Vote for your January 2017 Pick of the Month

2017 brings with it insecurity and uncertainty and our January Pick of the Month shortlist, in part, reflects this as we look to the displaced and the vulnerable. The shortlisted works can be found below  (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for January 2017’ in the Categories list to your right on the screen)

These have been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting is now closed.

The winner each month will be sent a £10 book giftcard or, if preferred, a donation of the same amount will be made to a chosen charity. In the event of the winner being from outside the UK mainland, we will make every effort to provide a reasonable alternative.

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Emma McCourty

 

Human Luggage

A grey Huddle descends:
Hilda and Beryl roll the tide forwards
Although the wave is
sedate and unsure

Chris grabs Ben’s hand
off to the side
needing a friend

Bernie thinks there’s something stuck
to Joe’s right foot
Should he tell him?
He remembers when he had cheek

Head up, face front
Carl thinks
Quietness is power, see and be seen
Loneliness rattles in his pocket

They departed the rural climbs
for an urban descent
leaving and arriving the same day
Parted hair unruffled from
the stuffy train

Names on luggage tags
swing from necks uncreased from age or sleep
un-morgued bodies labelled
for delivery

From scuffed knee, to long sock
from satchel to carrier bag
They smell of the unknown
Its dust drifts from blazers
lingers, and fogs the air

Unitedly un-united
They journey and arrive
Somewhere
Letting go of Mum’s hand
holding a strangers name

 

 

 

In 2010 Emma McCourty‘s chapbook; Everynothing, was published by knives Forks and Spoons Press. In 2013 one of her poems ‘A view from the Top’ was published in the Sculpted anthology by Northwest Poets.

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Roddy Williams

 

 

you have to eat
she cries if i do not eat
so i eat the breakfast
i eat the clouds, i eat my words
letter by letter
scooped with gravy onto a knife.
i eat a sandwich she’s prepared
and the plate.
i eat some lunch.

in the evening
we eat a chicken together
and i eat the local paper and the stars
slowly chomp the stories about
a newsagent and a sex scandal.
i eat an ice cream
and i eat through time
chewing it like an awkward baguette.
some supper appears
during ‘the apprentice’.

then i eat the night with chopsticks
but there is so much of it i swap them for
a spoon.
too full to sleep i lie awake
and eat the tears
one by one
as they crawl under the door.

 

 

Originally from North Wales, Roddy Williams lives and works in London. His poetry has recently appeared in The North, Magma, The Frogmore Papers, South Poetry and other magazines. He is a keen surrealist photographer and painter.

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Thomas Ország-Land

 

 

The Stones of Jerusalem

1.
Arrival  & Departure

–In memoriam
György Timár

Oblivious to his grandson – a gift! –
absorbed in a birthday book,

my timorous brother lifted his eyes
to the Mediterranean sky.

The stench of burning human flesh
eternally clung to his own.

Persistent hunger whipped him crazy.
The death he’d escaped filled his life.

He clenched and raised his fist towards
a distant, friendly sky:

For Your own sake, my Lord, I take,
I take… You do not exist.

2.
Heirloom

My father taught me to die,
when I must, like a human being.
My mother taught me to trust
and sing like a human being.

And a boy and a king, alone
with a stone, a sling and a harp
has left me the chutzpah to try

to hone and sharpen and fling
each thought and word and line
beyond the confines of time
that bind a human being.

3.
A Feast in the Garden

   – For George Konrád

Worried, what with his women and walls and wealth,
poor Solomon wisely bade a scribe to describe
the lofty lifting – like the sun – of depression.
A bestseller from the past!… well worth a review.

A wretched start: There’s nothing new under the sun.
The women are fickle. The flowers bow to every wind.
The men are tyrants or servants or fools, and even
I might die – outrageously under the sun.
 
…Even the women will, and the flowers, and you.
These walls might crumble in time. We must return
into being dust or rain or hillside or thunder,
whatever our desires under the sun.

How dreadful. Still, this hour is mine, while it lasts,
enough to complete my poem among the flowers
rejoicing in my loves and our never recurring
lives as human beings under the sun.

4.
At the Press Club
 
You’re here to feed your pension and tension.
I’m chasing a soaring bird – the truth.
We are not even friendly rivals.
I covet neither your fancy title
nor your impressive, official hat.
I am a writer. I couldn’t be more
than that…  though I could be, I could be, less.

 

 

 

Thomas Ország-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from Jerusalem and London as well as his native Budapest. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust(Smokestack/England, 2014), and his last E-chapbook, Reading for Rush Hour: A Pamphlet in Praise of Passion(Snakeskin/England, 2016).

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Amy Crosby

 

 

 

Broken

He was a reassembly job. A fixer-upper. A jigsaw puzzle. At first I tried with stitches while he slept; my mother had taught me how to sew when I was a little girl and I knew all the different patterns but none of them held. He shuffled free from the sheets beside me each morning looking like a man but, by the time he came home, his heavy shoes had torn his ankles, his helmet, lopsided, perching on the semblance of his head, had ripped loose my careful backstitch.

His eyes were the hardest to fix. Every night, he took them out and left them by the side of the sink, not wanting to see anymore, and we lay in the dark, two strangers side by side, never touching, never speaking.

But I loved his eyes the best. They were like two deserts; full of stormy sand and reddened by the sun. I didn’t mind what they’d seen. I still remembered the first time they’d ever looked at me and filled me with some of that burning warmth. My mother was wrong in her tuition; sometimes cotton wasn’t thick enough to rebuild a man.

I went to classes that taught me how to plaster. It was hard at first not to let the sloppy paste cling to my arms but I worked at it until I could get it smooth and then, one by one, I plastered up the fissures that were tearing him apart.

One night, I stopped him from taking out his eyes. I eased the plaster deep inside the sockets and held him together in my arms until, at last, rain fell on those deserts and washed away all of the things that had made him crumble.

 

 

Amy Crosby lives on the south coast of England and has been scribbling away since a young age. Her work was  featured in MUSED – the BellaOnline Literary Review and has won several local competitions.
Twitter: @red_little_rose

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Martin Stannard

 

The Houseplant Advisor

Following my own old advice I have put the first part
of this, i.e. the part that came out first, at the end or,
to be more precise, near the end. And it’s not always
first idea first place though often it can be if one is able later
to apply objective quality assessment procedures to the first
dribbly emanation of what may prove to be, if the world
owns any justice, a pleasing breakfast diversionary read.

Now that’s out of the way, I’ll get on with it, for you are
I’m sure all ears. Or eyes. Today’s topic is “Houseplants:
Are They Worth The Tears?” My own feeling, if I may make
so bold as to come right out with it, is to echo sentiments
first uttered when the world was younger than it is now
by one who knew what it was to live the life of an emperor
whilst nurturing the belief that all woes are Nature’s way:

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180). “Do not waste the remaining
part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you
are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common
good.” Oh, perhaps that’s not as apt as I first thought. How
about this: “There is a river of creation, and time is a violent
stream. As soon as one thing comes into sight, it is swept past
and another is carried down: it too will be taken on its way.”

My parlour palm is suffering, though I know not from what
as the leaves turn brown and dry and eventually drop from
what the manual describes as “a plant almost impossible to
kill.” As ever, the chances of being allowed to wipe the slate
clean and start over are slim to none. You can don a new
nail varnish if you want to but that’s about as far as they’ll let you
go. People are so demanding. It’s not that they want to like

you it’s more that they don’t like it when you act in a way
they don’t like, as if it’s your job to keep them happy
and not disrupt their world or break the glass of the greenhouse
in which they propagate their never-ending annoyances.
I didn’t know I was born for other people’s ease and pleasure
yet here I am, all learned up and nowhere to go tonight:
I kind of wish I hadn’t spent so much on this dress.

 

 

 

Martin Stannard’s poetry and criticism have been widely published since the late 1970s. His most recent collection is  Poems For The Young At Heart (Leafe Press, 2016). Website: www.martinstannard.com

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Rachael Smart

 

Waiting

At Swanpool
the sand is Demerara sugar
a dark heart floats: cocoa
on a cappuccino scurf.
Out there, the horses break
relentless, Shire hooves kicking up
pasts. Fairy lights string
the ships in, a bistro siren
big on gratuities and gulfweed.

The sea has taken a pea-green boat
and my son out with it,
he is only a dot. It isn’t that
I don’t trust his father’s rowing, only
his feet don’t touch the bottom.
I see goggles – lost
a midnight vigil
tiny rib bones
hooked on a rock.

 

 

 

Rachael Smart has a thing about words. Her short fiction and poetry has been published online, in literary journals and placed in competitions. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Nottingham. She writes best when the pencil loses its point.

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