Samuel Tongue





What is it like to be a herring gull?

(After Thomas Nagel)



Circling the heavy church at the end of the street,

you see a cliff-stack far out in a grey Atlantic,


an inherited seascape sloshing inside your skull,

salting your nerves, your desire’s tidal pull.


Fat and imperious on rooftops, you laugh

down the chimneypots, my hearth

echoing with your uninvited call.

My father excuses himself. My tea cools


as I swallow his news.

The street heaves and yaws;


cherry blossom froths around the steps

and caught in the swell, a shopping bag pulses,


a jellyfish against the rail.

I throw my head back and call and call and call.




Samuel Tongue has published poems in magazines including The Red Wheelbarrow, Northwords Now, Magma, Gutter, and The List. He received a Callan Gordon Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2013 and is working on his first full collection. He lectures in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow.  Twitter: @SamuelTongue

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Rosie Jackson




The Ashmolean is Closed

We’ve Skyped a few times, he’s a Quaker, seems sane,
so I agree to a date, do Sudoku on the train,
meet him at the station with a head full of numbers
(eleventh hour, third age), we talk in code, walk
by the Thames, detour through the cemetery of Saint Sepulchre
where headstones crave permission to lie down.
When we reach the Quaker meeting house, which smells
of biscuits and philanthropy, he tells me there is no God,
while out in the streets, Oxford’s polish is wearing thin,
the pavements house more beggars than a rich city
should boast. Near the market, a homeless woman speaks
to him in tongues, he buys me over-sweet flapjack,
talks about his three wives, four sons, five dogs, six decades,
and when I look down, his flimsy shoes are not the footwear
to walk with me over hot coals, high mountains. I feel
my heart divide to keep itself company, suggest we go,
as planned, to the Ashmolean, where Botticelli surely
will redeem the day, Samuel Palmer will save me,
but when we get there, the museum’s closed – hasn’t he lived
in this shining city long enough to know the Ashmolean
shuts on Mondays? – so he takes me in his car to meander
past places where he’s worked – hospitals, institutions
for the less than fully sane, insists his patients loved him,
tells me tales that should be zipped into non-disclosure pants.
And I see him as an animal rolling, long after early retirement,
in the left-behind scent of other peoples’ lives –
their broken lives, their secrets – and the smell’s too much,
I rush to the train, dig out my unfinished Sudoku,
press into each remaining space my blessed singleness
one, one, one, one, one.



Rosie Jackson lives in Somerset. Publications include What the Ground Holds (2014), The Light Box (2016), The Glass Mother: A Memoir (2016). She won 1st prize at Wells, 2018. Two Rivers Press will publish Two Girls and a Beehive (poems about Spencer) in 2020.  


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Alan Price reviews ‘Later there will be Postcards’ by Claire Booker


It’s rare to come across a new poet who not only has a confident voice, but more importantly, a sensibility that tackles death, the passage of time, ageing, childhood and a strong eye for the natural world. Such big themes are handled with wit, originality and insight. Claire Booker’s range is considerable. Her skill is evident. And the sheer musicality of her work in her debut collection Later There Will Be Postcards exciting.

With her first poem The Night Mare, you’re immediately thrown into powerful imagery of sexual anxiety and identity transference, jolted by reasoning and sadness. The nightmare’s the dream horse that the poet rides and feeds with a lemon.


I take the little tongue with a mind of its own.

Vice it. Force the rind down.


Waking up, the dreamer recalls the past.


When we were young enough to count ourselves in summers

And you my turkey cock with feathers and attitude.


Two great lines. Further great lines from her poems are worth quoting. In the moving Meeting my Mother she arrives at this consideration.


This is not my mother. Or has she now assumed,

In some slant way, aspects of the room?


That’s a beautiful, touching and exact way of imagining the presence of a dead parent. Whilst in Booker’s last poem Provencal Crosses she recalls playing, as a child, near a cemetery. A bell sounds and she wonders where the chimes go.


“…whether they hang


blind in the cave of immense sky and who

makes the bell sing each hour. I am too young still


to know that even God can be automated –

that there will be just this one time


Of course it’s unfair to simply cherry-pick lines from remarkable poems. But with poems as good as these it’s hard not to do so.


Booker has her influences – for me that’s early Samuel Beckett. In the beautiful poem Model in Love (after Giacometti’s “Walking Woman” sculpture) we have a spindly upright figure that’s inimitably the Italian artist’s yet also like a character in Beckett’s late prose. Her poem achieves a delicate balance – both praising and criticising the act of creativity.


how he came again and again

simply to touch

the intelligent slope of her shoulder.


This is followed by the dark constriction of the poem’s final lines.


still she knows that a girl must be free

to walk as she will –

that a pedestal impedes,

no matter how tenderly it kisses

the stems of her feet.


Claire Booker is also unafraid to experiment with form. And although I think poems like On Hearing the Bell Again at Chichilianne and Visiting My Father are

not as intense and as moving as her other pieces their technical dexterity should be applauded.

Later There Will Be Postcards is an outstanding debut pamphlet. Claire Booker’s humour, startling (but never over the top) imagery, compassion and tone convinced me she’s a genuinely original poet who takes great calculated risks and is able to quietly master her risk-taking. I eagerly await a full collection and even more surprises.




Alan Price‘s film reviews can be read online at Filmuforia.  A poetry collection entitled Outfoxing Hyenas was published by Indigo Dreamsin 2012, and his pamphlet  Angels at the Edge appeared in 2016.


Later there will be Postcards by Claire Booker is published by Green Bottle Press and can be ordered here:


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