Metastatic: traversing a dark and uncertain landscape performed by Jane Lovell and Timothy Adés – Poetry Café, October 19th, 7pm – Against the Grain Press

The Poetry Shed

Metastatic: traversing a dark and uncertain landscape

performed by

Jane Lovell and Timothy Adés

Against the Grain Press is delighted to launch Jane Lovell’s Metastatic at the Poetry Café on October 19th at 7pm. Special guest readers include Alison Brackenbury and two poets from ATG’s 2019 list, Graham Clifford and Michelle Diaz. We are also pleased that Timothy Adés is joining Jane on stage as narrator.

“Jane Lovell’s writing charts mysterious, unsettling trajectories: the invisible paths of bees, the journey of dead light, the routes found in folded and untied landscapes. These poems unmoor us, find beauty and strangeness in the everyday.” Helen Mort


JaneJane Lovell is the Poetry Society Stanza Rep for Mid Kent. She has had work published in AgendaEarthlinesPoetry Wales, Magmathe North, the Honest UlstermanDark Mountain, The Lonely Crowd, Ink Sweat & Tears,Zoomorphic and Elementum.

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Jinny Fisher – two poems

This is the last of our blog posts featuring poets who made it to our 2019 shortlist and we’re delighted to finish with two poems by Jinny Fisher. Jinny has been published in print and online, including by The Journal, Under the Radar, Prole, The Interpreter’s House, New Walk, Lighthouse, The Poetry Shed, Ink Sweat & Tears, Amaryllis and Riggwelter.  Poems have also been anthologised, including in Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (2017).  In competitions, she has been commended in Battered Moons 2014 and Fire River Poets 2015, highly commended in York Mix 2016, runner-up in The Interpreter’s House (Open House Competition) 2016 and commended in Tongues and Grooves Prose Poetry Competition 2017.

Day Shift

She won’t be leaving us for a day or two yet.
The nurse scribbles on Flora’s chart
nods at us, moves on.

Emily, Joe and I put aside our Scrabble game,
kiss Flora’s waxy cheek, and trail out
towards Hampstead Ponds.

We shake the odour of boiled cabbage
from the folds of our clothes, buy
cheese and pickle rolls at the Euphorium Bakery.

We tramp the leaf carpet down the avenue
of plane trees, to spread across a bench—
breathe, breathe and breathe again.

Emily tells how, after the bad-news call,
she’d pierced her ears and bought a red dress.
We chew and muse about our Christmas plans.

There’s silence, blinking as the dog-walkers,
hand-holders, and kids on bikes pass us by.
We crumple our paper bags and wander back—

up the concrete steps from Pond Street,
past the smokers with their drip-stands,
round the revolving door, into the lift.

Eleventh floor, East Ward. Our shoes squeak
on the polished floor, but as I open the door
to Flora’s room, she doesn’t move.

Joe takes the armchair next to Flora’s head.
Emily and I perch on moulded plastic.
The Scrabble board tilts on my lap.

The nurse comes back, to feel her patient’s pulse.
I place my letters and turn to count the seconds
between Flora’s breaths.

Flora stretches one arm high above her head—
holds it still and long, reaching up, up.
It’s what they do— we don’t know why.

Highly Commended in York Mix competition 2016

Christmas Eve

They had always dressed the tree together—
surrounded by gold-sprayed pine cones
and evergreen wreaths.

Each year, a new ornament, marking
a shared city break or afternoon stroll
around a craft fair.

Tonight, she uncurls her fist, sloughs off
her ring, considers the imprint
that remains.

She swings the ring a moment from her finger-tip,
slides it over a drooping branch.

The fairy, impaled on the tree’s top stem,
stares paint-eyed across the room.

Published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, December 2015

Pnina Shinebourne – two poems

As part of a series of blogs featuring poems from poets who made it as far as our 2019 shortlist, here are two poems from Pnina Shinebourne. Pnina is the author of three pamphlets. A Suburb of Heaven won the 2014 Venture/flipped eye poetry pamphlet award. Uproot won the Overton Poetry Prize 2017 and was published by the Lamplight Press. In 2014 she won the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. Her first collection, Pike in a Carp Pond, was published in 2017 by Smokestack books. She is originally from Israel and now lives in London and teaches psychology at Middlesex University.

The poems below are from a sequence that draws on the life and work of Claude Cahun.

Don’t kiss me

breezy as an airy dawn, she slips into a bodysuit
and boxer shorts

a dumbbell angled across her thighs. Newly
made-up face for the day. Pouty lips,

curlicue spirals skirting  her forehead,
faux nipples pasted on her off-white chest.

A flash, steel
glinting in the pupils of her eyes.

Her top says I am in training
don’t kiss me
. As if teasing a gaze,
cracking beneath its hold.

Watch how she stirs the stare, the twirl
of the eyelids,  the quivering

hearts drawn on her cheeks, the way her pose
thrusts at you, and tilting slightly

sideway, captures the I dare you,
the way the camera shutter’s click

makes it speak

Skin for the colour of time

Crossing over the bridge
the dazzle spills
with facepaints, glitter & ruffles
into a girl’s eager eyes –
plunge, it flutters,
into a kaleidoscope
of pleasure

flushed with excitement, I am
the girl whose out-of her-mind mother,
like a ship sliding on clouds,

drifts around a beak-nosed child
curled in a cupboard, the girl
who wants nothing more

than to throw herself into the rattling
alleys of adventure
& each year the path hardens …

add a wrinkle, a fold along the mouth,
eyelids inked in black
& a skin for the colour of time.

Once on the day of the carnival
I passed my lonely hours masking
my face, thickening the streaks

to let dark monsters enter my heart
in a gasp of fretting, the paint biting
my flesh. I tried to scrape it off,

the way deer rub the bark off trees
with their antlers, until my skin
came free & my soul

like my flayed face, no longer
resembled a human form

Jaydn DeWald – two poems

Jaydn DeWald, who made our 2019 shortlist, is a writer, teacher, musician, and the author of three chapbooks, The Rosebud Variations: And Other Variations (Greying Ghost, 2017); In Whose Hand the Light Expires (Yellow Flag Press, 2018); and as counterpoint to this compressed mass a longing (forthcoming from Sutra Press). His poems, stories, and critical essays have appeared in Best New Poets 2015, The National Poetry Review, Popshot Quarterly, West Branch, Witness, and many others. Option 2_Page_1

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Winner of poetry competition marking 70 years of the NHS – Michelle Diaz

Congratulations to the winners of this competition to mark the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the National Health Service. Particular congratulations to Michelle Diaz who won first prize with her poem My Life Reduced to a Window. The competition was judged by none other than Wendy Cope and Lachlan Mackinnon. Poems will feature on the Christabel Hopesmith website and in a memorial book of poetry on the theme of the ‘human condition’.

We can’t wait to publish Michelle’s pamphlet The Dancing Boy next year!

Eleni Cay – two poems

Eleni Cay is our next featured poet from our 2019 shortlist. Eleni is a Slovakian-born poet living in the UK. Her most recent poems were published by Eyewear Press in December 2017 and appeared in Atticus Review, Glasgow Review of Books, Poetry Ireland Review, Acumen and Envoi. Eleni’s award-winning collection of Slovak poems A Butterfly’s Trembling in the Digital Age was translated by John Minahane and published by Parthian Books. Eleni is known for her filmpoems, dancepoems and multimedia poetry, which have been screened at international festivals and featured on Button Poetry.

Oranges are the Only Fruit

My grandfather unwrapped his first orange when he was nine.
He didn’t wash his hands till Three Kings’ Day,
the sweet essence lingering on his calluses.
He used to say grandma’s hugs were like oranges in winter.

My parents plundered a few when they were young.
The bold sweetness of Valencias ignited a land
of opportunity inside their mouths. They gobbled the
flesh together with the skin, blinded by the flushed sun.

Mr McPhee bought as many as the words he wrote for The New Yorker.
Unsure whether to cut them into nine like planets or into quarters
like lunch for the businessmen. They tasted of a pre-dawn running,
pesticide-rich, fruitless manufactured concentrate to him.

I have experienced many. Too many for one person to carry.
I calorie-checked, Instagrammed, changed them beyond recognition.
With yellow nails you carved out the seeds, now the oranges are mine,
you said. No one can put fruit back together once it is cut in half.

First published by Poetry Ireland Review

Soldiers’ graves
Inside the innocent poppy heads
there are billions of small black bullets.

Their unrequited kisses
leave empty spaces in-between the wild rye.

It doesn’t matter how many you hurt in the combat.
The fleeting sunset does it every evening to the sky.

What unites us is the red blood,
setting out from the heart.

First published in Glasgow Review of Books

Maya Horton – two poems

Our next featured poet who made it to our 2019 shortlist is Maya Horton. Maya has been published by The Guardian, New Scientist, Riggwelter, Dawntreader, Fat Damsel, The Linnet’s Wing, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and many others.

Guardians of the Northern Sky


time-sipped in perplexing winter

per aspera, ad astra

sandwiches placed on gingham cloth, breathing enmity
there is a moose on these tracks

and for not the first nor last time.

We grind to aching halt in this forest
and I pretend to be sleeping. It is neither the first,
nor last, time I have made this journey.
Tornetr¨ask stretches out dark and blue,
darker and bluer than I will ever see it.
The forest is dark and green.

This, too, is spellcast in cruel vedure;
time-moment’s frozen shades and tones
limping far beyond words.

And on my way here I traversed a street
that I will never walk down again,
though it will be close.

Life is a constellation of moments
in the rapidly inflating dark.

The Night You Died

& out the dusk you died in a drowned-penny moon
caught roseate westwinds in the city’s far-glow fog
blinded by street-sparks, wrested by parked cars,
with distant-blaze headlights par-veiling sycamores

(I didn’t even know there was a road there, I daze).

Across the highway roe deer bound, beset by hawthorns,
encased in silver shrouds: rainsteam halos, tarmac-hot
still shrugging off the summer sun. With twilight
painting oakwoods I see your ghost in privet hawkmoth
hedgehog, hedge-banked, wren near-sparrowhawked,
breath lightningpulsed. Tiny heart and tiny feathers

like the masks that your wall wore: caress of peacocks,
Buddhas, masquerades; a Buddha-ball in masquerades.

It is very Zen, this illusion of things. & on this night
when starflakes sparkle with noctilucent ionospheric ruffles
and shimmer-ghouls refract the seeing with bleary eyes –
an old troll’s mirror – and we no longer know which

galaxy we’re looking into, or out of (this demon-twisting
archaic game-playing), I / we sigh, who are remaining,
candlewaxed with pianoforte longing. We sit outside

in lichened graveyards, silent, distorted Vespers-vigil
(you / I / we always made up our own rules), saintly, counting
turquoise in hexadecimals: civil, nautical, astronomical.