Diamond Twig Poem of the Month

June Poem of the Month


Slow suicide said his daughter

doesn’t want to try

his sister thought it the saddest thing

him playing pool whilst his body withered

drinking strong beer, gazing out of the window

not even hope could help him now

he couldn’t help himself

feared the treatment more than the disease

mocked the doctors with a diet rich in cottage cheese

blamed free radicals, degraded food, over-refined stuff

we tried, with our internet jewels

gleaming with colostomies, surgeries

five year prognoses turning into ten and more

he couldn’t hear it, wouldn’t

he’d dreamt of wealth and failed

making his finer achievements small

signifying only serendipity

luck, some other factor than

his own agencies

couldn’t see how rich he was

all that talent, life and love

laughter, strength and speed

couldn’t reach him in his aching need

misplaced, at a tangent, a square peg

chose that road less travelled

broke our hearts

Then came Naeve and Orla after Emmet

laughing imps the image of his girl

ten thousand miles away and yet

a deep vibration burred behind his daily mind

pulsed through years of trying hard to find

of hearing only “lazy”, “idle”, “useless”

from a father ill-equipped to show his love

he starts to climb for his third grandchild

Louise Karlsen is an award winning Art Gallery and Museums Director specialising in developing public sector permanent collections and presenting temporary exhibitions and art education and interpretation programmes, both contemporary and historic and crossing all art forms. She headed the team who won the 1992 National Museum of the Year Award for the best Museum of Fine Art for the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, introducing the first purpose built Live Art Space in the country for film, video, music and dance, computer based and performance art. Now retired from her 33 year career in curatorial work, she writes both poetry and fiction, some published in anthologies and blogs. Six years a member of Newcastle women’s writing group, Carte Blanche, she collates their annual anthology, whilst working on her own first poetry collection and novel.

May Poem of the Month

The Song of the Cockroach

You may mock –

let me tell you 

my head’s bent to see my path

and mouth’s awkward

for it’s hard to keep smiling,

I don’t bite, but folk avoid me.

Limbs rough from work, 

clinging to existence;

nights spent between kitchen,

bathroom, laundry, hot and humid. 

I’ve been around. Done my time

in the underside of others’ homes.

I know a thing or two about dirt.

I like the summer months, hate the smell of lime, 

and have a sweet tooth.

A louche sisterhood, we rub along fine.

No-one wants to touch us.

It might come as a shock

but we were bright nymphs in our youth, 

we’ve seen the morning of the world.

So don’t reproach me; 

I come from an ancient line, 

I may be old, back brittle, voice cracked,

but I can survive (unlike you)

atomic winter.

The poem today is by me, Ellen Phethean. It’s from my new collection ‘Shedding The Niceties’ from Red Squirrel Press. It was going to be the title poem, until the wonderful poet Pippa Little suggested the better title above. It’s in the vein of exploring what it means to be an older woman. Copies are available from Sheila Wakefield at Red Squirrel.

April Poem of the Month

Skin Matters

They called it a Tramp Stamp

Confused, she withdrew into another room.

Why do these things create such reactions.

This mark…or 2 now…was deliberate, for the love of her being.

Scars had been acquired; birthmarks unchosen.

This was Conscious, measured, set.

“Hand Poked” the sign read. Beauty without electricity.

Instruments lay beside her, like lace-making bobbins.

The snagging, plucking & stabbing, barely bearable.

Beauty would emerged through trauma, scab and plaster.

A pile of bloody rags gathered nearby. Why was she surprised.

Complete…it wasn’t for showing off, as some badge of honour,

nor for display as a talking point.

This was a coming-of-age marking.

An indelible impression flush with colour, hue and shade.

To symbolise the foundation of lives. The 55 years of her

& 52 of the other…now absent.

A reminder of a memory, a point in time, a place that may never be revisited.

Not through these eyes…

Wendy Eyre Originally from Hartlepool I live in Newcastle now, after travelling overseas for 10 years with my family. This poem is my first foray into writing and was the first thing I produced at the Lit and Phil Creative Writing workshop. I’ve tried prose and am currently experimenting with the bones of a novel. However, I end up with poetry and love writing descriptively in short sharp bursts. It feels cleaner to me.

March Poem of the Month

Nothing changed for hundreds of years 


language was replaced 

and names

and governance 

and land was taken and retaken

and the grand lady from the Big House in Bryansford 

who rode sidesaddle on her mighty horse

she noticed it

and of course, the horse itself

and the horse’s helpmates 

the peasants and the overlords alike

they all saw change

the O’Rahillys who became Raffertys

even the earth

the sky

the water in the well 

night coming into day

day turning into night 

dusk and dawn – between the lights

and the populace of trees

and birds and mammals 

they all fluctuated

humans too – coming in and going out 

movement and change

never ending

what remains the same

what remains consistent 

trace it

Kathleen Kenny – When not writing herself, Kathleen can ofttimes be found in the Lit & Phil, Newcastle upon Tyne, heading up creative writing workshops for other writers. Her latest poetry collections all hail from Dreich Publishing, based in Scotland: Plastercine for Girls (2022); Forbidden by the Sea (2021); and the pamphlet from which this poem is drawn, I.D (2021). 

February Poem of the Month

Six things I Should have Known before Marriage

One. In 1961 a lady’s wage was ignored when requesting a mortgage. AND the man had to be 21 years old. We managed to buy a Pitman’s cottage for £1,000. A builder had done it up with an inside toilet etc.

Two. When babies came along and I left work I had no idea how much money my husband earned. He just gave me an allowance for food. I had no pocket money and I found it  hard sometimes to buy lipstick or stockings. What a submissive little wife I must have been!

Three. I was very thrifty and bought remnants of material to make dresses for the girls (thank goodness no boys). Jumpers and cardigans I knitted. My husband did not go to the pub or gamble but he did like Marks and Spencer’s clothes.

Four. When the children were older I got a part time job and saved for a holiday every other year and husband supplied the spending money. Decades later I found out he did not like flying and was very nervous. He went along with it to please me.

Five. What a very old fashioned man my husband turned out to be. I never saw him with a whisker on his face as he shaved everyday. He would not hold my hand outside, I had to link him. It’s hard to believe when we were courting he carried me over a big puddle when there was no way around it. I entered a competition called “Your most romantic moment” and won a prize.

Six. We were like chalk and cheese, with different interests, but we were very compatible and never argued. It’s funny who your soulmate can turn out to be. We were together 59 years until the Covid came and stole him away.

‘6 things I should have known before marriage’ by Kathleen Bambrough is from the Art Diamonds Anthology ‘View From a Window.’ The image shown is the front cover by Cheryl Tolladay.

As part of Gateshead’s Art Diamonds project, Ellen Phethean led regular monthly Creative Writing workshops in two Gateshead libraries: Whickham and Birtley, from July 2019 – September 2022.

In celebration of all that these sessions gave birth to, Ellen, along with Gateshead Libraries, Arts and Heritage Team, put together a selection of pieces in this anthology. It reveals the range and skill of the work produced and commemorates the creativity achieved despite these last few difficult years.

January 2023 Poem of the Month


It’s the presence
I miss.

Small things count.
You snoozing,
me, listening

to a double intake of breath.
A questioning sound?

And those words
when I took the moment
to change channels on TV.

With eyes still closed, a voice,
'I was watching that.’

And in the darkness of night
when all goodnights said

content in the knowledge
next morning,
you’d still be there. 

Jeanne Macdonald’s work has been included in several anthologies, the Mslexia magazine, short-listed in other National competitions, read on Radio 3, The Verb, and on radio 4. Performed on local TV. A collection,‘white lies are harmless’ published, Diamond Twig, 2004. She is a member of a Newcastle writing group, Carte Blanche, first hosted as ‘Writing from the Inside Out’ Newcastle University, tutor, Gillian Allnutt.

December Poem of the Month

Nature Returns as The Anger Giant                                          

Brought from twists of fallen stock, blood and kith to sickened field,
mildew-filthy wheat for burning, stick and claw, the Giant is built
from scrap and stones. Bones. Iron—mouth the side of a twisted car,

its teeth all grinds of glass, taking jagged bites, its meal of years
in bad luck. Of vengeful shrieks. Build me a house of knives!
it screams—frothing, grating, stamping all its feet. Knife beneath

the pillow, knife for bed, for chair, for meat, for tongue, for head.
Rage with tastes of rust, rake and scratching things—I hitch my weight
to its appalling train. Ten miles tall it wears me, riding on it pocket-small,

its eyes like pan lids, fog lights lamping waste—un-blink eyes
like holes in the Earth—eyes like mine are, full of ache. You raised me
a covert of poor fruit
it poison-livid says. How you beings have worked

to the ruin of soil! There is a garden here that seems already dead
Giant sits, mountain slumped. Out I creep and down its gangle arm,
impatient for feels of ground again beneath. Hush-time, wait!

it tired and tilted says. Wait until the stars attest the night and keep
from the voice of a cold owl.
It thinks me vermin-little and easy got.
Giant looms above the pond, inhales the weather, each nare a basin,

cilia thick as fleece—rain coming! it deciphers. Squall and flood!
Wash and deluge, banks broke, calamity of trees, bridges ripped, ravaged
thrash of house and flotsam-dislocated hearth—rain is coming

but not right here, right now. Just overheat and thunderheads—air dense
and cranky, sweating inside our own breath. Us unthirst! So Giant stoops,
as if to show me how to proper drink. The Giant’s lips come sucking

at the water’s rim, pull out gallons. Come swill and sup, oh amoretto, thee!
The moon has sealed an ectype on the night’s silvered skin—a pearlish pill.
To Giant this pond is a puddle, the moon a coin, wished upon and shied in.

How Giant laughs to see me swim—my body a minnow compared
to its own vast affair. There, my dink! My icksy-picksy fly! Giant is giddy
and skews the pond with a finger, shapes eddies, sick and spinning,

so I get me out and run, slick to the nearby wood. Giant will clock
the loss of its toy-sized friend—will gross the air with abandoned bruit.
No point being a peevy beast, for this is what people do—yesterday,

today, tomorrow—it’s all a throwaway thing. There’s not spleen enough 

for the bad of the world. For the ones who paw at gold, spilling from
the world’s wounds. They have built a place where greed is tantamount

to godliness. Plastic clings its furans to our health. Clouds shoal
the dark’s eye—mizzle rills my skin. Damp ushers tomorrow’s croup.
Forest is wonderful with leaf, sends a counsel of roots—worms, threads

of fungi, nutrients, seeds. Insects work the litter to hymns of growth.
Forest is a prayer that stands between us and concrete realms. Forest asks
who shall name us, after we are gone? I hang my loneliness from its limbs.

It is a tomb of bark, juggler of portent spires, wearer of an omen-fruit
of crows. My feet are made cowards by its radix in the dark. I love it
though its heart makes me afraid—so deep and livid with myths—

a woodcutter’s axe, a wolf, a witch’s oven, enchantments, crumbs.
I sense you Giant, somewhere far and woebegone from here. I sense
the fold of a bird’s wing. The noise of distant machines.

Jane Burn is an award-winning, working class, pansexual, autistic person, parent, poet, artist, and essayist. Her poems are widely published in many magazines, like The Rialto and Under The Radar and anthologies from many including Emma Press and Seren. Her latest collection, Be Feared, is published by Nine Arches Press.

November Poem of the Month

Two mothers

She is tiny, shrunken as if
the metal bed has sucked her in,
hidden her body in its rubber mattress.

Her cheeks have hollowed. Someone
has combed her hair the wrong way.
Her fists are clenched.

I wipe the trickle of saliva
from her chin and know she would
hate to be seen like this.

She should be in scarlet, or
kingfisher blue, hair set, nails done,
a touch of lipstick – and talking,

laughing, martini glass in hand.
I cannot tell her I am pregnant, but 
I must keep thinking of the baby

and the toddler left at home
to anchor me, for I am out of my depths –
                        without them I am in danger

of becoming a small child again, 
hanging on to her mother’s coat,

not letting go.

Cynthia Fuller lives in County Durham. Red Squirrel Press published her seventh poetry collection, Safety Nets, in 2021.Now retired, she worked as a creative writing tutor in Adult and Higher Education, most recently at Newcastle University.

October Poem of the Month


Tell me today’s transgressions Dear, just

so I won’t repeat them, so I won’t start 

at your angry outbursts when you tell me 

not to start, then unexpectedly fire off

the list, hiss the list, shout the list, or

spit the list at me with your hate-eyes

and loathe-face seething close to mine.

Though truth be told (is it ever?) your

silent freeze-face, arrogant ice-spite, sear

as surely as when you are feeling forced

to put me in my place which is of course

never where I thought it was going to be.

Carol Elva Greenwell was born in Sunderland, but emigrated to Norway in 1976 where she taught ESL, wrote vocational English courses and text books, as well as working with translation. In 2015, she decided that Norway was no country for old women and returned to England. Carol has written poetry, drama and fiction since childhood but (apart from a play written for her drama dissertation) never shared her writing with others until 2018 when, on the recommendation of a friend of a friend of a Newcastle acquaintance, she joined Carte Blanche. She is currently working on missing the deadline for a local history book about the history of Christian worship in Sunderland.

September Poem of the Month

Kitchen Dragon

So there’s this valorous knight
readied to assail a ferocious dragon
coiled along the hem 
of a fine linen tea towel, where,
embroidered on the upper rampart,
where else, a comely maiden
wearing a winsome smile
clutches his favour to her heart. 

He squints along the shaft
of his burnished lance
impales the throat
to still her tongue.

Jo Reed Turner was born in Durham, and now lives in Scarborough, within sound of the sea. She has completed The Soho Sequence, begun during studies at Newcastle University, with Blokes the final part launched in Soho recently, and has published two collections, Stone Venus and Life Class with Valley Press. 

Her illustrated alphabets and pamphlets are published with Yorkshire’s Parrot and Incline Presses, her most recent pamphlet, based on time spent living on Corfu, Becoming Faiake,with Red Squirrel Press. She is a member of Carte Blanche, the Scarborough Poetry Workshop, and writes regularly with Lapidus. 

At present Jo is working on a third collection for Valley Press, as yet untitled; a second pamphlet of ‘Faiake’ poetry, and she’s hoping to complete a portrait project and a poetic graphic novel by the end of 2022.

August Poem of the Month

The Poem with no Name

So much shame silted up to the front door
and in the sea salt clinging to our windows
after a storm here at the coast.
We are living on the edge of civilisation.

There is shame in carpet fibres and
stubborn stains on the bathroom floor.
Shame lingers in the kitchen sink,
the drains and the toilet’s U bend.

Turn on the shower
and we wonder if shame will soak us,
our daily sousing of the tar-heavy stuff.

There is shame in the guttering and the roof tiles.
This house is insulated with shame.
It’s a strange, environmentally unfriendly solution
chosen because it’s guaranteed to trap dreams,
cultivate nightmares and keep painful memories alive.

Elaine Cusack has been writing and performing poetry, songs and memoir for almost 40 years. Her work has appeared in various collections and anthologies as well as on national TV and radio. Recent publications include The Princess of Felling (2019) and Loose Threads and Sacred Spaces  (2021). Elaine lives and works with books where Tyneside and Northumberland meet the North Sea. http://www.elainecusack.com

July Poem of the Month

Girl with Bouffant Hair 

after the portrait by L. S. Lowry

My mother sits on the end of my bed, 
watching me get ready to meet Ray. 

‘I wish you wouldn’t backcomb your hair like that, 
it makes you look common.’ 

It’s never worth answering my mother, 
she loves me too much to listen. 

On summer days when girls played skips in the street
in nylon swimming costumes that never got wet, 

I was the girl who had to keep her vest on. 
Mother’s notes to my teacher read like letters 

to an agony aunt, the problem was never the same. 
Years down the line and here we are, me (and my mother) 

getting ready for my date. ‘You’re not going 
straight out after a hot bath, our Maureen,

all them open pores; you’ll catch your death!’ 
I put on my vest and she passes me my best white blouse, 

the one with the wide collar. I check myself in the mirror:
She thinks I can’t see her as she checks the length of my skirt. 

Her eyes read me from head to toe 
as if at an appointment with the optician. 

When I put on my camel-hair coat and kitten heel shoes, 
she smiles. Hoping to catch the 7 o’clock into town, 

I grab my handbag and go, just in time to hear 
the bus wheezing to a stop across the road. 

My mother, standing on the toilet seat to reach, 
pushes open the bathroom window, 

‘Mind you catch the last bus home!’ Her voice wavers 
as she closes the window and mouths my dead sister’s name.

Catherine Graham was born in Newcastle upon Tyne where she still lives. Her awards include The Jo Cox Poetry Award. Catherine’s poems have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA and Ireland. Her first full collection, Things I Will Put In My Mother’s Pocket was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her latest collection, a pamphlet, Like A Fish Out Of Batter (poems that bring Lowry’s people to life) is also published by IDP. Catherine writes, “I was drawn to L. S. Lowry’s paintings because the people in them could be my own family.” This poem introduces the reader to Catherine’s characters, Maureen and Ray, two factory workers. Their story is threaded throughout the poems.

June Poem of the Month

The Greatest

He flowed onto our screens
- lava from a fresh eruption, 
burning, hissing as he collided
with a sea of microphones. 

Heavyweight, forearm thundering 
into flesh, head floating from
the other’s glove, sweat pouring
through our black and white TV,

where Dad and I shared a passion 
for this glistening muscled body,
cocky motormouth, agreed 
he really was The Greatest. 

Gliding over a sludge of groans,
gamblers, “go-w-on”-ers
in the pit, he sparkled, fun
even as he opened up cuts,

drew blood. Tight white shorts
round turning buttocks, 
thigh muscles strong as basalt,
leather fist raised time and again. 

Unnoticed underneath, his brain
was stone eroding, hammered
into particles, distorting
to form new landscapes.

Lesley Mountain – I’ve been writing poetry now for over 15 years, coming to it via an Open College of the Arts course.  At first, I couldn’t stop writing, but now it comes more slowly as I get distracted by my need to think I’m doing something about climate change. Sometimes the 2 do combine, but not here. Over the years I’ve had encouragement and support from so many people in the NE, including Ellen Phethean, Bob Cooper, Linda France, Pauline Plummer, the Carte Blanche group and Vane Women. 

I have been lucky to have 3 pamphlet collections so far  – Hunting the Air (Vane Women), Dance of the Disappointed (Red Squirrel) and Vamoose (Mudfog).  When not on the laptop I aim to be outside – growing veg and walking in the Derwent Valley and Weardale. 

This poem came from a prompt at a Carte Blanche session on Heroes. I really would have loved to write about a woman hero but this man muscled in! I was a Daddy’s girl and as I had no brother my Dad was very happy to include me in his interests. Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali) was someone we both loved to watch, although I’ve never watched a boxing match since. 

May Poem of the Month

A Bitter Taste

Glassford Street takes me home,

with the weight of the present on my shoulders

a weight laid over with past guilt

the bitter taste of the sugar 

that built the Merchant City around me.

My mood lifts as I reach the river

the once Red Clyde, with memories of ships

and a hint of the Lanarkshire hills.

Sue Scott is a professor of sociology to trade and a practising poet – with the emphasis very much on the practising. She is also a feminist an editor a mentor and a member of Carte Blanche. She lives in Newcastle.

April Poem of the Month

Sometimes the Imposter even Smiles

I catch your likeness

always fleet of foot

just ahead

out of reach,

the shadow in the corner,

footfall on the stair.

I follow a head of dark curls

down the street

onto the tube, 

a tall figure in a long chequered coat,

the curve of his profile

a pattern I prefer.

The thrill

just before the reveal,

the gut punch

when it’s never you.

Sometimes the imposter even smiles


but I can’t stomach a substitute

not yet…

So lead on dear stranger

if I promise not to tap you on the shoulder,

let me carry on watching you disappear

into the crowd again and again.

Kate Boston-Williams has lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for over 20 years bringing up her two daughters with her husband. She began her career in broadcasting at the BBC in London, Birmingham then Bristol producing programmes for Radio 4 and Television Features and Documentaries. She has written scripts for screenplays but with the encouragement from Creative Writing Groups found a love of writing poetry. Her first poems were included in Dreich Poetry Magazine leading to her a debut pamphlet “Snake Skins” published by Hybriddreich Ltd in late 2021.

March Poem of the Month

14th June 2017

The communication 

of the dead is tongued with fire

The tribe in white with tip

-toe tread invade

the reeking tower with 

tweezer, trowel and tub

and pay minute attention 

to their job.

Like mythic ants, 

on bended knees they sift

each blackened relic: 

tooth or cloth or bone?

With sieve and plastic 

packet, pick

through evidence of life, 

the little clues,

remains of ashy puzzles.

Resealing rooms, and ticking 

lists, they leave.

What care, what cash, 

what lengthy months for this,

at last, a close inspection. 

While those whose lives 

were saved or spent, 

lie waiting in the dark.

I wrote this poem after a friend, who’s a police officer, told me about the months he spent doing this job in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. It’s 5 years since it happened, it’s not over yet. The opening epigraph is from T.S.Eliot, The Four Quartets. First published in Dreich Anthology: Summer Anywhere, 2021

February Poem of the Month

Eleven Lines with Spaces

When I heard you’d gone I knew
each moment of your days 
in all the twenty years since we last met

all your jazz sessions in one 

syncopated beat, all time in 
just one simple fold

that stretched like kirigami art 
with figures formed by cut-out space 

the wordless shape two people 
chose to say they’d lost 

insistent only now that one is left.

Diane Granger

I was born in Hartlepool and now live in County Durham with my husband and our cat, Matilda. Between these addresses there have been various others in London and the North of England, including three years at Hull University doing a degree in Philosophy and Social Science. I like to write poetry and short fiction and have been published in Diamond Twig, Dreich, MsLexia and Vers Poetry. 

January 2022 Poem of The Month

Ridley’s Table

Slow cooked mutton appears at night
along with the sweet smell of death. The flanks of flesh
ooze rosemary, great gobs of yellow fat
crown the bone; torture to one who craves a crust.
I wake to the baby’s hungry howl,
clawing at my dried up dugs, face angry, red,

her temple pulsing, blood vessels red;
we’ve pulled through another night.
I suck my hand to stem my belly’s howl,
skin hangs in a sad drape of flesh
a light step to the river, last stand on land’s dry crust
before swallowed, a gentle exit, as the river swells fat.

I cannot kill my child - what a fate.
Is my blood not the same as Ridley’s, running red?
He dines on calf liver, sweetmeats, a crust
to him just leftovers, night after night
he laughs at the sight of children’s flesh
turned to wax, their piteous howl.

The thought of his groaning table makes me howl
I would love to puncture his belly fat
make a fire and roast his flesh,
toast our health and watch flames lick him red.
For once we’d bang the drum and revel through the night
and all that’s left would be a blackened crust.

Yesterday my neighbour Mrs Mabbs shared a crust,
a soup she’d made of boiled leather, it made us howl
but good to have full bellies for the night.
What little we have we share, fat
and greens, a little bread, our eyes sore and red
conjure a bowl of stew, mackerel with silvery flesh.

At first light we march, a plea for flesh
and bread, demand a human life, wipe the crust
from our eyes, the crowd will see red,
sing loud, cheer and howl
against them who steal the people’s fat,
we’ll ransack the granary, stay all night.

May we be gentle this night, despite my cry for Ridley’s flesh
it’s our lack of a fat crust
has driven us to this red howl.

Mary Lowe

I was born in Bath but grew up mostly in south London, not far from Croydon. I moved North when I went to University in York and never moved back. I’ve lived in Newcastle for more than 30 years.

 I mostly write short fiction and have been anthologised widely in Mslexia, Diamond Twig, Crocus books, Women’s press. For the last six months have been starting to write a novel, while working full time for North Tyneside Council as their Community Reading Worker. I’m based in a library. 

Ridley’s Table was written in response to Food for Thought: Newcastle Corn Riots 1740 project.

December Poem of the Month

Silver cigarette case

Hands clasp the smooth silver

Hands hardened with cold

Stained from mud

Nails broken, rough, struggling with the match

Cigarette rolled between stiff fingers

White edge in the darkness, tiny embers burning bright

Small specks of crystal snow falling all around 

The night sky lights up, the barrage resumes

Bodies dive to the sodden earth

Splashing showers of water all around

Heads down, helmets clasped with shaking hands

Earth flies, clay sticks, cloth muddied

Weeping tears fall across taut skin

Silent prayers whispered

Shaking skin wrapped round terrified bones

The bullet strikes, thwack, 

Shredded fibres mould into the silver

Splitting fragments, showering like rain

The body falls, force spent

Silver safe against a pounding chest

Stunned, breath ripped away

Forced from burning lungs

Trembling hands, racing heart

Silence, a moment of quietude

All is well

Life still breathes

A cigarette smoulders in the darkness

Joanna Stead

This poem was inspired by a silver cigarette case which belonged to my father.  My aunt gave it to me when her husband Ian died (my father’s younger brother).  The cigarette case saved my father’s life during WWII, so the story goes!

I have always loved writing; short stories, poems, doodles and the occasional stab at a longer story which might one day become a book.  I like to use a fountain pen on crisp thick paper so I can watch the ink drift across the page.  I would love to write a book and illustrate it with beautiful paintings or sketches …. a dream for the future.  So, watch out for that book!

I am now retired from the world of work (advertising and design mainly) but seem to be very busy with lots of projects but will continue with my creative writing.

I live in Gosforth with my husband Martin and very spoilt black Labrador called Pippin.  I have two daughters living in London, love reading, travelling, walking on the beach and even playing golf sometimes!  I hope you enjoy reading my poem.

November Poem of the Month

Morag, Who Let Me Plait Her Hair

This nailing of my heart to yours,
sat close, my hands deep in the heavy swell
of your hair, so unlike my own, starry with sunlight
I’d bind into three skeins,
once in a while fray each apart with my spread fingers:
we never spoke
stunned by happiness
remember the nutmeg smell of your mother’s kitchen
how long it takes to unwind the strands
come back to your memory

come back to your memory
how long it takes to unwind the strands,
remember the nutmeg smell of your mother’s kitchen
we never spoke
in our stunned happiness
once in a while I’d fray with my spread fingers
the three bound skeins
so unlike my own; starry with sunlight,
sat close, my hands deep in its  heavy swell
- this nailing of my heart to yours.

Pippa Little grew up on the Tanzania/Mozambique border and after returning to Scotland with periods inbetween in Manchester, Essex and London, she’s now lived close to the Scotland/England border for just over thirty years. She left school at 16 to train in editorial work and after jobs in publishing she went to Essex University as a mature student on the strength of her creative writing. This led to a doctorate in women’s poetry from London University. She’s been an OU tutor, a literacy worker and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. She continues to mentor and to write: her third collection ‘Time Begins to Hurt’ comes out from Arc in early 2022. She has three grown up sons, a four year old grandson and was carer first to her mother in law and then her husband Bob, who died in November 2020. ‘Best friend’ Morag helped make school more bearable for her and their friendship is still going strong almost sixty years later.

October Poem of the Month

 Ode To Invisible Disability 

You are a hidden scar
a dress yanked down, 
your mother’s suppressed fury
                           Don’t tell 

A frozen rabbit 
on a gurney; a disembodied
voice from the next room warning
                            Lie still. 

A bead of scarlet blood 
pricked on child’s thumb,
smeared on a dark slide.

You’re the girl who left -
sliding off the green couch, 
                                    calling Time,

to tiled waiting rooms, fluorescent 
lights, who waved to a weary doctor
scribbling jargon in a file.

You’re a young girl racing up
a playing field, brandishing
a hockey stick, shouting                        
                               Over here. 

You are the effort of forgetting,
shuttlecock by daylight,
                mountaineer in moonlight,

climbing out of windows, 
           wristband scalding your skin. 

Pam Gormally returned to the North when she retired early from her work as a primary school head in London. She then began to write and studied for an M.A. in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, focusing on poetry. Her poems have been published in Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, Obsessed With Pipework and several anthologies. She loves walking on the wild Northumberland beaches with her husband and dog, and gains inspiration from workshops at Carte Blanche, a women’s writing group in Newcastle and classes at the Lit. and Phil. Library.

September Poem of the Month


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

		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 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

 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.


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.


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



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. 


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


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.  


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

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 

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,
Starlit and moonlit darling?
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
But I recall the darlings like starlings, 
notes on the spring breeze
before summer trumpeted
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


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


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

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.
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


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


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

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.


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