Dad Teaches Me to Light Matches by Holly Magill

Welephant had done too good a job on me

him and all the scare-scar horror stories.

Boy who, on November 6th, picked up – he’d thought – 
a dead firework. Boy now with no face.

Girl who stood too close to the fire in a shellsuit – 
green and purple glued her a second skin.

Birthday sparklers, gas hobs, Bunsen burners
the casual lighter-flicks of the smoker girls in school.

Me, 19 years old. Still petrified.


He stands me at the utility room worktop
in the dream cottage he’d restored with Wife No.2

the counter where she spoons the cat-food
whole other room from the show kitchen.

He squares the small oblong in my palm
its rough sides flinch my fingers.

We’ll do every one together until you can.

His hand cups mine steady
guides me to do something practical, useful.

Love – matchbox-sized – 
terrifying with each strike

proves to me I can be safe

whatever lies in years either side.

About the Author

Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, and Under The Radar, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She won first prize in the 2019 Cannon Poets ‘sonnet or Not’ competition. She co-edits Atrium – Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

I Remember the Bedroom by Cristina Discusar

i slept in every bed
the blue cover 
was my favourite
                         like the dark air
every time i woke up i was alone
                         and knew nothing
it was only my eyes that captured:
the backyard behind the block of flats
the window
the park in our neighbourhood
the health centre in the afternoon light
- as if they were polaroid snapshots
and i could not recall the cold, as if it never existed

several days ago, i sat on a bench and watched
two cranes, moving slowly as they were building a block of flats 
it looked like they would never finish 
I recorded it deep inside my mind

several days ago, i watched electric wires and trees
and didn’t blink

About the Author

Cristina Dicusar (07.08.1993) is a young, talented poet from Chisinau, The Republic of Moldova, who was already introduced to our readers in the autumn in our Translation Tuesday feature. She published her first poems in the „Clipa” magazine and in a poetry collection: „Casa Verde”/„The Green House”. Now she is writing her PhD with a thesis on contemporary Romanian poetry. She read at various literary clubs: The “Vlad Ioviță” Workshop (Chisinau, Republic of Moldova), “Tram 26” (Romania), “Mihail Ursachi” House of Culture (Romania), Bar Behind the Curtains (Czech Republic), Prague Writers’ Club (Czech Republic), Beseda Castle, Švrček Theater, (Slovakia) etc.  She is member of the “Vlad Ioviță” Creative Writing Workshop and of the “Republica” Cenacle. The featured poem is visually powerful and brings a different poetic view from a different corner of Europe. Translation by Cristina Discusar, Mircea Dan Duta and Natalie Nera.

Visual Poems by Seth Crook

                                THE VISIBLE WORLD

                                I DISCOVERED
                                                                 THE EX T


                                      THE INVISIBLE WORLD

                                       AT LAST

                                                  I FOUND

                                                             THE WAY  N



About the Author

Seth Crook is transitioning into a seal, swims daily. His poems have appeared in such places as The Rialto, Magma, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House. And in recent anthologies such as Port (Dunlin), Green Fields (Maytree), Declarations (Scotland Street). His concrete/word-visual poems have recently appeared in Streetcake, Dreich, The Projectionist’s Playground,  and a forthcoming anthology celebrating Edwin Morgan.

Father as a Young Man by Christine Fowler

Twenty-five a good age
young and strong.
Proud family man
providing for your 
wife so sweet,
your first-born son
and your smallest child
your daughter.
Then jobs are lost
economies crash
and Jarrow marchers
walk the long cold road
with hungry faces
and desperate hearts;
where only a cold welcome awaits.
And so no longer proud
picking sea coal
with it's spitting warmth.
A half penny here,
a penny there when sold.
A loaf of bread and margarine
now the fare that's set upon the table.
Both parents denying their empty bellies
as they push the bread towards the
children dear.
The little one, hot and limp,
they rush to the hospital
no half-crown for the GP.
The father visited 
and peeled one grape
she loved her daddy
and so, she ate.
Next day the telephone box visited,
his return ashen faced.
My little girl;
my little girl has gone.
As tears roll down the face
of that once handsome and proud,
young man.

About the Author:

Christine Fowler has always written a poem to process major events, but only began seriously writing and performing poetry in 2019. Starting in her sixties means she come to poetry with a lot of life experience, which is reflected in her poetry. She has had poems published in the Gentian Journal (Issues 6 & 7) an anthology, and has several poems accepted and in the process of publication. Her poems are illustrated on her website

The First Verse Set Her in Motion by Kate Garrett

She was caught by a hook in the dark 
of nightclub corridors: arms in lace
gloves, the sticky lager ledges where 
she’d rest elbows and listen as they all 
watched and mirrored poses. 

Eight years on she walks Wednesday 
nights through a demoted mining 
town, ear buds reducing the world
to this song, the sky, a clear plan forms
to get on with her life. She’s restless

under buckets of coal and locked 
back doors with thrown-away keys,
the books she never wanted to read. 
Time moves on from angry boys 
setting fire to the bottom of gardens,

enraging the faeries, digging graves
for their youth. Each of these is part 
of her – the beer stains, the coalhouse
door – but missing pieces call from new
streets, waiting to be rearranged.

About the Author

Kate Garrett’s writing is widely published – most recently or forthcoming in Dreich, Frost Zone ZineRiggwelter, and The Spectre Review. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, and her latest pamphlet, A View from the Phantasmagoria, was published in September 2020. Born and raised in rural southern Ohio, Kate moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives on the Welsh border with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat. Visit her website or Instagram @thefolklorefaery.

Exodus by Pratibha Castle

In the Confessional at school’s end
the priest’s face has the sheen 
of the girl’s Mary Quant 
nude lipstick. She 

fidgets on the hassock. 
Incense thralls her, 
a fantasy of hands 
milking themselves 

behind the grille. Words hiss. 
Tell me, my child, 
tongue-click at cracked lips, 
flicker in the priest’s groin: 
exactly what did yous do with him? 

Three times the question,
three times her reply -
a Judas crow -
I slept with him.

She rushes through the penance, 
twenty-five Hail Mary, seethes 
down the nave, parts 
a sea of sleepy motes, 
scent of lilies, 
unctuous echoes. 

Candles in the Mary chapel 
gutter, flare; Our Lady 
tails her from under 
lidded eyes. Mute. Cold stone.

The church door groans, 
clangs shut as she steps 
out into the yard, 
out of her vaunt of piety, 
out of Mother Church. 

A crow on a grave stone 
ruffles it’s wings, cackles 
applause. Breeze 
tousles her hair; 
baptism of apple 
blossom, absolution. 

About the Author

Pratibha’s prize-winning pamphlet, A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers, comes out in April 2021 with Hedgehog Press. Her work has been published in print and online with The Blue Nib, Indigo Dreams publications Sarasvati and Reach, Fly on the Wall Press, Impspired, and more. It weaves around experiences of childhood as an Irish emigre in 1950s England. Starting late, she graduated from the University of Chichester with a first-class honours degree in Creative Writing at the age of 61.

After the Class by Sarah Wallis

The life class is over 
and I am washing my brushes, 

first the Nudes, Golds and Ochres, 
then the red of Carmine runs out 

the sink, is replaced with Prussian Blue 
sustained with Manganese 

Lemon, Payne’s Gray
and now Green, the stained glass window 

effect in the white china basin, a streak 
of silky rainbow. 

The life class is lifting around me, people are 
leaving, while paint laden water spirals 

the drain. In another life we might be friends 
but this is a strain of delicate work 

and the sitter’s patience is exhausted, she wants 
to be gone like the light, not stopping to look 

at what our looking has achieved of her, 
she is still unclothed and the artists’ focus begins 

to waiver, catching a glimpse of her breasts 
in full blush, they stumble over easel and inkwell 

she raises a tired smile, like mother 
to child, and receives a scarlet chorus of farewell.

About the Author

Sarah Wallis is a poet & playwright based in Scotland. She has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and an Mphil in Playwriting from Birmingham University. Recent work has appeared in Lunate, Idle Ink, Tiny Seed, Crepe & Penn, Selcouth Station and Finished Creatures. A monologue, A Stage of One’s Own streamed by Slackline Cyberstories during lockdown, was first performed at Leeds Lit Fest 2019. A chapbook, Medusa Retold, is due from Fly on the Wall Press Dec 2020.

Poetry in Widnes by Pauline Rowe

          At the age of six I read William Blake’s The Tyger, a poem I found in a book my mother used for her night-school studies.  It was 1969, the year Lulu won the Eurovision Song Contest with Boom-Bang-a-Bang, when Patrick Troughton was Doctor Who, and Oliver Postgate’s Clangers first appeared on television. In the world, there were riots in Derry, the British Government sent the troops into Northern Ireland and Barbara Castle published her white paper In Place of Strife.  In my world I lived with my older sister, Mum, Dad, Uncle Joe and Aunty Wendy and attended a Catholic primary school that required a ten-minute walk and a twenty-minute bus ride to reach.  It was a year since my Mum’s younger brother and sister came to live with us after Grandad Attwood died in our front room.  My Dad worked at Fords and my Mum worked as a dental receptionist in the day and a part-time bingo caller at the Regal for a couple of nights a week.  She was also a student at Widnes Tech, where she was studying for her O levels at night-school.  My Mum and Dad were both marked in different ways by the experiment of Secondary Modern education.  My Dad was a good singer, a great believer in exercise and keen advocate of the radio. He was, briefly, a professional rugby player signed to Widnes, then to Liverpool City, who lost his chance of life as a sportsman because of injury.  My mother was present and absent in her reading of books.

          I was curious about the power one of her books seemed to possess.  I imagine, for I do not clearly remember, that the book opened at a frequently consulted page, but my first reading of this poem seemed to me to be an act of discovery.    I was pleased to see an eccentric spelling of tyger.  I read the poem silently inside my head:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?   …

So much begins here.  The word tyger repeated; tyger, tyger: as alliterative invocation, as defiant challenge to the command ‘twinkle, twinkle,’ as a spell, a magical call to the wild, wide world of creation.  Words on a page that I could hear somehow inside my own head as a voice, words composed centuries before, words that had travelled through time to become a new personal experience.  I did not know the meaning of every word but I understood that this poem possessed a power through its sounds, its incantatory qualities and its complexities. It struck me like a spell and I fell in love with the defiant singularity of the encounter as well as the text, those words first published in 1794 belonging to me somehow, a child growing up in a Northern industrial town, being raised by a young mother who longed to be educated. 

          The pages of Mum’s poetry book were creamy and thick like buttermilk and the poem had a small black and white woodcut print of a tiger just above it, the size of a first-class stamp.  Tyger, tyger, burning bright.  This was better than Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and had the vivid heat of Great Grandad’s coal fire about it.  In the forest of the night.  Like the thick, sharp vines and thorns around the castle in Sleeping Beauty, but the moon has moved behind a cloud. I could see the fire of the tiger’s coat moving like a torch in the dark, hot enough to set light to my Bri-Nylon nightie.   What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?  I liked the sound of these sentences.  They made me think of mum pinching the skin on my arm if I messed around in church.  Her eyes would burn at me.   In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes?  I liked this William Blake who had his name on the poem.  He was telling me that this tiny room would not be where I would stand forever.  The distant deeps – like in Captain Nemo.  Now I could see the tiger’s eyes burning green from the thorny jungle and his coat burning orange and yellow with flashes of purple. 

          I read through the rest of the poem, it rang in my head like the Angelus, my heart was beating hard – What dread hand? And what dread feet?  I knew that, in these words, a very different kind of God was living than the Father God resident in St Thomas More’s church around the corner.  I felt that my heart too had sinews that had been twisted although I didn’t imagine it was God’s hands that caused the pain.  I carried the book to my bottom bunk and placed it under my pillow.

          I took the poem to my teacher, Mrs Hobday, a cheerful, practical woman and she asked me to read it aloud to the class.  I was unafraid, articulating Blake’s words in front of thirty silent peers, even though I didn’t know what sinews looked like or what else in the world might possess ‘fearful symmetry’.  I was reciting something like a prayer with its thys, thees, thines and “he who made the Lamb,” – and in its pronouncement I was protected from the fearfulness celebrated in the poem. 

What the hammer? what the chain, 

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp, 

Dare its deadly terrors clasp! 

This was my discovery of poetry as both magic and mystery.  At six the experience I had was a profound experience through reading.  The nature of the poem, what it is, remained true in my partial understanding of it as much as in its very self.  A poem is an animation of the spirit of an idea. It becomes, in part, the person of the poet as well as the person of the reader.  It is a direct connection from the hand of the poet to the eye of the reader, from the voice of the poet to the ear of the mind.  Tyger embodies, for me, the essence of what poetry can achieve in language, rhythm, concept, vision and magic.

          Our tyger is “burning bright/in the forest of the night.” It is both a conflagration and a beacon, an illumination and a signal to darkness and danger.  It lights up the night, a night that is also a forest. The metaphor does not need to be doubted for the forest is a known place of danger and magic in a child’s imagination.  To the child I was, this was both knowing and not knowing.  When I read the poem out loud to my class it felt to me as though the very words could conjure up the tyger. I was used to hearing the incantations of mysterious language every Sunday.  There was a feeling of power in becoming the sayer of mysterious words. 

          But I did not love this poem because I wanted to conjure the tiger but because of its language and its intimacy, because I wanted to be myself and the poem helped me to be myself in a way that I did not understand except in the light of the poem.  Tyger was both proclaimed and public and personal.  No other art achieves such electricity in both its stillness of being and reception. That is something to do with its process of making within the mind, through the body (in the act of writing) and out of the experience of one person and then, in its telling, to the mind of another.  There is voice here and sensation but always through the prism of language, the inadequacy of words, a reaching for meaning, an attempt to distill and capture human experience.   In Poetry in the Making Ted Hughes describes this as follows:

Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are…Something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our bodies from moment to moment like water in a river.  Something of the spirit of the snowflake in the water of the river.  Something of the duplicity and the relativity and the merely fleeting quality of all this.  Something of the almighty importance of it and something of the utter meaningless.  And when words can manage something of this, and manage it in a moment of time, and in that moment make out of it all the vital signature of a human being – not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses, but a human being – we call it poetry.   (p.124)

It is also helpful to consider poetry and the language of poetry in contradistinction to narrative prose because poetry favours figurative and metaphorical language in its various testaments to human experience as integral to its own nature as an art.  I took the book of poems into Mrs Hobday’s class in response to her invitation for us to take in our favourite stories.  This is the first moment in my life that I recall making a conscious decision about my preference for poetry rather than prose. This is a preference for a distinct way of thinking and organising words.  In a recent lecture published in Poetry Review Anne Carson described the painter Francis Bacon as wanting “to defeat narrative wherever it seeks to arise.”  This defeat of narrative has also become part of poetry’s purpose in post-modern times. As John Berger  argues in And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos:

Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories.  All stories are about battles which end in victory or defeat.  Everything moves towards the end when the outcome will be known.  Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or the fearful.  They bring a kind of peace, not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance but by recognition and the promise that what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it has never been.  The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter to, the experience that demanded, that cried out.”    [‘Once in a Poem’.]

Tyger speaks of the terrible power of nature and the wrath of God.  In its question: “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” I was on familiar ground, used to reciting: “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” 

          In my childish reading of Blake I experienced the poem as liturgy, knowing nothing of Blake’s Songs of Innocence. Its power is in its magic, images, its metaphors, its priestliness and mysteries, its sounds and its rhymes and in it becoming my own, belonging to me personally as a gift; similarly, it has remained with me, for I know it by heart and have carried it inside me ever since.          

          I started to write my own inventions when I was in Junior school, aged seven.  I have a clear memory of writing a poem about a whale that began:

This creature lives under the sea

as fierce, as fierce can be…..

With the romantic, nature-loving instinct of a child I scribbled half lines and rhymes about animals and weather, about creatures and seasons.  My whale poem concluded with a drawing of a whale.  I learned about writing through reading and through looking and then attempted to think with a pencil in my hand.  I had three endeavours that related to writing.  The first was the idea that I would be a writer and in pursuit of that I made my own writing space in the shed that I shared with my pet rabbit.  I used an old dressing table as my desk and book-shelf. The second endeavour involved a gathering of resources, of tools I would need, including my books, writing paper, pencil and pen (I was some years away from my first typewriter).  The books I kept in the shed were my weekly library books, The Observer Book of Pondlife (perhaps my most important book) and A Puffin Quartet of Poets (which included Eleanor Farjeon, James Reeves, E.V. Rieu and Ian Serraillier), a book I consulted regularly. My third endeavour was in thinking.  I spent a lot of time thinking about and working on descriptions of observed objects, and I was particularly interested in insects and portraits of human faces.  Writing about the human face is something I associate with prose and school, rather than poetry. The insects were, for me, poetic and personal material. The face-writing was linked to creative work that a young student teacher, Miss Hays, developed with us in fourth year.  Although I cannot remember the result, I recall the thinking and struggle I encountered when trying to compose a descriptive piece about Thomas More’s face. 

          Writing is how I think and negotiate my space in the world. My first experience of writing was associated with silence and space away from everyone else, reading, discovering books and thinking. These are aspects of writing that remain central to my life. The experience of that first poem established for me the importance of reading, seeing in the mind (imagination), rhythm, magic, rhyme, sound, voice, thinking (the working out) as essential components of my own creative and writing life.

About the Author

Dr Pauline Rowe is Poet-in-Residence for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. Her publications and achievements include    The Ghost Hospital (Maytree Press, 2019) Shortlisted, best poetry pamphlet category — Saboteur Awards 2020; The Allotments (Victoria Gallery & Museum, LOOK Biennial 2019)   Sleeping in the Middle (Open Eye Gallery, 2018)  and earlier Voices of the Benares (Lapwing Publications, 2014)   Waiting For the Brown Trout God (Headland Publications, 2009). 

Flagellation by Grace Copeland-Tucker

You I’ll suffer madly;
a fool, gladly taking lashings
for time
that I never 
quite understood.

You I can’t catch;
all my words 
roll down the
hills of
your back 
like water,
instead of sticking 
with honeyed fingertips
where they should.

You I cannot match;
time hurtles around you
- a question mark
that keeps running
without a point 
to keep it in check.
Shapeless flight;

you are the moon,
slippery and bright.
The sun burns itself
into a pit; I wish
I was in it, where the
throes of its rage 
tear and flay 
at such delicate threads.

You are long gone;
in my mind’s eye,
new waves in my brain
destroy you -
divine nothing.
By morning,
gone too soon.
There is no evergreen.

About the Author:

Grace is a 25 year-old poet and freelance French translator from the UK. Her work explores the ineffable, unsayable gunk in our brains, and is focused on rhythms of sound and silence. Some of Grace’s recent poetry features in a global women’s anthology entitled BeautiFUl Ways to Say and online, with Silent Auctions and In Looking Out. Grace was longlisted for the Erbacce Poetry Prize 2020 and has forthcoming pieces in Sauer Magazine and Orange Blush Zine. She recently graduated with an MPhil in French Literature from Cambridge and is currently working on her debut collection of poetry and aphorisms. More examples of her work, and her dog Barry, can be found on Instagram (@grace_tckr).

Trauma by Stephanie Piggott

Trauma is Japanese knotweed. 

When we cut it down, it will grow back.
Some days trauma whispers softly in the breeze,
light as air. But it is always here, moving
slowly, building to a giant’s roar. 

Trauma is Japanese knotweed. 
It grows back bigger, fills us until we gasp,
shakes us into little girls,
choking in dark corners. 

About the Author

Stephanie Piggott is a preschool teacher from Co. Clare, Ireland. She recently fell in love with poetry during Lockdown and is new to writing. This will be Stephanie’s first publication.