Today we celebrate the launch of our first anthology, The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. Published by Maytree Press, the collection features forty seven poems inspired by the South Pennine landscapes, towns and people. The book features poems by Simon Armitage, Tom Weir, Hannah Stone, Jo Haslam, Gaia Holmes and many more. We’ll be celebrating the launch today with editors, David Coldwell and Mark Kelley at the Marsden Walking Festival where an array of poets featured in the collection will be joining us at Marsden Library from 6pm. Join us if you can.
You can order your copy now direct from our on-line shop – dare we say; it makes a perfect stocking filler.
At the Kitchen Table
The late spring snow
catches us off-guard,
drifts against the henhouse wall,
blots out the distant moors.
And here, in this borrowed house,
we watch, transfixed,
brave the blizzard
to throw scraps for the birds,
half-wishing it could always be like this.
Just you and I
at the kitchen table—
your crossword, my novel,
the weekend papers,
the last bottle of oak-aged red
waiting on the shelf.
Yet we know
the snow will thaw by morning,
and we’ll drive down the lane
for bread and logs,
ice-melt from the trees
pattering on the bonnet.
Then, too soon,
the workday grind will call us back
to the small house in the town,
where everything is a little less bright
and a little less kind.
As we leave,
the weather will change again,
the brilliant shine of it
making us smile,
and I’ll point out a newborn lamb,
his ears luminous, backlit by the sun,
as he watches us drive away.
This isn’t the poem
A full year went by after the walk we took
above the clouds, when we climbed through
the fog bank and emerged
into a world of golden hilltop, with
a sky of antique powder blue writing paper
over a slow ocean of white foam.
A year, when I sat down with the compressed day
and passed it from hand to hand,
turned it over and held it to the light
to see what was trapped inside,
then thought of a book I read once
and the name of an ancient landscape dressed up
as a goddess in a snowdrift coat and
a stone crown, basking in a wide cathedral sky.
By now a poem had formed, but it
dashed into the undergrowth before I could catch it
by the hind legs. Several months of tracking led me
to its glade where a pair of antlers,
calcified lightning, was shed on the ground,
and from the corner of my eye I saw a white hart
flash between the trees.
The ambush never occurred. The poem knew
I waited for her, and winter scratched at the doorway
of my hide. I mounted the antlers on my wall
to brood at, half defeated, half content
with my unwrangled poem, living wild, uncaught.
Rebecca Parker is a writer and copy-editor based in Fife, Scotland. Her work has most recently appeared in Gutter, The Cardiff Review, and The Curlew. She is a member of the publishing team for Tapsalteerie, publisher of contemporary poetry pamphlets in Scots, Gaelic, and English.
Burnt Out Car on Glenshane Pass
“That wouldn’t have been done in daylight.”
Mind you, there’s traffic here all the time
the countryside never at sleep.
Perhaps the flames were awaiting flakes
of snow to dampen its crime, turning
metalwork to eggshell, lustre to dust.
Then thieves tramping back home,
full of drunken exhilaration,
or perhaps, the morning meeting
with insurance claims, paperwork,
the value of guilt inked inside
a little white box of unknowing.
Colin Dardis was one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2016, with a collection with Eyewear, the x of y, forthcoming in 2018. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and USA. Colin also co-runs Poetry NI and is the online editor for Lagan Press. www.colindardispoet.co.uk
The pasture greyed, the rattling beck mute
behind secondary glazing, the fizz of pylons too,
in a day of scarce light. The aperture of a former
home is wide as the hours require, and
each year now we shovel our signifiers,
brushing leaves across our yards as the wind
lifts. But there is no wind. Beyond the old
neighbours’ place, twenty on foot and four in
the car, an ombré smudge of tones settles –
hawthorn, sodden, briars sagging, and mud
deep, kicked up by cows gone to the byre
for milking, or fell sheep, if there were sheep.
The power station, a blackened copse somewhere
about the edge of land, fading, its cooling
towers merged with vapours that lift, sink,
sink as the sea of Hibernia turns away, its
back brushing the pile of exhausted chimneys,
almost gone, almost deconstructed. Concrete
follies of a folly in a half-life of feeding families
now lost in their own decommission. Kids now
all grown up with kids of their own and those kids
with kids. In this the division between subject and
object. Ambiguity felt as uncommon knowledge,
as our own approximate selves, knowledge frozen
to make fear dormant, fear of nothing, foam
surfing across the pebbles, the air still and
no new windmills turning beyond our vision.
This attenuated point between fog and rain.
Beyond where the trees stood, the trees cut down
where the west is lost to water. The invisible men
who packed the market squares gone back
south for new contracts, their rented terraces at
the edge of towns vacant, earth settling from that
last ploughing, our minding of this, recurring,
seen through a blue filter and smear of vaseline
and clearing some hairs from before your eyes.
Taking photos on an old SLR as if we lived here,
still. A next horizon never really reached,
only encountered in thought again, again
MW Bewick’s first collection of poetry, Scarecrow, was published in 2017. He is the co-founder of independent publisher Dunlin Press and an organiser at Poetrywivenhoe in Essex, where he lives. Recent publication credits include London Grip, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Coast to Coast to Coast and The Interpreter’s House. @mwbewick
Earth Science News
It says on the news
small things are dying.
Insects and human sperm
are three-quarters gone.
I will plough my fears
into the earth. I will shake
kisses from an envelope
and plant them on you.
Flowers grow on your face,
bright and rampant but
they brown and shrivel.
Seed-heads swell and burst.
Oh husbandry! How the spores
rattle as they fly, six legs
like wind-chimes and wings
of rainbow cellophane!
But that cold hill I ploughed
is barren, as the Romans knew
and others have since learned.
In the brackish furrows
my fears grow wriggling tails
and burrow deep by instinct,
till questing little heads
meet the ovum at the core.
It says on the news
there’ll be a slowdown
in our planet’s rate of spin.
Next year I harvest earthquakes.
Carola Groom is a Saddleworth-based writer and social researcher. She writes novels and poems, and has some experience as a book reviewer and leader of creative writing sessions in schools.
No Rosetta Stone
Something more than routine cotton,
more than mother mooning proud over nothing.
This worm-knot in my muscle is a fist for something solid,
a proof of endeavour, a peg in a hollow.
There will be no evidence left, no artefacts, or treasure.
A vast silver cloud, an imagining of data
– ephemeral, and digital, and null.
There will be no Rosetta Stone for our daughters and sons.
We are erasing our own place in history,
deleting our existence with keystrokes and buttons.
There are so many copies of us now,
we have become plankton.
We are amoeba, self-duplicating,
a series of zeros and ones.
Mattias Thomas is a half-Swedish husband and father from Barry Island, South Wales. He studied English at Oxford University before dropping out to work for the family gardening business. He has been writing poetry for 17 years to moderate acclaim from his gran.
ACTIVELY LIKE A SPARROW, SO MANY SONGS SUNG
Sparrows sit uncomfortably in shallow nests of straw;
one nest, several sparrows. I can delineate
their lives. One sparrow, two; I count just two.
They are tiny and fragile. Making noises, so I
noticed them; I think they’re kind of cute.
Brown, huddling at the sides of the nest, they
sit abreast the threat of snow. They have
a touch of black, actually. One step, two,
the sparrows uncurl and hope to move about;
their little legs arise and form a military
march. Around the circle they go, panting
like we would, and most of all, never leaving home.
Breslin White is a poet of Irish and Japanese heritage. Breslin can be found sharing the books he likes to read on Goodreads. He has published a poetry book called Lily Thrust.