Fledgling Award Reading

Our Fledgling Award winner, Jemma Borg, and runner-up, Ruth Wiggins, will be reading with me and with judge Martin Figura at Cafe Writers in Norwich on Monday 10th October.

Details are here! Cafe Writers.

I hope some of you will be able to make it to the awards. It should be a lovely evening.


Maggie Mackay – 21st Century Scylla

21st Century Scylla
She was the monster of Homer’s day:
Round her a dozen of feet she is always waving suspended 
Six long sinuous necks outstretching before her and each one
Beareth a head terrific with teeth in a threefold order
Many and thickly arrayed, where gapes death’s cavernous blackness.
This century we face danger more monstrous
than any kraken or squid with dinner plate eyes and coiled arms,
suction cups, horny rings, a tool kit of death.
Not such black inkiness, but smog and smoke from fossil fuels
warm our atmosphere, spawn drought and flood,
glacial melt, a stealthy ocean swell.
Arctic sheets shrink, seasons slip into one another.
Immigrant birds, butterflies and bees decline.
Brian Cox smacks down climate change deniers.


Maggie Mackay is a retired additional support needs teacher, living on the east coast of Scotland and enjoying life as a final year Masters Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University where she is currently working on her poetry portfolio. She has work in various print and online publications, including A New Manchester Alphabet, Bare Fiction, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Prole. Indigo Dreams Publishing and in several Three Drops Press anthologies.

Fiona Russell Dodwell – Exit (a haibun)


Increasing personal profiles, positioning for future wins, taking on any portfolio regardless of interest or experience is one thing.  Changing the rules to exclude others when they don’t suit personal aims is another. And mudslinging directed at the very people who are not self-promoting; who have thought through implementation before announcing policy; whose values persist and are not poll-responses; who are working for the many, yet another.

The news about our leaders continues. I notice that the new Prime Minister has removed the words ’climate change’ from the Industry brief; and that it is not mentioned in the Environment brief, either. She must intend a special unit for Climate Change, I think. But no: too hopeful. I remember that she supports fox hunting.  The few should not be given more to the detriment of the many, she says.

Beyond the TV set the birches sway in the wind, bending nearly horizontal when there is a strong gust. 

 I feel desperate, nauseous, go out for fresh air.
  Birch seed – 
        on the doorstep drifts
of tiny doves.
Fianna  (Fiona Russell Dodwell) is from Fife and lives in the Fens. Her first poems were published in Ink Sweat & Tears, and since then she has had about 40 poems published, both online and in print.

Helena Sanderson – Referendum


He threw words like kisses
and they tumbled towards me:
‘…an opportunity for creativity’.
What kind of creativity I wanted to know,
but didn’t ask.

New ways of thinking.
New ways of doing.
Harnessing our rich history
of enterprise and constructing
something new, exciting.
Was that what he meant?

Instead, he lectured me about the accounts
and I thought, well, you can be creative
with them without leaving anything.
But I smiled, said: ‘let’s not argue’.
And he smiled back.


Helena Sanderson is a Lancastrian writer with Cornish heritage. She gained a first-class honours degree in Humanities with Creative Writing and Art History with the Open University and is now studying a Masters in History. Her poetry mainly is concerned with the intricacies and small details of life and landscape.
Website: http://helenasanderson.com/

Stuart Pickford – Danish Industrial Estates

Danish Industrial Estates

should be the town’s parks, lawns lined,
picnic tables made from indigenous timber
where bosses and workers take their lunch,
sleeves rolled up, discussing their children.

A stone henge or simple pillar is common
as is a rose bed. There are no splintered pallets.
The energy is green, from wind turbines:
the horizon is flat, hills are messy.

If trucks are necessary, they’re parked in rows
at the same angle, like avenues of birch.
Such vision shows they’ve got over Abba
and answered the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

Willowherb doesn’t grow out of the pavement.
They have no word for skip and not just
to annoy the Germans. Nothing is budget
or functional. You buy it once and well.

Give me one of these open-planned spaces
with a fountain and the stiff Danish flag;
a home for my primary-coloured family: us
constructing a Lego model of ourselves.


Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. His first and only collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press (2002) and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. His second book is Swimming with Jellyfish just out from smith/doorstop. Stuart lives in Harrogate and teaches in a local comprehensive school. 


Alex Josephy – Cradles


Wakeful in a carry-cot, decked with flowered cotton.
Promenaded in a pram, the hood rounded
like a heavenly sphere.

Quiet in the bows of a stranger’s boat.

Abandoned in a carpet bag, stashed in a toolbag,
rolled in chamois leather. Snuggled in a drawer
pulled from the bedroom chest.

Crying in a rubber dinghy far from land.

Wide-eyed in a glove compartment, lined
with nylon stockings. Hidden in a shoebox,
rustling among tissues.

Declared lost at sea in a boat full of holes.

Swaddled, hung alongside others from a hook
on the wall. Tucked inside a wicker basket
down among the rushes.

Pulled alive from winter waves, bound tight
to the muscles of her back.

Pressed against her bodice, flowered cotton.
Fast asleep beside her in a shack
built of cardboard.

Held to her breast.


Alex lives in London and Italy. Her poetry pamphlet Other Blackbirds was published by Cinnamon Press in March 2016. Her poems have also appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, and have won awards including the McLellan prize 2014 and the Battered Moons prize 2013. During May/June 2016, she was Poet in Residence at Rainham Hall gardens, Essex.

You can find out more about Alex’s work and read her poetry blog, The Latest, at www.alexjosephy.eu

Michael Guiney – Vondelpark, Amsterdam

Vondelpark, Amsterdam

The names of certain articles of dress,
And the women therein,
Are clothed in soft memory and pleasures.
And in the reading of their memory
They are not always given to pleasures,
To a sinful and delicate fragrance.
They are like a veil of silk, like the soft mouths of horses.
The summer is ended, the light on the roofline
Has been there a long time
And slinks in slow movement across the terracotta tiles.
There have been afternoons like this,
And there has been light like this, for centuries.
Late afternoon, late in the history of the world,
External, oblique, slanted particles, photons, grains of light,
Softer than the movement of a soul or the body of a woman,
As soft as life, as a people at ease in their skins.
And the old tree,
Heavy in his boughs and in the sight of a dove
Seems to call up a breeze
And makes me glad that I came here
And exchanged low- woven insular skies
For these high cirrus- strewn heavens.


Michael Guiney can’t give us a bio because he technically doesn’t exist, except as a figment of his own imagination. He did, however, write five novels about a pair of Victorian detectives.


More EuroPoems.

Here at the Stare’s Nest we haven’t forgotten the Referendum. With some bitterness we’re watching the Tory government wrestling with the issue we spotted months ago: that the Four Freedoms of the EU are indivisible – the free movement of capital, trade, services and labour are linked, and so far, the EU doesn’t think the arbitrary desires of the UK are important enough to break those freedoms apart.

So as we watch Theresa May’s attempts to get us a deal that won’t trash the economy but will “take back control” of immigration, there will be one more batch of EuroPoems to remind us what’s at risk.

Starting tomorrow – September 21st.