October 6th, National Poetry Day! On the Environment.

Doors open at 7pm, make yourself comfortable, maybe ask for an open mic slot, or just come to listen to contemporary poetry by local poets and some readings of others. Event expected to start readings by 7.30. See advert below for full details. There is a carpark very close to the library, free in the evenings.

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes. Selected Poems of Billy Collins

A Graph Review,      a good average of 80/100

Billy Collins

Picador, 2000 price £8.99 ppr.    Current reprint price is £10.99

Delightful poetry…… every poem fills me with delight at its smooth delivery that swiftly moves into easily visualised elements of casual surrealism, everyday honesty and an invitation just to enjoy the words, the story. Inevitably leading you to consider the world anew.

I feel I have missed out having not found this poet earlier. This book was first published, in England in 2000, as a compilation from four collections previously published in America.

Humour, surrealism, mixed in the common-day trivia of life and observation.  Obviously an American writer who writes with the cool music of jazz infiltrating obviously, and less so, through much of his poetry. Riffs and tangents flow naturally in and around his themes.

Reading each poem is infectious, encouraging you to follow the next, wherever it might lead.

I have to say that I usually tag poems I like in a collection. In this one my yellow stickers are as tightly packed  as a freshly minted book of matches. Choosing just a few to recommend will be almost random.

The collection covers the earlier books: the Apple that astonished Paris, questions about angels, the art of drowning, and picnic, lightning.  Since 2000 he has had numerous other collections published.

I think the briefest poem in this collection but still giving you plenty of room to ponder, is:

Vade Mecum

I want the scissors to be sharp

and the table to be perfectly level

when you cut me out of my life

and paste me in that book you always carry.

Others I pick out : Driving with Animals, Questions About Angels, Directions, Workshop, The First Dream, Lines Lost among Trees

Billy Collins: Born New York City in March 1941:     

A comment from  www.poets.org

‘About Collins, the poet Stephen Dunn has said, “We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn’t hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered.”

Collins served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, and as the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. His other honors and awards include the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, as well as fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1992, he was chosen by the New York Public Library to serve as “Literary Lion”. He has conducted summer poetry workshops in Ireland at University College Galway, and taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, and Lehman College, City University of New York. He lives in Somers, New York.’

poems by J Johnson Smith from ‘The Unchanging Traveller,’ by the artist Carolyn Blake, 2021

Untitled.           published as 'Platform' in 'A Sackful of Clouds' 2022

We weren't supposed to stop
You and I.
I focused out the window
keen to study each brick
and rain-slipped paving slab.
Why did the white edge remind me of Dover?
with the birds wheeling round our heads.
Or were they bats, silent to our ears?

And the bench we sat on,
damp from the autumn rain.
It's empty now, abandoned,
dropping into the bleak beach below.
How did we miss the signs that 
perfect morning?


Untitled         published as 'Intermission' in 'A Sackful of Clouds' 2022

Another station, another stop
Silence in the carriage
Broken by a cough.
Looking out the window, no trees
Just a wall and railway stuff.
No passenger getting on or off.
No rolling Gloucester hills with elm or oak
No valleys with a milking herd
Just a lonely blackbird pylon-top
With its warning call.
I don't know where it was
You'd never know we stopped at all.

(referencing the poem 'Adlestrop' by Edward Thomas.

Untitled

The devil-eyes cast their brittle,
Lead-white light
upon the ground and reveal
- nothing.
Loitering as will-o'-wisps in 
the periphery
are gentler-folk offering
calm and future-solace
- perhaps.

                                 'Graffiti! We need graffiti'
             The very walls screamed out 
in plain anger.


Untitled

Ten minutes we sat there
the red light dull against massed 
green overhanging the wall.

Commuting in early morning you
get used to the stop-over at stations
and the shifts of speed as the driver
tries to make up time between
lurching to a stop, once again.

Someone opens the door and the
crowd outside creeps forward to
slip, singly, into the space left as
those onboard shift back into
corners, shrugging themselves
between passive travelers.

Doors close.
People press closer, then seem to
exhale and expand slightly into any
remaining space.

Ten minutes we stood there,
the red light dull against massed
early-morning dreamers.


Untitled

How fast should I run from you today?
                            Will you notice that I'm gone from you today?
In the mirror
                      I saw myself this morning
                                                                 Still feel your eyes like glue

The trees run past the window now
                                                 Racing, hurrying
              Desperately getting through the day

You love me
As possession, and I know
I must escape that love of yours today

The trees are blurred
                         I watch the scenes go passed
at least the sky is blue today

Why did your loving change?
                       I leave the unprovoked pain today.


The book is currently available from the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham



3 Poems by Stuart Haden

This is the second sampler of Stuart Haden’s poems. His interest in writing poetry is newly found after a life as an architect, lecturer, photographer and self-admitted nomad. Whether he has settled physically, we shall have to wait and see. What we can see from his writing is a curious mind, asking serious questions and stating his views, sometime damning his subjects or offering answers in a unique turn of poetical phrase. His life and ideals, charging out from elements of the surreal to the blunt forces of despair and encouragement, frequently wrapped in rhyming couplets. A new poet to be mesmerised by.

The Architect's Way         first published in'Beyond the Walls' 2021 

To  create  an   outstanding
celebration, not an illustration,
more  a  compendium  of  reality,
in  colour  and  light,  as the human
eye,   with  all its detail, depth of vision
and precision,  not usually caught by most
who are far  removed  from details that matter
and  scatter  their  brains  with  opinion and blame
and  usually  have  a  very  poor name  for  those who
design  with   humanity,   community,   place  and   space
as  if  comfort,  function  and  utility  mattered  for  long-term
gain   and   remain  intact  so  that  one  could  attach  like  roots.


On My Way Home           first published in 'Sackful of Clouds' 2022

On my way home from the west in a drone,
shipshape, in fashion, in a quiet zone.
Observed and noted a dog with a bone,
snapped sheep falling off logs on a phone.
We are all nature, as trees, we moan.
Stay silent and you are a stone.
Outspoken, you'll be as St Joan
or king of the jungle and sit on your throne.
All others, as flotsam at sea, washed up foam.
What we are here for is told in this poem.
Where we come from and go is not known.
All eight billion: each is a clone.
Where we were before and after is unknown.
Like flies and flowers, in sunlight, in a dome.
All I know is that we're all alone,
like ignorant fools, busy bees in a comb.
For all true wealth is not what you own,
It's health, love, family and home, sweet home.


The Box of Chocolates.    first published in 'Sackful of Clouds' 2022

 Delve in glorious ways to suit all whims.
Relish blood in white and chocolate skins.
    Taste Agent Orange as you peel away.
  Bitter almonds: sigh 'n' I died anyway.
Savour new clear tasty gels with appetite.
  Suck the glow before you catch alight.
  Explosive fruits are tastes to die for - 
  Soft spots that touch you to your core.
Guzzle and muzzle and greed for more!
      Dissolve nutrition in attrition!
         Pick flavour for rendition!
Round off a distinguished extinction!
    Forbidden with splendid sight,
  Die in ecstasy for tastes of delight.


Copies of ‘Beyond the Walls’. and ‘Sackful of Clouds’ are available from Poetry ID, Please ask for contact details or check Poetry ID Facebook

Ox-Eye by Anne Rouse. Another Graph Review

Published 2022 by Bloodaxe Books. price £10.99 paperback

54 poems, 64 pages including acknowledgements

I have not read Anne Rouse previously, as far as I can recall, so it was refreshing to be asked to review this collection.

For me, reading this collection was like working on a set of crossword clues, many of which were ‘quick clues’ and others of the ‘cryptic’ type. When it relates to crosswords, I can puzzle over cryptic but they often don’t fit with my mindset. Usually, the fascination remains in that the words are remarkably clear but the poem’s meaning obscure to me. And so with parts of Ox-Eye. Not necessarily a bad thing, as I am always happy to experience the reading, the emotions, a poem gives me, true or false to the poet’s intentions.

That was my first thinking, after my first complete reading of Ox-Eye. Then I was immediately drawn back to the very first poem: Polaroid, a snatch of a photograph, of a poem, that quizzed the brain into an image having several likely explanations. Opportunity for you to assess what might be, rather than seeing what is.  Like hearing an aside from the poet: ‘See what I mean?’

Every poem here tells a story which unfolds, if you let it, like a bud opening to reveal its full intent. Some buds never fully open but keep their secret close. Inviting you to admire them for what you see and the emotion they offer. Such is this collection for me. a series of poems, touches of humour, snatches of dark, a patchwork of stories, with some that continue to intrigue and whose interpretation I haven’t yet figured.

Originally from the East Coast of America, now settled in East Sussex with four previously successful collections, two of which were Poetry Book Society Recommendations, this book surely has positive momentum going for it. Quite rightly, too

As usual I like to highlight some favourites, so here goes. Not in any particular order, as that can vary with time and situation. Running through the book, I find Polaroid one I keep uppermost. Tipping my hat especially to the following: Haymaking, Change, Cyclops in Cypher, Heel (maybe my second favourite), following with Obits, Found Poem for Beryl Markham. Not forgetting: Hastings, a place also in my memory.

It may be 14 years since her last published collection but her grip on the language of storytelling through poems is secure and satisfying for this reader.

Three Poems by Barbara Wheeler

The Road to Svoronata

Harsh sunlight on peaches and cream walls
the sea, indigo and turquoise, watered silk
snake skin dried and twisted on the stalks of weeds
limes in the trees and lying unfathered beneath
on the broken stones of the broken houses.

And if we live, my love,
if we outrun
filial and parental duty
we shall look to the sea
bequeath what we cannot see and take
the road to Svoronata
gather the bruised fruit to our breast
and rebuild on the rubble
the life we were meant to have
where days are long
where women laugh
and all the men dance.
Après Scrabble

We sit around the kitchen table
cradling our mugs of tea
old friends, comfy as slippers.
Our conversation streams through
'Strictly', breaking news, church gossip, ribald tales
punctuated by cackling laughter, sadness, disbelief
half-guilty glee, half innocent delight.
And I lean back in my chair
to watch and listen to the happy talk
and reflect upon support and love
and the company of women
Loose Threads

As a young girl she had been
A seamstress, nimble
with needle, thread and thimble
darning, patching and tailoring,
embroidering exquisite banners
crimson, white, azure,
framed in gold with golden tassels
to hang above the choir.

Now, gradually, the threads that bind her to us
are fraying and loosening,
the stitches bag and she is drifting away
seen and unseen
through a voile curtain.

Her lips move, voiceless,
but her hands are still.
'The Road to Svoronata' and 'Après Scrabble' were published in 'Loosened Threads' (Poetry ID)
'Loose Threads' was published in 'Bright Rail' (Poetry ID)
Barbara Wheeler was born in London and educated in Berkshire. A retired French teacher, she lives in Hitchin with her husband Derek, and black Labrador, Toby.
She aims to create word pictures capturing memorable episodes of her life and in lives of those she loves.  She is a long-time member of Poetry ID, based in Letchworth.

Launch of John Gohorry: Bold Heart, Poems from Ten Books and Essays by Divers Hands.

ISBN 978 191252478 5. Shoestring Press. £10.00 paperback

Line-up of some friends who contributed essays and read at David’s

It’s always gratifying to see a good-sized crowd at a bookshop event, and even more so when the event is an evening launch of a poetry anthology cum prose tribute to a local poet. John Gohorry (born Donald Smith) was a poet-in-residence at the estimable David’s Bookshop, where this launch was held. John was also for many years a member of Poetry ID, an inspirer and motivator of fellow poets, and the instigator of what is now a long-running poetry anthology showcasing the group’s work. I didn’t know John, as I am a very recent arrival in the Poetry ID fold, but it is clear from the sparkling and eloquent tributes paid to him by five writers and academics on the night, Stuart Henson, Glyn Purseglove, John Greening, Merry Williams, John Lane and David Van-Cauter, that he was a humane, compassionate, highly creative and charismatic person. His poetry encompassed the broadest range of subjects, from a humorous recollection of a camping trip to Shakespearian anomalies and the nature of identity. His formidable poetic dexterity wrapped these subjects in an equally diverse number of forms, including haiku, rhyming couplets and poems sprinkled with subtle end and internal rhymes. John’s sudden death was a shock to the poetry community, but his Bold Heart beats on through his work.

by David Birkett

LifeTimes by Tim Taylor

A Graph Review

isbn 978 191350824 1 published by Maytree Press in 2022

Price £7.00. paper

4DEC4E2B-48D7-45FF-B214-1EA88859BCBB_1_201_a

These short poetry books are commonly known as ‘pamphlets’ but that belies the production values of today’s publishers and printers. Despite being only 36 pages, Maytree (and others) can now publish these as fully-fledged paperbacks. Slim, yes, but with full-sized innards. In Maytree’s case they have even managed to put author and title on the spine. (A debate of ‘do or don’t’ on such narrow spines.)

The title ‘LifeTimes’ offers expectations, as does the assortment of old family photographs on the cover. Maybe a gentle ride through the ages? Nostalgia threading through each poem is what you might anticipate. You will certainly find your own feelings crowding through these poems as you recognise personal or universal situations. Each poem tracks a moment or event, accurate or not to your own memories you feel the weight of sincerity in every line.

The first poem ‘Newborn’ is succinct in its five lines yet immediately ties you into the wonder of a new person and whatever might lie ahead for them. And immediately invests you in the next 24 poems. Those following poems are of common events, uncommonly told. Reality, brief memories, future expectations, all rendered in simple, evocative language.

The fifth poem, ‘Childhood,’ begins with the lines: ‘There is an art to being a child: / to play heedless of consequence, / learn without toil, love / without possession. / Skills we gather, unaware / how fine a garment / we are weaving for ourselves.’

It skilfully melds that mixture of openness of childhood with the complexities of leaving it behind. (This poem brought to mind some poems by Jean Whitfield, d.1984)

Earlier, I suggested this was a collection of poems that perhaps spoke in the soft glow of nostalgia, but as you read on you will find them so much more. There are truths, memories, old loves recalled, life and times that even with the passage of years provoke sharp pain when the breaking of dreams and lives are re-lived. The pain of ones personal history may not be quite so hurtful but brought vivid. Any reader will emotionally acknowledge those moments of their own experience.

Highlighting some of the poems: The Giving, Meeting You Again, Opening The Box, Christmas Card Friends, is easy but to the very final poems we find insights into moments in time, poignant with the intricate variations of emotion that are realised by love, ageing, memory and loss. Touches of humour are not forbidden, like in Old School, before the finality of death appears in West Shore, offering the reassurance of the ever-present sea, the beach and footsteps of the ancients. While Light Years offers a glimpse of infinity.

This collection of 25 poems covers birth, life, and death in a variety of ways. Taut, flowing and gentle touches with harsher moments too. A lifetime of events encapsulated in memorable verse. If I ignored the alphabet I would tuck this book between Douglas Dunn and Jean Whitfield. Actually, if I only had those three books it would fit nicely. A great read and as a Graph Review has a high average of 75 to 80%

This is the second collection by Tim Taylor, the first,’Sea Without Shore’ is a full collection and was published by Maytree Press in 2019.

Poems for Spring (2022)

April: The days are getting longer and poets get a creeping enthusiasm for the coming warmth and greening of the trees and plants. Indeed, there has been colour scattered about since early in the year with the likes of snowdrops and a myriad of green spears in all shapes and sizes appearing in both sheltered woods and hedgerows. Not forgetting sheltered gardens and the lee of banks. Snowdrops are always ahead of the game here in east of East Anglia; followed by crocus and then varieties of daffodil (especially the dwarf) and jonquils. Meanwhile we look for, search for, the greening of the leaf buds and the unwinding of catkins. Slow, by measured degrees of sunlight and temperature. Trees and hedgerows have a sheen of green which become sporadic clumps of actual small leaf where sun hits more regularly between shadows.

The majority of people must have their spirits lifted as Spring softens the weather. Not forgetting the fact that it can regress to winter at the drop of a hat, or removal of a sweater, to give cold, snow, wind and rain in seemingly terminal amounts. But progress has to be made as the Spring season tilts its hat toward summer. Here are some poems that intend to catch the spirit of Spring as well as its variety of weather, in the UK, that is.

Okay, that was written with a dash of national, personal (historical) memory and poetic licence! In the reality of current ’climate change’ you might have to fast-forward events as above into one precious month. …As in April, I suspect most early bulbs will have been and gone. Daffodils will be withering. Snowdrops will have shot their petals out and flowers be long gone. Those beautiful short-lived iris flowers will likely have blazed and collapsed before you noticed them. (I hope this last sentence is an exaggeration!). So Spring, whether you classify it as 1st or 21st of March, will possibly have gone its own way by the onset of April, following the effects of climate change. Maybe its time for poets and weather-persons to move their official dates to be in tune with nature. Better still that we all start reducing our carbon pollution to enable the world to heal. And, coincidentally, not wipe out the human race!

April       by Jean Whitfield, from 'Moments' published by Bakery Press          


I saw into the eye of the month with its moist buds
not quite contained on quivering branches
and an embroidered sky beyond white mazes
of yellow-cream green-shining almost-leaves
mere prickings spinning webs with sunlight
and the wild plum tree hazy with dabs of thick leaf.


A crazy Crow clowned an April trick
balancing a leg a wing a hooded beak
on one slender single-budded branch
bending low with him and springing up
against the sheer cliff-top blue
as the carrion trampolines and grinned gleaming.


Sky is all-at-once a whipped and curling ice-cream sea
with wave-tops flashing peaking into one another
and down here grass reflects its silver in these bending blades
that goldfinches skim on the surface light
and carry its message in their joy lifting and flowing.


April's music laced with wings rejoices in its murmurings
it is all surprises at the heart of it, is a gift for us
an unfolding of the ceaseless year that is happening again.

I tasted April sharp and clear
a spring of a day bubbling out of the gill
it wet my lips filled my cold throats and flowed
like light lapping tree-tops fresh through me
and my toes shot sparks in the icy dew:
in the warming sun my skin became April.



The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue

By Geoffrey Chaucer
Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 
Of which vertú engendred is the flour; 
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth 
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne 
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 
And smale foweles maken melodye, 
That slepen al the nyght with open ye, 
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages, 
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, 
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, 

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; 
And specially, from every shires ende 
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende, 
The hooly blisful martir for to seke, 
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. 

Bifil that in that seson on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, 
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage 
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, 
At nyght were come into that hostelrye 
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye 
Of sondry folk, by áventure y-falle 
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, 
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde. 
The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 
And wel we weren esed atte beste. 
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, 
So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, 
And made forward erly for to ryse, 
To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. 

But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space, 
Er that I ferther in this tale pace, 
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun 
To telle yow al the condicioun 
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, 
And whiche they weren and of what degree, 
And eek in what array that they were inne; 
And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne. 


Springtime 2020            by J Johnson Smith

The narcissus
on head and shoulders
above the crowd of crocus-throats
stood blazing orange, strangely white
fizzing, fantasizing
waving hypnotically in its rhetorical breeze.
Below, underfoot, the flowers
everything from red to blue
and rainbow in between.

Like whims and pendulums
Orange blossom fades
petals fall away
pressed underground
lost for the season.