A selection of poetry from poets who performed in 2016.  A selection of poems from poets apprearing in 2018 to follow.


My English friend and your father,

All have red blood.

Middlesbrough, please don’t paint my door with it.


Nader Al Hussein

Have I done enough to love you?


I have turned this entire body into a tear to fall for you.

I have nothing in this heart but a home for you.

I have a pool of wine in these kidneys,

So drink.

I have the Mediterranean in this liver.

I have you sail across it daily.

I have closed every poetic line with a syllable that looks like you.

I have opened another with your eyelash.

I have loved you like the sun has loved the earth since creation,

Not a day passes when they do not see each other.

I have pens in these bones to write your name as I walk.

I have managed to fit you with all the roses of the world in sole heart.


I have rewritten the entire history of love for you.

I have even loved those who hate you, just because they think of you.

I have left a pen near my gravestone,

So write and tell me if I have done enough to love you.


Amir Darwish

No Man’s Land 


His face was a foreign country

and his tongue was a concealed gun.

His laugh was an air raid siren

and his mouth a deep tunnel dug in Palestinian earth,

a shallow grave on the edge of town.

His beard was the barbed-wire fence that surrounded the camp

and his skin, a hand-written map sewn into his shirt,

a deserted field at midnight.

His eyes were abandoned soft buried landmines

and his voice radio static caught between stations.

His ribs were the gripped bars of a Guantanamo Bay cage

and his smile the careful line at Customs,

the border between territories.


And he walked like a school child lost in the rubble of her home

and he spoke like a low-flying plane looking to land.

Welcome to England.

Asalaam Alaikum.


But Immigration Central was a love letter written in another language

and when he smiled


his teeth were the New York skyline.


Joelle Taylor

Ghost Story


They turn away now from the site of the fiery heart

that drew them here in the sea frets of autumn,

the shades of the workless suicides composing

silent symphonies by the salt marsh ponds.

Salamander's dead and the sky’s gone out.

When the slag heap by South Gare stops smouldering

they’ll roll out with the next mist, lost to cold tides.


Andy Willoughby

Status Quo


Confession of love – beautiful like a proclamation of independence. After many years spent in opposition, we moved into a romantic company flat – in rags, i.e., naked – and for years did not venture outside. And moustachioed queens recognized us de facto.

Today it’s the national holiday again, fireworks, glasses sparkle like medals, kisses in place of hors d’oeuvres. Ergo bibamus, my prince, we stole an entire country like one empty heart.


Karlis Verdins



(for those who drown between Africa & Europe)



I love this land

Never thought of owning it

Till you came

And fenced it all

Stamped your name upon it

Pushed me to the edge


I should have killed you then


Yearts passed

I wass slowly starving

So I crossed to where you came from

But you had set up borders


So here I am

Drowing in the oceans in between

Tanlged in the nets you set

Foor fish.


Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze


Urdu Poem 1

Winter Saviour


We hold each other’s small bones,

stroke each other’s sun starved skin

in a council estate bedroom.


Such grace,

such grief,

in letting go.


Even if not to be loved;

to be held,

to be touched,

is enough,

is enough.


Julie Egdell


speaks of the Keeper of the King’s Zoo


He is not like other men.

He prefers me unperfumed,

likes to watch me


remove hair flowers,

undo the rasana

around my waist.


In the morning I am porcupine,

at night, Dhole,

four-horned antelope.


He tells me secrets

of the Nilgai, its fondness

for almonds,


how the Chinkara leaps

the palace walls

and back again.


Shazea Quraishi

A Recipe for a Snow Bunting’s Nest


To have a chance of making this and source the key ingredients you need to be in the Arctic tundra or the Cairngorms.


1.     Make a cup from rhaconistium mosses

2.     Take a fist full of red deer hair and wind it around a hollow, in a scree

3.     Pluck, and arrange, five hundred plus ptarmigan breast feathers, of cock and hen

4.     Strip and fit a single golden eagle’s feather

5.     Add a little wild goat’s wool

6.     Make a lining of mountain hare’s softest fur

7.     Decorate with a dotterel’s iridescent back feathers

8.     Tie it altogether with wavy hair and bent grass

9.     Finish with scraps of blueberry, liverwort and lichen.

10.   Then, if you dare, steal the polka dot finery from a snowy owl’s nest

11.   A tuft or two of arctic fox fur

12.   A snippet of guard hair, from a polar bear.


Mike Pratt

Low-slung sun over Middlehaven


Heaven could look like this,

ecliptic and derelict with

a painted metallic halo slipped

below a natural sun-set a lot like

that day, I pickled it for prosperity,

when we reached a blind summit

of something-else and I could see

with the fresh eyes of an immigrant

in the aftermath of a famine centuries

ago, could stand on a foundation laid with

every intention of a saint by a plaque, here,

the site of an altar by the east window,

in a soundless cityscape with a ticker-

tape parade from a reposing ghost ship

in the dock, could see how geese fly from

Fall to Autumn in perfect synergy and I cried.

Did I tell you how much I love this? I love this.


Julie Hogg

Looking Glass Street


The rooms were lofty & across the street our songs drifted

as if by coincidence into the realm of Number 6.


We weren’t short of breath in 1916 safe in Zurich,

we were soldiers of the absurd ¬¬– Dadaists, refuseniks –


chanting timeless choruses of “etc ad infinitum”

slowly and solemnly in the cathedral of our cabaret.


Across the street at No 6 close by, the Bolsheviks

deepened their plans & Lenin at his desk was at work,


accompanied by our siren songs, the purposeless

fundamental world of laughter, beauty and atoms.


We burnt our boats in a bonfire of the vanities, no rules

allowed. Our ridiculous hats, our Quixotic gestures,


lived on the same street, on the Spiegelgasse.

We opened a gallery & Lenin moved under cover


in his closed train to St Petersburg, the revolution

bursting the banks of the Neva; he was never so free,


nothing was accomplished and nothing marred,

our songs were in his back pocket like bombs.


S.J. Litherland

Urdu Poem 2

Mr Duncan-Smith Dreaming in the Sun


A man is knocking down a high brick wall

only to rebuild it further from the swollen river,

each brick re-finding its original neighbour,

the wall somehow more massive than before.


Torrential rain from a bright sky,

though the ground is bone.

Days of rain upon the man and the wall in minutes

make him pace back and forth and change tack.


Now he is smashing the bricks, bagging the bits,

piling the bags in a line, then a stack, then, well, a wall.

The water laps against the bags, soaks them dull.

The earth is a footprint set hard and sharp.


There are children up on roofs, arms out,

shadowing helicopters and planes,

smudge-faced children down in the dirt

scratching for tools of make believe.


There are parents looking for their children,

good parents looking for naughty and nice alike.

The motives of others, says the voiceover,

the unfathomable motives of others.


Mark Robinson

Four Notes after Felicia Glowacka



They lean towards each other as if

life had bent them out of true.

Is it love? It is the very fog they breathe

and stumble through.



Weighed down by their own

lack of gravity. It’s late.

It’s there in the twisted bone.

Night’s unutterable weight.



There are people one bows to. To others

one bows lower still, averting eyes.

Few of us are born to be brothers.

One is of a moderate size.



Three drunks

emerge from a stray

thought into frozen air

then bawl and sway

and vanish into day.


George Szirtes




He was seated top table with Sir Alex Ferguson,

embodying the Führerprinzip.  Black tie,

paisley cummerbund and Atlas Shrugged armband.

James Dyson schmoozed him. ‘Dickie’ Branson

shook his hand.  Admirers stood in line:

Joan Collins, Prince William, Baldur von Schirach;

MBAs and barrow-boys led managers in applause.  

He accepted acclaim and consultancy fees.


There was a price: cooked books of pupil progress,

children immolated to the CBI,

the fifth-form machine-gunned in the fall of Berlin.  

Drilled, disciplined and punished, flogged like Boxer —

my horse, my horse, my Kingdom, my high horse:

quadruped, gramnivorous.


Steve Ely

here ...

from Leásungspell



The deorc flod glocgs, flupbs, scleps

gainst the slyppan timbers of the hyd.

Tar beo plopp here an’ tar as a fisc breaccs

the watter’s scinn. i wacce the hefig moon

sliden in’t lyft, two nihts til fylness, swillan

the cloodweorc wid sylfur incs, bryhter

efen tan tose nieded bie the scrifters

in wor mynster as thie graft on streccd vellum

te recraft the Godspells o’ the holy saints.


Sum incs we macian wor sen wid lichen, sawyrt, fisc,

an’ fram blostm an’ meos weaxan in’t gardens,

oders are brort fram the farrelands, sum fram hwar

God’s Bearn was born, sum fram heah beorgas in the East

hwar elyphonts trod; peacs so heah, thie say, yeh can

hleap fram crags te climb on’t moon as she gans bie.


Aefore lang the moon’s suncen twinn cyums oot,

swimman, aglimmer up te the wyllspring,

as radmice flit ’twixt treos o’er watter,

fedan on nihtbutterfleos, hwo, gelic me, are gegalen

bie the sweostor moons’ tagian afensong.


An hwit eye abuf the woruld an’ an underneodan.

De thie specan the derne tunges o’ leoht

o’ ealle thie haf seon on thor trec -

the manig dads o’ nieddearf, o’ loffe, o’ spyt

ofer ealle feowra quartus o’ Middengeard?


Bob Beagrie

First we have felt, leather, hemp clothes,

but Them come with jewels, gold, silk.

First we have plain cheese, plain meat, open fire, chatting all night long,

but Them come with their gourmet, wine, strange fruits, electric stove.

First we have much walking, riding, skiing, nights in woods,

but Them come with scooters, cars, aircraft, motels and camping wagons.

We spend our life outside fishing, hunting, working,

but Them stay most of their time inside sitting in front of electricity.

We take a woman for a live,

but Them take a woman for a week.

We have sauna and Indian hemp and mushrooms,

but Them have brothel and cocaine and whiskey.

We have our old myths and tales told by the Elders,

but Them come to tell a story of Sin and Cross.

We die under the open sky, in the forest, by the lake and well,

but Them die in a small white box worth 920 e.

We go to meet our Fathers,

but Them go up to Their Heaven.


JK Ihalainen