Poetry Drawer: Rook by Kezia Cole

i liked the way my arms bent
around the weight of a world not mine
i liked the angles of my wrist bones
moulded for consistency
there was nothing sharp
in my mountain shapes
we made monoliths of the present
to carry into what might become.

we built a castle on the sea
an impenetrable hull
of stone that wouldn’t sink
or bend to the tug of the waves.

strong straight lines
and five year plans
knowing where you want to be
is fine if an eye on the horizon
brings it close
but curvature doesn’t
take account of the storms.

still i liked the simplicity
in that predictable back and forth
my bones could take
the heavy salt
laid in your tracks
and our waters
always had that heady
quayside scent
that’s born of decay;

sulphide lungs
bleached wood
and bladderwrack hair
made bodies on the sand

i rose from the wreckage
when the castle sank
and spread like grit
to the wind
no more built on froth-rimed swell
nor shackled to the same tide

no more a tower
doomed to spoil
nor fall beneath the waves.

This poem is taken from Kezia’s first full length collection, solipsist: poems for breaking bonds, (Moonshade Publishing), a volume of free verse themed around personal experiences with abuse, trauma, depression/anxiety, and progressing through healing from toxic and unhealthy relationships.

Kezia Cole is an author, poet, artist, and freelance editor, mostly found dividing time between the wilds of southwest England and the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. Scribbler of words, dauber of paint, and fighter against chronic illness, Kezia is also a passionate animal welfare advocate, and fosters rescue dogs. Work has been featured in prose anthologies, mixed media exhibitions, and on national radio. She is also an Open University alum 🙂

Flash In The Pantry: The End by Lauren Foster

‘Apocalypse Now?’
‘His favourite film.’
‘Really? But it’s so damn long.’ A strangled laugh escapes from his lips. ‘Fasten your seatbelt,’ he says.
He looks at her. ‘Oh shit.’ It’s all he can think of to say.
‘He was pissed. As usual.’
He stares down at his hands, then runs them grasping through his hair. He thinks of her hands, how they move over his yielding flesh, then earlier – before he got there… He covers his open mouth with his hand and mutters through it: ‘Jesus. I never meant it to be taken seriously. I never thought… not for one moment, you know?’
‘I can’t. She…’
‘You don’t understand. ‘
‘Oh, I do. Perfectly.’
He grips the steering wheel with both hands until his knuckles turn white. In silence he watches a petite tortoiseshell cat trot across the road, mouse in its jaws. It leaps onto a wall and over, into a garden.
‘Will you forgive me?’ he says.
‘Not yet.’
‘Are you going to say anything with more than a few syllables?’
‘Are you going to keep to your side of the bargain?’
‘I’m really, truly sorry.’ he says.
‘At least I get an apology. I suppose one should be grateful for small mercies.’ She gives a little shake of her head and leans into the passenger door, long unkempt hair silhouetted against the sunrise. The glow forms a halo and he can’t take his eyes of her. It’s been this way since first they met.
‘I couldn’t take it anymore,’ she says.
‘I know.’
‘They’ll be looking for me.’
‘I know.’
‘Take it off.’
He obeys.
He turns the key and the engine complains into life. They set off slow through the old town, content to be still, for a while. She rests her face on the glass, appreciative of the smooth cold against her skin.
‘We can never win,’ she says, the words barely audible.
‘But we will never lose.’ His left hand reaches out to her right, clasps it tight. She doesn’t resist his touch, or respond to it. Marks of history etched into his ring finger. He wonders if she can feel them, mirror to her own.
‘I’ve got nothing to prove anymore,’ she says.

Lauren Foster is a writer and musician based in Charnwood, and a recent graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.


The stink of tradesmen soils our air.
Square eyes yield to cynical “cheer”,
while Mary’s flight in Joseph’s care
is fast eclipsed by wine and beer
and the only type of spirit shared.

The poor dig ever-deeper holes:
gathering debt for children’s smiles.
Rather than nurturing their souls
they blithe succumb to market’s guile
and smother crucial Birthday goal.

Irish writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry under the brooding brows of Donegal hills which he occasionally hikes in search of druidic inspiration. His writing appears internationally in the Bookends Review, Red Fez, 13 o’clock Press, Curiosity Quills, Aurora Wolf Literary Magazine, Amsterdam Quarterly, SWAMP and many others.

Inky Exclusive: Mike Garry and his tribute to 40 years of the Manchester Arndale

Mike Garry: The Arndale was an important place for me growing up in Manchester. It was the closest thing to an American mall we had. It was glamour for the kids of Manchester, from Moss Side to Fallowfield, and Moston to Miles Platting. You’d socialise there with your mates, pass the time with a pasty and checkout the latest knits.

I also worked at Stolen from Ivor selling burgundy jeans, but it wasn’t like going to work, it was like hanging with your mates. And these days, the centre is better than it ever was.

Mike’s other well-known verses include ode to north Manchester, God is a Manc, and St Anthony, which is dedicated to the former Factory Records boss and TV presenter Tony Wilson. Mike has now turned his attention to another famous Mancunian with his piece commissioned ahead of The Arndale’s anniversary.

David Allinson, Centre Director at Manchester Arndale: Manchester Arndale has been one of the UK’s most popular and exciting shopping destinations over the years – welcoming 40 million people through its doors every year.

The opening of the northern extension in 2008 led to the arrival of the country’s largest Next store and attracted international brands such as Apple, Monki, Victoria’s Secret and Pink to Manchester for the first time.

The centre remains as popular as ever today, highlighted by Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo’s decision to open its flagship store for the north at Manchester Arndale last month. Our position as one of the UK’s leading fashion hubs has also been boosted by AllSaints’ decision to sign up for a further 10 years at the centre, and the arrival of Quiz, alongside the centre’s more established fashion retailers such as Superdry, JD Sports and many more.

Manchester Arndale continues to attract new shops, restaurants, and leisure brands, and we expect to announce more exciting signings in the coming months.

Special thanks to Suzanne Armfield, PR & Social Media Manager @ Manchester Arndale

Books From The Pantry: The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future edited by Rose Drew: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

The ancient story of The Green Man has always fascinated me. Whenever I visit a new church or woodland, I always look for his face. When I recently found him in Manchester, on the cover of a poetry book in the middle of a stall at a publisher’s fair, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving him behind.

The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future is a wonderful collection of verse published by Stairwell Books. Edited by Rose Drew, the collection covers the myth, symbols and stories associated with the ancient pagan forest deity.

There are some beautiful poems in this anthology. I enjoyed how each poet expressed their own vision and interpretation on the myth. Some investigate old Norse rituals or ancient belief; some offer a more recent interpretation. The Green Man by Andy Humphrey is one of my favourites in the collection. A present-day setting for the ancient god.

Each evening, his labours at an end,
the green man
catches the number ten bus
and makes his silent way
through the glistening, lamplit streets.

I like how this poem sets the Green Man living in the now, and I love how the poet describes looking at him.

I sneak a glance
when he’s not looking, try to make out
stray twigs poking
from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen
on his jowls, the weatherbeaten
crags of brows.

Some poems relate to a darker, deeper presence. Green Man by Pauline Kirk, describes the still powerful god trapped, not only in stone, but also in our collective memory.

You barely glance upwards
but your ancestors knew me,
changed me to new faith, and into stone…

Kirk encourages the reader to keep searching for the lost in order to rediscover forgotten knowledge.

Look up! towards arch
and ceiling boss. Find me,
and I will show you what lingers still,
deep in the groves of your mind.

Another of my favourites in this collection is The Green Man by Dave Gough. In it the god speaks directly to us. And he’s waiting. His world was cleared for stone buildings. ‘Let them come,’ he says, because he knows the power he holds over people, and that one day he will return.

I moved the hand that carved my face…
..The great forest will return
with the seasons and the stars
the sun and moon and rain.

Poems about superstition and forgotten history also weave through this collection. Midsummers Eve, 1840 by Tanya Nightingale is a magical poem, with beautiful descriptions of friendship and youth.

It describes two young girls walking through a graveyard to perform a ritual to help them find husbands.

Suddenly they are both circling, spinning,
Throwing fern and hempseed
And saying words
They don’t believe in and have always heard.

Boxing Day by John Gilham examines how we perceive and remember ancient earthworks. Although we can never truly understand the true meaning of such monuments, Gilham concludes that we should accept

that the gift of God is the land and the people
and the voices whispering through the last leaves.

If you enjoy reading about myth and legends, and have a passion for poetry, then this collection is definitely for you.

The Green Man Awakes. Legends, Past, Present and Future is published by Stairwell Books.

Poetry Drawer: Cabin Crew by Kathy Hoyle

To you, I am a lipstick-slicked smile.
A branded automaton.
A stocking-topped fantasy.
A bring me, serve me, filthy joke.

To you, I am there for the calling.
Push the corporate button,
Watch her dance.
The strings are invisible.

To you, I am a peripheral bauble.
A wanton waitress.
A pocket for a business card.
A bringer of brandy.

You cannot imagine
What I’ve seen.
What is required.
A head for heights, and hearts.

The hands I’ve held, the tears I’ve wiped.
Gentle comfort to a stranger,
A colleague, a child,
When fear or pain or death takes flight.

To you, I am a lipstick- slicked smile.
A clouded view.
I hope I never witness your descent.

Kathy Hoyle was a former Creative Writing student at the OU, graduating last year, and is now completing her MA at The University of Leicester.

Inky Interview Special: Poet and Editor Isabelle Kenyon

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:

The Van

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

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.

The 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:

Nature Reversal

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.

As 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.

I 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.

What 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.

Tell 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.

What’s 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!

Flash In The Pantry: A Blemished Slate by Dr. Susie Gharib

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:

F grew gigantic and looked like a lamp-stand with no gold.

O was a circle that had no exit or door.

R restlessly roamed tripping on obstacles on the floor.

L heavily lagged looking lame and forlorn.

N knelt to pray for hair to quickly grow.

F,O,R,L,O 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.

Poetry Drawer: A BOWL OF JESUS CHRIST RICE by Hunter Boone

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.

Flash In The Pantry: Taciturn by Dr. Susie Gharib

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.

I 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.