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.

Featured Publication – Something so wild and new in this feeling by Sarah Doyle

Our featured publication for March is Something so wild and new in this feeling by Sarah Doyle, published by V. Press.

In these inventive and adventurous collage poems, Sarah Doyle presents Dorothy
Wordsworth’s exuberant feeling for life and language in a fresh fabric of her own making.
Sympathetic and insightful, tactful, and imaginative, Doyle’s compositions refract the
energies of Dorothy’s writings through the subtle medium of her own sensibility, and the
result is at once daring and illuminating.
” Gregory Leadbetter

In Something so wild and new in this feeling, Sarah Doyle has taken Dorothy Wordsworth’s
journals and developed excerpts into poems, finding felicities of phrasing, musicality, and
ideas. Doyle’s skills in pacing, use of the line, and the possibilities of form help us appreciate
anew Wordsworth’s habits of thought and close attention to the natural world. With
Wordsworth and Doyle, the reader hears the birds singing in the mist.
” Carrie Etter

A heart unequally divided

My heart was so full that I could hardly speak.
Every question was like the snapping of a little
thread about my heart. I sate a long time upon
a stone at the margin of the lake, and after a flood
of tears my heart was easier. The lake looked
to me, I knew not why, dull and melancholy,
and the weltering on the shores seemed a heavy
sound. My heart dissolved. I could not help
weeping, I was sick at heart. In my walk back
I had many of my saddest thoughts, and I could
not keep the tears within me. My heart was almost
melted away. My heart smote me, prevented me
from sleeping. I was melancholy, and could not
talk, but at last I eased my heart by weeping.

At play chasing a butterfly

Upon the sunless hill, we saw miles of grass, light
and glittering, and the insects passing. The hum
of insects, that noiseless noise which lives
in the summer air. The bees were humming
about the hive. I saw a robin chasing a scarlet
butterfly this morning, flying all about us. I used
to chase them a little, but I was afraid of brushing
the dust off their wings, and did not catch them.

Among the mossy stones

When we were in the woods beyond
Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils
close to the water-side. We fancied
that the sea had floated the seeds ashore,
and that the little colony had so sprung up.
But as we went along there were more
and yet more;
………………………..and at last, under the boughs
of the trees, we saw that there was a long
belt of them along the shore, about
the breadth of a country turnpike road.
I never saw daffodils so beautiful.

They grew among the mossy stones
about and above them. Some rested
their heads upon these stones, as on
a pillow, for weariness, and the rest
tossed and reeled and danced, and
seemed as if they verily laughed
with the wind,
………………………….that blew upon them
over the lake. They looked so gay, ever
glancing, ever changing. This wind
blew directly over the lake to them.

The distant prospect

The shapes of the nearer trees
and the dome of the wood
dimly seen and dilated.

The shapes of the mist,
slowly moving along,
exquisitely beautiful;

passing over the sheep
they almost seemed to have
more of life than those

quiet creatures.
The unseen birds
singing in the mist.

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 is widely placed and published, being a runner-up in the Keats-Shelley Essay Prize 2020 and the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize 2019, winning the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition and Holland Park Press’s Brexit in Poetry 2019, and being highly commended in the Forward Prizes 2018. Sarah is co-editor of Humanagerie, an anthology from Eibonvale Press, shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award in 2019. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and is currently researching a PhD in meteorological poetry at Birmingham City University. More at sarahdoyle.co.uk or Twitter: @PoetSarahDoyle

Something so wild and new in this feeling is available to purchase from the V. Press website.

Featured Publication – Making Tracks by Katy Wareham Morris

Our featured publication for October is Making Tracks by Katy Wareham Morris, published by V. Press.

From the very first page of this pamphlet, the reader encounters a voice which is entirely new. Within this pamphlet we find interrogations of masculinity, class, manual labour, what is and isn’t inherited through different generations and, most excitingly, see how these different preoccupations can be refracted and reflected through language and the line. As there should be when searching for new ways to contemplate tradition, a fresh type of experimentation with language, its spacial arrangement and its breath, is given to the reader, but always with a solid and concrete centre of people and place. A balance is struck between the heart, and the search for a language, scientific or natural, which might be able to fully represent it. Poems such as ‘You and Him: A Venn Diagram’ give us a visual language for exploring the pamphlet’s themes, and the pamphlet as a whole brings together the insertion of the urban and natural, the historical and the contemporary. An exciting new pamphlet from a poet doing important new things with the art.‘ Andrew McMillan

Making Tracks uses the texture of language and collaged fragments to celebrate those people who worked at the now defunct Longbridge car factory.  Wareham Morris’s father is the beating heart at the centre of these poems, it’s whose voice we hear, entrusted to her tender keeping.  There is the melancholy of a way of life gone here, but also the love of a day’s work and the satisfaction of a job well done.‘ Helen Ivory

The Heart

St Modwen: “What we are doing is putting the heart back into

  1. Attractive developments in stunning park-side locations
    for first-time buyers, young families and downsizers
  1. creating inclusive, friendly environments evolving day
    by day
  1. with nearly 100 businesses currently located creating
    3,700 jobs across a variety of sectors since 2007
  1. utilising old industry and new technology, this is a
    unique £300 million project
  1. securing the best training for young people and adults
    with high quality educational establishments
  1. and a flagship youth centre called ‘The Factory’
    offering innovative and creative activities
  1. on a stunning three-acre urban park with free parking
    available for up to three hours
  1. building communities, using the rich heritage while
    looking to the future

9. a stronger, more prosperous

10. place to call home

I say to the kids, whilst we eat our Marks’ sandwich, “This is
where Grandad used to build cars.”

Vehicle Scheduling (Fragment V)

as shells came out of the paint shop painted we’d put the order
on send to the track for trim as shells came out of the paint shop
painted we’d put the order on send to the track for trim stop

for tea walk to the urn fill the pot walk back get the sarnies out
cars come down from the roof no cars to the track cars come
down from the roof no cars to the track track runs out there
ain’t no cars

5 trim tracks 2 copies on the order take 1 copy off send to the
conveyor keep the copy in order of bodies right order right
engine right shell 5 trim tracks 2 copies on the order take 1 copy
off send to the conveyor keep the copy in order of bodies right
order right engine right shell here comes the engine here comes
the body stop

this should be an automatic he got them arse about face bastard
eating sandwiches drinking a pint as shells came out of the
paint shop painted we’d put the order on 5 trim tracks 2 copies
on the order take 1 copy off send to the conveyor send to the
track for trim keep the copy in order of bodies right order right
engine eating sandwiches drinking a pint as shells came out of
the paint shop painted we’d put the order on 5 trim tracks 2
copies on the order take 1 copy off send to the conveyor send
to the track for trim keep the copy in order of bodies right
order right engine stop

dispute meeting ain’t solved it (planned it?) right we’re off

Terrible Really

They were bloodying fists all the time,
you kept your cool, though your heart was
still beating all the time, you were all fighting.
People wouldn’t cope today, they’d crack up –

…………..there one day and then gone
…………..to the funny farm. You never thought,
…………..you never talked,
…………..but the pressure –

…………..blokes did crack, blokes didn’t cope.
…………..Your bloodied heart kept beating,
…………..you were all fighting,
…………..never talked.

Dog eat dog: you admit you ate anyone because
you wouldn’t go under or take the flack.
You had to keep fighting, the pressure,
you couldn’t go under.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom:
the Olympics, darts and cricket in the summer;
like the Wolf of Wall Street, you had men on your coattails.

One day a bloke, a good bloke
with only one son,
came to you and said he needed to leave.
He needed to get to Hillsborough, he needed to try
and find his son at Hillsborough. He came back but his son –
you didn’t let him crack, you didn’t let him go under.
You wouldn’t eat him, your bloodied heart
didn’t mind when he cried.
For a time, it beat and bled for both of you.


I can’t promise that this is true
or love or some kind of

or you and me immortalised
by history, writing into time
as if it makes it

I think it already was alive
still is in

more than just a story
it had an end and we

alive, in reality
matching your –

some kind of
can hitch our memory

Katy Wareham Morris is a lecturer in Media and Culture at the University of Worcester; she also contributes to the Creative Writing team. She has a particular interest in gender and queer studies, identity politics and digital humanities. Katy is currently working on her PhD research in literary gaming, play and post-queer politics, exploring interactive and innovative forms of digital poetics and their dynamic potentialities. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Inheritance (written with Ruth Stacey, Mother’s Milk Books, 2017), won a Saboteur Award for Best Collaborative Work. Her experimental debut collection, Cutting
the Green Ribbon, was published with Hesterglock Press in 2018.

Making Tracks is available to purchase from the V. Press website.

Featured Publication – The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr

Our featured publication for January is The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr, published by V. Press.

There’s an enviable gusto and assurance about this debut, the confident voicing of a
distinctive sensibility that deserves our attention. Lauder has a keen ear for the musical and metrical possibilities of a well-wrought line which well serves his deftly rendered lyric style. Particularly impressive are the domestic sequences and longer poems which hold both interest and momentum throughout: an achievement of poetic coherence and craft that can only be accomplished by a poet more than ready to stake a claim for his place on the contemporary scene.‘ Martin Malone

In his debut collection, Charles G. Lauder is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of white masculinites, unearthing violence and toughness but vulnerability and tenderness also. This means examining his own past in the US; what he has inherited, what he brings to his life in England, and what he finds there. Again and again, poems reveal that his family is his lodestone: “We are our elements. I would be lost/without them.” The Aesthetics of Breath is a rich and varied collection which has love and social justice at its heart but does not turn aside from uncomfortable truths.‘ Pam Thompson

The Aesthetics of Breath is NOT a breath of fresh air – it is an unflinching, deep breathing-in of a gas called ‘history’, so that it hurts in the lungs. Be they personal myths or legends of entire nations’ violence, here the vapours of various histories sublimate into Lauder’s vivid ‘solidifications’ – poems that render the distance and otherness of places and times as touchable and smelt. Some of these poems are ‘stellar gases congealing into orbits’, and they are celebratory confirmations of essential stories we humans need to tell our selves. But be warned: some of these poems cast ‘Hiroshima shadow[s]’ to exorcise our civilisation’s pale myths, its ghosts that too often comfortably haunt us, and our too easy and shallow breaths of memes. At times this book is like opening a grave to find the buried still alive … and violently gasping out accounts of ‘the ruling passions of the woods.’ Mark Goodwin




There’s a river that runs behind the house
where most go to murder,
hands around the throat, head held down.

A day doesn’t go by when a body
isn’t being dragged to the water’s edge.
There’s not much resistance as I stare

at the back of the empty skull; I never
look at the face – all complete strangers.
One could be my family but I’ll never know.

I rummage through the pockets
before the current takes them away
and then go back inside for dinner.

Some are of color, some pale.
I never give a thought to ghosts
or what their life was like.

It’s a fair assumption I wouldn’t
have liked them. At some point
they probably would have shot me

or my kin, or stolen from me. So much
of what I have is less than what
my father and grandfather had.


The Japanese Movie

When friends’ backs are turned – preoccupied
with ice cream and their year-long trip to France
flitting in and out of French as if in love –
I hide in the audience of a Japanese movie
as if slipping from one dream to the next
the ending clear but not how it’s supposed to be.

There is comfort in the dark with strangers
not looking at one another but at a spot
above each other’s head flashes of movement
and color that take us back to the beginning
when there was only laughter and gesture
I couldn’t speak the language
…………………….and no one could speak mine.


Dirty Laundry

Your mother cannot shift the carbon dioxide out of the bottom of her lungs where it
piles up overnight like old laundry. She cannot exhale those dreams of angry men and
dead boys. The burden pins her to the bed. Your father, reeking of sawdust, puts it down
to lack of exercise, the meds, a virus she probably caught on last year’s cruise, the Asian
breathing into a mask in the next bed. When your mum gets her breath back, she scolds
him for the overboiled egg salad sandwich, for losing his wallet and not paying the bills,
for not having finished tiling the kitchen wall. Fifty years of avoiding an argument has
finally burst. Making your excuses, you collect your mother’s soiled clothes and retreat
home to wash it all away.


Sunday Morning

As a child in church, bored by sermons of sin
and resurrection, I stared at how stiff collars
dug neatly into the crevices of men’s necks,
heads bowed and raised in prayer like marionettes.

Like ducks nodding to one another
before the drake mounts the hen.
Does he worry about life and death
while he bites her scruff, pins her down?

The cat brings us half-eaten mice, or a shrew
that bolts as soon as it’s dropped,
the dog nearby rolls in traces of fox piss.
Do either think whether there is purpose?

Perhaps the rabbit contemplates – amid
shredded cabbage and straw, likewise
bullocks in the grass before the tractor
arrives with feed – why we’re here.

Was it thanks to God, ponders the cock
as it leaps into the neighbor’s yard
to flee the stench of a cracked egg,
or the right combo of carbon molecules?

The ducks unearth a frog, pull at a rear leg
as it screams and leaps lopsided
toward the hedge, the ducks in hot pursuit.
I don’t get out of my chair to intervene.

Charles G Lauder Jr was born in San Antonio, Texas, lived for a few years each on America’s East and West Coasts, and moved to south Leicestershire, UK, in 2000. His poems have been published widely in print and online, and in his two pamphlets Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). From 2014 to 2018, he was the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House, and for over twenty years he has copy-edited academic books on literature, history, medicine, and science. His debut poetry collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V. Press, Oct 2019). Twitter: @cglauder

The Aesthetics of Breath is available for purchase from the V. Press website.

Featured Publication – How To Parallel Park by James Davey

Our featured publication for April is How To Parallel Park by James Davey, published by V. Press.

Stark, poised, precisely observed, James Davey’s poetry well demonstrates how much more emotion is conveyed the greater the restraint. The poems also exhibit an impressive musicality, from the lilting to the percussive. Each poem rewards rereading.” Carrie Etter”

These poems by James Davey are vivid, articulate and entertaining. They evoke the peculiar intensity of childhood fears, the angst of adolescence, the tremors of first loves. Davey has a gift for clear-eyed dramatic presentation, as well as an often-humorous take on human condition and a true empathy for the various characters he comes across, be they ‘pyroman’ a down-and-out who accumulates trash to burn, the terrified child taken on a hunting trip, or the lover discovering the ‘colours’ of a girlfriend. This is a promising and well-wrought debut.” Amy Wack

Davey’s work is confident, crafted, elegant in its simplicity. The poems are full of moments of recognition for the reader, subtle emotive power balancing understated humour. I trust him to show me something worth seeing with no fluff around the substance.” Anna Freeman




We often see him through the playground railings,
arms loaded with odds and ends rescued from scrap heaps

and rubbish tips: a floral lampshade, three-legged chair,
and hanging round his neck, pairs of tatty trainers

tied together by their laces. He shuffles past in his grubby mac,
a scabby dog yapping round his ankles

and we rush to taunt him – Filcher! Filcher!
but never cause a flicker

in his thousand-yard stare.
Sometimes we see him through our classroom windows

and stand on our chairs for a better look
at what he’s salvaged, each time his treasures more bizarre.

One day he stutters past dragging a soiled mattress,
the next carrying a child’s plastic kite.

On a tinder-dry morning in July, a pillar of black smoke
rolls above his rooftop across the street.

The playground freezes – our heads back, mouths wide open,
the smell of burning plastic heaving toward us,

the crack and burst of flames merging with the long high
whine of sirens in the distance.

Six months later I pass him on the street, his soot-grimed face
aglow, carrying a wooden crate, a cricket bat, a headless doll.


When You Want it 
Late night alcohol and cigarettes…when you want it

Perform a U-turn when possible, says the woman
in my sat-nav – I call her Jane.
So I swing across the road
in one practised motion,
the sweep of my headlights
igniting the fine rain needling the pavement.
Bottles of Cab-sav, cans of Carlsberg,
and a kaleidoscope of Alcopops
rattle in the boot of my Fiat Panda
as Jane directs me to my next customer.
Drive three hundred yards, then turn left.
Only the restless and the homeless
wander the streets at this hour.
A girl collecting cardboard boxes outside Asda,
plastic bags wrapped around her shoes,
pulls up her hood and takes a swig
from a plastic bottle as I drive past.
At the next roundabout, take the second exit,
says Jane – and as she speaks
she appears in the passenger seat,
plump with her third child,
her hair cut shorter than normally – it suits.
She tells me the latest on the children
and her husband, Derek, an accountant
with a confident moustache,
describes their new house in Hampstead
with a gravel driveway and bay windows.
The baby is kicking; last week their cat
burned its tail in the toaster.
I can smell her perfume, citrus bloom.
The hairs rise on my arm.
In two hundred yards, turn right, she says.
You have reached your destination.
I pull into an unlit cul-de- sac,
park between a wheel-less car
propped up by four small pillars of bricks
and a soiled mattress dumped by a fence.
A slice of light splits the darkness
as someone inches open their front door.
A sallow face peeks out from behind the chain.
I’m waved forward.
Perform a U-turn when possible, says Jane.


How to Parallel Park

My instructor takes me to a country lane
to practise my parallel parking.

I slip the stick into reverse and start backing up
into a gap between two parked cars.

I take it steady, work my clutch control.
I rotate the wheel clockwise through both hands.

I check my mirrors. Listen to the engine’s rev
ticking over nicely.

I draw even with the rear of the first parked car
(a red Clio with a nodding dog on its dash)

notice a bare foot pressed against its window;
a bare arse bobbing up and down –

a muffled chorus of love-moans bluing the air.
My instructor insists we abandon the manoeuvre.

I restart my stalled engine. I pull away nice and slow,
making sure to check my mirrors.


Previous publication credits are The Interpreter’s House, New Walk and The Echo Room, respectively. 

James Davey grew up in Bristol and currently lectures in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Before returning to the U.K. in 2014, he spent three years working in Catania, Sicily, as an English-language teacher. His poetry has previously appeared in journals including Poetry Wales, New Welsh Reader, Stand, The Warwick Review, Ambit, New Walk, Agenda, and The Interpreter’s House. How to Parallel Park is his debut poetry pamphlet.

How To Parallel Park is available to buy from the V. Press website, here.