With You In Mind is the culmination of a week of poems from other poets curated to promote Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 and 2017. The project was undertaken in support of and with support from Mind and the Mental Health Foundation.

Statistics show that around 1 in every 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain. The poems here cover a range of experiences, conditions, treatments and mindfulness, the theme of MHAW 2015.

A complete guide to mental health problems, topical issues and treatment options may be found on the MHF’s Mental Health A/Z.

The poems are reproduced here alphabetically by poet’s surname. The aim of the project is to increase awareness, but please do read with care, as some of the poems may trigger a strong emotional response.

(Within a fictional framework, my own collection and poetry-play The Magnetic Diaries also considers some of the issues surrounding depression and treatment for it with repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.)


Stronger and Fatter

The cuckoo does not know itself to be a cuckoo
and is to be pitied.
It cracks its own egg
and pushes out its bloodied head,
opening and shutting its beak
just like the tiny others.
Sweetheart, I say,
Just move over, you’re stopping their breaths.

I cannot stand it
and so, in my own kind of pain,
push the big baby over the edge.
I see it fall on the concrete,
see in the blood spreading out,
that it is still alive.
But I have worms to catch
and other fish to fry.

Deborah Alma

Deborah Alma has an MA in Creative Writing from Keele University (2013). She taught the Writing Poetry module at Worcester University and leads writing groups for children and uses poetry to assist communication with people with dementia. She was recently Writer in Residence for the Arvon Foundation at The Hurst in Shropshire and was previously Poet in Residence at the NHS Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference in 2013. Deborah has a pamphlet forthcoming from The Emma Press in October, performs as The Emergency Poet along with her partner the poet James Sheard, and is currently editing a poetry anthology for Michael O’Mara publishers.


Underlying Conditions

Okay, I can try, but understand
to speak my mind will mean
to speak over my mind,
a once-monster they have tamed, who
cowers in a corner somewhere, saying
things no one will hear.
For instance, there was a river
that, by babbling, broke the forest’s silence.
The river was framed by grass roots, rocks, and dirt
which habitually fell in the water
making sounds that broke the forest’s silence further.
The banks, bodies of grass roots, rocks and dirt,
birthed trees, from which bullfinch and cicada songs
competed with the other sounds.
Together, they all eventually lead to a road
where cars bulked, gave muscle
to every single sound described so far
then overlaid their own groaning.
So look, I can say to them: be quiet, listen,
but any one of them, from inside their cars,
could be cursing any one of us
for imagining things:
the forest, the roots, the river, the very idea
we were mothers leaving no stone unturned
to find kids lost along the river
but the crisis teams, with their interrogation rooms,
have taken over, and to speak
our minds
may mean they’re lost forever.

Markie Burnhope

Markie Burnhope is a poet, editor and disability activist based in Bournemouth, UK. Their first full collection is Species (Nine Arches Press, 2014).


I am – the stardust sleepwalker
tip-toeing rainfalls of fireflies,
surfing into auroras dolphin dancers,
fading to ghostly geishas –
climbing again – into crestfalls of spiritfire
thought forms – sigils
grappling from grimoires
– now –
– a smouldering tulpa –
I – was – once –
almost – real.


Under what condition do you dream of the dead?
Do they waver under the surface of pitch and stone?
Are bodies severed, grotesque without a head?
Or decomposed, exposing sinew and bone?

Do they glide through marshmallows clouds
dressed in earthly clothes or shrouds?
Or walk suspended on a pedestal of air?
Are they visioned in daylight, or nightfall’s lair?

Do you wander as old friends down memory lane?
Does the dream essence echo, like a musical refrain?
Or slowly disintegrate in a haze of perplexity?
In your subconscious do you decipher the mystery?

Under what conditions do you dream of the dead?
Are questions aired, answered, or left unsaid?
When the cold winds of terror have twisted and flew
In the debris of their ashes do you feel blue?

Keep Our Home Fires Burning

I’ve seen it – in your eyes
It burns –
Sienna-gold as the Serengeti sunrise.
It’s in the bloodbeat of your ancestors
left in clawprint glyphs.
It carries on the scent of splicing rainfall.
On the soaring feathers of freedom,
in a warriors steel digits fraying air.
In the breath of buffalo bones long sleeping.
Long before shamans dwelt in spirit worlds,
Or the ghostly pounding of tribal spears,
amid the tumbleweed and dust.
In hooves fading into twilights wind chimes –
And sunsets of mulberry and mulled wine.
This is your treasure –
The kindling of home.

Elaine Christie

Elaine Catherine Christie is a poet & publisher from Birmingham. She published a limited addition anthology ‘Restless Bones’ to raise funds for Born Free Foundation in 2014. Her poetry has won prizes in Trust Talk, and appeared in First Time, Dial 174, Poetry Rivals 2011, Forward Poetry, United Press, Silhouette Press, Warwick Dodo, Pixie Chicks’ For the Love of Animals, WWF Earth Book, I am not a Silent Poet and Born Free Foundation Supporters poetry.


A Different Life

You wouldn’t get out of bed today. No reason.
The chart tells all.
They spy on you while you sleep, logging every movement;
there is no privacy.
Sometimes you speak, breaking into the oncoming
well-practised routine of sympathetic speech,
while revelling in imagined irritation written on faces.
Why should you care?
They are nothing to you. You are nothing to them.
So why speak?
They hear but they don’t listen.
There is no-one left to listen.
Fingers that once danced between ebony and ivory
now fidget and twitch to their own tune.
Blind eyes pierce the gloom looking for loved ones,
familiar places, well-thumbed books,
but only see shadows, so drift gently shut.
Suddenly the room is full.
Mother, brothers, wife and lover, son and daughter,
all gathered in the oneness that is family.
Laughter echoes around they walls
as the strains of an Irish jig fight for supremacy
over the rising tide of chatter.
No reason to get out of bed today.

Maggie Doyle

Maggie has been writing poetry for seventeen years and is the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus. After many years of false starts and several requests, she is putting together her first collection.


Searching For Blue

The curtains’ parting
windows my mind;
emotions bathed
in the grey light
of film noir sky.

My misted thoughts
linger in alleyways
while tears cling
to fence creosote.

Trees are hands, reaching;
blue hope fleets
between blanketed monotony,
smothering senses.

Fears cemented
in layers of bricked
meaning; locked doors.
Stepping beyond
offers slow passage
to enlightenment.

Dan Haynes

Dan Haynes is a freelance Landscape and Night Photographer and Poet from Cheshire in the North west of England. His work centres on the beauty of nature, and how it often reflects the inner self in its imagery and patterns. The nearby Peak District is a major source of inspiration and weekends are often spent hiking and taking photographs in the nearby hills of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. A diagnosed sufferer of depression, he often channels his emotions to creative effect to capture strong imagery through photos and poignant emotions in words!



We know this place:

          The remains
                             of nests
snap at our feet.


                    break on my skin.

My breath’s unanswered.




                    falls over

          our shaven heads

our unbroken necks.

Jenny Hope

Jenny Hope is a writer, poet, woman with a tree-thing. She lives in wildish- Worcestershire. She is currently working on her second poetry collection. Her websites are: www.jennyhope.co.uk and www.poetrymaker.co.uk.


The night is drumming
on my ears.
It is turning
over in me.
Somewhere in
the distance
gears grind.
Metal on metal;
a hollow whisper
bracing itself against
filaments of bone.
The night’s voice
is a machine
etching names
in stone.

Sammy Hunt

Sammy Hunt is a freelance writer, journalist and workshop leader. She graduated in 2014 with a First class degree in Drama, and will begin her PhD in Theatre and Holocaust representation in 2015. Published work includes articles for The Times, Guardian, BBC News and GMTV. Performances include Birmingham Artsfest, The Crescent Theatre, The Library of Birmingham,The Public Art Gallery, Worcester Art Festival and Word Up.


The Disappearing
(parts 4 and 8 )


She stepped out of herself
like a Matryoshka , one full moon,
looked along the row of herself,
at the hand-painted colours,
checked each pair of eyes
for what lived there.

A scarf hung about each pelvic girdle
to conceal the scar of each birth;
hearts were black hens
held in each pair of arms
and cabbages grew
from fallen seeds at their feet.

When earth spun away from the moon
she attempted to gather herself back in,
and when she could not
she drowned the sun like a sack of kittens
and threaded the rooster’s song
back into his throat.


And by teatime she couldn’t recognise
a single hair on her head.
Her heart was a metal bucket
and her eyes were the spaces
where fish bowls had sat.

She talked to the chickens
and the guinea fowl, and the pheasants
in the fields, as she fed them;
she had inherited their scratchy voices;
the urge to look over their shoulders.

Nothing they could say
would set her mind at rest.
None of them knew of a road outside,
they all said they were born here;
perhaps she was too.

Helen Ivory
This poem is taken from Waiting for Bluebeard

Helen Ivory is a poet and assemblage artist. Her fourth Bloodaxe Books collection is the semi-autobiographical Waiting for Bluebeard (May 2013). She has co-edited with George Szirtes In Their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry Salt 2012. She teaches for The Poetry School and mentors for the Poetry Society. She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is tutor and Course Director for the new UEA/Writers Centre Norwich creative writing programme. Her website is at: http://www.helenivory.co.uk/.


The Sadness

The sadness that sometimes closes in after giving birth
 is a collar of storm choking that summer’s afternoon.
  No reason, no answer – just there,
   kingly presence, potent in an asking way.
    Brimful of too-dark thoughts, body’s soupy overflow of nurture.
     The sadness that makes a new mother stare, November-ish.
      A film in which everything is falling. O what a falling off…
       Sadness that fattens on knowledge of all that ought
        to be enjoyed and celebrated, but can’t, can’t. Sadness
         that renders everything too much, too loud,
          withering. Blank as rockface,
           each day tunneling into the next. Looping questions.
            A smothering sadness. Bitter harvest,
             bounty of wormy fruit.
              The sadness that is sunlight visiting ice,
               too shy for blaze. The floes of her nose their hooded woes,
                drowning her for the thousandth time.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke
This poem is from BOOM! (Seren, 2014)

Death in November

We make each other beautiful. Once we have made one another beautiful
other people can love us in a way we desire to be loved. We capture
the beauty of one another’s desires in mirrors, and without language,
we know love.

I have been wondering what good is it to talk when all we have is longing.
I have been talking about wanting to be numb, and numb, I’ve been
playing songs about feelings, and feeling things about music that never spares
my feelings.

I sit outside in the rain with my phone in my hand, it’s late November already.
Each day I walk for hours, mapping my life with my feet and my mind;
I lean into the wind and pray for the neutrality of the hours at hand
to stun me.

I move by the abattoir in the evening when they’re loading the carcasses.
I imagine my dead body in various positions, unbeautiful but godly.
The way through is out, and the exits are becoming fewer, not many, as I die
long and slow through every hour.

What does it say about God that he won’t kill me? Now when I need release.
I want to throw the dog lead around the nearest tree. I want it to be over.
As beautiful as you have made me I have become unlovable by madness,
whose language scorns.

These last days, as I feel they must be, my mouth will not name its love.
My heart will stake out a black pit and wait for the devil; language burns
a hole in my life without love, where I go you will not follow, I’ve mapped the miles
already, over years, days, hours.

Love won’t leave me alone, to lick my wounds, or to find my resolve.
I am a creature unloved by language. I am a creature so loved my grave has already
been imagined, many times, its tributes all reading the same, my afterlife
scored, written and drawn.

Through my lifetime’s dreams you’ve come beating your hands
on the blank wall of my death; as though my outliving life
would attest your true love, you steadfast position. All you have now are dumb bruises—
and my erasable heart.

Melissa Lee-Houghton

Beautiful Girls by Melissa Lee-Houghton is available from Penned in the Margins. A Poetry Book Society Recommendation: “a testament to poetry’s force in overcoming”.



Stars exist in a constant battle between energy
and gravity, so do I.

Like an invisible gas, how I feel cannot be seen.
It is toxic, kills.

Light passes through me even in darkness,
neurogenesis has the beginning in it.

I know this will pass. I do not know the ending,
I cannot think far, not even to the next minute.

I sleep to save my mind. Switch myself off,
shut down. It is not restful, it is not avoidable.

Going under I leave. Flat-line existence.
Memories fall away as more of me becomes unstuck.

There is no scale of hope. No ladder to help
reach solid ground.

This is the deepest I have ever been
and I cannot bare to be awake.


When I first saw you
I thought we were the same.
After our second conversation
I stopped myself looking back.

I wanted to know you,
the itch of worry blocked me.
I clawed myself raw.

You came and found me,
danced me to safety.
I checked for a Silver Mark.

It was a long time before the night
I worked letters down your back,
fingers filled with other people’s stories.

Blemishes guild with age.
Scars and broken bones
become who you are.

This stain a memory, this knotted tissue
linger-filled pain, this cut
a wound that will never heal.

With arms about each other
we find the blank skin,
smooth out new parts
etch our virgin words in.

Nina Lewis
Nina Lewis is published in a range of anthologies and magazines including Under the Radar, Abridged, and HCE. Her poems have been used in an Art Installation and on Wenlock Poetry Trail. She performs at Poetry Festivals and in 2014 was commissioned to write and perform at Birmingham Literature Festival. Nina organises an annual writing retreat in October from https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/ Her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016. Nina had a break from writing for over a decade, if she hadn’t suffered depression she may never have found her way back to poetry.

Mad Shouty Bastard

Mad Shouty Bastard has been quiet for a few days. It is peaceful without his voice inside my head, as he comes out with all sorts of Mad Shouty Bastard rubbish.

Of course, he’s not a real Mad Shouty Bastard, any more than watching a sunset is real, or singing a song is real; he is a metaphorical Mad Shouty Bastard.

One can’t surgically remove metaphorical Mad Shouty Bastards and then kill them and have a Mad Shouty Bastard funeral where I give an insincere eulogy in a church about all of Mad Shouty Bastard’s many achievements and how we will all miss Mad Shouty Bastard, even though no-one knew of his existence until a few lines ago.

For some reason, Mad Shouty Bastards always live in heads; I suppose that’s why some people shoot themselves in the head (a good way to silence the Mad Shouty Bastard). They don’t live in feet, or else some people would go around shooting themselves in the foot (literally, not figuratively).

Fergus McGonigal

Fergus McGonigal is a full-time poet who runs the Worcester LitFest’s monthly spoken word night, ‘SpeakEasy’, and was appointed the Worcestershire Poet Laureate for 2014/2015. His first book, The Failed Idealist’s Guide to the Tatty Truth was published by Burning Eye in 2014. He is diagnosed with bi-polar, and, depending on his mood, he sometimes agrees with his psychiatrist’s assessment.

What’s Left

It’s strange
What’s left
When all the clothes have been given
To a friend of a friend of similar size.
When all the books never read
Go back to the charity shops they came from.
When the jewellery has been carefully chosen,
Handed over softly
To those who will wear and remember.
When the threadbare letters have been stored away for another time.

When we feel stronger.
More distant.

When the pictures have been shared out among relatives,
To fill walls and cover heart cracks.
All the photos of:
That time we went there,
That time she did this,
Carefully sectioned to go into albums,
So we don’t forget.

When we are ready,
When we’ve given it time.

All these things that surround a life,
And suddenly it’s all just empty space
That doesn’t know what to do with itself.
And everyone’s filling the horrible silences with:
“It’s only been six months,
Of course you’ll still wake up crying.”

It’s normal,

But talking will help,
When we can bear it.

When I can share without
An abyss opening in the back of my throat.

In the end,
Before the keys are given back to the landlord,
It’s the oddest thing to realise,
That all that’s left in this space that she filled for ten years
Are old batteries,
Half filled shampoo bottles,
Lists with only half the time fillers crossed out.

What do you do with old cassette tapes with no labels?
A Boots loyalty card?
Sex toys?

And with every object I clutch my fingers around as if it was sacred –
A hairbrush,
The cafetiere I won for her in a poetry competition,
A blanket that smells of memories –
I ask myself the same pointless question:
Where have you gone?

Then I fling the windows open in the frustration
Of the unfairness of it all,
And I look up,
Breathe in,

Your voice is now birds singing,
Your skin is every flower unfurling its rainbows,
Your laughter is the breeze.
When I’ve been punishing myself under the sun too long,
Your words are the roots of every tree,
Sprouting endless revelations.

Your heart,
Returned to stardust.

Lorna Meehan

Lorna is an actor, performance poet and playwright and writes and co-directs with RoguePlay. Over the past few years she has moved into long form narrative poetry merged with theatre. This poem came out of her first experience of grief and subsequent depression and she found the poetry workshop very therapeutic. You can listen to more of her work at http:www.soundcloud.com/lornameehan.
Old Skin

Because I pack everything, there’s no room
for it to hide its hurt in the pockets of my case.
There’s no place to scar its roots, no roots
to put down in this town, or the next.

This skin flinches at four am when I drop it
on the step, let the headlights rip along
the stitches it might have had if I knew how
to make it whole. This stretch of skin loses

itself to things it’s felt, traps them below
downy hairs, tangles dreams in the web
of veins its carried all its life, never let go.
It smells of muffins, cigarettes; the regret

of the bottle of wine the night before.
This skin can’t sing out of doors, can’t bear
another night wrapping these bones.
It’s paper thin; days roadmap its waxen wrists.

It wonders what to do now its reign’s over,
how to fend for itself without my body’s
ticking warmth. I announce the miracle
of absence to the tight morning air,

slip the car into reverse. I wait to see
if it will raise its hands to pray or wave.
It doesn’t. It flaps like a white rag, surrenders.

Abegail Morley

Abegail Morley has three collections, the first, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup was shortlisted for The Forward Prize Best First Collection. She blogs at The Poetry Shed https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com/ and is currently Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Garden.



We smashed our beer and cider
bottles out of pure spite
on the pebbles in the shallow
tide where the children paddle.

Our vicious shards were
embraced in the cyclone
vortex of sand and time
by the dark breakers.

They roved over the coast
and were returned


The children collected them
from the coastal foam
and placed them lovingly in
kilner jars
among the glimmer
of mother of pearl
cockle shells
mussel shells
winkle shells.

Alec Newman

Alec Newman runs the Knives Forks and Spoons Press and occasionally writes poetry. He was diagnosed with manic depression in 2003.


Once it was a hum, but it grew
to a melody, then a song:
was and whens printed on the air now
where an hour ago they were scrawled.

The room smiles to itself.
If Sam knows we look up, look over
each time he clicks his music up a notch
he shows no sign of it.

His stare is resolute,
the wall is his vanishing point,
and the rhythm doesn’t exactly
pulse through him. He’s still. Perfect.

It’s as though with each click
he’s sure he’s reached
that fabled volume so high, so loud
it’s silence, he disappears

only, five minutes on,
to learn he’s still with us.
He pushes his earphones deeper,
clicks her up a notch,

and it gets clearer.

David O’Hanlon

David O’Hanlon is a writer based in Northumberland. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including And Other Poems, Dream Catcher, Spontaneity, Ariadne’s Thread, Lunar Poetry, Prole, The Ofi Press, Nutshells & Nuggets and Ink Sweat & Tears, among others. He is currently working with an editor on his pamphlet art brut. His website is: http://davidohanlonpoet.wordpress.com.


The Saturday child arrived
signing kinship to the
noon allotted hour.

They propped up his Ma
his puncturing kiss numbed
from a gouging sedative.

The portioned clock wound down
as a barricaded boy emerged
paying her back with Narnia

In the wardrobes shadow she smiled
her sunspot skin luminous
like rips of Turkish delight.

At the stone flesh table he wept
patient echoes of stalactites
formed from the dark place.

In snow white nylon
her battle ended at dawn
the flute of her lungs played out

by a half human faun
dropping its beautiful gifts
of a full life lived.

Antony Owen
First published by The Meadowland Review

Antony Owen is from Coventry with three collections of poetry since 2009 by Pighog Press and Heaventree.



Out of the Wind

At every step you push into the gale.
Sheep gather their lambs and huddle
into field corners. The sea growls
at its rocks. And then among the dunes

it’s all switched off – a startling respite.
You fall out of the wind
into a well of quiet,
into the warmth of windlessness,

audible skylarks, wave-
murmur: the storm’s
absence a strange anaesthetic
to make you awake.

Andrew Rudd
From the chapbook, Nowhere Else but Here

Andrew Rudd teaches poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was Cheshire Poet Laureate in 2006. This poem, set on the island of Lindisfarne, is for him about the need for mindful spaces of awareness and refreshment.



Elephantine yet
Too small for any mortal. Metal?
Seemingly impassible;
Keyless keyhole, hip- height,
Half-hidden away
Flush against the surface
Safe, memory box or keepsake?
Opening now by some invisible hand.
At first nothingness, then-
Eyes adjusting to the blackness
A tunnel reveals itself and
At the end
A warm, white glow
More than light or love
A bluish hue around its periphery
Like tiny stars
Or vision on the edge of tears.
Then in the distance, the silhouette
Of two figures approaching
And although I could not make them out
Nor hear above the cacophony of silence,
I knew.


It must be 9 o’clock.
She sings the theme tune.
Sits still glowing, slightly damp
Framed by apricot antimacassar
Applying rollers to freshly-washed hair
That perfumes the plastic tail comb infallibly
Condenses at the cold, clouded window.
Nehru unimaginable in a satin, quilted dressing gown
Cornflower waterfall which meets the floor
Where my cheek lies on prickly, patchwork tufts
Looking beyond the silky theatre curtains of the sofa fringe
A hint of chocolate lingers in my mouth
Heart-breaking even then
Like lace, the pliable moulded mirror-edge
I held to walk on ceilings,
Beginning to tear itself away.

Jenni Schütt

Working as a fine artist, Jenni is interested in the continuing bonds we have with places, including those on the periphery of our consciousness. She mainly writes detailed accounts of her extremely vivid dreams.



Screaming woman at Venice beach, yesterday
she was yelling at the big cars. She had yelled
for so long there were no more words, only
the broken-throated caw cry of crow.

She traverses Washington Boulevard marking
out her territory from Via Marina
to the Pacific itself. Standing on
the cement pier among the fishing poles,
making tai chi movements with her arms.

Her skin is healthy, rude and reddened by
daily sun, freshened by the ocean breeze.
Her nails are clean; her corduroy coat is tidy.

The punters flinch when she sits down outside
a cafe. My name is Mary. Just let me explain.

She headed west twenty years ago,
got to the edge, then stopped.

Today she is smoking a cigar in a holder.
It is a fine cigar. Smoke clouds around,
it is deep as she rolls it on her palate,
as she lets it rise without blowing it away.

John Siddique
Taken from Full Blood (Salt 2011)
where it appears in an altered form

John Siddique is the author of a number of books the most recent of which is Full Blood. His work has appeared in GRANTA, The Guardian, and on BBC Radio 4, and many literary journals around the world. He has just completed a new poetry book. John spends a lot of time walking in the woods and is very wrapped up in new adventures in writing, and in teaching meditation and encouraging authentic living.

He said: “I wanted to include Mary’s poem because when we reject others from our own fears, we miss out on the beauty and the life that person is bringing to our world. Because society has trained us to judge, blame and live reactively, we lose all that life really has to offer. My encounters with Mary and a number of other people who live along Venice Beach in Los Angeles, taught me a great deal about my own reactivity, and about the true human value of being still and bearing witness.”



for as long as I remember I’ve never wanted
what I’ve had    the half-read books cluttered

in piles     the guitar’s strings ruined to dust
I’ve always been dirty     tobacco grubbed

under nails       the shock of snowflakes shook
from scalp to shoulders    I’d never seen

someone like me stride   from pay-cheques
to a wedding     I slept in abandoned rooms

at school     nothing in this world was worth
waking for    so I tried to jar open others

the tarot with their sharp answers
& shots in the dark      the offcut

in woodwork I saved from a stiff life
as a spice rack     I swept the alphabet

in black paint        & no-one answered
I was alone      I’d have taken a broken ghost

or a death-scream reeled over & over
again     in fits of tears of blood     I wanted

something to need to love me
to love to need me    as I am

Daniel Sluman

Daniel Sluman is a 28 year old poet based in Gloucestershire. His poems have appeared widely in journals such as B O D Y, Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review, and Under the Radar. He received an MA in Creative & Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire in 2012 and his debut full-length collection, ‘Absence has a weight of its own’, was published to critical acclaim in 2012. His second collection ‘the terrible’ will be published Autumn/Winter 2015, also with Nine Arches Press. He tweets @danielsluman.


Catherine, twenty-third child of a cloth dyer
and a poet’s daughter – your twin sister

languishing on the wet nurse’s nipple,
half your siblings already dead. At five,

your holy visions threw you to your knees
in pious ecstasy. Febrile convulsions –

juddering teeth, puppet limbs – left me
with a bleeding tongue, in wet knickers.

I’m our family’s only daughter, truculent,
kicked out of Baptist Sunday School

at eleven for arguing with Mrs Wilson
about the Virgin Birth. You survived the

Black Death, searing heat, open sewers.
I outlived the threat of Cold War, Cuban

Missile crisis; small-town boredom.

* * *

Our name means ‘pure.’ Hunger’s pure,
denial at its purest. There’s me –

grapefruit segments, cottage cheese;
there’s you, claiming you never felt

hunger, or if you did, nibbling a leper’s
pus-filled scabs. Did you used to curl up

with blinding headaches, Catherine,
did your skin ever itch and flake,

did your guts growl when you lay,
praying for perfection? Did you once faint,

smash your eyebrow on a tiled floor?
You starved for God, your jutting ribcage

holy. I did it to disappear, to float above
my life. You talked with Jesus in your head.

Was he nice? I hope so. In my head,
a skinny dancer in pink Lycra whispered

Pig whenever I opened the fridge.

* * *

Neither of us fazed by blood. Moments
before a young man was beheaded,

you knelt, made the sign of the cross,
whispered of the blood of the lamb

as his lips murmured Jesus and Catherine
and he was still murmuring when

his head slipped into your hands,
and you caught and cradled it,

his blood scenting your cloak and skin.
You couldn‘t bear to scrub it off.

And once, in a pub, a young man
with a smashed-up face allowed me

to bathe his wounds with soaking
paper towels from the Ladies’, as

he bled all over my hands, my new
purple dress. I’m sorry, he said,

through swollen lips, what’s your name,
by the way?
And when I told him,

he nodded. A Saint’s name. Saint’s name.

Catherine Smith
Taken from Otherwhere (Smith/Doorstep)

Catherine Smith writes poetry, fiction and drama. Her first short poetry collection, The New Bride (Smith/Doorstop) was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, 2001. Her first full-length collection, The Butcher’s Hands, (Smith/Doorstop) was a PBS Recommendation and was short-listed for the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Prize, 2004. Lip, (Smith/Doorstop) was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2008. Her latest poetry collection is Otherwhere (Smith/Doorstop). Her website is at: www.catherinesmithwriter.co.uk.


Not Letting Go

You have your back pressed
against a doorway full
of those twisted creatures,
I know the ones –
all teeth and selfish cruelty.

Sometimes they leave you,
sometimes they bite your skin.

And that god awful mist,
the stuff that is not a bit blue
but indigo, chill mud dredged
from the lonely depths
of your ocean. I know it too.

My back is also
turned against a doorway:

it is rough timber
hewn from the forest
where the roots of trees weep,
or perhaps it is gingerbread;
I do not turn to find out.

Instead we clasp hands,
the way people do who fall

from planes, facing each other,
even as the doorways call,
beckon us to turn and enter:
come they cajole us, come back.
Relax – our grip is firm.

Ruth Stacey

Ruth Stacey studied English & Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and recently completed a distinction level MA in Literature: Politics and Identity at Worcester University. Her pamphlet Fox Boy was published by Dancing Girl Press, July 2014. Her full length collection, all the long gone queens, will be published by Eyewear Summer 2015.


Hide and Seek

Finding a door or a window into a poem, a constant search, once found, the relief, uncensored, moves to comfort, safety, solace, joy. Once through one door the search is not over, looking through a window is never enough. Smash the glass, disregard the shattered shards, breathe in the freedom of expression, engage in risk taking, disclose too much yet not enough and what does it matter anyway?
Once the door is opened, once the window has been looked through there is no going back. Just travelling on in the endless search for words, gathering, collecting, savouring, or tossing aside like yesterday’s breakfast that burnt itself to a cinder because you were too busy seeking ways into other worlds to bloody concentrate on on something so mundane as feeding yourself.
And what does it matter anyway?
Words are the real nutrition that you seek, words to fill you up, to feed your mind, inject vitamins into your spirit, calories into your starving soul which seeks only the solace it strictly forbids itself for oh so much of the time.
And what does it matter anyway?
And the locked doors, the curtained windows, denying entry, how long to bang with clenched fists demanding to be let in, how long to hold space for the gnawing fear that warns in strident tones that you will be sorry if you open the curtains, for what terrors might you see beyond? It could be anything. Or worse. It could be nothing. And then where will you be? Can you guarantee that you would find the words for nothing? What if nothing means there is nothing left to say, no words left to seek, swallowed up in the nothingness of nothing.
And what does it matter anyway?
Finding a door or a window into a poem, when the hunt is on all else is forgotten, knock on this door, move along, ring the bell, move along, step inside, move along, peer through panes hoping that if pain is what you see looking back at you, you will find the words you need to offer comfort, declare understanding, make it worth the view and the memories which will no doubt linger long after that pain, staring back at you through the window you so stubbornly insisted on opening, has long since subsided and faded into obscurity.
The breakfast is burning again.
But what does it matter anyway?

Louise Stokes

Louise Stokes, Philosophy/Politics Joint Honours B.A, ex-psychiatric nurse,(RMN, Diploma in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing) counsellor, (Cert Individual and Family Counselling), MA in Research in Social Health Care, professional actor, ( training: Birmingham Theatre School and HND Community Theatre and Performing Arts) writer, poet, performance poet, stand up comedian, published author and member of Writing West Midlands Room 204 Writers’ Development Cohort.


Checking Out

It was at the checkout in Waitrose that I saw him again,
the shrink I used to love in his preppy clothes,

older, white-haired, but still with the smile of a boy,
open and beautiful, yet again diagnosing,

saying I looked well, as did he, this consultant
I once wished I could marry, except now I’m engaged,

he seemed smaller than I remembered, shrunk
as if in the wash, like a favourite jumper, soft, frayed

memento of dark years, their wear and tear, and tears,
his decisions for treatment that took its toll,

hospitalisations and drugs that were unnecessary,
harmful and caused me to lose my way, but here today

he was standing right there beside the tills and flowers,
this man I once wanted so badly, suddenly ordinary,

just a man with a take-away lunch, sandwiched
in the middle of my day, as I left self-service,

walked home in the rain, hugged the one I love now,
who returns my love, and set about cooking us lunch.

Sarah Wardle

Sarah Wardle has four books from Bloodaxe and appears in the anthology, The Best British Poetry 2014, Salt Publishing, ed. Mark Ford. She is a lecturer at Morley College and Middlesex University and lives with her other half, Aidan Williams, in Westminster.

To Spring

for John Bryant
           Some days I stare at the distance
                    and others it comes to me,
                              dragging me into its pull,

                              splicing the future,
                    answerable to no one,
           dogged cur,

           surefooted reptile of thought.
                    Attempting resistance is futile.
                              Ditto, anger. Best to ride out its

                              spiral in silence, never
                    anticipation. Again I am snared,
           down here on my island of one.

Anthony Wilson

Anthony Wilson is a poet, writing tutor, blogger and Senior Lecturer at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. His books of poetry are Riddance (Worple Press, 2012), Full Stretch: Poems 1996-2006 (Worple Press, 2006), Nowhere Better Than This (Worple Press, 2002) and How Far From Here is Home? (Stride, 1996). His prose memoir of cancer, Love for Now (Impress Books), was published in 2012. He is the editor of Lifesaving Poems. This is published by Bloodaxe in June 2015 and based on his blog of the same name at www.anthonywilsonpoetry.com.

Nothing is lost

It’s water under the bridge,
they said, as if the past
were a black hole,
as if water flowed backwards.
Don’t they know
about the constant trickle,
the slow, silent seeping,
the underground streams
that well up, resurface
in unexpected places,
the never-ending cycle
the mists and drizzle and sudden storms?

Ros Woolner

Ros lives in Wolverhampton with her family and a cat that likes to sit on paper. Her sonnet Sons and Roses came joint third in the 2016 Cannon Poets Sonnet or Not competition.