Featured Poets, Dec 2023                     home page
 

Alwyn Marriage       Anne Boileau       Deborah Harvey       Helen Ivory       Julie Sampson       Lynda O’Neill       Mary Anne Smith Sellen       Pauline Kirk       Susan Jane Sims       Viv Fogel      

You may also wish to listen to poem recordings that have been added to our (small but growing!) digital archive. We have poems there by:
 
Nadine Brummer, Daphne Gloag, Gill Horitz, Mimi Khalvati, Lottie Kramer, Gill Learner, Gill McEvoy (read by Anne Stewart), Maggie Norton, Jennie Osborne, Elizabeth Soule, Jill Townsend, Marion Tracy, Fiona Ritchie Walker, Sarah Westcott and Lynne Wycherley.
 
Select and listen here               Poets of the Month (other dates)  

Alwyn Marriage

Alwyn Marriage has been a university Philosophy lecturer, Editor of a journal, Chief Executive of two international NGOs and is now Managing Editor of Oversteps Books. Her poetry and non-fiction are published widely and she reads in Britain and abroad.

La Matelote

the restaurant was called la Matelote,
– the same word as le matelot
but ending in an ‘e’
and therefore feminine.
 
We debated what a female sailor
would be called in English
other than, of course,
a sailor –
 
‘fish wife’ hasn’t quite the same
éclat: shore-bound and down-to-earth,
she scolds her husband
wipes scale-covered hands on bloodied apron;
 
‘sailor girl’ sounds
far more jaunty, even saucy,
a jolly sea shanty of a lass
who’s good at knots, but lacks maturity;
 
a ‘woman of the waves’, though cumbersome,
has a more romantic ring,
laid-back and offering
her ebb and flow, her undulating curves.
 
In our minds these women all
transmogrified into a mermaid,
sea-born and always breaking free
like words for which there’s no equivalent.
 
Consulting a dictionary to check
the latest addition to our French vocabulary
we found ‘la matelote’
simply means ‘fish stew’.
 

Alwyn Marriage

Poem published in French Literary Review and ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 6

Publications (a selection):
Possibly a Pomegranate: Celebrating Womankind, 2022, Palewell Press, ISBN 978-1-911587-61-3. £9.99
Chiara, ebook, Cutalongstory, 99p
Pandora’s Pandemic, 2021, SPM Publications, ISBN 978-1-9162263-7-1. £8
William Harvey’s Visitor, ebook, Cutalongstory, £1.99
The Elder Race, 2020, Bellinghouse Books, ISBN 978-0-9930443-1-1. £10
Rapeseed: Following rape – a novel, 2017, Stairwell Books, ISBN 78-1-939269-51-5. £10

Alwyn’s web-site
 
e-mail Alwyn

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Anne Boileau

Anne Boileau writes poetry about the natural world, the environment, history and her friends and neighbours. Her pamphlet Shoal Moon was published by Grey Hen in 2016. Her novel Katharina Luther – Nun. Rebel. Wife. came out in 2016.

Ghazal: The Memory of Bronze

Within its very substance dwells the memory of bronze.
Smiths at Giza treadling giant bellows forging bronze
 
Two small pyramids back to back, the size of a cricket ball.
Hold it like a seashell, you’ll hear craftsmen beating bronze.
 
Eight sides, eight faces: each displays a different attitude,
But every face and attitude tells the ancient tale of bronze.
 
It waits upon my windowsill, imbibes the heat of the sun,
Within its core remembering well the alchemy of bronze.
 
Take copper with a hint of tin or arsenic or zinc:
You have the stuff of resonance, church bells cast in bronze.
 
Before men thought to write things down, they extracted, analysed
And fired up fearsome forges, smelted ores, created bronze.
 
She weighs Gill’s sculpture in her hand, senses gravity.
Anne has travelled to that Age when Man discovered Bronze.
 

Anne Boileau

This poem was written during a collaboration with Mosaic Stanza in Colchester; eighteen visual artists were paired up with eighteen poets. My partner was a sculptor called Gill Southern. I was responding to her bronze sculpture titled From Fire

published in Stone’s Throw – art from poetry poetry from art, ed. Karen Dennison,
2016, Mosaic Stanza, mosaicpoetry.wordpress.com

Publications:
Katharina Luther – Nun. Rebel. Wife., 2016, Clink Street Publishing, ISBN 978-1-9111106-1-3
Shoal Moon, 2014, Grey Hen Press, ISBN 978-0-9926983-2-4

e-mail

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Deborah Harvey

Deborah Harvey lives in Bristol and is co-director of The Leaping Word which provides writing, editing and counselling support for writers exploring personal material. Her sixth poetry collection, Love the Albatross, will be published by IDP in 2024.

Oystercatchers

     ‘Aujourd’hui mamon est morte’      ‘L’étranger’, Albert Camus
 
One day
the day she’s been waiting for will come
 
and she’ll take these words with her to the sea
unzip her coat, pull open her ribcage
 
let them fly as purposely
as oystercatchers
 
pulling the strings of the sky
and tide
 
lifting the weight from each blood cell
giving her permission
 

Deborah Harvey

Oystercatchers won the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem Competition;
published in The Shadow Factory, IDP, 2019

Note:

Publications:
Learning Finity, 2022, IDP
The Shadow Factory, 2019, IDP
Breadcrumbs, 2016, IDP
Map Reading for Beginners, 2014, IDP
Communion, 2011, IDP

Website: The Leaping Word
 
e-mail Deborah Harvey

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Helen Ivory

Helen Ivory, poet and visual artist; sixth Bloodaxe Books collection Constructing a Witch (2024). Editor, webzine Ink Sweat and Tears; poetry tutor, UEA/WCN online; work translated into Polish, Ukrainian, Croatian, Spanish and Greek for Versopolis.

The Fainting Room

When they laced me tight this morning
my body split asunder.
Clouds heaved themselves across my eyes.
 
Nobody heard the crack of rib
or witnessed the small moth of my soul
slip from my mouth.
 
All day I felt the separation so keenly,
yet the household continued about me
as if unaltered.
 
When Nell came to dust the parlor,
I feared for my soul – my little ghost –
settled on the mantle.
 
At dinner, my soul watched from the wallpaper
as I raised the soup spoon to my lips –
there wasn’t space beneath my corset for a single bite.
 
I rose to reach my hand out
but her wings blurred ash.
I felt the table and the diners fall away.
 
I awoke inside this little room
to find the doctor had been summoned,
with his new, mechanized instrument.
 
My binding had been loosed,
the doctor applied the treatment
until a paroxysm possessed me.
 
I breathed deeply of the whole earth.
My soul flew into my open throat.
My husband dropped some coins into his hand.
 

Helen Ivory

from The Anatomical Venus, 2019, Bloodaxe Books.

 

Publications:
Constructing a Witch, 2024, Bloodaxe Books
Wunderkammer: New and Selected Poems, 2023, MadHat Press (USA)
The Anatomical Venus, 2019, Bloodaxe Books
Maps of the Abandoned City, 2019, SurVision
Waiting for Bluebeard, 2013, Bloodaxe Books

Helen Ivory website
 
e-mail Helen Ivory

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Julie Sampson

Julie Sampson’s poetry is widely published and she’s been listed in various competitions. Her collections are Tessitura, It Was When It Was When It Was and Fivestones. She researches and writes about the lost history of Devon women writers.

We are hooked

by the tips of twigs in the linhay-field hedge.
She reels us, reels us in.
 
We, her ladybird t-shirted children
slip inside, fit snugly in the hollow
of her branch-nest bower,
swaddled in the coil of her moss-lined palm.
 
A chattery congregation, tiny twittery finch,
a dormouse, the rarer fritillary –
all pitch in with the chit-chat
of marginals, telling us how much she loves us.
We are her traveller’s joy.
 
Afraid of losing us
she lathes, then swashes our faces
with her wild-rose leaves,
 
her willows brush our long-hair tangles
and in the ambient whispers of sweet nothings
we lull to sleep in the canopy’s swing-harmonies –
backed by harps of hawhorn, beech, ash.
 
Knowing we are hers
we lie on our backs on her oak-leaf bunks
conjuring the scene –
 
Nancy and Peggy
at the helm
negotiate the Amazonian storm.
 

Julie Sampson

first published in Dawntreader in collection Fivestones, Lapwing Publications, 2022.

Collections:
Fivestones, Lapwing Publications, 2022, ISBN 978-1-7391642-7-0;
Tessitura, Shearsman Books, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84861-239-6;
as editor Mary Lady Chudleigh; Selected Poems, Shearsman Books, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84861-048-4

Julie Sampson website
 
e-mail

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Lynda O’Neill

Lynda O’Neill was born and brought up in Portsmouth. She lives in Winchester with her husband and has two children. She has been published by South, Poetry Nottingham International, Iota and The New Writer.

Double English

Her flowing clothes were always black –
never a twin set. They swished as she
patrolled the corridors,
crunching Polos and tutting.
She had high frequency hearing
and an x-ray gaze behind her
spit-on-the-brush mascara.
Other teachers wore no lipstick
or played safe with dolly mixture pink.
She favoured an Edith Piaf gash.
 
As we suffered Assembly on canvas chairs
she sat with the Catholics in the Library.
More laughter than scripture, they said,
and a bottle of Gordons in her bag
with its crocodile snap.
 
We’d known our place since the age of eleven
but she thought we deserved her best.
‘I’m going to have a bash at
Middle English with this Chaucer,’ she’d say.
Next week her ice blue eyes
would rock’n’roll with warmth
as she smacked her Revlon lips
over a chapter of Pride and Prejudice.

Lynda O’Neill

Poem published: South 37, ISSN 0959-1133

Lynda O’Neill at poetry p f
 
e-mail

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Mary Anne Smith Sellen

Mary Anne Smith Sellen’s work has been recognised in both national and international competitions, also widely published in print and online. She was longlisted in the 2023 Indigo Dreams First Collection competition.

Autumn Leaves

     (For Louis MacNeice)
 
A tree always knows when its leaves have passed their season,
slips them off unobtrusively, lets the wind spirit them away.
Suddenly, all that’s left is a row of empty hangers.
But tricks of memory keep fleshing shapes, expecting colour;
absence is itself a form of presence.
 
A spider will fling a single silken thread up into the breeze,
wait until it’s caught by a distant, beckoning branch,
then make an unperceived escape across the chasm of the night
to wake gleaming, in the shrouded autumn dawn.
A dying star within a star, fallen from the roof of the sky.
 
The language of last roses still faintly resonates with love,
heads down and eyes averted, a promise never quite fulfilled.
Yet just enough remains to save a hibernating heart,
their message breathed through barely parted lips –
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
 

Mary Anne Smith Sellen

Published in Wildfire Words online anthology on the theme of Leaves and Leaving.

e-mail Mary Anne Smith Sellen

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Pauline Kirk

Poet and novelist Pauline Kirk lives in York. She is editor of Fighting Cock Press, a member of the Pennine Poets group and on the editorial board of ‘Dream Catcher’. She also writes the DI Ambrose Mysteries with her daughter as PJ Quinn.

‘Horned Animals, Mesolithic –
     – possibly handles’

In Maltese heat
three terracotta heads
challenge through museum glass.
Noses tilt, eyes appeal,
yet each is no bigger
than a fifty-penny piece.
 
Who fashioned you? Who
took clay six thousand years ago,
to fashion your exact ears,
slender horns and throat?
Each neck hints a missing handle
now crumbled back to dust.
 
Did you decorate jars
for a god, or perfume for a bride?
My mind shudders
beneath the weight of years.
My ancestors crouched in caves,
but they carved horses’ heads on bone,
 
still beautiful.
I turn to safer displays,
but a question nags on.
What of our time will amaze,
when the silt is cleared,
six millennia gone?
 

Pauline Kirk

Poem published in Pennine Platform, no 79, 2016;
in collection Time Traveller (see below)

Publications:
Time Traveller, Graft Poetry, 2017, ISBN 978-0-9558400-9-8, £8.50
Poetic Justice: A DI Ambrose Mystery, writing as PJ Quinn, Stairwell Books, 2017, ISBN 978-1-939269-77-5, £10.00
Thinking of You Always: the Letters of Cpl. Hill 1941-1945, Stairwell Books and Fighting Cock Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1-939269-36-2, £10.00
Border 7, Stairwell Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1-939269-25-6, £10.00; also available as an Audio Book: Amazon Audible, 2019, ISBN 978-1-939269-72-0, £22.00 or Audible subscription
Walking to Snailbeach: Selected and New Poems, Redbeck Press, 2004, ISBN 1-904338-15-1, £8.95

Pauline Kirk website
 
Pauline Kirk at poetry p f
 
web pages Pennine Poets
 
e-mail

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Susan Jane Sims

Susan Jane Sims lives in Dorset with husband, Chris. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. She founded the publishing company Poetry Space in 2010.

Bearing Gifts

A friend
has brought you
a book called Mortality,
by Christopher Hitchens.
The friend is a father,
almost twice over.
I could not think of anything
more appropriate

he said.
 
Another brings scrabble
and we play
on the end of your hospital bed.
On the white sheet you helped
the hca draw and tuck,
and demonstrate your skill
with hospital corners.
 
I find I have the letters
to spell tumour,
Instead I put down m o u t
up against h from hope.
 
A group club together
for expensive whiskey,
wrap it in pink tissue
you carefully peel away
like skin. You can imagine the sips
of liquid gold on your tongue.
Making it last.
Wondering who or what will
outlive who or what.
 
These days
have been surreal.
Secrets have been passed on
for you to guard.
Your hand has been held
through a long and wakeful night.
You have been told a hundred times
that you are loved.
 
The staff bring you every report
and test result. Offer to show you the scan.
call you respectfully, Dr Sims
and you wish yourself
into the role of blissful patient
with faith and blind trust.
What’s done can’t be undone.
What’s learnt becomes both curse and blessing.
 
First morning alone you ring
I’ve been writing
my best man speech for Dave
, you say.
What’s he going to do without me?
What are we all going to do
I say
without you in our lives.
 

Susan Jane Sims

My son Mark was diagnosed in February 2015 with Stage 4 metastatic cancer in lung, liver, spleen and gall bladder. It was also discovered later in his brain and his tonsils. The primary cancer was a malignant melanoma on his scalp when he was 15.
 
Mark died on 19th January 2017 aged 28.

published in Reach magazine in June, 2015. (edition 201)

Publications:
Splitting Sunlight, Dempsey and Windle, 2019. ISBN 978-1-9074357-9-9
Irene’s Daughter, Poetry Space Ltd, ISBN 978-0-9565328-2-4
A number of things you should know, Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-9093576-8-6

Susan’s Poetry Space website
 
e-mail Susan

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Viv Fogel

Viv Fogel is an integrative psychotherapist and an artist. Her poems have been published in anthologies and magazines since the mid-70’s. From 1980-82 she was one of the Evettes, a performing poetry quartet. First collection: Without Question, (Mandaras Publishing 2006).

Notebook

My daughter enjoys the safety of lines,
but I prefer the blank page, to dive

and spiral bird free in a cloudless sky.
She cuts paper into delicate shapes,
 
pastes petals, turns butterflies into collages,
begins again if there is one mistake.
 
I splatter words like Pollock onto clear canvas
and smudge, rub holes in paper, stain and tear.
 
My daughter bathes in milk, soaks in Carrib sun,
paints her nails as bright as her imagined future.
 
She perfects her dress, her look, takes time,
whereas I, careless, will wear the same for days.
 
She emerges at last, silky in a swirl
of turquoise, pink ipod, humming out of tune,
 
as I wait for her in the afternoon’s heat,
my hand’s shadow on the filling page.

Viv Fogel

Publications: Without Question, Mandaras, 2006. ISBN 0-9544730-5-1. £10

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