Diamond Twig Poem of the Month

September Poem of the Month

Inscape

I parted company with myself without a sound, 

mind clear as champagne racing up a glass 

to overflow, then settling. It was cloudless,

blue as an Arctic summer, sharp as ice, angular

as winter trees – the feeling lasted years:

it burned so bright I never saw the ash

on all sides, the scorched ground,

the forest fires in the distance.

Now retired, Kathleen Bainbridge was born in Jarrow and brought up in South Shields. She has worked as a singer in a band, an English teacher and a Gestalt therapist. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in 2013 and was the runner-up for the first Flambard Poetry Prize in 2014. The following year, she won a New North Poet award from New Writing North and her work has been published widely in magazines, anthologies and online. Her first pamphlet Inscape is available from the second week of September from

Vane Women Press: www.vanewomen.co.uk  

 She lives across a ford in Northumberland, untroubled by vampires.

August Poem of the Month

No Man’s Land

A long time ago
a broken heart.

Heat like a mist on the road
with melting pools of tar.

A small child, barefoot,
the blackness, acrid, squelching

through earth-stained toes.
She runs breathless, indoors,

for today is her day for visiting,
to visit mother so long away,

how many days? A life time.
But the woman says,

‘No tar in hospitals.’
The child sits hours long,

waits, while the butter drips
through blackened toes

seated on cold kitchen tiles
while beyond on the apple bough

a song thrush sings
‘no tar, no tar.’

Waiting, waiting. But
the Tartar heart of her jailer

is never melted 
by a child’s heart-break

tears. A whole world
desolation, never

to see mother again?
She writes a letter:
‘Mummy, I love you, love you, love you;
Please come home.’

Diana Jansen is the mother of three daughters and stepmother to four sons. Altogether, there are 15 grandchildren.  

She began her professional life as a nurse and later became a professional singer. For the past 25 years she has worked as a Jungian psychotherapist and sandplay therapist.

Creative writing has always been a strong interest. In 2003 she wrote a book, Jung’s Apprentice,  about her father, friend and companion to many of the WW1 poets, including Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas. More recently, she has written her autobiography: In My End is My Beginning. She has been writing poetry for the whole of her adult life.

July Poem of The Month

Yellow Jackets

We are after the same thing, 

the yellow jackets and me, who peels

back the pear’s skin to suckle.

Half-fill a five-gallon bucket with water, 

fold raw bacon over a string, secure above water

My grandmother’s instructions 

for setting a trap. What she knew

had been learned by pain.

Summer is good to us here: pears, yellow plums, 

the north shore with salmon berries and blackcaps.

All across town zucchinis and corn ripen. 

I could live forever this way, the sound

of fruit loosening from the trees,

the yellow jackets falling, fat and stunned. 

Kris Johnson is from Seattle, Washington, but lives in the UK. Her poems have appeared in anthologies and journals including Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe), Ambit, Poem, Poetry London, The Rialto, and Poetry Northwest. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University and in 2019 was awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. She is an editor for Volume Poetry.  

June Poem of the Month

divvent sweat, pet 

are your hormones all shot, do you always feel hot
as you lie in your bed every night?
does your partner lie freezing? does that make you feel seething,
and murderous, and basically shite?

do you sweat in the knack while he wears anorak,
bobble hat, thermal socks and a tie?
does he lie there and snore, while you pace and implore
the whole world to just FECK OFF AND DIE!?

well, help is at hand cos I’ve thought of a plan
which will sort you both out in a jiff
it will make me my millions, be purchased by billions
and stop you from having a tiff

I was just by the aga drinking lovely cool lager
when I thought of this fab thing to make
then I moved and forgot my ingenious plot
so I sat down and scoffed lots of cake

I’ve tried to remember that idea from November
I’m sure it was useful, not lewd 
but my mind is just mush and when I start to flush
I’m consumed by being back in the nude

so I’m sorry to say, that at least for today,
you’ll just have to let sweats take their toll
it’s my honest intention to present my invention
once I’ve streaked my way to the North Pole

Philippa Briggs is from Durham City. She studied English Literature & French in Manchester, popped back to Durham to train as a Bilingual Secretary and then worked in London for 15 years.  She and her husband missed the north-east so the family moved back to Newcastle where she now works part-time as a PA and enjoys writing courses.  She has had pieces published in Dreich Lockdown, The Someday Supplement (Leaf Books), and Momaya Love Poetry Review 2018.  If you meet her, please don’t speak French because ‘bilingual’ was always a stretch, even then.

May Poem of the Month

THE MISSION
		Jerry Barrett, an artist, visited Scutari, to paint a picture of Florence’s ‘Mission’.

		Dear Mr. Barrett  
		I have neither time
		nor inclination
		to sit for your painting
		of our arrival in Scutari.

		I am informed by friends 
		who saw a draft of your picture
		that it reminds them somewhat
		of Caravaggio’s The Raising of Lazarus.
		As he, you place centrally
		a recumbent man 
		tended by a kneeling woman –
		for Mary Magdalene
		see Mrs. Roberts, they tell me.

		Behind the recumbent man
		stands a woman
		clad in grey with a white cap 
		presumably me.
		She is caught in a ray of light
		proceeding from the left
		as is Christ in the Lazarus painting.
		Now nursing for me is God’s calling
		but it demands huge practical effort 
		no mystery, certainly not a miracle.													
		Arriving here was less picturesque
		than your work suggests:
		we struggled up from the port
		in November mud.					
		Our welcome was six rooms
		for forty-two nurses
		no beds, no tables, no linen
		no food, no medical supplies
		not a basin, towel nor bar of soap.
		In one of our six rooms
		lay the bloated, rotting corpse
		of a Russian General.
		Just a thought, Mr. Barrett:		                             
		why don’t you paint that?    

After a career as a professional actor and drama teacher, Margaret took up residence in Greece and since then has performed three solo poetic shows: Brief Encounters and Astley’s Last Ride, both commissioned by Chester Literature Festival, and Darlings, Angels and Fallen Women, performed in London, Athens and Helsinki. Her publications include two collections: Catching Light (Poetry Space, 2013), Is That All There Is? (Mica Press, 2017), and one pamphlet, Riding the Rainbow, Images of Africa (Poetry Space, 2015). Also she has two long poetic sequences: From George to George (Littoral Press, 2019) and The Flickering Lamp (Video, 2020).

The Flickering Lamp  Florence Nightingale

April Poem of the Month

Skomm

Skomm is an old Norse word meaning shame

The girl with the goose on her head sits

by the window in the corner of the classroom,

there are others with her, among them

her sister, their geese barely a wing less visible.

The weight of goose swells the air, the room is ripe

with scent of goose shit.

I put down my bag, take off my scarf and coat

and wonder about the snow covering the road.

Outside the wind is up and the yard is frosting over.

Better make a start, I say. They pick up pens, open

books. The girl with the goose on her head declines

to write, says she cannot concentrate for the load,

the poundage, shortened neck, compacted spine,

for centuries of carrying: scamu, skomm, shame,

the bird force fed, gavage-pipe in the oesophagus,

on its back, legs splayed, neck craned, half-buried

in its chest, the words whispered in father’s bed.

She says she cannot stop thinking, None of us can,

the nights are the worst,

corralled, wings beating, they leave their bodies,

fly up in a blizzard, a captive murmuration.

Jesus, look at the snow. Will you get home alright

Miss? What about the kids?

I look out at the fattening flakes, the absent ground.

I taste the goose

all twenty pounds of it, sweat and stink.

Snow falls on my tongue the lightest it’s been.

I’ll get home alright, I say, now close your books.

What shall it be?

A story, say the girls with geese,

and they fold their arms, lay down their heads.

Avril Joy worked for twenty-five years in Low Newton women’s prison in County Durham. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, including Victoria Hislop’s, The Story: Love, Loss & the Lives of Women. Her work has been shortlisted in competitions including, the Bridport, the Manchester Prize for Fiction and The Raymond Carver Short Story Prize. In 2012 her story, Millie and Bird, won the inaugural Costa Short Story Award.

Her novel, Sometimes a River Song, published by Linen Press, won the 2017 People’s Book Prize for outstanding achievement. Her poetry has appeared both in print and online. In 2019 her poem Skomm won the York Poetry Prize and was long listed for the 2020 Forward Prize, single poem. Her latest publication, Going in With Flowers, from Linen Press, is a collection of poetry and prose in which she reflects on her work in prison. She posts regularly at www.avriljoy.com

March Poem of the Month

We nearly forgot the Bomb
 
 weaving daffodils through the wire fence one bleak 
 March, and the time we pinned our children’s jumpers, 
 hand knitted around the perimeter. 
 Looked a GI in the eye, scared him half to death 
 with an “I could be your mother” and a grin.
 We nearly forgot Greenham.
 
 We prepared for trouble, not the bomb dropping, 
 but arrests at the peace camp, xeroxed newssheets,
 biroed emergency phone numbers on our calves, 
 sang together in police cells, released without charge,
 I still smell the overnight pisspail and my own fear.
 We nearly forgot the songs.
 
 We nearly forgot the peace camp on the green
 In front of the Civic Centre and St. Thomas’ Church.
 Derek Jacobi signed the petition,
 brought the RSC Ban The Bomb banner 
 on the demo down Northumberland Street,
 between our babies in pushchairs, we nearly forgot.
 
 Faith sent a message from San Francisco branch,
 a world wide web of women before internet, 
 just a forest of telephone trees planted 
 between friends, who shared more than Greenham Common.
 We nearly forgot the Bomb

Jean Laurie trained as a librarian then delivered arts services in the NE and NW. She has poems and short stories in several anthologies, including ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Thrill n’ Chills’ (both Elementary Writers publications). She is a member of InHouse Writers and has contributed poems to their recent trilogy  (“Coble Coast”, “Castle Coast” and “Carbon Coast”). Her forthcoming pamphlet is “Luminosity”, poems based on the legacy of female astronomers, astronauts and astrophysicists.

February Poem of the Month

Spawning
 
 When the carp 
 are spawning,
 they thrash and twist
 
 in the reed beds.
 When it’s over,
 the water
 
 is awash 
 with the glut
 of eggs and milt.
 

Linda Ford is a Derbyshire-based poet and has recently completed an M.A. in Creative Writing with the Open University. During 2020 Linda came second in Southport Writer’s Poetry Competition and was shortlisted in Buzzwords Poetry Competition. Her work has appeared in Reach, Orbis and elsewhere. She is currently working on a nature-themed first collection. www.lindafordpoet.co.uk

January 2021 Poem of the Month

Call Home
 
 I love your words. Where did you get them?
 They’re no clatter of letters like mine.
 Silence seems to stop and listen.
 
 These streets break my heart 
 but they keep coming back to me
 
 like they’ll soon find me ready 
 on the edge of this town,
 mouth bright like yours,
 all upright vowels.
 
 I still dream
 of dandelions in the dark, 
 of catching silver-winged moths,
 and wake with shell-dust on my palms
 to butterflying spiral-bounds
 outside of a childhood window,
 and the moan of a     distant foghorn
 finding the lost on a forgotten        sea
 and luring them to land.
 
 I sing back but I don’t think she hears me.  
 I sing back: dear Mother, I’m found!
 

Jasmine Jade is a poet from South Shields and is currently studying for her PhD at Newcastle University. Her interests include ekphrasis, class migration and the symbolic power of language. She was short-listed for the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize 2018, won the South Tyneside WRITE Festival Poetry Slam 2018, and regularly performs her poetry at events around the North East.

December Poem of the Month

Cullercoats 2020
  
 The women are inches from death
 but, unconfined in a bliss of living,
 are held by the concentration of salt,
 and bob up and down on the sea's skin.
  
 Bellies, limbs and curves blend 
 with the water’s waves and currents,
 not alone but curling around each other.
 They recall the sea as mother.
  
 The North Sea, always cold, gets colder now,
 shocks the breath out of them as this strange summer fades.
 They will return to its savage caress, all winter-long
 to feel the certainty of spring, deep in their bones.

Lesley Wood is a visual artist who was brought up in Newcastle and has spent the last 50-plus years on a journey to return to her roots. She is now a late-flowering Geordie, nurtured by a renewed sense of belonging, and regular immersion in the North Sea. Her practice is a search for creative ways to express the deep connection between people and place, and an invitation to love and respect the natural world so that our children (and their children, and their children) can continue to stand, or sit, or swim, in awe. web: lesleyeleanorwood.com

November Poem of the Month

Early Morning Swim - I.M. Vicky Darling
 
 Sometimes, gliding smoothly along the slow lane
 we touch, and recoil in shock
 as this is a solitary and private affair
 though we know each others’ bodies so well.
 
 Watching each other with covert glances
 in familiar rituals of dressing, undressing,
 each mole and scar, sagging breasts, scrawny arms
 are recognised like old friends
 by the sisterhood who meet silently
 each morning.
 
 There are men, certainly, young blades
 with hairy chests, tattoos, mouths grimacing
 splashing violently down the fast lane.
 
 We women are different,
 stately as swans we glide
 up and down, up and down,
 arms circling, pushing away encumbrances.

Vicky Darling: Quaker, nurse, mother, writer, grandmother, quiche maker extraordinaire. Died in April 2020.

October poem of the month

The Song of the Sea

White morning. Tide has washed
the sky. From my studio’s open door 
a gull’s guttural call, brine 
blown in from wave-spray. 
My fingers glide over the concavity,
chiselled, scraped and smoothed. 
It is a sea cave with
curved shoulders of black rock,
shadowed as though under water,
washed by dappled sound - 
waves rushing the pebbled beach.
Having anchored the string
I pull it up through holes,
stretching it tight between hollow 
and tip, crossing the wide mouth,
where it twangs as it glints
in the stinging wind. 

Clare Wigzell’s poem is from a chapbook called I am the Landscape about Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures. Clare is a Leeds-based poet who writes poetry in response to place, nature and art. She has performed a long poem in response to Kirkstall Abbey, published with Leeds City Council. She performed her poems about Hepworth at the Leeds Art Gallery as part of Leeds Lit Fest. She has been published in a number of anthologies with Indigo Dreams. She is a regular at open mic events WordSpace and Runcible Spoon, and is currently working on a book art collaboration with Lynette Willoughby called Rock Tree Landscape. Clare has a MA in Creative Writing. clarewigzell@virginmedia.com

September Poems of the Month i.m. Joanna Boulter

Long Barrow, West Kennet

Stone-built, chalk-caulked, a bright white beacon

to Avebury, Silbury, and their ritual range.

I climbed the hill and peered between the boulders,

braved the darkness, and entered. Thoughts of the dead,

the ancient unknown dead, crowded my mind,

and I was not afraid, I felt I might have known them.

Nearly fifty persons, men and women,

babes and ancients, had once lain here:

all dead within twenty years. Was it famine or fever

that felled them, brought their disarticulate bones

to lie here? Some it seems were missing

long-bones or skulls, for deep forgotten reasons.

But the place remembers them, tells those who listen.

When they said I was dying, the room was full of strangers.

But I didn’t go with them.

I found that eastward entrance towards the winter solstice,

reclaimed my time, my mind, my voice,

my place in the whole ritual.





Heart-Land

This is a landscape that breathes. Its green breast

rises and falls almost perceptibly

there at the end of my memory’s long

corridor. It has kept itself alive,

and it breathes me too. All its landmarks insist

on permanence: that same short turf, that same

blue butterfly, buttercup, repeated tuft 

of beech trees, another tumulus.

This was sea once, always the same

yet always different. The shells are still there,

deep in the chalk, and now, again, white horses,

the iconic image painted – no, enamelled

on the gesso the chalk laid down for it.

I want to share in its eternity.

Joanna Boulter  14.06.1942 – 13.09.2019

Joanna was a founding member of Vane Women in 1991 and retained honorary status when she became too ill to continue performing and attending meetings. She was an extraordinary poet and person, as all who knew her will testify. Shortlisted for the Aldeburgh prize for her first full collection, 24 Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich (Arc Publications 2006), she won many prizes for her poetry and was widely published in magazines.

Joanna graduated with Distinction from Newcastle University’s first Poetry Writing MA. She took over teaching the women’s writing class in Darlington Arts Centre when Jackie Litherland retired. 

Her memory will live on, not least in the wonderful poems of her last collection.

Publications:

Running with the Unicorns (The Bay Press, 1994)

On Sketty Sands (Arrowhead, 2001)

The Hallucinogenic Effects of Breathing (Arrowhead, 2003)

24 Preludes & Fugues on Dmitri Shostakovich (Arc Publications, 2006)

Blue Horse (Vane Women Press, 2014)

August Poem of the Month

Sensei  

i. 

The Japanese 

could make hammocks 

out of my bras 

Irish Tara laughs 

through red-wine teeth.  

We plan how to spend 22 Grand,  

learn greetings,  

pack Heinz Baked Beans 

and head for Narita. 

ii. 

On the balcony, 

Yutaka shows me

the washing machine.  

Futons are in a musty cupboard,  

air con above the bed, a fan 

by the phone. It clicks as it rotates.  

Yutaka leaves, and I stare 

at my size 8 feet,  

on square-matted tatami

iii. 

Kangai-kai welcome party: 

jugs of Asahi,  

sparrow on sticks, 

the Shizuoka specialty, dolphin, 

and a well-equipped 

‘snack bar’ toilet,  

with a bidet button 

and musical fanfare 

while you pee.  

iv. 

They say a foreigner 

smells of butter,  

has different ear-wax;  

guess my blood-type 

for hints about my personality;  

tell me dairy makes us kakkoii –– 

tall, with sharp features

Alien Registration cards must be carried 

at all times. 

Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana has an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University and a Masters in Japanese Language and Society from Sheffield University. She lived and taught in Japan for 10 years and now teaches at Newcastle University. Alexandra was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize 2020 and for the 2020 Verve Poetry Press Pamphlet competition. Her most recent work has been published or is forthcoming in Tears in the Fence, Fenland Poetry Journal, Obsessed with Pipework, The High Window, The Ofi Press, and elsewhere.

July’s Poem of the Month

How to Grow a Widow

That widow worries 
a smile will start rumours she never loved him.
That widow is thankful 
for the life insurance but is not feeling ‘merry’.
That widow is suddenly that single-mother
of a broken, grown child.
That widow billows,
shapeless, in her time-warp shrine.

That widow dreams
he has ‘only’ left her for the woman next door.
That widow stuffs
her diary with purpose until she makes herself sick.
That widow is dizzy
with to-do lists, instead of poems.
That widow is on the hunt
for words vast and exact enough.

This widow ditches
her Big Girl Pants at night.
This widow suffers 
fewer fools by the day.
This widow wants to shop for
flowers, not weeds.
This widow says ‘no’ 
to silence and shadow.

This widow has shifted, 
slow and out of sight, 
from ‘What would he have done?’ 
to ‘I am doing this.’
This widow mourns, though.
This widow misses.

Helen Victoria Anderson has an MA in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Teesside University. She is the founder and facilitator of Saltburn Writers’ Group. In 2017, Helen’s poetry pamphlet ‘Way Out’ was published by Black Light Engine Room Press and she was the winner of the People Not Borders Short Story Competition.  Author of ‘Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother’s Memoir’ (Slipway, 2015), Helen’s work has been published by literary magazines such as Confingo, DNA, The Projectionist’s Playground, Fragmented Voices, Another North, and Stepaway Magazine. She is a bereaved parent, a widow, and a firm believer in the therapeutic power of writing.    

www.facebook.com/helenvictoriaanderson   Twitter: @HelenVAnderson  

Instagram @helenvicanderson

June’s Poem of the Month

The Impression of Water

You know which way the wind is blowing
in a Bewick, if it blows at all or blows
a gale. How fast the water flows in lines
against the Traveller’s face, her clothes,
the supplementary weight. Dampen paper
to print still water and the impression
of water from sky. It starts backwards,
on reflection. Follow the swan’s example
when writing on a page of river: glide.

Dr Jo Clement is a writer, editor and educator. A New Writing North award-winner, her poems have been shortlisted for the Bridport, Melita Hume and Troubadour International prizes. Jo’s Ph.D. thesis ‘Moveable Type’ explores her British Gypsy ethnicity through the visual art of eighteenth-century wood engraver Thomas Bewick. The practice-led study produced a new collection of poems and was awarded an inaugural AHRC Northern Bridge scholarship. 

She is Managing Editor of Butcher’s Dog, an independent poetry magazine published in North East England. Her two poetry pamphlets Outlandish and Moveable Type are published by New Writing North and funded by Arts Council England.

May’s Poem of the Month

May’s Poem of the Month

Darling 
I would like to be a darling
on someone's tired lips, 
their half-formed thought of 
muffled grey, 
soft clouds in coffee steam and rain 
yawning down the morning 
windscreen.

Birds not yet black, 
the paling sun 
a souffle that didn't properly rise but 
leaves the sugar to crystallise
on the tip of your tongue 
and the spoon;
this uncooked butter and egg
kind of darling,
darling. 
 
Starlit and moonlit darling?
No.
Black and poisoned darling,
darling with too much salt, 
the bus driver’s sweating palm sort of darlin’
that unsettles like a half-remembered dream. 
The coffee breath on humdrum lips
and dead bird darling,
darling wings of blood,
red silhouette of an angel smeared on
windscreen.
But I recall the darlings like starlings, 
notes on the spring breeze
before summer trumpeted
triumphantly.
Forget me nots floating down a river darlings,
love your darlings,
darlings washed up on the shore,
sleepy shipwrecked darlings full of pearls
and butterfly shaped darlings, like the frilly skirts of little girls and
good night darlings.
Goodbye darlings.
I love you, darling
I'm sorry   

Lucina “Lucie” Wareham is a recently graduated, Newcastle University student with a master’s degree in Creative Writing. A ‘millennial’ poet hailing from South Shields, her interests lie in the biographical and autobiographical, translation and environmentalism. She has read at poetry events such as New Art Social and Northern Rising, featured in the North East poetry documentary Magpie Songs and occasionally writes poems and blog posts under the alias @andalucina. 

April Poem of the Month

Auke in exile

Frisian people were present on Hadrian’s Wall when their homelands were becoming impoverished and abandoned as the sea claimed more and more of their land. – information panel next to Frisian pottery, Housesteads.

This ache won’t leave. The Wall curves out of sight.
A starling glitters in the shadow’s line.
If I could walk until my legs were tight
with miles, if I could make this sorrow climb
into a yelp of geese, it would be free.
The afternoon is drowning in the pine
where pigeons tilt like fish inside the trees;
I want to spread my bones in forest light
and listen to its bellyful of sea.
This ache won’t leave. The Wall curves out of sight.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher who lives and works in Alnwick, Northumberland. Her first collection, Amazon, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2016. She is currently researching the women who lived in forts along Hadrian’s Wall as part of a Creative Writing PhD at Northumbria University.

March Poem of the Month

What happens to the Unwritten?
Ellen Phethean

She holds a book of poems searching for words,
asks me all these questions.
I could love you, I don’t say.
How the dead keep interfering!

Image, ©Janet Lynch, poem Ellen Phethean, from the booklet Women Talking. An exhibition of the same name is launching at Central Library, 1pm on Saturday 7th March 2020 and is up until 18th May, as part of International Women’s Day events in the city. This poem and others are a response to Janet’s paintings, likewise, some of her images are responses to my poems. This exhibition and pamphlet reflects and celebrates our creative collaboration.

February Poem of the Month

Abecedarian for When Hell Freezes Over

by Rachel Burns

Angels came to my house in droves
Bad angels, fallen angels, with long fingernails
Cankerous angels riddled with gin and sin 
Decay carried them over the threshold
Every day another and another
Flaying broken winged angels spat out of the dark.
God! Mother curses,
Hell must have frozen over.
Icicles hang like spears from the porch, 
Jellied snakes writhe in the yard and the
Ku Klux Clan build a bonfire on the lawn.
Lions in Zion sings Bob Marley from the broken stereo.


Mother takes to her bed for four weeks
Nobody notices the foul smell
Or the tower of Babylon, building in the sink.
People don't ask questions.
Quickly we learn to fend for ourselves
Remembering what happened the last time
Sister Francis came snooping around
Tutting about the mess, the state of Mother's undress
Unblinking eyes taking in the decaying fruit
Vegetables rotting in the fridge, the rancid meat.
We're going to take her away, ha ha!
X the upside-down cross we showed Sister Francis
You wicked children, she cried, telling wicked lies,
Zealots! Zealots!
 

Rachel Burns completed a screenwriting talent scheme with ITV and Northern Film and Media in 2012. She is an alumnus of the 2018 Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Programme in playwriting. Her short stories are published in Mslexia and Here Comes Everyone. An extract from her YA novel was selected for the TLC/A.M Heath anthology, 2019. Rachel Burns’ poetry is widely published in literary magazines, recently in Crannog, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. Rachel was runner-up in the BBC Poetry Proms 2019 competition and her poem was broadcast on radio 3. Her debut poetry pamphlet, a girl in a blue dress is available from Vane Women Press.

January 2020 Poem of the Month

Creation Story Of Two Sons
by Marie Lightman

Knock at the door and a strong smell of eggs with gin and tonic,
a black-haired woman, with no eyes in her socket carries a cloth
sack with a large grey eel in it, instructions attached to the bag.

1 Place the eel in the bath

2 Turn the tap to “warm”

3 Soak for 3 hours

4 Pick the bairn up

by the legs and blow into its ear

5 Wait for the scream.

6 A boy!

The night of the delivery of the second eel, a fork-lightning storm.
Rivers run down to The Great Larm.

Black socket woman arrives at six. The rain soaks her cloak.
Finds the sack difficult to control, mutters a spell under her breath.

Church bells chime and thunder ‘lolz’, a lightning bolt straight
to the head.

1 Place the eel in the bath

2 Turn the tap to “warm”

3 Soak for 3 hours

4 Pick the bairn up

by the legs and blow into its ear

5 Wait for the scream.

6 Half boy, half electric eel.

lolz: fun, laughter or amusement
This poem first appeared  in her pamphlet “Shutters”, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.





Marie Lightman is a poet and writer. With poems appearing in Lonesome October Lit, The Ofi Press, The Linnet’s Wings and has been published in The Rat’s Ass Review’s Love & Ensuing Madness, and StepAway Magazine and included in the anthologies Changelings and Fairy Rings by Three Drops from a Cauldron and Vanguard Editions, #3Poetry. Her debut pamphlet “Shutters” was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2018. She hosts the spoken word night Babble Gum and is editor of The Writers’ Cafe Magazine. She is also three times British Othello Champion and has recently started gigging stand-up.

December Poem of the Month

Epic

The pike doesn’t worry about being tragic
in the kingdom of deep water.
Teeth gleaming like ice-picks,
this relic of the Palaeogene 
is paused for surprise attack.
His silver prey shimmer in the waterscape.

Anger, treachery, revenge –
Sophocles skewered them forever,
our fault lines writ epic.

The brigand, the fanatic,
the assassin, the cynic, 
the nasty prick on crack
waits in the wings of water-weed,
reed and stone, psychotic and still.
Like Creon, he’s not looking
to improve his strictly dance moves.

Act Three, the climax, he’s eaten his critic
and the gods have not intervened.

Pauline is an Irish/Welsh mixture from Liverpool who has lived in the North East since the 80s where she brought up her family; she has also lived and worked in Poland, Sierra Leone and Spain. She has several collection of poetry, most recently ‘Bint’ (Red Squirrel Press 2011), a verse novella ‘From Here to Timbuktu’ (Smokestack 2012), a collection of short stories ‘Dancing With a Stranger’ (Red Squirrel 2015) as well as poems and stories in various anthologies. She was poet laureate of Middlesbrough in 2000 and has won various prizes for her poems. She is a founding editor of Mudfog Press and teaches creative writing for the Open University.

November Poem of The Month

Planting an Apple Tree After A Second Miscarriage

We swap a frothy Katy for James Grieve, 
better in our northern soil.

I hack back grasses which cut my hands, 
rock on my heels, pull against sharp stems.

He brings gloves, slices off the tops; 
the roots, buried, will grow again.

We nip blossom in the bud so tree embraces sky,
but hidden in a canopy of green I find two apples,

perfect, tiny. I want to keep them, 
let the tree bear these globes of hope 

straight from fairy tales. Practical, he disagrees.
That evening, I place them on the table like an offering.

Katharine Goda

Biography

Katharine Goda started writing to explore the extraordinary moments in ordinary life, for their own sake and as a reflection of experiences and values. Her work has appeared on the YorkMix poetry blog, in two Forward Poetry competition anthologies and Play, edited by The Broadsheet. She was awarded Highly Commended in the Blue Nib Chapbook competition 2019 and the Otley Poetry Prize 2018, and Commended in the YorkMix Poetry Competition 2019 and Settle Sessions Competition 2018. She enjoys participating in writing groups and workshops, and is passionate about developing opportunities to explore words and ideas, particularly with people who have had little access to these and are often unheard.

October Poem of the Month

Transformation
A collection of bones wrapped in skin
when’s the last time I came here?
Movement comes naturally
a limb thrown up to the sky
a finger pressing into the earth
upside down
my spine spirals in circles
as muscles carry weight through air.
 
The Snake shed its skin
I dance around the paper thin case
left behind. Toes tingle
blood bursts with fresh oxygen.
Yes!
The toad waits at the door
a moth is drawn to the light.
We know that they are us
and we are them.
                  Leap, it’s time.
The leaves are beginning to fall.

Photo by Tui Anandi

Jasmine is a writer and yoga teacher travelling the world. She says that home is a feeling within and loves nothing more than to connect with people and places across the globe, learning more about all kinds of different ways of life. She’s currently working on a poetry collection, writes regularly for online yoga publications and dreams of writing her own book one day and runs Ardea Creative Agency

September Poem of the Month

Tavira


We were in one of those fake Irish pubs and Lex wanted to dance 
so she left me at the bar with these guys from South Africa. 
They told me they’d flown in from London so I asked
if they’d liked it and one of them said: 
All English people are arrogant


When I disagreed with him
(I had to disagree)
Lex overheard and took his side.


We’d both been drinking with Dad since lunch time
but she was quite pissed
more pissed than I was. And he’d driven back
without us.


We argued for the next three days 
and flew home 
and left each other at the airport. 


She did catch my eye at one point on the flight 
when the turbulence was bad. But we didn’t speak 
for a few weeks afterwards.


It did blow over quite quickly, though. 
It always does blow over quite quickly.

Madelaine Culver is a poet and freelance writer currently enjoying the North East’s vibrant literary scene whilst completing her MA in Writing Poetry at Newcastle University. Having personal experience of the UK’s foster care system, she’s in the early stages of planning a collaborative arts project that will support foster children and careleavers to write and perform their own poetry.

August Poem of the Month

Bones

We follow a trampled trail
through long grass,
pass an upturned boat,
mackerel sleek.
Single file, sliding between 
sand dunes, till we reach 
the edge of the beach.
Stumble across 
parts of a skeleton
wrapped in a seaweed shawl,
the flipper of a seal,
its long nails look human, 
a Halloween prop.
More parts lie scattered,
a jigsaw,
vertebrae, ribcage, lower jaw.
Animal tracks surround it,
webbed impressions of gulls,
paw prints of dogs, 
mix with our own.
We are reverent, 
look towards the faraway sea,
our shadows spread 
around the scene,
like gravestones. 

Josephine Scott was born in Northumberland and spent her childhood in Australia.  She has two poetry collections; Sparkle and Dance (2009) and Rituals (2014) published by Red Squirrel Press, with a third to be published in 2020.  Poems have appeared in various anthologies and magazines.

July Poem of the Month

Pebble 
I stole a pebble from the Moyle shore.
Its smooth white coldness  
held the slap of waves in Rathlin Sound,
sunset flooding Sheep Island,
the fish and diesel reek of Ballintoy.

My palm sheathed it like a bean pod; 
I wondered if it might have fit 
my grandmother’s hand as closely.
One airless night
I pressed its coolness to my face,
woke to feel it dig into my neck,
its chalk edge as hard as bone.

Eileen Jones lives in Tynedale and is a member of the Newcastle based women’s writing group, Carte Blanche. A pamphlet of her poems, Connecting Flight, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2013, and a collection of her poems, The Pale Handbag of the Apocalypse was published by IRON Press in 2014. She is the editor and co-editor of several IRON Press anthologies, including an anthology of tree themed poetry due to be published later this year.

Pebble was inspired by a visit some years ago to the North Antrim coast where her maternal grandmother, who died twenty years before Eileen was born, spent her childhood.

It’s a beautiful area with wonderful geology (including the Giant’s Causeway), bird life and wild flowers. It’s recently become more widely known and visited since the fishing village of Ballintoy and other nearby locations featured in episodes of Game of Thrones.

Thoughts of the Day
while viewing old films: The Flaw, The Boys

My sister’s first job as a window dresser 
in Evans the Outsize Shop. Pinning clothes
for big women on slim mannequins.
The only girl I knew back then, allowed 
trousers at work. Black slacks to be exact. 
The stretchy sort, with stirrups underfoot. 

After school I would sometimes take the bus
to town, look proudly through the glass,
admire her glamorous achievements.
If visible she might deign to smile and wave
or mouth go away and turn up her nose. 
Either way, I was greatly inspired. Spurred.

I see this now through a gap 
of fifty minute human years.
Wonder, as I put my shiny face up
to the polished glass, where rifts start,
when the first cracks began to split blood, 
get to work, gather puff. No one much noticing. 

Kathleen Kenny is a Geordie poet and novelist with an Irish family background. She has so far published two novels: The Satellites of Jupiter and Arandora Star (both with Red Squirrel Press), and has a thirdwaiting to make an appearance. She also has several published poetry collections including Sex & Death (Diamond Twig); Hole (Smokestack Books); and most recently The Bedsharers (Red Squirrel Press). When not busily engaged with her own writing she teaches creative writing to adults, often working in the lovely Lit & Phil Library in Newcastle.

In the Hallway with Sally
                                     
Do you know
how to open this front door?
I only live along the road with mother.
They must think I’m stupid.
They keep telling me she’s dead
but mother, well,
she’s waiting for me
just along the road at home.
They won’t let me out.

They won’t  let me out.
Just along the road at home
she’s waiting for me
but  mother, well,
they keep telling me she’s dead.
They must think I’m stupid.
I only live along the road with mother.
How to open this front door 
– do you know?

Joan Johnston has worked as a writer in prisons, schools, hospitals and day centres and with women’s groups and the homeless. She has also taught creative writing in Adult Education and currently runs writing workshops on a freelance basis. She has published three poetry pamphlets and three collections – this poem is from her most recent pamphlet (An Overtaking, pub. Red Squirrel Press 2016) and was written while she was a writer with elderly people in residential care.

April Poem

Advice for my Daughters

Don’t believe the first things,
don’t believe the last things,
believe what you see.

Don’t sit too close to drains
or spend too long at a stove.
Always know where the exit is.

Don’t store too much.
Know what to give away.
Hold as much as you can carry.

If you have children give them magic,
soft songs, a coin under a pillow,
but don’t give them everything.

Sleep in good linen, enjoy the smell of lemon,
breathe deeply, dream deeply,
if you don’t know what to do, do something.

Don’t diet, or be a martyr.
Life is suffering, but you are lucky
so you might as well be happy.


Julia Darling 
from Indelible, Miraculous, Arc publications

March Poem

Going to the Pictures with Cliff Richard

First film I ever saw. I was nine, and had been 
Envious for ages, hearing others talk of 
Usherettes, the ABC Minors, ice cream tubs 
With wooden spoons. At last, Mam took us 
To the Coliseum Whitley Bay, pitch dark inside
In daytime, prickly seats, to ‘Summer Holiday’.


Cliff sang on a double-decker bus abroad 
In dazzling colours after television’s greys.
Dolly Mixture-pretty frocks, summery shirts, 
The boys and girls looked very neat and clean
Although there were no grown-ups there. This
May be why my mother found it ‘suitable’
Even for my brother, who was younger (so unfair.)


She used to tell us there were some poor children
Whose mams and dads would ‘get rid of them’ by
‘Sending them to the Pictures with half a crown
For sweets’ instead of giving them their time 
And love. Well-supplied with both, now even more
I secretly yearned for some Technicolour neglect.

Valerie Laws
Valerie is a poet, crime novelist, playwright, science-poetry installation
artist often working with pathologists and neuroscientists,
and a mathematician/physicist.
Her thirteen books include four poetry collections.
World-infamous for spray-painting poetry on sheep.
valerielaws.com 



Sylvia

I wandered lonely as a 1lb of potatoes, 2lbs onions, sprouts, bread,

My love is like a red, red rose, and don’t forget

Phone School, cancel milk Friday, write – Susan

Send dad’s birthday card

To be or not to be

collecting kids from school today and

remember John to dentist 5.00

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Sylvia 221 2341

dentist 273 6617

Sylvia 9.30 Dog and Parrot

Who is Sylvia? what is she…?

J.Smith, John Smith, John H. Smith, John Harold Smith,

Hi, JH here…

John, have you been using my writing pad again?

Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Onions, sprouts and kids from school

Onions, sprouts, kids from school

Silver dentist, dog and parrot,

write milk, cancel carrot,

kids from school and birthday card

Tell me, why is writing hard?

Ellen Phethean