Monthly Archives: January 2011

Fiona Donaghey’s ‘The performance’

Fiona Donaghey is a student at Cith College, Norwich, studying for a BA in English with Cultural Studies. She is a member of a poetry group hosted by Helen Ivory.
The performance
I walk in toe shoes
tapping gently on stage floors
pink ribbons like hands around my ankles
it is hard to breathe
tip-tapping and hollow
like a tin girl
the ballet begins
I am a sylphide
pale, beautiful, heartless
I turn myself, I turn
and know I am in love
with the prince, a stranger backstage
Read Fiona’s poems ‘China Rabbits’ and ‘Moth Balls and Silverfish’ here.
Read Fiona’s poems ‘Stolen Things’ and ‘The Red Suitcase’ at
Ink Sweat & Tears.
Read Fiona’s poem ‘The Painter’ at Ink Sweat & Tears.

Marion Tracy: Six Poems

Marion Tracy is currently finishing up a temporary sea change in New South Wales. She has an MA in English Literature from London University and worked as a lecturer in further education in Hertfordshire. She has two grown up children and enjoys online workshops and the South Bank Poetry Library. In Australia, she has been published in leading journals Heat and Blue Dog. In the United Kingdom, she has work in Tears in the Fence, Scintilla, Obsessed with Pipework and forthcoming in the Rialto. She was commended in the 2010 Mslexia Poetry Competition and has a pamphlet forthcoming with Happenstance in 2012.

View her profile at poetry p f.
2 am
in the kitchen
without the light on.
I listen
to shouts in the park.
There’s thunder crashing about
and giggling in the trees
glass breaking
no moon.
One voice dancing
in the circle of headlights on full beam
is louder than the rest
her cries get right inside
my head.
I need to make her be quiet
so I run out over the damp grass
to find her.
She drops her cigarette,
pushes her skirt back down
and I see suddenly that lightning
is quite beautiful
as she takes my hand and says,
like someone who’s never afraid of the dark
and has known my name for always,
Hush now, hush your mouth now baby, hush.
Previously published in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 4.
Lotus flower
Beauty beware, floating
tendrils will reach out to touch you.
Beastly stalks are pushed by underwater
hands from side to side.
Flat leaves, fanned out over red
soil, are waiting to split
open under the lotus flower
which holds itself up high
like a maid with lifted skirt
above the drop and stir of
windy wet and blood.
Flirting with cancer
In reception, I turn pages of celebrity break up,
relationships seem tricky.
I smile bright as ultrasound.
His eyes probe my body, assess for weakness.
Does it hurt him more than it hurts me.
In the changing room mirror, I notice a gap between
what I am doing, taking my clothes off
putting his on, open at the back
and what I want.
Something inside is expanding will swallow
up this room with its own room.
He holds my hand on the bed slips in
a needle. I collapse into a calm place
cutting edge of ecstasy.
Then open my eyes. He pats my other hand
with an all clear smile.
I hope he won’t touch me again.
I’m so over him.
Previously published in Obsessed with Pipework, Issue 46.
The kitchen door ajar
the window a spoon,
the table a book,
on her own in the room
of the night,
she piles up the dishes
one by one.
She doesn’t always do
as he would want nowadays.
The children grown, she patches
up her private parts
alone. Yawning, she sits
propped up bright,
like a rag doll lit by the moon.
Previously published in Hecate, Volume 34.
Memories of rain
There was more than enough of it once.
Skin covered like flood
air without boundary
slow overlay of drops not tears.
Only traces remain,
silver and black puddles in the underground car park
damp patches on the hall floor where
plastic bags were dumped
smears of wet on a sleeve.
The thunder makes no rain now –
bright flashes over the meadows.
We lie together, watching ghosts
measure hands of water.
Previously published in Raindog, Issue 15.
Is the shock of discovery,
the urge to touch and not to touch
to look inside.
It has no weight in the hand.
In a cleft between two limbs,
it’s light as an opening to another world.
A room deep inside
(metaphor is a kind of shyness)
impossible to reach,
it’s like a hand itself
private and empty.
Show me your hands.
Previously published in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 4.

Jane Holland on titles

“Amongst other things, the title of a poem is a handle; a moniker; an entrance; an epiphany; an overview; a hinge; a first glimpse of the narrator; an illustration; a cover blurb; a foreword; a container; a puzzle; a mnemonic; a dreamscape; a proto-metaphor; a clue; a red herring; an impression; a surname; a signpost; a subtext; a précis; a brochure; a ritual; a contract; an escape clause; a souvenir; a programme; a translation; a polyglot; a market stall; an all-you-can-eat buffet; a description; a label; a magician’s hat; the secret name of the muse; an asylum; a safe house; a double entendre; an invocation; a spell; a charm; a warning; a skeleton key; a portmanteau; a joke; a mystery; a gesture; a flashlight; a tablecloth; a plot; a deception; a cast list; a question; an answer; a command; a suggestion; a conundrum; a kiss; a sword; a formula; a surprise.”
– Jane Holland
Read Jane’s full article ‘What’s in a Title?’ on her blog, Raw Light.

Cheryl Newton’s Spoonbill

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes”
– e e cummings, ‘i thank You God for most this amazing’

Wendy Webb’s ‘Nursing Creature of the Deep’

Wendy Webb is widely published in the United Kingdom and has won several competitions. She is a prolific writer, using both traditional and modern forms. Editor of Tips for Writers (bi-monthly) and eTIPS (a montly ezine), she also publishes anthologies for Norfolk Poets & Writers. She has devised a number of new poetry forms including the Davidian, Magi and Palindromedary Sonnets. She currently has five blogs and her published collections include a series of Mermaid Tales.
Nursing Creature of the Deep
My infant son was dead before he breathed,
a fish forever in a sea of sand.
As lifeless as the ocean his stars seethed,
so beach him in a boat without a land.
A fish forever in a sea of sand,
he trod no shifting dunes, if dunes mean days.
So beach him in a boat without a land;
his wreck no more since parent duty pays.
He trod no shifting dunes, if dunes mean days,
his hour-glass breathes in heaven, ours on earth;
his wreck no more since parent duty pays
into a milky paradise of birth.
His hour-glass breathes in heaven, ours on earth;
as lifeless as the ocean his stars seethed
into a milky paradise of birth.
My infant son was dead before he breathed.
First prize, Pantoum Competition, Writing Magazine
To order a copy of Nursing Creature of the Deep
email Wendy at
Visit Tips for Writers.
Vist Poetry Forms New for Old.

The Many Moods of a Diva

What do you get when two Divas share the stage?
You get transported on wings of song by a Singing Diva (Amanda Foster) and brought back down to earth with the linguistic musings of a Poetic Diva (Kerry Hammerton).
For the first time, Amanda and Kerry share the stage to present an evening of women, song, poetry and wine.
Musically the programme includes moody Divas from opera, musical theatre as well as the more contemporary Diva. You will recognise some of your favourites by Verdi, Grieg, Britten and Gershwin.
Poetically the programme explores the poetry of Kerry Hammerton from the longing for love, despair, lust, a search for identity and clear instructions on how to mourn (and love) a Diva.
WHEN:  Saturday, 19 February 2011
TIME:  20h00
WHERE:  NG Kerk, Main Road, Three Anchor Bay
TICKETS:  R50 per person
              (includes glass of wine after the concert)
For tickets
Call Kerry (082 814 8503) or
Amanda (082 420 2757)
For more information please follow this link:
The Many Moods of a Diva

The Suitable Girl is now available

My collection, The Suitable Girl, is now available to purchase at the Pindrop Press website (see the bottom of the author page for the Paypal link).
A copy will cost you £7.99 plus £1.00 postage in the United Kingdom or £7.99 plus £2.00 postage if you live overseas.
Alternatively, if you are resident in the United Kingdom, you can send a cheque for £8.99 payable, in sterling, to Pindrop Press, Mallards, Steers Place, Hadlow, Tonbridge, TN11 0HA.
“Michelle McGrane’s lovely book, The Suitable Girl, shows both a sophisticated range of reference from European history and classical mythology, together with a powerful and moving emotional address. There is great technical range here as well, which includes prose poems alongside sinewy lyrics; elegy jostles with imaginative sci-fi, humour with horror in language which is often as gorgeous as it is precise. This is a collection to be celebrated by knowledgeable readers of contemporary poetry, who will keenly anticipate her next.”
– Ian Duhig
“In this, her third collection, Michelle McGrane uncovers that which is transitory and ephemeral and lays it before us in a poetry that is as assured as it is tentative, confident as it is exploratory. Images flash brightly, voices overlap and the world as we experience it is transformed by language into ‘something rich and strange’. Her ear is well-attuned to the natural rhythms of the speaking voice; her tone invariably delicate and highly charged. Here is a poet who is sensitive to the thin membrane that separates us from each other and from the past. These remarkable poems act as a touchstone, a way of reassessing and remaking our perceptions of the world. Whether concentrating her talents into short, beautifully-wrought lyrics or allowing them to expand into sequences and longer poems, McGrane exhibits the same sensitivity to the possibilities of poetry. My contention for a long time is that poetry should be doing more – as it has done in the past and is still capable of doing. This fine collection – by turns meditative, subtly erotic, ‘a conspiracy of gossip and innuendoes’ – is ample proof of its author’s trust in the power of suggestion and evidence that poetry can indeed do more.”
– Ian Parks
The Art of Awakening
Pale-faced and resolute,
the four women wait
to step out of their ink drawing
and walk into the world.
Any second, you will see
a blue vein pulse, an eyelid flutter,
the stretching of a stiff neck.
the quickening breath,
the rapid heartbeat
as blood blossoms through the body.
How one woman
might turn to another
and with untried muscles, smile
before straightening her shoulders
and moving forward, slowly,
to enter the strange, mercurial light.
Ipatiev House, July 1918
Some days, we’re allowed a quiet hour
in the garden. The girls and I sit on the grass,
pearls and diamonds stitched into our corsets.
Alyoshenka dozes, confined to his wheelchair
since the sledding accident on the stairs at Tobolsk.
Yevgeny says he will never walk again.
Beneath palsied poplars, birches and limes,
Nicholas paces the pine palisade, split planks
imprisoning the Voznessenski Street property.
My husband has aged, trim beard streaked grey.
He never wanted to be Tsar.
I search the sky for sun-grazing comets,
the pattern and movement of cumulus clouds,
some divine sign from Our Friend, Rasputin.
A murder of crows recedes on dark wings,
cleaving light, fleeing our fated daguerreotype,
a strangled screech taking seed in my throat.
Note: In April 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, their five children and four retainers were confined to Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. On 17 July 1918, the Romanov family and their servants were murdered by Bolsheviks in the house’s basement and their corpses buried in an unmarked grave outside the Siberian town.

On a million nights like this

Ian Parks
The plot is complicated
but all its tangled threads
have found their resolution here.
The end is all we need to know.
It’s midnight on the waterfront
and all the ships have loaded up
their cargoes and have gone.
The hotel lights are lit:
a hundred rooms with a hundred beds
identical with blinds.
An interface of fire-escapes
supports it from outside.
A bright façade distracts us
from the narrow alleyways
where trash cans spill their overflow
and rats search out a meal.
Somewhere a storm is gathering.
Out there in Hudson Bay
it swirls unseen, unnoticed.
The city streets absorb it
for a moment then let loose
a sudden lethal downpour
that shimmers in the heat
and bounces off the sidewalk
where she steps purposeful, intent.
All we know about her are her heels,
her black silk stockings with the seams.
The desk clerk reads philosophy
and doesn’t notice her,
is distant and obsessed
by the problem of evil
and the fact of other minds.
She comes in through revolving doors,
making her usual entrance as she smiles,
unpins her dripping hair and shakes it free.
And we’re left wondering how it feels
to be someone like her,
someone who melts in from the night
without a future or a past,
without a clear identity
but sure about her purpose and her poise.
Men in the vaulted lobby watch her move,
put down their unread papers,
place drinks back on the bar.
Just then a yellow taxi picks him up
outside Grand Central Station where he waits.
He lifts a paper from the stack,
is down at heel and needs a shave.
He has the worn, familiar look
of someone we’ve all seen before.
The final train is juddering
as it swerves off to Harlem
hot with jazz. She taps her watch
and lights a cigarette.
The pianist is playing just for her –
a melody that lingers and goes deep,
much deeper than before.
She doesn’t know it but it will become
a universal theme, a tune
replayed by lovers
on a million nights like this,
requested by lone barflies
as they have one for the road
or whistled on the way back home
by men to their new girl.
But now he’s skirting Central Park.
The driver is loquacious and he knows
the places to be seen in
and the places to avoid;
the dark protruding belly
of the city’s underside
where, he says, it’s safer not to go.
He pauses on the steps.
Will she remember? How could she forget?
They had a past together after all,
embraces in the damp exotic south
where passports count for nothing
and there are no questions asked.
He has no way of knowing
but the first words that he speaks
will take on an existence of their own,
repeated out of context
on a million nights like this
when some lost lover stumbles, lost for words.
Impressive, but she doesn’t notice it,
distracted by dark corners,
shifting eyes. Can anyone be trusted
in this sharp ambiguous world
where threat is ever-present
and its secrets are all hid?
And then there are the details:
raised eyebrows, potted palms,
the glitter of a wedding ring –
suggested, unobtrusive
as she takes the battered envelope
and slips it in her bag.
We know that something more
than looks have been exchanged
as the bell-boy taps his shoulder,
says he’s wanted on the phone.
What happens next?
We’re left to guess. A life
impelled by answers
and the questions they impose:
false leads, lost threads, dead ends,
a trail of clues that have gone cold,
the gaps they leave for us to fill
with their intensity.
Things keep disappearing
and then turning up elsewhere.
The lights are neon blue.
We’re lost in it, its variousness
and the thousand things now happening
which the camera doesn’t see.
from The Landing Stage (Lapwing Publications, 2010)

Finuala Dowling’s ‘Doo-wop girls of the universe’

Doo-wop girls of the universe
Finuala Dowling
I know something you don’t know
about the women you know –
those makers of decisions,
physicians, rhetoricians,
amiable stage technicians,
indignant politicians,
formidable statisticians,
quiet dieticians
and the non-icians too,
the lovely -ists:
the linguists,
Almost every woman I’ve ever known –
whether she be -ician or she be -ist –
has told me once or shown
she’d really come into her own as
a doo-wop girl.
So put her in the footlights,
put her at the backing mikes,
right up there on the dais,
maybe slightly out of focus
while some man sings his opus,
the undisputed locus
of attention.
Then while the main man
belts out the main track
she’ll be in the back
going like so –
shoulders, head and toes –
hips, chest, east, west.
Best way to describe her pose
is “biding”,
she’s biding time on the sidelines
waiting for the best lines –
the reprise –
the one we’re born cooing:
ooby shooby doo
right on cue.
Look, I’m known to generalise
but I’d like to emphasise
that every woman has inside
a doo-wop girl.
Give her the mike, Mike
or I’ll call my sisters,
’cause I got sisters,
and I’ll say: “Sisters,
you hang up those rubber gloves
you freeze that chicken
you unplug that iron
you come with me
we be free
we be threeness
we be supremes
we be the unforced
force of fourness
not sad, not terse:
doo-wop girls of the universe.”
from Doo-wop girls of the universe (Penguin, 2006)

Colleen Higgs’s Lava Lamp Poems

Colleen Higgs

Colleen Higgs launched Modjaji Books, the first publishing house for southern African women writers, in 2007. Her first collection of poetry, Halfborn Woman, was published in 2004. She lives in Cape Town with her partner and her daughter.

“The poems in Lava Lamp are compelling: at once conversational and uncanny. Colleen Higgs tells the truth but tells it slant, insisting on the singularity of everything that is familiar – domesticity, marriage, motherhood, family. The sequence of poems set in Johannesburg is captivating.”
– Finuala Dowling
“Alternating between the most economical of free verse and the most elastic of prose poetry, Higgs shows a dazzling facility with both mediums. Her poems reach into the past, isolating long-gone moments and imbue them with talismanic significance. Humour runs through the collection like a glowing thread – from the gentle and affectionate ‘an ode to Perry’ to the utterly female satire ‘on wanting a washing machine’ and ‘where these things lead’, to the dark undertones of ‘blaming Lulu’ and the bitter pill of ‘excuses’.”
– Fiona Snyckers
Praise for Halfborn Woman:
“The poems mine the most personal territory, and there is considerable tenderness and vulnerability. In poem after poem there is a steely clarity, naming pain and fragile love without flinching, allowing the dark dimensions of people’s feelings to reveal themselves even while the hope and realisation of love is allowed to blossom. The consciousness of a mature artist is at work in all these poems.”
– Karen Press
“Higgs’ simplicity of language reads like pencil sketches – a few strokes ceate a locally recognisable living form”

– Silke Heiss
the comfort of parquet
I don’t miss those years of pert
jacket swinging hopefully down two flights of stairs
into the car headlights, streetlights, warm bars, sexy strangers
nor the flirting and longing and prowling ahead
I don’t miss the phonecalls, and the waiting and
arranging, and rearranging and driving, and analyzing
sifting, drifting, endlessness
I don’t miss waking up in men’s beds
men I hardly knew. Perhaps I miss
the way you could lean over and kiss someone
or touch him lightly on the thigh
Except, mostly I couldn’t
do it like that, wasn’t so cool, so nonchalant
Instead my mind raced, What will it
mean? Will he like it?
I couldn’t just be a young woman sipping
whisky in the gloominess of a jazz club
leaning over to the man she happens to be sitting next to
and kissing him because she wants to
I miss the Market Theatre, Jamesons, Kippies, Rumours, Scandalos
the Black Sun, film festivals, installations, walks in wet November
streets late at night. But not the too finely tuned
anxiety of all that was going on around
and within me – crushing, brutal, oppressive –
and didn’t seem about to end any time soon
All was taut, tense
Not sinuous, relaxed, sensual
except when waking alone and stumbling
from bed to bathroom in the sleepy coziness
of semi-wakened, semi-dreamwalking clarity
feet heavy on the parquet.
my Yeoville
Where were you when you could play
freedom fighter, a dangerous game,
a particular way
of being worried about spies?
And who was really ANC and who wasn’t.
And we danced. The Lurchers. The Yeoville Rapist.
Weird and wild and strange. Sex, drugs.
Because I lived there it was wonderful,
and the library, Tandoor, the Harbour, Midnight Express
Elaines, Rumours, Mamas.
The park at night, the path, the plane trees
the police station. Yeoville Checkers.
Bigger and wider and smaller my world was then
realised how much and how many
were mostly Zulu speakers
and so many who didn’t speak any English. Only Serbian.
Any night of the week on Rockey Street
there wasn’t one uniform
if you liked, you could fit in.
You could go and experience something –
come in from the cold
from Alberton, Kempton Park.
By the mid 90s the banks started redlining
kickstarting slumlording.
You could hear buses changing gear
from the bedroom at Homelands.
One day the swimming pool opened to all.
from a balcony
for G.
On New Year’s Eve, a couple of years before the millennium
we stood on the balcony of your house in Troyeville
high in the dark sky, lights below
and distant fireworks, bangs like gunshots,
bursts of colour – shouting, hooting,
the air vibrating
We stood there, I’d made a decision
only later I’d feel the pain of.
That night on your balcony I was happy
the air was warm. I’d been to your hairdresser in Illovo
and paid more than I believed possible for a haircut
I felt sexy and courageous in my short hair
and my new life ahead. All of this was visible to me
as I stood there, free and full of possibility,
inviting the new to flow into the empty space I was clearing
I didn’t see the pools of tears, the anguish
at leaving the stone house, the white stinkwood trees
which had grown tall and shady in the five years I knew them.
I didn’t see the progressive rage
I would feel about a vacuum cleaner
I didn’t see how I would go beyond all of that
to where I truly wouldn’t care, wouldn’t mind
about the vacuum cleaner,
or the books,
or the trees
It’s not quite true that now I don’t care, don’t mind
in fact I am pleased that those things exist, that they are there,
and that they aren’t mine.
From a balcony you can see far into the future
much is visible from a balcony
and there’s so much that you can’t ever see
from Lava Lamp Poems (Hands-On Books, 2011).
Lava Lamp Poems will be available in better bookstores from the end of January 2011. You can order a copy from or through African Books Collective.
You are invited to come along to the launch of Lava Lamp Poems by Colleen Higgs. Finuala Dowling will introduce the poet and her work. There will be a short reading from the collection.
Event Details
Date: Thursday, 20 January 2011
Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
Venue: The Book Lounge, Corner of Roeland
and Buitenkant Streets, Cape Town
Guest Speaker: Finuala Dowling
RSVP: The Book Lounge,, 021 462 2425