Thursday 5 December 2019

Very very festive greetings!

V. Press would like to wish all our authors, readers and supporters a very very joyful festive season and a Happy New Year!!!

We're also very pleased to have not one but two special festive reading bundle offers this year. These are two books from a specially selected range for £17.50, or two pamphlets from our selection for £12, including p&p, for U.K. delivery.* Details of the titles available and ordering for these can be found below.

Meanwhile, those looking for festive gifts for photography-lovers may be interested in the inspirational posters, prints and canvases available at Wonder for your Walls here.

V. Press festive 2019 book bundle: choose two from Bolt Down This Earth (poetry) by Gram Joel Davies, The boy who couldn't say his name (poetry) by John Lawrence, Three Men on the Edge (flash) by Michael Loveday, The Aesthetics of Breath (poetry) by Charles G Lauder Jr or Cuckoo (poetry) by Nichola Deane. (U.K. delivery only, second class postage. Please specify in the seller notes box which 2 titles you'd prefer, or we will pick for you.)

Festive 2019 2-Book Bundle (with p&p, U.K delivery only)

V. Press festive 2019 pamphlet bundle: chose two from art brut (poetry) by David O'Hanlon, Hometown (flash) by Carrie Etter, Scare Stories (poetry) by David Clarke, There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This (flash) by Santino Prinzi, Midnight Laughter (flash) by Paul McDonald, Making Waves (poetry) by Martin Zarrop, Checkout (poetry) by Kathy Gee, Heroines (poetry) by Becky Varley-Winter, John Dust (poetry) by Louise Warren, Patience (poetry) by Nina Lewis, or About Leaving (poetry) by Ian Glass. (U.K. delivery only, second class postage. Please specify in the seller notes box which 2 titles you'd prefer, or we will pick for you.)

Festive 2019 2-Pamphlet Bundle (with p&p, U.K delivery only)

* These offers apply until the end of December 2019, for or U.K. delivery only and subject to availability of particular titles. Please make sure you place your order well in advance if you wish them to arrive before Christmas.)

One of the reasons these offers continue for the whole of December is that we don't see them as part of a standard commercialised Christmas marketing campaign. Instead, we hope that they offer readers a chance to save a little money at a time when their budgets may feel stretched, and an opportunity to get in some holiday reading for themselves over the festive break.

For writers who are hoping to use the holiday to concentrate on their own writing, just a reminder that we also have a 'Structuring a Pamphlet' pdf by V. Press editor Sarah Leavesley. This can be obtained automatically by clicking on the paypal Tip-jar donation button at the bottom of our submissions page here. Or by emailing Sarah at to request a free pdf copy.

Whether you're reading, writing or just relaxing with friends and family, V. Press wishes you all very very HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!


"[...]In the fascinating long poem "Incarnations", imagery and language are pitch-perfect, chronicling the story of a couple. The separate strands of their lives weave together, forming something new, but there is divergence as well as rapprochement, a sense that individuals never wholly become part of each other, but strive toward "different peaks with different views". [...] "Incarnations" strikes me as a terrific poem, turning personal experience into something universal in the way that poems should do, but so often don't."

Sheenagh Pugh, full review here.

More information about The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr, a sample poem and ordering here.

"Bolderston reflects on the traumatic aftermath of political events in Vietnam. I read the poems as haunting reflections on exile, homesickness and redemptive hope.

Mother and grandmother are brought to life in stories and nightmares, a thread of foreboding woven into the wordplay. The mother language peppers the pamphlet, heightening the sense of loss."

Maggie Mackay, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

More information about The Protection of Ghosts by Natalie Linh Bolderston, a sample poem and ordering here.



For the first time since V. Press started publishing solo poetry pamphlets, then also collections and flash fiction titles, editor Sarah Leavesley will be taking some months out - January 2020 for judging the Against The Grain Poetry Press  poetry competition and December 2020 for a writer residency in Latvia.

Someone will be taking on the posting out of individual orders made from our website or through Amazon, so the public and readers should notice little difference, except possibly a marginally slower than usual posting out.

However, V. Press will not be responding to general email, marketing requests, bulk orders, The Reading Room enquiries etc during these periods. We thank you very much in advance for your understanding.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Launching About Leaving

V. Press is very very delighted to announce the publication of About Leaving, a debut poetry pamphlet by Ian Glass.

“Ian Glass writes compellingly and beautifully about real life, with all its knots and twists and unexpected turns. He has an instinctive feel for a poem’s texture, its grain and the planed faces as well at what lies beneath the veneer, and has the measure of how the ordinary transforms itself through finding shape in language. These poems are clear, tender, often moving – but do not assume that they lack heft in their gentleness of approach. As Glass himself notes in the closing poem, ‘all that will remain is light’ – these poems are not afraid to throw their beam of searchlight clarity and bring intense experiences of loss and recovery into focus.”
Jane Commane

“I found these remarkable poems intensely moving. They chart a process of huge loss and the road to recovery. Each individual poem is a small gem and the writing is so beautifully controlled that what I took from the collection in the end was a sense of hope. A really strong first collection. I loved it.”
Carole Bromley

About Leaving is very quiet and very precise.

ISBN: 978-1-9161096-1-2
36 pages
R.R.P. £6.50

A sample poem from About Leaving may be found below.

BUY About Leaving NOW using the paypal buttons (with delivery options) below.

About Leaving (including P&P/delivery options)

The Day You Left 

Walking from one empty room
to another, filled with silence

after the harsh clatter
of diesel and last words,

and dust drifting in circles,
sunlit, but always falling.

With the clock ticking towards home-time.

With the sofa you chose
moved to where I had wanted it.

Somewhere between making a cup of tea
and finding your pencilled note:

bras should be hand-washed

is where the falling stopped,
is where I started.

Monday 18 November 2019

Winter News & Reviews


With October and November, the exciting launch of  several new titles: The Aesthetics of Breath, a debut full collection by Charles G Lauder Jr; Cuckoo, a debut full collection by Nichola Deane; Patience, a new poetry pamphlet by Nina Lewis; About Leavinga debut poetry pamphlet by Ian Glass. (Click on the titles for endorsements, sample poem and ordering.)


The Protection of Ghosts

"[...]Bolderston's poetry transforms history into the personal, a seamless flux of voices and multilingual expressions. Tender yet unflinching, these poems tell of survivors of atrocities, armed with knowledge and love."

Jennifer WongThe Poetry Review, full review of this "poetic testimony" in Vol 109, No 3, Autumn 2019.

"Family and inheritance are recurrent motifs in Natalie Linh Bolderston's wonderful debut pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts, [...] This passage exemplifies Bolderston's empathic vision, which infuses all of the poems. It also demonstrates her poetic style, which abounds in gorgeous sensual detail, even when describing something as painful as forced migration. [...] Boldertston is admirably at ease with uncertainty – hers is a poetics steeped in the imagination, which deals in fragments and partial knowledge."

Sarala Estruch, Poetry London, issue 94.

"Natalie Linh Bolderston’s debut pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts (V. Press, 2019), is an exquisite lyrical exploration of the question: what does it mean to live as plurality? It examines how our identities are impacted not only by the stories we inherit, but in how they are told and retold, how they bloom and how they rupture—what they capture and what, despite our very best efforts, will always elude us. [...]

"It is the richness of this interplay between instance and imagination that makes The Protection of Ghosts so compelling. Multiplicity is both metaphorically and imagistically examined. [...]

Alycia Pirmohamed, amberflora, full review here.

"The Protection of Ghosts is deceptively slender; the poems within carry more heft than the size of the pamphlet suggests. Every poem crafted to bear being read more than once and each reading yields a new discovery."
Emma LeeSabotage Reviews, full review here.

More information about The Protection of Ghosts, a sample poem and ordering can be found here.


"[...] Nichola Deane’s work is sensory, vividly bringing alive her subjects. The idiosyncrasy is complementary and not whimsical. The poems wear their craft lightly and give the reader space to engage with and interpret them."

Emma Lee, full review here.

More information about Cuckoo, a sample poem and ordering can be found here.


“Kathy Gee’s pamphlet is different. Set in a small shop, the collection is presented through the eyes of Nona, the reluctant shop assistant. Nona introduces each of her customers with a piece of 100-word flash fiction, before the customers tell us about themselves in a poem.
“This device enables Gee to create dissonance between the customer’s views of themselves and Nona’s own perceptions of them. The mismatch between Nona’s view and reality underpins particular poignancy in some poems. […]

“Nona and her customers are everyday heroes.”

Rennie Halstead, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

More information about Checkout, a sample poem and ordering can be found here.

John Dust

"In this lovely pamphlet — beautifully illustrated too with prints that complement the poems well — the poet, Louise Warren, creates a vivid world where indoors and outdoors bleed into each other, and this mythic figure John Dust gallops about his business. [...]
"The result is a rich, stitched mesh of a world captured on — or more precisely in — its own terms. ‘Come up by coach, by train, come up by Jack the Treacle Eater’, she invites in ‘Town’; sure enough, her language winds me in."

Charlotte Gann, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

More information about John Dust, a sample poem, illustration by John Duffin and ordering can be found here.

Heroines: On the Blue Peninsula

“Varley-Winter has an eye for picking out details which made me pause, reminding me of the delicacy and strangeness of nature [...] Rather like putting a shell up to your ear, you can hear the ocean through the words.”

Nell Prince, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

Becky Varley-Winter talks about the pamphlet and some of her inspiration here.

More information about Heroines, a sample poem and ordering can be found here.

These nights at home

“This collection is a powerful account of a life changing bereavement. It moved me deeply, resonating with my personal experience.
“[..] Using white space, sparse lines, couplets, lists, prose and short sequences and a meditative pace, Reed infuses his writing with a persistent sense of loneliness, a wash of grief and a quest for the parted. [...]
“The pamphlet successfully expresses this most personal challenge. The world keeps spinning and yet, for the narrator, it brims with the beloved’s existence in dreams, in hauntings, repeat sightings, in voids and lonely spaces, reminiscent of a Hopper painting.”

Maggie Mackay, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

More information about These nights at home, a sample poem and ordering can be found here.

Three Men on the Edge

“[…] these individual pieces are often entertaining, engaging, and/or moving. What’s more, their open-endedness leaves the reader some pleasing space for speculation. [..] This impression of dislocation carries over into much of the writing which has a dream-like and out-of-time quality. […] this is an original, well-crafted and enjoyable book.”

Michael Batholomew-Biggs, London Grip, full review here.

“Michael Loveday’s searing observation of loneliness and unspoken desire are subtly interwoven in this collection […] They are heart-rending stories of remoteness. […] Loveday’s languid and dexterous language floats from the page […] Each man’s life is tenderly drawn, gently exposed, and you feel their sadness. Three Men on the Edge is an extremely moving novella.”

Jacci Gooding, TSS Publishing, full review here.

“In a series of vivid, precisely crafted, breviloquent fictions, Loveday casts the spotlight on three men in difficult straits who live in the ‘edgelands’ in and around Rickmansworth.
“[…] So, emptiness, sadness, meaninglessness, madness, an outer suburbia where it seems always to be drizzling. But in that mysterious transformation that only art can achieve – a pleasure to read.”

Robin Thomas, Envoi 183, full review in the journal.

More information about Three Men on the Edge, three sample flash fictions and ordering can be found here.

The Neverlands

"a stunning, layered collection […] Damhnait Monaghan is an exceptional storyteller. This collection of stories is extremely tight and the narrative thread never wavers. Her use of voice is brilliant. […] The language is beautiful and haunting, a perfect blend of sadness, bitterness, and regret. […] The Neverlands is a wonderful story of sacrifice, love, and redemption. The journey is heartwrenching and tragic, but the moments of hope and salvation that shine through leave a sweet taste with the reader."

Amanda McLeodAmanda McLeod Writes, full review here.

More information about The Neverlands , a sample flash fictions and ordering can be found here.

Midnight Laughter

"Midnight Laughter largely succeeds in blending the seemingly antithetical styles of horror and humour. While this is not a unique achievement, McDonald manages to tell original tales within the genre."

Rhys Knapman, Sabotage Reviews, full review here.

More information about Midnight Laughter, a sample flash fictions and ordering can be found here.

The Chemist's House

"[…] Higgins populates the texts with memorable scenarios and folkloric vignettes. […]
" It is pleasing that publishers such as V exist. It is similarly pleasing that quality flash fiction such as the pieces in The Chemist’s House are available. More strength to V and more strength to Jude Higgins. I look forward to reading more."
Andrew Taylor, The Ofi Press Magazine, 64. The full review (page 36), with more on Jude Higgins’ eye for detail and her skill in keeping the reader focussed can be found here.

More information about The Chemist's House, a sample flash and ordering can be found here.


A sneak preview of two 2020 collections, forthcoming in January 2020 (I, Ursula by Ruth Stacey) and May 2020 (A Bluebottle in Late October by John Wheway)!


All of the submissions under consideration by V. Press over the summer should have now received a response.

As well as the last titles from our initial 2018 submissions window, we have Diane Simmons' flash fiction novella An Inheritance lined up for next year. We are also working on a poetry pamphlet Winter with Eva by Elaine Baker, a joint poetry pamphlet from V. Press poets Claire Walker and Charley Barnes and a new collection from V. Press poet Jenna Plewes.

We're delighted to announce too that Carrie Etter will be guest editor for a striking poetry pamphlet by Miranda Lynn Barnes.

With the pamphlet by V. Press Prize for Poetry 2019 winner Kelly Williams also scheduled for next spring, it's already looking set to be a great 2020!!!



For the first time since V. Press started publishing solo poetry pamphlets, then also collections and flash fiction titles, editor Sarah Leavesley will be taking some months out - January 2020, partly for judging the Against The Grain Poetry Press  poetry competition, and December 2020 for a writer residency in Latvia.

Someone will be taking on the posting out of individual orders made from our website or through Amazon, so the public and readers should notice little difference, except possibly a marginally slower than usual posting out.

However, V. Press will not be responding to general email, marketing requests, bulk orders, The Reading Room enquiries etc during these periods. We thank you very much in advance for your understanding.

Thursday 14 November 2019

Launching Patience

V. Press is very very delighted to announce the publication of Patience, a pamphlet of poems by Nina Lewis.

Patience opens with a watch being dissected, laid bare on a table with the delicacy and patience of a dedicated craftsman. This collection is a reverence to time and where memories lie in places, objects, a lover’s touch, shipping forecast or in a mother counting for days. Nina Lewis is deft and sensitive in speaking of grief and loss, of love and desire, of caring for the elderly. Her words and phrases are weighted with a lightness of touch, capturing golden moments with a watchmaker’s accuracy. She is determined to create a living record, to have the last say in the presence of illness and death, leaving us with codes for the broken and an encouragement ‘to learn the art of waiting’.” Roy McFarlane

 “The poems in Patience address problems of the human condition with a subtleness in technique, a gentleness in approach and a fresh outlook that avoids the cliché or overstatement such poetic themes can sometimes acquire; these poems are beautifully balanced, carefully crafted and the emotional content is all the more powerful because it is so well weighed. Some of these poems subtly convey the sense of a physical loss, others explore the trials of separation and the difficult adjustment in relationships. Grief is expressed but they also remind us of the power of human connection. Joy is held in our memories; in ‘Signs’, there is ‘the glow of orange even in dark beginnings’. These poems touch deeply and yet maintain a calm and measured face. Nina Lewis holds in her hands cogs of isolation, grief and loss moving along the wheels of love, of hope and of patience.” Julie Boden

Patience is very intimate and very fond.

ISBN: 978-1-9165052-9-2
32 pages
R.R.P. £6.50

A sample poem from Patience can be enjoyed below.

BUY Patience NOW using the paypal buttons (with delivery options) below.

Patience (including P&P/delivery options)

The Dark House

It started life as a home,
until the red bricks,
colour of rust, were abandoned.

The empty house
bore the brunt of nature;
tilted slates let water in.

It became a habitat
for shadow animals,
nocturnal kings.

At night, the edges of its frame
were accentuated by bypass lights:
silhouette house, secret of wild hedge.

The road beyond the garden
never stopped.

In sleep I walk the dark house,
enter the ash kitchen,
feel my way across charcoal tiles,

my paper feet never find the rooms,
never make it to the stairs.
I awake to light

spinning my darkened dreams.
I keep my eyes closed,
until only blue remains.

Monday 28 October 2019

Launching Cuckoo

V. Press is very very delighted to announce the publication of Nichola Deane's debut full collection Cuckoo.

“Nichola Deane’s rich and sensuous poems may open with a plainspoken line or a recognisable surface, but they dwell only briefly in the familiar actual. Her syntax and image-making – both equally bold – bring the world to us in new and compelling guises. These are poems of darkness and delight – alive to sensation and feeling, and open to the urgency of beauty.” Katharine Towers

“Nichola Deane’s imagination has a long reach that pulls the unexpected into line after line. The language, clear yet idiosyncratic, and Deane’s deft touch give these poems ease, lightness and confidence.” Fiona Moore

Cuckoo is very sensory and very spacious.

ISBN: 978-1-9165052-4-7
68 pages
R.R.P. £10.99

A sample poem from Cuckoo can be enjoyed below.

BUY Cuckoo now using the paypal buttons (with delivery options) below.

Cuckoo (including P&P)

D Day

to my maternal grandmother, B.E.H., i.m.


You tell them then because our planes are flying over everyone
and have been since dawn when the engines woke you

because their drone note, its guttural swarm
hums through your bones and the sky has invaded your ear

because even these friendly squadrons
seem to have you in their sights

because a plague of angels is over you
death-birds you will see with closed eyes

like eye-flaws or black wizened tears
years afterwards

because these Angels of Vitreous Dust
have shocked from you a blast-wave of grief, a Jericho

as you say out loud
to your parents’ tightening draining faces

all you can smuggle past your shame and your self
to reach the lips of the story

hoping they won’t do
what you know they’ll do when you tell them

(haven’t you already packed your valise
in the dawn-light–spare underthings wrapped round

your shrinking childhood, your foreboding?)
You tell them because you, more than many

know at seventeen what soldiers do
and because you don’t need a Bible to tell you

you and your small passenger
will both be half-Job, half-Eve in this world


Seven months of knowledge
hidden under ever-looser clothing

seven months of my mother
within you, my secret mother, my mother your

grief, my mother the love
no mother mothered when you could not keep her

until I kept the secret of her
for her safe within me, until

I woke to the sound
of the Lancasters, Spitfires and Mustangs

within her and dawn-until-midnight
mother-grief, like that longest of all days

Monday 14 October 2019

Launching The Aesthetics of Breath

V. Press is very very delighted to announce the publication of Charles G Lauder Jr's debut full collection The Aesthetics of Breath.

“There’s an enviable gusto and assurance about this debut, the confident voicing of a distinctive sensibility that deserves our attention. Lauder has a keen ear for the musical and metrical possibilities of the well-wrought line which well serves his deftly rendered lyric style. Particularly impressive are the domestic sequences and longer poems which hold both interest and momentum throughout: an achievement of poetic coherence and craft that can only be accomplished by a poet more than ready to stake a claim for his place on the contemporary scene.” Martin Malone

“In his debut collection, Charles G. Lauder is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of white masculinites, unearthing violence and toughness but vulnerability and tenderness also. This means examining his own past in the US; what he has inherited, what he brings to his life in England, and what he finds there. Again and again, poems reveal that his family is his lodestone: ‘We are our elements. I would be lost/without them.’ The Aesthetics of Breath is a rich and varied collection which has love and social justice at its heart but does not turn aside from uncomfortable truths.” Pam Thompson

The Aesthetics of Breath is NOT a breath of fresh air – it is a deep breathing-in of a gas called ‘history’, so that it hurts in the lungs. Be they personal myths or legends of entire nations’ violence, here the vapours of various histories sublimate into Lauder’s vivid solidifications – poems that render the distance and otherness of places and times as touchable and smelt. Some of these poems are ‘stellar gases congealing into orbits’, and they are celebratory confirmations of essential stories we humans need to tell our selves. But be warned: some of these poems cast ‘Hiroshima shadow[s]’ to exorcise our civilisation’s pale myths, its ghosts that too often comfortably haunt us, and our too easy and shallow breaths of memes. At times this book is like opening a grave to find the buried still alive ... and violently gasping out accounts of ‘the ruling passions of the woods’.” Mark Goodwin  

The Aesthetics of Breath is very personal, yet very eternal.

ISBN: 978-1-9165052-1-6
68 pages
RRP £10.99

A sample poem from The Aesthetics of Breath can be enjoyed below.

BUY The Aesthetics of Breath now using the paypal buttons (with delivery options) below.

The Aesthetics of Breath (including P&P)


And the man spied on the bridal path,
shimmering, vaporous, slow in gait
like a predator through grass, is black.
Parents waiting at the school gate
ask, Does he wear a backpack?

Our village is tasked with isolation
like an open wound wary of infection.
A Jamaican lived here for a season,
drank in the pub with his white wife’s son.
Are you visiting? we asked.

Our childminder is on the back lane
when the man falls in step, asks her name.
He is a carer for a chronic smoker
in Norden Heath. Going for a walk
is the only way he can breathe.


Stratford Launch: Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Thursday 3 October 2019

Love life, love poetry - National Poetry Day 2019!

'Love life, love poetry' is one of many truths that we're celebrating at V. Press this National Poetry Day. To mark the day, V. Press is very very pleased to offer readers another chance to enjoy a small online mini-selection from some of our titles.

The love/relationship-themed flash and poems here are a small sample of what's on offer in the bookshop. Readers can also find other recommendations on a variety of themes in The Reading Room. And please do click on the link for each title  below to enjoy more work by the same writer, along with information and reviews about the book or pamphlet.

Love poems

I’ve been reading love poems.
All the images – falling downstairs,
memories in ruins, sleeping by an ocean –
make me want to see him,

even though it wasn’t right then,
and would be wrong still now:
an incorrect answer to a maths problem;
an image that doesn’t quite fit.

But still, I want to see him,
relive the kingfisher and the swans
and the fish and chips by the harbour
and the cinema with armchairs,

in one brief meeting; lunch, perhaps.
We would smile, and talk about our children,
while thinking of other things;
and forget all those hotel rooms.

Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love


If, in a bus station, two people (who will one day fall in love) sit opposite on red benches which fold like cinema seats, bus stations everywhere occupying, dropboxlike, these same coordinates in spacetime where each of us would know the same sparkling floor, remember the place gum is pressed behind pipes, or how all tiled walls are touched with dieselgrime and a crane fly endlessly expires in fluorescence, and if, because such halts are built to expel us, one of these two people (who are soon to fall in love) has sent his mind away to some peak with boulders and peat and melon-red grass, but the other, instead, only lopes his eyes, catching eventually the first’s, so distant with falcons and mist he thinks his gaze is clasped, headlong, such that he smiles a surprised smile which melts through thought, to recognition, and if, suddenly, these two people (who begin to fall in love) find themselves spanning those dimensions without knowing whose long glance first lit whose, is it—on reflection—a mistake?

Gram Joel Davies, from Bolt Down This Earth

Apple Picking

Finally, something works.
The tree heaves beneath the weight –
that first flood of fruit; we pick,
store, rejoice.

Windfall offers enough to deer;
the branches remain full for us.
Green, blushing red in my hands –
life dressed in September colours.

Too sharp to eat raw,
they soften at golden sugar, simmered flames.
Flour and butter crumble through my fingers,
ready to blanket the sweetness.

Much is stored away. Jars, bottles,
anything that holds.
The whole ones nestle together, stalks entwined
in the pantry’s sleeping dark.

We cannot contain it all.
Hot inside our thawing mouths, we smile
for each other, for the turning of earth.
We eat the evening, spoon by spoon.

Claire Walker, Somewhere Between Rose and Black

Dali Clock 

I had the identical watch to this clock, once.
Bent out of shape, Roman numerals stretching
and shrinking, melting towards the centre.

I didn't know him back then
and yet here is an object
we were both attracted to.
A perfect match.

Glass protects hand and face
but it's nearly always one.
It has no function
except it stands on the second shelf
next to the picture of him with his godchildren –
all smiling and laughing.
A natural moment captured.
Next to time
that has stopped.

Nina Lewis, from Fragile Houses

“What Does Moonlight Smell Like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Polish? Shoe polish? No, wood polish. Lemons, but not real lemons; artificial lemons, fake lemons. Dusting cloth, artificial lemon polish. Not a fresh cloth, no. That stale cloth lemon. That musty dust of repeated disappointments and disappointing repetitions. What do you reckon it smells like? Here, take a whiff. The outside? Grass or leaves or soil or dirt or mud or rain or sand? A slight hint of ginger? Not ginger-ginger but gingerbread-ginger. Don’t look at me like that; they’re different. Moonlight smells like difficulty. It’s the opposite of triumphant – the word escapes me. It’s too passive to be resilient. You think it smells like the night? Well, what does night smell like? How do you know that the night doesn’t only smell like the night because what you can really smell is moonlight and now we’ve come to associate the smell of moonlight with the smell of the night? Which is which? Does moonlight smell the same everywhere? How about in Hawaii? I bet moonlight smells different there, or the night… Wait – wait! If the moon reflects the sun’s light, what does sunlight smell like? What is this I’m smelling? Day or night, sun or moon, light or reflection? How do we know if we’re smelling day at night-time or night at daytime? Wha–”

“Darling, it’s only a bunch of chemicals to make the candle scented. Put it down so we can go get something to eat.”

Santino Prinzi, from There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This

Trying too hard

When I was younger trying too hard was a good thing;
being “too helpful” wasn’t even a phrase.
I spent my childhood days trying too hard
to stitch trying too hard into my DNA
because trying this hard was thought admirable.

But when he, narrow-eyed and sharp-tongued,
tells grown-up me that I’m trying too damn hard,
he hurls the words like hardball insults.
My best quality is now the one that tests him
and his patience the most.

So I peel back skin, pull out parts
of myself and begin to unpick their stitching.
He catches me, shakes his head, laughs, and leaves –
on his way out he tells me how typical it is
that I’m trying too hard. Again.

Charley Barnes, from A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache

The Gardener

I go to him when the lakes are quiet,
when blossom holds its breath
in bluest south.
The horses

have strung up their miles
and collect inwards towards the light –
and all the dim world’s glow,

this earth-meal and dust
now damp
and glittering in this autumn’s constant.
All the flames that go up

are a mortal shout.
The gardener’s burn,
its heat and grain

reveal him in his awfulness
tending the ruined mass,
this mode of a man
I’ve learned to love

tackles leaf, and loom, drags
the swollen bosom of wood
from a belly of wire

and bluish thistle.
He wants it all to burn.
We drain the lakes,
their glass up-sends in fume,

their iris codes
flurry, and whiten the air
to our killing conditions –

in this blood-red insistence
committing ourselves.
The horses walk on
like women through fire.

Helen Calcutt, from Unable Mother


As I peek through the gaps in the lattice fence
I see your face; you are looking back at me
from your seat in the park. There are tears

on your cheeks, which you do not brush away.
You raise your hand to your lips
and blow me a kiss; there are many reasons

why I can’t respond, many reasons
why I should not be here. Your perfection
draws me to you, still. Now, close to my head,

a ladybird walks a ridge, senses my shadow,
senses my breath, before opening its wings
and flying to you. All I can do

is stand here and wish,
wish I was with you
on that seat in the park.

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name

Visit Day

Since Lisa said she wanted to separate a year ago, Nick had seen the word divorce at the edge of his vision; he’d heard the word when other words beginning with D had been spoken — division, divvy, detain. He’d been upset, of course, but not devastated. He’d see Lisa whenever he saw Crystal, and he felt that once they were broken up properly and time had passed, they’d have a chance to get together again.

Now, from inside his prison cell, Nick feels the finality of the word, of the act. His three-year sentence changes everything. Divorce means throwing him out like rotten vegetables, unusable, unhealthy. Divorce will quadruple his solitude, his fear, his loneliness when they were just bearable before.

So he lifts weights at rec time, limits himself to half a pack of cigarettes a day, doesn’t complain or even grimace as he mops the vast kitchen. He brushes his teeth after every meal; he’s reading for the first time since high school — just the newspaper, but he can’t believe how much happens, how much is always going on that he never thought of before.

He works on his answers. If she says divorce, he’ll tell her about the prison’s family counseling program. If she asks how he’s doing, he says he misses her and Crystal. If she says she’ll stick with him, he won’t cry. He’ll kiss her hands before he kisses her mouth.

When the day comes, Nick catches himself eating quickly and slows down. He imagines the softness of her lips and tries to remember details from the newspaper article on the fundraising drive for the zoo, so he can show he’s been reading, so he can talk about taking Crystal. He counts his steps as he walks to the visiting room, pulls his shoulders back as he enters.

It’s Eddie, in a blue Cubs t-shirt and jeans. They sit across from one another, and finally Nick asks, “Where’s Lisa?”

“Sorry, Nick, she got called into work at the last minute, so she asked me to come. Lucky I had the day off.”

Nick realizes he’s shaking, his whole body trembling before he wills it to stop. The voices of other prisoners and visitors rise up around them.

“So you’re looking good,” Eddie says. “You been working out?”

Nick shakes his head. He can’t do this. He can’t make small talk. “You,” he says at last, glancing at his wedding band. “Tell me about you.”

Carrie Etter, from Hometown


he presses the code she gave him
into the panel, fumbles
in the dark hallway
hearing his own heart quicken
as he taps at the door
tracing the sound —
answering footsteps
that move towards him
then seem to slow

there’s time for both to turn

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning

Seeking Miss Aether

“To the woman of my dreams:
I’m a mature, single male
who enjoys the pleasures 
of classical physics.”

You’re out there somewhere,
everywhere. I need you
to make sense of my world.

I accept I’m old-fashioned,
viewpoint unchanging.
It was good enough for Newton.

Young Albert insists
that you’re past it
but what does he know.

Forget about relativity,
the expanding universe.
This is bigger.

Darling, I’ve seen the light
bend, space contort
and I worry.

Where are you, lover?
Invisible siren, sing to me;
there’s still time.

Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
A version of Seeking Miss Aether appeared in The Journal (2018)


Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water
just before dusk, its breath unmuzzled musk
as it nuzzle-greets its shape, then falters…

Eyes dip, its jaw unhooks, muscles tauten,
back arches, as fur sleeks to fluid lust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.

The parched beast drinks deep, wide-throated, alters
stance to uncloak her taste from its red husk,
nuzzle-greets her warm-blooded shape, falters,

as nature’s leafy-scented young daughter
lays out her earth bed with its moist wood crust.
Their flesh meets like a wolf nearing water.

And so she blends, just as nature’s taught her:
two forest torsos, soft-mossed and fern-brushed.
As they nuzzle-greet, their wild shape falters –

a raindrop slides from its red-leaf altar,
a wolf’s tongue laps up the soft-falling dusk.
Their flesh meets like ripples across water,
nuzzle-greets its wild shape, doesn’t falter.

Sarah James, from The Vaginellas

at the door

he leans to the sound
of his own hand
tapping the dusk

skimming the music
just within reach
of her tinting her eyes

with blue shadow

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning



Sometimes a heart can break.
Not dropped on an unyielding tile-hard floor
to shatter into gem-sized fragments
Not splintered into the knife-blade-thickness
of rifts in unseasoned kindling
Not like the unearthing of a pit of bones
all with fractures from soldiers’ rifle-butts
Not bread broken into mass-sized pieces
for a line of Sunday half-believers
Not the clean snap of a KitKat bar
between the V of ungloved hands
Not the cracking of a pensioner’s skull
with a baseball bat from JD Sports
Not the curtain of night-cloud parting
for a glimpse of the moon’s borrowed sunlight
Not the unisoned break-down of black-clad mourners
as their loved one finishes dying.


Sometimes a heart can break, but no,
not suddenly like that – a heart can break
like the crazing lines on a fire-glazed vase,
where the ping of the creeping fractures
goes on and on for ever. A muttered no,
a lingering so what, a flicker of hate
in a sideways glance, the unworn ridge
in the middle of the bed, the days
of making-do and the nights of fake-believe;
two trapped half-lives, no longer a whole.


Maybe, sometimes, things can unbreak –
the kindling and the rifle-butts and the baseball bat
are restored to a tree and the dead wake back to life
and in my dream of all dreams you can’t wait
to break the silence with an i-love-you;
yes, I want more of you and you want more of me
and in every crazy day together
there’s a carnival of things unbroken.

Sometimes, a heart can unbreak.  Maybe.

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name


The first change was the milk – 
the bottle half-full the day after
its use by. In time, I could make choices: 
a scarlet coffee mug from eBay;
a hand-made wooden bed
with a mattress that moulded 
to just my shape; daffodil-yellow paint
for the bedroom walls.

We’re told we repair and renew our cells
until the end of the end day, when
we don’t. For now, I’ll top up
the salt we kept in the old wine bottle,
never knowing how many grains
remain from the day he left the house.

Jinny Fisher, from The Escapologist


In matching North Face jackets
they sit side by side, still as herons, 
talking in whispers as if a lovers’ tryst. 

He: a single-handed hold 
on an up-market scope,
one eye on the birds, 
the other tightly shut. 
She: two hands grip binoculars
as though they hold a secret;
scuffed and chipped 
but doing the job.

On the fringe of the wetland,
two grebes declare themselves, 
shake heads, ready
for their elaborate tango. 

In the hide, she touches his arm,
code for have you seen?
He thinks of her in that blue cotton dress
at the dance where they met,
and nods his head.
This is no awkward silence,
this is it. Their safe word is teashop. 

Not what they dreamed of,
but it’ll do. 

John Lawrence, from The boy who couldn't say his name

7 reasons

standing by her door

waiting in the dark

listening for her footsteps

she walks towards him

all his selves uncovered

all the king’s horses

there is no other moment

Alex Reed, from These nights at homewith photos by Keren Banning

We are made from beautiful atoms

After Keiji Nakazawa

Remember, my sister,
we are made of beautiful atoms,
up there in the doll-eyed darkness,
our world is a teardrop from God,
no water is anywhere else but here –
remember, my sister, we are made from beautiful atoms.

Remember, my brother,
we both were born and wiped unclean;
that blood of birth could connect us –
our mothers are portals to beautiful atoms.
Hold on to me, brother, I shall carry you.
Remember our world was once a beautiful eye

none of us
saw it.

Antony Owen, from The Nagsaki Elder


A phantom haunts the universe,
a quantum thread that binds our lives
to distant mass, refusing to let go.

Astronomers hold to another truth:
as bodies move apart, attraction fades
and memory weighs nothing out in space.

Shut up and calculate
they tell the homesick astronaut
and yet

I thought I saw her yesterday
and wept.

Martin Zarrop, from Making Waves
Entanglement also appeared in Moving Pictures (Cinnamon Press, 2016)


Now and then, Faith likes to switch on her smoke alarm in the middle of the night to wake Denholm. Summoning him next-door to read the electricity or kill her spiders just hasn’t got his attention. She always gets going at about four a.m., because she wants to give Denholm one restful sleep cycle, timing her disruption such as to disarrange him no more than necessary. She leaves her windows closed and switches on the fan oven, dishwasher and tumble dryer simultaneously, since she has discovered that the combined increase in temperature is enough to trigger her temperamental heat-sensitive kitchen alarm, a method that she considers altogether more stylish than resorting to burnt toast. And, once this little monster has begun its relentless middle-of-the-night ear-pain, she leaves it screeching, ignoring the dismay of her only cat, Rupert, until the connecting alarms in the hallway and bedroom are also kicking off. The triple effect of these in the pitch of night is usually enough to rouse her dutiful neighbour. If he is sleeping quite soundly, she nudges him further by clattering chairs and slamming the stick of her broom against the adjoining wall, in a pretence of dealing with the blare. When she’s heard his first tentative step down that creaking staircase, she removes all but a trace of make-up as if caught off-guard; tangles her braid bun into a just-out-of-someone-else’s-bed look; then puts on her lilac slip, which she is certain is his favourite. She does this even though she is a happy widow now and Denholm is fifteen years her senior. She does this even though he struggles down those stairs at nights to get to her with his gammy leg. She does this because she can’t resist her need for these performances: when his fingers press her buzzer and she swings the door open, she’s always beguiled by that look on her own face.

Michael Loveday, from Three Men on the Edge


There was a time for volcanoes,
when lava burned through veins
and sparks spat from my eyes.

But now, I am ready for the sofa of him,
for the thousandth run on his TV
of Toy Story or Love, Actually;
for the sleep that I slip into
as easily as his cats;
for his cats, his cushions, his biscuits;
for his non-explosive central heating.

He should think himself lucky.
Volcanoes are much easier to live with

when they’re dormant.

Brenda-Read Brown, from Like love