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.
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.
Inspired by the photographs of Dutch photographer Niki Feijen
An Unfinished Story
What dreams died here beyond this threshold
where nature is carried by circumstance?
A full moon lights the skillet on the stove,
its crusted pancake of droppings,
waiting to be tossed.
The moon tells us they left without coats.
They hang in the cupboard like tattered bats,
an intrigue for spiders, a safe house for mice,
empty shells for silver fish.
Mildew soils the children’s clothes,
runs amok in their vests and socks,
grows out of their shoes, foxes
their games and books.
In the bedroom the moon is a nightlight
for the mind’s incredulous eye.
Moss pads soft over rugs,
creeps onto the unmade beds,
smothers the absence with a velvet pillow.
Ivy clings to the bars of the cot.
Nature squats in this dereliction, possessed
with the spirit of a wild child, it’s her haunt now.
At home with ruin, desertion, mystery,
she scrawls over the unfinished story,
writing her own gripping chapters,
a ghost writer filling the gaps in the plot.
Stella Wulf’s poems are widely published both in print and online, and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, and forth coming in #MeToo. She Lives in S W France and has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University.
Lovesong of a Wily Old Pike
Pike from the tips of my grinning lips
to the ends of my tail, children running riot
over the open fields, drunks lurching home
from the Fisherman’s Arms talk about me with awe.
They say I am mostly scar. The way they talk you’d think
grown men had been dragged to their deaths over the ditch
across the lane into my dark, bright, stinging water
singing with blowflies and midges and water boatmen.
But no one bothers me. Never has.
I loom in the gloom and make the best of it,
threshing up silt into clouds around me
and settling in with the stillness.
Why do they call me wily if I have never
bitten off more than I could chew?
If me and the silt are one and the same?
I tell you I’m a cunning old devil
for picking a pond in a field near a lane
next to a road leading to a village where everyone
leaves everything around them alone.
People who know the land is bigger than they are,
water deeper, stone colder, people who know
that pikes have their place. I’m a wily old pike it’s true.
Ian Harker was a winner of Templar Poetry’s Book and Pamphlet competition in 2017, and his pamphlet The End of the Sky was followed by his fist full collection Rules of Survival. His work has appeared in a variety of competitions and magazines, and he’s co-founder of Strix.
Waiting at Manchester Piccadilly
Platform 3 under Arrivals: the digital board
slides down a blazing candle-wick of all
the stations on the Trans-Pennine line:
Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury, Huddersfield.
A grandchild cranes to see Nana through
tall legs, orbited by a crowd; a couple greet
for a first time; a group of lads go for beer
and curry and always, there is later.
Prosecco-fired hens from Stoke blow
into an inflatable man-doll; Nana appears
at the gate, her metal of news bent
Ken Evans – Ken won Battered Moons and was runner-up in Poets & Players in 2016.
‘The Opposite of Defeat’ (Eyewear) featured work shortlisted in Bare Fiction’s pamphlet competition. A collection is due this summer. His poems feature in Envoi, Under the Radar, Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework, and Interpreter’s House.