The poems below were written by poets commended in the Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award contest 2021. The judges who chose them were led by Angela France, with triage judges David Lukens and Lee Potts selecting a long list after reading every poem. In the opinion of the judges, all these poets have the poetic talent to produce a publishable collection.
Competition winners, Ben Verinder and Maeve Henry have their own pages in this anthology. Later this year, each will have their first poetry collection published by Frosted Fire as an award-winning pamphlet.
Iris Anne Lewis lives in Gloucestershire. She has written short stories and a couple of radio plays (which were broadcast on Corinium Radio). Her work is published in print and online. In 2020 her work was showcased on the Silver Branch Series on Black Bough Poetry. She also won 1st prize in the Gloucestershire Poetry Competition and made her sixth appearance at the Cheltenham Literature Festival as a prize winner. In 2018 she founded Wordbrew, a small group of poets in the Cirencester area, who meet to share their poetry and hone their writing skills.
Bayvil Church in Autumn Light
An interior of ‘delightful and luminous simplicity’
– David Evans
Someone loves this disused church –
the small greystone building,
its roof of Pembroke slate in good repair,
sash windows freshly painted
in cheerful red and cream.
The latch is stiff,
loath to relinquish its guardian role,
but then the door swings open, reveals,
in numinous simplicity of late September light,
box pews, pale timbered ceilings, plaster walls,
small altar, reading desk and triple-decker pulpit,
its sounding board soaring
up as if to reach to heaven.
No stained glass figures, oil-painted saints
nor Stations of the Cross.
This place is for the Word of God,
though none are left to hear
the Welsh that rolled in throats,
invigorated lips and tongues
of minister and congregation.
In the graveyard mown paths
cut through brambles, bracken, nettles,
and weed-rich grass, luxuriant
from rain-filled coastal weather.
Here lies Mary, gwraig Joshua Isaac,
died 1929, 75 years old.
Her gravestone now
embraced by brambles.
Soon it will be smothered.
And there a family group.
Two tall headstones,
tops curved and carved.
William Lloyd, 1871.
Sarah Lloyd gweddw William Lloyd.
And in between the two
a smaller stone inscribed
Catherine merch William a Sarah Lloyd.
Mary, Sarah, Catherine –
their language lost,
how can we know
which one was wife, widow, daughter?
The path winds
tthrough trees heavy with acorns,
damsons, small and wild,
rich red hawthorn berries
and past the only recent plot,
its gravestone square and polished black,
its inscription stark and spare
Patricia Regina Anne Norris
1932 to 2016.
And we are left to wonder
if she was sister, spinster, mother, wife.
And ever called Beloved.
Lucy Cotterill’s poems have appeared in various anthologies and magazines including Acumen, The Interpreter’s House, ARTEMISpoetry and Obsessed with Pipework. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester and has been shortlisted for the Keats-Shelley Prize.
Phyllis used to be so still. Now her arms imitate the pistons
of a train as she tries to drag some meaning forward
from the tunnel of her brain. I’ve lost my…lost my… lost
my words! And she points to the crown of her skull,
which is more of a sketch of a skull, bird-like and oval
with pencil strokes of silver feathered hair. We try to talk
her back, back to her Welsh hill home where everything waits
as it was – each brick put in place by her husband, each child
put in place by her. We talk her to the village, take along the orange bike
that ticks like a dog at her side, but when we get back to the garden,
that’s when her words finally take root: carrots, onions, little Toms
and swede, pot-a-toes, lettuce, cabbage and peas…as the grateful list
goes on, her arms and hands begin to dance about her ears, scatter
invisible seed around her head and shoulders as she speaks.
Ama Bolton is a writer, editor and book-artist and convenes a Stanza group in Wells, Somerset, where she lives with a sculptor and two hens.
let the clock run down
don’t count the minutes
measure the hours in trees
their shadows crossing a field
measure the days in bluebells
and the unfolding of leaves
measure the weeks in dog-roses
and the journeys of worker-bees
measure the months in berries
bottle them in bright juice
measure the seasons in birdsong
in blossom and fruit
measure the years in snowfall
and the deepening of roots
Christopher M James is a British/French poet, based in Paris. Recent poems have appeared in Aesthetica, Orbis, Dream Catcher, London Grip, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Best new British and Irish poets 2019-2021. He has also been widely anthologised and has won several competition prizes: Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral.
I first learn about Relativity
when I flunk arithmetic
or am not picked for the team.
But if they do call my name,
it rings out, as if I’m coming in
to land from orbit. Then,
once a year, the green hills and fields
around our holiday let near Woolacombe
expand Space, lengthen Time.
At daybreak, Jimmy Tremayne
takes me to the deep ocean shore
with his lugworms and vernacular,
shows me how to cast out
as I would for some memories.
When the wind wrestles his hair
into a hint of Einstein’s, my rod
starts to bend miraculously, like Light
towards a whopping new planet.
Frances Sword’s job led her towards writing poetry. As Head of Education at the Fitzwilliam Museum she taught and also organised events such as annual poetry residencies. These brought poets, the collections and groups of people into mutual contact, resulting in electrifying experiences for many, including herself. It all began then and has grown ever since.
Bare branches sway;
a velvet wind
parts the curtained sky.
Through this parting
new light flies, as suddenly
bright as a toddler’s smile.
And “real” comes nowhere near
the ear and eye of it,
the wham bam crammed
dense sense of this
laser lit, sharp bark,
which as I touch it, touches me,
nudging another parting
in far much more than memory.
I sat by;
I stroked your hair,
soft as early dawn.
Your forehead, my palm,
your love, my balm,
our touch at dusk
“Real” comes nowhere near
the tears of it.
Janet Dean has been shortlisted in The Bridport Prize, commended in the Stanza Poetry Competition and her poems have appeared in print and online, including in anthologies by Valley Press, Paper Swans, Templar, and on the Write Where We Are Now website curated by Carol Ann Duffy. She also writes fiction. www.jdeanknight.com
On Sunday, It Might Rain
I feel I know the grass now,
though it’s taken years.
I’ve emerged from a dream
of not knowing where I was,
coming and going, buying tickets,
making plans but not really knowing.
I come and go over the grass
driving a fine spray with a flexible head
like a blind antenna, back and forth
across the lawn. Here, little ferns spread
like fresh green doilies,
periwinkles shiver, daisies sprout.
The mossy underfelt puts spring
in me, I bounce on old Ugg boots,
the best I can do in the absence
of wellies. I’ve got new secateurs
and onion plants, and recycled plastic
milk bottle bottoms and toilet roll innards.
As I spray under the beech
in the woodland chaos, cross the lawn
to catch the overrun of spurge,
I realise there’s more to know
with less about, and catch sight of things
that grow from dormant memory.
The luscious heads of peony will overflow,
bleed on the lawn
like spilt wine.
for Lady’s Mantle, for her capes to rise,
and hold the raindrops.
I Will Take Your Silence As Assent
Weight of everyman, sweat of other men on her face,
on her teeth,
she was a rag doll; poked his stabbing tongue,
jagged teeth ripped against a blooming cheek,
exploding peonies, pink and bloody, swiftly rusting.
Her mind returned to the peonies, pink and bloody,
rusting as the summer inhaled towards its peak,
over before they could absorb the therapeutic heat;
he had brought his sting, described his figure eight
inside her. If there was honey nearby, she might have been willing
to taste it, brought on a waxy platter with sugar words,
but she had turned,
and he crossed the room, smiled his empty greeting,
touched her hand, rubbing his thumb in the pit of her palm,
circled the throat of her wrist, keeping her back.
Her will was leaving when he said, I will take your silence
as assent. He said, I will take your silence as assent.
Centre for the ‘Mentally Handicapped’
Her mother seemed old to me then but was only 43 years older than her daughter, Cynthia, a startling redhead aged 21 who greeted me every week with lively eyes and projectile saliva as she created delectable chaos from the controls of her customised wheelchair. I spent nervous time preparing for lunch sessions, knowing that expressions of distaste and other disquiet would be loudly forthcoming and open only to my limited interpretation. A major breakthrough occurred when marmalade was introduced to the apple crumble, which had a remarkably calming effect on everyone, especially the cook. In the afternoons I spent hours encouraging a silent and tiny dark-eyed child of thirteen to crawl towards me through a padded arch in the soft play area. When she finally managed it, I picked her up and cried with relief. Cynthia, ever the observer, raised her eyes to the ceiling and, a few years later, when I bumped into her on the high street with her mother, looking the same as always, she did spins in her new chair, showing off her upgraded mobility then, speaking my name clearly, she prodded my chest and said it’s ok, you did crumble.
Kathy Finney is actively involved in preserving the local history and dialect voices of her native Lancashire. Her poetry has recently been published in Places of Poetry Anthology 2020, shortlisted/Highly Commended in “A Dialect Poetry Pamphlet” competition 2020 run by Hedgehog Press and online at Words for the Wild in March 2021.
Tide idles from the shore
and dab for sparlings in shallow pools
chittywakes catch thermals drift
a heronsew unfolds pale-grey wings leaps slowly
into a bloom
A steady beat of oars breaks
the low swell
boot heels crunch on scree
raw-throated oaths scour the beach
as Norsemen haul boats out
of the sea’s reach
wipe salt from their irises
‘sken’ a ‘freyr lant’
Yows graze against harvest horizons
their gimmers skitter
across parrocks hassocks past yellowing meedas
of uncut hay
where collies herd them into in-byes
where grass-scented breath of coos rumbles
through the shippon
and Norse settlers sink
their sea-legs in ore-red earth
as they plough sickle cart claim name
*sættlement = old Norse for land claiming, to settle, or settlement;
chittywakes = kittiwakes; dickadees = sandpipers;
freyr lant = fertile land; gimmers = lambs; heronsew = heron; sken = see; sparlings = salmon fry; yows = ewes
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, 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. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.
Fossil hunter 1799 – 1847
They say I am the daughter of a lightning strike,
which threw me into a new way of wonder.
The undercliff roared and rolled last night–
a fair dishing of rocks across the strand
and the Lias full of bones and shells.
I pray in chapel every Sunday for such a fall,
for rain and wind to do the work,
and the days in fret and mud to be worthwhile.
Poor Tray and I dug for hours and found
a long skull, which must surely sell.
The Bible is truth, but not the only kind,
I know these bones will remake the world,
breaking old sureties with Deep Time.
I will send this one to Colonel Birch,
a kind gentleman, who has used me well.
Roger Hare. During time as a bookseller and then community development worker, Roger rediscovered my love for writing. He is grateful to have poetry published online and in print publications and to be a prizewinner in the 2021 Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition. He is on Twitter:
You were born with me, a tilde
in my gut,
so bursting with life you nearly
At Secondary School
you were there again as a squiggle
on an intestinal diagram; an evolutionary
leftover, incidental, but not
to me. You had scarred me
like no other Lover; what
had I done to stir
your temper? What
do we ever do to our bodies
but take life out on them – balance
on the points of their grounding.
Words will not do to capture
the mileage we squeeze from them,
nor is death apparently up-to receiving them;
our indentured souls must travel alone
for that Grand Tour, trust some other
beam to balance on.
Wendy Manning My early life was spent smoking, drinking and hanging out with unsuitable men. I taught at Southend College during the punk era then moved to Leicester to work for its community learning service. Now retired, I live with my partner and grown-up daughter.
It wasn’t much before, but it was a place.
Now they’ve butchered the elder, and a sharp blood smell
seeps from the gold disc of the cut.
Groves of nettle, flecked with insect wings,
are flattened; swapped for clay and soupy gravel.
The line of hawthorns they grubbed up had held
the memory of hedge, the grass snakes’ holes.
A geometry of planks divides the dirt into one man’s plot,
one man’s room, a place to shit in and a place to cook.
Thin new lawn barely covers the worms. Foxes fuck
and scream all night as lights flare on the orange fence
until the dawn – a slit of lemon in the grey-
wakes frantic sparrows twittering, homeless.
Finished, the house stands like a meteor crashed
on foundations of petrified slugs, grubs baked into shale.
Smaller machines adjust to their corners,
laminates have been torn from their rolls, trunks dismembered,
black liquids exhumed, the glitter of rocks crushed and melted into nails.
Ranked on their shelves, the house’s poisons are extracts from
the redness of hills, the white crystal of sea caves.
Your Brother’s Memory Stick
In memory of David Owen
Sam and Dave, Green Onions,
Beatles Mono, Spencer Davis,
Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart..
he picked the tracks that nailed his taste
as a knife thrower chucks knives.
You love them because
they outline the space
he no longer inhabits.