What Sarah Salway is reading

pink_mistPink Mist by Owen Sheers published by Faber.

Pink Mist follows three friends from Bristol, who join the army and have just returned from Afghanistan. The three men all cope – or don’t – in different ways, and it’s poignant to read how Sheers researched through interviews with soldiers and their families before writing. Pink Mist was commissioned as a verse drama by BBC Bristol, but works on the page (although there are bits I can’t resist reading aloud):

Just this high ringing.
Like something left on too long.
That was all I could hear.
I remember the sky too.
Blue, clear.
But that was all.

I’m partly reading it to marvel at it, but I’m also working on my own verse-drama (on a completely different subject) so it’s fascinating to see how another writer has managed the form so well. It’s a masterclass at conjuring different rhythms, sensibilities, experiences and voices – not to mention mental states – using our only material: words.

For further info on Sarah have a look here.

December poems part 6: Sarah Salway, Valerie Morton, Carolyn O’Connel

Artwork: Linda Pedley



Like the pilgrim divests himself of worldly goods,
the garden’s stripped back to a skeleton,

only the vertebrae of paths holds its truest form
even as trees keep blossom close, buds aching,

it’s still the cutting back that matters most,
while through it all the river’s artery rolls,

a trust in what lies beneath, snowdrops
rising like lanterns.

Sarah Salway

Sarah Salway’s first collection, You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book was published by Pindrop in March 2013. Her poetry has been published widely including the Financial Times, The Virago Book of the Joy of Shopping, Poetry London and Pen International. She is the author of three novels and teaches creative writing for the University of Kent. www.sarahsalway.net


Artwork: Michael Ewart

Twelfth Night

Bell by light by bauble by angel –
like boughs harried by wind –

the decorations come down.
Schools spill new outfits

onto the streets. But in our house
we take the NASA-like image

from the fridge, re-pack Babygrows
and dismantle the cot.

When the decorations come down,
we carry on like before

but with missing pieces.

Valerie Morton grew up in Kent but now lives beside the River Lea in Hertfordshire and is a member of Ver Poets. She has been published in a number of magazines, was runner-up in the 2011 Essex Poetry Festival and won the Ver Poets Ten Liner competition in 2012. She completed an Open University degree in 2011 and since then has taught Creative Writing at a mental health charity.  Her first poetry collection Mango Tree was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in May 2013.

Artwork: Austen Moseley

21st Century Christmas – the Tree

Setting out to buy a Christmas tree
on Christmas Eve the shops sold out.
No trees in markets, stalls had gone
there wasn’t even one at all?

We trekked to forest but no luck
only black branches greeted us,
no conifers rose clothed in green
where would we get a Christmas tree?

Too late to get a feigned tall fir
online, too late for Amazon
no drone to drop outside the door
desired decorated tree –
they still rely on carriers.

How can we follow Albert’s dictum
find traditional tree, fill the picture
of festive family grouped around
a fancy spruce or pristine pine.

In 1850 it was perfectly possible
to buy a tree on Christmas Eve
or as told in “A Christmas Carol”
that day a goose for family feast

but what the Dickens its 2013
they’re ordered online in November
celebrated Black Friday bargains
so on Christmas eve  we’ll have to settle
for Christmas tree as a 3.D printout.

Carolyn O’Connel is married and lives in Richmond-on-Thames. Listed on poetrypf.com and translated into Romanian as a member of poetryRO project   Is a member of Ormond Poetry Group. Has facilitated workshops with Kensington & Chelsea Arts & Richmond Libraries.  Published by Envoi,Interpreter’s House and Airings also in the anthology “Genius Floored” arising from Lumen/Camden Poetry Readings and online at My Delayed Reactions and Poetry Space. Poem “Night Ride” Highly Commended in Poetry Space Competition and “Sunset Serenade” Long Listed Paragram Poetry Competition 2013.

Sarah Salway

Sarah Salway: Featured Poet


A winter night, his mouth on her breast
so soft the spring inside her wound tight
following the trail of it, his breath
whispering she should open up, not fight,
and she did, darling. She was one long
ache, hard to see where she ended
and he began. Then such strong
aching, hard to see where she ends
and the baby began. They become one long
whisper, opening up without a fight,
losing the trail of themselves, breath
so real the spring inside winds tight
feeling the shock of what’s happening
this spring night, new mouth on her breast.


Sarah Salway is the current Canterbury Laureate. She is the author of three novels and a collection of short stories. Her poems have won significant prizes in competitions organized by Poetry London, the Essex Poetry Festival and The New Writer, and have appeared in publications including the Financial Times, the Virago Book of Shopping, Mslexia, Pen International and Poetry London. Visit her website

Sarah’s collection You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book is available now from Pindrop Press. See Sarah at the Phoenix Club, Charing Cross Road on March 8th 2012 for the launch.