Will Birkin

 

 

 

Small Waters

You’ll find me in
small waters, with my eggs
like eyes and eyes
like two gold
watches, handless
as my green and almost body:
coalesced by a will
of weeds.

It’s a liminal life,
knowing just enough
of one and the other:
with my long flat smile
at the water line,
I view solid earth,
and the empty blue,
eyeing the sharp-faced:
slitherers too.

 

 

Will Birkin lives in Ely, runs a community farm in Haddenham, is a member of the local stanza group and regularly attends Fen Speak (Ely’s spoken word evening).

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Aishwarya Raghu

 

 

 

A Poem about Frost

Swan resting
on an empty lake: white
but for the lake. Blue
but for the swan.
Winter will set in
from the
leftmost
corner of the lake.
Eagle swan.
I can no longer
tell bird from bird.
When winter sets in,
the swan will be trapped
left foot down.
Things will change. Moss
under snow. Earth
under moss. A scuba diver
would be trapped underwater
if the lake were the sea.
Lonely diver
with the left foot
of the swan for company.
The swan will fly. Bird
will turn into bird.

 

 

Aishwarya Raghu is a 26-year-old content writer from Bangalore, India. Her work has previously appeared in magazines such as the Louisville Review, Glass Mountain Magazine, aaduna, and Vayavya.

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July’s Pick of the Month is ‘He grows’ by Maxine Rose Munro

Voters loved the spareness – ‘concise and succinct’ – and ‘the absolute enormity of restlessness conveyed’ through the poem’s structure as well as its language. So for these reasons, and more, the excellent ‘He grows’ by Maxine Rose Munro is the IS&T Pick of the Month for July 2019. Huge congratulations to her!

Maxine is a Scottish poet who writes in both English and her native Shetlandic Scots. She is widely published in the UK, in print and online, including Ink Sweat & Tears, and her work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Find her here www.maxinerosemunro.com

 

He grows 

I gave birth to Restless, and oh how
he prowls this house, testing, testing
the strength of my walls. Pushing
at limits to find weaknesses he
stores for future use, careful
with his words. He knows
soon will come his
time, not mine.

I gave birth to Restless
and, oh! how he grows and grows.

 

Other voters’ comments included:

A simple encapsulation of what every parent goes through as they realise what they’ve brought into the world.

I like the abstract/personification ‘Restless’ moves through the poem. I also enjoy how the word lends itself to more than one significance in the context of the poem.

She captures a feeling of anxiety associated with restlessness in so few words. Spare. I like spare!

Her alliteration captures attention

An interesting way of exploring this topic.

How clever to turn the poet’s own restlessness into a third-person (male) entity to complain about, whilst acknowledging that she created the condition herself. And I love the poem’s concision.

I knew exactly what the writer was saying.

I love this poem, lots of lovely tension, it verges on eery for me. A snapshot in a big story.

For me, it captures the vitality and curiosity of a spirit that can’t be constrained.

The structure and language of the poem really gives strength to the feeling of restlessness.

It intrigues me. One of these hauntingly beautiful poems that leaves me wondering if I see the same as the poet in its words, or are we divided by a common language. Wonderful.

Her poetry is so fixed in the real emotions of everyday life.

The poignancy and relatability of it

A poem about the other self. I liked the layout, fretful lines getting shorter and then growing uneasily.

Her poems take me into my dream world

an instant connection from the first line

instant and vivid

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Juliet Humphreys

 

 

 

Talking to Monet

People, I tell him. I can see people:
shadows, black-burnt, threading
their way between trees — and there,
behind, Parliament rises
like a cathedral I’d say
though I’ve not the faith of it —

so, something else then: a hand,
wanting air
as if, all this time,
the earth had only held it safe.

It is all so new, I say,
the colours are so quiet:
how you’ve infused grey with blue
so it seeps into clouds — or out —
I picture the blue
as a kindness.

There is more?
Yes, but this will sound silly —
(No, he says, go on)
it lifts my heart. Look, I say,

how the barest hint of red traces its way —
like a vein — across the sky; it is alive.
He nods, I feel it too.
And the water, what of that?
I could quite believe, I say,
that the water breathes.

 

 

Juliet Humphreys has previously had poems published on Ink Sweat and Tears and also in The North, Acumen, Orbis and The Rialto. She has also recently completed a novel. When not writing she teaches in a special needs school.

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Clare Crossman

 

 

 

Ward D9

(For Linda and Helen)

We are a murmuration of rose-ringed parakeets,
plumed in our floral nightdresses, flashes of colour.

Turning our heads sideways to catch each other’s
eye, as we rise and fall on our beds unable to keep still.

The nurses visit us for our inexplicable laughter
and ability to talk. Having taken the swoop,

and arrived here by escape or accidental release,
we are still on the loose: perching,

wisecracking,
from a source not quite understood.

We did not choose this, me and the other
two women who delight in answering back.

Neither victims or heroines. On this cancer ward
between the sheet changing and the drips,

we remain, flightless, piratical
look down from the windows, shameless

still hoping for air and spreading our wings.
From deep in our feathers we mutter:

Give us a chip! Turned out nice again!

Pieces of eight, pieces of eight.

 

 

Clare Crossman lives outside Cambridge. She has published four collections of poetry with Shoestring Press Nottingham. The most recent being The Blue Hour ( 2017) She is working on her next collection.

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Nick Browne reviews ‘tutti frutti’ by Konstandinos Mahoney

 

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41cAjexTK4L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

 

 

Konstandinos Mahoney’s debut collection fizzes with joie de vivre. Though it doesn’t flinch from the difficult, even the tragic, it’s sexy and life affirming: rich in sensual detail, acute, precisely, expressed observations all underpinned by a wry wit. In Ladyboy ‘A woman’s face and form, bar one small detail,/smooth legged she strides along the Silom Soi.’ In Night Market ‘mosquitos hum and whine, a soft voice purrs,/”Girl sir, want girl? Young girl? Boy Sir? Opium?”’

Tutti frutti  jostles with memorable personalities; their multilingual voices subtly conjured  or directly present in the text. There’s Aunt Aphrodite: ‘Mum’s spoons start disappearing./she’s stuffing them down her drawers,” dad says;/In her defense, I say, “she doesn’t wear any” (Aunt Aphrodite); the woman speaking with ‘martinet briskness,’ (Ring, Ring); the Reverend Doctor ‘how empty the bottle has become/how he’ll fetch another one. (An Evening with the Reverend Doctor); the child whose ‘words sprout in her mouth like milk teeth (Six Hundred) and the crazed voices of Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England “et nunc et semper, amen” an owlish friar drones/(while taking selfies for his Instagram)’

 

Mahoney’s geography is equally specific and vividly conveyed: ‘a council flat off the Lillie Road,’ ‘ a grand house in Kononaki’, ‘the dark Mekong’, ‘the slopes of Canlaon Vulcan,’ ‘In Montreal our hostess, gives a Gallic shrug.’ Such details  evoke both a powerful sense of place and an awareness of the transience of experience: the poet is one place then another. The world of this collection is broad and the poet seems to share an adventurous restlessness with his mother who in Athena Nike  ‘… conjures Smyrna in flames, flight to Alexandria, Athens in the occupation, liberation,/civil war, and English soldier, love, London, me,’. Here, Mahoney’s use of a list helps to telescope then expand time within the poem.

 

Elsewhere, repeated emphasis on single details distils the essence and striking singularity of events, people and places so that they live on the page. Mahoney implies, with great economy, a vibrant sensory hinterland within each poem: in The Alexandrian the eponymous hero has ‘ sex with sailors, waiters, stevadores,/muscled torsos, alabaster,/ideal bodies, olive skin,/mechanic’s grease, sweet jasmine’. A merchant seaman passes stalls: ‘With pomeo, pak choi, bitter melon;/shops stocked with jars of fungi, penis/horn…’ inn Aberdeen Street. In Maenad ‘she sets off tout de suite in triple time/Bourree, valeta, mazurka, tarantella’ a line which itself trip sat a dancing pace. This technique is nowhere more successful than in  After access where Mahoney’s use of the concrete creates both humour and pathos through careful juxtaposition: ‘an abandoned sandwich/small crescent bit/[…]/spell in a bucket/yipped down the sink/man on sofa/stiff drink’

 

The poems shift in mood and tone but are unified by Mahoney’s sharp eye for the absurd, the telling detail and the incongruous. In Ladyboy ‘ She lip-synchs Whitney at the Colosseum,/The songs she sings to me are out of tune,’.

Vampire Madonna ends ‘ Once, on a Greek island, I saw a woman call her son/from the sea, “Kostaki! Kostaki!”/He waded out, balding, pot-bellied, hair-chested,/and she wrapped him in a towel and led him away.’

 

These are poems in which Christmas tree are amputees, ‘Stripped bare, peg-legged, balding,’(Twelfth Night,) where bees are ‘Bright as soft chips off a tiger’s back’ ( Beeze,)

where Cherry blossom ‘Comes sudden as ecstatic foam/that blooms on epileptic lips.’ It is a collection full of unexpected turns as well as poems that tremble with desire and loss.

The earliest poems  in tutti frutti deal with burgeoning sexual desire then move on to familial relationships, death and the loss of relationships. Emotion is measured, often ambivalent but all the more powerful for that:

 

‘Holed up in his room, the son,

Too scared to get close,

To look upon in an iron god in rust,

Wary of unknotted tongues,

The crippled tenderness

That still might show.’

(Death of Poseidon )

 

‘He gave me my values,’ she whimpers,

Dabbing moist eyes,

Next morning, they leave –

Earlier than planned.

 

Car turns the corner.

Gone.

(His Values)

 

tutti frutti is as affecting as it is exuberant, the writing as meticulous as it is surprising: a scintillating  and powerful debut.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Nick Browne has taught creative writing at Oxford University ( Continuing Education) Arvon, the British Council and a number of other universities. In addition to publishing short stories and poetry, Nick has published nine novels with Bloomsbury.

Order your copy of tutti frutti (SPM publications by Konstandinos Mahoney here: http://www.spmpublications.com/shop/tutti-frutti-konstandinos-mahoney.html

 

 

 

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Chris Johnson

 

 

 

Talking to myself – at The Great Exhibition, Crystal Palace, London 1851

‘ A barometer filled with leeches
in a bottle of water; fancy that’.
I almost felt a bullet singe me
from one of Samuel Colt’s newly

minted revolvers. Queen Victoria
looked eloquent in a green floral
dress although Albert trailed stiffly
behind her as usual – such German

thoroughness he could have been
locked in a straitjacket. Seed drills
and spinning machines – whatever
will they think of next ? T. H. Huxley,

hairy as an orang utan stood gazing
at a llama. Irritable men with beards –
I swear each could offer camouflage
to a nest of thrushes jostled me through

cannon fire and bombardment as if
The battle of Waterloo had reoccurred.
They feed paupers on bits of pastry,
leftovers from the aristocracy

and landed gentry. The boys and girls
circle like piranhas dumped in The Serpentine.
A woman wearing a bonnet drinking gin;
I heard her chuntering loudly about how

one day man would land on the moon.
To contemplate a person could possess such
a crazy idea. Her teeth were yellow. Pity
Bedlam is already overflowing with the insane ‘.

 

 

Chris Johnson has had poems in Orbis, Other Poetry, The Journal, Seventh Quarry etc

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