Ian McEwen




The Implantations (sycamore)

Nobody tells them this,
nobody says
it’s time to uncurl
the fat green clocksprings
of their hearts and no one
invited them to do it here,
the order of it unexplained
untaught, the hunt for light
the root for damp,
how it happens all at once
synchronised and swimming up
the purest gesture they can name
opening their cotyledon arms
blowing on so-pink-they’re-artificial stems,
they press into the unexpected air
not knowing not to expect
not knowing not to
not knowing

The Implantations (beech mast)

Nobody dropped them here,
nobody put
their hooked and hungry
eaks across the path and no one
asked their clicking tongues
for gossip on each step,
or compelled the jostle
for attention in their spikes:
triangular or angular
discomforts to each other, each blind
percussion barren as the next.
A harsh nostalgia for the tightest
vowel their teeth can bite
rattling their vacant husks,
scolding us at every turn,
not hearing
not hearing themselves
not hearing themselves hurt

The Implantations (cartridge paper)

Nothing is so ready.
Nothing spreads
itself so wide, so thick,
so deeper than the earth and fatter
than the air, eager in each fibre
so to blot itself and suck
give suck through all this fickle
capillarity so to spot itself
with any homing seed or smut
that drifts in through the clouds,
the thunderheads
of blood and falling in
so smally, small
as satan on his long long drop
against the parapets
of heaven.
Not waiting but not reaching up
not waiting but not reaching
not waiting but






Ian McEwen’s pamphlet The Stammering Man was a winner in the Templar competition 2010 and he was highly commended in the national poetry competition 2011. His first full collection will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2013. He is a member of the Magma poetry board. He lives in Bedford and organises the Ouse Muse open mic.


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David Callin





and she said I had been

a pig in rural Ireland
one of Shakespeare’s groundlings
a Neapolitan song

a Polish engine driver
a map of Europe
an incense bearer in Santiago de Compostela

thunder on Helvellyn
a stinging nettle
and Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great
I said are you sure?
there came no answer only

the lapping of the water
the wind in the trees
the echoing footsteps

of the next client approaching



David Callin lives, if not quite at the back of beyond, certainly within hailing distance of it, in the Celtic archipelago. He has had poems in several magazines, including Other Poetry, Orbis and Envoi, and online in Snakeskin and Antiphon.



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Annie Fisher





this afternoon it seems endless, the rain
and full of the earth’s sadness

generations of tear drops falling, undifferentiated
flinging their million, million, million  tiny lifetimes to the ground

their grainy flickering films the garden – a piece of newsreel footage,
which, being  warm and dry indoors, I largely ignore

but I gaze out through the glass from time to time
until, without wanting to, I remember the news

police are out there searching now
somewhere where rain and tears are endless

Annie Fisher is literacy consultant and storyteller based in Somerset.


*October 2012 – the search for April Jones


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Diane Tingley




Potential friend

Blonde, slim, like summer weather, I am by
The computer desk in the library
black beading: something ruffled my feathers
her tired brown hair; Miss Ordinary
bursting light bulbs in Catherine Kidson
chasms scream perfect lines begin to swing
when something coal brushed whispers Diane, stop!
That was poetry…



Diane Tingley : Poetry is pleasure: don’t let them have it all for themselves; reach out your hand… (I blog at Deardot.com)



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S. D. Stewart


















S. D. Stewart reads and writes in a cramped city, even while his mind roams open spaces. Whenever possible he walks in the woods and watches birds. Visit him at www.thoughtworm.com 


Macleod, Fiona. A Little Book of Nature Thoughts [Selected by Mrs. William Sharp and Roselle Lathrop Shields]. Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine, c1908.


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David Mac


Angel Way Back

6am streets is heaven
all white cloud
mist fog morning
and look
out of the dense gloom
headlights coming out
going past
straight out of nothing
straight on to nothing
(work no doubt)
but all cars go the same way:
same direction:
just like that
but I walk on
early morning street
lonesome way
because what?
because the night ends?
it has to
wandering solo is heavenly
thoughts are
as I see Old Polly look
from her ghost window
spooky dead pub
ghoulish thing
I press on
I don’t believe in death
but back
to bed
to dream
and you know the rest
pillows sleep best



David Mac is one of the greatest forklift drivers to emerge from the UK. His words have appeared in many mags, journals, zines, sites and blogs. He hides out somewhere deep in the Bedfordshire Hell.

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Ken Head reviews David Cooke’s ‘Workhorses’












In her editorial to Issue 163 of Envoi magazine, editor Jan Fortune confronts a question which even  passionate poetry readers must sometimes ask:  why read poetry?  In answer, she argues a position which seems to me not only self-evidently true, but also apposite to a consideration of Work Horses, David Cooke’s new collection, his third after Breughel’s Dancers (1984) and the retrospective In The Distance (2011).  Reading poetry, she says, makes a difference not only to the ways we respond to the world, but to how we negotiate it as well:  “… poetry assists us to pay attention to our perceptions and expectations so that the quotidian does not simply remain ordinary and familiar, but becomes the context for moments of epiphany … when we step beyond the familiar to gain new insights.  At its best poetry allows us to experience the deep connections between language and seeing.”  I’d add memory, a form of seeing, to this definition, as I think Cooke might also, although the point remains well made.


The collection is prefaced by two epigraphs, one being Irish language poet Seán Ó Ríordáin’s “Tá Tír na nÓg ar chúl an tí”, “The land of eternal youth is just behind the house – a beautiful land, fluent within itself”, a perception of the value of the past, the place we come from, clearly central to Cooke’s thinking also.  In “Stereogram”, for example, his memory of the sideboard-sized wooden cabinets containing turntables on which shellac and later vinyl records used to be played sits alongside his discovery of the songs of Bob Dylan.  In one sense, it’s a simple poem remembering the music of half a century ago as he first heard it;  in another, it’s a meditation on the passing of time and of the poet’s own life:  “I was listening to Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, / … When he sang about death / he ripped through hokum. / We had all our lives before us.”


Work Horses delves deeply into Cooke’s preoccupation with these themes.  In one way or another, all the poems touch on them.  In the title poem, for example, he recalls “somewhere in the hinterland / of just remembered childhood” watching not only “a drayman / as he guides heraldic horses / through a time-thinned stream of traffic”, but also his father in “The clanking compound of the brewery, / where my dad did shifts when work / was slack on the buildings”.  In other poems, there are other memories, of 1963, the year he became ten and “the Beatles invented / the good times”, of time at school spent earning gold stars and chanting “tables daily – / our paean to the god of rote learning”, of family house-moves, “the years of thrift and children”, of boyish mischief, “my jackdaw eyes twitching / at a glint of silver between the floorboards and, finally, in a moving poem entitled “Empty Nests” and dedicated to his wife, an acceptance of the extent to which history repeats itself:  as he grew up and away, so have his own children, as his Irish background once made him a stranger in a strange land, so now, on a journey south, to “polyglot streets in Holloway”, he and his wife are met at a motorway service station, “by Polish girls, / whose English has a lilt / they’ve brought from Kraków, / Warszawa, or a place in the sticks / they’d tell me if I asked.”  Everything changes, everything stays the same.


The jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, was once criticized for sounding “too sunny”, paying so much attention to musicality that all her songs sounded the same and so lost dramatic power.  Her reply was simple:  being clear doesn’t mean lacking soul.  It’s a view I share both in regard to music and poetry, where sloppiness and obscurity sometimes masquerade as profundity, when in fact they represent inability to write clearly.  In this respect, one of the pleasures of Cooke’s poems is the quality of their craftsmanship, their respect for language and its music.  These skills are manifest throughout the collection, although “At Varykino” must serve here.  Economic in expression, tightly structured, but far-reaching in thought and content, the poem, one of a group derived from a family journey to Russia to visit Cooke’s son and his Russian wife, evokes memories and images from David Lean’s film of Boris Pasternak’s great novel “Doctor Zhivago”.  At the same time, it broods over the 1917 Revolution and, by implication, everything that followed from it.  The narrator addresses Lara, played unforgettably in the film by Julie Christie:  “… like a ghost reborn, Strelnikov / told you the private life is dead; / his rectitude a new kind of purity / whose thought is doctrinaire, / his speech a bridled mob / that makes you seek your chances / beyond the margin of events. / Arriving at Varykino, you find a house / that is wrecked in snow, a past’s discredited / chattels forgotten beneath its sheets … / its new growth pushing beneath untrodden snow.”


Elsewhere in the collection, poems about his daughter’s conversion to Islam, her subsequent marriage, his and his wife’s first visit to Sri Lanka to meet their new son-in-law’s family, “as far from home / as we’ve ever been”, rub shoulders with memories of visits to Irish relatives, attempts to learn Irish, not wanting to be the boxer his father thought he had the “style and the stamp” to become and admiration for the legendary Blues singer Robert Johnson, who is supposed to have sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the gift of making “… open chords / slide down frets / like a freight train’s / thunder on tracks.”  What binds these elements, gives them a convincing unity, is the clarity of the poet’s focus, his sharpness of observation and his understanding that attentiveness to life is important, because “each day light forsakes us”.  Enjoyable, thought-provoking and honest.  Definitely one for the bookshelf.




Work Horses by David Cooke is published by Ward Wood Publishing ISBN:  978-1-908742-00-1, £8.99 (£5.99 on publisher’s website)  Order your copy here

©2013:  Ken Head

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