Jacques Groen





WHEN an attic becomes garret                                           SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19

and we move away

the furthest we can


from street life

coughs and kisses

handshakes, smiles of love, in love


and fear makes us shrink

to orbs of mercury



and someone tells me

she got mugged

for a pint of milk


And we reach for our guns


And some of us sing at the bullets.



Jacques Groen‘s works have appeared in Twelve Rivers, Cathalbui-2019 anthology, Lighten-Up-Online; was runner-up at 2019 St Petroc’s competition; can be read on the Firebird Writers website; has been chosen for Poetry Cafe, poem-of-the-month Jan/Feb.’20; volunteers at a Suffolk prison creative writers group.

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Kathryn Alderman reviews ‘Hex’ by Jennie Farley




As with her previous collection, My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams), Hex explores ‘the extraordinary with the everyday […] myth, magic and fairy tale’, but goes darker. It quotes Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus (1984) ‘She was feeling supernatural tonight, she wanted to eat diamonds’, offering a carnival feast of darkly sparkling gems.

The first poem ‘Changes’ (p.9), echoes Carter’s Company of Wolves (1979), whose werewolves wear fur on the outside:
…This is how things change …
When you notice that bones
are being worn outside the skin
like gloves, when the scar on your ankle
has become a dagger …

so, the tone of the transgressive and the extraordinary within the ordinary is set.

It’s a magic carpet ride through history, myth, literature, art, personal experience and the everyday. Jennie has a skill for inhabiting characters, for the strange within the known/unknown spheres.

The personae provide a conduit for shadow observation at the edge of transgressive darkness, as with Oedipus’ mother in ‘Jocasta’s Song’ (p. 25):

… Many men sleep with their mothers
in their dreams …

‘Blodeuwedd(The Mabinogion (c.11C-12C), offers Gothic imagery in tones of E.T.A Hoffmann’s ‘Uncanny’ (p.13):

…But I can’t help hearing
wings beating at the window, the scratch
of claws scraping the glass with my name.

In other incarnations, fantasy and fact inhabit co-exist, with a humorous slant. In ‘Miss Haversham Goes Shopping’ (p.37), Charles Dickens’ character is an aged care-home dweller, remembering lost love in Debenhams:

… Cardy, trimmed slippers, a rug of crocheted
squares over her knees …
…a string of pearls glistening like tears

Amongst dark notes are flashes of humour, as in ‘Changes’ (as above):

… When your pet cat turns feral,
all snarling and claws, and the cushions
in your sitting-room look furious …

Elsewhere, humorous subjects are treated with sensitivity, as with the cross-dresser in ‘Vintage’ (p.39):

… On with the heels.
The backlit mirror flaunts his catwalk twirl,
a tip of the hat … The dog yawns.

‘I Knitted You a Halo’ (p.41) voices the real-life octogenarian Cecilia Giménez from Borja, who mistakenly ruined the church fresco Ecce Homo by Elías García Martínez:

… I knitted you a halo, but you said, No!
You were never one for showing off …

‘Sacrifice’ (p.14), harbours the threat of dark at the heart of early Folk/Fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (1837) grows legs, to be with her human love. This delivers a graphic shock of what that would entail:

… My new legs are two spikes. At each
step I take, I tread on blades …
But I know our passion will be a sword.

There’s beauty in the language too, ‘If I Could’ (p.30):

… If I could reach the wolf of you,
beyond the sleek lover, the human truth,
… I would lick your paws, anoint your pelt
with my woman’s scent, feed you
on apples of the moon.

The tone is theatrical, with a cast to entertain. Carter is threaded with brilliant, dark menace, when this surfaces in Hex, the page ignites. It’s a wondrous, sensual riot of transgressive themes. For some readers, they may step a little too far beyond their safe boundaries, others would tolerate more bite, but its imagery and language engages.
The work in pp.18-24 and pp.31-32 enters a deeper reality, closer to the poet’s own psyche. The language speaks directly of loss and heartbreak. ‘Snow’, ‘Shadows’, ‘October’, ‘Colouring In’, ‘Like Glass’, ‘Once’ and ‘Pearls’ are finely crafted with unbearable loss. They’re beautiful, moving and almost too painful to witness, as with here in ‘Ashes’ (p.20):

… If they’d given me ashes
I would’ve come to the river,
and let the gentle water carry him
downstream, on a prayer –

but here I stand, empty-handed,
imagining tiny fin-like limbs flailing
against the flow …

These eight poems sit at the heart of this collection. Perhaps they don’t fit ‘hex’ as defined as ‘an evil spell, bringing bad luck and trouble’ (Cambridge Dictionary, online) but loss is a dark force which inhabits its own liminal space. Perhaps they would sit comfortably in their own collection, or perhaps this is what Hex is really saying after all.



You can order your copy of Hex by Jennie Farley (Indigo Dreams)  here: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/jennie-farley-hex/4594369593

Kathryn Alderman‘s blog: https://kathrynaldermanwriting.poetry.blog/

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John Doyle




Besançon : October 1991

Motorways in France
stripped to their flesh of cars, of trucks

with names of families
who run small to medium fruit and veg companies

near the Swiss border.
France is mine,

though – I’m almost sleeping,
I know – France is mine.

It’s 2.28am, possibly later.
Several sections of Shine On You Crazy Diamond

hang on leaves of trees
that droop from by-passed villages, industrial estates

trucks will leave for Italy and Spain moments from now.
Memorials to people who just seemed destined to die

in the most sad and bitter ways –
war, smashed-up tour buses, young movie-stars –

are secondary to Richard Wright’s sonic tundra.
It seems suitably European,

lacking time,
clocks wearing blindfolds

like people
at the most lavish and appalling parties in Versailles



John Doyle is somewhere in his 40s, whereabouts exactly, he lost track of a few days before his 41st birthday. From County Kildare in Ireland, he’s had four collections of poetry published to date, with a fifth crash-landing from Neptune in early 2020. He enjoys the writing talents of Audre Lorde, Charles Bukowski, Susan Wicks, and John Haines, the music of Paul Weller, John Coltrane, and Ben Pirani, and the sporting talents of Katie Taylor and Leo Messi. He’ll think of something else as soon as he finishes this bowl of oxtail soup…

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Grant Tarbard




A Field Guide of Our Skin

This invisible body is a lithe
sacrament of flora, bluebell petals
reel dizzily from our thick drench of pores,
lilac deaths reek in our morning peeling.
This ill-lit musculature of fungus
is in a state of grace, symbiotic
yolks open a throat of locusts flitting
between a spit-less vignette of sinew;
flatworms rive in-between capillaries,
networks of hummingbirds smile at black wolves.
A chesty rattle of carnivores eats
droplets of greasy itches, our flesh creeps.
A field guide of our skin hasn’t been written—
still, in old age the ears sprout hawthorn trees.



Grant Tarbard is the author of Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams). His new pamphlet This is the Carousel Mother Warned You About (Three Drops Press) and new collection dog (Gatehouse Press) will be out this year.

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Sally Michaelson




Tzedaka box

On Friday nights
I slipped a coin
through the thin lips
of the blue box.

It was satisfying
to hear it clatter ;
I could feed the tin
but not myself.



Sally Michaelson is a recently retired Conference Interpreter living in Brussels. Her poems have been published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Lighthouse, Algebra of Owls, The Bangor Literary Journal, Squawk Back, Amethyst, and The Lake.


Note: A tzedaka box is for giving charity

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L Kiew




Today everything is on fire & it’s dangerous

the wind claws
crimson back & forth

running across grass

trees catch
leaves ember & cinders


I pray
please rain
save some green

there’s a grasshopper
poised for flight
at the bottom of the page



A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet came out with Offord Road Books in February 2019. She is currently a participant in the London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Website: http://www.lhhkiew.co.uk/

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