Friday Feature

4Word – Featured Publications

Today we’re delighted to feature two recent publications from 4Word independent poetry press.

Released in March, Pretty in Pink by Ruth Aylett and Smithereens by Mike Farren are both now available from the 4Word on-line shop. More details here: Titles – 4Word

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink by Ruth Aylett is, in part at least, an exploration of what it is to be a woman and what it shouldn’t be. These 29 poems draw on an impressive breadth of reference points: the Bible, mythology, witchery, Ken and Barbie, art, Iseult (and Tristan), Rosa Luxembourg, Marilyn Monroe and more. But they also breathe lived experience – from coming of age stories to parenthood, as daughter, as mother and when both viewpoints merge in Saturday Shopping’ (extract of a review by Sarah James)

Ruth Aylett has taught and researched computing and AI for many years, most recently in Edinburgh, and has been known to appear at poetry readings with a robot. Her poems are widely published, both in magazines such as The North, Butcher’s Dog, Prole and Agenda, and in anthologies, most recently Scotia Extremis (Luath) and Mancunian Ways (Fly on the Wall). She was joint author with Beth McDonough of the 2016 pamphlet Handfast (Mother’s Milk) This is her first single-author pamphlet. She writes about women and their lives, science and technology, about what’s wrong with the world and how it could be changed.

Saturday shopping

It’s nine sharp and she walks ten yards back
in case a friend sees her shopping with her Mum,
who knows this won’t be a happy outing,
buying a new uniform for a new term.

It’s eleven sharp and she walks ten yards back
carrying a bag from their two hours’ labour;
a very short black skirt, a see-through white top,
absolutely certain to cause lots of trouble.

All she ever wants is to be popular.
All she ever wants is her daughter to smile.
All she hates is in the clothes in the bag.
All she hates is the knowledge that she’s failed.


A drop at a time from the burette,
known into unknown;
waiting for the giveaway colour change,
titration on a quiet afternoon.

She wanted to be a boy.
Drip drip drip
Pink pink pink.
Princesses, ribbons; smile.
Pretty dresses, don’t get dirty,
tidiness, helpfulness,
the good wife always…

She looked a mess, climbed trees,
wrestled with her younger brother,
went topless on sunny days
in the woods, wore jeans.

Because they were fourteen.
Because they were a gang.
Because women gag for it.
Because it was easy.

She had never learned how to scream.
Dragged under a young oak
a good one to climb,
branches touching the ground,
making a green tent;
enough of them to hold her down.
A drop at a time from the burette,
known into unknown.
The whole world in a colour change,
titration on a quiet afternoon.


Smithereens explores the loss of a long male friendship, its elegies fretting restlessly backwards and forwards through time and the stages of grief. These are poems bursting with the talk that we hadn’t needed to say/for forty odd years – intimate, urgent and affecting, private gifts to the dead which speak powerfully to the living. This is a moving, unusual and beautiful collection of poems. (Anthony Dunn)

Mike Farren is from West Yorkshire. He has been writing since his teens and his poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, such as those from Smith/Doorstop and Valley Press. He has been placed and commended in several competitions, including as canto winner for Poem of the North (2018) and winner of both Saltaire Festival and Ilkley Literature Festival poetry competitions (2020). His previous pamphlets are Pierrot and his Mother (Templar) and All of the Moons (Yaffle), the latter having been set to music by Keely Hodgson. He co-hosts Rhubarb Open Mic and is part of the Yaffle publishing team.

Green card blues
Loma Prieta ‘The World Series earthquake’, 1989

These are the years when you and I
get on with defining what we are.
You’re not around: unsettled status means
you can’t come back, in case
they slam the door in your face.

I air-mail you to check that you’re OK
after the earthquake. Mostly, though, it’s silence
for me to fill with an idea of you
turning into the unknown –
becoming an American –

although in this new world, this cradle of
the future, where Silicon Valley’s rule
is being plotted, I guess that you’re still
looking back to Greece and Rome
and the memory of home.


These days are as calm, serene and infinite
as the early autumn sky reflected in
the unruffled water of the reservoir.

Almost every story I can tell her
she hasn’t heard before and almost all
their narratives point toward a happy end

and, as if there aren’t enough already,
we steal fragments of sentences we hear
from strangers in the instant they pass by

and make them meaningful by making them
ours – smooth out the tensions they express
or magnify their little happiness.

And I talk about you: the friend she hasn’t met
and won’t, for years, because you are so far
away – about the gilded summer night

we sat here, just us two, with cans of beer
and planned the legends of our future lives,
not thinking to factor in the world’s resistance

Both titles are available to purchase here: Titles – 4Word