Jennifer McGowan




The Poet’s Wife Delivers a Comeuppance

I tried to talk to you, but
words always stood in the way.
I have to write a poem today,
you explained. It’s about trains.
And that was as close as I got.
So it shouldn’t need explaining
that you have to go now, quickly.
Here’s your hat, your empty case,
your one-way ticket.



Jennifer McGowan obtained her MA and PhD from the University of Wales, and despite being disabled has two full collections and two pamphlets published in addition to her journal publications.

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Paul Connolly





Past foil-wrapped dark liqueurs, cough-mixture sick,
he shins up the tinsel-twisted plastic boughs,
dust musted, under chocolate snowmen, to browse
the halls of elongating sideshow-trick
glass, shaped like upturned teardrops, bells, a pear,
and snake vines of lights, amber, rose, cornflower.

He forages within and finds, wrapped up,
a big brown saltbox cabin, fifties dream
of hung stockings, log fire, chestnuts, huge tree.
He scales that, hails Bob Cratchit, sits at sup
on boar’s head with a king whose festive trunk
is oak. Too soon their calls will spoil things, bunk

like the bunk of desolating January,
the Epiphany’s epiphany: to bear
the year till hope returns. A bursting air,
all filled with Spring’s dilated agonies,
will come, Easter’s neutered, carcass re-birthed
climacteric, final and hopeless, earthed

in the gravid corpus of ritual,
dead summer’s sere incumbent forms,
yet fire in snow is warmth, and snow is warm,
for pure born myth makes winter parable
with warmth, torch-lit tales, bleeding berry-reds
on snow, a swaddled cold, quickening death

like flares through fog, lamps on bare-treed lands,
bright birth, with possibility aflame:
a year away, a year he’ll choke on, fade
throughout and die again. Now, he’ll withstand
within, inside his tree, until he’s called,
their summons into day, and now they haul

him into day, and set him tasks, you mind
the kids, go the shops, get cigs and the paper.
Reluctantly he turns from lights whose caper
he’d controlled and stretched with squints. Half-blind
he stumbles into now, adventive stray:
December twelfth, so warm it could be May.



As well as in Ink Sweat & Tears, Paul Connolly’s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Reader, Sarasvati, Envoi, Poetry Salzburg, and Scintilla. Third in the Magna Carta Competition, he was shortlisted for the Bridport and Charles Causley Prizes.

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Ruth Hanchett




That’s me
After Woman in a Hat (Olga) 1935:  Pablo Picasso.

Woman in a hat, nineteen thirty five,
that’s me, something of a clown off balance
minus the bold red lips, just a squiffy
slit of a mouth set in a crescent moon
of nauseous green and with black egg-yolks
for eyes, pupils staring in startlement.

He has given me a fragile air, topped
with a hat like twinned borlotti beans, purple
on the brown dark of my sculpted hair,
face constrained into angular anguish,
my whole head precarious in sorrow
on a mere point of a neck – yet resting

on pyramidic shoulders rising seamlessly
from the black dress of a queen, no has-been.



Ruth Hanchett uses various poetic forms on a range of subjects. She won the Segora Poetry Competition 2016 and has been published widely as in Artemis and Acumen. Her debut pamphlet Some Effects of Brilliance was published in June 2019.

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Matt Merritt





The precise distance at which
a dog’s bark dissolves
into nothing.

Much further, you might think,
in the snow-soft forests
of Scandinavia

than some dormitory suburb,
or a small town whose sleep
is still measured

by the hourly chime
of a steeple bell. But no.
Some nights, I’m startled awake

by the hack and grumble
of one or other hound
I thought I’d left behind.

Not close at hand,
but somewhere out, beyond,
and impossible to throw off the scent.



Matt Merritt is the author of three poetry collections and two natural history books, including The Elephant Tests  and A Sky Full Of Birds. He lives in Warwickshire.

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Ken Cumberlidge




Too late it becomes apparent

that this is one of those poems
in which the teasingly unresolved title
doubles as the opening line

soon after which, you find you’ve
lost the will to persevere with it,
zoning out and moving on
before you’re halfway in.

A shame, because this means
you’ll never make it to the last bit,
which would halt you, open-mouthed
at its uncanny pinpoint aim:

home in like a smart bomb
on that bunker full of what you
can’t or don’t or won’t remember,
that refuses to be named—

the stuff that got you writing in the first place,

that you’ve been picking at the edges of,
in code, without your knowledge,
one imperfect stanza at a time,
your entire bloody life.



Currently based in Norwich, Birkenhead-born Ken Cumberlidge has been writing and performing his work for 40+ years. Recent work has appeared online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / IS&T / Message in a Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat’s Ass Review / Spilling Cocoa… / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin). For more please click on: Soundcloud and  YouTube


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Sten Rod Ramkhur




The Room Laughed

The room laughed.
“I don’t know why people laugh”
He said.
“The man who used to sit in the middle there
Well he hung himself last week.
This is a serious disease.
I don’t know why people laugh”
Our eyes raise
The roof above white as paper.
We prayed that night 
For the empty chair.
The hanged man.
The sad disease.
The laughing room.




Sten Rod Ramkhur is a previously unpublished middle-aged poet currently living in the Shetland Islands.  They have worked for many years as a librarian across Europe and Asia.

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Matti Spence





There are changes

There are changes I would like
to make and there are those that are

made for me   pay attention to your
heart-beat which appears to happen by itself

– little breath-bows to an  unknown
somehow recognized musician –

and follow the giant skin-drum that floats
above the world to the end you have

desired for it / to that
necessary conclusion



Matti Spence is a poet and counsellor living on the edge of Dartmoor. He is co-creator of Rites to Roam, an interdisciplinary project which aims to explore how artists/poets/musicians connect to land through ritual and prayer. His collection When it comes to letting go of the image is available on Amazon: here



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