Verdict – Rebecca Gethin


Today was almost the last

just as the willow warblers return,
as flies emerge and crawl to his eyes,
as the first swallows test the sky,
as the ground stiffens under his feet.

He shifts his weight from leg to leg.
His apple rump has withered.

We put the case
on either side
back and forth
across his sunken spine,

rubbing his neck and ears
flicking away the horsefly
he doesn’t swish his tail at.

His body prosecutes himself.

He doesn’t nudge me for a carrot
nor intimate whether
in his 36 years with us
he has learned our tones

and understands
the vet is coming
tomorrow afternoon at 3.

Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications. She was a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Vanishings was published by Palewell Press in 2020.  She was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition with Messages. She blogs sporadically at

The New is The New – Elizabeth McGeown

The New is The New

Indie boys telling you to read House of Leaves is the new indie boys telling you to read China
Mieville is the new indie boys telling you to listen to Pavement is the new indie boys telling you
to listen to My Bloody Valentine is the new indie boys wearing Moog tshirts is the new It’s
pronounced mogue is the new indie boys wearing flannel shirts is the new indie boys with one
shaved eyebrow is the new indie boys giving themselves tinnitus from standing too close to the
speakers at Lightning Bolt is the new indie boys telling you your fringe is the most interesting
thing about you is the new indie boys buying Polaroid cameras is the new indie boys telling you
this isn’t a date is the new indie boys telling you your little finger isn’t strong enough for bar
chords is the new indie boys with fisheye lenses is the new indie boys learning Swedish is the
new indie boys learning violin for their new folk-punk duo is the new indie boys telling you
aren’t technically minded enough to study music technology is the new indie boys only buying
vinyl because it sounds richer is the new indie boys telling you your voice has too much vibrato
is the new indie boys telling you you would need cheekbones like Cleopatra to carry off that

Elizabeth McGeown is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and has poems published or forthcoming in Banshee, Abridged and Under the Radar. She is the 2022 UK Poetry Slam Champion and her first collection ‘Cockroach’ is out with Verve in Summer 2022.

Privilege – Gill Barr


Well, it was the unionists,
they had wealth, they had power
they wanted to keep it to themselves
and people like us, well, you were basically
told who to vote for, but I was lucky
because I was brought up in a mixed area
Catholics and Protestants together
and the house I bought with your mother
was in a mixed street
and I never had problems with anyone.
We were all working people
and we all had the same problem,
barely enough money…

Gill Barr’s poems have appeared in Bad LiliesThe Honest Ulsterman and The New European. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast and is appearing at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2022.

Drill – Nuala Watt


Abandon your experiments. But how? And why? Is this a five second warning – leave
everything and run? Stop. It is not clear how to abandon your experiments; the body has a
range of measures to prevent your doing this, and the spirit’s an experiment unto itself. What
an awkward phrase – unto itself. The spirit moves more easily than that. The spirit is as
mobile as an itch. As long as it is, it is like an experiment. So there.

Nuala Watt’s poems have appeared on BBC Radio 3 and in anthologies including  Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press 2017)  and A Year of Scottish Poems (Macmillan 2018) 

Crab Fishing – Rachel Bruce

Crab Fishing

Tiny monster, blanketed in the earth’s skin;
the spirit of Achilles lives in you.
You are a funny thing to fear.

I remember the sun soaked breezes of Brownsea
where little fires jumped from branch to branch.
Our assaults were always fruitful there.

Children have no mercy. We hunted eagerly,
pulling you from the deep, calculated and slow.
How we squealed at your shadows in the water.

Once captured, we gazed beadily at you
scrabbling at the plastic walls.
Soon we’d hold an army in our bucket.

When we tired of our labour,
desiring sandwiches and dry clothes,
we turned from soldiers to emperors.

Turning the bucket onto the deck,
like toying gods we watched you race away,
fleeing back to the salt from whence you came.

I wish I could have seen you floating down,
parachuting into the dark as living meteors.
When I see you now, I smile at the memory of those days.

How cruel we were then in our love;
and still I yearn to fish again,
reaching down into the sandy unknown.

Rachel Bruce is a poet based in London. Her work has appeared in The Telegraph, Eye Flash Poetry, The Daily Drunk, Hencroft Hub, and Atrium among others. Find her on Twitter @still_emo.

Time and again – Livvy Hanks

Time and again

One day – how can I know which? –
I lose my diary. Brain lurches
into the chasm of the year:
who is expecting me, and where?
Who is even now drumming their fingers on Formica,
alone with their agenda
and their forbearing frown?

There is terror, then liberation.
Everything is unexpected: friends drop by,
then don’t. I make appointments,
note them on a nearby banana,
which I eat. The whole world
is continually in rooms and restaurants without me.

Encouraged, I throw my alarm out of the window,
put my watch in the bath. My phone
is a landline, it is 1997 –
I presume. It cannot remind me of anything
and almost everything is yet to happen.

The days are short and frosty,
then fresh, then long. At last I panic.
It is nearing the time when I will meet you,
but nothing can tell me when.
The town hall clock, beneath which we will meet,
is broken. I walk there every day as the sun goes down
and look around me,
wondering if I will recognise your face.

Livvy Hanks has an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia, and worked as an editor before moving into policy and campaigning work. Her poetry was most recently published in Lighthouse. She lives in Norwich. Twitter: @livvyhanks

Archive – Jacqueline Haskell


Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive. There you watch footage from the war,
scan blown glass, missile drops, train stations.

A home video, newly surfaced, downloaded from an ancient iPhone:
refugees crossing at Medyka, waiting to board buses, going west.
The librarians know to call you when this happens.

You would know it anywhere, her coat; too distinctive to miss
with its lupin-coloured quilting, fake-fur collar and
the striped pixie hood she swore made her invisible.

Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library,
for the archive, hoping to see her – you and her – that exact moment
when she was there at Medyka, holding your hand. And then not.

By now you know them better than you know your own, the librarians –
where they go for lunch, the park bench, summer, winter,
their children and grand-children: whether their coats have hoods.

Jacqueline Haskell’s first poetry collection, Stroking Cerberus, was published by Myriad Editions in 2020 – – as part of the Spotlight Books series. Her debut novel, The Auspice, was a finalist in both the 2018 Bath Novel Award and the 2020 Cinnamon International Literature Prize.

Phantoms – Jill Abram


I hear voices of unborn babies most nights
and sometimes in the day; they should
have been held in my arms. And his.
Did he pass me by, neither of us realising?

Was he the commuter who offered his seat,
the waiter who winked as he gave me
too much change, or the driver of a sporty
two-seater who stopped so I could cross?

He could be at the party, brought along
by a friend of a friend, line up behind me
at a checkout, or stop me on the street
with a questionnaire. Time chased away

those children like a fairytale monster –
ogre, evil troll, big bad wolf –
through the woods and out of the life
which could have been mine. And his.


Poet, producer and presenter, Jill Abram is Director of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. She grew up in Manchester, travelled the world and now lives in Brixton. Her pamphlet, Forgetting My Father, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in May 2023.