Poem, Poetry

January – two poems

Today we celebrate the launch of Sarah Barr’s new Maytree publication, January.

Sarah, originally from London, studied English at London University, Social Sciences at Southampton University and now lives in Dorset where she writes poetry and fiction, teaches writing, mentors writers and leads a Stanza group. Her poems have twice won the Dorset Award in the Bridport Prize. She has worked as a counsellor and as an Open University tutor of social sciences and creative writing. Sarah often writes about relationships and has particular interests in psychological, social and environmental issues.

The collection is already receiving favourable reviews and we’re delighted to share these words from award winning poet, John McCullough:

Sarah Barr writes subtle poems that probe the edges of uncertainties, the details of objects and landscapes gradually revealing her speakers’ unease. The disjunctions in the title piece evoke the sudden leaps of a mind actively thinking, the white spaces between stanzas inviting us to imagine what’s going on beneath the clipped surface of the language. Elsewhere, simple phrasing holds carefully nuanced images: the menace of cracking ice, a long-married couple surrounded by ‘masks / and stiff-limbed, velvet-dressed dolls.’ The writing carries on unfolding inside the reader long after their eyes have left the page.

John McCullough

Dartmoor Snow  

We stride out
and listen to the scrunch of boots
in the deep, dry powder.
Down the slippery path where frosted catkins
and hawthorn overhang
to the half-way metal bench
upholstered in white.
We track across the sloping field,
admire our footprints,
greet the only other human out today,
a swaddled woman with terriers
who roll, pat paws, and turn
into snow-dogs. 
We catch snowflakes on our tongues.
Neige, nieve, sneachta, eira, snaw,
a blurring of boundaries.
The sky thickens
and snow keeps falling.
Where are all the children?
Returning home, a fringe of icicles
hangs from the shed roof eaves.
We play music,
slice bread, pour wine. 


As a child, cracking frozen puddles with my heel,
I delighted in their special creak,
their mud imprinted with stars.

We’d snap off icicles
hanging from low eaves like glass stalactites,
and brandish them in chilblained fingers.

I tried reading The Snow Queen –
a sliver of glass turned to ice in someone’s heart,
and I never reached the end of the story.

Walking across the lake at Zell am Zee,
towards the frosted wedding-cake hotel,
the curlers’ shouts chiming through the air,

the soft afternoon snow blurring our footprints,
I wonder, how do they know when the ice
is about to crack?  How will we know?

January is available direct from the Maytree online shop for £7.00.


Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Hannah Stone

Cranford Cat

My cat pays visits in the afternoon,
like Cranford ladies after too much parsnip wine.
She carries confusion like a bonnet in a reticule,
the draggled hem of her tail is embroidered
with seeds and dead flower-heads.
I fear it is not courtesy that prompts her to rise
after half an hour, and seek the door,
regardless of how inclement the weather,
but some instinct, fluttering like a small bird,
and so it is, just hours
before I ask the vet for her quietus,
that I find her spread beneath the hedge
chilled by pouring rain,
her black fur peaked in startled punk clumps,
rheumy eyes wary about that invitation to stay alive.

Hannah Stone has published four solo collections, most recently the inaugural Maytree Press volume, Swn y Morloi. She convenes the poets/composers forum for the Leeds Leider festival, hosts Nowt but Verse for Leeds Library, and is poet-theologian in virtual residence for the Leeds Church Institute, writing weekly blogs exploring contemporary events through the medium of poetry. Fit to Bust, her most recent collaboration (with Pamela Scobie) is published by Runcible Spoon Press. 

Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Joe Williams

Owl & Pussycat v.62
(after Edward Lear)

The owl and the pussycat climbed a tree
(well, the owl didn’t climb, it flew).
By then, of course, they were close to divorce –
inevitable, as we knew.
The owl, being wise, saw a chance to devise
an experiment on nature’s laws.
She called out Twit-woo as she proved it untrue
that a cat always lands on its paws, its paws,
that a cat always lands on its paws.

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His latest book is ‘This is Virus’, a sequence of erasure poems made from Boris Johnson’s letter to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. His verse novella ‘An Otley Run’, was shortlisted for Best Novella at the 2019 Saboteur Awards.

Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Marion Oxley

The Escapologist
 i.m. Ken Allen, 1971-2000, Bornean Orangutan, San Diego Zoo.

 This is not a lush rainforest. The forest is gone.
 This is not Ken Allen the Wall Street trader.
 Ken Allen is gone. This is not Ken Willingham
 or Ben Allen the zoo keepers. Ken Allen is gone.
                This is not Ken Allen the orangutan.
                         The orangutan is gone.

 I watch from five thousand miles away.
 You sit in a rope hammock halfway up a metal tree.
 The picture blurs, shifts, breaks up. Colours crash,
 become grey, ashen, peel away.
                  Hunched over. The ragged flame of an arm
                              reaches from beneath the sackcloth, holds it aloft 

 like a banner. Hands, pink palmed, long fingers, artistic they told me,
 pull the cloth over a head, wrap it across a face half-hidden. I glimpse
 deep-set eyes. The camera without warning zooms in. I’m told
 I can capture you, send a postcard image, home.
                  A silent click or so I think. Is there a noise, a light?
                              You turn, look at me, seem to sigh. Caught. I wave.

 A slight movement, a twig of an arm appears, a small hand tugs
 a thread, frayed edge. White teeth, a grin. Your hand strokes a head
 gently, I click. Four eyes blink back. I remember how he use to listen,
 for two years how he listened. Then that last time.
                  How he knew, when the hum was gone.
                               The electric fence turned off, when to go.

 How he watched and learnt. Knew when a keeper changed a shirt.
 Knew to undo screws at night, put them back by daylight.
 And the females brought to him, co-conspirators they became.
 Taught to use sticks as crowbars,
                  that was not part of the sexual liaison game.
                               Now daughter, granddaughter sit, watch, listen,

 never miss a trick. This time no loose rocks around to hurl
 at that irritating school girl behind the glass. No walls to climb,
 moat to cross. Adopt a keeper maybe that’s the key to our 97%
 shared DNA and animality.
                  He’ll soon learn to swing from ropes,
                               forget ringtones, TV, the remote.

Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but has lived in the Calder Valley for many years. Her poems have been published in a variety of poetry magazines and anthologies. She was recently shortlisted for the Cheltenham Festival’s ‘Wild’ Poetry Competition and the Erbacce Poetry Prize. 
Beautiful Creatures, Poem, Poetry

Rachel Burns

Wild Orchids

Orchis Laxiflora.
I think of you, as I walk the dog
at the end of day, sun setting.
The trees lit up, burnt orange.
An owl calls
Kee-wit. Kee-wit.

The yellow digger is parked
at the edge of the clearing,
surrounded by felled trees
torn from the roots.
Half the habitat cleared,
nesting birds disturbed,
wildflowers gone.

Orchis Purpurea.
I think of you.
Your love for wildflowers.
You spent your life in the dark,
mining coal seams,
on your hands and knees.

Orchis Morio.
The orchids have survived this.
How will I survive this?
As if in answer, a tawny owl soars up
from the long rye grass.
Kee-wit. Kee-wit.
Wings outstretched.

Rachel Burns is widely published in journals and anthologies. She was runner-up in the BBC Poetry Proms 2019 competition and her poem broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Her debut poetry pamphlet, ‘A Girl in a Blue Dress’ is published by Vane Women Press. https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/products/a-girl-in-a-blue-dress-by-rachel-burns

Rachel Burns @RachelLBurnsme  twitter