Winter Showcase – December 2018

Saturday, 1 December 2018

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases

Guest Editor- Janet Sutherland

Featured image: Chris Sims

Janet Sutherland has three collections with Shearsman Books, most recently Bone Monkey. Her fourth collection, Home Farm, will be published in January 2019 also from Shearsman Books. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies and in magazines such as Poetry Review, New Humanist, London Magazine, New Statesman, Poetry Ireland Review and The Spectator. She received a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2018 and won the 2017 Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition. Her website is at


Guest Editor’s Overview:

It’s always a pleasure to read poetry, each poem an opening into the mind of another, each doing its best to reflect what its maker intended. I was so pleased to be asked to select ten poems for Poetry Space for the winter showcase. There was a huge variety of work and my choices are of course, idiosyncratic— another poet would have selected differently so, if yours doesn’t appear here this time, keep reading, keep writing, keep sending out. 

Enjoy the selection, then please scroll down for the comments from Janet for each poem. Please note that copyright for all poems  Please do not reproduce without permission. SJS

The Magic of Writing


I write and write to arrive 


Hoping these words get to you,

In some magical way

Set it,  the paper heated, aflame. 

To reach you via spiritual aspect

From the material of wood, carbon, 

Ink, the natural elements. 

To get it to you through my touch

To the other side of the walls, 

Where you don’t belong,

There for no reason, keep you ill. 

When you are not, and me away,

Under duress and threats,

State authorities, bullies’ enemies, 

Demon Nazi home wreckers’ hell. 

And your people too, all are wrong

You are not mad, they are confused, 

Between genius and madness,

Stalking abusing us to prove it. 

So, these words go out for you in air, 

So, reach your mind, sustain your soul, 

To nourish you with love and Joy,

Through the pleasure of touch

Of ink on paper, symbolism from it. 

All to touch your heart, your being 

With that magical earth brush

To join us to the spirit of the world. 

For we can make whatever we like

With our quill and ink, as it reaches out 

To stain you, the world, beautifully, 

To touch you, as what is wrongly


To us my love is returned, restored. 


Sam Khan-McIntyre





Winter sunlight


Shadows are long and lean

and very black

making their hand-in-hand way

along a sunlit road.


They mingle and two-step

with tree shapes

twisting and twirling

to the music of a blue wind.


A clear white-cold light

scars the eyes, blinding

the staid walkers as, slowly,

they re-trace Strictly steps.


They remember Balling

the Jack, long-gone nights

in black tie, long black frocks,

hearts and feet in perfect time.


Now they shadow-dance with

black trees, keeping in step,

jiving, waltzing, fox-trotting

into the shimmer of winter.


Moira Andrew




To mark our time


I would give you something permanent,

not to claim you,

but to mark this time as ours.

Perhaps a ring,

unbroken circle,

to be taken off at times of your choosing:


when you’re using tools;

working wood;

when I’m gone.

Inside, the words

for when we loved,

like a circle drawn around dates on a calendar.


Pat Edwards




Cormorant, Starfish, Seagull


Needles of fine rain prick my skin,

sandpipers spear banks for scraps of protein

as I stop with my dog by the sea wall


to watch a silent maritime melodrama:

the dark pterodactyl head and shoulders

of a cormorant surface, break


the water’s skin, struggle to swallow

a large russet starfish whose five legs

wriggle like a baby’s fingers.


I throw a stone, a stab at flimsy rescue

but the ocean raptor rapt on his prey

still tries to force down his unwieldy meal.


A seagull, sharp-eyed raider, swoops,

hovers and grabs a leg until a still life

of bird-starfish-bird forms,


suspended between sea and air,

hunger binding them.

The razor-shell-billed robber


takes off with its warty feast

as the water’s broken mirror

becomes whole again.


Annest Gwilym




Cabbage White


In his robe of sun he cartwheels

over autumn weeds –

a last-fling pale ballerina

among the Caravaggio opulence

of October

and its red-haired children.


This petal-light cabbage white

flits among heady colours

distilled by autumn:

root beer, cider, burgundy, rosé.

He goes there, there, there –

from ragwort to herb robert,

catsear to hawkbit.


November brings brown,

sours ripe and fruity scents,

pungent with leaf mould and fungi.

A watery sun rises low;

branches like swipes of ink

on an eau-de-nil sky;

his lifeless body blowing about

in the wind with the leaves.


Annest Gwilym





Devastation of eyesight


Dusk on the Cyclades –

tamarisks, sea drawn by wind.


Margarita Serafimova







The punk-haired goddess Fire

            is scissoring out

                        the souls of the sober elements:


flaking off their chains,

            they bundle up

                        the helter-skelter of the air


to enter, one by one,

            oblivion, each sucking

                        a last desperate cigarette.


Along the scorched rim

she clones herself

                        in tiny dancing sprites;


The smoky air is filled

            with the fatty crackle

                        of her self-applause


and the bonfire

            sags, collapses

                        like tenements of war.


Anthony Watts







Listen: from the frenzy of fiddles & a squeezebox

                                the thud of a bodhran

                                                a tune rises


                                                                                fights its way through


to hands snapping knotted handkerchiefs

                to my feet

                                to tatters in a flurry:

                                                day night black red white—

no catwalk strutting show but steps hurrying

                danced down

                                as if a many-coloured spool unwound,

                                                unreeled itself down generations


from once-beating hearts

                now long-buried deep

                                in Cotswolds’ red earth

                                in Dorset greensand

                                                or in the howling rocky borderlands

                                                                never to be stamped down

                                                never                    not even             by Lancashire clogs.


So today I race the reel

                chin raised


& I’m lifted to life

                in the drum & thrum of blood

                in the caper of ribbons & bells

raised in the burst

                of strings & bows, lungs & bellows

risen to the skip

                                the leap

                                                of feet


here I wear the skin of dancing ancestors

                their tatters coats upon my shoulders

                                like a shaman’s cloak


somehow I have become the earth beneath my feet

                the beating music

                                somehow I am the dance

                                                I am my own forebears

                                                                somehow I am not lone, not young, not old,

                                                                                but somehow forever alive.        


Lizzie Ballagher




Duck Lady


Downtown Philly on Market Street:

                the Duck Lady drags her weight of bags

                                                                  her clumps of cardboard

                & quacks

                                to all who listen, fearful;

                or cross to the other side

                or turn down Fifteenth

                                to where plane, osage & chestnut trees

                                have lost their boulevard leaves

                                but subway-surface cars clank reassuringly

                                                                                                                all the way to the terminus.


Grey: it’s tombstone grey in Center City—

                concrete blocks

                                cracked sidewalk paving slabs

                                                winter faces seamed & pinched

                                                                the silver savagery of cars sliding by in


a deadly hush

                but for the Duck Lady quacking

                                in resplendent scarlet—a coat

                                                someone at Arch Street’s Salvation Army

                                                                must have given her

                                                                                now winter’s got the city by the throat


                                                                & cops are clearing

                                                vagrants off the steam vents

                                winos out of hotel doorways & chasing

                roaches & rats back down the sewer shafts.


And I’m on the bus right after work

                hefting my own weight of bags

                                & hearing the Duck Lady quack, still quack


so later when I’m almost home

                shivering in the minus-twenty frost

                I can’t stop thinking of the Duck Lady

in her vermillion finery.


Lizzie Ballagher



Where I’m From


I am from Matchbox

From those little cars that would capture my attention for hours

I am from the wood chips at nearby playgrounds

(Brown, sharp,

Crunching beneath my feet.)

I am from the Rose bush

Whose thorns and limbs protected my grandmother’s house

From our Wiffle balls


I am from hamburgers and hotdogs

From Ed and Frank

I am from the play-it-alls,

And the learn-it-alls,

I am from Stop Yelling! And Keep Reading!    

I am from piles of books

And endless sun


I am from the Oasis and Kaldis,

Homemade bagels and strong coffee.

I am from my grandfather’s chair

Where he debates me,

And usually wins


I am from Nerf and Lego

Cars and trucks,

Strewn below my bed like shells

On a seashore.

I am from these places and things

That shaped my memory

Into something good.


Kurt Gundlach

USA (aged 17)


Inspired by “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon


Editor’s Notes – Janet Sutherland

The first three poems reflect deeply on relationships and on love.

The Magic of Writing

The first line of this poem embodies the energy of the language, the urgency of the thought “I write and write to arrive”.  The poem has a wonderful physicality imagining the words of a letter to someone who is deeply loved, the words so strong that they can arrive by some spiritual or magical means taking the sender with them through the very walls of an institution to the one who is loved.

Winter sunlight

This poem takes us deep into winter shadows and into the winter years as we follow a couple hand in hand on a winter walk. Old dances are recalled in the shadows dancing in a blue wind. I liked the phrase “a clear white-cold light scars the eyes” describing that low-slung intense light of winter.

To mark our time

There is something very moving about the premise of this poem, the poet makes clear a ring is not about ownership, it is “not to claim you” but to mark the time as “ours” and the ring can be taken off for practical reasons or “when I’m gone”, it is “like a circle drawn round dates on a calendar”.

Two poems from a poet closely describing the natural world.

 Cormorant, Starfish, Seagull

Intense observation and a narrative form take the reader to the coast in this poem, right into the “needles of fine rain” and to a fight between two birds for the starfish grabbed by them both. It is a dramatic narrative in which the sea is the fourth protagonist, it’s skin first broken, then restored.

 Cabbage White

This poem is also wonderfully descriptive and evocative of nature and autumn, the “Caravaggio opulence” of October with its “red-haired children” an original way to describe the autumn leaves set against the November corpse of the butterfly, itself like a leaf in the wind.

Two strongly visual poems follow:

 Devastation of eyesight

A powerful visual two-line metaphor simply reflects off the title of this poem and gives it tremendous power. The reader can both see the image of the dusk on the Cyclades and see how it can be used as metaphor for failing eyesight. That beauty can be devastating is also implied. Wonderful brevity.


The poem has a regular three-line stanza structure and is a celebration of “the punk-haired goddess Fire” who is “scissoring out the souls of the sober elements” —a gloriously elegant description of fire and the material it burns.

The final three poems reflect on different memories, of dance, of winter in Philadelphia and then of childhood.


“Here I wear the skin of dancing ancestors” the poet says, allowing the poem to leap about on the page and let us hear the “frenzy of fiddles and a squeezebox” so that the body is somehow outside time. The layout echoes the dance and the energy of the beat and the music.

 Duck Lady

The poem describes a bag lady in Philadelphia who is called Duck Lady because of her quacking. There is a richness of detail in the poem which sets it firmly in the states in the dead cold of a bitter winter. It’s not ‘till near the end of the poem that the poet says, “And I’m on the bus right after work/ hefting my own weight of bags” that you, the reader, are right there too with the “I” of the poem, listening to the Duck Lady in her vermillion coat in the minus-twenty frost.

Where I’m From

This lovely childhood memory poem details the elements of the poet’s childhood through toys, food, and family and we are taken there via touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. The poem relies on the repeated phrase “I am from” varying long and short lines of specific memories such as the “cars and trucks/ strewn below my bed like shells”.

Please note the copyright for all poems and images remains with their creators.

Please note that Janet chose the poems anonymously The order they appear in the showcase does not reflect any preference.