Poetry Drawer: Coal by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


I chew coal for extra nrgy
Wind turbines
blow a deadly breeze my way

In the migrant trailer
in which I live
I flex my biceps in front of the mirror
to reassure myself I still exist
and am capable of continued survival

I grin into the mirror
with my black teeth
Script for the company store
is scattered on the rug like fallen leaves

I have a woman
but I’ve misplaced her
I go looking for another chunk
of coal

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Still Wet by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Loch by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Photogenic by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Microwave by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Granite by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Trick by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Inkspeak: Moreau by Mark Sheeky

I went to an island, a world populated by strange beings,
machines of meat developed for … unknown fetishistic purposes.
I asked a retile creature, ‘take me to your leader.’
We cut through harsh forests
I saw many strange beings
made from other bits of thing.
I was taken to a fine house.
A man was there, he said his name was Moreau.

Books From The Pantry: Loving Lou Salomé by Stefano Santachiara

Loving Lou Salomé by Stefano Santachiara:

An historical novel based on works, correspondence and random thoughts of Lou Salomé, free as the travels, encounters and relationships that she lived through in the cultural centres of Europe between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Santachiara interprets even the most subtle nuances of Salomé’s spirit and narrates an extraordinary life: scholar, traveller, poetess, writer, philosopher, psychoanalyst.

Stefano Santachiara (born in 1975, Carpi, Italy) is a former journalist of Il Fatto Quotidiano, and of the periodical Left Avvenimenti. He also collaborated with the Italian TV Channel Rai3. He is known for his reports on corruption and environmental damage, as well as for the scoop in the first case of relations between the Democratic Party and the ‘Ndrangheta, when the businessmen involved filed a claim for compensation, but the court rejected it by stating that Santachiara’s investigation was based on true and documented facts. His first book The Dirty Laundry of the Left (I panni sporchi della sinistra), written with Ferruccio Pinotti for the Chiarelettere publishing company, has reached five editions. His other works include self-published essays Soccer, Carrion and Leopards (Calcio, carogne e gattopardi) and Social Feminism (Socialfemminismo). Recently he has completed a movie script based on his historical novel Loving Lou Salomé.

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Dr Carla McGill


He appeared on the paved path
on the old railway trail
near foothills, long slope
of the rocky wash.

Near crevices where winds form,
blast down the valley, leaves spinning,
stunned trees, even the dry river
stones stupefied by its force.

He was stock-still, the wind twisting
around his tail, and glancing my way,
ears alert. Ancient chaparral ancestors
stirring in his pale eyes, yelps
and howls from a thousand open
plains already sounding in unknown
and guarded inner places.

No one else was around but the lizard
near my feet, anticipating possibilities.
Nearby brush, rustlings, stirrings.

Then he was gone, as if by magic,
disappearing, no sound in the thickets
by the path, collecting heat as it bore down.

The winds stirred again,
a couple of blasts, no birds
anywhere that I could see, no brush
rabbits, just the dead bee I then came across,
and the dog collar, tan with gold flecks,
half-buried in the dirt.

Now I hear everything from all directions:
heavy bison steps, antelope grunts,
bobcats hissing, wind tearing through hedges.

There’s another lizard, minding his way
as we both acknowledge that today
something nearby will be devoured.


She was not posed, but staring off
from the gazebo at a party, her hand
almost to her head as if shielding
her eyes from the sun. Straining
to see something, she looked
curious, as if I could tell by her gaze,
as if she knew what it all meant,
as if she saw what was about to happen,
as if she knew it was there, the ultimate
end of all things that we found familiar,
the end of wondering. On the ground
behind her, at the edge of the gazebo,
her purse, silver clasp glinting in the sun.


Gray pebbles, ceramic shards,
pieces of plastic, rope, shell
trifles, abandoned claw tips.

Then, buried in seaweed,
it shone through, purple
with streaks of red,

shining glass, orbicular,
no cracks or chips. Wet,
cold, yet still exuberant.

It seemed to ignore being found,
and went on as it had been, silent,
on my dresser, waiting for the sun.


Hard to get up, open to assaults
of bright winds, glossy fields
in the distance, flickering
and shimmering, blinding
and flashing with energy.

On the other hand, stone walkways
are dignified, but stable to the point
of fatigue. The gray and black flecks
run all through, repel everything,
explain nothing. They fossilize in the cold.

Glaciers on the horizon, gleaming
like answers to questions, like
ancient wisdom, like stories
that put one to sleep after wincing
and blinking and shivering all day.

Carla McGill earned her doctorate in English from the University of California, Riverside. Her work has been published in A Clean Well-Lighted Place, The Atlanta Review, Shark Reef, Crack the Spine, Westview, Common Ground Review, Caveat Lector, Inland Empire Magazine, Carbon Culture Review, Vending Machine Press, Nebo: A Literary Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, Streetlight Magazine, The Penmen Review, Whistling Shade, Cloudbank, Paragon Journal, Burningword, Poets’ Espresso Review, The Alembic, and Broad River Review. Her story, “Thirteen Memories,” received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s MAR/APR 2016 Very Short Fiction Contest. She lives with her husband in Southern California where she writes poetry and fiction.

Poetry Drawer: Trick by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois


The woman who claims to be my wife has a lost look
She’s holding a raw egg in her hand
Dr. Oz told me
I can lose seven pounds a week
by using Garcinia Cambogia Extract, she says

I have been away for many years
held as a P.O.W.
I don’t understand what she just said
I have no idea who Dr. Oz is
My only reference is:
The Wizard of…

In grief over my presumed death
this woman who claims to be my wife
began eating wildly
became morbidly obese
I still cannot believe she is who she says she is
I think that it is a trick
set up by my former captors
I cannot remember if they were Communists
Stalinists or Maoists
I don’t understand what any of that means
if I ever did
or why this woman sitting next to me on this couch
is stroking the blond hairs
of my arm

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Still Wet by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Loch by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Photogenic by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Microwave by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Granite by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Alita Pirkopf


Though the unworkable world
of my impossibility is always present,
incessant, unceasing, encircling,
it has turned ever so slightly,
causing previous decades
of different understandings,
or misunderstandings, to shift,
turning my face to the rays
of the always somewhere shining sun.

Possibility, after so long, emerges,
takes on unfamiliar shapes,
like eon-shaped, water worn rocks,
like Philip Glass repetition,
changing with continuing variation.


stretches its branches
toward the ice night’s
cold stars. I forget
that elsewhere,
of course, is growing,

that green will come again,
turning where I stand
to tulips and tart rhubarb,
relaxing my winter will—
which now I wish
would right my brittle world.


The tape
in my head
for years
showed ovens
and visits
to my
It plays on
the past.

Serial dreams
of a witch-
have not
The dark closet
she placed me in
holds me forever
with my mother’s help.

But to dreams
and tapes
and documentaries
a new tape
has been added.
It plays
in the present.

A German
I study
as I fall

Night comes now
not always
with black fingers
or witches’ hats
but still sometimes.


My sons grew up
playing with their father
in summer and in snow.
They could have sailed
to Troy

            in the time
they stayed away
I wove
summer threads
into light fantasy,
and winter wool
into thicker
and heavy fabric-

           until finally,
from remaining threads,
I make only this,
a story I repeat, then write,
and plan to press
between clothbound covers.
Ancient stories
in an old-fashioned book.

After receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Denver, Alita Pirkopf became increasingly interested in feminist interpretations of literature. Eventually, Alita enrolled in a poetry class at the University of Denver taught by Bin Ramke. Poetry became a long-term focus and obsession.

Alita’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Alembic, Artifact Nouveau, Burningword Literary Journal, Caduceus, The Cape Rock, The Chaffin Journal, The Distillery, Euphony Journal, Existere, Good Works Review, The Griffin, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Harpur Palate, Illya’s Honey, Lullwater Review, Moon City Review, The Paragon Journal, The Penmen Review, Quiddity, riverSedge, Rubbertop Review, Ship of Fools, Stonecoast Review, Temenos Journal, Vending Machine Press, Vox Poetica, Westview, and Willow Springs Review.

Poetry Drawer: Three Poems by John Grey


Summer’s here,
blue and cloudless,
hot and steamy
with the sun at full throttle.

A gull perches on a wooden pole,
feathers ruffling,
blood dot on its beak.
A pelican scoops some sea
up in its pouch,
sloshes down to a single gray fish.

We’re seated under an umbrella,
with just our feet in the light’s flame,
toes baked like bread.

A crab darts across the sand,
seeks shelter under my chaise lounge.
Your arm reaches up
to caress a cool glass,
filled to the brim with pina colada.
This is paradise as we know it.

Waves flop on shore,
retreat and flop some more.
A surfer paddles way out,
then returns to us
on the crest of a swell,
tall, erect, well-balanced,
like a statue on a fiber-glass base.

Everything is happening.
There’s movement in all directions.
And yet it all adds up to a calm.
I close my eyes, begin to doze.
The action never lets up.


Songs come out of nowhere.
The mood is music-ripe.
I hum.
I make up words.
Initiate a melody.
I’m loud.
People stare at me.
But it doesn’t bother me
to be strolling along
and singing.
Why not?
There has to be a piano playing somewhere.


The woods are thick and the trail is narrow.
I smell the piney closeness, almost overpowering.
And my feet look for their place
on this tiny gauge track.
The warblers have all the sky for palette,
fill it with song.
Wildflowers, yellow and pink and blue,
take up the space their roots endow,
always room for one more blooming.
So much green, so much trunk and bark,
and breeze and sprouting,
my identity holds fast
to the next thought and the next.
Better to give myself up to the surrounds,
whisper the cinquefoil and the tortoiseshell.
My breath concurs.
My soul vacillates.
My heart takes one more step..

Inky Interview Special: John Grey, Australian Poet, USA resident

Poetry Drawer: An Awkward Meeting in a Coffee House by John Grey

Poetry Drawer: Two Poems by John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review and North Dakota Quarterly.

Poetry Drawer: Seems There Are by Joel Schueler

Seems There Are

less people you can call friends
money can’t buy you back again,
you lost you
you’re losing me too,
fourteen angels and fourteen more
cannot untie the you from before.

Joel has a BA (Hons) in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He has just finished his first novel and his works have been accepted across eight different countries in over two dozen publications including the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Bangalore Review, & The Brasilia Review.

Books From The Pantry: Deep Dark Light by Mark Sheeky

Congratulations on your new book, Deep Dark Light, which is a surrealistic work in three parts, combining poetry and prose. Can you tell us about it?

Deep Dark Light is a combination of poetry, with lots of images, and a short story. It’s an experiment in form, inspired by classical music and how each section or movement of, say, a piano concerto is organised to portray a certain idea or mood, yet the whole thing is inter-related, too. The majority of poetry books are simply collections of poems about various things. Sometimes collections are themed, which gives the reader more of a strong sense of what the poems are about or how they are supposed to make you feel. I wanted to structure a book like that but include any form of text, breaking free of poetry to include stories, letter-like essays, thoughts, notes, and images. Perhaps the closest analogues are William Blake’s mythological books, but there was no intentional influence from those.

Deep Dark Light has a theme too. It is a somewhat surrealistic work that has a feeling like a journey or quest, always searching and trying to understand, looking for light. Some of my writing is rather abstract, and this is designed to evoke a music-like feeling, a journey from darkness to light, rather like a symphony by Beethoven or Sibelius.

I bet everyone thinks this is a very odd book already! Perhaps it is. For me, the writing process was something of a quest; I find that many books are. I think that many writers quest and seek things while writing, and that this often manifests itself in the story itself. So many books are about looking for an ending, the narrative reflecting exactly the psychology of the author. Do the writers notice? As a reader, I didn’t until I began writing, and then I saw this pattern in so many novels. I hope some people will find it inspiring.

How did you structure the novel?

The first part consists of short poems with illustrations. These arose from a period of introspection, a searching for artistic meaning. This opens the gateway to a second part about a larger quest for meaning. The reader is also asked questions and, hopefully, engaged in this unusual dialogue. Parts of the second part involve physics and philosophy.

The final section is a surrealistic story that brings together some of the thoughts and ideas explored, and on some level unifies and concludes these. It is the story of George, a man searching for his lost love who has been kidnapped or taken somewhere. George begins before a vast door at sunset, and is pulled forwards through various fantastical worlds, ultimately towards love, daylight.

What philosophy do you explore?

The short philosophical pages, which are often something like prose-poems, are generally about the nature of thought and reality. They’re strongly related to Descartes; my own Meditations on his.

What inspired you in the first place?

The first section was written in a short period when I wanted to push some sort of boundary in poetry, to write something that was somehow universal, rather than social, or about something specific. In effect these poems were about art and the serious matter of living a life of creativity. I set those poems aside for some time, for over a year, then looked at them again and thought that they deserved to be put together. They were not long enough to make a book from, so I had the idea of making those the first ‘movement’ of a larger work, a grand experiment.

You have also illustrated the book, with pen and ink. Is a lot of your writing imagery based, would you say?

Definitely. I find writing easier when I form an image and describe it, and my narrative writing is always a sequence of images. In this book, as in all of my illustrated books so far, the illustrations were all created after the poems; I wanted to make a multi-media work, but I certainly had some images in my mind before I started to write, too.

Perhaps the most image-rich area in the writing is the story at the end, which isn’t illustrated. Sometimes illustrations can strongly colour a story. Can anyone now imagine Alice in Wonderland without the famous drawings? In prose, one has to be careful not to ride over the reader and the images that their mind makes. Illustrations, in the technical sense, can do that, so my images are more like complements to the text, devices to augment the mood rather than depict anything.

The ultimate motivation for the images is that I wanted the book to look beautiful, to create a book that was a work of art in every sense. These things can’t be hurried along. All beautiful things take time and care to construct. Addition. Subtraction. Addition. Subtraction. Sculpting until everything feels right.

Did your imagination surprise you along the way, or did you have a definite plan for the whole novel?

The first set of poems were certain and written in a short period, then it was a case of making things that fitted with those, parts that made sense and chimed. I like to make a plan before starting things, working out all of the main points out, then fill in the contents with a relatively high level of detail so that a first draft is largely complete. As a painter, musician, and occasional sculptor too, I can see that all art is about starting rough and then refining. All writers probably do this too, even when they don’t form a conscious plan: by the end of the first draft, they can start to refine.

I prefer to have a skeleton that lists the main flows of scenes and characters and emotions, and use that crucial blueprint as my guide. Once you stick to that plan, the rest can be anything and the result will still work. No matter how many layers of refinement an artwork receives, one of my tenets is that a good artwork can be called finished at any stage and still work.

A global plan also gives an author a sense of feeling in advance. The key to writing, as in any art, is to feel what you want to express, then express yourself through your medium. This is a lot easier if you know what you are supposed to be feeling.

Could we have a snippet from Deep Dark Light, with commentary?

This is from the Dark section:

Dearest Lucine, I have discovered the most wonderful thing, that we are connected. Each of us lives only in the minds of others. We can know ourselves, but we cannot ever know what came before us, or what comes after us. Our lives, from our perspective, are infinite. Life, death, the passage of time, these are social constructs, things only exist in others, the people we see. We know death only through seeing it in others, and by feeling the decay in ourselves. We cannot die ourselves; we exist, then do not. How can anything experience non-existence?

We are all citadels of cells, tiny animals that work together to make us. Tiny animals, trying hard to make their own way, each sharing, loving, giving.

Our perspective of the universe is unique. This makes our experience of the universe unique, but also makes our knowledge unique, our truth unique and therefore our universe unique. There is no shared universe, we each have a personal universe, and you are in mine.

There was a time when you were alive in mine.

You exist in my memory.”

Like a lot of that section it is a written thought about existence and what is real, what is true, and what is a right path. It has elements of searching, and coping with loss, but also something larger and beyond normal life. This part also links with the story at the end, as the (unnamed) narrator here is George, the protagonist, and Lucine is his partner, the love that he has lost.

Are you working on any other literature at the moment?

I’ve been working on poetry, recently. The poems here were written some years ago, well, maybe not that long ago, but for me, they seem to be from a different epoch. So much has changed in my literary life this year, due to getting to know some really good poets and writers, and reading more of the best poetry. I want to focus on producing a good poetry collection for its own sake, and have created a theme of the circus, a rich area for characters, and also, hopefully, an alternative reflection of life. I may structure it like Deep Dark Light to some degree, adding an overall shape to it. Good aesthetics is a balance between order and chaos. Structure adds order, and looser forms add chaos. These are the condiments of literature.

Where is the best place to get a copy of Deep Dark Light?

Amazon, available worldwide.

I’d like to end with a few words from the foreword, a third party perspective on the book which your readers might find informative. It was written by Ink Pantry author Dr. Ken Pobo, Professor of English Literature from Widener University:

If you are looking for a straight-up narrative work, move along. Connections happen here—in each illustration and written piece—but these are not built from traditional forms of narrative. The words converse with the illustrations. Sometimes we clearly overhear what they say; other times we have to go strictly by impulse and intuition. In John Lennon’s song “Intuition” the speaker says that intuition takes him everywhere. Everywhere, nowhere, light, dark.”

Mark Sheeky’s Website



Inky Interview Exclusive: Former Cheshire Poet Laureate Joy Winkler

You were appointed Cheshire Poet Laureate in 2005. That’s wonderful. Congratulations. What was the process of being appointed Laureate? What poems were you commissioned to write? How did you find the overall experience?

Thanks. The Cheshire Poet Laureate scheme was in operation when Cheshire was a unitary authority, not separate as now into East and West Cheshire. The person who thought up and implemented the scheme was the then Literature and Reading Development officer Liz Newall. There were only ever six poets who held the post. The process of being appointed involved an application and an interview at which I had to answer questions and read some of my poetry. The interviewers consisted of Liz Newall, the deputy leader of the council David Rowlands, and a representative from the Arts Council. I have to say it was just a little bit daunting. The intention of the scheme was to raise the profile of poetry within the county, and as such I was commissioned to write at least five poems relating to the Cheshire County Council year (I got paid for these – hooray, the first time I had been paid for writing a poem). Also, I was expected to instigate events and projects which would encourage people in the county to take part in poetry events. I invited well known poets from all over the country to visit our libraries and facilitate workshops and give public readings. I also gave personal readings in libraries and schools.

The commissioned poems were a great opportunity, as well as varied. They involved quite another way of writing than I was used to. The first one was to write a poem to be performed on Holocaust Memorial Day. I spent most of Christmas 2004 thinking about this which was both a salutary and sad experience. All the commissions were challenging and unusual. For example, one was to write a poem for Ellesmere Port Library as part of Ellesmere Port Civic Square redevelopment. The trouble was that they needed a one liner from the poet to etch into stone in the new square, they needed it fast, I had to come up with the one liner and then later write a poem around that. I came up with ‘set sail on the ocean of your imagination’ and of course it’s still there, cast in stone.

Another interesting and challenging commission was to write a poem to encourage people to vote in May 2005. The brief was for the poem to be short (so that it could be read on radio) and for it to encourage people to vote in both local and national elections. No pressure then. The most difficult thing about commissioned poems is that you are not quite writing as yourself, and that sometimes you have to disregard your own feelings in order to complete the brief. That is really hard for a poet.

The most enjoyable poem I wrote was commissioned to celebrate Adult Learners’ Week to be read at their North West Regional Awards ceremony. I used the idea of a villanelle, but then slotted in a rhyming couplet to each stanza to make it more cheerful.

From ‘Change your Life’

There’s a treasure chest of maths and reading schemes,
Learning is a river in full flow.
See what’s under a car bonnet,
Poke and tinker with a sonnet,
Change your life and realise your dreams.

One more notable commission was when I was asked to write about the Ploughing Match at Dunham Massey. I had never been to a ploughing match before. I was advised to go along before it started and stay all day. I did. It was a great experience to see it all take shape, the tractors old and new, the shire horses, the hedge layers and all the rest. When I read it out at their annual dinner there were tears. Of happiness I believe.

The overall experience of the laureateship was one of learning new skills, feeling more empowered, of being more self-assured, and of being at last convinced that I had earned the right to call myself a poet.

You were Writer in Residence at HMP Styal. You must have empowered many people during your seven years there. What did you learn from it yourself? Have you any memorable moments?

I learned such a lot during my residency at HMP Styal. I had never visited a prison before, knew nothing of the rules and protocols and yet, naively, I wasn’t worried about that. I was given a short induction, a set of keys and the rules about using them, and an office in the prison library. Then I was pretty much allowed to get on with setting up whatever projects and workshops I could think of. I suppose you could say I learned as I went along except for the sessions I had with a wonderful organization called Writers in Prison Network who supported lots of writers in residencies and who paid us, arranged to us to swap stories, advice, gripes and solutions. Prisons are not easy places to organize new projects in. I once had a visiting poet, Joolz Denby, visit us. She was expecting to read and perform to a room of about 40 women. That day the numbers didn’t add up after lunch so there was a lock down and she ended up reading to four of us. In situations like this the regime has the only say (quite rightly) but it can be frustrating. Thankfully, the Governor agreed to pay for her to do a repeat visit and all was well on that occasion.

I learned simply to be pro-active. I would go onto the Wing and sit at a table with my books and paper and pens and wait for women there to approach me. “Got some paper for me to write to my fella?” was a regular request but a bit of gentle persuasion, and they would sit with me and write a poem or a story, and others would come by and join in. I learned to be brave in the sense of not worrying if I got knocked back, and I learned a lot about prison life and the lives of the women who ended up there and how and why they ended up there. I learned a lot about life and people. I also learned how to enthuse people into writing and reading, activities which I know to be not only educational. but therapeutic as well. There is not space here to tell you all about my work in HMP Styal, maybe I should write a book. I’ll put that on the list.

A few memorable moments though. The day I took small sachets of herbs from my garden in to act as stimulants for ideas. Just as well I wasn’t searched on the way in even though they weren’t that kind of stimulant. The day a woman tried to steal the Christmas tree from the library for her cell. She hid it up her jumper. The librarian said it could have been worse as there were many other inventive places for hiding things. The day I arranged for a van load of drums to come in for a workshop and there were no officers around to accompany the van. I had to undo the huge gates and walk alongside the van which was supposed to drive slowly. I had to break into a jog and the women prisoners were shouting to the drive “Hey up mate, slow down. Can’t you see she can’t keep up?”.

We had visiting authors, visiting poets, drummers, Chinese ribbon dancers, circus skills artists, and so much more. It was a privilege to work there and I shall never forget it.

You are currently Writer in Residence at Tatton Park in Knutsford. Please tell us about the workshops you do. What are the future dates?

I have been facilitating workshops at Tatton Park for a few years now. There are generally around 6 or 7 a year for adults, and a couple for children. Next year’s workshops start in February and details can be found on my website www.joywinkler.co.uk, Tatton Park’s events page, or Eventbrite. This year though I am also there as Writer in Residence and plan not only to write poems inspired by the park and its attractions, but also to encourage members of the public and members of staff to put pen to paper about their experiences in this fantastic place. In the past I have written a lot of poetry inspired by flora and fauna and so this particular project is icing on my literary cake.

I would also like to get more written work out and about in the park. Some enterprising person has already made up a chalk board with stories of the fruit varieties on them. I am considering taking that idea a bit further. Watch this space, or rather the space in Tatton Park.

Can you please share with us a couple of your poems and walk us through the ideas behind them?

This poem was written when we were in the car travelling North. It struck me that it was a moment in time when people and birds were all moving in different directions and for different reasons. The prime inspiration was the glimpse of a magpie, the way it flies wings extended in a way that makes it look like a crucifix. Therefore, the bird theme led the poem; ‘seasonal plumage’, ‘peck at your foibles’ etc. The poem contains all things I actually saw in a very short space of time – I often think ideas are like a camera shot with our own eyes, the image lasts sometimes and it’s great to use that. This poem will be the title poem of my new collection.

Wings, Planes and Weather Vanes

Huddled in seasonal plumage
we move into the slipstream of slow traffic,
join the migration to lakes and frozen valleys.
I peck fretfully at your foibles,
you preen a little in the rear-view mirror.
The weather vane points North.

Some plane’s vapour maps a route
in the other direction to a warmer winter.
It’s all a matter of personal choice.
A magpie stiffens its wings,
marks the space between us,
makes like a crucifix or a blessing.

The next poem is an example of me writing about a person. People fascinate me and of course by people watching we can’t always know what their lives are like. Therefore, a sprinkling of poetic licence goes a long way. However, in this case I did know a lot about this person, a neighbour, and I was moved by her story and wanted to write about it. I was thinking one day about the disintegration in her life and circumstances and I happened to be jointing a chicken while I was thinking. The stages of the two things somehow joined together into this poem.

On Thursday

Jointing a chicken, breast from ribcage,
you think about her face, deflated skin, yellow eyes
clavicle like a wishbone. If you bend the legs back,
twist until they crack, your knife will find the place.

You think about blood around her mouth, how
the paramedic called her the wrong name, how
she used to carve her way up our street like a model.
On the slab, legs, breasts, wings in pairs

the rest in the pan keeping the tempo
of a rolling boil. Where she fell, a bottle
of gin, small jigsaw pieces in a knotted
plastic bag. I took her arm, we’d never

touched that much before, years of neighbourly
routine. She was bristling angry when her legs
gave way. The fat in the chicken stock floats,
small islands, the carcass rendered down.

Where is the best place we can get copies of your poetry collections, such as Morag’s Garden, and Stolen Rowan Berries?

I have a few collections but sadly two are out of print now. These are Morag’s Garden and Built to Last, my first two collections published by the National Poetry Foundation. I still have copies of On the Edge which was published at the end of the Laureate year and which has the commissioned poems included in it, and of Stolen Rowan Berries, which is my most recent collection. I am happy to supply copies of these on request. My email is joywinkler@sky.com. Stolen Rowan Berries is also for sale in the shop in Tatton Park.

Tell us about TOWN, your verse/drama.

I wrote TOWN after being inspired by two other pieces of writing. Katrina Porteous, a poet based in the North East, wrote a piece for radio called ‘Dunstanbrugh Castle, a secret as old as the stones’. What impressed me was the way it was produced using different voices and sound effects to tell a story. I then read Amanda Dalton’s sequence in her poetry collection, How to Disappear. She says she used a newspaper article to get the story, then wrote poetry involving each of the characters involved in that piece. I took that idea but made up my ‘article’ and used ‘girl finds her mother who has only ever lived a few streets away’. I wrote individual parts for six characters, one of which was curmudgeonly Town himself (i.e. Macclesfield). Each part was written in poetry, not as dialogue. The story was based on the town’s Barnaby Festival and I had Barnaby as a visiting stranger/magician/performer of art who turned the whole thing around. I performed the verse/drama myself with support from Andrew Rudd who composed and performed a music scape for it. Andrew was also a former Cheshire Poet Laureate – see how we progressed. We toured with it around 12 venues.

This was a really exciting project as it led me to think about using poetry in a different way, gave me permission, I suppose, to be more experimental with my work. I also learned a lot about bidding for Arts Council Grants, booking venues and performing in front of audiences.

Your play, Lightning Under Their Skirts, about growing up in 1960s Barnsley, was a huge successCan you give us a brief synopsis? Who else was involved in this production? How do you approach writing a play? What advice would you give?

Lightning Under Their Skirts is another example of giving myself permission to be experimental. I had the idea after TOWN to write something still using poetry but also including dialogue and having other performers as part of the whole.

It’s 1961 and we are in a small end of terrace where the mother rules the roost, the son gets away with anything, and the daughter is walked over by everyone. The father plays piano in a pub to earn extra money and apart from that, he doesn’t get a say in any of it. Gary, the son, gets his best friend’s girl pregnant. He gets into a fight with best friend at the local dance hall. He doesn’t take responsibility for the pregnancy. The best friend marries the girl. Back at home Sandy, the sister, tells her troubles to an agony aunt, finds out her own mother is seeing another man, is angry at all the secrets and lies in the family and eventually loses it with them all and leaves home.

I had lots of advice on the script from Kevin Dyer who acted as both dramaturg and director. I had worked previously with Kevin on TOWN and a couple of other performance projects. Also, there were two really brilliant young actors Josie Cerise and Harvey Robinson. I performed in the play as ‘POET’ and as ‘MOTHER’. This was a new challenge. I know nothing about acting but had to learn quickly and the two young people helped me along with great generosity and patience. We had a stage manager Alice Longson and a producer Laura Duncalf. Also, Harri Chambers composed original music and soundscape which played at various points in the play.

My first draft of the play was way out. I know now that I should get the arc of the narrative, build inside from that. I know that dialogue isn’t like ‘he said’ ‘she said’ but it’s short stabs and people cutting across each other. I know that even though a play might be based on a personal story, I have to leave ‘real’ people behind and discover the dramatic character who, after all, is who the audience is interested in.

I would advise reading scripts, watching live performances, and having a go. After all, you can’t work on something if there isn’t anything there to start with.

What advice would you give to budding poets?

Read lots of poetry of all kinds from every era. Don’t be put off if you don’t understand what the poet is saying at the first reading. Read it aloud even if you are alone – you will get it more easily. Go to readings of both published poets and of budding poets. Make up your own mind about styles that you are inspired by. You are allowed to be inspired by one style and yet write in a different one.

Join a writers’ group. If you don’t enjoy the first one you join, join another. They do vary.

When you feel comfortable with your writing, start to send some off to magazines. There are lots of magazines to choose from so do some research to see what kind of poetry each publishes. These can be very different. It’s never been easier to research these online, but it’s a good thing to subscribe to a couple also. It’s hard to keep these magazines going and they need our support. Don’t be dismayed by rejections. Use it to look again at your poem, can you change it, does it need changing? Never be satisfied but always look to improve a piece.

Find a mentor if you are not sure of your next move. You would be surprised at how helpful other writers can be, you just have to ask.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am beta reading a novel by a friend who attends our writers’ group. It’s a pleasure, it’s really good. Also I am reading poetry by Katrina Naomi ‘The Way the Crocodile Taught Me.’

Who inspires you?

That is a very difficult question to answer as inspiration comes from different quarters and changes all the time. I recently read a poetry collection by Cheryl Pearson. Cheryl won the Cheshire Prize for poetry a couple of years ago and her first collection is called ‘Oysterlight’ published by Pindrop Press. It has some really surprising and genuine imagery and ideas in it. I would recommend it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To be brave and have the courage to share my ideas. I was a quiet child and even now I question whether or not what I am writing is any good. Maybe this is a good thing as we should always strive to be better. However, I have noticed that people get on well by being proud of who they are and what they do. I wish my younger self had known that.

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

I have the draft of another collection ready to be printed and hopefully this will be out in February 2019. I will then work on poems inspired by Tatton Park and hopefully that will result in another collection towards the end of next year. I have a novel which needs my attention – it is written but I want to revisit it with the idea of including an element of poetry, myth, mystery. And I have written a second act to Lighting Under Their Skirts and at some point I would like to tour this but need funding first. And of course the workshops. They are ongoing and it is delightful to meet talented, like-minded people and to hear their work.