Thursday, 15 November 2018

A poem by Lorraine Mariner

Little anchor

For Sofia at two weeks

Tattooed to our sister,
little anchor
holding us steady.

Setting us to work
bailing out
any qualms we have

about the leaky vessel
of family.
Even your uncle,

sceptical pirate,
strokes your cheek
and swears allegiance.

Lorraine Mariner lives in London and works at The National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. She has published a pamphlet with The Rialto “Bye for Now” (2005) and two collections with Picador, “Furniture” (2009) and “There Will Be No More Nonsense” (2014). She has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize twice for Best Single Poem and Best First Collection and for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize.

Monday, 12 November 2018

A poem by Marisa Silva-Dunbar


A person is not a battle.
If you are already raging war
against a lover—they must scorch
the earth to survive whatever
terror you want to bring
to their home.

Poison isn’t always accompanied
by a pungent smell and warning sign—
a picture of how it will eat away flesh and organ.

Sometimes it arrives in pretty
glittering bottles with sharp edges
to blind you when you push it away.

Sometimes it’s swift as dust, and shiny
as piece of glass in sunlight, it’ll seep
into your chest until you lay in bed
one night and find you can’t breathe.

Your fighting is flattery,
but they have already sought
safer harbors—havens you don’t
even know how to dream of.

Maybe you were never the poison
(but let’s not kid ourselves),
but you never learned how to be the antidote.

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Rose Quartz Journal, Awkward Mermaid, Spider Mirror Journal, Mojave He[art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine, Poetry WTF?!, Better than Starbucks Magazine, Redheaded Stepchild, Words Dance Magazine and Gargoyle Magazine. She graduated from the University of East Anglia with her MA in poetry, and has been shortlisted twice for the Eyewear Publishing Fortnight Poetry Prize. She has work forthcoming in Mojave He[art] Review, Sixfold, Pussy Magic, Midnight-lane Boutique, and The Same

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A poem by Rachael Clyne

That Was The Downstairs

The Toilet, spiteful and ice-boxy,
disapproved of warm seats.
It preferred smelly, germicide paper
that crinkled and slid off bottoms.

Lounge had crushed-velvet occasions
on cocktail sticks, dusty sofas
for headstands, radio programmes
in real foreign and books for escaping.

Backroom, snug with mottled shins,
ponged of coal fire. Toys slept in a cupboard.
I stood on a chair, Listened with Mother,
ear pressed to a wireless on the bureau.

Kitchen had a twin-tub, a Kenwood Chef
with bowls of licky cake-mix
an angry housewifemummy
who made chicken soup, with garlic.

Bathroom was a bastard, an old geyser,
that swore in your face.
An adapted scullery that stank
of dandruff-shampoo and vinegar.

Front bedroom had a grandma and trolley
full of pills. She spoke foreign English
and ate olives for breakfast. Each morning
the house shook with her sneezes.

Back-bedroom cried when big sister left home.
Branches smacked its windows. Little sister,
in bed with measles, made plasticine Vikings,
kept watch for bogey men behind cupboards.

This poem is from Rachael’s new pamphlet, Girl Golem, published by Rachael’s parents were toddler migrants from Ukrainian Russia, arriving, with their parents, in 1912 & 1914. Heritage and sense of being other, are her main themes. Rachael is a familiar figure on the poetry circuit. Her collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, is published by Indigo Dreams. Her work appears in anthologies & journals including: Tears in the Fence, Prole, The Rialto, Under the Radar, The Interpreters House, Obsessed with Pipework, Lighthouse. She will be reading at various events over the next few months.

Monday, 5 November 2018

7 poems by Sara Backer


On the seesaw fulcrum, tiny muscles quaver.


No one can tell grey cats apart unless they are together.


A taker forgets every gift.


Keep listening for any chirp or trill or tap or growl.


For a moment, one hand will hold the other shut.


What we know is always less than what we don't.


Blue herons synchronize into a silent biplane.

Sara Backer, a composition instructor by day and MFA student by night, has published two chapbooks: Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork), which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award, and Scavenger Hunt (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, New Welsh Reader, Crannóg, and more. Her poem "Coal, Crow, Shark" received commendation in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. For links to journal publications, please visit

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A poem by Catherine Baker

Borrowing a mother

First I borrowed my father’s mam with her starched pinny,
false teeth, watery eyes and hard, lovely kisses. Kittens and me
under her arms and laughter always round the corner.

Wil Snot’s was smiling and polished to platinum with nails.
A cabinet locked with pretties, from her sailor husband,
never home but a doll found in every port.

Auntie Vi let me stay, sleeping in eider. Made cakes so light
she said they’d float out the window. Drank black tea
which was odd and had learned to drive, very badly, in the war.

Mam Brynderw, her cheeks as soft and furry as a chinchilla.
Her house smelling of the sweet Welsh cakes she fed me,
until the bloody cancer ate her up, slow and skinny.

Alison’s mum only wore black. Arms like a wrestler.
I saw her pull a calf out of a cow, no trouble.
She smoked a pipe in secret and taught me how to spit.

Mrs. Phillips, up the lane, always bought my Sunny Smiles
babies, and gave them names. Let me plant her
vegetables and told me never to marry a man.

Sian’s was exotic, they called her Esmeralda
She read my palm, said I’d grow up fat and happy.
Said not to wear short skirts or I’d have to powder my bum.

Bessie Butchers gave me Dr. Whites, said Hooray, babies!
Then introduced me to amazing Black Magic,
I liked Montelimar best, although it took a filling off.

Flossy Pop, ran the pub and in between pulling pints ironed
everything, even knickers and socks. Let me have a go
while she had a fag and gave me a swift drag or two.

Last of all I borrowed my husband’s mum. She could
make beds with hospital corners. Knew the value of a
stiff drink and how to tell you she loved you without saying it.

Catherine Baker’s poetry is often about people and places – reflecting the love she has for the language, history and landscape of her native West Wales.

In 2018 she was chosen to read a selection of her poems at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival.