Featured Publication – apple, fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond

Our featured publication for May is apple, fallen by Olga Dermott-Bond, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Olga Dermott- Bond’s superb poems make their way towards searing emotion via craft,
detailed observation and a kind of glittering acceptance that the world we have is the world we must write about and the job of the poet is to make art from the flawed things around us. These poems reward rereading and hang around in your mind, delivering phrases and lines back at you at unexpected times that turn out to be the times you need them most.’ Ian McMillan
Vivid and Powerful‘ Ana Sampson McLaughlin
olga5

 

apple, fallen

Her smile is waxed water, curved perfect and full.
Sleeping in grass-hush, she fits herself perfectly,
a wise moon dressed only in pearled skin and sugar.
She is open as a lake, offering a steady reflection to
gospelled branches above that sway love-heavy,
growing with all of her hope-laden daughters –

her smashed skull is a restless shattered crawling
of ferment, made only of wasps that cling to shrinking
edges. she is a cave of black static, her crabbed body
hollowed beyond blood. a boat silenced with dry land,
she has sunk her own tongue, devoured her eyes, cheeks,
swallowed the blameless sun. there is only this place –

………………………….turn me over before you ask how I am.

 

Toaster

Each Sunday morning
the bread would often get stuck
or launch itself high

across the kitchen
where dad would catch it, juggling
each flapping bird with

blackened wings. His dance
made us laugh. Tea, marmalade,
homemade jam, honey –

again and again
we would wait for its metalled
cough, to watch salmon

leaping through currents
of sun. I ate six slices
one weekend, enthralled

with how happiness
was the colour of butter,
best eaten hot. Toast.

I believed I could
save each tiny crumb of you,
thinking aged just four

that every Sunday
would stay like this, love landing
soft, the right way up.

Previously published in Ten Poems about Breakfast (Candlestick Press)

 

……………..Fionn courts Oonagh

……………..Harebell

The first time he came to see her after work
it had rained a misery of tales all day,
her mother’s kitchen shrunk, shrivelled at the thought
……………………………………………………………………..……of a visitor

his shoulders sleeping boats anchored deep beneath
an old raincoat, scarcely covering shyness
that she wanted to undress, mind skittering
………………………………………………..…like a leveret –

her book-learning left far from this equation,
cleverness something she was used to hiding,
conjugating verbs a witch’s trick she could
………………………………………perform in her sleep.

Daylight chased from the doorway he ducked under
she stood as sudden moonlight, wondering if
he would sweep all the plates of the table, lift
………………………………………….it clean with one hand –

instead he took harebells from his pocket,
purple-slight flowers, brimming with wet-hedge smell,
held them outstretched, their modest heads trembling wild,
………………………………………………………………..…..a beautiful storm.

previously featured in the Bedtime Stories For The End Of The World podcast

 

Hagoshii

The Navajo people have a word for bringing a conversation to a close. Hagoshii. It was the women, the gatherers, who first made pots; mothers who believed they had already passed through three worlds, trusting the wet clay of this glittering one with their wet fingers, feeling the weight of something hollow and useful taking new form. I wish we had shared this word, wish that I hadn’t interpreted your silence, delays and polite replies as a vessel to drink from. I wish I had known you had buried me like a thirsty fragment, because I was still carrying you sacred as air and fire and light, making sculptures of what I thought we could be with my clumsy hands. I handle our last meeting like a fired relic, searching for symbols. I wish I had learnt the shape of acceptance, of what cannot change through time. Hagoshii. It is finished.

 

Olga is originally from Northern Ireland. A former Warwick Poet Laureate, she has had poetry and flash fiction published in a range of magazines including Rattle Magazine, Dodging the Rain, Magma, Strix, Cordite Review, Under the Radar, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Paper Swans. She was the winner of the 2019 BBC Proms poetry competition, is a commissioned artist for Coventry City of Culture 2021 and last year was selected as one of the emerging poets for the podcast Bedtime Stories for the End of the World. She is an assistant headteacher in a secondary school and has two daughters. apple, fallen is her debut poetry pamphlet.

apple, fallen is available to purchase from the Against the Grain Poetry Press website.

morning person – Tanner

morning person

I get up before the alarm
to have the first piss
but the moment I open the bedroom door
our cat wails long and high like a train whistle,
blocking my way until I feed her
and as I’m kneeling over her bowl in my boxers,
squeezing meat jelly out of the packet,
my wife skirts around us,
beating me to the bathroom

every morning they trick me, these two
and as I sit on the cold kitchen floor
filled with piss
listening to my wife piss
watching the cat lick jelly
I AM FILLED WITH ENOUGH PISS AND LOVE
TO DROWN AND BURN YOU ALL

but then I have to go out and meet you all
and I chicken out:
I want to live to see another morning
of these two and their tricks.

 

Tanner is from Liverpool. His latest collection, ‘Shop Talk: Poems For Shop Workers’ is published by Penniless Press

An Inspection – Karen Little (kazvina)

An Inspection

The landlord turns up early, doesn’t appreciate my attempts with
vinegar and baking powder. Hangover life is relatively rosy,
though sometimes it must be erased, or smudged at least.

I fake strength I don’t possess so enemies can’t bump me off—
a thousand pins suspend me between completion and destruction—
my aspirations are abandoned buildings. Stripped, I feel like

a potential champ knocked out by illness— a crawling
heart letting the rain pour in. We all give way sometimes,
ache at times—fail to ripen. With everything uncertain, I tip

back and forth between faith and doubt, a visual hug, a vexed
form. In the end, the landlord decides he’ll leave me to it.

 

Karen Little (kazvina) has exhibited her art internationally, and is widely published as a writer in the UK and further afield. Her latest publication is the illustrated pamphlet, Dissecting an Artist (2019) with The Black Light Engine Room Press.

We Lose the South – Lynn Valentine

We Lose the South

in a gaggle of road-weary cyclists,
posing for photos at the top of the land.

Ahead lie rumbling currents, dark feathers
of wind gathering foot passengers in.

The crossing is short, fulmars follow the roll
of the boat, the grey keening of sea.

Set down, we see butter-rich fields, countless
stout cows the colour of darkest cream.

We stroll on beaches as tides suck at gaps
in conversation, shells are picked like strawberries.

Midnight stumbles in with hardly a change
in the air. We sit, punch-drunk on light.

 

Lynn Valentine writes between dog walks on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. She is widely published, both in print and online. She has won and been placed in competitions. Lynn won a place on the Cinnamon Press mentoring scheme and in 2020 will be mentored by them, working towards her first poetry collection.

Fox – Kitty Coles

Fox

The town’s dark and those within are dark
and I move through it in a fox’s form,
a being of the dark, the under-earth,
my nails click-clicking lightly on the tarmac,
the breath of trees still purling through my fur.

I press my way through shadows,
scrunched cans, torn paper, nose to the ground,
ears shivering to the shifts of sleepers
who twist in their dreams like netted fish.
My eyes reflect the light, its faltering gleams.

 

Kitty Coles’ debut pamphlet, Seal Wife (2017), was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize. Her first collection, Visiting Hours, will be published in 2020 by The High Window. www.kittyrcoles.com

The Interviews – Matt Pitt

The Interviews

The radio was playing Lovesick Blues
so I poured myself another cup. Then
I got up and went to the interviews.

I opened my book, I flourished my pen . . .
I sat in sumptuously appointed rooms
with slick-heeled women and serious men.

I nodded, smiled, crossed and uncrossed my arms.
I straightened my tie. I steepled my hands.
I made the same rehearsed joke seven times

and laughed at one I didn’t understand.
I said the word “synergy”. Tried phrases
like “bulge bracket”, “Big Four”, and “meta-brand”.

I ate a pink biscuit. Drank four glasses
of lemon tea. Sucked a Polo. Said no
to sandwiches, rolls, raspberry slices

and a rich, beguiling Chateau Margaux.
On Lombard Street, I sneaked a cigarette
and slugged two-thirds of a latte to-go.

Twice I was early. Three times I was late.
Once, I told a long, elaborately
sustained lie about my employment dates.

I argued, parried, challenged politely,
conceded, agreed with, said that perhaps
it was not but then again it might be.

I rode lifts. Climbed stairs. Clung to the straps
of buses and trains. I studied connections,
calculated journey times, scrolled through maps

upside down and memorised directions.
I signed registers. Smiled for a mug-shot.
Waited for hours in neon receptions.

I started out at Bank. Then came Earl’s Court.
I dog-legged to Dalston, swung a wide left
to Latimer Road (where briefly I got

lost) and rattled on to Queensway West.
I visited Frith Street, Fleet Street, London Wall,
Chinatown, Greek Town, Little Bucharest . . .

And over and again, throughout it all,
the rail, the road and the interviews,
I heard the sound, the soft, insistent call

of a radio playing Lovesick Blues.

 

Matt Pitt is a poet and screenwriter from Brighton. He has previously published in Ambit, Acumen, London Magazine and Prole. His debut feature film, Greyhawk, was shortlisted for the Michael Powell Award at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

the female etcetera – Pippa Little

the female etcetera

the woman in the wire dress
the fruit gum shoes
climbs the gallery stairs
emigrant in her life
surrounded by absent children, husbands
and versions of herself
no cloud of glory
just an unceasing buzzing of white noise
emotional tinnitus

I am nearly used to it she tells herself

the gallery is cold and pale
the uniformed men seem bored
she walks a centimetre or two above the ground
not enough for anyone to notice
she is 70 % water 30% rage
the art has suffered cracks in the emulsion
rather as her children’s paintings curl and crack
rolled up in kitchen drawers

she lists in defence two-sided things
the back of a cinema, secretive and dirty
how dust accrues behind the sideboard
the hungry mirror, the hanged man
how the opposite is always true

I woke myself up she says
from the labours of twilight sleep

when the lost return, how shall they look?

 

Pippa Little is a poet, mentor and workshop facilitator. Overwintering (Carcanet) came
out in 2012 , Twist (Arc) in 2018: a third collection is forthcoming. She works for The Royal Literary Fund at Newcastle University and lives in Northumberland.

Herd mentality – Sharon Larkin

Herd mentality

What panicked the sheep was invisible.
One second, ewes were grazing in green pastures,
the next, a report from some silent starting pistol
sent them sprinting, faster than ovines
should ever have reason to travel.

Nothing pursued them –
no hound or horse or bird of prey.
No farmer had come to tempt his girls
with trailer-loads of beets or hay
but some were leaping lamb-like,
all hooves aloft, then turning, as one,
to charge again from whence they came,
stampeding forth and back beside the wall
which some began to clamber on,
to disappear beyond – where a year before,
we found a sheep’s corpse, bones picked clean.

We knew a steep slope fell away
a few feet further on, into the quarry below,
feared a lemming-like scene there,
wondered what weed or bane, opioid or hemp,
could drive beasts to madness such as this.

Back home, we’re alarmed by news
of stock market crashes, supermarket dashes,
clashes in aisles as folk go overboard
for toilet rolls.

We can’t make sense of theories
about herd immunity
or appeals for distance and isolation
as sixty thousand flock for four days on the trot
to the races, and others jump
aboard their last flight home.

We try to fathom stats and graphs.
that attempt to flatten the curve,
choke when asked to swallow the pill
that our loved ones will be lost.
It spooks the flock out of us.

 

Sharon Larkin’s ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ was published by Indigo Dreams in 2019. Her poems have been anthologized by Cinnamon, Eyewear and more, and regularly appear in magazines eg Prole and Obsessed with Pipework, and on-line eg Ink Sweat & Tears and Atrium. She has a poem forthcoming in Magma. Sharon organizes Poetry Café Refreshed, is Gloucestershire’s Stanza Representative and runs Eithon Bridge Publications and the Good Dadhood e-zine. Sharon has a Creative Writing MA and is passionate about Wales, photography and the natural world.

The delights of growing up are highly overrated – Rose Mary Boehm

The delights of growing up
are highly overrated

Giggles behind clammy hands.
Stiff skirt, five petticoats.
Only this morning ‘they’ –
on the other side of the hall –
wore short pants and dirty faces.
In their Sunday best and
awkward stance they’ve become aliens.
Some are still drifting.
Imagine the teacher at her shrill,
most schoolmarm best:
“Boys to the right, girls to the left.
Choose your partners.
Foxtrot please, band…”

A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives in Lima, Peru. Author of three poetry collections, her work has been widely published, mainly in the US. Her latest full-length poetry MS will be published by Blue Nib in 2020.

Featured Publication – Lamping For Pickled Fish by Beth McDonough

Our featured publication for April is Lamping For Pickled Fish by Beth McDonough, published by 4Word.

Discovering Beth McDonough’s poetry is a genuine pleasure. Shine a light on her poems and they reflect that light back on the reader, sometimes more brightly, sometimes strangely distorted, but always leaving us with distinctive, unforgettable images and additions to the vocabulary of the world. Words collide and fuse to make new ones, ideas and insights are layered as she looks for meaning in nature, family and the quirks of human behaviour. Her poems range from polished and lean to richly abundant, with flashes of exploration and experimentation in how poems can communicate themselves. Beth is a distinctive voice, fully engaged with her subject matter and bristling with ideas and the tools to explore them.‘ Andy Jackson

Lamping for Pickled Fish is a book of sticky, sensual poems, that hook and tangle the reader; beguiling folk recipes and closely observed detail of daily life as densely woven as a bramble thicket. McDonough’s finely wrought sound-pieces are rooted in human feelings, failings and fears – under the carefully woven forms a voice tempered by humour and pain grows in strength and urgency. This is a collection packed with flavours – complex, dark and earthy, with occasional bitter flashes and drops of sweetness; tastes to reward the forager and linger long on the tongue.’ Nikki Magennis

Beth McDonough’s work is in search of a kind of holistic mapping of clear mind and right action onto the matrices of language and environment. These are vibrant poems of hiking, gathering, swimming, and, above all, seeing. Her language is grounded in the volubility of Scots but mesmerised by the precision and power of naming: plants become spells as she forages for their associations as much as for their berries and roots. This green-fingeredness of the imagination extends to her way with verbal music, which lends her work a distinctive and compelling blend of energy and yearning, as she seeks out the galvanic connection between rhythms of nature and the word.‘ W.N.Herbert

LampingForPickledFish cover

 

Marmalade

Seville bright, this morning’s sun grins,
rolls her confident complement
against January skies. Let me zest

what I can, then knife through
fluff thickened pith, to score
an acidic aroma, studded in pips.

I finger out segments, let nip
juices loch onto boards then cut;
need to keep this essence, not slight

that necessary sharp under sicken-sweet
covers. A season keens, pierces high
through any resistance of frost.

 

In all the wrong places
 
Afraid, I anticipated him – reckoned
killer boxes in the owner’s shed. I sensed
that macchja dense with his lives, head-rattled

all those words he’d claimed – scratch
scuttle, rustle, scurry, gnaw. He glutted
my dark. Nightly, I fretted him,

sifted seeds for scat. On the lane’s camber
I tensed, stared riddles at stink-wide
bins for humped moves. No shadow shot

from flag leaf drains. I detected no presence
in dykes. No quick through briar thicks. None. I
opened myself to planets and stars. There –
 
Rat, sleek along telegraph wires,
cork oak to cork oak, smooth
on summer low cables. Linear acrobat.

Previously published in The Scores

 

Peloton Mallorca, 2018

All hairpin legs, a sweat of serious cyclists,
clackers on stone. Venting over-shoulder shouts,
they’re intent on giant beers. And maybe cake.

In a synchronised de-helmet,
paper-bag faces, screwed hard at sun,
crumple further, seek the bar’s shade.

Now hear how these men
have conquered mountains, powered up just
by their fine-tuned unfettered strength

and some of those particularly fantastic
plastic-wrapped chemical snacks,
sixty rafts of fortified water. And

subtle adjustments to saddles,
minutely engineered accoutrements, then
lovingly curtailed dérailleurs…

and tiny fixed screens to tot up points,
compare the gradients’ percentages,
profile difficulties of hills. With stars.

Most of all, credit to that Vaseline
honeyed thick on unsunned parts
and regularly reapplied.

And those logos; tattooed really large
on blister eye bright Lycra, which now peels
thrillingly from over-greasy bits.

Add in their greatest near-misses –
old ice-cream lorries, atrociously
heading for Soller. Or what about

that rosary-counting pilgrim string
the team almost took out entirely
on a bend at the outskirts of Lluc?

Our natural heroes, who’ve had to pedal so fast
past all the Tramuntana’s high wonders.
Thank heaven their exploits are all Strava’d now.

They need that beer, that cushioned-up seat
and chunk of the cafe’s apricot cake
as they re-learn how to walk.

Previously published in Gutter

 

We need a name for what we want

Not quite Italian – their older, closer
Mezzogiorno tongue trips out some word
for those fierce greens fat turnips sprout.

Waiting for winter’s greedy sheep
and now the trugs of careful cooks – fat roots
turn up in lines on the hairst’s lost field.

My Paesano friends don’t understand
why Scots will stew that lumpen fleshy bit
of turnip, swede, this misshapen neep

but ignore its freshing shoots, bright
in nipping leaves. Rapine keen enough
for hand-formed orecchietti.

A passing farming man can’t quite believe
his own ears at their risked request.
He just laughs, perplexed. They’re welcome

to walk his land, for however long
they want, fill their tucked-in bags
enjoy whatever they covet and glean.

Previously published in Causeway

 

Beth McDonough trained in Silversmithing and Jewellery at Glasgow School of Art, and taught Art in various sectors for many years. Approaching her half century, she returned to Dundee University to take an M.Litt in Writing Study and Practice. Her poetry is published in many journals and anthologies, and in 2016,  with Ruth Aylett, she wrote a poetry duet pamphlet, Handfast (published by Mother’s Milk Books). Her work has been placed in several competitions, including those held by the John Clare Society,  YES Festival, MMB, Compound Competition at Cheltenham Festival. Her work won first prize in the Off the Stanza Competition 2017, and in 2019, her poem ‘Samphire’ won first prize in the Science Poem Competition, held by St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She reviews for DURA, and was poetry editor there for five years. She produces the small magazine Firth, and Between 2014 and 2016, she was inaugural Writer in Residence at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Currently a Trustee of Ochil Tower School, she is a huge supporter of the Camphill Movement.

Lamping For Pickled Fish is available from the 4Word website.