“Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s” Morag Anderson (Fly on the Wall Press) – book review

Morag Anderson “Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s book cover

Morag Anderson’s “Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s” is an exploration of human connections, the delights and horrors of a life that seems ordinary until it’s poked into revealing its casual violence and, occasionally, tenderness. At “Two Doors Down” lives the “daftest Dad on our street” who plays magic tricks with coins and cards but also a night visitor to his daughter’s bedroom,

“Choosing to believe
in space created
by the child,
rigid against ponies
papered to her wall,
he slid in.

But when truth
awoke his household
he shrunk
inside his bleeding brain,
was left too dead
to repent.

No-one collected his ashes.
They believe
he is burning yet.”

The choice of “ponies” is apt, they’re reserved for children or were used in enclosed spaces to pull coal from the mines. “Slid in” is ambiguous but he clearly didn’t just slide into her bed. He also made a choice that a girl had created space for him, ignoring that she was too little to fill the bed. His terminal illness feels like karma caught up with him and no one wanted to take responsibility for his ashes, the way he refused to be the adult and take responsibility for his actions.

In the title poem, the narrator wears “blue for luck” just as a bride might, but the narrator is “not significant enough/ to be a footnote.” while using drink to “dull the night’s toxic industry” for a man who doesn’t notice her non-sober state,

“There is no animal husbandry
in this meat factory.
I am disposable and new.
An emaciated mare
barely good for glue.”

To customers, this is merely a transaction, the state of the woman they’re paying irrelevant so long as they get what they’re paying for. The narrator is full of self-loathing, all too aware of her lack of power, lack of impact and apparent worthlessness.

“A Thirst for Rain” is after Rosemary Tonks, and starts,

“I have lived them, and lived them.
Swollen afternoons of seared skin
when nothing mattered more
than the crow’s love of bone
or the damselflies’ tangled rise
above idle water.”

Rosemary Tonks (1928 – 2014) authored two poetry collections, six novels and was chiefly active on the literary scene in the 1960s. She renounced literature in the 1970s and seemed pretty much forgotten until a collected poems, “Bedouin of the London Evening” was published in 2014. Her poems focused on urban, cafe scenes or undermining pretentious potential lovers. Their tone is conversational and dryly humoured. Anderson’s poem matches that atmosphere, where a narrator looks on a full life where all that mattered was the next meal, the next love.

“Killing Time in the Relatives’ Room” sees the narrator notice the carpet, “bright/ like buttered spinach”, a picture that includes a table “strewn with petals/ fallen from slumped poppies”, and

“Silent and observational,
a sombre blue bible
offers Good News
beside an empty box of tissues
and an unrung phone.
In this holding bay, news of quitters
arrives quietly on white shoes.”

The atmosphere is one of resignation, caught in a limbo between knowing what news will be brought and waiting for it to happen. In contrast, “I Was Once a Girl in a Fountain, Splashing a Boy” starts on a note of optimism, “I disperse old anxieties,/ push blue through layers of grey;” a determination that continues with “consider the violence/ of waves thrust upon canvas/ or words scratched on paper.” Until

“The water’s edge rushes
like the open mouth of a story—
all gush and foam—interrupts
a thought built from small bits of silence:
blood will slow and thicken in eddies
when I am least ready.”

A rush of creation that never arrives conveniently.

Rosemary Tonks is an apt source of inspiration and allusion in “Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s”. A collection that looks at family ties, seedier desires and needs, how the need to survive distorts relationships and afternoons of potential before dusk draws in. The poems have a buoyancy; they want to float off the page and be read so the sounds can be heard. Their subjects may be passive and/or powerless, but the poems bubble to the surface, drawing attention and leave barbs of startling images to be remembered after the book is closed.

“Sin is Due to Open in a Room Above Kitty’s” is available from Fly on the Wall Press.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

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“Someone is Missing Me” Tina Tamsho-Thomas (Fly on the Wall Press) – book review

Someone is Missing Me Tina Tamsho-Thomas

Tina Tamsho-Thomas has created an accessible collection of poems that deal with personal, emotional and political questions, touching on racism and feminism, with a sense of celebration and positivity. An early poem, “The Long(ing) Wait”, advises “One shouldn’t drink alone”

“The evening shot is no substitute
for the longed-for soul mate;
the long(ing) wait
a daughter’s condolence,
a father’s remembrance,
that even white wine
or grape so fine,
cannot intoxicate.”

It both acknowledges that drink, or another drug, merely delays the inevitable and only brings temporary relief. Whatever it is that the drinker is trying to forget or sideline will still be there when the affects wear off. The underlying problem still needs to be tackled.

“Sons and Mothers” looks at raising a son when a father is absent,

“The burden is not of our making,
choices little or none,
but when our self-respect is near breaking,
we must make demands on our sons.

As mothers we’re often degraded,
as housewives our status nil,
in the media our bodies paraded
as mere objects for men to fulfil.

Is this how we see one another,
has our opinion of self sunk so low?
Then we must reclaim the word Mother,
let our sons reap the pride that we sow.”

At first glance it seems to put the burden of teaching sons to respect women on mothers and lets the absent father off the hook. But the references to images in the media and the little value society places on caring roles gives the poem a ‘let’s make the best of a situation we’ve been lumbered with’ feel. Mothers are being asked to take pride in the role and make their sons proud of them. The simple rhyme scheme acts as an aide memoir, however, the use of ‘self’ rather than ‘ourselves’, although rhythmically correct, feels unnatural.

Romantic relationships seem to get a rough ride, “Sand Picture”,

“When our love was mirrored
you gave me a sand picture
different worlds, shifting landscapes.

. Splintered against the wall
. framed illusions shatter

Another contrite phone call
‘I’ll repair the damage’.

. And the mirror?”

The picture can be mended, but can the damage to the relationship be fixed? The image of the sand picture gives an impression of unstable, short-term foundations.

There is a group of political poems, chiefly focused on South Africa, for example, “Part of my Soul – Tribute to Winnie Mandela” which ends,

“Your inhumane system
I’ve met with resistance,
fighting for freedom
from your bloodstained hands.
But part of my soul
and all of my spirit,
continues the struggle
for African land.”

Readers don’t doubt the passion. But there’s not much room to engage and is the struggle for land or for people who have been displaced, colonised and impoverished?

One recurring theme throughout is the strength of solidarity and friendship between women. One of these celebratory poems is “Tulips & Chinese New Year” where a Chinese friend is also celebrating a birthday,

“We celebrate






double happiness.”

The repetition of “our” underlines the sense of togetherness.

“Someone is Missing Me” is a friendly, accessible collection of poems that explore the personal, emotional and political in a celebratory tone. Tina Tamsho-Thomas aims to welcome and draw in readers while not shying away from bringing up uncomfortable topics such as racism, absent fathers, violence in personal relationships, in a way that shows solidarity through friendship and finding those moments that create lasting memories.

“Someone is Missing Me” is available from Fly on the Wall Press

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

“Aftereffects” Jiye Lee (Fly on the Wall Press) – book review

Jiye Lee Aftereffects book cover

“Aftereffects” is an exploration of grief. Although inspired by the death of the Jiye Lee’s father, its remit broadens to consider other sources of grief and how individuals react and cope in the aftermath. A personal experience is widened to a universal experience. “Enigma with a Blackbird (After Pablo Neruda, Enigma with a Flower”, starts

“Grief. It has come silently. I did not know
it had perched,
the black figure that sits in my chest,
piecing itself a home,”

The poem ends,

“She spreads her wings – for a moment,
I breathe. Leaves behind an empty nest;
I hear a crack.”

It’s interesting that grief is maternal, building a nest, it suggests grief has a purpose. It creates a framework for bereavement, nudging the sufferer towards acceptance and adaption to circumstance. But it’s also “an empty nest”, something broken, what should be there dispersed and no longer present.

“Last Breath” acknowledges the poet was in Seoul while her family were in Cairo when her father passed away. The physical and emotional distance prompts her to ponder,

“Is his consciousness
suspended somewhere
circulating the universe?
Trying to find his way to heaven,
with me, here on Earth,

How much does a minute weigh?”

Time takes on a different shape in grief’s aftermath as the shock of loss becomes acceptance. “Rooms” uses two Biblical verses from John 14 that start “In my Father’s House there are many rooms…”

“Entrance Hall
Recently, more than 470,000 Syrians
were put to death and displaced
trying to escape the civil war.
8000 dead and injured in Haiti.

. Games Room
. On a highway in Egypt, two vehicles collide
. Nobody cares to send help.
. A father of two and his Egyptian driver
. pronounced dead on the morning news:
. no compensation.”

The poem ends,

“Room 4
Does Father still smile
knowing how much it kills us
to live life with him gone?”

It’s curious that the unknown dead, the victims of war or fatally injured, are given specific rooms, but the poet’s father is given a numbered room. The lack of name suggests a lack of purpose, the poet’s not sure why her father had to die: he was just a number, one of many who passed away that day.

Adjusting to the absence is painful. “Assessment” is brief (complete poem):

There’s a bridge. In Korea.
A well-known bridge
I say

in response to her question,
Could you tell me in more detail
as to how you thought of going about it?

Followed by the question,
Do you think about it now?”

The questions lack compassion, their aim to assess the intention behind the impulse. There’s no conclusion. The poem is about the emptiness and struggle for acceptance.

The collection ends on a note of hope, in “Seollal (Korean New Year)”, where a young girl has fallen asleep on a subway train,

“Her father worms out of his coat,
rolls it as best as he can, into a squished pupa.
Tipping his daughter’s head to the side,
he plumps it into place against the partition;
lets her head fall back to a pillow of goose down.

The little girl
continues to dream.”

Perhaps the poet also still dreams of her father. It’s a poignant image of paternal love.

“Aftereffects” is an engaging, eloquent exploration of bereavement and loss. Jiye Lee’s situation is personal but she broadens it out to be of wider interest. The relationship between father and daughter is delicately and accurately probed, showing readers what has been lost without telling them how to feel. The poems’ deceptive gentleness have readers focused on the sheen of a feather before re-reading and looking again shows the bird can fly.

“Aftereffects” is available from Fly on the Wall Press.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

“How to Make Curry Goat” Louise McStravick (Fly On The Wall Poetry) – book review

Louise McStravick’s “How to Make Curry Goat” explores a Jamaican heritage and growing up in Birmingham (UK). Poems are presented double spaced. “Tanned Feet” starts with “This tan from Jamaica never washed off” and continues

“These tanned feet have grown golden next to

the ghost of a mango tree

where children would meet,

bodies speak the language of freedom

run to catch shrimp in a river that

only runs now in black and white memories.

Stanza break

But my feet see them in colour

in the soft, brown warmth of a tan

nourished with coconut jelly

so it does not fade

that will be topped up again

Stanza Break!!!!

one day.”

The poems are grounded in Birmingham but infused with memories of Jamaica. The title poem has a parent teaching a child where seemingly straightforward instructions are commented on,

“Take around 7 quid’s worth of goat

Or mutton dem di same ting

A spring of thyme, two large onions, three if you’re that way inclined

Not di Spanish h’onion di British h’onion.

A bulb of garlic. All-purpose seasoning and Caribbean Curry Powder

It nah matter which curry powder you fi use.

Using eyes to measure, one-part All Purpose to two-part curry powder

Be careful with the All Purpose. You nah want too much salt.

Precision is not the recipe’s point and exact measurements have been lost to decades of experience and improvisation. A person who cooks frequently adapts to the availability of ingredients and family tastes – not much point in loading the curry with peppers if family members aren’t fond of peppers. This intuition isn’t easy to teach and frustrates both child and parent, “You ask too many question!” becomes a refrain as the poem continues and the parent justifies saying goat or mutton can be used initially by saying they are the same and then they taste the same. Eventually, the curry is left to simmer and the child has to learn patience,

“And wait.

Tell your tongue to stop dribbling spit

that good things come to those that wait, imagine the plate, the tempting

fate that would be you trying to steal meat again.

It nah ready yet!

Stanza Break

And wait.

You are 6 again, 8 again, 10, again, 14, again,

waiting, waiting, salivating sitting on hands that do not know how to


The wait is worth it,

“He calls you to taste, it tastes better than great

it tastes like from the plate of his mom I never knew,

his gran, my namesake, it tastes like it has travelled on vibrations, on

waves, a land foreign to new territory.

Indentured slavery mixed with imported trade makes its way to my plate:

new learned memories.

Now these hands follow those that for centuries have taught their

daughters, their sons, me to make this curry.”

The poem ends,

“Until. Our story rises with steam from the plate.”

Learning how to make curry is more than learning a recipe. It’s learning about tradition, nurturing families and heritage. It’s not the curry that’s important, but the knowledge and experience passed down in learning how to make it, how family tastes have improvised and informed the ingredients and that good food worth sharing takes time.

“Fatherland, Motherland” asks if it’s cultural appropriation to speak patios with a Birmingham accent and concludes,

“I am British, English, a bit Irish and Jamaican

wha gwaan blud

curry goat and plaintain,

garage, yorkshire puddings and grime

this is all part of my culture,

but which culture is mine?”

“Postcards from England” a Jamaican sees terraced houses with lines of chimneys and thinks they are factories, until he discovers how cold it is and why houses need heat. In “My sister was born a sunset”, the mother is told “When children come out healthy, they are pink.” And “Children are not yellow like a fully-backed sun.” The mother knows better though when the midwives and nurses say “she must have jaundice”

“My mother tells them her father’s

skin holds the burnt ochres of a Caribbean sunset.

Stanza Break

They do not say sorry when they hand her over.”

The failure to apologise is telling: the nursing staff aren’t prepared to admit their prejudice and failure to take racial differences into account and to do this to a new mother exhausted from labour and worried about her baby is wrong.

Not all the poems focus directly on heritage. Some look to dating and relationships ending. “Move on” is four powerful lines,

“Ghosts don’t exist

except in the lump in the throat

the place between the end

and a new beginning.”

“Coconut” does return to childhood memories and ends with a child having her hair combed,

“he did not know how hair breaks she said my brothers and sisters were in Africa

did what he was taught I thought she had an affair. I wanted to know

hard labour, roots and culture, were my brothers and sisters like off the T.V

I’ll give you something to cry for, in between Coronation Street.

Take of mi belt and beat you, they would ask me why,

If you can’t hear you must feel, I drew Katie and not me.”

The theme of hair is revisited in “Gaudí would not have approved” where the narrator feels pushed into straightening her hair,

“Each strand brushed becomes brittle, broken into shards, she sheds, exposed. ‘Isn’t that better’? Then she remembers Gaudí. Curves undulating, pieces of broken rainbow toast the naked Catalonian sun. Surrounded by buildings standing straight, in line, trying to bend themselves away from the earth, against their better judgement, doing what they are told over and over again. Until they do not remember they are held together with cement. The Casa Bastillo turns the horizon part kaleidoscope, bent balconies, unfurl against transparent sky to remind her that she is the crest of the ocean, just before it breaks, the deepening curve of a tree’s roots, nature’s anchor, a freshly-fallen leaf, the fullness of pregnancy, the moon eclipsing the sun and so she tells them of Gaudí. That there are no straight      lines      in               nature.”

It’s not stated directly, but I very much doubt the narrator will give in and straighten her hair again. The prose poem is not double-spaced.

“How to Make Curry Goat” explores the poet’s Jamaican roots and growing up in the UK. The poems are conversational in tone and aim to share their messages without telling the reader how to think. They are easy to read aloud, the rhythms follow natural speech patterns, which demonstrates the subtlety of the craft that they are founded on. Louise McStravick has created a collection that is engaging and makes serious points with humour.

“How to Curry Goat” is available from Fly On The Wall Poetry.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image

“Grenade Genie” Thomas McColl (Fly on the Wall Press) – book review

Thomas McColl Grenade Genie front cover“Grenade Genie” is a wry, dry humoured look at modern life in general. The book is split into four sections, ‘cursed’, ‘coerced’, ‘combative’ and ‘corrupted’, alliteratively satisfying. The first section looks at the hapless, those trapped in an underclass or simply finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. “The Evil Eye” casts its glance on social media users, “You’ve allowed yourself to get caught in a cobweb/ spun by a social spider that sucks you dry of information,/ then leaves your hollowed-out exoskeletal frame/ to rot on its website.” However, users are addicted and keep returning to post another selfie.

A refugee eyes up a journalist in “Carry My Eyes (Above and Across the Barbed-Wire Border)” (the poems within are double spaced),

“my dreaming-of-a-new-life blood-shot eyes

spy the approach of reporters in roving bands.

We’re here to tell your story, they always say,

How you fled civil war and want to be given a chance.

But I know they don’t care –

and I won’t talk to them, nor extend my palm

(which would reveal my cut and calloused lifeline),

just tell them with a steely stare:

Don’t hug me with your inverted commas,

nor touch me with your cruel chameleon hands.”

I get the message: trauma porn and the damage it does to those who tell their stories only to see their words twisted to serve another’s agenda because the journalist’s master is the advertisers who enable publication of the stories they write, not the truth of the refugee’s tale. Constantly telling your story to people who aren’t listening creates another layer of trauma. I’m not so sure some of the details add up: people in transit camps aren’t “dreaming-of-a-new-life”, but merely escaping the one they’ve left and trying to get through today as they wait either to be able to move on or for asylum applications to be processed. People stuck in uncertainty don’t make plans or think ahead. I think the parenthesized phrase loses its weight and needs to be taken out of the brackets.

Later, “The Greatest Poet” draws parallels with T S Eliot – the sharing of a first name, both worked at Lloyds Bank but is the poet of this collection destined to be forever in the more famous poet’s shadow. Or is that a question when “The Waste Land” can’t be condensed to InstaPoetry?

The ‘coerced’ section looks at employees’ security passes, how “we’ve all been programmed since birth/ to have nothing else but shopping on the brain?”, nightclubbing and being unable to remember someone’s name. The ‘combative’ section takes us shopping with a god, observing those selling copies of “The Socialist Worker”, militant pedestrians taking back pavements from cyclists and vehicles, the obsoleteness of cassette tapes and ends with the poignant “The Phoney War” where two boys play war in the lounge then run into the kitchen, “calling for Gran to serve us up our tea,/ and found her quietly sobbing at the stove.”

The ‘corrupted’ section has fun subverting clichés. In “The Surgery I Go To Has a Two-Headed Doctor”

“When Doctor Smith examines me with a stethoscope,

it’s in the left head’s left ear

and the right head’s right ear.

In other words, he makes a right pig’s ear

(and also a left pig’s ear)

of any examination he does.

However, when I once challenged him about it,

Doctor Smith’s left head simply said,

‘Can you breathe in a bit more deeply, please?’

While his right head shook morosely.”

This is Thomas McColl on surer ground and playing to all his strengths. “Grenade Genie” is a wryly humoured look at life, subverting normal expectations and asks readers to take a new look at the commonplace. Thomas McColl is at his best when he takes an idea for a walk an describes it afresh with a generous dash of humour.

“Grenade Genie” is available from Fly On the Wall Press.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image


“Planet in Peril” edited by Isabelle Kenyon (Fly on the Wall) – book review

Planet in Peril book coverAn anthology of poetry and photography on climate change featured poets include Helen Mort, Myra Schneider, Katrina Porteous, Jane Burn, Christopher Hopkins, Anne Casey, Sujana Upadhyay and a selection of young writers aged from 8 to 17. It’s an ambitious project and sectioned into Earth’s Ecosystems, The Arctic/Our Oceans, Human Impact, A not so dystopian future and Our Future – the young writers. Interspersed among the poems are facts, such as “a square kilometre of forest may be home to more than 1000 species. Yet forests are disappearing at an alarming rate – 18.7 million acres of forests are lost annually”, and wildlife photographs and illustrations.

From the first section, Myra Schneider’s “Returning” ends,

“I breathe in the sweet extravagance,
dream I’ll come back as grass or blossom
until a voice in my head mocks with lists
of droughts, names of extinct species. I think
of vanished sparrows and how often the stream
in the park is dry-lipped, the earth pocked
with cracks. And it yawns before me: the possibility
of fescue, flowers, leaves not returning.”

The idea of grief is picked up in Sue Proffitt’s “Kittiwakes” which ends “leaves me bereft -// so few of you left.” Phil Coleman’s abecedary “Red List” is merely a list, “Eastern Hare Wallaby. Eutrophication. Erosion. Extinct. Eleven years./ Falkland Islands wolf. Flooding. Fragmentation. Finning”. Technically has no faults but doesn’t really say anything.

In the section section, The Arctic/Our Oceans, Katrina Porteous’ “Invisible Mending” carries a much needed hint of hope,

“Here is the place where ocean and glacier meet.
Bedrock and grounding line. Sediment, Grit.
The green glaze mineral sheen of life, small tools to fix

Troubles so immense, they can’t be seen or spoken,
Bit by invisible bit.”

The earth may repair itself, but human life may not survive. Dr Craig Santos Perez in “Echolocation” draws a parallel between an orca and human parent,

“We drive our daughter to pre-school,
to the hospitals for vaccinations.
You carry your decomposing girl
a thousand nautical miles
until every wave is an elegy,
until our planet is an open casket.

What is mourning
but our shared echolocation?”

The idea that both humans and nature are sharing in the climate emergency, albeit nature seems to have the worse end of the deal, is a reminder of what’s at stake and also a demonstration that we’re not so different. We mourn, we care for our young, but we’re still living in parallel rather than sharing.

From the third section, Anne Casey’s “where once she danced” is set on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

“she is drowning in a sea awash with cobalt
deadly metals fill the channels where she breathes

her lovely limbs are shackled down with plastics
her lungs are laced with deadly manganese
a crown of thorns to pierce her pretty head
a bed of sludge to lull her in her dreams”

Despite the devastation, the coral is still trying to survive. Like Katrina Porteous’ poem, there’s a hint of hope that it might just survive.

The fourth section, “Do I tell her?” by Leslie Thomas is a sequence on rising CO₂ levels (the publication uses CO2) from the 1800s to the future,

“2019: 415 ppm CO2

“A level unknown to Homo sapiens. Following my family’s
greasy tread, I grown organic potatoes and sell charter time
on private jets, to pay for natural gas.

In 2070, between 500 to 900 ppm carbon dioxide is predicted.

My great-great-granddaughter finds this poem, fading
inside a 100-year-old book telling of global warming.
Do I tell her? Stay on the grid and in the grind. What I know.”

It points to how humans carry out contradictory actions: the organic potato grower also sells flights to survive and put food on the table. Individual actions don’t seem to carry much weight, especially when compared with the actions of corporations and employers, but each action does make a small contribution.

The young writers take a bleaker view. “Animals reversed” by Niamh Hughes (aged 14) considers animals taking revenge, locks are locks of hair in this context.

“My locks are being used to make the kangaroo’s socks.

Mother, mother why have they done so?
Because not long ago
We took their homes, families and fur
And that’s not fair.”

Freya Wilson (aged 10) ends “Don’t Forget” with “Don’t forget that we are the first generation to know that our world is under threat and the last who can stop it” and Amélie Nixon (aged 16) observes in “sleepwalking” that “sleep is the crack between breath and burial,/ the barren gap where mumbles of our insignificance lull us into plastic-coated disbelief.” Ethan Antony (aged 12) has “The Tale of Two Lime Trees”, “The trees were felled, a new pavement arose”. They remind us is it their generation who feel they are carrying the brunt of this.

Overall there are some wonderful poems in “Planet in Peril”, showing the effects of climate change and man made devastation. The poems from experienced and young poets don’t shy away from the effects and the need for humans to change their ways, to halt the damage done and start to repair and adapt before it is too late. What’s missing is how. Yes, poets and other writers need to keep telling these stories, keep reminding humans what’s at stake. However, eloquent hectoring doesn’t always bring about change. There is no easy solution: Leslie Thomas’ potato grower can’t feed his family if he stops selling flights and if he stops, someone else takes on the job. It will take a cultural and behavioural shift. “Planet in Peril” isn’t quite ready to suggest how that could happen, although some of the poems do contain hopeful hints that nature will repair itself even if humans don’t survive.

“Plant in Peril” is available from Fly On the Wall Press.


“Persona Non Grata” edited Isabelle Kenyon (Fly on the Wall Poetry) – book review

Persona Non Grata“Persona Non Grata” is a poetry anthology to raise funds for charities Shelter and Crisis Aid UK and looks at the roles of outsiders and the sense of not belonging. It covers homelessness, those seeking refuge, the mostly invisible workforce who clean and care and attempts at integrating into society.

Debbie Hall’s “Sonnet for a Homeless Woman Named Beth” suggests how outsiders can still manage a sense of society,

“A ribbon of chain link and razor wire
keeps the freeway at bay, forms a laundry
rack. On the corner, a shuttered market.
Tacked to a telephone pole, a sign:
Will pay cash for diabetes test kits.”

The make-shift laundry rack and sign show a sense of inventiveness and community despite difficult circumstances. It contrasts with Judith Kingston’s “Sostenuto” where the outsider is unable to re-integrate,

“He was my father’s uncle dressed in the skin of a ghost,
his wit muffled under the layers of horror, dulled
by the headstones that were never placed on
graves. Later, he would tell stories, but not now.

Whenever I saw him he wore a suit – his own, but
under his clothes lurked the bleached bones that
rattled in time with the train he was still on, which
could not take him from that place that never left.”

“Ghost” captures the image of someone hollowed out by what they’ve witnessed and the way shellshock and PTSD haunt someone long after the initial trauma. The reference to “suit – his own” suggests someone keeping up appearances and burying experiences. Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar’s “Citizen of a morphing nation” continues the theme of integration,

“Will I have to ubiquitously register myself?
Sit in surveilled booths in gatherings and stadiums?
Would yellow stars be sewn to my lapel?
A tracking band secured around my ankle?

Will my son return home from school
Whole and unbruised as he had left?
Loyalty and sentience, he’ll be asked to pantomime
Else fall prey to slurs and virulent hate crimes”

The questions accumulate an image of someone joining a society she knows she’s not necessarily welcome in; she’s apprehensive and nervous about whether it’s the right decision.

The last section brings in a note of hope. Ceinwen Haydon’s “Let’s celebrate (after Mandy Coe)”,

“Let’s celebrate –
that badass girl with purple hair,
tattoos and piercings. The one
who helps a tired mum
with her baby, heavy pushchair
and bags of Poundland shopping
to get safely of the last bus home.”

It’s rarely the person in a suit who steps in to help. Ceinwen Haydon’s use of enjambment, keeps the motion of the poem forward and energetic, keeping with the sense of celebration.

“Persona Non Grata” explores the themes of being an outsider on the fringes of society whether through poverty and homeless or the need to seek refuge; people who have been traumatised yet still seek community and company. It’s not a depressing read though, the poets bring compassion to difficult issues and experiences.

“Persona Non Grata” is available from Fly On the Wall Poetry.