The poems in this anthology were all written by poets commended in the Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award contest. All of the poets, in the opinion of the judges, had ample poetic skills to be selected as authors of a poetry collection. The two award-winning poets are listed first — Helena Goddard & C.I. Marshall.
The full list of commended authors, listed alphabetically by first name, is:
C.I. Marshall , Christine Marshall , Eloise Unerman , Helena Goddard , Janet Dean , Julie Runacres , Linda Ford , Louise Walker , Martin Rieser , Neil Douglas , Polly Walshe , Susan G. Duncan
indicates one audio of a poem read by the poet.
Helena Goddard has won or been placed in various competitions including Buzzwords, the Fish, the Plough, and Poetry on the Lake, which she won in 2019. She has also been shortlisted for the Bridport and published in anthologies. Her poems have appeared in The Interpreter’s House and the Rialto.
Helena won a Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award in 2022.
The wheatear, the English ortolan
The Eastbourne sky could hardly contain them,
so numberless and every bird so shy
it took fright at a cloud, as if its flight
had dipped under the belly of a bear
about to lie down. The wheatear would drop
to the ground, cranny itself in the mouth
of one of the tunnels cut by shepherds,
hop to the horsehair noose at the end.
Bauble bodies were threaded on crow quills,
sold by poulterers from Lewes to London,
served as gobbets wrapped in vine leaves,
bursting like buds. One day in 1665,
a shepherd trapped a hundred dozen;
divested himself of his smock, his wife
of her petticoat, to sack the tumbling balls
of fat, whose alarm call was titreu titreu,
whose song was far far, two descending
notes on my daughter’s recorder,
her raised fingers a cockerel comb
of concentration, a clamp against the holes.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder
3 a.m. and there are thousands of us awake, our lungs
an abacus of beads and strings whose gummed yellow
loyalty is not to be cast off in coughs, heaves, retches.
Next stop – steroid city: a moon-face, a wisp of air
for each nostril, a clutch of carers on minimum wage,
a moribund bed. At 3 a.m. we’re fantastical as monks,
riot around the manuscript, conjure foresters with pipes
who’ll tap us like birch trees, deliver us in runnels of pure
liquid pearl; we birth our heads through closed curtains,
apprehend the sky, read with infant, twenty-first century
eyes how oxygen, nitrogen, all the bound elements
collapse past and future to a singularity, a breathless
Aquinas silence; at 3 a.m. our chests open like sacred books
on a lectern, marginalia gold-leaved in the cortizoned
dark; we see the persistence of love, how light
bequeaths itself as measurement so we can watch
stars travel outward, every domed night a stretching
mouth’s cry, Look! I’m millions of miles further away.
C. I. Marshall is the editor of ARTLIFE and has poems in Verdad, Spillway, Beyond the Lyric Moment, Birmingham Poetry Review, SALT, Stone Quarterly Journal and Poems In The Waiting Room, UK. Marshall won the 2018 Verve International Poetry Festival Contest, UK and another poem won Honorable Mention, 2021 Steve Kowit Poetry Prize juror: Dorianne Laux.
C.I. Marshall won a Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award in 2022.
The fickle-size horse in my purse
smacks his whilst rubbery lips
as he sips my offer of liquor.
Old, he is, with a load of arthritis
in his knees, fetlocks and shoulders.
I learned from a couple in the Verde
Valley that just one tablespoon
any wordy label works, in a bath
of water returns him frisky, tuned.
It works, I tell you, New Age-wise.
Cantering to my car, I lift him from
my old Coach feedbag. Watch him rise,
hunter-style to the back seat of the Kia.
Grateful for his un-shod hooves, as knicks
on leather seats get me, at least, a hundred licks.
After seven minutes of him cavorting back and forth
time to settle in the bag-barn for some rest. Ready
for the next quest of the boiled-down horse and me.
The Locksmith Journeys To The Afterlife
I want to show you how the Gods prepare for his journey.
Come on, his house is a few blocks down on White Cedar,
see in the front yard, in pea-size gravel, a giant cactus
all set to launch. No longer upright; a perfect size to become
a small rowboat, like one a mortal might trailer to a lake.
See, how its arms spread over one another, you might think
octopus, but these sprout flowers, long and opalescent.
For those who bend to them, a smell of Meyer Lemons
and like a tug boat lighting up a harbor, these flowers cast
a spell of ivory crisscrossed over the calm of summer water.
I know what you are thinking, it’s like this sprawled-out
cactus is carrying this man straight into the afterlife,
to a place where locksmiths never get calls on Sunday,
never ever when they are eating dinner. You probably know,
no locks are there, no push pads in the by and by, see how gates
and doors swing open at a fingers’ touch, diaries flutter pages
in the breeze, the weight of safe doors as they stretch wide.
Look now, see the butterfly tabby wearing a diamond collar.
Imagine the locksmith holding both oars of his prickly pear boat,
flower lights casting mottled patterns against the big unknown,
and the diamonds that scatter baby star formations above them.
Something tells him, the feline is his guide, the one to draw him
paths through clouds, across the waters to tie up in cattail cluster.
Christine Marshall completed her MA in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths University in 2020. She’s won the Poetry Society Members’ Poems competition twice, was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, longlisted for the Emma Press Anthology Illness, the Myslexia Women’s Poetry Competition and Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition 2021 and 2022.
Give me things that don’t get lost
like you, whose hand I’m holding in the wet
down the curve of back road. Your infant bones
seashell slight. In my other hand, I raise the sign
painted in our bedroom. A sliced bedsheet
stretched taut and nailed to a picture frame he’d
stored in the workroom. Left with another use in mind.
We head to the river passing triangular slag heaps mined
by decades of weary men. The exposed earth is wet
from relentless rain. I’m wearing a dove blue raincoat he
left under the stairs hooked above crushed bones
stuffed inside an urn. They lie forgotten below a sheet
behind the shoes, hoover and orange toolbox. A sign
we will be dead and forgotten too. Our sign’s
message was generated from a word game. We mind
shuffled scribbled cut-outs on slipsheeting.
I drew the letters out in pencil. You daubed on wet
paint, filling-in neatly to the edges. Poem bones
of what we wanted to tell him before he
leaves us. The river is high, fast flowing. He
doesn’t know about this secret place, sign
posted by the sprawling oak tree with curling bony
roots. You let go of my hand, reminding
me of our task. By the riverbank, we kneel, wet
fingers, hands, arms, plunging into sheets
of icy water to select even stones sheeted
in a scum of coppery silt. Under the darkened lee
of motorway, we lay them out to dry, our wetted
wares of smooth, glacial ore. Mindfully
seeking the right place to build a cairn. Our assignation.
We scoop up soil, pluck pebbles, and bones
breastbones, cuttlebones, wishbones,
to create a pole deep hole. You’re white as sheet,
white as bone. A tiny child’s body that I mind
and tell to rest. I finish the job off. He
is somewhere, planning, packing. I spear the sign’s
pole pushing hard into claggy wet.
Our message. Word bones. Washed away in the wet
that falls in sheets pelting in our minds,
the pain of leaving. He will never read our sign.
The Thin Red Line
Eloise Unerman writes poetry and game narratives. She was awarded Cuckoo Young Writers Award in 2017 Based in Yorkshire, she’s currently Barnsley’s Poet Laureate and a Writing Squad graduate. She won young people’s first place in Ledbury Poetry Competition and was Young Poet in Residence for 2018’s Ledbury Poetry Festival.
I plant a seed in your parched little lungs,
a creek of surfactant cutting through dry alveoli.
Your sweet nectar smile has disappeared,
a drought of giggles as dainty as a daisy chain.
I pray for a harvest of fresh air,
for your rib cage to become a greenhouse
of hot breath smiles that blossom
white against the mirror, for clovers peeking
out from between your cells.
My organs are deciduous and I need
to see you bloom before I wither.
A simple girl.
There are chains of you
in this world.
Janet Dean lives in York. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and commended in the Poetry Society Stanza competition, her work appears widely in magazines and anthologies and in the Northern Poetry Library. Most recently she has been published by Ink Sweat & Tears, Dempsey and Windle and The York Literary Review.
Mam brings back the uniform list from new parents’ evening
All shades of grey are deemed acceptable,
except smoke, charcoal and ash. Red means
crimson as in fresh blood.
Cotton blouses are not parchment or vellum,
porcelain, or bone, but snow white, ice-
white, brilliant white, talc.
Box pleats will measure two inches on a ruler;
when kneeling in the Hall, the hem must
precisely reach the floor.
In summer, socks worn short, a shirt-waister dress
of the approved pattern, the print a steel square
broken by a rose cross.
Only Butterfields stock the right hooded coat,
though a Mackintosh with quilted liner is permitted.
A scarf, hand-knitted in cherry or stone;
badge sewn precisely on breast blazer pocket
and metal brooch pinned on a plain wool beret – both
shall swear Quaere Verum. Seek The Truth.
Oh, pristine on that first morning, merging
with the red brick façade, vanishing
down long grey corridors.
Painting poultry at Moor’s Edge
Andrea Bailey 1925-2016
Andrea sits on a chair
a white sail on a turquoise sea
and her hat is a flame
on the cowhide moor
her soft legs in sage trousers
sink in the sedge and her fleece
is a bead of rain
that waits on her sketchbook.
You may think the bantam
that sits on a two-penny piece
is a pale fluff scratching in the yard
but Andrea perceives
the trail of buttery yolk
the ice-green gleam of albumen
and the prick of scarlet
in her disordered feathers.
Julie Runacres grew up in Leicester and teaches English at a London secondary school. She has taken courses in poetry and hybrid writing with the Arvon Foundation, Faber Academy and the London LitLab. She has previously been published in 14 Magazine and Twyckenham Notes, and is a member of the Crocodile Collective.
2005 Blue Turquoise
Linda Ford is from Derbyshire. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and is forthcoming in The High Window and Dreich. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing (Distinction) from the Open University and was a 2021 recipient of the Genesis Jewish Book Week Emerging Writers’ Programme.
These hurts have seeded
(and I did not see them coming).
On the riverbank, meadowsweet
their white flags –
fibrous roots allow little
resistance: just an urge
to grow and grow.
There is an unseemliness
about decayed wood,
a sadness – a slow forgetting.
Those who gain
from that which flakes and crumbles
proliferate in what remains of life.
I map your spore print
Louise Walker lives in London and has been teaching English for over 30 years in girls’ schools. Her poems have appeared in the Florio Society’s anthologies (Sycamore Press), Second Place Rosette: Poems About Britain (Emma Press), South Magazine, Oxford Magazine, Acumen and Second Chance Lit.
Soft-voiced men in black
gentle us to the graveside.
On bright greengrocers’ turf,
we huddle at the edge of
where she’s waiting for him.
Our words, so carefully chosen,
do battle with a car alarm,
until a sudden silence
unfurls a banner of birdsong –
like the image, long cherished
in a whisper of tissue paper:
a sideways glance, in joyful
complicity, the bridal veil
fluttering out, exultant.
After the house lights come up,
I would like to be remembered
like one of those minor players
whose name is always on the tip
of your tongue, whose modest star
never fades, as it orbits forever
through the vastness of daytime TV.
Perhaps I never had a ranch,
wide acres and gleaming horses,
but I never picked a bad film
or dropped a trail of wives behind
me like half-smoked cigarettes,
and my children avoided rehab,
weird cults and the front pages.
Equally at home in a stetson,
crumpled gumshoe’s raincoat or
doublet and hose – directors knew
they could rely on me to do my job.
I would love to see the critics smile,
recalling my best screen moments
in one last montage, as the credits roll.
Martin Rieser is a poet and visual artist, with interactive installations shown in Europe countries, China and the United States. He was published in Poetry Review, the Write to be Counted anthology, Magma Magazine 74, Morphrog 22; and Poetry kit. Martin was longlisted for Primers Volume 3; shortlisted 2019 & 2022, longlisted 2021 for Frosted Fire Firsts; shortlisted for Charles Causley Poetry Prize and Artlyst Art to Poetry Anthology 2020; runner up in Norman Nicholson Lockdown Poetry 2020, and won first prize in the Hastings Literary Festival 2021 poetry competition. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.
Amelia Earhart aviator Born July 24, 1897 –
disappeared July 2, 1937,
declared dead January 5, 1939
The blue rim of the ocean
pours towards my windscreen,
its glitter is unvarying,
the sun’s eye on water, blinding.
No clouds today,
the air gifts velocity.
I’ve had no sleep for days
holding steady, wind shaking the stick-
the tremor continues,
my radio crackles only static.
The whole fuselage sings with tension.
Steady, as the gauge sinks.
The world bends around me with its speed-
its blue bubble about to burst.
For Sylvia Plath
His face is everywhere, a judgement
rousing her demons. Her edges rubbed raw
against the jut of his jaw.
She is two people now: one who lives in the glass,
belittles and sneers, seeing only failure,
and one who is lost.
In the mirror’s bright circle: her hare’s golden eye,
a snared future, which she resists,
spilling out tears, blood and poetry.
She cannot see him, but hears
his words on the air. The radio enacts
his cruel prophecy: an accident,
a dead hare beneath his wheels,
its body sold to buy two roses for his mistress.
This play has only one ending.
Neil Douglas worked as a GP and Community Paediatrician in London’s East End. His poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, North America and Hong Kong. He is currently studying for an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.44
Paediatrics is the science that allows children to lose their potential slowly
(Oxford handbook of Clinical Specialities 6th edition)
You are in the back garden digging a hole in the mud with a red plastic spade. Cold, windy, you are wearing a Balaclava helmet because granny says you have sensitive ears and you believe; believe in your heart of hearts you will find the bones of dead pirates or Roman coins belonging to the Emperor Trajan. Your sister will come. Come and eat the mud. You will shout out that she is eating mud and someone will come. Someone will come and she will be taken to the kitchen, taken to have her mouth washed out. And the cat will watch her mouth washed out. And you will watch the cat watching her mouth washed out. You will hear the water pounding on metal, the spitting, the grit on stainless steel, the voice saying not to do that. Don’t ever do that again. The next day and the day after, your sister eats mud and you will watch the cat watching, water pounding. The cat will yawn. But you, you will never eat the mud or find the bones of dead pirates or Roman coins belonging to the Emperor Trajan and your sister will eventually stop eating mud and instead teach English Literature to posh girls in Palmers Green.
“Mud” was first published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award Anthology 2022
Yesterday I met a boy with holes
In places where the boy should be
Between spaces where the boy should be
His mother confided there is cheese
His mother told me he is Swiss cheese
That’s no diagnosis I thought aloud
No diagnosis he echoed out loud
So, I brought him close to the window
As if the light behind him in the window
Could unlock this puzzle, slip the catch
His mind unlocked, he slipped the catch
I didn’t sense the danger in his eyes
He jumped before he looked me in the eyes
Yesterday I met a boy with holes
“Neuro-developmental clinic” was first published in the Hippocrates Prize Anthology 2022.
Polly Walshe was born in London. In the past couple of years her poems have appeared or are about to appear in Shearsman, The Spectator, The London Magazine, Acumen, PN Review and The Frogmore Papers. There’s more information about her and her work at pollywalshe.com.
Nobody told me how it would feel
To get home, out of the cold,
How blue the human sky would seem
When I came back from the far sea,
How wild the intervening roads.
Nobody told me how it would feel
To meet the half dead, testing the green
Heresies of lesser worlds,
How the blue human sky would seem
Baroque to them. I still hear in dreams
Their nonsense speech, their nothing words.
Who knows how they must feel,
Trapped in their grief along the putrid streams
Among the poisoned groves? Absurd,
How blue the human sky would seem
To them, how fiercely they would weep
Under the sun, the curtilage of gold,
For nobody told them how it would feel,
How blue the human sky, how clean.
It may be that you have seen your ancestors
Looking up at you like fish through dirty water
With bottled eyes and accusatory expressions.
You are not behaving in your life as we would like,
You seem to hear. You don’t warm to them,
Quite honestly, wouldn’t mind telling them
You’re not particularly taken with what
You’ve learned of them and their methods,
Their vanity and casual treacheries,
Their atrocious child-rearing regimes,
The clanking lead pipework of their ideas.
Frown at me all you like, you want to say,
But I frankly don’t care, and if we ever meet
Along the pitted avenues or in the shamble yards
Below the sea’s grit floor, I may
Cold shoulder you without remorse.
But, peering back at them again –
How algal sorrows complicate their faces! –
You wonder, are they in quandaries down there,
Pleading, not frowning,
And will I be pulled into that stew one day,
Struggle for rescue from time’s empty quarter
Craving the blue air and attention without judgement,
The yellow housel of compassion?
Susan G. Duncan is a Missouri transplant to California, where she managed theater companies, ensembles, and museums in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poetry has appeared in Crack the Spine, The London Reader, Short Circuit, Soundings East, and Yalobusha Review, as well as in anthologies by Sixteen Rivers Press and Red Claw Press.
I find they’d been neighbors on Fourth Street,
a garden, perhaps only a fence between.
on the microfilm of the 1850 Springfield census,
they’re separated by just two lines:
David Grayston, preacher
Abraham Lincoln, lawyer
Footnote, that’s all, to a pedigree
whose pyramid of neat boxes has room alone
for my family’s birth dates, spouses, gravesites.
No place for the neighbors’.
Just a stair-stepping, very tidy
from father to child.
A careful sidestepping of the disorderly
waged beyond the boxes:
secession, sedition, emancipation,
In my next row down
hometowns and cemeteries shift west
Joplin’s 1920 census shows
George Grayston, lawyer
lived on Elm Street with
John Baker, preacher
Richard Smith, druggist
Henry Jackson, shopkeeper
Again, I have no boxes for the neighbors.
But they wanted to be nameless
as on that night—
in the interest of the neighborhood—
they pulled on white hoods
and bathed the Grayston porch in torchlight.
You see your children
as plotted constellation,
sort their ellipses around your
self. Solar, center.
When you do it well, they never feel your pull—
just the joyous sling outward, the rapture of ricochet
back past you.
Whereas I am geology
careful watcher for outcroppings
and subtle patterns of erosion.
I favor the subterranean—
told layer after slow
through volcanic interruption
and glacial formation.
I’m not the deepest layer,
a later layer.
You spin them, and they know weightlessness, revolution.
But I don’t mind the weight nor the evolution
since ash becomes obsidian,
and crystals form in cavities
when heat and weight and luck conspire—
and we are geode.