Amlanjyoti Goswami’s recent collection of poems ‘River Wedding’ (Poetrywala) has been widely reviewed. His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies around the world, including The Poetry Review, Rattle, Acumen, Shearsman, Southword, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Skylight 47, Amsterdam Quarterly, Penguin Vintage, among others. A Best of the Net nominee, his poems have also appeared on street walls in Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg, an e-gallery in Brighton and buses in Philadelphia. He has read in various places, including New York, Delhi and Boston. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.
Mosaic Poetry Stanza Group
Mosaic is a Stanza group based in Colchester, Essex. We meet monthly and the focus of the meeting alternates between a stimulus workshop and a critiquing session.
We asked Abegail to lead our August session and had a very productive and stimulating session working on memories and ideas associated with our own family’s language and culture.
My Grandmother’s Grieving
She was frail, having donated her remaining strength
to the dead – she dressed like a wraith in grey jersey
or light navy, like approaching dusk. I remember
a summer frock in flowered crepe. I don’t remember
the colour of her eyes, I’m guessing recessive blue like mine.
Hers hid behind gold-rimmed glasses. I can’t remember
the sound of her voice, or even if she spoke to me.
Her hands were like Durer’s drawing of hands at prayer,
slender, fine-skinned, with fingernails like filberts.
Her Icon took the form of a sepia photo hung
next to Holman Hunt’s chromograph of Jesus Christ.
In case I didn’t get the message that my uncle
was well on the way to sainthood before he was killed.
His reliquary is an inlaid Georgian tea caddy
which I excavated after my grandmother’s death.
At last I met my uncle, Roland Charles, via his relics:
his photo in a silver frame. (Alongside a laughing pal
outside a tent, he holds up a large dead fish. What larks!)
His green leather tobacco pouch with mouldering wisps
of Old Holborn lies with the pipe that smoked it.
Here’s a rusted tin of gramophone needles, HMV.
A copy of a poem he wrote is a brown and brittle crisp
in my unsanctified fingers. He’s handsome, as Harlequin
at an office party. His silver vesta is engraved with his name;
a cutting from The County Express records his fatal accident
one spring evening in 1929. The badge from the Royal Enfield
that killed him is tarnished, his death certificate, folded small.
Relics, pervading my childhood. Of course I have the caddy
and the icon still, and here, on my stairs, an oil painting of him
as a child on his pony, Jenny, with the dogs, Scamp the terrier
and the black lab, Pat. There’s my grandmother’s pet magpie
in a cage, taught to say her name, Mag, Mag . . .
With such loud grief, how could mine be heard?
A magpie in my garden, free in the holly tree, agrees.
Pam Job enjoys working with other poets, in local groups and on-line. She also likes competitions because of the deadlines, and poetry workshops for the stimulus. She is widely published.
Button your lip
Grannie’s Button Box
Your box, about the size of a thick book, gleamed black as ebony,
bright chrysanthemums, one pink and one yellow painted on the lid.
We were allowed to open the box on the dining table,
taking care of the half broken hinge.
Inside lay shelves of buttons, arranged in separate sections,
we could swing the top layer out to reveal the next shelf.
To us these buttons were magical, so many colours, shapes, sizes
and purposes – be careful not to spill them – we picked them out,
fingered them, felt their shapes and textures.
Buttons for boots and shoes, requiring the claw of a button hook;
tiny pearls for infants’ garments, four-holed whites
for Grandad’s shirts; large horned buttons for winter coats; spare
buttons to replace those lost from every garment you ever knitted;
glamourous glass, floral petals, rubber buttons for liberty bodices;
tiny buttons for high necked collars and tight cuffs.
They spoke for you, those buttons. Buttons should be done up,
keeping things closed, holding in modesty, emotions, shame,
saving one’s dignity. They showed your practical thought and care
– garments should be mended. Buttons sewn on
for words that could not be spoken.
Judith has been writing and studying poetry for many years. She has had individual poems published in various magazines and local anthologies. She has a particular interest in nature writing and environmental issues. She has lived near the Essex coast for over 50 years and finds inspiration there.
i.m. John Lobel 1907-1988
Manchester born, yet you spoke like a gentleman,
I never heard you ask for some ‘scran’,
or moan about a stain on your ‘kecks’,
you didn’t complain about the ‘schmucks’ in the office,
or the ‘bupkis’ they talked as they whispered
about your unBritish skin, or your being a Jew.
You used the King’s English, served in the R.A.F.,
trade marrying up into merchant class.
You reached across religions, tradition, integrated,
the son of a refugee you rarely journeyed far,
just an annual trip to Eastbourne
on the overnight bus to the same B&B,
it’s as if you did your best to go unnoticed, unheard.
I never told you I found our kin in the ashes of the Shoah,
in Iaşi it took them all, half of the town in a single day.
And it’s as if a part of you had been removed,
was marched out among that fifty thousand,
hid beneath their bodies in a wordless silence.
David’s poetry has been published in various magazines, anthologies, film, and on television and radio. He has also served on the judging panel for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.
In celebration of the life of Ian Verchère.
I missed the ice-cream moment when cones
of ices were raised by guests at his wake: signs
and symbols of what Ian meant to us.
A toast to the wide smile, amused look, the eyes’
inborn twinkle which were his. Larger than life,
Renaissance man are trite but true. ‘Be safe’?
Ah no! But ‘Step forwards, never backwards!’
was his mantra. Life is an adventure. Words
were his weapon and torch. He had a writer’s
interest in all the world gives, all that occurs.
Trekker, joker, traveller, fearless sailor,
peerless parent and pal, he outfaced failure.
To these glories of the man we loved and lost,
I’ve reprised the ice-cream cone toast that I missed.
A photo of Ian smiling widely and about to enjoy an ice-cream cone was on the cover of the service order for the celebration and thanksgiving service for him at St Mary’s Church, Ivinghoe, on Tuesday 10th August 2021, at 2.30 pm.
Stewart Francis is a retired school teacher. He writes poems regularly, for therapy or to record things noticed, thought or felt. He reads a wide range of poetry.
The Great Get Together, Refugees Week 2021
Steve was first published in the Literary Review, and has most recently been part of the covid anthology: Arrival at Elsewhere published by Against the Grain. His second pamphlet of poetry is When the Change Came, (Indigo Dreams, 2016). His long poem, Gaia 2020, is published by Making Connections Matter.
Steve Xerri was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 and has appeared in numerous print and online magazines including Atrium, Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, The Poetry Shed, Poetry Society Newsletter, Raceme. His first pamphlet Mutter/Land was published in 2020 by Oystercatcher Press.
Tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pamphlet-launch-imogen-downes-and-eleanor-page-tickets-174658617627
There’s a table in a corner of the office
where we deposit the treats we bring back
from our travels; trips to the seaside,
summer holidays to Spain and Greece.
I remember when Max went to Vietnam,
brought back delicious peanut candy
which she said was handmade.
She’s been all over, India and Cambodia,
Thailand a few times, Australia,
lots more places I can’t even remember.
I spent seven years learning French
but have only been there twice.
There are places which interest me,
some American cities I’ve read about
or seen in movies which intrigued me.
I’d like to see Florence, Rome, Dubrovnik,
but if it never happens I won’t feel incomplete.
I loved seeing the sun set on Rhodes Old Town,
walking Charles Bridge in Prague at night,
being there in those moments, drinking it in,
but it’s the getting there I can’t be bothered with,
the packing and build-up, the airport fuss,
being cooped up in all those metal tubes,
hurtling mechanically somewhere,
being expected to do the sights.
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary. His third collection, Hi-Viz, will be published by Yaffle Press in 2021. Ben blogs at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com
When I think of my body as a horse
The Poetry Business
Motherhood is a club many women take for granted, until they find its entrance is permanently closed. The poems in ‘When I think of my Body as a Horse’ by Wendy Pratt, are about one couple’s personal struggle to gain membership. The collection is a testimony, not only to their daughter Matilda, but also her siblings who were conceived and lost. Beauty and heartbreak exist side by side as Wendy and her husband Chris embark on the journey of parenting, not knowing what lies ahead, while the reader travels with them through 50 poems which speak of love, loss and resolution.
I wasn’t sure where exactly Matilda first appears in the collection, but she is there in the wonderfully titled Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare, dedicated to the memory of M. The following poem, Nesting, is about the preparation for motherhood, including shopping for ‘tiny baby bits’ and ‘putting up the Moses basket’ to the depiction of a universal sense of creation.
‘…knitting the seas to the land, the sun to the sky,
no longer an observer of miracles.
I was the miracle.’
After Nesting, comes My Favourite Memory which describes feeling like a Russian doll with infinite babies inside. This trio of poems fill the reader with hope, until Tachycardia, followed by Air, a funeral poem with reference to a white coffin, tiny grave and containing the heart-breaking cry;
‘Houdini Girl, how did you disappear?’
Throughout the collection runs the theme of ‘hares’. These poems include the wonderful When Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare, Hare Enters the Bedroom, and The Hare Refuses to Speak. Hares are icons for fertility and a symbol of hope, but in this collection it’s the pattern of loss which continues.
These are intensely personal poems. The collection takes the reader through the years following Matilda’s death. In Sixth Birthday, Wendy imagines a day with Chris and their daughter at the seaside. In Seven, Matilda’s grave is visited and in Packing the Maternity Clothes Away, another step on the journey of acceptance is painfully taken. The poem Eight revisits the time Wendy and Chris spent with Matilda after her birth.
‘I held you like a doll.
I should have touched
those still-wet curls,
sucked those little fingers
kissed your foot soles
while you were warm.’
For me, it’s the poem Nine which contains one of the saddest lines in the collection, and reminds us of the tenacious nature of grief.
‘The pause where we
wait to hear your first breath
has lasted nine years.’
After a bereavement, family, friends and strangers inevitably say things like ‘time heals’, or’ you’ll get over it’, and ‘you can always try again’. The truth is, you don’t get over it and nothing will ever be the same. The bereaved have to find ways to live with loss, but it’s within this process that something can eventually shift, and Wendy shows this beautifully in Nine Years of Mourning.
‘Today I climb out of my skin;
my mourning dress. I am nude and white
as a stripped willow branch. I leave the dress behind,
stiff with the sweat of surviving.’
The title poem, When I Think of my Body as a Horse, speaks again about acceptance.
‘I do not blame it for lost babies,
it did its best. I do not blame
myself for lost babies. I did my best.
I ride my body in a slow companionship.
Comforting it at the end of the day
and I say, Body, you are beautiful,
you are beautiful.’
At the end of the collection there is hope of a different kind as the time comes to abandon the fertility clinics and rounds of IVF. Two people who met, and fell in love, continue to exist and in the intenseness of heartbreak and loss, it’s recognising and cherishing this partnership that matters most of all. Couples are rarely taught how to live fulfilling lives without children, or helped to cope with multiple failures to conceive. This collection, will resonate with anyone in a similar position, or who knows somebody who is. The poems contain words which need to be read as much as they needed to be written.
Sue Watling lives near the River Humber in the UK, where she has an allotment and keeps honeybees. Sue has had work published in a range of journals including The Adriatic, Seaborne Magazine, Tide Rises, Amethyst Review, DawnTreader, Saravasti, Green Ink Poetry, ASP Literary Journal, and Dream Catcher.
Mark Russell’s poems have appeared recently in Poetry Wales, bath magg, Tears in The Fence, and Wild Court. He lives in Scotland
Sometimes we wake early in the dark
together, knowing by instinct I have
dreamed I have swum too far away
from the certain shore of you. Turning
off the dark, the lamplight splashes
on my face. Holding my hand, you
trace the lines with your fingers, run
the tips across my palm, lingering
over the mounts and plains, down
to my wrists and those unexplained
stigmata crisscrossing the bracelets
of love. Significance is deep-carved,
lingering like the moon after sunrise.
Predict for me; that I will find love
at least once. You are my lifeline,
etched into the creases of my heart.
Louise Longson is published by One Hand Clapping, Fly on the Wall, Dreich, Obsessed with Pipework, Nymphs, The Ekphrastic Review and Reach, among others and is a winner of the Dreich chapbook competition 2021 with Hanging Fire. A qualified psychotherapist, she works with trauma and distress caused by chronic loneliness.