Stephen Claughton – two poems

We’re currently featuring poems from some of the poets who made it to our 2019 shortlist. Next up is Stephen Claughton. Stephen’s poems have appeared widely in magazines both in print (Agenda, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Magma, Other Poetry, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Warwick Review) and on line (Agenda Supplement, Ink Sweat & Tears, London Grip and The Poetry Shed). He has twice been nominated for the Forward Best Single Poem Prize.


“And can you tell me, please,
who is the current Prime Minister?”
You can’t, of course. It’s hard:
they change so often these days.

And anyway haven’t you always
had trouble remembering names?
I think of that rigmarole
you used to keep going through,

when you’d rattle off a roll-call
of all the family’s names,
including the dog’s (a bitch),
before you registered mine.

Of course, I’d like to believe you,
agree that it’s only your hearing,
or how the doctor speaks
that’s given you this bad score —

except that the other day
you asked me to meet your mother,
dead now for thirty years,
and think for some reason

I’m living in rural Wales.
It’s the same house your aunt once had.
You remember it clearly, you say,
from childhood holidays.


You’ve taken to leaving
silent messages
on my voicemail at home.

When I realised it might be you,
I dialled to trace the call,
then rang you back myself.

“Did you try to phone me, Mum?”
“I don’t know.” There’s a pause.
“Perhaps I might have done.”

I recognise them now,
your recorded silences.
They’ve a quality all of their own,

a subtly different sound
from computers cold-calling me
or plain wrong numbers.

First, there’s a puzzled silence,
then a silent pause
and the clunk as you hang up.

You used to leave me tit-bits
from “The Times” – tips on things
such as etiquette or health.

I stopped listening years ago.
Only now you’ve nothing to say
do I strain to hear everything.

“Voicemail” was first published in Magma, No. 63


Martin Ferguson – two poems

The next featured poet who made it to our 2019 shortlist is Martin Ferguson. Martin was born in West Yorkshire in 1968. He has been writing poetry for over 25 years, and during this time he has been published in numerous UK poetry publications. He has taught English for over twenty years in many parts of the world including Istanbul, Montevideo, Lecce and finally France, where he has lived for the last 18 years, and where he teaches Business English in French companies.



Judith Kingston – two poems

Over the next days we are featuring poems from some of the poets who made it to our 2019 shortlist, starting with Judith Kingston.

Judith is a Dutch writer living in the UK. What she loves about poetry is its tremendous power to get to the heart of things. Publications/performances include “Home” on Poets Reading the News. She has had poetry commissioned by Bacchanalia Theatre Company and Parabolic Theatre Company.


Whenever I hear the sound of rain pounding
on pitch and felt, my eyes turn to where the leak
used to be, and find only smooth white plaster now.

I call it Doom, this unease that spreads through
every bone in my body when I approach the junction
where that van appeared and ploughed into my side

or when the fox at the bottom of our garden cries
out dolefully in the night at exactly the pitch
of a newborn baby waking for a 2 am feed.

It is funny how sounds shape themselves into
an imperative finger that presses right in through
your belly button triggering the panic switch,

how the cold tendrils of dread shoot up from
your gut along your spine to your brain stem,
shutting down reason and slotting the past

neatly in front of your retina to remind you
that you are not free and you will never be,
and the rain will, in the end, hollow out the stone.



My mother is moving pans, handing me ladles,
feeding me endless mouthfuls of instructions,
all drowned out by the car crash noise inside my head.

What does it matter how much water the chicken
is drowning in, when all the voices sound like they
are screaming and your pupils are exclamation marks?

This knife edge has our name etched in it and
can cut through sinew and bone with casual
ease, but do not let it near water or it will rust.

I pick up plates and put them down half an inch
to the right of where they were.

I chop the lemon rind and mix it with the pulp
then separate the two into bowls but now

the room is spinning because nothing is
nailed down and I stretch out time like a cloth,

the threads are showing and I can poke a
needle through or my little finger, see there
are gaps here where time is thinning –

I cannot control the clanging of the lids on the pans
or the steam rising or the urgent beeping of
a cartoon emergency coming from the TV.

Sometimes all you can do to keep from turning
inside out or scattering into a thousand bugs is
tie your apron on so tight that you can barely breathe.

Annoucing our third poet for 2019

Really pleased to be publishing Graham Clifford in 2019


Graham studied Fine Art at the Swindon College of Art and Design, then at Middlesex University. At the University of East Anglia, he was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing.

His first, pamphlet collection was Welcome Back to the Country, published by Seren. A full length collection, The Hitting Game, was published in 2014 (Seren). In January 2017, the Black Light Engine Room published his collection, Computer Generated Crash Test Dummies.

Delighted to announce our second poet for 2019

Huge welcome on board to Claire Walker. Claire is a Worcestershire-based poet and editor.


Her work has appeared in a range of publications, including print magazines such as The Interpreter’s House, Prole and Obsessed with Pipework, webzines such as Ink Sweat and Tears, The Poetry Shed, And Other Poems and Clear Poetry, and in anthologies such as The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press), The Pocket Poetry Book of Love (Paper Swans Press) and Bonnie’s Crew.

She is the author of two pamphlets published by V. Press – The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile (2015), and Somewhere Between Rose and Black (2017). Somewhere Between Rose and Black was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the 2018 Saboteur Awards.

Claire is on the editorial team of Three Drops Press as a reader for their seasonal anthologies, and is co-editor of Atrium poetry webzine.

Her website is

The endless possibilities of ash

The endless possibilities of ash is a review by Valerie Morton of Sean Magnus Martin’s Flood-Junk at Sphinx Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features.

The pamphlet reviews that feature on the Sphinx site, co-ordinated by Helena Nelson, are One Point Of Interest (OPOI) reviews. “OPOI are short responses (up to 350 words) to pamphlets of poetry. A kind of a review, but not the usual kind.” “They just pick up on a single aspect that the reviewer found interesting.”

As Valerie notes “The wood of the ash tree, in different forms, runs through these poems” where “‘Ash’ becomes the boy forever trying to find a place in the world..”.

Help Flood-Junk find its place in the world by buying a copy at our Shop.


Announcing the first of our 2019 poets

We’re pleased to welcome Michelle Diaz to the Against the Grain stable and will be publishing her pamphlet, The Dancing Boy, next year.


Michelle has been writing poetry since the late 90s. She started performing her poems in 1998 at Covent Garden’s Poetry Café. She has been published by Prole, Strix, Live Canon, Amaryllis, the ‘Please Hear What I’m not Saying’ Mind anthology and was awarded 3rd prize in the Mere Literary Competition 2017.

She has a son with Tourette Syndrome and had a very unusual upbringing—both of which have been huge inspirations for her writing. She lives in the colourful and strange town of Glastonbury. Without poetry her soul would be incredibly hungry.