It’s NaNoWriMo 2023!!!!

Phew, I’m cutting it fine (nothing much new there then), and whilst I’ve been buzzing for April to arrive to spend the month immersed in all things poetry, I’ve only gone and almost missed day one!

I hope everyone taking part has had an inspiring and poetically productive first day. I’m planning on spending the month sharing a mix of my own writing and the work of poets who inspire me. I will be aiming to also write a poem of my own EVERY day (hah! did I just jinx it and set myself up to fail? Probably…).

So, before I go and tappy-tap and try and create some magic, here are a couple of poems from Angela Cleland’s new collection, Real Cute Danger, published by Broken Sleep Books. I was lucky to attend the local launch of the collection in February this year. Real Cute Danger is Angela’s third collection, and it explores the experience of giving birth and becoming a parent “through the prism of horror and science fiction”. Intrigued? You should be and you can buy a copy of the collection here .

‘At two weeks past conception’ by Angela Cleland

you are already building your eyes – I panic –
what do I know about eyes? The picture
is upside-down when it hits your retina;
women see better in the dark than men;
a flash of their whites is as good as a rabbit’s tail
to send us scampering for our burrows.

But to build one, never mind a pair, from –
what have you got? I don’t even know
the ingredients – proteins? amino acids?
I place a hand on my belly and focus
on your behalf. At each division
we could flunk this: I’m back at school.

All I can do is slide you my jotter
and whisper – I have eyescopy mine.

‘The Snugness’ by Angela Cleland

She has kept all her old skins.
Sentimental, for a snake.

Each seemed outmoded when she sloughed it off,
but now – look at them! – parchment perfection.

Days like today, when she feels small,
she lays them out, sucks it all in

and eases her long way, nudging and nosing,
into the likeliest looking void.

Now, her breaths are whispered scraps –
this is never the good idea it seems.

Has anyone ever died like this? she wonders,
resting, just resting, half out, half in,

eaten whole by a past self,
suffocated by the tightness of their own skin.

~The H Word~

Poems by Raymond Carver

It’s a Carver kind of Sunday morning…

‘Rain’ by Raymond Carver

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes

‘Grief’ by Raymond Carver

Woke up early this morning and from my bed
looked far across the Strait to see
a small boat moving through the choppy water,
a single running light on. Remembered
my friend who used to shout
his dead wife’s name from hilltops
around Perugia. Who set a plate
for her at his simple table long after
she was gone. And opened the windows
so she could have fresh air. Such display
I found embarrassing. So did his other
friends. I couldn’t see it.
Not until this morning.

‘Late Fragment’ by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

These poems are from All Of Us: The Collected Poems (2003) by Raymond Carver published by the Harvill Press.

~The H Word~

‘A place to stand, a lever’ by Ankh Spice

And it wouldn’t be World Poetry Day without travelling to the other side of the world, and sharing one of my favourite poets, Ankh Spice who lives in New Zealand. You can check out more about Ankh via on their website here

The poem I am sharing is from Ankh’s first full-length collection, The Water Engine published by Femme Salve Books in 2021. As written in the many wonderful reviews of the collection, Alan Parry writes “The Water Engine is a stunning collection of poems that perhaps does not appreciate its own power. It is brimming with naturalistic beauty, with humility, with raw emotion, and with exquisite skill”.

I hope you enjoy the poem I have picked to share tonight (I was very much spoiled for choice).

A place to stand, a lever

On the beach, three children have conjured
a world. The castle survived an afternoon

century of siege, and is ancient now, shadow
longing toward the water. A fence of feathers

is still flying a boundary between his necessary
graveyard, her garden. Careful seashell tombstones

and careful seashell pathways, from this angle
shine the same — white bone, broken patterns.

The youngest child, banished for the chaos he carried
so loosely, terraformed the badlands at the edge

of the tide. That far country is dangerous, tunnel
and collapse, channel and mountain. But the three

are safe in the tearooms, powers combined to manifest
ice-cream. It does not matter to them now

that the great flood they surely knew was coming,
is coming. The driftwood has sailed too long

and is heavy, and who can ever carry enough
for a buttress, and who could ever dam away

a whole sea, but one long piece it leaps to the hand
like a wand. And I do believe that I too,

I too was once a strong magic spell
just barely contained inside a skin.

~The H Word~

Happy World Poetry Day!

Happy World Poetry Day to one and all! And it has been a lovely poetry evening attending the online launch of Mandy Haggith’s new collection, Briny, published by Red Squirrel Press. You can purchase a copy of Mandy’s fabulous sea-themed collection at About the collection on her website Mandy shares that Briny “reflects her passion for the sea, whether lapping the shores of the northwest Highlands where she lives or afloat on the wild waters of the Minch. The poems throng with sealife, from barnacles to bow head whales, charting sailing passages and swims, drawing deeply on intimate lived experience of the marine world”.

In lieu of not having a copy of Briny yet, I am sharing one of my (many) favourite poems from Mandy’s collection, Why the Sky is Far Away, published by Red Squirrel press in 2019. A copy of this can also be purchased via the link above. Enjoy!

Seal by Mandy Haggith

big fat seal shining on the seaweed
tossing bladderwrack
galumphing and humping his blubber
wobbling his tail
flipper-flapping himself to get comfy
now with his tiny webbed arm-stump

and I wave back
acknowledge the passing season
the changes in residents

the arrival of water-skiers
the terns’ departure for their winter homes
the problem of heron-housing in a time of wind-throw
the absence of cormorant today

it is good to greet
be at least on nodding terms
I live here too
among the thrift, the ripples and the rock-wrack

~The H Word~

Conversations with Friends

They sit on sagging sofas saying nothing. Each glance an accusation. One adjusts her position, straightens. Another, clears her throat, sound echoes off bare floor boards—polished to perfection yet stark and uncomforting. The third, leans forward, elbows rest on knees which ache after yesterday’s rain. The clock on the mantlepiece ticks each second like an ultimatum. No words pass between them, although adamant thoughts settle in the minds of those present. It should be her, thinks one. It won’t be me, thinks another. And the third thinks of happier times before conversation became confrontation.

A thin chime sounds from the clock. Its solitary note signals one in the afternoon. The three share a startled twitch, not quite a jump, they are long passed that, but a movement of shoulders followed by a prick of adrenaline at the sudden sound. How ludicrous this is, fumes one. I have things to do, lies another. And the third sighs, before resting back against the once-plump cushion which now fits the shape of her back like a passing hug from a loved one. Then, a chink of light breaks through the cloud-laden sky and shoots a butter-hued beam through the centre of the room. Dust particles dance in its wake before settling into the darkness below.

There was a time their voices overlapped. Each desperate to share news or gossip with the others. No offence taken at interruption, merely gasps of excitement or nods of acknowledgement along with words of encouragement to go on. Time would jump forward as if someone sneaked in and tampered with the clocks (there were several all around the house). They would say, look at the time! But none cared or felt hurried to cut short their precious meeting. Now, time stands still. The clocks still tick, the chimes still chime but they are suspended in this stand-off.

I should leave, thinks one. There’s no point being here, thinks another. And the third wishes she could reach out and shake sense into them all. Communicate what they could not, remind them of what they had lost and endured. But no sense could be shaken today. They knew what was lost and are still enduring the pain. This was the problem. Then, the clouds close ranks to repair the breach in their grey-gloom and any warmth in the room is extinguished. It is as if someone has flicked a light-switch. Shadows spread out and swallow the centre of the room. A splash of rain appears on the windowpane and trickles down like a single tear.

I should have brought an umbrella, thinks one. I knew it would rain, thinks another. And the third thinks this can’t go on despite knowing it could and probably would. How many years has it been since these three shared anything other than a grudge? Why had she believed an hour in this room would be enough to repair the damage? The shower outside becomes a deluge. The view from the window, an impressionist painting and the trees and flowers a melting pot of colour. At least the silence is broken. The pattering of raindrops dash against glass and various objects in the garden. It is soothing. All three feel its calming meditation. Muscles relax, jaws unclench, fingers uncurl. Eyes meet. Then tears trickle down cheeks as the rain did only moments before. They increase in intensity and create their own downpour. Sobs heave in chests, escape mouths once guarded now ready to speak.

But no words are required. Hands are grasped, fingers entwine and in that moment, another break in the storm clouds allows sunlight to illuminate and envelop all in such relief. A combined exhalation breathes life into friendships. I miss you, thinks one. I love you, thinks another. And the third thinks only of how lonely life would be if they did not have each other, through the good times and the bad.

~The H Word~

Things I tell myself…

This sunrise will not be the last.
See its dragon-breath set afire
the horizon and morning sky.
Pull back the curtains. Don’t leave
this room in endless shade, lacking air.
Swallow the coffee. Feel its slow burn
bring you back to life. Don’t let this
be the last thing you remember.
Feel the dog’s satin-soft ear
against your cheek, his gentle
breath of sleep reminding you
to inhale inhale inhale
for one more day.

~The H Word~

The Greatest Swindle Of All

I bought the cream from the counter
promising flawless. It didn’t work
so I blamed myself, believed my flaws
way beyond any fix. It was quite the trick.

It’s not just cream that deceives us
with its false, empty promises.
A myriad of goods designed to make
us feel less, flawed, unworthy.

We think if only we could fix
that part of us they say we should.
If only we could be the same
as those they deem more beautiful.

It’s all a lie, a swindle, there was never
anything wrong with us. In time we
learn to understand and begin to love
all that they told us we should not.

~The H Word~


Someone nearby

has lit their fire.

Smoke smudges

the edges of everything.

In the garden

green hues muted,

my view, dream-like.

Streamers of rain

dampen, leaves shine,

pools gather in celebration.

The window a vision

as I sit and wonder

about life that has happened

and all that is to come.

~The H Word~

Friday’s Commute

The passing glare of headlights

Is interrupted, through the side

Window flames lick the horizon

Like dragon’s breath has set alight

That perfect point where land meets sky

And it is beauty, breath-taking,

Enough to make you want to stop

And pay attention. A new day is dawning.

You should celebrate, do something

Significant, mark the moment,

But you have work to go to, so you drive

On, reluctant, take one last glance

In the rear-view mirror as the sky

Explodes in crimson colour, hues

Which seem to scream murder

As you round another corner

And flee the scene.

~The H Word~

Christmas Eve

This night, I lay worry down,
slip out of stress, let it pool
behind. The hush of sleep
from little ones, gentle breaths,
pillowed heads dream of magic,
spells weave weblike until spun
hope, silk-thin, compels belief
from all of us.

~The H Word~

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