Angela Readman

 

 

 

Warkworth

The pelt drags me across sand like a drown animal.
I walk miles, eyes fixed on Birling Carrs, a lime light
of seaweed and coal. Birds nesting in cliff face ,
a chorus stuck in a skull. I didn’t know what was here,

buried by tides. I almost missed it – a packet of pills
at nineteen, another at thirty, yet I’m here.
Salt-slapped and grit toothed, sea glass in pocket,
a blister pack of rock pools in my hand. I kneel

to the fur of pondlife, stroke dulse- a strap
bright enough to tie me to this moment alone.
The sun steals a peek of itself laid on the ground.
I sit with it a while. Lichen observing me breathe,

water and shadow a snakeskin boot on my feet.
Snippets of rock pipits popped in my mouth,
I suck an almost song and head back.

 

 

Angela Readman is a twice-shortlisted winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Her debut story collection Don’t Try This at Home was published by And Other Stories in 2015. It won The Rubery Book Prize and was shortlisted in the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She also writes poetry, and her collection The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in 2016. Her first novel Something Like Breathing will be published next year.

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Jenny Hope

 

 

On becoming a bee

Choosing when was difficult. What time of year?
Winter could get me five months or so, if you were lucky enough
to make the cut, to be spent mostly in the hive. Bee Hygge?

Honey-scented? I’m over romanticising. It’ll be clustered
together for warmth. And besides, these bees aren’t Danish.

Spring to summer might be best, a six-week stretch,
but I’ll pray for decent weather. I’m reliably informed
I can go in at cleaner level – (accreditation for prior learning they called it).

My children wanted to know – Why?
Children always do – especially when full-grown.
Why? Because my job here’s done. You don’t need me now.

I tell my children I have to work my way up before I get outside.
Cleaning, nursing, building, guarding – “Oh you’ve done all that already.”
I know, (but marvel how they do actually remember this)

“You’re old enough to do it for yourselves.”
They’re not impressed. “I’ll always be your mother…”
Of course I’d let them watch the process of me becoming bee.

God only knows they’ve seen the worst of me already and besides
they need the closure.

Will it hurt? What will happen? What will you do?
They’re still asking the “why?” My heart buzzes.
They look unsure.

“When I do get out…” “You’ll look for us?”
“Yes…” they’re happier now. “What else will you do?”

“Oh…I’ll have to learn to shit mid-air. They both thought this funny
especially when I told them I’d get on-the-job training.

So the day came. We went into the garden. Yes, the sun was out,
a warm mid-spring day. I wouldn’t see the sun for a while.

“Here’s where I turn myself inside-out.”
I pause for effect, and to lighten the moment.
“ and I officially become hard-arsed.”

A dandelion clock rolls between us.
“Mum…” My daughter’s hand holds mine.
My son catches the clock.

 

 

 

Jenny Hope is a writer, poet and workshop facilitator. She lives on top of a hill in wildish-Worcestershire. Her websites are www.jennyhope.co.uk and www.poetrymaker.co.uk

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Clive Donovan

 

 

White Blues

The icebergs float in stately queues
Cracked off from a continent fringed by blue.

Come close, the boatman says,
You can tap them, make them speak.

We drift by nearer, scraping moiré ice
And I strike the giant block and it trembles with song

Deep and groaning with great hollow voice,
Recollecting aeons of winter and snow,

Its flakes compact and densely crushed;
Frozen and firm, this antique slab.

Tight bound, for now, in bright orange mesh,
Throbbing engines launch its brisk northern dash

To the harsh and thirsty melt-lands of Arabia.
Mournful sea lions flap goodbye,

Penguins slipping off like oiled fish
Scramble back to their unstable shore.

 

 

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon. He has had many poems published in poetry magazines including Agenda, Acumen, Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat & Tears. He has yet to publish a first collection.

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Ali Whitelock

 

 

the cumquats of christmas past

you hailed your taxi tuesday the eight––
eenth of february 2014 at four twenty seven p.m.
i watched it approach swerve to the kerb
its back doors fly open––if this was death i saw it
crouched behind the wheel & jaded as a night
shift driver full of red bull & no doz & cheap 7/11
coffee ten thousand cigarette butts spewing
from its ashtray’s filthy mouth
the driver bundled you in––no fanfare
no prayers no bach cantata sung in sotto voce
that might accompany you on the fresh black
tarmac of your new road ahead––& nothing
soft for you to lay your head on
just a cracked vinyl seat stale cigarette
smoke a strawberry scented christmas tree jiggling
like a tea bag from the rear view mirror. i lay my
hand on yours leaned in whispered something like
i’m sorry made sure your pyjama sleeves were clear
of the door before pressing it closed as the first
bubbles of fermenting sadness rose in me
and i forced them down like cumquats into a jar
filled with brandy in preparation for christmas
which was still ten months away & for weeks i kept
cramming till the skins of my cumquats tore
their flesh bled out & you could no longer
tell where one cumquat ended & another
began
& when finally christmas came i half
decked my halls whispered infrasonic compliments
of the season too low even for a passing whale hung
empty stockings from the mantle their gaping mouths
speechless by the un-kindled fire & when finally
lunch was served & those of us left were gathered over
turkey & ham i took my jar of preserved cumquats
from the dark of my pantry, made my way around
the table & heaped everyone’s plate with a side of my
compressed orange grief.

 

 

Ali Whitelock’s poems have been published in several magazines and journals. Her memoir, poking seaweed with a stick…. was published to critical acclaim and her poetry collection, and my heart crumples like a coke can will be released in 2018.

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Joanne Key

 

 

Mrs Winter Comes Home

A whisker above zero, she appears
on Slaughter Lane. Glass-winged
in the glow of fairy lights, she falls to Earth
as a dark, silk slip of a thing, drifting in,
soft as baby breath. Poor lamb.
Her body pools on the floor
outside the Christmas Factory door
where she hardens into the dark mirror
we daren’t look into. At sunrise,
I watch her come alive. Bright eyed,
she sharpens her icicles into knives, polishes her hooks.
Some folk try to chase her away.
They glove up, crack their knuckles
and salt the lane, and counting the days,
they shudder at the thought of her star-flecked
footprints on the factory path,
a sackful of feathers left on the step.
The factory steams day and night, spewing
warm light from its windows and tinsel
from its chimneys, but still she slips in
through the systems – a constant lowing that moves
through the pipework, refusing to be bled out.
Poor cow. She hasn’t got a clue who she’s dealing with.
As glitter fills the air like blossom,
her fingers tighten their grip on me. I creep down
to the cellar and open my chest for her.
Come now, blue wisp. Feel free. Fold yourself
into my cold storage, sleep
with the dead meat until it all blows over.

 

 

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire. Her work has been published online and in print and won prizes in competitions including the National Poetry Competition, Charles Causley, Prole and Bare Fiction.)

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Alexandra Citron

 

 

Let Streetview take you home for the holidays

Hitching a white arrow up Saffold Way
the trees are all too tall. It’s garbage day.
The blue door to the old house stands ajar
but should be orange and the street wider
where in summer small feet ran over searing
asphalt for a dare. The birch in the front yard’s
gone with the brown Toyota and begonia beds.
A man in shorts is heading to go in,
his chores complete. I shadow his retreat
back to the kitchen on his left. Ahead
the L-shaped room and stairs, perhaps a cat
scratching the corner of a chair. You are
outside on the balcony, let’s say,
just out of sight, calling us in from play.

 

 

Alexandra Citron was born in Washington DC and moved to the UK at 12. An editor by day, she is a Poetry School student, member of the Blue Side Poets and published in Mslexia, Visual Verse and New Boots and Pantisocracies. @AlexaCitron

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Devika Basu reviews ‘Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral’ by Kiriti Sengupta

 

“I consider poetry my existence”— it is indeed a revelation on the part of a poet who has coined chiseled words from the depths of his heart to present this poetic trilogy, Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral, a genre quite unique in literature. The book takes us into a world of subtle nuances, where the ‘sacred’ and ‘ephemeral’ unite to make a complete ‘whole.’ My Glass of Wine is full to the brim and we, the readers, drink the elixir “to the lees.” With his subtle strokes of brush, Kiriti Sengupta transports us to a world where the concept of divinity is definitely multilayered. “I drank it first/ right after I was spiritually baptized” — the concept of Christian baptism and Tantra, the drinking goblet of Christ, red wine and ‘somarasa’ — all these images are in perfect consonance with the poetic fervor of Sengupta’s well-researched work.

The poetic journey goes on and the poet makes the readers feel the agony of crucifixion, which is bloody, and thereby makes the color symbolism more appalling to the readers: “They pinned it before, and will do that now and again…/ No arrangements of incenses though!”

After having dwelt on a world of colors, and reflecting on the awakening of Kundalini (spiritual awakening) with a view to “unveil the mysteries of life,” Sengupta enters into the realm of profound philosophy with a candid incantation of scriptures, where human beings are presented as trees, as embodiment of the reversal. He writes, “Reversal demands practice of the principles that lead us towards truth or realization.” This is, in fact, an introspective journey into the human psyche where Sengupta has heard the sound of the ‘unheard’ in “all works imperishable.” This is a realization of not only the poet, but also of a very sensitive human mind, where we can hear ‘unheard melodies’ from within.

Sengupta has also dealt with the reversal of the so-called concepts of sex and sexuality. Sengupta has raised some pertinent questions regarding the transgenders, Lara being the mouthpiece. The story of betrayal, her desire and the aversion of the society towards homosexuality, lesbianism — all these burning issues bear a poetic resonance in the mighty pen of Sengupta. “You will call it fetish, I guess … I need some cologne as I step out of my home … odor that is mine … physical … deceptive.”

Sex and sexuality are the areas rarely discussed within the arena of family members and this self-imposed taboo often bears perilous consequences. While reading the poems in the trilogy, the readers might be reminded of the overtly sexual references:

 

I have matched my lips

With the highs of your water

As you flowed joy

The Sun has dared to surface

On your mirror playing both

A she, and a he toy.”

 

Sengupta himself has labelled some of his poems as ‘omnigender’ and has put into question the traditional orthodox ideas about sex and sexuality.

How is society related to literature? Is literature a mirror of the society? Sengupta has tried to answer these questions, referring to the recent conflicts and the vested interest of the war-mongers, which is in sharp contrast to the “dharma yuddha,” a struggle for justice as envisioned in The Mahabharata; and The Gita bears ample testimony to the fact. Therein lies the dichotomy of existentialism, depicted by the author.

In Healing Waters Floating Lamps, the concluding part of the trilogy, we discover the myriad hues of poetry, a journey “beyond the eyes,” with images of the holy Ganges, Varanasi, where “water is not the fire-extinguisher.” Evening descends in Varanasi as a symbol of meditative, serene landscape where flames ignite to utter words of devotion. The ‘floating lamps’ are resplendent with life and the images of ‘fire’ and ‘water’ add to the grandeur of the poem “Evening Varanasi.” In the concluding part of the trilogy, we come across some intimate details which owe their origin to the Wordsworthian concept of poetry as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Sengupta pays tribute to his mother with such clarity of diction that we, the readers, are simply mesmerized: “I have seen my mother preparing Ghee out of milk/ She never used butter/ To clarify it further.” Sengupta has focused on the diversity of human life, moments of rapture as well as the pain of separation: “Not all rivers succeed to unite.”

An intuitive mind unravels the mystery of creation, the concept of ‘nothingness’ where the human body is confined within a ‘cage.’ The essential paradox of human existence depicted by Sengupta clearly reveals his profound knowledge of Indian philosophy.

 

The womb carries water — so do your eyes

Water builds the fetus

That becomes ‘I’

 

Sengupta’s confession is utmost here — the agony and ecstasy of creation portrayed in unequivocal terms. The deep-rooted sorrow, a sense of loss and bereavement touch the poet: “Few beautiful scratches deep within/ Soft marks, palpable even after months/ No wounds, but tiny scratches brown/ Soothing, mesmerizing in between.”

Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral is a poetic journey which enthralls the readers throughout; the temporal and the eternal converge within the poetic metaphors. The ancient scriptures, the Holy Bible are revered by Sengupta with proper diction. This poetic trilogy makes us think — we delve deep into the world where ephemeral becomes timeless and nothing is transitory. Even there is a positive note to enjoy life after death! Poetry is the alma mater of Dr. Sengupta and he has nurtured his verses with utmost care. As we go through his verses, we have an insatiable hunger to read more and we tend to build a bridge between poetry and life. As Sengupta started with an anecdote of Shesher Kobita, I may conclude my notes with Tagore: “Antore atripti robe/ Sango kori mone hobe/ Shesh hoye hoilo na shesh” [There will be a feeling of dissatisfaction/ Having finished/ We will feel/ This is not the end, but more to come].

 

Order your copy of Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral (Hawakal Publishers, Calcutta) by Kiriti Sengupta here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dreams-Sacred-Ephemeral-Kiriti-Sengupta/dp/9385782630

Devika Basu is a high-school English teacher, bilingual poet, translator and a lover of Spanish literature. She loves to explore the hidden treasures of different literary genres, with a special focus to poetry. Her published works include three books of poems. Her pen scribbles the diverse aspects of life and she loves to face the challenges of life. She has traveled extensively and she would like to walk across the inroads of life with poetry.

 

 

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