Foxglove Journal: Poetry and Fiction

Here’s another ezine that’s new to me and currently open for submissions. It was set up by poet Elizabeth Gibson last October; Foxglove Journal features work from UK and international writers, some of whom I recognise from my old editing days with The New Writer.

Foxglove Journal showcase work “that thrills, comforts and stimulates”. Each poem is accompanied by one of Elizabeth’s fantastic photographs. Elizabeth is also Fiction Editor at Miracle Magazine and writes for The Mancunion, Cuckoo Review, The Cadaverine and Third Year Abroad.


I recently published Elizabeth’s stunning poem Sheepgoat which deserves another reading if you have time 😉  … so click on the title to have a read.

I’ve snatched one of the poems from the site for you to read now. It’s by Nancy Iannucci, an historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY.


The Day After

A tremor & a shift,
Kerouac’s Desolation Pops dropped
to my feet by the jolt.

Black tea dyed crescents on the envelope,
tsunamis rushed ashore. My heart
raced & read, reread & raced through

your words with a flux capacitor.
Your letter came today, but
we gathered yesterday

by the flowers during
your calling hours. I thought
you never responded.

To find out more about submitting to Foxglove follow the link below….



Against the Grain Press announce their debut poet

Whilst busy reading the submissions from poets for next year’s list, I thought I’d like to announce our commissioned poet whose collection will launch the press. Why commission someone? Well, all three editors agreed on the voice and mood of the press and in our meetings were throwing around names of poets whose work we admire and wish we had published! So we thought about inviting someone to be our first poet…

One name kept popping up – her poems are startling in their energy, beautifully crafted, tender yet muscular, and gathered in the pamphlet we are currently editing are absolutely stunning. We don’t only want to publish the poems, we wish we had written them!


So, our first poet is Anna Kisby – a Devon-based poet and we are so pleased to have her on board. A leap of faith in the press for which we are most grateful. So, a bit about her…

After growing up in London she studied Literature and Film at the universities of East Anglia, Sussex and the Sorbonne, taught English in Prague and sold cowboy boots in Massachusetts, then training as an archivist and working with women’s history collections. Her poems are widely published in magazines including Magma, Mslexia and Poetry News and anthologies including 154: contemporary poets respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets and Campaign in Poetry. In 2017 she was part of the collaborative poetry performance Somme Suite – a First World War commemoration. She won the BBC Proms Poetry competition 2016, the Havant Poetry Competition 2016 and was commended in the Faber New Poets Scheme 2015-16. 

Now you know! So it’s time to go back to reading the fabulous submissions for next year…. we will be announcing details  in early August, but for now I’ll leave you with one of Anna’s poems:

Boating under the Northern Lights
for Sara from Nunavut

The way she tells it, the sky is a peeled nectarine.
We wear bear leather, row an umiak of stretched skin
smelling of the tar that holds it together, make ripples
like salmon on the lake.

I think she is the seagull husband and I the goddess Nerrivick
whose fallen fingers turn to whale, seal and caribou –
as she talks her eyes slice through the walls of the rented room
in King’s Cross. All day we waitress; each night our hair streaks
the sink enamel with the dirt of London’s heatwave.

The northern lights are the colour of kumquat,
she says, it’s enough to make the world blush
with pleasure. I remember her foot against mine cold as ice
cream, rippled through and through with frozen berries.


Winchester Poetry Prize 2017


Winchester Poetry Prize 2017 celebrating the best in new writing

First Prize: £1,000

2nd Prize: £500

3rd Prize: £250​

Best poem by a Hampshire-based poet: Classic Bauhaus-design Lamy 2000 pen
[Kindly donated by Warren & Son]​​

Judge: Sarah Howe

Entry fee: £5 for first poem, £4 for subsequent poems

Closing Date: 31 July 2017

​Winchester Poetry Prize aims to surprise and delight. Following its launch in 2016, the Winchester Poetry Prize is now an annual competition.

In addition to receiving cash prizes winners will be invited to read at a special prize-giving event at Winchester Poetry Day on Saturday 14th October 2017. Winning and commended poems will also be published in a competition anthology.

​A prize is also available for the best poem written by a Hampshire-based poet.

how to


howeSarah Howe’s first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow in English at University College London.




LOVE AND LOSS AND OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF by Jonathan Pinnock – reviewed by Valerie Morton.


So often a reader can be seduced by a brilliant cover but disappointed by the words within. Not so with this collection – the seduction continues with each turn of the page.

Pinnock clearly has a healthy irreverence for rules and trends and his debut collection is no exception. I soon realised that I would need to read between the lines to find the ‘Important Stuff”. For a start his titles are deceptive, almost designed to mislead the reader. The opening poem ‘Lost for Words’ is very tongue-in-cheek as here is a writer who is far from ‘lost’ for words :

He ordered online
and the words were delivered
by a man in a van
with expansive
rear cleavage.


He signed for the words,
and the delivery man left,
then he shouted ‘Wait!
How do I mix it
all together?’

The answer to the final question is that Pinnock produces a delicious mixture of rare ingredients – hilariously funny in many places, macabre in others, and heartbreaking on occasions. It is a fast moving collection that jumps around with alarming speed as the reader is thrown from one familiar theme to another: the daughter who runs away with the circus (‘Moving On’), a parody on the round robin Christmas letter (‘Between the Lines’), a stereotypical librarian keeping up her reputation (‘Professionalism’).

But it would be wrong of me to see this work as all spoof and cynicism because underneath the often bland and misleading titles are gems of deep and conscious connections with sorrow and pathos which jump out at the reader, as in:

‘Back to School’

Peter’s going back to school,
wondering who knows
and who doesn’t.

It was only a few days
after all – hardly a long break
in the grand theme of things,
but Peter knows that everything

has changed. No-one says
a word – he didn’t expect them to –
but he gets an easy ride in his
French test and he knows it.

He still hasn’t shed a single tear
and he’s proud of that. Didn’t
want to let his father down. And yet
one day in his rage he will try

to remember her and wonder
how he ever coped.

In taking a humorous dig at the present poetry scene Pinnock reveals how that scene invites such cynical appraisal – he nonchalantly flings in the occasional ‘forbidden words’ (‘shards’ for one), overused phrases and clichés and very questionable line breaks (pronouns, verbs and adverbs left hanging). He ends poems with their title (as in ‘Exquisite Torture’). And has lots of fun with rhyming. Yet despite all this wordsmith rebellion there are some serious messages, some very strong connection with what it’s like to be human.

I cite a few tidbits to tempt you to invest in this collection – a call to a mother after a child is cloned at school through an accident in the biology department:

‘School Uniform’

We didn’t notice what was wrong
till it was far too late.
You began today with just one son,
but you finished it with eight.”

‘A Dissonant Love Song #2’ :

I loved you like a psychopath,
as lustful as the Pope,
a one-track-minded polymath
with a solid sieve of hope.

And St. Peter at the pearly gates – (‘Paradise Found Wanting’):

I beckoned to St Peter,
who was lounging
by the gates. Stubbing out
his roll-up, he sauntered over


I hope you will be tempted to discover what happens next?

And to the ‘Postscript’

…… please make use of
our twenty-four hour
helpline, Dial-a-Bard.

Press 1 for rhyme
2 for free verse,
or 3 for random form
chosen at the councillor’s

Haiku are also
available but only
during working hours.

We all on occasions need to laugh at ourselves, As poets particularly as there is a tendency to take it all too seriously as if it is a sport and we need to win every time, and in so doing lose the very purpose of a connection with the people who really matter – the wider readership.

This collection is worthy of a place on any bookshelf – it will entertain but at the same time offer the reader much to think about and perhaps question the way in which they see themselves. That is no bad thing from time to time. Jonathan blogs at http://www.jonathanpinnock.com – well worth a read.  Published by http://silhouettepress.co.uk


Valerie Morton has been published in various magazines and anthologies, and won or been placed in a number of competitions. After completing an Open University degree in 2011 she taught Creative Writing at a mental health charity. Her two collections (Mango Tree 2013 and Handprints 2015) were published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.  Since 2015 she has been Poet in Residence at the Clinton Baker Pinetum in Hertfordshire. Her most recent endeavour was publishing A Poetry of Elephants in aid of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (2016).


Bradford on Avon Arts Festival 2017

Bradford on Avon Arts Festival 2017 – In association with Words & Ears

Flights of Fancy – Poetry Competition – Judge: Carrie Etter

Competition closing date: 30th July 2017


Poems of up to 20 lines are invited on the theme of Flights of Fancy (see full entry details, below). Shortlisted poets will be invited to read their entry at a prize-giving event at Bradford on Avon Arts Festival on Sunday September 17th, which will also feature a reading by competition judge Carrie Etter.

American expatriate Carrie Etter has published three collections: The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Award; Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011); and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society. She also edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010) and Linda Lamus’s posthumous collection, A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran, 2015). She has lived in the West Country since 2005 and is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

First Prize: £500 – Second Prize: £150 – Third Prize: £100

Plus seven Highly Commended and a local prize for entrants in the BA15 postcode area.

Logo2  Enter here


Agenda Poetry Magazine

Agenda is edited by Patricia McCarthy, who co-edited the magazine with William Cookson for four years until his death in January 2003. She is continuing, as Seamus Heaney said, ‘to uphold the lofty standards of Agenda’.

He went on to say, “…as the title insists, does several things that need to be done if literary culture is to stay in good shape. First of all, it stimulates and sponsors new poetry by poets whose writings and espousals have given the magazine its personality from the beginning. Agenda has a second important function which it discharges by doing work of critical advocacy for poets of marked or under-rated achievement, living and dead.”


As well as a whole host of poems from writers such as Omah Shabbagh, Andrew McMillan, Sasha Dugdale, Tess Jolly and Zoë Brigley-Thompson, a recent issue contains an article by Martyn Crucefix on The Five Forward Prize First collections and Patricia McCarthy interviews Sarah Howe.

And it’s not just a fine print publication. The Online Broadsheet features poetry and artwork from poets under 30 years and from this magazine, lucky poets are chosen to appear in Agenda, with a spread of up to six poems.

JoBalmer-finalLettingGocover-page-001Agenda’s own publishing house produce small, beautifully packaged limited editions; the newest, Letting Go: Thirty Mourning Sonnets and two poems by Josephine Balmer is due out this month.

For more information on Agenda in general or submission procedure follow this link, or email Fred for subscription queries.


Clare Best’s poem (below) appeared in the Web supplement in tandem with
The Power of Poetry issue of Agenda, Vol 50 Nos 3-4

You Ask Me How I Know All These Things

and I tell you. I know these things
in my fractured heart.
Because things can be known
in spite of the dark,
since mine is the skin I inhabit.
I know all these things
from the green sun rising,
because of the flames in my head
when sleep comes. And again when I wake.
With my bones. With my wise bones
I know all these things.
Because. I wanted. To grow. Beyond you.

Because I wanted to grow beyond you
I know all these things
with my bones, with my wise bones,
when sleep comes and again when I wake
because of the flames in my head
from the green sun rising.
I know all these things
since mine is the skin I inhabit
in spite of the dark.
Because things can be known
in my fractured heart.
And I tell you, I know these things.


Atrium Webzine


Here’s a new kid on the block – and they’ve certainly got off to a sprinting start. What a good way of keeping up-to-date with work from new and established poets, and it is neatly delivered to your home twice a week. What could be better than that?

Atrium is a poetry webzine based in Worcestershire, UK who aim to publish a quality new poem twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The web address is http://www.atriumpoetry.com and full submission guidelines can be found there.

“The word ‘atrium’ has two main links – to the heart, and to spacious central areas in buildings that are open and light. With this is mind, we want to publish poems that allow our readers to think, feel and see things in a new way.

We are currently open for submissions and have no set “windows”. We have been amazed and delighted with the response we have received so far and are currently scheduling posts as far ahead as the autumn months.”

Claire Walker and Holly Magill – Editors


BREATH-TAKING: A GEOGRAPHY by Jeffrey Loffman, reviewed by Luigi Marchini

lofIt is rare indeed nowadays to encounter a poetry collection which exudes the traditional values of the art form. This is such a book: it displays an effortless precision of language along with significance, traits which seem to have become increasingly out of fashion, such is the penchant for the new or innovative.

Breath-Taking is a joy to read and whilst Loffman does not attempt anything fancy, there are some poems that required several readings. In these he is more experimental than in the rest of the book whilst still displaying considerable skill and control: I will come to one of these poems – a marvel – a little later. The overriding feeling I have now as I reflect back on the collection is the passion that illuminates each poem. The reader cannot help but be swept along with the sincerity, the conviction displayed.

Aptly titled and subtitled (breath is referenced frequently and the reader is taken on a journey encompassing many places on this world and beyond) the book displays, effortlessly, a full range of poetic techniques. Witness the consonance at the very start of the book:


crusty silica seas
around the crescent light above;’

and the personification in the same poem;

‘no laboratory work
discovers the gods’.

The syntax used throughout the book is judged to suit each poems mood admirably, e.g. ‘to ballad’ and the wonderful ‘but sleep comes too early for the impatient’, both found in ‘Moonscapes.’ Or how about the oh-so-right ‘eighty-eight years in her stare’ from ‘Beyond the Wall’?

Although Loffman demonstrates a keen sense of place in his poems, his love of England, his despair for what has become of it, shines through. In ‘Which Eye Sees’ the narrator describes his colleague as enthusing ’For this is Eden, this is England.‘ at the start but by the end after a revealing climb (the poem is a take on an M.R.James story, almost certainly ‘A View From a Hill’ ) the narrator thinks ‘this cannot be England’.

Of course Loffman is not just rooted in his native country – the collection is subtitled ‘A Geography’ after all – and he takes us to Africa, Asia, Europe, detouring to Ancient Greece and even the cosmos. These poems are the most political in the book: the ‘new wailing walls’ of Gaza in ‘Nakbah, Nakbah’, the ‘vacant space’ of Tiananmen Square in ‘I Bow Before You…’. the ‘ barbed bodies’ of ‘Walls May Fall’; the important thing to note though is that he is not didactic. Yes the poems are critical of regimes, of horrific events, but Loffman’s immense skill is that he denounces these subtly, relying on his adroit use of language to underpin his thoughts, his intentions.

This fine collection contains eulogies, ekphrastic poems, interpretations, nature poems as well as very personal pieces and not once did I feel overwhelmed by verbosity or mawkishness. This came as a surprise because when I first received the book there was a great similarity in terms of form and layout; consequently I expected a ‘dense’ read, a ‘bit of a slog’ if you like. Nothing can be further from the truth. Of course the subjects are weighty but Loffman’s touch is light in the right places so each poem is a fluid and engaging read.

There are two highlights for me and I will focus on these now. ‘On Dungeness Beach’ crept up on me almost surreptitiously. To be honest when confronted with a poem about ‘nature’ I have the tendency to grimace, shout in despair and run away. And that is how I approached this poem, with a pre-determined view that I would not like it. Of course, I was greatly mistaken. The poem is nigh on perfect in its use of imagery and hooks the reader from the opening lines:

‘Sixty, or seventy, gulls standing still
meet in complete silence over me,’

Immediately I am reminded of Du Mauriers ‘The Birds’ and a feeling of menace is instilled. Looking at the wording carefully and Loffman’s skill becomes clearer. If it had been a definite number of gulls at the start, sixty say, the certainty in the narrators mind would transmit to the reader. Instead the uncertainty in the narrator sows a seed of doubt in the readers mind, causing an unease that is intensified in the second line where we find all those birds not only silent but standing over the narrator.

Half way through this first stanza, the narrator asks ‘why do they stand so still?’ a question simultaneously repeated silently by this reader. This occurs at the end of the first sentence and earlier Loffman has beautifully detailed the surroundings on the beach with its ‘debris of rubber tubes’, and ‘old net wires’. The stanza gains momentum in the second half with the onomatopoeic ‘rusted rail-tracks’ and the alliteration of ‘with the wind sipping the seas’ And the stanza ends with:

‘Black wings, the gulls hunt parallel
to the surface of the sea, forays
every five minutes.’

The implied doom at the start of the stanza is therefore carried through to the end with the apt syntax used by Loffmann, ‘black’ and ‘hunt’.

In the second stanza the gulls seem to be no longer menacing but, instead, are ‘statues’ acting as

‘a vigil for all the fisherwives
who made fires at four in the morning ‘
and the stanza ends with,
‘or the men who worked the lifeboat
where you’d cling to rigging, to the dead’.

These two extracts demonstrate the beauty and the skill of Loffman’s writing. The ominous imagery of the first stanza is replaced by assertiveness; now the narrator knows why the gulls are still and there is tenderness here: the hunters are now keeping vigil, a salute to the fishermen and wives. The phrasing is lovely-‘who made fires at four in the morning’ is wonderful as is the half rhyme of ‘cling’ and rigging’. Sons and daughters are ‘buried’ and now we are in the reality, the concreteness of life and the allusions of the opening stanza are now fully comprehended.

The final stanza starts with:

‘Two hundred names saved in sixty
years; sixty gulls stand still…’

We surmise that each gull-there are definitely sixty now, not the sixty or seventy of the previous two stanzas-signifies a year in the life of the Dungeness Lifeboat Station and the poem continues to carefully detail life by the sea. It ends powerfully:

‘…we are thrown
by a passing stranger into the water.
into the stone piles, into our past.’

The ‘past’ here, the ‘dead’ at the end of the previous stanza and the black gulls hunting at the end of the opening stanza, Loffman has intricately crafted ‘On Dungeness Beach’ to a naturally satisfying conclusion.

The second poem it is essential to look at is ‘Trying to Find Charles Olson’s House’. This is one of the experimental poems I mentioned at the start but it is only experimental in its length (eight pages) and the loose structure when compared with the rest of the book. It is a tour-de-force of a poem, a work which rewards many readings and, perhaps, deserves to be published on its own. It also deserves an in-depth, detailed review for which we have no time here. But I will do the best I can in the space left.

It reminds me, at times, of ‘The Wasteland’ such is the awe Loffman’s poem has inspired in me. Like Eliot’s masterpiece ‘Olson’ seems to me to go far beyond a concern with modern civilisation and mankind’s place in it. Loffman’s treatment of character is similar to Eliot’s and verbally there are echoes for me. There is extensive use of myth, archetypal patterns, and literary parallels.

Charles Olson, as a poet, championed ‘Projective Verse’ with its emphasis on writing ‘by ear’, ‘breath-conditioned’, and here Loffmann seems to endorse this way of writing. Look at the start for example:

‘But where is it? in the space between
ink and vellum, the end of the line
Black Mountain myth Black Mountain Maximus
where the letter, stress and syllable on the page
……….these were my thoughts as i prepared for sleep.’

Here Loffmann demonstrates how he means to continue, with form as an extension of content, in the way Olson championed.
Highlights in this first section include:

‘not an easy journey then,
………………………the sea, the restless sea
no turning back’
‘Is this war, is this wisdom? Some say that this
is the human condition’

Wonderful writing and the idea of myth is fully realised at the start.

Loffman’s search for Olsons house is really a metaphor for his admiration for and his exploration of Olson’s work. Therefore he references Moby Dick (‘Call Me Ishmael’ is a famous Olson essay), red wheelbarrows (he was seen as a link between Williams and Stevens, and the New American Poets’, Derrida among others in this first part.

How about this:

‘I wandered; bluebells hazed in their crowd’.

Loffman has succeeded in this poem in giving life to words, to subvert what is expected. it is almost perfect both as a poem and as a homage to Olsen. The ending,

‘the song you sing,
..the beat you played,
the line you made,
….the breath you gave’

beautifully encapsulates this.

Breathtaking is a collection I highly recommend. It is not perfect-what is-as there are some poems that, fine as they are, do not add much to the book- ‘At Branwell’s Dressing Up box’ and ‘There is a Mountain’ work well on their own but seem to be lost here. The best compliment I can pay the book is that once finished for the first time, I picked it up immediately and read it again.


When the Americans Came by William Bedford

today's poem vertical

USAF Hemswell: North Lincolnshire 1962

When the Americans came,
they didn’t take to our gardens:
the apple orchard smelling of wild garlic,
foxgloves growing among the runner beans.

‘Do you have vampires around here?’
a visitor from Carolina asked me.
It was a shambles, Wilfred knew that,
nodding wisely as though apologising

for the ill manners of King George,
the clematis purple in the thatched roofing.
But come the softe sonne,
there are oxlips in Fry’s woods,

forget-me-nots in the shallow stream,
lettuce and spring onions for a salad.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat*

I tried to tell them. But they weren’t women,
and didn’t care to listen to a boy.
They preferred the red rosehips
we used for making wine.

Danced outside the village church
round the maypole Jack Parnham made.
Now they’re gone,
the wild garlic has returned.

*W.B.Yeats, ‘A Prayer for my Daughter.’


William’s poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in over a hundred magazines worldwide. His Collecting Bottle Tops: Selected Poetry 1960-2008 was published in 2009. His selected short stories and non-fiction, None of the Cadillacs Was Pink, was also published in 2009. He was on the Editorial Board of Poetry Salzburg Review from 2007 to 2016, and was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University from 2008 to 2011.

Recent collections include The Fen Dancing and The Bread Horse.