Category Archives: Poems

Boris Johnson fights the Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky by John TennielThank you Andy Croft, editor of the 21st Century Poetry slot at the Morning Star, for taking my Lewis Carroll pastiche Jab-or-Washy? Abs 2019-nCoV virus hologramIf Boris has time to read it when he returns to work tomorrow, he may see himself in a new light.

The poem came about in time-honoured fashion, through a small group of friends setting themselves a writing challenge. My brother laid down the gauntlet with a poem about Covid-19 composed in the style of Robert Burns. Duncan Fraser responded with a deliciously irreverent take on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline entitled Fear No More th’infected Bun. Then I shamelessly plundered Lewis Carroll’s great absurdist work for a chance to criticise how this pandemic has been handled. It was a record 7 days from writing the poem to publication. Normally it takes me months, years or, more frequently, never!

14-kotzI couldn’t have known that casting Boris Johnson as the tardy battler against the Jabberwocky, would have me dicing with death – literally.

When I submitted my poem, he was doing well at home, with very mild symptoms. By the time Jab-or-Washy? went up on-line at the Morning Star, he had been admitted to hospital. During the following three days, it looked increasingly as if my poem was about to cross the boundaries of extremely bad taste.

Luckily for Boris, he pulled through and is thankfully on the mend. Let’s hope his close shave with mortality will give him the necessary jolt to properly resource the NHS. Praise and appreciation of course is great. But money is pretty handy too!

imagesYou can read Jab-or-washy? by clicking on the following link: Jab-or-washy? by Claire Booker

The Morning Star’s Culture pages carry several poems a week, together with book and arts reviews and literary discussion pieces. You can read seven free articles per month, before being required to subscribe. To submit a poem, email it to Andy Croft at info@smokestack-books.co.uk

Dreamcatcher – worth a pile of beans!

Dreamcatcher 40_0001During the siege of Leningrad, people flocked to the libraries for nourishment. Here, we flock to the supermarkets for toilet rolls. Perhaps the Russians have something to teach us.

I’m fortunate (so far) in having food and books enough. And my contributor’s copy of Dreamcatcher 40 has just arrived, pulsating with verbal and visual treats.  It’s Wendy Pratt’s final issue as Editor, and she’s really pushed the boat out.

It includes some cracking short stories: Mark Jarman’s fascinating take on Shanghai; Kevan Youde’s mouth-watering sea voyage; a tale from Down Under by Christian McCulloch and something for Movie buffs from Mark Wasserman.

Poets featured include Claire Booker, Nick Boreham, Pamela Coren, Sandra Galton, Yvonne Hendrie, Michael Henry, Gary Jude, Mark Anthony Kaye, David Lewitzky, Karen Little, Jenny McRobert,  Jeremy Platt, Florian Rose, Iain Twiddy and Alessio Zanelli.Dreamcatcher 40_0002

The ravishing artwork in this issue has been selected from oil paintings by David Baumforth. Born in York, David’s inspiration is the ‘bitter beauty’ of England’s North East coast.  His technique is Turnerian, but the modern visual risk-taker is very much in evidence too.

Dreamcatcher 40_0003“I paint how I’ve always painted,” explains Baumforth, “and that’s with a focus on the truth of what I see in front of me. Yorkshire and its coastline are a constant source of inspiration. My last collections are very well received, and though that is gratifying, success or lack of it can be a distraction.”

Wise words indeed. And what fantastic use of colour. Clearly a painter I need to find out more about. So, thank you, Dreamcatcher for introducing him to me.

This issue also carries reviews of Derrida’s Monkey by Nell Farrell, and The Unknown Civilian by Antony Owen. Plus a very handy guide by Alan Gillott to three, on-line resources for writers: Write Out Loud, The Poetry Kit, and Rhyme Zone.

To buy a copy of Dreamcatcher 40, subscribe to the magazine (two issues a year), or check submissions windows, visit: Dreamcatcher

 

Artemis – a place for women poets

Artemis (issue 23)A literary journal which excludes men? How very 70s, do I hear? What need is there for literary purdah in the 21st century? Surely women have won the battle?

Perhaps so. And yet, how delightful it is to immerse oneself in uninterrupted female experience, with its own unique momentum and tropes. And why, I ask myself, has it taken me this long to read and submit to Artemis?

Happy indeed to have a poem published in issue 23 (November 2019) – a praise poem to my late mother-in-law, Selima, whose life was beset by ill-health and troubles, yet her deeply held faith kept her strong. What an inspiration.

Poetry editor for this issue, Anne Stewart, has chosen work by Yvonne Baker, Claire Booker, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Charlotte Eastwell, Tess Jolly, Kaye Lee, Harriet Proudfoot, Martha Street, Grainne Tobin and Margaret Wilmot, among others.

ArtemisAnd there’s a double dose of verbal joy, because issue 23 also includes the winning, and commended, poems from the 2019 Second Light Poetry Competition, judged by Kate Foley. First prize (short category) went to Kathy Miles for ‘The Music Room’ and to A.C.Clarke (long category) for ‘Poet at War’.

I love the foolscap size of Artemis Poetry, with its generous space for the poems, and an almost coffee table feel to the way the pages turn. I also like how there’s a new poetry editor for each issue. This helps keep the magazine fresh, and means you can never second-guess an Artemis poem. Towards the back of the magazine come  Readers’ letters, Readers Recommend, a Noticeboard and Members’ News, plus in this issue, a touching obituary by Clare Best for Sussex raised poet, Judith Kazantzis. There are also four poems by featured poet, Kathy Miles, and great use of the back cover, with three powerful poems by Lyn Moir.

Also on offer, Myra Schneider’s interview with novelist and poet Kay Syrad is both accessible and very challenging – what a great combination.  Kay works across the creative spectrum, including the visual arts and dance. The magazine also includes a number of reviews – mostly collections and pamphlets by members of the Second Light Network.

Full membership of Second Light is open to all women aged 40 and over for £28 a year. Associate membership for £16 a year is open to women aged 30-40. Something worth considering, as membership offers workshops, publicity opportunities, as well as free copies of Artemis twice a year.

There are no age restrictions for submitting to the magazine, however, and there’s a deadline coming up! Appropriately perhaps, it’s Leap Day (Feb 29th). The poetry editor for issue 24 is Alison Brackenbury, someone whose poetry I particularly love. So do send in up to 4 of your best poems before the end of this month to: www.secondlightlive.co.uk And remember, women poets only!

New Year’s resolution – keep Poetry healthy!

2019 collections (2)Still stuck for a new year’s resolution?  How about subscribing to an extra literary magazine, buying another collection/pamphlet, perhaps crowd-funding an event or renewing your membership of The Poetry Society?

Not yet a member? T.S Elliot must be spinning in his grave! He helped set up the society in 1909. Or, to paraphrase another great American wordsmith (record holder for speaking 350 words per minute): Ask not what Poetry can do for you, but what YOU can do for Poetry.

For the modest price of £23 per year, you can enjoy that warm glow of maintaining the heart beat of poetry in the UK, as well as a hamper of literary goodies. For £44 per year, you get a subscription to the quarterly Poetry Review thrown in too. What’s not to like?

Stanza Bonanza ColchesterFor me, the warm glow is enough. But I’ve enjoyed the benefits too. The society has over 100 Stanza groups in the UK where you can enjoy the company and technical feedback of other poets. Clapham used to be my Stanza group. Now I’m a member of the Brighton group. There’s one near you, almost certainly.

My poem Sp/lit was recently commended in the society’s 2019 Stanza Competition. You can read Sp/lit, along with the winning and commended poems at the following link. Just select 2019 and scroll down the right hand side of the page to find them all: 2019 Stanza Competition poems

If you live within reach of London, the Poetry Society’s refurbished headquarters off Long Acre, Covent Garden, is a great venue for its many events and activities, together with the Poetry Café where you can meet, eat and speak to your heart’s content. I recently went there for Poetry@3, a popular monthly Open Mic event hosted by the warmly Welsh and very welcoming Paul McGrane. It’s for poets who like to play in the afternoon. So handy for travel, if you don’t live in London. Trafalgar

20191205_poetree-2897-2048x1332[1]This Christmas, I went up to the Big Smoke again for the lighting up of the 100ft Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square. Is no-where safe from the Poetry Society’s influence? A specially commissioned poem, ‘The Gift’ by Clare Pollard, inspired by local school children, was part of the ceremony, touchingly performed by youngsters to a crowd of warmly wrapped people.

[2]Other benefits to membership include, discounted poetry surgeries, a free copy of the quarterly Poetry News, packed with essential reading, including a double page dedicated to young poets. And more than 20 different projects currently putting Poetry into the public arena up and down the country, from National Poetry Day, and The Annual Lecture, to the Canal Laureateship, Poetry and Podcasts, and vital archive work.

So, for the cost of a festive round of drinks, you get to support a heritage that goes back  . . . well, exactly when did poetry first start? Cuneiform, spoken, printed or virtual, all we can say for sure, is that it’s been going a very long time. Let’s hope it stays that way!

For more information about membership, please visit: The Poetry Society

Solstice Shorts Festival lights up the Darkest Day

Solstice Hastings Dec 19Arachne Press pulled off a seven-venue, four-nation, simultaneous festival of stories and poetry on the theme of Time & Tide last week, including two of my poems (seen here being performed in Hasting’s Fisherman’s museum). Solstice, Kate Dyson

This is the sixth Solstice Shorts Festival to light up the darkest day of the year. Festival Director, Cherry Potts put out a call for stories set on, or beside, the sea or tidal rivers, with a historical flavour. Sailing under the title of Time & Tide (named for the Suffragette’s newspaper), Cherry was keen for this year’s festival to include pieces with a strong female voice.

Solstice Shorts AnthologyMy poem ‘The Fisherman’s Daughter’ is inspired by Brighton’s fishing heritage, and was performed in Lisbon (Portugal), Maryport, Hastings, Greenwich (England) and Clydeside (Scotland). My second poem about ‘mail order’ brides for British soldiers on a remote Atlantic island, was performed at Peterhead, Clydeside, Lisbon, Maryport and Greenwich. Neither poem made it to the Welsh event in Holyhead, but three countries out of four is a good innings!

In the slick, darkly covered anthology Time & Tide, you can find every story and poem performed at each of the venues of this year’s Festival – wonderful pieces to stir the blood on long, dark nights, including tales of diaspora, refugees, sex in beach huts, cockle women, Crosby Beach, Noah’s wife, the wisdom of halibut, and much, much more. Solstice, Time &Tide

There was live-streaming from each venue, and you can watch some of these films on Facebook. Facebook Solstice Shorts page It’s fascinating to see how different actors bring their own take to the exact same poem or story. Hastings net huts

I managed to make it to the Hastings gig, which was held in the enthralling (if slightly chilly) Fisherman’s Museum – a beautiful old church where men would worship before facing the dangers at sea. We were plied with mulled wine and mince pies by the volunteers who run this gem of a museum, and the turn-out (on a rain-battered day) was hearteningly good, with standing room only (well, two of us had to sit on a box!). The actors gave forth from a lectern on the deck of a fishing boat in what proved to be the perfect setting, both acoustically and thematically.

Solstice Hastings 19Thank you to Joan Taylor-Rowan for organising the Hastings leg of the Festival, to Simta Ali for filming it, and to Kate Dyson, Rebekah Wilkinson, Jared Stoughton, Patrick Keiley and Umi Sinha for their pitch-perfect performances. A big thank you also to Cherry Potts for keeping a steady hand on the tiller of this extraordinary Festival, and to all the crowd-funders and The Arts Council for financing it.

Solstice HastingsYou can see the entire Hastings at: Time & Tide Hastings

To buy a copy of the Anthology (Time & Tide), or to discover more about any of the Solstice Shorts Festivals, or the many other activities at Arachne Press, please visit:  Arachne Press

Moon, Poetry and Frogs!

Frogmore Papers (issue 94)The world’s just got a little froggier, thanks to The Frogmore Press’ fabulous anthology of poems about the moon, and its bi-annual Frogmore Papers (issue 94) glowing in lime green! Pale Moon NVT launch

Pale Fire was given it’s Brighton launch at The New Venture Theatre last week. I joined nine other poets performing work from the anthology to an excellent turn out of enthusiastic moon-afficionados. Pale Moon - me (2)

There was music from singer-song writer Seema Kapila, a short symposium on the cultural history of the moon from Alexandra Loske, and a wonderful changing track of moon images as backdrop to poems from Claire Booker, Neil Gower, Maria Jastrzebska, Seema Kapila, Chris McDermott, Zel Norwood, John O’Donoghue, Jeremy Page, Stephen Plaice, Chris Sykes and Janet Sutherland.

Maria Jastrzebska (2)

Maria Jastrzebska

“This anthology is published 50 years after human kind first set foot on a world outside our own,” said editor, Alexandra Loske. “For the first time, we were able to see the Moon up-close, a place and object we had been observing, visualising and imagining for millennia. The magnitude of this human achievement and its impact on our culture and psyche cannot be underestimated.”

The autumn issue of The Frogmore Papers is packed with goodies, including the winning and short-listed poems from this year’s Frogmore Poetry Prize, judged by John O’Donoghue. Polly Walshe was the winner with her atmospheric poem ‘Our District’, and runners up are Michael Swan (”We Refugees’) and Robert Hamberger (‘Sleeping with Uncertainty’).

Issue 94 also offers the reader poems by Stephen Bone, Claire Booker, Laura Chalar, Alison Harrison, Rowan Lyster, D A Prince, Rachel Spence, Beatrice Stanley and Roddy Williams among others. As always, there are short stories and book reviews. Pale Moon, Alexandra Loske

To submit your work to The Frogmore Papers, please adhere to the submissions windows of April and October. For more details, or to buy copies of Pale Moon or The Frogmore Papers, please visit: The Frogmore Press

Poetry Salzburg Review – flying the flag for English poetry

Poetry Salzburg Review (issue 34)With only weeks before a possible plunge off the Brexit cliff, it’s good to know that English language poetry is still cherished in the heart of Europe. images[7]

The latest issue of Poetry Salzburg Review contains work from 72 English-speaking poets including John Arnold, Claire Booker, Jonathan Catherall, Carole Coates, Andy Croft, Robert Dassanowsky, Terry Doyle, Julie Maclean, Sue Kindon, Fiona Larkin, Owen Lowery, Matthew Paul, Paul Stephenson, Tessa Strickland, Iain Twiddy, Tom Vaughan, Sarah Juliet Walsh and Andrew Wildermuth.

Poetry Salzburg Review (issue 34) (3)Continuing its trend of fabulously surreal covers, the artwork for issue 34 is by Michael Cheval. This is the third issue of PSR that has carried my poems, and each time Cheval has wowed me with his inventiveness and luscious use of colour. You can find out more about his work at Michael Cheval

But of course, a book is more than it’s cover. Look inside this one, and as well as a wide range of poetic styles and themes, you’ll find reviews of European and UK poets by John Challis, Keith Hutson and Robert Peake; and a thought-provoking interview with Scottish poet and translater Alan Riach by PSR editor Wolfgang Gortschacher.

To buy a copy of Poetry Salzburg Review, browse their collections and pamphlets, or submit your own work, please visit Poetry Salzburg

High Window, Ekphrastic Review and Celebrating Change – why publish on-line?

A recent flurry of my poems being carried by The High Window (issue 15), The Ekphrastic Review (August 2019) and Celebrating Change (September 2019) has made me ponder the pros and cons of online publishing.

Ekphrastic Review (25.8.19)You write a poem, you re-write a poem, you workshop it, you work on it again, eventually you submit, sometimes it’s accepted for publication. So far, so normal. Appearing in a magazine or anthology enables us to share our craft, our vision, our voice.  Being published doffs its cap to posterity.

So what can online publication offer that printed books and magazines can’t?  Well, for a start, online magazines are usually free to read. This, together with the fact that content can be shared more easily via social media, means you potentially reach more readers. There can be greater immediacy too when you by-pass the laborious processes of printing and posting out. This is particularly relevant for political poems. Online is so handy for journeys – no more lugging heavy books around. Stuck in a jam? Pull out your mobile and get reading. Online magazines allow you to search for individual poet’s work, often across many issues. At magazines like The Ekphrastic Review, you also get to see the painting or artwork that inspired the poem – a delight that books can usually only dream of. Online creative collaborations such as Celebrating Change can use film, music, written word or spoken word in ways that printed form simply can’t deliver. Not least of all, online poetry saves trees!IMG_20190928_125228151[1]

For many writers (and readers) however, the printed book or magazine simply can’t be beaten. There’s something about the quietness of paper that conduces to contemplation and absorption. Bad habits of dipping and diving on-screen can be left behind and poems given the space (literal and metaphorical) they deserve. Many online magazines can’t take unusual formats because line breaks get easily mangled. Goodbye concrete poetry!  In terms of longevity, a book can be retrieved from your shelves and re-read in years to come, whereas online work tends to plunge into oblivion remarkably quickly (unless it’s a bad review or embarrassing photo!)

There are no right or wrongs, of course. Clearly, online and print both have a place in our reading lives. It’s fun to embrace them both. As far as I’m concerned, thank you for taking my work, and vive la difference!

The Ekphrastic Review, edited in Canada by Lorette C Luzajic, publishes poems on a daily basis and accepts reprints: “We’re an online journal devoted entirely to writing inspired by visual art. Our objective is to promote ekphrastic writing, promote art appreciation, and experience how the two strengthen each other and bring enrichment to every facet of life. We want to inspire more ekphrastic writing and promote the best in ekphrasis far and wide.” Check it out here at: The Ekphrastic Review

The High Window is published quarterly by David Cooke and includes reviews, guest poets, poems in translation, occasional articles, and new poems by established and up and coming poets. He has recently started releasing it in instalments to allow for less pressured reading. By clicking names on the contributors’ list, you get taken straight to that person’s poems. Poets in the autumn 2019 issue include Claire Booker, Rebecca Gethin, Rosie Jackson, Maitreyabandhu, Angela Topping and Gareth Writer Davis. The High Window (issue 15)

Celebrating Change is an ACE funded story-telling project based in Middlesbrough led by Laura Degnan and Kirsten Luckins, which combines film, poetry and writing workshops around social change. It releases a poem every ten days, and accepts reprints. Guest editors have included Amy Kinsman and Jess Green.  Some of the poets published so far are Claire Booker, Rachel Burns, Sarah L Dixon, Catherine Fulkner, Moira Garland, Ye Min and Marka Rifat. Check it out here at: Celebrating Change

 

Magma 74 – Poetry Gets Down to Work

Magma 74We may be knee-deep in the holiday season, but Magma’s summer issue gets to the heart of what everyday life so often boils down to – work. The getting of it. The losing of it. The joys. The frustrations. The politics.

It’s a truly memorable issue, put together by editors Benedict Newbery and Pauline Sewards with an eye for wit, as well as grit. The cover image by Joff Winterhart is spot on.

Poets published in issue 74 include:  Anne Berkeley, Claire Booker, Kate Bingham, Alison Brackenbury, Carole Bromley, Fiona Cartwright, Emma Danes, Caroline Davies, Terence Dooley, Duncan Forbes, Owen Gallagher, Anne Hay, Robin Houghton, Angela Howarth, Ewan John, Lorraine Mariner, Fokkina McDonald, Martin Rieser, Anne Ryland, Jayne Stanton, Paul Stephenson and Angela Topping.

Magma (Work) launch 2 (2)From posties, haymakers, turnip-pullers and stone masons, to tea ladies, celebrity-minders, university lecturers, ventriloquists and new mums – so many takes on what makes work, work. How to survive it. Why we do it. What it’s like when it stops.

“Work should be every bit as universal a theme as love” says Jane Commane in her feature article ‘Ideas Above Your Station’. “And yet too often it remains the unspoken, unsung business of our days.”

As part of Magma’s regular slot, Tim Wells responds to Linton Kwesi Johnson’s poem Inglan is a Bitch, with his own specially commissioned poem no escaping it – read with absolute verve and conviction at the Magma 74 London launch at Exmouth Market last month (see below). Magma (Work) launch

It was lovely to be one of the 23 contributors performing on such a glitzy stage. Stand-out readings included the flamboyant Stuart Charlesworth, the sinister tones of Graham Buchan, and a brilliant sestina by Rachel Bower. There was even a surprise guest spot for Hilaire whose joint collection with Joolz Sparkes is reviewed in this issue.

If you entered Magma’s 2018/19 poetry competition, you’ll be interested to read the winning entries – Judge’s Prize: Fuck/Boys by Inua Ellams; Stillborn by Rowena Warwick; Hangover by Ben Strak. Editors’ Prize: A Strange Boulder by Derek Hughes; Entertaining Sammy Davis Jnr in St Ives, 1962 by Kathy Pimlott; Lanterns by Katie Hale.

Magma (74)_0002Tom Sastry is the featured poet in the current issue. His first full collection (A Man’s House Catches Fire) will be published by Nine Arches Press in October. There are fascinating articles relating to poetry, work and class by Louisa Adjoa Parker, Jane Commane and Fran Lock, and the usual meaty, thought-inducing reviews section.

To order a copy of Magma (issue 74) or to find out how to submit to Magma 76 (closing date 31st August, theme Resistencia) check out the website at: Magma

Celebrating Change – When Poetry Packs a Punch

A project underway in Middlesbrough is working with local people and the wider literary community to harness the power of poetry for creating social and political change.

It’s a year-long digital storytelling project, funded by Arts Council England and led by film-maker Laura Degnan and poet Kirsten Luckins.

images59ORYF4GLast month, guest editor Amy Kinsman selected my poem about a refugee seeking asylum via the Channel Tunnel and published it on the Celebrating Change website. You can find it under their recent posts (June 14th), or read it here: Abdul Haroun Almost Medals at Dover 

If you’ve written a poem that tackles injustice, inspired perhaps by people striving to create a better world, you might be interested to know that Celebrating Change are looking for poems on a rolling basis. canva-females-gathering-on-road-for-demonstrations-MADOYVgN2Gw[1]

Here’s the gen:

“Please send poems (no longer than 40 lines) and stories (no longer than 750 words) as attachments to celebratingchange2017@gmail.com. We are happy to accept previously published work, just tell us where and when it first appeared so we can acknowledge.

csd-2735009__340[2]Please also include a short biog (50 words) and links to your blog, website or audio/video channel. A good photo of you, or a photo taken by you that we can use to illustrate the poem would be super for the Insta feed.

Our overarching theme is ‘change’ – guest editors will be more specific. Because this is a digital storytelling project, we like poems that tell a story in some way.”

To enjoy poems already live on the site, including work by Ian Badcoe, Claire Booker, Jane Burn, Sara Hirsch and Marylin Longstaff, check out: Celebrating Change