Clare Crossman reviews ‘The Shadow Factory’ by Deborah Harvey



The title of this collection is taken from a poem with that name in the book.

Was it night fall or the sun eloping with a cloud?
No one knew for sure but whatever the cause
the shadow factory vanished.

The poem in its entirety is about the demolition and dereliction ‘rubble and broken glass’ and the loss to the people of the workforce. It speculates on where the shadow factory is now and within that metaphor, has a real felt and elegiac tone, adding to a collection which always seems to acknowledge the edge lands in our lives and the power of thought and wonder.

Personal memories and poems of memory permeate. They surface in contemporary moments, as in Glebe Lands, a poem about moving house:

‘Once we’ve decamped here, unpacked our lives … we’ll start to overlay this street with I’m-late-for-work …  I’ll show you the shortcut through the lane you’ll call a snicket……

but always abuts against the past:

But for now I’m holding my grandmother’s hand,
She’s wearing a hat hedgehogged with hatpins
a smile to wide to jump

Also on this theme are The Future Tense about learning French in school and The Invisible Man about a relative who has lost touch with his sister. These are people who are looked at slant, to quote Emily Dickinson. We find detailed portraits.

There is a beautiful sequence, Black Seeds A wreath of sonnets, which recalls the death of a father, where again the poems move fluidly between the present and the past.

You tell fibs about your fluid intake
scrabble for your medals in the tin by the bed

… this one’s the Africa Star
the ribbon’s yellow for sand in the desert
the red is for the blood

When I was six I’d practise being dead
spread-eagled like a cowboy on the front room carpet
toe over toe for my crucifixion
my head drooped decorously to one side

My favourite is My father is singing Rev Eli Jenkins’ prayer over the phone. With the repeated first line in every stanza, the poem becomes a lament acknowledging the imminent loss of her father.

And I wonder if this is his prayer too
and whether he wonders for how much longer
it will be answered
My father is 95, each moment numbered   

My father is singing me a rag to wrap myself in

There are also many poems which skilfully catch a moment in time through a clear and honest gaze, for example, Touchstone:

The place you need to reach
is not a leisurely stroll from the ice cream van …

And let your flesh feel the gravel of wind-thrown rain
the luxurious burn of summer gorse
and don’t presume to be certain of the terrain

Eleven o’clock in Leningrad also captures as if in a sudden movement two people travelling in the city in a starkly lit moment


in this blue night we’re outside of time
in a city of shifting names
built on bones and water

There is a tenderness in these poems, a personal voice seen particularly in Sensible shoes, a portrait of a friend with whom the poet visited Somerset churches.

Years of pacing the wards have left you
as sensible as your flat-heeled lace-up shoes.

And also a questioning and philosophical and bemused tone which asks us to engage with our humanity:

Sometimes perfection is too much
like on early autumn mornings parked by the lake
in the space between daylight and dawn,
when you know without counting there’s seven swans
four calling crows …

Write instead this rain-smudged dusk
bent and rusted railings breaking

from Heron’s Green Bay

Clare Crossman has published four collections of poetry. Her fifth, The Mulberry Tree, is due from Shoestring Press later this year. Recently she wrote for Waterlight, a film about a chalk stream with the film maker, James Murray White. She is the convener of the South Cambridgeshire stanza group.


The Shadow Factory by Deborah Harvey is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing and can be ordered from them or the usual outlets



Read More

Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou




Chemical Elements and Waste

They’re playing card games in the garden. Whenever I shuffle the card pack or sniff their coffee, or shift their keys, they get furious. ‘You have no place here, Spotty’, they point a finger at me. ‘Keep out of the way. Mind your own business.

What exactly is my own business? I need to know what’s going on here, which card is next, what their coffee smells like, which doors their keys open.

One of them once sprayed me with the hose. It lurched and curled and slithered on the soil like a snake, until water spurted out. I was breathless. From then on that’s how they mistreat me. To keep me out of their business.

One night our neighborhood  clowder gathers. We think things over. We couldn’t possibly attack the tap, so solid and metallic and impossible to destroy, so we claw and bite at the hose with all our might.

The next day, the wounded ‘snake’ – soon mended and in the saddle, sprays us away.

Another scheme from our clowder: Drink as much water as our bladders can hold and then pee onto their vegetable patch. Every single night. Some plants die, others hold out. And then, as meek as lambs, we have our meals –  leftovers of course, fish bones and skulls from the ocean –  water with various chemical elements and waste –  watching them devour their fresh veggies, full of other kinds of chemicals they know nothing about. Sprayed with our own waste.



Konstantina Sozou-Kyrkou lives in Athens, Greece with her family and writes in both English and Greek. She has studied Literature and holds an MA in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. Her stories have appeared online and in print literary magazines and anthologies, while some have won in competitions in Greece and abroad. Her first short story collection  written in Greek, entitled Watermelon and Feta was published in November.

Read More

Aidan Casey





i need t hustle i need t score
i need a drink & then a few more
i need a hand t get t my feet
i need an elbow t cross th street

i need a hug baby i need a kiss
i need t skip th preliminaries
i need a proxy an adult toy
i need a girl sometimes i need a boy

i need a map i need a chart
i need a fix for my broken heart
i need th dinero i need th dope
i need a tree & a length of rope

& i need a tonic i need a gin
i need absolution for my sins
i need a prayer, i need a poem
& i need a taxi t take me home



Aidan Casey was born in Dublin and studied English and Philosophy at UCD. Since then, he has mostly taught English in Spain. He has recently returned to writing and has poems in several online reviews and anthologies.

Read More

Annie Wright




Night Owl

In the worrisome hours before dawn you’d be up
quartering the house for silent chores.
Never an easy relationship, you’d send
letters or cards I treasured. Four-thirty,
I’ve just finished ironing. You hated fluorescent
tubes, preferred the lamp’s seduced light.

I saw you in the kitchen’s amber glow,
perched at the table or ironing board,
a mug of Yorkshire tea at your elbow;
the loop and glide of your cursive hand.



Annie Wright‘s most recent collection is Dangerous Pursuit of Yellow (for details see A founder member of Vane Women, Annie edits for their press and, since moving to SW Scotland, runs poetry workshops and The Lit Room Press.

Read More

Robert Etty




The Bones

Since no one’s left to pad out the story,
these are the bones of it: Saturday evening,
an RAF base (south Yorkshire, most likely),
the last weeks of World War Two.
The lads fix to meet at a hotel in town –
they might not be here next Saturday night.
The bar soon fills, and there’s laughing and noise.
The girls are friendly. They all should be dancing,
but where’s the band? The barman says the band’s
gone to War, but they didn’t take the piano.
As far as the airmen know, no one can play,
but somebody calls out: ‘Who plays piano?
Let’s have some music!’ And tall, quiet George says,
‘I play a bit’, and they slap his shoulders
and let him through, and he plays a bit for hours.
They sing and dance because War’s nearly
over and here come the post-War days.
Lads line up pints on the piano top,
too much beer by half for one pianist,
and anyway George is no drinker.
Then someone announces they ought to lock up,
and George is shutting the piano lid
when one of the men leans across and says,
‘By, bloody hell, George, though, you’re a dark horse!
All this bloody time, and none of us knew.’

This is quite slender, as stories go,
but it has a beginning and moves
to an end, with a crisis in-between.
There’s still some fleshing out to be done,
which bare bones leave plenty of space for:
uniforms, Brylcreem, blue smoke in glass light shades,
the shade of the lipstick the girls lay their hands on.
And how have they got there? Bikes? A lorry?
Will any man marry his dancing girl,
or only promise to?
What do the old ones
keep to themselves as they watch from the side?
Possibly stories with broken bones
they could relay the flesh onto if they wished,
but old ones don’t tell all that might be told.
Or if they do, not the same way twice.


Robert Etty lives in Lincolnshire. His poems have appeared in literary publications since the 1980s. Shoestring Press has published several of his collections.


Read More

Joanna Nissel




After Kathryn O’ Driscoll

Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?
Wasn’t it the yellow-joy chirp overheard
on the dawn walk to work

–a reminder of the things in this life
that are delicate and made of more
than the hollow-boned expanses
between their filaments of cartilage?

These days I break over a disapproving glance,
forgotten change, the endless endlessness
of doing a little better every day.
But I remember when,

before his heart stopped, my father
and I used to sit on the flint wall
in the garden and listen to the gurgle
of wood pigeons he swore were eagles.

I raised an eyebrow; he snorted, smiled,
and told me he pitied the man who married me,
this great, wise queen to whom he offered his arm.
I took it and rose, stood on the wall’s flinty precipice

and under the glow of moonlight
I could almost see the feathers sprouting,
their glint of gold so bright against the garden
and my legs, wings, ready to kick off, to dive.



Joanna Nissel is a Brighton-based poet. She was the runner up for the 2018 New Poets Prize and has been published widely, including Tears in the Fence, The Fenland Reed, Eyeflash, and Atrium.

Read More

Maxine Rose Munro




On the edge of the Arctic

If the light were to leave our world,
what of it? We would gather
with fire under sturdy roof.
We would share spirits
and stories, songs,
We would sleep
soft in warmth of ourselves.
If the light stuck up above, day
and night, well what of that?
We would work our skills,
sail over horizons.
We would seek
to be sought, go
or stay as we felt we should.
If you don’t suppose I speak true,
visit with me.
It is north,
then north some more.



Maxine Rose Munro writes in English and her native Shetlandic Scots. She is widely published, including being a previous Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee.

Read More