Winter Showcase – December 2019

Thursday, 28 November 2019

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases

Photograph – Chris Sims


 Editor- Nathan Evans

Nathan is a writer, director and performer whose work has been funded by the Arts Council,
toured with the British Council, archived in the British Film Institute and broadcast on
Channel 4. His poetry has been published by Dead Ink, Inky Needles and Manchester
Metropolitan University. His second collection, CNUT, is published by Inkandescent.

Scroll down below poems for Nathan’s comments on the poems and links to his own work.



Wolf month the Saxons called it

yellow eyes at the edge of the wood,

cattle restless in the barn’s warm fug

the banshee howl of something other,

something more than the storm’s teeth

tearing at the thatch.

To the Finns it’s Tammikuu, oak moon.

each tree a glittering chandelier lit

by a frozen glare.

The Romans named it Janua, the door of the year,

a creaking hinge, coated with ice.

A cruel time to shed the old year’s furs

and teeter on the lip of a new year while

earth is still sleep-heavy, smothered under snow.


Jenna Plewes


ice cores


in the lowest shelves we read

                messages from early times:

hear mammoths howl,

                so long in the tooth

they ended days

                in frozen mud,

were then engraved

                in alabaster pages,

                one layer on another until this time…


now, now the ice-book prophecies are here

                in white papyri,

                                in frozen scripts

that all can read

                in the lacunae of glaciers,

                                in icebergs’ thunder,

                                                in the rush of melt-water tornadoing down

                                moulins & thaw-holes

                                                deeper than whirlpools

                                                deeper than bore-holes


here, here, when time & ice reverse themselves

and the world    moans under the melt of pack ice,

                                                drowns in the groan of brash ice

                                                                                liquefying below us,


                                                                we swim in polar seas

                                                yet find no land

                                to set dry feet upon…


so shall we too be lost?

                so shall we too be lost


Lizzie Ballagher



Larks over Reculver


Waiting for spring’s first warm westerly,

for gold & silver light,

we turn into a bitter wind

beside a sea of steel:

head east along the path.

Landward, soil gleams

with last night’s rain,

black furrows shining, shot through

with points of green

where new wheat starts its push.

We cannot count the larks:

larks over Reculver’s flinty towers,

larks rising from the Saxon-shoreline grass

to daub their coloured carols

on the clouds, the air, the sea, the shore…

as we hike onward in a lead-grey wind,

waiting still for spring.


Lizzie Ballagher


Sumer No Longer Icumen in


                                                Sumer is icumen in,

                                                Lhude sing cuccu…

                                                Springeth the wode nu

                                                Sing cuccu! Sing cuccu! 

                                                                ~  thirteenth-century song


Thieves, robbers, we tag them:

Murderers of nestlings, fledglings.

Cruel, we name them


While cuckoos do call, do call to us

In the lost soft voices of wildwoods

And the wasted worlds


Of blue spring, green sumer,

Of hope for second chances

Before they too go silent,


Before sumer itself cannot be icumen in,

Before the skies go so dark

That apple & hawthorn flowers fall,


No longer bloom in orchards, hedgerows—

Before they too shall fade—

Also before the failing of all fragrant light.


Oh! It is we who are cruel.

Our great-great-grandchildren may never hear

The cuckoos’ call, the blessing of that blue-green sumer voice,


And if the cuckoo goes the way of the corncrake

Into our silent shadowlands of selfishness,

They will not know what they miss.


But you in the hazel groves shall know,

And I in among the beech woods then shall know,

And our hearts shall long lament, yes,


When we too have lost the voice to sing or call

And even when sumer

No longer is icumen in at all.


Lizzie Ballagher



Sweet Peas     


Pink and mauve butterflies

sway and dip in the wind

flutter soundless


their scent so strong

a bee might buzz

with drunken abandon.


I pick some for you

to remind you of the garden

as you lie in your hospital bed.


You grasp the delicate stems

in your weathered hands,

inhale their quiet beauty


then surprise me

by turning to my brother

offering this gift to him.


 Sue Wallace-Shaddad




Searching for the second magpie


Maple branches sing into green

and one bird of joy, flaunting its

zebra feathers, zips to the place

where tree meets sky.

Not a great omen – so what’s

new? You’ve learned to live with

the oneness of things, one plate,

one mug, one glass.

You turn from the window, shrug,

That old wives’ tale! – but your

eyes strain for a flash of matching

jet-bright wings.

Your ring catches the sun – with

a sorcerer’s timing, the perfect pair

strut across the grass, splendid in

full evening dress.

Kleptomaniacs, these two – gold has

done the trick. If only it were as easy

to conjure up the one person who

could change your life.


 Moira Andrew




‘Ted motioned me to look at the slow uplifted faces of children in the primary school yard,


all seated on rest rugs, utterly without grief’


The Big Ship sails on the ally-ally-oh,

ally-ally-oh, the ally-ally-oh …

Our infants by the bicycle shed ride the high seas,

here near the perimeter fence

we’ve just chosen the dog’s bone,

circling, circling.

All pat the bone. All pat the …

Dong! Dong! Dong!

The headmistress’ whistle shrills. The funeral-toll. We scurry,

flatten our backs tight against the cold school-wall.

Until last year we all thought death

was a man in a long black coat with a top-hat,

but that was before one of us

didn’t return to her class on Monday,

Petronella (or was it Zelmadine?) was away.

Miss Ninnis told us, she won’t be back again.

She had pneumonia (or was it polio?).

She had passed away.

In our playground Chinese whispers told us, that’s Death.

We were preoccupied an eternal term with this new idea

of nothingness – the child disappearing act.

Her second whistle blows us free

we explode over asphalt, like dust,

take time to settle to play our circle-games again,

but soon, before the bell of the last lesson

hand holds hand holds hand –

Wife wants a child, the wife wants a child … EIEIO


Note: Quote from Sylvia Plath, Journals (Faber & Faber, 2011). I’d left the school just before the time of Percy Key’s
funeral, the subject of Plath’s journal entry; in my memory the children did not have the comfort of rugs; perhaps on Key’s
funeral day they were in the middle of a gym-session.

Julie Sampson


‘On the edge of the sky’



on the edge of the sky

dusting sand

from between my toes

perspectives shift

move out of kilter

and my eyes ache

in the blue-black light

I make out swallows


beneath me

notched wings


the tops of trees

huddling like mushrooms

ripe for picking

roads and rivers

hedges and ditches

parcelling the earth

into lots

grey rain collecting


in cloud-balloons

about to burst

dizzy, I cling

to tufts of rank grass

and sea thrift

to shadows of childhood

as I search the air

for something

I didn’t know

I’d lost


Moira Andrew



Was it like this for Markham Brown?


Who was Markham Brown?

On the edge of the town

A small park borders the estuary

With a bench where folk

Rest, half-way through a gentle walk,

Look at the widening sea, and talk


About what they own

Or would like to own,

And the kids. How can it be

That what, once, they used to share

Has gone, like it was never there?

Is anything left for them here?


A plaque says Markham Brown

Loved it here. Did he sit down,

Like us, half-way through life,

Here with his wife, try to say

The things everyone wants to say

But can’t, then leave it for another day


That never came? Wanting to talk,

Finding you can’t. Did folk

Guess? Or did  they see

An intimacy unknown

While an estuary’s grown

Between them.

Who was Markham Brown?


Michael Docker


Jane Goes to Godmersham Park


Head bowed against a sharp spring wind scything

off the North Downs, shabby-bonneted and ankle-booted,

you follow down the daffodil walk,

arm in arm with Edward and his wife—

oh, so well versed in the role

of poor relation, yet cheerful,

uncomplaining in your patched shawl,

neatly mended hand-me-downs.

Your eyes dart over the details of the ladies’ frocks,

the cut of the gentlemen’s coats—their scarlet uniforms.

You listen well; your ears pick up snippets

of some very different fabrics:

unvarnished tattle-tales, cross-threaded romances,

and foolish marriages contemplated for estates

or taken up in haste by empty-headed girls:

long homespun yarns & vapid platitudes.

Smiling to yourself, you take due note:

store their tales in hidden folds

of your quick-witted mind as, breathless now,

you trudge up Godmersham Hill.

Later, from the high downs’ ridge, you turn

along the pilgrim path where Chaucer once had ridden,

staring back at the sweep of carriageway

from lodge & gatehouse to the warm & redbrick welcome

of your brother’s gracious mansion

nestled by the Stour in velvet green expanses;

know you never will belong in such luxuriance…

but that, here, imagination may take root:

think, I’ll call you Mansfield Park.


Lizzie Ballagher


Editor’s Notes


What better way to begin a winter showcase than with a poem about that bleakest mid-
season month? Great imagery here—January as other, tearing at the edges of a new
year, as chandelier shedding light, as stripper shedding layers in plunging

ice cores

From snow to ice: a poem which addresses the climate crisis. In these troubled times,
we’re turning to poetry—so statistics say—perhaps as a form of consolation. This offers
none, but does offer layers of lovely imagery as prehistory’s pages unfreeze.

Larks Over Reculver

Winter begins to turn to spring: the poet captures a simple but beautiful moment as
nature jewels its base-metal with colour (but has yet to alchemise into gold and silver).

Sumer No Longer Icumen in

After spring comes summer, or not: in another thought-provoking take on climate
change, this poem begins by calling cuckoos—nature’s robbers—names, then turns on
those who may have robbed future generations of nature, of hearing the cuckoo’s call.

Sweet Peas

Summer is now in full-bloom and used as counterpoint in this quietly beautiful piece
about end-of-life: a simple situation, simply observed, that hints at complex familial
tensions between those succinct lines.

Searching for the Second Magpie

Magpies are here the thieves – in full evening dress, no less, they flaunt and strut
through this poignant poem about coming to terms with the loss of a spouse, its details
built subtly, gradually through solitary crockery and flashes of ring (wedding


Here the loss is of a child and this poem shows us how children can process death—as
form of fancy dress, as disappearing act—quite differently to (and arguably more
successfully than) adults. The quote from Plath’s journal gives added resonance.

On the Edge of the Sky

Sometimes we lose something in childhood, only realising it much later when our
perspective is shifted – through drugs, possibly, or therapy. Here it is simply through
observing reflections in water. But how well-observed those disorienting details are.

Was it like this for Markham Brown?

Who hasn’t ever wondered whose inscription they’re sitting on? Water becomes
estuary, physically, emotionally in this poem in rhyming couplets—from which the line
breaks and conversational tone skilfully pull attention—about a couple who are out-of-

Jane Goes to Godmersham Park

Another walk in the park which, as well as being a well-observed historical skit, is a
timeless observation on the writer’s process and the luxuriance which imagination gives.




As King Cnut proved, tide and time wait for no man: CNUT dives into the rising tides of geo-
political change and explores sea-changes of more personal natures.
‘CNUT is a kaleidoscopic journey through shifting landscapes, brimming with vivid imagery,
playfulness and warmth. A truly powerful work!’—KEITH JARRETT

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