Metastatic: traversing a dark and uncertain landscape performed by Jane Lovell and Timothy Adés – Poetry Café, October 19th, 7pm – Against the Grain Press

Metastatic: traversing a dark and uncertain landscape

performed by

Jane Lovell and Timothy Adés

Against the Grain Press is delighted to launch Jane Lovell’s Metastatic at the Poetry Café on October 19th at 7pm. Special guest readers include Alison Brackenbury and two poets from ATG’s 2019 list, Graham Clifford and Michelle Diaz. We are also pleased that Timothy Adés is joining Jane on stage as narrator.

“Jane Lovell’s writing charts mysterious, unsettling trajectories: the invisible paths of bees, the journey of dead light, the routes found in folded and untied landscapes. These poems unmoor us, find beauty and strangeness in the everyday.” Helen Mort



JaneJane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Mid Kent. She has had work published in AgendaEarthlinesPoetry Wales, Magmathe North, the Honest UlstermanDark Mountain, The Lonely Crowd, Ink Sweat & Tears, Zoomorphic and Elementum.

Jane’s poetry has also appeared in various anthologies including Templar’s Mill, In the Cinnamon Corners from Cinnamon Press, Liquorice Fish Books What Lies Within,  Zoomophic’s Driftfish, Diversifly from Fair Acre Press and One for the Road from Smith Doorstop.

New work is forthcoming in The Hopper, Riggwelter, Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House, The Fenland Reed and Coast to Coast to Coast. Her poetry is to be featured in the autumn issue of The Curlew.

Jane was awarded the Flambard Prize in 2015, won 1st prize in the South Downs Poetry Competition 2017 and won the Wealden Literary Festival 2018 Writing Competition.  in 2018 she was also joint winner of the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition. She has been shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize, the Wenlock Poetry Prize and Canterbury Poet of the Year and has been a runner up in the Poetry on the Lake’s Silver Wyvern award, the BBC Proms Poetry Competition, the Bare Fiction Prize and the Wisehouse International Poetry Award.

Read more on Jane’s website:  https://janelovell128.wixsite.com/janelovellpoetry

Pre-order your book here: cropped-against-the-grain-logo6


Jane Burn – The Westray Wife

The Westray Wife

Yeu had sleipt, fowr thowsand ages rund,
quietlik till sum body wonne yeu fra the airth.
Yeu wes fownde, a treasure brought tae licht.
I ken yeu have strang ee-bres, frowned into an M,
that yeu are sized fae the holding o’ a hand –

palme-nested body, thoum-straiked heid.
Preciouse, yeu are – not tae much fingered, not
tae scourie. Beryit in the midden o’ a fallen hous,
we guess at who yeu might have been and why
yeu wes dishantit. I think yeu are a copy

o’ the wedow who werked the ferme. I think yeu
wes pouerful rownid , thows big from hewing
oot the walls, lugging stane, fattering barlie, howing peat.
Yhur body, formit lyk a stack grew stout as you beamed
yhur wyntir-store, block by sorpy, bog-smell block,

grew stouter yhit with bairn after blossoming bairn
fae yeu wes fertil, Orkney Venus. This is how I see yeu,
muther-love and peedie kelties clinging tae the traff
of yhur thick-knyt shawl. Against yhur bosum, the oon
unthriving, keening lyk a thine byrde – the othirs

tareesin aboot and yeu, stuggering, boom-lung, hidder ye cum!
Yhur sawle is riflet upon yeu – sumquhill yeu wes worschipped,
nowtched with magick, ydoll o’ the hilland, has-been fae a time.
I see yeu nou, captive o’ the glass. Twa, if I cownt yhur reflection.
Galdragon, the auntient sint of legeand quirls abute yeu still.


Jane Burn’s poems have featured in magazines such as The Rialto, Under The Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Iota Poetry and many more, as well as anthologies from Emma Press, Beautiful Dragons, Emergency Poet and Seren. Her pamphlets include Fat Around the Middle, published by Talking Pen and Tongues of Fire published by BLER Press. Her first collection, nothing more to it than bubbles is published by Indigo Dreams.


Jean Atkin – A Charm Against Uncertain Borders

A Charm Against Uncertain Borders

For I run and Raven on the thong knocks his beak
against my chest. For luck, I touch his eye.
Is he Huginn? Is he Muninn? That would
be hard to say, as thought
roosts close to memory

Tomorrow I ride the edgelands of the Danelaw
keep close what lies at Raven’s back.
For knifed into the bronze, my troll-wife
leads her horse down these same paths.
All night her long hand bridles him
with snakes to make him tame

Her long eye is my old amulet
she is the secret dark
inside of barrows

now it is my time
to bridle them
with snakes


Lucy Dixcart – Bronze Age boat

Bronze Age boat

Ancient oak, stitched with yew,
sealed with beeswax and plugged with moss.
Aboard its planks, voyagers launched –
curious, hungry – into the waves.
Waterlogged and packed with silt,
the earth devoured the vessel whole.
Millennia passed; buildings grew.
Then a skylight opened above.
Hauled from the underworld it rose,
carefully split; quickly submerged.
Silently it sits behind glass,
dimly lit, holding its breath.

Lucy Dixcart is a copywriter by trade and has recently returned to poetry. She has an MA in Creative Writing.


Steve Smart – Struck


I admit that mountain, ocean, ship, and whale,
each spike a precipice in me, a vertical doubt of fear.
Something about their sizes: something troubling, in their scale.

I can hand-hold a mountain stone by slope by scramble,
I have ducked to palm Discovery’s dry-docked keel,
but it’s hard to grasp an abyss, rare to cradle a whale.

…………..Do you know what it is?

The curator intimates the treasure with wry eagerness to tell.
First glances say: shell-like, though less finely crafted,
as if afforded by usage or erosion, as much as grown.

Measuring a relic of time or tide or both, my hands
announce unexpected density, guid gear gangs in sma’ bulk,
this pale chew of twisted nugget is heavier than any stone.

…………..It’s an ossicle. He smiles,
…………..a secret passed in whispered pleasure:
…………..A bone, from the inner ear of a whale!

I struggle to understand his words
relayed to me by a miniature echo,
a match-head cousin of the marble boxing mitt.

A cathedral timpani of ice, the pinking shears of crabs,
mother’s scold to swim tight, the throb and detonations
that brought a fragment of you to heavyweight my hand.

In the dark of the sea, in the depths of the whale,
this bony clench of fist shook and trembled,
struck, and fired every note alight.

Memories of alien arias shiver at my fingertips,
a scalloped seed filtered the din of oceans,
to conduct a lover’s voice into your thoughts.

Whale-song blooms like lofting eiderdowns,
celestial plainchant spans vaulting to sound
those deep, dark, long, long sea miles.

Hydrophones can bootleg your performances.
Researchers shade spectrograms to score each part,
but cannot decode a mind’s set sung unspoken.

A ghosting giant’s dawn chorus of cryptic intimations,
securely obscure, but just thought-side of this bone
chords rang a cappella clear and bright as any bell.


Steve Smart is a poet and artist living in a small village in rural Angus, Scotland. His poems have been published in Firth, Atrium, Poet’s Corner, Fat Damsel, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Steve is a keen hillwalker, and landscape and the natural world feature strongly in much of his work.

Recently Steve has been directing collections of short films for an online poetry project called ‘Poems for Doctors’, a collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the Scottish Poetry Library.


Creative Energy from the Homefront: A Review of Permanent Change of Station by Kersten Christianson

sticeLisa Stice’s newest release Permanent Change of Station (Middle West Press LLC, 2018) casts light upon the speaker’s challenges of keeping home(s) while nurturing a young daughter along with a Norwich Terrier companion through various deployments. These charges are set to the institutionalized pace of a military lifestyle.

First, I am struck by the contrasting cover images. Against a turquoise bluebird sky is Mary Stevenson Cassatt’s oil-on-canvas, Little Girl in Blue Armchair. Here is the little girl planning out her next step, tiny dog in tow, catching twenty winks, juxtaposed with a photograph below of a sharp-edged Humvee traversing blank-slated, endless desert (photo credit: Sgt. Conner Robbins). The pairing of the two speaks of frozen motion.

But the true energy is that of Stice’s writing. Organized into three sections (Half-Known Roads, The In-Betweens and Bedtime Stories), she writes not of particular places, but of growth, namely that between a mother and child as they reconcile the comings and goings of a husband and father, and maneuver the uncomfortable terrain of establishing yet another new home in yet another new town.

boxes of melted crayons
melted a little more
inside a moving truck

birthday streamers
still rolled up somewhere
in a box under a box behind a box

locking a door
another last time
with no goodbyes

It’s one thing to have the proverbial junk drawer forever fixed in the kitchen, the drawer that collects the gathered, broken crayons, the end rounds of birthday streamers, the loose rubble. It is another to routinely pack it all up, establish yet another catch-all drawer in a far-flung place to be determined by the military establishment.

It is a life not without objection.

While inviting the reader into this world, Stice ultimately challenges the reader’s own views, especially with her meager-line poems. In “Fifth Choice,” she writes,

I’d be

if I
told you

we get
what we

I can’t tell you how many times I turned back to this page, this neck punch of a poem, to consider again its ramifications, its purpose, its placement. The poem immediately following, “When In Difficult Country,” offers resignation:

we do not know
the mountains

and valleys ahead
we never will

they are earth and stones
just the same

I enjoy much the spontaneity of several poems: “Afternoon One Day When You Were Young,” “Daughter,” and “On Such Little Things Happiness Depends,” among others. Contained within are the unplanned moments that catch even the speaker by surprise. That Sun Tzu and Dr. Seuss are referenced in epigraphs illustrates the dimensionality of Stice’s work.

As with the dueling cover images, Stice writes with the vernacular of a mother and pairs it with the jargon of the military. This, too, is the beauty of her earlier work, Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016). This use of hinged language provides fresh and prodigious reading. Like the Humvee in the cover’s photograph, Stice’s poetry is a also vessel; not one symbolic of war-time, but instead, a creative force.

Stice, Lisa. Permanent Change of Station. Middle West Press, LLC, 2018.

Kersten Christianson is a raven-watching, moon-gazing, Alaskan. When not exploring the summer lands and dark winter of the Yukon, she lives in Sitka, Alaska. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing (University of Alaska Anchorage).  Kersten has authored two books:  What Caught Ravens Eye (Petroglyph Press, 2018) and Something Yet to Be Named (Aldrich Press, 2017).  She is also the poetry editor of the quarterly journal, Alaska Women Speak.  www.kerstenchristianson.com


Allen Ashley – Dream Ships

Dream Ships

(Upon visiting the exhibition ‘The De Morgans and the Sea’)

‘Who would not be delighted to go a-sailing
In one of Mr De Morgan’s dream-ships’
(Halsey Ricardo,
(Architect, contemporary of William and Evelyn De Morgan)

I am a sailor of the ceramics
commissioned for the P & O
and the Czar’s rich oligarchy.

Perchance I dream
of a tiled trireme
and a glimpse of the Evelyn stars.

A string of mermaids –
bare of breast, blank of face –
mournful of their sister’s death.

Tales of Hans Christian
and Greek mythology.
Did Theseus sail this rictus boat?
Laugh as he dumped Ariadne?

Here’s an overload of symbolism,
chromatic feast for eyes and soul.
Deep plates of lustrous reds and whites;
my galleon revealed in a soup bowl.

I make and bake a repeating pattern –
fish, serpent, fish, serpent –
like an ekphrastic Morse code;
table decorations with open mouths.

The softly violet gallery carpet
swims before my dazzled eyes.
I am carried away,
First published in Orbis
Allen Ashley has had poetry published in venues such as “Brittle Star”, “Orbis” and the paper Swans anthology “The best of British”. He is the co-author (with Sarah Doyle) of “Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System” (PS Publishing, 2014).


Emma Lee – The Egret Plate

The Egret Plate

The curved part-extended wing of an egret
follows the shape of a plate.
The egret is preparing to land,
feet drawn up in readiness, looking for food.
Gold on one wing tip suggests an old repair.
The wings could still offer shelter.
This plate is too decorative for its primary
function as something to eat food from.
Nurture is incompatible with the egret’s solitude,
its purity reflected in the plate’s white gloss
representing all those holy qualities
closed to mothers for whom the next meal
takes priority over aesthetic decoration.


Emma Lee’s most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK 2015), she co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge,” (Five Leaves, UK, 2015), reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.


Deb Shaw – A man may make a tool

A man may make a tool.
Bend and shape and sharpen it to his will.

So may a tool shape a man.
Over the years, its heft and weight will hone a man to hardness.
Chiselling muscle and bone into hard-edged planes.
Raising calluses like stones.

A man may hammer and tap and scythe and dig.
And leave his maker’s mark upon the land.
But it will leave its mark on him.
In the buck of a saw, the scrape of a knife.
In the blackened and broken nails of the smith. It is there.
And so by degrees they exchange their natures.
So a man may make of himself a thing of iron and stone.

A man may walk into the weather.
Through the kick of the wind,
the bite of ice, and the flare of the sun.

A man may raise stock.
Raise a hill of corn from the black soil.
Build himself a mountain of hoof and horn.

A man may make a field.
Plant and sow and scratch his story in the soil.
But so will the soil leave its print on the man.

And when he dies he leaves only his bones behind him.
When his bones are gone, there is nothing.
He bequeaths only mineral traces to the land that bred him.
Just the faintest feather dusting in the soil.

Man and land. Tool and hand.
Soil and stone. Muscle and bone.
Seed and grain. Their stories remain.

The Button Tree Book. HLF. Editor. 2018.
Mysterious Littleport: Myth, Magic and the Supernatural in a Fenland Town.
(2nd ed. 2015)
Isle of Ghosts (Hare in the Gate Publications, 2015).
The Horseman’s Word (ed.) (HLF funded publication, 2015).
Land Lines (Hare in the Gate Publications, 2014).

Winner, Cambridgeshire County Council, ‘A Sense of Place’ (2010).
Shortlisted, Fenland Poet Laureate, 2012, 2013.
For details of past, present and future work, please visit our website. www.fieldtheatregroup.btck.co.uk
Facebook: Field Theatre Group or Deborah Curtis Writer.

Trailers and links to films
The Horsemans Word, HD1 trailer, youtube.
Captured Souls. www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj9twxyeu00
Common Ground: Trailer, view on YOUTUBE.
Land lines Introduction to Land Lines – YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEMkR22Ayf8
‘Award winning multi-media drama from The Field Theatre Group. An imaginative journey through the Fens….’


Sarah Doyle – Threads

“Embroidery is the first thing I learned… I sat beside
my mother at her embroidery frame and watched the needle
come down and begged to be allowed to fasten the thread.”

………………………………….– May Morris, 1910
…………………………………..May Morris: Art and Life exhibition,
…………………………………..William Morris Gallery, 2018


I’m the life picked out in needlework, embroidered,
a chain-stitch away from parents whose artistry was
remarkable. I am the satin-stitch of dusky grapes, a
woman with fingers that spun silvery vines, wrought
always in a green that winter cannot wither. This I
was, and am, and more. I am a tangle of strawberries,
though this seed did not fall far from its trees. I am
none and all of these. I am fastened, coiled in skeins
of inheritance, soft as heather, the trellis of violets
you could almost smell. I am speckling feathers that
seemed to take flight, birds fledged of frame, calling
to my herringbone soul, a fly-stitch song. I am all that I
think and sew, all that I made and did not make. And
so the silk is cut, and I am where the threads break.

Poet’s note to the reader: read the first word of each line,
going downwards, for another quotation from May Morris.

First published in the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Review,
Volume XXVI, Number 1, Spring 2018

Sarah Doyle is the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet-in-Residence, and (with Allen Ashley) is co-author of Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System (PS Publishing, 2014).  She holds a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway College, University of London.  Sarah has performed at numerous poetry events; has been published widely in magazines, journals and anthologies; and placed in many competitions.  She works as a freelance manuscript critique provider, and is currently co-editing a new anthology, Humanagerie, for Eibonvale Press.  Website: http://www.sarahdoyle.co.uk