On the Twelfth Day of Christmas we bring you Terry Quinn and Emma Simon




On January 3rd

I will pause
as I usually do
before cracking the hard cover
and checking whether my birthday
falls on a weekend
and then some random stuff
like how many cubic centimetres
equal a cubic inch
or the currency in Sweden

and so meander onto
a blank white page
which is of course
the first day of the year
which will remain blank
as will the second
except for the note
that will read

see previous year

which I hope will be annoying
when I want to check a fact
in decades ahead
when I’ll curse myself
as I usually do
for not buying the damn thing
in mid December
before hibernation settles
like snow in impossible villages
on cards I will soon take down.
It’s Kroner by the way.




Terry Quinn worked in the NHS as a Medical Engineer before retiring in 2012 to concentrate on writing. His collection ‘The Amen of Knowledge’ won the Geoff Steven’s Memorial Prize, he was runner-up in the BBC Poetry Proms 2014.




Christingle Oranges

This is the time of year
we trick ourselves into belief:

a stained glass light
that slants a winter’s afternoon,

a boy holding an orange
which fills the deep belly of the church

with a strange flickering.
My children are old enough to know

it doesn’t snow in December
but they persist in disregarding forecasts

to taste the porous air for signs.
This is the only time of year I sing,

lungfuls of sentiment, like a warm front
driving darkness northwards, for a time.


Emma Simon was selected for this year’s Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring scheme. She’s been published in various magazines. She won the Prole Laureate competition in 2013, and was recently commended in the  Battered Moons poetry competition. She lives in London.

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On the Tenth Day of Christmas, we bring you Julie Hogg and Ariel Dawn


Man in a Red Hat on a Promenade
After Girl in a Red Hat on a Promenade by L.S. Lowry

The Stray Café,
on your year’s first day,
is open for new business, it’s
accepting accents and tolerating glyphs,
this pop-up soiree consists of any plausible forte,
from Sacre Coeur to San Jose, Port Lligat, Redcar,
Cadaques, gale-force genius on the wings of an ornamental
wrought iron weathervane, montage in a sandstorm, is your kilter
on a crash course through magnetic North? Fling off your fedora, rest
your beatness, kiss me, eat, with Caravaggio clientele at the last sea-view seat.




Julie Hogg has work published in Literary Journals and Magazines including Butcher’s Dog, Clear Poetry, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Proletarian Poetry and StepAway. Anthologized by Appletree Writers, Ek Zuban and Kind of a Hurricane, she is featured in a chapbook, ‘Dark Matter 2,’ from the Black Light Engine Room Press. Her pamphlet collection, ‘Majuba Road,’ is forthcoming in April 2016 from Vane Women Press.




The Wind Some Spirit

There was a black out. The wind some spirit, it flew through the tower, rooms illuminated by candles and snow, some ghost who moaned, blowing papers and bedclothes and curtains. The snow rushed between wall and window, then melted on the floor so we fell (entwined, he was the hero, I was the storm) and others fell, with howling and joyous revelations: lady of mead and ecstasy, druid of the sea-caves, boys of smoke and visions. We danced in all the darkness above. And in the morning bells rang out and echoed, our first holiday.




Ariel Dawn lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Her work appears in places such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Litro, Flapperhouse, great weather for MEDIA, Vine Leaves, Ambit. She reads and studies poetic prose and Tarot and writes a novella.

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas, we bring you Sarah James and Laura McKee




Midnight strikes London’s moon face,
the new year cheered in with a sip
of sparkling wine, and time’s old friends.

Forty years of Auld Lang Syne in our bones,
we dance and laugh as our great-grandparents
danced and laughed, as our children

will come to jig and giggle.
Their youth now pours our fizz then
through faster-flowing veins: ghosts

in every bubble, every bubble
a gasp sharp with life.



Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer and journalist. Her latest collections are plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press, 2015) and The Magnetic Diaries (KFS, 2015), highly commended in the Forward Prizes. Her website is www.sarah-james.co.uk and she runs V. Press.




shall I call this waiting for snow

snowflakes formed in clouds
usually take about half an hour
to reach the ground

be ready for them
wear diamond tread soles
spread bicycles out on patios

let them take on another interesting shape
before they melt

if only to soften their fall
know they are coming
offer your tongue




Laura McKee hasn’t put the sprouts on yet. In other news this year, she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and nominated for Best Single Poem in the Forward Prizes. She also had a poem chosen to be on a bus for the Guernsey Literary Festival.

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On the Eighth Day of Christmas, we bring you Ruth Aylett and Susan Jordan




“And Lo! The Angel of the lord came upon them..”

It wasn’t like that. Summer stars
not winter, the stir and mutter of
the flock, some grazing, some asleep.

I lay in the warm night, breathing
the bruised smell of cropped grass, the
dry pepper of garrigue scrub.

Nor was it singing that roused me
perhaps a bright folding in the stars
or a silver aurora come south.

I saw neither heads nor hands though
a slow wing-beat echoed in my head,
bat-high music vibrated my bones.

My sheep heard better: their panicking
mill of woolly bodies and legs
made a scramble down the mountain.

Where the flock goes the shepherd
must follow, feet sliding on scree
bare shins scratched and prickled.

And was it a message? Then not of birth.
My ears still ring with the warning
of time running out for this small Earth.




Ruth Aylett lives in Edinburgh where she teaches and researches university-level computing, thinks another world is possible and that the one we have is due some changes. She has been published by Envoi, Bloodaxe Books, Poetry Scotland, Red Squirrel Press, Doire Press and others. For more on her writing see http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/





Christmas Tree

I put it up earlier than usual
my plastic tree that saves real ones
from being cut down, its harmony
of red and gold welcoming you
into my home. I thought you’d like
the dangling fairies in sexy red,
the painted star, the flowered globes,
the cross-eyed elephant. I put up
paper chains, arranged my cards
along the piano, started sorting
the piles of junk left from the last time
a visitor roused me to tidy them.

And I knew, so when you rang,
voice soft with trying not to hurt,
a stone dropped smoothly to the bottom
of a pool that had already filled.
‘That’s all right’ – the necessary lie,
our quiet good wishes, your unconvinced
‘Maybe another time.’ The welcome
folded in upon itself as I stood,
hand on the hoover, doing things now
only for myself. I’d see you later
at a party that wouldn’t be mine.
You’d only said you might come.




Susan Jordan writes both poetry and prose. She has had poems published in a number of print and online magazines, including Obsessed with Pipework, Prole, The Journal, Snakeskin, The Poetry Shed, Clear Poetry and  I S & T.



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The Seventh Day of Christmas, we bring you Carole Bromley and Joanne Key




after Dennis O’Driscoll

I am in Stonegate
expecting to meet you at 4

You are in The Shambles
expecting to meet me at 4

I have shopping bags that lengthen my arms
you have Jonathan on your shoulders

It’s Christmas and I’m Dreaming
blasts out from Ye Olde Starre Inn

In Giovanni’s doorway a busker sings Jingle Bells
flat cap at his feet

It is five past four
and no sign of you

It is five past four
and no sign of me

You may have forgotten your watch
I may have bumped into someone

You may be in A&E
I may be under a bus

A White Christmas
is on a loop

The busker has been moved on
flat cap on his head

You have got the front door key
I have got the supper

We must stop not meeting like this.




Carole Bromley lives in York where she is the stanza rep and runs poetry surgeries. Her second collection, The Stonegate Devil, was published in October 2015 by Smith/Doorstop. Currently judging York Literature Festival/YorkMix competition. www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk

(this poem is published in The Stonegate Devil)




Watching Tai Chi in the Park in December

She casts her spells
under weeping trees.

Look down.
You landed here by chance,

lured by the festive glow
of a ruined bandstand,

caught up in a honeytrap
of peeling paint and decay.

You both come here
to comb the air for ghosts,

but only her hands
have learnt to say,

Stop. Don’t leave me. Stay.
Christmas creeps in

and you must be content
with nature’s way

to balance the books.
Watch how she fills

her pretend envelopes
with love letters

written in breath,
then slits the air,

posts them nowhere.
Her body knows instinctively

when to let slide,
when to side step,

when to push, let slip,
and when to line up

all the open doors,
in order to gently

kick them shut. She turns
the key, locks you out,

leaves you behind
with your black dog

chasing its tail
and the crying babies,

as her own body relaxes
back into the glory

of the fall of summer,
the slowing spin,

gently moving emptiness
from one place to another.


Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her poems have appeared in various places, online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas we bring you Derek Adams and Julie Maclean




The Devil Makes Work

The bouncing bomb Superball
missed the enemy Action Man,
the day after Boxing Day, to snap
a scarlet leaf from Mum’s poinsettia.

Sap bubbled from the break
white as PVA adhesive.
Hiding the leaf, I wiped away
the evidence, nobody noticed.

Later, prising a second leaf
from the plant, to check I’d seen
what I’d seen, to see once more
its milk white tear appear.

I returned, again and again,
took a penknife to the stalk,
watched fascinated
as the tiny drops welled out.

I remembered this on a hot
August night, years later,
the first time I drew a red line
across my arm with a Stanley knife.



Derek Adams is a professional photographer. He has an MA from Goldsmiths in Creative and Life Writing, and has published three poetry collections Postcards from Olympus, Everyday Objects, Chance Remarks and unconcerned but not indifferent: the life of Man Ray



Chicken was Golden

There is order here
 between laminate
and wood veneer

 knots in the heart
winding out in this
theatre of roasting pans.

Prepare for the sacrifice and
in the depth of field
acres of embroidered cloth
to keep us pure.

It’s homemade everything.

But this home has settled
in an unsettled place.

Lights are never still
but flick the switch

to a table of nine
clicking knives and forks

clucking tongues and party hats
-ghosts from my past,

now down to one    solitary mother
plus the empty chair
of my never returned nor forgiven.

Julie Maclean s third collection Kiss of the Viking (Poetry Salzburg) was published in 2014. As joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize, (Indigo Dreams Publishing), When I Saw Jimi was published in 2013. Her work appears in places like Poetry (Chicago) and The Best Australian Poetry (UQP). www.juliemacleanwriter.com.


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On the Third Day of Christmas we bring you Lesley Quayle and Sally Long



Christmas Morning – Wharfedale.

We had to travel early along deserted lanes,
the mist a gauzy cloth on fields and river,
light thawing, promising little but a milky drift.
Ghost trees harnessed the fell, frost rigged,
quicksilvered, cutwork on the iron sky.
The tops, ice-laden, unreadable beneath
a smeared wash of cloud.

You stopped to photograph the frozen woods,
the river, stalled by scales of ice, stiff reeds,
as if from a glass blower’s crackling pipe.
Cold drove you back, stamping, to the car,
your breath, lung-fog.  Home, you said.
The road ahead a constellation of sleet.



Lesley Quayle is a folk/blues singer and poet, living and working in deepest, darkest rural Dorset.




The Door

There is no door.

How then to make an entrance?
Perhaps a dramatic appearance;
enter angel stage left,
maybe flying in
through the open window,
or else strolling,
from the garden,
surprising her as she sits
at peace on the portico.

But there is a door.

One essential entrance,
the threshold and boundary
between two spheres,
where space is shrunk,
time and eternity
collapsed into one,
the passage between
earth and heaven
flung wide open
by her words.




Sally Long has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East London and is a PhD student at Exeter. She has had poems published in magazines including Agenda, Haiku Quarterly, Ink, Sweat and Tears, London Grip, Snakeskin and has work forthcoming in Poetry Salzburg Review. Sally edits Allegro Poetry Magazine and is a member of Ver Poets.

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