Today, in a slight change to our normal schedule, we celebrate Johanna Boal’s latest poetry pamphlet from Maytree Press.
There is so much to love about Johanna’s second collection of poems that it’s difficult to summarise in just a brief paragraph. Beneath joyful language were everyday objects mix seamlessly with images of the natural world personified there is a deep sense of nostalgia and understated sorrow from a writer at one with the order of life.
Available now direct from Maytree Shop
Gran lived in a terraced house
with a ten-foot garden but no grass.
The doghouse was hidden out of sight
behind the tin bin and the outhouse.
It was always the white line that got me —
the cleanest clothes line stretched across the garden
that looked like Gran had bought a new one with every fancy.
But she longed for blue or yellow —
the ones at Woolworths with matching plastic pegs
instead of the wooden ones that split apart
until she pushed the spring back in
with just the tip of her thumb.
She would wince but never moan.
Gran lived near the canal with the stink
of the brewery filling the air. The pegs
hung like pieces of driftwood on the line.
Gran never travelled far.
how alluring and mouth-watering.
Face perfect – blood-red full lips, black oval eyes
set out on the pale skin air – sedimentary rocks
thinned out from the sun like sun-kissed freckles.
Loose shale a harsh brow when I slipped, jumping,
shadows fashioned like mascara smudged Snowdon.
The jagged hair mixed with round feminine features
on your ridges. Wind blowing, frost biting, sun glaring.
Me, squinting at the rocks dropping away, death and beauty
edging the floor of the valley. Look – a reflection,
my face on the mountain in the fast-flowing river.
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.
Leaving 68 Tangier Road
Our house empties out into the removal van.
We watch it drive off, sleep on bare floorboards
in blue nylon sleeping bags borrowed from next door,
our voices echoing off the walls.
The next day we board the Flying Scotsman in clouds
of noisy steam, head North – change at Darlington, admire
Stephenson’s Rocket. Then a train to Thornaby. 7 Baffin Court
is finished, one of the first on the estate slowly going up
on an aerodrome abandoned after the war.
The sofa won’t go through the front door. A sofa in the garden!
I take a photo of Caroline sitting on it, in black and white.
Mum puts an ad in the paper. She digs the garden, yard by yard –
clods of clay one foot square – hoes and rakes in wellingtons,
plants grass seed, turns a white sink into a pond.
I hang over the fence, say Hello to Lynne next door. She’s only three,
says, If you don’t stop talking posh I’ll smash yer face in.
I miss my best friends, Nellie and Lesley, Ian and Gregory, the city –
receive a big brown envelope filled with letters from my class,
read how life is going on without me, see the rubbings out,
sharpen my pencil, write back.
I am nine years old, my youngest brother not yet born.
I make my plans to take my bike and run away,
catch the train down South, sleep on East Sheen Common
through the summer.
The only thing stopping me is the knowledge that
I can’t get on the train without a ticket.
Janet Hatherley lives in London and is a special needs teacher. Her poems have been published in several magazines, including Artemis, Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework and South Bank Poetry. She won third prize in the Barnet poetry competition, 2015 and was commended in Cannon Poets Sonnet or Not, 2017. She has work forthcoming in The Curlew and in Under the Radar.
Falling through the pavilion
I knew something was wrong.
Floor boards, splintered by cricket boots,
hadn’t lasted the grounds man’s advice.
Caught between knee and thigh
armoured like a soft white knight in a jumper.
Pads acted like barbs and I was stuck and dangling.
On the pitch the flannelled enemy awaited.
The sacred scorebook of
one for each over
plotted our fate, recorded the Summer.
Shouts of “Bowler’s Name?”
interrupted the lazy, anonymous afternoons.
Corvedale’s famous cakes
their saccharined weapon.
We went out to field
The pitch looked like a long way down to bend.
The bruises lasted until Autumn.
Steve Harrison born in Yorkshire and now lives in Shropshire. His work appears in both Emergency Poet collections, Wenlock Festival, The Physic Garden, Pop Shot, Mid-Winter Solstice, The Curlew, Poets’ Republic, Riggwelter and Wetherspoons News. He regularly performs across the Midlands and won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Slam in 2014.
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.