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The Hermits by Karen Solie


The Hermits

Warmth activates the sugars,
and sugars rally
in the gorse, in the flowers
it sees with, the scent
that is its voice,
the nontoxic fragrant wood
good for cutlery, and for burning,
though it flares out quickly,
unlike smoldering peat. Are they converting
sugars of their loneliness
to conviction? Burning
their sugars on the wicks
of their frailty,
one can nearly read by them,
as Fillan in his own cave read
by the light of  his broken arm,
one of the horrible miracles
of the times —
St. Fillan, the Human Flashlight,
patron of the mentally ill —
an unenviable between-worlds
Whereas marsh orchids,
fully in this one,
change their clothes
out in the open, hard candy
in their mouths,
the sugars plump, round, smooth,
unlike seawater’s jagged molecules,
which when drunk like anger
will tear through you.
Like bitterness, desiccate you.
To read the complete poem click here 
The Caiplie Caves by Karen Solie is available to borrow from Surrey Libraries
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The day Mumbai stopped by Isabelle Kenyon

The day Mumbai stopped

Save shoes under umbrellas, though wading waist-high,
Hold them high and hold a hand
Or float away
In an open manhole.

Be rich for Charity begins at home,
Not in the slums and
Without question
Although there is nowhere to go.


By Isabelle Kenyon

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Natural Selection by Clive James 1939 – 2019

I will miss Clive James.  It’s been ten years since his terminal diagnosis and in spite of that, we’ve had ten years of wonderful poetry and reviews.  I read one of his reviews less than a week ago, and Clive, enthusing about the merits of The Wire, described its central character as having a body like a ‘multi-story car park’.  He also said that War and Peace was worth reading twice. He was not a man to worry a jot about keeping his brow high, he’d lost his hair early after all.   He would criticise with earnestness and eloquence.  And somehow he was always right.


Natural Selection

The gradual but inexorable magic

That turned the dinosaurs into the birds

Had no overt, only a hidden, logic.

To start the squadrons climbing from the herds

No wand was ever waved, but afterwards

Those who believed there must have been a wizard

Said the whole show looked too well-planned for hazard.


And so it does, in retrospect.


To read the full poem click here

You can find more by Clive James, by clicking here


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The Blackbird by Trevor Dunford

26533758950_1f5acbedca_z‘The Blackbird’

How wondrous is a balmy summer evening
The blackbird high up in his favorite tree
And there his sacred song is singing
A message so intense, but quite unknown to me.

Perched high, he surveys his earthly kingdom
And there to announce his assured domain
Endowed with songs and the skies of freedom
A noble Lord in all but name.

What cares the blackbird, the countless faults of man
When most stop not to hear that early evening call
What difference can we make that would not be a sham
Though unheard, he will sing his solo and for the joy of all.

I listen in the quietness to the changing notes so clear
The evening still and silent to the sound of lonely joy
To fill the swelling heart with reflections very dear
I’ve heard nothing better, since when I was once a boy.

I’ve known the works of Chopin, the melodies of Brahms
How often have I listened, lost in their dreamy charms
But of this I must be certain and hereby honest pledge
Of all the worldly music writ, the blackbird has the edge.

Trevor Dunford

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The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll


Fit the First

            The Landing

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

   As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

   By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

   That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

   What I tell you three times is true.”

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—

   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—

A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—

   And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,

   Might perhaps have won more than his share—

But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,

   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,

   Or would sit making lace in the bow:

And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,

   Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things

   He forgot when he entered the ship:

His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,

   And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,

   With his name painted clearly on each:

But, since he omitted to mention the fact,

   They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because

   He had seven coats on when he came,

With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,

   He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,

   Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”

To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”

   But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,

   He had different names from these:

His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”

   And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”

“His form is ungainly—his intellect small—”

   (So the Bellman would often remark)

“But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,

   Is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”

He would joke with hænas, returning their stare

   With an impudent wag of the head:

And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,

   “Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late—

   And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad—

He could only bake Bride-cake—for which, I may state,

   No materials were to be had.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,

   Though he looked an incredible dunce:

He had just one idea—but, that one being “Snark,”

   The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,

   When the ship had been sailing a week,

He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,

   And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,

   There was only one Beaver on board;

And that was a tame one he had of his own,

   Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,

   Protested, with tears in its eyes,

That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark

   Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be

   Conveyed in a separate ship:

But the Bellman declared that would never agree

   With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,

   Though with only one ship and one bell:

And he feared he must really decline, for his part,

   Undertaking another as well.

The Beaver’s best course was, no doubt, to procure

   A second-hand dagger-proof coat—

So the Baker advised it—and next, to insure

   Its life in some Office of note:

This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire

   (On moderate terms), or for sale,

Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,

   And one Against Damage From Hail.

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,

   Whenever the Butcher was by,

The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,

   And appeared unaccountably shy.


The Hunting of the Snark, illustrated by Chris Riddell is available to borrow from Surrey Libraries.

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Paternoster by Jen Hadfield

for A.B.J.

Paternoster. Paternoster.
Hallowed be dy mane.
Dy kingdom come.
Dy draftwork be done.
Still plough the day
And give out daily bray
Though heart stiffen in the harness.
Then sleep hang harness with bearbells
And trot on bravely into sleep
Where the black and the bay
The sorrel and the grey
And foals and bearded wheat
Are waiting.
It is on earth as it is in heaven.

To read the full poem click here

Jen Hadfield features in Life Support, 100 poems to reach for on dark nights


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Child of Opposites by Joseph Coelho

overheard Child of Opposites


My father

could outrun the rain:

weaving through raindrops in rainstorms,

sliding under sheets of sleet,

ducking beneath downpours,

rain splattering around him.


His mother

feared his nerve –

remembering how her waters never broke,

how he passed from her

like a leaf

falling through thin branches.


My mother

chilled the sunniest day,

her breath frosting in plumes

on June afternoons,

snowflakes settling on her skin,

keeping their lattices into spring


Her mother

feared her freeze –

remembering the numbness of nine months,

electric blankets and hot-water bottles

collecting in the valleys of her room.

Her window always closed.

Her room always cold.


As autumn grazed winter

wet leaves fell that

my father could not dodge.


Warm winds blew that

my mother could not cool.



Overheard in a Tower Block is available from Surrey Libraries. 




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