AUB International poetry prize. Digital Anthology 2021

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Celebrating all prizewinning and longlisted poems from the competition, judged by Glyn Maxwell and the work of our BA (Hons) Creative Writing students

Edited by Dr Natalie Scott Designed by Chiara Causer





Alternate Argumentum Ornithologicum










The Swallows’ Nest in the Patio Wall


32 LONGLISTED POEMS ‘Trane Journey





ðə bɑːθ træp (The Bath Trap) JANE THOMAS (ENGLAND)












Shared Memory Overflow Error





At the Andy Warhol Show VICTORIA FIELD (ENGLAND)


A Grown-up Daughter, and a Father



School Bus Anthem





Dry Missus



HIGHLY COMMENDED POEMS And Us Made Ash, Made Smoke Headed









LONGLISTED POEMS Let Me Tell You About When I Emigrated




Cupping Our Palms




My Father at Work, 1965 JONATHAN EDWARDS (WALES)



West Bank




After Image




Fields for the Future, 1978 LIZZY LISTER (ENGLAND)

43 LONGLISTED POEMS McDonalds Happy Meal Container in Deep Forest



Crow’s Feet and Wrinkles L J WOODS (SCOTLAND)


Sweets (or of the before and after)





Snow at Adam’s Park


58 LONGLISTED POEMS Quite Impossible












From Boyhood to Manhood MARK KIRKBRIDE (ENGLAND)








Inner Voice Workshop




Final Departure Before Lockdown

Ebony Lullaby






An Arsonist’s Aria ELIZABETH PAGE







I am here (unseen) CALLY BRISTOW







Bits and Bobs LANCE BAM



Letter to a Best Friend Anna Jay









Little Eyes in the Trees NUDI (ENGLAND)



Forms of Intelligence






















I Am Here, I Have Made It SHONA BUDDIE



Diamond Time Tanka NAOMI McCLAUGHRY



Ode to Earl

Karishma Natu




Change rides in on many speeds. Lightning speed and we change worlds of perception overnight. We can suddenly lose everything, or gain what we have always hoped and dreamed. Some changes take centuries to reveal themselves.  - Joy Harjo

Undeniably, the last two years have brought change at many speeds. We have had to cope with transformations on a global scale as well as those ongoing developments in our personal lives. Sometimes the two have been intertwined. We have all suffered a loss of some kind and are finding ways to move on and embrace a positive change from the experience. We have all gone through a transition of some kind, either physically moving location or in the adaptation of our thinking. Once, we might have thought that becoming resilient meant growing an extra layer of skin. But we have since found that resilience can grow from showing vulnerability to others and acknowledging feelings. We have all been challenged to deal with change in our own way at our own pace. For many of us, the process of writing it down on paper continues to be a powerful way to express these personal ways of coping, and map our feelings towards finding hope. This anthology offers the fruit of what has been a successful inaugural year of the AUB International Poetry Prize, 2021. We received over 300 entries from 17 countries, including India, Nigeria, New Zealand, USA, Pakistan, Australia, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, France, Ireland and the UK. The topic of course was Change, and poets responded to it using many interesting shapes and forms, with voices ranging from the personal to the political, some being highly persuasive in their use of language, promoting a wider positive change, and others quietly and beautifully capturing change in a specific moment remembered. All 50 longlisted poems are represented in this anthology, with special recognition of the ten Highly Commended entries, two Runner Up Prize winners, David Butler and Tessa Foley, and First Prize winner Laurence O’Dwyer. Special recognition also goes to our BA (Hons) Creative Writing undergraduates, with a section dedicated to showcasing the best poems from students written during the course. We are very proud of the hard work they have put into their studies whilst coping with many changes of their own. So now I invite you to sit back and immerse yourself in the poems: hear them speak, acknowledge their words, then feel your response. Dr Natalie Scott (Editor)


Comments from the Judging Panel

“It’s been an absolute pleasure reviewing the entries for the inaugural poetry prize but also a real challenge - in a good way! The entries were so strong it was hard to whittle them down but I hope that readers enjoy the resulting anthology which has a tantalising mix of voices, themes and ideas.”

“What a joy to read so many engaging poems, in their themes and choice of subject-matter. It’s so exciting to see poets experimenting with form on the page and challenging the conventions of poetry. Many poems brought me to tears with their moving accounts of family stories and remembered moments. There was a lot of humour in the entries too. With such high quality, it was quite a challenge to select the final fifty poems.” “Here was an impressive range of experimentation in the entries, and the standard was very high. I’m blown away by how much talent is out there. The poetry scene feels vibrant - quietly, below the radar, much good work is being done.” “It has been quite the honour to form part of the initial judging panel for the inaugural AUB International Poetry Prize. The quality was exceptional; there were poems that lingered in the mind long after reading the last line. Poems about change of course, but also about love, family and hope too. Incredibly fitting in this new post-pandemic world that we are trying our very best to adjust to. Congratulations to all of the winners, and especially overall winner, Laurence O’Dwyer. See you all again next year I hope.”

Chair of Judges, Glyn Maxwell I was hugely impressed by the poems I read for the AUB Prize. The range and scope was wide, the realms I was hearing from distinct and coherent, and by the time I had a group of twenty or so poems I was dizzy with surprises and, as they say, spoiled for choice. Towards the end of a judging process, some jumble of thoughts and feelings comes to the fore: the sense that the poet possesses an original and memorable voice, that the form and subject of the poem match beautifully, that the performance is vivid like, well, like the conjuror at the close of Laurence O’Dwyer’s ‘Alternate Argumentum Ornithologicum’… The title sent me back to Borges, the pun on ‘Ontologicum’, the idea of arguing God’s existence through the description of birds. The poet takes on this notion with a wry tender regard, combining sensory truth (holding the little doomed thing in his hands), a vertiginous onrush of thought (outwards to every story we tell), a blunt sorrow at the fact: ‘it will never see the north again. The heart blurs to a panic…’ The close is beautifully judged, sunset and a square of earth, children watching a conjurer. Simple and complex, joyful and sorrowful, a glorious poem. David Butler’s ‘Distancing’ is a very fine example of a new kind of poem – a song of the pandemic. Its eye hovers and roams through the still landscapes of lockdown, ‘the whole hive stupefied/to silence’ expressing with diamond-like compression how the crisis has reminded us of our fragile perch in Nature. It’s hard to end a poem with a question, but this one cries out from the hive with a poignant combination of learning, loss, and not the faintest idea what’s to come – which is among the wisest responses of all. Tessa Foley has one of the most distinct new voices in poetry, and ‘Dry Missus’ displays its beguiling oddity, its superb ear, the tang and relish of the words bursting into life. Who else would think of ‘baked potato slow’? The rhymes and assonances jingle and sing in a way that flirts with the childlike, but in truth carries a rich freight of serious mortal ache. Between them the feeling and the thought make a remarkable propulsion, and the fusion is truly original. I very much look forward to hearing these poems, plus the excellent commendations, on National Poetry Day.

Glyn Maxwell’s books of poetry include How The Hell Are You, currently shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize, Pluto, which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2013, and The Nerve, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2004. In 2012 he published On Poetry, a popular critical guidebook for the general reader, and in 2016 its fictional sequel, Drinks With Dead Poets. He is also a playwright, librettist and novelist. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia and NYU in the USA, at the Universities of Essex and Goldsmiths in the UK, and currently teaches on the MA at the Poetry School.




I found it grounded on its tiny feet. Stunned with incandescent rage. I cannot fly was all it said. In truth, I didn’t want to take it in my hands because I was afraid to feel the wings opening and closing like a silent synapse as though it once could speak and now was lost for words. In truth, I felt myself a hawk, a shadow, a conjuror of a shady art; give me a copper and I’ll tell you a story, the one about the golden ass – the loving father, almighty son, heaven and hell, ball and cup, sleight of hand. Once, or many times, it flew from the Arctic to this pool outside of Catriel. It will never see the north again. The heart blurs to a panic and the stranger who made this world will never be back to answer our questions. For comfort, he left us the riddle of the Trinity – beauty, cruelty, death. Here in the village, the sun goes down and a table is set on a square of earth – lazy trees, a tangle of shadows, three cups – children watch the conjurer, wide-eyed, like birds.



Now we are wintering - the whole hive stupefied to silence, each in their cell who isn’t soldiering, an inmate of a new Shalott - the cities, simulacra: drone-shot piazzas; enchanted palaces; empty trainset trains; vistas dreamed by de Chirico; traffic-lights sequencing the memory of traffic confined while, ineluctably, somewhere else, the toll, the toll, until we’re numbed by the scale of it; each week, the heat and bustle more distant, more unlikely; nothing to feed but waxing apprehension: what will eclose this long cocooning, and on what tentative wings?




DR Y SS MIS S The ants in her pants grew up and got jobs, odds and split ends she used to be sporting, they’re courting their own pinky problems now, and she turns, says ‘what do you think about the fence?’ Deep inside you drop a lung, it’s wrong to ignore her now she’s dull,

Past her last pin drop of rum, her dance when she would shake her bum up and down on tumble dries, and now she cries only when the washing runs, she didn’t come mail order with her bling, it was glass twinkling in the mirrored bars, a grin gin pointillisted on,

So is she plain now she is dry? Flat without the bubbles wink, the lingo that she longs to sing all mono now and now she speaks as if you’re you, not blurry rag who hears her self -same single song the one she played repeat, her staggering golden olds, straight, she’s not quite bold enough,

Gone is lurking rough behind the skip, and now she asks ‘How far is the nearest tip?’, she drives and thinks of kiddie ken, her men who fanned the opal eyes, they plop-fizzed into temperance, She’s now not ringing bells for balls, You love her now she’s standing tall?

Gauge her fairer than them all? now she googs and finds the word ‘drywall’, doesn’t wear the splintered shoals, sober days are baked potato slow but years they fall away like jukebox notes, the strongest case of music when you watch her float You love her now she’s living.




So there I was, out on the road, with all the things I’d done, by which I mean you know, the stuff you’ve read about: the lifting, filching, pocket-picking, or escaping through a bedroom window, as a husband strolls in through the door, and more, like breaking in when folks are out, to score the family jewels, the stuff, the store, or rifle through the knicker drawer. Somebody’s missed a daughter or a sheep, somebody took the last road out of town last Thursday week and hasn’t been seen since, somebody’s clocked in the vicinity, then two to one, the whisper is, it’s me. My nights are casting lots, my days are conning folks to cover costs. Oh being bad! For years I practised this, then I got really good at it. But not since then, that day, that day I walked that road and turned a corner: in a flash, a boom of light, right there, that man, he was, just standing, holding out his hand to me. His look like no look I had ever. And then I blinked. And then I could not see. Three days: I woke, and then it all came back, the trees, the sky, but I did not, the man I’d been. So now from here to there I go, my name’s brand new, I speak of him, of what I saw, of how it felt – a day much like today, and he was all there is of love. Now Saul is so far off he never was, and days like these, desk to the world, I write in praise of him, the man I saw. It’s warm tonight, the windows of the house across the way wide open, that breeze playing through the curtains, the sound of singing, somewhere, in the background.

Welcome. I’m sorry I cannot stand up to greet you. Droplets still linger in my lungs, archaic tariffs retarding the import and export of air. Oxygen burns in the body’s economy. The term derives from oikos, the home. Every palace or hovel rises on one foundation; exchange. How many thalers or sestertii, cowrie shells or wampum beads for how many bricks? Even this apartment. Four hundred thousand marks, I’m proud to say. Only the country parson is ashamed of money. I agree, the view outside rewards contemplation. I’ve counted nineteen mountains from this day-bed. Notice the undulating foothills, how the pines climb to higher altitudes on the warmer slopes. Climate, the ecologist would claim. Adaptation. I say, look instead to the horizon. See the skyline rise, spike, descend, the cycle repeat. The Alps mimic equity prices. What’s that new index in London? Financial Times Stock Exchange. An upheaval. The start of a mountain range.


Yes, I admire her work. I met her once, in ’75. Your research is an inspiration to me, she said. Life is a system of transactions; the biosphere, an economy. Her eyes were shiny. She wrote to me last summer on Downing Street stationery. Everything we strove for has come to fruition. Last night, on the news, I watched immigrants smash up a sports store. Looting? No. They demanded the right to sell trainers in the streets for less. Look. The sun cuts the diamond mountains. The leaden sky turns gold. Isn’t the market astounding?


But listen, the wind is still awake bothering this place breeding silverfish inside the end papers of old books while through the trees the neighbour’s eclipse mallards are muting their feathers after the long weeks of terrible wait the days of isolation where the future uncertain of its purpose reshapes itself, again into fold and here. Even my neighbour’s barrel fires on no-burn days might turn last year’s leaves from smoke into something new to slow climb the air. All that ash and smoulder between our yards might bring the waxwings home— their yellowy news finicking ahead of them their snakeberry seeds pipping into the wind’s transparencies and spoors. Somewhere a leaf fire grows out its tails and its sad, blue passage meets with the rain’s beaded exodus: a new creature, either way ring-necked, rapid-eyed running the old shadows down as the world comes forward again on stolen feet bringing news from elsewhere about splitting wide the wind to find something so newly bright we could call it nothing else but Untamed.


I am running uphill, it is dark, even the moon withholds itself. The animals I see seem too human, or objects even have an air of a decision that cannot be made. Back home I watch my son mass-murder a path through Istanbul or Constantinople to the grunts of the dying, leap alleys over roofs, a screw of tornado-wrath his hands shaking with light. Head lit by the screen, saintly hair highlit and deranged. It is time to kill him. Perhaps not today but he must be wakened into death, real death, shown the way out of his room. I speak softly, at first come on now, time for bed. We made this show of children, their wavery energy, whatever we do will influence them, but it is hard to say how. We float between their objects, looking at the steps in front of us, the mud brought in from outside as if we’re sure there is an inside. I’ll kill him with insight. With Freud. It’s time to put away your toys: there are better and colder things that with hard work and no sleep can also be destroyed.


I almost died aged thirteen, shaving minutes off a science lesson with a trip to the toilet. I still see it now: the bloody lining of my pale blue pants; the water turning red. Right then, I knew Death could take me whenever it wanted. Panic seized its chance: I wasn’t ready to die in the toilet of a tower block with beige artex walls, faded lino and temperamental strip lights. With a wad of loo roll in my pants, I returned to the classroom, sombre, dying. I broke the news to my friend Hannah, eyes fixed on the blackboard. She told me the truth of a woman’s life and broke my heart again. At home, Mum cobbled together a platter of biscuits and cream soda, summoned the troops: six sisters and my two sheepish brothers. Balanced on the arm of a sofa, neither mum’s celebratory words nor the custard creams could lift me. She came forward, apologetic, wrapped my hands in hers. Sorry darling, it’s just that, crumbs, there are so many of you.

LIZZY LISTER (ENGLAND) It started with washing machine, searching for the right word that wouldn’t come. It’s in the laundrette. I say. Laundrette? Launder? Laundry? She shows me a photo. I know the flower. It begins with a vowel. Acacia, astilbe, eucryphia? It’s some sort of scabious I say, trawling around, died-back ash reaching out to unyielding sky for guidance. For help. Words, in the pockets of clouds waiting to rain. Photophores a. Ameloidosis lichen filling cracks on a dry stone wall. I read they don’t know if it’s the ameloid plaques or a tangle of proteins, a dry-rot spaghetti that closes time on my woodworm riddled dictionary. Racemes of notes have been falling, litter the house in half raked piles. Call Uncle John. Give Joey water. Bring the washing in.

She shows me a photo. I know the flower. It begins with a vowel. Acacia, aster, euonymus? It’s some sort of scabious I say, trawling around, died-back ash reaching out to unyielding sky Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. That’s not it. Not that flower. It begins with a vowel. It’s some sort of scabious. I look at my phone. No Service. Wonder what that even means.

He stops to admire his rows of subsidised wheat, leaves the Land Rover idling by the galvanised gate. Why would he worry about conservation, with his vat of red diesel? Upstanding citizen, proud product of generations of farmers. He serves loudly on the Parish Council, but likes to cut corners with his side business, emptying out people’s tanks, which we don’t discuss at the dinner table but there’s human shit on his fields, and the plastic liners of sanitary towels. Why pay more to dispose of it properly? Climate change? Pah! All that malarkey. Global warming’ll be grand. There’s no money in cattle. Think of the wine we import from Europe. He looks forward to planting grapes in the valley.

you need wellingtons or galoshes or stout boots before you stamp in puddleholememories she stopped me in the street and talked about the day her husband died when I woke we were lying like we also do back to back knee to knee toe to toe me to him and I felt him cold and knew she turned and walked away into the rain and left me altered as the water spread to rush and fill me with this deepdark otherpeoplesmemory

The world is running out of fish, says Mr. Truckle, to the class. But we will use a petri dish to grow our own. John laughs, but soon his mind spins like a hoop. He imagines his Aunty Maureen, who owns the local fish shop, spooning snot-like jellies of man-made fish into bubbling fat. The world is running out, says John, to Aunty Maureen who looms large. Blood red lips heaving bosom in a starched white apron like great folds of the cliffs of Dover. She glares at him when he says, Soon, there will be no more fish left in the sea. Soon, we will all be eating fish made in a laboratory. The world is running out. John watches Aunty Maureen’s red mullet face. Mr. Truckle fills your head with lies rolled up in newspaper. Nobody will eat petri dish fish. Nobody will want it. She has nightmares. Bloated, blanched, blobs of flesh floating in her bubbling fat. She shouts, Everyone knows that there are still plenty more fish in the sea. The world is running out. John puffs himself out like a balloon fish. He will teach Aunty Maureen about plastic washed up on the beach, about turtles caught up in nets, about the planet rotting like stinking fish. Aunty Maureen, John shouts, The world is running out. And soon, there will be, no more fish left in the sea.

Today, I am a tourist. This village hasn’t been mine for a decade. I guide you across the cobbles, over the railway bridge, leading you through my childhood, my teenage pain. The Mill is unchanged. We climb stone steps which are smoothed and dipped in the centre, like pressing a finger to a bruise. I am following my own footprints which have been fossilised, we are retracing a timeline, we are living in my imperfect past. I watch you wander through the bookshop, an extension of myself, projected onto paperbacks and shelves, vaguely amazed. Last night, in the muddy darkness, I reached out to the pale mountain of your shoulder, lined our edges up again. I have traded a village, with its silent looms, for you, so our cogs could connect, fit, turn.



i. slow down, my mother scolds i am seven, fingers digging into watermelon flesh nails scraping the insides of fruit carcasses feeling the sunburn ripen the back of my neck red dripping down canines like a warning i don’t know it yet but this is how i will remember childhood all the stench of that hunger clinging to my skin like sweat seeping through pores like a sickness this is a wound that always begs for more satiated till it consumes

one that cannot be


ii. slow down, my mother warns thirteen is an itch that i cannot scratch out from under my skin it scrapes the insides of my limbs till i can feel my body swell with the shame that i can still taste at the back of my throat it leaves me parched and hungry lips bitten raw a craving that craves itself till the only word that i can say is more.

iii. slow down, my mother begs but at nineteen i do not know what it means anymore this gluttony is a sin that tastes so sweet between my teeth even as it makes me chew my own tongue to pieces this hunger is a calling in my blood because this flesh it feeds on itself to grow i do not know how to become without feasting on the remains of what i once was till i can swallow the bruises that my memories have now become i think it is strange how the girls who have been loved too much were hiding starving hearts all along.

how I swore I would never be called mummy / how at first I didn’t speak, accepting humiliation from strangers who said speech like mine was too strident / how tricky, because speaking would prove them right / how I was already trained to be seen and not heard / how I hated being called luv and duck / how I was discussed as not sounding too bad, complimented for speaking so clearly / how they laughed when I used their words: bloody hell, well done, what a lovely jumper / how gradually I learned the voices of my friends were the New Forest, the West Midlands, the Borders, the middle class / how they fed the children fish fingers for their tea while sipping tea in the garden, discussing the plants in Latin: aquilegia, cotoneaster / how I heard my own voice sound like too much salt and too much sugar and portions that are way too large / how I used words that were not mine so my children would not stand out/ how on holiday to visit my mom they were asked to say anything, just say anything because their accent is so cute / how my children didn’t realise I have an accent / how I still misread politeness for sincerity / how I say y’all sometimes on the phone / how I miss schmucks / how I am surprised now when someone mentions it / how I am/keep mum

I Moss, muck, twig, mud and stench in a nook in stone, next to which two young silhouettes drink instant coffee and smoke hand-rolled fags every night. My thin arms lift-then-spread a king-sized duvet (feather-stuffed) whenever sun hits the walls. And small-black-wings dart insect-sideways through the mist, glinting almost white in the ripple sun, running their tips over the harbour to paint, and chirping something like singing to summer. Your voice is the only one I have heard in a while. Swallows, less frightened of us each morning, more familiar with each night. You, more comfortable in each kiss’ warm. They perch; the moon spills over the grass; they watch us spill Cornish Cider over our tongues: powder in our hearts. Clicking and clucking till our voices are hoarse and reveal something guttural, and secret. Your voice is the only one I have heard in a while. Each time the sun whites the swallow chicks gawpe for worms, and we gasp for air from each other’s mouths: duvet spread like wings over our aching backs. II Your voice is the only one I have heard in a while; and it is only summer for a few golden days, the sun charrs the edge and the end reaches the middle – tongues spill over cider, trip over words, and into each other. Summer never lasts forever – so through the mist small black swallow wings cut, dart to a lighter place. To France, to Spain, to Morocco, Sahara, Congo; it is only summer for a few golden days, and chicks either fly the nest or fall. When Swallows leave the mites that lived in their feathers burrow through granite walls to look for new hosts; they reach the sofa in our cottage. So I finish my coffee, roll a fag,

put on goggles and rubber gloves and boots and lift the nest from its stone nook – breathing in the stench of mud, muck, and moss. I drop the nest under a bush, and I spray the mites with bleach.[1]

[1] I have always been quick to discard anything / when it becomes a nuisance.

The body of a man as a field of light and shadow – John Giorno Like Warhol, I love watching people sleep and stand transfixed by this film of a breathing being, flickering on screen, here but there, then, and forever, dreams darting over his face like the shadows of birds. Not only do I not know who this John Giorno is, young, naked, monochrome, but confuse him with Jean Giono, a generation older, the man who planted, or pretended to plant, trees on a mountain in the French Alps. This fine-featured boy is Warhol’s lover, aslumber in perpetuity in a five-hour-long film I can’t tear myself away from, made soon after I was born. I’m time’s fool, watching two years after this dreamer died, then an old man. A few rooms later, Warhol’s at it again, filming another sleepy soul, his mother, Julia Warhola, readying herself for the long night. She lived most of her life in Manhattan, with her famous son, now she’s muttering her old tongue, forming words in Rusyn, Ruthenian. Once I saw rooks returning in spring to a black-earth village, blowing in over the fields, flopping like burning paper, or perhaps in a painting, where the long fingers of the trees stroked the sky, trees in a fable in a book, the boy I once touched no longer in my bed.

Love is extending your cupped palms to cradle the blend of chewed-up pizza & clementines in your 2-&-a-half-year-old’s sudden vomit, its warm acidity stinging your fingers, slipping down to the carpet below. Likely, he won’t remember this later in life when you’re proudly beaming at his wedding, or when he’s carefully guiding you back to your hospital bed, your gown flapping open at the back; but some subconscious part of him will vaguely recall, will extend his own cupped palms when the time comes to return the favor.


(For McCoy Tyner, 1938 – 2020)

First heard My Favourite Things when stroppy and thirteen. Heel-dragged, in half-term sulk, to the local fleapit, to see The Sound of Music on the giant screen. How I hated it. Those hackneyed lyrics, postcard platitudes in a queasy list, and that maudlin-jaunty melody, wrapped, note-perfect pretty, in Julie’s anaemic delivery. No wonder the goat herd wandered, hill-high and lonely. Then, away at uni, a shabby record store, where I found, second-hand, at token cost, a lo-fi, bootleg capture of Coltrane’s quartet, gigging in some sixties Stockholm club. And, hence, hate turned to love. Though tin-eared repro does Elvin’s poly-rhythmic drive no favours; Virgin tongue would, now, relish strange new flavours. And unexpected phrases teased from that trite tune, sent senses spinning, head drunk on a brazen brew of gospel allusions, blues beats, and nascent funk. The exhausting thrill, as soprano soars, and sings, harmonic structure and melody merely toys, brings to mind a line, from Whitsun Weddings, and feel, you, too, explored the interest “sun destroys”.

While, some claim discord, self-indulgent sheets of noise, sheer complexity for complexity’s sake; I hear, instead, in the swirling, ceaseless invention of your playing, in every restless saxophone break, how Night does not turn, suddenly, to Day; nor Day to Night; and what, I think, you always knew was true: World’s more than binary, not simple black and white, and Love’s not graded fifty shades of grey, but ever re-imagined, varieties of blue.

I think my dad is scared of me, not in a physical, knuckle to knuckle way, I’m 5 foot 5 and barely the fighting kind. He doesn’t flinch when he’s near me, not as we sit arm to arm on the sofa, ruby-red fabric covers, cushions dipped at his end, watching Saturday night TV. He’s not afraid when we sit side by side, driving our oyster shell car towards our shared commute. Not when he kisses me goodbye at dawn, his morning breath smelling of peppermint, his shirt thick with iron steam, a spray of aftershave, and I hear his stomach growl. For years, my dad was scared that I would not eat, that I would disappear completely. But he swept his fear under the kitchen lino, he buried it, lost it in mortgage papers, in his surveying work, in TV dramas and caring for elderly, memory-absent parents. The illness hovered around us both – unspoken of, unspoken to. Floating. It lurked around our slippers, and breathed in and out, inside the kitchen cupboards inside the bedroom walls, and even then my dad didn’t say: I am scared, or where are you going, or I think I am losing you. Before this, he was scared I would fail or have the feeling of failing myself beyond repair. I would be misled by those that don’t know me, those who can’t speak our language or learn it. The lexicon of lives – words only for a daughter and a father. Even now, he is scared. Scared that I’ll fly away, further this time, and I’m always wondering why. I stand on his feet like I’m the blonde, blue-eyed girl again, and he walks me around the kitchen. His favourite coffee mug shows a Cornish landscape, it’s where he wants his ashes, but there’s no tin mine. We both notice this illustrated absence dancing around the lino, making tea, pouring out the milk. I inherited this landscape from my father; it is ours, and I am still his daughter. EMILY WOOTTON (England)


He worked on the sixth floor of the office block they built slapbang in the middle of Newport in 1964, the one the papers called The Future, the one they tore down to put a car park there in 1982. I can’t be completely sure, but if I stand here now, in the doorway of Debenhams, and look up at an angle


of say, 63° – there above the roof of the flower shop, just to the right of that patch of cloud, that bit of blue air might be exactly where my dad sat, all the way through the 1960s. Imagine him there, peering all day at those ledgers, or looking out of the window now, down at the doorway of a shop that isn’t there yet, at the boy standing in it who isn’t there yet, who nonetheless is waving and waving up at him, with everything he has.


A blushing longing to be toucheddown a list of body partscool pink nipple budding against a palm. Of high-school boys by the station carpark, under streetlights in the blue dusk, kisses arrowed to the back of the throat. Walking homethe promise of full-bodied, teenage sex hung across the houses and no through roadslike curtains drawn tight over windows. I longed to lift up the fabric, like school-shirts over headsand draw figure-8s on the glass as though it were back-skin. I dreamed of; smoothed down bedsheetsa strand of hair caught in a buttonholea long school sock flying half-mast down a shin. The cicadas sang a tuneless racket as I ripened-unsure, into girlhood.



I sit at the back with Shelley and Titch, sharing a long cigarette, smoking it down to the fag end. Bernadette goes from seat to seat, can yer sponsor us 50p, pet? We all know the money isn’t for the starving babbies in Africa. The big lads on the bus, bounce first years up and down, up and down, on their knees. This is the way the donkey’s ride, the donkey’s ride, the donkey’s ride.

The old double-decker crawls up the bank, wheezing like a knackered miner. We pile to one side, just as it hits the hairpin bend, knowing the driver, won’t make the gear change in time. The engine smokes, splutters and coughs, wheels spin backwards. Time rewinds. The bus grinds to a stop. We pile out the exit, a herd of untamed ants. The driver shakes a fist. Ger off yer little bastards! Ger off!

All ground’s worth fighting for, they say here, the barren hillsides, gorges, dusty plains where tales have trodden some fine lines: a voice in a burning bush, a dewy fleece on the driest of grounds, a speaking donkey. Outcrops of creeds have taken years to make their crests of a point. Suppose now, words are turned into stones – hard, angular, splintered – and homes into rubble. What these teens pick up and hurl at the armoured vehicles or manned fences are perhaps the same stones the Israelites kept in shoulder slings to count the flocks they grazed – here is about counting, about being counted – that will end up placed on levelled graves, as lore has it, for God’s sling.


Most people snake down the M6 as they climb the ladder, we moved up it. Renouncing soft downs, soft cheese and gentle vowels, for seagulls, scran and scouse. Forsaking a honey town house, Abbey Ales, green vales and Sally Lunn’s Buns.

b tr

For red brick back to backs, Bubble ‘n Squeak, ferries, Mersey beats and drums. It took a morning in my new school to lose my aaaRs over the Malted Milks. From Bath to bath, laugh to laugh, ask to ask and dance to dance. The soft words rolled from my tongue, and the sharpening of its edge began.

* BATH – TRAP is a vowel split that occurs in Received Pronunciation, BATH vowel refers to the pronunciation of the vowel in the word bath and other words that share that same vowel, such as laugh, ask and dance.

‘Boulevard du Temple, 1838’ Alchemist of light, Daguerre arrested the fugitive moment. No theatre-set ever astounded as the unpeopled streets of Paris ghosted in silver iodide, breathed on by quicksilver, fixed in salts. Shadow held fast, the afternoon enchanted to absolute stillness. “J’ai saisi la lumière au passage, et je l’ai enchaînée.”

At crib-time they come down from their tractors, leaving their labour of pulling trees from ancient hedges, searing roots like giant wisdom teeth, splinters of stone spitting across wounded soil. We’re just kids, silent witnesses, standing, awed, bearers of sandwiches, apples, saffron buns. For weeks a battle proceeds. We do not see it like that. It’s work. Farm work. The work of shaping land for food. Pale antlers of a lightening tree locks horns with jaws of hardened steel. Heavy chains, a symphony of engines Ford. John Deere. Caterpillar. Massey Fergusson. Generations of herringboned blue-elvan stone fracture, fall.

Crushed porcelain dolls heads, cracked clay pipes, willow pattern shards from years of dock muck, all buried beneath ruptured hedges, deep tilled loam. Ploughs smooth the land’s zipped scar to a striped corduroy. We are watchers, small as ants. Our readiness to earn will see us eagerly shifting hunks of leftover stone, piling them in wheelbarrows, building cairns in concrete yards, copper pennies, burnished terracotta, warming in our palms. Their reward is silver - increased yield, cheaper labour. We hope excavation will reveal treasure; golden Roman coins, scabbard heads, bronze figurines, tiny jewels in our fingernail dirt. But it never does.

‘Ya habibti, how do you like it here?’ This they ask me, but reject my answer. ‘No,’ they say, ‘that is wrong, for you must say…’ I must say, like it or not – I do not, ‘al-Hamdulillah.’ I am ambiguous in my dislike of the heat, the dust, the humidity, colourlessness, and uniformity. Watching the palm fronds wave at my windows, I recall multicoloured green, damp grass, the voices of the rain, desiring these over so many years until they say, ‘Habibti, khallas. Ma’a as-salama. Your wise old blood is no longer needed. You can return now to that other place.’ In grains of remembered sand, I would count time, but they are too many and too fine. ‘How do you like it here?’ they ask. I say, ‘al-Hamdulillah.’ ‘No,’ they say. ‘That is wrong. You are misplaced, You are mistaken, forgetting yourself. For you must say instead, Está bom aqui.’ I will, if you say so, though it is not, since I recall heat, humidity, dust, all of it missing, the colourlessness, blotted by green. Heavy under the rain.


At twenty-two, I accepted a teaching job and moved into my first apartment. Tucked away in the hips of a hollowed-out hosiery factory, my walls were red brick and white plaster. That winter, every morning alarm began in the dark. I set the coffee machine spluttering and turned on BBC News: the perfect emulation of adulthood. Back then, I didn’t know we were sharing the same cold. You lived in the ribs, in a perpetual blanket cocoon, eyes narrowed at the puttering of the electric heater. I dragged my duvet to the living room and marked essays, your almost-image, imperfect parallel. When they dug up the king in the car park, I wonder if you joined me in the crowd that gathered only yards away from the rosy bones of our chilly homes, trying to catch a glimpse of a funeral five hundred years in the making. Maybe we were shoulder to shoulder, then turned and walked away from each other along the arcs of a five-year circle.


Here, where nature lays out the green carpet of itself, to walk here’s to walk through these trees’ high-ceilinged living room, their loud silence, ashes, oaks putting their fingers to lips they do not even have, right here, right here, somehow, these yellows, reds, this bit of cardboard, and the words I’m lovin’ it!

Here, where trees lay out the giant slalom of themselves, and squirrels on the start line twitch a little, fiddle with their goggles, here in this place where there is no McDonalds, no thought of a McDonalds, even here, the golden arches of these handles, and this clown’s face, grinning up now from the grass.


What is this, cardboard evidence that world gets everywhere? Here, next to every picnic table there’s a litter bin, a sign – Please put your litter in the litter bin! – and even here, where i-phone, GPS can’t help you, sir, half-buried under pine cones, this thing which is half lunchbox and half logo.

I pick it up and fold it in my pocket, to carry to a bin, keep as a keepsake, and then I tiptoe from this sleeping forest, careful not to set its floorboards creaking, head back to the car, a life, a world, its miles of drive-thru restaurants, where arms reach out of windows, like they’d shake your hand.

Native Ash to ashes, fungus fired to dust; a fifth of Stansted Forest, thinned, or laid to rest. Where chlorophyll-bright feathers stretched, shrivelled, blackened leaves, choked on wind-borne spores, now plague bleached upper branches. While tell-tale morbid pustule buds cull Spring’s burst of purple flowers. From valley path, that parallels the railway track, and cleaves opposing limestone slopes, bear witness to a cache of vanished Ash-dense wood. And, bar a scrap of spectral birch, posing as sparse sentries, in its stead, mock-burlap wrapped, saplings newly planted, like headstones in a Flanders plot: stark, uniform, and gapped. Unwelcome echo of Elm’s fate, some decades back, when Dutch disease and hurricane took their mutant toll. The forest’s northern corner, once diverse, deciduous, turned one-note only cover: gone alien, coniferous. More panic-bland plantation, than quasi-natural wood. But maybe it’s a lesson learned. Three years hence, green heads should poke above the pale tubed parapets, shy creeping sign those young recruits, Wild Cherry, Oak and Lime, in skinny guise, and outline mix, might yet revive this blasted realm. And deep inside the wood, I find, hardy Fraxinus, still digging in. And deep inside its fissured bark, the fight-back might begin.

NUDI NUDI(England) (England)


unloaded from car: children, wellies, sandwiches, a blanket she carries them through the gate into dappled light of forest there is magic here, she confides listen closely, hear the wind singing through the trees? their skin goosepimples under summer shade glancing at each other they remember with a s h i v e r illustrations in a children’s book night eyes glinting from wooded bank

she laughs, strides ahead along hardened path long, strong steps lead them deeper into the woods they follow behind wellies snuffling through leaves chattering like jackdaws stay quiet & you may see a deer she counsels in sparkled whisper excited eyes dart expectant they forget not to giggle

let me begin

after Terrance Hayes ‘ The Same City again

door creaks open in rusty refusal as she summons everything she’s got: faded Greek rug, simple homemade lunch of course two mutinous little ones she made these too & she’s tired her joints ache from years of praying for children worry they’d never come a broken gingerbread family is not how she pictured the scene but on this day she feels whole she loves to share the woods with them spark their imaginations, open their ears, bright their eyes their smiles & chatter lift she sighs, long & soft picks up the heavy load leads them into the forest leaves crumbs

sudden joyful burst into wide-open sun they run squealing bobtails scattering

Take the creases from my eyes put them in the trousers of suits on their way to a first job trace them along the spine of a much loved book make the cracks and crows feet dog-eared edges. Smooth the wrinkles from my face. Drop them casually into an unmade bed -still warm and whispering secrets of last nights. Leave the blind spots for lovers. Who will fizzle out in a season; unsuited but filled with frivolous laughter. Take the liver spots. Adorn a dress festooned with polka dots that dances, drinks and calls the shots. Keep the corn on the cob. Leave my feet bare free to walk in the sand feeling it run between my toes like an hour glass that forgets I am no longer that sultry seventeen-year-old who held the world in an unblemished palm like a Tropaion on the battlefield of mortality.

ADRIAN BUCKNER (England) My name is Rachel Mutt I work from four to eight three times a day Nine days a week fifteen months of the year Cleaning lavatories in an Institute of Higher Education In the English Midlands Life has dealt me seven truckloads of shit Leaving me with nothing but pride in my work Ignoring the framed sheet above the hand dryers I signed today my very own piece of Art Fountain, 1917

JONATHAN GREENHAUSE (USA) Here we go again: The stainless-steel table, a bone cutter, the sodium chloride, pictures of his family set up in order of importance: The 10-year-old daughter, the loving but inattentive wife, the newborn son who’ll never get to know him. My coworkers are busy with their own thoughts, their obsession over security clearances, their fears of marital breakdowns. Outside, the world worries about disorder, about change coming too fast. We’ve been ordered to pause, to make sure the intelligence is as reliable as he seems not to be. First, small slices on his abdomen with slightly-blunt scissors brought in from someone’s son’s 3rd grade class. It doesn’t really matter whether we’re the government or a terror cell, whether our work will lead to change, will eventually make things better for you: All that truly matters is he’ll suffer.

We bought smiles across the streets of the centre and sweets, with shined shoes for a perfect image, the screen a bit bigger again to better observe from the keyhole to spy on the world in petticoat and assert that everything does not return but vanish as snow poured out in manholes. We now stay locked inside the shell of the few attempted words when the city does not abandon itself to the easy enthusiasms of celebrations and keeps its squares a bit aside far from the crowd and the nativity cribs, from the old men swaying in the streets turning a bill over, a receipt a sheet of memory. Of this life that appears to us through coloured mists and nuances as the traced things inside a Monet’s painting we’re left with scattered shreds, ticks of a time that teaches us to draw upon ourselves wrinkles of regrets, straight as the furrows of an alien past and then the stories scarcely snatched away from memories. And everything starts again, from where it never ended: in the recomposed circle of things, in the expired age of corroded minutes and in the being daily breaths, faint flashes of a broken becoming.

The disorientating smack of taste of my first proper packet of crisps was an induction of sorts, salt and vinegar lingering on the tongue, an exciting world of flavour after ready salted, sampled at the table in the pub garden by the pond in the corner, preparation, in retrospect, for the foam of beer on the upper lip, the ahh afterwards.


He saw or perhaps he heard the sound of a door closing behind him. It was late then and the path that had led him to the foothills of a life melted like mist

or the memory of mist. He was alone now. He made out the mountain of a sky, looked down —

the memos, deadlines, scribbled notes, the phone-calls, plans for days, a day and days like these fell from him like shucked skin, an identity that was not his, part of the armoury of another man.



When they place you in my arms, I hide that I’m terrified to hold you, one-quarter my genes, swaddled in cream, stretching, yawning, snuggling close.

Two days old: already unimaginable to think you ever didn’t exist, though my parents who’ll never be known to you still live in me. My lips touch your downy crown, kissing the pulse, your eyes stay closed.

Earlier they showed me the coloboma, as if your pupil is torn. We all have flaws. It may help you see through dark times – sometimes even now I struggle.

My skin must feel like sandpaper as I prise open your first. I want to see strong lines of life and love. I know they are there. But you wrap your fingers round mine,


hiding your palm, clutching me tight. So tight I could lift you dangling to the sky.


My mother’s father’s brother, Wal, spent the rest of his life in a prefab semi on Rustat Road, up the end next to the tracks. Alone in the back room, with ruler, scissors, spirit gum glue, he scrapbooked every detail of the horror – name, date, place, his body gaunt and face drawn, as if not long back from Burma. Rest of the time, he lost himself in the lawn or tending sown veg, shirtless, raking the topsoil and tinkering in his shed, called in by Auntie Eileen for evening tea – food easy on his stomach shrunk and sore from rice tummy: soup, semolina, gravy ‘n’ mash. Like a child at a party, he was fed ice cream and strawberry jelly. Meanwhile, my father’s father, Pat, just got on with things and rarely spoke of it but did say the men were pally with the Dutch. He confessed to running up a decent dress from beige gabardine for his female lead, let me in on hot nights burning paraffin wax for light, working solo on a homemade violin with rosewood inlay. And that he’d to leave it behind come the enemy retreat, dig a hole and bury himself for a week. There was a hardback on the shelf about the railway. My teenage excitement, dropping in to tell him I’d won an essay contest run by the embassy – ‘UK-Japan relations: what more can be done?’. A fortnight’s trip, all expenses paid.

Afterwards, he was asked what he was thinking. There were reports, he said, of capacities and measures, of influences and communities, of governments and unnecessary long-haul flights. But what I thought was: normal laughter, singing out of tune, and praise for all the cleaners, because cleanliness trumps godliness every single time. Afterwards, he was asked what he was feeling. I felt, he said, the uneasy sway of railway carriages witching points, the precipitous temperature drop as the Sun passed behind the Moon, the gut-deep rumble of thunder overhead, and of food disappearing from shelves. Afterwards, he was asked what he dreamed. I dreamed, he said, of trees with blunt fingers and stars with sharp edges, of a familiar city that grew every time I closed my eyes; and I dreamed that everyone who had ever cared for me was alive and skipping down concrete steps leading to the sea. Everyone was smiling, he said. Everyone was smiling.


January 2021 The stadium is vast and empty, the seats tipped up. The sky is blanched. It has been snowing all night. There is a pristine gauze across the pitch. The carpark, meanwhile, is stippled with grit, cars slow through the slush. Cautious figures hover near the entrance, wait in silence. Some pause by the mannequin still gracing the window: a boy, poised mid-air for a header, his Wycombe Wanderers shirt dull-blue with dust. Snow falls. The doors slide open and shut, admitting one by one at a distance. A list on a clipboard. A pencil. A tick. The bar is the clinic, the supporters now volunteers in high-vis, the beer-stained seats tucked into couch-roll, rearranged into booths; there are trolleys in the first-team dressing-room, fridges in the cubicles, syringes and tourniquet and pallets of cannula in the lockers and showers, protocols across the trophy-cabinet and tactics-board, erasers and sanitiser and tippex on desks, nurses in the players’ tunnel, silence on pitch: a prayer to the ones who cannot see this.

Gesticulate at you above, the giant in a stadium. Flatten your hands on air to buttress the tower of Pisa. Rehearse the enduring saga of your face, relegate each glorious backdrop. Now, you’re everywhere in electronic limbo, your smile on a sleeve, your hand-claws fashioning a shape of heart. And wanting to connect is an endless rush hour. Blessed are those who have lost their ears to humming vibes in the bottoms of bags, or those running on empty, whose empty is filled with invasive species. And the ones with ingrowing nails, withdrawal symptoms, or self-deleted posts. Blessed the true and caring whose presents are posted on ebay next day, and those who look a gift horse in the mouth. Blessed, the purveyors of firewalls, encryption, anti-viruses, and the ones with no filter at all, watching reality TV through chaotic tears. Those who go through all the screens of life and never get the job. Hallowed be thy names. Deliver us from the glare, from consumed eyes, blind us back into abandoned selves.


there are few things that could be described as such in this calamitous city o’ London- the traffic puts us to sleep like a mother’s song.

When the river is low it looks as though it tastes of battery acid and pirate bone. My friend comes to visit, we weigh almost 33 years on the grasswatch a great Dane steal a pizza box & carry it across the Heath. She looks magnificent in early Aprilas she describes our twenties as a miserable, beautiful thing. So much fucking that we didn’t enjoy. She sings to me later, when it is dark and we walk to stop the cold. A soft, climbing registerthe humming song, performed inward to vibrate down about the organs. My lungs feel as though on the verge of being spatchcocked- as if the past is only sitting at the bottom of our throatswe force it up, to see if it dies in our mouths.

Behind the mask where we all must stay socially distanced in a contradiction an unruly smile has grown or a beard or some sign of life that wasn’t there before and although some avenues went quiet and culled doors opened and let in vast light remembering those who never seemed so distant and vows were made that when the time came to reclaim freedom, they wouldn’t be forgotten no ship wrecked without some hands being saved. Now spring is here, remember the parlour that somehow glowed with April’s light, then May grew round the busyings of your mother washing and chopping, boiling the pans, in light  so filled with warmth, working her daily miracles she never could have known these times, these two are quite impossible, the memories  of sunlight dashing across kitchen surfaces, utensils, and patience concentrated in one’s work, and the long strange sentences of lockdowns, bubbles, shielding. Now astrazeneca is on our lips and Oxford has another tone. But nothing touches that spring parlour where the light  was clean and wholesome and spring bright.


I dislike icing, says a woman (her owl glasses sparkle). It reflects badly on my personality. The tall man (he could be a badger) says to an empty chair where the tutor should be (he’s gone for a smoke or a pee), I might burp, but it’s only internal. A girl with spiky red hair looks up: How’s your mother? Badger-man smiles, Dead. Her funeral was yesterday. He turns to ask why I’m sewing when this is a writing class, but ampersands make me nervous & I jabber, I’m cross-stitching pronouns into a circle of fabric (I’ll transform it later into a duster or trinket case). Everyone stares, pens to their lips, then badger-man says, I’ve always had a problem with parentheses.


Coming soon: The next chapter – 2.500 new homes, a community centre, library, nursery, leisure facilities… Better opportunities for all: A far-reaching vision for SW18. I remember a day – a Sunday perhaps, maybe 1998 – when my flatmate and I walked to SW18. She’d just split with some guy and I’d had three nights out on the bounce. We can’t just sit around here all day, she said, so we walked to Price’s Candles on York Road.

] Yes, screw him, Fi said, feeling the glass, a smile breaking: He was a right douchebag anyway. She touched wax, wood, said thanks for coming – for being with me today; I had to dash outside at one point to puke. Now SW18, I read, is one of the capital’s most exciting redevelopments; a neighbourhood transformed, renewed – 28 incredible acres, our plans inspired by the history and heritage running through every street from Clapham Junction to Thames Riverside. Register your interest here. But I’d rather remember when I stood in the bricked quiet of the cathedral-like old candle factory, three days-worth of booze going out of me. I’d rather remember when I was 20-something and everything was mine – everything, present. Those days, those years: somewhere, lost, in 28 incredible acres and beyond, looking through stained glass and breathing newly scented air.

TIM RELF (England)

Strikes at Shirebrook 1984

It was a hard winter. And longer than we expected. We’d assumed others would act, make them see sense. But we were invisible, hidden behind the heaps. Above ground, but only just. Breathing, but only just. They had stockpiled coal, and had fresh oil in their veins. They tried to split us with scabs. Then rounded us up and charged.


It was hard, but the kiddies understood. Father Christmas wouldn’t cross a picket.

Strikes at Shirebrook 2018

I earn more here the job is OK. I pack ‘anti allergenic synthetic right-hand off-white golf gloves for men’. I live in a shared house, I have my own bed. No one speaks my language. I survive, but only just. Send money home, but only just.

I have only had two strikes. One when I was learning and was slow. One when I was in hospital after the attack. The girl in the next bed has had five. She is ill most mornings. I keep away from her.

Nb. Shirebrook is a town in north-east Derbyshire. The colliery closed in 1993 and in 2004 it was redeveloped and renamed Brook Park; half the zone was allocated to Sports Direct. Sports Direct has six strikes and you’re out punitive policy for its zero-hour employees.


Cafe doors swing; a case on wheels trundles past the furtive truants and the high-vis workmen on a break, the mini-skirted bride adorned with ‘L’ plates by her boisterous posse, the bored waitress with an undisguised yawn. Coming to a halt, discarding burdens at a vacant seat, her escaping breaths hiss; drawing looks of pity from the manicured mother, with perfect child in a spotless bib. Unexploded bomb, squeezed in a corner by random possessions she’d grabbed in haste. A woman, stationary between belongings, shunted to a siding; a figure to forget, like the irrational fear that loneliness is catching. Behind her mask, an undetected smile is spreading; eyes pricking as gel evaporates from her naked palms, sharp and purifying. Outside, passengers spill and sprawl in a careless littering, as carriages uncouple.

To move out of one job into another: to think of what a day is, and to say It’s something else, to take it all – the bloke who lolls at the next desk, the pot plant sulking right there in the corner, the view that window frames – to take it all and burn it down, to step out of a door or to the side of your own life (the sounds your footsteps make are sounds your footsteps make when they’re walking away) so what, six months from now, you pass the place – you’re riding on the top deck of a bus – and see the person step from there you were and blink, and feel the gears change. To rush, to run out of one love into another: to say I’ll see you soon and not do that, to add a new address, tip-tap it on the Interflora website, to hear your phone bleep bleep, and look, and think of something else, to flick through and delete, so what, a month from now, you set up times you won’t be in the flat so she can get her stuff, and you come back and find it gone, that scent left there you know, one breath of who she was. To go, to move out of one life into another, stand in some high place, look out at sea, at air, and clench your fists, and take one step, lie on a bed which these machines crowd around, to say It isn’t so and cough so what, six months from now, some bloke here in the room you did your living in and look, some of your stuff is not quite gone, and though the agent has a few more properties she’d like to show, the man who’s strolling to your kitchen now is looking round, already thinking Home.


We’re broken, but we cannot be beat. We stride gallantly through a world that should be made for us, while they neglect and abuse our trust – one day I’ll demolish our shackles, I promise. I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. They drag me down – the boulders made of glass ceilings and stereotypes, but we refuse to be rolled over. We won’t be pressed and moulded into what they need us to be. Freedom and parity are right around the corner, I can feel them. As I rise, I’ll use my entire spirit to lift the boulders and hurl them away from us. I’ll lift every near and far soul that faces the fear of inferiority I’ll lift the pain, lift the struggle and catapult this earth-shattering movement down their throats until it’s all they can feel. We are powerful, we are beautiful, and we will fight back.



Perhaps I shall see my reflection one day; an emperor of beauty, misaligned. I’ll find reason to unchain my neck of additions before dusk slips into the night.

I’ll dethrone myself, with caution, of iridescent silver studs and statements and septum-gold, I’ll place quietly on crystalline bedside tables.

I’ll pluck stretchers from swaying earlobes my arms scathed with blank-ink hieroglyphics to terrify onlookers, those mocking souls, those wretched, judgemental critics!

Or perhaps, I will allow untainted skin to sag and shimmer on its own accord. An emperor of true beauty, so ‘natural’ and ‘divine’ my own reflection: inexpressive and bored.


You pulled my love from me through my spine; slurped it and dipped it into puréed soup, Now my own hollowed chest aches in despair. Yet, when the Sun stroke crawls into my scalp, my skin sheds and my bones are born new. A world wired on acid beckons me: Contrasted colours and Chelsea smiles, The shoots in my ribcage bloom with every breath taken, And for the first time, I want to keep those flowers growing. The gift of a new perspective is a wavering tightrope and it’s surreal that I was anything but this before my mouth spoke truths. No more clinging reptiles on my spine, spinning for the men in business suits. From being trapped in a younger time—Stockholm syndrome romance—the warm summers will see me as the adult I should have aged alongside.


They tell tales of twin flames,  but what if we burn out?  We do not hear of failed fires  nor see the debris that remains.    No ash or soot stays  once flames cease to lick the grate.  No stray embers left alone  to float obliquely up, up-     Oh, how dangerous we are  when none can stop us burning!  Whatever shall remain of us  once we strangle out the flames?     You feed yourself with torrid hopes   that I flicker and snuff out.  A cinder spluttering weakness beside  the blaze you raze around us.     I offer kindness, help you build  the nest you turn to kindling   for greedy, climbing flames.   You leave me with broken twigs.    Build a pyre, swiftly strike a match  in hopes that I ignite.   But ashes cannot be burnt twice.      And we all know what rises from the ashes.



A rock. A hard place. A bottomless pit. The coalface. Rat race and true grit. A few things we all face in Earth’s pulpit.

Lust. Hate and beer goggles disgrace. Triangles, candles and a tangled embrace. A few things we all face when in love’s lace.

The fists. The kiss. The hugs and kicks. The shove. The slit at the base of the wrist. A few things we all face when parents embrace.

The lines. The pints. The acid and knives. The blood spilled on cold nights when handcuffs arrive. A few things we all face on nights out with mates. The cheers. The smiles. The laugh of a child. The kiss on the lips from the one that you miss. The scent on the pillow when she’s left your side. The smell of the shed where Pa tucked his head. The dent in the bed where Nan took her rest. A few things that make us cry at times.

Hid under a ledge The Diamond glistening wet Eyes meeting shyly Took shots of each other’s drinks Left our friends in the drizzle Kissed down an alley Re-glossed my lips as he pissed Bare legs shivering His Poundland fleece on my knee A gentleman so I thought Chip shop curry sauce Quilt of extra cheese on top Lips linked whilst too drunk The exchange of tangy lust Sloppy tongues melting cheddar Night didn’t end well Sent me drunk snaps from his bed Misspelled ugly words “I misaed hwr adter yoi wete gine” I kissed her after you were gone. Ten texts left on Read Could not bring myself to care Lips to the toilet All his putrid flavours gone Diamond Time waits for return


So a man kissed me in my sleep and you expect me to marry the creep? I wake up after like a hundred years and the first thing I hear are my own wedding bells? Did I wake up in hell? I think you’re forgetting I’m only fifteen, that sleep didn’t age me. What I’ve been waiting for isn’t a sloppy, unwanted kiss, but life again, to see everything I’ve missed. I miss the dear fairies dressed in red, blue, and green, and skipping through the forest, singing through the trees. But no. None of that. Know where I’m heading? Straight to my own stupid, stupid wedding. I think you’re forgetting I’m only fifteen, and for countless centuries I’ve been a background character in my own storyhe just arrived and ate up all the glory. I was no more than a prop, a prize for the knight in shining armour that everyone keeps telling me is ‘really quite the charmer’. Yes, I’ll thank him for saving me, but now, sir, let me go free. I think you’re all still forgetting I’m only fifteen, true love doesn’t work like this, it’s plain to see. I didn’t want this, I just wanted a nice birthday but now there’s an unbearable debt I have to pay to a man people keep saying is my prince and I just can’t help but cringe and wince. Now I’m awake, I don’t know which is worseforcing ‘true love’ or a painless sleeping curse.

You saw me in my darkest hour, changed my sheets when I wasn’t able to, wiped my tears when I would cry, and brushed my hair when it was unmanageable, I used to only encounter a friend like you only in my dreams, I used to only know the facade of fake friends, who would whisper behind my back, snicker at my hair, face and clothes For years I felt alone, Conversations would flow past me, like I was there but somehow I wasn’t. I felt like no one cared. Yet you cared for me at a time when I couldn’t even care for myself. You saw me when no one else did, allowed me to be myself, praised my voice when I would sing, even encouraged my talents. You saw me when I was being mistreated, even stood up for me, You ended up with a black eye, And I chose You over him. You saw me when I was unwell, and bathed my face in water, ran me a bath, even bought me some hair oil. You saw me when I was down, when I would stare into space, I couldn’t see any way out of it, but you made me see the wonder of rain. One day, I offered to do your hair, but you said, ‘don’t worry darling I’ll do yours.’ I hope one day I can repay you I thought, But I never got the chance. For one day I found you taking a drag of meth, ‘Stay away from her and her habit I was told.’ You were upset because I wouldn’t answer, any of your messages or calls. ‘I’m sorry my friend, we can’t be friends for the meantime,’ I said, ‘And I hope one day you get help.’ I never saw you again, But I hope, one day, you’ll realise, I was being a good friend to you as well.


Milky wisps painted the colour of sand Take a sip, a sweet whisper from his lips A floral flare full of sun in my hands And then as we kiss, a total eclipse

The first time we touched, he put me at ease Pockets filled to the brim with endless love Inviting fresh honey from dizzy bees Sat in a room as quiet as a dove Always there, my knight in shining armour Through tangerine mornings, indigo nights Soft as silk and nothing but a charmer And guaranteed to treat his lady right

Not a grey cloud in sight when you’re around The King of beverages, classy and crowned


I grow In-between nettles & weeds. From the quiet middle of soft shadows. I may be sheltered but I enjoy the company of the unseen, unwanted, and silent little things.


When half the world is sleeping, my eyes still yet to close, a gentle hum of peace ends a day of tiresome woes. Ten thousand, they say, are waiting to guard us at our doors, to save us from ourselves and our darkest human flaws. But in one simple flower upon the window sill, there sits a little secret, the strength of human will. Collaboration at its finest, foundations of new truth. Lessons learned, no bridges burned by the union of youth. It takes no strength to see them, just a rested head, now breathe. The black will build to colour, it’s simple, just believe.


Sincerest thanks go to the following individuals and teams who have played a role in or supported the AUB International Poetry Prize from concept to fruition: Keira Haslam – Sales Ledger Administrator Charlotte MacKay – Senior Digital Communications Officer Wil Ryan Page – Digital Content Administrator Helen Duckworth – Marketing and Communications Manager  Chiara Causer – Digital Anthology Designer Andrew Vella – Senior Lecturer Graphic Design Dr. Christian Edwardes – Course Leader Illustration Dr. Christian Mclening – Dean of the School of Art, Design and Architecture Jon Renyard – University Secretary and Registrar Prof. Emma Hunt – Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof. Paul Gough – Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Mary Oliver – former Dean of the School of Media and Performance Naomi McClaughry – AUB Creative Writing Student Dr. Kevan Manwaring – Senior Lecturer Creative Writing Ashley Hickson-Lovence – Lecturer Creative Writing Dr. James Cole – Course Leader Creative Writing Glyn Maxwell – Chair of Judges The National Poetry Library The Poetry Society The Poetry School National Association for Writers in Education



Edited by Dr Natalie Scott Designed by Chiara Causer