POEMS PAGE

On this page we showcase invited readers and local poets. We welcome submissions from any published poets, accompanied by relevant biographies.
Submissions should be emailed to poetrywivenhoe@idztools.com. Selected poems will be posted by decision of the Poems Editor.
And then, after a while, they will move on to the Poems Archive page.

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SOME RECENT SUCCESSES

Antony Johae has two new poems in Morphrog 15 – go to www.morphrog.com to read them both.

Congratulations to Alex Toms on her hugely moving poem White rose in February published in The New European (June 23-29, 2017). True, beautiful and heartbreaking. Alex is our second Poetrywivenhoe poet writing in the Poem for Europe feature in that newspaper … Peter Ulric Kennedy was represented in the Poem for Europe feature on January 20-26 with his poem After the Fall.

Pam Job and Peter Ulric Kennedy both have poems in the Autumn number of London Grip New Poetry – see: http://londongrip.co.uk/2016/09/london-grip-new-poetry-autumn-2016/

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See morphrog 13 at http://www.morphrog.com which features among others Nancy Mattson, Antony Johae, Michael Bartholomew-Biggs and Peter Ulric Kennedy.

Peter Kennedy’s poem Art class is published in The Interpreter’s House 62. Peter also has a new poem online, Sunday morning, published in Ground. Find it at http://www.ground.org.uk

Alex Toms has won a runner’s up prize in this year’s (2016) Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition, judged by Liz Lochead, with her poem The Poacher’s Daughter. It will be published in the next issue of Mslexia, which comes out at the start of September.

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Bryan Thomas was our reader on 28 July. His poem Maritime 1935-75 (previously published in Wivenhoe News, Winter 2015 issue) took First Prize in the ‘The only way is Essex’ category of the Age UK Essex Writers Poetry and Prose Competition 2015.

MARITIME 1935-75

The phosphorescence in my mind reminds me of those far off days;
of porpoises which gambolled round the thrusting bow; of head high waves
broken upon steely decks. The smells and chattering of Suez ports.
Stromboli smoking redly from the centre of the earth. We’re nearly Home.

Empress of India eases gently to the dock side – Tilbury –
two trusty tugs pulling, pushing at her rusty skirts.
Warps are flung ashore; a gangway spans the oily gap;
my blue-grey uniform – Prep School – only just a step ahead.

Years pass. From Harwich Quay I watch the flying boats at anchor
awaiting years of international flight. A floating Schneider Trophy
monoplane takes off and lands through choppy troubled seas;
the future Spitfire preparing for its wartime role.

Later still those battles of my own. Regattas up and down the Essex coast;
the annual race to Billingsgate with oysters once a staple diet, now
nurturing the rich. Crossing through the night towards a European shore;
port red and starboard glowing green; a force eight piercing the stars.

Most unforgettable of all, our Essex smack; another night sail with
a bright white moon covered by a hazy drift of cloud – a scattering of
showers. In that darkened sky there springs an arching moonbow,
several shades of silver and of blue – phosphorescence in our wake.

Bryan Thomas

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Steve Pottinger (our guest reader in May 2015 – see below) has given us permission to publish “Stabberjocky” which you can also find on his website at http://stevepottinger.co.uk

“Slithy gove”: what a masterstroke! Steve has slain the Stabberjock.

stabberjocky

(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

‘Twas Brexit, and the slithy Gove
did frottercrutch in dwarfish glee;
he snicker-snacked the Camerove,
Machiavelliadastardly.

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint!
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp!

He pallerised the BoJo cloon
they chummed upon their sunderbus
emblazoned it with fibberoons
and bambulluntruthoozled us.

The tousled toddler slaughterchopped,
his destiplans an Eton mess,
the slubbergubby gollumgove
a shadowhand of viciousness.

O gipperchund! And vomberblast!
The skitterchit of slick and sly
the snicker-snack of backstablades
the scrabblage to ruthlerise.

The bubberchut of charismissed
the turdletruck of banalbore
is patterfrondled on the head
a pawn upon a checkerboard.

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp.

© Steve Pottinger. 3 July 2016

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Reproduced by permission of Martin Newell (published in the Sunday Express 17 Jan 2016)

Bowie In Heddon Street :

In Heddon Street in January
The London drizzle falls the same
as softly as it did the night,
the camera caught in failing light
the famous phonebox, currant red
with Ziggy Stardust in the frame
A tinted showbiz biscuit tin
Which drew the viewer in

An atmosphere that seemed
to speak
Of basement studios,upstairs flats,
bell-push models, queenly spats
and rent collected once a week
from burned-out boys who’d known
Joe Meek
In Englan done with swinging now
its party-over, drab new nights
Of keg-beer pubs and candle stubs
the IRA and mid-week subs
Wildcat strikes at factory gates
an apathetic audience waits
The Sixties now are firmly dead
A man from Mars arrives instead

What was it in the water then
that forged a breed of pop messiahs
From underfed suburban lads
grown up by gas convector fires?
Skinny, pale, with poor dentition
Actor, clothes-horse, pop musician
In David’s case, all three in one
An odyssey which he’d begun
in sixty-watts of Bromley sun

When Ziggy sang and played guitar
No one, yet, had gone that far
In Sutton Coldfield, Aylesbury, Bucks
and Sunderland they’d cheer
The brickies bellowed,” ‘Ello ducks!”
the dads asked, “Is ‘e queer?
Gets harder now to tell the boys
from girls, with every year.”
The critics too, blew cold and hot
But critics do.
Why would they not?

The Seventies then bedded in
in feather boa and satin flare
The suburbs sat like Hamelin
Awaiting anthems on the air
from some pied piper not yet heard
to woo them with a magic word:
the oddball kid, the bookish geek
the one their classmates labelled
‘freak’,
Sequestered in their rooms all week
They’re captivated by his eyes
“You’re not alone!” the Starman cries

Now of his band, what shall we say?
The Spiders, not from Mars but Hull
Were best of any of their day
If Kingston-upon-Hull, the name
did not roll off the tongue
the same,
The Spiders seemed to play guitars
as if they really came from Mars
Now all the teenage kooks
who went
To hear these boys from Hull
— and Kent
Remember, late in middle-age
how Ziggy broke the gender cage

And when we dig his records out
from hard-drives, i-pods, racks
or shelves
And shed a tear,we find the truth
Is also, that we mourn our youth.
Immortal youth, its peerless light
that twinkles in the ageless night
until we find how frail we are
Crashing in the same old car

In Heddon Street in January
The phone-box now is gone
Where fans took pictures of
themselves
Once Ziggy had moved on
Where did they go, those slips
of boys?
Grown up with steam-trains
in their eyes
And rockets in the Dan Dare skies
Above the dingy terraced streets
of Britain after war?
America by any score, would seem
some kind of Shangri-la
Best slap some lippy on, then, kid
and bring your best guitar
America eats talent like a wolf
devours a lamb,
With tenderising powder which can
turn your mind to spam
That’s when you have to wrestle
with your inner Peter Pan
Then, if the boy stops swinging
he may just become a man

But even politicians cough,
describing him as nice.
They missed him at the kick-off
now they’re gagging for a slice
He helped bring down the Berlin Wall
it’s said, young Bromley Dave
Fashion icon, futurist …and genius.
Oh, behave!

The ones who’ll really miss him,
are the girls then in their teens
Recalling that one weekday night
he burst onto their screens
Instantly monopolising all their
magazines
Promoting moral panic from
St Mawes to Milton Keynes
They won’t remember mourning
any pop star in this way
And won’t know why they’re
weeping in the middle of the day
He was Youth and he was Beauty
he was talented and clever
So stunningly original and…
They thought he’d live forever.

In Heddon Street in January
The sun falls on a plaque
Like an actor taking encores
in a Mayfair cul-de-sac
And here beside the doorway
are his flowers in a stack
But Ziggy Stardust’s never
coming back
And all the worldly traffic may
resume its migraine rumble
While all the Babylonian showbiz
rumour mills can crumble
Let legend be his epitaph
The lily needs no gilding
Ladies and gentlemen…
Mr. Bowie’s left the building.

Martin Newell

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Steve Pottinger was our guest reader on 28 May 2015

DRY LAND DROWNING

The seals haul themselves ashore
to pup on the rock flats every year,
and you arrive,
frayed and torn as sea-tossed rope,
cloaked in the stink of the city.

You breathe the air deep as before,
say how good it is to be
somewhere there’s space
while your eyes burn with fever
and your talk of pubs and clubs and chemicals
lights up your face
with homesick and longing.

And you will speak – again –
of poverty and injustice
with eloquence and anger
and only the silence of what remains unsaid
hints at your increasing fear,
while in the evening,
gathered round the burning peat,
rain lashing the windows,
you will entertain with anecdotes and tales
that leave us helpless with laughter.
A talisman, more than ever now,
to beg us not to forget you.

And you will leave as suddenly as you came.
An eager moth yearning for
the city’s cold and glittering flame.
And I will sit and ponder how lonely you have grown,
how brittle,
and the seal pups wait on a tide
to sweep them back to the sea.

©Steve Pottinger
from Island Songs (Pottinger) Ignite Books 2012

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Sylvia Sellers also read on 28 May

HARWICH BEACH

No ordinary beach
in Festival Week,
there it stands
a grand piano
on Harwich beach.

Open to the elements,
its strings and keys,
where a crab has made its home.
This quirky thing I have to play,
is it in tune
or lost its way?

But no, it’s bang on key
‘The Entertainer’ it has to be,
Though bottom F is missing
and throws me off my stride,
it flows forth from my fingers
The gulls a heavenly choir.

Three legs stand firm in flower pots,
all filled to the top with sand,
and to one leg is chained an anchor
in case of high tides
that will float it far and wide.

©Sylvia Sellers

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Chrys Salt was our guest reader on 23 April 2015

GOOD NEIGHBOUR

Our neighbour built big bonfires for us
on the allotment behind our house.
Stoked it with chestnuts, told us where
hibernating toads and slow worms were.
Left little messages, pipe cleaner men,
surprises in the doorway of our den.
Found us an orange box to make a table.
He made my childhood memorable.
One evening sitting on his knee
watching Tom and Jerry on TV,
his hand crept slyly up my frock.
tickly at first, then confusion, shock
wrong mixed with right, stock-stillness, fear,
senses uncharted, half of me not there.
His fingers pushed inside me, nothing said
as Tom chased Jerry round and round my head.
He told me not to tell. I never did,
but next time he called round I hid.
Had a knack with kids our next door neighbour.
I wish I’d told my mum about John Bridger.

Chrys Salt

First Published in her latest collection Dancing on a Rock ( IDP 2015)

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David Canning was also reading on 23 April:

ON ALMOST BREAKING UP IN LIVERPOOL …

We walked as far as the land would take us,
waited for the ferry at Pier Head,
watched the freighters ploughing the Mersey
sparkling like your party dress in the early morning sun.
 
In the beauty of that moment it felt so wrong
to speak the three words that would save us:
“we are finished.”
 
Then you asked me if I was in love.
I promise you I made every effort to leave,
but as the river returned a ripple of courage,
as I started to turn away, you screamed –
 
it was a rat, limp and lifeless,
being lobbed against the quay,
tail like a severed worm squirming
in the foamy, flotsam swell.
 
A distended river tugged at the knots
tying us to the quay-side,
hemp groaned, cable- taut,
arms stretched out,
hands, small and cold, moored my own,
and, caught in the beam of your lighthouse eye,
words were lost on the ebb-tide.

David Canning

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Martin Malone was our guest reader on 26 March 2015:

WOOD ON THE DOWNS

After Paul Nash

We have been here before. Uffington, Hackpen,
Grim’s Ditch, Ogbourne St.George, Wayland’s Smithy,
Sparshott Firs, Bishopstone and Barbury;
all the trodden way from Overton
to Beacon Hill. Each place its genius loci,
a favourite colour: Ash-Blue, Ochre,
Payne’s Grey, Terra-Verte, Lamp Black, Sienna.
But today you ditch your winter tones
and bid for late spring. The trees are in leaf,
the chalk from the downland reflects light
from a milder sky. Through field glasses
one sees a landscape that one can see
in no other way. Here, then, is yours:
the stiff cilia of trunks – a brown-fringed
platoon lost on Hill 60 – ghosts of the vortex,
the leaching colours of pending summer,
the breast, lumbar and hip curve of hill
prone upon the bed of Buckinghamshire.
And there I join you eighty years away,
with my Trojan girl; lifting her face
to mine in the dappled light of the wood.
We have been here before.

Martin Malone

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Carolone Gill read on 26 March

The Ceilidh House

The peat fire crackles and burns with stories:
footsteps scurry through mist and mountain
to warm a Hebridean hearth with stories.

A figure crosses turf where St Columba
knelt long ago beside the Snizort:
the crofter’s creel is laden with stories.

He pauses to watch the snow-stars drifting
on the loch, with its kelp and pebbles:
hares in the lazy-bed leap with stories.

The crofter enters his neighbour’s parlour,
rests on the settle while divots smoulder:
a plaintive skirl fills the room with stories.

Shadows dance round the doleful piper,
whose music makes the embers tremble:
the single oil lamp flickers with stories.

A mother stirs her three-legged cauldron:
sisters spin, or weave at the handloom,
infusing a homemade plaid with stories.

Hailstone tears pound the snow-flecked Cuillin,
recalling the Clearances, emigration:
the Ceilidh House overflows with stories.

A tercet ghazal … © Caroline Gill

The ghazal is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in ancient Arabic poem in Arabia long before the birth of Islam, and it is one of the principal poetic forms which the Indo-Perso-Arabic civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world. Caroline’s poem is a Tercet Ghazal after Robert Bly’s adaptation – with three line stanzas rather than the traditional two-line sher or couplet. (The sher is a “complete couplet” which should require no other lines around it to be complete. In Urdu the sher is a poem in itself and when the two lines are a lone composition not surrounded by other shers, it is called a Fard. When surrounded by other couplets it is a unit of the qasida or more importantly the ghazal.) It is of interest here that Caroline uses the Tercet Ghazal form – see http://www.ghazalpage.net/tercet_ghazal_format.html

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John Greening was our Guest Poet on 26 February:

HOME OFFICE

In school uniform, as usual, we look

at solemn marches past the Cenotaph,

then later, at Grandpa’s, laugh our heads off

through Candid Camera, Popeye, Charlie Drake.

‘And after the Lord Mayor’s Show,’ says Grandpa,

‘the dungcart’, turning the gas down, giving me

a go at his pipe, putting on ITV.

No talk about the first or second war –

those racing gun carriages on the Somme,

Dad’s Iceland saga (all in Morse), Mum’s Blitz –

this minstrel show’s enough for them, although it’s

American and camp and monochrome.

 

But take me to the stained-glass-window door,

and up the chessboard pattern garden path

out of that house, its smell of aftermath

and curing tobacco leaves. Inheritor

of images of Occupation Road,

I’ve seen the postwar pinstripe regiment

advancing on a Royal Tournament

of jobs and homes and kids. We begged for blood

and bawdy. We got Kenneth Clark in colour,

a boiler, a car. All the piano keys

are swollen, shamed. In its Edwardian case,

the frozen pageantry of that front parlour.

 

John Greening

from To the War Poets (Carcanet, 2013)

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MW Bewick was reading on 26 February, too:

 

December Absolute

We sense it, but next year’s shoots know too soon

what must be borne, the mass of sodden earth

that swells with every frost and every thaw

in the sap-drained hours of brimstone’s retreat,

when breath is just a gasp beneath the moon.

 

We see it, roping us taught to dim hours

as ember suns fade in their ashen sky,

as still we rear up, scream at hurtling stars,

porcelain joints crumbling from the day’s beat

while bells tremble just as the world once shook.

 

Our gaze tugs, hooks at honours past and run,

in twilight that lengthens the shadow odds,

and rubs out our journal’s enchanted page

on which we wondered what was left to sort

and what sights might fuse and spark in the night.

 

Oh it’s true, there’s no Malevich black,

no absolute to which we are heading,

never was. His scratched edges of purple,

blue and yellow, find their weak boundaries

only in their framing.

December comes

 

with the ghosts of soft silt invertebrates,

hidden fodder that plumps the predator,

plumped in its slow turn as the months made seed,

now the tides stretch rubber reason once more

and life begs its brief freedom of the land.
Upriver are curlew, heckling in darkness:

a shriek that echoes down the estuary,

their pitch wakeful, open-winged, open-billed

out on the mud’s gloom: imprinting the first

fragile steps of winter’s plaintive old dance.

 

MW Bewick

 

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This poem by Pete Langley is published in the recent issue of Orbis:

Hospice

Dour adjectives described
in the lines
of your face
make smiles and scowls
devoid of adverbs.

Lips
of creased skin,
dried from sucking
life-lemons,
have reduced the screams
to whimpers;
cries unheard
outside your prisoned skull.

You sit moribund
in an armchaired line of
decay,
nursed in a forum
of formaldehyde.

And yet,
if all you know were known,
your whispers
would hold court to kings.

Pete Langley

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HERE IS THE WINNING POEM FROM THE POETRYWIVENHOE POETRY COMPETITION 2014:

Watching The Jewel in the Crown

Daphne Manners is wearing round tortoiseshell
specs like the ones you wore in that photo Dad took

as you nestled beneath the paper parasol,
in love. She has on a flower print sundress like yours

as she lounges on the verandah at Mayapore
sipping gin fizz with ‘aunt’ Lili Chatterjee.

Perhaps at the convent in Bruges the other girls
teased you, that old lie about men not making passes,

because I’ve seen the snaps of you without your glasses,
on the beach, with the collie dog, on the pillion,

but that was before he proposed, before the rains
came, making the air in the hills smell sweet

and misting up your lenses, so that it was harder
to identify the men from the Bibighar Gardens.

But I forget, that wasn’t you, you had moved back
to the house in Berrylands where, every so often,

a parcel arrived in the post from Darjeeling
and, having settled the child, you’d sit in the kitchen

tasting your tea and dreaming of the moment
he’d walk through the door, kitbag on his shoulder,

camera in hand, and the monsoon in his eyes.

Stephen Boyce

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AND HERE IS THE WINNING POEM FROM THE ESSEX POETRY COMPETITION 2014:

John Steed in Retirement Remembers Mrs Peel

It’s that time of year when I must don my mantle of mirth,
take up my cap and bells, Mrs Peel,
and play the fool before my memories: how long ago it seems
since we went out together on our missions.
I remember that curious crease of leather,
and the graceful sinuous way that you moved, Mrs Peel.
Sadly I have grown portly of late, drink too much
in the afternoon, find M.O.D. pensions don’t stretch far,
and the Bentley is gone, was sold for scrap
after I inadvertently turned left not right
that fateful day in Milton Keynes.

True, I was a little the worse for wear,
but was thinking of you again, Mrs Peel,
and how on those long-ago missions from Mother,
when you were tied up (and you often were),
I would come with a smile, an umbrella, and a pun
to release you.

If we had more style than substance
I at least have neither now, live in a world grown sour,
without panache, where nothing’s black or white that is not grey,
in which everything tastes too much of Essex
where I now unhappily reside.

I should have asked you when I had the chance
– I often wondered – what became of Mister Peel,
if ever there was such a fortunate man,
and I can scarcely do so now, for I confess
I’m no longer the John Steed you remember,
but one awash with wine and pleas and hesitations.

Yet whenever Christmas or cold weather comes
I find Santa Claus brings me remembrances of you
and I see you as the Ice Queen that you were of old.
And now the years have turned us to antiques
may I be at last allowed to call you Emma?
And can you bring yourself to call me simply – John?

Roger Caldwell

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AND THE WINNING POEM FROM THE Southwell Bramley Apple Festival poetry competition 2014:

Hiatus

There is no sound today,
Only the pink-swelling buds
Of the apple blossom,
Hinting at the fruits to follow.
I shall walk to see you,
Down the narrow lane
Of the sky,
Past the corner
Where the old woman sits,
Knitting a horizon –
Green meeting blue
Like a child’s painting.
The only gift I bring
Will be this single sprig:
Its fists will open for you
Silently, full of promise,
Days after I have left.

Rosie Sandler
(by permission of the sponsors, Southwell Folio magazine)

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For more poems see the Poems Archive page