New haiga: Welcombe Mouth by Rachel Green

* Rachel Green
is a writer and novelist. She
starts every day walking her dogs and writing poetry – and has also
started 'tweeting' an early morning haiku from her Twitter account – you
can find her here

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Three short poems by Ingrid Andersen

It is a risk

To open up words,
unfold them to paper.
Found vowels,
hidden sibilants
chosen plosives
change shape
on a page.
(From Piece Work)

The succulent winter melon

The succulent winter melon
lay halved
before us,
seeds brimming its middle.

How do the birds get to the seeds? you asked.
I suppose it must get broken, answered I.
(From  Piece Work)
Excising the pain
Words coalesce
out of confusion and despair
escape onto paper.
Dark sharp characters
slice deep
to cleaner meaning.
(From Excision)

* Ingrid Andersen was born in Johannesburg, read for a degree in English literature and film and theatre criticism at Wits and is presently completing her Masters. Her work has been published in poetry journals for 16 years. Excision, her first volume of poetry, was published in 2004 and her second, Piece Work, was published by Modjaji Books in September.  She is the founding editor of Incwadi, an online SA journal that explores the interaction between poetry and image. An Anglican priest, she works in human rights, healing and reconciliation.

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Rose Morales says 'How was I to know?'

The Fall

How was I to know?

He told me he was driving
to the mountains; a short
climb to breath clear air and
revel in the change of seasons.

He said how he loved the brilliant
colors; he waxed melancholy
at the coming of the chill, that lonely
feeling when the year approaches end.

There were cliffs where you could
touch the eagles, he said; a place
to leave it all behind, soar like falcon
flight when you felt your life adrift.

“Will you take a lunch?” I asked.

Replying that he wouldn't need one,
he waved, and took off down the driveway,
(I waved right back, unconcerned)
not knowing I'd replay the Fall
in Technicolor slo-mo until end of days,

for how was I to know?

* Rose Aiello Morales is a 53 year old poet living in Miami, Florida.  She resides with her wonderful husband Alex, her annoying mother-in-law and 7 adorable cats.

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Pam Thompson has wanderlust


I met her in a bar, a small woman,
in a red sleeveless sweater
and a Laplander's hat with strings hanging down;
a hat that looked like yellow wax.

We were different, yeah, but almost the same.

She asked me for a light, didn't even smoke.
Asked me for a light, whispered in my ear:

Come with me to the harbour.
Come with me to the wide open sea.
I'll take you to the island.
You can hear the sea-birds scream.
I'll take you … to the island.

Then sang a song that slashed at me
like knives.  I looked into her eyes.
She looked into my eyes. A song
like glass mountains cracking.

She wore a rucksack of mud.
I turned to mud
then she carried me on her back
down a river of roots and veins.

We were different, yeah, but almost the same.

She carried me on a raft
propped up by owls that looked like rocks
with eyes and shoulders.
Underwater owls.
Yes, I clung with arms and thighs
to another woman's back on a theme-park ride
with glass mountains rushing past.
A theme-park ride; a river howling.

We never reached the island.
The owls all died. The mountains turned
to ice and melted , pitching us
through falls of freezing water.
We were different, yeah, but almost the same.
One travelling: the other drowning.

* Pam Thompson has had poems published in a range of anthologies and magazines and has written to commission. Her pamphlets are Spin (Waldean Press 1999), Parting the Ghosts of Salt (Redbeck Press 2000) and Show Date and Time (Smith-Doorstop 2006). Her recent collection The Japan Quiz is published by Redbeck Press. Pam is one of the organisers of Word! Leicester’s longest running spoken-word open-mic night which takes place every month at The Y.

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Marcelle Olivier is on safari


the river was still for you. but i saw the men
get up and wade in, their army-pants
darken, and the reflection of loose stitching
float like fish between their legs.
we have to check for crocodiles, you said,
they like this stretch. and the wind sang
in the reeds, and a small bird sang back.

we crossed in the last light of a hateful sun.
with wet and heavy legs the men set up camp, dug
for the latrine, hung lamps in the sausage tree.
the shock of the soil as they pounded in pegs
pushed up a layer of dust to surround us.

in the night the hyenas were close. they yawned
around our waste-water tub and knocked
at the huddle of canvas chairs; they groomed
our cooking ash for scraps. they whooped
at one of the men who came out with a kettie
and in the sullen glare of an unfinished moon,
with still-damp trousers and a bare chest
as smooth and black as molasses, thought
it would be better this way, in case you did.

you kept me back like a child from the sea
by a worried, demanding grandparent full
of frowns and unbecoming teeth. all the morning
i walked behind you the smell of stale lavender
and piss cut my eyes; your tracks were still
there when i focused. against
a herd of buffalo your rifle would be useless,
but we saw none that day. a sable in the shade
of a palm drew us all in, and then caught fright.
the men rested for a short time, let me have my bag,
so i could brush my hair free of sand.

*marcelle olivier is a South African-born writer and archaeologist living in Cambridge, UK. You can read more of her poetry in, amongst others, Oxford Poetry, New Contrast, and Carapace.

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Cath Barton is in Wales

We journeyed to the southernmost point of Wales

A beach of pebbles
    and damp sand,
A skein of geese
    in a grey sky,
A mourning
    and a celebration.
We found one another.
That’s what matters,
    not lost objects.

* Cath Barton lives in Wales. She also has poems published at

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Andrea Porter reviews Brian Turner's TS Eliot shortlisted 'Phantom Noise.'

Phantom Noise by Brian Turner,  Bloodaxe Books £8.95  1 85224 876 9.  80pp. 2010

Phantom Noise has just been short listed for the T.S Eliot Award. It has received many accolades in the United States, as did his first collection Here, Bullet. Much has and will be made about the fact that these poems are gleaned from Turner’s experiences as an Infantry Team Leader in Iraq where he spent a year out of his seven years in the American Army. The word glean is carefully chosen, the experience of being in that war is accumulative in its effect. Experiences both after and before his year in Iraq become something gathered from the strange and terrible harvest of each moment spent there. For instance in 'The Whale' he writes about his three year old self seeing the body of a huge sperm whale washed up on the beach in Oregon being blown up with explosives and his mother shielding him from the blast:

…and I remember everyone smiling/afterwards, laughing, each of us amazed/the day a god was blown to pieces on the beach/and we all walked away from it unscathed.

Turner juxtaposes a poem for his own unnamed, unborn daughter against a poem written in the voice of an Iraqi father for his son killed by shrapnel. This happens throughout the collection; here, then and now are spun past you to as if  in some way to mirror the surge of flashbacks and intense connections life, post Iraq, has been for him. Nothing escapes this constant surge of images flickered through the brain by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even a trip to a hardware store.  In one of his most powerful poems, at ‘Lowe’s Home Improvement Center’, a broken box of nails become firing pins, the sound of them falling, shells in Bagdad. He sees an ex soldier in the aisles in full combat gear with a ten year old Iraqi boy he has saved from the devastation. An army doctor sets up a casualty centre in another aisle full of wounded Iraqis on IV drips He turns a corner and a sergeant hands him a severed arm to look after in case they find the owner: The Iraqi boy beside me/reaches down to slide his fingertips in Retro Colonial Blue, an interior latex, before writing/T, for Tourniquet, on my forehead.

This collection is devoid of sentimentality; it does not eulogise the dilemma of the ordinary soldier just trying to ‘get by’ when a war is not of his making. Most of the time it manages to present poems that have the cold blue eye of the neutral observer whilst at the same time the precise and unsentimental nature of the language draws you into the horrifying living pulse of the experience. Many poems speak with great compassion of the ordinary Iraqi people suffering in the war, the legacy of nightmares many of the children will be left with. He also explores the wealth of Arabic and Iraqi history and literature to add another dimension to the poems.

I marched against the war in Iraq, I wrote letters, I wore badges denouncing it and it would be all too easy to point to this collection as some sort of justification for the fact that it has wrought horrors on a nation and on individuals who have been caught up in the turmoil of our decision to invade Iraq. American soldiers of course chose to join the army knowing that they could be asked to fight in wars, but that choice in itself is often the outcome of many complex, social, economic and personal histories. Modern warfare has few soldier poets, perhaps the nature of modern combat and the grey moral judgements that surround the decisions that drive men into combat have made the ‘soldier poet’ a difficult thing to be. However Youtube abounds with film clips made by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, personal attempts to make sense of it all, to show what it is truly like, how war can still at times be as bloody and as confusing as it was when Owen or Sassoon wrote.
I have seen criticisms leveled at the current choice of some collections on the TS Eliot short list that seem to imply that sometimes there is a publicity driven cult of extreme experience that makes it impossible to truly evaluate the craft and strength of poems those experiences generate. All I can say in answer to that is that Turner understands his craft, he writes poems that are at times staggeringly beautiful in their language and in their intensity of focus. This collection offers the reader a poet who refuses to turn his head away, who looks and continues to look into the depths of something almost unbearable both in himself and in what he has seen.

The current furore around the leaking of American Military documents and the issues that has raised comes just as this collection is published in the UK. Mistakes by the military, acts generated by fear and wrong decisions, the refusal to bear witness to all manner of acts of savagery and torture by Iraqis upon other Iraqis is just another reason why this collection is important. Turner takes responsibility for what he has seen  and done and what has haunted him ever since, he engages us in one kind of witness that allows us to not to turn our heads as well. Poetry at its best changes us, maybe only a little, but none the less it can create a place from which we can never quite return as the same person. The language and the images contained within this collection has taken me to that place.

…..reviewed by Andrea Porter

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