Reunions

The last few days have been great for reconnecting with people. On Saturday I went to the Kirklees Author Forum Exchange for the first time in two years, meeting old writing friends and making some new ones. On Wednesday it was great to be at the return of Marsden Write Out Loud, a poetry open mic which has been in abeyance since the start of Covid. (Poetry-inclined readers in the West Yorkshire area might like to be aware that henceforth it will be meeting on the second Wednesday of every month, at 7.30-9.30 pm in Marsden Library.)

And on Tuesday, I got to see my friends from Poetry ID face to face for the first time in ages at the launch of our anthology A Sackful of Clouds, in memory of the late John Gohorry. Having posted one of my own poems from the collection recently, I thought I would share one today from another contributor. This is from J. Johnson Smith, and references Edward Thomas’s famous poem ‘Adlestrop’.

Intermission

Another station, another stop
Silence in the carriage
Broken by a cough.
Looking out the window, no trees
Just a wall and railway stuff.
No passenger getting on or off.
No rolling Gloucester hills with elm or oak
No valleys with a milking herd
Just a lonely blackbird pylon-top
With its warning call.
I don't know where it was
You'd never know we stopped at all. 

Copies of A Sackful of Clouds are available from David Smith (djsapt@gmail.com) at £6 plus £1.50 P&P.

The Prisoner

I’m very much looking forward to the launch event tomorrow (12 July, 7pm, David’s Bookshop, Letchworth, Herts) for A Sackful of Clouds, the latest anthology by Poetry ID, in memory of John Gohorry, a fine and much-missed poet who sadly died last year (you can read one of John’s poems here). I thought I’d share one of my poems from the anthology:

The Prisoner

The unspoken warning, the insincere smile
then the slam of the door and the click of the lock.
Footsteps fade away. All is still, for a while,
the silence betrayed by the tick of the clock
and the hiss of the breath I now dare to release.
They are precious, these moments, this lull in my fears –
I can almost sustain an illusion of peace.
While still drunk on relief I am full of ideas:
I will transmit a message, I will invent some way
to escape from this place. This is all fantasy;
hope is quickly snuffed out in the wasteland of day.
I reflect on the life that was stolen from me,
peering out at the world through a small window pane
at the Outside, so close, but an alien land
beyond reach, and the sun is now sinking again.
I fear the clock, with its tyrannous hand
bringing closer the time that I cannot endure.
My body is shaking, my pulse a drumbeat
pounds away in my head as I’m listening for
the faint sound of his car parking up in the street 
Then my body’s in spasm, the throbbing of blood, 
the sweat on my forehead … once more, he returns,
I recoil at the creak of the gate and the thud
of his feet on the stairs. In the door, a key turns …

Finally, in other news, I’m pleased to see my poem Blighty in this month’s issue of The Lake

Whatever Speed I Dared

Today I am delighted to host a poem from award-winning writer Amanda Huggins, from her forthcoming collection Talk to Me About When We Were Perfect.

Whatever Speed I Dared

The empty motorway carves its way west,
cuts through moor and hill,
no tail lights in front, no headlights behind,
everything uncommonly still.
Right now, I could drive
in whichever lane I wanted
at whatever speed I dared,
criss-cross the curving lines of cats’ eyes,
wind down the window,
blast out ‘Born to Run’,
howl into the night
like an American werewolf.

Caught in my full beam,
a skittish hare makes a dash
for the other side.
He pauses for a moment,
all gold-spun fur and liquid eyes,
ears raised, one front paw held high.
I lift my own foot off the pedal,
grip the wheel, ready to swerve.
But he moves off again
without a backward glance,
leaping the barrier,
melting into darkness.

I shiver and turn the music down,
moving over to the inside lane,
slowing to sixty until headlights
appear in my rear view mirror again.

Amanda Huggins is the author of the novellas All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines – both of which won a Saboteur Award for Best Novella – as well as five collections of short stories and poetry. Her debut poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won a Saboteur Award in 2020, and her first full length collection will be published next March. Her short fiction and travel writing has also appeared in publications as diverse as Mslexia, Popshot, Tokyo Weekender, The Telegraph, Traveller, Wanderlust and the Guardian. Three of her short stories have also been broadcast on BBC radio.

‘Whatever Speed I Dared’ was first published on www.northerngravy.com and will appear in the author’s collection Talk to Me About When We Were Perfect, out March 2023 from Victorina Press)

She has won numerous awards, including the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award 2020, the H E Bates Short Story Prize 2021 and the British Guild of Travel Writers New Travel Writer of the Year Award 2014. She was also a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award 2018 and the Fish Short Story Prize 2021, and has been placed/shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, Bath Flash Award, The Alpine Fellowship Award and many others. Amanda lives in Yorkshire and works as an editor, creative writing tutor and publishing assistant.

Motorway pic: Simon Brace 2014. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported