Ukraine’s national flag and national flower — sunflower

Reviews of Why We Left, published by Frosted Fire.

The people in Maeve Henry’s poems inhabit an oppressive world of roadblocks, barbed wire, and desert graves. They are bruised, often desperate but determined to find a life and, in all the bleakness, there is a sense of how humanity can triumph against the odds. Maeve is adept at showing how violence subverts normal human activity. David Lukens

It is a risky strategy to speak in the voices of the marginalised, the dispossessed, but it was a risk worth taking for Maeve Henry in this powerful pamphlet. She achieves the feeling of authenticity through empathy, experience, and craft. Angela France

Despite this pamphlet’s clearsighted depiction of the atrocities of war, the horror of exile and the loss of home, this is a life-affirming and beautiful book, full of hope and faith in humanity. In the final poem, its protagonist writes ‘It was the strangers who carried quiet inside them that saved us’.
Anna Saunders

The Ukraine feature closed for submissions on 15 APRIL.

Submissions are welcome from all poets, wherever located, on the plight of the Ukrainian people and government as a result of the country’s invasion by Russian troops.

You can read the submissions published so far here.

Walking this morning on a hill overlooking Cheltenham we saw children romping in a school playground. We immediately thought of Ukraine’s children, kept away from school — possibly sheltering underground, learning with their parents to defend themselves with guns, or to flee Ukraine without their father.

To submit, you may wish to respond to Maeve Henry’s poetry below, or consider ideas like these:

  • Try to find metaphors that will describe the situation/how you feel/ how someone on either side in the conflict could feel during and after the conflict
  • Imagine you are a child or mother having to cope with staying or leaving — or a man keen to fight and/or scared for his family.
  • Explore why the people of Ukraine are so resistant to the Russian government’s attempt to control their country.
  • Describe incidents of bravery, leadership, help, or empathy that were uplifting.

Maeve Henry‘s poetry reveals the contrast between a refugee family’s story and that of those of us in a society unthreatened by violence. Four more of her poems are here.

Moving Day

Emptied of belongings, our house
is no longer our house. A tear in
the wallpaper has uncovered
layers of lives we never lived.
Your voice, exposed to hard echoes,
come back unnerved. Our feet shift,
wary of dark space under floorboards.
Our boy cuddles corners, will not look up.
He doesn’t trust our happy story –
a bus to his new school, the lovely park –
but it gets him into the car.

He doesn’t trust our happy story –
a bus to a new school, a lovely park,
but it gets him into the boat. I hold him tight,
arms locked against the pressure
of other bodies. The little lifejacket
is cold. I feel his breath jolt
as the engine starts. Waves curl
over layers of debris. Our feet shift,
wary of dark space under the hull.
We labour over mountains till the engine
cuts. A wave pushes like a finger and we spill.

The van stops, unloads. We greet beds
like old friends. Boxes spill their contents
of herb jars and paperbacks, wellingtons
and sofa throws. Our boy snuggles down,
face lost in his pillow, almost asleep.

The lorry stops, unloads us somewhere
behind barbed wire. We have nothing to do
but sit in our wet clothes. The television
at reception shows our boy snuggling down,
face lost in the sand, as if asleep.

Ukraine Submissions

We’re looking for poems that grab our attention, pull our heart strings, leave us open-mouthed or holding our breath, make us think, make us laugh or cry, or are strikingly original. In short, poems that make us want to share them with wildfire words readers.

Submission is free. Poems can be in any format. You may submit one file containing up to 3 poems, each no longer than 40 lines including stanza breaks. Submitted poems must be totally your own original work, in English, and unpublished in print or online, including your own website.
Do, please, supply a mini-biog of 50 words max to be published alongside your poem, and if you like publicity add your Twitter or Facebook handle or personal website. You may also submit an audio recording, made on your phone, laptop, or tablet. If we choose to publish your poem, we will also publish your bio and consider your recording for publication.

Please submit using the form below, which allows you to upload in Word or PDF files. You will receive automatic acknowledgement of your submission within minutes of uploading it . We aim to choose and publish successful submissions within 4 weeks of receipt, so please check back to this feature. You can search for any poet we publish using the Search on any page of wildfire words.

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