Commended poets: Frosted Fire Firsts 2020

Highly Commended

Lesley Burt. After retirement, Lesley completed an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry has been successful in competitions and magazines, including: Tears in the Fence (TITF), The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and The Butchers Dog; also online, including Poetry Kit, The Poetry Shed, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

The Green Man’s mischief

Dreams often show deep forests, silent, dark,
where trees cling fast to earth while overhead
tall branches reach as if to write their mark
on skies above the shadows that they shed.

Their depths may shelter terrifying things:
witches, goblins, the Snow Queen’s icy kiss
a blast of flame fanned by dragons’ wings
demons let loose from Lucifer’s abyss. 

Jack Green knows the kindness of the forest,
its offerings of nourishment and shelter,
how humans seek its kindling, fruit and rest
although his undergrowth may trip them over.

And he knows this: there is no heaven or hell,
only such stories people choose to tell.

Daniel Fraser is a writer from Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. His work has featured in: LA Review of Books, Aeon, Anthropocene, & X-R-A-Y, among others. His poems & short fiction have both won prizes in The London Magazine. His debut poetry pamphlet will be published by ignitionpress in Autumn 2020.  

First Anniversary
for J.

A foolish lunge to Hastings for a Jacuzzi
bathtub and Japanese toilet equipped

with built-in radio, our bedsit B&B
a half-converted love hotel:

all mirrored ceilings, palm tree murals and three kinds
of granola, asbestos thick and chewy as drywall.

Flushed pink and drunk on bubbles we squatted
in the outdoor pool, ankle-deep and under-lit,

crowded with froufrou ferns, the atmosphere
seedy and oxygenated: a plump swamp.

A couple in matching swimwear sidled crabwise
along the shallow pit, eyes secreting

indecent proposals, a whiff of gin
and car keys. We scuttled out in seconds,

back to safe sex and unbranded Cava, hot tub frolics
and long kisses as the toilet hummed out its doleful tune.

We woke blurred and naked to heavy cloud
and broad winds, painted palms now hurricane

portents, bath bubbles a warning of storm waters.
On the seafront we slugged hot chips, blistered

and scraped by pebble rain, scarred sideways, heads
ducking in and out of amusements, hands gripped tight

hoping to weather the thunder, buffed around by
choppy plumes of lightning. On the walk back we met

a grey gull dragging abandoned bags: roast chicken,
Brillo pads and two imported lagers

hooped beneath its blood-tipped beak. Together
we plunged into traffic, cheering him on,

screeching and car horns  mixed with laughter, dust
kicked up in a swirl of crisp packets and dry leaves,

caught in a brutish churn of motion, glad for
someone else to be sharing our good time.

Sharon Phillips gave up writing poetry in 1976 and started again forty years later, after her retirement. In between, she brought up two children and worked as a teacher and manager in post-16 education. Her poems have been published online and in print, and have been shortlisted and commended in a number of competitions, including the Bridport Prize (2017 and 2019) and the Yaffle Prize (2020). Sharon won the Borderlines Poetry Competition in 2017 and was among the winners of the Poetry Society Members’ Competition in November 2018. She lives in Otley, West Yorkshire.


but a shade you can’t quite
name — light through a glass
of cherryade or lambrusco,
rubies, garnets and coral
in a jeweller’s bright window,
a fire’s last warm embers —

the rear lights of cars flick on,
two by two, as the day starts
to fade and you drive west,
squinting against the sunset
that stretches a wind farm’s
daddy-long-legs shadows out
over copper fields, the moon
a pink blister above them.

A Theory of Everything

I’m in a cafe, eating humous
scattered with paprika and chickpeas;
through steamed-up windows I see
that outside the sky is sludgy grey
and people are blobs in wet waterproofs,
faces sucked into hoods:
they look like aliens, come to browse
the upmarket delis and wholefood shops
and though I’ve been trying to draft
another poem about fossils, instead
I think of a story I heard,
about a woman who came to the end
of our galaxy and found a wall
that she touched.

I imagine it’s made of black paper,
pierced with pinholes so it looks
like that starfield screensaver
people used to have on PCs,
and I wonder what if our galaxy is
a program some alien teenager wrote
to set all this going — fossils, people,
chickpeas and everything — now
his mum’s called him down for his tea
and while he’s eating, he decides
his coding’s a bit crap: maybe
he’ll delete the lot.

Lucy Maxwell Scott is currently working on a pamphlet of poems about the life, politics and passions of Rosa Luxemburg.  Lucy has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa, and has had poems published in Interpreter’s House and the Morning Star newspaper. Her poems have been shortlisted in various poetry and pamphlet competitions.

Becoming Rosa Luxemburg

Because she can swing from branches in the Saski Gardens
Because she likes to skip through the rooms of the apartment
Because she was sick and tied to her bed for a year
Because she likes the boy in the yard with the scurvy legs
Because her leg drags
Because she insists on dancing Mazurkas all the same
Because she cannot stop talking
Because she is bright enough to win a place at the Gymnasium
Because her room is full of Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Radishchev
Because her hair is dark, her eyes are brown, her nose imposing
Because she is not invited to the homes of other students
Because her mother is a Jew
Because she lives on Zlota Street with the other Jews
Because she has to hide in the crawl space for 3 days and nights
Because the crowds are banging on the barricaded doors of her apartment
Because she writes poetry attacking the Kaiser
Because she is enthralled by the hanging of 128 men by Muravy
Because she is a Pole
Because she secretly reads the rousing words of Mickiewicz
Because she wears the corset her mother insists upon
Because she fears her sister’s failure to find a husband
Because she longs to rouse crowds
Because she is bone and flesh and fire,
she will bleed into history.


Rachel Goodman is a portrait painter and poet living and working in North Norfolk. This poem is in her pamphlet Look, draw, look. Rachel has an MA in Poetry from UEA. She is published in the anthologies Like the Sea I Think, Writing Places and Field Work, and in Ink, Sweat & Tears. She has been placed in the Bridport Prize, Ver Poets, RedShed, SaveAsWriters, Poem & a Pint and Fenland Journal competitions. Rachel is currently collaborating with another poet on a collection; work from it will be in Magma in November.


it is a kind of annunciation
I am gargoyle-ugly
wouldn’t it be simpler
my angel
in every detail

may it be as you say
to the act

I will force myself to it
 redden and sweat
what if
ends in a wall
 truth is a scrap
what if
but is a portal
 where we screech

I will let the image be
in the space
when I look down
I am making
there has been
 a silver
my space is nothing
it bounces back on itself
and redraws
or almost the same

 I am

I am my own angel
you will be made known
I am sore afraid
to stay half-hidden
in the bushes
you are so perfectly accurate
you will be made known

I submit
of appearing

anticipating failure
as my silks drop to the floor
the narrow corridor of looking
or a creature miserably punched-in
of the joins?
not big enough
this mirror has no silver
to a place
at the wizened?

what she wants to be
I fall
you leave me for the image
when I look up
a tiny shift
like her space
from the same

she is

Barbara Hickson lives in Lancaster and has an MA (Distinction) in Poetry from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Her poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies and on-line journals, and been displayed beside the River Kent as part of 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival’s guerrilla poetry initiative.  She has been placed and commended in several competitions including Magma Editors’ Choice and The Plough Prize.
In 2019 she had twelve poems published in a shared collection entitled Rugged Rocks Running Rascals – poems for complicated times, published by DragonSpawn Press.

The Bothy
(after Esther Morgan)

It’s just as you imagined:
              Hebridean light flooding the room,
                             an ocean breeze rippling home-made curtains.

You love the wrought iron window catch
              curling like a stray tendril,
                             the Lloyd Loom chair, the sea-green dresser.

It’s everything you wanted:
              this narrow path braiding the outcrop,
                             parting the fringe of ochre grass;

this wedge of earth in its rocky cleft —
              nothing ahead but the Atlantic,
                             nothing behind but a field of geese.

It’s what you knew you needed:
              this small, green hut, door thrown open
                             to thrushes and rabbit scat;

this almost-silence
              this inbreath
                             this outbreath

Cathy Whittaker has a sequence of 15 poems published in Quintet, Cinnamon Press. Her poems have appeared in Under the Radar, Prole, The Interpreters House, Envoi, Orbis, Southlight, Obsessed with Pipework, Mslexia, and other magazines. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, won the Southport Writers’ Competition, and runner up for the Welshpool Poetry Competition. Her poems have been published in #MeToo A Women’s Poetry Anthology ed. Debra Alma.

The Fleapit

On rainy
Saturday afternoons
we went to the matinee
bored twelve-year olds
sinking into tub seats
in the back row
with boyfriends in tow
shy arms creeping round shoulders
furtive kisses
in front of the looming screen.
I remember nothing
about the films
but I liked the faded flock wallpaper
with gold bits
and maroon seats
wrapped in worn material
and the drama of the velvet curtains
opening when
the music boomed out.
That was the best part.
The world was there waiting
outside of Whitehaven,
and rain and fells,
somewhere else
gold and glamorous    
but not for the likes of us,  
schooled in domestic science
and woodwork.

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