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.

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...