Freedom: Seth Crook, Penelope Shuttle, Cliff Forshaw for National Poetry Day



What Greater Map of Liberty
Than One Marked Out by Things Themselves

Prints on sand, made
by beach party feet;
by the yellow-boot soles

of a fisherman, stood
beside two smaller feet
far away from the mass

the beach remembers
only as a scuffed blur.
See their toes almost touch.



Seth Crook taught philosophy at various universities before moving to the Hebrides. He does not like cod philosophy in poetry, though he likes cod, poetry and philosophy. His poems recently appeared in such places as Gutter, New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland, Rialto, Magma, Envoi, Prole and Lunar Poetry. One was selected as one of the Best Scottish Poems of 2014.

(A version first published in the Glasgow Review of Books)



On the Quayside at Portsea an Old Salt Button-holes a Passer-by

…there‘s no one style of pirate ship, pal, sloop or ship-of-the-line,
we use any vessel we can get our hands on.
It must be fast though. The pirate code forbids me to tell you more.

Years spent in jail gave me a high regard for iron.
It is a master of power, structure, suspension, brutality.
An iron shirt never needs ironing.

Nowadays I like the air better… salty up-draughts and thermals,
clouds like sky-cloaked widow-women carrying harps of hornbeam and brass,
busy with their beautiful Acts of Pardon and Acts of Grace.

My fine ship The Monkey’s Fist has a compass for all weathers,
she’s been blessed by a famous painter, she’s goose-winged and trim.
Paso a bordo, amigo.  Out of harbour we’ll hoist the jolly blood-red flag,
I’ll read aloud from the bible to comfort you as we speed the flashing brine.




Penelope Shuttle lives in Cornwall.  Her most recent publication is Will You Walk A Little Faster? (Bloodaxe Books), May 2017.





Walking through woods along the Contoocook,
you pointed him out, big as an upturned leg of lamb:
totem, top of a trunk. Later googled, then looked him up
in your Granddad’s old mildewed leather-bound book.

Great Grey Owl: Strix nebulosa? Yellow eyes?
Ear tufts? Two white marks like a dress bow tie?
You kept going back, but couldn’t definitively say
just exactly what it was we saw that day.

Heard you’d had an owl as a Norfolk boy: tiny lives
you tried to trap; the best laid plans caught mostly night;
then mice brought back from pet-shops across the OS map;
black pellets – coughed-up, the furred and bony point

to the exclamation mark of hot white shit
shat right down your Grateful Dead T–shirt.


Driving, had seen this other fly-guy: face
goggled like a dusty Ace of Hearts,
winging it low, twice across this same twist
of nowhere – towards Withernsea in broad daylight.

Then, walking, saw the white undercarriage
metamorphose to gymnast’s legswing, lithe
against where you feel the downbeat of wing to wing.
Dusk. Eyes knew it before I knew it, tune to night.

Stand still, feet heavy with Holderness clay;
notice a hornbeam has usurped the unsuitable beech.
Somewhere an engine dies. Look to the hedge,
the dimming estuary, the darkened east.

Then think again, of you, of voles, of mice.
Eroding coasts. Owls. That distant screech?



Cliff Forshaw has been a writer-in-residence in California, France, Tasmania and Romania, twice a Hawthornden Writing Fellow, and appeared at the International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua. Collections include Vandemonian (Arc, 2013),  Pilgrim Tongues (Wrecking Ball, 2015), Satyr (Shoestring, 2017).

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