Featured Poets, February 2022                     home page
 

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley (poem since removed)       Ann Milton       Carolyn King       Denni Turp       Liz Parkes       June Hall       Lynda O’Neill       Mary Anne Smith Sellen       Patricia Helen Wooldridge       Sue Spiers      

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)  

Ann Milton

After 25 years in Belgium, Ann Milton is preparing for the adventure of returning to the UK, an adventure which will furnish her with more poems as she draws on the daily life of herself and her family.

Not Drowning

Her descent through the water slows,
the threatening storm
no longer pulls her down, even creates
 
her buoyancy. Freed from
helplessness in a downward torrent
she begins to stretch out weary legs –
 
too light a motion to be called swimming, yet
the first sign of hope since the day she heard
her daughter had became her son.
 
The water grows warmer as her body reaches
for the light shimmering through the waves
still far above. The weight drains away
 
and empowers her to rise. She knows
life will never be the same again, lungs
made raw by long submersion, fingers frozen
 
in the unexplored depths: yet she laughs
because the dark fear of this time
has become the strength she needs.
 

Ann Milton

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Carolyn King

Carolyn King is widely published in magazines & with three poetry collections. Competition successes over the last few years include 1st in Second Light and in Poetry on the Lake formal category and twice shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize.

Krakow Ghetto – Winter 1941

is the title of the second track on my Christmas CD;
high on my wish-list – the theme from Schindler’s –
given to me by my daughter, who knows
that Itzhak Perlman’s violin makes me cry
(though she doesn’t understand why).
 
And if there was snow that winter of ’41,
I wouldn’t know – for I was one year old
and safe in England, warmly protected from the cold
by a mother whose major fear was the Blitz;
 
while Krakow infants stiffened at the dried-up paps
of starving mothers crying for Schindler,
and fathers wept for the ghost of a chance
of a place on that compassionate list.
 
My mother told me how the previous winter,
heavily pregnant, she fell in the snow and lay there,
helpless, hoping for a stranger – anyone –
to come along and set her on her feet;
 
while I, her unborn child, rocked back and forth –
rolled like a snowball, cradled like a dream –
my terra firma threatened by a natural force,
her yearning for a perfect baby put on ice.
 
Un-natural forces ruled in Krakow twelve months on
and strangers carried arms – not to assist
but to enforce fanaticism, warming to censure,
turning the gas full-on to fight the cold.
 
I’m the survivor – one who never faced
the unsound rationale that threatened every Jew
caught up by bigotry in that sectarian race:
a child born twelve months earlier than Krakow,
whose father used to play the violin.
 

Carolyn King

Latest publications (available from Carolyn):
Caviare and Chips, Human Writes, 2004, ISBN 0-9531860-2-4, £5.99;
The Reunion, ISBN 0-9531860-0-8;
Lifelines, ISBN 0-9531860-1-6

Woodleigh East
Madeira Vale
Ventnor
Isle of Wight
PO38 1QU
 
tel: 01983-852593
 
Carolyn King at poetry p f
 
e-mail

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Denni Turp

Denni is a Welsh-speaking Cockney writer living in rural north Wales, a green Socialist, a staunch republican since her early teens, a dog rehomer, and a woman with a very long working life (mostly in the not-for-profit community sector) behind her.

Held hard and fast

Thickness of earth between my toes
is not enough, and yet too much.
It draws me down, holds my skin
in such a tight embrace, I’m sound,
the ground my inescapable domain.
Some may wish for gills, a way
to breathe in water, insist the sea
could be their home again. Not me.
I want only air in waves that barrel endlessly
to lift me on the tides of warmth that rise
and let me spread once more my loss
of wings, a mattered memory of glide.
Inside my head I’m always airborne, escaping
every failure felt as astronaut, as kite,
as tiny skimming hummingbird in flight.
 

Denni Turp

poem published in Witches, Warriors, Workers: an anthology of contemporary working women’s poetry, ed. Jane Burn and Fran Lock (Culture Matters, 2020)

e-mail Denni Turp

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Liz Parkes

Liz Parkes lives in Stourbridge, West Midlands. She writes plays, short stories and both page and performance poetry. She has been published by Offa’s Press, Grey Hen and Cannon’s Mouth.

The Coffin Works Wedding

She keeps it close, buried deep, out of sight;
the memory of a long attic room, the giggle
of girls when tight-lipped gossip fizzed hot
on the iron; the hiss of scissor blades as cloth
slid like water across the table; machines
where fat, coned bobbins jumped and jiggled;
those glossy bolts of pastel shades, lilacs, creams,
peach (for darker skins) ̵ and so much white.
 
Each night she hid guilt beneath her smile
folded satin off-cuts, ribbons, lace trims
warm as love letters tucked above her heart;
sealed her lips with a mouthful of pins
a secrecy that shrouded the artful
way death paid for her walk down the aisle.
 
 
Note: The coffin works, now a museum, is in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham. Men made the metal furniture for coffins on the ground floor, women the satin linings and shrouds on the second floor.
 

Liz Parkes

Cannon’s Mouth, quarterly magazine, Issue 67, March 2018;
Sonnet or Not Competition.

Publications:
included in anthologies The Poetry of the Black Country and The Poetry of Staffordshire (both Offa’s Press, £7.95)
and in Grey Hen Press anthologies, ed. Joy Howard: Reflected Light – Responses to the Creative Arts and Lovely Dark and Deep – Poems about Woods.

Address:

 
Tel:
 
Liz Parkes website
 

e-mail Liz Parkes

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June Hall

June Hall is a former Faber editor. Death of her son and diagnosis of Parkinson’s drew her to poetry. Her work appears in Acumen, ARTEMISpoetry and elsewhere, incl. three poetry collections. She co-edited with Dr R V Bailey The Book of Love and Loss.

Uncharted

Your bone-hard mouth, like an open cave,
seaweed stretched over jagged rock-teeth,
gulps at the tide that sucks, in and out,
breathing rough, insistent spray. I hold
your drowning hand so tight blood drains
from it in white waves as if I were the parent,
you the child stranded in nightmare seas.
 
In the wreckage of lost life I don’t know who
or where you are, or if you know me at all.
I too am wrecked, a stranger to this vast ocean.
Muscles tighten and cramp, fearful
at your going, so far beyond my horizon.
Still, I hope my grip steadies you, that you feel
its squeeze, take in my muttered lovings.
 
Here by your bedside I want to call you home
though already you’re panting to push through
the storm’s growl and I’m rowing the wreckage,
one hand clutched to your fleshless claw, trying
to stay up and keep the rhythm of the stroke until
fingers twine around the rightness of your going,
reconciled at last to the distance between us.
 
Dying is a challenging business.
Over the crashing foam I cry out to you:
I’m here. Don’t worry, Mum. I’ll stay right here.
Hours later, though, I break my word and have
to leave your side. You let your grasp loosen
and, out of reach now, sink down alone
to the rock below, the uncharted sea-bed.
 

June Hall

in collection Uncharted

Publications:
Uncharted, 2016, Belgrave Press, ISBN 978-0-9546215-3-7, £9.99
Bowing to Winter, 2010, Belgrave Press, ISBN 978-0954621513, £7.99
The Now of Snow, 2004, Belgrave Press, ISBN 0-9546215-0-6, £7.99
First Sixty: The Acumen Anthology, 2010, Acumen, ISBN 978-1-8731612-3-4, £9.99
Cracking On, anthology, 2010, Grey Hen Press, ISBN 978-0-9552952-4-9, £10

web-pages on poetry p f
 
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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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Patricia Helen Wooldridge

Patricia Helen Wooldridge composes much of her poetry while walking in Hampshire. She has a D.Phil in creative writing from Sussex University and her poems have been published in many poetry journals.

Obituary

     I’m nobody! Who are you?
     Are you nobody, too?    (Emily Dickinson)
 
With herring-gull grey
knitted in to her jumper,
she spent her last years
living by the sea.
 
She could be seen standing
on the shoreline staring out,
even though there was nothing there,
there could be.
 
Hardly anyone noticed,
for she liked to be up at first light
fuelled by the crying gulls,
which never made her think of death
 
but only about being alive.
 

Patricia Helen Wooldridge

Poem published in ARTEMISpoetry, May 2016

Patricia Helen Wooldridge on poetry p f
 
e-mail Patricia Helen Wooldridge

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Sue Spiers

Sue Spiers works with the Winchester Poetry Festival as treasurer and was SIG Sec, British Mensa’s poetry group 2016-2021. Her work has been published in Acumen, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework, Stand and others.

.

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

Stook griiind, stook griiind
                                                the ventilator pulse
extends her life, thrusts air
                                                down her throat
into wizened lungs
                                                Her brain sucks
oxygen for its miserly self
                                                storing it
for her last memory of
                                                Shang-A-Lang
 
 
It robs muscle
                                                so she is still
it thieves liver
                                                so she pees brown
it purloins kidney
                                                so toxins thrive
 
 
Her mobile shrills
                                                Agadoo doo doo.
The nurse answers
                                                ‘Yes, I’ll tell her’
‘The Sassenachs send love’
                                                Her hand on the blue
waffle blanket flexes
                                                Her mouth moues
breathless unsound
                                                meaningless and true
 

Sue Spiers

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da was commended in the Poetry Society’s 2020 Stanza competition

 

Publications:
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, 2023, ISBN 978-1-4475-2676-6
Plague – A Season on Senryu, 2020, ISBN 978-1-7167-0175-6
Best of British, 2017, Paper Swans Press, ISBN 978-0-9931756-6-4, £9
Hallelujah for 50ft Women, 2015, Bloodaxe Books, ISBN 978-1-78037-155-9, £9.95
Jiggle Sac , 2012, self published at www.lulu.com, ISBN 978-1-291-04430-0, £5

Sue Spiers website
 
e-mail Sue Spiers
 
Twitter: @spiropoetry
 

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