Featured Publication – Dawning by Mary Ford Neal

Our featured publication for December is Dawning by Mary Ford Neal, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Dawning is an uncanny landscape in which people, events, and places are charged with magic, danger, and confusion, and nothing can be trusted. Against this background of fragmentation and threat, the poems lead the reader through a tender narrative of damage, grief, enlightenment, and alteration.

Dawning is full of delicate dances with ghosts; not just the departed, but the never-were, the should-never-have-beens. Mary Ford Neal sketches these moments, of grace and sometimes redemption, with elegance and warmth, reminding us that magic can be found in unlikely places: a pavement, a coffee cup, a glance.” Rishi Dastidar

The poems in Dawning ‘boil here quietly’; with a sure use of form, they channel undercurrents of unease with a deft touch of craft and an intelligent use of white space. Meetings, departures, journeys to and from, the most brutal of truths find their home in the everyday and the strange. This is a significant debut.” Claire Dyer

Intriguingly, this collection starts and ends with the question I told the world I didn’t love you. Why? We’re drawn in to explore the intensity and often contradictory complexities of desire, intimacy, and love. Neal commands an impressive range of poetic forms, deftly capturing passion and regret with a wry touch.” Jay Whittaker

My husband is losing his shit

Previously published in Dodging the Rain

The Sea-Wife

I tried to marry a wave.

He came so softly, twice a day, bringing me gifts,
seaglass and songs,
and his devotion to me was a wonder of the world.
And over time, through painstaking erosion,
he gently shaped my heart into a small boat.

I found a ring left lying on the sand,
and knew he meant to marry me.
But next time, he came in as weak as water,
towed by an emaciated moon,
and somehow his devotion was lethargic,
and lacked the power to lift my boat and take it.

I tried to put my arms around him, vainly,
and as he washed away I tasted saltwater;
he must have wept at being made to leave me.
And he whispered, and I caught it on the breeze,
that I should place the ring on my own finger,
and take great care to keep my heart in boat-form.

And he is out there now, swirling and crashing,
his crest festooned with broken bits of boats;
then calming, gently finding foreign beaches
that remind him of the beach where he once found me.
I know how it must pain him not to find me now,

and I sit here,
sea-wife for fifteen years.

Previously published in Janus Literary

Street magic

I don’t believe in magic. But something
hovers along these streets, something
like dust not settling hangs just above
the slippery cobbles, and it’s more than
the messy flash of reflected streetlight
and it’s more than the colourful spill from some
long gone car, lying now in the gutter
as though someone had pierced a rainbow
and let it fall sighing down to die here
in the dark, by a drain, with the swollen fag-ends
and the dog urine and the spit of the loud lads.
This is something else – our shoes splash through it
whatever it is, and I swear it makes our stepping lighter.
My feet might fly, and any second I might be gone
unless I grab your arm to stop myself,
which I never would.

Previously published in Dodging The Rain

Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic from the West of Scotland, where she still lives and works, teaching and researching Law and Medical Ethics. Her poetry is widely published, and has been Pushcart nominated. Dawning is her debut collection.

Dawning is available to purchase from the Indigo Dreams Publishing website

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Relativity – Nora Blascsok

Relativity

peel curls
freezes mid-air
apple puree
overflows
in mother’s hands
rest powers
unknown

tuck me in
tell me to turn
sideways
pull up my knees
hug blanket

yellow bucket
by the bed

a voice drifts
out into morning air
looking for the way home

..

Nora Blascsok is a Hungarian poet based in the UK. Her work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications. A selection of her poems titled ‘Headspace’ is out with Broken Sleep Books imprint Legitimate Snack in September 2021. Her Twitter handle is @NBlascsok  

Foolscap Cat – Mark Valentine

Foolscap Cat

Here on my lap
a long sheet of paper,
foolscap, flowing away at the top,
full of phrases I no longer understand
yet seem almost to grasp.

The scroll, a shadowy animal,
slides from me to the floor
and I recall, in the act of its fall,
my cat, who moved in just that way
from lolling about on my chest.

I know that both are lost
and all I have is the moment
when briefly I still held
whatever it was the words meant
and that black ghost.

Mark Valentine lives in Yorkshire near the Leeds-Liverpool canal. His poetry has been published in PN ReviewAgendaVolumeink, sweat & tearsPoetry Bus and elsewhere. A chapbook, Astarology, was published by Salo Press in Summer 2021.

The Last Night in the Cottage by the Sea – Hannah Linden

The Last Night in the Cottage by the Sea

I am inside. Walls are my biscuits. 
I could eat them all day long 
and never be full.

The carpet is the weave around hundreds of pockets. 
I have put myself inside them
piece by piece.

Wind howl down the chimney tells me
about the moon. Full outside comes 
with a shaft of light if I take a peep.

A silver stripe across the sea spreads 
triangular towards me. I am 
an unbalance of atoms caught in a time box.

Hannah Linden is published widely including or upcoming in Atrium, Lighthouse, Magma, New Welsh Review, Prole, Proletarian Poetry, Stand, The Interpreters’ House, Under the Radar and the 84 Anthology etc. She is working towards her first collection. Twitter: @hannahl1n

Genesis – Linda McKenna

Genesis

This was a house of piano keys.
The clocks kept fairy tale time,
dinner was a guess, no one wore
pockets. I wove a nest of straw,
placed inside it a brother’s curl,
which one? buttons from a midden,
scraps of paper where I wrote
my name in ash, charcoal, blood.

My new husband said leave it,
it’s worthless. Why buttons,
here’s beads, that’s not your name
anymore; a house of straw will
always blow down.
But I hoarded
the treasure; stored it in a crevice
I carved into a Bible, hid it
in the attic against judgement day.

Linda McKenna’s debut poetry collection, In the Museum of Misremembered Things, was published by Doire Press in 2020. She has had poems published in a variety of publications including, Poetry Ireland Review, Banshee, The North, The Honest Ulsterman, Crannóg.

A Tyre Changer Can Earn £350k Per Year – Niall M Oliver

A Tyre Changer Can Earn £350k Per Year

When I look back, I see a multi-million pound
Formula One pit-crew,
making snap decisions at break-neck speed,
but instead of shaving seconds off,
their goal is to add precious time
onto precious lives— underpaid NHS nurses
and midwives rush around the motionless bodies
of my wife and new-born child,
their engines barely ticking over,
me, an open-mouthed spectator,
but today there will be no final lap
or chequered flag, as light reappears
in my wife’s eyes, and our son’s first cries
fill the room. Our race goes on
and just like that our pit-crew has gone,
leaving us to celebrate upon our podium
with rounds of buttery toast and hot cups of tea.

Niall M Oliver lives in Ireland, and is the author of ‘My Boss’ by Hedgehog Poetry. His poems have featured in Acumen, Atrium, The Honest Ulsterman, Fly On The Wall Press, Ink Sweat & Tears and others. Twitter @NMOliverPoetry

(Hygd and Seek) – Laura Varnam

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F

For Queen Hygd in the Old English epic Beowulf.

Laura Varnam is a Lecturer in English Literature at University College, Oxford. Her work is inspired by the medieval poetry that she teaches. She has poems published in Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Oxford Magazine, Green Ink Poetry and forthcoming in Dreich. Twitter: @lauravarnam

Falling in love with a second PE teacher was reckless – Galia Admoni

Falling in love with a second PE teacher was reckless

Galia is a British-Israeli writer, musician and crafter, who works full time as Head of English, media and film at a secondary school in North London. She has lectured at the Shakespeare Institute, the British Library and is on the committee for the London Association for the Teaching of English. Follow her on Twitter @galiamelon

Featured Publication – This Fruiting Body by Caleb Parkin

Our featured publication for November is This Fruiting Body by Caleb Parkin, published by Nine Arches Press.

Caleb Parkin’s debut poetry collection, This Fruiting Body, plunges us into octopus raves and Sega Megadrive oceans, in the company of Saab hermit crabs and ASDA pride gnomes. It’s a playful invitation to a queer ecopoetics that permeates our bodies and speech, our gardens, homes, and city suburbs. It reintroduces us to a Nature we’ve dragged up until it’s unrecognisable.

This Fruiting Body is an exhilarating book that fractures categories by showing the reader what thrives beyond the prison of the human self. The queer filaments between its poems form a compassionate brocade that holds together all living creatures, the dreams of ants and mould allowed to ‘billow and spore’ alongside deep-fried skyscrapers and ASDA pride gnomes. The stakes are urgent, the days ‘trembling like antennae’ but let’s think like a dung beetle, one poem whispers, and ‘roll the sun together’. Generous, monstrous and inspiring.” John McCullough

Unwriting and rewriting our myths of ‘nature’, This Fruiting Body is a thrilling collection of queer love songs for the earth. Parkin’s femme earth mother may be on an IV drip, but she wears her artifice with joy and audacity: this is mother earth, drag queen of the universe, a body aching from harm but still devoted to pleasure. Parkin’s poems are infinitely lavish and full of wit, morphing human and more-than-human bodies in a post-human lyric disco lit with ecological thought. I felt better and wetter after reading it: more open to the press of language, life, and the strangeness of the earth. Samantha Walton


garden

All the chipshops I have ever been to

are stacked up, a deep-fried skyscraper,
somewhere on the East Anglian coast. This tower
of bubbling fat concealed beyond Clacton-on-Sea,
Walton-on-the-Naze, casts shadows near the shibboleth of Aldeburgh.

In the blue-black-grey around Cromer’s ingrown pier,
an undrownable orange buoy invites me in, to swim.

Still, enveloped food shifts across their miles of steel
counter, papers shaken through with white plastic
bollards of salt. The North Sea lingering in flesh,
mushy peas copied and pasted until no longer green.

Meanwhile, Sizewell B is a puffball on the horizon,
domed as a worm moon rising, eye with no iris.

In the steaming museum cases of the tower’s counters,#
the crispy sarcophagi of battered sausages, preserved
remains of Cod: body after body, dredged up in silver cages;
hundreds of Pukka Pies in their capsized foil crowns.

At Dunwich Heath, the oyster-catchers are on strike,
curlews are threatening to straighten their beaks.

The tower wavers like seaweed, shimmers – a candle,
its unknown postcode defined by the scent of
second-hand oil, slicked through wardrobes. Chips
in the toes of socks, fishbones catching at collars.

In each of those chipshops, the radio plays
the creak of a sign, rush of a wave – then static.

After the Section 14

‘Police have banned Extinction Rebellion protests from continuing anywhere in
London, as they moved in almost without warning to clear protesters who remained
at the movement’s camp in Trafalgar Square.’ – The Guardian,
October 15th 2019

The morning after the news, I pass Oxford Circus where giant screens
order me to Taste the feeling, but when I arrive at Trafalgar Square,
all I can taste is the bitter aftermath of extortionate coffee.

All I can taste is regurgitated water, rushing from the beaks of these dolphins,
chins restrained by metal hands. All I can taste is the feeling that these tourists
are grey ghosts, that I am a ghost, on this stone grid. All I can taste is the sickly mess

in the jaws of bin-raiding wasps. The lights on police vans flashing like migraines.
The sign keeps demanding, in thousands of diodes and fast-cut swirly edits to
Taste the fucking feeling. But all I can taste are inedible scraps pecked at by pigeons.

All I can taste are three police overseeing one flip-flopped man. Then, megaphones
descend from the gritted teeth of the National Gallery; the lasso of high-vis tightens,
each jacket clutches their own hands, formal, blank-faced; eyes flit and ears await

instruction from elsewhere. By the rented Thames, Big Ben reveals its new face –
features rusted, commanding. We crowd in and nearby a cracked voice demands:
Are you affiliated? Then again: Are you affiliated? It’s a simple question. A simple question.

Caleb Parkin is the third Bristol City Poet. He won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016 and the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017. Poems in The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Under the Radar, Butcher’s Dog and Molly Bloom. Wasted Rainbow (tall-lighthouse, Feb 2021). This Fruiting Body (Nine Arches, October 14th ). Tweet: @CalebParkin

This Fruiting Body is available to purchase from the Nine Arches Press website.