Ian Heffernan




Two Attempts at a Theory of History

All I want to say
Is that perhaps history
Means the striking of a match
In a doorway to protect the flame
From half-hearted sleet or mizzling rain.

Or, seen another way,
What history represents
Is a choir of the mute
Singing to a deaf audience
Under the chaos of the stars.





Ian Heffernan was born in 1965 and grew up just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at University College London and the School of Oriental & African Studies. He works with the homeless.

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Joseph Rizzo-Naudi



Suspicious Nouns

She tells him that she loves him. She tells him that she feels bad. She tells him that she feels bad because she’s cheating on her boyfriend with him. She wonders if he suspects her. She tells him that if she found out that he was cheating on her, she would feel awful. He asks her how she can be certain that he isn’t cheating on her. He asks her if she suspects him. She asks him if he suspects her. She asks him how he can be sure that she isn’t cheating on him. He tells her that he loves her.




Joseph Rizzo-Naudi lives in London and has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths. He is currently working on a project exploring his relationship with a blind nineteenth-century traveller.

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Morgaine Mech Lleuad


Egg V: Hatching

This morning, I am frozen by the fecundity of birds:
their binge-drunk chorus is already Greek
and monstrous as Sirens, even before
the sun catches up with the day.  What if
they sing through the window and into the bed
where I lie curdled – corvine murder feathering
shades of black on my scratchy skin, etch-a-sketching me
into a nest?  What if a startlement of sparrows
invades me, guddles my genes
unzips my DNA, and sturnine murmurs
lace me back up; corset and coddle me ovoid
fertile, and incubating in the heat of dreams?  Such dreams
such lurid heat could birth a phoenix:
but I would be the abject daughter
of recombinant alchemy, the one chimeric sparrow who falls
and God doesn’t notice.



Morgaine Mech Lleuad is a poet/novelist, and lectures in poetry and creative writing at Exeter University and the OU, respectively.  Her poetry has been published in various magazines, including Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Frogmore Papers.

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Roz Goddard




Goldfish on the Coast

How close we came to leaving each other
on the hard shoulder, walking in different
directions, following the line of fields
for lonely miles then hitching a lift –
me toward the sea, you with a spirit
level back to the midlands.

It would have been dark by the time
you put your key in the lock,
let yourself in to the cool hush;
prayer plants folded, landing light blown
and the dog staring into the night
expecting me to sing his name.

I’d have steadied myself on the coast,
bought  a two-slot toaster, ruined a few heels
on the cobbles of the old town swaying home.
There would have been other men, a goldfish,
gulls screaming overhead, but no cause
for concern, none whatsoever.



Roz Goddard is a poet and short fiction writer. She has published four collections of poetry. She is currently part of a team at based at Birmingham University exploring how reading and poetry can be integrated in gaming for use in primary schools.  Twitter: @rozgoddard

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And January’s Pick of the Month is ‘Waiting’ by Rachael Smart

When we published our latest shortlist, we noted that it looked to the displaced and the vulnerable so it is perhaps no surprise that Rachael Smart’s ‘Waiting’, a poem that speaks to the vulnerability that is personal to so many of us,  is our Pick of the Month for January 2017.

Rachael’s short fiction and poetry have 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.

And, in January’s spirit of looking to the vulnerable, Rachael has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to The Railway Children, a charity that provides ‘protection and opportunity for children with nowhere else to go and nobody to turn to’.



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.


Voters’ comments included:

It captures a parent’s habit, almost need, to envisage catastrophe in the midst of the mundane, almost as if preparing for the unthinkable. The description of the scene is both precise and mythical. evoking fairy tale, so appropriate for the child, and the wildness that the parent fears may overwhelm the child. It haunts the reader in all senses of the word.

Beautiful evocation of a mother’s love. The lines took me in an instant to a memory of such a moment. My mother feared open water. 🙂 Imagery shimmers. Tingling last lines and perfectly formed.

This poem stands out in a sea of amazing poems. It’s a concise, tight study of an unnameable worry that I could totally relate to. I can’t ask for more.

I find I’m often floating around in a bubble of beautiful words then she pops you abruptly out of it with her dry sense of humour, then in a few words can make you heart wrenchingly sad. It’s a little roller coaster of a read.

Wonderfully poignant…startling images. A lot said in few words. Love it.

Struck a chord with me, thought provoking

…the horror-laced edge, a sugared seaside idyll spoiled by maternal anxiety

Concision allied with the sheer intensity of such remarkable, memorable imagery make this the stand-out pick in a very strong field.

Beautiful play with words, could visualize everything. Really lovely


And one final, very personal comment which shows even more why it struck a chord with so many of you:

She’s my girlfriend and my son is in this dark poem with me on the boat. We were on holiday in Cornwall. When she nailed the last line, we drank red wine. Makes my heart hurt to see it in this list. Just that.


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Michael Loveday




PG Certificate

Denholm is leaning Joan’s DVD of The Trial (the Welles adaptation) against his window, overlooking the gravel driveway. On the cover, a collage: Jeanne Moreau looks back nervily (off-guard at the sight of Anthony Perkins’s steeled eyes, sculpted lips). Her hands perch on her waist like starlings. Behind them both, a second Perkins (shrunken), reaching up (far above his head), to turn the handle of an oversized door. He is fixed forever on the tips of his toes, forever stretching (to open the door), what lies behind the door forever destined to be unknown, and the door forever off-kilter, forever about to fall. Denholm hasn’t yet watched the whole film (no stomach for black and white pictures), but as he balances the DVD on the sill, he feels this decision to restructure his living space is a crucial moment in his life. He feels it inside his gut, his heart, his blood, his liver, his right hand, his left hand, his feet, his groin, an eyelash, his nose, in the sliver of popcorn caught between his teeth,  and the hairs in his ears, which will need to be plucked tomorrow.



Michael Loveday’s debut pamphlet collection of poems, He Said/She Said, was published by HappenStance Press (2011). His short stories, poems and book reviews have been published in Ambit, Magma, The North, The Rialto, Stand and other UK magazines. Website: www.michaelloveday.co.uk.

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Mat Riches


Kizelbel, September 2004

For R.

Last night was all too perfect.

The only noise was the local crickets’
nightly jam session in the hills.

All conversation was up against insect music,
as one lone virtuoso near our balcony
sang his own exquisite love songs.

Moths were taking off and landing
like burning paper scraps
flickering against a bonfire sun.

Figs fell from the trees
at exactly the same time as a Muezzin’s siren call began,
punctuated by the click of a microphone.

Modern life beat a path inland
as you beat me at backgammon.



Mat Riches lives in Beckenham, Kent, but will always have Norfolk in his heart. He is a father to Florence and a husband to Rachael, and by day he is a mild-mannered researcher in the TV industry. He has previously been published in And Other Poems and Snakeskin Press. He is a recent graduate of The Poetry School’s Lyric iPod course. He is about yea high.  Blog: https://matriches76.wordpress.com  Twitter: @matriches

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