Inkphrastica: Spume: Andy Millican (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Even the hardest rock succumbs to time,
its unrelenting elements. Now spume
casts white blankets atop their home, a chime

unheard announces their collective doom.
No bee is an island. A paradigm
as much for them as man. And as their tomb

envelopes them a hundred bees will hum.
Ask not for whom the bees hum; it is them.
For this is their communal kingdom come
and as the sea becomes them, say Amen.

Andy Millican: Write Out Loud

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: A Tower of Bees Hit by Forces Beyond Their Control (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Your Face: Emily Oldfield (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting): Part 2 of an Ingmar Bergman Triptych

Imagine your face in someone else’s thoughts
rising to entertain the secret aspect of an eye
and looked to with blind significance
like a small sun without the light.

Already you have been held in mornings
by familial tides, when a parent made the move
to preserve your innocence in a pupil-picture
knowing it is what you may both reduce.

Yet in time you will be clutched in evenings
by the stranger whose sight for you runs deep
and will follow your face, project it within their mind
a moon – giving promise but no relief.

Emily Oldfield

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: The Passion Of Anna (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: The Sunset Years: Nicola Hulme (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

The sunset years are beckoning me
they whisper my name each night.
Youth softly slips from my fingertips
as my body loses its fight.

Like the snail I move much slower now.
My eyesight fails and all is blurred.
I catch only half of what’s been said
never quite sure I’ve correctly heard.

My seized knees hurt when I climb the stairs.
I puff and groan as I try to stand.
Changes have crept up on me
That never featured in any plans.

But as I slide down the craggy slope
Alone, my outlook is far from grim.
I have great faith in adventures to come
when my earthly light dips and grows dim.

Nicola Hulme: Write Out Loud

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: The Infinite Tiredness Of Ageing (available for purchase)

Inky Interview Exclusive: Matt Abbott on his Two Little Ducks Tour: by Claire Faulkner

Matt, you’re taking your show Two Little Ducks on tour around the UK.  Are you looking forward to it?

Absolutely, yeah – I’d say it’s by far my biggest achievement in my poetry career to date, and even though it’s now less than a fortnight away, I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening. Obviously on one level I’m anxious about ticket sales (22 dates is a lot of dates to sell!), but I know how hard I’ve worked to get to this stage.

I’m really proud of the show and am immensely excited to be sharing it around the UK. Most of the venues on the tour are completely new to me, which is even more exciting.

What can we expect from the show?

In terms of the structure, it’s a sequence of 22 poems. But it’s very much presented as a standalone theatre show, so rather than “poem, clap, chat, poem, clap, chat”, it exists as one piece. Content wise, there are three core strands.

Firstly, I’m exploring the core reasons behind working-class support for Brexit. I grew up in a city that voted 66% Leave and find a lot of the sweeping preconceptions about Leave voters unfair (although I’m very clear to call out racism, obviously).

Secondly, I’m recounting my experiences volunteering at the Calais Jungle refugee camp, which I did either side of the referendum. What we see in the mainstream media is a gross misrepresentation and in my eyes a real disgrace, considering the nature of the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

Finally, I use kitchen-sink realism to tell the fictionalised story of a character called Maria. I allow her strand to speak for itself.

How did the idea develop?

Well, I have to be completely honest with you. I did a Nationwide advert back in September 2016, for which I was paid a large sum up front. I immediately decided that I wanted to use the opportunity to write a show and take it up to Edinburgh for a full run. Obviously this was only a few months after the Brexit vote, and only a month after I’d most recently been to Calais. So in many ways, circumstance had given me the ingredients for the show before I’d even decided to write it – which in my opinion always leads to the strongest content.

I’d been writing the character of Maria for years, in various strands (from songs in my band Skint & Demoralised to failed attempts at screenplays and novels, and in poems since 2013). Initially I was only focusing on Brexit and Calais, with the title ‘Two Little Ducks’ in my mind, but as the show developed, I realised how important Maria’s role was in sewing it all together.

The version which I took to Edinburgh last year was effectively a very polished scratch based on the initial premise. I began to tweak and develop it over the winter, based on what I learnt at the Fringe, and then when I was offered a publishing deal by Verve, it gave me the perfect time-frame to undergo a brutal rewriting process and produce the final version.

In many ways I’m frustrated that so many people have seen a version of ‘Two Little Ducks’ which I consider to be vastly inferior to the final show. But I recognise that it was all part of the process, and when I come to write my second show, I’ll know to do things differently. Also, the tour and the book represent the show’s pinnacle and obviously the book remains forever, so that’s the main thing.

I should also quickly explain the title. ‘Two Little Ducks’ is an old bingo call (slang for number 22). For me, bingo is one of the things that epitomises working-class culture, a culture that I grew up in, which led me to write the Brexit content. That’s married with the fact that there are 22 miles between Calais and Dover – hence the show’s title. And Maria’s strand begins on her 22nd birthday; 22 being the age in which all youthful landmarks/targets disappear, and you’re left to figure out adulthood entirely on your own, with nothing on the horizon but your own doings.

What sort of feedback have you received?

The show received two 5* reviews at Edinburgh Fringe, one of which was in The New European, which is a newspaper that I hold in very high regard. In general the feedback has been great, but I’ve only performed the final version once (at the Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival in June), so essentially, I’m partially discounting all feedback until the tour starts!

You’re running free poetry workshops alongside the tour.  What can you tell us about these? 

I’ve always written poetry which can be accessed and enjoyed by people who might not ordinarily engage with poetry. I’m really passionate about engaging more people with poetry in general, but in a way that directly contradicts their perceptions of it being a stuffy, elitist, academic and outdated art from. I didn’t go to university and have no formal qualifications when it comes to poetry, so I like to think that I can help people to bridge the gap and discover a new passion. I can’t even begin to imagine my life if I hadn’t started writing poetry at 17.

So the workshops are a chance for writers and abilities of all ages to have their say. It’s not competitive or elitist in the slightest, and I’ll give participants the opportunity to publish their work in an online document, which will grow as the tour navigates the UK.

The tour also coincides with the release of your first collection.  Congratulations. You must be thrilled. Where can we order a copy from?

After 12 years of writing and performing, I’m absolutely over the moon. I still can’t quite get my head around it, and will be eternally grateful to Verve for publishing me. You can order the book via my record label’s online shop here for £10. You can also purchase a studio recording of the poems in the show for £5 (download only), or both together for £12.


Inkphrastica: Parhelic Circle: Linda Cosgriff (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Masha beseeches Mother Sol,
Save my son.
The sun inside the sphere
destroys the son inside of her.

Her hands, her perfect hands,
reach out to the mock sun,
entreat calescent earth:
I incubate the future;
emend this mandatory rebirth.

Alas, alas, humankind’s time
has come and gone
and with it, the sun.

Linda Cosgriff

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: Self-Portrait As Philosopher (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Riding Ariel: Helen Kay (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

The hoof-beaten brain
a recipe of tears and sweat
and this utterly speed of rhythm
kneads her thighs to the saddle
stirs her into the summer blues
away and away with.

She knows his sandshape grip
his brutal bit that pulls a grin,
that gags a want to crawl
towards the ever there darkscape,

A match striking the moors
she sparks her blood to sand
that moulds its gritty mirage
through vein and artery
leaving scorched earth
and a blister of sun..

Helen Kay

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: Abandoning Someone Who Was A Friend To Me When I Had None (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: Not for nothing do the scorned: John Lindley (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Not for nothing do the scorned
fall on their own sword
or, in this case, take the sharp and tapering
end of a horn to heart.

Love’s triangle, pin-prick sharp, now clouds
and beside its token gesture, martyrdom beckons.
All was equal, equilateral but not so now.
He no longer fights his corner.

He bares the body, bares the head,
becomes the colour of quicksilver
in the quicksand of a cell
but must be seen to suffer

so has the wall’s one scar open;
has it neat and shapely;
has it as a portal to his pain,
its point arrowing to his showy surrender.

John Lindley

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: The Death Of Man (available for purchase)

Inkphrastica: The Fairy-Feller’s Systems Failure: John Keane (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

A fairy-feller hides in emerald shades
While feathered faces dance the perfect dance
Evading hope in pale, despondent glades
Where shadows stumble on a wild mischance:
And all of this beyond the edge of sleep
Where dreamers kill the things they care to keep.

A wedge of futuristic steel observes
And coolly calibrates this elfin scene
Kissed by a savage sun along its curve,
No form more dread than this has ever been:
It brings the future and the end of days
To wayward dreams and errant human ways.

Who knows if at some cold and vast remove
The wedge will raise again these faerie lands
Within its clouded circuits? Dreaming groves
Of rusting trees where still the gnomon stands:
Where robot birds hail corrugated skies
And elves of chrome kiss iron butterflies.

John Keane: Write Out Loud

Mark Sheeky’s Oil Painting: The Paranoid Schizophrenia Of Richard Dadd (available for purchase)

Inky Interview Exclusive: Rosie Wilby: Award Winning Comedian & Author

Your book Is Monogamy Dead? has made it onto the long list for the Polari First Book Prize, which recognises the best LGBTQ débuts published this year. Congratulations! Can you tell us about it? Have you a short extract to share with us? Where can we get a copy?

Thanks. It’s based on my comedy show of the same name which I took to Edinburgh a few years ago. However, I realised that I had lifted the lid on a very complex topic indeed. There was way more to say than I had the chance to in a fifty-minute stage show. So I began writing more serious articles exploring the real science behind why humans struggle with long term fidelity, then a TEDx talk and a Radio 4 Four Thought piece. Eventually, I managed to get a literary agent and a publisher. Although the book includes interviews with friends of all genders and sexual orientations, it is written very much from the perspective of a gay woman. I wouldn’t define it solely as an LGBTQ book, but that’s certainly a core part of my audience. I was delighted to feature on the Polari list as it also included Sally Rooney and a few other authors I really like. The book is available in all good bookshops (including fabulous indies Gays The Word, Housmans, Bookseller Crow, News From Nowhere, Lighthouse and Five Leaves) or can be ordered via Waterstones, Amazon et al. There’s an extract from the opening chapters available at Boundless.

You have written for many websites and newspapers including The Independent, The Guardian, New Statesman, The Sunday Times, Diva and more. What is your background in literature? Where/when did it all start?

It started when I moved to London in the mid-1990s straight after my degree. I threw myself into the music scene, joined bands and started reviewing gigs for some local London newspapers. Time Out’s then music editor Laura Lee Davies gave me a chance to start working for the magazine after I wrote a letter to her. That was back in the days when we were just before the Internet becoming a thing and Time Out was an essential part of getting around London.

You are also a stand up comedian, having appeared on multiple Radio 4 shows and at major festivals. What is your secret to a good comedy performance? What is it, do you think, that makes people laugh? The truth?

Yes I think there’s often an element of a ‘recognition factor’ and a sense of ‘oh yes, I do that!’, but it’s also very subjective. One audience might love you, and another hate you.

What is it like to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Edinburgh Fringe is hard, hard work. Most comedians who go up are producing and marketing their own shows as well as performing every day. I’ve had some really fun experiences in years gone by. But sadly the Fringe has now become too corporate and the indie grassroots artists have been priced out of going.

Tell us about The Break Up Monologues.

Thanks for asking. The Breakup Monologues is a podcast that I created last year. It was inspired by the response I had to my solo show The Conscious Uncoupling, the final part of a trilogy about love and relationships that also included The Science Of Sex and the original version of Is Monogamy Dead? Lots of performer friends and audience members started telling me their own breakup stories and I decided that it might be worth opening up a space for a conversation about heartbreak and getting together and looking back and laughing at our actions as a therapeutic bit of fun and a way of feeling less alone. The full first series of ten episodes is available now to download for free at iTunes, acast, Spotify, tunein radio and all good podcast platforms. We also have two live recordings coming up on 5 October and 9 November at very swish London venue Kings Place. You can book for those at Kingsplace

What’s next for you?

I’m performing a funny talk about the book at festivals throughout the Autumn, including Oxford Science and Ideas festival, Cambridge Literary Festival and more. I’m also doing standup gigs in Berlin for the first time – at an English-language comedy night thank goodness! I’m seeking a commission, sponsor or funding for a second series of The Breakup Monologues and I’m gathering ideas for a book about breakups that will be a loose companion to the podcast. I haven’t started pitching that one just yet. It will be similar in style to Is Monogamy Dead? in that it’ll be immersive, narrative nonfiction where my scientific discoveries, interviews and ideas are embedded within my own personal journey.

Rosie’s Website

Rosie’s Blog

Inky Interview Special: Dr Fabrice Poussin

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 250 other publications.

Tell us about your journey towards literature. What inspired you to write?

For some odd reason writing always come naturally to me. I was noted for the quality of my words when I was in middle school, consistently received the highest marks in every class throughout high-school as well. When I was 16 I was quite bored with school and began to write a novel. It was published then in a small press in Europe. I proceeded to write a few more. Some were slated for publications, others not. I then continued my studies in college and found myself studying literature. I wrote on and off for a while, but three years ago I had a number of poems and a friend suggested that I send them out to see. It has been great ride since, and I continue to work on my writing focusing on poetry.

Tell us about The Chimes.

The Chimes is the Arts and Literature magazine at the Shorter University where I teach. I have been working with the students in the group for four years. My role, and my heart, is in guiding them through the process, and to help them in any way I can. But I do not ultimately tell them what should or should not be published. We work together and produce a print copy here in my little office on my personal equipment. It is a blast.

You are also a photographer. Tell us more.

Photography is something I grew into at the same time as I did into writing. I have done a little but of everything, but again, ultimately it is not about a job, or making ends meet, it is about expression. Photography is another language. Barthes wrote about it beautifully in his book Camera Lucida. The medium must connect, almost grab the viewer in the stomach and bring him/her closer. I travel to photograph everything. As for poetry, it is a matter of when, not so much what? It is also a matter of how and what detail I choose, not necessarily the whole picture. I am more interested in precisionist and the vastness of any landscape, the opening of a horizon line spreading through time and space.

Can you share with us a couple of your poems and the inspiration behind them?

To the grail

It is a symphony of feet in the midst of fireworks and lights;
they come, they go, hesitate, return, turn around, and back;
insane in their indecision, shoes of sports, and pumps of circumstance,
molding unruly ankles, protecting their wiggly toes.

And what do they want these calves, unable to take a moment’s
rest. Wrapped up in silk, enveloped in cotton, even boldly plain?
A door opens, another closes, and again the silly melody;
voices contract, voices retract, while many convey.

A mad world constrained, as in an alley where elbows are at war.
He and she, past, new, with the little one often or a friend,
Maybe. Hustle, bustle, rustle, wrestle also on this hectic morn’;
joy, smiles, laughter, and the flow of plastic into the register.

The deed is done; life begins anew there, elsewhere,
with the sweet aroma teasing the noble nostrils of all lovers;
hands on the wheel of destiny, fortune is theirs,
now that they have earned and secured the holy grail.

To the Grail is a playful one. I wrote it while I was sitting at a coffee shop. I would spend every hour there on one cup of coffee, observing in the delight of others, their rush, their smiles, and the aroma. It was fun to watch their feet as they came and went, moving from one station to another, ordering, collecting, sweetening, sitting down, opening that laptop or arguing about contemporary politics.

Fluttering with your butterflies

The room is vast and empty,
with only she facing the tall glass;
standing she teases her hair once more;
peace seems to surround her.

Still then, she wonders as she dives
into her own soul, tingling inside;
her soft hand touching the womb;
a slight sigh, a smile and a memory.

In the corner, lost in this immensity
of barren walls, a window so far,
a door unattainable; in the distance
solidity fades, colours vanish into oblivion.

Tall, thin, in a light gown of stars and fairy dust,
apparition, a breeze heaves the adored breast,
her hair plays hide and seek behind her lobes,
tickles the shoulders; she tilts her head.

Another brush stroke, the lids wink in the mirror,
she knows the presence is near, tingles again,
her eyes close, the arms press against her sides;
the breath is of pleasure, it is of life, hers, simply.

Fluttering with your butterflies is a love poem, and it includes hints of Quantum Physics (the butterfly effect of course!) She is the muse, the one I want to tease, touch, and move so she will smile because she knows the universe is in love with her.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

Would you believe “love?” Aloneness, and the search for absolute Truth. I suppose the latter is very much connected to the theme of “love.” I care about the universe. Corny? cliche? Not sure! We read quite a lot of pointless literature out there. It is rather easy to line up a few words and call it writing. But what does it really mean? Is it vulnerable, accessible? Does the author let you in and claim: “I am here for the taking; hurt me if you have to, but read me, pull me apart, but most all walk away with something personal!’ That is what I need to do, what I hope many would like to do as well. DO I want to be loved through my words? No! Not at all! Known? Yes! Played with? Why not! Nurtured? By all means, so I can grow a thousand miles away in the hearts and souls of complete strangers!

What advice would you give to new poets? Any tips?

Read everything you can. Write as much as you can. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write. Don’t let anyone tell you your work is bad. Don’t let rejection affect you at all. Keep writing to enjoy, to the point where you are addicted to writing (and nothing else!) You will discover so much about yourself, you will become a walking gift to all. Having read this, please do go and write a few lines. Write everywhere, all the time. Get up in the middle of the night if an idea hits you in your sleep. Don’t even let it get away.

Who inspires you and why?

Would it be silly to state that “life” inspires me? In fact it is not so much what, but when? Everything inspires me; what matters is the moment the “inspiration” comes. It could be from a feeling of slight anger, or joy, or a stick on the windshield of my car. The universe is a great question, and I explore it continually. It would be a search for absolute truth. I had this discussion a few days ago with another poet and friend. I know I have a responsibility to the world to write and I must make every effort to do so as often as possible, so readers can be connected to life at a deeper level (hopefully?). I suppose I have a muse, also. A muse need not be a “she,” but in this case, she is. The muse is a woman, or object we cannot touch, only reach out to in the hope of something making contact. Should we touch, the magic would end. I believe Baudelaire would agree.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

I don’t have any idea when this was. I have had many great days. But the one I can remember is based on one of self-discovery, and it goes something like this: “The day I became happy is the day I realized I knew nothing!” Things have been great since. I am a sponge to everything around me, for I know I have everything to learn, everyday. I will thus never grow up at all. I hope more people feel this way.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading the classics. My latest was Sappho. I know, it is only fragments, but it is so interesting to discover the words of a woman who lived 2,500 years ago, but tells of passions we all carry with us today, and possibly always have. Those are a constant. War or peace are not.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

More writing, more photography and helping, perhaps even inspire others to do what I do, be better, and enjoy it, not for fame or money, simply for the joy of sharing, making oneself vulnerable to the world, the universe. I enjoy reading about Quantum Physics, and I find that we are all interconnected with everything to infinity. There lies the truth, and that is why I explore what I hope may be the most mysterious realms of our so called realities.

Poetry Drawer: Jagged Little World by Fabrice Poussin

Poetry Drawer: Holding Time In Their Arms by Fabrice Poussin