Autumn Showcase – September 2015

Tuesday, 1 September 2015



Prem Kumari Srivastava








• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases


Guest Editor – Prem Kumar Srivastava

Poems by  Ottilie Mackintosh, Wendy Holborow,Alexis Spring, Alwyn Marriage, Gill McEvoy, Ben Banyard, Lizzie Ballagher, Zak Patrick Parsobs, Nathan Evans, Will Lunn and Nick Cooke

Photographs by Chris Sims

Editor’s Notes

Grandma – Fine imagery, persuasive narrative, On Cliff-Top Walks – The poem is taut and build up an emotional tension, Dear Dad – A poem of felt experiences. Poignant with an honest ring to it,  GPS– Contemporary, moden and playful, Grandpa plays polo – Juxtaposed by reminiscence and memory, the poem is sharp and humorous without becoming trite and nonsensical, The Blackbird’s Retort – Provocative and visually stimulating, Stubborn Love – Compelling and interrogative narrative,  On Old Winchester Hill– The poem is wrought with destructive imagery and passion, The Riflemen – Symbolism of a battle with good interplay of past and present, At the age of almost forty – The subatern speaks, Our War Wilfrid – Contemporary resonance, reflection of mental and intellectual angst,  Loss – A quick play of words in this personal reminiscence, Salvador – Introspective and brooding.

General report: The present selection of poems is a sincere account of the poetic experience of the author-poets. Most of the selections resonate with their ‘felt’experiences’ ‘encounter with the familiar’ and communicate a ‘novel experience’. Interrogative, introspective and sensitive, the poems reflect ‘lives lived or gone by’. The selected poems stand out for their lyricism, lucidity and simplicity of narrative. In all they speak as much of the ‘untold’ as of the ‘familiar’.

Prem Kumari Srivastava



Copyright of all poems and photographs remains with the poets and photographers. Please do not reproduce without permission.




The books meant nothing

In themselves.Grandma

Except that they had come from there,

Would not return,

Belonging now to me,

Not her.

Precious leather coats,

In colours

Reflection, collected along the way.

And they are here, mine,

My own gathering of spines,

At last.

But the pages insist, fisted, that they belong to her.

Memories laid quite plainly

Atop the paper sea.

I have seen them

Nebulous recollections from mouth to mind.

I tried to

Unpick the ink well of her gentle wisdom.

But I have not weight enough

To give the words

Such earnest, careful, interest

As she did.

Lifting red and watering eye

In a surprise of strength, and wit,

to tell us what was written there.

So the books are mine,

And the words are hers,

And not like the objects that lost

Their meaning

When we took them into sunlight from the dark.

Ottilie Mackintosh



On cliff top walks


On Cliff-top Walks


On cliff-top walks on days like this,

with warring winds and bitter brine,

the wheeling seagulls hold their flight

against the slamming of the squall.


The tenor of your mood is clear,

you spit in spiccato in your rage

each syllable you enunciate

though gusty winds devour your words.


I extend my arms, back to the wind,

to thrust me nearer to your side,

your stride a quick, decided step

leaves me scurrying close behind.


I watch the flattening waves,

the yacht dismasted in the storm

and like the gulls I ride updraughts

and I bask in your disdain.


Wendy Holborow



Dear, Dad



What’s interesting to me

Is my lyrics

Make me appear fearless

I cannot be



I write about other people’s fears

And not my own

Not about this feeling of alone

Not about my tears



Poetry rhymes, lyrical rhymes

Speaking never about time

Time spent depressed

Time spent stressed



This small town is my prison

This tall house is my jail cell

Trying desperately to break free

Is it okay if I just want to be me?



People say I’m positively sick

I guess I’ll let you ultimately pick

Is there a chance you’ll come home again?

Thinking of you being here, I begin to pen



Old feelings of when you ignored

I constantly looked to be restored

Is this how we are describing living?

In constant fear of being too giving



I remember my Dad and I’s many dances

Us talking about always taking the right chances

My Dad saying “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine, I’m fine.”

To me realizing that was just another of his many lies




They say there’s nothing I can do it’s genetic

Which makes my viewpoint on people pathetic

They say it’s what makes me a writer

They say it’s what makes me a fighter



My lines all over the place

I desperately try to fill this space…

Where are my lines going?

Isn’t mystery keeping this flowing?



With the constant fighting

With the constant crying

With me being so depressed

It seems I can never find rest



Is anyone taking notice?

Don’t I appear out of focus?

Perhaps we are all depressed

It seems nobody really ever rests



My small town roots

Keeps me losing my mind

My small town boots

It’s only a matter of time…



Stuck between remaining optimistic

Or staying true to being quite artistic

I want to talk about depression

I still have so many questions



Like Dad, why did you end your life?

What about your children, your wife?

I know you never thought it through

Am I going to grow up and be like you?




Can you see me?

Am I everything you wanted to be?

Why’d you run away?

I really, really needed you to stay



Dad, your demons haunt me

I don’t want to live like this any longer

I don’t want to live life without a father

Is it you who is taunting me?



Figuring out who I want to be

Realizing now I too can be free

Free, from fear of becoming you

Free, to go ahead and start anew



Wanting us to all die peacefully together in our sleep

I couldn’t believe the mental illness had gotten so deep

I, I know I am saying too much

You used everything as your crutch



With the main question why?

I ask did you really want to die?

You were more than my hero

What were your fears though?



A few shots to the head

The priest called us

They found you, dead

For once, you didn’t fuss


Alexis Spring









That other woman in your car

always makes it clear that she knows best:

Continue 5.7 miles on the motorway she orders,

and because there isn’t any other option,

you do as she says.


She’s bossy and insensitive, lacks sympathy

for your mistakes, shows no respect

for you or for your passengers,

pours scorn on my map-reading

and has never introduced

an interesting topic of conversation

or shown any interest in your life.


In point eight of a mile, keep right

she chimes and, despite your life-long

left-leaning tendencies, you obediently

nose out towards the A road’s central lane.


She’s clearly got you hooked. Does she enjoy

the power she holds over you? Continue

20 miles on M5 (or 6 or 20); Perform

a legal U-turn; or if she’s feeling slightly

more polite: Please drive to highlighted route.


Amazed, I watch you meekly follow

her directions with no sign of argument

or irritation. I can’t believe

the fundamental change I see in you,

and marvel at this new relationship.

You clearly trust a distant satellite

more than you trust your wife.


Alwyn Marriage


Grandpa Plays Polo


In his greasy jodhpurs

with the batwing thighs

Grandpa dreams of horses –

we hear him snort and twitch.


His deck-chair’s tattered canvas

cups his awkward frame.

It’s June:


a first red rose leans down,

white lilies cloud the air with scent,

the iris straighten up in rows of blue.


A cat lights on the fence,

takes in the sleeping man.

It leaps, and as its feet


touch down on Grandpa’s knees

the old man whips up instantly

to seize an ancient polo-stick


and swing out at the cat.

“Tail-shot!” he yells,

“Chukka to the Club!”


then hands the stick

to some imaginary groom.


Gill McEvoy




 The Blackbird’s Retort


“With a gurt big stick I’ll knock’n down

Blackbird, I’ll ‘ave ‘ee” – The Wurzels


I like to watch you from

my Wurzel tree, staggering

in the farmyard’s clag, arms

windmilling, clearly the worse

for rough cider.


The livestock and I are

amused by your dislike

for my song, and by the sight

of you, sweaty and red-faced,

flailing that stick at me.


I’ll admit that the time I

defecated on your washing

was a little churlish, but my

disruption of your poaching

was entirely justified.


It was never my intention

for you to lose sleep, but

I can assure you, Oh

Smocked Rustic, there’ll

be no Blackbird Pie.


Ben Banyard


Stubborn love


Stubborn Love


You may as well ask

Fires not to rage on summer’s forest floor;

Grainy sands not to shift on the endless shore.


You may as well ask

Sweet rain not to fall on the field or the lea;

Rivers not to run down their valleys to the sea.


You may as well ask

Roses not to bloom in a bright morning’s dawn;

Oak trees not to hold fast in wild winter storms.


Oh, you may as well ask me

To stop living,

To stop moving,

To stop giving,

To stop loving—

Oh, you may as well ask.


You may as well ask

Spring tides not to rise in the moon-crescent bay;

Comets not to blaze their fierce light far away.


You may as well ask

High stars not to glow in the inky night,

Or time not to fly like an arrow in flight.


You may as well ask

The fiery sun not to set deep in the west;

The moon not to roll in its orbit to rest.


Oh, you may as well ask me

To stop living,

To stop moving,

To stop giving,

To stop loving—

Oh, you may as well ask.


Lizzie Ballagher




On Old Winchester Hill                 


High on Old Winchester Hill, I wonder:

Did Victorian archaeologists miss the point

With their methodical measuring tapes,

Their neat white note-cards & their tapping trowels;

Their careful record books & counted shards

Of flint & iron & pottery?


The hill is healed now of all diggings: hollows & barrows

Softened by falling rain, by grass & honeyed clover,

By golden gorse & trefoil; by thistledown & scabious;

By poppies’ red splash & purple coils of rampant vetch.

Now rock-hard ramparts, humps & clumps of earth are blurred:

Jumbled by time & tempest, roots & rabbits.


What’s left to mark the memory of ancient ancestors

And long-lost clans?—those who lived before the builders of Stonehenge,

Before Romans drove their roads in dead straight lines & marched to ruin,

Before Arthur cantered out with wandering knights,

Or Alfred was enthroned in royal halls at Winchester—

What’s left to mark their memory?


Only this: a gentle wooden seat to rest upon with you,

To stare back down & through the ages;

And this: our love shall last, not overlords.

We carry seeds of sweetness in our plantings

As surely as feathered corn-cockles flare

Open for another summer & another—


As surely as the children born to us

Will walk upon this hilltop once:

Their eyes fixed on the azure glory of the sky,

Their feet sunk deep in kingly blue of cornflowers

And golden hoards of seed-heads where today we go

In tracks of those who settled here six thousand years ago.

Lizzie Ballagher



The Riflemen

The man you knew yesterday will not be here tomorrow

Yesterday was a good day but now I feel the storm brewing

The armies of riflemen have returned

They stand on guard

Shooting happiness as soon as it tries to pop his head up

Bang! Bang! Bang!

He never stood a chance

I tried to save him

I always do

But the riflemen won

They always do

So I shall carry on with this battle

Me versus the riflemen

I shall continue to take bullets to my brain

I shall carry on this battle

I will bring it to my grave

Zak Patrick Parsons


 At the age

At the age of almost forty


At the age of almost forty he had grown

about his heart a ring of finely tempered stone

through which nowt could get out and nothing could get in –

for this is what his life had taught him.


The parents who had said, ‘Don’t look like that, don’t speak like that,

and for goodness sakes don’t be like that,’

envisioning a chorus of curtains twitching –

for that is what their lives had taught them.


The classmates who had not chosen him for their team

and left him on the touch line looking in,

then mocked him in the shower room for his not belonging –

for that is what their lives had taught them.


The teachers who had taken him in hand,

pulled him from the place he’d been and pushed him on to promised land,

but with no notion how on reaching he should prise its pearled gates open –

for that was not a thing that their lives had taught to them.


The employers who had passed on him because he was too green,

and those who had hired and then had tried to whittle him,

and those who had fired because his arrow snagged their string –

for that and this and that is what their lives had taught them.


The lovers who’d not wanted him though he had wanted them,

then lovers who had cared for him when he’d not cared for them.

Heart quaked, it spewed, flowed hot, set cold, again, again, again –

and this is what his life had made him.


Nathan Evans


Our War WilfredOur war wilfrid

Modern, intensely painful private.

Shameful, secret our modern Great War Wilfred.

Your ecstasy of fumbling does not take place,

In mud and sludge of foreign field.

This no man’s land,

Has no shell burst fractured trees.

Silhouetted by the setting sun.

Only subtle decline of lonely neglect.

All guttering, choking drowning.

Behind closed doors in our Great War Wilfred.

A lonely desperate belt made into a noose.

Veins opened watching life blood gush.

Our green sea cloud of gas,

Between our ears with,

lucid life saving  thought

unable to pass.

Young men die alone in Our Great War Wilfred.

No Tommies drowning in

shell holes filled with liquid mud.

Just private pain and lonely deaths.

You had Lloyd George we have Cameron

Nothing to choose in our great and good.

Both have the blood of our young men ,

Of a generation on their hands.

No getting killed in the name of the King in Our Great War Wilfred.

Our young men are allowed to die in the name of fiscal austerity,

Regrettable but necessary spending cuts.

Our boys killed by an accountants pen instead of German gun.

In our modern solitary Great War Wilfred

No pretence of telling in such high zest, that old lie.

Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.


Will Lunn


Written as an angry response to the epidemic of suicide among young males and our collective shameful lack of action as a nation.








I asked a question; he replied in song,

his own song, one never sung before or since,

in which his voice became an instrument,

or rather an orchestra, because

it segued from flute to trumpet to bass

in a single utterance – first a tootling,

then a maybe-mock-pompous parp, followed

by something that may well have been a fart.


Music is all that’s been left him: a copy

of Gramophone on his bedside table,

a stack of CDs on the window ledge.

Words have drained from his mind, one by one, like

hairs from a bald man’s head, but sounds he’s kept,

and how I wish I’d answered him in kind,

jettisoned restraint just as he had done,

instead of idly nodding like a gnome.


First a flashy arpeggio or two,

Rachmaninov-style; and why not a harp?

Then on to cymbals, wiped over by brushes

to a syncopated tempo, hoping he’d

ride over the top with a clarinet

or sax, or any damn thing he liked.

Failing that I’d have settled for a smile,

a pearl to bite on in the screaming corridors.


Nick Cooke




you climb down a ladder

with metal rungs, facing a brick wall,

and as you drop you can’t ignore

the music growing louder and clearer


and the moment your feet touch ground

in the lower world, your status changes

and you have a new identity on your hands,

like the metallic taste of the ladder,


and just by virtue of being there an hour

you are part of it forever, among

people who dance and toil and like as not

don’t even know there are steps


to something they might see as rarefied,

somewhere they might favourably alight

if they ever looked up

if they knew how to climb


Nick Cooke



Prem Kumari Srivastava Associate Professor of English at The University of Delhi.   Her recently published books are Leslie Fiedler: Critic, Provocateur, Pop Culture Guru (2014) McFarland, USA; co-edited volumes, Cultures of the Indigenous: India and Beyond and De-territorialising Diversities: Literatures of the Indigenous and Marginalised (2014), Authorspress, Delhi; and co-edited & co-authored Language, Literature and Creativity (2013), Orient Blackswan, Delhi. An editor and translator, and a recipient of many post doctoral fellowships and awards, Prem has edited journals such as Creative Forum, Literaria and Fortell.    Having lectured at several  international universities in UK, USA, Canada, Cyprus, Austria and China, Prem’s  poems have been showcased in journals such as Muse India (2013), Poetryspace, Bristol, UK (2012), Galatea Resurrects: A Poetry   Engagement, California (2012); Kritya: a journal of poetry, New Delhi (2011, 2010); Families: a Journal of Representations, Kolkata (2011); Enchanting Verses Literary Review, India (2011) and Contemporary Literary Review, India (2011)

Prem’s pamphlet collection with Poetry Space: Standing by the Wayside is available to buy here.