Winter Showcase – December 2017

Thursday, 30 November 2017

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases

Guest  editor: Lizzie Ballagher



Lizzie Ballagher


Lizzie Ballagher’s poetry was showcased recently at the 2017 Houston (Texas) Poetry Festival, the oldest poetry festival in the US. Having spent all her professional life in teaching, writing and editorial work, she now enjoys more time to write. She is a member of the Society of Authors and of the Poetry Society, organisations which, along with Poetry Space, have afforded her much encouragement over the years. She lives and works in southern England, and writes a blog .






Editor’s overview

Thank you, Poetry Space and all the entrants’ whose poems brought me such delight as I read and reread them! What I looked for was insight; I also hoped for (and found) clarity of imagery and honest emotion. In the end, the poems that made it into the final ten were those that stuck in my memory after initial readings, perhaps because of their economy of expression, or perhaps because their creators found a convincing, sometimes delicious way to match structure and sense.

I enjoyed, too, the way many of the more than one hundred poems submitted employed rhythm and other sonic devices to underpin meaning. Reading the final ten aloud only confirmed my choices, although (as seems always to be true) filtering out other wonderful poems was in fact rather painful.


Please scroll down below the poems for Lizzie comments on each selected poem.



Chris Sims


A Poetry Itch


I’ve got a poetry itch,

a buzz in my ribs,

a smell in my brain,

a sigh in my chest,

a question in my feet.


I need to light it up,

answer it, dance it,

scratch it till it bleeds,

shake it till it ferments,

open it like a flower,


tend it like a green seed,

bleed it like a geranium,

stir it like a paint pot;

address it like a lord mayor,

embrace it like a lost child,


till the colours swirl and fight,

the nectar fizzes,

the child shrieks with joy,

the seed bursts its name,

the tower touches the cloud,


and the itch grows

into a castle or mansion,

a shower that thunders the sky,

brass bell that clangs at midnight,

balloon that soars to heaven;


thank you itch, for your gifts

of unreason, bubbling effusion,

dysfunction, misfit, despair,

effervescence, discordance,

wonderful wilderness that blooms.


Judy Dinnen (UK)



You Have Two Ideas for a Poem, and You Riskily Combine Them to Demonstrate the Writing Process


there are records over there, squat in the corner

opposite my bed

they sit and wait, itching to

be scratched.

There are two ideas here.

one as raw as–as unscratched records over there, squat

opposite my bed

Tell me you remember how to be young.

a record lifts its hind leg to scratch behind the ear and

If not, I’ll show you. 

my thoughts tend to scamper and–and we’ll

run across fields and pick strawberries and eat Snow Cones till our tongues turn blue

if I think hard enough I feel your fingers.

I promise there’s a method to my madness

and then I will kiss you.

hypnotizing second-nature trains of thought follow the needle around and around and around


I’ve always wanted to taste the color blue.


Mary Kate Morris (USA)



We come downstairs to



we listen to the birds’

incessant questions


They have not forgotten

to come; their songs are


delicate, you say

They do not vanish


like words

a name


like encrypted sleep

they wipe the world clean


Jeff Skinner (UK)



Every day being the last day


Nothing new

but the memory

of you, my dreamscape

mellifluous as seasons melding


Beaches we inhabited

in all weathers

seashells like ghost-houses

having given up their dead


I covet the detritus

of a worn green sweater

the shirt with mad flowers

a painting half-hung


At 3 a.m. there is

broken sky

the heart’s stumble

a haunting of clocks.


Eileen Carney Hulme (UK)



Great Crested Newt


In the wood’s stippled light

a deadened pond full of mud

and last year’s decaying leaves;

a little-stegosaurus prowls

in the stench of primeval slime.


A basilisk in his own world,

gorging on newly-hatched tadpoles;

his orange belly and warty skin

warn of a foul taste –

a choke-skin suit of armour.


Night-prowler, he hides by day

from the terrible fire-stab-beak

whose shadow makes him shoot

beneath waterlily pads

into hornwort jungles.


Creature of two elements,

he waves his dinosaur tail

at his chosen one, beguiling

her with cologne

in his brightest spring suit.


Water-drake, in my hand

he is a slippery grenade –

he lies so still,

but like a thunderbolt

he’s here … gone.


Annest Gwilym (UK)




Look out, as the water streams down

and no-one can see inside, there

are lawns, banks of trees, roses

encircled by undergrowth, picture

the life played out the other side

of the orchard, vault the walls, imagine


but there’s that silence, that space

between the chimes, your mind so easily

turns within, limbs heavy with the unsaid

the undone, the non-doing, you

wait for the night to fall, to say it’s evening,

the day is done, close the shutters, at last.


Patrick Williamson (France) 


The edges of winter


Her mittens, though warming, are wet at the edges.

The snow, like flaking white paint, falls to the ground.

Paper thin, it rests one second, then is swiftly swallowed by slush.

Standing still, she thinks of childhood, sledging down the hill.

Her body is weightless, her cheeks red from the cutting wind.


Sue Wallace- Shaddad (UK)



In Bronze September


days ring like deep bells

hilltop echoes hilltop


fields are licked clean

rolled in butterscotch


gold shavings fill the valleys

orchards drip fruit


vines stagger down slopes

stained purple with juice


swallows crotchet power lines

spiders tie seedhead to seedhead


mornings are crisp as apples

air smells of spice


my arms are nut brown

berry-bruised and weary


a glut, a ripening

that cannot last.


Jenna Plewes (UK)



On the move


She is at it again,

moving house

living in two places

lunging with trunks and cases,

little time for her man

just his legs, a kiss. ‘Very nice,’ he says.


She is at it again,

bulging bags, screwed up poems,

too heavy to drag.

As moon and dawn mingle

Memories like a danse macabre 

slide deeply into the walls.


Maureen Weldon (UK)



Lost Between             


                        one who wanders

                                    with her head 

                                                in a notebook


                        capturing damselflies

                                    on the tip

                                                of her pen


                         only putting on shoes

                                    in case someone

                                                knocks on the door.




                                    And another who stands

                                                in a kitchen,

                                                            chopping shallots,


                                    listening to rain 

                                                  as she stirs lost words

                                                            into a pan


                                    while a washing machine


                                                            the family colours.   


Valerie Morton (UK)


Editor’s comments

One theme that emerged clearly was poetry itself, a subject handled deftly in at least four of the poems here.  Judy Dinnen (A Poetry Itch)and Mary Kate Morris (You Have Two Ideas for a Poem…) warm to this theme with light-hearted humour, while Maureen Weldon (On The Move) and Valerie Morton (Lost Between) demonstrate that it is not always easy to balance the creative and practical worlds we necessarily inhabit.

Jeff Skinner, Sue Wallace-Shaddad and Annest Gwilym  have in common with several writers in this collection a tender sense of wonder: that we can listen to and be refreshed by birdsong (We come downstairs), or that we can spend time observing minute detail in nature or other wildlife (The Edges of Winter”, “Great Crested Newt).

Sorrow rears its head in Every day being the last day (Eileen Carney Hulme). Delicately conveyed is the sudden lurch of loss: “At 3 a.m. there is / broken sky / the heart’s stumble / a haunting of clocks.” Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of human emotion is the heavy, confusing mix of regret and relief so well described in Solitude (Patrick Williamson) while “In Bronze September” Jenna Plewes catches a rare moment of luminous joy (along with the awareness that, as Robert Frost once wrote, “Nothing gold can stay”).

There is much to celebrate here, both in the content and in the technical skill; I am indebted to Sue Sims to have had the opportunity to read all the poems submitted.

(Please note names have been added after anonymous selection by Lizzie)