Category Archives: Poems

Channel Magazine and Fragmented Voices

It’s great to see how young editors are moulding the poetry world. As something of an oldie, I’m especially happy to be part of the new wave of literary magazines, such as the Dublin-based Channel, which are redefining what really matters.

Channel editors Cassia Gaden Gilmartin and Elizabeth Murtough believe the creative arts have a role to play in the challenges we now face as a planet. “Environmentalists know that the biosphere is built on an infinitely complex series of interconnected networks, and that the suppression or destruction of one damages the whole. Social issues are not separate from this connectedness, neither in the immediate effect . . . nor in the cascading consequences of oppression.”

In issue 3, you’ll find poems, essays and short stories by writers selected from a field of over 1,300 submissions. These include Bebe Ashley, Cliodhna Bhreathnach, Claire Booker, Dylan Brennan, David Butler, Julian Brasington, Nancy Cook, Karen Luke Jackson, Uma Menon, Joel Scarfe, Kerry Trautman, Ann V. DeVilbiss, Marcy Rae Henry, Dorsia Smith Silva, Ian Twiddy and Pip Osmond-Williams.

The lively cover for issue 3 is from a Cork-based project funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, which works with young refugees, migrants and youth activists to find imaginative ways to represent their ideas and experiences. You can read about My Generation in the magazine, and also enjoy a ‘guided tour’ of the project on Channel‘s issue 3 zoom launch. Also on the link, is a cornucopia of writers reading their work, including myself (at 1h 38 minutes into the video): http://channelmag.org/issue-3-launch/

Copies are available to buy from the website, or at Dublin, Dingle and Ennistymon book shops.

Natalie Crick, and her co-editors Natalie Nera and Rue Collinge at Fragmented Voices are another set of young women, taking the world of poetry to an interesting place. The language of salt is their first anthology of verse, which is inspired by love and loss.

“This collection is a little soul-machine. It hums,” writes Natalie Crick. “We wanted our final selection of fifty poems to experiment with language and form, to push boundaries. This is not a traditional collection. Our poems confront erotic love, parental love, and the bleaker, darker realities of human affection.”

Poets in the anthology include Derek Adams, Jackie Biggs, Claire Booker, Graham Burchell, Seth Crook, Mike Farren, Kirsty Hollings, Rob A. Mackenzie, Gill McEvoy, Abigail Morley, Cheryl Pearson, Finola Scott, Rob Walton and Simon Williams.

The anthology is selling fast, but there are plans for a re-print, and there’ll be a digital copy of the book available via their on-line shop soon. For more information about Fragmented Voices please visit: https://fragmentedvoices.com/about/

My poem about childhood in The Spectator

I’m a huge fan of John Mole’s work, so it was a real thrill to find myself published alongside him in the same issue of The Spectator last month. His satiric, but deeply moving, ‘Keeping in Step’ contemplates the graveyard, via the carnival of jazz and brass bands. My ‘Museum of Childhood’ tackles the other end of life.

You can read our poems via the following links, or look out for them in the 12th December issue at your library when it reopens: https://www.spectator.co.uk/poem/keeping-in-step https://www.spectator.co.uk/poem/museum-of-childhood

As well as its excellent Books & Arts section, I particularly enjoy the little column on the back page of The Spectator, entitled ‘Mind Your Language’, where Dot Wordsworth examines the common misuses of words and grammar. In this issue, ‘fortuitous’ came under the scalpel, via the Daily Mail, the Roman Empire, the OED and Geoffrey Chaucer. If you’re a stickler for exactitude, this is the column for you.

Whilst on the subject of childhood, a friend tipped me off about The Poet Magazine, which has free call-outs several times a year for its international anthologies. As a result, I have two poems in the Childhood Anthology (Vol 2), edited by Robin Barratt and published this month (available from Amazon price £9.95 inc. p&p). Other UK poets include Neil Leadbeater, Emma Lee, Strider Marcus Jones, Maxine Rose Munro, Chrys Salt, Annie Wright and Mantz Yorke.

The Poet has a very cosmopolitan feel, with poets across the globe contributing their work. Whilst it’s commonplace to read work from North America or the Antipodes in many British literary journals, it’s lovely to be introduced to poets from Thailand, Romania, Armenia, Ethiopia, India, Poland, Malawi, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, Ecuador and others.

‘Uniting the world through poetry’ is the bimonthly magazine’s mission statement. Their website includes book reviews, interviews, poet of the week, and a section for young poets. To buy a copy, or submit to the magazine or one of its up-coming anthologies, check out: https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/the-magazine

Here Comes the Sun!

The days are growing longer already. It’s as if they’ve just picked up a copy of the Arachne Press Tymes Goe By Turnes anthology of writing inspired by Robert Southall’s poem, and decided to embrace the spirit of change.

On December 21st, The Solstice Shorts Festival, usually spread across several venues in various countries, was forced to go online. Contributors whose work was performed to camera include Jane Aldous, AJ Bermudez, Julian Bishop, Claire Booker, Elinor Brooks, Sean Carney, Kelly Davis, Neil Lawrence, Ness Owen, Brooke Stanicki and Laila Sumpton. The event was hosted by editor, Cherry Potts.

Why not treat yourself to a copy of this paeon to optimism? Let stories and poems whisk you away on a railway journey across America, to Turner’s World Of Twirls or piano lessons for the reluctant child. Let them introduce you to wolf-dogs, to memories of salty bodies and strawberries, cats that love fish skins and poems that ask intriguing questions of the soil, such as: “when did you forget you were a flower?” Everyone could do with Pippa Gladhill’s Twelve Point Plan – a perfect list of do’s and don’ts for lockdown – or a dip into spring bulbs, plum trees, rewilding.

You can watch the whole two hour show in segments by visiting the Arachne Press website, and selecting ‘Solstice Shorts’. Or click on the link below to watch actress Annalie Wilson read my poem Piano Lessons (11 minutes into the video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN86K-qS-vM

If you’d like to buy a copy of the anthology (£8.99) go direct to Arachne Press at: http://www.arachnepress.com

Arachne Press has a number of projects brewing and are currently interested in hearing from writers who come from Wales, those who are D/deaf, and UK writers of BAME origin.

The Wax Paper + Lighten Up Online

I love submitting my work to new or unusual literary publications. Here are two I tried earlier.

The Wax Paper is an American broadsheet distributed in Chicago, Brooklyn, Mankato (I had to look that one up – it’s in Minnesota) and Los Angeles. I had two short dramas published there a few years ago, but would they take my poetry? The answer can be found in issue 11. Editor Hans Hetrick is hugely welcoming to all in ‘The Wax Paper family’ (it’s a forever family once your piece has appeared). And there’s a mouth-watering variety of work on show: flash, short stories, dramas, poetry, photography, artwork, essays, interviews, and hybrids (I love Ryan Drendel’s ‘Long Distance Relationship as Unsolved Sudoku’). The broadsheet is delivered to you wrapped and sealed with red wax – how neat is that?

As to be expected from an American lit mag, the writing is punchy, unpretentious and pulsing with life. The Wax Paper accepts simultaneous submissions and previously published items (but requests First North American Serial Rights for 30 days, after which all rights are returned). To submit, subscribe or find out more, visit: www.thewaxpaper.com

For sheer, unadulterated fun, Lighten Up On line (or LUPO to the cognoscenti) takes some beating.

It’s not for the faint-hearted, however. Be prepared for wit, satire, limericks, verbal prat-falls and in-your-face puns. If it rhymes, all the better. Editor Jerome Betts makes no bones about it:

We believe that light verse is very far from being the poor relation of “proper” poetry. On this site you will find work by light verse specialists as well as by some of the many “proper” poets who enjoy it and write it and agree that light verse deserves a wider audience than it is normally given.

In this post-Christmas no-man’s land, why not indulge your funny-bone with work from Claire Booker, Orla Fay, DA Prince, Shikhandin, Tom Vaughan and many others. Perhaps even pick up your pen and craft some rib-ticklers yourself. Check it out at: https://www.lightenup-online.co.uk/index.php/issue-51-september-2020

Artemis – In Praise of Older Women

Artemis Poetry has a seductive power which draws you through its spacious pages, its poems, the interviews, the delightful artwork, and leaves you pleasantly sated at the end.

Issue 25 is no exception, with feature poet Margaret Wilmot’s six fine poems, a tantalising three from Alison Brackenbury on the back cover, an illuminating interview with Penelope Shuttle (with 4 poems to go) and work in the main body of the magazine from Claire Booker, Katherine Gallagher, Gill Learner, Kathy Miles, Jennifer Nadel, Ilse Pedler, Kate Scott, Sue Spiers, Myra Schneider, Marion Tracy and Merryn Williams among many others.

by Caro Reeves

Caroline Carver and Dilys Wood’s editorial is a paean to the creative potential of middle age and beyond. Here is an extract:

“‘Older’ is of course always a relative term. New generations may appear to tread us down even when we feel our bones are still green. There are real problems around ‘the cult of youth’ however natural it is for event organisers and editors to look out for new talent. Sometimes there is a quite wrong-headed disassociation between ‘freshness’ and innovation and a writer’s count of years. Among creative people across the arts, there are so many examples of older people either producing their best work at the end of their lives, or striking out in entirely unforeseen directions which may involve high levels of innovation.”

There’s a graceful elegance about this magazine, but it’s piping hot with ideas under the surface.

Penelope Shuttle gives a fascinating interview about the life of a writer: “. . . the main thing about poetry is to find your own voice, and develop it, stay true to you. You can’t trim it to the fashion of the moment.” You can read the winning and commended poems in this year’s Second Light Poetry Competition; learn more about the late, great Anne Stevenson and Elaine Feinstein, and consider Jacqueline Saphra’s perspective on older poets, with her suggestion that older women writers might exhibit “. . . divine rage, the kind of rage that ricochets down the centuries, takes the male canon to task and hammers on the doors of patriarchy.”

There’s a generous supply of book reviews, including the latest from Clare Best, Naomi Foyle and Fiona Sampson, plus interviews with RV Bailey, Nadine Brummer, Katherine Gallagher, MR Peacocke and Myra Schneider about what makes older women writers tick. Rather like Magma Poetry, Artemis uses a different poetry editor for each issue (Helen Ivory edited this one). As a result, you can never second guess an Artemis poem. It’s a fresh every time.

I enjoyed the magazine so much, I’ve decided to buy a subscription and become a member of Second Light, which offers a whole package of goodies, including workshops, online publication, member reviews and publicity. All for £28 a year (if you’re 40+) or £16 associate membership for women aged 30-40. For more information please visit: www.secondlightlive.co.uk

My poem ‘Drone-Boys’ in The Spectator

I’m delighted to be in The Spectator again. A big thank you to Hugo Williams for choosing my poem about lambs, drones and lads on the South Downs.

Since moving to Brighton three years ago, sheep have begun to loom large in my life. They can be very addictive creatures – drones, less so!

You can read the poem in the November 7th issue (or on the image below).

This issue includes an intriguing poem about a fly by Kate Bingham, plus a villanelle in praise of Wendy Cope by Jane Blanchard.

The Spectator is England’s oldest continuously published Magazine (dating back to 1828), so it’s seen a lot of history come and go. It usually carries between two and four poems per week, plus a weekly competition for themed or form poems. Check each week for the required topic.

You can submit poems for the body of the magazine to Hugo Williams, c/o Clare Asquith, Arts & Books, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP.

Structo 20 – the lit mag with attitude

You may have seen Structo editor Euan Monaghan’s recent series of YouTube interviews with writers from issue 20. Relaxed and incisive don’t always go together, but Structo is all about surprising juxtapositions, be it poetry, short fiction, photography, translation or feature interview. As one of those interviewed, I can vouch that the experience was a cross between cosy, fireside chat and University entrance interview (I hadn’t read one of the writers mentioned, but I think I got away with it!)

You can watch how I fared (and contrast and compare with other writers interviewed!) by clicking on this link https://youtu.be/HI3zLgfCInQ

There’s plenty of poetry in issue 20 to enjoy from Luigi Coppola, Marie-Andree Auclair, Georgi Gill, Petra Hilgers, Joseph Hardy, Michael Bazzett, Stephanie Limb, Daisy G. Bassen, Daniel Bennett and Claire Booker, and you can also read the winning poem by Jen Stuart Fueston from Structo’s 2019 Lenten Psalm Contest. Psalms as theme? What a brilliant idea!

Plus, there’s a feature interview with Catalan poet, Joan Margarit, who is the first Catalan ever to receive the prestigious Miguel de Cervantes prize. “The safety of home is not so different from the safety of the spirit” he tells Anna Crowe, and discusses the difficulties still faced by Catalan culture. His advice to young poets? “Making a poem means looking inside yourself. Inside you there are millions of things. You have to find among them one thing that may interested someone whom you don’t know at all. You have to make it in such a way that he or she will be astonished, as though they looked into a mirror, and will say in a low voice: This is me . . .

Also in issue 20, there’s a fascinating ‘workshop’ on the art of translation, where Faroe Island poet Kim Simonsen discusses the strength and weaknesses of Matthew Landrum’s translation of one of his poem. The interviewer? Matthew Landrum! No rights of wrongs, of course; just shades of opinion.

And don’t miss some truly strong short stories from writers including LP Lee, Tom Benn, Joe Bedford and Kate Feld, plus an impressionistic set of black and white landscape photos by Annie Spratt.

You can read back-copies of Structo on the link below, or order a copy of issue 20, https://structomagazine.co.uk/structo/current-issue/

My new pamphlet is born!

The Bone That Sang has been safely delivered by Indigo Dreams Publishing and is now available to dandle on laps and laptops. It follows my debut poetry pamphlet Later There Will Be Postcards, now a feisty toddler at Green Bottle Press.

You can read five of the poems from The Bone That Sang at your leisure at the link below, and press the ‘BUY’ button if you’re feeling flush!

https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/claire-booker/4595059690

The new pamphlet is packed with 29 pages of poetry. Some of the poems first appeared in The Spectator, Poetry News, Structo, The New Welsh Reader, The Interpreter’s House, Stand, Prole, Poetry Salzburg Review, The High Window, The Frogmore Papers, Ambit, South Bank Poetry and Magma.

The Bone That Sang explores what it means to be human in an imperfect world. A refugee sprints for his life; an at-risk child craves a baby; a one-night stand goes hilariously wrong; a beloved mother-in-law makes a final spiritual journey. Narrative often drives my inspiration, but you’ll also find poems here that stand outside the moment.

“Claire Booker’s second collection of poems has an indefatigable spirit. Even as they explore man’s incredible capacity for cruelty, they reveal a tender humanity and have an unflagging energy. The political nature of many of these poems refuses to let the reader off the hook, but Booker’s fine sense of tone and craft means we’re happy to be left wriggling.” Lisa Kelly.

Stand Magazine pays tribute to Eavan Boland

It’s great to be in another issue of Stand, which offers the perfect place for poems that play with horizontal layouts.   

Stand (issue Vol 18, 2) 

Poets in this issue include Richard Aronowitz, Grace Atkinson, Kate Behrens, Claire Booker, Maia Elsner, John Glover, Robin Houghton,  Laura Potts, Jessica Sneddon, Nic Stringer, plus a series of five extraordinary poems from Robert Hamberger.

There’s also a short story by Ted Slaughter and reviews by Jennifer Wong, Stella Pye and John Gallas.

In his foreword, managing editor, John Whale, references Coleridge’s 1797 poem ‘This Lime-tree Bower My Prison’ as his lockdown poem of choice. In the poem, Coleridge provides intense, detailed observations of nature, which enable him to bear the isolation of his illness with fortitude and even appreciation. IMG_0049[1]

Says John Whale: “At this moment of of our current pandemic it is worth celebrating this historical example of the appreciation of particularity arising from a thorough-going meditative attention to nature. It shows us what compensations can emerge from privation.” 

The first six pages of Stand 226 contain tributes to the Irish poet, feminist and editor, Eavan Boland, who died in April. A great loss to the world of poetry.

Boland famously said it was ‘easier to have a political murder in an Irish poem than a washing machine.” So-called ‘domestic poetry’ still has to contend with prejudice from some editors (often, but not always, male), who would airbrush it from their pages. Apparently, they fail to see that all experience contains the potential for poetry, including such deeply personal relationships such as motherhood. 

In one of the tributes carried in Stand, Shirley Chew quotes from Boland’s poem sequence, Anna Liffey. It’s a beautiful statement of the right to be subjective in a poem, to bring yourself right into its core, and not simply be a commentator on the ‘big subjects’: 

Make of a nation what you will
Make of the past
What you can -

There is now
A woman in the doorway.

It has taken me
All my strength to do this.

Becoming a figure in a poem.

Usurping a name and a theme.

To buy a copy of Stand, Volume 18 (2), or take out an online or paper subscription, or to submit your work to the magazine, please visit: http://www.standmagazine.org

Prole Magazine is 10 years old!

Prole x6Prole‘s 10th birthday is a cause for celebration among all who prefer their poetry and short stories lively and accessible. So here’s a glass (or two!) raised with a hurrah for editors Brett Evans and Phil Robertson, who have steered this Sabateur award-winning magazine from the word go.

I’ve been chuffed to have poems in seven of those issues, including the current one (Prole 30), which contains short stories by Dan Burns, S. Dean, Sue Pace, and poetry by Sharon Black, Michael Carrino, Kitty Coles, Kevin Hanson, Deborah Harvey, Jennifer A McGowan, Matt Pitt, Emma Purshouse and Rowena Warwick among others. Prole cartoon

Until recently, the magazine has come out three times a year, but now it’s going to be biannual. This will take some pressure off the editors but will very likely disappoint readers and submitters alike.  C’est la vie. We’ll appreciate it all the more. I love the look of the magazine, with its trade-mark black and white covers, witty cartoons, and clear demarcation between prose and poetry. Great that contributors are offered a profit-share too.  Prole issue 30

Prole is not just a magazine, however. Every year, it holds a Prole Laureate Competition (plus similar for short stories). You can read the 2020 winning poems by Paul Stephenson, Jinny Fisher and Angela Platt in this current issue.

Is your finished pamphlet looking for a home? If so, there’s still time to enter this year’s Prole Pamphlet Competition, being judged by John McCullough. Your pamphlet needs to be between 20 and 40 pages. Closing date is September 16th. More details at: Prole