Thursday, 29 November 2018

A poem by Charlie Hill

In the city

There is an eerie wind
blowing glassy-eyed drops of rain
over a boy growing out of the pavement,
a girl sharing Nietzsche with a pigeon.

There’s nothing unusual about storms in September,
but the air is humid, and my neck is sweaty,
and it has been Autumn for a while now
– the leaves died in June; I also can’t help but feel
that the deep and shallow-buried roots of the city
are coming up through the concrete,
and like something elemental,
breaking it apart.

Charlie Hill's poems have previously appeared in Under the Radar, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Prole, amongst other publications.

Monday, 26 November 2018

A poem by Erin Wilson

When I Hold You Red Bursts Through the Eye 

Something about holding one another
and all of the years of shepherding the summer born tomatoes.

And maybe the lamb finally coming together with them
cooking lovely and steaming, slowly brewing on the stovetop.

All of the blistering days before in the winters tending to the animals.
And then the one windy day when they were cudgelled.

Something about holding one another
through all the warming of the capillerous reds rising
and all of the brutalities befalling like hunks of coal.

Something about the holding and the steeping.
Something about time.

Erin Wilson has contributed poems to West Texas Literary Review, San Pedro River Review, New Madrid and Minola Review, with work forthcoming from Split Rock Review, The American Journal of Poetry. She lives and writes in a small town in northern Ontario.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

A poem by Cathryn Shea


She was born with a bad gene.
Penury they call it. Lack.
Passed through the blood,
indigence hidden in her DNA.
The mutation she couldn’t escape.

She belonged to one of those
defective family trees, a loser
in a fitter family contest.
She wasn’t a blue-ribbon baby
like a prize calf or grand pumpkin.
More like a bumpkin
that would devolve the species.

This knack for being poor
snuck through the gauntlet of heredity.
The state tried hard to keep her mother
from breeding. Before
they tied her tubes.

So here she is today, torn
from an expectant history.
She wears ripped jeans,
has no means.
Her brain may not be
bad. She learns
a new word

every day. Every day
a new word,
like riven.

Cathryn Shea is the author of four chapbooks, including “It’s Raining Lullabies” (dancing girl press, 2017). “The Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree” is forthcoming from dancing girl press in 2019. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and recently appears in Tar River Poetry, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. See and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Monday, 19 November 2018

A poem by S.A. Leavesley

Aerial Landscapes

[Zoom in on the domestic setting, then shoot
the view through the kitchen window.]

Not one but two radio masts jab
at rain clouds, thunder, sunshine…

Too thin to own a shadow, these sticks
stake the roads and fields of home,

yet force Ilsa to look up to the sky,
shape-shifting all she knows below.

Standing at the kitchen sink, hands deep
in bubbles, she glances at her husband.

[After a slow close-up on Ilsa’s blue eyes, follow
her gaze, not his, in pace with her dreaming.]

In the window’s soft morning light,
his silhouette is hunched deep in thought.

Twenty years together, at far ends
of one space, not a word spoken today,

though they mirror silent stances.
Their love so different, yet so similar,

to the masts’ unbending metal.
Two poised arrows set to fly

were it not for their firm ground;
taut wires anchor them side by side.

[Hold the camera steady, focus sharp,
still and unwavering. Hold it, hold…]

She stares past him to the horizon;
the air pulses with hidden static.

“No matter what the future brings…”
Under their breath, they hum

distant versions of one song.

S.A. Leavesley (Sarah James) is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, editor and photographer. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she has been published by the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Forward Book of Poetry 2016; on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. Recent poetry pamphlets/collections include How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. She also runs V. Press, poetry and flash fiction imprint, and LitWorld2 photo-poem/flash journal. Website: V. Press: LitWorld2:

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.