Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Poems - Day Three - Boxing Day

From Anna Maria Mickiewicz

Bells Ringing                                                                             

Creaking gently
Low breathing
Climbing spiral stairs
Pulling ropes
Cries peeling
Clangs and dings.
Pay attention,
Catching breath,
In the distance
Heavy thudding
Low voices
Hooves bashing
Whoosh and glee,
By the fireplace
Crunching, slurping
Laughter and rustling
Merry Christmas everyone.

(By Johanna Boal 6/12/13)

Susan Jane Sims


December dressed

at the Blue Angel Café

under scarves and jumpers

the long slow heartbeat

of winter

ghost-lips linger
on cappuccino cups

as gloved-fingers

come back to life

warmth, fairy lights, laughter
glitter-frost, a blue moon
and the promise of you.

Eileen Carney Hulme

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Poems - Christmas Day - Day Two

Happy Christmas to everyone.

Copyright for all material on this page remains with the creators.


I’m not the only poor travelling woman
to birth her baby among animals
in a strange town.
I’m not the only mother to watch her son
confound his elders,
overstep the boundaries,
store up trouble for himself.
I’m not the only poor widow to watch her son
walk away with his friends
not knowing where his path would lead him,
trusting that he would return, one day.
I’m not the only mother to watch the son she loved above all things
dying before her, untimely.
In those precious moments holding my baby
everything was possible,
nothing was written,
the whole earth was filled with joy.

I hold that peace in my heart.

Jo Waterworth

Jo's moving collection My Father Speaks in Poetry too can be purchased from The PS online shop at

Graceful, standing like a ballerina

Torso captivating
Arms wide, reach out skilfully

Legs well-made
Foot arched and toes hard-pressed

Purposefully on the ground
The crown, a star, astounding drama

Trinkets and tinsel
A Christmas tree.

Johanna Boal 12/12/12

As it is my late Mum's birthday this feels appropriate as I will never stop being Irene's Daughter:

Being Irene’s daughter

My memory holds
the days
of being Irene’s daughter

the cosy winter coming home from school days
when I lit the fire while
mum cooked crispy breast of lamb
to eat with my fingers

the after the orthodontist treat days
when we came home
with half-coated
chocolate biscuits from Lewises

the brave radiotherapy sickness days
when I did the ironing
and mum, strong spirited as always
supervised my creases

the wedding preparation days
choosing my dress
and hers on a glorious
rain- drenched Saturday

and best of all

the exciting new mother days
when mum passed on
her wisdom and delighted
in cuddling each new born child

Susan Jane Sims

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Poems - Day One - Christmas Eve

Yes it's time for the Christmas Blog again from Poetry Space - Happy Christmas!

 (Copyright - the poets)

A Christmas Fantasy

Mall-skating through flurries of cut-out penguins, Santas, reindeers,

we glide on past Merry–Xmas windows, air-conditioned polar bears,

glitter-frosted lights, frozen cash-machines, undressed models

flogging fashion and ski-rail our way out of Singapura’s

tinsel town to that sacred place where Fantasy Isle’s

lioness and stranded fish first met and then embraced.

Parasolled, I scan the bay’s busy contour lines – a trail

of morning sand-ants, surf beaching white, the bobbing wall

of shark-barrier buoys, fuzzy two-way shipping lanes  

and an ever-so slightly bowed equator, horizontally sunning

itself in zero degrees of latitude – and imagine I’m space-hubbling,

watching Watatsumi the mighty sea-dragon confine, restrain,

detain our unfathomable mass of curved ocean;

I imagine Gaia-free gravity washing the heavens

in deep-sea blue; I imagine crossing the saline skyline again

and again; I imagine passing uncharted archipelagos,

becoming the discoverer of Christmas-Island barbecues  

and, ready to celebrate with jingle bells, I surf-ride

in upon an unimaginably joyful, Aussie Yuletide.

Mike Lee
And here is Mike looking very relaxed in Singapore's Raffles hotel:

Mike is the very latest poet to have a short collection (Time-webs) published by Poetry Space. Mike  will be reading from his collection in a series of local house readings for friends and colleagues. He is also lined up as guest poet at Bristol's Can Opener even at Foyles Bookshop in Bristol on Friday April 4th 2014.

The Emerald Mistress

Excitement swiftly builds with the presence of the large green lady
The strongest member of the party heaves her from the car
Groping her curves through the entrance
Now more miniscule than ever
Violence unfolds
The provider of festive joy and ‘cosiness’
Who must be crowned
Bodily fluids secrete
Her jagged pines sear through your clothing
Sweat leaks from your temples
Slight panic seeps in
Where the fuck will she live?
The lounge? The hall?
Somewhere she’ll make the least bloody mess.
The children’s eyes widen. Euphoria
Saliva trickles from their lips
Soaking through their woollen jumpers
Dreaming of the mysterious delights that very soon
May be placed beneath her skirt
Xmas carols plonking along in the background
Dusty tinsel tickles your ankles
Sticking to your feet
Mince pies toasting in the oven
Alongside trays upon trays of sliced orange, sizzling on the grill
A sweet, familiar scent
Deal with the dinner
Leave the wife to decorate her green limbs
The kids dress her in gold and silver
Tarting her up
Just the way you like them
Her pines reek of smoke
A sour musk from the van driver
Stinking of other men
What a cheek
Coming here in your house smelling like that
Cheap slut
With your dirty seconds
Didn’t care where she came from
As long as you had her
The wife sprays her with a ‘pine tree’ air freshener
Now gleaming with sparkles and lights from head to toe
Crowned with a large white angel
She smirks
At your family
Winking at you
Only you
Her innocence is long gone
The kids take your hand and drag you closer
To admire her body
You can’t help liking her now, can you?
All dressed up and fancy
Eyes fixed on her deep green skin
Reminisce now
Dig through those buried childhood memories once again
Years go by and still you cling on to this one sick recollection
Tiny and innocent you sat by her trunk
About five or six years young
Peering up her skirt
Blinded by the flashing fairy lights but loving it all the same
Fallen pines pricked your toes as you sat cross-legged on the cold wooden floor
You squeezed. Two hands
Gripping tightly around the incisions
Pressure mounting
Toes swelling with heat
A cold red release soothed your mind
As you licked it up with your fragile tongue
The delicious pain
Only to be relived each year
Every December
Once the wife and kids are tucked up in their perfect little beds
And have fallen fast asleep
And your emerald mistress

Shay Crinkle December 2013


Carols chime

streets sprout festive trees

lights string over shops

crowds gather

shops bustle

it’s coming up to Christmas.

Where’s the child

not at home

he’s in the camp

waiting peace

no kings will come

or angels sing

they wait for you.

Carolyn O’Connell

December 2013

Keep them coming - more tomorrow

For more from Poetry Space visit

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Unwrapping Ideas: Johanna Boal on the excitement of writing

There is so much I can say about writing. One aspect is that moment of unwrapping something, that has been given to me and the excitement I feel. I write to show my mood, and my inspirations comes from all parts of life, I could be in the bank paying a bill, walking to my local tennis club or simply rubbing my fingers in-between the lavender flowers growing in our garden.   

 I also get ideas from other writers/poets, in workshops and books. In fact one book on how to write poetry by Matthew Sweeney set exercises and one exercise I did, called- ‘Fish Bones Dreaming’ I fell in love with. It is funny, charming and clever. Using his idea on the structure throughout the poem, with a chorus, I called mine- ‘Dinosaur Bones Dreaming’, actually I did two and I frequently go back to read them.

I find art galleries and museums useful for prompting ideas, I don’t necessarily feel I have to know the artist, the object could be enough. But when you get somebody like- Leonardo da Vinci and his pencil drawings coming to the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. I wrote down everything what was going on in his drawings and afterwards went away with my writing pad full. I then put all that information on the computer and I thought what can I do with this?  There was lots I could do, I could have taken the Oak Leaf he drew and wrote about oak trees around the country but I didn’t, I decided to write about the limits of his drawing materials, considering his time was the late 1400’s and early 1500c.

The language of the poem gives it structure and it is just as important whether you have written two lines or forty lines as it gives shape and style. That is where grammar and punctuation play a big role in writing. Reading out loud is just as important as reading it on paper.

 Up to now I make this all sound simple, ideas can come easily but not technique or vice a versa. Writing poetry is just as important as Leonardo tried getting his chalk correct and using enough light and shade. And the good thing about writing is I can of course at any time write about oak trees around the country.     

I have been writing for some years now, I’ve had some poetry published in anthologies, read over radio, I have read at the Beverley Folk Festival, at HMP’s and online. I have just recently just been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Competition. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"I will be waiting quietly for your poems to speak to me": Alison Brackenbury's thoughts on judging Poetry Space Competition 2014

I will come to your poems with an open mind. I would like to put the last three words in capitals! But capitals shout, and I will in fact be waiting quietly for your poems to speak to me.

Do not think that you must seek out poems on particular subjects! I grew up in the English countryside, and I often write about it. Yet some of my favourite poems are set in great cities, or in countries I have never visited.  I enjoy poems about animals. But I also relish poems about the stories and speech of humans, the strangest of animals. 

Many of us write poems about the great, sometimes terrible moments of our lives, the loves which have possessed us, the deaths we have endured.  It is humbling to read such poems.  They can remain deeply moving even when they emerge from a competition’s piled papers. But poems can come from the smallest happenings (a walk down a street, a bee bumbling into a window). Such poems can revive, amuse, enrich. Send them, too!

Please do not think, either, that your entries should be in a particular poetic form. I am very interested in traditional forms. My poems often rhyme. But some of the poems I return to again and again are in free verse.  What matters to me, simply, is that a poem should work on its own terms. It must have its own imaginative energy. I have seen competition poems which are technically flawless, yet as devoid of life as a polished, empty shell.

Do not reject possible entries simply because they are short. It is often said that short poems are not favoured by competition judges. I fear this may sometimes be true. But a very short poem was amongst the major prizewinners when I was on the judging panel for the National Poetry Competition!  So short poems, too, are welcome.

I would give two pieces of advice to all poets entering poetry competitions. These are not simply my opinion, but are based on the considered views of other judges, and competition winners.

First: if you want to write well, read widely.  All the competition judges I have spoken to say that they have read too many poems which fail because their writer has clearly read very little poetry.  Read the great poetry of the past. Read poems from other countries and cultures. (This is much easier now we have the Internet. Have you discovered the excellent US poems which can be found each day on Poetry Daily, I try never to miss it. )  Read work by living British poets, too. You may not like all of it. You may wish to write quite differently.  But if you try to shut yourself off entirely from the present, you risk simply becoming a pale imitation of the past.

It is also – I would like to use capitals again! – the duty of British poets today to buy as much work by living poets as they can afford. Even buying one book or pamphlet a year helps.  Poetry publishers, large and small, have begun to suffer badly from the recession.  Every publisher I have met recently has told me the same story, and it is a chilling one.  Poetry sales overall are down by 20%: ‘worse than the darkest days of the 1980s’, said one. If publishers disappear, who will publish your poems? Buy books, please!

Secondly: enter one more poem than you intended. Put in the wild card, the odd one which you think no one will like. I have spoken to many poets who have won major competitions. They all admit that they cannot predict judges’ taste.  The winning poem is the one which they thought had no chance, the one which they thrust into the envelope at the last minute.  Send that extra poem! It will help the deserving small press which runs this competition. It will help your chances too.

I look forward to reading your poems – with an open mind.

Alison Brackenbury, October 2013

Alison's website is at

Poetry Space Competition 2014 will open for entries on November 1st - further details at

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Poetry Space Summer Highlights

Poetry Space has had a great Summer!

June marked the publication of Jo Waterworth's book My Father Speaks in Poetry Too and this has moved everyone who has read it.

"I was in tears by the end – so simple and unpretentious and beautiful."

Victoria Field, Writer and Poetry Therapist

"I was very taken with not only Jo's moving poems but also with the feel of the book's textured pages - as I ran my fingers across each page.  And the illustrations are stunning." 

Di Coffey

The lovely illustrations by Willow Roe have also made this very special:

In July we launched Through a Child's Eyes at The Penzance Festival:

Our thanks go to Edge of the World Bookshop for hosting this event for us. We had readings from Anna Maria Mickiewicz, Caroline Carver, Les Merton, Moira Andrew, Angela Croft, Sheila Bracewell And Di Coffey.

"It is a beautiful and moving Anthology with wonderful, wonderful poems. I am so pleased to have two of my poems included in it."

Maureen Weldon,

"lovely production and smashing poems" 

Jenny Harrow,

"Highly reconmmended"

Penelope Shuttle

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Responding to a Poetry Challenge - Sue Sims

April was Poetry Month and a fellow poet suggested having a go at writing a poem a day for the whole of the month. I'd like to share one of these poems and its genesis with you.

When I am in need of inspiration I often find it helps to start with a random list of words. I find these in all sorts of ways, from newspaper articles, flicking through books etc. This time I flicked through a copy of a poetry title I have just acquired Dark Film by Paul Farley, itself a brilliant read. From this I gathered the following words:


I started by doing some notes:

Caught in a downpour, my ears filling with water, the allotments flooded, the chimneys shooting flames, I'm soaked, I'm boiling, I'm bitter. The floorboards creak as I cry.

Then another burst of rambling:

always a downpour
never an up pour
not possible, not unless time is moving backwards
and actions are being reversed
ears are aching, ears of corn in fields
swallowing smoke. soaked in a downpour

Pretty much nonsense and then something clicked and I moved on to thinking about taking refuge from the downpour and who I might be with with and what we might find.
This final poem uses most of the original list of words bar one. When you do this yourself it is important not to be totally rigid. If one or two words refuse to fit in respect that and go with what comes as I did here:

The Downpour

During the downpour,we take refuge
in your grandpa's allotment shed
and rummage for what we can find:
a jar of boiled sweets, a few
squares of bitter chocolate, 
a miniature bottle of rum.
We are thirteen. We consume it all
sitting on the warm floorboards. You say:
"We'll never have this day again"
and lean in for an awkward kiss."
I hear myself saying 
"You've got beautiful ears". Outside
the factory chimney belches smoke.

Copyright Susan Jane Sims 

When I sat down to write I had no idea what I would write, however the list of words, Paul Farley's lovely urban poems and my own memories led to the above poem which I am pleased with. The discipline of having to use particular words I think give it a quirky feel, particularly the beautiful ears.

If you have been inspired then do consider sending poems in to Poetry Space Competition 2013.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Creating Found Poems - Carol Ross

Creating found poetry means taking words, phrases and lines from other sources and using them to create poems. I’d like to tell you about two types of ‘found poem’ I have been introduced and enjoyed.

1. Finding poems in published prose

I first heard about this type of found poetry from Kirsty Stanley, who is an occupational therapist and a writer. On her blog, Kirsty includes found poems she crafted by photocopying a page of a book or magazine and creating a poem by artistically highlighting selected words and phrases on the page. This is a fun technique that can create something quite unexpected – for example a poem on a topic that is different both from your usual poetry and from the source text.

For the poem I have included below (Stalled), I didn’t use quite the method Kirsty describes on her blog – she creates a poem directly on the photocopied page, whereas in my example I typed the words up and inserted line breaks where I wanted them. However, like Kirsty, I didn’t add or change any words or change their order.

The method I used was: (i) photocopy a page (two pages in this case) from a book; (ii) select and highlight words, phrases and sentences to include; (iii) type them up; (iv) insert line breaks; (v) fine tune, e.g., by adding or removing words (ensuring that any words added are taken from the text and in the original order).

I have scanned and highlighted the double-page spread from a (very good) novella, A Penny Spitfire by Brindley Hallam Dennis, published by Pewter Rose Press, that I used to create the poem ‘Stalled’ (see below). I used pages 82-83 (reproduced with permission). 

If this type of found poem is new to you, my tip would be choose a page with plenty of words and little or no dialogue. This is a technique to play with – just have a go and see what you find.

Stalled (‘found’ in A Penny Spitfire by Brindley Hallam Dennis)

His workshop
stood untouched,
encrusted with dirt
and cobwebs.
Spiders hunted in
threads of silk.

He’d changed.
Raw edges where his
life had torn,
had hardened.
Pain turned
to numbness.

She too changed,
The simplest things
divided them.
They began to live
as strangers.

He tried to remember
what they had before
but it seemed far away.
They had lost something,
did not mesh anymore.

They could not talk
about the past.
Yet he sensed
through words they could
come back together.

But how did you do that?
How tell the things
he wanted to tell?
Even thinking about them
made him shake inside.

2. Poems ‘found’ in conversations with others

On a Writing in Healthcare course at Ty Newydd I learned about another kind of found poem from poet, tutor and co-founder of Lapidus, Graham Hartill. Graham told our group about found poems he has created from notes he made of conversations with inmates when working as a poet in a prison. This technique can be used or adapted to give someone who doesn’t consider themselves to be very creative, or who does not or cannot write much, the experience of writing a poem. 

Here I describe using the technique to create a found poem about a child’s experience of World War II.

My mother was 10 when WWII began. To create a found poem based on her memories I first interviewed her about the war. During the interview I made rapid notes and also recorded the conversation. Later I typed up the main ideas from her responses, sometimes but not always using her words. I played with the order of the ideas until I felt I had them grouped and in a logical order. Then I played with the lines themselves, editing and refining to turn whole sentences into the lines of a poem that I hope has rhythm and flow. Finally I checked back with Mum to see whether she was happy with my poem ‘Make do and mend’ (see below).

Make do and mend

I was 10 when war started.
We kids didn’t hear much about the fighting. Just
what was on Pathé news at the pictures.
The man had a funny voice.

None of my family joined up.
Young men had a choice: go down the pit or go to war.
My Dad was a miner, and my brothers,
those that were old enough.
I remember seeing young men on the buses though,
off to start their training.

There was an army camp near us.
The soldiers unwound electric cable
right through the village. To untangle it.
Then they wound it up again.
Our Mary tripped over it, broke her leg.
She got fifty pounds.

Clothes were on ration.
Mostly it was make do and mend.
A lot of folk knitted. Pulled out old things
to knit new. Cut down women’s dresses
to make clothes for kids.

You had to queue to get stuff.
Me and Lil walked four miles to queue for a pork pie.
Dad grew vegetables. And mushrooms.
Mushrooms were dear then.
He dug a pond in the garden and kept ducks.
God they made a mess.

He raised cockerels for Christmas.
And in our stocking: an apple, an orange
and a few pennies.
We made cakes with powered egg.
Grated carrot in the Christmas pud
made the fruit go further.
Mam could make a meal out of anything,
a ham bone and a few peas.

You couldn’t get Christmas trees.
Me and our Jamie cut the top off a holly tree.
From up the top I could see a Lancaster
belly up in a field. Jamie wanted me to get down
so he could climb up and see. But I wouldn’t.
We crept along the hedges to get a better look,
snuck past the men in uniform,
the army and air force police.

One night the Germans dropped incendiaries.
Mam made us hide on a mattress under the stairs,
me, Jamie and Lil, while she stood at the door
watching planes trying to bomb the mines.
They missed. And me and Jamie crept
under the kitchen table while Mam wasn’t looking
and pinched some raisins.

Get writing – play, have fun, enjoy!

Writing for Wellbeing edited by Carol Ross is available through the Poetry Space Online Bookshop

If the above has inspired you then why not send your entry in to Poetry Space Competition 2013 

Poems on any theme are eligible to enter. They must be previously unpublished and up to 40 lines maximum.

Monday, 4 February 2013

On Finding Spaces to Write - Monica Suswin

A myriad of spaces is what immediately comes to mind, ranging from the space inside my head to the actual space of my surroundings.   All of importance to me in different ways for my writing.                         

Time & Space
Time and not having enough of it, or any of it, is never an argument I find convincing.   It only takes me ten minutes to get some initial thoughts down onto paper.   Later on I might take another ten minutes to do a free-write, to string some words together, any words that want to flow from the end of my fingers.   I will then fit in any amount of ten minute slots to work on one piece; if I can I’ll double that into twenty minute slots.   Sometimes there is the luxury of three quarters of an hour.

I gather together a jigsaw of draft material when I work like this.   Of course there are days when I might bury myself in a timeless place for endless scribbling, redrafting or editing.   But I find these short spurts of time, given enough care and focus, will eventually give me a form to my writing which pleases me. 

Any project can be broken down into constituent sections to be worked on piece by piece until the whole comes into shape.   This is a permission I give myself whatever other demands life makes on me, and there are always pressing demands.   Mine is a 24/7 attitude to writing.   With this approach to my time, I find the spaces I need to write.                                      

place & Space

This was a satisfying moment: the day I finished Draft Three of my book.  A clear surface, all of the files in one basket.  Wonderfully satisfying. 

I am lucky I have a spacious workroom, and two desks: this one is for my papers; I have another for the computer and phone.
This desk is not for writing proper.   I use it to plan my day’s work.   I try to keep my desk clear, if not at the end of the day, then at the end of a section of my work.   A clear desk helps the clarity of my mind to focus on the piece of writing to be done.  I would be entirely lost if I didn’t have this generous surface, inviting me to settle down, spread out my papers, and provide me with a special place and space to focus on the piece I want to write.  
My best thoughts, however, often come in the shower so all I need is to perch on the edge of my bed wrapped in a huge fluffy towel and reach down for my A4 pad and pencil (always on the carpet by my bed) and scribble them down.  There are times I need the whole house to myself, all the rooms, so I can pace around reading aloud.   Then I listen to how a piece sounds to my ears; a completely different experience from either reading off the screen or from my print-outs. 
Space Away From Home

Here’s a room in Morocco, I worked on the bed - protected from the heat outside with a pleasant breeze coming in through the door.

Wherever I am, I transfer my working methods from home to any room I stay in.   Because my work is portable I carry it inside my head, along with the lap-top, papers and note-books in my brief case.

Cabin 451 on board ship
My cabin on a large working and leisure ship going north up the Norwegian coast.   I drafted many short pieces for my book during the week, as well as read more than 300 pages of Hilary Mantel’s Woolf Hall; the essential point to become immersed in the world of the Tudors. 


Cabin on the Hill  Providing A Writing Space for others: 
I want and am able to provide the kind of space writers need away from home in my cosy wood cabin at the top of our garden.   It won’t suit everyone because it is without en-suite facilities.   But writers can be self-contained and self-sufficient, only coming down to the house for the bathroom.   Really more like a house guest.

 A Guest Writing 

Monica Suswin is working on a book exploring her own creative process of therapeutic writing.   Using extracts from personal journals, prose, poems and dramatic dialogues, Monica shows how she has gained deeper insights into her inner life through her personal writing, and how in turn this has helped her understanding of relationships with others.   Within all her work, she has found an indomitable spirit of a life-force which lies at the heart of her life and her writing.

Contact Details for Monica Suswin: