Routes by Sharon Phillips


Along the coast road, pheasant’s eye
narcissi peep beneath white swags
of blackthorn, there’s a limegreen fizz
of budding alexanders and you chug
along in fourth behind a soft drink lorry

which reminds you of the Corona man
who used to deliver pop at Christmas,
the scarlet, green and orange bottles
lined up in your grandparents’ kitchen,

vivid as the lights you saw on city streets
as you drove home the day you retired,
rerouted by your satnav down the roads
that formed your granfer’s postal round;

as you wait to overtake, you remember
the policeman who knocked on the door
on a day of bleached blue autumn skies
to say Granfer was dead, not long retired:

later your mum sent you down the shop
and you scuffed through ochre leaves
bright as the beach ahead of you now.
You see black seaweed float in the bay
and the hillside pale with last year’s grass.


Sharon started learning to write poems a few years ago, after she had retired from her career in education. Her poems have been published online and in print, and have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2017) and the WoLF Poetry Competition (2019). Sharon won the Borderlines Poetry Competition in 2017 and was among the winners of the Poetry Society Members’ Competition in November 2018. She lives on the Isle of Portland, In Dorset.


No Reception by Neil Elder

No Reception

After a while we leave the footpath,
continuing in comfortable silence,
each wondering how we can turn today into forever.

Life must still be happening to people,
shops will be open, traffic is stacking up,
and we must believe that there are passengers
in planes that pass overhead.

But out here, where we have no reception,
there’s sky, fields, crow crested trees and us.
The sun is splashing through leaf cover
and I squeeze tight shut my eyes
to see a kaleidoscope rush of yellow and green.

Only when we see the burnt out car,
that’s flattened a path into wheat,
do we feel the tug of our lives,
hold our phones up high
and search for a signal.


Neil Elder has three publication to his name and his work is widely published in journals/magazines (Rialto, Envoi, Acumen among others). His pamphlet Codes of Conduct (2015) won the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize and went on to be shortlisted for a Saboteur Award. He followed this up with Being Present, a chapbook published with the Black Light Engine Room. Neil’s full collection, The Space Between Us (2018) won the Cinnamon Press Debut Collection Prize and is described by Daljit Nagra as “a truly scintillating, cutting-edge debut.” Neil enjoys giving and taking part in poetry readings and he sometimes blogs at https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/


Tongue by Stephen Bone


Before the twist
and roll of words

licked you into shape
you were there

a shell-less mollusc
sponging up
the sweet and sour

old silvery charmer
doorstep gossip
good and ill slipping from you

plump greedy suckling
rude urchin
love’s soft bed fellow

may you always be in the pink.


Stephen Bone’s latest pamphlet, Plainsong (Indigo Dreams)was published in 2018.


Recovery by Cheryl Pearson


By the time I have learned to handle the blade
of my young body, the blade has been dulled.
As my grandmother told me, Youth is wasted
on the young. I would tell her now that truth is,
too. I didn’t recognise the sound. Do you know
how much light an ice cap holds? How much
weight? The same for a body. If I could melt,
what light. If I could surrender, a flood. Again,
I am trying to convert myself, to fall through glass
without sound. You’d think I would know better
by now. I learned on the wards how to use my
tongue, to say no without employing my bones
as messengers. And yet. And yet. When it seems
the world is going mad, I go without dinner, take
my coffee black. I dip a toe in the old water. They
teach you to dial the voices down, fiddle the frequency.
But every so often, a flash of static:
………………………..Come on in. The water’s lovely.


Cheryl Pearson is the author of Oysterlight (Pindrop Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, Under the Radar, and Poetry NorthWest, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has won or placed in competitions including the Cheshire Prize, the Hippocrates Prize, the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize, the Keats Shelley Prize, and the Costa Short Story Award. Her second collection, Menagerie, is forthcoming from The Emma Press in 2020.


One Coat Over Two Heads by Luigi Coppola

One Coat Over Two Heads

I hear it before I see it: swish
of arms, clang of zip on teeth, cuffs

clinging onto sides like a drowning man.
The rain had been diving down for hours:

swelling cardboard, bulging canopies,
turning windows into waterfalls, cold

and etched on people behind it, liquid scars
on waiting faces. A couple (in love with each

other’s proximity) pause, plead, panic,
giggle and brace themselves against each

other’s frame and lunge together into the wet;
one swishing, clanging, clinging coat

over two heads. And they are gone, pacing
away from shelter, their shared fate enough

to make the danger manageable, bearable,
welcomed in fact, as entwined bodies

weathering a storm inside, outside, everywhere.
Droplets and couplets overflow. I sit. I watch

them leave. I write. Rain fills my teacup.


Luigi Coppola (www.luigicoppolapoetry.blogspot.co.uk) teaches and writes in London, England. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize twice, he appeared in the Worple Press anthology ‘The Tree Line’ and publications include Acumen, The Frogmore Papers, The High Window, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Iota, Magma, Orbis, Neon, Rattle, The Rialto, THE SHOp and Snakeskin.


Firetrap by Holly Magill


Zhinnia sparks her lighter, watches
the flame bloom the face she loves
to a lie of rosiness.

They’ve got candles, filched vodka, cheapest cider.
Brisket’s purrs make warm storm-clouds
of the old sofa cushions and crochet blankets
they’d saved from a skip.

You’re different, Zee, special, like.

Kayla’s dad isn’t around to haunt the shed anymore;
her mum keeps talking about knocking it down,
getting a pergola.

Zee, I’ve fallen for someone.

Everything is purring, purring, purring,
baccy flake confetti freefall,
creosote tang and White Musk,
The most beautiful firetrap

just aching to burn.


Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House and Bare Fiction, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – www.atriumpoetry.com. Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/holly-magill/4594330527


Rennie Halstead reviews Out of True by Susannah Hart

susannahSusannah Hart – Out of True
Live Cannon Ltd. 2018

After studying languages at university, and working in international business, Susannah Hart became a freelance writer and poet. Out of True is her first collection and is an eclectic mix of poems. Some look at the experience of motherhood, others at the role of women in society. There is a small group about Russia and a new take on some traditional stories. Throughout there is an off-beat, wry look at the everyday that delights and surprises.

I particularly like After the Snow Queen. This sonnet gives the children’s story a new twist. Hart looks at the effects of enchantment on Kai. The first quatrain looks at the physical thawing of Kai, and describes the sensation of the blood starting to flow, the heart struggling back to life. In the second quatrain we move on to the memory being frozen, the after effects on the mind and memory. The sestet picks up the after effects of being frozen by the Snow Queen with images of the Tundra geese and the ice crystals colouring Kai’s retina. The poem closes with ‘a singular boy / on a frozen lake, perfectly empty and quite out of reach.’ This isn’t a comfortable retelling of the children’s story.

Similarly the theme of offbeat childhood is revisited in The Last Giant. Like After the Snow Queen, there is a sadness, an elegiac quality in the poem. Hart looks at the experience of being the last giant left alive. She shows the giant’s childhood in the first seven lines, the ‘galumphing boy’ in ‘seven league boots’ lives in a ‘guzzling playground.’ But now he is on his own. ‘The marrow’s sound of the unlistened to / The only reply is leaf fall.’, and, like the dinosaurs, he is being replaced by ‘tiny efficient species.’ This metaphor of extinction concludes ‘He scatters loneliness as he walks, like drops of perfect rain.’

But there is more to this collection than poems based round children’s stories. When She Was Michael examines the pain of growing up, and looks at a tomboy, ultimately forced to recognise her femininity. As Michael, her tomboy alter-ego, life was an exciting round of chopper bikes and tree climbing, engines and cars, and a suggestion of closeness to her now dead father. But sometimes reality broke in, and Michael had to put up with her ‘coat with the velvet collar’ rather than Michael’s ‘plimsolls…scuffed in the mud.’ Hart shows the sadness when Michael has to accept her gender ‘when her breasts came in,’ though she still believes ‘he can light a fire in the rain.’

Witness of the Hollows takes a hard look at prejudice and isolation through the eyes of a girl la-belled as ‘touched’ living a life where ‘her isolation [is] a song she’d written in a church she’d built around herself.’

In Bad Heart the poet looks at the experience of a boy with chronic heart disease, waiting to grow enough to be able to receive a transplant. She focusses on the life of the boy’s imagination, linking the heart problems to his fluttering imagination, and creates an image of a boy whose ‘heart is back to front and upside down / And so his stories too.’ And later, ‘he loves his bad lopsided heart, erratic / struggling on but all he’s got.’

The hospital theme is picked up again in Night Shift, with a poignant poem about a woman expressing milk for her seriously ill baby, who is not able to take it, and possibly too ill to survive. Hart picks up the pain of parenthood. The child ‘won’t drink / the painful milk I’m drawing from my breasts’ and again, ‘The day was long and full of drugs’ and the poem ends with the sad pouring away of the expressed milk at two o’clock in the morning.

The Left Hand of Anna Roentgen is a delight, examining the different perceptions of man and wife – or perhaps the different perceptions of scientists and non scientists. Anna has dreams ‘of Samarkand, Constantinople / of poetry whispered across the water’ whilst her scientific minded husband’s ‘fantasies were all / of Ruhmkorff coils and cathode rays.’ He gave her ‘a picture of me with the meat off…He showed me my death.’

Counting Magpies gives a grown up take on the children’s rhyme. The magpies become threatening birds, and Hart dissects the emotions they represent. Sorrow become ‘the petrol slick of sad-ness’. Four boys ‘strut and challenge’. Gold is ‘parliamentary privilege spent / by a half dozen argumentative apologists.’ Seven ‘hatches thieves with secret / plans, wings feathered with bad tidings.’ Hart echoes my dislike of magpies, these thieving garden assassins.

Perhaps most memorable for me is the sense of loss in the beautifully constructed Moving In, a well constructed piece taking us through the last rites of passage. This skilful poem leads us to think we are helping an older person, probably a much loved Dad, to move home, with the normal problems of settling in, only to discover we are looking at a death, and the way we feel when we finally say goodbye to a loved one.

There is so much more to this collection. I enjoyed reading it enormously.

Rennie Halstead has been writing since he was eleven. He writes reviews, poetry, flash fiction and short stories.


7th Ó Bhéal International Five Words Poetry Competition

a7th Ó Bhéal International Five Words Poetry Competition

At around noon each Tuesday (GMT), from April 2019 to the end of January 2020, five words are posted on the Ó Bhéal Five Words competition page. Entrants have one week to compose and submit poems that include all five words given for the week.

The competition runs for 41 weeks, until the last week of January and a prize of 500 euro is awarded to one winner, and if available, invited to read at Ó Bhéal’s anniversary event in early April (an additional travel fee of 100 euro plus B&B accommodation will be provided for this). Follow the link for submission guidelines.

To enter:


Poetry Competition 2019 in aid of The Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund

Deadline for entries: May 31st 2019

Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund invite you to send poems for a competition in aid of the Lord Whisky Sanctuary. The theme of this year’s competition is SANCTUARY. This theme can be interpreted as you wish, e.g. a rescue centre for animals or human victims, a shelter for refugees, a sacred place, the abstract idea of a place of safety, a narrative poem about someone seeking safety, sanctuary that’s found in love etc.

Prizes: First prize of 30% of total entry fees received. Last year’s prize was £240. Second prize of 10% and third prize of 5%

Two further prizes of 2.5% of total entry fees for a poem on an animal sanctuary and its work One of these prizes will be reserved for a previously unpublished poet. A list of shortlisted poems and poets will be published.


Entry fee: £5 per poem. Entry is by donation to the Sanctuary (see rules for further details on how to submit). 50% of all proceeds will be used by the Sanctuary for the care of the animals. Last year the competition raised over £400 for the charity and gave total prizes of over £400.

Judge: award-winning poet Derek Sellen, the current Canterbury Poet of the Year.

Derek’s work has won various prizes and been published widely over many years. Recent successes include first prize in Poets Meet Politics 2014, Obheal 2015, Poetry Pulse 2017 and prize-winner in Poetry on the Lake 2017 and Wirral. Festival 2018.


River Wedding by Amlanjyoti Goswami

AmlanCopies available HERE


As an afterthought
Someone whispers:
But we haven’t given her anything….

Soon, the kitchen bustles empty.
Pots and pans clang.
Blue as a vein, the cutlery,
Thick with age, but holding firm as a
Teenage arm.

When the pressure is finally, off the cooker,
Old plates lie side by side,
Waiting for the calling.

It was a humble solitary bowl
Stainless as steel,
One you wouldn’t give a second look to,
That made it:
A little rice and her favourite torkari,
Was all.
Soggy but easy
On the tongue,
Tasty with masala and love.

As if a bird had dipped in it, mid-flight home,
But not sated yet, the rice still lay there,
It would take more than a sitting…

At the common table, the familiar hum of
Would you like a little more?
Those words haunt me when I pour morsels home:
Today’s prawns are so good.

I was offered and
I looked in,
The taste of the pot, where we dwelled,
It tasted good.

It is hard to resist
The pull of memory
A feeling that pours like the snow
Of a grandmother’s last winter
Dappled longing
And the moment’s mood.

Calm, lunch done, the sun moves slowly
Down the late afternoon sky.
We too remove ourselves silent,
Like those plates, to the quiet of our rooms,
And wait,
For evening to stir us awake,
Night to call us again,
Morning to somehow, crawl back in,
To life, more life.

The kind that, like a child,
takes in a morsel, when nobody’s looking.

Reading Tibetan on the London Tube

A slim orange book, unfurling long lanky fingers
Like prayer flags
Four eyes work where two don’t,
And the third eye sees better than one.
Hair flows straight as the Himalayan stream
Where you were born, eyes radiant as first
Rays of a dawn eastern sun.
A suede bag slung light over the valley
Gives you away- a cosmopolitan of the new world
Holding the railing, just in case the centre of gravity
Moves from the holy mountain to the sparkling Thames.
When I ask, you smile, surprised,
I pore over the unknown letters, the familiar hieroglyphics
Similar to the tongue I was born with
My fingers stop at letters, and I utter words, for the first time,
Ba-ka- ma- like a baby.


Re- member-ing

Yes I remember
The queue in uniform
Snaking his home that morning
The long silence, ancient vultures, swooping

Our teacher’s husband.
Amiable, my father said, a good man.
Stepped out for the morning milk
Bullets ringing the street next door

Now I pass by the street
Cars in forgotten light.
Laughter rustling in uniform and
Behind the new building

Walled by the urge to move on,
The forgotten memory of

Manabendra Sarma.

Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poems have been published in India, Nepal, Hong Kong, the UK, USA, South Africa, Kenya and Germany, including the anthologies, ‘40 under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Poetrywala) and ‘A Change of Climate’ (Manchester Metropolitan University, Environmental Justice Foundation and the University of Edinburgh). His poems have also appeared on street walls in Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg and buses in Philadelphia. He studied at the Universities of Delhi and Harvard. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.