Amy O’Shaughnessy – Terminal Moraine

Terminal Moraine

This drawer exhales must,
curled snaps, ochre letters
weak at the fold.
New Pitsligo bobbin lace,
downwashing diaries
track duties long past
names adrift to time’s till.
Why these remnants
when others fell
erratically along the way?
Significance lost in a scree
of buttons, boxes, broken baubles.
Hold a negative to the light and
there you are
smiling, sun inverted
and my heart,
the biggest boulder

Amy O’Shaughnessy is originally from north-east Scotland and studied English at the University of Aberdeen. Amy works and lives in Cheshire and is a member of the Blaze Poetry Society Stanza in Mid-Cheshire.


Against the Grain single poem competition – open


Prizes – First prize – £100, Second prize – £50, Third prize – £25

We are looking for a competition winner‘s poem we like enough to submit to the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. First, second and third prize winners will be invited to read at an ATG event. Winning poems will be published on our website.

Closing date – 30th November 2018

Cost – submit up to two poems for £5 or up to five poems for £10

Judges – Abegail Morley, Jessica Mookherjee and Karen Dennison (ATG editors).

Abegail is author of four poetry collections and two pamphlets. Her debut collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She has judged a number of poetry competitions including the Frogmore Prize, Sentinel Quarterly, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Roundel and Paper Swans pamphlet competition.

Jessica is author of two pamphlets, including Joy Ride by Black Light Engine Room. Her first full collection, Flood, is published by Cultured Llama this year and her second will be published in 2019. She was highly commended in the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Karen’s first collection, Counting Rain, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2012 and her second is forthcoming in 2019. She is designer, editor and publisher of Book of Sand, Blueshift and Free-fall, a series of ekphrastic pamphlets featuring poets and artists.

Enter now on their site


Nine Arches Summer Soiree and launch of Robert Peake’s and Richie McCaffrey’s new collections – August 29th Poetry Cafe

Throughout 2018 Nine Arches Press is celebrating 10 years of publishing. Join them for our birthday summer soirée as we celebrate the launch of two exciting new collections!

British-American poet Robert Peake returns with his much-anticipated second collection, Cyclone: poems about weathering storms – personal, political, psychological – in our present-day climate of chaos. From his trans-Atlantic perspective Robert writes of global turmoil and belonging, of bereavement and the long aftermath, and of everyday kindnesses.

Exploring place and displacement, boundaries and borders, Richie McCaffery’s latest work, Passport, grew out of his experience of living in Ghent. As an ‘outsider’ in the city, his poems explore the meaning of running from and coming back home, and how we find our place in life, love and language.

The evening will also feature special guest readings from Josephine Corcoran, with her debut collection What Are You After?, plus Forward Prize-shortlisted poet Abegail Morley (that’s me!), reading from the acclaimed The Skin Diary.

This is a free event – all welcome!

7pm at The Poetry Café


Nick Allen reviews Kristin Omarsdottir: Waitress in Fall

waitressKristin Omarsdottir: Waitress in Fall, selected and translated by Vala Thorodds; published by Carcanet & Partus
There’s regular stuff. And there’s stuff that’s a little bit different from the regular. I bought this book on impulse a few days ago. I saw a poem from it, the poem was about being at home when a severed head “damp with blood” was delivered to her front door, “like the milk here before/ like the morning papers of days gone by…” (headless morning). You now know why I bought the book. Also she is from Iceland (and I love Iceland).

This is a collection distilled from seven different collections spanning thirty years and it is clear that Kristin (it is the norm to use the first name in Icelandic) is an established voice. Finding words to describe what is within without sounding clichéd is quite difficult: it is of Poetry, sometimes it uses poetic effects, but it is not like much Poetry you’re likely to come across in the everyday. There’s something surreal, although that’s not the right word, something otherworldly, but also lustful, domestic, bloodthirsty…and sometimes unintelligible…as a whole you will love it or hate it. Me, I love it. But I couldn’t tell why this Poetry and not other Poetry. Perhaps it is because it is unafraid to stand up and say, “prove that I am not Poetry…”

Random samples: the opening stanza of “domestic peace”;


three children lick milk/ from the trees/ the mother sits in a bamboo/ chair and crochets hearts together

or “event”

tied to a deck chair/ inside a mountain/ with a warm clock/ in my mouth
or “unchained”

the cadets carry me to their home/ drag me out of my clothes/ hang them up on a hook/ and laugh/ / at last,/ I think, privately

“Protein” made me laugh out loud…about building your man up every day to ensure he has “the vigour to love me”, so she feeds him “rice, potatoes and eggs…” “Desserts” in which she sits at the dinner table looking “at three men who have sucked my breasts”, is both funny and slightly bothering. The “Waitress in Fall” with her sword and her apron it’s not clear if she was the murderer or the murdered…and it doesn’t matter in the slightest. There is a freedom from any sort of constraint here, including logic, that is liberating. The translator tells us in the afterword, that when consulting with the poet, the poet would sometimes switch the genders of her subjects, for no real reason. At least none divulged.

Then there is the “poem about good girls”, who get undressed in “a certain order” before they “fuck with benevolence and cry at the end of intercourse”.

The poem “Mirror” in its entirety reads,

“his light is always equally old and equally new/ you are its interval”
…and you really don’t want to know what she suggests we do with “scissors”.
What this Poetry is, is defiantly original.

…and now a word or two from the afterword by Vala Thorodds who both selected and translated this collection – “Kristin is driven by the work and not the fanfare…work that is singular, striking and strange…there are as many rifles in her work as there are stoves…setting the seemingly mundane everyday imbued with a constant threat of violence is, as it happens, the lot of every woman in the world…” Arguing that the topics of our “immediate horizon” – family, love, sexuality etc – are not simple givens, but complex and mystifying. She finishes by quoting another poem, “if you smooth out a tablecloth, you imitate God./ If you set the table for one you imitate God.”

And I’ll finish this ridiculously long thing, with one of my favourite poems from the collection, “Applemilk”

“at three in the morning go into the kitchen/ / pour milk into a glass, take out a red apple/ or green and sit down at the table// eat the apple, drink the milk// and the context of existence/ that the poets seek/ is found”


Nick Allen has recently twice been runner-up in poetry competitions based in Ireland: the Bangor Literary Journal, poems of 40 words or less; and the 2018 Hungry Hill Writers International competition, “Poets meet Politics”. His first pamphlet, the necessary line, was published by Half Moon Books in October 2017. He talks to poets in darkened rooms at the back of pubs and sometimes feels enlightened.


Graham Clifford is Against the Grain Press’ third poet for 2019

Against the Grain Press welcome Graham Clifford to their stable…


Graham studied Fine Art at the Swindon College of Art and Design, then at Middlesex University. At the University of East Anglia, he was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing.

His first, pamphlet collection was Welcome Back to the Country, published by Seren. A full length collection, The Hitting Game, was published in 2014 (Seren). In January 2017, the Black Light Engine Room published his collection, Computer Generated Crash Test Dummies.


Claire Walker is Against the Grain’s second poet for 2019

Her work has appeared in a range of publications, including print magazines such as The Interpreter’s House, Prole and Obsessed with Pipework, webzines such as Ink Sweat and Tears, The Poetry Shed, And Other Poems and Clear Poetry, and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press), The Pocket Poetry Book of Love (Paper Swans Press) and Bonnie’s Crew.

She is the author of two pamphlets published by V. Press – The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile (2015), and Somewhere Between Rose and Black (2017). Somewhere Between Rose and Black was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards.

Claire is on the editorial team of Three Drops Press as a reader for their seasonal anthologies, and is co-editor of Atrium poetry webzine.
Her website is https://clairewalkerpoetry.com


Against the Grain Press announce the first of their 2019 poets

We’re pleased to welcome Michelle Diaz to the Against the Grain stable and will be publishing her pamphlet, The Dancing Boy next year.

Michelle has been writing poetry since the late 90s. She started performing her poems in 1998 at Covent Garden’s Poetry Café. She has been published by Prole, Strix, Live Canon, Amaryllis, the ‘Please Hear What I’m not Saying’ Mind anthology and was awarded 3rd prize in the Mere Literary Competition 2017.

She has a son with Tourette Syndrome and had a very unusual upbringing—both of which have been huge inspirations for her writing. She lives in the colourful and strange town of Glastonbury. Without poetry her soul would be incredibly hungry.

For more about Against the Grain follow the link below



Against the Grain Poetry Press

Were pleased to welcome Michelle Diaz to the Against the Grain stable and will be publishing her pamphlet, The Dancing Boy, next year.


Michelle has been writing poetry since the late 90s. She started performing her poems in 1998 at Covent Garden’s Poetry Café. She has been published by Prole, Strix, Live Canon, Amaryllis, the ‘Please Hear What I’m not Saying’ Mind anthology and was awarded 3rd prize in the Mere Literary Competition 2017.

She has a son with Tourette Syndrome and had a very unusual upbringing—both of which have been huge inspirations for her writing. She lives in the colourful and strange town of Glastonbury. Without poetry her soul would be incredibly hungry.

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Buzzwords Open Poetry Competition closing 25th August 2018

1st prize-£600

Runner-up- £300

5 x commended-£50 each

The Gloucestershire Prize- £200 (for Gloucestershire residents only)


Sole Judge: Graham Burchell

Graham Burchell was born in Canterbury and now lives in South Devon. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. His third collection Kate was published in May 2015. He was the 2012 Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, and is a 2013 Hawthornden Fellow. He is also chair of the Dartmoor based Moor Poets and one of the team of four responsible for the Teignmouth Poetry Festival.

Entry fees: Postal entries; £4 per poem or 3 poems for £10

Online: One poem £4.35, two poems £8.70, three poems £11
Email entries:- please go to the bottom of this page for how to enter by email.

Proceeds of the competition will be used to fund ‘Buzzwords’, which is the longest running and most respected regular poetry gathering in Cheltenham.

“A warm, intelligent – and going on the evidence of the floor readings – a very talented group, Buzzwords was a great venue for reading and listening.” – George Szirtes



Inga Gaile – 30 Questions People Don’t Ask & Allison Benis White – Please bury me in this


Published in spring this year by Pleiades Press, 30 Questions People Don’t Ask: Selected Poems is by Latvian poet Inga Gaile and translated by Ieva Lešinska. Gaile has four collections of poetry and is also a writer, playwright and theatre producer. Her poetry explores the role of women in society, her inner landscape and members of society who are stigmatised.

“Inga Gaile’s poems re-center subjects of feminism and gender. The collection is a haunting of Zirgu Pasts, myths of half-child bears, voices of buried daughters in relentless lines of heart-beating rhythm and no-nonsense questions digging into protest. Repetition becomes the site of trauma and recovery. The poems perform tragedy on stages of forest churches and icy tongues. Between daughters and mothers and grandmothers, the poems show life as it exists, as both miracle and fog. It is with mathematical precision that she unfurls wounds of history, criticizes emotional sincerity, and complicates witness and testimony.” -E. J. Koh

In her stage work she illuminates injustices and promoting equal rights. Her first staged work Our Sylvia, who art in Heaven/ Mūsu Silvija debesīs focuses on the fate of Sylvia Plath. She uses the genre of confessional poem as a means of self-identification. Gaile is active in the feminist movement in Latvia and founder of stand-up comedy group Sieviešu stendaps/Woman Stand-up Comedy.

In this collection Gaile draws on each area of her life and strips it down; she also explores German and Soviet oppression of Latvia, something deep within the psyche of every Latvian. Some of these poems are the most chilling and incredibly moving in the collection; her use of repetition to reinforce the point is masterly and you can’t help but be deeply affected by her writing. There is great hope in this poetry too as Latvia, as a country, rebuilds itself. One of my favourites is Rebirth of a City and I will put the full poem up in another post.

Rebirth of the City

On that day, the entire city went down on its knees:
On Maskavas, Jersikas, Ebreju, Līksnas, Kijevas, Jēkabpils, Lāčplēša Streets,
Virsaišu, Lauvas, Lielā and Mazā kalna Streets, and heads were bent in Rumbula Forest.
On that day, the entire city went down on its knees,
both those who had been guards and those who could not pronounce “g” or draw a yellow star

The clip below (although in Lativian and about the novel Stikli gives a little bit of footage that’s worth watching)

Allison Benis White’s  Please bury me in this is her third collection which came out last year from Four Way Books. It won the UNT Rilke Prize and a Foreword INDIE Book of the Year Award. Her previous collections, Small Porcelain Head was selected by Claudia Rankine for the Levis Prize in Poetry, and named a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the California Book Award. Her first book, Self-Portrait with Crayon, received the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Book Prize.

Please bury me in this has as it epigraph to the collection this single powerful line:

for the four women I knew who took their lives within a year

In Electric Literature a reviewer states “I’m inclined to call them elegies of a sort, if, as Mary Jo Bang suggests, we understand that the objective of an elegy is ‘to rebreathe life into what the gone once was.’ But the elegy that extends throughout PLEASE BURY ME IN THIS is as much about the haunting insufficiency of language as it is about the cruelty and greed of time and the disunity with which it can frame one’s life. . .The beauty and the power of these poems, then, lies in the acknowledgment of this and the persistence to search anyhow; a gesturing, a reaching toward, that constitutes its own species of expression; its own grammar of grief.”


One of my favourite descriptions of this book is by Lynn Emanuel who calls it “the softest howl”. Here are fragments worth collecting.


Sentinel Poetry Book Competition 2018 closes 31st July


The Sentinel Poetry Book Competition 2018 closes its entries for full poetry collections by single authors on July 31sr. For the first stage of this competition, poets of all nationalities, living in any part of the world are invited to submit 20 pages of poetry in English Language, on any subject, in any style. Three collections will be published by SPM Publications in the second quarter of 2019.

Each of the three winners will receive 20 complimentary copies of his or her collection. The competitions will be judged by Noel Williams, author of Out of Breath and Point Me at the Stars.

Prizes: Standard publishing contracts plus

  • First – £300

  • Second – £200

  • Third – £100

The First Stage
For the first stage of the competition, entrants submit 20 A4 pages of poetry, single-spaced and in Garamond 12 points, that will form part of the final collection.
– The 20 pages may be made up of any number of poems, of any length, on any subject.

– Every poem must start on a new page. (Don’t squeeze two or more poems on a page, even if they are short poems).
– All poems submitted for this stage of the competition must be previously unpublished.
– The collections should be submitted under Pen Names. The Pen Names must be new and not previously used by the authors in publishing work elsewhere.
– The Cover Notes should have both the author’s real and pen names.

The submission deadline for The First Stage is 31-July-2018

The Shortlist

A shortlist of five collections will be announced on 15-October-2018

The Second Stage

Authors of the five shortlisted collections will be invited to submit their full collections. The full collections may include poems previously published in magazines, journals or in multi-author anthologies, and may include poems that have won or have been commended in other competitions.
-The minimum length of the full collection should be 54 A4 pages, and the maximum length will be 86 A4 pages.

The submission deadline for The Second Stage is 15-November-2018

The winners will be announced on 17th December 2018

Publication Schedule:

The third-prized book will be published on 30th April 2019
The second-prized book will be published on 31st May 2019
and the first-prized book will be published on 15th June 2019

Joint book launch

The three prize-winning books will be jointly launched in London on Saturday, 29th June, 2019.

About the Judge

Noel Williams is the author of Out of Breath (Cinnamon 2014) and Point Me at the Stars (Indigo Dreams, 2017), as well as academic books about writing. His poetry has been published widely in the UK as well as in the USA, Mexico and India. His work has been commended or shortlisted in dozens of competitions and he’s won quite a few prizes, including several in Sentinel Poetry competitions. He has been nominated for the Forward Prize four times, and once for the Pushcart Prize. He was the first Poet in Residence at Sheffield’s Bank Street Arts Centre, where he’s also exhibited several times, together with exhibitions in several other galleries in Yorkshire. He’s co-editor of Antiphon magazine (antiphon.org.uk), Reviews Editor for Orbis (www.orbisjournal.com) and recently edited the anthology Millstone Grit (Antiphon Press 2016), as well as being a mentor for other successful writers and a reviewer for various magazines such as The North and Envoi. He’s also Professor Emeritus of Sheffield Hallam University.