There’s something about the past fourteen months which makes me wonder if watching paint dry might actually be fun. I’ve pondered the curious allure of doing, then redoing, in an endless cycle, the same single jigsaw. I have used unexpected mugs for my tea and felt appalled. The scale of everything seems to have changed. You can look into the eye of a duck and see the cosmos stretch infinitely away inside it.
Please enjoy these poems.
With warmest wishes,
(FYI if you are reading this on a mobile phone, it may be best to turn the phone sideways. Some of the poems are displayed as images, so make sure you’ve clicked “show images” at the top of this mail. If you’d rather read these poems in a more formally typeset PDF you can do so here, along with an archive of previous issues.)
Looking for a flash of red in the green,
I walked the path through the valley.
October, and a hint of russet gleamed,
but anthocyanin had turned a leaf ruby,
and it tricked my eye in the long grass,
an experience not exactly hallucinatory,
an illusion of sorts, if one thing can pass
for another, one sense not make sense
of what is sensed. Did this mistake class
as foreshadowing the effects – the intense
colours, mood shifts, visual distortion –
of ingesting muscimol. A cat in branches
disappears into a grin. Frabjous perception
of unseen fly agaric, berserker mushroom.
O gangly bird,
old scholar of the water,
what brings you to a field corner
by the A-road?
There’s nothing here
for you. You are imposing
our obligations upon us
and we are unprepared.
Take your slow wings
back to the inlet and stay
until we come reverentially
out of our things
into your world.
But in the midweek rush hour?
Away with you, interruptive nature.
We are to be lulled.
Hush little baby don’t say a word.
Hush. A word.
Hush little baby. A mockingbird.
Mama’s going to buy you. A mockingbird.
Hush. A mocking. Hush.
Hush. Little baby. Hush.
If. That. Mocking. Bird. Don’t. Sing.
If that. Mockingbird. Don’t sing.
Baby. Don’t sing.
Hush. Hush. Baby. Hush.
A diamond ring. Hush. Baby. Hush.
What will you do will you tell them what he did.
What. Will you do will. You tell. Them. What. He. Did.
Buy you. Diamond. Baby. Ring. Diamond ring.
What do you remember about that night.
Do you remember. What. About. That night. Do. You remember. That.
Hush. What about. Hush. That night. Hush. Do. You. Remember. Hush.
Remember. That. Night.
In a room. Sit. In a room. Sit. The door. Opens. The doctor. Watches.
Draw family. She says. Draw. She says. Family. She says. Draw.
She. I. She. I. She. Draws a house. She. I. She. She. Draws a tree.
She. Draws. A girl. Behind the tree. She stops.
Children obey. Your parents. Because you belong to.
The Lord. For this. Is the. Right. Thing.
To. Do. Honor. Your father. And. Your mother.
Mama’s gonna buy you. A mockingbird.
Hush little baby don’t say a word.
Hush. A word.
Sarah-Clare Conlon is an editor in Manchester, where she studied French and Creative Writing, and is Victoria Baths’ inaugural Writer-in-Residence. Bridport shortlisted and a Salt Prizes winner, her work has been published by Confingo, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Lighthouse and PN Review.
Note on ‘Peinture et droguerie’:
“Psychogeography Sunday became a highlight of the week during Lockdown V1, using prompts from Manchester’s Loiterers Resistance Movement and sync walkers following #DistanceDrift on Twitter. A colour chart dérive involved seeking out objects and items that corresponded to paint names provided; these became the basis for ‘Peinture et droguerie’, with me giving each term a fictional definition in ‘easyread’ French, inspired by a trip to Paris just before le confinement.”
Richard Skinner has published three books of poems with Smokestack: the light user scheme (2013), Terrace (2015) & The Malvern Aviator (2018). His next book, Invisible Sun, will be published by Smokestack in June 2021.
Note on ‘from Textiles 1-10’:
“‘ivory white’ is one of a series of ten visual poems collectively entitled Textiles that are made up of words that are anagrams of the poem’s colour (dove grey, mellow yellow, etc). The series is inspired by and dedicated to the work of Agnes Martin.”
Lisa Kelly’s first collection, A Map Towards Fluency, is published by Carcanet. Her pamphlets are Bloodhound (Hearing Eye); Philip Levine’s Good Ear (Stonewood Press) and From the IKEA Back Catalogue (New Walk Editions) forthcoming in 2021.
Note on ‘Amanita Muscaria’:
“Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, with its scarlet cap and white spots, is probably the most iconic mushroom, familiar in fairy tales, Alice in Wonderland and popular culture, but I have never actually seen it growing. During lockdown, finding fungi on walks became an obsession and top of the list was fly agaric. I searched long and hard and there were a few cases of mistaken identity, until Eureka!”
Michael Grieve was shortlisted for the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in Magma, The Scores, and Gutter, and his pamphlet, Luck, is published by HappenStance.
Note on ‘Heron’:
“The invocation that begins this poem existed long before the rest. I’m usually delighted to encounter our local heron, but after a bad day at work I glimpsed it from the bus and, in a grump, started writing. The poem stands, though the heron and I have (I think) patched things up since.”
Tese Uhomoibhi is a Nigerian Performance Poet and Storyteller. She uses fairytales and African folklore to explore childhood trauma. Her work can be found in Rewilding: an Ecopoetic Anthology, at the Aww-Struck Seminar and everywhere online @TeseThePoet.
Note on ‘Rock-A-Bye’:
“‘Rock-A-Bye’ is an exploration of how non-men, especially women and little girls, are taught to be silent about their pain from the moment they are born. Inspired by Gertrude Stein’s Poem ‘How She Bowed to Her Brother’, it uses the childhood lullaby, ‘Hush, Little Baby’ as a vehicle to investigate society’s use of communal lore to teach non-men silence and shows how this silence can allow harm to be perpetuated.”