Wednesday 19 December 2018

Two Poems by Bert Flitcroft

Bert Flitcroft grew up in Lancashire and now lives in the Midlands. A graduate of Sheffield University, he is an experienced and accomplished poet who for some time has been quietly and unassumingly spreading the poetry word as teacher, mentor, workshop leader, poet-in-residence, and reader. He has two collections of poetry published: Thought-Apples with Offa's Press and Singing Puccini at the Kitchen Sink. He is a prize-winning poet, has been published in well-established national poetry magazines and performed on several BBC local radio stations.He ran for a number of years residential poetry-writing courses working alongside poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Adrian Henry, Linda France and others. He was Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2015-2017 and curated The Staffordshire Poetry CollectionIn 2015 he was Poet in Residence at The Southwell Poetry Festival. He has performed at a number of national Festivals including the Edinburgh Book Festival, Birmingham, Stoke, Lichfield, Ilkley, Buxton, Stafford, and has performed at The Door at The Birmingham Rep, as well as the CBSO Centre and The Conservatoire in Birmingham. In 2016 he was Poet in Residence at The Shire Hall Gallery, and recently has been Resident Poet at The Wedgwood Museum and The Brampton Museum and Gallery. Bert's website is 

Waiting for Anna

This Moses basket fresh by the bed
is waiting,
like a promise, like a Truth 
about to come true.
Not for a casting off among the reeds
but for a coming 

To open a door, to enter a room,
is always to begin again.
Already the basket’s empty space,
the very air inside it, 
is sacred.
There is nothing more to say.
Silence has a voice.
Emptiness is eloquent.


Imagine the pent-up energy, 
the violence, of a single electron 
spinning madly around its nucleus, 
unable to break free.
Think millions of them, going nowhere
in the red-hot cauldron of their universe.

Until some outside force charges in
and scatters them, 
or marches them in lines 
directing them to travel North or South.
Imagine their excitement at the thought
of travelling, of having somewhere to go.

There are such moments,
when the world shifts.
Imagine Einstein pushing off his little boat
at midnight across a sea of relativity –
all those ricocheting atoms.
Or Rutherford as he fired his first alpha particles.
All those electrons suddenly weighing up
the possibilities, high-fiving, punching the air.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

"Desert Scene": An Exercise in Ekphrasis, By Colin Gardiner

By Colin Gardiner

The following poem was written in an ekphrastic experiment during my studies at the University of Leicester. I was drawn to a painting by Jane Domingos called Saguaro Blossom Night (2011) on display at the Leicester New Walk Art Gallery.

Immediately, I was struck with the stillness of the desert scene, and the suggestion of movement in the centre of the picture. As I observed the painting, I allowed my mind to drift. I began to imagine a cinematic moment. This day-dream state left me open to ideas and feelings. Associated thoughts about music and films entered my mind, which enabled me to start sketching out ideas for a poem. Further research revealed the artist’s intent to portray the "otherness of life left behind" and this further inspired my poem.

I feel that this was truly a collaborative effort, between the artist and myself. I found that my poetic response to the painting added an extra element to the two-dimensional image. I tried not to edit myself too much in my note-taking. Through this approach, I found power in the more "naïve" aspects of the rough drafts that followed. Overall, I found ekphrasis to be a creatively stimulating process.  

Desert Scene

I think they're cooking up magic, 
In the blue/black hour before dawn. 
Lights on in the bullet-shaped trailer
As a car approaches, hissing over gravel,
Tail-lights squeezing tumbleweeds
Into orange crush.

A broken spine of hills, prone behind 
Restless rolls of dessert. Helplessly 
Stalked by pin-pricked stars,
That tattoo the night’s sleeping skin.
Silver whispers of steel guitar tweak 
Aerials, slowly evaporating. 

I’m parked up by Mr Cactus, 
Stoned silent in his cotton crown, 
His incessant needles bristle at my company.
The delivery just came in.
Three shots. Puncture night-watch stasis 
Echoing across heartbroken dunes.

An aerial prolapse of popcorn stars 
Slither on butter trails and gather 
In my lap. Too hot to move and
Shake out this hidden greasy take-out 
Nest. Too hot to take a rest in 
This rattlesnake windscreen interior. 

Domingos, J. (2011). Saguaro Blossom Night. [Oil on canvas] Leicester: Leicester New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. 

About the author
Colin Gardiner is currently studying an MA in creative writing at the University of Leicester. He is originally from Birmingham and now lives in Coventry.

Monday 10 December 2018

"Geology": A Poem by Tasha Beauchesne

Tasha Beauchesne is from the United States. She is entering the final year of university and is working towards a career in the publishing industry. She says of the poem "Geology" below that "it was the product of a deceptively simple prompt in a creative writing class: write about childhood. Memories of growing up with my childhood best friend in Massachusetts formed the basis for this poem."


The rock in your front yard was a boulder, 
an asteroid,
a remnant from when dinosaurs 
(or maybe aliens)
ruled the world.

Our heads bumping the sky,
we would survey the pavement,
swinging our bruised summer-sunned legs,
imagining we sat at the edge of the earth.

The evening August sun winked behind the mountains,
sparkling on the hood of your dad’s parked car,
lighting the scuffed wheels of our Razor scooters
lying haphazardly in the grass. 

We waited for the explorers and scientists
with flimsy brushes and microscopes 
to show up and declare our rock a wonder. 

With the six o’clock news glowing purple in your living room,
your mom called us back inside.

Friday 7 December 2018

High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories

By Jonathan Taylor

A new, thematised anthology of contemporary short stories, High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories, which I've co-edited with Karen Stevens, has now been published by Valley Press - just in time, no doubt, for peak drinking season (i.e. Christmas). Below, you can read a blurb about it. It's been a hugely enjoyable project to be involved with, and the anthology includes many wonderful stories, as varied as the drinks behind a bar.

From folk songs to classical art songs, from Purcell to Schubert to Verdi to Mahler to Orff, there is a long and well-known tradition of “Drinking Songs.” The same goes for “Drinking Poems.” This anthology taps into another, less-well-known, yet equally powerful, tradition: that of the “Drinking Story.” 

Drinking stories are told by drunks, or about drunks; they are told in pubs, or set in pubs. They are stories where people drink, and stories which somehow induce a sense of drunkenness in readers and listeners. Drunkenness is itself often a story, with a beginning (first drink), a middle (intoxication), and an end (falling over, injury, emotional epiphany, sex, passing out, hangover, or death). Anton Chekhov may or may not have drunkenly compared the experience of reading a short story to downing a shot of vodka, and F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed that a good short story could “be written on a bottle.” Here is a collection of contemporary short stories written on and about bottles – stories about the comedies, tragedies, pleasures, pains and horrors of alcohol – all of which can be downed like (and perhaps with) a glass of vodka.

Edited with an introduction by Karen Stevens and Jonathan Taylor, contributors include some of the best short story writers in the UK today: Judith Allnatt, Jenn Ashworth, Desmond Barry, Laurie Cusack, Louis de Bernières, Jane Feaver, Cathy Galvin, Alison Moore, Kate North, Bethan Roberts, Jane Roberts, Hannah Stevens, Michael Stewart, David Swann, Melanie Whipman and Sue Wilsea.

You can read more details about High Spirits on the publisher's website here.