London Undercurrents – Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire


Ahead of S.A. Leavesley’s launch and evening  readings at The Poetry Café on Saturday 31st of March I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek at some of what’s in store that night, starting with the London Undercurrents: Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire.

Together, as London Undercurrents, they have had pairs of north and south poems published in a number of magazines, including South Bank Poetry, Brittle Star, Lunar Poetry, and online at Ink, Sweat & Tears and Severine Literary Journal, Well Versed and Proletarian Poetry. They have featured at Loose Muse, The Shuffle, Fourth Friday and Beyond Words and appeared on the Poets Anonymous show on Croydon Radio. In 2017 they were awarded a Research and Development Grant by Arts Council England, are being mentored by Jacqueline Saphra. On International Women’s day 2018 they staged a guerilla poetry reading along the 19 bus route, which joins together their two patches of London (pictured).

I am so pleased that they have each sent a poem for me to share. First up is Joolz with Mussels at low tide.


Mussels at low tide

..When Lady Thames has gone out
and glimpses of her underneath she rudely

..reveals, frothy skirts of foam do bibs
make which tucker up nicely under our shells to

..serve as slurp-catchers for us messy-eater
bivalves. Silt-hungry, hinges creak open

..to release our one-footed scoops of tongue
which lick the meat of the river into us. Toeless,

..we dandle in mud ––cockles and mussels alive-oh––
snap shut against harvest by boatman, gull, urchin.

..In the lull of eddies, we feast and filter sluiced by
drain slop, the juice of pipes. We boat and brick

..and scavenge as she turns, lifts currents of
petticoat, hides us back under.


Joolz Sparkes was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2010, and Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition 2016, and is published in Magma, Shooter Literary Magazine, Great weather for MEDIA, The Persisters Zine and South Bank Poetry magazine. She has featured at Ledbury Poetry festival, was Poet in Residence at Leicester Square tube station and is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.


Chuffed to have this poem from Hilaire. Read it. Love it. Come on Saturday for a whole lot more.

Gum Tree, Battersea Park

Far from home, like me.
Long acclimatised and

rooted in London soil.
Three strong trunks whorling

upwards under low sky.
Wind rasps through crisped leaves

that cast occasional shade
from northern sun.

Mate, I wish I knew
your proper name.

I whisper coo-ee!
Wait for the leaves’ reply.


Hilaire was poet-in-residence at Thrive Battersea in 2017. She has been published in magazines such as Brittle Star, ARTEMISpoetry and South Bank Poetry, and in three anthologies from The Emma Press. Triptych Poets: Issue One (Blemish Books, Australia, 2010) features a selection of her poems, and her novel Hearts on Ice was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2000.

1 thought on “London Undercurrents – Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire”

  1. Two super poems!! Thanks for the introduction to London Undercurrents. What a great way to collaborate. Best Wishes for the launch of Sarah’s book on Saturday.

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