The Potato Chronicles – Sarah Doyle

The Potato Chronicles

Swathed in Adirondack Blue,
I am the Belle de Fontenay,
scented with Charlemont.
Do not call me Divaa.
Of the highest Estima,
I am the Foremost
Gourmandine on
the Horizon. I can dance
till Inca Dawn, sing
a Jazzy
Kennebec better
than La Strada. I shine
like Mayan Twilight.
Orwell – they all loved
my eyes. Even Picasso,
who called me his British Queen,
although Rembrandt painted
me better. I Sparkle
with Trésor, splendid
in my Urenika Heirloom.
How I grace Venezia, a pale
White Lady with
a fearsome Axona,
Yukon Gold streaking
my flowing Zohar.


Sarah Doyle is the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet-in-Residence, and co-author of Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System (PS Publishing, 2014).  She holds a Creative Writing MA from UL Royal Holloway College, and is widely placed and published.  Website: / Twitter: @PoetSarahDoyle


Why don’t we stop somewhere nice for a cup of coffee? – Paul Vaughan

Why don’t we stop somewhere nice for a cup of coffee?

She rolls the window down.
Sniffs the air that sizzles
between the car and café door.
Pow her body bristles.
I can smell the fucking bacon.
I can’t drink coffee here.

Silently he turns the key. A sigh.
Crawls slowly up the road.
To find another place they can perhaps
just have a bloody cup of coffee.
That would be nice.
Just as long as there’s no bacon.
Kids in shorts. Or peanut slice.

Christ why can’t they just this once
just fucking once
just have a coffee here?

And in his head he prays.
That tonight her nightmares will be filled
with giant knee-bare toddlers
made of bacon, nuts and chocolate
who kill her in her sleep.


Paul Vaughan wears a hat, but not in summer because it is black and looks ridiculous without a big coat. Any anyway, he wouldn’t get any benefit unless he took it off sometimes.

Now my brother has died – Helen Calcutt

Now my brother has died

the flowers have opened. Somehow the sound of a river
is moving in my head.
Somehow the startled flowers.
Or is it blood? Heart, the ephemeral mouth
opening and closing. How dare it grant me
this steady life. The strength of it.
I want a stillness, still I
go on, like the soul of a river, living loud with
other rivers, longing for murdered flowers
and for the sudden resurrection of a hanging
How dare this life
make me want the things I’d die to love,
but river-bound, never could.


Helen is a poet, writer and dance artist. Her pamphlet Sudden rainfall (Perdika Press) was shortlisted for the PBS Pamphlet Choice Award, and became a Waterstones best-selling collection in 2016. Her first full-length book of poems Unable Mother, described as a ‘violent and tender grapple with our cosy notions of motherhood’ (Robert Peake) was published by V.Press in September 2018.

Featured Publication – Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid

Our featured publication for November is Besharam by Nafeesa Hamid, published by Verve Poetry Press.

Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?

Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.

As she treads the shifting line between woman and daughter, between Pakistan and the West, between conservative Islam and liberal, Nafeesa has almost had to find a new language to try to communicate the difficulties of her situation. And what a language! At times hard and pointed, at other times wonderfully and colourfully evocative, erupting with femininity, empowerment and rebellion. It is this language that makes Besharam such a pleasure to read in spite of the pain it contains – Besharam really is a magical first book of poetry.

A necessary and potent meditation on the meaning of Womanhood‘ Joelle Taylor

Besharam is an outstanding collection from Nafeesa… I think her poems are very special.’ Imtiaz Dharker

Love this collection and finding it deeply affecting. The fearlessness is astonishing. Bravo!’ –Roz Goddard





My father walks from door to door,
hands held together like he is doing dua(1).
They are covered in blood.
He splutters
‘beti(2) ’ to anyone who will listen,
blood spraying from his grieving mouth.
He is covered in blood,
Jummah(3) salwaar kameez
bleached white before.
(I wonder how my mother got out the stains.)
A blood vessel has erupted
and my father thinks he is beyond repair.

I wonder if my mother bothered scrubbing the stains out
or if she buried the whole thing instead.

My mother is a suburban English village;
quiet and collected,
she has not made a sound yet,
Tasbeeh(4) against her chest.

I think me and my mother found Womanhood that day.

In her absence
and in mine
I felt like she was praying to me.
I heard her words as clear as the call to prayer on a Friday afternoon,
yet the congregation sat at home and wept.
The muazzin(5) answers questions from police.

Later I find out she was praying
for me.
She rebirthed me that night
as part jawan(6) , part still child, still nine.
The string of her tasbeeh beads is fraying

with the dampness of her hands.
Her blooming chest has lost count of the
and SubhanAllah(8)
and Allahu Akbar’s(9)

but here she is,
still praying for my return.

(1) Prayer
(2) Daughter
(3) Friday; religious day for Muslims
(4) Rosary beads
(5) Muslim official who announces the call to prayer
(6) Of age, mature
(Three phrases that make up Tasbih of Fatima)
(7) All praise is due to God
(8) God is perfect
(9) Allah is greatest


Upon finding your daughter

Pulled up from
the pavement on
Cotterills Lane crying,
by strange women
with kind faces.
They tell Girl
it’ll be okay.
Inside their home,
her mother tumbles
through door, falls
at feet – pink
scarf throttling around
her neck – unashamed.
Eyes bloodshot sockets,
noosed hair hitting
against her face.
Father follows slow
and soft like
he has seen
and known death.
He tries to
smile, but cries
over head of
Girl instead. He
fathers. They Speak
with strange voices.
Girl does not
listen, but hears.


Giving her away

From daughter to dhulan,
You are someone else’s problem now.


In this one no one notices

In this one no one notices
how time has ground itself into dust,
how a lost brown girl
was just that –
a lost brown girl.
No one will notice
that the Weeping Fig
and Madagascan Dragon Tree
and Purple Hearts
had dried out weeks ago,
how the glasses with vodka mixers
had gathered dead flies and dust,
how ripped out hairs and split ends became carpet,
how the lamp was never switched off,
how the curtains had not moved in months,
their lips as tightly bound as her limbs to bed,
how the bin overflowed with diabetes,
how the blue glow from the laptop
had tinged her skin.
No one notices how
the mirror had cracked,
the flowers in her vase dried out to a crisp,
because in this one
we are representing fragility,
how vulnerability is ugly,
how cows do come home,
how chickens do come home to roost.
How we all just want
something or someone or somewhere
to call home.
In this one no one notices
that the brown girl
does not return home.


Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham. Her work covers taboo themes such as sex, domestic violence and mental health, using personal experience as a basis for her writing. She has been writing and performing for 6 years at nights around the UK. She has featured at Outspoken (London), Poetry is Dead Good (Nottingham), Find the Right Words (Leicester) and Hit The Ode (Birmingham). She was invited to perform at TedxBrum 2016 (Power of Us).
Nafeesa has also performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Literature Festivals as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology publication by Saqi Books, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. She is an alumni of Mouthy Poets and Derby Theatre Graduate Associate Artists. She runs Twisted Tongues, an open-mic only poetry night at The Station in Kings Heath.

Besharam is available to purchase from the Verve Poetry Press website.

Her joiners – Helen Kay

Her joiners

do not have vans. They grow in pubs.
They arrive in their own time, need three cups of tea.
They stub out their fingers with hammers,
letting beery blood mark out their lines.

Her joiners don’t eat; she puts out cheese butties
and they hop round the plates like spindly robins.
They fill her house with their music: Snow Patrol,
Black Sabbath, fill her with a lonely awareness,

and Polyfill the cracks between her floorboards
over hairs, crumbs and skeletons of flies.
They know all the pipes and wires, the veins
of her home, these men who live on bar stools.

Plaster shakes off the walls and their lives
season her kitchen, spoil her dusting routines.
She puts out Battenberg and crisps and their hands
stop dithering and dance their amazing skills.


Helen’s poems have been accepted by magazines including Stand, The Morning Star and Rialto. Her debut pamphlet, A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry, was published in 2015 (Indigo Dreams). She was runner up in the High Sherriff’s prize for Literature (2016).

Footsteps. – Lesley Quayle


Footsteps behind her. Two miles home in the blackout. Pinhole of light,
hooded torch. Blind trams and windows. Her with a hatpin

at the ready. The walk downhill. From dark closes, a cloister
of shadows and breezes dissembling in stairwells. She knows he’s there

by the clip of his boots and the tarry smell of Senior Service. What
an eejit. Furtive into a close, torch off, and he tramps on by,

doesn’t know she has him in her sights. Footsteps behind him.
“Hey, stupid appearance.” He’s there like a sick calf, struck dumb.

And he only wanted to see her safe, so he did, in the long dark
of a two mile walk. Her with the wicked hatpin, pokes it back

into her beret.
……………………….Sixty years on and she’s lost without him,
in the long dark and the blackout and the walk downhill.


Lesley Quayle is a widely published, prize-winning poet; she is also a folk/blues singer. A former editor of Leeds based poetry magazine, Aireings, her latest pamphlet, Black Bicycle, was published in May of this year by 4Word press.

Trompe l’Oeil – Jennie Farley

Trompe l’Oeil

It’s something about the way
he wields the rag that inspires her,

like the way the butcher’s thumbs
suggested a gladiator’s blood-smeared thighs,

and the fishmonger’s wrists, slippery wet
with fish scales, made her think of Poseidon.

The surrealist painter takes up her palette.
The window cleaner agrees to pose,

turns his hand to display a grubby palm.
With her brush she hammers in the nail.


Jennie Farley is a published poet, workshop leader and teacher. Her poetry has featured in magazines including New Welsh Review, Under the Radar, The Interpreter’s House and webzines. She runs events for an iconic arts club, NewBohemians@CharltonKings. Her first collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Pub) published 2016. Her new book Hex (IDP) out 2018.

Life-Cycle of the Cry – Kathryn Alderman

Life-Cycle of the Cry

She cried like a baby they say
as though grief should grow up
fold tears to one neat tuck
of the handkerchief.

A parlour assistant, professionally grave, mouths
I’m sorry
draws navy velvet matinee curtains
and presents

the shock of the familiar –
your face with you not in it
chill to the touch.

Much of you was silence.
Now you burrow into its inky balm at last

and I squall like a slapped infant
testing new lungs.


Kathryn Alderman was an actor before starting a family. She won Cannon Poets’ Sonnet or Not (2012) and is published online and print including: Amaryllis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, I Am Not a Silent Poet. She Co-Chairs Gloucestershire Writers’ Network. 

Burning in You – Jude Cowan Montague

Burning in You

In fire and snow your words on the letter are disappearing.
Out of my cold eyes I see you beyond the lines of pines,
and my nose smells your room like a cup of hot tea.
I came out to remember how feathers land on branches.
A train passes in an encounter, brief hello and goodbye.
Can any moments be as soft as your skinny arms?
The broken records pretend to know better than us.
It’s impossible to know how cold it gets when it snows inside.
I’m not allowed to think of becoming a man anymore,
not the man I want to be, just a snowman with coal eyes.
So I watch trains cross the river, your words on fire.


Jude Cowan Montague worked for Reuters Television Archive for ten years. Her album The Leidenfrost Effect (Folkwit Records 2015) reimagines quirky stories from the Reuters Life! feed. She produces ‘The News Agents’ on Resonance 104.4 FM and writes for The Quietus. She is an occasional creative writing tutor for the Oxford University Continuing Education Department. Her most recent book is The Originals (Hesterglock Press, 2017).

Russian Doll – Marija Smits

Russian Doll

I am heavy with the hopes
of my younger selves – the ones
who dreamt of all I could be.

They call to me, disappointed,
as my once-bright dress
begins to dull, as I thin

and am worn smooth by little hands
that dismantle me daily.
I answer with excuses and apologies.

Life intrudes, I explain;
takes us apart
and rebuilds us askew.


Marija Smits is a mother, writer, artist and editor. Her writing has appeared in various places including MslexiaBrittle Star, Strix, LossLit and Literary Mama.