Charlie Hill

 

 

 

This chaos

We live, perhaps, in a lawless world,
rejoicing as it does in the wild swings
of good against bad, confounded
by questions of maplines
and economics
and the democratic process,
informed by gods,
the tensile strength of duplicitous reason,
by spatters of blood.

And yet, in all this vital disorder,
this human-threatening human flux,
I can’t quite flap the feeling out of my hapless sickened bones,
that there is a truth
that mocks this chaos with its constancy,
even as it underwrites more chaos still.

For it seems to me, that
ours is a civilisation built on war,
and a civilisation built on war
is no such thing.

 

 

Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. Both of his novels have been critically acclaimed. His short stories have appeared in many publications in print and online.  Website:
 http://www.charliehill.org.uk/

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Chris Fewings

 

 

from DIVING LESSONS

Friday: death of God. Sunday: birth of body.

i. Relocation

Dive deeper into God: she’s relocated,
bequeathing the heavens to faeries
and astronauts. She’s chosen darkness:
a sett under the ocean, a space
at the pit of your belly; a cry.
This is the wordless womb birthing
word, colour, opening into sun.

 

 

ii. Numbers

Dive deeper into God: she’s reunited.
Forget the three: there’s two
into one – that’s you-
in-christ or christ-in-you
doing the tree dive: upwards
into pain, arms outstretched, then
the perfect three-day arc down into the source,
the sea, the non. So,
count up again: christ-you
and creator-emptiness. Two?
No, one! One breath, one axis,
with two poles, two movements
into one circle. Life dives into death,
death bursts into life: diastole, systole.
Fire flares, warms, sears, crumbles to ember: watch.

 

 

iii. A Life

Dive deeper into God. Today
we have the sky dive, up. Yes, I lied:
the relocation was temporary.
She’s arched like a gymnast across curved space
into the dance of the sky.
So fall upwards into nothingness
whose colour is light.

[…]

 

 

iv. Prelude

Dive deeper into God, but don’t
strip off yet. Wear a first-communion meringue,
a Protestant suit, a hat to outdo the others.
Sport a creed; arm yourself
with the steel of a rationale;
bear a tradition like a tortoiseshell,
or a spirituality like a brightly coloured scarf.
Others have built impressive promenades
at water’s edge: parade along them,
strut your stuff, give us a twirl before you jump:
a flash of your chosen accoutrements against the seaside sky.
No striptease is required. One day you’ll dive
so deep the water’s force
will do the stripping for you.

 

 

 Chris Fewings lives in Birmingham and writes poems, stories, rants and reflections (some of which have been published) and loves reading or reciting poetry aloud, from Shakespeare to Kei Miller.

 

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Jill Sharp

 

 

 

Leda plucks a swan

Old now, the body that enchanted him
grown coarse, how could he know her?
Yet she knows him, this creature,
even with fallen wings, eyes empty
of desire. Not hers. She’s spent a lifetime
finding what he stole from her, doing it
like he did, without her chance
to touch him, or raise her eyes to his.
That’s why, holding him in her lap,
she takes her hand to him
and in a storm of whiteness
scatters his power of flight.

 

 

 

Jill Sharp is a member of Poetry Swindon and her poems have appeared most recently in the Morning Star, Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House and the Orange Coast Review. Her pamphlet, Ye gods, is published by Indigo Dreams.

Note: First published in  IMPpress, Issue 3

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Winner of the UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 11-14 yr olds: Yen-yen Loke

 

If anything, this year’s shortlist for the 11-14 age group for UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition was even more competitive than the older (15-17) group (whose winner we featured yesterday.) The originality of ideas, descriptive turns and ability to evoke often oppressive and frightening atmospheres across the board made choosing a winner very difficult. Ultimately, the judges’ choice was the accomplished Yen-yen Loke, from Wymondham High and as ‘witty and adventurous’ as her heroine Millie. Her winning piece is featured below.

Once again we begin with the ominous opening conceived by YA writer and co-judge Alexander Gordon Smith (The Fury, the Furnace and Inventors series).

*****

“That’s the problem with authors, they’re always late!”

There was an awkward silence in the lecture hall. It was the opening day of the FLY Festival and we had a day off from school to listen to one of the most famous writers on the planet. Everybody was here… except for the author! I was sitting at the back, next to the doors, with my best friend Sam. The only person on stage was the festival organiser. She kept glancing at her watch and laughing nervously.

“I’m sure she will be here in a moment,” she said, the microphone squealing. “Perhaps we should go look for her. Um… You dear.”

She seemed to be looking right at me. I pointed to myself.

“Yes, you, right at the back. Would you be so kind?”

“Er…” I said. “You’d like me to look for the author?”

“Thank you,” she said. “She’s bound to be out there somewhere. Send her in!”

Everybody in the room was looking at me and my cheeks were on fire. I stood up, grabbed hold of Sam, and together we walked out of the lecture hall.

“Where on earth do we start looking?” said Sam.

I shrugged. I had no idea! The university was huge. There was no sign of her anywhere in the hallway, or on the path outside.

“Let’s try there,” I said, pointing to a building across the road. “She might have taken a wrong turn.”

It was a strange looking place with LABORATORY written in big letters above the door.

There was a smaller notice underneath that said: ‘Keep out, dangerous experiments underway!’ The whole building seemed to be vibrating, and there was a strange smell in the air.

“Maybe we shouldn’t go in there,” said Sam.

I was about to agree when through the glass door we spotted the author! She crossed a hallway, looking very confused, and disappeared into a room.

“Come on!” I said.

And before Sam could argue, I opened the door and ran inside…

 

FIRST PLACE:  YEN-YEN LOKE (14) WYMONDHAM HIGH ACADEMY


“Millie!” Sam cried, mouth a spaghetti-hoop ‘O’ of astonishment, expression entirely composed of innocent distress. “Millie!” he repeated, unable to utter anything other than the two meaningless syllables which comprised my name (yes, I am a girl, don’t laugh).

Impulsively, I grabbed his arm and pulled him into the dank hallway before realising the cause of his pitiful exclamation – a giant, white dog, spotted murky brown as if sporting several enormous bruises, had curiously been lurking about behind and was frowning severely at me. Plainly the unfortunate creature had indulged in one too many fights. I sighed coolly.

“How much is that doggie in the window?” I sang in my most beguiling fashion, as the baffled animal cocked its large head to one side, gazing out of the glass door at which I was tentatively pointing. After slowly brandishing a single, crumbly, mouth-wateringly chocolate-y cookie (my last one…) as if it were an ancient dagger rather than my would-be mid-morning snack, I hurled the treat across the length of the room. Quite literally barking-mad, our spotty dog followed.

“But Millie, you’ve just blocked the door the author went through,” Sam whined, excusably vexed.

I snorted contemptuously and nodded at a tiny passageway, partially concealed behind rows of conical flasks, which made an attractive potential short-cut. Having convinced my very unassuming companion that this route was far more appealing, we scrambled hastily through the gap and into an innocuous laboratory.

Let us pause a brief moment to analyse the lively emotions pulsing through my narrow frame.

  1. I felt most pleasingly like Nicola Aribban, detective protagonist of our author Jen Nurrum’s sensational action series ‘Crystal-Snap’.
  2. As evidence of the above, I recollected that Nicola has also unfortunately been threatened by a giant, white dog.
  3. Vague misgivings concerning the authenticity of Nurrum’s confused and utterly innocent expression enticed me towards an interesting scent…

I was aware

of little except

my churning stomach and

Sam whimpering softly behind me until

there was a Bang

(With a capital B.)

Two men passed.

I heard a second explosion, though it resonated vaguely and otherworldly, whereas in truth it was not. It was in my world, personified by the burning sensation of a bullet’s graze on my thigh. The first had missed – a sizzling floor-crater crackled and burnt. A faint murmur echoed, mildly reproving “leave them, they will do no harm, they are just silly kids playing hide-and-seek, what we need is to get the crystals, and if anyone else sees, you’re my storytelling assistants and I’m lost.”

Though agonised, I understood that the cast of this particular storytelling had only just been released:

  • Nurrum – villian, stealing priceless crystals currently under study at the UEA laboratory
  • Millie – playing Nicola, an out-of-the-blue heroine, witty and adventurous
  • Sam – Nicola’s faithful sidekick
  • an assortment of dogs, bandits and so forth.

And I knew that the final chapter of ‘Crystal-Snap’ was only just being written.

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Winner of the UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 15-17 yr olds: Aedan Fisher

 

Last week, we were once more privileged to be part of the UEA FLY Festival (Festival of Literature for Young people). Ink Sweat & Tears again supported the final event, a superbly enthusiastic POETRY SLAM. Huge thanks to host/mentor Tim Clare and judges/mentors Mark Gristo, MC Mixy and Molly Naylor for making it such an entertaining occasion and congratulations to the kids from The Hewett School and the Downham Market, Kings Lynn and Open Academies for taking up the challenge so well and for pushing the boundaries of originality in poetry. An ode to Blu-Tack, talking shoes or melted chairs as art, anyone? Not to mention several very moving pieces on bullying and war.

In addition, IS&T’s Kate Birch co-judged the Short Story Competition with the brilliant Alexander Gordon Smith (The Fury, the Furnace and Inventors series), a festival favourite and patron, who also wrote the story’s opening. It is featured in italics below followed by the winning ending from the 15-17 age group, by the very talented Aedan Fisher.  Prepare to be intrigued.

*****

“That’s the problem with authors, they’re always late!”

There was an awkward silence in the lecture hall. It was the opening day of the FLY Festival and we had a day off from school to listen to one of the most famous writers on the planet. Everybody was here… except for the author! I was sitting at the back, next to the doors, with my best friend Sam. The only person on stage was the festival organiser. She kept glancing at her watch and laughing nervously.

“I’m sure she will be here in a moment,” she said, the microphone squealing. “Perhaps we should go look for her. Um… You dear.”

She seemed to be looking right at me. I pointed to myself.

“Yes, you, right at the back. Would you be so kind?”

“Er…” I said. “You’d like me to look for the author?”

“Thank you,” she said. “She’s bound to be out there somewhere. Send her in!”

Everybody in the room was looking at me and my cheeks were on fire. I stood up, grabbed hold of Sam, and together we walked out of the lecture hall.

“Where on earth do we start looking?” said Sam.

I shrugged. I had no idea! The university was huge. There was no sign of her anywhere in the hallway, or on the path outside.

“Let’s try there,” I said, pointing to a building across the road. “She might have taken a wrong turn.”

It was a strange looking place with LABORATORY written in big letters above the door.

There was a smaller notice underneath that said: ‘Keep out, dangerous experiments underway!’ The whole building seemed to be vibrating, and there was a strange smell in the air.

“Maybe we shouldn’t go in there,” said Sam.

I was about to agree when through the glass door we spotted the author! She crossed a hallway, looking very confused, and disappeared into a room.

“Come on!” I said.

And before Sam could argue, I opened the door and ran inside…

 

FIRST PLACE:  AEDAN FISHER (15) THE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL, LEFTWICH

 

… After I ran inside I found myself confronted with a labyrinth of doors and stairwells. Turning left, I spotted in the corner of my eye the author wandering, still confused, entering one of the strange doors. Gasping for air Sam caught up with me and placed his sweaty hand on my right shoulder. He coughed and wheezed before taking a puff from his inhaler. Sam couldn’t do much exercise these days since he’s discovered the recently opened and overpriced cake shop in town which had rendered him rather unfit. With this in mind, I slowed to a gentle jog where he found it much easier to keep up with me.

We approached the door the author had gone through. Taking notice of the warning sign on the laboratory door in mind, we cautiously entered the room without looking at the sign on the door. “This doesn’t seem like a laboratory” exclaimed Sam “It looks more like the toilets to me and a strange place to perform dangerous experiements” he continued. My cheeks flared red with embarassment as we had entered the women’ s lavatory. But the building still vibrated and the strange smile from earlier was stronger in here than it was in the entrance, “I know this smell it’s…” CRACK! The floor was splitting from beneath our feet and the smell began poring through the cracks… “SULPHUR!” I shouted. I covered my mouth with my sleeve and nudged Sam to do the same.

We managed to edge our way round the cracks and towards the sinks. Suddenly, the tiles were being clawed from below our feet, and spiralled into the deep red vortex which had begun to form in the centre of the room. The air appeared to be limited now and the electricity flickered on and off, repeatedly. BANG! The cubicle doors swung open and off their hinges batting against the walls before hurtling into the blood-like abyss. Everything in the room began leaning into the pit…

Then nothing. No smell of sulphur. No vibrations. The air levels seemed to have normalised now; but there in the cubicle right in the corner was “THE AUTHOR” I exclaimed. I clasped Sam by his shirt and rushed over to her assistance. She appeared in a haze of confusion as we helped her to her feet and guided her towards the hall.

We arrived at the Lecture Hall once more, only this time with a just about conscious woman and took her to her designated seat while she regained consciousness. After ten minutes, the exhausted festival organiser noticed the author. “Here she is!” she bellowed and pointed to the woman who started stumbling towards the stage, like a child who’d just learnt how to walk. She looked different now, not that she couldn’t walk very well but by her eyes which half an hour ago were bluish but now were more of a reddish colour.

Maybe we didn’t bring the author back…

Maybe we brought something else…

 

(The winner of the 11-14 year group will be featured tomorrow.)

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Laurie Kolp

 

 

 

 

The Snobby Woman Pretends Not to See Me

and sweeps her nose to the sky
and sniffs moon dust
and yoyos her eyelids like a freak show act
and then looks away
and I once had a doll with blinking eyes like that
and her face and arms and legs were porcelain
and I named her Suzie
and my grandparents kept her in the sewing room
and that room was a garage before they added on to the house
and I thought that room was haunted
and when I visited, I hurry! hurried in and out
and Suzy’s chubby legs clanked together as I carried her around
and the silence didn’t seem so bad
and her body was cloth with stains from my mother
and when my visit ended, Suzy stayed on shelf,
and the haunted room taunted me
and next summer Suzy’s face was cracked
and her eyes didn’t blink anymore
and I know this woman is just like all the rest of them
and I see fake dolls in the grocery store, snobby women like her
and I remember Suzie long gone, but still loved
and I’m glad she was real

 

 

 

Laurie Kolp poems have appeared in the 2015 Poet’s Market, The Crafty Poet, Scissors & Spackle, Blue Fifth Review, Pirene’s Fountain. An avid runner and lover of nature, Laurie lives in Texas with her husband, three children and two dogs.

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Eluned Jones

 

 

 

The Slate Museum

Machinery peeled from sudden rain over the shoulder
of black light the chwarel quarrel yr hen ddyn a’i hammer
his chisel splitting the hard word to the grandfather clock I start
to remember, this is the story of the girl and her little
black cat, the cat her father drowned and mam is spreading
her bread and her butter too thin into the pattern
of a plate – the cat was called Betsan I think, then
wasn’t, of course, I don’t want to think about the bucket, his
boots or the slate, this wasn’t me, please, believe me I am trying to
mis-remember.

 

 

Eluned Jones lives and works in Aberystwyth in mid Wales.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Orbis, Brittle Star, The Frogmore Papers and  Obsessed with Pipework.

 

 

Notes:
chwarel – quarry
yr hen ddyn a’i – the old man and his

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