Depressed Penguins Make Recovery – Ian Stuart

Depressed Penguins Make Recovery

We’re fine now. Thanks for asking.
White chests and black tail coats,
we look like waiters in some posh hotel.
Three times a day we go through our routine –
the comedy walk-on in perfect sync –
then dive in, one by one, and swim
to the ice floe
made out of cement
which never melts or grows.

They throw us chunks of frozen herring –
always the same but quite nutritious –
and laugh to see our antics.
Sometimes they clap their flippers in delight.
It is nice to be appreciated.

They’re very needful of our welfare.
Even the herring
has a special tang to it these days.

Yet even now, some nights,
huddled with others on a concrete floor
I still hear great bergs crash together
see distant sky shimmer,
feel the ice
sharp under my claws.

No, honestly. We’re fine.


Ian Stuart is a writer/performer in York. He has had work accepted by Dreamcatcher, Obsessed with Pipework, Selcouth Station and other poetry outlets.
Last October he had  “Quantum Theory for Cats” published by Valley Press in Scarborough – see link below.

Saturna – Katerina Neocleous


Under a bare bulb
in a windy metal shed
we’d sort and pack
our back breaking harvest,
dug out of the loam.

Once, a pair of rabbit kits
– amorphous as potatoes
or clay clods – slid past us
on the conveyor’s rollers,
shuddering untouched

until the end of the line.
Nobody knew what to do
with them, it felt unlucky;
as though we had taken
too much from the earth.


Katerina Neocleous has been published in various poetry journals, most recently in Obsessed With Pipework, and Algebra Of Owls. For more of her work, please visit

Winter Light – Bethany Garry

Winter Light

The clear winter light down Oxford Street
is the frost I will wish North,
that my mother’s country may remember me,
in the quality of the daybreak,
of the shape of free-falling snow.

Mum is always looking out the kitchen window,
in the back of the house,
where it is darkest first,
because she knows the vicious winters,
— every light is a false one.


Bethany is a Scottish writer currently living in London. Her poetry has been published in Octavius, Raum Poetry and Vast Sky. She tweets @brgbethany.

Self-Portrait With Sylvie – Kitty Coles

Self-Portrait With Sylvie

Your yellow eyes grow
and shrink with the tides of the moon,
expand like onions, bulbous globes of light.
You press your spine
against my thigh so closely
our bodies seem to fuse, blur
at the edges, and your fierce heat
infects my worm-white flesh.
You hold my hand
in your arms, against your belly,
and you are supple like the lushest velvet.

I can’t get up today.
The pain is spreading
behind my eyes like mould,
malignant bloom.
My clothes are fumy with sweat,
the odours of cooking onions
and rank cumin.
My face melts in the mirror,
drips like tallow,
streams down my bones, greyly, unstoppably.
Only your palms, like petals, keep me whole.


Kitty Coles lives in Surrey. Her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017.

Featured Publication – How to Wear Grunge by Ruth Stacey

Our featured publication for January is How to Wear Grunge by Ruth Stacey, published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press.

Ruth Stacey’s How to Wear Grunge eschews nostalgia and the self-fulfilling mythology of rock’s nearly-famous excesses for a fierce, feminist holler back into the feedback of another place and time, in all its bleached and sticky-carpeted illusions and almost-glory. Between truth or dare narratives that toy with the tension of hard facts – “Too gloomy, tell me about the prettiness again. / No. Tell me the worst thing” – these poems are wild and wise, and faultlessly written. There is a beating rock’ n’ roll heart of riot-grrl rebellion in every line. Stacey is a fearless and utterly compelling writer, whose candid, courageous poetry takes on the prevailing narrative and places women at the very epicentre.” Jane Commane

In How to Wear Grunge, Ruth Stacey has achieved a bittersweet examination of brutal youth and violent love, with expert attention to the timing of acceptance, obsession and revelation. There’s almost a contact-high to these poems, an intoxication that has been carefully crafted to provide relief from the horrors of the past and of each other, creating a deceptively fragile romance of a sub-culture that encouraged the dirt and distortion of the fragmented self. However, once we have questioned the lives of the damaged, haunted souls in this cool as hell collection, what burns through is strength and survival, wounds that gush with the language of dark joy, the sweet stink of dope and incense, a promise (to past, present and future selves) tightly rolled into a joint so full of flavour it will leave your mouth watering. How to Wear Grunge is ultimately a kaleidoscopic questionnaire. There are no right or wrong answers. In the end, we all dance to something. We make noise, we hurt each other and, sometimes, we forgive.” Bobby Parker



Her Name

She left a quickly scrawled business card, listing her attributes:
bright, witty, sexy, tenacious, generous,
irresistible, reckless, wild, petite biche

Name: Carey Hunter

Age: 20

Address: Somewhere familiar, cold snap in the air, city buzzing,
guitar music playing, lyrics aim and circle: theme gloom/not gloom.

Voice: Growl, low, high, light, whispered, bellowed, impossible
to describe. Butterfly made of paper, caught in the draft.

Eyes: Fox coloured. I’m certain, fox-russet, copper.

Smell: You can’t smell her through the internet. Come on.



Drinking in the park, drinking on a false id
Drinking cider, thunderbirds, 20/20, taboo
Drinking to get courage, drinking to dance
Drinking, drinking, drinking until you
Fall over & say all the wrong things
Shout, cry, get lost, kiss the wrong man
Kiss the right girl, feel nothing, drink!

Drink too much for your small frame
Drink like all the boys you hang with
Drink so much at your work drinks
You have to take some ecstasy to sober up
Drink so you have to apologise: sorry, sorry!
Drink like you are in the longhouse,
Drink because sobriety is painful, drink!


people would drift in

at different times, everyone would wait
play pool, drink cheap beer
upstairs, at The Crown
go & score from the bloke
who had the scar across his cheek
Tony someone? forgotten now

the Seattle singer was dead but his voice
his voice and other pine-tinged voices
played on repeat in a small town
landlocked, far from America
far from the chill Pacific North West:
this was the Shire, rolling hills
and Porcelain factory jobs

this was strange, why
we all loved punk and grunge
listening to bands in the art deco
theatre, hanging off the steps
female singer howling still
but I think
it was the dirty drugs honesty


The Real Truth

this phrase annoys me: what is real
what is true,
everything is filtered through bias
memories that re-arrange like landscapes

it’s familiar……………… but something dark has grown
shading the whole left side of it all
or the unkempt, tangled bushes have been strimmed
back to grass and everything is simplified
………………………………….she was in love
with a rock star who died, she died too


Ruth Stacey’s poetry collection Queen, Jewel, Mistress was published by Eyewear Publishing 2015. Alison Weir wrote that, ‘Ruth Stacey’s poems are exceptional. They evoke voices long silenced, and the very essence of these past lives and the ages in which they were lived.’
Her recent pamphlet, Inheritance, was published by Mother’s Milk Books 2017. A duet with another poet, Katy Wareham Morris, it explored the 19th-century experience of motherhood, contrasted with a 21st-century mother’s voice. Inheritance won Best Collaborative Work at the 2018 Saboteur Awards.
Her latest poetry collection, How to Wear Grunge, was published November 2018 and is available from Knives, Forks & Spoons press. Jane Commane wrote that, “Stacey is a fearless and utterly compelling writer, whose candid, courageous poetry takes on the prevailing narrative and places women at the very epicentre”
Ruth Stacey works as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Worcester University and designs the poetry book covers for V.Press. Stacey is currently writing the imagined memoir, in poetry, of the artist Pamela Colman Smith for her PhD.


How to Wear Grunge is available to purchase from the Knives Forks and Spoons Press website.

The Doll without Blue Eyes – Emma Lee

The Doll without Blue Eyes

A mother ordered a doll: golden haired
and blue-eyed but it arrived with green eyes
and darker hair, skin pale rather than rosy.

The mother didn’t correct the mistake,
but ordered another, a boy, who did
have blue eyes and golden hair.

The mistake wasn’t allowed to forget
or speak in public, except to praise.
No one would dispute maternal love.

The mother dressed the girl in odds
and ends and blamed her for not
looking her best or for being too pale.

The mistake taught herself not to blush,
to remain silent, sponged up the blame
even when it was the golden boy’s fault.

She grew up in a locked display case,
that shrank each year so she restricted
her growth and learnt how to pick locks

until she was skilled enough to escape
and took her secrets with her until
she learnt the mother’s shame was not hers.


Emma Lee’s most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK 2015), she co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at

The Tything, 8.57am on a Wednesday – S.A. Leavesley

The Tything, 8.57am on a Wednesday

It isn’t the red shoes with red
heels and matching red handbag.
It’s the way she simply steps out
and the traffic parts. She walks tall,
elegant, ear to her phone. Her dark
ponytail is a swinging pendulum –
controlling time in this moment.
Tick, tock, tick. Car and bus engines
slow to silence as she crosses.
Not a glance to her left or right,
as if no other possibility than all motion
around her will stop. In her world,
a narrow path through dense forest.
A woodland coppice pooling sunlight
and shadows. Birdsong pauses.
Trees listen for her skipping feet.
A single autumn leaf slips free.
Something rustles. Wolf whistles
start to form in hot exhaust pipes.
Engines rev. Hands hover over horns.
She jaunts up the kerb and stone steps
towards her glass reflection, pushes open
the swing-door, and vanishes.
The traffic slinks on.


S.A. Leavesley is a poet, fiction writer, journalist, photographer, editor. Her latest books are: ‘How to Grow Matches’ (Against The Grain Press) and ‘plenty-fish’ (Nine Arches Press), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. Her website is at

rain again – Laura McKee

rain again

and the adoptive cat
was outside
in the rain by mistake

I have picked him up
to cuddle him dry
in an old orange baby blanket

left lying in the kitchen
for some reason or other
from another day

I am holding him
like a baby because
that is all I know

he settles back in my arms
looks at the ceiling
like this is all new


Laura McKee’s poems have appeared in various places in print and online, including The Interpreter’s House, The Rialto, Molly Bloom, Pouch, and anthologies including Mildly erotic Verse (Emma Press). She was a winner in The Guernsey International Poetry Competition. Contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin

Boxing Day 2004 – Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon

Boxing Day 2004

Christmas drift untidies our house,
my coffee’s cold. Last night’s wine,
an undrawn curtain.

The phone rings, my brother, agitated,
Have you seen the news? Have you?
Turn it on. Turn it on now.
My dry throat scratches,
someone clangs pots and pans.
Later, I say. No. Now. And I agree
to keep him happy.

My son couldn’t be in danger.
He’s fine. He always says so.

Swollen tidal waves break,
disembodied voices
facts about tectonic plates.
unvirtuous reality, places, faces. Fright
beyond imagination ripples on
the screen……. challenged
by poor reception in our valley.

A scream ricochets.

My daughter: Mum, what’s wrong?


Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in 2017. She believes everyone’s voices counts.


Cynara scalymus. – Clair Chilvers

Cynara scalymus.

Incongruous in a herbaceous border
an artichoke stands proudly.
The cruel thistle leaves pale green
against the dark, damp, Devon soil
the stem sturdy, woody
the globes with their triangular petals
densely packed.
A cook would say that it had gone to seed.
But no, the purple flower, spiky
as a punk’s haircut,
is a wonder for a day or two
until it darkens and dies back
to a quieter shape.

Too late to pluck these globes to eat.
I imagine boiling them for twenty minutes
dipping each leaf in melted butter
my teeth stripping off the inner softness
Then saving the best ‘til last
cutting out the soft spikes from the heart
to eat the tender flesh.


Clair Chilvers started writing poetry after she retired. She was a cancer scientist and latterly a civil servant. She has published a pamphlet – Pilgrimage. Anna Saunders (founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival) describes her work as ‘powerful and moving’.