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The Paper House by Karen Dennison – Hedgehog Press

the paper houseKaren Dennison’s second collection, The Paper House, (The Hedgehog Press) is an exquisite exploration of the landscape of childhood and childlessness, of memory and loss, of time and timelessness. Karen previously won the Indigo Dreams Collection Competition in 2011 and her first collection, Counting Rain, was published in 2012.

About The Paper House:

‘Bright with startling sensory details, these are poems in which bodies, buildings and lives stand in for each other; poems of sheds, outbuildings and the paper houses of memory. Karen Dennison’s writing is playful with time, speaking the voices of those who were never given the chance to speak, mining the depths of family and inheritance as well as the brutality of loss. These are moving, wise poems, poems in which the reader becomes “a traveller / returning home to find a house familiar / yet strange.”‘ Suzannah Evans

The Paper House is available HERE and ALL profits from sales of the book will go to St Mungo’s charity for the homeless.

 

PAPER HOUSE
I enter through a small dark door,
once red, with a stained glass inset.
Hands skirting over papered walls,

a strip of pale blue falls away. A hatch
of sky gapes through the open flap of a tent
where I’m greenhouse-warm and rain
tap-dances all night on the roof.

Pieces of sapphire swim through my fingers,
the sparkle of coral-reef sea, the dart
of striped fish weaving feet.

I pick at pockets of night, like the first time
we marvelled at Jupiter’s moons
and strained our necks for hours
for a smudge of Andromeda.

Under grey unstuck from grey,
there’s a jagged square of black I can’t remove,
a tumour in the fabric of the brick.

Death slams the door, shakes the house
by its shoulders at midnight.
In my hands there are scraps of sky and sea;
I’ll paste them to a blank white sheet.

.

WATERLOO BRIDGE
Remember the winter of ’99,
standing on Waterloo Bridge;
how a windstorm threatened
to juggle us in its shadow-puppet
theatre of air.

In the Little Ice Age, the Thames
would freeze, ice lodged
in its closely-spaced piers. Frost fairs
grew like crystals: skating rinks,
shops, dancing reels, spit-roasted ox.

Now the river’s just-ironed denim,
bleach-streaked with the lights
from Westminster Bridge
and the Wheel’s a ruby ring,
sprinkling a patch of sequin-pink.

I’d forgotten how London
is part of my skin, an invisible tattoo
of the time we spent,
the vertiginous thrill
of its backbone of bridges.

We clung to each other that day
with a rigor mortis grip, spoke
of the ice floe that broke away,
devouring people and tents;
joked of being swallowed whole,

sinking down to the city’s silted bones.

.

CATCHING STARS
After ‘The Night Ferry’ (photograph) by Bill Jackson

He came to be alone with the stars,
to bask in a wash of blue-violet sky

before the ferry would take him, trawling
its net of foam, its v-shaped wake.

He set the camera to long exposure,
sat as still as the tripod, a fisherman

baiting constellations; caught the world
spinning, stars as needles of slanting rain.

Morning’s first light leapt in his stomach
like salmon spawning, the sun a lantern

searching the docklands horizon.
It rose, burning in his throat, inevitable

as death, as going home.

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The Hospital by Ben Barton – Cultured Llama Press

Ben_Barton_COVER-Lo-Res

The Hospital
Ben Barton
Cultured Llama Press
£10
.

In The Hospital, Ben Barton offers slow observations of hospital life. A dead man’s phone rings; a slug encroaches through a gap in the window; a glimpse of the outside world is viewed through an X-ray held up to the light. In amongst the daily humiliations and the public spectacle of the sick and the dying, there are sparks of hope: a nip of whisky from another patient’s hip flask, the cries of a newborn from down the corridor, and one last meal, jab, swab before leaving.

Gas panic

I wake up, chilled
Sheets stuck to me like
wet tissue.

Between my ears
the screams of dead children
whistle through the night
Playground chants
still come from their dry, paper mouths
Gnarled faces knotted in pain
the lips desiccated.

Ready for the freezer
where the grey ice
packs up their nostrils
little crystals
Hardening
the fissures
of their soft,
licit brains.

Here we lie

The unusual suspects,
we line the walls in fives
Some crammed in at twelve to a block,
it is suffocating
No privacy to wipe your arse
This is a public sport, recovery
a Roman game
We’re being put to the test, challenged
to continue,
dared to get better, to rise up
And only some of us will make it.

Lazaret

Dip your oars softly
into still waters
Row across to the island
No bridges will bring you here.

You’d best cram in the boats
plug up the holes
And set sail for our colony.

Timed with the tides
We’ll let you in twice daily
No more, or less
As the sea parts back
Yawning,
an open mouth.

Be the missionary,
bring grapes to the sick
and coins for Charon,
just in case.

We might not smile,
it’s true
But we’re still here
at visiting hours
For your entertainment.

Nocturne

Tonight
stuffed animals
hide an evil smirk in the dark.

.

benBen Barton grew up on the Romney Marsh in Kent. His poems have been published in Chroma, The Coffee House, Iota, The Journal, Neon Highway, Pulsar, Snakeskin, South, Time Haiku and Zygote in My Coffee, among others. Nominated for the Canterbury Poet of the Year Award and the erbacce-prize, he works as a professional copy and travel writer.

Also a film artist, Ben’s film Stella Erratica was funded by the late David Bowie, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. He lives in Folkestone with his husband and son, beside the beautiful North Downs.

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An Almost-Gone Radiance by Autumn Richardson reviewed by Peter Mark Adams

autumnAn Almost-Gone Radiance by Autumn Richardson
Corbel Stone PressCorbel Stone Press, 2018. 82 pages.
by Peter Mark Adams

There is language here
older than human thought

These words, drawn from Autumn Richardson’s recent collection, ‘An Almost-Gone Radiance’, could easily stand as an epigram to the entire work; for therein we enter an intensely immersive exploration of the contemporary landscape. Although the collection is dedicated to some of the northern hemisphere’s last surviving wildernesses; the vast forests and mountains of British Columbia, Ontario, Spain’s Sierra Nevada; at times, we may also discern echoes of Ireland’s rugged Atlantic coast and the bleak uplands of Cumbria.

That said, the overall feel is less that of any specific location, but rather of an encounter with ‘wildernesses’; moreover, at times the ‘action’ takes place on such a viscerally organic, and even geo-psychic, level that we might just as well speak of the micro-landscapes and sub-surface terrains of the poetic imagination.
The collection engages the reader in an extended meditation upon the psychological impact of prolonged immersion in these wilderness, sojourns made all the more intense for being undertaken during the bleak winter months. The poet’s aim, to shed the many layers of enculturation that provide structure and meaning in social life, is undertaken in order to develop a deeper communion with the natural world,

All that I thought had meaning
I’ve unpacked and left by the river.

The outcome, a troubling deconstruction of the persona, facilitates a sustained and beautifully rendered meditation on the transitory nature of forms and their inevitable transmutations,

Pines are shifting
Into crows, the wolf
Is a deer’s viscera.

Processes wherein the poet foresees her own inevitable participation,

Soon my salts will feed
The next short, sharp life.

The four movements that structure the work are not calibrated to celebrate the merely picturesque; but rather, to confront us with nature in the raw, with primal realities,

There is no compassion here, except
that which I carry for small things
Yet still I throw lines into water
to lure what may feed me

The text exudes that existential doubt and uncertainty that inevitably attends any lone encounter with remote and wild places wherein the exaltation of place, its unrestrained freedom, mixes uneasily with an, at times, overwhelming sense of vulnerability and the wariness that it gives rise to,

We must be cautious, for here
we are the same: configurations
of warm blood, and thick with scent.

Nature in the large challenges and exposes the irredeemable porosity of the persona, bound only by the persistence of memories, imaged here as a haunting, fateful presence,

She is a dark bird trailing
Over my left shoulder

The poet, in opening and exploring this solitary path, ponders the possibilities inherent in an almost shamanic dismembering of her own selfhood,

If I emptied myself enough, could I hear
the root-worlds beneath me, imagine the chrysalid’s
inhabitant, its alchemical crossing?

Permitting herself to imaginatively sink into nature’s subcutaneous layers creates a mode of ingress into yet deeper strata of experience and understanding,

Through blood-warm
grasses I sink
past rhizomes and mycelia
into the low cellars of earth

In the furthermost depths of this nykia-like descent, the persona is finally experienced as having been consumed,

In a pupa of yellow coals
I sacrifice my old lives, old coats.
Become a smoked offering.

The inscape of the poet’s rumination affords her an almost liminal presence, positioned, as it were, betwixt and between; straddling different orders of reality she has earned the right to convey the voices that lay claim to her attention,

The dead draw to my fire.
I need its warmth. They need to seed
flesh with words.

And yet, this necromantic rite, its apophatic vision, the via negativa that is charted for us, proffers no redemption nor any epiphany; rather, it simply accords the honour and respect arising from the heartfelt remembrance due to those long sacrificed selves, the teeming lives that these wildernesses once supported,

where hooves once pounded
and sparked in their millions.
Now it is quiet.

This almost animistic absorption in her surroundings facilitates the mediumistic reception of its many diverse voices; the ancestral dead, the displaced and the dispossessed, whether hunted, culled or simply deprived of the means of survival. The lament of the many disparate manifestations of sentience haunts the landscape,

Here I have learned what loss is
what recovers, what never recovers
and how a revenant host of trees
will hover for centuries beyond
their felling.

Reminiscent of those tribal rites enacted to repair a breach in the relationship between a people and its natural environment and wildlife, even when that breach occurred in the ancestral past; this fine collection manifests the will to listen, to understand and acknowledge ancient wrongdoing. In doing so, this contribution to the literature of landscape captures a very contemporary malaise; the ‘almost-gone radiance’ of its title and final section acknowledges the imminent, and by now unavoidable, ecological disaster hanging over us all. The collection draws its strength from the repetition and reiteration of its major themes, the warp and weft of words woven carefully together to create a richly textured and immersive experience. This work will continue to reward the attentive reader and provide a powerful source of reflection for a long time to come.

.
Peter Mark Adams is a professional author specialising in landscape, myth and esoterica. His works include: Mystai: Dancing Out the Mysteries of Dionysos (forthcoming, Scarlet Imprint, 2019); A Guide to the Trumps and Court Cards of the Sola-Busca Tarocchi (Scarlet Imprint, 2017); The Game of Saturn: Decoding the Sola-Busca Tarocchi (Scarlet Imprint, 2017); The Healing Field: Energy, Consciousness & Transformation (Balboa Press, 2014); Altered States / Parallel Worlds (Ceres Yayinlari, 2011). In addition some shorter pieces have appeared in Reliquiae, a literary journal and a range of essays in the peer-reviewed journals Paranthropology and The Journal of Exceptional Experience & Psychology.

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Dysgwr by Brett Evans

Dysgwr
Learner – Welsh

To speak, says a voice from the laptop,
Siarad. The cat curled up to his Western
hip, content in her dormancy. Siarad.
It is his father’s tongue and he fears
another long, futile fight though itches
for something to start. To start. Dechrau.
The thing father and son never made fresh.
Then he hears it. That th. Not dechrau
but Dw i newydd ddechrau.

Bull-headed bastards is why there was never
that start. One refused to speak to the other.
Siarad. To speak. Refused to learn
from the other. To learn. Dysgu. Dysgu.
Here in mid-forties, and the father six years
dead, does he tackle the language,
lay down shame and anger at its absence.
To learn. Dysgu. He repeats out loud. Words
alien, yet familiar. They too were familiar, alien.

Then there it is again. Th. Dw i’n mynd i ddysgu.
The voice says not to worry, that such mutations
he’ll take to naturally. The cat stirs, stretches her
claws. Interesting, he thinks – diddorol,
dw i’n meddwl bo’ hi’n ddiddorol.*

*I think that is interesting – Welsh

.

Brett Evans lives, writes, and drinks in his native North Wales. Brett is co-editor at poetry and prose journal Prole, his two pamphlets ‘The Devil’s Tattoo’ (2015) and ‘Sloth and the Art of Self-deprecation’ (2018) are published by Indigo Dreams. Brett believes that dogs make for a happier life.

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An angel chooses a chocolate by Fokkina McDonnell

An angel chooses a chocolate

The chalky terracotta wall with mildew patches
has bled into her long, shapeless dress.
This woman mothered too many sons,
this would-be Saint of Obesity.
The single chocolate rests in her right hand,
shielded from the sun by the other hand.

Her neighbour in the blue dress offers
the square box to the angel, sitting
to her left on a wooden stool.
This woman has short hair, stocky feet,
late-afternoon ginger shadows on her chin.
She is the Madonna of Reassignment.

Stiff wings point forward like sails,
the angel’s nose is the beak of a hawk.
His wings and gown have turned
blue-grey. A long dusty road,
but he carries these shadows lightly
and points politely, with a bent finger.

(Note: after the painting by Karolina Larusdottir)

.

Fokkina McDonnel’s poems have been widely anthologised, successful in competitions, and published in a range of magazines including Orbis, Magma, The North, Poetry News, Little Mslexia, erbacce, and Strix. Her debut collection, Another life, was published by Oversteps Books in 2016. Her second collection, Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, will be published by IDP this year.

www.acaciapublications.co.uk

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liminal space by Shana Creaney

liminal space.

this is a door without a latch. no opening, no closing, no jab to set a shoulder tight against and feel the serrated edge consuming the option to “enter” or “exit”. should I stay or should I go. not a question but a worry, concern, fear, dread, panic,

breathe breathe breathe
breathe

take two. refresh.

a body made of circuitous motion dreams my body is some non-euclidean geometry; hyperbolic. the mass of me – bones, dust, blood, waste – is invariable. my soul a light source observed from a vacuum. the analogy stands. the fantasy is not exacting, not draining, not a painful play of push-pull power postulates. my hands don’t bleed from trying to hold myself while something other strips my thoughts to remnants and mad gamble mumblings.

I am dotted blood, scattershot, a ritual to read the ready limbs by. dare we dream of spring? chewing tea leaves between my teeth to stop the future in its path. I have always felt the world turning beneath my feet. motion sickness edging into that cavern beneath my chest, motion sick dying light there is a sharp-spirited darkness spiraling within. I can live in darkness but should darkness live in me? let the questions ooze away, dapple pavement, soak cement.

there is a sweat slick against my palm, no traction, no grip, just something smooth that slides like all my flesh on the inside slides over to make room. solid reality dampens the undersides of my fingernails. the bottom of a river, silt sick, life rich, something here will grow. shiver-shudder and hear the clanging backdrop of my black hole heart, all consuming, already consumed. I can’t listen to the silence without the bell-like certainty that someone hurts someone in the power juncture of warm and wet.

don’t crawl inside my body and steal my bones. what can I offer instead?
instead
instead

what I forage for is forceful but what I get is generous. breath over my breath, inhale exhale all in time, metronome. when did I learn to accept soft things? there is something to grab when the sweat dries and a heartbeat to hear and decipher. who knew there were bodies in this snow drowned, airless place? who brought this heat and touch, this hold, this weight? there are letters down the curve of spine, the vertebrae spell poetry line by line. if I let my fingers wander perhaps they’ll learn to read.

what can a body say?

a sigh of relief.

.

Shana Creaney is a born-and-raised New Yorker who likes strong tea, bad weather, and avoiding the dentist. She loves science fiction and fantasy, modernism, and grandiose existential crises brought about by the most mundane things. She is currently working on her MA in Literature at CUNY City College. Other writing can be found in the August 2016 issue of Sword and Sorcery Magazine and monthly in Foreword Reviews.

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Eidolon / Adrian by Steve Xerri

Eidolon / Adrian

no notion of how you got there,
nor where there is, that wood,
what path led you from it, you
& the other boy – re-membered
unbidden out of nothing –
a limber body rinsed in sunlight,
stood high in the branches
of a sycamore, daring you to follow
though you never could

no swift hand to snatch him
down onto paper in pencil strokes,
smoothed with the fingertip
just where the shadow pools & skin
dips thin at the throat – a sketch
to stay the dissolve, to grip
something of him from change

no recall why after this he vanishes
from view, loses touch with you
& his hold on the world, next heard of
on the grapevine in his twenties,
when he hammers every breakable thing
in his mother’s house & finds himself
at the end of a cord in her wardrobe

only these lines to reconnect the broken,
the sense they must be pulled
through on to the page,
a suture grown over deep

.

Steve Xerri is a former teacher, musician & designer now making pots and writing poetry. Was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017, has been published in Acumen, Amaryllis, Atrium, Brittle Star, Cinnamon anthology From Hallows to Harvest, Clear Poetry, Envoi, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, The Poetry Shed, Poetry Society Newsletter, Proletarian Poetry, Stride Magazine and Words For The Wild. Another poem forthcoming in Picaroon.

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Nightman by Stephen Bone

Nightman

My working hours I share
with owls, grave robbers, a racing moon.
Sixpence for my pains, a decent wage
I’ll admit, but few have the stomach

to shovel out a long drop or privy,
load a cart with slop and solid; a wad
of crushed myrtle helping little
as I creak towards Dung Wharf,

discharge my cargo – like a vast
evacuation – into the squealing midden,
fuming with every nuance of gut.
The dog days are the worst

when it seems, all the bluebottles
in Southwark, choose to decorate me. At least
I have my roses then, grown fat and fragrant,
with all a city can offer.

,

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

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Full English by Jeff Skinner

Full English

Tight Lacoste polo, Nike shorts,
are teamed with black ankle socks

as if he doesn’t care
what voters think. It’s sunny-side up

for the pap though, clutching a flat white
like a torch, delivering news

of victory. More kids this year than last
at the breakfast club:

dreamy-eyed prospectors, children
panning skimmed milk for golden flakes.

Later, they’ll do homework,
they’ll wait for Mum or Dad to pick them up,

with a cake for their class to share.
Sipping coffee, fair trade, you turn

the pages slowly; grind your own beans,
breakfast like a king.

.
Jeff Skinner’s poems have been published in the Morning Star, Clear Poetry, Ground Poetry, Poetry Space, Poetry News, Prole, South, Poetry Shed, and on a Guernsey bus. He was commended in last year’s Ver and Poetry Space competitions. He reads occasionally with Exeter Poets Uncut, tweets infrequently.