Monday, 29 October 2018

A poem by Marion Ashton

Hot-Night Houston

Breathe in
and catch its essence
in the soupy air: oily sweat
from construction sites,
sweet-sour, deep-fried scents
from fast-food diners,
spluttered, high-octane emissions
from super-sized trucks.

Listen -
beneath the hum of planes,
the pulse of endless traffic
bumping over concrete joins,
wails of distant sirens,
rumbles of cooling systems,
and that rise-and-fall rattle of cicadas -
you will hear the city sigh.

Marion Ashton’s background 

From home in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, she has spent much of the last fifteen years travelling back and forth to Houston, Texas. The contrast between very different lifestyles plays a big role in her writing as does travelling itself.

She has had poems published in a wide range of magazines, enjoyed several Arvon courses and gained an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway in 2010, with Andrew Motion and Jo Shapcott as tutors.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

A poem by Katherine Wu

a couple in water

at the first point of fracture, you dived
my skin retained your red and my blue
and at the lull, i could only admire the diluted hues

although i liked learning how to drown
and you are a magnificent cesspool, your love fetters still
the thin fingers that search for something to hold

mama saw me sinking, and whispered that you might just be quicksand
a pitcher for my blood and tears
steady when the world's other oceans danced violently,

but the rippling light tells me your love is illusory
the puddles on the floor at home have no edges, only ends
so i'd like to breathe the dry air one day.

mama, i am leaving him tomorrow.
dry skin is far away,
but i am already free.

Katherine Wu is an avid lover of creative writing, and believes that writing and reading poetry is one of the best ways to discern the world around her. She is an advocate for women in STEM, and enjoys learning about the environmentalist landscape in her local and global community. She is currently a high-school senior, studying in Hong Kong.

Monday, 22 October 2018

A poem by Lu Lin & Dawid Juraszek


it gets dark too early
earlier than i expected
than i'm comfortable with

it rains
it's supposed to
still too much

maybe that's good
i can say i don't want to go out
i want to stay in and learn
i believe it

but also it's better this way
it's safer this way
for me
for them too
as they shout and scowl

i want to believe
no child is left behind
like i was told
not as long ago as it seems

the world described to me
i want to know more about it
i want to help build it

even if it gets dark too early
if it rains too much
i want to learn 

Lu Lin is Chinese, Dawid Juraszek is Polish. She lives in Norwich in the East of England and he in Guangzhou, southern China. In their lives, travels, and writing they try to grapple with the lived experience of being an outsider. Their work has appeared in various outlets in Poland, China, Japan, USA, and UK.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

A poem by Julia D McGuinness

Eightieth Birthday Blues 

Got a Beach Hut Birdhouse and a Chocolate Welly Boot,
an Avocado Hugger, Zazzle Tie for my suit,
Prosecco Bath Bomb, Anti-sarcasm Spray.
It’s my birthday, Baby and I’m Eighty today.

I could go Dolphin-watching or Fly a Tiger Moth.
Give a Rose a Name or Adopt a Sloth.
Take a Ride in a Balloon, Sail a Luxury Yacht,
It’s my birthday, Baby, Eighty years is what I’ve got.

Same year as Arthur Scargill and Diana Rigg.
Perhaps they’ll get a Sundial or a Handmade Leather Pig?
Gold Watch for David Dimbleby and for Eleanor Bron,
They’ve got birthdays, Baby, and Eighty’s right on.

Every gift is ‘personalised’, ‘thoughtful’ or ‘unique’:
a Ferrero Rocher Sweet Tree I could live on for a week.
I’ve got a Brexit Cookbook; Retirement for Beginners.
It’s my birthday, Baby, I’m an Octo-winner!

I’m smooth as new-born Teflon, bright as colour TV;
the Picture Post and Beano share a starting year with me.
I’m crisp as freeze-dried coffee and the ballpoint pen,
It’s my birthday, Baby, and I’m eight times ten.

Such number-focussed fuss? Don’t want to put a damper
on my walking-booted Birthday Cake and Pamper Hamper.
But questions bubble up as I’m knocking back the fizz
by my gleaming Garden Sign: No Idea What This Is.

Julia D McGuinness lives in Cheshire with her husband and four cats where she writes, counsels and runs writing workshops, including sessions with cancer patients. She belongs to the Lapidus International network of writing for well-being practitioners. Her poems have appeared online at Ink, Sweat and Tears, Clear Poetry, Nutshells and Nuggets, Silver Birch Press among others, and commended in poetry competitions with Poetry Space and Wirral Festival of Firsts. Her debut collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015 with Poetry Space. You can find her at

Monday, 15 October 2018

A poem by Ron Riekki

About the Times I’ve Been Punched in the Face 

(With Each Line’s Final Word from a Poem by Chella Courington)

“spreading before the sun”
--Chella Courington,
from “The Pond Heron”
Punch and school go hand-in-hand like reject and write,
the way that so many fists have knocked the days

out of my face, its caves of blood. I once had a kid
beat me until I couldn’t see, a high school gym platoon

of bullies, and once where my collarbone broke, a boy
kicking me so hard that I—but this is about the home

of fists, the house of face, not about simply anything,
but rather that very specific violence, where the shadows

entered my head. Truth be told, I’ve made light
of things that were serious; I shouldn’t’ve used my voice

maybe so often. Or, hell, maybe it is about rising
up to the occasion with opinion in these tragic fields

we call the Earth that’s becoming an embarrassment for the sun
or maybe is becoming the sun, with pollution so bad that water

begs us for mercy, the near-extinct birds’ screaming beaks
punching for fresh air, as we so easily confuse pray and prey.

Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Michigan State University Press, 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Regional Fiction), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, 2014 Michigan Notable Book awarded by the Library of Michigan), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press).

Thursday, 11 October 2018

A poem by Annest Gwilym

Mrs Parry

She lived in a net-curtained house
with anaemic pot plants and china figurines
of big-eyed animals and ladies in long dresses.
There was always the smell
of stale sponge cake and a scattering
of doilies, a brown flowered carpet,
drab furniture with crochet antimacassars.

She only spoke the island Welsh,
always with a twinkle in her eye.
We were no angels: girls that slipped
melting ice lollies through the dark mouths
of post boxes, stuck out our Black Jack tongues
at strangers, danced the can-can
in her bloomers and best chapel hat
rummaged from her bedroom
while she spoke to our mother.

In a hot summer that reverberated to the sound
of roller skates tearing up concrete
she took us in her shiny black Morris Minor,
speeding past farms and fields of potatoes,
to the candy floss paradise of Benllech
with its wide apron of sand and donkeys.
Me in my beloved yellow towelling hot pants,
while Seasons in the Sun played
from everyone’s open door.

Annest Gwilym is the editor of the webzine Nine Muses Poetry Her writing has been widely published both online and in print. Her first pamphlet of poetry - Surfacing - is available from Lapwing Poetry For a signed copy directly from the author go to:

Monday, 8 October 2018

A poem by Natalie Scott

Rev. James Cohen

First Chaplain at Holloway Prison, until 1860

I am gladdened
that you have come to me,
for in my company
you will not be judged. You will
find acceptance and understanding.

Feel free to share
your misdemeanours
and I will not be shocked.
Neither will God, for He has
a timeless love for us all.

Look deeper into your faith
and doubts, reveal your pent-up
guilt of past indiscretions.
Let the names of those who helped you
fall heavy from your lips.

And you will find not
judgement and trial but rather
God's redemption as you are a part
of the body of Christ;
he will protect and guide you.

I am gladdened that you
have come to me, for in
my company you will not be judged.
You will find acceptance
and understanding.

Chaplains were encouraged by authorities to elicit private information from prisoners under the guise of religious and reformative discussion.

Natalie Scott is a Teesside-based poet and educator with a PhD in Creative Writing. She has collections published by Indigo Dreams, Bradshaw Books and Mudfog, as well as many appearances in literary journals including Ambit, Agenda and Orbis. Her collection Berth – Voices of the Titanic was awarded runner-up for the Cork Literary Review Manuscript Competition, 2011. Her latest project Rare Birds – Voices of Holloway Prison was awarded funding from the Arts Council of England.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

A poem by Kathy Gee

Untidy mind

I have seen the frozen wind
and magpies skating on thin ice
and found my rubber boots are leaking
and I’ve nothing left to say.

I’ve seen the stain of lichen, ash buds pointing
to a navy sky like roman numerals towards tomorrow
when there’s something in my diary, maybe with a bit of tea.

And maybe my foot will stop tapping
and my toes will stop hurting
and the dog will get down off the sofa
and stop barking at strangers.

Perhaps my picture frames will level and my basalt fish
will swim to the floods where Charolais cattle usually graze,
where the shrews and worms must have drowned.

I could get deep but that’s pretentious
and I’ve really nothing left to say
and I should finish clearing my office
and I should sweep the kitchen floor.

Kathy Gee’s career is in heritage and in leadership coaching. Widely published online and on paper, her poetry collection was published by V. Press and she wrote the spoken word elements for a contemporary choral piece -

Monday, 1 October 2018

A poem by Frances Sackett


Look down as you walk,
I will touch your shoulder with one finger.

Don’t be weary or full of hate.
As you move, pretend you tread air.

I love that bit of your shoulder.
Do you know that? I wish you to know that.

Even when hope is gone
your skin will remember.

Listen, the trees are full of sounds -
the cut grass exudes its green passion.

When a bird brushes your grave
you will feel my touch on your shoulder.

Written to the soundtrack of ‘Schindler’s List’. John Williams.

Frances Sackett's poetry has been published in many UK magazines and journals. She recently won third prize in The Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Competition. Together with a group of poets, she was involved in writing poems for Manchester Cathedral. Her collection is 'The Hand Glass'. (Seren)