The poems in this anthology were all written by poets commended in the Every Breath single-poem competition 2022. All of the poems they wrote, in the judges’ opinion, well deserved a place in this prestigious anthology.
The full list of authors, listed alphabetically by first name, is:
Aniqah Choudhri, Ankh Spice, Arun W.S.K. Than, Catherine Naisby, Di Slaney, Gaynor Kane, Glen Wilson, Heather Cook, Jane Spray , Imogen Wade, Janet Lees , Jeff Parent, Jennie E. Owen, Laura Theis, Laurie Bolger, Miranda Barnes, Natalie Ann Holborow, Petra Hilgers, Robin Daglish, Sam Egelstaff, Scott Elder, Simon Alderwick, Tamiko Dooley, Tamsin Hopkins, Victoria Gatehouse, Yvette Naden
indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet
The full list of competition prize winners, shortlist, and commended poets (longlist) is here .
Laurie Bolger is a London based writer & founder of The Creative Writing Breakfast Club. Her work has featured at Glastonbury, the Royal Albert Hall, TATE, Sky Arts & BBC platforms. Laurie has been running creative workshops for the past decade encouraging people to celebrate their unique voices.
at Streetwise Safety Centre
Class by class
they teach us
of high street,
park, the home.
into the life-sized
I’m used to being told
to be careful
or that we better have at least
one girl for this scenario —
so I crawl
across the makeshift landing
into the chip pan fire
I lead all the boys out onto the very real street
where killers are
mannequins frozen under a
fake moon —
mentions death a lot
in his high vis
bats away my questions
about the huge
cylinder in the corner
I keep going on at Mum
to lock all the doors
have to be careful —
I watch another thin woman
fall through the tin roof
her thin fingers reaching up
whilst she sinks
belly of grist.
I want to reach in and pull
like when Mum says
pick what you want for tea
and I read every packet
check for danger
and of course he stands on the chair to do the big speech/in the movie theatre classroom
while the kids are challenged to silence/the one about life and death and poetry/
so the teacher in the bad school expects me and the rapper to do the same on World Book Day/
they’ve printed our faces for the hallway and ticked off the things/
she stands on a chair to pull the projector screen down/and we watch The Secret Garden picking
at the gym floor/some little eggs on display painted for some raffle/we are all trying to be in neat movie windows/what I’m trying to say is all across the city little windows/
over there a man is rocking his baby to sleep/she’s doing sit ups in her bra again/the dates are chatting mindless babble in the middle of that pub/and I’m writing something about longing in the window of a flat I can’t afford/under the floorboards are little mice/they’ve chose here not the Piazza where people play £18 for a starter and the gold glows behind cardboard boxes/
somewhere someone is lighting a fire/putting their teeth in a little jar/somewhere we are making
ourselves warm pies/
the little rooms are all moving/so many box shaped things/this week someone came for a viewing/I realised it wasn’t mine to own/I realised I have all the time in the world/and somewhere my sister’s whole house is in storage/somewhere my mum is putting tweezers in a little patent cube/somewhere someone is being teased for the wrong shoes/and a girl is running onto a football pitch/bag as wings and thighs stinging in the cold/
on the corner sofa
your head half sleeps on my stomach
I breath like some kind of mother
imagine doing this for a long time
the giddy feeling
that starts in a small room
holding the house close
making the hungry boiler my own —
the sunlight with the bus behind it
the sunlight walking me home
taking in this
five pointed road
building site garden
cinnamon lips dry from kissing
look at us pretending
to fall in love at the station
trying to fall in love
with ourselves —
look at me
on the corner
film-like butter light —
you’re the boy I try to impress in Spanish
you’re the man I make a barbed wire heart for
and follow around a pitch —
you keep the fat book of plays I give you next to your bed
I am rubbing petrol into all my clothes
trying to spice the street sweet
I want your armpits like incense
I’m wishing the bedsheets burgundy again.
I told you about my dead friend
you told me about yours
we told each other
how we put them on our shoulders
and danced in a festival crowd
exchanged our past like theatre.
When my pastel-coloured swimming costume started to wear away at the chest
it told my legs to keep on swimming to be flecks of 80’s confetti and prick the man who called them pins nice pins he kept saying
from the window of the barber shop the bus-stop the supermarket floor
I swam past them all
the little men
got stuck in the filter
like they told me I would with all my hair
my fake glow fell away
I swam past the prom dress on the hanger
and through the turnstile at Loftus Road
this time not like an animal waiting half-finished to be told
not to dilly daily or that I had bedroom eyes
but to kick back
past all the perfect people in perfect towns
who weren’t perfect and nor was their town —
past the commuters who shouted sack the juggler!
I left them to clumsily drag themselves home plastered
and I swam past the road
where women take their joy out with the bins
past the chippy and the bikes
the barman who asked me to stay
past the local who asked what my real job was anyway? as he highlighted the tv guide
and I thought about my mum
all those years and her heart a big Octopus
of a thing that was inked to see
what was going on with it
and mine kept on floating
so I kept on going
past the girls who threatened to drown me
past the big brick they kept making us dive down for
I took off my cap
and I swung it
and my hair was whiter than the tiles shine
and I climbed out of the chlorine
the legs of the Mums in the gallery cafe all cheered
Natalie Ann Holborow is author of And Suddenly You Find Yourself (2017) and Small (2015). She works in marketing, but the rest of the time you’ll find her performing poetry, being an editor and trustee of the Terry Hetherington Young Writer’s Awards and a proud patron of The Leon Heart Fund.
Look at the hands: the fingers are shaped like a clutch of twigs
dark at the pine’s root, twisted around an imagined cigarette.
A white scarf of cloud drags above the hospital.
None of you know who I am talking about.
None of you know that the doctor who told you to stop smoking
is flicking a light outside Radiotherapy,
none of you know that the exemplary patient
with the habit of long walks and eating his greens
is tossing a lung from the ambulance
because suddenly it’s on fire. And who but the nurse
with a tired mouth could say anything tonight except sorry
in a voice that carves a maze out of the corridors
so you can run off to blow your last smoke
through the window, your body suddenly drifting up
and the doctor returning to announce the time
as though something had stopped.
Catherine Naisby (aka Catherine Edmunds) is a professional violinist, as well as a prolific novelist, short story writer and poet. She has appeared as an artist on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year and Landscape Artist of the Year. Her middle name, if she had one, would be ‘Creative’.
A shutter bangs down the end of the street. Doesn’t anyone
mend such things anymore? Someone shouts, a dog yelps,
there’s a grinding, scraping, something falls over.
I can’t get up.
It’s too hot.
You’re lying next to me, sweating, reading your book, oblivious.
The ceiling fan stopped whirring yesterday and we’ve lain in bed
since, too jaded to make love. The baby in the flat above is crying,
the man shouts, the mother screams back,
then there’s quiet—the kid locked to her chest.
You turn the page,
nod, grunt, smile,
every wheezy breath content.
I don’t know how you read like that, so absorbed in the page,
in the moment. I shift on the sheets. I’ll have to change them soon
or we’ll both get bed sores. I should fix some food, a drink.
I stumble across to the fridge—couple of steaks, loaf of bread.
Galangal, lemon grass, shallots, garlic, chillies,
the pounding of pestle and mortar, they’re pulped,
I don’t notice the heat. You’ve often asked
why I don’t get a food processor. You’re stupid like that.
The pan weighs a ruddy ton, but I heave it onto the hob,
light the gas, throw in oil and spices, it sizzles, in go the steaks.
You close your book, put it to one side. I know you’re watching.
I cut the bread, thick, you heave yourself out of bed,
open a bottle of white that starts sweating the moment
it leaves the fridge. I slice a lime, squeeze juice into the pan,
lift the steaks to the bread. We sit, eat,
too hot to talk. The wine slips down.
I want you.
I watch you chewing your steak, wiping your brow—the chillies
make you sweat more than ever.
I want you.
I want the sweat that bursts from your skin, I want your mouth on mine.
We drink some more. Finish the meal. You sit back, close your eyes.
‘That was good.’
‘Yes, I know.’
You go back to bed.
Pick up your book.
Smile, chuckle, snort, clear your throat
turn the page.
Jane Spray is a published and anthologised poet artist living in the Forest of Dean. Locally she is a member of PIPS, The Jackdaws, and Dean Writers Circle. Springtime, she organises Bluebell Poets. Winning a children’s comic poetry prize aged about 7, she remembers agonising over the final, fourth line.
Things I have and haven’t done since you died
I have put out the recycling and the dustbin on alternate Tuesdays.
I’ve frozen and gradually eaten all the left-over funeral-do pasties.
I’ve done nothing with your ashes except collect them.
They were heavier than expected and are sitting on the floor
by your desk, which I have taken over.
Sometimes, on going to bed, or waking up, I’ve been startled
by this wild creature rising from my gut-heart-throat
crying and howling for a while.
I’ve let the cat sleep beside me, for his warmth and purring.
I’ve told lots of people I am doing ok, when they ask, sympathetically
How are you doing?
I have emptied one compost pile and turned the other
marvelling at the arcane art of compost making. Your art.
Which I will learn by trial and error.
I have grown green tomatoes, salad, cucumber, courgettes, beans, sweet peas
with your compost. I have wandered up and down your ferny ditch.
I have bought another second hand, well sharpened axe
for a fiver, from the ‘Men in Sheds’, now I don’t have my own
man in a shed. It’s satisfying
to chop and split wood with Rowan, when she visits.
And I get to stack the wood now too. The job you wouldn’t let anyone else do.
I have planted some of your ferns and given some away.
I have no one to ask their long Latin names.
Neil, and Brian with his ladder
helped me block the squirrel out of the loft.
But you are no longer here to be kept awake by the squirrel.
I have notified nearly all the officials I am supposed to notify.
I’ve said ‘we’ a lot, correcting to ‘I’ only when I feel like it.
A process of letting you go, letting things settle
like a stone slowly sinking to the bottom of a muddy well.
I haven’t told Eon Energy of your death.
I haven’t made scrambled eggs for breakfast.
I haven’t been on cold damp Autumn picnics by ponds.
I haven’t listened to as much bagpipe music as we used to.
I haven’t woken up in the night when you get up.
I haven’t thumped your back when you’re choking.
I haven’t worried about you being breathless.
Victoria Gatehouse is a poet and researcher. She has won, and been placed in, many competitions and her work has been broadcast on BBC radio and published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Victoria’s pamphlet The Mechanics of Love, published by smith|doorstop,was selected as a Laureate’s Choice in 2019.
those nights a cough wracked you from sleep
to shudder in a blanket the back door ajar
you couldn’t get enough of the thin dark air
a sting on every breath those nights you unscrewed
the honey a friend left in the porch the deep twist
of the spoon unsettling small pockets of air in the gel
the hot-water melt of it glazing your throat
a wood-smoke tang you couldn’t taste those nights
you turned bee and rose from the press of the hive
to face the purple chill of the moors those crawling hours
the endless bell-shaped flowers how gently you unfurled your proboscis to lift the grain from each heart
as fever licked the roots somehow you flew above it all your blood all thick amber-shine those nights the heather
brought you back to the steadying hum of your breath
Janet Lees, a poet, artist and filmmaker, won the 2019 Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award with A bag of sky. Subsequently she has been a judge in three Frosted Fire competitions, including Every Breath.
Janet’s poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Her film-based works have been selected for several international festivals, and in 2021 she won the Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. Her visual work has been exhibited around the world.
Janet Lees website
She is in her bedroom practising piano. On the wall above the piano is the picture that gets put up every year – the manger scene with Mary in a cloak of the most beautiful blue. The blue is still beautiful even though the wonder of the picture has faded. In her head she is in the telephone box. It is its own muzzled universe. Steamed-up windows, vicious little paint flakes, a hollow metal smell mixed with piss and dead cigarettes. The clammy black receiver, mouthpiece peppered with tiny holes, turning every breath to drizzle. She imagines her voice going into the holes, splitting into bright streamers of sound in the darkness behind them, her message exactly as she wishes it to be for a shining moment, then sucked thin into the curly cord and pulled blindly through the telegraph wires by the world’s most powerful magnet that is the listener, into whose ear she tumbles muddy and squashed, the colour of plasticine all mixed together. She hits the cracked B flat above middle C. Then she is back in the box, fingers tangled in the empty cord, the pips in her ear like a lack of stars.
Ankh Spice is an Aotearoa, New Zealand poet, author of The Water Engine (Femme Salvé Books, 2021). His poetry is eight times nominated for the Pushcart Prize/Best of the Net. He’s a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine and co-edits at IceFloe Press. Website: www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com, Twitter: @SeaGoatScreamsPoetry, Facebook: @AnkhSpiceSeaGoatScreamsPoetry.poet
I have been collecting gasps against the eventuality
The first, fingertipped from the face
of a prism. See here, your most fierce
and focused beam splits, finally,
into a surprise bouquet. Soft oh.
More poured out from clapped
hands, my shadow-trap knowing now
this is where the light herself
exhales. One bobbing silver pea,
confounding the pond’s smooth
mattress—thank you fish-lurker,
mouthing out strings in the depths
of alien dream. Then wild flock-
and-drift of static shiver: harvest
from a young man’s aerial farm, field
of arm hairs breezed by desire’s hiss.
Shake the container, hear the sea-ice
break once more as we plunge in
hand-clasped and stop-motion hearty.
These days we’re cold afraid, so listen
while you can: when your lips fruit
blue, when the petals really start
to poke the glass, I hold an amulet
of marvel, all woolly gathering
meant for this infuse. The mouth
of the bag opens wide, releases
a lifetime, two. A thousand ohs
to take per os, and not one single
moment of regret.
Arun W.S.K. Than is a mixed-race poet who grew up in Cambodia. He is currently studying for a bachelor’s in creative writing. His favourite poets are R.S Thomas and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. poet
half a moon is half a moon
after sunset, the trees cough up
their daily tithe. by the hour. nightly, we are braced
our fall, in hypnagogic circled hope,
the roses in the garden nod.
but no god rustles
the common gorse and keeping here
no lions kept guard this old house weathered
with lacquered ribs bare time’s long finger
turned air hard we bit with every breath.
with every breath, a bit decayed. and
keeping here our edge resigned. in toenail clippings
and petals in the smallest crescents of
life’s designs half a moon
is half a moon your presence would lift
this fading room.
when i sigh, dust tickles like sugar. just to say
in another life, we climbed our mountains
and survived here is the end, lead pipes rest
under boxes, damp walls wait blushes of rot
germinate here warmly, you’ re pretty and
there are no clouds it will be a cold frost
tonight. everything dies, eurydice, when morning comes white.
Jeff Parent, a graduate of Concordia University’s Creative Writing Master’s program in Montréal, is “some kind of poet”. His poems have been published in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. His first chapbook, This Bygone Route, was published in 2020. Jeff and his family currently reside in Nova Scotia, Canada
Her kid brother
doing a pop-a-wheelie.
He’s small for his age.
“I just love his BMX energy.”
Everyone else calls her Ronnie.
She gives names to strangers
in the backgrounds of photographs:
Terrys, Jasons, Mandys.
Squatters in the lore.
Here’s one they took in Drumheller,
dark femurs rising to the beams.
“Dinosaurs were antique from the get-go.
She taps a Jason lingering
near the edge of the frame.
“That’s a mouse, dreaming.
You can tell.
Dreaming it’s a person.
Mice have dreamt they’re people since
longer than dinosaurs.
Before people were even invented.”
She shuts the book,
stretches for the light.
“That’s good energy.”
way back a the house
I foun a detetive book
all bulged an doggert
some tore out pages
flappin on the barbwire
also by that threat fence
there a bustup suitcase
fell from a airplane maybe
open empty red
someone ownt it once
I like sittin in it
keeps the prickers
an the dogshit
offa my cordroys
next thing usual
is way off
porch door fusses
second time pist
then not again
if she wantit me
shed come so
I stay put
my swole book
Yvette Naden was born in France but now resides in the UK where she attends the University of York. She started writing poetry by accident when she was eighteen and has since slowly recovered from the trauma of GCSE Poetry. Now, poetry is one of her greatest passions. Her work has featured in the Wizards in Space Anthology and, in 2021, she won the Elmbridge Literary Competition with her poem, ‘Lung Resin.’
Between footsteps / lost through cracks / bricks and mortar / pressed against you / Your tidal chest / That rise and fall / Climbing a ladder / to take down the lights / Ma left out last Christmas / The sky’s belly / grey flab / whale blubber clouds / You climb down / Tangled in wire / The strain of your first July alone / sipping chardonnay on / an empty porch / rubbing your scars / that absentee pain / remaining breast tissue / tightened and smoothed / fresh canvas / like Ma used to paint.
Eyes rubbed raw / Hands like shovels / hardened by the sun / thumbs larger than your father’s / ever were / when he gave you a gun / and taught you / to shoot rabbits in the dark / glass eyes furtive / searching for the barrel / your shots were unclean / the air swells / forgetting your father / mother / wondering when the plumber will come / wondering whether your blue jeans / are kingfisher blue or bruise blue / whether they’ll fit tomorrow / Stretch your lips / and question the clouds / wondering why they play tricks / wondering whether they breathe and / think about their own parents whilst waiting / for the doctor’s call / the grass salted with morning dew / no one is awake.
Simon Alderwick is originally from England but has spent most of the last eight years in the Philippines. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Acropolis, magma, Acid Bath, Dust, Poetry Salzburg, Ink Sweat & Tears, Alchemy Spoon, Corrupted, and Cape, among others.
some memories are more real than others
I seem to remember a science class
where we attached a balloon to a battery
and some wires. We created an artificial lung.
Maybe I’m not remembering correctly.
Maybe we cut a frog open, exposing the lungs.
But one thing I am sure of is Pai, Thailand.
A fireside show. A showman with a huge balloon.
He asked the whole crowd to help to blow it up. I
mean huge. We kept saying it’s done. He said no,
it needs to be bigger. It was about six ft across
before he was happy with it. He did the usual
showman thing of stalling and building up to his
trick. I can’t recall if he had a microphone
or some way of getting a noise out of it, but basically
he slowly deflated the balloon and it sounded like
hundreds of voices singing one after the other.
I do know how he did it, in the sense that I
saw the balloon being inflated, but I don’t
really understand it, except that it was pretty
amazing. As for the lungs, as for breathing, as for
life. Seeing it as a machine, as an organ, as a
function. It’s not wrong but it misses so much.
Apparently your life flashes before your eyes
when you die. That’s based on the latest science,
or so I’m told. Kind of like a balloon filled with
hundreds of voices. I wonder if that
scene will make the cut
when I revisit my
life at the
Glen Wilson is a multi-award winning Poet from Portadown. He won the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing (2017), the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Award (2018), the Trim Poetry competition (2019), and Slipstream Open Poetry competition (2021). His collection An Experience on the Tongue is available now.
All the secrets are nursery rhymes
and each note is a dug up sod
that gathers on some verdant lawn
where the lyric is laid out
far from crosses covered in moss,
and the most child-like melody
is full stopped by the silences
and the self-blinding
of those long past justice.
It was a different time
as if right and wrong
were a modern metre
only learned yesterday
but something still catches
on every breath;
the verses we’d rather skip past
to get to a chorus that helps us forget.
Heather Cook is retired now after a career in the public sector. She has always written poetry and has more time now to enjoy this lifelong passion.
She has achieved varying degrees of success in a number of poetry competitions, including Buxton and Ware.
Fascination pins me flat against the wall,
wet washing hugged, dropped pegs at my feet.
This is no feathery murmuration,
no summer dance of silken butterflies.
These are pellets, hard, tight-packed with purpose.
Gathering speed bees rattle round the garden,
squeezing out its softly sighing breaths.
One minute? Ten? The whirling mass contracts,
escapes the centrifugal force, hangs high,
confers in pendulous indecision.
Then forty thousand entities agree,
move as one towards the cool damp woods,
The birds return. The cat emerges.
I gather pegs, shake out the crumpled sheets,
relieved but strangely sad to see them go.
Miranda Barnes is an American poet living near Nottingham. Her debut pamphlet, Blue Dot Aubade, was published with V. Press in 2020. Miranda is also co-author of Formulations, published in 2022 with Small Press. Formulations is a collaborative pamphlet of new poetic forms and poems based in chemistry, written with poet and chemist Stephen Paul Wren.
The Dorado Outcrop
Here lies a cluster of mothers
with no name. On volcanic rock
jutting up from the seafloor,
hundreds of violet cephalopods
cling to their broods. Tentacles
curved upside-down like inverted
crowns, their bodies dot the ridge
along a hydrothermal vent.
Coral skeletons drift and wraith-
crabs scuttle between them.
A looming robot submarine
is shining down a light.
Cameras record images inside,
show the eggs are empty, unalive.
These purple octopods make
their final sacrifice for ghosts.
Underwater weather along the seams
bleeds magma-heated saline,
saps energy, starves their breathing.
This is the lesser real estate.
But there’s nowhere else to go.
Other mothers nest inside the rock,
filling all the crevices of cold
water rich with oxygen.
The robot watcher captures
their tentacles waving out
of fissures further from the vent
that seeps the fatal heat.
Who wouldn’t want to avoid
laying eggs on a seafloor thick
with detritus, marine snow.
The nameless mothers have
no other option. Though it is easy
to confuse this with a choice. Who else
will die, unable to breathe, in a world
far too warm for their children?
Petra Hilgers is originally from Germany, and for the past 22 years has lived in South Africa, Northern Uganda and the UK. Her writing is greatly inspired by travelling and the quirks of a bilingual life. Her debut collection “The heart neither red nor sweet” won the 2021 erbacce poetry prize.
When breathing became too much effort
That morning when she woke before the alarm
she followed it out of bed out of the room
heavy immobile like a tree trunk realising she didn’t have anything anymore
in front of her eyes but a lush fan of ferns unfurling
to get up for for all the world cared she could turn into a tree
turning to see where her arm used to be a bouquet of green growing
right here it was then she felt her right shoulder sprouting
with ease of youth her head light as a cloud
into something leafy green that tickled her neck
as the deer she’d seen in her dream that night she could move again
stiff since her last promotion feeling giddy now
restless with something ancient her bones suddenly strong
restless with something ancient her bones suddenly strong
stiff since her last promotion feeling giddy now
as the deer she’d seen in her dream that night she could move again
into something leafy green that tickled her neck
with the ease of youth her head light as a cloud
right here right then she felt her right shoulder sprouting
turning to see the bouquet of green growing where her arm used to be
getting up for all the world turning into a tree
a lush fan of ferns unfurling in front of her eyes
on a heavy tree trunk realising she didn’t have anything anymore
followed it out of bed out of the room
that morning when she woke before the alarm
Robin Daglish, a retired builder living near Brighton, self-published his first pamphlet – Rubies (2002) – to celebrate the birth of his granddaughter. His first full collection is Weymouth Dawn (2012). Robin’s work is published in many magazines and anthologies. He is active in the local performance poetry scene as ‘Brickybard.’
Uncle Arthur’s Bedford
It’s nineteen fifty six
in my Uncle Arthur’s Nissen hut,
his bakelite radio sizzles
as he drains his cup.
He laughed at me
as I sleepwalked out
to the slap-in-the-face
of the cold morning air,
lungs stung with every breath.
Into his freezing cab at 5am,
(it smelled of leather and oil)
and in the smear of early dawn,
the smudge of headlights
groped through shadows
King of the Lorries: each flared mudguard
topped with a headlight,
engine cowl louvered like fish gills,
gear lever long as a walking stick,
steering wheel huge as the rim on a bike.
I was dumbstruck by that truck,
passing milk float, early postie,
shift workers hunched over handlebars.
A flash of fox as he dashed for cover:
a flame lost in the gloom.
Uncle Arthur at the wheel
with his red boozer’s face,
was it too many pints,
or that burning Sherman tank?
Sam Egelstaff lives in North Wales. She has performed at the R.S Thomas Literary Festival and is published in Counterpoints: In response to poems by R.S Thomas (2015). Her MA Creative Writing led to her collections ‘On the Couch’ (2015) and ’Carneddau Colours’ (2017). She tweets as @SamEgelstaff and her blog is samegelstaff.wordpress.com.
Bluntlight strikes over the backs of hills,
as the organs of the Earth outpour themselves, and we search to find sense. Stricken roots bare their worn charcoal, snapping upon shale and silt.
They are screaming out for summer, as winter blinds and dashes. Amongst it all, beats a ventricular rhythm. The glug, glug, glug of Llyn* Geirionydd* rushes.
We reach the lake end.
Uprooted bases cast dark vertical shadows
like stalking men staring. They bounce behind trunks like potential assassins. Lame trunks
straddle limbs, balancing against each other like a beaten team at the final whistle.
We stride on and belt into the raw blue, squinting. And we see the cold.
Whipping clouds skirt the edges
like racing cars chicaning the Carneddau.* We shrink our necks, blanketing raw skin beneath felt scarves. Peer over craggy sides, through pointillist firs. Sole bare spindles
cling onto granite edges, while their last needles refuse to evict their russet spires.
Pine bends, row on row, like doubled-up soldiers marching onto the front, windstricken.
And we see the cold.
We came to cleanse on these crusted shores, but we brunt our minds with foreheads bruised. Wind-beaten, we can finally hear the raw pulsing of the Earth, once hidden and now circling.
This vortex of rhyme and round arrests us. We are alive, alive, alive.
*Llyn -Welsh for lake.
*Llyn Geirionydd- a large lake situated within the Gwydir Forest, within Snowdonia, in North Wales, UK.
Gaynor Kane is a Northern Irish poet from Belfast who came to writing late and is trying to make up for time. It isn’t going too badly and you can read some sample poems on her website www.gaynorkane.com
To keep up in touch please follow her on Twitter @gaynorkane
What a smiler
eyes bright as borage
with crow’s feet, freckles, dimples,
a chin as square as a press;
a chiselled dresser. His voice
into Irish soda bread.
With hair the colour
of Guinness—I drank
him up until we were both full
and chest to chest in a single bed.
Scott Elder lives in France. His work has mostly appeared in the UK and Ireland. A debut pamphlet, Breaking Away, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2015, his first collection, ‘Part of the Dark, by Dempsey&Windle 2017 (UK), and the second, My Hotel, is forthcoming in Salmon Poetry 2023 (Ireland).
Something was missing from the very beginning
the moment: a relentless repetition, yet, enough
to astonish me and Marie something kept dying
as if dying were eternal, no climax, no revelation
we claimed our position as a crab might inherit a
tide pool, and listened to deepness, to the tender
weakness, to a slow insistent turning, each breath
moulting a skin, leaving its print in snow
Tamsin Hopkins holds a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, London. In 2020 she won the Aesthetica Prize. Her poetry has been Highly Commended for the Gingko Prize, longlisted in the National Poetry Competition and nominated for the Forward Prize. Inside the Smile is published by Cinnamon Press
About the LION VOICE
I want to speak to you in my Lion Voice it’s a voice I use when I need (yes need but need might not be what you hear at first) need/ want you to hear my voice because whispering is all very well & powerful in its way but the Lion Voice has
a certain something let’s call it TEETH – here comes the thing I want you to hear when I say look Me in the eyes – the word is LION because in days of less stamina it’s a case of fake it to make it as everybody knows it really does work I’m sick to death of not being right for this person or the other person of walking in the shadows or too much light and just about every kind of whatever crap the self of the day has dictated your pendulum may have swung that’s pretty fine & dandy but listen up just because you’ve flashed your face all over town faced off everybody and told your everything doesn’t mean the time will ever be right for others to do the same and what’s more this Aware Suppression + LION VOICE combo works pretty well for me it’s every bit as valid a response as any you’ll find in a head doctor’s manual so when you look at me I want you to see LION hear LION and above all think LION because I roar every day I am fighting
Tamiko Dooley read Latin and French at New College, Oxford. Her debut and second pamphlets are being published in 2023 (Broken Sleep Books and Cephalo Press). She was the winner of the BBC Radio 3 carol competition 2021.
Shogi no shiai (Chess match)
If I tell you of the ohmisoka, the New Year’s Eve
Where you gave me the hardwood shogi set
Would you remember that year?
Each piece was hand-carved with delicate kanji
The underside of the grid board
Green velvet: no slips.
If I gave you the bishop to hold in your hand
Could you tell me which way he moves?
It was a stormy night at our house in Higashi Nakano
My parents and I were up late listening to the radio
Slurping our soba noodles as old enka songs replayed quietly
The doorbell rang unexpectedly
Clashing shrilly with the minor key
You burst into our hallway, throwing off your shoes
You ran to me and swept me up in your arms
I inhaled the smoky undertones of your aftershave
And your shampoo – a heady mixture.
When I opened the shogi set that year
You taught me about life:
Rules and routes and hierarchy.
Black and white, winning and losing.
When you came round to visit
We would play it together
And you’d lose every time.
I never knew you chose to let me win.
You might not remember my name today
But I tell you of that evening
And the way you always made me feel
I place a pawn in your fist
And I clutch your hands tightly
To hold on to you and to show you I’m here
That it isn’t checkmate
Not even check –
We will learn the laws of this new game, this new world you inhabit
We will not give up on each other
And this time we will both win.
Laura Theis’ work appears in Poetry, Mslexia, Rattle, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s and Aesthetica. Her Elgin-Award-nominated debut ‘how to extricate yourself’, an Oxford Poetry Library Book-of-the-Month, won the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize. She received the AM Heath Prize, Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize, Mogford Prize, Hammond House International Literary Award, and a 2022 Forward Prize nomination.
an entry from the spotter’s guide for invisible things
this coast line
marks the quiet
border between our old
life and every invaluable
breath you will decide
to take in this one
an invisible moon is
tricks on the water
slighting the sand
a raspberry sky
Jennie E. Owen’s writing has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. These include: Rialto, Acumen, Wasafiri, Agenda Poetry, Envoi, Tears in the Fence, and Magma Poetry. She teaches Creative Writing for The Open University and lives in Lancashire, UK with her husband and three children. She is currently working towards her PhD with Manchester Metropolitan University.
No-one notices at first, the sheer number of bottles
glass and plastic; clear, blue, and brown
washing up on the beaches. The coast gags and clinks
with each tide. Perhaps a few families complain
about the stack of rubbish, pull their offspring
away from surf, in fear of cuts on tender skin.
A green group gather with litter pickers and bin bags.
Early one morning a walker picks up a stoppered jar,
shakes it, presses it to his ear. When it opens a voice
escapes like water over shingle: I never really loved you.
Not really. Later, an empty two-litre coke bottle does nothing
but sigh heavily, in the hands of a morning jogger. A beachcomber
opens a pottery phial, it whispers John was never
really your son. He doesn’t know anyone called John
but calls the papers – who appear in vans then helicopters.
They set to catching the vessels with children’s nets
and fishing lines; revealing the chorus of secrets live on air.
The pope pronounces a miracle, when a viewer
swears they hear the voice of their dead brother cry
I’m sorry about the thing with Cynthia in the barn.
Soon the roads are smogged, the car parks full. Day
trippers pull cracking sacks in the breakers, with the hope
of an answer, a closure, a last gift from the lost.
The air is full of the chime of ice cream vans going full
throttle, the chemist raises the price of sun cream through
the sun roof. One local Rev exorcises the coast with sign
of the cross, but the crowd hear a shrill Why didn’t you listen ?
from the throat of a squeezy tomatoes ketchup pop-top.
A small girl pushes her way through goloshes and flip flops,
breaths into a fairy pink lunch box Where did you go?
throws it from the top of the pier into the chop and froth.
Di Slaney lives in an ancient farmhouse in Nottinghamshire where she runs livestock sanctuary Manor Farm Charitable Trust and independent publisher Candlestick Press. Widely published, broadcast and anthologised, she was the winner of The Plough Poetry Prize 2022. Her collections Reward for Winter and Herd Queen are available from Valley Press.
Lay my head on fleeces
If I have another seizure, put me with
the sheep. They won’t stand on me,
they have more sense than you would
credit, more heart than we deserve.
Lay my head on fleeces so I will feel
their heat, inhale that sticky lanolin
better than any oxygen, more calming
than any drug. My left hand will jerk
so give it curls to hold, long tangled
curls to snag my fingers, keep them
still. Lay my head on fleeces, my left
leg will drum the straw but shifting
hooves will sandwich, flock pressure
known to chill the young ones, keep
oldies gathered in. Leave me there
on fleeces, I’ll be fine with wool
wound round me, warm noses
pressing, slowed time passing.
Imogen Wade is a poet and counsellor based in Cornwall. Her work has received recognition in the Foyle Young Poets Award, the Ware Poetry Prize, the Plough Poetry Prize, and other competitions. She has written for Macrina Magazine, a philosophical journal. She is passionate about art therapy and suicide prevention.
You dreamt of owning a plot of land, a clearing
in the woods to wipe away dead dust; grow
potatoes and live in a shack; sprout blooms
in your denim, your puffer, your pearls.
The glade is perfect, exactly how you pictured it.
The dog and cat get on. The winters aren’t too harsh
and when the solar shower splutters, all you do is laugh.
You don’t need a mask, the air is enough and your lungs
When I call your number, the voicemail sounds the same,
even though you stopped using it in the first wave.
I’m waiting for a text with no caller I.D.—
Hey, if you’re around, come and help me sow broad beans?
Aniqah Choudhri is a writer, poet and journalist living in Manchester. In 2021 she won the Moth Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in the Hippocrates Anthology, the Bristol Short Story Anthology and Tribune Magazine.
The night you were born the world stopped
breathing, the barley moon icing over
like door-stopped glass bottle milk, light
thinned to a wisp, heralding new souls in
kiss by kiss. Below in St. George’s courtyard the
tuberose caught, breath between breath, pollen
misted in a golden mantilla around each sleeping
face, the barn owl dormant, wings raised, screech
rolling up through the hollow of his throat
and on the Thames the boats suspended in a midnight
waltz under the milk-time moon thrumming down
to the singing blue whale on the frozen sea,
heart halted, beat between beat, a quiet rib cage
as wide as a cathedral, filled with coral and brine
until the rush of feathers cracked the dark
shell of the sky moonlight melting over
glaciers and marsh and fields of corn until the
world started breathing again the night you were born