Emily Oldham





Love speaks in a manna-song,
one that God might try on

prophets. Don’t guess and tell,
it says. You stumble down and

through the gaping cave, giddy
with self-consciousness and

breathless ephemera. Don’t
ask, says Love. Don’t assume.

So you take nothing from the dark
when you flee, except your voice.




Emily Oldham is a 19 year-old poet from Wolverhampton. She is currently studying English at the University of Oxford. Her work has previously appeared in several literary magazines including Bare Fiction and Myths of the Near Future.

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Robin Houghton




Tying the bowline

Slipped back on itself through the first loop, the rope
forms a round window. You’re halfway in. Slick
as a snake charmer you guide your needle point

to pierce the eye, that tooth-shaped space, as words
unravel me until nothing is real: half-hitch, hangman,
hammock knot, and your unflinching fingers spread

to show your workings. Then comes the twist – like this,
then that, your shape-shift hands have me tongue-tied
to the end and again, and again I miss how you do it.





Robin Houghton has been widely published in magazines. She won the 2013 Hamish Canham Prize and the 2014 Stanza Competition. Pamphlet:  The Great Vowel Shift (Telltale Press, 2014). Blog: http://robinhoughtonpoetry.co.uk/ Twitter: @robinhoughton

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Mark Done




Solar Farm, Sudbury

Two boys balance on a five-bar gate.
Ready for take-off, they lean into a field

where an alien crop has sprung up
among native hedgerows and trees –

row upon row of solar panels supplicate
southwards like deckchairs on a beach.

Behind the mirrors of photovoltaic cells,
an alchemy of light is taking place

and the air hums with electrons
releasing like a bottle losing its fizz.

One boy flings a stone, waits for a hit,
to see if stuff comes oozing out.

There’s nothing more than a tick-tick-tick
as the stone skitters, then falls

among dust-choked wildflowers and cables





Mark Done completed an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University in 2015. His work has appeared in two student anthologies and online at LeftLion, Nottingham’s culture magazine. He was awarded a merit in the Nottingham Open Poetry Competition 2014. Twitter: @markdone1.

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And the first ‘Pick of the Month’ for 2016 is ‘Electricity and void’ by Mike Farren

It went right down to the wire, but we can now announce that January’s ‘Pick of the Month’, and our first for 2016, is Mike Farren’s ‘Electricity and void’. Mike is a freelance writer and ex-IT consultant. He lives near Bradford and has had poems published on the Leads to Leeds website and in anthologies from Beehive Poets, most recently alongside Ian Duhig, Steve Ely and others.


Electricity and void

We are mostly electricity and void
and, mostly, it suits me to believe
matter illusion, time a mystery.
But on this warm-cold night in early spring
you lay your material, electrical void
next to mine, and nothing is important
but the solid and the here – unless
it’s the memory of the breeze that lapped
at our mezzogiorno sweat,
before standing at the window,
looking down on the whitewashed wall,
teeming with insect life,
ready to sing like angels.


Voters comments included:

It’s my kind of poetry. Reminds me of Douglas Dunn; almost Larkin. Very Farren too, no doubt.

One of those short pieces of prose that, as you read it several times, you come to gain a very vivid image of a place and time that holds great personal meaning to, and left an very enduring impression with, the writer. Very uplifting, and I love the final line.

A resonant poem sharing a touching personal moment; what it means to be present and alive to our experience and the world beyond.

The imagery seems familiar but is a challenge. I am hoping that my mezzagiorno sweat also goes when I stand at the window.

This poem has a resonance that I find deeply appealing

It stayed me with for days.

[I liked] the imagery and the sense of life

Captures the pain and beauty of being alive

Mike’s poem captured a very human moment, describing a great feeling of tenderness and hope in a few lines.

The unexpected imagery and the distance it travels.



Comments on the rest of the shortlist included:

Diana Brodie, Happy

Spare and precise expression, moving and surprising, mysterious and thought-provoking.

…it left a mark in my mind which remained with me long after I had finished reading all the poems.


Zelda Chappel, Exhalations

I love the way Zelda takes a relationship & turns it into something tactile – something that gets into your bones

The language, the way it sounds spoken out loud, the flow, the rhythm, the force of it.


Kitty Coles, The Thin Woman

Imagery that instantly grabs attention and is memorable; good robust language.

reminiscent of Sylvia Plath but different and very visual


Daniel Roy Connolly, Des bons mots

Such technical brilliance, such mordancy

‘All things considered takes ages.’ Simply the best opening line I’ve ever read.


Seth Crook, Three Years

Pure and limpid voice, restrained emotion, for me it’s word perfect.

One word leads gently and flawlessly into another, building an intimate world that nevertheless allows me to participate in it. It’s a loving, sad poem that makes me feel warm and loved.



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John Grey




The Brain’s Last Days

Cracked brain, down a backstreet,
side alley, bottom of the dumpster.
The accumulation of years of thought has
broken your spirit Like Hemingway’s,
you’ve had enough and the cold gun
barrel can’t come soon enough.
Memory’s no salve. And the heart
can’t get through that New England
granite. So brain, why waste good blood flow?

And the body keeps lumping you here and there.
Even relaxed bones can’t turn the
old man in the head around. Sit
and comfort attacks. Stand and
muscle sends in the bearded janitor
who speaks little English to painfully swab
those neuron decks. Cracked brain
but the senses keep assigning you puzzles.
What’s the square root of alphabet soup?
Who’s in the strawberry patch with Einstein?

You watch birds fly. Ultimate jealousy.
Why can’t you do that? Strap a pair of
wings on all that thinking and you’d
be in Greenland in no time. And what
about fish? Breathing underwater. Nice work
if you can get it. But cracked brain would
just sink. And you can’t run like gazelles either.
You just sit there like a hunk of meat on a neck pole.
One crack, two crack, three crack, four.
The arbitraries are moving in. Likewise, the
deadly ruminations. Maybe a belfry for
bats could be your best trick. Or storage space
for hallucinogenic drugs.

What’s this? Someone’s asking your opinion on something.
Voices are so damn uncaring.
No brain would treat you this way.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Perceptions and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.

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