Zelda Chappel




after Liz Berry

Hot, the rhythm of our exhalations is a pigeon flock
disturbed. Without reference, my dialect is unplaced

so swap me your snicket for a cut and I’ll lend you
my bones like brittle spires, help you find a direction.

We could use the maps held in our heads unknowingly
overlapping, with hard-traced line and contentious

boundaries. But the truth is I would rather be left here
in the heart of it—an aftermath, unbridled, bare-hoofed,

growing feral in the fret. You’ll feel it on the margins
of the Lee, how our friction gets kneaded in and out.




Zelda Chappel writes, often on the backs of things. Her work can be found in several publications both online and in print including Popshot, Obsessed with Pipework, Lampeter Review, HARK and The Interpreters House. Her debut collection, The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat was released in July 2015 from Bare Fiction.  She tweets, sometimes a little too often as @ZeldaChappel

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The Ninth Day of Christmas – Zelda Chappel, Charlotte Gann and Maggie Butt




New Year

Write to me and tell me how you long for snow, the crisp white
blank of new beginnings. I’ve watched you, enjoying the poise
of waiting, the rough edge of the cusp of it grinding at our skin
’til we’re raw with it. I’m giddy with the drug of it, want you
to be too. In the coming days I’ll be looking constantly to the sky
for anchorage, unable to predict her moods. I’ll learn to absorb
the grey slate wash and squalid days of pale blue light, decipher
the punctuation of birds coming home, leaving young. I know
you’ll be listening as I devour the silence of cold, cold air, trying
to pack it away in my abdomen so I can use it later when time
is hot and frantic. You’ll like the way the cold stabs at the heart
of us when we’re fighting it. I want you to think of us encrusted
with frost, cracking and spidery across every inch of limb until
we’ve refracted every piece of light we can. I want you to feel it
when it melts, the sun as it moves into spring, the dead skin
we’ve slipped and left for ground. I want us to count up all our ends
then bury them with the bulbs, long for the bloom, feel the wait.



Zelda Chappel would be an intrepid explorer if courage and money permitted.  Instead she writes, often on the backs of things.  Most recently her poems can be found in a handful of publications including Popshot, Bare Fiction and HARK.  She is the co-editor at Elbow Room and tweets as @ZeldaChappel.



The Other Girl

The girl who came to see you earlier
trailed around these busy streets after
she left your building. Crept along
the inside edge of pavements. Steadied

herself with one hand to railings. Kept
her eyes down, except for glances over
her shoulders, to check black-coated
others didn’t walk too near behind her.

When doorways gaped, throwing warm
yellow arcs across the paving stones,
she snuffled close, snorting the scent
of overcoats draped over the backs

of armchairs, trays of bright sherry
and chocolates; scuttled across stiff
Welcome mats, while automatic doors
slid open. Closed again. Let no one in.

The Christmas lights dragged her free
of the ground. Loosed at last, she drifted
and bounced like a grey dust ghost
against the crowd’s puffa jackets, bags

of late-night shopping. Listed along
between lanes of traffic; hopped across
the central reservation, pulled on
a jerky silver thread towards the lanterns.

While you reversed out of the mews,
dipped your headlamps southward,
she climbed up on the rail, lifted her face.
Her eyes, they said, were lit up, shining.



Charlotte Gann is a freelance writer and editor from Sussex. Her poetry pamphlet, The Long Woman (Pighog Press) was shortlisted for the 2012 Michael Marks Award.



1st Jan. 4am

The dry cough of a fox shocks us awake
announces this new year. The country comes
to town and something old as fear pads through
suburban streets with rasping, strangulated
cry. It hunts its mate. We lie and wait
for answering bark, between the bands
of drunken revellers. Hear the old year
turn tail and slope off into the dark.



Maggie Butt‘ first published this poem in ‘petite’ (Hearing Eye 2011) This is her website

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Zelda Chappel





Amber takes her turn and waits.  The rooks are a clockwork
mechanism made for gathering bones and this landing strip is littered.
You’d spat them out with mustard vigour, mouth running dry as hay
having no use for them now, you’d left them to grow old alone

heavy with the things we never said. Sometimes air gets held
tight as twigs in a blackbird’s grip but it cannot make a nest, you said.
I didn’t buy it until the machines came in to split the sums, make wounds
divide up land in a virus of furrows and crossed lines, watching

light breaking up with the dark.




Zelda Chappel writes because she has to and often on the backs of things.  She has been published in a handful of publications including Popshot, Elbow Room and South Bank Poetry and was nominated for the Forward Prize this year.  She tweets, often a little too much, as @ZeldaChappel

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The Seventh Day of Christmas: Adam Warne, Zelda Chappel



A Christmas Carol From Ovid

He dumped her by text.

She sat outside Costa and read the message:

“i don’t think we should see each other anymore”

What a dick.

She wasn’t going to let him make her cry.

She started to cry.


As she cried

the tears flowed down her cheeks

in burning rivulets.

As she cried

the tears began to burn away her skin.

Fur pushed towards the surface,

a pair of antlers sprouted,

her nose went red.


She cried and cried

until she had forgotten herself

and off she galloped,

leapt into the night

heading north.



Adam Warne: In the past Adam was part of 28 Sonnets Later and performed at Luton Fringe Festival with The Poetry Choir. He got a degree from UEA, organised cabaret nights and his poetry appeared online and in The Rialto. Following these successes, he’s now employed to push trolleys at Asda.




Afterwards we found


space for whiskey-stained ghosts to pass between our lips.

Tonight we’ll mark the days’ shortness with our breaths

and taught skins.  Touching, clouds of whispers dissipate

slow, linger cold as orbs

hung low.


From the pavement, streetlamps pick out laughter with

precision, watch it dance with night ’til we fold mesmerised

by our own noises.  Tonight we are caught moving just out

of reach.  The cold never felt

so warm.



Zelda Chappel is a poet and occasional photographer living halfway between the city and the sea.  Slightly obsessed with fountain pens and tea. Previously published in Popshot, South Bank Poetry and Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2012 (and a couple of others).



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Zelda Chappel


in hold
we are hip to hip

your palm pressed firm
in the small of my back
fingerprints left on vertebrae,
the flexing of the chord

in hold
your heart beats

in my chest and rattles
bones, busting in or out I can’t
decide, your gut wrestling mine
to the floor, tangled hair

in hold
the walls are air

the landing cold, hard
hands tied I do not merge
but spread thinner, thinner still
until I am seen, invisible.




Zelda Chappel is a poet and occasional photographer living halfway between the city and the sea.  Slightly obsessed with fountain pens and tea. Previously published in Popshot, South Bank Poetry and Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2012 (and a couple of others).

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Reviews of ‘Twelve: Slanted Poems for Christmas’

‘This pamphlet is a beautiful thing. I spent a long time looking at and touching it before reading the poems, and now is sits on my coffee table so I can look at it everyday. The cover image is a photograph of an assemblage by co-editor Helen Ivory – a slanted image of a Christmas angel with a blackbird’s wings, its cloth arms, with one hand missing, stitched to a doll’s head and shoulders. The endpapers are gorgeous, too, but on to the poems…’

Maria C McCarthy on Amazon


‘Slanted is by no means cheerless, but it is thought-provoking. It’s probably not the gift to buy for anyone who likes saccharine sentiment, but if you know someone who appreciates contemporary poetry and likes to be challenged and stimulated, you couldn’t do better for them than to slip this under the tree with a ribbon round it.’

Angela Topping, concluding her considered piece in Sabotage Reviews


‘Just read this pamphlet of new poems from some great UK poets. It does what it says on the gothic Christmas wrapper – it presents you Christmas from twisted slants. If you like dark, odd and the skewered, it’s damn worth the read. It ‘s just twelve poems but the depth of them leaves you feeling you’ve eaten something red and meaty. It strips Christmas down to its turkey bones. It made me feel I’d read a special yet distinctly un-Christmassy affair. Another thing it does is inspires you to write something distinctly un-Christmassy about Christmas. A new muse:  always a grand thing.’

Vera Clark  ABC Tales


‘I’ve been slow getting into the Xmas spirit this year, but have been Slanted more into the mood by this seasonal pamphlet anthology from Ink, Sweat and Tears press. The twelve poems offer an impressive range of styles and variety of slanted festive narratives/viewpoints.

My favourites on initial readings might be different another year, another time, in another mood. But I particularly admired Luke Wright’s moving, ironic ‘Watch’, which says so much in so few crafted words. Moniza Alvi’s ‘Angels’ portrays the reality of Christmas for the elderly and ill, with striking opening and closing images. Andrea Holland’s ‘Spent’ is also full of beautiful details with a cracking, satisfying ending. And finally, the striking imagery and humour of George Szirtes’s sonnet ‘The Norwich Version’ of The Twelve Days of Christmas. This was a particularly fine closing poem for me personally, as its punchline is exactly what the Droitwich Arts Network chairman joked about doing for last year’s Twelve Days of Christmas art in shop windows project!’

Sarah James Blog (08/12/2013)


‘My copy arrived in the post, my Christmas present to myself. It’s beautiful, quirky, magical, an antidote to all the seasonal schmaltz. That’s the poems; the book itself is a quality product, and excellent value. Seriously, buy 2 copies. A poethief will ‘borrow’ one, for sure.’

Breda Wall Ryan (via Facebook 2013)


‘Just wanted to say how much I’ve loved it since it popped through my door! So beautifully produced and the perfect antedote to Christmas fatigue. Great to see a subject spun so freshly. Have read and re-read and re-read again.’

Zelda Chappel (via Facebook 2013)


I’ve just bought this and I adore it! I had the odd feeling that it could have my emotions about Christmas on my behalf and save me having to bother with them. I realise that makes little sense. Perhaps I’m saying it’s cathartic? Whatever I’m saying, it’s brilliant and you’d be a very silly billy not to have a copy to go with your mince pies.

Louisa Campbell (via Facebook 2016)


Bought, and highly recommended’

Chrissie Cuthbertson (via Facebook 2016)

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And the first ‘Pick of the Month’ for 2016 is ‘Electricity and void’ by Mike Farren

It went right down to the wire, but we can now announce that January’s ‘Pick of the Month’, and our first for 2016, is Mike Farren’s ‘Electricity and void’. Mike is a freelance writer and ex-IT consultant. He lives near Bradford and has had poems published on the Leads to Leeds website and in anthologies from Beehive Poets, most recently alongside Ian Duhig, Steve Ely and others.

Mike receives a £10 National Book Tokens gift card.


Electricity and void

We are mostly electricity and void
and, mostly, it suits me to believe
matter illusion, time a mystery.
But on this warm-cold night in early spring
you lay your material, electrical void
next to mine, and nothing is important
but the solid and the here – unless
it’s the memory of the breeze that lapped
at our mezzogiorno sweat,
before standing at the window,
looking down on the whitewashed wall,
teeming with insect life,
ready to sing like angels.


Voters comments included:

It’s my kind of poetry. Reminds me of Douglas Dunn; almost Larkin. Very Farren too, no doubt.

One of those short pieces of prose that, as you read it several times, you come to gain a very vivid image of a place and time that holds great personal meaning to, and left an very enduring impression with, the writer. Very uplifting, and I love the final line.

A resonant poem sharing a touching personal moment; what it means to be present and alive to our experience and the world beyond.

The imagery seems familiar but is a challenge. I am hoping that my mezzagiorno sweat also goes when I stand at the window.

This poem has a resonance that I find deeply appealing

It stayed me with for days.

[I liked] the imagery and the sense of life

Captures the pain and beauty of being alive

Mike’s poem captured a very human moment, describing a great feeling of tenderness and hope in a few lines.

The unexpected imagery and the distance it travels.



Comments on the rest of the shortlist included:

Diana Brodie, Happy

Spare and precise expression, moving and surprising, mysterious and thought-provoking.

…it left a mark in my mind which remained with me long after I had finished reading all the poems.


Zelda Chappel, Exhalations

I love the way Zelda takes a relationship & turns it into something tactile – something that gets into your bones

The language, the way it sounds spoken out loud, the flow, the rhythm, the force of it.


Kitty Coles, The Thin Woman

Imagery that instantly grabs attention and is memorable; good robust language.

reminiscent of Sylvia Plath but different and very visual


Daniel Roy Connolly, Des bons mots

Such technical brilliance, such mordancy

‘All things considered takes ages.’ Simply the best opening line I’ve ever read.


Seth Crook, Three Years

Pure and limpid voice, restrained emotion, for me it’s word perfect.

One word leads gently and flawlessly into another, building an intimate world that nevertheless allows me to participate in it. It’s a loving, sad poem that makes me feel warm and loved.



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