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

Poem, Poetry

Mark Totterdell – 3 poems

The Choughs On The Cliff

A cry like a ‘ciao’.
For less than a minute,
we watch birds who wear
the black of a widow.

One goes into air,
one stays on pale granite.
One’s feather and bone,
the other’s all shadow.


The blackbird
who chink-chink-chinks in alarm
each time the sky falls,
as if night were
a great black cat
with keen moon eye,

is the same blackbird
who hauls up the sun
from under the horizon
with his pure gold chains
and sets each day in motion.


There’s been an event, here on the forest track.
A mass of stuff has dropped. Already a force
of small beings has fuzzed its domed surfaces,
while others dance, particles round a nucleus.

Here comes the dirt-borer, the true old dumbledor,
the lousy watchman, crawling like clockwork
on carbon fibre legs. Its back is a grooved shield,
its sheen a rainbow of indigo and black.

It comes in at an angle, then it hits
but doesn’t stop; asteroid striking planet,
slow bullet through flesh. It plunges its dark self
deeper and deeper into soft succulent shit.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018)

Poem, Poetry

Adam Chiles

Sunday’s at my Grandmother’s House

By 4 it was already dark. The remains of the roast
put away. I’d wander the house then,
studying her walls, the faded brass of stirrups,
horseshoes, yellowed portraits of the dead.

Each visit, she’d lament the state of things,
the corner store open now on Sundays.
From her window, frown at the young women
in their Bombay silks walking home down

Westfield Road. That was 1975. The foundries
long closed. Their chimneys blackened against
Bradford’s millstone walls. My Grandmother
observed her late sabbaths, alone. The nearby Calder

running its metal through her veins. Her cadence,
hardening. Her face, the silhouette of another world.

Adam Chile’s first collection of poems, ‘Evening Land’ (Cinnamon Press) was nominated for the 2009 Gerald Lampert Memorial award for best debut collection in Canada. His second collection Bluff has been accepted by Measure Press and will be published in Summer 2021. Adam’s work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar) and has appeared in numerous journals including Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Magma, Permafrost, RHINO, The Threepenny Review and Thrush Poetry Review.

Adam grew up on the east coast of Yorkshire and now lives in Virginia, USA. He is professor of English and Creative Writing at Northern Virginia Community College and serves on the editorial board at Poet Lore.

Friday Feature, Jazz

Blue in Green – Joe Bidder

Our featured publication this week shines the spotlight on a brand new publisher doing some extraordinary work in the poetry world.

Dizzy Press is a new independent literary publisher dedicated to producing high quality books of poetry by disabled poets. Their first publication, and our Friday Feature, Blue in Green was made possible thanks to funding from Arts Council England’s National Lottery funded Project Grant scheme. Dizzy Press aims to publish 10 books in the next 10 years, bringing a range of voices from the UK to poetry audiences globally.


Inside the barber shop
I pose before the mirror,
then stop –
as the age
flashes to my face.
He cuts away
at the loose ends
as I cut away
from the past.
The face reflects the fear
in the polished glass,
my feet want to flee
but lead pounds in veins
where blood used to be.
So, I sit seemingly patient
whilst my face is transformed
from a hairy throwback Aztec
to a slickly groomed Casual.
It should be easy
to adopt this tame new role,
sink back inside
the well-worn groove,
rest on my record.
As grey speckled hairs
fall thick to the floor
I fear the head-hunter
will search once more,
the balding patch
does not please at all;
when the cutting is finished
he shows the back of my neck –
so clean and neat
that I panic,
reach for my cash,
nearly over-tipping
in haste
to escape
the reflection
of my face.

The Tool of My Trade

The tool of my trade
is not a club or a whip
not a bucket or spade
or word from my lip,
the tool of my trade
is a pen.
It’s not the pen of the teacher
though he tries very hard,
not the end of the money man
counting jeans in Taiwan:
not my pen.
My pen is poised to strike
though I’m a peaceful man;
my pen probes originality
but my origins aren’t unique.
The tool of my trade
is not a pick or an axe
not a mechanical aid
or tune from a sax,
the tool of my trade
is a pen.
It’s not the pen of the clerk
scuffling at computer’s foot,
not the pen of the psychiatrist
scribbling prescriptions:
not my pen.
My pen awakes when I least expect,
makes me glide on my dreams
to challenge my mind:
my pen is my implement.
Now, I must confess:
the tool of my trade
is not my pen,
though I thought
I was in control
the pen is the master of my soul
for I am the tool of the trade
of my pen.

About the author: 

Joe Bidder is a poet, published author and founding member of Survivors’ Poetry. He is the author of Blue in Green. He is also a writer, critic and publisher. Joe served as chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Arts and Disability Advisory Panel and was a member of Arts Council England’s Literature Panel. Joe was born in 1941. In his life, Joe worked as a chemical engineer. He graduated from Imperial College in 1962. He travelled and worked around the world, selling oil refineries and power stations as a successful businessman. At age 33, he started writing poetry seriously.

In 1991, Joe co-founded Survivors’ Poetry along with Peter Campbell, Frank Bangay, and Hilary Porter. Survivors’ Poetry nights hosted diverse line-ups of music, poetry and comedy, attracting audiences and fans from across the UK. Acts included comedians Harry Enfield, Paul Merton, Molly Brown and Julian Clary; poets Patience Agbabi and Jean Binta Breeze; and other then up and coming names. What started as a self-help group, Survivors’ Poetry soon became a charity and evolved into a UK and global movement, inspiring chapters in Manchester, Leeds and throughout the UK.

As a publisher, Joe Bidder set up Survivor’s Press and published two poetry anthologies.

Blue in Green is available now with a launch event planned for the 22 April – you can find out more here: BLUE IN GREEN by Joe Bidder | Dizzy Press

Poem, Poetry

D. S. Maolalai

Dublin. Covid. Late afternoon.

the shops
all boarded up
with old plywood
and posters.

gone walking
and the faces
of shut shops. dublin
with an all-over
rustiness. carlight
on fox-fur
in a ditch
by the road. the sun-

set on flowers.
the collapse
of a lifetime. the world
all a detail
of fading
cracked bricks.

DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Twitter: @diarmo1990