My father was born with an office inside him – Julia Webb

My father was born with an office inside him

Julia Webb is a writer, poetry mentor/tutor and editor, based in Norwich. Her third collection The Telling was published by Nine Arches Press in May 2022. She is steering editor for Lighthouse – a journal for new writers.

Kingston Gorse – Lauren Thomas

Kingston Gorse

Lauren is currently a second year on the MA in writing poetry with Poetry School London, with Newcastle University. She has been published in various print and online publications, most recently Lighthouse Magazine and Magma. She also published a pamphlet, Silver Hare Tales, with Blood Moon Poetry in December 2021. Twitter:@laurenmywrites

Safe Return – Chris Hardy

Safe Return

Ship’s log
P&O liner SS Chusan
Yokohama to London
11:00 hrs 4th April 1954

At sea
Heaved to 1 mile SE of Valetta
Wind NW force 4
Cloud and sun
Visibility good
60 ͦ

Found in hold
Naresh Choudhury (?) age 16 (?)
Came on board with cargo
Cotton and jute
Bombay March 20th 1954

Crew of ship’s cutter
Transferred stowaway
To P&O liner SS Canton
Southampton to Singapore
Via Suez Aden Bombay
Columbo Penang

Stowaway received by
Petty Officer and Bosun
SS Canton
Taken into custody

Chris Hardy’s poems have been widely published. His collection ‘Key to the Highway’ appeared from Shoestring Press in summer, 2021. He is in LiTTLe MACHiNe. “A guitarist as well as a poet Chris always hits the right note”. Roger McGough.

Comfort Eating – Sharon Phillips

Comfort Eating

Dark is closing in, brisket simmers
on the hob. She tops it up with stock.

Radio 4 mutters in the living room,
upstairs a door creaks open and shut.

It is the autumn equinox. She finds
an out of date bag of potatoes, looks

for her mother’s old cookery book,
flicks through its pages for comfort:

cuts up potatoes into half moons,
grates cheese, chops garlic, ekes out

leftover cream with a splash of milk,
adds a teaspoon of nutmeg. Warmth

wafts through the kitchen. Perhaps
somebody will phone after supper.

Sharon started writing poetry when she retired from her career in education. Since then, her poems have appeared in print and online journals and anthologies. In 2022 her poem ‘Cut’ came third in the Leeds Poetry Festival competition and another poem, ‘Oh Karen’ was highly commended in the Yaffle poetry competition.

The hill above the town – Jon Alex Miller

The hill above the town

I ask not in sorrow…” – Czeslaw Milosz

We were walking on the hill above the town, 
two of us, after the pubs shut

when a quick bright slash ripped across the sky. 
Only I saw it – he was facing away

but we both then heard an owl’s call, very close, 
as if in exclamation.

That was thirty years ago. Now all 
are gone: the meteor, the exclamation,
my brother. I say this not in grief, 
more bewilderment.

Jon Alex Miller lives in London with his husband and dog. He has poems published in Magma, the Haiku Quarterly and the Hyacinth Review. He works with big businesses on climate change and social justice. @JonMillerXX

Mistake – Paul Stephenson


Gone one on leaving.
We went for lunch.
Some random Mexican.
No idea how we managed
refried beans and guacamole.

She’d wanted to see him,
come over to see him,
so I took her to see him.
It had been a fortnight
since I’d first seen him.

Wish I hadn’t arranged it.
Wish we hadn’t gone.
She was in a state and I was
horrified by time,
what two weeks could do.

We talked and we ate.
Even talked about other things.
Then we paid the bill,
and she took the bus
and I took the Tube.

Paul Stephenson has three pamphlets including Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017). He co-curates Poetry in Aldeburgh and lives between Cambridge and Brussels. His debut collection will be published with Carcanet in 2023. Website: / twitter: @stephenson_pj / instagram: paulstep456

Flamenco – William Thompson


After Carmen Amaya

Her clapping hands tune the guitars to fever pitch.
Her boot heel moves as quickly

as a finch’s wing, making a sound like gun fire.
She glides across the plywood stage

then spins with the breath-taking violence
of a horsewhip. Now, she snaps into a slalom

from shoulder blade to hip. She keeps her hands
above her head, arms moving like charmed snakes.

The cameraman pans out. And now your own heart
is tightening: at the drum roll of her feet,

her stern precision, her bull fight with the air,
her brilliance recorded forever in black and white.

William Thompson is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. Born in Cambridgeshire in 1991, his work has appeared widely in journals and anthologies. His debut pamphlet After Clare, is forthcoming with New Walk Editions. 

Featured Publication – The Beautiful Open Sky by Hannah Linden

Our featured publication for November and December is The Beautiful Open Sky by Hannah Linden, published by V. Press.

The Beautiful Open Sky opens with an extraordinary run of poems, heartbreaking and precise, about the damage done by a narcissistic mother. As it progresses, the poems accumulate symbols, becoming increasingly phantasmagorical, before the patterns of a new life emerge as if through broken cloud.  It works as a story, direct and emotional; but is also a meditation on how we remember – on the limits of reason and metaphor as ways of understanding the past. This is a fine model for a pamphlet: a focused set of beautiful poems, cunningly arranged, which draw power from each other. A wonderful debut.‘ Tom Sastry

Truths are slippery and sometimes sinister in this stunning exploration of familial relationships by Hannah Linden. It can be hard to know who to trust, or who is parenting whom. But there is beauty here too, and a positivity that shines through despite the odds. Self-reflective and superb, Linden’s use of language is playful and imaginative. I can’t wait to see what she does next.‘ Julia Webb


Today the only job I have
is keeping the blackbird quiet. At first,
when she ached, she lay quietly in her box
and everything was simple. I fed her milk-soaked bread,
pretended she was my baby. Being a mother
is easy. I stroked feathers, put scaly toes
between my fingers, felt, at last,
that I belonged.

The bird was lucky. She lived and I took
her to school with me. That was when
the trouble began. The teacher didn’t
understand how to teach a bird.
The blackbird tried to tell the teacher
about flying. She hopped up to the window
and sang to the sky. But the teacher
heard the song as a lie.

An unsinging bird is a heavy load.
I wondered if I’d misunderstood
the instructions. Surely if I was
doing the job right, this wouldn’t
feel so hard. My pockets filled
with feathers and my mouth
was a soft down away from naked
terror. My bare-boneness hollowed.

I was a fragile nest holder longing
for a tree or a gap in the hedgerow.
This was no way to inspire eggs.
The blackbird pecked at the only
bit of me that was still soft, a hidden
underpart of resistance. A hole grew
to the size of an open beak, its song
so sweet the whole sky replied.

Previously published by London Grip

The Cottage in the Wood

Be careful of the stories you keep, my mother said.
Peel back their metaphors and check under their skins
before you put them into your basket.

Mother forgets, sometimes, the basket, the tightness
of its weave, how big its handle. Life was simpler
under lamp-posts. It’s hard to remember

when Mother stopped dropping breadcrumbs.
Only that the birds were angry. After they filled the sky
with loud wings and dark, cloud-heavy shadows, she

stopped looking up or back—closed the track.
And lost became normal. It almost felt
like the cottage in the wood was home.

Siblings were a dream I couldn’t let
myself coddle. Sleep, the rhythm of water that has
nowhere left to fall. Mother was a pool of cave.

The witch my mother had made for me was
a fragment of heat on the scent of gingerbread.
However much I ate, I would never be full.

Previously published by And Other Poems

The Start of the Fire

What is a witch, after all, but the story of a woman
hungry enough for children she’ll do anything to get them.

Is that really what you wanted to hear? Look to your sadness
and see if it is the size of abandonment.

There are many ways to put yourself back into the story.

I am walking well-trodden trails now, 
the banks of the river shored up with broken-down trees.

There has to be a way to keep the edges from falling.

Sometimes you have to let go of the monsters 
from the stories you were told.

Maybe the witch didn’t want children
but just wanted to build something so sweet

it was ridiculous.
Someone was going to bite bits out of it,


It’s a pity children see right through to the red-hot oven of us. 
That they have no mercy.

Previously published in Domestic Cherry

Single Mother in Wonderland

I know the rabbits aren’t real, especially the one
always worrying about time. But this is the hole
I fall into when I’m trying to catch the baby.

Oh my poor children. Mothers are supposed to
know where the keys are and which doors
fit. Why are all the other children playing cards?

Please give me a pill that will make me fit into
my house. Inside me is a child and she’s
so much smaller and bigger than she should be.

My children want me to make a proper high tea.
They want to chop off my crazy, worrying head.
They want me to know how

to play the croquet game.
I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.

Hannah Linden is from a Northern working class background but has been based in rural Devon for most of her adult life, where she lives in ramshackle social housing with her two (adult and adult-cusp) children. Despite navigating depression/anxiety she has been published widely. Her most recent awards are 1st prize in the Cafe Writers Open Poetry Competition 2021 and Highly Commended in the Wales Poetry Award 2021. She is working towards her first full collection.

Signed copies of The Beautiful Open Sky are available to purchase from Hannah Linden via direct message on Twitter: @hannahl1n. Unsigned copies are available from the V. Press website.

Jacob’s Ladder – Ed Limb

Jacob’s Ladder

It’s almost impossible to see clouds.  
They’re there, of course, in their flat caps and fluff.

But we hardly ever see them. I mean, 
for their vastness, sheer scale, as monuments,

palaces, leviathan. How can you?  
They’re always there. It’s a useless kind of awe.

But, Christ, if they were alive! They’d be the match  
of gods – proper Lovecraftian stuff.

If they were mountain peaks, they’d thrill the heart.  
If tombs, who could deserve or what age sculpt them?

When they glow in the evening like embers
the earth is ash. When cast in gold at dawn

they seem the host of heaven. Even on days   
like today, when the sky is a loading screen,

they are a marble sea encircling the horizon.   
If we could see them, we’d stop in traffic,

we’d cower or convert. But how can we?  
Why would we? They’re just clouds.

I explain this to my mum on the phone.   
It’s one of several such calls, when the line’s

a little thread holding me together.   
I dip my ankles in her patience, her love,

make myself invulnerable in it and its vastness.   
She updates me on the chickens.

I tell her about my work. And afterwards,
I wonder: could I ever see her love,

really see it, encircling my horizon? But
how could I? Why would I? It’s just mum.

Ed grew up in Nottingham and studied English at university, spending more time in theatres than lectures. He lives in London and writes around his day job. He is glad to have had pieces published in Under the Radar, Dust, Dream Catcher, and Sideways Poetry.