Summer Showcase – June 2019

Friday, 7 June 2019

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases


Guest Editor- Pam Zinnemann-Hope



Pam Zinnemann-Hope’s first collection, On Cigarette Papers, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize & adapted by her for The Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4, in which she also acted, alongside Eleanor Bron, Greg Wise, Emma Fielding et al. The poems tell of her parents’ escape from Nazi Germany and begins with the discovery of ‘fifty pencilled recipes / on cigarette papers, in Russian’. The story ranges across Europe, from Hitler’s Germany through imprisonment in the Stalin Purges to England where her parents were interned on the Isle of Mann as ‘Enemy Aliens’. It ends in 1995.

Pam’s second collection, Foothold, travels through the seasons in West Dorset, through deep time, music and love in old age. Some poems have been set by the composer David Dubery & by Pam’s husband, Peter Hope. Pam is also a children’s author. From 2000 – 2014 she ran regular workshops in Dorchester, read to patients in the elderly care wards in Dorchester County Hospital & held a number of residencies.  Currently she facilitates  poetry seminars and curates poetry and music evenings at Sladers Yard in West Bay.




Pam’s selection for Summer Showcase 2019


To Arran


Come home now to the curlew’s call

across salt-stung moorland

and the river’s marshland,

to where waders bathe and feed:

dipping long beaks into sand,

into rain-blackened peat;

then rising, lamenting the leaving,

their calls bubbling, rolling

across wind-bleached wetlands.

Come home now under the eagle’s eye,

under a purple sky, over heathland

and mountainous highland,

to where merlins perch for their hunting,

flying low from their ledges,

their wilderness edges;

then weaving to snatch a pipit—

cries haunting steep crag-stacks—

over harebell and heather and homeland.

Come home to a whiskey’s warm welcome,

to the smiles of the island

gleaming back in bright glass,

where peat fires slow-glowing in hearths

burn up against darkness without.

Come home now to Eilean Arainn: to sit

in this heartland, singing & staying,

hearts soaring to toast new old friends,

voices rising to rival the songs of wild birds.

Hear the curlew, the merlin,

the ring of clear glass, the laughter,

the singing, the craic of the fire:

come home to sip music & magic in Arran.


Lizzie Ballagher


The Woman Sees A Reflection of Herself As A Teenager


I have resorted to the behaviour

of my lonely teens;


binge eating, cookies,

crisps, crackers and sweets.


I buy bags on the way

home, stuff my face.


I pretend I don’t see

people stare at me,

with disgust/pity

as I pop donut after

donut in my mouth.


I’ve caught myself

in the act of binging,

forcing the fourth cookie

in, recoiled as if

from a monster.


I have begun secret eating.


I bury pizza boxes,

empty crisp packs, fish

supper wrappers, tubs of

ice cream, at the bottom

of the rubbish bin.


I’m putting on weight

again, sizes gradually

creeping up, cutting off

labels so my partner can’t

see how big I’ve gotten.


I thought I could fill

the holes inside me.


I thought I could pretend

that sad, fat girl was

really dead, that I’d shoved

enough cakes down her

fat fucking face to shut her up forever.


Pamela Scott




At a bus-stop, huggling with a mate for warmth,

The obligatory can,

The cheap MP3, a bandaged hand,

Leg trailing like before;


For a few months we shared

Forced cameraderie weekly over cheap coffee

bought with change scrounged from some passer-by

In the metered warmth of a church hall.


Last time I saw him he was shambling

through a supermarket, leg trailing,

grimy as a coat, hair cropped, eyes beer-blurred.


Time before was when he made his bed in the church porch

And lay on it.


I closed the door against the cold.


Michael Docker


A Thousand Years


In a happier world,

I would have loved you for a thousand years.

A day with you could heal the shards of a hundred tears.

Time did freeze when I looked into your eyes,

On that hilltop under far red skies;

The world was quiet there,

And gone were all my fears.


Thomas Wan




He had a Paddington Bear look

a bit regimental

with navy-blue duffle,

horn toggles

hanging loose

until fastened

in the noose

of a leather loop


the well-ordered lines

of a substantial sort of man

but also one who would

give you a warm hug,

keep a cool head

when marmalade sandwiches

went missing, wield

his weight in a kerfuffle.


Sue Wallace-Shaddad





He walks to keep warm

tonight in frost-white moonlight

I will kiss his lips.


Maureen Weldon





I’ve returned to practising my words

But now they hurt,

They hook their fingers deep,

And no matter how much I tremor or shake

They don’t let go

I force those words out of my mouth

They sound so strange

So, I repeat them


And over

And over again

I repeat them until

They lose any meaning they might have had


Sophie Zhu



Time Turns

Grey cloud shrouds the silent days
as we wait for the year to turn
gone is the busy sparkle, bustle
that turned our minds to joy.

No songs fill our wanderings
as we read the days away
or struggle to find that bargain
or bulb to lift our spirits high.

They have passed into the year
that’s quickly running out:
falling into history with its
joys and sorrows hung

as if their flitches by the fire
where the old year’s beard
sits for warmth, his time

is running out and regret
is lost as death approaches
and we turn to a new child.


Carolyn O’Connell


Lock Gates


January unlocks its pernicious flood

Of glacial light & slithering mud.

Subservient, the river slides

To the pull of a gravid moon at full in the west.

Hushed, brimming, it runs between fringed banks

As the first tide of the year drags out.


Canny after years of watching,

The lock-keeper knows the river’s moods.

He arrives bleary & drenched at dawn:

Weary under the sinking moon,

Straining, swearing, sweating,

To crank the gates of the lock.


Now the river rages, lifts grey fists

Against the gob-smacked air.

Bottles lacking messages (or ghostly ships)

Swivel & toss on the torrent. Over the tumult,

Air swirls in the blast sucked seaward, drawn down

As the Medway’s thousand voices clamour.


Unlocked, the river roars into another year.

Its thunder silences

Early walkers all along both towpaths

Who gawp: awestruck, mesmerised.

Then, at the world’s western edge,

The blue moon drowns itself in despair.


Lizzie Ballagher


Feast of Fiddles


I am one

            I am many

                 melodies interwoven

as brave & bright

                      as any tapestry


inviting you to clap

                        tap       stamp

I hurtle away               without a hint

            of mockery to call our clansmen

from their crags & highlands


            I switch           fizzing with song

                             puckish with laughter

bowing            plucking          every               note

            until you dance with me:

                        breathless                    rapturous                     in awe


& when you’re failing             falling

            can go no longer          cry  “enough!”

listen                I compel you: hear my eloquence

            my doubled strings                  my tripled voices

                        stop                 your toes & singing tongues


wait                 while I haunt you with gulls

            birds that wheel & call            along the estuary

                        sounding         wild     spaces  over water

conjuring journeys                  journeys over waves & shores




            a bard among folk

who once were strangers

            I bring you

                        utterly to a stand


invoking then for you

                        changes of the mind    or heart

                                    healing tears               

                                                laments in valley days of mourning

& giddy           effervescent joy


Lizzie Ballagher


General Comments by our guest editor Pam Zinnemann-Hope


It’s been a great pleasure to read all the submitted poems and it took me quite some time, over several days, to wrestle ten from the pile. But in the end these are the ten that I keep coming back to most. Another poet might have chosen differently.


I see poetry as a window onto our inner lives and preoccupations, as well as onto our ways of looking outwards and it has been a privilege to share the experiences of the poets and to see the different ways they have shaped them into poems. In the end I’ve chosen pieces that most fully spoke to me, this wasn’t always to do with subject matter, it also had to do with that difficult task of shaping that we all struggle with. There’s no one way to do this and I’ve enjoyed everyone’s approach who submitted.       



Comments On Each Poem


To Arran

This poem opens in a particular voice, with a line that immediately speaks to us:

‘Come home now..’

and invites us to read on. It has a lovely, lilting music with much use of alliteration e.g. ‘Come…curlew… call’ and assonance e.g. ‘feed, beaks, peat, leaving’. The use of ‘Come home’ as a refrain is very effective in building its songlike quality and its tone of longing. I particularly like the repetition of ‘under’ and full rhyme in 

‘under the eagle’s eye/ under a purple sky’. And the repeated h’s and the full rhymes in:

‘heathland/ highland/ homeland’.

The poem is full of great imagery of the different birds and different terrains of the island, in language both spare and clear. Towards the end there is the lovely Scottish word ‘craic’, which adds to spirit of place so well evoked in this poem.


The Woman Sees A Reflection of Herself As A Teenager

This is a brave, confessional poem and it works well because it is also a well- made piece of writing. It’s hard to do with this kind of subject matter but the poet takes us with her on her journey of over-eating right through to the anger with herself at the forceful, moving ending.  The title is long and broad, in contrast to the poem itself, which is long and thin – perhaps the shape the poet wants to be! The language is spare and rhythmic and the line endings are just right.


I like the two, tiny, italicised, indented sections, they are like whispers to the reader. Each stanza begins with an ‘I’ statement and there is a progression in  each stanza to a different thought or action, until the last 2 stanzas when ‘I thought’ is poignantly repeated. The straightforward, spare language and tone, which is controlled, make this a very moving piece.




This poem has a very immediate affect on us. We are straight in at the bus stop with no introductions and we can feel the cold and Shane’s need for warmth. I like the word ‘huggling’ in the first line. I’m not sure but I think it may be dialect, it certainly feels right for this character. Immediately we have a pretty good idea that this is an alcoholic and a rough sleeper. I think the description is a particularly good example of how ‘show, don’t tell’ can really do its job and the almost rhyme of ‘can’ and ‘hand’ adds poignancy.


In the second stanza we learn about the poet’s past ‘forced camaraderie’ with Shane. I may be wrong but I get the impression that the poet was down on their luck for a while as the cheap coffee was

‘bought with change scrounged from some passer-by’.

There is ‘metred warmth’, perhaps during this episode, things are not so bad for Shane? But in stanza 3, the poet is now in a better place and Shane is not – the images of Shane are bleak – that ‘leg trailing’ and ‘eyes beer-blurred’ really stay in my mind.



A Thousand Years

This is a rather old-fashioned-seeming poem with two full rhymes – ‘…ears’ and ‘ies/eyes’. The first rhyme is repeated three times, including in the last line and the lines are short and few.

‘In a happier world’

seems to apply to the state of the world and also to the poet’s experience. It’s a very simple poem in the best sense. The language is fairy-tale like – ‘a thousand years’ & ‘a hundred tears’ and ‘far red skies’  – and this quality is what, for me, gives the poem its strength and makes it believable. It seems to be about a love that was not possible, or, even, perhaps a love that died. We are taken to that one beautiful moment when ‘Time did freeze’. There is a great sense of calm, as well as poignancy here and, because of the first line, there is a sense that the poet always knew that that perfect moment couldn’t last. Yet there is a sense in which it was a transforming moment:

‘And gone were all my fears.’ A beautiful ending.



This poem is in great contrast to ‘Shane’! It tells us about someone older, someone who is no longer alive  – the ‘navy blue duffle’ suggests perhaps, the 1960s – as does the ‘Paddington Bear look’, which is an affectionate, old-fashioned image. We are looking back and observing. We see contrast, the Paddington Bear versus the next line,

 ‘a bit regimental’, which suggests someone rather buttoned up. There are part-rhymes with ‘duffle’ and ‘toggle’ and full rhymes with ’noose’ and ‘loose’ –  two very contrasting words that echo the contrasting parts of this man’s nature. I think it’s these two parts of him that draws us, via the poet to feel affection – perhaps a restrained affection – for this man, who is probably a relative of the poet. A father? An uncle?

There are ‘well-ordered lines’ in the poem and in the man’s clothes. There is a ‘warm hug’ and a ‘cool head’. Paradox is what drives this piece, with its two stanzas of 8 short lines and a last line where ‘kerfuffle’ – an old fashioned word –  rhymes with ‘duffle’. We get a strong sense of who this man was.



This love poem, as its title suggests, adheres to the traditional haiku form of 5 – 7 – 5 syllables. In the first line we are introduced to the subject of the poem, the all-important ‘He’.  There are two vowel rhymes here, in ‘walks’ and ‘warm’. In the second line the poem obeys the haiku tradition by evoking a season – here ‘frost white’ tells us that it’s winter. (We also know that it’s cold from the first line.) The whole of the lovely second line is full of internal rhymes: ‘tonight’, ‘white’, ‘moonlight’, with that long ‘i’ sound which is so good at giving a sense of deep winter cold. I particularly like the image of ‘frost-white moonlight’, it’s so economical and paints a clear picture for us. It’s also very romantic and leads us to line 3 which is full of anticipation and again has vowel rhymes in ‘kiss’, ‘his’, ‘lips’. You don’t have to rhyme in haiku but this poet has managed it beautifully. I’m not always keen on haiku but this is an example of how very well it can work and has completely wo me over.



 In poetry words are our tool, they’re what we use to communicate: words, pauses, line endings. Words are also what we use to talk to ourselves and Repetition is a kind of conversation with the self about the power of words and the reader is invited to be a witness. The first line of this poem might suggest that the poet is practising something they’ve written, or learnt:

‘I’ve returned to practising my words’, a great opening line.

We never learn what the words are but we learn that ‘now they hurt’.  Did they have less power previously? We know that they are part of some kind of struggle,

‘They don’t let go’.

The poet seems to be feeling great anxiety or is, perhaps, struggling with substance abuse:

‘No matter how much I tremor and shake’

The language of the poem is direct and spare. The last part of the poem is concerned with repetition, with the three repeats of ‘over’ and two repeats of ‘repeat’. In the end, through this repetition, the words seem to lose their power, the spell, if you like, that they have had over the poet. The poem is a very effective look at the power of words and uses its words well!


Time Turns


‘Grey cloud’ opens this poem, setting the tone, along with the word ‘shrouds’, which brings a corpse to mind. It’s the time when

‘we wait for the year to turn’,

the dead days between Christmas and New Year and the poet is looking back on the recent  ‘busy sparkle’, and they are reflecting on the year ‘that’s quickly running out’. There are three 4 line stanzas followed by two 3 line stanzas at the end, as though the diminishing number of lines echoes the running out of the year. The poet effectively evokes for us the attempts to ‘lift our spirits high’   during a time when,

‘No songs fill our wanderings’,

in this case, the wanderings are through shops. While the death of the old year is evoked, we also learn that the poet and others,

‘turn to a new child’. The child may be the young year but is probably also a new child in the poet’s life. We have a great sense that while there is death, there is also new life.


Lock Gates


What a great title! This is another poem about the year’s turning but here it’s January and the first tide on the Medway. The river is the main character in this piece and its flow is controlled by the gates.  At first it is ‘subservient’, it’s ‘hushed and ‘brimming’

‘As the first tide drags out’

I particularly like the phrase ‘drags out’ which evokes just what water does when a tide is flowing, we can feel the drag of the water. The lock keeper ‘knows the river’s moods’ and we see that he has moods too – he’s ‘bleary’, drenched’ and ‘weary’. The first two of the four 6 line stanzas tell us of river, man and moon; the latter is first full, then sinking. In the last two stanzas the river ‘rages, lifts grey fists’ and its violence, once the lock gates have been opened, is beautifully drawn, with the sound effects of alliteration and assonance e.g.‘ blast sucked seaward, drawn down’. This is the main drama of the poem, the river ‘roars into another year’ but it’s the moon that closes the poem; it’s ‘blue’ and ‘drowns itself in despair’. The poet is telling us that all is not well. Maybe this is a personal despair, or maybe it is despair at the times we live in. We are left guessing.  



 Feast of Fiddles


This poem is written/spoken in the voice of the music. What a lovely angle to come from!  The form perhaps represents the sounds in air, the rhythms and pauses of the music, the rhythms of the dancers’ feet. The idea of:

‘I am one’…. ‘I am many’ creates an intriguing opening, it invokes the voice of one or many instruments and we are drawn into the dance. The poet employs various devices to enhance the verbal music. ‘clap’… ‘tap’…’stamp’ are examples of the onomatopoeia used throughout and there is rhyme, or part rhyme here too, effectively moving the music of the poem along in the first part.  There is also a lot of assonance, (‘clansmen’….’crags’) and alliteration, e.g. ‘failing    falling’, which, again almost rhyme. Now the voice of the poem changes tack and slows, we are invited to ‘listen    I compel you…’ and to ‘stop’. Next the music ‘haunts’ with images of birds and ‘wild places’. Lastly the music is, ‘a bard among folk/who once were strangers’, it unites us and, lastly it ‘invokes…changes of the mind or heart,’ it can both lament or bring ‘giddy effervescent joy’ – a lovely ending. The poet offers us music’s different moods and tells us of the ways in which it can touch us, and the poem does touch us:

‘and as he does so we feel its power’,the whole poem is like a dance.