Poetry Corner: Truths—strange! by Dr. Sunil Sharma

In the womb of the restless sea:
a place, deep dark- green moss and a slippery floor
with mottled plants, shining fish
other aquatic creatures with
exotic eyes/limbs.
There—lies buried the
treasure of memories made up of hulls broken and rusted iron
railings/anchors and chests, all
dreamed up by the mercenaries and hunters, in every greedy age.

Divers find pictures, logs, guns and other trivia there, attesting
to a fragment from the past that
wears a human face in those murky zones.

In the subterranean depths where the sun does not exist
but the moon can walk in and light up things
of mystery. There lives a pining mermaid
seen earlier by a Dane.

And later on, by other believing eyes, startled
by the hybrid form, some say, mythic.

Is love the property of humans only?
The other species might feel identical joy and pain.

That mermaid and the foamy underworld once
ruled by the Poseidon in a dim past, it
still exists someplace far-off but now
relegated to the margins of the collective
imagination of an age cynical.

Inky Interview Special: Mumbai-Based Academic & Author Dr. Sunil Sharma

Inkphrastica: Home Home Home: Ken Pobo (Words) & Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting): Part 1 of an Ingmar Bergman Triptych

Walls, a stapled mouth.
Broken oven. Dirty dishes.
Even still, I want home,
a good man to join me there,
a garden out back. Is home
breaking bubbles, faded footprints?
I may be here for decades. Years

look out on the flower bed
where we scattered
Mom’s ashes.
Forever lasts a few seconds.
Guatemalans run from their homes,
El Salvadorans too. On our street,
the same number of cars

each work day. This could be
ten years ago. Home,
where ghosts and the living mingle.
A room leads to
another room. An inexplicable
sudden breeze chills
though the one window is closed.

Home Home Home: Artwork for sale by Mark Sheeky

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Rus Khomutoff

Paradise & Method
To Lovebug Starski

An exasperated sigh of grammar and spice
rendered in haphazard lew
vintage wise vanity
lactose intolerant daunt
a dilatation of the dead body of reality
where spirit is no longer
anything but adventitious memory
spellbound speculations
phraseology in completeness
beyond our understanding
the finiteness of type

A collaboration between Rus Khomutoff and Felino A. Soriano

I swallow the ghost of your whispers
the vast unceasing universe was already
the aesthetic event
ideographs and fairytales
stirring nuance with stark truth
an invitation to deep stillness and perpetual pause
ciphers and tropes
will I someday know the ceaseless flux?


Question of movement, diligence
the voice captures wind, captures silence
amid the blue of day’s ornamental music
truth in solace, in what guides then watches our steps
Hope in nuance, though the gradation hides within
the gray of the moment’s compromised devotion

Nemesis sky

A secret transmission
a noncoincidence found in
infinitization of otherness
the flame under the rubble
traversed unceasingly by the horizon
interdependence of a cosmic trigger
blossom quick synastry
sweet bitter officialdom
of the nemesis sky

Silentium

Underneath the arches of these generalities
the past, present and future
of the eternal menagerie
enchantments
like a bouquet of fire through the lyric
guilty pleasures that enter while you exit
cyan deserve claim
bestow kiss merge rot
speculate dragonfly
linked deletions and much more

Get your copy of Immaculate Days by Rus Khomutoff

Inky Interview Exclusive: Rus Khomutoff, a Neo-Surrealist Poet From Brooklyn

Poetry Drawer: Prisoner of Infinity: To Felino A. Soriano by Rus Khomutoff

Poetry Drawer: Sonic Threshold of the Sacred: To William Carlos Williams: by Rus Khomutoff

Inkphrastica: Song of Freedom Oasis by Rus Khomutoff (Words) & Now That’s What I Call Blue by Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Poetry Drawer: Two Poems by Stephen Mead

Penetration

First there’s hurt,
then the going glows golden,
ruby in center, blue nimbus at tip.

All of this whiteness
motion melts
sensuous, scientific, earth solid
spirituous,

Clay of your clay, of mine,
blood beating,

every nerve endings
font,

Each chemistry more chemical
hovers rhythmic essence, a transposition,
a rearrangement, navigation

riveting in, the assemblage
a pilgrimage:

Lead us or lose us
through this intimate montage.

Andes

Of your ankles,
mouth’s view down here where
a country of cats chasing crickets &
drop cloth impressions for paintings
are the horizons our tenderness contours…


This floor, this studio,
Autumn time
with not a thing as sunset clear
but the light’s white tang
suffused with the whole range
of yellow’s spectrum
against knees sloping up &
the plateaus of calves &
ribs as a boat
my probing nose nudges
as life itself is nudging us:


Live this. Live this now.

Poetry Drawer: Let Me Be Weak by Stephen Mead

Poetry Drawer: Lowering The Lights by Stephen Mead

Inky Interview Special: Stephen Mead, Poet and Multi-Media Artist from Albany NY

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Ken Pobo

PUERTO RICO, 2017

No food or drinking water–
we prayed. Jesus tripped
over the generator.
The hospital ship
Holds supplies and beds,
no way to get them
to those who right

                               this very minute
are dying.

We hung compassion
for a quarter. Took a stick,
beat the corpse.

A COMPLAINT AND A WARNING

Hey you there, Sky, I’ve had enough dull grey,
I’m going to kick your ass out of state.
My blue crayon will colour you away.

I used to like you in a tepid way,
yet you refuse to leave. We wait and wait.
Hey you there, Sky, I’ve had enough dull grey

serving tomorrow a dead yesterday.
Your mist dots our paint-scraped-off swinging gate.
My blue crayon will colour you away

or what if I use turquoise to turn day
into morning glories? Tendrils create.
Hey you there, Sky, I’ve had enough dull grey–

my dad called it dismal seepage. OK,
you’re on notice. It’s time to celebrate.
My blue crayon will colour you away

make you a painting by Jean Dubuffet,
a kaleidoscope yard. It’s not too late.
Hey you there, Sky, I’ve had enough dull grey—
my blue crayon will colour you away.

EVIDENCE

A black eye?
Not enough.
The Bishop said to return
to your husband–
we all wrestle with temper.

It wasn’t temper. Maybe
you could have asked
a friend to film it. No,
evidence is wind.
It blows away
so everything looks the same.

You did marry him,
didn’t you?
It’s your fault.
Yes, it is
disturbing.

How can we know?
Why should we
believe you?

EVIDENCE 2

We score entry essays—
students must disclose how
they use evidence in school
and in life. I saw evidence
sit alone while partiers rhumbaed,
thought I should ask evidence

for one quick cha cha,
but I can’t cha cha—
or even samba, am pretty
much of a wallflower too.

When I fell in love for keeps
I had scant evidence that,
25 years later, I’d be peeling
potatoes in the kitchen while you
watch You Tube upstairs.
The evidence I had said Run,
run, get out now, don’t look back!

I ignored it and lived,
happily enough ever after,
at least that’s what the most
recent evidence suggests.

Inky Interview Special: Poet Ken Pobo From Pennsylvania

Poetry Drawer: And Again by Kenneth Pobo

Inky Interview Special: Mumbai-Based Academic & Author Dr. Sunil Sharma

You are a Mumbai based senior academic, critic, literary editor, and author, with 19 published books. Tell us about your literary journey. How did it all begin?

Right from early childhood, I was interested in fine arts. Both mother and father were college teachers. Ma taught painting and Pa, literature. Picasso, Premchand and Dickens co-habited the same North Indian space. This love for things artistic and spiritual was my early legacy; a kind of teenage initiation into the higher realms of truth, otherwise obscured; a sacred exercise that allowed glimpses of parallel spheres out there in regions not accessible to eyes and mind ordinary; inaugurated new pathways, gateways and threw open hidden vistas; facilitated fresh perspectives and insights into a complex organic process called life. It is an amazing capacity of great art that is otherwise lacking in other fields or branches of knowledge.

The mint-fresh epistemologies prove empowering for the recipient and are conscious-raising in quality. The rare ability of an artistic artifact to open up spiritual dimensions for the disciple and simultaneously initiate a contemporary dialogue is, well, marvellous feature of such age-defying pieces. Art can renew the immersed and restore some sanity in an absurd world, thanks to the post-reading or viewing activity. So the fascination with such an art continues.

In a rough chronology of sorts, in a brief recall, I can safely say that I began writing from college days, some juvenile stuff, first standard you have to pass in the journey onwards as a writer. It was not satisfactory phase, it can never be. Dearth of life- experiences made these outpourings immature, sloppy, sentimental and raw. It lacked depth and distance, crucial for serious art.

Subsequently, harsh realities of a middle-class existence, in a post-colonial nation, took over imagination and cooled down the ardor for art that hardly pays in an anti-art market that tends to favour and promote best-sellers selling fantasies. In my 30s, I moved to Mumbai in search of a job that could pay for mounting bills. Mumbai is also a mega magnet for the poor, disenfranchised, the unemployed and dreamers, apart from the powerful and wealthy; it is powerful financial hub of the country and home to Bollywood, a powerhouse of ideas and talents with or without inheritance. I found home in a hospitable city, the most cosmopolitan and professional one in india, despite heavy constraints. Later on, it became my Muse as well.

Due to early lack of opportunities, I could not focus much on writing—no point in writing, when it does not get a reader somewhere, some place. Meanwhile, I began freelancing for major English daily. In the 1990s, many publication avenues were made available, courtesy the borderless revolution, officially called the Internet, the most liberating moment in the history of human civilization. Although, it presided over the slow and painful death of print, Internet also released the publishing space from the limited tyranny and limitations of print. Now, you can soar easily the stratospheres of the cyberspace spanning the global village and reach out its any corner. That sudden high-tech window motivated me to write again for a large, almost global audience.

Last 10 years or more, I have been publishing consistently. My tryst with art continues.

It is my means of survival in the midst of a frightening market economy that produces nihilism and cynicism of another kind.

How did you become involved in Setu?

It was accidental. My cousin Anurag Sharma—a gifted bilingual writer and IT wizard— called up from Pittsburgh, USA, one day and during a long conversation, we decided to launch a bilingual e-journal to be published monthly from USA. It clicked and the expedition began. It is our third year and we have got more than 4 lakh (100k) page hits!

We, through Setu, are building bridges of understanding across cultural geographies. That is the primary task of a bridge (Setu in Sanskrit).

A remarkable journey! Patronage by readers, fellow editors and writers have helped fuel this strange trajectory in a busy space.

What is it you love about poetry? What kind of fiction have you written?

Poetry is a refreshing breath on a clean-air day, a rare Sunday outing probably, some place outside the metro full of smog. It rejuvenates the innards and heals the fissures. It makes you whole!

My fiction explores the underbelly of development and growth and is often literary, referencing other writers that have stayed on with me for last 30 years. It questions state narratives and tries to subvert the status quo.

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

The underdog is my enduring concern; the insulted and the humiliated; the voiceless. The threats faced by liberal-humanism. Increasing racism and fundamentalism. The rightist forces on ascendancy—these have to be resisted and reversed through writing and praxis. These are recurring concerns—nightmares visited again and again in a glitzy mega-polis.

Can you share with us one of your poems? What inspired you to write it?

Sure. A published poem, my personal anthem.

Near the Great River

In the rhythms of the Great River
Embedded/sedimented: Ode to Joy
Symphony No 9 in D minor, among other artifacts.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!

How refreshing the lines from earlier!
How different now— the millennial universe!
Hate-filled, bomb-driven, suicidal killer!
What a moral climb-down!
The post-Renaissance poor inheritors!
The Great River carries the old treasure
Disseminates the joy and thrill
Of voices, lyrics and compositions that
Capture the best of this world!
Rest—on us!

Creative Talent Unleashed: Near The Great River by Sunil Sharma

Both Schiller and Strauss inspired this poem and the inspiring message of oneness of humankind is still relevant and needs to be urgently re-enforced in a divided world of hate- mongers and solo merchants of death and mayhem, wanton acts of violence done in the name of one God and religion, laying sole claim to truth and salvation!

You were involved in the UN project anthology in 2015. Please tell us about this. What advice would you give to our followers in submitting work for consideration? Are there any places you would recommend?

It just happened. I was surprised when I got an e-mail from their New York headquarters, inviting me to make a poetic submission. I thought it was some prank or a fake mail but a fact check proved it to be genuine. It was claimed that I was one of the three Indian poets selected for this unique anthology on happiness. It was pure nirvana for a solo and suburban writer, my fifteen seconds of fame!

Follow the guidelines and deliver something cracking with energy.

There is one place I know intimately and it is also most welcoming— Setu that I edit. There are other venues in the cyberspace—some pretentious, some real sober; others pure snobbish—you have to find out what works best for you and what not. Archived sections help to understand the personality of the journal—and opening remarks of the edit team!

Describe a typical day in your life.

A working day starts at 7.15 in the morning in Kamaladevi College where I am principal. There I supervise a young team of pros. Interacting with learners is a real pleasure. Late afternoon, I return to my suburban home. The day’s sojourn ends at late night. There are typical daily pressures, deadlines and short-term timelines; challenges of a campus and civic life in an Indian metro bursting at its seams and due to poor planning; a brief nap, followed by a long evening walk and then few hours of reading and writing, before/after quick dinner.

And occasional Hollywood on prime-time TV—no binge-watching the idiot box. A daily routine of ordinariness and frustrations, interrupted by sublime moments of creation. In a pedestrian world, each creative becomes another Maud Lewis, or, almost.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Hatred. It has already resulted in lot of bloodshed and loss. It is an insanity that needs to be checked universally in every epoch.

Who inspires you and why?

Humanity. An apocalyptic world has got no appeal to me. Real lucky to be born into a species that has evolved and produced great artists, philosophers, doctors, sports persons, gurus and scientists, not necessarily in this order. Homo sapiens have made tremendous advancements and taken the civilizational project to a higher level. Politicians are trying to destabilize that order.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Patience. Faith.

Tell us a story in five words.

Rainbows are multinational and immortal!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Writing is a demanding craft. One has to work hard in order to achieve a certain level of perfection.

What are you reading at the moment?

Currently, I am reading Dostoevsky’s shorter works and enjoying them for their dialogic quality. I am revisiting the Master after thirty years and trying to learn afresh from a humble distance. The way he captures the darkness of the Russian landscape and its soul is, well, simply breathtaking! He is a summit that has not been surpassed so far. Towering Tolstoy, of course, is there, but his gaze is in a different direction.

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

Planning to bring out my next book of poetry, soon. Then, a collection of shorts by the end of this year.

Setu

Dr Sunil Sharma’s Website

Inky Interview Exclusive: Former Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley

You were appointed Cheshire Poet Laureate in 2004, and Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year in 2010. Congratulations! When did you first discover your passion for words?

Almost as soon as I could speak it seems I was making up little songs. I’m not sure that’s particularly unusual. It’s what many children do. I became an avid reader and certainly essay writing – or ‘composition’ as it was referred to – was a joy to me. I began writing poetry (badly) in my early teens.

You have written many poetry collections including Scarecrow Crimes (New Hope International, 2002), House of Wonders (Riverdane, 2008), and The Casting Boat (Headland, 2009). Your new prizewinning collection, Love and Crossbones, will be launched in 2018. Can you tell us about this? Where is the launch?

I was fortunate to be shortlisted in an international poetry competition following my entering the initially required submission of 20 pages of poetry. The 3 prizewinners were to be published. On receiving the balance of my collection I learned after the judge’s selection that I had won 3rd prize. SPM, the publishers, missed the scheduled publication date and the launch at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden at the end of June had to be cancelled. The book is now due for publication on 25th July 2018. Whenever it happens, I intend holding an eventual local launch in Congleton whatever other plans there may be.

You are an experienced performer, having read at many festivals, including Buxton, Edinburgh Fringe, and Ledbury. What were Bunch of Fives and Fourpenny Circus about?

These were 2 touring shows that attempted to combine original poetry with elements of theatre. The first involved poets Joy Winkler, Jo Bell, Andrew Rudd, Harry Owen and myself. Fourpenny Circus was the same cast minus Harry who was, by then, living in South Africa. We had Action Transport’s director Kevin Dyer working with us and sets and scenery were employed. The shows were far and away the most ambitious projects I’ve been involved in.

Tell us about your cinematic based show Reel To Real.

It’s a one-man show in which my poems, all taken from my cinema-themed collection, Screen Fever, are performed, accompanied by or integrated with projected film footage. Thankfully, it’s been very well received and seems to be a show that appeals to both poetry enthusiasts and, because of its subject matter, to those with little or no interest in poetry; those who would not normally attend a more conventional reading. I’ll be performing it again at The Old Saw Mill in Congleton on 13th September as part of Congleton’s Heritage Festival.

In Embers and Sparks (Riverdane, 2014) you go in search of Dylan Thomas, as poet Phil Williams puts it, ‘the legends, photographs, artefacts, and recordings echo through John’s rhymes.’ Could you please share with us one of the poems, and walk us through the inspiration behind it?

Routine
Laugharne 1949

Not waking to the wall of his wife’s back,
he wakes instead to her risen absence,
coughs twice, shakes the last dimp from the pack,
scratches a match, lights up, smokes his first since

last night’s last breath before sleeping. Rising,
he reads the morning away, buttons up,
climbs forty-one steps, breathes hard, starts walking
to his parents’ house, reaches their door, raps.

With no cross words but the one they work on,
he and his father read the clues, fill in gaps
in their relationship with pencil. Then
Dylan crosses to Brown’s for beer and gossip.

At two, in the shed warmed by anthracite
and Cat’s love, he nags a poem’s forming frame,
takes an hour to take a comma out,
another hour to put it in again.

That evening he shipwrecks in a warm tub,
a rack of boiled sweets bridging his crotch,
then supper and the cliff road to the pub
under the heron’s and the cormorant’s watch.

Not another sound on the darkening path
bar the odd cough and the scuff of his tread
but close behind him he detects the breath
of a poem that trails him from the writing shed.

Then, the kids in bed, Caitlin follows on
to Brown’s where he entertains and she mocks him
till, for better or worse, she and Dylan
make it home, make tea, make love or mayhem.

I would imagine that anyone familiar with Laugharne will recognise the geography of this poem: the Boathouse where Dylan lived with his wife Caitlin and their children in the last 4 years of his life; his nearby writing shed; his favourite pub, Brown’s Hotel, and the Pelican house opposite which he’d moved his parents into. ‘Routine’ (the poem’s title) isn’t a word one would normally apply to Dylan’s often chaotic life but it seems to me that there was a semblance of it in the first few months of his move back to Laugharne before things truly began to fall apart for him. I like to write in a variety of styles and chose straightforward quatrains with a regular rhythm and an ABAB rhyme scheme for this poem, perhaps to try to convey that sense of relative order in his day-to-day workings then. I preferred, though, not to end-stop many of the lines and to employ quite a few slant rhymes to aid the flow of the poem and to avoid it falling into a style more mechanical and predictable than I felt appropriate for it.

You provided distance learning workshops for writers in Africa as part of the British Council’s Crossing Borders project. How wonderful. Tell us more.

It was a British Council funded project run by Lancaster University. A number of writers were involved, covering various genres such as novel writing, playwriting and, in my case, poetry. We were providing distance learning via set tutorials to adult writers across Africa. At one point I was asked to visit Nairobi to run face-to-face workshops for a week with a group of students and to give a public reading. It was a thrilling experience and I’m grateful that I was given that opportunity.

As a creative writing tutor, have you any snippets of advice for writers? Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what do you do?

‘Read poetry’ is my advice. It’s remarkable how many aspiring poets read no-one but themselves. I’d recommend reading a broad range – funny, serious, rhymed, free verse, ancient and modern and the stuff in between. It should be a pleasure, not a chore. Anthologies are a good start. Not every style encountered will be liked, of course, but I believe it’s good to be open-minded.

I suffered a long period – 3 or 4 years – of writer’s block in the early 90s. Keats’ dictum that “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.” didn’t resonate with me. I finally ended the block by making a determined attempt to immerse myself in poetry again: reading, attending workshops and readings and generally trying hard to reconnect to a poetry scene which I’d been neglecting.

You recently performed at Holmes Chapel library as part of a band, and have a CD available called Wasteland. How did this come about?

I’ve always written songs but, with not really considering myself a singer/musician, have generally looked on songwriting as of decidedly secondary interest to my poetry. About a year ago I began to think that I would like some of those songs to see the light of day, rather than exist as merely lyric sheets with accompanying chords that would surface only at the occasional jam session I’d take part in at the pub. I had a tremendous amount of help from others I recruited to play on, record and produce the CD. The idea of doing live performances, before or after the album was done, never entered my head. We’ve done two so far with another in the pipeline but I certainly don’t view this as a new line of work for me! All proceeds from CD sales are for charity so it’s been good that money continues to be raised through these gigs.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Believe me, Deborah, he wouldn’t listen. He was a rebellious little bugger.

You also held workshops with people in prison. It must have been so rewarding?

Very much so. Demanding and challenging too, though. I was offered a 3 year residency at Lichfield Prison but enjoy the variety of my freelance work so much, I turned it down.

Tell us a story in five words.

My dog and coffee calls.

What kind of work did you collaborate on with American artist Daniel Bonnell?

I came across his work when searching for a suitable cover image for my collection, The Casting Boat. The title poem is one about a search for faith and I found some of his Christian paintings online and was particularly taken with them. I approached him for permission to use one them and a correspondence began. He liked my work and, despite knowing that I was an atheist, suggested a collaboration in which I would write poems in response to 50 of his paintings. It was a fascinating enterprise for me. From time to time I give designated performances of some of the poems and talk of the collaboration against a projected backdrop of Daniel’s paintings. These readings have usually been in churches and, a couple of years ago, I was booked to give the reading at a national preachers’ conference. It was hugely enjoyable. The show’s title, Crossing the Divide, signifies Daniel’s and my distinct worlds – American/English, Painter/Poet , Believer/Atheist – meeting. Another happy outcome was that one of the poems, Annunciation, that I wrote during this project won the International Religious Poetry Competition, the result meaning that they found themselves with a fully-paid up, card carrying atheist as Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year! I’ve included the poem in my forthcoming collection, Love & Crossbones.

What are you reading at the moment?

Adventures of a Ballad Hunter by John A. Lomax. It was originally published in 1947 and has recently been republished. It’s an account of the extensive folk song collecting and field recordings that the author undertook in the first half of the 20th century. He amassed hundreds of ballads, blues, spirituals, cowboy songs and more that would otherwise have been lost forever. This kind of thing fascinates me.

I’m currently reading too Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955 – 1982 by Philip Larkin. Larkin remains one of my favourite poets despite myself holding polar opposite views to those he held on so many things.

Apart from your book launch of the excellent Love and Crossbones this year, what’s next for you? What plans have you got?

My plans, alongside my regular workshops and open mic events I run, are for the Reel to Real performance in September I mentioned, a collaborative show as part of Goosfest 2018 in which I’m working with a duo performing Bob Dylan songs, a few day’s WWI project work in a Crewe primary school in November, a weekend’s workshop course in Southport for OU students and some other bits and pieces. Other things get fitted in as they come along. I’m not always sure what’s coming next which, as I do this for a living, can be both exciting and a little worrying at times! I presume it’s the same situation for many others who, like me, work freelance.

I’m to be one of the contributors to a project John Gorman in Liverpool has set up, the Quality of Mersey, in which I will attempt to write a poem about the River Mersey’s source in Stockport – my birthplace. I’m also to write a poem for Mark Sheeky’s exhibition at Stockport Art Gallery based on one of his paintings. You know and work with Mark, of course, Deborah. I hope to be busy too when Love & Crossbones is published and launched in putting together and delivering a series of readings from the book.

John Lindley’s Website

Books From The Pantry: Isn’t Forever by Amy Key: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Amy Key’s new collection, Isn’t Forever, published by Bloodaxe Books, is hypnotic and addictive. I became intoxicated by the verse. It’s full of poems that have a beautiful, almost dream like quality to them. They’re unique, strong and inspiring at the same time.

I particularly enjoyed the use of language in this collection. Sometimes harsh, sometimes with humour, but always with remarkable depth and insight.

Baby, wait a lifetime before you love somebody’ took my breath away. It has the lines:

Today I woke wishing for a baby.
I woke thinking – next year I will be married.
Strange since I’m not a mascot for such things.

It finishes with:

Starlight tastes less like snow than you might think
and I woke with a temporary sense of what love is,
like getting away with a good lie.
I am watching my breath mist up the windows
thinking – I made this.

The poem, ‘She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself’ is collaged from self help and agony aunt websites, and I adore the lines which give the reader advice:

Take a self-appreciation holiday.
Build a fortress
around your best self.
When you hear your worst
selves yelling from the ornamental moat of your
self-esteem. Ghost them.

Beauty, love and the female body are recurring themes throughout the collection. ‘No one should be scared of pleats’ is an amazing cento based on the words of Coco Chanel. It has the wonderful lines:

I don’t have to explain my creations; they have explained themselves

and

If I built aeroplanes, I would begin by making one that was too beautiful.

In ‘Two cats’, one of my favourites in the collection, Key demonstrates an elegant nature of vulnerability with the lines:

I whispered love to both cats
and tried to pay them equal attention. The vet prescribed
a hormone diffuser to take the edge off their fretfulness
and I worried about its effect on me. I had trouble both
sleeping and waking and was often in tears.

Hauntingly beautiful are the lines from ‘The Garden’:

I encountered a surface that was not safe to stand on
it was between me and the garden.
The garden said take as much time as you need.
It said you don’t even have to tell me.

I find myself intrigued by Amy Key’s style and words. The poems felt real to me, and one more than one occasion they made me pause for breath. I was delighted and surprised by them. It’s a stunning collection.

Photography by Jamie Drew

Get your copy of Isn’t Forever by Amy Key

Inkphrastica: Song of Freedom Oasis by Rus Khomutoff (Words) & Now That’s What I Call Blue by Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Usurp of the jonquil intervoid
happenstance arrival pending
a severing of the apparent encore
distant cries and
blossom bones enduring eternity
a face of genius in
full measure of the spectacular now
the explicit nevermind
of bulletproog passingness
always unfinished
song of freedom oasis
buying exits

Artwork: Now That’s What I Call Blue by Mark Sheeky

Rus Khomutoff’s Poetry

Books From The Pantry: Gwithyas – Door To The Void by Isha Crowe: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

We don’t get many visitors. In fact, we don’t get any, ever. The midwife who helped deliver my sisters and me was probably the last one. Ordinary people don’t like to mingle with lunatics in a haunted house on a cursed hill.’

I’m always a little tentative when it comes to the literary genre of fantasy.  Raised devoutly on the writings of Mr Tolkien, the ‘bar’ has been set to a high level and sadly, many books I have encountered within this genre tend to lose me by page seven, as my poor memory struggles to remember all the names of characters and locations, often difficult/impossible to pronounce, but words which would score very highly in a game of Scrabble, with a sixteen-letter name of a wizard, introduced on page two, or the seven-syllable location on page one, wherein lies the magic pot/sword/wand/banana required to fulfil the main quest.

Thankfully, by page three of Isha Crowe’s new book, Gwythias – Door To The Void, I was already hooked – most noticeably because Isha’s writing is outstanding and draws the reader completely into the book…but much more of that later. First, grab your enchanted swords/daggers/spears/catapults/bananas and travel with me to the starting point; the plot itself.

The story focuses on a lad aged sixteen, named Peregrine Zircon Gwithyas. At first glance, Peregrine is no likely hero. Nor is his world an easy one to handle, for weirdness surrounds and engulfs him, like flames around a well-toasted marshmallow. Peregrine lives in an old, creepy house with his parents and two sisters, being the eldest of triplets. Nothing too odd there, perhaps, except that his sisters have a decidedly odd – perhaps even slightly reptilian – appearance and a fascination with ouija boards.

‘My sisters have bulbous heads that are way too big for their emaciated bodies, eyes that resemble rabbit droppings, and lips that are so thin and dry that they remind me of parchment. They have no eyebrows or lashes, and their grey, wrinkly scalps boast only a few brittle tufts of hair. I reckon they must have an undiagnosed genetic disorder, because they don’t actually look like girls; more like clumsily put together nightmarish interpretations of human beings.’

Their father is also blessed with ‘the odd’, although he mostly secretes himself away in his study/library and has an unnatural obsession with thimbles. Mother is also of little help, perhaps because she tries too hard to rectify the balance of normality within the Gwithyas household; mostly by obsessing over nosing online at houses, well beyond the reach of the family budget. Speaking of the Gwithyas household, there is another important member not to be overlooked, who resides in an ancient, seven-storey tower which stands in the back garden. Herein, lies ‘Nanny’; a lady of undeterminable age who may be just short of her 90th birthday, or someone easily old enough to remember the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 and events much earlier in time.

Thus begin the mysteries of the novel, guiding the reader easily into the odd world of the Gwithyas family and provoking some key questions early on: ‘Why is Peregrine so geeky and awkward?’… ‘What powers does he truly possess within his ‘bony, greasy acne-skinned and carrot-coloured haired’ frame?’….’What is the Void and who/what lurks there? and ‘How old exactly is ‘Nanny’, why does she live in a tower & why on Earth does she need to be becalmed by magical spells once a day, just to stop her from turning into something from ‘The Exorcist?’

Such is the complex world of young Peregrine Zircon Gwithyas, but – like all good stories – it’s about to get a whole lot more intense with a storyline that never fails to disappoint and ultimately could lead to the collapse of the human race and life as we know it.

As stated before, the writing is spot on – just right and well balanced. Unlike some previous books I’ve encountered in this genre, Isha’s writing truly allows the reader into the storyline, where the focus is upon the created characters and the development of a solid plotline, rather than an attempt to create complicated, often impenetrable, worlds with plotlines that fail to match the ambitiousness of the characters themselves. It takes good, genuine writing skill to pull this off and, most importantly, to create a piece of literary work which effortlessly encourages the reader to keep turning pages. Isha establishes and maintains the story as the most important character in the book, ultimately allowing the reader to care about what happens to the cast within the storyline and live it with them.

Magic, horror, teenage angst, love, family, potential Armageddon… this book has it all. Much recommended for young adults; indeed, all age groups.

‘It’s all in the mind. My mind. Tiny little fingers, paper-white with blazing red claws, scratch over the door frame, feeling their way out. Or in. Out of the Void, and into my world.’

‘We are coming, Gwithyas.’

‘No.’

Get your copy of Gwithyas: Door To The Void by Isha Crowe