Monday, December 05, 2011

poetry snapshots: andy humphrey

The Green Man

Each evening, his labours at an end,

the green man

catches the number ten bus

and makes his silent way

through the glistening, lamplit streets.

I didn’t realise

it was him at first,

muffled under moss-coloured wool

and capacious, earth-stained coat.

But that musk gave him away:

the autumn-scent of crumbling bark and badgers,

brown as leaf-litter, heady

with mushrooms, moss and leather. The air

tastes of tilled earth as he passes.

I sneak a glance

when he’s not looking, try to make out

stray twigs poking

from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen

on his jowls, the weatherbeaten

crags of brows. I picture great fat hands,

hoary, ripe as apples,

curling up hedgehogs into puffballs,

scuffing truffles, turning insect-teeming logs,

bedding in horse-chestnuts until spring.

In cracked grey hobnails

he disembarks like rustled leaf-breath.

A flavour of loam and windfalls

lingers in the air behind him:

the must of seasons turning,



Andy Humphrey is a freelance writer, part-time law student, trade union activist and former research scientist. He has lived in York for the last five years. His published output includes nearly 50 poems and a number of short stories and he writes his own opinion blog, The Poet's Soapbox. He has won numerous awards for his poetry including six First Prizes in national and international competitions. He spends much of his time promoting up-and-coming writers as a competition judge, poetry slam organiser, and MC of The Speakers' Corner open mic night in York. His writing is heavily influenced by his favourite things which include twilight, fairy stories, English and Celtic folk music, and single malt whisky. His proudest achievements include surviving three years in Milton Keynes, and his ambition is to prove that Dragons really did exist, and possibly still do.

You can read more about Andy and his writing here.

Friday, December 02, 2011

poem and photo: it was a day

It was a day

It was a day when planes flew low in the sky
a beautiful day that tasted of sandalwood
a day for a busker tapping on a xylophone
the low sound trailing me through the streets
it was a day to take a name like Elizabeth
a day for sewing up a day like no other
and tucking it into a warm pocket.

I wrote this poem at Helen Cadbury's writing workshop at The Little Festival of Everything.
Photo taken by Chris in St. Ives.

Friday, November 18, 2011

poetry venue: buzzwords

About Buzzwords. Buzzwords poetry night has an excellent host in Angela France, and an audience of local poets who are working hard at their poetry themselves.

Buzzwords meets regularly for a poetry reading, open mic and workshopping session. See their program for dates and guest poets.

Upstairs at The Exmouth, Bath Road, Cheltenham. The first Sunday of every month.

7pm - workshop

8pm - Guest readings and open mic

£5 waged, £3 unwaged

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

poetry snapshots special: brian evans-jones's poetry 20:20

This month, I've been enjoying a daily poem by poet and creative writing tutor Brian Evans-Jones, so I invited him over to my delayed reactions, along with a poem, to talk about his October poetry project.

This poem was written on Friday 7th.

Half five,
the alarm clock
machine guns sleep. Bedroom
black as a bin with lid pressed tight.

bunkered in dreams.
He coughs, curses, rises.
No point washing: sweat will oil him
all day.

Red cig
lights a flare path
down the stairs. The kids breathe,
dervishes on hold. Here’s his kit:
thick boots

the weight
of half-lost dreams;
trousers that hiss his steps;
his yellow wasp’s coat. One quick brew,
and go.

Cold bites
like a puppy
learning its lock. He jogs,
joins the wan swarm at the depot,

The poems are going up on Facebook at Brian Evans-Jones's Poetry 20:20. Please send a request to join if you'd like to come and read them. For more about the rationale and progress, see Brian's blog.

Brian says: 'Poetry 20:20 is a project I'd been mulling over for a few months and finally decided to do. The basic concept is simple: for four weeks in October, I write a new poem every day, Monday to Friday - making 20 poems in all.

However, because I prefer doing things that are not just difficult but really really difficult, I also decided to set myself a whole other set of constraints: 15 in all, 5 relating to subject matter and prompts, 5 to form, and 5 to style. So most days a poem conforms to 3 constraints, in addition to the simple one of being written at all.

Why set myself such a daft task? Several reasons. Firstly, I've been through a year when I had very little time to write, and now that's over I want to take on something big.

Secondly, perhaps because I hadn't been writing very often, I felt that my poetry had become stuck in a rut of sameness. So I set the constraints to make sure that I would be forced to do other things.

And lastly, because I just want to see if I can do it! So far it's going well: I'm enjoying the pressure and am pleasantly surprised at the quality of what I can produce in just 1 to 2 hours' work.

I'm also reaping some benefits that I didn't anticipate: a big boost in my negative capability, for example, since day after day a chaotic process magically turns into a complete poem. Also a burgeoning ability to cut, quickly and cleanly, to the heart of what I want to write about, without getting hung up on small issues.

Without a doubt, writing a daily poem is something I would heartily recommend.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brian Evans-Jones's Poetry 20:20

Poetry 20:20 is a project I'd been mulling over for a few months and finally decided to do. The basic concept is simple: for four weeks in October, I write a new poem every day, Monday to Friday - making 20 poems in all. However, because I prefer doing things that are not just difficult but really really difficult, I also decided to set myself a whole other set of constraints: 15 in all, 5 relating to subject matter and prompts, 5 to form, and 5 to style. So most days a poem conforms to 3 constraints, in addition to the simple one of being written at all.

Why set myself such a daft task? Several reasons. Firstly, I've been through a year when I had very little time to write, and now that's over I want to take on something big. Secondly, perhaps because I hadn't been writing very often, I felt that my poetry had become stuck in a rut of sameness. So I set the constraints to make sure that I would be forced to do other things. And lastly, because I just want to see if I can do it! So far it's going well: I'm enjoying the pressure and am pleasantly surprised at the quality of what I can produce in just 1 to 2 hours' work. I'm also reaping some benefits that I didn't anticipate: a big boost in my negative capability, for example, since day after day a chaotic process magically turns into a complete poem. Also a burgeoning ability to cut, quickly and cleanly, to the heart of what I want to write about, without getting hung up on small issues. Without a doubt, writing a daily poem is something I would heartily recommend.

The poems are going up on Facebook at Brian Evans-Jones's Poetry 20:20: Please send a request to join if you'd like to come and read. For more about the rationale and progress, see my blog at

This poem was written on Friday 7th.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

summer/autumn round-up 2011

A round-up of what I've been up to in the writing world recently.

July: Guest reader at a lovely event at the Oxfam Bookshop
Guest reader at the popular and very busy Speaker's Corner
Article published in Jewish Renaissance about visiting India

August: Guest blogger on Andrew Oldham's website
Poem 'A week in the life' published on ink-sweat-and-tears

September: Hm, September was quiet

October: Enjoyed being guest reader and workshop leader at Buzzwords, Cheltenham
Poem 'Alibaug' in Jewish Renaissance
Review of Bobby Parker's 'Digging for Toys' appeared in Reach with a review of Deborah Harvey's 'Communion' due to appear in the November issue, and a 'Jobspot' feature for NAWE due in their next magazine

I also had two poems 'Sari and Chapattis' and 'Dawn Poems' commended in the Leaf Books Poetry Competition
My OU and OCA tutoring is happily continuing.

It's good to make occasional lists like this to remind yourself that lots of interesting things are in fact happening, because you sometimes feel you're shouting into the wind. And there are worse things than shouting into the wind.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

poetry snapshots: farhan khan

For A Few Coins

Shambling along a dirt road,

I come across a pauper girl,

not older than six or seven --

skinny, tanned, in ragged clothes.

She is readying herself

for her amusement trick

to earn some money

off the passers-by.

There is a five-meter tightrope

stretched, half a meter from the ground,

between two short wooden poles.

The girl now walks along it, slowly,

carefully balancing,

encouraged by the clapping and wiggling

of the gathering crowd.

Do they see her tired face,

no light in her eyes?

Do they notice how thin

her stretched little arms are?

Two quick last steps,

and she plunges to the ground

to collect the scattered coins

with speed and zeal.

Farhan, a young poet from the tiny town,Budaun of the vicinity of Uttar Pradesh, India, is doing his Masters of Arts in English Literature from Rohil Khand University, Bareilly. His picturesque poems make a film in the reader’s mind, taking the reader into the abode of palpable emotions to touch the bottom of their heart. His early poems have been placed in an International Online Journal known as Kritya, which is published from Kerala, India, and in several other ezines. He has a blog where  a few of his poems can be read by clicking on this link-

Friday, September 30, 2011

featured e-zine: message in a bottle

Online magazine, Message in a Bottle, is run by poet Fiona Sinclair. She says:

Message in a Bottle is an on line poetry magazine that publishes four times a year. Its aim is to present poems that are very well crafted with an emphasis on a skilful use of language and whose subject matter is unusual even quirky.

Over the past three years the magazine has been fortunate enough to attract works from established poets from all over the world. We have also published first poems from young writers such as iDrew who have a fresh and original voice. Indeed we aim every issue to introduce at least one new poet.

To submit to the magazine please send poems in the main body of an email. Every submission is acknowledged regardless of acceptance.


Monday, September 26, 2011

poetry snapshots: oz hardwick

Good Morning America

They are showing CCTV

of a woman who binges in her sleep, peanut butter

straight from the tub – and we're talking a large tub –

when we cut to ads for Botox, anti-depressants,

America's power-packed super pill, Tom Cruise

live in the studio and fifty percent of pets

are overweight and two to three percent of Americans

will experience sleep violence at some time in their lives.

Good morning America, this could be the smallest woman

ever to have a baby, with cameras in the operating theater,

but first our lovable losers in Family Feuds,

forty seven percent say 'wrong' and the mad auntie

gets the laughs, loses points, goes home

a winner and we cut to ads. I leave for breakfast

on disposable plates amongst soldiers reading the news,

camouflaged, silent, trying not to think of percentages.

From The Illuminated Dreamer (Oversteps, 2010)

Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and musician. He has published three well-received poetry collections, most recently The Illuminated Dreamer (Oversteps, 2010), as well as many individual poems, stories and articles in journals, magazines and anthologies. He has read his work in the UK, Europe and US, as well as on radio and television. As Paul Hardwick, Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University College, where he is Programme Leader for English and Writing and also teaches medieval literature. He has published widely on literature and art history, and his latest book is English Medieval Misericords: The Margins of Meaning (Boydell, 2011).

'The more one reads Hardwick’s poems the more they have to say… the nearer one approaches, the more they open up, the warmer the embrace’ – The Black Mountain Review.

Monday, September 19, 2011

poetry snapshots: miles cain


The Bricklayer’s Lament

The mixer span on its own orbit

the day after she left. He laid

cement on the trowel, detesting

the horizon as the wall crept up,

killing chances of junk mail

and evangelists. Anger

snapped in his wrists

as he spread the sighing glue,

inventing the wall, tall as pain.

It shrank the world, obscuring

other lives with twenty two lines

of perfect red rectangles that said no.

He retreated, felt the border’s shadow

loom against his back. The night was cool,

the rooms darker than before

as the radio hummed about hearts.

By afternoon he was itching at the quiet,

wanted a paper, a pint of milk,

chat containing eyes. Sighing, he grabbed

the hammer. A section of wall surrendered.

He stared at four bricks, saw

how they’d been tattooed from outside

with a chalky heart and arrow.

He left the house and looked for skies.

Miles Cain is a York-based writer, musician and storyteller. He's organised York Literature Festival, written for the BBC and won prizes for his poems. A debut collection, The Border, is about to be published by Scarborough publisher Valley Press. 'I love Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Philip Larkin and Matthew Sweeney,' says Miles, whose work has appeared in Aesthetica, Beautiful Scruffiness, Current Accounts, Dreamcatcher,
Frogmore Papers, Obsessed With Pipework, Orbis, South Bank Poetry and more. 'The Border started out as something more cheeky humorous,' he says, 'but eventually became a set of poems that were a little darker. I've worked as a youth worker and writer in residence in a prison, and there's a lot of urban paranoia in the collection.' The Border is an unsettling but commanding read. Often the poems tell miniature stories and have surreal touches as Miles muses on technology, relationships and the power of music. Find out more at Miles's website and visit Valley Press to order a copy of the book.

Miles will be reading poems from The Border and playing a selection of songs at the following gigs in Autumn 2011:

September 22nd – Scarborough Library : Valley Press evening, starts at 6p.m.

October 1st – Book launch at City Screen, York, 8pm. £7, includes copy of The Border
October 5th - Fresh Ink, Upstairs at Hartley's, Newland Avenue, Hull starts at 7.30pm

Wednesday 12th - Leeds Trinity University College

Thursday October 13th – Thursday Night Live, Hull starts at 7.30 pm

Thursday October 27th – Brighouse Library, Readers' and Writers' Festival, Calderdale, starts at 7.30p.m

Friday October 28th - Sentinel Literature Festival, London

Sat 29th October - Pocktoberfest, Pocklington Arts Centre
Tuesday November 8th - Grafton Acoustic, Newland Avenue, Hull from 8p.m

Thursday November 17th - Simply Books, Pocklington at 7.30 p.m. Tickets £8 includes copy of the book

Sunday, September 11, 2011

poetry snapshots: chris kinsey


(With a line

by Wallace Stevens.)

“And nothing need be explained,”

said the stone,

sea-spittle drying.

Not knapped,

nor chipped

to blade or arrowhead.

Not struck for sparks

nor saved for slingshot,

but fingered

out of a shingle bed

and cradled in a palm,

on a morning where gulls,

whiter than Sizewell’s vanishing globe,

nestle into footprints

the crunch has walked from.

Since winning an Arts Council of Wales bursary for new writing in 2000, Chris Kinsey has been a freelance writer, tutor, and rescuer of greyhounds. Her previous books are Kung Fu Lullabies and Cure for a crooked smile, both published by Ragged Raven Press. Swarf, published by Smokestack Books, will be launched on 15th September at the Oriel Davis Gallery.
Her stage play, Feathering the Dark, was shown at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and her short play, I and I, at Venue Cymru. She writes a regular Nature Diary for Cambria and occasionally for Natur Cymru. Chris has read at the Ledbury and Hay festivals, and her work has been featured on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Wales. She is currently Writer-in-residence at Oriel Davies Gallery.

Monday, August 29, 2011

poetry snapshots: david cooke


The clanking compound of the brewery

where my dad did shifts, whenever

work was slack on the buildings,

is buried now somewhere

beneath the panels of the multi-storey

car park and the chat that drifts across

from the cappuccino pavement.

Born to a scant inheritance

of rushy Sligo acres, my dad was bred

like his brothers to follow the work,

sending remittances home

from London, Reading, and Philadelphia –

for worklessness

would have been their defining shame.

And somewhere in the grainy hinterland

of just remembered childhood

I am watching a drayman

as he guides heraldic, towering horses

through a time-thinned stream of traffic.

Their sinews barely tensed,

they go unfussed about their business.

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984, but stopped writing for twenty years. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals such as Agenda, The Bow Wow Shop, Critical Quarterly, Cyphers, The Frogmore Papers, The Irish Press, The London Magazine, The North, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp, Stand, Staple, and The Use of English. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, has just been published by Night Publishing and a further collection, Work Horses will be published by Ward Wood Publishing in 2012.

Monday, August 22, 2011

poetry snapshots: fiona sinclair

When a sex symbol takes to sensible shoes

Suddenly across the store, through a middle aged

bottle glass blur, I spot blonde hair familiar as a logo,

but hesitate unable to make out that fantasy body

drawn by an adolescent boy on his exercise book.

Close up, these photographs from the ‘Misfits’ are like

meeting an old friend after a debilitating illness.

Trademark eyeliner has become heavy shutters closing

on the empty windows of a house whose occupant has left.

Her body still forms a perfect 8 but is not gift wrapped in

gold lame instead she is a hillbilly’s wife in white cotton

Sunday dress posing in a Steinbeck farm yard.

Looking down the barrel of the camera, lips no longer

part in the throes of an orgasmic O, but are forced into a

localised smile. The confection of a single 1950s picture

draws my eyes like wasps to a baker’s window, leaving me

craving other heyday poses, addictive as sugar.

Paying my last respects to the snapshots from her final film,

I notice, more shocking than being shared around like a

joint by the Kennedy boys’ club, her comfortable shoes.

Fiona Sinclair returned to writing poetry after a very long pause.  University as a mature student and then teaching English for fifteen years meant there was no space in her life for writing creatively.  Ironically, ill health has allowed her to take up poetry again . She aims to write for at least an hour every day.  Fiona still feels she is only as good as her last poem.  Recently she has begun to review collections for both 'Happanstance' and 'Ink Sweat and Tears'.  It took her some while to get the hang of being allowed to express an opinion about literature and she is nevertheless a benevolent critic of other people's work. Her own poetry has been published in numerous reputable magazines. Her second collection is due out late this year from Indigo Dreams Press. She is the editor of the on line poetry magazine Message in a Bottle.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

classic poem and photo: the tamed deer

The Tamed Deer

Like as a huntsman after weary chase

Seeing the game from him escaped away,

Sits down to rest him in some shady place,

With panting hounds beguiled of their prey:

So, after long pursuit and vain assay,

When I all weary had the chase forsook,

The gentle deer returned the self-same way,

Thinking to quench her thirst at the next brook.

There she beholding me with milder look,

Sought not to fly, but fearless still did bide;

Till I in hand her yet half trembling took,

And with her own good-will her firmly tied.

Strange thing, me seemed, to see a beast so wild

So goodly won, with her own will beguiled.

by Edmund Spenser 1552-1599

Photo taken by me in India.

Monday, August 15, 2011

poetry snapshots: jamie mcgarry

The Haunting of Poet by Snail

Has it been four days now?

Must have been. Nearly a week

since I did the deed. It was dark,

and I was hurrying – I didn’t see

his form, the path in front of me.

My careless size-ten shoe came down,

and crushed his hopes and dreams.

My stride stopped mid-step. Sickened

by that sound, the chilling crunch;

I saw him, when I lifted up.

A tragic mix of slime and shrapnel.

And now – although you’ll doubt –

I swear he’s back. I am the mollusc’s

sole unfinished business

on this fast and brutal Earth.

You’ll say it’s in my head, if I report

that I can hear his death

in every mistimed gearshift,

every mouth devouring crisps.

But it’s not my conscience doing this,

it’s him. He’s putting me through hell.

I hear, with every step I take,

the breaking of the tell-tale shell.

Last night, I thought I saw him,

bright and cold, in death.

Slowly sliding next to me,

and felt his tiny, ghostly breath.

‘It was dark!’ I scream. ‘I was hurrying!’

His silence says it all. But still,

you don’t believe me? Come on round,

see the trails across my walls...

and explain the vengeful holes

in my fridge-ridden, cellophaned lettuce.

Published in 'The Dead Snail Diaries'  Valley Press, 2011

Jamie McGarry was born in Norwich, in April 1988, and grew up in North Wales and Yorkshire. He attended university in Scarborough, earning a degree in English Literature and Culture, as well as founding a publishing label, Valley Press, in 2008. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this led to the release of several books by Jamie – including a novel, The Waiting Game (2007), and three volumes of poetry, What Do I Know Anyway? (2008), Autopilot (2009) and most recently, The Dead Snail Diaries (2011). He currently lives in East Yorkshire, where he runs Valley Press full-time, pursuing these bookish interests to his heart’s content.

A slow-moving, brown-hued creature, Jamie regularly enjoys a leafy salad, and has (on occasion) been known to come out of his shell.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

classic poem and photo: london by william blake


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames doth flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appals,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls:

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
and blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Three nights of rioting. London has been mindlessly smashed and burnt. The ministers and police chiefs have preferred to remain in their luxury holiday villas. Mark Duggan's family is only just now getting answers. And the unsustainable financial system is collapsing.

Lines of poems run through my head. Lines from Yeats's 'The Second Coming', as well as the first verse of this poem by William Blake. 'London' was written in 1793, showing Blake's anger at the economic system and the political ideology. After revolutionary riots, harsh anti-seditious laws were passed, and the army was stationed all over London. Blake himself was later put on trial for 'uttering treasonable words'.  

Ominous times.

The image is of the Great Fire of London, 1666.

Friday, August 05, 2011

classic poem and photo: the diary of murasaki shikibu

Painting: Sweet Flowers Soaring High by Lea Prince

"I can see the garden from my room beside the entrance to the gallery. The air is misty, the dew is still on the leaves. The Lord Prime Minister is walking there; he orders his men to cleanse the brook. He breaks off a stalk of omenaishi [flower maiden] which is in full bloom by the south end of the bridge. He peeps in over my screen! His noble appearance embarrasses us, and I am ashamed of my morning [not yet painted and powdered] face. He says, "Your poem on this! If you delay so much the fun is gone!"  and I seize the chance to run away to the writing-box, hiding my face–

Flower-maiden in bloom–

Even more beautiful for the bright dew,

Which is partial, and never favors me.

"So prompt!" said he, smiling, and ordered a writing-box to be brought [for himself].

His answer:

The silver dew is never partial.

From her heart

The flower-maiden's beauty. "

From 'The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu'. Shikibu was a lady of the Japanese court during A.D. 1007-1010.

The entire diary can be found here.

Reading this diary several years ago, I was fascinated by the diarist's world, and was delighted to discover an early woman poet!

Lea Prince's paintings have been exhibited at Ilford Central Library and at the Valentine's Mansion, Gantshill.

Monday, August 01, 2011

poetry snapshots: ian parks


After the chat shows and the bulletins,

the forecasts and the late reviews

I trim the oil-lamp, clear a space

and take one final look across the straits.

I came here to escape a darkening world.

Why should I listen to its news?

The mainland is a purple smudge;

the sea so shallow and so calm

you'd think that you could walk across

instead of waiting for the week it takes

before the ferry makes the harbour mouth

bringing cards and letters, word from home.

There's nothing but a mile

of dry-stone walls and unrelenting rain

between this cottage and the nearest farm

hidden by the intervening ridge.

Suspended here, the moment waits

still stranded in another century

when news was as fast as a gasping horse

and last year's revolution still to come.

Described as 'a heroic figure in Yorkshire poetry' (Points North Review) Ian Parks was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. Poems appear in Poetry Review, Stand, The Observer, The Liberal, The Independent on Sunday, Poetry (Chicago) and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His collections include Shell Island (2006), The Cage (2008), The Landing Stage (2010) and Love Poems 1979-2009. The Exile's House is forthcoming from Waterloo Press.

Monday, July 18, 2011

poetry snapshots: pat jourdan

Strategy Sleeve-Notes

A whirr of plane

disturbs a summer night,

its pathway shadowing across

snazzy granite-topped kitchens,

streets bristling with white paint,

trim-paced black shiny railings.

Where is the poem about rendition?

Closed-door meetings,

masked movements above us,

hundreds quietly removed.

They fly above our expensive roofs

past the expanse of evening

that supports no regime

stalking the streets of London below.

We have the solace of pure cotton sheets

but even as we touch

the night is fucked.

This poem is taken from the new collection "Citizeness", Motet Press c/o

Pat Jourdan was born in the centre of Liverpool, where she studied painting at the College of Art. Exhibitions of paintings and readings of poetry have been held in London, Norwich, Dublin and Galway. Winner of several poetry and short story awards in Ireland and England. She keeps on painting while finishing the next novel, (after “Finding Out”) with two collections of short stories and two poetry collections already published.

Websites : and

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the dead snail diaries

Here's an innovative launch idea - for The Dead Snail Diaries, the third poetry collection by Jamie McGarry, the founder of Valley Press.
On Thursday, 28th July, Jamie and some assistants will be performing the entire snail book in Scarborough Library, starting just after 6pm - tickets £3 on the door. Should be fun! Here's a poem from the book.

A Love Poem: From Snail to Slug

God made us brown so we’d be hard

to spot upon his fertile soil,

to hide from the birds...which he made as well...

to cower, dodge, to postpone hell.

But slug does not hide, or flinch back.

His coat? Uncompromising BLACK.

He turns defence into attack.

Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

God gave us shells to weigh us down.

Without them, we would HURTLE round,

so common sense suggests. Who’d beat us,

across a distance of ten metres?

But slug, dear slug, you have the grace

to not rub freedom in our face,

to slow your stride to match our pace.

Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

God made us quiet, thoughtful, wait.

He taught us manners, and restraint.

He taught us not to stay out late,

we’re model garden citizens.

But slug, he DEAFENS when he speaks!

He goes out seven nights a week!

Beer-swilling, hard-living, party beast.

Oh slug – oh glorious slug.

I’d sell my soul to be like him.

Vacate my shell, and dye my skin.

I’d go twice weekly to the gym,

if doing so would let me in

to doors in town that say ‘slugs only.’

But slug accepts no fake, no phony.

I’ll love, but I will never be

a slug – oh glorious slug.

Monday, July 04, 2011

poetry snapshots: emma lee

Still Life with a static Matrix Screensaver

Only the dust and crumb-filled keyboard

and photo of a blonde toddler hint

at human life. Neat matt-black ring-binders,

stuffed with minutes and agendas,

line-up vertically like school children

who know today is not a day to distract teacher.

On a blank screen, green machine code hangs

like crimped string, each alphanumeric

glows slightly out of focus as if stuck

in a quantum state – simultaneously yes and no,

waiting to drop into decision.

Published in "Not a Muse", Haven Books.

Emma Lee’s stories and poems are widely published. Her poetry collection, “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” is available from Original Plus (UK) and novel “Bitter Fame” via She blogs at

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

review of centuries of skin in south magazine

Ragged Raven Press and I are very pleased with the review of 'Centuries of Skin', by Ross Cogan, in 'South' magazine.

A couple of quotes:

'Mostly, however, Ezekiel stays firmly in the present, calmly observing the particulars of everyday life. At best she is a skilled minituarist - a Jane Austen cataloguing the telling details of women's lives, of city life, even of life seen from the bus...'

'I found this collection life affirming in its knack of finding joy in the smallest of gestures and the oddest of places'

Monday, June 20, 2011

poetry snapshots: david mac

Red Beat

Your heart is a big red bell,

a pumping howl,

a hot steamy pie,

and so is mine.

They keep their legendary ticking,

their sore beat

like the glad voice of God.


We are alive, we are in love,

the pulse is fierce.

Do you hear?


Our hearts’ clock is

the only time that matters.

David Mac is 32-year-old wino forklift driver whose work can be found in Ambit, Purple Patch, The Journal, Weyfarers, United Press, Monkey Kettle, Clockwise Cat, Urban District Writer, erbacce, Streetcake, Urban Landscapes, Neon Highway, KRAX, Moodswing, Antique Children, Danse Macabre, Mud Luscious, Burning Houses, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Poetry Over Coffee, Global Tapestry Journal, Obsessed With Pipework, Howls and Pushycats, Word Riot, Decanto, as well as being a featured poet on The Poetry Kit’s ‘Caught On The Net’.

Many self-publishd chapbooks available plus ‘These Dirty Nothings’ and ‘Room is Brutal’ from erbacce-press.

He is currently locked in a mad room somewhere in the Bedfordshire Hell writing his cheap, dirty, twisted words, and drinking his vat of cheap red wine.

Read more words on Write Out Loud:

Monday, June 06, 2011

poetry snapshots: andrew oldham

The Real Icarus

The men have taken to shore,

drunk and singing, arm in arm with whores.

My son, their Captain, he yells, keep her fast,

sing my shanties or feel the lash.

Away away-oh, away away-oh.

Down by the docks he pisses on tramps,

shows them wax burns, all born from lamps.

In alleys, in taverns, he spreads his lies,

shows them goose feathers, bullshit flies.

Away away-oh, away away-oh.

I am immortal, says my son, women snigger,

cocks his pistol, smiles, pulls the trigger.

A snap, a fizz against wax, a misfired dud,

my son is not born of my blood.

Away away-oh, away away-oh.

Icarus fell here, women say, as I come and go,

in a tavern, in a marketplace, he performed his show.

No fizz, I melted the wax from the barrel of his gun,

he took away my home, my life, my inventions, my son.

Away away-oh, away away-oh.

Andrew Oldham has been a columnist for The London Magazine. His fiction has featured in The Sunday Times and his first poetry collection, Ghosts of a Low Moon (Lapwing, Belfast 2010), is available at

Monday, May 23, 2011

poetry snapshots: nina simon

Painting the Oceans

I paint oceans

with violent hues -

heavy lines stir surging seas,

thick brush strokes

smash waves against breakers,

while white foamy spume

pounds shingle beaches.

Blues and greens

swirl into darkness,

leaden clouds

billow in deepest grey.

I stipple in a small sailboat;

tossed and thrown

on turbulent tides,

its lone occupant

clinging to the mast,

as water washes away outlines.

Published in Misfit Mirror: an anthology of poetry and flash fiction by Earlyworks Press, 2008

Nina works for Redbridge Schools’ Library Service.. Although she has always loved to read, writing is something she only began by accident about seven years ago. At last she feels she has found a means to express herself and channel her over-active imagination into poetry and short stories.

Monday, May 16, 2011

special feature - fiction snapshots: steve toase

Each step across the drowned field brought the water higher and higher, the ground sloping down to the bank. I stood in front of the thicket of broken kindling. The angular face turned to me.

Her eyes were murky and the colour of silt. In those seconds she shared her secrets with me. I saw her on an Indonesian beach skin bejewelled with sand and grief; in a humid valley coated with a swarm of malarial mosquitoes; sitting on a bench in Mingora breathing cholera into the morning air. She smiled and for a moment I saw the goddess that coated herself in death and disease, and knew she would devour me completely. Her names came unbidden, Jenny Greenteeth, Mht Wrt. Maine Milscothach, Naamah. She was the Daughter of the Flood and the Mother Deluge. The bride whose byre stood on foundations of driftwood, and took a tithe from those cities in which she lounged.

I expected her voice to eddy and whisper, but her words roared with the force of a thousand gallons a second; a voice that eroded rock and life.

Extract from 'Rising', published in Streetcake Magazine issue 14.

In his first 18 months of writing fiction ten of Steve's stories have been accepted for publication, appearing in Streetcake Magazine, NthPosition and Cafe Irreal, amongst others. His writing leans towards mythic fiction and magic realism. He also dabbles in crime writing, with a prize winning story 'Ripples'.

Monday, May 09, 2011

poetry snapshots: michelle mcgrane

'Terra Marique Potens'

So, there we were, me and the wee'un at my breast, nestled in my sheepskin coat, cradled by the pitch and roll, when a fearsome din broke out on deck. While Tioboid slept the sleep of newborns, Cap'n O' Domhnaill burst into the cabin urging me to rally the crew. Sticky with birthing, milk and sweat, cursing the eejits who wouldn't grant a woman rest after labour, I sallied above with my musketoon, legs shaking as if I'd been keelhauled from Inishlaghan to Carrigeenglass Norht. Through flags of smoke, a square-rigged galley, its blackjack flapping as corsairs swarmed aboard. Snugging the stock into my shoulder, I picked out a flinty crag of a man bawling like the divil hisself and assailing my lads with a boarding axe. Aiming the flared muzzle, I cocked the hammer, squeezed the trigger. When he hit the boards, mouth agape, the remaining Berbers scarpered like bilge rats. I succoured the babe wrawling for teat and ordered all hands to bear up for port.

Published in The Suitable Girl, Pindrop Press, 2010

Michelle McGrane is the author of The Suitable Girl (published by Pindrop Press in the United Kingdom and Modjaji Books in South Africa). She lives in Johannesburg and blogs at Peony Moon.

Monday, April 25, 2011

poetry snapshots: helen cadbury

From the Norse

Stones and sand
tipped in to my mouth
when I first spoke
your language.
How I gave myself away
as the wind blew
my vowels into
a new shape.

Published in Matter 9:

Helen Cadbury writes poetry and plays. If she can sit down for long enough, she writes stories and novels.  Some poems have been published, three plays have been performed, one short story has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the novels take up space on her hard drive. She lives in York.

Monday, April 11, 2011

poetry snapshots: juliet wilson


The year I was born

the plane went down

over uncharted land, drowning

in endless forest, choking damp heat.

Rare parrots watched.

Howler monkeys shouted

through the trees

news of something never seen before.

The crew had no chance.

Rescue teams heard the call

but failed to locate

in endless dense canopy.

Now the bones and wreckage

lie in arid suburban gardens

where at night, the ghosts of howler monkeys scream

and extinct parrots flutter through restless dreams.

published in Unthinkable Skies, 2010, Calder Wood Press (

Juliet Wilson is an Edinburgh based poet and adult education tutor. She blogs at Crafty Green Poet ( and edits the online poetry journal Bolts of Silk ( Her poetry chapbook Unthinkable Skies was published in 2010 by Calder Wood Press ( She is a volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, helping to look after one of Edinburgh's rivers (

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

classic poem, with photo of king's cross station

At the Railway Station, Upway

"There is not much that I can do,
For I've no money that's quite my own!"
Spoke up the pitying child -
A little boy with a violin
At the station before the train came in, -
"But I can play my fiddle to you,
And a nice one 'tis, and good in tone!"
The man in the handcuffs smiled;
The constable looked, and he smiled, too,
As the fiddle began to twang;

And the man in the handcuffs suddenly sang
"This life so free
Is the thing for me!"
And the constable smiled, and said no word,
As if unconscious of what he heard;
And so they went on till the train came in -
The convict, and boy with the violin.

by Thomas Hardy

Friday, April 01, 2011

special feature (part two) albert huffstickler

I'm pleased to be featuring a painting by Albert Huffstickler, and Felicia Mitchell's poem 'Victim'.
 'Victim' was written in response to writing by Albert Huffstickler (Huff).
Huff, in turn, created this oil pastel picture in response to Felicia's painting.
Felicia says, 'Huff had so much creative energy.  And he inspired so many other writers and artists'.
More of Huff's paintings and poems can be seen on the archived website
Oil pastel by Albert Huffstickler. Permission granted by Felicia Mitchell.


      For Albert Huffstickler

There is no furniture in her room,
save the shelf where her hymen lies
like a geological specimen.

The museum is her mother's.
Flaunting her proprietary rights,
the mother ignores her own signs
that say "do not touch."
Jealousy, pride, awe, confusion:
this is what the mother feels.

The girl feels her insides turned inside out.
Her face is inside her belly,
her belly where her lips should be.
Her eyes must substitute for her heart.

The fluorescent lights never shut off.

The mother is turned inside out as well.
Instead of being content to push this girl
right out of her fertile womb,
as far away as she can go,
she wants to climb inside her daughter
and stay there.
She wants to get there first.

There is no father.

Felicia Mitchell


The Medulla Review 1.2 (2010). Online

Also included in The Medulla Review Anthology I (201o). Print

Monday, March 28, 2011

poetry snapshots: sarah james


In Dominica, an earthquake cracked

Roger’s home like a walnut.

His wife’s omelette pan skipped off the stove,

their bed hopped the floor, chairs

pirouetted into shaking walls.

But cotted snug in a box for their breakfast –

half a dozen eggs, unbroken.

Visiting his mother in Grenada,

a hurricane peeled her house like an orange.

Winds stacked roofs, turned

tamarind trees into mops, uprooted

nutmeg plantations but left the glass

of his daughter’s portrait a smooth,

unrippled ocean.

Half-submerged in New Orleans, Roger’s shoes

walked in pairs on water. Tables arked,

chairs waded out the doors

and dead rats trailed the apartment stairs,

while his daughter’s dress

hung freshly pressed on her bedroom door:

dry and pink with flowers.

Sarah James

From ‘Into the Yell’ by Sarah James, published by Circaidy Gregory Press ( ), July 2010.

Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer and journalist, who has been widely published in anthologies, literary journals and online.

She was shortlisted in Templar Poetry 2009 Pamphlet and Collection Competition, had two poems shortlisted in The Plough Prize 2009 and was joint winner of the Exmoor Society’s Poetry Competition 2010. Her website and blog is at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

special feature (part one): albert huffstickler

I first came across Albert Huffstickler (known simply as 'Huff') when 'Fire' magazine published a few of his poems in 2005. I was so moved by them that I bought his selected poems, 'Why I Write in Coffee Houses and Diners' (available from Amazon). Six years later, I'm still turning to Huff's poems for his wisdom and clarity. He was a well-known poet in Austin, Texas, and many of his poems reflect the area.

Poet and academic Felicia Mitchell wrote an introduction to 'Why I Write in Coffee Houses and Diners'. Although Huff died in 2002, his legacy continues to grow, and I'm pleased to be able to include a tribute poem, 'The angel of death disguised as a park bench', written by Felicia and dedicated to artist Sylvie Rosenthal, who in turn has created her own tribute to Huff. In this lovely poem, there are plenty of 'nods' to the images and characters that Huff wrote about.

The angel of death disguised as a park bench

for Sylvie Rosenthal

It’s time to rest,

to stop shuffling your bird-boned feet

down sidewalks and across streets

and through alleys

where men who look just like you

nod their blessings.

There’s a woman with a chisel in her hand

She wants to reshape your brow.

All those furrows could be alabaster-smooth.

One touch, and she will remind you:

there is rest for the weary.

Listen to the advice the world gives you.

The sparrow on your shoulder could be a sign.

The crow cawing at the sun could be just as right

as the cashier at the last coffee house you sat at.

“Will that be all, sir?” she asked.

“That will be all,” you said.

All all all all —the crow caws.

The sparrow shudders

In front of you, the woman with the chisel

points to a park bench.

She wants you to sit down,

to rest your bird-boned feet,

so she can reshape your brow.

Next to her, the angel of death disguised as a park bench

beckons you like a mother.

Your mother, or god, your god-like mother.

There is rest for the weary.

Have a seat and let the sculptor heal you.

By the time you leave this earth,

there will no trace of it in your flesh,

just one more statue in the park

encircled with pigeons who will never go hungry

and sparrows.

Felicia Mitchell © 2002

Published in FIRE (Bristol, England), 2003

In response to Rosenthal’s memorial for Huffstickler:

An image is here:
Rosenthal’s site, with contact info.

Wikipedia page for Albert Huffstickler:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

the disaster in Japan

Feeling very sad this week for Japan. The sudden shock and tumult of it all.

Here are a couple of haiku by Basho (1644-1694). One of sadness, one of hope.

The petals tremble

The petals tremble
on the yellow mountain rose -
roar of the rapids

As they begin to rise again

As they begin to rise again
Chrysanthemums faintly smell,
After the flooding rain.

Monday, March 14, 2011

poetry snapshots:paul tanner (tanner)


Hiding up in the stockroom with Tom

I took a bite out me apple

and I turned to him and concluded

‘This apple be very appley!’

he said that was good.

And then I went off on one

about how computers

and cars

and even pens

never bloody work,

that nothing manmade

does what it’s meant to

but look here,

this natural product

free from the mother earth

is bang on the money ...

then I remembered

that everything is owned

and you can’t simply

go up to a fucking god-given tree

and take an apple off it

without getting

a shotgun salt pellet up your arse

and a fine and a jail sentence

cos you dared to sample

what is essentially a plant

that was given to us

by the fucking natural world


and then I was all pissed off again.

'Congealed Anfield '84. Once for the money, twice for the love. I peer out grids and get the low-down on this society effort you're all making. Tis somewhat shite to be brutally honest, squire. If you kill the head the body will die. NATIONAL SERVICE FOR ALL TEBBITS. Fin.'

Joanna's note: Tanner's poems have been published in a variety of magazines. He wrote 'Chemicals' especially for Poetry Snapshots.

Monday, January 24, 2011

poetry snapshots; ken champion

Forties Noir

It’s the lighting; a beach hut’s sculpted shadows,

a white face pushing from a darkened porch,

Mitchum in Acapulco heat, slatted light

across his jacket, Greer walking in against the

sun, a Mexican Dietrich strolling a highway,

headlights stroking her back before she becomes

night, the palms, fedoras, wise guys, bars;

the evening park, a tram’s Nighthawks figures,

kids playing floodlit footie round a lamppost,

the hall glow through the fanlight, lincrusta,

dad’s torch searching the cellar for the nail jar,

Aunt Flo upstairs hoping I’ll pencil a seam

down the back of her painted legs while

Uncle Harry’s away, her face under mine,

garish, by the cheap bedside lamp.

A pencilled line simulated real stockings.

Published in MAGMA 46, 2010.

Ken Champion is an internationally published poet whose work has appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies, including Rialto, Smiths Knoll, Magma, African American Review and Iodine Poetry Journal. He has two pamphlets, African Time (2002) and Cameo Poly (2004) published by Tall Lighthouse and a full collection, But Black And White Is Better (2008). He has also had fiction published in literary journals in the UK and USA. Ken reads in London and elsewhere and hosts More Poetry at Borough Market. He runs poetry workshops and is Reviews Editor for Tall Lighthouse. A selection of his poems can be found at The Poetry Library and at

Born in London’s east end, Ken lectures in sociology and philosophy, and has worked as a decorator, sign writer, mural painter and commercial artist. He lives in London and has three sons.

Monday, January 10, 2011

poetry snapshots: frances white

Piano Bar Blues

Dizzy summer night

quenched with lager

her eyes dreamy

with piano bar blues

moving aside their empty glasses

his arm brushed hers

low lighting and soft cushions

made her head swim

they slipped away

into the moonlight

music fading

as they sauntered back

under the larch trees

along the water

his hands in his pockets

all the way home.

© Frances White

Published in:
‘AWAY WITH WORDS, An Anthology of Poetry’
(Aeronwy Thomas, Beryl Myers, Annie Taylor, Frances White),
Poetry Monthly Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-906357-01-6

Frances White’s poems and artwork have been published in magazines and anthologies.
Thirty of her poems were published in ‘AWAY WITH WORDS, An Anthology of Poetry’ (Poetry Monthly Press 2007), which she co-authored with the late Aeronwy Thomas.
Her poems have won first prizes in three local competitions and she received a Highly-Commended nomination in the Torbay Open Poetry Competition, 2010.
Frances lives in South West London and has read as a guest poet at poetry venues and festivals in London and Wales. She is working towards her first collection.

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York Literature Festival HUB 2018 event, Tuesday, 20th March

I'm looking forward to my first event for absolutely ages - at the York Literature Festival HUB. Many thanks to YLF and Valley...