Monday 18 December 2017

Poetanoster: Call for Poems to Commemorate the Attenborough Tower Paternoster

By Corinne Fowler

The Attenborough paternoster will soon be dismantled and replaced with a modern lift. Many have fond memories of this rare and historic lift. The Centre for New Writing is calling for poems to commemorate the paternoster. The best of these will be published in a pamphlet, called Poetanoster, together with interviews with porters (in a section called 'Porternoster'). We will archive all the poems in Special Collections in David Wilson Library and hold an event with inaugural readings of the poems in the New Year.

If you would like to submit a poem for consideration, please send it to Corinne Fowler,

Friday 1 December 2017

Dystopian Workshop, Hosted by the University of Leicester Creative Writing Society

By Xenophon Kalogeropoulos

Remember, remember the ... 28th of November? Probably, because that is when we hosted our first workshop based on dystopia in collaboration with the David Wilson Library of the University of Leicester. And yes, true to the theme of dystopia, I started this article with a V for Vendetta reference.

 About two months before that important date, we were approached by the university library with a very interesting proposal. Since we are the Creative Writing society, they asked us if we would like to deliver a comprehensive workshop based on dystopia in the spirit of this year’s Read at Leicester project, which placed Naomi Alderman’s The Power - you guessed it: a dystopian novel - in every student accommodation of our university. This proposal was within the wider spectrum of getting people interested in reading, but also writing, with the first workshop’s theme being that of dystopia. We couldn’t have agreed more and so we began planning from the beginning of October. 

On the 28th November it was our brave secretary who took it upon himself to lead the session (yes, the same secretary who is writing this article and is definitely not biased in the descriptions of himself!). Attendance was good with many people attending who were not necessarily part of our society. 

We began from the ground up, starting with the basics of constructing a dystopian world, identifying what went wrong in that world, how did it affect the people in it, what its rules and antagonists are and finally, our main character(s). We tried to make the workshop as interesting and interactive as possible by asking our audience what their definitions of a dystopia were and what examples of dystopia in novels, film, games and popular culture they could find. They were amazing and identified many of the popular dystopian stories (1984, A Brave New World, Hunger Games, etc.) but they missed Children of Men. How can one miss Children of Men? As I mentioned when presenting, “CoM is a textbook dystopian story”:it contains all the elements of a dystopia as if the scriptwriters were checking them off a list. In fact, a lot of the workshop was built around following Children of Men’s structure and ways of going about delivering the cinematic experience of a dystopia.

All throughout the workshop we tried to encourage moving away from the established notions of what a dystopia is like, into more original territory (for example, we advised them to try and create a dystopian world that isn’t dark, completely industrialized and polluted, but rather sunny and green, for a change). Towards the end of the workshop we had a whole slide dedicated to dystopian clichés and avoiding them (e.g.: the antagonist is always a plutocratic, autocratic Big-Brother government of some kind), and that was when the audience roared up and intimidated me when I tried to criticize the Hunger Games! A dedicated fanbase indeed …!

Finally, we all took part in a writing task which would have each group (the audience was seated in specific tables-groups) try to create their own dystopian world based on what they had learned throughout the presentation. Each table presented us with amazing dystopian worlds like one where men were the minority after a major war and they were revered as god-like beings by women who were the majority and had replaced them in almost every way… Happy stuff...! 

After all was said and done, we shared with our audience a small literary competition we are hosting as a society which called for the submission of 3000-word dystopian short stories by the 5th of December, with the prize of a possible chance for publication and (what everybody likes) a £10.00 Amazon voucher.

All in all, it was a very interesting and enlightening experience for all involved and, we believe, everyone left equipped with all the necessary knowledge of how things could go wrong at any given moment ... Now, we’re waiting for the submissions for our competition to see how our creative audience chooses to employ all they learned with us at the workshop. 

For further details about the competition, including the rules, please email the society:

About the writer

My name is Xenophon and I am from Hellas (Greece), on my second year of study here at the university. I am quite interested in history and writing and I like to see myself as an aspiring writer. Presently, I am serving as Secretary in the Creative Writing Society of the university, regularly leading creative writing workshops on a range of themes and literary genres. 

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Writing Lives Together

By Jonathan Taylor

At last night's Leicester Shindig Open-mic Poetry Evening, the Centre for New Writing launched its new pamphlet, Writing Lives Together, an anthology of original poetry and prose inspired by nineteenth-century life writing.

This pamphlet grows out of a project called ‘Writing Lives Together: Romantic and Victorian Biography,’ run by Dr. Felicity James and Dr. Julian North, who also hosted a major conference and edited a special issue of the journal Life Writing (June 2017). As part of this wider project, contemporary writers were commissioned to produce their own, creative responses to the research into nineteenth-century life writing. This pamphlet is the result. It features poetry and prose by Jo Dixon, Richard Byrt, Gregory Leadbetter, Alyson Morris, Anna Larner, Aysar Ghassan, Jonathan Taylor and Seán Body.

You can read more details about the pamphlet, which is free to order, as well as the Centre for New Writing's other publications here.

The Shindig launch last night included an introduction by Julian North and readings by some of the writers in the pamphlet. The evening also included wonderful readings by featured poets Julia Bird and Simon Turner, as well as lots of great open-mic poets. 

Here is one of the poems from the Writing Lives Together pamphlet, called "On Reflection," by Anna Larner:

On Reflection

If we were to meet again, I would say
sorry today, for then, when mad with love,
deranged with passion, all reason astray,
I cried “I love you!” Three words – not enough.

So I left flowers to wilt at your door,
composed mixed tapes, wrote odes, baked cakes, your name
on my lips, in my brain. “Be mine” I implored,
as I failed exams, missed deadlines, endured pain.

I lost sleep, got sick, felt weak, refused to 
see sense – still convinced that you could be mine.
And through it all, silent, wise and kind, you
knew the one answer for me would be time.

You were so gentle with your rejection.
Yes, I can see that now, on reflection.

"On Reflection" was inspired by Coleridge’s poem "To Asra" (1803) which speaks in passionate terms of overflowing, limitless love. The hyperbole of language and the exaggerated feeling expressed by Coleridge evoked a memory for me of experiencing that same consuming passion when I fell in love at university. I have used the rhythm of the iambic pentameter and the rhyme of the fourteen line structure of the English, Shakespearian sonnet employed by Coleridge.

- Anna Larner

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Sci-fi Shorts Competition

By Jonathan Taylor

Over the last few months, the Centre for New Writing, Literary Leicester Festival and the National Space Centre have together been running a Creative Writing competition called "Sci-Fi Shorts." Entrants were invited to write science-fiction short stories on a space theme. There were two categories, one for writers 15 and under, one for writers 16+. 

The winners have now been announced, and the awards ceremony took place at the Space Centre as part of Literary Leicester Festival on Saturday, along with talks by eminent science-fiction authors Philip Reeve and Alastair Reynolds

The judging panel included representatives from the National Space Centre and the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester. I was one of them. The competition was hugely enjoyable to judge, and there were many strong entries to choose from - despite the difficulty of the challenge. As someone whose first published stories were science fiction, I often think science fiction is one of the hardest of all genres to write in. You have to juggle so many different elements in a successful science fiction story: stylish writing, characterisation, convincing scientific details, so-called "world building," and the demands of narrative - of telling a good story.  I moved away from writing science fiction many years ago - though I've always thought I might eventually return to it, and I still read widely in the form - to write in a more "realist" (or magical-realist) vein. I can't help feeling that realism is easier in some ways: you don't have to manage the science in the same way, and your world is ready-built for you. To manage these things whilst telling a good and emotional story is the great challenge of science fiction; and the winning entries for this competition did so brilliantly, almost effortlessly, in ways I very much admire.

You can read the prize-winning entries via the links below:

Age 16+:
Winner: 'In Gagarin’s Time' by Laura Ward
Runner-up: 'Bunker Mentality' by Paul Starkey 

Age 15 and below:
Winner: 'In Armstrong’s Footsteps' by Ashley Tan Mei-Lynn 
Runner-up: 'Lost In Space' by Giles Carey

Honourable Mentions:
‘What is it, Leavine?’ by Adair Cole 

‘Space Debris’ by Andrew Doubt 

Some of the winners with Philip Reeve at the Space Centre

Saturday 11 November 2017

Ambrose Musiyiwa

Ambrose Musiyiwa is the author of the poetry pamphlet, The Gospel According to Bobba. He co-edited Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016), an anthology that explores the story of Leicester through poetry. His poems have been featured in poetry anthologies that include Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015), Do Something (Factor Fiction, 2016), and Write to be Counted (The Book Mill, 2017).

Featured below are two creative pieces by Ambrose.

Job Centre

viewed from Lee Street,
the Job Centre 
is a place of scars,
broken things

and exits to nowhere

Batman is a joker

You take a friend to the train station and then walk home on your own. You have a backpack. In it are cameras, batteries and a laptop. The night smells of autumn spreading a duvet. The backpack is heavy.

You get home, put the kettle on, make a cup of coffee, sit down, and your phone rings. Your mom wants to know if you are OK.

You say you are alive and well and really, really happy. And you tell her about the wonderful people who have been in and out of various parts of your day.

She says she is happy you are happy. Even over the phone, you can hear the relief in her voice.

You ask her if she is OK. She says she is fine.

You ask her what's wrong.

She is silent.

Then she sighs.

She has woken up from a dream in which Batman is a joker and joker Batman is a woman on a bicycle with a balaclava she wears like a beenie hat. Her cycling gear is a bullet-proof bomb-proof get up that makes her look like a Missy Elliot impersonator.

I give you to the city, mother says. In the same way you gave yourself to the city, I give you to the city.

The line breaks. You try to call her back many times. You cannot get through. You stop trying because the line is like that. Sometimes it is there. And sometimes it is not there. The line has a will of its own.

You are tired.

Monday 9 October 2017

"Ruhi": Short Story by Amirah Mohiddin

Congratulations to MA Creative Writing student Amirah Mohiddin, whose story "Ruhi" has just been published by Litro Magazine. You can read it here. 

Wednesday 20 September 2017

"The Looter": A Short Story by Aiysha Khan

Aiysha Khan is a MA Creative Writing student at the University of Leicester. She is enjoys writing horror stories and psychological thrillers which have unconventional twists, and that reveal parts of human nature and intense emotions not experienced in every day life. She is currently working on a short story collection and collaborating with an illustrator, to creative a graphic novel. The following story forms part of her Creative Writing Dissertation.

The Looter

He walked into the forest at the crack of dawn as the early morning light crested over Mount Fuji. He was going to score big today, he just knew it. September had the highest yield of any month; he’d definitely find a few mobile phones and iPods, hopefully some expensive jewellery and maybe he could steal an abandoned car. His hands started to twitch at the thought of treasure lying a few steps away, ripe for the taking. 

Before he took off down the path, he gave a quick look to his left and right. The last thing he needed was a police patrol coming his way. They might think he wanted to kill himself. 

‘No Keiji-san, I’ve just come to loot the bodies …’ Yeah, that would go down well.

With this in mind, he crept down the path and passed a bunch of wooden signs along the way. 


caught his eye as he passed a sign and he shook his head at how feeble these words were. A precious gift from your parents. ‘No. Your life is your own,’ he thought. Not that he particularly cared, he was here for one thing and one thing only. Money. 

He had walked for about an hour before he decided it was time to venture off the path. When he thought he had found a good spot, he opened up his satchel bag and took out a roll of neon pink tape. He wrapped it around the nearest tree multiple times, to make sure it was secure. With a final tug, he set off from the path and meandered his way across roots and lava rock. The forest was silent. All that could be heard was the crunching of twigs underneath his booted soles. He nearly fell a couple of times and cursed out loud, kicking loose rocks and roots that threatened to topple him. He carried on like this for some time, unwinding the pink tape behind him, before he saw something through the trees that caught his eye. A yellow tent. He hurried over towards it but as he got nearer, he crouched down and watched for any movement. The last thing he needed was for someone to actually be in the fucking tent. 

He crawled through the trees, around the tent until he came to the entrance. It was empty. He got up and went to investigate. He found old men’s clothes, papers and a book. He picked up the book and turned it over. Kuroi Jukai by Seichō Matsumoto. 

‘Of course, it fucking is,’ he whispered as he tossed the book to the ground. If there was one thing he was definitely going to find on his little raids, it was always Kuroi Jukai and Kanzen Jisatsu Manyuaru by Wataru Tsurumi. 

‘If these guys knew how literally people took their words about this place, would they regret writing their books?’ he wondered, before he concluded, ‘Probably not. They’ve made a shit ton of money.’

He left the tent and, to his right, he saw a yellow line of fresh tape leading further into the forest. Maybe the tent guy was up ahead? He decided to follow it. He left the pink tape, which had practically run out, for the yellow one, ducking under branches until he came to a stop. Hanging from a tree in front of him was a body. He could see a glint of metal on its wrist. He hurried over and saw it was a watch. It wasn’t anything fancy but it would get a few thousand yen if he flipped it to the right person. He went to reach for it, but he stopped as he realised the wrist was still warm. 

The Looter took a step back and looked at the body in front of him. Usually, he didn’t care. They were just corpses, rotten and deformed, no longer human. But this one had been alive not too long ago. Something on the ground caught his eye, and he noticed a brown, leather wallet. He opened it.  Inside was a few hundred yen and an I.D. 

Takahashi Itsuki

According to the I.D. the kid was sixteen years old. Sixteen years old! What could a sixteen-year-old possibly have to worry about that they needed to hang themselves in a place like this? Itsuki was spelt with the kanji 一喜 meaning ‘One and Only Happiness’. How insulting. He placed the wallet back on the ground and looked at the body once more. 

‘Well, Itsuki-kun, you’re one with this Sea of Trees now. You probably won’t be found and your body will swing here as it rots. Is this what you wanted?’ 

He shook his head as he watched the body sway. His eyes darted towards the watch and the wallet, but he thought to himself, ‘Not this time.’ 

The Looter looked around the forest once more before he set off back the way he came. This place was giving him the fucking creeps.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Short Story by Sonia Tailor

Sonia Tailor is studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She is a peace activist who enjoys writing short stories and monologues. She has organised vigils and demonstrations, and in 2007, she travelled to Jordan to make a documentary about Iraqi refugee children. For many years, Sonia was the Youth Page editor for Peace News (newspaper) and she currently runs a book blog on Instagram: @soniareads. 

Below is a story-monologue she has written for her Dissertation. 


I’m woken by the airhostess taping my shoulder. 

‘Here’s your vegetarian meal, Mrs Abbas,’ she says. She hands me a compressed curry with a small bun.

‘Thanks,’ I reply.

‘And here’s your food, Miss Abbas,’ she says with a huge smile. She hands Aaliyah a smaller version of my food and an activity pack.

‘Thank you, Miss Aeroplane Woman,’ replies Aaliyah, who’s sitting next to me.

‘You’re very welcome,’ says the airhostess as she walks away with her trolley.

I give Aaliyah a kiss on her head and unwrap her food. She has my headphones on and is happily nodding to Bebe’s ‘No Broken Hearts’. This is one of her favourite songs. Her father, my husband, introduced it to her. Every Saturday he would play pop music on his laptop and Aaliyah would dance with him. Then the next Monday Aaliyah would always tell her class about the different songs they danced to. 

Bebe’s song was also playing in the car when my husband parked at Heathrow airport this morning. 

‘Daddy, daddy, please come to holiday with us,’ said Aaliyah. My husband turned down the radio.

He squeezed her tightly. ‘Sorry I can’t come, my cutie pie. I have very important work things to do. But I hope you have a really nice time. Love you so much,’ he gave her a loving kiss on the cheek. ‘You mean the world to me.’

He then looked at me with his deep, brown eyes.

‘Have a good time, Amina,’ he said. ‘Say salaam to your Mum and Dad from me, yeah? I’ll pick you guys up at the same spot when you get back.’ He gave me a hug and a quick peck on the lips. His touch, warm. His lips, tender. My handsome, cheating husband.

Aaliyah’s given up on the curry and is now colouring in a picture of an aeroplane from the activity pack.


‘Yes, sweetie?’

‘Can I show this picture in show and tell in school when we come back to England?’

It’s then that I tell her: ‘We’re not going back, honey. Pakistan will be our new home from now on.’

Monday 4 September 2017

Short Film about the MA in Creative Writing

The University of Leicester has made a new short film about the MA in Creative Writing, which you can see here:

It can also be viewed at this link:

Many thanks to current MA in Creative Writing student, Sonia Tailor, for talking so eloquently about the course. 

Monday 21 August 2017

Poem by Michelle McGrane

Michelle McGrane's collection The Suitable Girl is published by Pindrop Press in the United Kingdom and Modjaji Books in South Africa. She lives in Johannesburg.

Michelle writes of the following poem: "The poem was included in a beautiful anthology of poetry and art, edited by Agnes Marton, called Drifting Down the LaneFor a while I've been intrigued and enchanted by the magical work of French scientist, botanist and artist, Patrick Blanc, and his creation of green walls and vertical gardens, the new life he's created for buildings' exteriors and the positive effects these living walls have had on people's lives. I wanted to write something that I felt would be relevant to our lives in cities today all over the world: environmental devastation; the decline of wildlife in urban areas, and spiritual decline, too - the effect that being surrounded by soulless, lifeless places and a lack of greenery has on our psyches."

The Architecture of Leaves

It's a breathing tapestry, a solar shield,
a canvas of ferns, vines and epiphytes
rising six flights in a city besieged
by billboards and exhaust residues.

It's a hydroponic lung, a capillary song,
a glissando of blooms, shrubs and grasses
colonising nooks and crevices, meshed
roots threading through propagation felt.

It's a verdant beacon, an urgent semaphore,
a nitrogen enriched, drip irrigated 3-D mural.
It's sedge, old man's beard, mile-a-minute,
coral bells, mandevilla and climbing fig.

It's riotous bougainvillea, feathery acacia,
mauve wisteria, plumed buddleias and shy violas.
It's long-awned stipa, creeping jenny,
saxifrage rosettes and dusky pink sedums.

It's a wind-borne destination, a butterfly haven,
a rendezvous for starlings and sparrows
amid ovate, palmate, dark glossy trifoliate,
white-veined, heart-shaped, variegated leaves.

It's arachnid hieroglyphics, a ghost in the machine,
the ciphers concealed in spores and seeds.
It's a pulse among blue-chip glass and steel,
above footsteps, fag-ends and fast food debris.

It's a chlorophyll dream, a green hallelujah,
a living tourniquet, a shrine to Gaia,
an antidote to banks and strip-lit malls,
heat islands, car parks and concrete flyovers.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Centre for New Writing Wins Impact Award

By Corinne Fowler

The Centre for New Writing (CNW) has been awarded Best Cultural Impact for its work on literary development. The CNW was established in 2013 as a practical response to the research findings of its founders, particularly in relation to the exclusion of British Black and Asian writers. The aim was to diversify literary voices beyond the metropolitan mainstream.
The CNW subsequently raised regional writers’ professional profiles through a series of funded projects: ‘Grassroutes’ (Arts Council), ‘Sole2Soul’ (about Harborough Museum’s shoe exhibit) and ‘Affective Digital Histories' (AHRC, Our research identified creative commissions as a key support mechanism for promoting  writers outside London. Accordingly, the CNW has commissioned 74 pieces of writing since 2013. Among these are 6 major commissions for the Affective Digital Histories project, performed at The Phoenix, soon afterwards published as a book and accompanying smartphone app called Hidden Stories (2015). Two CNW commissions have won literary awards and another CNW-commissioned work is being made into a film. A further CNW commission is the subject of an article (authored by Corinne Fowler) in The Cambridge Companion to Black British Writing (2016) of which the writer SuAndi states ‘with steadfast determination, champions of the Black British voice … have stepped forward [to] recognise the value of our literature across all genres’.

A central CNW strategy has been to tap into infrastructural support for regional writers by using creative writing to enhance non-Arts research. As the managing director of the spoken word organisation Tilt observes, the Writing and Research initiative ‘makes a case for literature …This is something to be admired (and sustained).’ Some key collaborations include: ‘Women’s Writing in the Midlands’ (using creative writing to raise awareness of 18th women activists) and ‘Life Cycles’ (a commission to help the Diabetes Research Centre combat sedentary behaviour). A further CNW commission, ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ promotes the public benefits of new technologies. The CNW also commissioned a writer to produce a script for a short film, presented by Brett Matulis from Geography, to influence policy-making at the World Conservation Congress, a global environmental forum. In a 2015 survey of the region’s literary scene by The Asian Writer, anonymous respondents said of the CNW: ‘The Centre for New Writing is … leading the country and perhaps the world in its field, presenting a tremendous variety of literary events with an enormous scope and revolutionary discourse.’ Another respondent said: ‘Leicester is practically undergoing a renaissance! It has been galvanised by the Centre for New Writing ... as the centre has supported writers and the overall literary scene both page and stage’”. The free Literary Leicester Festival has been central to this strategy.

The CNW wishes to thank Leicester's literary community, and all its partners, for their consistently brilliant and constructive input.

Photos courtesy of Osborne Hollis Photography

Wednesday 19 July 2017

We All Belong, by Rosalind Adam

By Rosalind Adam

The programme for this year’s ArtBeat Leicester Festival was packed with activities. They ranged from Israeli dancing to philosophy in the pub to a Gurdwara visit with curry lunch. I ticked off the most appealing events but I knew that it would be impossible to attend them all. I was going to have to be selective. 

The festival theme was 'We All Belong' and this was the topic for this year’s ArtBeat poetry competition. I submitted two poems and fully intended to turn up to the prize-giving event but, as I said, it was a busy week. Did I mention the Lindy Hop or the Indian Folk Dancing or the Maypole Dance Workshop? It was a true test of stamina. 

Last Tuesday, with all thoughts of Artbeat behind me, I attended my regular poetry group meeting. I settled down to a morning of workshopping, only to find myself the centre of attention. The Festival organiser had chosen that morning to present me with a certificate, or to be more precise two certificates. To my embarrassment I’d scooped not only 1st but also 4th place in the 'We All Belong' poetry competition. 

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you enter a competition, make sure to give top priority to attending the prize-giving event, no matter how busy your week is. Here (below) is the poem that won first prize:

The Top Class 

Winner of the Artbeat Leicester ‘We All Belong’ Poetry Competition, 2017

It was our morning mantra: 
Linda. Here, Miss. Andrew. Here, Miss. 
Lee. He’s not here, Miss, and we knew
the Board Man would be on his way.
He’d not go round the back like us.
He’d knock on Lee’s front door 
while Lee hid because that’s what you did 
when The Board Man called.

After the register we all lined up
for assembly in the hall. 
Cross-legged by the back wall 
we flicked paper pellets and sang
about Jerusalem being builded here 
in our green and pleasant land 
which was really grey and full of soot 
from the factory down the road.

In class we sat at desks with lids,
did handwriting with pens that had spiky nibs
and pounds, shillings, pence sums on squared-paper.
We longed for Miss to say, playtime,
and give out bottles of milk from the metal crate. 
In the playground we skipped with the long rope, 
and we chose the song, jelly on the plate, 
because we were the top class. 

We stayed out for PE, for the fresh air,
and spun hoops round our waists, 
round our necks when Miss wasn’t there, 
but games on Friday was the best, 
going to the field, clambering onto the bus, 
racing for the back seat and us all singing
Ten Green Bottles and falling about laughing
because we always got the numbers wrong.

Soon we’d sit the 11 plus test 
and they’d split us up for ever.
We’d be sent to the sec mod down the road
or the big grammar school in town
where we’d be streamed and given homework,
where we’d have to read stuff by Shakespeare, 
do logarithms with a book full of numbers
but for now we were the top class.

Rosalind Adam is a writer and student on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her blog:

Monday 17 July 2017

Two Poems by Scott Freer

Scott Freer lives in Leicester, is an English Literature lecturer and is editor of The Journal for the T.S. Eliot Society (UK). Turning the Wild West of an allotment into a friable tilth is meant to improve your worldview and vocabulary. The title of the poem ‘Omniscient Certainty’ (below) is borrowed from Jonathan Taylor's book Science and Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Literature (2007), with particular reference to Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Enlightenment quest for total knowledge.  

Omniscient Certainty

Look towards the edge 
of the allotment
and find a bucket 
to carry the water
to feed a little life into the dried tubers

A tiny hole at the rusting base 
creates a trickling effect
and by the time you cross the earth
from the sunken stream
a continuous trace will lead you back

In the summer the potatoes multiply
And the guttering arches on the shed

Life seems so certain here
Surveying this cherished patch 


She goes to the allotment
Carrying the chickenshit
To fertilize the potatopatch

I, on the other hand,
Return to our bed
And my morning
Poetic arising

But where’s my chickenshit?
Only a muddy-ascending-noise
And nothing
Except the cat of course
From out of a duvet-patch

Now, I could tell you about
Our Buddhist neighbours
Whose earth onto-theology is
Plant deep 
And wait for 
The mysterious white chickens

Chickenshit, I say,
Without the magical compound
Nothing material (potato/poem)

Friday 14 July 2017

Poem by Shelley Roche-Jacques

Shelley Roche-Jacques’ poetry has appeared in magazines such as Magma, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and The Boston Review. Her pamphlet Ripening Dark was published in 2015 as part of the Eyewear 20/20 series. She teaches Creative Writing and Performance at Sheffield Hallam University, and is interested in the dramatic monologue as a way of examining social and political issues. Her debut full collection Risk the Pier is just out, from Eyewear.


In here I’m fine. It’s watercolour prints
and plants, and wisely-chosen magazines.
I’ve thought all week about the goals we set.
How I must stop and think and draw deep breaths.
You said we need to figure out what triggers
the attacks. Did you call them attacks? 
What’s triggering the rage. The incidents.

I’ve really thought on that. The one at work
the other day. For God’s sake! They’re good guys!
Collecting for charity - dressed for a laugh
in floral blouses, lipstick, sock-stuffed bras
and heels – I guess I knew one shove would do. 
I didn’t mean for him to break his leg. 
But he was asking for it dressed like that.

I still can’t quite believe they called the police.
Second time in a week. Who knew that taking
adverts down on trains was an offence?
I had to climb onto the seats to reach,
but then the plastic casing slid clean off.
I wrenched the poster down and stared at it.
Are you beach body ready? I was not.  

There’s no getting away from it.
Even at night
it’s all bunched up tight 
in a sack of dark
above my head.
Or it stretches away 
like the pier, or hospital corridor, 
through the stale bedroom air
and there’s me at the end of it
there –  tiny – 
shaking my fist silently.

But let me try to keep my focus here.
The worst of it is when I hurt my son.
A children’s party is a hellish thing.
And this one had a clown who made balloons:
a flower or tiara for the girls, 
swords for the boys. I didn’t say a word.
I simply smiled and helped set out the food.

I nearly made it past the party games.
Musical statues. Robin Thicke. Blurred Lines
There comes a time – a limit, I should say:
it’s five year olds gyrating to this song.
The music stopped -  I yanked my frozen son
and scrambled through the streamers to the door.
Through You’re a good girl. I know you want it.

Unfriending soon began – and Facebook throbbed 
into the night – She calls herself a mum.
She’s fucking nuts. It’s just a fucking song.
And worse, the snidey stuff, the faux concern.
It must be awful to be in that state
where something like a song can trigger that.
She has some issues. Let’s give her a break.

A break! Yes please!
I’m sad face, sad face. Angry face.
The trolls of Twitter 
sent me almost off the edge.
Why d’ya hate men so much @suffragette?
Look at her! Jealous!
The bitch needs shutting up.
I know where you live.
I clutched the blind,
and stared into the dark
each night for months.

I lost the fight online. Or lost the will.
I said I’d try to focus on real life.
Now that’s become as messy and as grim.
I keep returning to the Town Hall steps.
I must have played that scene a thousand times.
I knew the strip club bosses would be there
in James Bond suits and aviator shades.

The dancers, I had never seen before.
I left the meeting, having said my bit
and found them waiting cross-armed on the steps.
One blocked my way, with eyes I won’t forget:
so green and angry. What right did we have?
Did we want them to lose their fucking jobs? 
It was alright for us - the la-di-da’s.

I’m not alright. I think that’s why I snapped.
I really wish that I could take it back. 
I don’t remember everything I said. 
I’m pretty sure I mentioned self-respect
and then the men came out and shook their heads.
If I had stopped and thought and drawn deep breaths
would that have worked? What else do you suggest?