Cherwell valley nightscape –14 April 2020

No contrails blur the stars.
The Oxford road is free of cars.

Train wheels ring on distant rails.
Somewhere near a hunting owl screeches for a mate.

The Milky Way’s a champagne spume
unchallenged by an absent moon.

I borrow a breath of this shining air.
The vastness swallows what I offer in return.

by Carl Tomlinson

The Poetry Centre has launched its International Poetry Competition for 2020! We’re delighted to say that our judge this year is the Forward Prize-winning poet Fiona Benson. As always, we have two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. The winners receive £1000, with £200 for the runners up. For more details and to enter, visit our website

The Centre also recently released a new online publication: the e-anthology ‘My teeth don’t chew on shrapnel’: an anthology of poetry by military veterans. This anthology features exciting, moving, and provocative work by US and UK veterans who were participants in workshops held by the Poetry Centre in 2019-20 and also includes writing about veterans (including an essay by WWI expert Jane Potter) and some writing prompts by Susie Campbell for anyone interested in developing their own writing. The anthology is free to download from the Poetry Centre website and we would very much welcome your feedback! E-mail us or fill out the short form on the site.

‘Cherwell valley nightscape – 14 April 2020’ is copyright © Carl Tomlinson, 2020. It is reprinted from The Scriptstuff Lockdown Anthology (Scriptstuff Entertainment, 2020) by permission. You can read more about the anthology here.

This week’s poem by Oxfordshire poet Carl Tomlinson comes from The Scriptstuff Lockdown Anthology, published by Leamington-based arts organisation Scriptstuff Entertainment. The anthology, edited by Scriptstuff Poetry founder Mike Took, includes contributions from 45 local poets both amateur and professional, each of whom has written about the impact of the pandemic on their lives, families, health and future and each of whom has previously supported or performed at a Scriptstuff Poetry event. Scriptstuff Poetry has been running several regular and one-off poetry events across the Midlands for a number of years and also organises the annual Leamington Poetry Festival. 

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology will support the rising costs of Scriptstuff’s ongoing activities, including poetry outreach initiatives into new communities and keeping the entire Leamington Poetry Festival free for everyone to attend. Find out more about the anthology and Scriptstuff’s work on the website and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter to see if there is an event near you!

Carl Tomlinson is a poet, an independent business advisor, and a coach. He is a Chartered Accountant with a BA in Spanish and French Language and Literature. He completed his MA in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes University in 2019 during which his dissertation explored the nature of the Romantic Imagination and its applicability to coaching. He has been a regular attendee at the Scriptstuff Poetry night in Banbury, where he became such a popular contributor that in April 2019 he was the headline guest. In late 2019, Carl won the Shout Out for the Oxford Covered Market competition and you can watch Carl read his winning poem, ‘Market Forces’, here.

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.