Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Review: Life in Suspension / La Vie Suspendue – Hélène Cardona

Life in Suspension cover image web
Published by Salmon Poetry

By Guy Sangster-Adams

Extraordinarily, magically, poignantly, I could have sworn just as I finished reading Hélène Cardona’s latest poetry collection and was switching on my laptop to write this review that I could faintly hear a lone piper playing Flowers of the Forest. Highly unusual in a house on the southern coast of England close on 500 miles from Edinburgh. As I threw open the windows with a clear view of Cap Gris Nez on the French coast 20 miles away the music grew louder. The air was suffused with the 500 year old air lamenting the Scottish fallen at the Battle of Flodden, the crash of the waves and the wind in the trees on the cliffside. I could see no piper but highly appropriately in my reverie post reading Life in Suspension / La Vie Suspendue as I looked out to sea the music pulled tight on the Celtic thread of my ancestry.

‘Highly appropriately’, because through the poems in the collection Cardona explores life after loss, particularly the loss of one’s mother, when one feels as though one has gone into suspended animation between the past and the future. How one can feel lost in the heartbroken void of the present, but also how one can slowly become receptive again to the the threads of memories and not only pull them tight but also wrap them around the lines stretching back through one’s parents and through the generations of one’s family. As she writes in the poem, In Search for Benevolent Immortality:

‘I hear beyond the range of sound
the ineffable, the sublime, my mother’s
breath, grandmother’s smile, ancestors’
voices, to soothe and heal the sorrow.’

HeleneCardonaGS-Photo-by-Marta-Vassilakis2 web

Hélène Cardona photographed by Marta Vassilakis

Life in Suspension / La Vie Suspendue is a bilingual collection. Cardona wrote each poem first in English and then in French, linguistically reflecting the fact that she was born in France and now lives in the USA. But a life in suspension for Cardona is a life suspended between many different languages and lands, cherished memories and experiences in a variety of different tongues, and the ancestral voices she hears are as multi-lingual as she is: she speaks English, French, Spanish, German, Greek and Italian fluently. Her mother, Kitty, was Greek, her father, Jose Manuel Cardona, is a Spanish poet, and her formative years were spent all across Europe, in addition to time in the USA.

As an acclaimed and accomplished poet, actor (her credits include: Chocolat, Mumford,The 100 Foot Journey, Heroes Reborn), and literary translator, language and literature are her lifeblood and passion and she is as beautifully deft with the words of others as she with her own. As she compounds in the first verse of the collection’s titular poem, in which she beautifully and evocatively encapsulates her poetic voice and muse:

‘Let me introduce myself.
I’m the Memory Collector, your companion, and spirit guide.
Let’s unwind the clock, peel the past.
The reflections you give me, conjure, surrender from within,
I throw into the fire, the cauldron of resolutions.
They burn into embers and flickers that evolve into butterflies.
They flutter away, heal and free you of all chains
So they can revisit and reinvent who you are.
Let the dance begin.’

Helene-Cardona web

The dance, ‘a dance to the music of time’ to borrow from Nicholas Poussin/Anthony Powell, in Life in Suspension / La Vie Suspendue is in four parts. For me, the poems in the first part explore the loss of a mother, how life becomes a frozen present – there is no future, only a past one is desperate to remember, to remain in; ‘a cloister of shadows loved’ as Cardona writes in Twisting the Moon. Whilst in the second they reflect on how the love of another can help one heal, allow one to continue, as she writes in Eagle, ‘On the wall of time to come / a window appears’.

As a teenager Cardona spent time in Wales, and later in Ireland, and the collection and, for me, particularly the poems in the third part take inspiration from Celtic legend, from Ceridwen, a mother, an enchantress, and the Celtic goddess of rebirth, transformation, of whom Medieval Welsh poetry speaks of having possessed the cauldron of poetic inspiration. The poems in this section explore transformation, metamorphosis, and the natural world to reflect on the changes in oneself bereavement brings, the natural cycle, and also that in searching for one’s mother after losing her, and wondering how one can ‘find’ her again, there is the realisation that she is in everything, throughout the beauty of nature. The final part is contemplative of one’s own place in ‘the dance’; the past is gone, but lives on within the child, what are the ways in which we are reborn, and how do we face our own end. As Cardona writes in Between Klimt and Giacometi, ‘Every wall is a beginning’.

To end with the three words with which this review began the beautifully realised Life in Suspension / La Vie Suspendue is extraordinary, magical, and poignant.

Hélène Cardona:

Salmon Poetry:

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Poetry: Sam Edwards – an extract from the collection, Sodium


Wild child daughter of a 1960’s rock guitarist turned cult leader, Sam Edwards is the award-winning screenwriter & producer of crime thriller Stealing Elvis and hit indie feature documentary, The Promoter through her production company Ragged Crow.   She also writes and performs rock & roll poetry about madness and bad behaviour, of which Sodium is her first anthology.


You’re so emotionally tight,

But I’ll let you prise me open.

Face sparkles with naïveté’s light,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

You’ll assist me in my twisted plight,

Sick with lust at the words I’ve spoken.

We’ll indulge in a sex fun fight,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

Your soft inflections are so contrite,

But lucked out slickness is my only token.

Can I barter for your soul tonight?

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

Let me set your body alight,

You’re the grate that I burn my hope on.

I can squeeze your goodness tight.

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken

Don’t scream that it wasn’t right -

The sacrifice at my crimson totem.

You felt my hook and you took a bite,

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.

O darling you’re a pitiful sight,

Now your anger has awoken.

It’s love that I can’t requite.

You’re cute and sweet and easily broken.


Eyes staring wired and lipstick bright,

They stagger out in the brazen night.

They drink and swear, they wear black leathers,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

They’re a bunch of hell-bent bitches.

They fill you up with insatiable itches,

As you fall on your knees to cry and splutter,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

Wound up tight in search of easy game,

Coke buzzed head and their tongues aflame,

They prowl about, they shriek and they hover,

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

Their throats are slick with dirt-cheap liquor.

They’ll take you on with a steel-clad liver.

Lock up your husbands and warn your brothers.

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.

The glasses fly and the knives come out.

Flesh is torn, men scream and shout,

Broken hearts bleeding, bodies bound and tethered.

Mad crazy women and their pretty boy lovers.


Once I was lean,

I would strut and I would prowl,

I would stamp my spiked boots,

Throw my head back and howl.

In the feral night,

I would prey on the weak

I’d drag them to my lair,

Smash their big clay feet.

I was wild, I was crazy,

I was free, I was mean.

I was blood-spitting drunk,

I was a prowler of the street.

I would laugh, I would rant,

I would scream and I would wail.

I’d roll my yellow eyes

And lash my fearsome tail.

Then a shaman came my way,

He spoke to me and saved me.

He fed me tender morsels,

Clipped my claws and renamed me.

They think me very tame now.

I know the things they said;

That he stoppered up my mouth,

And poured concrete in my head.

But I bide my pretty time,

Keep my secrets pitch and black.

I store up my weapons

Bare my teeth and arch my back.

So should you chance to stroll

Past these high stone walls,

And feel an ice-cold fear

Grip your heart, and squeeze your balls,

Know I sit here, vengeful.

I watch for you and wait,

I will pounce and tear and drag you

Back behind my high, spiked gate.


The lure of Death is here.

It’s awful red and gibbous,

Full to bursting.

Waxy, velvetine and taut.

I sit motionless.

Before I plunge to my knees,

Mutter ineffectual pleas,

And sink as low as I can get.

The devils are here again.

The obsessions.

The small knives of self-punishment

Which needle my flesh, my hope, my sanity.

Death importunes sadly,

And caresses with razor-blades.

There is nowhere to turn.

I am trapped in cold iron,

Rusted shut,

My eyes shriek words.

But no-one hears.

All poems in this extract from Sodium by Sam Edwards © Sam Edwards 2011

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SAM EDWARDS will performing a set of rock ‘n’ roll poetry about bad women, black leather and broken hearts at Plectrum-The Cultural Pick’s (P-TCP) Mustered No.8: From Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe on Thursday 26th September 2013 at The Betsey Trotwood, London EC1.

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Sam Edwards

Sodium Rock’n’Roll Poetry

Ragged Crow:

Sodium by Sam Edwards is available both as a paperback book and an ebook from
For details on ordering the paperback, which costs £2.99, click  here.

For details on ordering the ebook which costs £1.99, click here

Read Sam Edwards’ short story, Sorrow, in issue 12 of the print edition of P-TCP, and reviews of Ragged Crow’s films Stealing Elvis and Crossfire in issues 9 and 12 respectively of the print edition of Plectrum – The Cultural Pick, click for more details.

Off_Press: Three Contemporary Polish Poets in Translation

Krzysztof Ciemnołoński, Roman Honet, Joanna Małgorzata Przybylska
Translated from the Polish by Marek Kazmierski


Marek Kazmierski is the director and founder of OFF_ , a UK-based independent press, promoting contemporary creative writing in English and Polish translations, using multimedia and live events to celebrate reading and storytelling in different languages/genres around the world.

The aims of OFF_ are fivefold;

  • encourage the reading of literature in translation

  • bring writers together around an independent press

  • create a bridge between English and Polish literary worlds

  • publish books and anthologies under the OFF_Press banner

  • use multimedia tools and networks to promote literature worldwide

Krzysztof Ciemnołoński

Krzysztof Ciemnołoński

Krzysztof Ciemnołoński, born 1985 in Warsaw, Poland, is a  DJ, events organiser, music critic, and loves post-punk and psychobilly. He has  published the poetry volumes, płaskostopie (SDK 2003) and przebicia (SDK 2005). A new volume, eskalacje, is currently being readied for publication.  He lives in Zalesie Górne with his wife and son.

ruptures (medley)

and another line deprives access to the sea
we stand on the pier paralysed like all
those stories about a group of friends honouring

the final wish of one dead rolling through countries and bars
cross crossroads with the promise of ashes scattered along the coast
but once there can’t do anything other than turn circles

wandering is an aim in itself (when setting off on a
journey choose the furthest route) something constantly
piercing through out of the background like a wave function
explicitly describing the edges of body
sensitive like slabs dragged onto the surface of union
soon background noise will be betrayed by a new frequency
which will leave it all along with the tide

a may night

these days follow each other like minced
meat every set list revealing the decay

fireflies over the lakes millions of dead souls across
the marshes just the one explosion in the labs
residue in the narrow gullet of the woods blossoming

conflict between the locals and onslaughts of mist
who will cast the first stone who will swallow slime
call near animals who by hearing alone will read

the breakdown of systems as new tribes
won’t come won’t explain themselves

when the noise stops no
one will enter here again

Roman Honet

Roman Honet

Between 1995 and 2008 the poet, Roman Honet, who was born in 1974), was the editor of the bimonthly literary and artistic magazine Studium. His poetry is representative of the trend known as the “emboldened imagination” (a term suggested by Marian  Stala), and he is also known as one of the new existentialists. He teaches creative writing at the School of Literary Arts, Jagiellonian University, Krakow.

on recalling

it is early evening camp fires, aniseed
particles on women’s lips. it is listening to
the whisper of motorways coated in a transparent
film of lights like the preparation of our epoch,
the chill of equalizers made by Diora, Radiotechnika,
Unitra. it was all that. boys
carrying the cobalt seas in their eyes and a spade,
they, who so far back fell under the spell of shadows,
engrossed, and now – look –
immense power expels them out of there,
awakens. costs of living have spiralled,
they say. a year gone by
and it’s all the same. the same void
has, then loses him

beach. christmas

at first, there is a stick thrown high,
motion in slowed sequences like the descent of crushed ore
through oxygen, a thoughtless dream. Bricks
licked with a steaming tongue,
chokeberry. a fairytale – about a bold knight. kites, dark lines
linking them with the hands of children on the beach, an air show
of refuelling blood mid-flight,

(the days are blind and tremble gently,
otokar balcy and alojzy mol)

then another month comes along. a year
different again. snow falling on desolate car parks,
on kings among men weighed down by their gifts:
nectar and a hook – suddenly birds, disturbed, their wings in neon
and thorns. then it’s christmas eve.
head surgery. from shadows

emerge long unseen guests
then fall back into shadows.

my dear departed –
I say – nothing connects us any more

Joanna Małgorzata Przybylska

Joanna Małgorzata Przybylska

Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1984, Joanna Małgorzata Przybylska, studied at the University of Lodz, graduating with degrees in sociology and Polish literature. She has won numerous poetry competitions, and her poems have been published in Arterie, Tygiel Kultury, Cegla and various anthologies. She works in a second-hand bookshop in the Limanka district of Lodz.

tell me babe

I don’t know how to be all alone in my poems,
I invent wicked men for company, never sure what it is
they’re made of, horseradish perhaps? rank, but good for you,
seeing they are particularly harmful and healthy and fit,
which may be why I value their company, without admitting to it.

I unleash hysterics and tell ugly tales about them, slanders
make little impression, they head for their summits unmoved.
I want to tell them apart before they set behind the sun, preserved
in jars, keeping verses alive.

joanna comes to the defence of pansies

yes, it’s because you never thought about the flowers,
across yellow wallpaper they escaped in search
of water. too late, they wilt, shrivel – now you should
glue, but I don’t want a dead wall. let’s let them

leave. yes, it’s because you’ll never understand, blurting:
women, pounding fists against dear departed roses,
until they stick for good, get their teeth into
the plasterboard, and then: you crying again? without me
you’d never blossom. it must have been tough, the laws
of physics broken. I asked; ease off, I’m cracking along

the yellowing wallpaper, won’t fit inside me all of the dead
carnations. yes, it’s because you always took me with a pinch,
without asking you unwrap, knot a lasso, and yet without me
you won’t catch, and again: hold here please.


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Krzysztof Ciemnołoński

Jagiellonian University, Krakow

Poetry: Watershed, Jim Carruth’s poem for Arria, Andy Scott’s Cumbernauld sculpture, and a selection of his other poems

by Guy Sangster Adams

The Cumbernauld Sculpture talking shape

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking shape

Watershed is a new poem written by award-winning Scottish poet, Jim Carruth, which is now being inscribed on Arria, Andy Scott’s 10 metre high steel sculpture which is due to be unveiled in late summer 2010, overlooking the A80 northbound, the road which bisects the Scottish New Town of Cumbernauld. The sculpture, which is a female form, features two, large swooping arcs, the inspiration for which came from the original Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, ‘Comar nan Allt’, which translates as ‘coming together of waters’.

The public artwork is at the heart of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project, created by Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd (CCCL), which is a North Lanarkshire Council company set up to facilitate the redevelopment of Cumbernauld. The aims of the project are to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld, increase residents’ pride in their town, raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play, and create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town.

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld Sculpture

Jim Carruth (left) and Andy Scott (right) with one of the early designs for the Cumbernauld sculpture

Scott’s portfolio of public art covers over 60 commissions both across Scotland and internationally, including the Falkirk Helix Water Kelpies, the Heavy Horse on the M8 motorway, which has become a Glasgow landmark, and The Thanksgiving Square Beacon in Belfast which has become representative of the regeneration of the city as whole. Of his new work, Scott says, “Cumbernauld has had its detractors but we hope this sculpture will go some way to changing the outdated perception of Cumbernauld and prove something of a watershed for the town.”

Carruth was born in 1963 in the West-Central Lowlands of Scotland in the town of Johnstone in Renfrewshire, and grew up on his family’s farm close to the nearby village of Kilbarchan. After spending a number of years in Turkey he has returned to live in Renfrewshire. In 2009 Jim won The Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship and the James McCash competition. In June 2010 “Grace Notes 1959″ a poetry sequence commissioned by the Glasgow Jazz Festival was launched. He has three collections of poetry published to date. His first, Bovine Pastoral, published in 2004 was runner up in the Callum MacDonald memorial award. The follow up, High Auchensale, was chosen as one of the Herald books of the year in 2006.

For Carruth it was important that his poem sought to “capture the pride local people have in their town and the importance of listening to their voice”. In taking the ‘meeting of waters’ as his start point, Carruth wanted to, “to give a voice to the statue, the tributaries and the community and create a poem that would talk of the central and national importance of Cumbernauld.” He continues, “I have been disappointed by the negative, unfair focus that Cumbernauld has attracted over the years, as the town has such a lot to offer. I have countered this in my poem by trying to capture the pride local people have for the town and the importance of listening to their voice.”

The Cumbernauld Sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The Cumbernauld sculpture taking a dip at Highland Galvanizers

The poem, which is included below, followed by a further selection of Carruth’s poems, will be inscribed in dynatomic font, reflecting the 1960s influence which Scott has incorporated in the sculpture’s design. Each letter will be cut individually and the poem will wrap round the base of the sculpture encouraging visitors to walk round its base and appreciate different aspects of the public artwork.

WATERSHED (Comar nan Allt)
by Jim Carruth

The first sounds spoken

from the spring’s core

are of a new beginning

of people and place

a poetry that bubbles

and gargles to the surface

to leave this watershed

flow east and west

in a rush of words

that tumble and fall

to join the conversations

of two great rivers

a voice calling out

I belong I belong

adding to the language

of sea and ocean.

A further selection of poems by Jim Carruth


i. workmanlike

Standing behind the shearers
Fleecing their moment for verse

ii. salt licks

Long tongued cattle
lick loose copper

hollow small blocks
to season their days

Should we value salt licks
less than a Henry Moore

or wonder as much
on their practical forms

as at Easter Island’s
weathered heads.

iii. RS

You drew me in
with honest detail
hardships in grim valleys

though I struggled
to free from a priest’s severe verse,
empathy for the peasant.

to balance your cold
distance from man
with a nearness to God.

iv. 300 Spartans

Another field, another stand
remnants close ranks

huddle by a hedge
strong heads bent down

their hunched backs
knuckles of clenched fists

drenched hides, russet shields
against incessant rain.

v. ploughman without honour

Aye that’s as maybe
but he wis nae fairmer

didnae mak the maist
o his faither’s place

sic a waste o
aw thit guid gruin.

He didnae hae the hairt
fir the haird win hairst.

vi. poor harvest

Seeding your verse with epigraph
will never green your barren land.


I shepherd
will not pick up a shield
or swing a sword

but because your roar
drowns the words of this land
I’ll reach out

pluck pebbles
from the throat of the stream
a small flock

each one smooth as birdsong
hard as rams’ horn
a bright clarion call

I pull back and let fly
seed my country’s voice
deep in your forehead

(A village elder’s advice on) THE WHITE CROW

Why do you search
for false auguries of hope?

Nothing followed the triple rainbow,
last winter’s one wild rose

Now this feathered messiah.
Can I speak plainly here:

a white crow is still a crow;
a lifeless sheep is still a corpse;

a bloated corpse is still a meal
for your white crow.

It still rises with its flock
flies with its flock

still falls with the black
on the weak and the dead.


Follow the Cumbernauld Sculpture on Facebook
Cumbernauld Sculpture Facebook Page

Jim Carruth

Andy Scott

North Lanarkshire Council/Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Limited

Poetry by Abi Curtis


Abi Curtis lives in Brighton and lectures at Sussex University. Her poetry collection, Unexpected Weather, won Salt Publishing’s Crashaw Prize 2008. The poems below, Death by Lightning and Mandibles, are both from Unexpected Weather (Salt, 2009).

On 10th June 2010 she will be reading with Luke Kennard, Tom Chivers, Mark Waldron, Katy Evans-Bush, and Diana Pooley, at Salt Poets at Lauderdale House, from 8pm, Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London N6 5HG.


I left you in the house, your eyes on me,

suffering from a relative of grief,

took myself from here to the neighbouring village.

I don’t usually walk, preferring donkey or moped

but neither could fare in the weather:

rain slopped from eaves

turning the streets to streams

thin fish lost their bearings and followed

to be found tomorrow, breathless,

heads in the railings.

I doubt they knew anything about it,

sent to sleep by strange air lifting their scales.

Rain was in my neck, my boots were buckets,

sky a marbling of dark and unfamiliar faces,

clouds deep as difficult ideas, luminous at their edges.

Light cleaved the sky. I counted and wasn’t disappointed

by the sound of a giant piano dropped

onto a collection of empty cauldrons.

I smiled: the sky was furious for me

so I might stay inside the cupboard of my head.

But soon the water overcame, tipping

from flat roofs, stabbing from the arms of lampposts.

Paving slabs lifted to expose whole villages

of slugs and toads.

The sea, two miles away, suggested itself on the wind.

Unable to turn back, I searched for shelter.

Light revealed a  shape at the graveyard gate: a woman under

a yew older than landscape. Room for two. I joined her,

politely distant, staring at the knots and carvings in the trunk:

tracks of every death that’s marked elsewhere in stone,

hems of marriages leaving the gate, home for ivy,

sheets of frost and mushrooms shelving out like flesh.

The woman watched the rain as if to concentrate

on just one drop and shuddered when the thunder

spread its voice above the leaves.

She was not beautiful.

She didn’t hold her body supple as an animal.

I could not name her type of smile.

Later, I learned she felt the shock in her foot;

shared what I cannot remember.

I looked up through the branches holding

tight their fists of leaves.

I have that image stencilled in my eyelids.

I smelled the metal in the air and tasted


You know, if you watch anything through flashes

of lightning, it appears suspended

as if life were frame after frame and never moving.

I was senseless: a snapshot of myself under a canopy.

I’m still here, now in the living room

where we question each other.

I didn’t replay memories or gain an answer,

but I’ve read the best stuff has the power

to take off the top of your head.

You’ve changed, though you never left this room.

Every day you run your hands over

the root-system printed red on my chest

and in the dark part of your eye

I detect a storm.


The archaeologists have been in the office again.
You’ve come to work through the night when

you find their shoe-boxes shelved with the books,
then face the other way, try to write, to look

at the dark-glazed view into the quad.
You turn around, fingering the lip of a box.

Nobody said, Don’t Touch. This one’s labelled
‘Mandibles’. As you slide the lid, a smell

of dried mouths and subtle rot.
Each piece of jaw in a plastic pocket

you can feel through to the nubs of bone,
unable to identify symphysis, molar, canine.

You recall Mr Fozard pulling a tooth
to leave a hole for your tongue to search, a taste

of pink, of omnivore. Bridges, dentures,
ivory tusks cross-sectioned

like the rings of an oak;
pulp canals, the roots that bind your mouth

to your thinking head.
Porcelain, amalgam, gold:

offerings to the speech of the soul.
But here, in this box, the bones are small,

herbivorous. At last you see animals,
re-skinned and furred, decay reversed,

their skulls re-clothed:
deer stripping red fruit from the hedge-row,

rabbits, light-headed and wet-eyed,
clipping the green from the fields.


Abi Curtis

Salt Publishing

Lauderdale House

Poetry by Benedict Newbery


Benedict Newbery is a poet and journalist, in addition to being an occasional poetry reviewer and copy editor for Nude magazine.  His poems have been published in Magma, Succour, the delinquent, South Bank Poetry, Carillon, and Straight from the Fridge.  In October 2006 he presented poetry and spoken word in a joint exhibition, Morningwell, with painter Simon Dawe.  Whilst the film of his poem Cul de Sac, which he storyboarded and co-directed with animator Sandra Salter, was shortlisted for the 2008 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, Berlin.  Last summer,  on behalf of the Sohemian Society, he hosted Moscow Rules a literary journey in Hampstead tracing the action in Le Carré’s  Smiley’s People.  He lives in London and performs at various open mic events around the capital.

It’s The Administrators!

Steve Jones
mans the phones
with koala eyes
crumbs of disco biscuit
down the sides
of his brain.
Nods at Jane,
rubs his face
and starts to disappear.

Sandy Brown
is settling down
louche in an olive suit.
sending figures
down yellow forms —
can do this in his sleep.
Sniffs at Jane
who says hello
and sits by Paul,
a bloke she knew from school.

Paul Tillings
form filling
berk in a Burton’s suit.
Pressing a boil
on his neck,
snipping bites
from meat paste
on white bread,
making mistakes
for Jane to rearrange
and file.




© Benedict Newbery 2009. All rights reserved.
(First published in the delinquent)

The Royal Oak

It’s early doors
and the air holds flies
above cold slops,
as Pete and Jack –
soon joined by the man in the cap –
stand apart on lino
that lifts beneath the bar.

Passed them every day.
Nipping out and popping in
to drop a bob or two
on three o’clock’s also-ran.
Stooped over palms,
each way’s bits of shrapnel,
picking, adding, sorting,
then slipping in again.

Later on
jetsam, driftwood,
a wheel on the wall
and brass
ripped from some old bar,
filled a space
left by the net drapes
and cracked formica.

But just the same in name.

And sat apart,
Pete and Jack
and the man in the cap –
last of the Black-and-Tans,
with drop on the side.

Passed them every day.
Chin to chest,
yellow eyes
among the liver spots,
beards stained
with Capstan tracks
framed by Sixties hair.
Shoulders forward
close to the building’s edge,
then slipping in again.

© Benedict Newbery 2008. All rights reserved.
(First published in Magma)

Weymouth Bay

This evening’s end
slipped beneath the swell
of a late-summer sea
and joined The Hood,
tonight the Bismark too –
hulks of Special Brew
sent below on pebble shot
from the battery of boys.
Now gone.

Far off
the sun wrapped the bay,
drew shadows up cliffs
into secret grass
of thumbnail fields –
parcels tied by fingers
that stretched
from the barns and farms,
trees and drystone walls.

Night came
black as the guts
of hunting cod,
raised a bombers’ moon
to light a king astride his horse,
then out, across the water,
dropped a path
to touch the stump
of a lost pier –
a thousand lovers
on August tea dance afternoons,
the big band’s brassy swing
still tingling in the bay.

© Benedict Newbery 2008. All rights reserved.
(First published in Carillon)

Cul de sac

I saw Mrs Smith who lost a child –
slipped from the pier – her only son,
open the gate to an empty house
as her silent husband climbed the hill
on his long-gone daughter’s bike

I heard Jack Jones in his garden shed
bending steel and shaving wood
while making plans and mental lists
of things required by his broken wife
to ease her last two years

I heard old Stan smashing six-inch nails
with jackhammer pace to create a space
beneath the ploughed up lawn
where he and Daisy would be safe from harm
through an endless night that never came

I saw tall John leave his house at dusk
in his big greatcoat and trilby hat.
His final month spent in hotel bars,
wandering through blackening nights,
then slipping back at a later hour –
the last of that year’s ghosts.

© Benedict Newbery 2008. All rights reserved.
(First published in the delinquent)

To watch the film of Cul de Sac, which was shortlisted for the 2008 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, Berlin, CLICK HERE

Benedict Newbery

Poetry by Paul Lyalls


‘Very, very, very, funny and very very feel-good’
NUS magazine

‘Extremely good poetry but smiles too much’
John Hegley

‘Words of wit, wisdom and intelligence’
Apples and Snakes

Paul Lyalls has  performed at 10 Edinburgh festivals, 1 Eton College, 5 Glastonbury’s and on a 73 Bus, which made the ‘and finally…’ bit of the 6pm national news. He is also one of the stars of BBC2’s ‘Big Slam Poetry House’ and  in 2008 he was Poet for the London borough of Brent (‘London’s 5th coolest borough’) and performed at the new Wembley stadium. In addition to which, for the last 12 years he has  hosted Express Excess, London’s outstanding spoken word night. Whilst he also runs exciting poetry workshops in primary and secondary schools.

This year he has contributed two poems to Penguin’s A-Z of Children’s Poetry and has just published his first full collection of  poems,  Catching the Cascade ( Flipped Eye), from which the following poems are taken.

The Value Of Wales

Its chief contribution to the UK
must be as a unit of measurement,
night after night
a news desk declares
‘An area of Rainforest,
the size of Wales disappears every year’
‘The amount of water
London loses through its creaking Victorian pipes
would fill a swimming pool
the size of Wales’.
Every part of the world has a similar unit of measurement:
in the United States it’s an area the size of New Jersey;
on mainland Europe the reference more often than not
is Slovenia – which appropriately happens to be
98.4 percent the size of Wales.
But just how accurate is Wales
as a unit of measurement?
Just how constant is that land-mass?
It’s worth remembering that at low tide
Wales measures 20,761 SQ KM.
Whereas at high tide, it’s only 20,449 SQ KM
and to really put it into context,
each year coastal erosion erodes an area of Wales
the size of Central Swansea.
For those of you in Europe trying to visualise this,
that’s the equivalent of an area the size of down-town Ljubianna.


Our hotelier pointed out that
all the clocks in all the hotel rooms
all said different times.
So, in some rooms you were late
and in other rooms you were early.
“It’s not a problem”, said the Nuclear Physicist
breakfasting on the next table
“Time actually happens four times slower than
we think”?
“Not round here it doesn’t!” rejoined our hotelier,
“Round here, time happens really fast.”
At which, I gazed out of the window
and surveyed the lifeless two street
regional-coastal town –
which had about as much going
on as a letter that never arrives.
If ever there was an
argument for there not being a God,
this place was it.
“In fact,” continued our hotelier, “you can tell
how much is going on around here
by the all the things that are happening:
in September there’s a Wicker Doll fair,
in October a Poetry Festival and a Science Convention,
in November there’s Bonfire Night
and before you know it,
it’s Christmas.
Right, who’s got time for another cup of tea?”

The Anatomy Of A Bookshop

English Literature
was beside the drinking fountain.
American literature
was over near the vending machine.
next to the fire escape.
was between the first and second floors.
could be found next to the tills.
was below ethics.
by the mirror.
Making The World A Better Place
was next to books on children’s names.
was next to Fantasy.
Was down in the basement
with Wines, Beers and Spirits.

Hard Fast And Beautiful

In John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939),
(which raised the Western genre
to artistic status )
she was the ‘saloon girl’ Dallas
who had been forced out of town
by puritanical women.
When ‘The Ringo Kid’ (John Wayne)
proposes to her, she says
“But you don’t know me,
you don’t know who I am.”
“I know all I want to know.”
he says.
Seeing a glimmer of hope
she asks the drunken doctor
(Thomas Mitchell)
“Is that wrong for a girl like me?
If a man and a woman
love each other?
it’s all right,
ain’t it Doc?”

All poems ©Paul Lyalls 2009

Catching Cascades  is available from all bookshops and Amazon priced  £5.99

Paul Lyalls

Express Excess, every other Wednesday, The Enterprise, 2 Haverstock Hill, London NW3
Doors 8.30pm Performances 9pm
Tickets £5/£3 (concs)
Express Excess Facebook page

Plectrum’s profile of Express Excess from issue one:  READ MORE

Paul Lyalls will also be performing poems from Catching Cascades and hosting the Plectrum Live Edition at Express Excess on Wednesday 3rd February MORE DETAILS

And also:

Monday 25th January: Brighton Komedia club with Will Self & Elvis McGonigal
44 – 47 Gardiner St, 7.30pm, all tickets £12.
Sunday 14th February: RONNIE SCOTTS Jazz verse Jukebox, with Fran Landesman, Dorothea Smartt, Winston Clifford
47 Frith St doors 6.30 show 8pm, tickets£6/5
Fri 26th February: Finsbury Arts Festival with Adam Bloom
St Lukes Central St EC1 8pm, all tickets £5
Sat 27th February: Hawth Theatre with JOHN HEGLEY & Niall O’ Sullivan
Crawley, East Sussex. 8pm,  all tickets £12
Thurs 4th March: Haringey Literature Festival
Wood Green Library. Check with library for full details.
Thursday 18th March: Bang Said the Gun
The Roebuck, 50 Great Dover ST, SE1 London, 8PM, tickets £3

Poetry by Kieron Winn

Kieron Winn photographed by Eleanor Sepanski

Kieron Winn photographed by Eleanor Sepanski

Kieron Winn was educated at Tonbridge School, where he later briefly taught, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot. His poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, The Dark Horse, The London Magazine, Oxford Magazine, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Review, The Rialto and The Spectator, and in a short film about his work on BBC1. A selection of his poems appears in the Carcanet anthology Oxford Poets 2007. He was awarded the University of Oxford’s English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize in 2007. He lives in Oxford, where he is a freelance teacher.

Read a selection of new, previously unpublished poems by Kieron Winn in issue 3 of the print edition of Plectrum.

A British Veteran

A hand that held a rifle on the climb
To Passchendaele now bears a bubbling flute.
His hand is strong and rubicund, his frame
Mobile and actual as he toasts his eight

Australian great-great-grandsons; woollen cloth
Is covering his body now as then.
That hand will soon slip under the stream of myth.
No one thinks Agincourt was fought by men.

(Author’s Note:  The poem is based on Harry Patch, the last British soldier of World War I, who died on July 25th 2009; and on Claude Choules, a former mariner, who lives in Australia and is now the last surviving veteran of the British forces in World War I.)

© Kieron Winn 2009


(remembering West Kent Youth Theatre)

Springy, with bright but half-inhabited skin,
Scarcely in time, still waiting to begin,
Travelling half a dozen to a car,
Heading towards some vague but certain star,
We ran together with a single nature,
Unset, with fewer props, as if one creature,
And after every party fell asleep
In house or barn in a sprawling animal heap.
Our charm to adults was the hope of some
Lineless utopia that will never come.
Now almost all of us have sprung apart,
And rich but private chambers form each heart.

© Kieron Winn 2008, originally published in The Interpreter’s House number 38 (2008)

The Great Old Poet in Bermuda

Swimming, as ever, helps with all my ailments.
My tender wife is singing in the bedroom.

I have become a classic. I look at my book
And contemplate changing the species of a crab.

The spirit sleeps in such places. Let me enjoy
My yellow silk pyjamas, I am no Dante.

My heart is going: I would enjoy some sherbet.
Later today we may go out to buy some.

In this afterlife I need not exert myself.
Now I have done my work. I whistle and live.

© Kieron Winn 2006, originally published in Oxford Magazine number 248 (2006)

New Poetry: Chair, Lupercalia, California by Abi Curtis


Not the couch: that animal slumber
disguised beneath tapestries
Not that but the seat he tucked under
an expanse of desk
with its four, elegant insect-legs,
shaped as a man with a blank
totem’s head, arms curved out
to receive.

Dark, cracked leather the colour
of book-binding, or last days of a rose,
the cut nub of a cigar, its ember
catching in the rug, the inside
of my cheek where I chew,
or his. The flavour of Thursday,
a stained wooden spoon, bad luck.
Good luck. A blend of pleasure
and regret. That.
It smells of an Autumn stopped
from turning and swivels
only with effort

preferring to face a crowd
of statuettes: Greek, Roman, Chinese.
Tiny, petrified gods.
Captive audience.
Sit in his place and touch their heads.
Notice the Baboon of Thoth has a skull
smooth as soapstone, as skin. He looks
unlikely but his charge is writing.
Don’t worship; sit with him
and let them watch.
Sink back into the indentation,
ghost of a spine.
Let the arms enclose you,
take this paper,
start again.

©Abi Curtis 2009


This is a night to go out
Dare the wolves to circle.
Beyond the fire their eyes
Beyond those, breathing rolls back
to a forest of firs
shaped as the flights of arrows.

This is a night to go out
Put on layers and layers
Keep your own warmth close
Don’t envy fire in any window
Swivel your ears
to the noises you love
Keep low
Take your leave.

This is the night to go out
Your shoulders roll towards
the Prussian blue of later
the soft-spots of an old dusk
the tender fury of clouds
Follow this logic and

hours from now, you’ll witness
a marriage in the alley-way
six eyes telling you
Keep our secret, we have our reasons
You circle them
Lope to where there’s room
to view approving looks
from the moon.

This is the night you’ll end up
calling through the o-shaped valve
of the throat, long and loud
until everything’s connected
The night you won’t remember how
you made it home
or got like this:
smoky and besotted.

©Abi Curtis 2007

(Originally published in Humbug, Tall-Lighthouse 2007)

We dug our heels into the sand at Santa Barbara
and from the shore we witnessed pelicans drilling
down the air through a solidity of water,
breaking the blue skin of the world.

We couldn’t take our eyes from the diving bird:
a beak somewhere between a spoon and a saw,
wise-eyed and plump he targeted lunch,
floating back up with a catch swinging,
packed in the loose suitcase of his mouth.

The pier stretched on with our line of sight
into the haze.

©Abi Curtis 2009


Abi Curtis recently won the Crawshaw Prize for Poetry and her collection Unexpected Weather is forthcoming from Salt. She won an Eric Gregory award in 2004 and published a pamphlet, Humbug, with Tall-Lighthouse in 2007. She lives in Brighton and lectures at Sussex University.