Phil Dunkerley




 Well Chilled

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Vladimir Putin.
He was in a good mood and kept giving me more beer;
he personally attended the barbecue, serving up chicken wings
and he laughed and joked with everyone, including me.

You could see what a powerful man he is, his shirt bulges;
there was a twinkle in his blue eyes, and mud on his shoes.
Everyone was in awe of him, and though he was only a guest
he treated the place as if he owned it.

When he was telling jokes we all laughed a lot
and people kept nipping out to do his bidding,
returning with bags full of meat and cheese, and beer
– always well chilled; Vladimir knows how to get stuff.

At one point he asked me if I’d ever eaten alligator.
When I said ‘no’ he got some out of the freezer,
which shouldn’t have been there — it’s a protected species,
and he fried it in breadcrumbs; it tastes like chicken.

His wife’s going to request me as a friend on Facebook
— it might be handy having an inside track to the top man.
You could see his mother’s very proud of him
and he adores his step-father, who’s a quiet sort of bloke.

Me and Vlad, we’re like that now.



Phil Dunkerley is The Poetry Society representative for the Stamford Stanza. His poems have appeared in magazines, webzines and anthologies. Whenever he gets the chance he recites at open-mic events and elsewhere.

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Chris Fewings





I asked the doctor what was wrong with me.
He held his stethoscope to my amygdala.
Thought there was something blocked. Try writing,
he said. I have, I told him. Had to put a bung
in my pen. Stuff kept dribbling out. Can’t you check
my cortisol? I need a pacemaker for my days.

Try walking, he suggested. Try pacing up and down
a treadmill.
I have, but I clocked out – the gate
clicked shut behind me. I’ve lost the key.
He offered me bread and wine and pilgrim’s sandals
and a map of the longest river. I told him I was tired.
His pharmacopoeia was nearly empty. Kissing?

Whom? I inquired. Start with a rose, lips to the petals.
Get sensuous with nasturtium. Run your hands
over the smooth bark of a beech tree in the gloaming:
perhaps you’ll meet another pair of hands – perhaps
your kindred spirit will be exploring from the other side.
I stopped off in a churchyard and washed the feet

of an old soak with cracked hands huddled on a bench
and forgot about the roses and the beech. When I got home
someone was sitting on my doorstep with a bowl
of warm water and a towel, a bottle of olive oil, as if
expecting me. I slipped round the back before they saw me,
and found a prescription pinned on the back door:

Let him be loved. Let him raise his voice on the street corner.



Chris Fewings lives in the Rea Valley in Birmingham, where he writes poetry, fiction and other prose, enjoys reading (and reciting dead poets) at open mics, and facilitates writing groups and the work of individual writers.

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Clive Donovan





There is little to be told about them really:
they took my teeth, left modest coins
and a note sometimes on paper blue,

detailing private lives among frogs and wrens,
schemes for the bloody stumps, the writing crazed
as a butterfly’s flight

or thistle seed on breeze and yet, of these frail things,
it is hard to imagine the lugging of sixpences
or sabotage of hen houses or milk pails,

conflating them with all those wild agencies
beyond the homely sill – the tinker tricks, the animals –
the stolen mind of grandpa, his stramash of memory…

Away with the fairies : on some tumescent hill I flick
his fairy picture book – Victorian children
photographed in chiffon wisps…

Here comes a real one now – sticky wings enmeshed
in the lines of this poem. Fast and deft, my hands, I clap.
She twinkles and dissolves to innocence.



Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including The Journal, Agenda, Acumen, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Stand, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Transnational. He is hoping to entice a publisher to print a first collection.

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Your First Pick of the Month for 2020 is ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana

When we launched January’s Pick of the Month, we noted that the poems were extraordinary and they truly are. But ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana tops the list in this case. Voters admired its simplicity and its beauty and loved the image that it conjured. This was a subtle poem of ‘impact and power’!

Alexandra lived in Japan for 10 years. She holds an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University, was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize 2018, and read at the American Writer’s Program Conference, in Portland Oregon this year.


Realisation about a friend

and deliberately
you draw
information out of me

the way my son
eats a strawberry
holding firmly
onto the green stem
sucking it down
to the pulp




Voters comments included:

The poem has the visual quality of a haiku and hangs there after being read which I found quite beautiful

I love it…on the surface it’s beautifully straightforward but then it leaves you extremely intrigued and wanting to know more. Also you know exactly what the author has a wonderful universality. We have all felt like that

The words really meant something to me.

This poem really spoke to me. So clever, to get to the heart of a feeling, so directly.

Very disguising.

Very realistic!

short; to the point; succint.

Such a lot of insight and history in such a small space.

It’s a great piece of work.

It conjures up such a vivid image. Short and clever


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Karen Little





Oscar had faith in me; I sang without breaks,
effortlessly reached the  highs and lows,  was
the voice on the love songs he wrote for his wife.
When he fell in love with me, he bought me
a bamboo flute, highly polished, an object of art.

I didn’t have the patience to produce the notes—
I was all bluster, impatience, a tabla drum beat—
the beautiful gift was wasted on me. I propped
the flute in the corner of my Maida Vale flat;
left it behind when I moved. I lose everything

except memories— I carry them everywhere.



Karen Little (kazvina) has exhibited her art internationally, and is widely published as a writer in the UK and further afield. Her latest publication is the illustrated pamphlet, Dissecting an Artist (2019) with The Black Light Engine Room Press.

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Hannah Hodgson




Death Rattle

Back in the day, everyone loved a good hanging –
curiosity gathered in the town square, red-nosed,
waiting for the theatre of mortality to end.

Today I attract the equivalent crowd –
have to untangle my vocal cords
from intrusive questioning.

Hospice is an experience with the brink,
as near the cliff edge you can go without falling.
Natural death isn’t quick.

It begins with a storm brewing in the chest –
thunder of increasing intensity,
crackles of lightning in the airway.

It ends with a moment of clarity,
final words like a rainbow
slowly disintegrating.



Hannah Hodgson is a 21 year old poet living with a life limiting illness and disability. She writes about these themes as well as hospice, feminism and other topics. Her first pamphlet Dear Body was published in 2018.

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Zoe Mitchell





The evil eye is when someone you love
looks at you but they aren’t there.
My mother is now a Disney villain;
the sun has become an insult. She should

be fitted with a blood-black velvet cape.
Pale blue eyes in a hard-set face stare out
from a levered hospital bed. If she opened
those pursed lips now, I would reach down

her throat and rip out whatever is gnawing
at her from the inside with teeth
as sharp and rotten as broken promises.
I want to scatter crumbs of pure white salt,

make the sign that will ward off the glutton
that eats her into disorder. A creature has beetled
into her mind, burrowed deep fathoms
into her marrow and flits around twilight recesses

on brittle wings. It got in after a click
of bare wet twigs on a thin glass window,
thorny fingers beckoning toward the night.
I can’t unsee the bone-etched handprint

on my mother’s back, I know can’t recover
every drop drained but I can’t stop trying, either.
I must touch my trembling fingers to my eyelids,
my lips, the pit of my stomach and both

chambers of my heart in the right order,
throw some of that salt in a fire and smoke
the evil out. I will leave vases of flowers
that look like purple clover and hope

it won’t notice their blooms hold garlic seeds.
I will steal the greyscale kaleidoscope
she uses to see, give up every silver coin
I have to fashion an amulet of doctors and nurses.

I will whisper prayers to protect us both.
Now I have learned about creatures that lurk
in the dark, I can’t ever unknow them,
their leaden shapes. Wizened fingers grip my throat:

I know before I kill this wraith, before I see
my Mum again, I must look them both in the eye.



Zoe Mitchell is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in a number of magazines including The Rialto, The London Magazine and The Moth. She graduated from the University of Chichester with an MA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Distinction and the Kate Betts Memorial Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, examining witches in women’s poetry. In 2018, she was joint winner of the Indigo-First Collection Competition and her first collection, Hag, was published with Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019.

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