Storm petrel

A pocket. A fistful
of sky in a small
gut
lined with
water lustrated of salt.
You,
almanac,
gathering storms
under windslip wings,
a slice of
clean water, parting
miles out to sea where
oil-spills are tumbled with
algae and plastic:
gyres vast & unequivocal in their
stranglehold over tides and land –
circular, massive,
holding us fast
but you
hold steady,
pelagic (storm-driven,
waif and tendril, fluff
and beak).
Were we wise,
we might learn from you,
learn to make love at midnight,
brief and fast in the shadows
 cast by stones

chikka-chikka-chikk

the trill of a warning
sharp as the sting of a lighthouse beam

a whip
of light before the sinking:

andwe walked on water as we dreamed
beyond a horizon your shadow eclipses, and eclipses.

You scavenge for rotting flesh,
swoop and dive to tenderise the chum for your
one, fluffed chick

who knows gale-swept European islands,
and the kiss of Tunisian sands
but no language.     You know no language,

only storm.


by Aki Schilz

Happy National Poetry Day! We hope you enjoy celebrating with this poem by Aki Schilz, and if you’d like to read some more poetry today, why not check out previous Weekly Poems, which are all available from 2007 to the present? Just visit our website. And if you haven’t yet heard about our exciting new venture, ignitionpress, please visit this page to learn about our plans to publish poetry pamphlets, and the three poets Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington in particular.

The programme for the Woodstock Poetry Festival (10-12 November) has been announced, and features readings by a host of celebrated writers, such as Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, George Szirtes, and David Harsent. For more information and to book your tickets, visit the Woodstock Bookshop website.

‘Storm petrel’ is copyright © Aki Schilz, 2016. It is reprinted from Birdbook IV: Saltwater and Shore (Sidekick Books, 2016) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Aki Schilz is a writer and editor based in London. She is co-founder of the #LossLit Twitter writing project alongside Kit Caless, and co-editor of LossLit Magazine. Her poetry, flash fiction, short stories and creative non-fiction have been published online (And Other Poems, Mnemoscape, tNY.Press, The Bohemyth, CHEAP POP, Annexe) and in print (An Unreliable Guide to LondonPopshotThe Colour of SayingKakania,Best Small Fictions 2015), and she is the winner of the inaugural Visual Verse Prize (2013) and the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction (2014). Aki works at The Literary Consultancy, where she is the Editorial Services Manager. She tweets micropoetry at @AkiSchilz , and you can read more about her work on her blog.

With this poem we continue our selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Iohanna of Sprotburgh


Lord, saue vs; weperischen.

Matheu, VIII: 25

Drowned thieving from fish-traps.
Gaffed to the bank
by punting bargees –
glass-eyed, gaping.

Swan-complected, scabbed with leeches,
oozing like the fen.
Maids tore weeds
and wailed to Richard.

She hiccoughed a frog;
eels squirming from her petticoats.
In Hampull’s chapel,
her guttering candle flared.

by Steve Ely

Last Friday (and as promised in last week’s Weekly Poem!), the Poetry Centre announced the launch of its new pamphlet press, ignitionpress. If you missed the announcement, you can read about the new press here , and find out about the three poets we will be publishing (Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington) here . We look forward to sharing more details about the press indue course.

On Sunday 15 October, local poets Dorothy Yamamoto and Sarah J. Bryson will be running a poetry workshop in Kirtlington Village Hall entitled ‘Terra firma, or all at sea?’ The workshop will feature writing exercises, writing time, sharing and discussion, and runs from 10-3.30pm. All are welcome, and the event costs £25. For more details and to book a place, contact Dorothy on dorothy.mccarthy@btopenworld.com

‘Iohanna of Sprotburgh’ is copyright © Steve Ely, 2017. It is reprinted from Incendium Amoris  (Smokestack Books, 2017) by permission of Smokestack.  

Notes from Smokestack:

Steve Ely’s new book takes its inspiration and its title from Incendium Amoris (‘The Fire of Love’) by the fourteenth century saint and mystic Richard Rolle, ‘the hermit of Hampole’. The book offers a vision of pre-Reformation and post-industrial England through the eyes of the trespasser, the poacher, the recusant and the revolutionary, in solidarity with the swinish multitude against the landed power. Contesting language and landscape and addressing issues including carnality, class, scepticism and belief, Incendium Amoris is a peasant’s revolt against the accelerating cultural, social and environmental devastations of globalising capital, a guerrilla-pastoral prophecy of a yeoman-anarchist utopia. Read more about the book on the Smokestack website.

Steve Ely’s previous works include Oswald’s Book of Hours (nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and for the Ted Hughes Award), EnglalandWerewolf and Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire; Made in Mexborough (2015). He lives in the Osgoldcross wapentake in the West Riding of Yorkshire, close to Richard Rolle’s Hampole. You can read more about Steve’s work on the Poetry International website, and follow him on Twitter.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

Lesser Whitethroat

                                  Something disappears
Is it knowledge?
                                   Or is it something more precious?
           Pressed grass where weight should have been,
                                              a tree limb uncontrollably shaking,
leaves on their way down,
                                              the mind rattling under a hat-brim
                       a cat, blank off the ground –

                                                                    nightfall.

Make this the opening that you prayed for.

                                               You can change sides,
                        scale the wall, distill every one of your wishes
                    into the bandit’s bliss. Lift yourself,

                                   and you will flow through a thousand airs –
                       with each adjustment you might lose strength,
Nevertheless,
                                 climb and take height
                      climb and take one story at a time.

                      Land light above a window, a busy kitchen
                                  is best,
                      the room with the burning hearth will also do.
          Take in the fragrance of daily life,
but do not take part. Your feet might walk rooftops,
                                    but your head graces heaven
shoulder to shoulder with the incense and the graspless.

Wherever you find doorways slip in as if indigenous,
                       or a hole –
            keep your breathing pressed,
less, lesser, less…
Yes!

                                   You are the size of a mouse
the introverted house guest,
           whether you are dressed in monk’s grey,
           the dusty cloak of an old mountain hag…

           if you are seen
           to be a man, not a man –
                                  your feathers remain the same.
If anyone should ask, your Western name
                                                                is Sylvia.
Do you understand?

Remember, if you are caught, you are neither
                                                           our son nor our daughter.
             You are an orphan,
             but you also have many kin –
                         in the Sahara, Arabia, India, Mongolia…
                                    even Siberia, such ideas are comforting.

Remember everything you have accomplished
           everybody you love… then drop them over the edge.
                                  Now you are lesser,
                                                                     more enlightened,
                       Yes?
            If you should be mistaken for a common
            thief, if you are about to lose your hand –
                                               make your heart stay red,
seal your mouth and freeze your throat.
                                    At your centre you shall hurt
                                    until you glow
                                                          and become so beautiful.
                                                                                              Silence is so…
I am afraid
            you will find there is nowhere else to go,
There are so many thorns in the hedgerow – the land fruitless.

                        The mountain pass?               Impossible
                                                                                   under this new snow.

by Eileen Pun

The Poetry Centre has some very exciting news to announce this week, as we begin a wonderful new chapter (or stanza) in our work. Tune into our social media or check our website for details this Friday…

The programme for the Woodstock Poetry Festival (10-12 November) has been announced, and features readings by a host of celebrated writers, such as Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, George Szirtes, and David Harsent. For more information and to book your tickets, visit the Woodstock Bookshop website.

‘Lesser Whitethroat’ is copyright © Eileen Pun, 2015. It is reprinted from Birdbook III: Farmland, Heathland, Mountain, Moorland (Sidekick Books, 2015) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Eileen Pun was born in New York, US and now lives in Grasmere, Cumbria where she works as a freelance writer, poet and artist. Her work has recently been published in several young poets anthologies, including a showcase of new Black and Asian writing in the UK: Ten, The New Wave published by Bloodaxe (2014). In 2015, Eileen was a recipient of the UK Northern Writer’s Award (England). She also received a Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship (LUTSF) to China in support of her interdisciplinary work in movement and poetry. In March 2016 Eileen was invited as a guest reader for a residential to the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank for Creative Writing. Read more about Eileen’s work on her website.

With this poem we continue our selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

from The Barrow Seven

Walter Lewis Goodchild

Hanger-on, aged 35

Polished like brown saddle leather, the penny
he left under the pillow for his lad.
The tooth had been loose for days
and the night time groans
would stir him to nudge Lizzy
to tend to the child
and avoid a chorus.
Then yesterday, between forefinger
and thumb it took some fiddling
to loop string to incisor,
leading twine to door handle.
The fourth attempt pulled it
followed by a shrill scream
that would ring through the house for weeks.

by Karl Riordan

Walter Lewis Goodchild’ is copyright © Karl Riordan, 2017. It is reprinted from The Tattooist’s Chair (Smokestack Books, 2017) by permission of Smokestack

Notes from Smokestack:

‘The Barrow Seven’ is a sequence of poems commemorating the seven men killed in the Barrow Colliery in 1907.

Karl Riordan spent much of his late teens in a tattooist’s studio, fascinated by the declarations of love, badges of pride and intricate designs that reminded him of the Stilton legs of his grandfather, a miner tattooed by a working life spent underground. In his powerful debut collection, Riordan recalls and celebrates growing up in the South Yorkshire coalfield – holidays and haircuts, football pools and pool halls, Mackeson and Temazepam, Saturday night and Monday morning. The Tattooist’s Chair is a study in working-class history from the Barrow Colliery disaster of 1907 to the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, St Francis in a Sheffield pet shop, Connie Francis on the dansette and Charlie Williams always having the last laugh. You can read more about the book on the Smokestack website.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.