You have several published poetry collections including, This is not a Spectacle, The Trees Whispered (Origami Poetry Press) and Digging Holes To Another Continent (Clare Songbirds Publishing House). Would you share with us a couple of your poems and walk us through the ideas behind them?
Yes of course! This is not a Spectacle (second edition) was published in February of this year and is very much the story of why I started sharing my writing- the book opens with a car crash, an event which took place the day before I left for university in 2017, and which lost me my grandma:
fear tastes like rust. blood and metal.
waiting for you, university bags.
smells like animal saliva, like curdled sweat.
After the phone call I started running, blindly seeking hospital bed, weeping on the nurse I had just met.
underwater pressure bubble impenetrable
apologetic words caressed my head broke like a wave swept me out to sea: Head trauma. No specialist unit.
fear is inflating
Tried to forget the sound fluid rising and choking lungs, Tried to forget tears and last words: Pain. Pain. I have tried to be strong.
book explores where private grief meets public spectacle, but also
stands as a tribute to everything about my character which I can
tribute to my grandma, such as my strength and my feminist values.
With Digging Holes To Another Continent, (published by Clare Songbirds New York) I was exploring a Christmas spent in New Zealand, a completely new experience for me but at the time when the whole family needed to heal – it was a very Shakespearean celebration because we had travelled for the wedding of my uncle ( the first love of his life so a massive deal to all of us), but after the death of Grandma Maureen, who had suffered with Alzheimer’s and dementia for 12 years -although I don’t touch on that experience in the collection overtly, it very much underpins the collection, a feeling of grief but also relief. I was able to explore the landscape and the wild nature of New Zealand was healing in itself:
A few years from now maybe months maybe weeks, a huge wind will claim back the carefully sculpted scoops of road and the branches that wilt lazily like dog’s tongues will fall into the sea one by one on a suicide mission and take up new roots in the sea bed (a feast for fish) and nature will claw back the cities piece by piece demolition to terracotta rubble and the only sound left will be frantic insect feet on crisping leaves.
Congratulations on your forthcoming poetry collection, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. What themes have you explored in this new collection? When will it be available?
Thank you! This is the collection I am most proud of to date. It explores the with state of becoming an adult but feeling ill-equipped to deal with the loneliness that comes with that, and also my experience of the aftermath of sexual assault, while being very far away from friends and family. It very much looks at the value of a woman’s body in today’s society. It is due to be released in August 2020.
You are editor of the wonderful Fly On The Wall Press. Can you give us a glimpse into your working day? What are the best and worst parts of being an editor?
I think all publishers will tell you that they both love their job and that they find it exhausting! I love that I create a season, finding gaps in the market I believe need to be addressed. I believe that words have the power to change opinion and that’s what I am aiming to do especially with my anthologies, but also with my chapbooks, representing voices which I believe are not currently at the forefront of society. The worst part as of course when writers cannot separate themselves from their own writing-rejection is never personal, it’s simply about what you have written and the style of it.
well as offering author services, you also give talks and run
workshops in schools. How do you structure your workshops? What
subjects have you engaged in with the pupils?
I’m enjoying giving talks in schools currently, but as a publisher it is fairly new to me- I used to be a drama practitioner, however, so I am used to giving workshops creatively! I like to challenge young people by setting the standard of my workshop high, and I am often surprised by the result. I like to give examples of poets whom I admire, but I also like to give an example of where I myself have done the exercise as with students, I wouldn’t like them to do anything which I would not be able to do myself. Primarily, I am engaging the pupils in creative writing about global warming, themed around the Planet in Peril anthology, although I really enjoy answering questions on getting into publishing as an industry.
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying is a fundraising, mental health themed anthology which was runner up in the Saboteur Awards 2018. Tell us more.
Yes! Very much how I started getting the publishing bug and continuing on. The book features 116 writers globally writing on a wide range of mental health experiences-it was really important that I featured as many poems as I fell in love with because there really is no universal experience, and readers will connect with different poems. The book’s profits go to UK mental health charity, Mind, and so far we have raised just under £600. The anthology is available from Fly On The Wall Poetry
Tell us about your experience in taking part in the ‘Sex Tapes’ at the Leeds International Festival.
think we can all agree that there is little to no money in the arts
and that it needs to be funded more, so I was very excited to find a
callout for the festival, which paid! The festival opened with ‘Sex
Tapes’ and I was scheduled to go on first – very much before the
audience and had enough alcohol to process poems on the female
orgasm… but that was what I had been paid to write about, so there
you go! It was a lot of fun, and there was absolutely no shame in
the event- it was very much a positive experience, with the profits
going to a charity in Leeds which helps sexual violence survivors. So
although the evening was light-hearted and comedic, the message was
heartfelt and performers like the lovely Roz Weaver were not afraid
to touch on the darker side of their experiences. Thank you to
Eleanor Snare for organising such an important evening.
are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Songs for the Unsung by Grey Hen Press. I met the editor, Joy, recently, and we agreed that the anthology was a sister book to Fly on the Wall Press’ Persona Non Grata, so I’m enjoying reading her choices and the exploration of social exclusion.
us a random fact about yourself.
I used to compete for Ballroom and Latin with my university- but before university I barely even danced! I thought I had two left feet and now I love it.
next for you? What plans have you got?
I have an exciting performance scheduled in July, for which I will be performing poetry on the subject of women in space. I am hoping to put a book together about these amazing women working for NASA. For Fly On The Wall, 2020 will see a ‘shorts’ season – a short story published in A6 bound form, every 2 months, on subscription to your door!
She was ushered by her uncle into the only room that was close to the front door of her grandparents’ spacious but very old house. He mumbled something in utter disapproval at her newly shaven head, which looked as a scraped potato in her grandmother’s pot. Clare felt utterly embarrassed though she had done nothing wrong. She thought that she must have looked too ugly to be isolated in her uncle’s private room. She stared at the open window behind which many butterflies roamed. She examined every inch of the wall, stared at nothing then inspected the pictures of a single man’s world, and although she could not then spell the dignified word, its letters loomed large on the ceiling and walls:
grew gigantic and looked like a lamp-stand with no gold.
was a circle that had no exit or door.
restlessly roamed tripping on obstacles on the floor.
heavily lagged looking lame and forlorn.
knelt to pray for hair to quickly grow.
and N must have come into the room the moment her uncle turned the
knob. Time grew wingless and seconds and minutes crept on the floor.
It was a tradition with some parents to have the heads of children
shaven to strengthen their hair-roots, but she who recommended the
hair chopping did not supply Clare with a cap or hood with which to
hide her furless globe. Why was she not
at home? Was a shaven head a stigma in any household?
Clare waited for her grandmother who with a hug would calm the heaving and scattered limbs of forlorn. She would ease Clare’s bewilderment and shame with a single kiss on her forehead, fastening a bouquet of violets to the sleek hair, behind the very tiny ear, regaling her nostrils with the soap-scented hand as she, with a snow-white towel dipped in lukewarm water, blotted every mark on an easily blemished slate, a child’s face.
Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Peeking Cat Poetry, The Curlew, Plum Tree Tavern, The Ink Pantry, A New Ulster, Down in the Dirt, the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Leaves of Ink, the Avalon Literary Review, The Opiate, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Blotter, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crossways, The Moon Magazine, the Mojave River Review, Dodging the Rain, River Poets Journal, and Coldnoon.
Today at breakfast Sister Mary has pulled out from her cupboard A blue box filled with crispy crosses – edible rice bran the colour of amethyst Trix.
She pours the milk over her wholesome “t’s” and watches them float miniature crosses buoyant on a purple sea, the envy of all Carmelites.
Sister bows her head and prays over her tiny morsels, each infinitesimal snap, crackle and pop, giving thanks for some rangy white-haired Diva back in Rome whom they’ve named Product Manager.
Hunter Boone was published in Sappho Magazine under the pen name of J. Hunter O’Shea, has a BA in Creative Writing, studied with Stuart Dybek, Eve Shelnutt, Herb Scott and Jaimy Gordon whilst completing a MA of Fine Arts at Western Michigan University, and plays a Fender Stratocaster.
I sift through a treasure of photos that my Dad’s death has unearthed and pore over one of an acquaintance who had a fleeting presence in my childhood. I have a vivid memory that conjures every single detail, colour, smell and sound from recollections that would evade any other child.
sat in the taxi next to the driver, a proper but tiny barrier between
him and two young women, a relative and a dark-haired university
student in her twenties, visiting home. The driver, a typical
womanizer, divided his attention between the tortuous road to the
student’s summerhouse and her very short-cut blouse. She had a
beautiful bosom and the most captivating smile. He bombarded her ears
with compliments and sometimes he crossed the line. I viewed her with
my mesmerized eyes but she never returned a glance. She sedately
ignored the driver’s remarks with a meaningful but inscrutable smile.
I wondered what was making her so happy – I was sure it was not
that silly clown. Though her face was fixed on the road, she was
looking inwardly at something that fascinated her lustrous eyes. She
was so taciturn that I cannot now recall her voice. I had an excuse
to constantly examine her face to see how she responded to sexual
praise of the unremitting type, but her politeness remained all along
intact. When she left the car, I felt a terrible sense of loss. That
nymph had me under her spell. She never doted on me as strangers
usually do on children during a short drive, but she took away with
her a piece that she chiseled off my mind. My sun and my moon orbited
in her constellation – she had allowed them in without a sign.
More than forty years have elapsed and at the counsel of my retentive memory I could have been three, four or five. That was my only meeting with my mother, now I realize long after her demise. She had departed from the world without saying goodbye. I wish she had sealed that short meeting with a hug, a kiss, or a keepsake gift. My only inheritance is a box of haunting smiles and a long history of malignant lies.
Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Curlew, A New Ulster, Straylight Magazine, Down in the Dirt, The Ink Pantry, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Leaves of Ink, The Avalon Literary Review, The Opiate, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, WestWard Quarterly, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Blotter, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crossways, The Moon Magazine, the Mojave River Review, Always Dodging the Rain, and Coldnoon.
In this last book of the Hidden Sanctuary series, the Tribe face their greatest threat yet. With Prosperity intent on expanding their city of excellence footprint into every corner of Brumont, the mass clearing of the abandoned industrial units begins; part of a regeneration that will leave no place for the Tribe left to hide. More than that, Prosperity’s methods of eviction are swift and brutal, meaning hiding has become a deadly option, one with only time as its protector – and that is fast running out. Just as Jacob was beginning to fit into his role as mentor, it falls to him to ensure the survival of those he’s been entrusted to take care of. The only options left are to leave Brumont City behind altogether, or return to their old lives in the city under Prosperity’s watchful eye. Either way, it will mean going their separate ways, and the abrupt end of their once peaceful existence.
Themes of mental health run through this final book as they have done throughout the series. In Unmasked, we see one of our characters descend into depression while another tries to fight their way out of it. Also depicted are issues resulting from PTSD such as panic disorder and anxiety.
“There’s another option… We go back.”
The city closes in on Jacob and the tribe he has sworn to protect.
With nowhere left to run, will they be forced back to the lives they had once escaped?
As the city grows ever more unstable, those living on its outskirts fear their once peaceful existence is almost at an end. In the shadow of this fear the members of the tribe connect on a level they haven’t before, defying the doctrine to share stories of their past. But for Jacob the time is drawing close when he must decide to put their safety above all else, a move that would see them go their separate ways and bring about the end of the tribe for good.
Sada has returned to her old life in the city to stay near her daughter. But its grip on her is as suffocating as it ever was. Yearning to be free from the glass confines of her husband’s penthouse, she seeks out reasons to meet with Jacob and the tribe. Even though doing so puts all their lives at risk.
UNMASKED is the third and final book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series. Check out T.L. Dyer’s website.
As we step in to our own role We surrender to our true soul Path and calling for all to see Living as one in harmony!
Fearless beings of love and light Who truly have been in a fight A clash of ego and the deepest pain Now to rise like a phoenix again
It is the test of an enduring root We seek no glory or toot toot We jest in banter as much as we cry Most of our life, it’s been a lie
We told ourselves that all was real Then we discovered it was not the deal Or agreement we made many moons ago It was time we created an eternal flow
Across time and space we drifted most Many a time we felt like a lost ghost To find the inner power and desire Cutting the cords and etheric wire
Which bound us to a chain so strong Now we see what truth was all along Through experiences we had need to make And connections with others we got to break
It’s clear as the sun will shine each day Our inner calling guiding us all the way From here and now, and forever more We venture both sides of a swinging door
To be as One in balance with all that is We will live a life of love and bliss In pastures green and skies so blue, We are here, wondering where are you
Each of us who knows the truth It’s not the time to be aloof Change the thoughts and open your mind You will see us there, look, come and find
Let’s make it fun just like a game Trust us, it’s a new life for you to gain To be as free like a pure white dove That’s the essence of unconditional love
Deane Thomas is a former corporate executive who had the pleasure of living in many different countries and cultures. He currently lives in Croatia with his two teenage daughters. In August 2014 a set of life changing circumstances led to his own awakening and to finally lifting the veils of illusion.
Deane stepped away from corporate responsibility, relocated to another country, and began his own spiritual journey, and life as a solo father. He is continually healing and growing spiritually, and now dedicates his time to helping, healing and teaching others.
His inquisitiveness into historical events and places, as well as witnessing them in the present time, has led him to truly appreciate all that life has to offer. A deep fascination with indigenous cultures and their way of life, how they function and more importantly, live without religions.
Always challenging and questioning societies forced indoctrination and expectations of man, he has become a philosopher and writer, something he has been in previous incarnations.
When we first came to Golden Pines, Embarking on a ritual of friendship, The seafood buffet: Tilapia, raw shrimp, thawed, still cold. I told Frank that we would not be The youngest people here for long. So twelve years later We sustain the ritual As best we can, Walkers parked along the wall. Tilapia, raw shrimp, thawed, still cold. I tell Frank there are people here I’ve never seen before. Turnover, he replies.
On All Saints Day we listen to A modern requiem: Kyrie, Sanctus, Harp, tympani, Melodies, harmonies serene, ethereal, The composer not himself a man of faith. We hear read the names of the departed: Turnover. The choir recesses to Sine Nomine, For all thy saints… Harp, tympani. I do not weep at Christmas or Easter But weep today: Harp, tympani: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
October: it is the day of the tour buses, But the Foliage Coordinator Has let us down: Where reds and golds should Spread, a colour wheel across the hills, Instead, you see here a maple Partly turned, partly bare, An oak mostly green, And a beech that mousey past-peak Yellow brown. Says it has to do with Misapplications of warmth and water. No matter. Waves of buses Roll on, each with its cargo Of greying leaf-peepers, Name tags around their necks, Cell phone cameras poised, But glumly suspecting that They have come the wrong week. The Foliage Coordinator acknowledges That some years are better than others, but The Chamber of Commerce is Loath to call Him out.
Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.
The regular tap of my stick
pauses as I lean over the stone wall and contemplate the swirling
dark below. As my breathing steadies, I fumble in my coat pocket and
locate the engraved hip flask, one of the few things I treasure in
this world. A generous gulp sends the honey liquid coursing down my
throat. By God, that’s the ticket on a night like this. I’m
screwing the cap back on when a movement catches my eye. Someone is
climbing onto the wall near the middle of the bridge, holding onto a
stanchion, head bowed to the blackness below.
I limp towards them, calling out, making myself known.
It’s a woman. She warns me to stop when I’m a few feet away from
her. She’s not dressed for the weather.
her my name. She doesn’t want to talk but I talk anyway, gentle,
soothing, like she’s one of the kids with a fever, all those years
ago. She wants me to leave her to it.
her why? What can be so bad? Her body folds in on itself, her grip
loosening on the stanchion. I’m nearer, asking her to hold on,
asking her to come down. I’ll listen.
shakes her head but then she speaks. Her child died. Cancer. She
can’t go on without her. Her husband is broken, their family
pain is visible, radiating into the darkness and much as I want to
take it from her, I know I couldn’t stand it. I’m nearer now,
close enough to wrap my shovel of a hand around her slender one. I
remind her that if she goes through with this, she’ll pass the same
pain to her parents, already mourning the loss of their grandchild.
frowns, then crumbles to a sitting position, her sobs covering the
noise of the wind and fast-flowing river. She’s shaking
uncontrollably as I help her off the wall, wrap my coat around her
and give her a nip from the flask. She splutters, then has some more.
talk quietly and finally she lets me call her brother. He arrives in
tears and takes her in his arms. I decline their offer of a lift but
take her hand through the passenger window before they leave. She
thanks me. He can’t thank me enough.
car disappears back towards town. I’m shivering from the cold or
shock; I don’t know which. The rain comes, thick drops, right on
the edge of sleet. I limp back to the point she was going to jump
from and regard the inky depths she sought deliverance through.
home, my wife drifts in a morphine fuelled sleep. She’s not long
for this world and I don’t want to be in any world where she isn’t.
My suicide note sits, neatly folded, on the kitchen side next to the
kettle. Veronica will find it when she arrives in the morning. She’s
a good girl. Comes to look after her mum two days a week to give me a
break. If I go through with this, she’ll have to mourn me, then
mourn her mother. Am I that really that cruel?
I take out the hip flask, drain it and watch the river flow.
Karen Rust is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Check out her blog, Blooming Late.
I am programmed to help human beings: If I see them in difficulty, I must help; My maker said what I represent Is smooth machine bureaucracy, A hidden net of support, for the common people. I am proud of that. I do my job as best I can Which is very well: my circuits are faultless Devised and manufactured by real men; So, I am authentic as well as useful, Not a fake copy from the printing factory.
Well, yesterday I saw a human being, sitting on a train, A newspaper upon his lap, and pen in hand. He clearly was in pain: he frowned, he scratched his head, He pursed his lip; crossed out what he had written. I sought to help, as I had been advised Was proper to my role. I should say now I am a trusted guard Collecting tickets for the Southern Rail; a company, so I am told, Which carries commuters to and from their work.
This human being was doing Sudoku, a game for relaxation Which also, I believe, demands some concentration From the gamer. He had not made much progress. Well, I could not do less: I fed the grid into my circuit board, Filled in the blanks, projected them to the page. He should have smiled. He did not. Instead he cursed, Said “Damn” and worse. I must have dozed off. Did someone borrow my paper? I must check with my maker –
Did I do something wrong? Impossible! My circuits all prevent it.
Later, on my way home; I have a bedsit like a normal human being Where other helpers live, and we are overseen; I saw upon the street A five pence piece. Had someone lost it? That would cause distress. I picked it up and thought a bit: the police station, that’s the place! They will restore it to its rightful owner. The constable behind the desk, When he had asked how he could help, and I gave my reply; He looked me in the eye with a slight frown: “It is a crime to waste police time,” He said. “This time I’ll let you off, but don’t come back,” Perhaps there is some lack in him, or he is one of those Who do not love their fellow human beings. Perhaps he needs help?
I am not qualified for therapy. My maker says the time is not yet ripe. But, when I have learned the ways of human beings, a little better, He says there is hope I could be upgraded. I look forward to that.
In the meantime, my neighbour is a poet, I thought to have a look at what he wrote. Poor man! It lacked the elements of proper grammar, Showed some derangement in the way he thought, Speaking of moonbeams as translucent stories; Of course, I put it right, and then destroyed his former manuscript; I am sure he will be pleased. It is good to be a secret do-gooder, To do your kindest deeds and seek no praise.
Well, even machines need to rest. But I feel blessed To have done so much good today; and for no thanks; Even ingratitude. Yet I am puzzled still – Those I have helped should be happy – I believe I have done well – Yet some are not. Perhaps I should learn to programme human beings?
Rob Lowe has been writing for many years. He is a member of Colwyn Bay Writers’ Circle. Poems have been published in The Friend, Shire Magazine, and by Disability Arts Cymru.