Hungover with rhododendrons



A June Day at Riverhill

The wind shifts time across the walled garden,
whispers memories of a lime-free hillside

before the Waterloo Cedar, the Dawn Redwood
and the Turkey Oak dropped anchor;

before the Japanese maple and Himalayan azaleas
tiptoed in from the deep pockets of plant hunters.

On this June day the garden is dizzy – hungover
with rhododendrons. And along the edges

of steep woodland walks an intoxicating smell
of wild garlic pushes tired legs to the summit –

listen to yesterday’s music in the unfolding landscape,
like children catching a rainbow for the first time.


Valerie Morton



Who thought to call me that?
As though a vixen needs a home for hands ─
if she did, would they be lacy, white and tight?
Elegant evening gloves on speed reaching
from paw to elbow crook.

Or if they’re for her mate, Monsieur Reynard,
would they be thick and rough and hard?
Encrusted gardening gloves for pawing up
the mud and ringing Jack Rabbit’s neck,
when he is unearthed?

Or would they be striped and woolly mitts,
knitted for their kits? Tiny bright paw-shapes
strung on stretchy long elastic through
orange, mangy coats.

Digitalis Purpurea is my better, formal name.
My colour purple, I’m wild, multiplying free,
tall and spikey, inedible, toxic. Don’t you dare
mess with me – the gloves are off.

Jill Munro

poems in wind


The softest whisper
sighs this volcano of trees.
Peace of ancestry.

Luigi Marchini


Valerie Morton’s shed


Dad’s Place

I used to think my dad lived in that shed – our childhood
was his bald head bent over a latest project. Every Saturday

at 5 p.m. the transistor radio blared out the football results;
our cue to lay the table for tea. His private chapel,

a confessional that smelled of creosote, lawnmower oil
and hanging shallots. In winter the fermenting perfume

of stored apples made nostrils twitch, hid the tobacco smells
of his roll-ups, a foil for our own teenage puffs.

Until the night the roof blew off and all its secrets became
public – the radio soggy and silent, saws and rakes hanging

at an odd angle on unsteady walls, his boots full of rainwater.
Nothing was the same after that – private thoughts stayed

in the head. When the new roof went on even the shed protested,
creaked and whispered to spiders – some things can’t be reclaimed.

Valerie Morton returned to poetry after a long break and in the last ten years her poetry has been published in various magazines. She was runner up in the 2011 Essex Poetry Festival. In 2012 she won first prize in the Ver Poets Ten Liner competition. She has appeared online in Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Poetry Shed. In 2011 she completed an OU degree which included Creative Writing, and since then has run a Creative Writing Group with a local mental health charity. She is a member of Ver Poets and her poems have also appeared in three anthologies to raise funds for charity. Mango Tree (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013) is her first collection.


UNFOLDING LOVE AND LANDSCAPE: A review by Valerie Morton

ShippenShippen by Dawn Bauling
ISBN 978-1-909357-04-4
80 pp. £8.99, Indigo Dreams Publishing,
24 Forest Houses, Cookworthy Moor, Halwill,
Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5UU.


I will take the platinum pins
from my silent sea of silver hair
let its spirals tumble down
to the briar and bracken.
He will know my shadow.

These opening lines illustrate the harmony in Dawn Bauling’s highly accessible yet challenging new collection Shippen – harmony with her environment, her man, her children, her dog and most of all with herself. She is a poet at home in her own skin who, with carefully crafted words, transcends the ordinary and transports us through her detailed observations, into the vibrancy of a life well lived. She misses nothing. Her poems are deeply rooted in time and place.

This is a collection of personal yet universal love poems – gentle and lyrical, unique and unsentimental. Bauling has a distinctive way of placing herself and thus her readers into her own shoes and those of others. At times she brings a light touch to serious subjects, challenging the reader to pause and think and wonder.

Divided into four individual (FIELD, GATE, HEARTH, LOFT) yet linked sections this collection begins in the wide open spaces of FIELD with its breadth of possibility. We are standing at a crossroads of opportunity, poised on the edge of adventure wondering which exit to take. But Bauling opens the door of the shippen and lets us in with tender humour as in ‘Kiss Me Quick’:

Quick has no future or promise;
slow has a right to roam, to hold
without rush or squealing
brakes of a getaway car.
There must be time to taste
each subtle spice, separate, divine,
not pecked in a single bite.

and the passion of ‘Dry Stick’.

You thought I had no life
within. Such foolery.
I was a red fire lily
dancing on a bright wind
who would leave
pollen on your trousers,
for the want of a match.

With meticulous balance we are lead towards and through the GATE where Bauling skilfully turns everyday events into sensuous happenings. Small, intimate things matter as in ‘Morning Coffee Tasting’:

Unsure of your taste
I have sent you coffee
Monsoon Malabar and Black Java
with names to dance treacled
love notes on your tongue
and the sense of healing in the comforting ‘Winter Cupped’
Not a dark cup this year
not cloudy fluid
with the potential to scold
or choke in the chest.
A fine glass for toasting
brighter than orange
with russets on the tongue
long-lasting, warm-hearted.
and finally,
Loving you, though lost;
licking this first Christmas

The third section, HEARTH oozes with the warmth of arrival, of belonging, of a coming together in ‘Stones’

we are at times
as leaf and flame
but together
logan stones
balanced perfectly
and in And so the clock ticks’
We are not so young we have to touch,
not too familiar to have forgotten why
it is necessary, accepting the promise of slow
so something otherwise can treat us.

In the final section LOFT we are treated to the beautifully lyrical ‘Swan’.


I believe you.
Even the small stars
you drew down my back
a constellation,
not a promise blown
away in the slyness
of sudden twisters.
My dark was never
too deep
for your word.
So I keep it,
and learn to love
like a swan.
and in ‘Over the Table’:

When you write
you are private
like a clam
who is not a clam at all
but an oyster
quietly turning
a piece of sand
into a pearl.

Throughout this collection Bauling never loses touch with time or place – each poem is focussed on the importance of family and nature which are central to her work. This is a confident voice, subtle yet strong, wild yet gentle and most of all one which gives the reader time to breathe. Although rooted in the landscape of Devon and Cornwall, it surprises with flashes of another world as with ‘Henna on her Hands’, ‘Swallowing my Father’, or a ‘Consultation of Nails’. Bauling threads the world together and lays it before us and dotted about its map are some revealing haiku, like ‘Sentence’:

In this life’s sentence
I have been finding commas.
You are my full stop.

Shippen is a “waterfall of a gift” which the reader will want to revisit time after time.

Read more about the author and a selection of poems – this book can be ordered from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

The Poetry Kit Book of the Month


Book of Sand


An alternating sequence of poetry and visual art, where poems inspire art and art inspires poetry. This pamphlet showcases the work of six poets and five artists and is designed, edited and published by Karen Dennison.

Poems by Emer Gillespie, Anna Kisby, Sharon Black, Valerie Morton, Abegail Morley and E.E. Nobbs. Artwork by Chris Ruston, Michaela Ridgway, Gwen Simpson, Sam Smith and Karen Dennison.

The pamphlet takes its name from, and begins with a poem written in response to, the short story The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges. The poem was given to an artist to respond to with any form of visual art and that artwork was in turn given to a poet to respond to and so on, resulting in a sequential chain of responses. The chain is ongoing and so there will be at least one more edition – to find out more about being involved please contact Karen.

“A unique meeting of visionary poets and artists, who enter into a dialogue that at once informs and heightens their individual works. This small collection is a joy, and once again confirms that we need both the visual and the verbal to understand the world as a whole.” — Tamar Yoseloff

The Clearing

Why did I walk naked into the forest
that June morning? Did the sun sweep
its flashlight across my heart
to reveal a sudden herd of longings?

The petals of the flag iris tremble and arch
until they darken with moisture.
A mountain can be a vantage point,
a ledge.

In the patterns of a birch bark I thought I saw
the back of a wolf ’s head. Yes –
half-revealed by the dew
a wolf rising, rising towards the leaves.

Sharon Black

6 Gwen Simpson

Gwen Simpson – Through the Mist; Hand-cut coloured 70lb Canford card; 15cm x 10.7cm. Photographs of this book are in the Book of Sand along with illustrations and paintings from the other artists.

To buy click 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.