Featured Poets, October 2020                     home page
 

Elizabeth Birchall       Lucy Crispin       Clare Crossman       Caroline Gill       Joy Howard       Maria Jastrzębska       Gill Learner       Ann Milton       Jenna Plewes       Myra Schneider       Bridget Somekh       Sue Spiers       Kathleen Swann       Cathy Whittaker       Patricia Helen Wooldridge      

You may also wish to listen to poem recordings that have been added to our (small but growing!) digital archive. We have poems there by:
 
Nadine Brummer, Daphne Gloag, Jennie Osborne, Mimi Khalvati, Lottie Kramer, Gill McEvoy (read by Anne Stewart), Maggie Norton, Elizabeth Soule, Jill Townsend, Marion Tracy and Fiona Ritchie Walker
 
Select and listen here               Poets of the Month (other dates)  

Elizabeth Birchall

Elizabeth is long retired from social work, management and policy research. In her beloved Cotswolds, she fills her time with writing, reading, gardening, friends and pressing governments to do better! Her poems have appeared in numerous literary and poetry magazines.

OXFORD UNITED:
Luminox, March, 2007

They set Broad Street ablaze last week,
Expelled the cars and bikes,
Brought in two ambulances in case.
Cowley and North Oxford, all ages, mixed
In slow and quiet amazement
Inching along the crowded street.
 
A flaring pendulum hung from a bamboo spire
And swung a thousand slow rotations
In notation of the city’s age.
Black against orange glow, children clung
To railings, agog at pots of fire swagged
From the Clarendon's sober pediment.
 
Blazing at each meridian and latitude, a sphere
Lit, vivified the New Bodleian hulk.
A telescopic crane stretched into the dark
Bearing a chandelier whose blaze
Extinguished the stars with infinitely more
Élan than the usual sodium lights.
 
The gale tore banners of flame
From braziers and stove pipes
Red, yellow, white hot.
Galaxies of sparks blew in the cold night
And wrapped around crowds wondering
To be allowed so intimate
With such untamed energy.

Elizabeth Birchall

Publications: The Forest That Sailed Away

tel: 01608 677271
 
e-mail

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Lucy Crispin

Lucy Crispin is a former Laureate of South Cumbria and a person-centred therapist. Inspired by the natural world and the life of the spirit, she’s also interested in the way experience shapes us. She writes to celebrate the everyday extraordinary.

driving away

Driving away, still in my black,
the sun dropping towards familiar hills
whose ochre is piebald with cloud shadow
 
I have the sense of a plant lifted
or, rather, its roots: fine, bone-white,
the thin dry dirt already crumbling from them
 
and the roots barely branched,
their slack length drooping,
hungry and slight
 
but lifted, I can tell, by a careful hand –
no rip of filaments, only the patter of soil falling;
and though I don’t see the plant itself
 
I feel its surprising vigour
over such delicate roots and imagine
some new place being prepared for them
 
in dark loam, deep enough to take their length
with room for spreading, infilled
with that good earth pressed just firmly enough
 
 
and after that the mild spring sun
for growing
and the steady quench of rain.
 

Lucy Crispin

Third prize, Segora poetry competition, 2020 and published at Segora website.

Note: This poem is taken from the title sequence from my next collection, hungers.

Publications:
shades of blue, 2020, Hedgehog Press, ISBN 978-1-9134992-4-2, £7.99
wish you were here, 2020, Stickleback micro-pamphlets, Hedgehog Press, ISSN 2631-4126, £2

Lucy Crispin website
 

e-mail Lucy Crispin

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Clare Crossman

Clare Crossman grew up in Cumbria and now lives with her husband near Cambridge. She runs poetry workshops for various school and community groups with START Arts and CCC. She has an MA in Theatre Studies, and loves being involved with poetry in performance.

The Winter Crown
(poem at Christmas)

From the small wood, I cut spiked sloes,
regal and hardy, against winter’s grain.
 
I threaded them through the willow ring,
wired on a paper butterfly, woven with gold silk.
 
I tied on foil stars, for girls with glittering bracelets,
silver pendants dropping from their ears.
 
Pine and sandalwood for boys
in dinner suits, dignified and tall as trees.
 
I placed it in the church porch beside the others.
Who had chosen laurel, lilies to lie on stone.
 
Ribbons of blue and green for first love,
to keep the memory of the lost, the dead.
 
Ghosts, amongst twisted strands of bryony stalk,
as dry as straw, and the red dogwood canes.
 
The light inside was gold, all the lead lights lit.
Carols rang, for miracles, (how a lemon tree flowers in December).
 
An old man died, bombs blasted lives away,
a child was found in a dark hole.
 
Those unbroken circles,
that catch and hold how we connect.
 
In the hope of angels passing over,
to reach across borders with their wings
 
where all crowns are barbed with distance.

Clare Crossman

Publications:
The Shell Notebook Poems, in Take 5 04, Shoestring Press.
Fenlight, CD, Sequence of poems and music with acoustic musician, Richard Newman. Performed Cambridge, Norwich, Ely.

tel: 01763 261300
 
e-mail

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Caroline Gill

Caroline Gill won 1st Prize in the Petra Kenney Poetry Competition (gen. section) in 2007. Her poem, Preseli Blue, featured on BBC Poetry Please from the Guardian Hay Festival 2008. Poems published in UK, India, Romania & USA. Home: Ipswich.

Elegy for Idris Davies

Who hears the bells of Rhymney as they toll?
There are no drams to draw along the tracks:
the empty tarmac waits for laden trucks,
but hollows in the hillside tell their tale.
 
The winch and winder man have long since gone:
deserted pits are crudely steeped in slag.
Would Shelley’s spirit ring out once again
if flames of silver leaped to greet the lark?
 
A sloping cemetery will testify
to times when angry voices could be heard.
An echo rises from the Rhymney bard:
it rocks and rolls a piercing lullaby.
 
The grass is brown: brass bands have lost their sheen,
but April’s music trickles down the rill.
A shaft of sun makes rainbow-puddles shine
in terraced streets, to light the poet’s trail.
 
Allotments snake along the mountain road,
with weathered water butts of blue and green.
A raven waits while seeds of hope are sown,
but wigwam-canes stand vacant and betrayed.
 
A poet plants his footsteps in the mire,
through furnaces and forges razed to soil.
Bare strips of sky and horizontal moor
arouse defiant voices in his soul.
 
Stonemasons shed their monumental tears
in mounds below the monkey puzzle’s arm.
A sombre moon cast shadows on the dawn:
a valley dreams beneath the midnight stars.
 

Note: A dram is a cart for carrying coal

Caroline Gill

Poem published: THE SEVENTH QUARRY (ed. Peter Thabit Jones), no.3, Winter 2006. Also on the Poetry Library Southbank Centre Website.

Publications:Six poems in Hidden Dragons / Gwir a Grymus, (Parthian 2004), ISBN 9781902638393, £7.99

Caroline Gill website
 
e-mail

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Joy Howard

Joy Howard’s poems have featured in several anthologies. Now retired from social services, she works as a freelance consultant, lecturer and editor. She is a co-founder of Grey Hen Press and a contributor to Grey Hen’s inaugural publication Second Bite.

Stranded

and anchored in a fretwork of foam
over sea-shimmering silver gilt sand
I’m bliss-basking like an old grey seal
beached and loving it
 
so till the seventh wave
lolls over me and nudges me back
to the sea   let your hands glide
over mounded flesh and soft pelt
while you plumb my fathomable eyes
and marvel at my stillness
 
believe me
I’m more graceful in water
 

Joy Howard

in collection Foraging, 2017, Arachne Press;
previously published in anthology Running Before the Wind,
2013, Grey Hen Press

tel: 01535 645711
 
Grey Hen Press
 
Joy at poetry p f
 
e-mail

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Maria Jastrzębska

Maria is Polish and lives in Brighton. She has three collections and her work is much published in anthologies and magazines (UK, France, Finland, Slovenia, the internet). She is involved with SOUTH POLE, Queer Writing South, Outskirts and THE SOUTH.

Old Knives

Old knives lie still
in wooden drawers, lined
 
with shiny paper. They smell
of rust, belong to a family
 
of broken scissors, brass
tongs, tarnished platters
 
and screws stored in tobacco tins.
You could clean round them.
 
They lack conviction. Old knives
can’t cut in straight lines
 
anymore, but their handles
fit warmly into your hand.
 

Maria Jastrzębska

Poem published: Zlati Coln / Golden Boat 2006, Apokalipsa 2007 Zlati čoln/Golden Boat mednarodna prevajalska delavnica Društvo Apokalipsa

Latest collection:Syrena, Redbeck Press

web-pages on poetry p f
 
e-mail Maria

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Gill Learner

Gill Learner’s poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and magazines such as Agenda, Acumen, ARTEMISpoetry, The North; it has also won a number of prizes and commendations. She lives in Reading, is a keen gardener and fan of Radio 3.

Chill Factor

He tries to dream cool – of ponds he dared to step on
till he heard the gun-shot crack, stilled waterfalls
in Cumbria, of sleeping in an igloo or an ice hotel.
 
Sangin dust grits between his teeth, chafes
his shoulder blades, sticks to his sweat no matter
how much care he takes undressing, shaking out.
 
His final tour. It’s 48 degrees: he must think cool –
frost fairs on the Thames, blue light of glacier caves,
Shackleton’s Endurance trapped and crushed.
 
Heat beats at his helmet like a welder’s torch,
his nape’s on fire, eyes sear with watching
as the search team makes its slow way back.
 
His last long walk. The escort’s guns are poised.
Without his body armour he steps light
along the track. Tomorrow – home, to stars
 
in their proper places, Cathy’s frown, the garden
gossipy with birds, the children’s bikes to fix.
Soft-fingered sun. Rain. He lies flat, tools
 
to hand. The silence grows. Now he believes
cool – in Saturn’s rings, the Skaters’ Waltz,
a white bear on its lonely floe. He wipes his mind,
 
strokes away sand and earth, starts to unpick
a knotted mass of metal, batteries and wires.
The desert holds its breath.
 

Gill Learner

Poem published in collection: Chill Factor;
and in ARTEMISpoetry 11 and anthology Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen Press, 2017)

Publications:
collection, Chill Factor, Two Rivers Press, 2016;
collection, The Agister’s Experiment, Two Rivers Press, 2011;
Anthologies include Fanfare, Second Light Publications, 2015; The Emma Press Anthology of Love, 2018; Vaster than Empires, Grey Hen Press, 2018

web-pages at poetry p f
 
e-mail

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Ann Milton

I am a housewife and mother, living in Brussels. I’ve been writing poetry for my own satisfaction and pleasure for some years, now I am exploring how to make it accessible to (enjoyable by, useful for?) others.

who will hear?

How can I dare to speak
what must not be heard? Where is it safe
to voice a naked thought?
I live with dreams that cannot
be realised, nightmares I cannot cast off
because the burden is unshared
 
I need some-one to listen to me,
without cruel judgement or kind pity,
so that the merciless noise will be driven
from inside my head, guided
to a distant home.
 
I would not burden the wise
with my foolishness, nor could any-one innocent
receive my guilt.
But if you have seen the wilderness
You could be the one to hear my story.
 

Ann Milton

e-mail Ann Milton

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Jenna Plewes

Jenna Plewes lives in Worcestershire, belongs to Cannon Poets and escapes to Devon whenever she can. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including Heart Shoots (for Macmillan Cancer Support). She was highly commended in the Hastings International Competition 2012.

Leave Me in the Light

When I die
don’t put me underground
cut down a giant oak
as they did
four thousand years ago
 
pull out the stump
drag it across the wide salt marsh
with honeysuckle ropes
upend it where the curlews call
 
lay me across its outstretched hand
under the sun, the moon
the turning stars
 
encircle me in
fifty trunks of oak
each split in two
fold a seamless skin of bark around my bier
 
leave me the smell of fresh cut wood
the shine of pale oak flesh
the sound of wind and tide
 
birds will clean my bones
midsummer’s rising sun will
find me through the keyhole of the east
and when midwinter sunrise looks for me
I will be gone.
 

 
 
Seahenge on the Norfolk coast is a prehistoric monument built in the 21st century BC.

Jenna Plewes

Winning poem in the Sampad competition and published in their anthology Inspired by my Museum.

Publications:
Pull of the Earth, 2016, Indigo Dreams Publishing, ISBN 978-1-9108340-6-0, £8.99 +p&p
Gifts, 2014, CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1-4953944-0-9 £5 – proceeds to charity (buy direct from Jenna Plewes)

Jenna Plewes website
 
e-mail

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Myra Schneider

Myra Schneider has many collections of poetry. Other publications include novels for young people and books about personal writing. One is Writing My Way Through Cancer (Jessica Kingsley 2003). She tutors for the Poetry School in London.

Myra is a Consultant to Second Light Network, a previous competition judge, and is on the Tutor list. (see ‘More’ link below)

Lifting the Sky

Plant yourself in the quiet on a familiar floor
or on an uncut summer lawn
 
and, thinking of seabirds, stretch out your arms,
let them ascend through the unresisting air.
 
With palms facing upwards, travel your hands
till your fingertips almost meet,
 
then release your breath, begin to separate yourself
from the weight of all that lies on you.
 
Allow your mind to open to this moment and your arms
to rise as they lift the palpable blue
 
high above the crown of your head.
Your wings will fold away
 
but raise them slowly to the blue again, maybe
a lightness like liquid amber will flow through you.

Myra Schneider

Poem published: Lifting the Sky, Ward Wood Publishing, 2018

Publications:
Lifting the Sky, Ward Wood Publishing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-9087426-8-1, £9.99
Persephone in Finsbury Park, Second Light Publications, 2016, ISBN 978-0-9927088-2-5, £7.95
The Door to Colour, Enitharmon, 2014, ISBN 978-1-9075875-1-1, £9.99
Writing Your Self (with John Killick), Continuum, 2008, 978-1-8470625-2-9, £17.99
Writing Your Way Through Cancer, Jessica Kingsley, 2003, 1-843101-13-0, £19.95

Myra Schneider website
 
See Maitreyabandhu 2012 interview with Myra (40 minutes): Poetry East Interview
 
e-mail

more...

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Bridget Somekh

Bridget Somekh read English at Trinity College Dublin. She has performed her John Clare poems at the Poetry Café and the open mic at CB1 Poetry, Cambridge. Her one act play ‘Aliens’ was given a rehearsed reading by WRiTEON in the ADC Theatre bar.

Yurim’s Bowl

     In Korea we might talk about how big a bowl you have in your mind.
          Yurim Gough, ceramic artist.
 
     The past lies hidden beyond the mind’s realm and reach, in some material object.
          Marcel Proust
 
We found the studio up a lane, following
a notice pinned to a fence and through a rickety gate.
It felt like a private space, ceramics set out
severally on shelves along the walls.
I was minded to buy and made a
tentative suggestion – and you said,
“what about spending a bit more?”
 
I came to look.
The hand-moulded form of the bowl
was like the smooth interior of a skull,
and deep inside a man posed naked
on his elbow against a blue cushion,
his left arm crossing his groin
where his bent legs curved.
 
“I am Seventy” Yurim told us was its title.
A year younger than you, our first thought,
not knowing then what I know now.
You chose our bowl and when I hold it in my hands
and look inside I feel the weight of your head,
and delight in the bright eye and curving cheek bone
under the long contour of your brow.
 
Forty-seven years ago in the period of incubation,
our two selves probing, inspecting, discovering
the unknown of the other,
you excoriated material possessions,
the frippery of objects scattered about my house –
and I unwrapped their meanings in stories
of what had made them mine.
 
In a lifetime we found each other’s rough edges and soft spots,
and inter-locked our foibles and obsessions,
collecting pottery becoming a shared passion.
At seventy-one you bought Yurim’s bowl for me:
in its depths, the snaking lines of your physical presence
with your strong, agile fingers interlocked
and your face watching in profile.
 
How could I survive without this bank of stories,
so many memories that made us break off to think and laugh.
Yurim’s bowl is glazed and fired with a lip of continuous gold,
the man inside is for me to have and hold.

Bridget Somekh

Poem published in Driech Chap Book, Ekphrastic, (end of August) 2020

Publications:
Love’s Cold Returning: John Clare’s 1841 Odyssey from Essex to Northamptonshire,
     by Ellis Hall and Bridget Somekh. Maps by Jon Harris. Illustrations by Pam Smy,
     2019, available from Thirteen Eighty One Press, £20

Bridget Somekh website
 
e-mail Bridget Somekh

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Sue Spiers

Sue Spiers works with the Winchester Poetry Festival as treasurer and as SIG Sec for British Mensa’s poetry group. Her work has been published in Acumen, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework, and Stand among others.

The Weight of Glass

Glacial cylinder with its thumb-thick base,
Its circumference weighted to balance a hand’s span,
mazarine reflections of the fjord’s ice.
The fire-pit spits out sparks of moonlight.
My tongue courts the contents of the glass;
A dalliance of lakkalikööri, a sting, a glow.
glabrous swirling coats its inner skin;
reminders of cold nights encased in your arms.
 

Sue Spiers

winner of Hysteria 4 Competition 2015 and published in competition anthology

 

Publications:
The Pocket Poetry Book of Cricket, 2018, Paper Swans Press, ISBN 978-1-9998196-9-9, £3.50
Best of British, 2017, Paper Swans Press, ISBN 978-0-9931756-6-4, £9
Hallelujah for 50ft Women, 2015, Bloodaxe Books, ISBN 978-1-78037-155-9, £9.95
Hysteria 4 Anthology, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9927429-7-3, £5.50
Jiggle Sac , 2012, self published at www.lulu.com, ISBN 978-1-291-04430-0, £5

Sue Spiers website
 
e-mail Sue Spiers
 
Twitter: @spiropoetry
 

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Kathleen Swann

Kathleen Swann is a Yorkshire poet, brought up in Cumbria, where her love of the countryside and it’s characters have influenced her poetry. Published in anthologies and magazines and a songwriter for the Leeds Lieder Festival.

Turpentine and Beeswax

Your tall frame bent over the bench
the tip of your tongue between your teeth
time meant nothing, dovetails and dowels
were fashioned with care, sharp chisels
shaped gentle curves across the grain
releasing the inner pattern of waves.
 
Smokey warmth from the iron range
carried the spicy smell of wood
through the oak-beamed rooms
of the old cottage cellar
oak sawn from trees that had
given way to age many years ago.
 
Outside a wool-white sky lay over hills
filled the wood with shifting mist
hung crystal drops on the cherry tree
as we drank sweetened tea from mugs
placed teacake dough in the bread oven
in memory of my grandmother.
 
Wood and workbench now long gone
I lift the old tool bag from its rusty hook
carefully wrap each implement
in its own soft cloth, lay them in the bag
the old smell of turpentine and beeswax
turn the dusty air to remembered perfume.
 

Kathleen Swann

Poem published in Ripples Beyond the Pool, Coverstory Books

Publications:
Oak Tree Alchemy, Coverstory Books, ISBN 978-1-9993027-4-0. £7
Ripples Beyond the Pool, Coverstory Books, ISBN 978-1-9993027-8-8. £7

e-mail Kathleen Swann

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Cathy Whittaker

Cathy Whittaker tutors in poetry and memoir and runs/co-runs various creative writing workshops – see www.openmindwriting.com. She is published in several anthologies and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

My Father’s Desk

hardly ever used, made of oak
stuffed with letters,
square, sturdy pigeon holes
for sticking bills in and old invitations
not replied to.
He never sat there for long
too busy looking after the Herdwick sheep
he was failing at making a living from,
a dream gone wrong.
On days when the rain didn’t stop
he made angry attacks on forms
searched for cheque books
shouting we can’t afford to use electricity
go out, pay for petrol.
So my mother would search for jobs
for him in the Whitehaven News,
and he’d refuse to do any of them.
Bad days when we kept away.
He wouldn’t stay crumpled
in his utilitarian chair
even though it stormed outside.
He’d take his crook, shrug into a torn anorak,
whistle the dog, stride up the intake
to count the sheep cropping the grass.
At his happiest outside alone,
debts, loans, jobs, pensions, wills,
all falling away
into the mist and rain
crossing the fells.
 

Cathy Whittaker

Poem published in This Place I Know, a new anthology of Cumbrian Poetry, Handstand Press

Publications:
15 poems in Quintet and other poets, Cinnamon Press, ed. Jan Fortune

e-mail Cathy Whittaker

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Patricia Helen Wooldridge

Patricia Helen Wooldridge composes much of her poetry while walking in Hampshire. She has a D.Phil in creative writing from Sussex University and her poems have been published in many poetry journals.

Obituary

     I’m nobody! Who are you?
     Are you nobody, too?    (Emily Dickinson)
 
With herring-gull grey
knitted in to her jumper,
she spent her last years
living by the sea.
 
She could be seen standing
on the shoreline staring out,
even though there was nothing there,
there could be.
 
Hardly anyone noticed,
for she liked to be up at first light
fuelled by the crying gulls,
which never made her think of death
 
but only about being alive.
 

Patricia Helen Wooldridge

Poem published in ARTEMISpoetry, May 2016

Patricia Helen Wooldridge on poetry p f
 
e-mail Patricia Helen Wooldridge

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