Spring Showcase – March 2019

Thursday, 28 February 2019

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases


Guest Editor- Julie Sampson



Julie Sampson lives in Somerset, with her heart and roots in Devon. She works as an independent writer and poet, but  was previously a piano teacher, then tutor of creative writing and literature at various colleges in the south-west, including The University of the West of England. She has a PhD on the writer H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) 

Julie’s poems have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies and also online. She has been  short-listed or placed in several competitions, Her work was included in Making Worlds; One Hundred Contemporary Women Poets, 2003 (Headland/Second Light Publications) and Fanfare, 2015 (Second Light Publications).  She edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman Books) and a full poetry collection, Tessitura, was also published by Shearsman Books, in 2014. A non-fiction manuscript on  the history of Devon Women Writers was short-listed for The Impress Prize, in 2015.


Guest Editor’s Overview:

I feel privileged to have been asked to edit this edition of Poetry Space Showcase. It has been a most enjoyable challenge. My approach was to read through all the poems over several days and wait for individual ones to speak and start to settle within me. I found that almost, if not all the poems stood out in one way or other, but gradually a group came to the fore, which demanded more of my attention. The hardest task was to whittle down a preliminary choice of about fifteen poems to a final selection of ten. I was looking for poems that compelled me, perhaps through inviting me to look at a subject or theme through a new lens, or because they were marked by powerful integration of theme and poetic structuring. Although as I begin to write this overview, I realise it was not planned, each poem in the final selection speaks to me in light of a couple of special concerns of our time; that of environmental impact on wild-life and that of the place of the solitary individual in an increasingly fraught world. 

 I hope you will enjoy reading these poems as much as I have (just wish I could have included more of them) and thank you so much Sue Sims for inviting me to be editor.


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



in hazel woods,

in long-abandoned nut orchards

                where leaves grow          round as cobnuts

                                                                clustered in their twig-crooks,


listen for

                a barely whispered creaking snore,

                whistling breath so small

                                it’s lost in the shift of leaves,

                                                     the heave of branches,

                a sleepy rustle in bushes

                                arching over your head

                                                in a green tunnel…


look for

                dormouse lighter than

                                                a pocketful of hazelnuts,

                body smaller than your hand,

                                tail curled around its sleep—

                                                eyes tight shut, but ears pricked;


or look for

                two winking black beads

                                                        over whiskers…

                little holes drilled

                                neatly in those nutshells




                the dormouse    shifts,

                                                                moves to sniff fragrances

                                                                                                of mulleins, foxgloves,

                                                                                 to munch on nuts & seeds



                the coming cold


 Lizzie Ballagher





In a long-shadowed corner of this orchard

the farmer has emptied barrel-loads of fallen fruit;

my father might well have done the same—

I wish I could recall.

He was a blackcurrant farmer,

A man who also loved wild birds.


His keen spirit stalks us in the sharp wreckage

of winter prunings; in the branch boneyard

where cherry trees are skeletons of their summer selves;

where decomposing, dappled pears send out tendrils

of fragrance into frost-pinched, ice-pearled air

and snare the fieldfares as they pass.


Above our heads fat crab-apples hang:

jewels on the bulbous ropes of aged branches,

priceless rubies on a sapphire sky.

A single fieldfare rises, topaz speckled,

white underwings in chevrons, her back

gleaming garnets in the horizontal light.


She turns, flings skyward with her diamond beak aimed

unswerving at the apple sun.

The flock explodes—twelve, twenty, two hundred birds

all mocking frost on hoar-bleached branches;

all celebrating the farmer’s luscious gifts,

chuckling with glee over winter windfalls.


Lizzie Ballagher



From Gathered Wood


From gathered wood the bonfire grew

For weeks till it was ready to

Be lit. Meantime we played in it;

A  castle wall, then a rocket,

Then a hide-out for me and you.


One day we saw a hedgehog who

Had found a safe space inside too,

Suddenly come squeaking out. It

Ran off; we trembled.


We do not realise what we do

Or who or what we do it to.

On Bonfire Night the fire was lit.

The hedgehog? What happened to it

We never asked, we never knew.


We weren’t that humbled.


Michael Docker



After Your Death, I Know



That there is always a you; but

most of the time it’s only me.


Your headstone is a sandstone.

A red one; on it: you lived loved.


I still carry your name with me,

always; it says I belonged to you,


or you will belong, always.

I’ve known you a long time now;


even in your absence, that some

possibilities are no longer even


probabilities. I’ve fallen in love

with your empty chair now; I


make love with your pillow —

it does not feel lonely anymore.


I sometimes miss your face, but

there’s a photo album tucked


under my side of the bed. It’s

usually open. —


It does not feel lonely anymore.


Jayant Kashyap


The line “That there is always a you” has been borrowed from Jennifer Chang’s poem ‘Again a Solstice’.


‘I don’t know what to say’


He stands with a black fire pot,

filled with orange blooms,

eyes cast down, shoulders hunched.

He stays by the small plot,
longing to speak to her.


In fact, he opens his mouth,
but nothing comes out.

He opens his heart,

a petal drops to the ground.

He opens his eyes,
a cloud gathers overhead.


He utters sounds, bleak
and meaningless, miserable

echoes of the tea-time chat,
last year. They hadn’t said much
and yet they spoke with
smile, movement and sparkle,

blossom and colour.


Now he holds the colour to
his chest, petals wilting;
sees the damp grass, the cruel
blanket covering his wife.

There is no movement, no

sparkle, no touch or laughter.


He turns gently away,
and meets a stranger.

He tells her about the stutter,

the stammer, shows her the
pot of orange love,

tells her about the tea-time,


with the scones, and red jam,
the sparkle and colour, the words
that slipped out so easily;
yes, she’s still there somewhere
in his head, still orange and green,
still gold and purple,

all the colours of the rainbow.


Judy Dinnen



Squeezed like loneliness


space filled to the brim

with spider-whiteness

no bird call

no knock on the door


squeezed into a corner

like a hunted animal


waiting for the phone to ring

for a voice on the other end

of the line

email doesn’t do it

nor Facebook

nor Linked-in

loneliness needs

its own space and time

excelling in taunting

with borrowed laughter

from across the street

the sight of hand on hand

on a Sainsbury’s trolley

a stranger’s accidental touch

his words of apology

like the last drops of loneliness

squeezed from a wash-rag


Moira Andrew





Imagine a kiss,

he says, voice thick


by an oxygen mask.

You think

of a lifetime’s

kisses, warm

wet baby kisses,

inexpert skidding-


teenage kisses,

of those

more ardent

more experienced

the man-to-woman

exploring sort.

You remember




Good-night, sleep-well

kisses, knowing

tomorrow would come,

until the day

tomorrow failed

and a run-of-the-mill kiss

morphed into the last,

a dead man’s



 Moira Andrew



Green Tiger Beetle


In a marram forest sweetened by lilac trumpets

of shore convolvulus, a tiny sun-crazed tiger

lies in wait, coiled as a steel spring.


With the sky as sharp as a blade,

in full lustre, this gaudy long-legged lady,

in sea-green dress and purple stockings


scans the dunes in fearful symmetry;

still as the breath of a foxglove

until fast as fire in parched moorland


she sprints after a spider, tears across crumbs

of silica and seashell. Six-legged slayer, she grabs,

decapitates, gorges with guillotine jaws.


Annest Gwilym



ways to say goodbye


the trick is to not look back

pillars of salt come to mind –

how painful to itch and thirst

melt like a rock in the sun

disperse in rain to become a sea

even a small one with no conscience


you know I never did look back

to say another goodbye or glance

and see your receding figure with

thoughts much the same as mine –

gait and head would reveal so much

and there was no talk about this

being the last time


it’s not really a trick to not look back

I just forget – absorb subtext permutations

of regrets about what should be said –

remove first to a café for coffee

to make it all take longer and go well

beyond the element of surprise at meeting

then saying goodbye is not so sudden


James Bell





As I recall those mornings   

replete with wonderment and love, 

 in a log-cottage resembling a castle,     

 with the window bars framing the sea and the sky   

                                                        in tens of tiny squares,                                                                                                                  

 I sit pondering how I lost my clarity,                                                                                                                              

  while shadows of fear in the green of your eyes                                                                                                                                                        

                                                        pulled drawbridges up,                                                                                                                     

 as if a fierce battle was taking place somewhere,                                                                                                                                     

 where soldiers fell in heaps one upon the other.                                                                                                                  

 And from those same tiny window squares,                                                                                                           

while other nights flamed from torches of passion,                                                                                                                       

so often escaping toward altars under a sky of no surprises,                                                                                                       

 I would lose and lose and lose my clarity.


This is how I lament those mornings,                                                                                                              

 entirely aghast if you could at all read my freedom,                                                                                               

while yourself, though cowering at the end of endlessness,                                                                                     

 would still languish and languish in memory dungeons…


Alisa Velaj


(Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi)



In keeping with its subject, ‘barely whispering’, this is a deceptively muted poem, whose quiet insistence gradually hooked me in. ‘W/whistling breath so small/it’s lost in the shift of leaves’, the poem speaks volumes. I love the broken/split line-layouts, which suggest the creature’s imperceptible ‘shifts, moves to sniff fragrances/of mulleins, foxgloves, /to munch on nuts & seeds’ and the delicate sounds achieved through mindful use of half-rhymes and subtle rhythms. Such a lovely capturing of the natural world.



leapt out during my first reading, evoking pathos, ‘I wish I could recall’.  A poem of layerings, its image of the ‘long-shadowed corner’ – of garden, and of mind, whose winter’s sigils, ‘in the branch-boneyard’, return the mind to the past of a father’s once presence. Full of synaesthetic imagery – ‘dappled pears send out tendrils/of fragrance into frost-pinched/ ice-pearled air/and snare the fieldfares as they pass’, whose exquisite and evocative effects are highlighted with assonance and sibilance.


From Gathered Wood

casts a topical spotlight on the current depletion of the natural world. Contrasting animal and human dualities and compressing several layered dichotomies (child/adult’; child/nature/; adult/nature), the poem takes a poignant and understated look back to an incident in the narrator’s childhood past. Shows adroit use of word-order, clever use of repetition and subtle half-rhyming: ‘We do not realise what we do/Or who or what we do it to’ … ‘. The apparently throw-away yet deliberately crafted last line, ‘We weren’t that humbled’, sends its vital message out to a largely unhearing world.

After Your Death I Know

I kept returning to this compelling poem to savour its intricate juxtaposition of apparently contrary meanings – ‘(After Your Death, I Know/That there is always a you;/but most of the time it’s only me’) – which, intensified with its allusion to another poet/poem, unfold rich depths of meaning with each fresh reading. Such a moving poem, whose unusual slant on grief (its ‘staged journeys’) expressed through its formalities (mirroring couplets and stand-out images (I’ve fallen in love/with your empty chair now; I/make love with your pillow’), demonstrate the poet’s ability to match emotion with poetic-skill.  A poem which will speak to anyone experiencing bereavement.


‘I don’t know what to say’

Another poem which unfolds an unexpected perspective on bereavement. The poem marks the desolate contrast between the speaker’s lost vibrant life with his beloved and the bleak reality of the world without her. Its impact stems from the opening lines, ‘He stands with a black fire pot, /filled with orange blooms, / ‘, an intriguing visual image, which becomes emblem, ‘pot of orange love’, a container for the joy and pain of the speaker’s unspoken grief. I like the solace suggested by the last lines: ‘she’s still there somewhere/in his head, still orange and green, /still gold and purple…’


Squeezed like loneliness

This poem’s unusual title and distinctive last striking simile, ‘like the last drops of loneliness squeezed from a wash-rag’, immediately caught my attention. A take on a topical issue of our day, the poem’s power lies in its short curt lines, its stand-out images – ‘spider-whiteness’ ‘borrowed laughter/from across the street’, ‘loneliness needs its own space and time’ and its blend of pathos and irony. This poem has a stark message for our time.



Such a compelling poem with its moving evocation at the scene of a husband’s death-bed. The poem journeys through a life-history of kisses, exploring them through varying time-lenses and within a framework marking the brief moments of that passing: ‘Imagine a kiss, /he says, voice thick/impeded/by an oxygen mask’ and ‘morphed into the/last,/a dead man’s/kiss. The consequent bifocal time-dissonance is emphasised via the layout, with its short lines and long shape. A pitch-perfect poem.



Green Tiger-Beetle


 A poem which initially attracted me in light of the topical concern about insect die-back and intrigued me more with each new reading. The sensory close-scrutiny of a creature ‘in fearful symmetry’, is reminiscent of and perhaps in direct dialogue with Blake’s The Tyger. Here, that poem’s vision is upturned, inverted; the tiny beetle seen through the microscopic lens becomes ‘tiny sun-crazed tiger’ with ‘sea-green dress and purple stockings’, and ‘still as the breath of a foxglove’ The beautiful images conjure the poet’s vision and when beetle ‘tears across crumbs/of silica and seashell …. grabs, /decapitates, gorges with guillotine jaws.’, the message about the vital importance of insects on the food-chain is driven home.


Ways to say goodbye

A quirky, thought-provoking look at farewells, ‘the trick is not to look back’, and with a nod to Lot’s wife, ‘pillars of salt come to mind’, this poem’s speaker challenges conventional clichéd outbursts of angst. A contemporary version of Donne’s shrewd love-lyrics, ‘it’s not really a trick to not look back/I just forget – absorb subtext permutations/of regrets about what should be said’, I enjoyed the rhyming /half-rhyming echoes, such as (forget/regrets; mine/time), which heighten the subtlety of the poem’s witty word-play.  




And finally, this mysterious fairy-tale, Gothic-like poem set ‘in a log-cottage resembling a castle, /with the window bars/framing the sea and the sky/in tens of tiny squares’, beguiled me. The poem’s juxtaposed title and framing image of ‘tiny window squares’, though open to interpretation, suggest powerful undercurrents of feeling, worlds within worlds – ‘memory dungeons’. The repetitions of phrases ‘lose and lose and lose’ and ‘languish and languish’ produce a cumulative effect, whilst tension builds with the contrast between the closeted, restricted space, ‘from those same tiny window squares’ – from where the persona apparently speaks – and that of the ‘other’, ‘cowering at the end of endlessness’.                                                                                                                                                          




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

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