AS ABOVE SO BELOW ISSUE 4 Winter Solstice 2019
Photo by Jean Atkin, Shrewsbury 2019
Foreword Welcome everyone, to the fourth issue of As Above So Below. The theme being that of freedom/imprisonment. I had wonderful responses from so many poets. It was a real pleasure pulling this together. Of course, by the time it came to formatting the magazine, the words freedom and imprisonment have taken on even deeper hues.
But hereâ€™s hoping we all have some peace and respite over the winter solstice and Yule time. Itâ€™s much needed for all of us. And may we be grateful for the freedoms we do have, and may we continue to fight against the imprisonment of social injustice, and may we find refuge in each other and in our togetherness. I hope you enjoy reading the great variety of work here.
Thank you to all the contributors, and thanks too to Jean Atkin for the cover photo. Bethany Rivers Editor
CONTENTS POEM AUTHOR Wednesday Tomorrow, Another Day Ode to Loneliness The sister I was Grief-Child Daddy What is freedom? You Can Feel the Freedom Coming On The Fainting Room Poetry Process How we hurt The Layer Cake Seijaku Andromeda i never cry on my own One little roome, an every where The Prison State Toeing the line On C wing, poetry Liberation Siren Song Package Holiday Remembering Ruth Ellis Alice, Sorting Books After Henri Matisse’s Woman Before an Aquarium Morning Irony exterminating angel An Anchorite’s Mother The Girl in Pieces Mrs Bodanski’s most valuable sewing lesson Aunt Mabel Nature Reserved, Lenzie Observation Andrew Poppies Flow A Plea from JL357OD The Price of a Gazebo When I wonder what it was like to be an anchorite Philomela discovers Poetry and Pescetarianism My father-in-law decides to halt his treatment Black Water Side 3
Tim Bosley Susan Taylor Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich Kate Innes Hermione Sandall Rachel Burns Rona Fitzgerald Maggie Mackay Helen Ivory Kathleen Strafford Susannah Violette Ed Ahern Annie Wilson Jennifer A. McGowan Mandy Macdonald Rosie Jackson Ben Nardolilli Annabeth Glittermouse Orton Rebecca Gethin Mantz Yorke Estelle Price Finola Scott Rachael Clyne Angi Holden Cynthia Gallaher Tim Bosley Mantz Yorke Mandy Macdonald Rosie Jackson Annabeth Glittermouse Orton Ruthie Starling Angi Holden Finola Scott Estelle Price Graham Attenborough Mantz Yorke Rebecca Gethin Annabeth Glittermouse Orton Ben Nardolilli Rosie Jackson Jennifer A. McGowan Mandy Macdonald Richard Skinner
PAGE 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
Deerbolt The Mountains Still Weep for Him Rosa Parks Anger in Ladies &c A Change is Gonna Come Footloose Warrant Cannon Fodder Your song Listen Saying Goodbye Is this not a miracle
Gene Groves Susannah Violette Kathleen Strafford Helen Ivory Maggie Mackay Rona Fitzgerald Rachel Burns Jen Hawkins Stephen Ingram Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich Victoria Bender Tim Bosley BIOGRAPHIES
50 51 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 64
Wednesday I am in the library with time to kill browsing a book on science. Flicking through until I settle on the physics of small things and in particular Schroedinger’s unfortunate cat. Poor creature, boxed in on all sides, not even a window, just a vial of cyanide, a Geiger counter and a single radioactive atom pregnant with decay. It exists in a superstate, apparently, the cat, both alive and dead at the same time, which doesn’t sound so super after all. But if we lift the lid to offer it some milk or a toy mouse, everything collapses and the cat is either breathing or it isn’t.
If it weren’t just a cat with, let’s face it, a limited understanding of quantum mechanics, it might just, given it’s predicament, break the vial anyway and end it all. Welling up is a deep churning of sympathy not so much for the cat itself, Schroedinger’s famous feline being, after all, a product of his imagination; a not so simple thought experiment, but for me, or at least the cat in me.
The one all too aware of the poison vial, the one in the dark box, feeling for the walls, the one not sure if the lid has already been lifted or if it will ever be lifted. I replace the book on the shelf and walk out the door into the sunlight. All I can see around me are boxes, so many boxes, boxes of unfortunate cats.
Tomorrow, Another Day Where will I be tomorrow, reflecting the enormity of loss, the circular nature of sorrow, arriving and arriving and arriving?
Will the trees still be bare and will I stand â€“ this insignificant, as if stripped to the bone in New Year air, wishing I could ride out on starlight? Bring on the blood moon, red as a rose thorn, breathing in and breathing through spiked reaches of branches in resistance: this perfect natural thing, this eveningâ€™s dawn, this well-timed reminder, this heady sky, this geometry of existence.
Ode to Loneliness This would happen to me to get into a train in France—
that ceased to operate, so I pulled out Baudelaire’s Love Poems and read, to
creaks of idle loneliness casting a tirade against the shadows fighting into my presence— emerging into my seat to accompany, the windows talking creakiness— an eerie chord of music unwinding the mind.
The sister I was I am not alone – not We are playing in the garden She is looking for me I am hiding under a tree, a log, a leaf I am not good enough at hiding I will return as a worm
I am not alone – not I have my own room, my books, a lock but it is only a loose latch With a moderately thick piece of paper she can open the door I will turn into paper and unlock my own room
I was not alone – not We danced in time to the music she controlled – fast, fast, never slow When it stopped my silence was to blame The floor between us stretched and grew I wait – keep time – learn my own tune
Grief-Child Just now you might hug your grief to your chest as if it were a new-born baby, who needs to be shown the meaning of love;
but, if you are lucky, in the flow of time it will reach adolescence and be shouting, slamming doors and storming off with the best of them;
afterwards you can drop your hands with their too-clasping love and let your child leave home: for otherwise it will snap at your fingers with a pain past bearing, a sting beyond forgetting.
Daddy Daddy's a divvy, she whispers to the baby. From the court landing she can see The Sage,
the silver dome reflecting on the surface of the Tyne. She watches the people milling about, going to work
in offices nearby. She counts the anchored tugs along the river. She hums her baby a lullaby, as snow falls from the sky.
The baby unaware that Daddy faces four years, chugs on the bottle not coming up for air, lungs gasping. It's snowing outside, snowing thick and fast and the schools are all closed. She imagines their ten-year-old son who they haven't told
climbing the hill near Leadgate, sledging down the steep incline, laughing with the thrill of it.
What will she tell him if Daddy doesn't come home?
What is freedom? (Ireland 1984)
I In the top security prison in Port Laoise, they showed me a library, a theatre and the places they exercise while supervised by soldiers with automatic rifles.
Some inmates who are doing degrees, spoke of their interest in learning â€“ how it changed perspectives, helped change.
I was teaching theories of the state, the limits of personal freedoms, and the need for restraints on violence. A twenty year old lad tells me; We are fighting for Irish freedom. Of course they could not walk out the door, could only see family under observation but they were able to develop and to learn.
II In a high-rise flat on the north side of Dublin a child does her homework on the stairs. A drunken neighbour knocks it over laughs at the idea of education.
I done my best Miss, his shoe was wet and muddy!
The child can go out on the street, she can see her family and friends every day she can go to school even if no-one she knows values learning.
She can, like her mother work menial jobs, maybe be pimped by her stepfather. She can marry a wife beater, as her mother did, bearing children she can hardly feed or educate.
You Can Feel the Freedom Coming On Nameless women and girls are spinning in a cochineal heat, air thick with the never-ending revolutions of Glasgow cotton looms. This heat smears skin like a poultice of crushed bugs and sweated labour of slavery. One of them mouths unity, lassies; in the yard another speaks of the burning of Nottingham Castle* thirty years before.
(*1831 protests due to Electoral Reform Bill being blocked.)
The Fainting Room When they laced me tight this morning my body split asunder. Clouds heaved themselves across my eyes. Nobody heard the crack of rib or witnessed the small moth of my soul slip from my mouth. All day I felt the separation so keenly, yet the household continued about me as if unaltered.
When Nell came to dust the parlour, I feared for my soul - my little ghost – settled on the mantle.
At dinner, my soul watched from the wallpaper as I raised the soup spoon to my lips – there wasn’t space beneath my corset for a single bite.
I rose to reach my hand out but her wings blurred ash. I felt the table and the diners fall away.
I awoke inside this little room to find the doctor had been summoned, with his new, mechanized instrument. My binding had been loosed, the doctor applied the treatment until a paroxysm possessed me.
I breathed deeply of the whole earth. My soul flew into my open throat. My husband dropped some coins into his hand.
(Published in The Anatomical Venus by Bloodaxe Books) 13
Poetry Process My breasts sag onto this page blue pen outlines the nipple the mark comes hard. I talk to myself sucking ink rooting dark visions in a petri dish swimming in instant night instant coffee that grinds in my breasts behind the cream.
I have become my mother wearing a long robe stirring in the kitchen my hair uncombed listening to giggling girls whose fingers bend and comb tangled urges I want to catch their innocence smear it on my face begin a rash of words potent and rare But instead I sit drinking coffee pressing ink writing only words Mom wonâ€™t let me say.
(Published in Kathleen Straffordâ€™s latest collection, Wilderness of Skin, from Yaffle Press, 2019)
How We Hurt Twice I look up and the hare is crossing the field. It leaves no mark on the furrowed land. That long limbed lope gives weight to my body as I watch, its weightlessness describes other like a charm. A blackbird pauses, and when the sobs die down, opens up sweetness to sing sleep in. I see the hare, in the centre of the ready soil it leaps, and as if the evening sky enters it we are left with nightÂ´s heft. Where is the night but heavy in our arms? A soft bodied lover that we spill our grief into.
The Layer Cake We are a stacked birthday cake, generations of lopsided layers baked badly by ancestors of fervent but defective intent, teetering life atop dying and dead. The layers plummet into past, inedible and mostly forgotten while we the temporary top deny bad ingredients and tiltings and frosting with crĂ¨me cruel. We concoct those next atop with hope and even love but use a cookbook specifying a flour of custom and bias and spices of mistakes. It is a mighty wonder that the cake still stacks and those just set in place donâ€™t slide off to extinction on the icing of our failings.
[Previously published by Chaleur]
Seijaku* Today I’ll float just beneath the surface, abscond from the confines of my to-do list, forget unblocking the sink, phoning the dentist. I’ll drift in the slipstream of vagabond thoughts, gaze from the wide open door, let the breeze blow in messages scribbled on leaves, listen to each sound lingering in the air. I’ll stand behind the mirror’s reflection of time, from the shadows I’ll watch life moving on like scenes in lit windows at nightfall.
I’ll peel away the layers of wife, mother, daughter, carer, masks, veils, conjurer’s scarves, until I find the small, brightly-painted kernel of myself and let her breathe again.
(* Seijaku is a Japanese word used to describe serenity amid life’s chaos)
Andromeda Monsters wash in with every tide: gorgons, horses, dragons, men. They all want the flesh on offer, my blood in exchange for...what? Iâ€™ve forgotten in this cycle of come and go, in and out.
I have fallen in love with the sea. She cools my naked feet in the searing heat; she sings in the rocks. She treats everybody equally, destroys with equanimity. When she leaves, I smell rust. My chains will break; I will dive into her great salt heart.
Jennifer A. McGowan
i never cry on my own but with you waterworks every time: something amniotic in my tears aspics my love for you in yesterday my pain looks out from inside its clearwalled prism wears innocence like an aqueous cloak what you see now might be the truth if timeâ€™s refractive index were doing its job properly truth trying, trying to escape but who put that bloody great chair against the door?
One little roome, an every where
(Between 1100 and 1539, 780 anchorites in England, mostly women, were enclosed in tiny structures attached to the side of a church. A shuttered window allowed the passage of food.) The damp walls are closer than the stretch of her arm. There’s a stench of sea, and she floats alongside miracles of lobsters, crabs, creyvish, who swim and crawl in the ignorance of praise, not yet upright on the dry land of arrogance and doubt. Her cell clings like a barnacle to the church,
where men in albs and chasubles shout of hell, while she does the real work, heeds the small voice of God in the darkness.
This is the space behind the boulder which will be rolled away, the thick blackness in which trees take root, where all that is to come seeds and quickens. Love is not the right word. Love is too cushiony for a woman who sleeps on stone, kneels on stone, prays with the steadfastness of granite.
It’s like staying awake inside sleep, this being allowed inside the mind of God, a great cave of nothingness that knows everything,
just she and He together, as intense as if summer has been preserved in honey and she can hold it on her tongue whenever she needs to taste some sweetness. If she grows curious about what it is to be married, she only has to touch herself, and a sea anemone unfurls, opens until she knows she is nothing but water.
But where a wife would cup her husband’s face between her hands, feel his bearded jaw hard against her palm, she has no need to hold the face of God. 20
His eyes are on her constantly, washed with milk and fitly set. His head is filled with dew. And there is no word for the tenderness between them
as they drop anchor for those crowded ships of fools who have forgotten why their souls embarked on this brief crossing of a life at all.
(This poem won 1st prize in Wells Literature Festival 2018)
The Prison State Out of a land filled with prisons, she says we could go live in Paris, I think that might work, Paris is the city where they celebrate the storming of one jail and visit another because it is now a famous museum
There's London too, but nix that, they turned their tower inside out for tourists and their keep, yet the middle of Paris is on an island and I could see myself thinking the waves all around me are just another wall I just have to make sure that wherever we go in this world, I don't take the prisons with me, either going on the prowl as a warden, or sleeping in early because I think there's a curfew following me in Europe.
Toeing the Line I was taught to toe a careful line, To make my bed in a house of chaos, To fold my clothes and wash my face And keep pockets of order in a coat of disgrace.
I was taught to question, taught to ask, To highlight flaws in any logic Though I mustn't smile nor dare to frown Nor speak my truth nor lay facts down.
I was taught to colour inside neat shapes, To scribe in ink and make no blots Then I was taught to raise clear voice As long as my words spoke an approved choice. Yet I was instructed to choose my path And chart my own course on a turbulent sea. â€˜Twas my lot to excel, to blaze, to shine As long as I shone the right side of the line.
With my hair brushed neatly and out of my face, The A on my back must be circled correctly. I was free to rebel within set fences That merely pandered to social pretences. For it was made sure known to me That passive existence was my fate And unconditional love was mine On the condition that I toed a careful line.
Annabeth Glittermouse Orton
On C wing, poetry He lets me pore over his words, ask if he means what I think, tease apart the pauses in his lines, the tense while he looks down at what my finger points to,
sitting close enough for him to smell the soil I was digging in the garden the day before see, in my questions, the windows I look through; his radar summing me up
softly, making me wonder what lies hidden, crouching inside, for him to be here for so long
just as, until some switch flicked, his victim can't have known either.
(Previously published in Handful of Water by Cinnamon Press)
(i.m. Kalina Makarewicz, d. 11 May 2015 )
You were bright, working hard and successful, yet terrified youâ€™d fail.
No anti-depressant pills, no counselling, no therapy, could free you from the fear, so you walked under a cloudless sky up the grassy flank of Beachy Head, and jumped: for six seconds or so and millions of white, sunlit years you were happy, floating free.
Siren song The day she called you in, she hid her wings and claws flew up the Thames to drop a single feather
in the street outside your office, her seal of ownership. I’ll never know how long she had rehearsed her hymn
before she brushed against your desk, a newly qualified temptress, poised to fill your mouth with oily nonsense.
By noon she’d wound her sex with rope, circled your ankles, your wrists (I heard you were quite willing)
until she had you bound. And I? I will always wonder why you didn’t fill your ears with wax or lash your limbs to a barge’s mast. Why you chose to choke with lies the salted love I’d placed that morning in your pocket.
I, your impatient Penelope, who heard the exquisite wail across red roofs and in the chimneys of suburbia
who felt it echo round my ribs, not knowing until my ship set sail, the siren-song foretold for me, an ocean of liberty.
Package holiday You guzzle wee halves in Departures a comedy turn for the air crew. Sprawl in the window seat no discussion. Check emails check emails check .
Wear those shorts those ones the tight ones
the red ones that match your face
Lecture me loudly in every museum gallery. Buy shiny souvenirs for yourself
So charming to the waitresses the pretty ones Suck marrow from bones greedy babe at a tit Laugh loud at your own jokes those old ones Hyena without a pack Think the sex is all inclusive are surprised when I leave
Remembering Ruth Ellis She was the beginning of the end of his trade, The last and bravest, the executioner said, of the fifteen women he hanged.
Calm and expressionless, cold, calculating, deviant, quoted front pages; while her unfortunately, regressed lover only punched the baby from her tummy. Egged on and armed by a new lover, the calm and expressionless gun was repeatedly fired into the back of her ex.
Just twenty-three minutes to reach a verdict. She still managed to grin at Albert Pierrepoint through the noose.
Alice, Sorting Books She’s sorting out her books, kneeling by the ordered shelves filling boxes for the charity shop. She holds an old favourite to her face, feels its buckram smooth against her cheek, inhales its inkpress scent, familiar. Lets it go. She had to purge her mother’s house, a lifetime’s collection of things she’d no desire to keep. She doesn’t wish that on her daughters. Not that she’s had bad news, simply that intimation of mortality which comes with failing eyesight and slower recall, with obituaries of people so much younger. Best to start early, not leave it till nearly midnight.
After Henri Matisseâ€™s Woman Before an Aquarium what tender vows encased her along with a purloined Moroccan screen?
a city reverbs outside where husband slogs through lies, rustles papers, on behalf of stylized promises. domesticated odalisque sits in bobbed hairstyle, a fishbowl inside her afternoon fishbowl.
itâ€™s her paid privilege to peer into another world with Piscean eyes that match the almond shapes
before her, fish from ponds, pinecones from forests, her once sunstruck arms from a forgotten youth sleeved in drawing room pink silk.
she longs to write it down, but any sharp lines are reserved only for her arched brows, the prison stripes of her skirt.
Morning At the risk of exaggeration, that Sunday at the break of day, not even Chopin at his finest could match the dawn chorus.
Without trying to push it too far, the light easing its way in either side of the curtain made even Cezanne’s layered watercolours look awkward.
And without making too much of it you, naked on the bed, not so much the contorted eroticism of an Egon Scheile, or the soft focused sentimentality of a Renoir, but, dare I say, even more finely drawn against the dark umbers and ochres of the room than Modigliani’s recumbent nudes. As for me? Let’s just say lying next to you in my fish tank, more pickled than a Damien Hirst, mouth wide open, taking it in through big round eyes and leave it at that.
Irony Encased in concrete, steel is the core of the construction. Tendrils of water slither through imperfections, bringing in oxygen. Combination is irresistible: the steel swells,
bursts free â€“ but now it is just rust.
exterminating angel why am i caught so far back in time why am i caught so far back why did i not fly free in time free of Rome of Ireland free free of the kirk of the house
behind the sharp sharp white fence praetorian guard of hypocritical zinnias it stood, a deadly phalanx ready for anything
she, the general, was its shadowless unbending mind inside behind the frowning veranda where i parked the bicycle borrowed from next door
if you opened the french windows, frogs got in at night and in the daytime, Jehovah’s witnesses when you were sick in bed alone, but even with the french windows open, you couldn’t get out cemetery field of crucifixes, the lattice was too powerful a pentacle she was the house spirit of the lattice let me out let me out into the sunlight grant me its amnesty
(Previously published in Poetry Scotland, winter 2013–14, and (under the title ‘house of correction’) The Fat Damsel, June 2015.) 33
The Anchorite’s Mother
(The act of committing anchorites to their cells was accompanied by funeral rites, to signify their death to the world.)
How sick she feels, as nauseous as in those early weeks when this same daughter was entombed inside her, her body off-balance like a ship at sea.
That farewell smile, timid, hopeful, is the same her other daughter wore, when she married, before the husband’s back of hand wiped it away. Why does no one talk of God’s back of hand? Is not the Bible full of women’s bruises? She thinks of a sprig of willow trampled,
heel by heel, into the ground. She wants to stuff the cell with bluebells, jay feathers, to remind her child of sky in summer.
Her daughter claims she sees through this world as if it’s glass, brittle and short-lived compared to the other kingdom,
but those walls she’s stepping into are mighty thick to transform into light, the squint barely large enough to pass a chamber pot.
What upside-down creator would take such trouble to make life, if He wanted it cast away? But now the last stones and handfuls of mud are wedged
into place. The eye closes. The angelus sounds. God has chastened, made chaste, blinded her daughter. A mother can do nothing but bring food, water. See her stumble home, lament as if it were a wake. How fiercely she feeds the fire, breaks the neck of a chicken, stays up all night to bake.
The Girl in Pieces Once upon a time there was a girl all in bits. It’s not that she was broken, just that her mother and father (who had been a bit broken) didn’t really know how exactly to make a girl. They had been very careful and done their research. They had tried hard. They bought a house and made it as nice as they could. They made sure she was able to learn lots and have things called Opportunities. Then they got all the pieces of a girl and put them in exactly the right places. She had two eyes, two hands, two arms and legs, two ears, just one mouth and quite enough hair. Sadly, her mother and father hadn’t known what to do with their love, though they’d had plenty of it, as broken people often do. They had bundled it all up tightly like a tangled ball of string and locked it for safekeeping in her heart. She definitely had a heart, too. If only her mother and father had known how to sew all her pieces together with it then they might have done really a very good job indeed.
As it was, every night, all the girl’s pieces would wander off, with nothing to hold them together. This was very troublesome for her and life was difficult indeed. Happily, the Earth Goddess had taken great pity on this poor, scattered being (as she is wont to do when watching over all the land of suffering) and knowing how dangerous it was to have all your pieces wandering any which where, every night, the Earth Goddess would safely hide each of the girls pieces in a different place, to save them from being eaten up or lost forever. Sometimes, a foot would go in the folds of her hill-skirts, or maybe the nose would be hidden in a cloud-pocket where it could breathe good, fresh air. The Earth Goddess was clever like that. Every morning, when the girl awoke, she would go outside, thank the Earth Goddess and gather in all her pieces. Sometimes they were hard to find but some days, when the sun was out, they rushed out to greet her happily. Some days she completely forgot to find herself. Those were not good days. Sometimes, a piece would stay hidden for all the searching in the world. Those days could be difficult. One day, when the girl had been living far from green things and had forgotten to find her pieces for more than ten whole years (fast becoming a broken person herself and not even so much of a girl any more), she was lucky enough to meet a beautiful, radiant being with one thousand arms. He reminded her about finding her hidden parts and told her where her thread of love was. He also told her that her old feeling that it could one day be untangled and brought out in the world was the truest feeling of all. Last I heard, she had started learning to sew.
Annabeth Glittermouse Orton
Mrs Bodanskiâ€™s most valuable sewing lesson Silver fingers guided my infant hands a deep concentration on turning the circle Counting, connecting strands we threaded rainbow colours onto clouds, cottoned on to our deep friendship
She taught me how to stitch my thoughts together to weave a story in ticking and crosses to pull emerald light from memory, feather-stitch petals on indigo velvet settle sequins onto reflective stars
Once, she rushed me into the garden Rainbows donâ€™t wait for work to be completed Then her sleeve fell back ... She never would tell me how colourless numbers had been embroidered inside her wrist, nor answer when I asked her Why are there raindrops in your eyes?
Aunt Mabel She didn’t have a line inked on our family tree but from the moment she arrived stick thin, dressed in her one frock, a frayed cardigan, a too-small coat, she belonged. At the house next to the pub they inspected her possessions: a paper bag containing spare vest and knickers, the crumbs from her sandwich on the train, a threadbare rabbit. And her label: Mabel Anne, age six. They shook their heads, disbelief clouding expressions she couldn’t understand. Her eyes, huge and wary as the fawns’ that grazed the deerpark, filled with tears.
By Spring she’d grown two inches, filled out the rainbow jumpers knitted from unravelled yarns, the frocks stitched from summer dresses salvaged from the tissue of some attic chest. For two short years she learned to read and write, to cook and sew, to garden at my uncle’s side. She learned the names of birds, coaxed them to her hand with scraps of rind, whistled back their songs. And when her mother came for her, she begged to stay. I know only this: a decade later she returned and without question they took her in. And growing up I knew her as no different from other aunts and uncles, her name in pencil on the family tree squeezed between the boys, where she belonged.
Nature Reserved, Lenzie This domed bog ticks off the seasons, measures my grandchild's growth trees now easily climbed, brackish pools no longer dangerous-deep.
In summer's fire, I take her hand, step off the board-walk, cut our own way. We sprawl meadow-deep, watch for butterflies. We lark-listen, daisy-chain. She points out arrow-planes, saltires owning the blue.
Quiet. Can you hear the moss inch-creep?
Observation you don’t know what I become on autumn nights when the Hunter’s moon seeps light through the prison window glitters her blood towards the slit in the door the box where your eyes float like prunes in syrup
you don’t see me shrink and crackle throw off guilt like a sweatedsheet no one tells you I’m air I breeze into corners become thinner than a boning knife slide my crimes under the kick plate onto the landing
still you press scuffed boots against my cell I rise up between your legs spit ice into your ear scrape defiance like a glaze across your pristine chest it’s time to fly out of the canteen chimney away from soup and bread
time to waft over the concrete wall spikes can’t penetrate my lungs! I’m spirit as I whistle past the bus stop where visitors arrive in pink socks and raincoats I’m see-through as I soar over the leaver’s bench
spiral to the black lake perch like a heron about to suffocate a fish you don’t know I’m a lifer turned to vapour tonight I’ve escaped your lock-down eyes probing my breasts bitten fingers slamming the grill
Andrew lucky for me that last time the prisons were all full so they put me on probation they sent me you Andrew with your funny old Citroen ban-the-bomb stickers painted flowers pink and blue and you Andrew open-toed sandals and corduroy hippy hair and that big daft beard pens peeping out from pockets
those first few times in our world of ridiculous chaos hostile indifference barking dogs alone in that hole of a kitchen you kept coming made friends with the dogs strummed guitar with Busker Dave chatted with Trisha as she searched for a vein Andrew regular feature friend
I tried to dislike you Andrew but you never gave up on me though I lied made jokes at your expense broke your pens tried to steal your jacket I was only a number registered addict you could've locked me away on a whim but you 40
Andrew saw potential and told me you were patient quietly arranging the detox
on the dreaded day you tracked me down convinced me cajoled me to the clinic visited every day five weeks and they said I was clean ready for rehab
it was you Andrew who drove me away to Hampshire shared your lunch in a lay by said my life would be different now you were proud of me you said
by the pool table you shook my hand asked me to keep in touch I didn't and that was you Andrew you never gave up on me
(Previously published in New Face in Hell, by Bare Fiction Poetry, 2018)
Poppies Coils of rusty bramble define boundaries of soil November rain has darkened like blood. Heeled deep down by the ploughmanâ€™s ruts, the tiny black seeds lie dormant, far from the sway of empty censers. A drab landscape huddles in the cold. Late in their season, pale shoots escape the strangle of roots. Unbowed, uncrumpling, survivors flutter scarlet in the flurries rippling through wheat yellowed by the heat. Pollen drifts in the fitful breeze, like cordite over a foreign field.
(Previously published in Brain of Forgetting)
Flow Youâ€™ve got to think like water, said the plumber and I observed him breaking it in like a newly-weaned foal â€“ touching it with a finger or two, stroking it with his huge hand, feeding it, coaxing it into his pipes correcting it with a valve or a diverter letting it travel through the channels of my house just as water fuels the chemistry of our cells communicating one to another.
Had he handed me a tool I could use to inspire the reluctant student-plumber in the prison baulking at the diagrams of pipe-work and all the technical terms for plumbing while writing poetry under the desk which he asks me to read? When I tell him youâ€™ve got to think like water will he see the poetry of earning his own living before he ends up siphoning himself back into the justice system?
A Plea From JL3570D At age 16, by royal mail, a number I received. My heart, it sunk. ‘They’ve got me now’ and I was not deceived. Chained into a system of taxes and of earning, The future yawned before me, the implications burning. “Your assimilation is complete, now learn and earn a wage.” Some see this as empowering, I just saw a cage. It soon transpired that every act required me to be Defined, pinned down and measured; the antithesis of ‘free’. A card for this, a pass for that, a username, a code, I must prove my identity to use the very road. You pin me down with reference tags like a moth inside a case. I may not pass beyond these shores before an image of my face Is securely pasted into a special little book That records the details of my birth as well as how I look. And it was at birth this trap was sprung as my father signed the form Defining me in syllables while the placenta was still warm. With your process and your system I must define my very flesh. I am snared inside a database, just a digit in a mesh Of social construct spread across a global nation A myth by definition of a human fabrication. I could run Land’s End to John O’Groats then swim across the sea. The land and waves would not demand I prove that I am me. And this ‘me’ will shift, this ‘me’ will change, this ‘I’ will flex and grow Your world denies my place within this universal flow My existence in an accident, a happy slip, a chance An unexpected syncopation in this cosmologic dance My place in time and form in space cannot be spreadsheeted And when I’m dead I will be gone not just ‘cause I’m deleted. This ball of rock belongs to all of us yet none It is not your algorithm that drives it around the Sun. It does not even notice us, as far as I can see; I beg to just live on it without bureaucracy.
Annabeth Glittermouse Orton
The Price of a Gazebo Painted heads in the garden stare at me in between the branches and the blades of grass. I hope that those are the only blades they have on them. In the shadows of this garden plenty of enemies can come to pass. The overgrown vegetation disturbs the patterns and lines they have made on their faces. Whether the paint is for war or peace, is a mystery behind the shadows. All I see are red and yellow under every unblinking eye. The dragonflies ignore them, the heads are quiet and drift, they rise and fall like waves set to a series of ominous breaths. This hidden jury judges me, as if I've disturbed a gravesite with my gazebo.
Without a shield or any iron to wear, I imagine the cold morning air as a kind of defence. It chills like metal, raising bumps on my skin. Yes, maybe the bumps will help mount a defence when the arrows come in
When I wonder what it was like to be an anchorite the nearest I can get is that day I locked myself in the house, in one room, huddled in the darkness. It was midwinter cold, I wore gloves and a beanie hat, lay hunched on a makeshift mattress in what would be the lounge. I was newly moved into a ruin of a place, all stone and draughts, and for days I’d made builders’ tea, talked builders’ talk, and now they were fixing the roof, but I was weary of the world, craved peace and silence. I couldn’t put on the light, in case they saw, or listen to the radio, in case they heard, or have a fire, for smoke would travel to them up the chimney. So all day I lay in the darkness while shouts and sounds of hammering came from another world, as an anchorite would listen to them mending the church roof, and it felt miraculous, like being at the bottom of the sea. In their lunch break, they came close to the window, suspected I was there, for my car was in the drive, and they made smutty jokes, wondered where I peed, mocked single women, who don’t, after all, have much of a handle on the world. And perhaps an anchorite knew the same relief I felt that day, when the sweetness of dusk finally fell, the hammering stopped, the men packed up their tongues and clatter and the darkness was once again mine, all mine, I could breathe and pray and praise and curse out loud without anyone, except God perhaps, listening.
Philomela discovers Poetry and Pescetarianism They didn’t fit me, so one night I untethered
all those man-words, watched them fly free, burning horizon to horizon, fading from gold to black. I knit myself vowels out of the dustbin, all the things he’d thrown away that I said nothing about.
Consonants were easier: everyday dangers like scissors, fire, the spark
of the fence he put up to keep something out. Probably me.
It doesn’t matter. The sky sings my music now. My song sears the stars.
I laughed in the morning when he opened his eyes, mouth empty, hands worried
and flapping uselessly at his side, lips a perpetual puckered O. My dumb darling. My little fish.
Jennifer A. McGowan
My father-in-law decides to halt his treatment dark October morning above me, two doves comfort each other in the silver birch its leaves whirl and float downward seguidilla of freedom so many brown yellow curled flee across the tunnelled street
the wind was strong last night and cold it crept into the house with sighs seeking shelter from itself soon I must go south sad swallow a death is expecting me a dry leaf waiting to fall
Deerbolt Such a picturesque name think dogroses, thickets, foxgloves, deer drowsy in a meadow but this is a Young Offenders Institution. This young offender is 17 with nothing to do banged up and bored. Forms are filled, his induction over, he waits for permission to visit the library.
Nothing to read he learns his girlfriend's letters off by heart waits for instructions for Go for get out of jail.
He knows why lads top themselves, says it is doing his head in, even a budgie has a bell.
Black Water Side Your mind is a house full of people running through rooms looking for keys. Doors slam, but far away, so softly you’re not even sure you heard it. Turn the door knob and step into the freezing landscape. Notice the weeping willow bending over the beck. The black water now runs red.
Your life is here, made up of minutes, hours, naps, errands, routine. The little things have to be enough. The valley is reduced to the side of a fell and cloud coming in. The sheep are cragfast, the deer keep falling down. You’ve nowhere else to go and you’re sure of it now— this is the wrong mountain.
(Previously published in The Malvern Aviator by Smokestack, 2018)
The Mountains Still Weep for Him his moon-wife readies to grieve, eventually she shapes for him, in chalk-words a big barn, a stand of oak, the dark, dark pines their needles echo and oppose his luminous hands roots entwine themselves like we all are, like being human is, like loving and like mycelium or like the tangled mysteries of cancer he hovered over them, slender as willow leaf, trembled, shook a labyrinth, from the inside out like something ancient
they are tumescent and inverse some cup rainwater and as saliva pooled under his tongue he saw the ants drink (while his throat remained dry)
his wife was the cold moon far above, looking down from behind the small mountains she wore mint satin poetry dug into him with it, leaving a warren unfilled by her full fresh words
when she spoke with that voice more of his crumbling earth fell out it was a small height to the waist of his daughter at a guess, maybe just above his knees 51
he saw her in the roots, his daughter as if she were made of oak a wooden girl with spiral scimitar curls, her sister a changeling, knotted twigs with acorns for eyes in a shrunken apple face
the height was meaningless until he jumped, then the height was meaningful he could hear her speaking then he could see the stag in the sunset woodpecker hammered his name into an oak his moon-wife wore her wedding dress the veil reached all the way to the floor
Rosa Parks We still hear songs of men Wading in the water following the Big Dipper Swinging low from dead trees coughing up blood caustic tongues laughing at rages and ages of lynches & flames spitting crosses in yards
A hazy moon lights our path underground lawn jockeys’ scarves colour our fate in secreted rooms we pray for answers with a white-hot need boycott in our blood to grab courage in both hands to pull up our bootstraps following King’s dream to jump on that bus glued to our seats & ride ride ride
(Published in Kathleen Strafford’s latest collection, Wilderness of Skin, from Yaffle Press, 2019)
Anger in Ladies &c . . .makes a beauteous face deformed and contemptible. . . and separates Roses and Lilies, by quite removing one or the other out of the Ladies’ cheeks. The Ladies’ Dictionary John Dunton 1684
The ladies are ripping roses and lilies to rags. They are broadcasting them like bruised confetti, trampling them into the carpet so the parlour reeks of death, or the mask of death - death spangled up – death sullying the carpet.
The ladies are rendering themselves contemptible, they are pollen-stained and beastly, they are pawing the floorboards. Now they will lecture you on how to wear your hair, Mr Dunton – how to cover your shame. They are sharpening their bread knives.
(Published in The Anatomical Venus by Bloodaxe Books)
A Change is Gonna Come (Blue Plaque 33 Gilmore Place)
Frederick Douglass hums an old tune, an old familiar from slavery times. He stands before the mirror, free to see the radical reformer, unseeing the slave on the run, never unseeing the fugitive within his soul. Right is of no sex, truth is of no colour. Douglass speaks of all freedoms.
One row of terraced stone and two hundred years; a girl grew up on this same street, on the same side, a girl, raised to be independent and equal.
Dread and danger are different countries now, scars, living memory of his bloodied flesh. Dark-matter-chains are feathers around his wrists. Leading, he finds a new bravery; send back the blood stained money. At his desk he writes All is smooth. I am treated as a man, an equal brother.
Footloose On Radio Four they were talking about shoes. Mine are light leather, bendy soles, easy wear indoors or outdoors. And I can tap dance!
Zyzi told us her story:
When I was nine my feet were bound, mother waited, not sure, but I longed to be beautiful, tiny feet are beautiful. I wanted to be like my sister in dainty shoes. I married a local man wearing elegant silk pumps. We had three children, I was happy at home. I tried to imagine her world, confined to a small town in the Chinese hills. No gavottes in spring pastures, or tap dancing in her kitchen. I remember shiny red shoes that never fit, loving the sleek leather and the grown-up heel.
I willed myself into size six. My toes pinched, my heel blistered. The shoes were given to my sister within weeks. When her husband died, Zyzi said:
There was no need to be out, I was happy pottering at home or shuffling to the shops. Then last month my granddaughter Mai brought shoes from the City. Soft leather, laced up for support. At sixty three, Zyzi took her first trip down the hill to the town, Mai a steadying hand and an encouraging voice. Next week, she told the presenter, I will do it on my own.
Warrant Abused by your grandfather then again in violent relationships five kids taken into care, not fit to be a mother, they said. You carry on claiming benefits for the children for six years.
They issue a warrant. Your wanted poster. Smile â€• ÂŁ64,000.
Seven months pregnant you avoid prison this time. In a different city, the Securicor van takes a mum to prison her children taken into care.
Cannon Fodder Why do you want to study languages? You won’t need languages in The Yard.
The Yard rules our lives. A humming ants’ nest, streams of worker ants flow in and out. Strident klaxon buzzers, blast every street, regulating
set times to start and finish, a warning, then a final buzzer. Bridge awash with bikes even after the strike, a steady, straggly trickle.
Each dutiful ant sat the aptitude tests, even though apprenticeships were being reduced. Choose your destiny painter, leccy, welder?
I failed miserably, unable to rotate shapes in my mind, calculate angles, know the difference between a ratchet or a spanner, or to care either way. I didn’t want to fuel that fire, create killing machines, weapons of mass destruction, wasn’t enchanted by smoothed flanked subs. I craved languages and travel. A route out.
Your song Feeling unheard it is all too easy to slip into shapelessness.
Listen to your song. Let the reverberations of your voice echo in the reverie of itself.
Keep returning to the song, allow it to shape you and learn to love the shape it makes, for you are the song. Let its shape defy definition and symmetry. Trust your music, for beauty and sadness both lie in its transience.
That impermanence is calling you and, in return, will truly listen.
Listen Listen to the bird’s breath blowing morning in your arms Wrapped around your covers vibrating life anew again. Listen to the whippoorwill’s sighs: wake up wake up— You can hear them if you try, urging you you’re still in love. Listen to your memories stirring in your mind, floating in limbo. Is this real? you ask, am I real? I am real, you then reply. Listen to the planes cruising by; they are also sleeping. And the day begins like a story told in nursery school. Listen to the stillness, it listens back then falls silent— It can heal a wounded mind and soothe an aching heart. Listen to your child rising into the sun— Warming up at the kitchen window. You can hear her growing. Listen to your bones creak like an old rocking chair—tell them You’re not tired. You’re just in limbo. Listen to your dreams rise up out of the dust; they want to live! Listen to your songs playing from the Wurlitzer piano— You are still alive.
Saying Goodbye I sit with Mom. She’s glad to see me, whoever I may be. At times she gets a different look, a spark of recognition, even then midsentence I become one sister or the other. Doesn’t matter, I tell my sisters we all had a chat with Mom, they laugh but it’s a sad laugh. At hospice they suggest you let your loved one know it’s ok for her to go, but I haven’t yet. Things just drag on and what will she remember? Is saying it once enough? She doesn’t need permission. But what if she is waiting all confused, not quite sure what to do? This is the fourth time since her stroke I’ve driven the five hours down to visit. She’s stopped eating, it’s a sign the body’s ready to be done. I’m okay with death, it’s her life I know she really doesn’t want; a life like this, all she does is smile and nod, likes looking at old photos, the people look familiar, nice, a family; in one photo we’re all laughing; I name each person and describe the scene. I can’t stand the way I sound, chirpy, upbeat saccharin sweet she’d call it, phony. She nods blankly, just the slightest smile.
Mom’s lying down now, soon will be asleep. I kiss her on the cheek softly stroke her hair she doesn’t look at me. My face is close to hers “Mom,” I say, “It’s not for me to tell you what to do, but if you want to go, we’re all ok with it. You are so very loved.” In just a few more moments she is sleeping and I am driving home.
Is this not a miracle Remembering Jesus walking on water and finding myself in Llandudno with the sand between my toes, I have a go myself. It isn’t easy, each step, the initial expectation,
then disappointment. I persevere, one foot followed by the other which is, after all, a requirement for walking. A small boy has been watching. “What are you doing?” he asks. “I am trying to walk on water,” I reply. “Can I try?” he says. “Why not?” And so he does.
Together we are more inventive. We think light thoughts: butterflies, lettuce leaves and dandelion seeds. We hold our arms out wide like wings, hold our breaths and flap our arms. We wonder how heavy a speech bubble is
and how many it would take to lift us off the ground. Are you lighter before breakfast? Are you lighter on a Saturday morning,
with the weekend spread out in front of you like standing on top of a Snowdon and looking out over Yr Aran, Llanberis and Mynydd Mawr. 62
And somewhere, surface tension must come into it. Those little insects which scoot across ponds, â€˜water boatmen,â€™ I think they are called.
I am still pondering this when, from a little way off, there is a shout, his mother calling him back for an ice cream. And then he does it, drops even the notion of doing the impossible, and scampers over the water, barely wetting his toes. I am transfixed, the gentle lapping around my knees, unable to explain the weightlessness of children.
BIOGRAPHIES Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. Heâ€™s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and five books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of four review editors. https://twitter.com/bottomstripper https://www.facebook.com/EdAhern73/?ref=bookmarks https://www.instagram.com/edwardahern1860/ Graham Attenborough grew up in Shrewsbury. During the 1980â€™s he had a serious drug problem which he has written about in his pamphlet: New Face in Hell (Bare Fiction, 2018). After rehabilitation, Attenborough became a student of History and in 2000 took a post as lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth. In 2013 he moved back to Shrewsbury to write poetry. He works as a car park attendant and falls in love frequently.
Victoria Bender is an eccentric old lady recently retired from 40 years as a family law attorney. Perhaps if she had been braver, she would have devoted her life to writing. But a need for consistent income and personal cowardice made her choose a more conventional work option. Now, with both the time and inclination present, she is writing the strange thoughts that have refused to leave her mind after flitting in.
Tim Bosley is a fledgling poet from North Shropshire. Despite a rather formal education, he has always taken a philosophical and creative approach to life. A postman for twelve years he is known in his hometown of Market Drayton for his long, brightly-coloured dreadlocks and irreverent sense of humour. Poetry is a recent interest. His poems are intensely personal, sometimes bleak, sometimes humorous, and sometimes both, reflecting the emotional complexities of the human condition. Rachel Burns is published recently in Crannog, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears. She was placed in poetry competitions Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize 2017, Primers Four and BBC Poetry Proms Competition 2019. She has a poetry pamphlet published with Vane Women Press, 'a girl in a blue dress'. (Nov/Dec) Rachael Clyne, from Glastonbury, is a psychotherapist who has published self-help books and articles. Her prizewinning collection Singing at the Bone Tree, is published by Indigo Dreams. Journals include: Tears in the Fence, Rialto, Under the Radar, Shearsman, Lighthouse, Interpreters House, Prole. Her pamphlet Girl Golem, (4Word Press). Its themes are childhood, family heritage and a sense of being other.
Rona Fitzgerald has poems in UK, Scottish, Irish and US publications, in print and online. Highlights include featured poet in the Stinging Fly 2011, Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry 2016, Oxford Poetry XVI.iii Winter 2016-17. Ten poems in Resurrection of a Sunflower, Pski’s Porch 2017. Recent publications are Poems for Grenfell Tower, Onslaught Press 2018 and #Me Too, Fair Acre Press, 2018.
Cynthia Gallaher, a Chicago USA-based poet, is author of four poetry collections, including Epicurean Ecstasy: More Poems About Food, Drink, Herbs and Spices(The Poetry Box, Portland, USA 2019), and three chapbooks, including Drenched (Main Street Rag, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA 2018). The Chicago Public Library lists her among its “Top Ten Requested Chicago Poets.” Follow her on Twitter at @swimmerpoet, Instagram at @frugalpoet and her Facebook page at @frugalpoets. Website: http://bit.ly/swimmerpoet
Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and has been a Hawthornden Fellow. One of her poems was set to music and was performed in Dartington Hall. Messages was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. Vanishings is forthcoming from Palewell Press in 2020 and she runs a Poetry School in Exeter. Gene Groves lives in Northumberland. She had 35 poems in Flambard New Poets 2. Poetry in print and online including The Pre-Raphaelite Society Review, The Interpreter's House, Obsessed With Pipework, Orbis, Prole, The Dawntreader, Three Drops From A Cauldron, Popshot, Writers' Cafe, Diamond Twig and Amsterdam Quarterly. She originally trained for teaching before a social work qualification led to probation. Before marriage her surname was Tierney and she was named after an American film star. Jen Hawkins is an Aromatherapist, lover of words and teacher. She lives in the county of Shropshire, where the natural outstanding beauty inspires her and influences her writing. Her poems have been published in Prole and in ‘Diversifly,’ an anthology from Fair Acre Press, about birds in urban settings. Angi Holden’s poetry and short-fictions, widely published online and in print, explore the environment, family history and personal experience. Her pamphlet Spools of Thread 2018 won the inaugural Mother's Milk Pamphlet Prize. Her short story Painting Stones for Virginia was a prize winner in the 2018 Cheshire Prize for Literature.
Stephen Ingram’s work draws on several sources, including the psychology of the unconscious, what is present and that which is liminal. He is drawn to contrasts, such as from the specific to the infinite, which sometimes brings his work a spiritual element, all of which is worked in to the minimum number of words. Very occasionally, Stephen’s work been known to break in to humour. Kate Innes was once an archaeologist and museum education officer but now enjoys living in the past by writing historical fiction. Her first novel, ‘The Errant Hours’ set in medieval 65
Shropshire, was a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice. The sequel was recently published. Her poetry collection ‘Flocks of Words’ was shortlisted for the International Rubery Award. Kate runs creative writing workshops around the Midlands. www.kateinneswriter.com Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. She has won an Eric Gregory Award and her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection, the semi-autobiographical Waiting for Bluebeard was short-listed for the East Anglian Book Awards (2014). She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is tutor and Course Director for the UEA/National Centre for Writing online creative writing programme. She received an Arts Council Award to work on The Anatomical Venus, her fifth collection. https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/the-anatomical-venus-1210 Rosie Jackson lives near Frome. What the Ground Holds (Poetry Salzburg, 2014) was followed by The Light Box (Cultured Llama, 2016) and her memoir The Glass Mother (Unthank, 2016). Rosie has taught at the University of East Anglia, UWE, and Cortijo Romero, Spain. She won 1st prize in the Stanley Spencer competition 2017. Two Girls and a Beehive (poems about Spencer, a collaboration with Graham Burchell) will be published by Two Rivers Press, 2020. www.rosiejackson.org.uk Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen. Her work can be seen in anthologies from Arachne Press, Grey Hen Press, and others, and in many print and online journals, including As Above, So Below (issue 2), Barren, The Poets’ Republic, Marble, Impspiring, Words for the Wild, and Firth. Her debut pamphlet, The Temperature of Blue, will appear in autumn 2019. Maggie Mackay loves family history which she incorporates into various journals. One of her poems is included in the award-winning #MeToo anthology while others have been nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem and for the Pushcart Prize. Another was commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ published by Picaroon Poetry. Her booklet ‘Sweet Chestnut’ published by Karen Little in aid of animal welfare. Jennifer A. McGowan’s latest book, With Paper for Feet, is available from Arachne Press. Jennifer is a disabled poet and a medieval re-creator, specialising in calligraphy and illumination, and dabbling in archery.
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Local Train Magazine, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is trying to publish a novel. Annabeth Glittermouse Orton has a background in Visual Arts, and saw her poetry habit of no more consequence than an idle hobby for many years. Since discovering she was a Buddhist (not an Atheist as previously believed) she revised this opinion and now considers 66
Creative Writing to be her primary form of expression. She left the city and now prefers to live, practice, work and occasionally rearrange some words at Taraloka Retreat Centre for Women. Estelle Price has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University. She is the winner of the 2018 Book of Kells Writing Competition and her poetry has been placed/shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Much Wenlock, London Magazine, Yorkmix, Manchester Cathedral, Segora, Wells, Plough, Vers, Welshpool and other poetry competitions. Poems have appeared in Paper Swans, Three Drops from a Cauldron and Stony Thursday Book anthologies and the Smith|Doorstep Running Anthology. Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is the author of “Opening the Black Ovule Gate,” 2018; "We Are Beautiful like Snowflakes," 2016, from (http://www.finishinglinepress.com). She has a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College & was a recipient of a Martha’s Vineyard Creative Writing Fellowship in 2016. Poems are forthcoming or have appeared in The Chaffey Review, Poetry Leaves Exhibition 2019, Ancient Pathways, Nothing Substantial, Epiphanies & Late Realizations of Love, and elsewhere.
Hermione Sandall has been a long-distance sailor with her husband, and has worked as a drama teacher. She writes poems as a way of thinking things out.
Finola Scott's poems are on posters, tapestries and postcards, in anthologies and magazines including New Writing Scotland, Lighthouse, The Fenland Reed and Ofi Press. She had success in many competitions including the Uist Prize, Dundee comp, Coast to Coast and the Blue Nib pamphlet competitions. Stanza Poetry Festival commissioned work for a multi-media installation. Her pamphlet, Much left Unsaid is published by Red Squirrel Press. She is the next Makar of The Federation of Writers. Richard Skinner’s poetry first appeared in the Faber anthology First Pressings (1998) and since then in anthologies for William Blake, John Berger, CALM and Médicines Sans Frontières. He has published three books of poems with Smokestack: ‘the light user scheme’ (2013), ‘Terrace’ (2015) & ‘The Malvern Aviator’ (2018). His next book, ‘Invisible Sun’, will be published by Smokestack in 2021. Ruthie Starling is a Shropshire based poet and artist. She writes about nature, family and modern life. She has had work published in books and magazines and does regular readings. She is currently working on a novel, illustrating her children’s book and preparing her first poetry collection. Kathleen Strafford is widely published in webzines and journals. Her debut poetry collection Her Own Language was published in 2018 by Dempsey & Windle. Strafford's second collection Wilderness of Skin was published 2019 by Yaffle Press. She is the chief editor of Runcible Spoon Webzine and holds an open mic in Morley, Leeds at Miners Arms Pub every second Sunday of every month. 67
Susan Taylor used to be a shepherd on her family farm in Lincolnshire, inspiring a keen interest in the natural world, ecology and conservation. She has seven published collections and a new pamphlet, The Weather House, written in collaboration with Simon Williams, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2017. Her new collaborative spoken word shows include The Weather House and La Loba – Enchanting the Wild.
Susannah Violette has had poems placed or commended in the Plough Prize, Westival International Poetry Prize, the Frogmore poetry prize, Coast to Coast to Coast Pamphlet Competition and appeared in various publications worldwide most recently Pale Fire (anthology of contemporary writing on the moon), For the Silent (anthology supporting the work of the LACS), You Are Not Your Rape (anthology of empowerment and overcoming rape) Strix and Eyeflash.
Annie Wilson started out writing for Holiday Which?, various women's magazines and travel guidebooks. She moved from London to the Welsh Borders 30 years ago. Reading, writing and listening to poetry has lit up her life over the last 10 years. She belongs to a writing group, and has occasionally read at Shrewsbury Poetry. Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England. His poems have appeared in a number of print magazines, anthologies and e-magazines in the UK, Ireland, Israel, Canada, the US, Australia and Hong Kong. His collection ‘Voyager’ will be published in February 2020.
Online poetry magazine publishing poems on the theme of freedom/imprisonment.