To Celebrate ‘Light’ for National Poetry Day: Sarah James, Jan Harris, Victoria Gatehouse




Against Candlelight


As marbled wax melts, flickers

of unknown lives beckon

from fire’s hypnotic chaining.


Colliers, chandlers and cavemen

gaze with me: my desk a shock

of print-outs, letters and confusions.


I try to rope these family scraps

together, to secure

the past on which I exist,


but the string I have twisted

to makeshift wick

coils downwards, limply.


A bread-thief stoned to death,

the wyuen pine of a ducking-stool,

Saxon kings’ golden burial mounds…


Bones beneath the ground;

memory in black smoke.

I feed the paper skeleton


of my great-great-grandmother’s unwed pain

to the wick’s relentless flame,

then pinch out its burn.









Sarah James’s latest collections include ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press) and ‘The Magnetic Diaries’ (KFS), which was highly commended in the Forward Prizes and staged at The Courtyard, Hereford. Winner of the Overton Poetry Prize 2015, her website is at

Note:  First published in ‘plenty-fish’, Nine Arches Press, 2015.






While all is quiet


She steals time while others sleep,
plucks seconds from the night
and cups them in the pale moon of her hands.

While the house collects its breath
she gathers up the bustle of the day
and strains it through a muslin cloth:
spent elderflowers,
sharp lemon twists,
pips and woody stalks,

In the silence she sips her wine
and warms the golden liquid on her tongue.
It floods her mouth with light
till morning clamours like a hungry child.



Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire.  In 2015 her work has been published in Snakeskin, Envoi, Abridged, and Poems for a Liminal Age, an anthology in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres.  Two poems were highly commended in the Chipping Sodbury poetry competition, and a tanka appeared in the Northern Health and Social Services Trust’s Colour of Poetry exhibition.


Note: While all is quiet has previously been published by 14 Magazine.



The Moth


This is her time –

birds dark-stitching telegraph wires,


the woods blue-shadowed,

crackling with dusk.


The moon untethers her,

she pitches from fence to wall


to leaf, would hurl herself

for miles, such is her faith


and you think of how she gorged

on hawthorn and thyme, spun


herself a mantle, hung tight

inside the blackout


of her own skin

before the breakdown, the forcing


of all that remained

through the veins of her wings,


this lit-bulb junkie,

wrecking herself on your porch light.




Victoria Gatehouse lives in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, Magma, The Rialto, Poetry News, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Furies and Her Wings of Glass. Competition placements include Ilkley, Mslexia, Poetry News Members’ Competition, Prole Laureate and The Interpreter’s House. Victoria is working on a debut pamphlet.


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