This week we are celebrating some of the wonderful poets and poetry to have come out of Pen to Print’s Advanced Poetry Workshop led by Anna Robinson. This is a free course for people who have been writing poetry for a while and are ready for a deeper journey. Find out more on the Pen to Print Events page.
London inhales us with its mercantile ways. It’s
arteries of commerce run with our blood while we
labour away our day. Our days add up to our lives
that are held hostage to capital. The subterranean
woosh of warm linted air ruffles our hair as the rail
vibrates. Exhaled from the station to the slippery
smell of burgers. We step into flaming rain forests
dripping oil from greased palms. Walk past an opera
of costermongers defying Asda. Our salad days grow
limp as bow legged staffies trot by nimble as Crufts.
Indoors, photo albums, innocent of this digital age
are waiting patiently, ready to hold tight once more
the happy of our lives.
Tying in the tendrils of my grape vine I wonder who,
if anyone, will watch its summer passage. When my
eyes feel the weight of coins who will notice the olives
ripen at the winter solstice
(c) Ann Dineen, 2021
Thanks to the creator of the universe
Artistic talents in abundance
Flowing like a river cascading towards the open ocean
We write, we draw, we paint images
Songs flow from musical voices, just like lyrical angels
As pure as silk, storytellers crafting tales of mythology and magic
Adventures of Anancy the Spider, cunningly outwitting Tiger
Poets spontaneous, prose and verses flow
Thoughts to provoke a hidden meaning
To love, to seek or seek to love
(c) Barbara Campbell, 2021
I can’t recall our first kiss
but I remember our last.
You tasted of coffee and toothpaste.
I murmured goodbye
still naked, bleary eyed.
You let yourself out and drove back
to your work
I fell asleep and didn’t dream
(c) KJ Quinn, 2021
December never felt so wrong—
The hazy sky is a grey shade of dark.
Winter winds litter London.
All the times I tried
to hold moments as they passed.
I pluck them now like flowers.
Will memories composed
in this chilling winter dwindle?
Once I loved the light of winter
and its sparkle.
I watched the reckless season make its way.
I rambled home, warm-wrapped, content.
December drags in silent fog.
I’m far away, out of body.
Howling winds blow
lonesome sounds like hounds
baying, hunting, predatory.
And where is he?
My mind’s eye mists over.
Windblown snowflakes flutter
caught in the streetlights gleam.
If it settles, crisp and pristine,
it will turn to dirty slush.
Nothing lasts forever.
Darkness will fade,
seasons will change,
spring will come swapping snow
for trees trimmed with budding leaves.
His flame will go on glowing.
(c) Patsy Middleton, 2021
I come from a yearning, a loss that scarred and tore hearts asunder,
a night of unbridled passion,
throwing caution to the wind,
which was never meant to create me.
I come from spiritual searching,
existential questioning and quandaries of why? who? what for?
and the discovery that this is not always answerable.
I come from a time when men loving men was demonised,
a taboo that revolted
even the bishop
who lived a closeted gay life.
I come from a time when to consider living authentically in another
was shrouded in secrecy,
when you must have your head read
in such an inconceivability.
(c) Indigo Jonah Raphael, 2021
There is a breeze blowing under the door this morning
and for the first time in a year it feels crisp and cold on my skin.
Today the clouds over the mountain are not thick and smothering,
but high and hazy, watercolour not oils.
The mexerica tree in the yard is a full dark green,
hung with a hundred citrus suns,
always bitter but now caught up in a fast-ripening dawn.
The first day of autumn blown in on the breeze.
(c) Ruth Callaghan do Valle, 2021
Saturday On Portobello Road
It was market day, busy, bustling.
Amongst the crowds of tourists and sightseers,
there was a Buddhist monk
with robes of dull ochre and a shaven head.
He approached me, bowing,
his hands steepled in prayer
and spoke to me in broken English,
in words I could barely understand.
Then I realised he wasn’t asking directions
to somewhere I didn’t know,
he was giving me a blessing
“Peace”, “Peace”, “Lifetime Peace”.
I was secretly pleased,
of all the people here, he had chosen me.
He handed me a garish gold coloured card
and looked at me expectantly,
I reached into my bag and handed him
five pound coins.
He looked at the coins with disgust
as if I’d deeply insulted him,
but quickly put them into his purse.
“More”, “More”, he said.
He loomed menacingly over me.
I frantically hunted in my bag,
but couldn’t find any money.
“ATM”, “ATM”, “ATM”.
He spat the words out a machine-gun fire.
I delved deeper into my bag,
finally, pulling out a ten pound note.
He snatched it from my hand,
tucked it into the leather purse
hanging at his groin,
then, resuming his monk’s
demeanour of piety and humility
turned his back and walked away.
I tossed the shiny gold card into a market bin.
As it landed I saw the Guan Yin
looking up at me from the depths
of the trash container.
The Goddess of Compassion,
she, who hears the cries of the world,
shimmered in the afternoon sunlight.
(c) Janet Brooks, 2021
Sitting In The Garden
Sitting in the garden on a summer day.
Radiant sun warms up the bones, melting pain away.
Water falling in the pond from a trickling stream.
Enjoyable, relaxing, just to think and dream.
Passing vehicles, motorbike, aircraft up above,
Blackbirds singing in the tree. That’s a sound I love.
Children’s voices float far off, playing in the park.
Buzzing bees around the flowers and distant dog’s bark.
Grass and leaves begin to dance, as gentle breeze blows
wafting perfume on the air from a fragrant rose.
Butterflies flit round the plants, with uncertain flight,
Common Blue, Cabbage White and others dark or bright.
Captivated by its spell, garden times flown by.
Small wisps of cloud start to form in the clear blue sky.
Children home. The paddling pool. Go and have some tea.
The garden is a sharing place. Not just for me.
(c) Elizabeth Freeman, 2021
Standing In The Rain
Just standing in the rain
Watching the brambles dance
In tune with the raindrops
Like the beats of a drum
The drops drenching the leaves
Of different shapes and hues
Sparkle like precious pearls
On dark velvet cushion
And bounce off from the leaves
Still trembling in the breeze
Nodding twigs take a bow
Like artists on a stage
The twigs and stems crisscross
To make a harmonious whole
Of intertwined huge mass
Like railway tracks at Hove
With raindrops, wind and breeze
Upon the reddish hedge
There’s nature firm at work
Like a well-oiled machine
(c) Mabel Joshuaamadi, 2021
Summer Cookie Storms
Feelings came up tonight
that I thought were all gone.
Locked away. Hidden. Buried.
But the smell of the cookies –
Chocolate Chip – your favorite –
wafting through the house
brought them all flooding
back in a rush like a dam
bursting after a sudden
thunderstorm on a hot
(c) Bonnie L. Boucek, 2021
The Dogwood Tree
The dogwood tree would know who stole the bike
when the house was broken into.
The house once robust, now a wreck,
even when viewed from the vague, grey horizon.
Cleaving between the exterior porch wall and door frame
forcing the two materials apart,
whilst I was out,
In they came wreaking their havoc.
And all for what? What was there to take?
A laptop registered to the London Borough of Newham?
For their pains, they stole my bike by forcing the side gate. No one there to see them. No camera.
Only the dogwood tree.
There in the centre it stands, over forty feet tall,
strong enough to bear weight,
testament to its strength and stoicism.
Each spring, its leaves effortlessly unfurl,
then perfect white flowers form.
Inside each one a crown, like thorns.
It will be a witness to all that happens after we’re gone.
It would know who stole my bike and would, I think, say
If only it could speak our language.
(c) Julie Dexter, 2021
The Worst Year
after Eavan Boland by Eithne Cullen
In the worst hours of the worst year
of covid terror, dread and rage
we stepped into the evening to
applaud the heroes, curse the fools.
A woman bore a child no grandparent
could hold… but held a little later
in the joy and pride she brought
smiles mocking the adult world of fear.
On the ward, the therapist sweated
behind the plastic of her masks
teenage acne came to mock her efforts
no matter how she sanitised.
A group of women cut up sheets
to sew them up again as bags for
washing scrubs, laudable efforts
practical aptitude to give.
In hospitals, on ventilators, masked
and reaching out to touch or not
and know the loss of those loved ones
meant nothing on a slide showing a graph.
And those deaths have no noble stature
the numbers never show the love
of parent, child or lover pressed up
to the glass, to see a loved one pass.
Outside the funeral parlour, two figures
stand – supernumerary mourners
who can only guess the words spoken
inside feeling bitter cold of segregation.
And though the worst hour seemed unending:
goslings blocked our path and bluebells
carpeted the floor where we walked
and fears grew less as lockdown eased.
(c) Eithne Cullen, 2021
Whalebone Lane South
I live on Whalebone Lane above the 173 Bus Stop next to the supermarket
Oh, you live on Whalebone Lane South?
A man pushes a shopping trolley full of scrap – Michael the Metal Magpie
You can cast a gasp from the top floor flat
Christen strangers from above
One neighbour shat in the B & Q car park – it was derelict at the time
We had a name for him too
It’s Asda now
Green and yellow workers come and go
They used to be orange
The Olympic flame passed by one day and allegedly the Queen did too
She had visited the library in the North
Then headed toward Barking
Apparently via the South but I wasn’t in. I could have looked down on royalty
Tim the gardener saw her pass
He offered a salute
(c) H.B. O’Neill, 2021
Rorschach smudges of images
with recollections distorted.
New meanings divined
by your commentator for this evening,
who whispers with a studied coolness.
The narration twisted for unrelenting viciousness.
Glimpsed haunting of the odd characters.
Alternating flashes of embarrassment and shame.
Then, the talking stops and they disappear,
pleased with their nights work.
Leaving you with what you have lost
and what you never had.
(c) S.P. O’Connor, 2021
This week we are celebrating some of the wonderful poets and poetry to have come out of Pen to Print's Advanced Poetry Workshop led by Anna Robinson.