A taste of what we missed…

…in March – Three poets from Cinnamon Press:

Heartbreak Hotel

You’re cold and tired and grubby
and struggling to know how to be
when you check into the Heartbreak lobby
to pick up the Heartbreak key.

It’s down on Lonely Street
inside a crowded quarter
your past is packed and folded neat
then handed to a porter.

The walls and carpets flash their logo,
sheets, and boxes of matches:
deeply its square tattoo
brands you with its H’s.

Straight away you are healing
when that pillow marks your head,
so where there was that feeling
there’s a corporate sign instead.

You broach the Heartbreak minibar
to chase away your distress,
peering through a glass of beer
at the Heartbreak trouser-press.

You check out but discover
it’s a chain,
you thought you’d erased your lover,
but now you’re checking in again:

the vistas diverge and climb
but you wear your brand on your sleeve,
where you can check out any time,
but you can never leave.

Ian Gregson


Heartbeat

Clutch and release, grasp, clinch and let-go
In a small part of this curving parcel of life,
Black and thorough in the frame of the machine

Needling an eye through the seamless pouring
Of love twined by two—I sing my first and my
Final song, a lyric I hear on a harp without strings.

All my nightmares have led to the dream of you;
All the lived, the viscid horrors, turn at the beauty
Of one who cannot be anything as yet, but true

As nightfall and sunrise, the light at its seam,
The bright corner where all things are enough, this choir
Of one violin, and a drum and a pea-small sound

Like the gabbling of gold from a golden halo. Half-
Moon, beloved nut—never was anything so round
As you, who walk down the leaf-strewn avenue of

The daft and singular cleverness of your mother
And I; the womb of your sturdiest ground, the bard
Quick to lose his tune, poor before the price of words.

Omar Sabbagh


Poem After Catullus

I live in luxury.
The water cooler vibrates cold.
Noodle-laced bowls

steam daily upon a table
I did not build. A bottle
of wine waits uncorked

whilst the clinic
obediently holds the line
as I consult

the colourful,
cascading blocks
of a digital calendar.

I live in luxury:
like a partially lit room
where anything could happen.

For a week I have lived
without poetry
and return to it now

with all the passion
of a lover begging
forgiveness finally.

So that one understands
not the misery of others
—none other understands—

but the luxury of the poem
inviting its way
into the daylight sun.

Where the word sunlight
matches the sunlight
upon the floor.

Where the word forgiveness
matches the forgiving
air of a partially lit room

where
any thing
could happen.

I am in the giving vein:
a choice among others,
having taken so much

from the world,
this world
I have not built.

Even the punctuation
has an impressed quality:
like moments of breathing.

And in that generosity
there has risen
a lungful of poetry.

And if we breathe,
carefully, may find
a heartful, a stomach even:

the strength of walking words
and the hips, thighs
and calves of the poem

whose kisses we have craved
not a hundred times
but a thousand more.

They may decry this poem
of poetry. They may.
Muddling the dissatisfaction

of a verse falling
from a ledge with any poem
of outward resemblance:

the surely remarkable
difference between suicide
and high climber.

But look to the last line
with its eyes staring like a tiger’s
blinking calmly in the daylight sun.

Edward Ragg


… in May… but rescheduled for a zoom reading on November 12!

The Unseen Life of Trees.

for Esther and Jess

When the fraying skeins of silver birch
sway in the wind they think of
lulling water in the floating harbour,

the dried out plants on a deck,
the bespoke barge door cut to close
on a trapezium.

A sparse beech globe of yellow
holds an afternoon with two young friends,
who will walk through their vivid lives

beyond the end of mine.
A ball of mistletoe hangs
way up in spindle branches balancing

a trowel, a ginger cake,
and a framed copy of Jessop’s 1802
‘Design for Improving the Harbour of Bristol’.

Umber banks of oak climb the hillside
dragging children by the hand.
‘There will be time,’ they whisper,

canopy to canopy.
‘There will be time, before
all our leaves stretch out across the frosted ground.’

Chrissie Gittins
The poem is from her new collection Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams), available from the publisher and Amazon.


Keshite uchi wasurenai

I’d call you and you’d answer in grunts,
huh, uh, um,

and your step-father would despair
money wasted on French exchanges

our reward back home was huh, aw, gawn.
That was when landlines carried messages

but now on visits home you speak to colleagues
from a tiny phone in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese,

And we have come to places to visit you.
We thought the door was closed on your past

but you left it ajar – on your bedroom walls
are photographs of haystacks, a farmhouse,

you in a rock pool with your brother,
the old oak that overlooks our house and

one of me with you, tiny, in my arms
taken with a polaroid and fading.

Keshite uchi wasurenai Japanese I’ll never forget home

Wendy French
To be published in ‘Bread Without Butter‘ from Rockingham Press later this year 2020.


Events

Monday 8 November at 7.30pm on Zoom

Private Memorial Event: ‘A Celebration of the Life and Work of Richard Stoker (1938-2021), British composer’

Many of you will have attended past in-words events held in cooperation with Gill Stoker. I am deeply touched that she has asked me to host a memorial event to remember and celebrate her husband Richard on what would have been his next birthday.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stoker

This event is by invitation only.
If you knew Richard, or know his music, and would like to attend, please email gillstoker@btinternet.com for further details.

Thursday 25 November at 7.30 on Zoom

WINDOWS‘ – An evening of poetry with Isabel Bermudez, Maggie Butt, David Cooke and Dino Mahoney.

Why ‘Windows’? Because for an hour or so, we will have the privilege of looking through different windows at views and images, places and atmospheres presented to us by four very different voices. But also to honour The High Window, the online poetry magazine edited by David Cooke.

This is a free event by invitation. Please email irena@in-words.co.uk to receive a zoom link nearer the time.

ISABEL BERMUDEZ is a poet and textile artist living in Orpington, Kent. Her most recent publication is Serenade (Paekakariki Press, 2020), poems evoking Spain and the New World,  with illustrations by Simon Turvey. She performs her poetry widely at readings and festivals and was recently hosted by the Colombian Embassy and the Instituto Cervantes, Manchester in conversation with Welsh poet and translator, Richard Gwyn. In a previous life she lived and worked as a producer/director in television in Sri Lanka and as a documentary filmmaker in Colombia. She has held many jobs, including grape picker in France, shop assistant and special correspondent, and for the past fifteen years has taught French and Spanish privately. More at www.isabel-bermudez.com.

MAGGIE BUTT is a journalist and BBC documentary producer, turned poet and novelist. Her sixth full collection everlove was published by The London Magazine Editions in April 2021 and her novel The Prisoner’s Wife was published around the world in 2020 by Penguin Random House under her maiden name Maggie Brookes. Her poetry appears widely in international magazines and anthologies, and has escaped the page into a mobile phone app, choreography, BBC Radio 4, readings, film-poems and festivals. She has judged a number of international poetry competitions and taught creative writing at Middlesex University for 30 years.

DAVID COOKE was born in Wokingham, although his family comes from the West of Ireland. While still an undergraduate, he won a Gregory Award and since then his poems and reviews have appeared in many journals in the UK, Ireland and beyond: Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, The Morning Star, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. He has also published eight collections, the latest of which is Sicilian Elephants (Two Rivers Press. 2021).He is the founder and editor of the online poetry journal The High Window.

KONSTANDINOS (DINO) MAHONEY is a London based poet of Greek-Irish-English heritage. He won the 2017 Poetry Society Stanza Competition with his poem, ‘Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England,’ which is included in Tutti Frutti, his debut SPM collection.  He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and has poems published in: The High Window, London GripButcher’s Dog, Perverse, Tentacular, Live Canon Anthologies, New European. He performs his poems as songs with Dino & the Diamonds, and teaches creative writing at Hong Kong University.  More info at dinomahoney.co.uk