Friday, 26 December 2014


The pudding’s made
the turkey stuffed
the cards displayed
I’m almost chuffed

but Santa’s elves have gone on strike
does anyone know how to wrap a bike?

The family’s here
the party starts
there’s Christmas cheer
and mincemeat tarts

though Santa’s elves have gone on strike
the child learns how to ride a bike

We rush outside
to play in snow
then back inside
for kissing under mistletoe

as Santa’s elves have gone on strike
we need to learn to clean a bike

On Boxing Day we take a walk
while children ride
the grown-ups talk
then bicycle and tree collide

and Santa’s elves are still on strike
does anyone know how to mend a bike?

Daphne Milne


Turkey, sprouts, roast potatoes,
pudding, brandy butter, ice cream,
cheese, biscuits, coffee, nuts, port.

Aunts, uncles, cigars, excess,
Grandparents snoring by the fire, 
Nine lessons and carols from King’s,
mince pies, more brandy butter

parcels under the green fir tree,
elderly films, older comedians,
Christmas specials, tinsel, fake snow,
big white cake with wonky Santa

All the joys of family Christmas
not to be missed by anyone,
no excuses, the annual beanfeast,
just before the New Year’s 
silence, sobriety, diet - hell.

Daphne Milne

Sales Fever (With apologies to John Masefield)

I must go down to the sales again where the sharpened elbows fly
And all I ask is a warm coat and a hat to keep me dry
And a loud crowd on a cold night in a long line snaking
For a rare treat or a new suite, it’s all there for the taking.

I must go down to the sales again to join the swelling tide
Till nine o'clock when the doors unlock and the shoppers flood inside
And all I crave is a full store with wonders overflowing
And a wild rush as the crowds push for every bargain going.

I must go down to the sales again to a day of stress and strife
Where the kick and the pinch won't make me flinch from the bargain hunting life
And all I need are credit cards with enough cash to cover
And time to flaunt the prizes bought when the hurly-burly's over.

Martin John


It’s the arse-end of the year.
Everyone’s bored and gloomy, or ill.
Weather’s normal – not warm, not dry.

Chugging under the bridge
where we got stuck last night,
we get stuck again.

Finally out of city sprawl –
graffiti, drowned bikes,
floating cans and dereliction –

the extension straight as a Roman road
glitters ahead. The rain’s stopped.
We pootle on towards a New Year.

Jo Waterworth

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Day poems

Christmas Lights

Every bush and tree round here
Looks like it's lit by magic
(Presumably some Elvish power).
It's glorious (or tragic
Depending on your point of view) -
There's red and white and mostly blue
And every darkening hour
They turn the streets a queer

Mix of shades. It's quite unclear
If this improves the celebration
Or reinforces, like the cars, the skis,
The patios, the decoration
Of the trees inside, and all we do,
The outdoing of each other. B & Q?
It's a jungle. We crowd, mewling, like celebrities,

Get me out of here. 

Michael Docker

Without Mince Pies

Let's do without mince pies this year.
I wonder if the skies, this year
Will fall, if we should try this year
To do without mince pies?

It will be thought a crime, I'm sure,
But mince pies all the time? I'm sure
Although they are sublime, I'm sure
We'd cope without mince pies.

Michael Docker

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Poems for Christmas Eve

The first of our Christmas poems. Happy Christmas!

One Wise Man

His missus sighed, “I suppose you’re
off chasing stars again this year?  
Where to this time?”
“And where the heck is that?”
“Two full-moons west of here.”
“Well I never. Better hire
a herd of camels, take a good
supply of dates and presents.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh
are quite in vogue this year.”
“Gold! Camels! Presents!
Giving them away!
Not much profit there, I’d say.”
“Exactly! So tell the other three they’re
going on their own this year. Let’s holiday
away together – just you and me;
I hear The Valley of the Kings has
great weather this time of the year.”

“I’ll go and pack my dear.”

Mike Lee

Walking in Woods on Christmas Eve

Nothing is missing
in this forest of pine trees
look, Christmas presents

 Johanna Boal 

Jingle Bells

Every Father Christmas in the world rocked up,
to protest against the commercialisation
of Christmas,
faces upturned to the heavens,
pleading for some respite from mock reindeers

in shopping malls,
and flashy toys, baubles and billowing cheeks
of cherubs blowing silver trumpets,
past which rivers of people flow
on escalators, to plastic Utopias

“We love the Christmas carols,
but we feel like stuffed turkeys in our red garb
and caps,” chanted one Father Christmas,
while the others chorused:
“Enough is enough, we are on strike.”

On the way to the protest point
each Father Christmas
was given a wand by a real fairy
who said her place had been usurped
by gaudy imitations

on top of artificial trees
They had never been on a protest march,
so could Father Christmas
wave a magic wand and turn
each bogus fairy into a frog

“We will do that and more,”
sang the Father Christmas strikers
”We will turn every bright bauble
and piece of tinsel that we see,
into a partridge in a pear tree.”

Clarissa McFairy

I counted the cakes I’d made:

Rich fruit cakes, iced and decorated with flowers
red roses, delicate yellow freesias,
open daisies, from the fortieth to
the sixty fourth of my parents’ anniversaries.

Christmas cakes, rich and fruity, or apple light
 for every year of my marriage,
including the first we left in the oven
while we went back to bed, letting it burn.

Novelty birthday cakes,
owls, witches, castles, cars, a big red dice,
 football pitches complete with players
I forgot to return to my friend,
and underneath, layers of sponge
filled with jam, or gooey chocolate cake, or gingerbread.

A hundred scones once for cream teas, at school
 flap jacks, brownies for the fair, a cake
 for each cub and scout trip
my boys made ‘so they’d have something from home’ –
the leader’s words.

 Still to count the weekday
cup cakes or the Sunday treats I called a halt,
went on strike. Said that’s it.
The kitchen’s closed to cake.

It lasted for two whole years and then
I went back in, made a Christmas cake,
marzipaned it, iced it, then armed with food dyes:
red, blue, yellow, green, silver, gold
 I splashed the surface with colour
like Jackson Pollock.

Susan Jane Sims

Monday, 22 December 2014

Poetry Space Competition 2014 - FULL RESULTS

Poetry Space Competition closed this year (its fifth) with 223 entries and these included submissions from across the UK and Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Australia, USA, France and Greece.
The winning poems were selected by Alison Brackenbury (photo right) who has provided a detailed report on her choices. (scroll down for this). We really appreciate Alison doing this. She did a fabulous job and in the sweltering summer heat as you'll see from her report...

I would like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who entered and warm congratulations to the winners, the highly commended poets and the runners up. Twenty poems in all from nineteen poets will feature in the new anthology. For want of a better title I have decided to call this For want of a better wordthe title of Glen Wilson's winning poem.

Thanks are due too, to Johanna Boal who did a sterling job promoting the competition for Poetry Space and the growing number of  friends of poetry space who handed out flyers and told their friends.

The top three winners are:
1st: Glen Wilson - For Want of a better word 
2nd: Robin Muers - He's settled in quite well
3rd: Angie Butler 'Son, you're 42'

Seven highly commended poems:
Margaret Eddershaw: Scattering
Martin Fuller: Bullet Points
Claire Williamson: She thought her father was a butcher
Patrick Lodge: C'an Freixa
Susan Latimer: Tea Time Truce
Kay Cotton: The Mason
Gail Dendy: The edge of the world

Ten more for publication:
Di Coffey: Hands
Elaine Taylor: Uncle Ruby
Derek Stanley: Out Patience
Jo Waterworth: Widdershins
Roger Caldwell: Going to Coventry
David Lukens: A Circular Life
Anthony Watts: The Bright Room
Denni Turp: Can You Hear Me? Are You Still There?
Ama Bolton: Unfairy Tale
Ama Bolton: Brown Sugar
Glen Wilson, the winner of Poetry Space Competition had this to say:
I was thrilled when I got the phone call to say that I had won the Poetry Space Competition.  It is always great to hear that your work has been enjoyed by another  and judged worthy of winning a prize (my first!) as well has made it incredibly encouraging.  I am also looking forward to seeing the anthology come out in the future as well. Thanks Poetry Space!

For want of a better word
I wrote only one note today;
it said remember to pick up some milk.
The Smiths always forget the milk.
They hold then use me roughly,
though I suppose I can’t complain
I do have regular employment.
I don’t work for a calligrapher, dancing
elegantly on certificates or a screenwriter
creating Oscar winning  scripts.
Those pens have their own velvet homes
while I have been known to be abandoned
in untold places like a common pencil,
wedged behind his wax leaking ear,
my end chewed by her cherry
red lips as she looks at the crossword.
I remember the year spent lost
down the back of the sofa, ink tears
staining loose change and dust.
Eventually they found me again
as Mrs Smith scribbled a phone number down
and smiling  handed it to the milkman.
Later I watch Mr Smith pick up another pen
(a biro!) scribble out a letter and leave
it on the bedside table.
All I can see from the dresser are the words
trust and goodbye. She cries as she reads
these words and all the words between.
I hope that someday she might use me
to pour out her thoughts, because every pen
wants to leave an epigram before it dries.
Glen Wilson

Glen Wilson lives in Portadown, Co Armagh with his wife Rhonda and children Sian and Cain. He works as a Civil Servant in Belfast in Statistics and Research.
Glen was part of the Millennium Court Arts Centre Writing group in Portadown for 5 years. His work has been published in Black Mountain Review, Iota, A New Ulster and The Interpreters House. In 2007 He was short listed for the Strokestown Poetry Festival’s Satire Prize. His influences include Leonard Cohen, Seamus Heaney, George Szirtes, Pablo Neruda, and his Christian faith.
 He is currently working on his first collection of poetry.
When told of his prize Robin Muers had this to say:

Really pleased, especially so because this particular poem had been through very many previous versions and major alterations.

He’s settled-in quite well,

they’d like to think.  Today requires
a sun hat, wise ones say.  I’m placed
beside a healthy drink, then left
to find my own excitement, like:
a crocodile stalks the patio table,
grabs a wine glass in its teeth.
(My finger’s arthritically bent
to make the light for croc’s bright eye.)
Let’s have some other guests!  A bunch
of terracotta frogs in Afro wigs
- seductive scent deployed!  (Official
description: pots of petunia.)
Why these games?  Because it’s far
too ‘sensible’ in here: the hand brake
must be ‘on’ both sides of chairs
- all that.  I’ve had enough.  But look:
above our Silver-Safe Community
a gang of swifts tears round the sky.
They’re calling me to pass the ball
through fading light.  I leave with them.
Robin Muers
Robin Muers studied history at university and subsequently qualified as a solicitor.  He worked in various jobs in local government and the public sector before retiring some years ago.  Although always interested in contemporary poetry, he did not make many attempts to write his own until the current century was well under way.  If he wants a poetry book to take on a train journey, a John Burnside collection is most likely to be picked off the shelf.  Robin enters a number of poetry competitions – partly because that gives an incentive to ‘finish and polish’.

Angie Butler had this to say:
Finding Poetryspace has made a huge difference to my life.
The daily time to write for the Photo and Poetry Competition allowed me to voice every emotion and to fend off depression and access acceptance and healing.
 I would write and rewrite my emotions. I would have hope that my voice might be heard by an uninvolved stranger. I was inspired to run a competition for other writers to feel the comfort and joy I myself had received.
Son, you're 42
The chocolate licked off.
The conquest done.
Now on to another.
A different one.
To woo, to ravage.
To make my own.
Then leave.
Go home.
Go home alone.
Angie Butler
Angie Butler is a teacher who has always written. Published in several books and magazines, she has researched Land Girls in WW2 and created books and cards to support her work. A founder member of The Penzance Literary Festival, she holds workshops for all ages and abilities. Her story ‘Bodelva’ was performed by the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra and 600 children, celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Eden Project in Cornwall. She was honoured as Citizen of the Year 2012 and Cornish Woman of the Year 2014  in  Penzance, for her help in community projects.
Copyright of all poems printed here remains with their authors - please don't reproduce without permission.

Competition Report for the Poetry Space Competition, 2014

Poems must be convincing.  I do not believe that they always need to be honest.  But I think that an account of judging them should be.  It is possible to develop rather grand theories about judging poetry. (I have one or two myself!) But here is an honest account of how my chosen twenty poems shook themselves free from the invitingly fat pile of entries for the Poetry Space Competition, in the summer of 2014.

Throughout a couple of blazing weeks in July, sustained by blinds, choc ices, and two supportive cats, I read all of the poems, several times.  I pored over my ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe?’ files repeatedly.  But the poems which first captivated, and moved me the most, continued to do so.  My affection for them did not waver with the blinds, or melt with the ice cream.

What did I most admire, about this competition’s three (very varied) prizewinners?  All of these poems had depth. Glen Wilson’s winning poem, ‘For want of a better word’, has a story which enthralled me.  I will not reveal its twists!  After clever flirtations with humour and cliché, this poem swiftly turns into an account of love, with an ending of real pathos.

Many poems in competitions tackle the subject of age.  But the winner of the second prize, Robin Muers’s ‘He’s settled in quite well,’ is one of the best and most surprising I have ever read on this theme.  Its speaker, ‘placed […] then left’ in a wheelchair, is mentally as quick as the swifts in the summer skies above him.
It takes courage to enter a very short poem for a competition.  I am delighted that Angie Butler did so.  ‘Son, you’re 42!’, the third prizewinner, has only nine lines.  But it places the weight of a whole lifetime’s mistakes behind its closing rhyme.

Was it difficult to thin out the remaining pile into seven Highly Commended, and ten poems for the competition anthology?  Honestly, yes.  Many poems were re-read, then put back with a sigh.
I felt that all the Commended poems had exceptional force, in very different ways.  Margaret Eddershaw’s ‘Scattering’ arrested me by its final line.  Martin Fuller’s ‘Bullet Points’ was both absorbing and surprising. Physical vividness and emotional mystery marked Claire Williamson’s ‘She thought her father was a butcher’.  ‘C’an Freixa’, by Patrick Lodge, achieved descriptions of irresistible beauty.  I found ‘Tea Time Truce’, by Susan Latimer, uncompromisingly moving. Kay Cotton’s ‘The mason’ carefully deepened into primitive power. ‘The edge of the world’, by Gail Dendy, set the whole force of its length behind a bravely expansive ending.

From my selection of poems for the anthology, I admire the haunting scents of Di Coffey’s poem ‘Hands’, and the often disturbing detail of Elaine Taylor’s ‘Uncle Ruby’.  I think many readers will recognise the quiet rhythmic truth of Derek Stanley’s ‘Out Patience’, and the child-like sensuality of Jo Waterworth’s ‘Widdershins’.  I am haunted by the unfolding sadness of Roger Caldwell’s ‘Going to Coventry’, shocked and impressed by the tough heroine of David Lukens’ ‘A circular life’.  Virtual life is vivid in Anthony Watts’ The Bright Room’; an intricate music in Denni Turp’s sestina, ‘Can You Hear Me?  Are You Still There?’  Finally, I greatly relished the crisp couplets of ‘Unfairy Tale’, and the deft humour of ‘Brown Sugar’. The judging was, of course, completely anonymous.  When I learnt that both poems were by Ama Bolton, I still felt that these two skilful poems deserved their placing on their own, very different merits.

Why did some poems not escape from my ‘Maybe?’ folder. There were poems, excellent in parts, which showed flaws which I often see in my own writing.  Some poems started strongly, then tailed off.  Others had arresting diction, yet a lack of rhythmic lift, like a beautiful skin with no muscles to make it move.  But there were many poems which did work well, and which I would very much have liked to smuggle into my ‘Yes!’ folder.

I have had the privilege of judging many competitions, both national and local.  I think that Poetry Space is one of the most generous I have encountered.  Many contests have only a few winning poems, which do not appear in print.  Poetry Space has ten winners, including the Highly Commended, and publishes twenty of its entries.  Statistically, you have an exceptionally good chance of being rewarded for entering this competition!
The standard of entries was high this year, and a significant number of the unplaced poems might well have been favoured by a different judge. (Poetry judging is not an exact science.)  So, to all who entered, my thanks for letting me read your varied and thought-provoking poems.  And please do enter again.  Honestly,
2015 could be the year you win the Poetry Space Competition!
Alison Brackenbury
The top three will receive prizes of £250, £100 and £50 respectively and complimentary copies of the anthology.
Twenty poems in all will be published in the prizewinner's anthology.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Celebration and Curiosity - Joan Poulson

Joan Poulson 
My passion for poetry and thythm was ignited by Granfer, a tall, generally silent man, deafened in a coal-mining accident at the age of nineteen.

I never asked where Granfer’s love of poetry and the spoken word came from  -  unlikely to have been from home. He used the public library regularly and, as a lad, had been fascinated by the Mummers. He often made up songs round my name, laughing as he roared them aloud, told me tales of his boyhood, his mate Joe Tie and sometimes chanted lines from the Mummers play:

          It cures the itch, the pitch, the pain, the gout,
          the pain within and the pain without.

Best of all were days when he would take me on his lap and read aloud from one of his two books. They never left him, those pocket-sized copies of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poems of Robert Burns. I sat for as long as he chose to read.

From birth until I was four I lived with my parents in a run-down cottage surrounded by scrubby grass with no neighbours or transport of any kind. My only companions were, briefly two goat kids and whatever I found to interest me in the ‘garden’. Plants and small creatures, whatever I saw and touched, sniffed, picked and tasted I grew to love.

When my Mam and I moved to a council estate Granfer came most days to see us.
I look back on these as as highly significant. Granfer’s tales often involved the natural world. When he strode into our back yard I always hoped for a ‘walk’, a fairly silent time when he would raise me up onto his shoulders, stride away from the streets, main road and traffic to the nearest scrap of countryside. I especially loved our outings to the Rabbit Warren. On reaching the lane I would be lowered and instructed: Use your eyes. Use your ears, my Jo. Then I trotted beside him, asking questions but silent as we approached the warren.

Curiosity and a delight in rhyme were further fostered at primary school. Each day I sat transformed as our top class teacher read aloud from prose and poetry, teaching us poetry by heart. He played the piano several times a week, taught us folk songs and, at the end of each day, accompanied us as we sang a hymn.

It was around this age that I began to fantasise about the night sky. In bed, light out, I travelled in my mind, experienced the enormity of the sky-world. A fascination for the sky and what might lie ‘beyond’ has never left me, encouraging me to attempt to read about modern physics and the natural sciences.

I have always tried to encourage the children and young people with whom I work to share my fascination with the natural world  -   black holes, bower birds, black bees, mountain hares, rhinos, ants, trees and the insects that live on them.

In March this year Grey Hen publish my chapbook for adults Tequila and shooting stars   -   an intriguing selection of poems around my travels including work I have been surprised and delighted to make.  

With Tequila ready for publication I am, at last, ready to focus on work around a lifelong fascination in Nature with a new and celebratory children’s collection. My first-ever collection was for small children and published by international childrens charity UNICEF: Celebration (1993).

I hope my most recent collection will be memorable, drawing on years of believing that our world, Universe and whatever lies beyond is unique, astonishing, magnificent. That it can be weird and terrifying. It will be celebratary, enriched, I hope, by my experiences as writer and poet, tutor and editor and by my travels. I have benefitted greatly from spending time, working with and learning from people in Canada, India, Norway and in the U.S: New Mexico, California, Vermont.

One of the most useful pieces of advice I was given early in my career was If you want to write good poems you must read good poems*. Reading widely, especially from contemporary and early C20th poetry and attending writing courses has been invaluable. 

I compare my process when beginning a project or commission to that of tracking a wild animal. For me this means taking time with, perhaps. some research. Play is essential  -    with colour (paint or textiles), using all my senses as I examine plants, weeds, herbs in my small garden or while taking a walk   -   not necessarily to the countryside, even streets and gardens of the suburbs can surprise and nourish.

Some years ago I taught alongside an American artist on a residential course. She recommended journalling to our students and since then I have always had one to hand. I scribble in ideas, thoughts, notes, add quotations from newspapers, overheard conversations, tv with clippings from every possible source. It has become habitual.

If I am considering a new project or commission I often turn to these journals, make an intuitive selection and place on my work-table with plain paper and other notes/ reading materials. Then, for perhaps thirty minutes, I paint, go outdoors  -  in my garden or wandering round the block or nearby memorial gardens.

Feeling ready, I engage in my simple coffee-making ritual, pour out a small mug of coffee and focus for two or more hours………..dipping into journals, etc. mind flowing lightly as I jot down anything of particular interest.

This process continues for another day or two or until I have enough ideas and phrases for a first draft. Then I put this aside to return with a fresh eye next day or in a few days. Once I have some shape I read through my embryo poem aloud, again and again as I edit. I find this to be most useful. For me I gain deeper understanding and a stronger editorial voice if I read work aloud. Unless a word or phrase deserves  a place in my poem, clarifying or enriching in some way I delete it.

A good poem can be rich as hot Venetian chocolate but must be sleek as a mountain hare.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Breaking Through - Beverley Ferguson, winner of the first Poetry Space Competition in 2010 considers the transformative role of poetry in her life

Winning the Poetry Space Limited Competition 2010 with my poem ‘Illness’ has been transformational in many ways.
I was inspired to enter the on-line competition mainly because of the words used to define Poetry Space Limited:“Poetry Space Limited is a company that is dedicated to promote and nurture creative expression without fear, judgment or prejudice.”

Although I had been writing poetry most of my life I had only recently discovered that you actually worked on poems – that you could workshop poems with other poets. This was a revelation to me. It was the start of broadening my concept of what poetry is and how words and images are communicated to other people. At that time I was writing short poems exploring capturing my feelings with only one or a few images. I was inspired by the poet Elaine Feinstein and had heard her read at the Toppings bookshop in Bath.
Artwork by Beverley Ferguson

My poem ‘Illness’ is a poem I wrote in an attempt to capture some of the feelings I experienced on my return home from a long stay in hospital. Although my return was from a psychiatric hospital I knew that my feelings of loneliness, confusion of identity and disorientation could apply to anyone’s experience on returning home from hospital.
What meant the most to me on winning the competition was reading the feedback from the judge Philip Lyons. Here was somebody I had never met yet I had communicated an important experience, my words had resonated with him. It was an extraordinary feeling. For the first time for many years I had a voice - and it had been heard.
The experience of connecting with other people through the power of words has encouraged me to keep writing poetry. Although I write journals and have a creative writing practice, poetry continues to be my main expression. My words naturally flow into poetic forms.

I have been invited to co-facilitate a writing group in Bath with Creativity Works this year. Other people’s words and expressions continue to inspire and fascinate me.
Winning this competition hasn’t just encouraged me to continue writing. Like the pebble dropped into a pond its effects continue to ripple outwards.

Beverley's powerful sonnet sequence Breaking Through is available from the Poetry Space online Shop at just £2 with 50% of the proceeds going to Bath Mind. This tirtle has already raised over £200 for Bath Mind.

Through the powerful symbol of ice Beverley Ferguson’s sonnet sequence leads the reader on a journey from the moment life became frozen when “Land shuddered and stopped” to imperceptible sparks of awakenings as “lost words of ancestors release songs of light.” The poet reaches back into the past to break through into the present, creating a new song, a new story – her own.

Beverley Ferguson’s finely written sonnet sequence leads the reader as well as the narrator into fresh hope for the future. 

Dr. Geraldine Green, 14.2.2013

A longer pamphlet collection Flowers in the Blood will be published by Poetry Space later this year. It includes Beverley's award winning poem Illness  and many other moving poems.