Committed writers dedicated to working together to produce excellent poems, short stories, drama, life writing, and creative non-fiction

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Sheila 01823 67 28 46

Valerie 01884 84 04 22

Friday 19 December 2014

Christmas Eve

I transport myself to the Middle East;
the exhausted donkey ride,
hooves tramp in warm, dark night,
as I listen to clear glass voices rising up
into frosty vaults of King's College;
quivering light of candles piercing cold;
on the bleak flat lands of East Anglia.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved


With perfect poise
he enters stage left,
placing the suitcase aside,

while gymnasts perform
pirouettes and arabesques,
svelte nymph
unfurls, spreads chrysalis-like
from case cocoon,

tumbling, twisting, wheeling
silken ribbon blazing
from baton waving
abstract fluidity
across blank canvas

to end again
repackaged and recycled
to perform anew
© Helen McIntosh
All rights reserved

Beyond belief?

Letters posted in fireplaces?
Jingling red-nosed reindeers
Streaming through skies?
Rubicund Santa
Shimmying down chimneys
To delight and surprise?
Turkeys voting for Christmas,
Getting stuffed en route;
Piggies wriggling in blankets,
Devils astride horseback;
Filthy lucre buried
Deep in puddings boiled?
A virgin birth and…
Three wise men?

© Helen McIntosh
All rights reserved

Marley’s Regret

"You were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge.

"Mankind was my business!” cried Marley. “And yet at this time of the rolling year I never roved beyond the limits of our money-changing hole. Chances squandered! A false and commercial festival, devoutly to be squeezed!

"Humbug!" said Scrooge.

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Christmas Eve

We fixed our fairy,
sparkling in sequinned gown.

Let there be lights.
Dad tore his few remaining hairs, drove
jehu-like to town.

Returned.  Worked, twisting wire with clumsy hands.
Then light there was.

Yet, at Midnight Mass, his fingers
danced across organ keys
swelling our church with glorious sound.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

Monday 15 December 2014

23rd December, 2010

In Tesco’s, from the tanks of gasping fish, with barely room to swim, he chooses three.

Our shopping is on the back seat.

“Don’t worry; must be very fresh; Polish tradition. We eat when the little star comes on Christmas Eve.”

Until then the condemned carp are in the bath.

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Christmas secrets

Silent night, holy night
all is sad, all is quiet
round his death bed everyone weeps
jolly grandpa his memory to keep
only I know his secret

only I know his shame
Silent night, holy night
all is calm, all is right
round his memory everyone grieves
jolly Santa on Christmas Eve
only I know his secret

only now it's mine to tell

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

Christmas Eve Shopping

He cut
a sorry figure in the flurry of the street
he knew
she wouldn't like it whatever he picked
he imagined
her saying ‘thank you’
with that smirk upon her lips

He hated
Christmas shopping and all that it entailed
he’d rather
wrestle Amazonian crocodiles or eat garlic snails.

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Seven Years On ...

... We unlocked the musty garage that was your office,
To sift through bank statements, newspaper clippings, photos, self-help books, correspondence about parking, Appeals to politicians, poems, plays and songs.

The skip filled, the shell sold, we were left with just
one suitcase - and the still gnawing absence of you.

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Wednesday 26 November 2014

The Suitcase.

Brown leather-strapped heavy as hammers
but oh! the smell.

"Books" he muttered, dark eyes shifting,
then went out in his raincoat.

Can't clean in there, ma'am.
Run upstairs hold your nose shut the door quick
Oh! the smell.

Police came. Too late. Suitcase, man, raincoat -
But not the smell.
© Sheila Rogers
All rights reserved

Thursday 20 November 2014

To the Lighthouse

From salt-encrusted rocks,
seals’ mournful cries
echo across the waves,
telling of ocean-loss.

The slim white needle flicks a golden beam
across the waves.
Elusive as a rainbow, it dissolves.
Repeats its steady pulse.

We’re drawn in with the tide,
then spat back.
‘No visitors allowed.’
The lighthouse
remains forever separate.


© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

Breaking the Union

Adorned with sprays
of summer flowers,
the tiny cup brimmed
with her memories.

He snatched.
across the kitchen floor.

Cradling its saucer,
in silent tears,
she fled.

He played ever louder.
Later, he found her note.

Standing in an emptiness
too quiet,
he knew
he’d broken

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

The Suitcase

This case is battered, old.
Each day another piece succumbs
to the dark ravages of encroaching time.

Yet it holds tapestries, embroidered
with rich silks and one, as bright as any,
a work in progress still.

So do not hang your dreadful DNR
above my bed until the moths get in
and chew black holes throughout the treasured fabrics
of my mind.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

The Suitcase

His home, while
He struggled
And sweated
In the jungle;

My mother’s letters
Bundled in his uniform,
Dreams, censored
Written ahead of him.

In the family home,
Empty in a cupboard;
Births, deaths pass;

Now in a barn in Devon.
I can’t let it go.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

A complex traveller

We found a rampant garden of delights in the conservatory, pressed against the panes: photographs of houses and people we didn’t recognise, air mail letters from Indian lovers, antique lace collars, babies shoes, an engraved Dunhill lighter, sixteen five-year diaries… 

And we’d assumed her effects wouldn't fit inside one suitcase.

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Sunday 19 October 2014

Breaking up the Union

Death to the dictator,
      the power-glutton thief!

We'll march through streets and buildings
     smash the icons crowd the squares
     scorning guns and tear-gas
We'll destroy the scheming bears.

We'll hoist the flag of freedom
     and justice will be done.
I'll lead you to nirvana, yes,
I'll be the promised one.

Death to the dictator!

© Sheila Rogers
All rights reserved

Breaking up the Union

The breaking up of The Union – a near miss.
So tensely debated, talked about and
Twisted. All those mothers, strong women
And school kids, maybe they saw Mr. Salmond
as some misogynist.
All the Yes vote is followed, make his story
Now the whole debate seems little more than that,
Just History.

© Isabel Hare
All rights reserved

Breaking Apart the Union: 1975

“You’re entitled to wear the Macleod tartan,” my Grandmother said encouragingly, noticing my gaze had fallen on a photograph of a white kneed, kilted cousin.

I, long haired, wearing pre-punk loons and a cheesecloth shirt under an army-surplus greatcoat, wondered why anyone would ever wish to look so utterly ridiculous.

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

Monday 13 October 2014

Road side orphan

Abandoned child at the road side
Not expected to thrive and bloom
Careless seed tossed to the edges
No bright future seen for her

Lonely pale head tilted upwards
Perfect view of distant fields

Ripened seed heads shamefully hanging
Knowing they will lose her again

In sharp contrast to black faces
Bright yellow in their forgotten sun
Her stance childlike and buoyant
Theirs sinking lower toward the soil

As they meet the harvest blade wheel
Broken bracts but heads intact
No more nodding in wind time rhythm

Seed pods yielding to start again

Now she views the empty furrows
Feeling barren and not sure why
Seen by no one but the walkers

Stopped in their tracks
by her cadmium smile

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

Anvil of freedom

Solid, cold, sparking in bright sunlight
Forging, moulding, shaping the steel

Hammering sweat with strength into objects
bought by farmers, warriors, thieves

Linked by chains that hold them together
for crimes they did not commit

With a strike of the axe honed on the anvil
They’re prised apart and free 

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

Breaking Apart the Union

Dead leaves of years;
through a pinhole of light,
the drama plays on.

Silhouette of a man,
jabbing finger,
wife, face lifted,
head titled away;

door slams,
engine revs.
woman paralysed
with silent child.

'best for all of us,'
he says,

breaking apart the union.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

Breaking up (c2025)

Democratic devolution.
Union dissolution.
Country separation
played out in bars by young Jocks.

Usll keep
oor oil, lochs, midges n whiskies
oor free degrees, pills and parkin.

Youse got Sterlin and bankers,
City and Westminster wankers.

Well see youse doon the Wall, Jimmy,
wi yer passport,
n oor farewell
Glesgee Kiss.

© Helen McIntosh
All rights reserved

When our lips accidentally stuck together

I should have applied extreme moistening,
used generous quantities of warm water

and pressure from inside the mouth,
systematically peeled and rolled

then avoided swallowing the glue;
I learnt the hard way:

pulling away too quickly
it adhered to the inside of my cheek.

There’s an art to coming apart.
© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Thursday 9 October 2014

Becoming Our Own Editors

"Writers today have to be their own editors because it’s so hard to find a real editor, meaning someone who understands story structure and can help the writer whip her work into ready-for-prime-time shape. The breed has become extinct, alas, at most publishing houses (or those who carry the title of editor and have the chops are so busy with material acquisition, marketing, and internal politics that they don’t have time to sit down and work with their writers in the old-school, Maxwell-Perkins, hands-on manner.)

It’s probably a good thing that we writers have to be our own editors. After all, who if not us should be responsible for the shape of our work?

But how do we become our own editors? What skills do we need? Where can we acquire these skills?

The editor’s primary creative contribution—i.e.,the skill that you and I need to master—is this:

The editor understands narrative structure. He knows what makes a story work. He understands genre. He knows that every story falls into a genre, and that every genre has conventions. He knows what those conventions are, and he understands how to use them.

Have you taken Robert McKee’s class in Story Structure? Take it. Take his class in Love Story. Take his class in Thriller. Whatever he’s teaching, take it.

Read Stephen King’s On Writing.

Read writers’ blogs.

Read everything you can on the subject of story structure and story analysis.

Keep reading. Keep watching movies. Learn the skill of editing the same way editors learn it. Study stuff that works (and stuff that doesn’t) and ask yourself, “How did the writer do that? How did she achieve this power, this emotion, this meaning?”

When you and I find a book or movie that we love, we have to read it and watch it over and over. Take notes. Ingest it. Pick it apart page by page and frame by frame till we understand how it works as well as the writer or filmmaker who created it.

Shawn’s concept of the Story Grid wasn’t handed to him on a platter. He figured it out on his own by reading and thinking and reading and thinking some more after that.

Can you analyze Hamlet?

Can you break down Blade Runner or The Usual Suspects or Taken 2?

The task is not impossible. It’s fun, particularly if you love the material. I can watch movies I love over and over and read the same books again and again.

Shawn’s concept of a “grid” is an excellent way to think of story analysis. We lay the story out on the operating table and we “put a grid over it.” The grid is like a template. It represents the archetypal version of Story.

There’s a grid for thrillers and a grid for love stories and a grid for police procedurals. Each one is a genre, and each genre has its unique conventions. When you set the Love Story grid over your love story, you are checking the anatomy, the architecture of your work against the universal, classic dimensions of the tales of Romeo and Juliet, Tracy Lord and C.K. Dexter Haven, Thelma and Louise.

Does your love story have the same moving parts that Shakespeare used? Do they appear in the same order?

Have you invented something new? Great. What is it? If it defies convention, how? What makes it work?

What editorial-type thinking does, what a concept like Shawn’s Grid does, is it gives us poor benighted writers a tool to analyze that pile of pages that we’ve pounded out in an ecstasy of unconscious inspiration. Our first draft is done. We’ve got our story. We’ve been working so far, as writers should, with our right brains—our instincts.

Now we switch to our left brain.

We zoom back to 30,000 feet.

We view our story impartially and objectively. We evaluate it alongside an imaginary model of the Universal Story, just like a Ferrari mechanic tests the engine of a new Testarossa against the engineering sheet from the factory.

Does our Love Story have lovers who are drawn to each other powerfully and passionately?

(We’re using the Grid now, checking the elements of our story against the conventions of the genre of Love Story.)

Is there a force that is keeping our lovers apart?

Do we have a moment when the lovers get together and cosmic sparks fly? When in the story does this moment come?

Do we have a moment when the lovers are pulled apart? When does this moment come?

What force produces this estrangement? Is it external or internal? Both?

Is there an All Is Lost moment? Does it come at the end of Act Two or deep into Act Three? How is this moment resolved?

Do the lovers come together at the end? How? How did they overcome the force that was keeping them apart?

(We’re our own editors now. We’re asking ourselves the same questions an editor would ask us.)

What is the theme of our love story? What greater issue (social, political, religious) has brought our lovers together and what issue is keeping them apart? How is this theme reflected in the crisis, the climax, the resolution?

An editor might say to us, “Watch The Way We Were. Pay attention to the political/moral/social ideals that Barbra Streisand holds that are irreconcilable with the worldview held by Robert Redford, even though Babs and Bob love each other desperately. Watch how these forces are introduced into the story and how they evolve and become more and more prominent, until they become inescapable and must be faced by the lovers. Ask yourself how this connects to the movie’s theme.”

Do we in our story have forces like that and are they as powerful, as real, and as clearly delineated?


Maybe that’s why our story isn’t working.

I know this sounds daunting. It is daunting. But this arcane art, the skill of the editor, is—more than talent, more than luck—what separates real writers from wannabes"

Wednesday 24 September 2014

To the Lighthouse


The universe rocks and shakes;
sky tilts, waves heave,
frozen stars whip into my eyes.

on creaking wood,
shifting fathoms,
moving mountains,

Months. Years.
Living in death's gaping mouth.


Sea collapses, silken,
moonlight shimmer,

winking light.

Safe pillar.
Held in my eyes.


© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

Writing Help: Dive or Wade? | WritingCompanion

Dive or Wade?

Some writers like to dive straight into the help pool, immersing themselves in many kinds of writing assistance. They zap through innumerable books, workshops, and websites, and may join not one but several writing groups.

Some learners find it exhilarating to get their hands on so much information and help in a short period. For others, being deluged with much new information can be confusing, stressful, and cause them to lose confidence.

Wading is another choice, which some learners prefer and others take up because work and other commitments make it impractical to dive in. They start at the shallow, comfortable end of the writing help pool, perhaps reading a few relevant blogs and books, participating in a short workshop, attending a one-off lecture. As they grow more confident about their needs and interests, they strike out into deeper, adventurous water. They may enrol in a long-term course or sign up with a mentor. This approach does not overwhelm learners, but some find the learning process frustratingly slow.

Whether you dive or wade, writing help works best when it fits your needs. Too often, we evaluate help opportunities in terms of their cost and convenience. It’s more promising to focus instead of us, as writers, in terms of our...

Read more here!

Tuesday 16 September 2014

To the Lighthouse

“Why don’t we go to the faro?”
She said without waiting for answer
And briskly we walked the paseo
Past all the tripper trap chancers.

The sun was hot as hot could be,
The lighthouse worth more than a glance:
Time to stop by the sparkling sea?
But she had scented her chance ...

Past overpriced bars and cafes,
We now trudged over the dunes;
Past beaches for children then gays -
Would we stop anytime soon?

“Journey’s end,” she said with a screech,
“Here we are!” she cried with delight:
“Frying flesh on the nudist beach.
Feast your eyes on these wondrous sights!”

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

(Ode) To The Lighthouse.

In lonely vigil, constant, mute,
     I rise above the ocean.
Through hours of dark
     I watch them pass,
Specks of perpetual motion.

I blink and turn
     and blink again,
their lodestar of the deep;

and then they're gone
     to alien shores,
unnamed, unknown, 
     sent safe away
while other mortals sleep.

© Sheila Rogers
All rights reserved

16, Lighthouse Road

Leaving, I consider how

the name of a destination sometimes describes a road
irrespective of the direction you move along it

and how

travelling away, towards the rest of the world
I can pull a beacon, with its quick, silent glances of radiance
further and further away into the unfamiliar. 

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

To the Lighthouse

Hornet homes must be too dark,
Too crowded, difficult to park,
Too many close-up. Wing-tip rips,
Not any room to stand apart.

A human home, an upstairs room
Tempts hornets to the windowsill
They queue up, hoping for remorse
From human, gently buzzing hearts.

© Isabel Hare
All rights reserved

Fifty words give or take on “The Lighthouse”

It’s just a lighthouse to you
but to me it’s home
just a little place amid the foam
storms come and go
that’s life I suppose
it’s been my place
high tide or low
the bucket and spade
my only foe
apart from that
I’m happy being a

© William Botley
All rights reserved

Friday 15 August 2014

What We See When We Read

This article, is worth reading.  It’s excerpt from What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund. Click on the link below for more :

"Most authors (wittingly, unwittingly) provide their fictional characters with more behavioral than physical description. Even if an author excels at physical description, we are left with shambling concoctions of stray body parts and random detail (authors can’t tell us everything). We fill in gaps. We shade them in. We gloss over them."

* * *

"Literary characters are physically vague—they have only a few features, and these features hardly seem to matter—or, rather, these features matter only in that they help to refine a character’s meaning. Character description is a kind of circumscription. A character’s features help to delineate their boundaries—but these features don’t help us truly picture a person."

* * *

"It is precisely what the text does not elucidate that becomes an invitation to our imaginations. So I ask myself: Is it that we imagine the most, or the most vividly, when an author is at his most elliptical or withholding?"


"Though we may think of characters as visible, they are more like a set of rules that determines a particular outcome. A character’s physical attributes may be ornamental, but their features can also contribute to their meaning."

Thursday 14 August 2014

Ray Bradbury’s Zen Writing

Ray Bradbury started early as a writer, penning his first story when he was 11 years old. He created the habit of writing each day, and kept submitting his growing number of stories to the popular pulp magazines. At 22, he finally succeeded in getting a story published.

A long writing career followed, with 27 published novels, including the popular Fahrenheit 451, and 600 short stories, including the collections, The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Through his writing, Bradbury helped shift the focus of sci-fi from the monsters from outer space to the scarier monsters within ourselves and our society.

Years later, as a famous and respected writer, Bradbury distilled his thoughts about the writing craft in a series of essays, later collected in the book, Zen in the Art of Writing. I recently read it and enjoyed the enthusiasm and confidence that came through in his writing.

The book’s title is based on a book, Zen and the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, a German philosopher. While teaching in Japan in the 1920s, he took lessons to master Japanese archery, which combines physical and mental skills. One day, he discovered a  ‘shortcut’ technique that enabled him to hit the target, again and again. However, his teacher chastised him because this outcome was the product of having ‘much too wilful will’, rather than aiming to reach a state of being ‘without purpose’, in the zen of the moment.

In his essays, Bradbury, like a zen archer, focuses on process rather than product.

Writing and story ideas

Dig into the personal and true to find your ‘individual truth’.  Delve into your personal ideas storehouse to write about your best and worst experiences, items from childhood, sensory impressions, conversations. Look for ‘honest’ ways to express emotion—love, admiration, excitement, hate.
Be a omnivore reader. Nearly any material can provide writing ideas. Read the works of authors who write like you, as well as those whose writing differs from yours. Read poetry each day. Poems can provide story ideas, expand your senses, and give you examples of powerful, beautiful metaphors and similes. Find story ideas in practical articles. Don’t try to understand everything in an article. Be a dilettante, letting your reading connect with your subconscious, memories and beliefs. Reading a travel article about an isolated beach may lead to you recalling an important childhood experience or brainstorming what could happen there, and to whom.

Establish a rich writing habit

Write daily, aiming for quantity rather than quality. A consistent, regular writing habit lets you achieve a relaxed state, where the words flow. In his early career, Bradbury set himself the target of writing 1,000 words each day, plus completing and sending off at least one short story each week.
Write fast in order to write honestly. Hesitation causes writers to trade truth for style or let self-consciousness creep in.
Free associate by drawing up a list of words (e.g., titles or nouns), selecting one word from the list, and freewriting.
‘Blurt’ your ideas when writing your first draft, without over thinking or editing prematurely.

Turn a first draft into a polished story

  • Shape your material in terms of what matters to readers.
  • Sensory richness. Make your story feel authentic by including rich sensory details:  Colours, shapes, sizes, smells, sounds, textures.
  • Character and dynamo. What do your characters want? Dream about? Knowing this puts the dynamo or energy into your story. When you know this, your characters will develop much of the story for you.
  • Emotion. Highlight your characters’ emotions, passions.
  • Tension. Incorporate conflict, opposites.  Make characters ‘fly together in a great clang.’
  • Release. Finish the story with a crucial action that releases the tension you have built.  The action should ring true in terms of your characters, their desires and needs.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury Joshua Odell Editions

Thursday 31 July 2014

An Unexpected Blessing.

Four's just right, we'd said. You, me, two beautiful girls.

He tumbled in, ten years adrift, on a cold December day,
snow outside, stifling within, a screaming hullaballoo of a boy.

"My little brother," whispered Jo in awe.

"Happy Christmas baby," murmured Ali, as
together they lay the teddy beside him.
© Sheila Rogers
All rights reserved

Monday 14 July 2014

Unexpected Blessings

Walking in lamplight snow,                                      
my daughter's tiny hand
curls in my palm.

Working. Searching.
Shattered sleep.
Myopic attention
on apparent affection;
leaving fatigue,
pale with questions.

London day in sunlight,
my grand-daughter
trots beside me,
her small hand
wrapped in mine.

Sunlight catches a snow crystal
in the dark of night.

© Valerie Taylor
All rights reserved

Saturday 12 July 2014

Family Union

An unlikely gathering:
dad, step-dad, children, partners, me.

Clouds to horizon stretch,
sunshine reigns.

Picnic to delight
and share
in grassy cliff-top hollow.

Offshore dolphins
to spectators' joy.

Swifts wheel
on insect prey;
butterflies float.

Our unexpected blessings.

© Helen McIntosh
All rights reserved

As I take a moment

to look deeper
to see what’s really happening

- at shape,
line, texture,
balance, proportion,
the shadow and the substance -

I pause, looking away

- taking stock
paying relaxed attention -

when a metaphor ignites understanding:
I connect with it; it connects with me.

I am blessed:
an unearned, unmerited
moment of grace.

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

To Be

Nothingness.  Ages pass.
Continents divide.  Dinosaurs come
and go.  Then,
through happenstance
or serendipity,
a fluke perhaps,
am here.  A sentient being.
Briefly mortal.
A minute part of life’s
churning whirligig,
feeling its pain and wonder.
I know not, only that
I am grateful for this
unexpected blessing.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

Sunday 29 June 2014

WW1 Field doctor

Rats, more mud

Deafening mortar sounds
Ever haunting silence and screaming

Rotting gangrenous smells luring the grim reaper in
a toxic cocktail of fading hope 

Dreams of England's green and pleasant land
Farmers, bank clerks doing their duty

Butchers trusted to use their skills to scythe the fetid limbs

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

Oxygen of respect

We see the same moon
Feel the heat of the same sun
Share the same Christian name

You face impossible choices 
I will never contemplate 
Like selling my body to eat or 
give my father a decent burial

Your small flicker of hope 
waiting for the oxygen of respect 
When you will stand equal in the world 
and in the minds of men

I will never meet you 
Or know your grinding face of poverty
Yet I hear your loud knock 
On my strong secure Western door

© Liz Redfern
All rights reserved

"Trust me," said the Butcher

"Ears flat," said Dad, "then gently backwards."
"Ouch! I can't. OUCH!
"Poor darling," said Mum.
"Bash the rails apart with an 'ammer" said Fred.
"Get the Fire Brigade," said George.
"Sod off," said the boy.
"Leave it to me," said the butcher, raising his cleaver. "I'll sort it. Trust me."      

© Sheila Rogers
All rights reserved

Trust me

'Trust me' said the Butcher,
As he sharpened his best knife.
‘This’ll only hurt a whisker,
And you'll thank me all your life.'

We hid behind the chitterlings,
Looking on with fear and dread,
Barely hiding our own jitterings,
As the butcher laid him dead.

© Isabel Hare
All rights reserved

Monday 16 June 2014

The Cleaver Cobham Players present the mad, comic opera, ‘Pusher’ (not recommended for minors)

I know Thursday night is traditionally billed as 'Mistakes Night',
with most of the cast coming on late, drunk, half-dressed, or a combination of all three;
but Bill Weston, come the first performance, entered stage left - not right -
bearing a syringe, whispering, with some menace,
“Trust me, I’m a butcher!” 

© Sophia Roberts
All rights reserved

Saturday 14 June 2014


Madeline does what she pleases,
won’t say ‘pardon’ when she sneezes,
calls the others horrid names,
and nearly always cheats at games.

Now you may think that she’s OK,
even admire her in a way,
but let me whisper in your ear
a little secret, daughter dear,
all her bravado’s just for show,
she hasn’t any friends, you know.

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved


‘Trust me,’ said the butcher bird
(formally known as the shrike)
‘It’s a lovely day, do come out to play.
We could go for a flight or a hike.’

But the little vole stayed in her hole
and would not take his word.
She could see his sharp claws and his fearsome beak
and had heard of this butchering bird.
For along the hedge where the thicket runs deep
his food store was fixed on a spike
and her sweet cousin, Joan had not returned home
from the junket on Saturday night.

‘I thank you,’ she said, ‘and I wish you good day.
Now, please, just hop it and fly right away.
I cannot be friends with a shrike!’

© Gill Dunstan
All rights reserved

The new word butcher

Trust me said rubicund Ruben,
Trussed in navy-white apron, cleaver at the ready,
Ill prepare you a nice bit of verbage.

Cholerically boned and rolled brisket,
an eyeballing sausage,
or a flexitarian kebab?

Chined and scored bonus genius,
smoked authorhood,
or upcycled thighs?

But I recommend the barbecued bloatware!

© Helen McIntosh
All rights reserved

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Trust me: I´m a Butcher

“Trust me:
I´m a butcher,”
Said the bloodless looking
Young man in a blue striped apron,
As he
Did so, the ring
Finger from his left hand:
Not so bloodless after all I

© Tim Scott
All rights reserved

The Psychopath

I recognised you as part of me,
I saw it in your eyes.
I know how to fill your heart with happiness.
I know how to split your heart in pieces
and put it together again in the way I want.
Trust me, I am a butcher of emotions.

© Valerie Taylor
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Tuesday 27 May 2014

The storm

Winds yowled
rains lashed
trees groaned
creeeeeek,  craaaaack, crrrrrrrrunch


Rooty lid, sunken crater, creepy-crawly underworld of
            flat bugs
                        even-flatter squash bugs
                                    eat-em-up assassin bugs
                                                eat-em-bigger-better damsel bugs
                                                            run-away-quick stilt bugs

scurrying hither-thither in search of
another under-tree home.

© Helen McIntosh
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Train Windows

When I stick my head out of the moving window, the dark lets me in, rushing past my head, brushing all my hair right back, smoothing all of me. There is no other way I know of feeling so alive and thrilled so quickly. Head in : normal, machine-world, head out : wild, dark-eyed world.  Heading into stations, the train-chug, minimal train-chew carries me as though I'm young and on my father's shoulders. We swing into the suburbs, Christmas-like lights of red and white lining the way. City smells begin to envelope and we swing about, not steady enough, held by the door. You can't help imagining what would happen if the door swung open, you finger the handle, so close and possible. Unless you look carefully, you could brush your head, or worse, much worse, against the tall poles that parabola towards you. The rails start to slice sound, metallic and smooth, giant dress-making shears. We switch tracks, heading directly into solid walls, veering away at the last minute. All the time, the air is flowing straight through your head. This awakens everything, all thoughts pop open, you are keen-eyed.  Thankful that your lower half is anchored in the warm, electrically-lighted, carpeted, inside world, that you really live in. You swing into the station, swerving to the other tracks. You glide, elegantly and high pitched, up to the stationary platform, your hand reaching for the outer handle, with the window pulled down as far as it can and up to the full length of your arm.  You can right- angle the unwieldy chunk of handle, a smooth, rounded utility handle, still working after decades of hands.

© Isabel Hare
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A Children’s Story

Discombobulated birds screeched across a sunless sky.

“No,” said Red, not looking up from her tablet.  “I’m busy – and anyway the woods are full of weird beards, paedos and doggers.”

“But Granny is hungry, Princess -” said her Mother.

“She can go online.  Supermarkets deliver food and flowers.  End of.”

© Tim Scott
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A Children's Story

'Once upon a time', so the stories go
'A princess lived unhappily': the tale begins with woe.
A prince, the youngest usually, sets out to see what's what.
Chaos comes and darkens life;  so much to fear and slay.
Enlightenment will follow, for the prince will save the day;
He'll also save the princess, and love her quite a lot.
'Happy ever after', so the stories go...

© Isabel Hare
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Once, long ago and far away, eight clouds were drifting along high up in the sky.

The first cloud, which was brand new, was as white and soft as marshmallow, and right in its middle sat a little lost soul. He stood up with a wobble, rubbed his eyes and looked all around. In front of him, stretching away into the blue like an unravelled feather bed, he could see other clouds bustling across the sky as if they knew exactly where they were going. But the little lost soul had no idea where that might be.

© Sheila Rogers
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Saturday 10 May 2014

A Cautionary Tale for Writers of Children’s Stories

Tickle a nascent rebellious streak with magic or confusion,
with stories about running away, joining the circus,
flying an airplane, stealing a car…

But remember to caution;
all choices have consequences.

Fail to ensure your characters always
come back home, before bedtime,
and you may live to write another tale.

© Sophia Roberts
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Wednesday 23 April 2014

12 May 1890 - 13 August 1910

Stealing men from death

Bringing hope

and soap

and water to cure the sick where lice once lay

Soaring in the lamp light like an angel with teeth

Setting the record straight in letters to The Times
Palmerston shuddered

she smiled

Compassion wrapped in discipline
Always human

Immortal nonetheless

© Liz Redfern
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