New Writing In Various Forms, edited by Michael Blackburn

The Review is now on permanent sabbatical.

Many thanks to those who contributed.

The rest, as the man said, is silence.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Three Poems by Helen Kitson

Red on Yellow

When I get out of here I'll never wear yellow.
That's the colour of the dress they made me sew.
Make it loose, they said, it's got to last.
The idiots and imbeciles wear anything -
Only the unmarried mothers wear yellow.

I'm no use with a needle but I made my dress.
Put shame in every stitch, they said.
Every time I did a seam I longed to tear it,
Fling it at the smug bitch in charge.
Not so pretty now, she said, when they cut off my hair.

They pester me with questions.
Was he married, and if not where was he? Had I tried
To abort this baby or any other?
I didn't tell them how I'd fallen downstairs
And how mam had found me, and how we cried together.

I broke her heart and I still don't want this baby
But I won't be ashamed of it, even when they sneer
At the gap where a father should be.
When mam comes to see me I try to hide my belly
And she never hugs me when she leaves.

My waters break when I'm chopping onions.
I ignore the pool I'm stood in. Maybe if I pay no heed
It'll go away. My hands shake so much I cut myself,
A gash across the top of my thumb.
Knives clatter to the floor. The blood won't stop.

I'm every woman, it's all in me

Her eyes are hidden behind sunglasses,
Her hair beneath a black chiffon scarf.

She wears gold hoops in her ears
And she dances barefoot in a circle.

In the mirror she leaves no reflection.
A trail of gold-dust marks where she's been.

In a puff of smoke she disappears.
Mirror mirror...oh yes, she is the fairest

But is she real? Was Marilyn a size sixteen?
Is every blonde born that way?

I have been into the forest for Snow White's heart.
I am not a man - her tears don't melt me.

Into the casket goes her still-pumping heart.
Not so pretty any more, is she?

But in the mirror, it's her face that stares me out,
Laughing at me. Born again, from ashes,

From glitter and sequins and mud.
She leaves lipstick kisses on the glass.


The sun catches the glass and spills into the room.
Dust motes flicker before my eyes.
We fall together on the old-gold eiderdown,
Coughing from the billowing dust. Ancient bed -
A deathbed. You put your hand over my mouth
To muffle my obscene giggles. No place for this.
And me, mock-sorrowful, but the sun's persistent,
It makes the eiderdown flame, it glints like metal,
Yet feels soft, welcoming as a nest, a feathered bed.
Your eyes on me, mine stray to a painting of my great-
Grandmother. Dusty hair in a bun. Jet earrings.
Her fingers like sausages. Whoever painted it
Couldn't draw. Her eyes avoid mine.
She smiles and looks away, leaving us alone,
Offering no comment, no judgement. No love,
After all, no recognition. You trace the shape
Of my face. Is it like hers? Can you see her in me?
You tip my head so that light falls on my throat.
You drop a kiss. I shut my eyes, but I see her hands,
Thick, with one ring, the wedding one. I hold
Your fingers, and kiss them; light falls, through the dust.

Helen Kitson lives in Worcester. Her most recent poetry collection,
Tesserae, was published by Oversteps in 2003. Currently seeking a
publisher for a collection of poems with a genealogical theme. More on Helen at

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Four Poems by David Crystal

The Outing, Part Two

On the bus to Prestbury Park
I took a photo of my Dad’s right ear.
The ear looked like Yasser Arafat’s lips.
He didn’t like the likeness and drank harder
from the half-full hip flask; horses picked
in a list he kept to himself, the wrong grey
in the wrong ground, too old and ring weary
for the Irish banker, 6 lengths too good
in a weak race for favourite backers.
Talisker, Lagavulin, Highland Park
Yasser's lips hearing all the wrong whispers
in the silver ring, the sun and rain man on Cleeve Hill
fading with the light and our horse’s chance
pulled up lame before the second last.

After The Penalty Shoot Out

I watched a parakeet dart over the elder
heavy with flower and feeding pigeons
my feet in a carrier bag of crushed Stella cans.

You’ll never catch a trout in an oxbow lake
and a ptarmigan is far prettier in real life
than the much loved photogenic grouse.

The Swede has the eyes of a jackdaw and the breath of a carrion crow.
Let’s puts the bird on the barbecue, and drink until twilight.
At midnight a three legged fox will prowl for scraps.

The Man in the White Suit

staggers out of Café Pacifico, wind catching his hat
one hand high like a rodeo cowboy. Masks, shells, feathers,

stones, now without the travellers tall tale
faces in a blue smoke language, vodka till birdsong.

All a blur at Christmas drinks puddings first and fuck the soup.
Still drinking with the dead Mexican Rico?

The Merlot Mix
im Barry MacSweeney


Lapwing, curlew

poets of the moor
poets of the lonely song

A hen harrier swoops
catching nothing
but wind
ghost songs
only the swift


Stone skimming at Wylam
one just inches short
startling egg hungry stoat
stalking a moorhen nest

Bunting, Bewick, not a whisper
on home ground just a Burberry lad
cider daft bashing an eel to bits

sprayed on a home made flag
staked outside his home made tent


Arrested for killing and roasting a swan in Henley-on-Thames
A boy from Crow Wood is detained for psychiatric assessment.


The man in black on suicide bridge
owl feather for cider punk with pet fox
off to Camden, snout hot for Dylan bootlegs
no kingfisher or rare blue moth
just words for the notebook Odes
work in progress left
and found again in The Dublin Castle
a poem written in air on Primrose Hill
for workers, lovers, for grass arena ghosts
for anyone walking the line.

David Crystal was born in Prudhoe, Northumberland in 1963. He has worked as literary editor of DOG, a magazine of new writing and had his work featured in the Body and Soul exhibition at the ICA. Just Like Frank, his second collection is available from Two Rivers Press, brilliantly illustrated by Ian Pollock.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Three Poems by Judi Benson

Annie’s Swimming Lesson

She says she taught me to swim,
though teaching never came into it.
Plonk in the deep end,
relying on my need to breathe to bring me to the surface.
Did she count? Up to what?
Did she lose count,
get distracted by the hunky Life Guard,
leaving me to grow gills
on the aquamarine bottom of the pool.
Depths became my natural habitat,
while she skimmed the surface:
Oh look at the sails on that ship, whooshing past.
Still, I thank her for her rough handling of me,
inadvertently teaching me,
not to swim
but how to survive her,
find my own depths and keep breathing.

Love’s Logic

That first winter
I thought of digging you up,
couldn’t bear you down there shivering.
I was too mean in the end
to bury the blanket that I’d made.
Something from home, you’d said.
I’d get a spade and just….
What did I expect to find?

I’ve thought about that too
and what if it’s not you,
some other body or a box full of rocks –
not box, bamboo, a basket,
as if you were a Moses baby
afloat in some state of drifting
down a slow ribbon of water,
in another world we can’t see,
sunshine, leafy shade, shadows,
ribbles of wind, just there.


Twenty-five photographs
and not a single sound or word for it.
Some bird twittering.
White geese in a green field.
How to capture the blankness of sky,
what to do with it.
Not a single break in the foggy mist.
I stride along the path
beneath the bower of leaves, my gait
smooth as that duck’s glide on the glassy-eyed Nith.

And so, the green blinds me
refusing to name itself.
The Galloway hills roll and roll
trying to rise above the mist,
and the river runs its reflections of spectacular trees,
each a tangle of branches with leaves stuck on,
all competing to be the brightest ones.
Light, air, flocks of geese
struggling towards an alphabet that only sky can read.
Yes, my eyes are assaulted with all this, and pine too,
but what’s it matter without you.
I’d say, look at the smoky mist,
and you’d say, I’m part of that mist now.

Judi's poems have appeared in many magazines, anthologies and collections and for a number of years she edited Foolscap magazine. Her latest book is The Thin Places, published by Rockingham Press. Until recently she was a Writer in Residence at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary. Despite being Miss Di Nosaur when it comes to the internet, she actually has a podcast of some of her poems (and a fuller biography on that site as well). She lives in London.