Diamond Twig Poem of the Month

Every month I will feature a new poem by a poet, emerging or experienced, as we did on the Diamond Twig website, where you can read the archive of poems.

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