchid
which I promptly over-watered, so my left lung was aborted
the following month. Confiscated organs are fed
through the composter, crafting a softer bed
for the greenest breathers to blossom in and breed further.
Now I receive half the ferns I did before, and breathe shallowly,
hardly tasting the hard-earned air at all.

Caroline Hardaker lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband, a giant cat, a betta fish with attitude, and a forest of houseplants. Her poetry has been published widely, most recently or forthcoming by Magma, The Emma Press, Neon, and Shoreline of Infinity. She is a guest editor for Three Drops Press, and the in-house blogger for Mud Press. Her debut chapbook 'Bone Ovation' was published by Valley Press in October 2017.

Monday, 29 January 2018

A poem by Jonathan Humble

Schrödinger's Mouse

Your love of my raspberries has resulted
in this late evening walk in head torch,

to hedges of hazel and blackthorn,
far enough from home to foil ideas of return.

Aware of owls ripping through moonlight,
I kneel in damp fescue and sedge,

clutching this tilt trap of quantum uncertainty;
mouse or no mouse? that is the question.

The trap gate opens. You see me for the first time,
holding the moment in beads of black polished glass,

small body wedged, feet splayed, heart racing,
a quiver of tense, anticipating whiskers.

And in that instant, in that brief connection,
my doubts bubble. This is a good deed isn’t it?

This forced relocation; got to be a better solution
than back breaking death or slow poisoning.

Although I try to convince myself,
I believe you remain sceptical.

I am your nightmare; the one interrupting
your nightly midnight feasting,

the one separating you from all your
blind, deaf and hairless babies,

the one from which you must flee in terror
the second the black plastic touches the ground.

But, unlike Mr. McGregor, as I stumble one mile
back through darkling woods, soft clart that I am,

I’m hoping the owls have an off day
and secretly, despite your fruit plundering,

I’d quite like to see you again.

Jonathan Humble is a deputy headteacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of publications online and in print, including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Obsessed With Pipework, Atrium and Riggwelter. My Camel’s Name Is Brian, his collection of light poetry, is published by the Tripe Marketing Board.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

A poem by Dan Stathers


In a former life he mended fridges,
drove around Adelaide in a rusty ute.
That’s all we knew of his past, that
and his under/over bowling trick.

The lagoon was his medicine;
still drunk from the night’s grog,
he’d sink below its crystal-blue surface
and perform a medley
of half-baked strokes:
Best fuckin’ hangover cure I know,
he’d say as he towelled himself at the shanty bar,
toasting his survival
with a double on ice.

We’d watch the goats on the cliffs
while he talked his hippy-politics,
sharing the occasional silence as he rolled a cigarette
or read another page of Kerouac,
his wind-up radio singing fuzzily in the background.

Deep down I think he knew his time was borrowed,
his bootleg breakfast of Vodka and olives
as natural, to him, as the tides.

I often picture his shambled tent on the beach,
listen out for the fading longwave.

Dan is a writer from Kingsbridge, South Devon.

Monday, 22 January 2018

A poem by Antony Owen


I swam in a green sea with black and white people
some claim these waters have healing properties
but only if you talk of them to drowning children.

I once drew my brothers in black Crayola holding hands
back then I never captured their character or colour right,
and yet I did, it was only a colour I chose to see them in.

I once melted like ghee in the arms of a girl from India
we danced to Careless Whisper in the disco borealis
I trod on her toes too many times and left alone that night.

I unfriended a man I never knew who as a boy scored an own goal,
I remember it well, he never accepted responsibility for it
all of us lost that day and walked home tired and heavy.

I unfriended a man I never knew who posts beautiful photos of his son
they hold hands and teach each other things that will move or stop the world.
Tell me please that this is an important time to talk to our children of racism.

Tell me to not be prejudiced if I see men with innocent children 'like' fascists.
tell me this is only Facebook, tell me it is not the innocent boy turned man.

Tell me please to go back to the sea and surface clean, wait for me at the shore,
wrap a fluffy towel across my shoulders as I shiver goose-bumps to be smooth.
Tell me this is only real life, tell me it is an important time to talk of racism.

Tell me to stop shivering, and in return I will be nothing but honest with you
it was not because of the warm water why I felt so cold and tremored.

Antony Owen writes about issues largely unrepresented in poetry and his latest collection with V. Press The Nagasaki Elder is a timely reminder of the affects of nuclear weapons. He and his wife live in Warwickshire with their masters - two cats.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

A poem by Sharon Phillips

Storm Front

Storm Brian has eased after the UK saw gale-force winds and high seas… BBC News


Wind blows soprano
on the washing line.

Down in the harbour
boats jostle and nudge:
plink sings their rigging.

Tonight we will light
this winter’s first fire.


Not blustery Brian who sat
in the golf club bar and bragged,

nor bitter Brian who nipped
plans for the future to rags,

but Brian who was beaten
until his temper snapped.


little white ghost in the rose bush
sits on a branch nodding its head

raggedy bag a tatter of plastic
waggles its legs as the wind gets up

flaps its arms as night falls
trying to dance in the dark


A pot of basil; raindrops
and a yellow-bellied snail;
a lilac tree crooked with age
and on a grey stone wall
morning glory’s last blue flower.

Sharon retired from a career in education in 2015 and started to write poems again after a break of 40 years. Her poems have most recently appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears, Picaroon, Snakeskin and Sentinel Literary Quarterly. In 2017 she won the Borderlines Poetry Competition with her poem ‘Tales of Doggerland’ and was also shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Sharon lives on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset.

Monday, 15 January 2018

A poem by Sascha Aurora Akhtar


There are similarities, there are blue ladies

On the street at night

Is there a chance to be worried or is it all hazard
The same ink-stains on the same two fingers, a leaky
Pen – babbling incessantly at a camera- Canary Wharf-

Not as holistic as it may sound.

It is simple Father, yet gormless spirit
I use the word moon over & over
My thoughts are too many
I confess to bankers that I am ridiculous

My new favourite word.

I discover things everyday
& cling to them like focus is a mandala
Yesterday I decided ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’

Was important.

Today I went to Canary Wharf, Earl’s Court & Camden Town
The Stables Market was deserted & loaded with story

I keep blue ladies on my desk

All the time, every day there are things that torment
Myself with words & nowhere to put them

Except into my mandala is focus

& words create, my left eye has been twitching
For four days, maybe five,
this has never happened
before. I think of things

All the time.

There are orchids growing
in the rose garden.

There are blue ladies

singing me
 a blue sleep.

Sascha Aurora Akhtar, is a trans-race, multi-dimensional, sub rosa poeto/story-bot. She was patented in Pakistan. Had upgrades in pre- 9/11 U.S.A. Was released onto shelves in the U.K. Her roboto-poetics have been widely anthologised and translated into Armenian, Portuguese, Galician, Russian, Dutch and Polish. Anthologies include Cathecism: Poems for Pussy Riot (2012) and Out of Everywhere (Reality Street, 2015). She has also been part of poetry protests – Against Rape (Peony Moon, 2014), Solidarity Park Poetry – Poems for the Turkish resistance (Ed. 2013). Her most recent poetry collection is 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees (Shearsman UK, 2016). Her story The Nature of Wounds appeared in STORGY in 2017. Women:Poetry:Migration, an anthology (Theenk Books: Edited by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa) is upcoming in 2018 with poems from A Year In Clouds.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

A poem by Louisa Campbell


I‘m sick of vampires
with their blood-sucking,
swing-swagger cloaks;
swooping round gaudy moons
embellished with boasting bats;
shrieking, love, love, while wiping
the blood from their chins
with white silk hankies;
moaning, poor me, oh poor me,
as they pounce and puncture,
then go to bed in a box.

And me?
I’m sick of me,
grinning with garlic,
cringing with a crucifix.
From this day on,
it’s a stake through the heart.

Louisa Campbell lives in Kent in England, where she writes poetry and adopts stray dogs. Published here and there, she has realised that life is silly, but important, and she is very happy about that. Her first pamphlet The Happy Bus was published in 2017 by Picaroon Poetry.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A poem by Chris Hemingway

The Wrong Unicorn

On the night of her ninth birthday
my daughter tells me
that the reindeer is just another flightless mammal,
that my handwriting is not that of a fairy
(tooth or otherwise),
and once this logic is applied,
the Easter Bunny sheds plausibility
quicker than his winter coat.

She's happy to have worked this out
but I wonder is she sad as well ?
Does growing older have to mean
fewer things to believe in ?

I tell her myths survive longer
than most truths
and there's no such thing
as the wrong unicorn.

Chris Hemingway is a writer and musician from Cheltenham. He has self-published two collections (“Cigarettes and Daffodils” and “The Future”), and has a new pamphlet “Party in the Diaryhouse” out in Spring 2018, to be published by Picaroon. He is part of the organisation team for Cheltenham Poetry Festival, and co-runs the “Squiffy Gnu” poetry prompt blog and Facebook Group

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A poem by Robert Nisbet

Pairing for Life

The Brecon Beacons, 1990

I’m driving through a cold March countryside
to the schoolday’s work.
Above me two red kites,
with all the extravagance of height,
enact their courtship ritual, flying in,
turning, twisting. I’ve heard
they’ll often touch their talons.

School means for seven hours
the patterning of chalk and book,
till four, when Dilys the staffroom cleaner,
coffee cup akimbo below scarcely legal fag,
gives us great gobs of sentiment: The Sun,
these hippies in their communes
and, on the opposition benches,
those mythic characters we’ve never met.
There’s Her Old Man for one, good family man,
steady, and (he must be thirty now)
The Boy, who’s had his arse tanned many times
and works now, thriving, with the Water Board.

As I leave, I see again
two soaring kites,
sweeping before a grizzled mountainside,
high and aloof and, surely, exhilarated.

First appeared in Other Poetry, 4.2

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who does not see himself as unduly competitive but who has recently won the Prole Pamphlet Competition with his 35-poem collection, Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes, which has just appeared from

Monday, 1 January 2018

2 New Year's Day poems by Melanie Branton & Sharon Larkin

New Year’s Day
by Melanie Branton

Roy Wood has given way to Bono
and no-one wishes it could be this day
every day. This holiday’s
a Christmas gift we’d all take back
if the shops weren’t shut. The buses
have stayed in bed, sleeping off
their Hogmanay hangover. I’m stranded,
working my way through this tub of time
I’ve been given, with even less
enthusiasm than I did
the Quality Street. A hole in the calendar,
a blank page in the diary, a white,
white, white world, without even
the promise of promo video snow.
I yearn for tomorrow, the commute
I cursed, the job I couldn’t wait
to get away from, the colleagues I loved
to bitch about. I will be with you again.

Good Things Jar
by Sharon Larkin

When all that is left of Christmas is a single brazil nut
too hard to crack, and another wet dawn drips in
from the bedroom ceiling, it's time to grip
that coffee jar, recycled in 2014
and re-labelled Good Things.

Some crafty sisters Instagrammed
their optimistic glassware, blinged it
with sequins and plastic rhinestones.
How proud they looked in their selfies
on January the 1st, each one declaring,
card-to-camera, This Is My Year.

Screw you.

My see-through receptacle, embellished
in that same wave of New Year euphoria,
rests with the history books in an Ikea unit,
scowls down at me from three years of dust,
its handful of crumpled post-it notes
demanding to know from inside their prison
why I lost my resolve.

Screw them.

I am ready now to drop my transparent accuser
on quarry tiles in an – oops – onrush
of post-truth reality in my out-dated kitchen.
All that stops me is a determination not to grovel
on the floor with dustpan and brush
sweeping up all the slivers.

Sh*rds, the lot of them.


Melanie Branton has taught English and Drama in Poland, Somerset and North London. Her work has been published in journals including The Interpreter's House, Obsessed With Pipework, Prole and The High Window. She also performs widely on the spoken word circuit and has represented Bristol at the Hammer and Tongue National Slam Final.

Sharon Larkin's poetry has been published in anthologies (Indigo Dreams Publishing, Eyewear Publishing, Cinnamon Press); magazines (Prole, Obsessed with Pipework, Here Comes Everyone) and e-zines (Ink Sweat and Tears, Amaryllis, Clear Poetry, Atrium). She jointly runs Cheltenham Poetry Café – Refreshed, is Chair of Cheltenham’s Arts Council and Poetry Society, and was editor of the Good Dadhood on-line poetry project. She has an MA in creative writing and a passion for Welsh language, literature and history. Website:

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A poem by Marilyn Hammick

Tricks of sight

Today her mug of tea fills from the bottom up,
she notices the unopened tea bag packet
beside the pot from her Mother’s dresser
without the crack from when it fell from her hands.

She adds this to the list: head-high wheat after
the harvester had drummed the air for days,
a trap set with a blackberry hours after she’d lifted
the wire from across the mouse, the blue tit’s nest
from which five young had fledged last week
where yesterday she counted six eggs.

She re-reads her notes about the hotel where
the bedroom key turned inwards to unlock,
there was one upside down fork per place setting
and each morning tomorrow’s newspapers
were on the hall table. There she’d watched
for milk in lumps, sugar in a jug, waited
for square scones but none had appeared.

She wonders should she show her list to someone?
Are there enough details? Who might want to know
that her life has become like the lines she drew
with disappearing ink from the Magic Box
in her red Christmas stocking.

Marilyn Hammick writes (and reads) while travelling, during still moments at home in England and France, recalling a childhood in New Zealand and years living in Iran. Other times she can be found stitching, walking or on her yoga mat.

Monday, 25 December 2017

2 Christmas poems by Conor Cleary & Julia Webb

real tree          
by Conor Cleary

my nana told me how my aunt
got allergies one year suddenly
from the christmas tree

how she took steroids for a week
to no avail in hopes of keeping
a real tree in her living room

she had to give up at 3 am
on the 24th when it came down
to authenticity or breathing

she slipped out to the supermarket
open all night for christmas
and got a flat-packed tree instead

i can’t stop imagining her doing the swap
the silent undecorating
the indignant ornaments on the floor

i can’t stop being impressed
by this colossal sleight of hand

the next morning my aunt asked her family
if they noticed anything different
and her husband panicked and said she looked nice

it was almost new year’s
when he took out the vacuum
and noticed there were no pine needles 

by Julia Webb

On Christmas day Daddy makes us act out scenes from the bible. Daddy is Joseph and Mama is Mary, me and Alice are sometimes wise men and sometimes shepherds. It’s a bit like the nativity play but with no audience and at school I always have to be a donkey. Daddy takes it very seriously. Girls, he says, nativity is almost as important as THE RESURRECTION. I don’t know what resurrection means but Alice says it’s to do with Easter. Luckily the living room carpet is the same colour as grass so it makes an excellent hillside. The cat won’t sit still though, so she doesn’t make a very good sheep. After ages Mama says we have had enough now and she needs to cook dinner, but Daddy says we need to act out the story again so that we REALLY understand it. I don’t mind, I like dressing up in Mama’s old nightie, though I’m not so keen on the tea towel on my head because it smells like cabbage. I just wish we could have an Advent calendar with chocolates like my friend Samantha. Samantha had a chocolate Santa and a chocolate donkey. Daddy says that Santa is THE WORK OF THE DEVIL and I want to believe him, but I can’t help thinking that if Satan REALLY invented Santa he would have made him thinner and more handsome and given him a flying car like the one in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


Conor Cleary is from Tralee, Co. Kerry and lives in Belfast. He has recently graduated with an MA in Poetry from Queen's University, Belfast, where he was the recipient of the 2016 Seamus Heaney Centre MA Award. His poetry has previously been published in Icarus, The Tangerine, and Poetry Ireland Review. He was a participant in the 2017 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series.

Julia Webb is a graduate of The University of East Anglia's poetry MA. In 2011 she won The Poetry Society's Stanza competition. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse. Her first collection Bird Sisters was published in 2016 by Nine Arches Press. She is working on her second collection. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

A poem by Claire S. Lee


When I want people to hate me,
        I tell them I hate dogs.
                        Their glowing canines, shiny

with drool, happy-go-lucky
            pants, thin-lipped, bellies
                        curved and fat like the underside

of a boat. My goldfish spun
circles, vertigoed, flaunted
death again. Mom said to change

waters more frequently, but
            our neighbor’s dog was fired
                        from that laughing house’s gun,

shot into our hallway, some
            dane, some shepherd, some big
                        guy who wanted a six-year-old

between his teeth. To melt,
            or to pull tendons like strings
of meat. Hiding under table, goldfish

giving me side-eye, goldfish
            capsizing, one by one. All
                        five of those small yellow things,

puckering silent, dog retreating.

Claire S. Lee is a student from Southern California. Her writing has been recognized by Tinderbox Poetry Journal and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and can be found or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Rising Phoenix Review, Blue Marble Review, and *82 Review, among others. She works as an editor for COUNTERCLOCK and as an editorial intern for The Blueshift Journal. Though she loves poetry and nonfiction, her favorite genre is historical fiction.

Monday, 18 December 2017

A poem by Ann Cuthbert


after Louise Bourgeois

Her head is wound in ropes,
rough-plaited worry skinning her forehead,
coiled apprehension grazing her cheeks.

She cannot reach up to unpick strands –
her arms are pinioned, hands lashed -
only her legs dangle free. Swinging

above ground, she’s a trussed parcel
ready for the spider’s bite. And yet,
held here, there’s calm. No need to do

a thing. She’s found, suspended,
you can be moved by whatever moves you –
no choice to make, nothing to decide.

She spins and waits.

Ann Cuthbert is one of Darlington’s Bennett House Writers as well as a member of the Tees Women Poets with whom she enjoys performing poems for live audiences. Her work has appeared both on-line and in print in publications such as Three Drops from the Cauldron, Ink Sweat & Tears, Paper Swans Press and The Black Light Engine Room Literary Magazine. Her pamphlet, Watching a Heron with Davey, was published in February 2017 by The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A poem by Bethan Rees

In Response to Everything

One by one by hundreds,
they started to pour out of the
and chew on our faces
to show us how ugly
we really are.
They burrowed under the top layer
of skin and
caterpillar crawled through
capillaries around our
systems. Our systematic
reactions now
controlled by the pests.

We tried to hot glue gun
the cracks in the wood,
catching some in the
burning lava as it poured into
the breaks, but it was
too late.
They had woven themselves
in DNA strands
and bitten chips
out of our nerves
and replaced the
disjointed semi-circular bite marks
with themselves.
They controlled our limbs and made
us stand in front of reflective
windows, mirrors and smooth waters.

And as we yelled
No! We don’t want to see
the ugly,
they replied within the
visceral pops of blood
and string dangling from their
burrowed selves,
by puppeteering bones to
crack forward
and point at ourselves.

Bethan is a dark and disturbing little creature that squats somewhere in Swindon, with her super supportive partner and rubbish dog Mitzie. She is originally from Neath, South Wales. She typically takes all the wonder and joy from her own life experiences and frequently hacks it to death in poetry. She has recently emerged to attempt to be published and has gained some successes, and hopes this will continue in the coming months. She likes horrifyingly dark humour, and making people happy, which probably explains her MSc studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic purposes. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.

Monday, 11 December 2017

2 poems by Ben Banyard

Poetic Licence

This laminated card entitles the bearer
to notice things in the world that others don't
and to find words to share them
to slice and dice and splice
graft with the craft of a gymnast
backflips with words previously unheard.

It will allow you to blur your focus
see the birds and frogs in Magic Eyes
tune out Neil Diamond on the radio.

With this card you will gain admittance
to lofty halls and poky little basements
penthouse apartments and draughty garrets
to read and bleed as decreed
on microphones by metronomes and Dictaphones
for teachers, lay preachers and fantastical creatures.

It will give you permission
to submit to literary journals
and enter competitions judged by bigwigs.

But you don't really need this licence.
It isn't the key to a magic kingdom
or proof of an apprenticeship.
You can write without it
share the words you unfurl
like boys and girls at play.
Your poems need readers to live.

Practice in the mirror stark bollock naked
pucker your sexy lips and kiss
say poet poet poet poet poet.

Ben Banyard lives and writes in Portishead, near Bristol. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016 and his first full collection, We Are All Lucky is due out from the same publisher in 2018. He blogs at

First published 29/09/016

Something in Common

So you meet
open up
and sometimes there’s enough

to make you laugh and sing
look at each other
beyond physical nights
feel that there might be hooks
sliding bloodlessly under flesh
to keep you together
even when you’re lying awake back to back
with a foot of cool air between you

That’s your hot beating heart
the always-fire glowing at home
with a half-life which will continue to react
long after you’ve both slipped into memory

Thursday, 7 December 2017

2 poems by Kate Garrett

She said there was a boy in the box

                                                            for Daphne du Maurier

And I fell hard for her black type scrolling,
rolling out the sword, the death of romance:
swashbuckling in drag, the English aristocracy
fucks a French pirate; a marriage shot down
by a woman’s rejection of manor and men.

Her accidental heroines, who mix
their fears with whisky and press on—

I have seen her shining in them, a heart-
glow bright between the slats of the trunk
where part of her was hidden. Now and then,
the boy uncurling: coaxed by ink and typewriter

ribbons, to splash saltwater words against their skin.​

(20th century suspense/romance author Daphne du Maurier reportedly saw her personality as both male and female, and believed the masculine side she kept secret from others enabled her to write the way she did.)

Kate Garrett is managing editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, and Lonesome October Lit. Her writing appears here and there, and her latest pamphlet, You've never seen a doomsday like it, was published by Indigo Dreams in June 2017. She grew up in rural southern Ohio, but moved to the UK in 1999 - where she still lives happily in Sheffield with her husband, 4.5 children and a sleepy cat.

First published on 10/11/2015

I loved you once in silence

Dressed in charity shop velvet,
the girl steadies her hands,

places her right palm beneath
her ribs to guide the notes

up the escape hatch of her throat.
The sounds are her confession –

her teacher says that art
is the control of raw expression.

She stands in this grey church,
and releases the song. Six months ago

she was seventeen; how could she know
about lies and love? You’re gifted, they say,

deaf to her double bluff. Her smile
distracts them, while she remembers

last month, and a door slammed
in the face of the boy who sent her clichés,

by the man who said he loved her,
but she should never tell.

*‘I Loved You Once in Silence’ refers to a song from the musical Camelot, concerning the love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot. It was also first published in Kate's pamphlet "The names of things unseen", as part of the six-poets-in-one collection Caboodle from Prolebooks (2015).

Monday, 4 December 2017

2 poems by Rodney Wood


of arrangements or shame / about his marbled name
I was only 10 & knew nothing / of arrangements or shame
I was only 10 & knew nothing / about his marbled name

they'd be broken or cut / because he was different
I didn't know his legs lived in fear / they'd be broken or cut
I didn't know his legs lived in fear / because he was different

all I could see were his legs / caught in a zoetrope of buses
when we last said goodbye / all I could see were his legs
when we last said goodbye / caught in a zoetrope of buses

Rodney Wood is retired and lives in Farnborough. He is joint MC of an open mic in Woking. His work has appeared in many magazines including Envoi, Brittle Star and Magma (where he was the featured poet in issue 69). His pamphlet, Dante Called You Beatrice, was published by The Red Ceiling Press in 2017.

First published 08/03/2016

Dave the Bear

When Dave began to perform he was convinced
he would not like it because he'd be seen
as a sex object and would be pawed or worse
(he has a smooth and short haired bottom and back).

But he'd become rich so quickly so that soon
he could have anything at all he wanted
sheep and sex with the bear of his dreams
(cinnamon coloured with a cute little tail).

Now he can travel the world and pay respects
to everyone. All he carries are sunglasses,
toothbrush, disposable Ts and magic powders
(the bare necessities in a surf blue backpack).

Each day he gets richer, travels in luxury, drinks
bubbly, stocks his treasury with condoms, lubricant,
chocolate, water-pistols, love letters, dance steps
(but dreams of retirement with the Florida black bears).

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A poem by Amy Kinsman

production credits

while we fucked, your favourite music producer
watched and shiva turned his eyes away,
threatening to peel himself off the wall.

when i asked, you said i like the guy, he’s chill,
told me you believed in reincarnation,
tickled by the notion of the prime minister
returning, second son of a sow.
there on your sofa, naked next to
coffee table chaos, we spoke of the shrines
that our mothers built beside our fathers -
sanctified, desecrated, packed up,
prayers and rituals moved and reassembled:

things in the bottom of my jewellry box;
how you used to wear your hair;
all the aramaic i’ve ever known;
your sacred spliff-smoke;
where these gods have been all our lives;
their blow-out tours of cathedrals and temples
and us, the bastard children fathered on groupies,
homilies and hymns tinnitus in our ears.

listen to how they remix every song on our playlists.

Amy Kinsman is a genderfluid poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as being the founding editor of Riggwelter Press and associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron, they are also the host of the regular, Sheffield open mic, Gorilla Poetry. Their work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in many journals including Clear Poetry, Prole, Picaroon Poetry, Rat's Ass Review and Valley Press.

Monday, 27 November 2017

2 poems by Ceinwen Haydon

Turned Inside Out

I frisk the suit of your absence.
Can I sniff traces of you?

Will an old note fall from a pocket?
Will I find your watch – still ticking.

You were a conundrum
and often spoke in riddles.

That last day, did I hear the sun
drying out your damp heart?

and when I asked, you said,
like always, it’s nothing, nothing at all.

If that was nothing,
then what is this silence?

You were a private puzzle
and intended to remain so.

I’ve turned all your clothes
inside out since you left.

Ceinwen has worked as a Probation Officer, a Mental Health Social Worker and Practice Educator. She lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published on web magazines and in print anthologies. These include Fiction on the Web, Literally Stories, Alliterati, Stepaway, Poets Speak (whilst they still can), Three Drops from the Cauldron, Obsessed with Pipework, Picaroon, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Write to be Counted, The Lake and Riggwelter. She completed her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in August 2107 and will graduate in December 2017.


First Published 22/06/17

My Daughter

It’s a strange thing,
I’d die for you
yet I can’t find the words
to tell you what flawed place
I came from.
And you don’t have the patience
to listen to my reasons
for being less than the mother
you wanted back then: less
than the mother I wanted to be,
wanted to be so badly
I thought I’d die of love.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A poem by Ion Corcos

Wild Tiger

You found a tiger roaming the streets,
its rust-orange hair rough against your thigh;
you didn’t see the eels squirming in a bucket,
grasshoppers burning in a wok, their scent
a waft over still water in the gutter. You lost yourself
after that, roamed the streets till they found you;
you put on weight, talked about the past
as if that was all there ever was.
But when I heard you get excited
about the tomb of Philip of Macedon, I knew you
were inside the future then;
a waxing moon, a snowmelt stream;
and even if it was too far to travel,
if you came on that long, long journey,
I would go with you, take you there;
show you the palace ruins, the sanctuary of Cybele.
It’s not like that anymore; you got caught
by a wild tiger, tore your mind out. Now, I wait.
I do not know if you will make it.

An extract of Wild Tiger was first published in Strix

Ion Corcos has been published in Grey Sparrow Journal, Clear Poetry, Communion, The High Window and other journals. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Ion is a nature lover and a supporter of animal rights. He is currently travelling indefinitely with his partner, Lisa. Ion’s website is and he tweets at @IonCorcos

Monday, 20 November 2017

2 poems by Nancy Iannucci

Target Rock, 1983 

We belly-flopped to the ground,
rolling over stabbing crabgrass
in fits of summer laughter
one eye open with caution for
the coiled ones,
the crooked ones

but we gazed up
at wild blackberry vines
crawling along railroad ties
Mother picked those blackberries
one by one
warming her tongue
with bursts of sweet seeds;
it was easy to forget
when we gazed up

& when she smiled,
toiling soil, whistling
at the clouds staging coups,
inhaling the noon air-

forgetting ourselves,
forgetting the dark
ground creatures
collecting our particles
on their tongues,
flicking reminders
like snapping fingers,
we looked down
weeds dropping
to the hot ground

Father descended
like St. Patrick
to cast them out
across the field
down a sandy sump

running with a lump
in our throats,
we knew then
our little hands
were next in line
to take up the rake
& push those demons out
beyond Target Rock.

Nancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work is published/forthcoming in numerous publications including Bop Dead City, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Star 82 Review (*82), Gargoyle, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Poetry Breakfast, Rose Red Review, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, Yellow Chair Review, Dying Dahlia Review to name a few.

First published 14/07/16

Vicious Cycle

When our eyes met for the first time,
I heaved a sigh that I thought you heard.
You knew a simple hello and goodbye would never
do, so I dropped my weighty anchor into your palm
and you rubbed it seven times like a horseshoe.
When our eyes met for the second time,
I picked your words like berries while catching
chords that fell from your guitar strings; my arms
were open like a basket eager to carry your
lyrics as if they were meant for me.

When our eyes met for the third time,
it was in a delirious dream of whirling desert sand.
Yellow & tan, tan & yellow scenes of grit crusting
my sight, distorting your fair face like an omen; you
were a dark creature choking in a harmonica neck hold.

When our eyes met for the fourth time,
Alex Forrest gazed back at me on the edge
of psychosis sinking in paranoia quicksand
with arms flailing, gasping for air,
suffocating in your circle of games.

When our eyes met for the fifth time,
I willingly closed them; hoisted my anchor from
your palm and walked into the woods like an
emancipated slave where Anath took me in;
she placed a bow and sickle in my hand so

when our eyes meet for the sixth time,
I will have the skills and weapons to resist you;
And it will be you who will heave a sigh that will
go unheard at the sight of me- strong and dauntless.
But the day will come when you will hum

another song that will break me and the vicious cycle
between us will resuscitate, rendering us helpless- gyrating
like a red and yellow mane on a stallion horse.