Monthly Meetings Are Now on Zoom

In the current situation, we can’t hold our monthly celebrations of poetry live in the Vittle and Swig, so we are holding them remotely by Zoom. An email is sent out to members with the details ahead of each meeting. The details are also added as a short post to this page of the website, usually a week or two in advance.

If you are a non-member and would like to attend, please pay £3 using the PaypPal button on the right, and email before the event, to give us your name and payment reference number. We will email you the Zoom link. There are usually Open Mic slots available, to read a single short poem (max 40 lines).

Meantime, we are also going ahead with our monthly workshops for members on the first Tuesday of each month, also by Zoom. Members interested to take part should contact Eileen Morrissey at

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Competition Results with Rishi Dastidar

Rishi Dastidar

Rishi Dastidar’s poetry has been published by Financial Times, New Scientist, The Guardian and the BBC amongst many others. His debut collection Ticker-tape is published by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, he is also chair of the London writer development organisation Spread The Word. Rishi wrote and judged the meme poetry challenge on Young Poets Network. He has also edited The Craft – A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century. Rishi’s latest collection, Saffron Jack, is published by Nine Arches (£9.99).

We are delighted to host Rishi on Zoom for the highlight of our year. He has been the judge for our 2021 Open Competition and we are excited to be able to hear him announce the results on Tuesday 20 April 2021. Our meeting starts at 8.00pm and will begin with the competition. Rishi will read his report and the winners will read their prizewinning poems. The winners will be published on the website as soon as practicable after the event.

In the second half of the programme, we will hear Rishi reading from his own poetry. A cornuco[pia for poetry lovers! Do join us!

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By Water, by David Smith

This poem by Society member David Smith was published in Folio #74, in 2020.

By Water

It’s lovely at night when the light shines through,
when the white of the page reveals itself
between the black ink waves
and you see, in the gaps,
the story unfolding.

It’s hard sometimes,
so many ripples, so much white noise,
to see the strands.
But you know they’re there. Waiting.

You could take a boat, row for the islands.
trailing a net to trawl the gaps
for their treasures.
They slip through
but leave a residue:
slick as oil, slippery as eelskin,
but the tang of it is enough
to get things rolling.

Come morning the tide is out,
the boat beached in a nest of pebbles,
but the gaps are still there,
shining through the blue,
and the light of the dawning day
makes sense of the darkness.

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Disposal, by Peppy Scott

This poem by Society member Peppy Scott appeared in Folio #74, published in 2020.


‘Hold her dearly in your arms
And do not merely call her “baby”;
Say a name to calm your grief –
This leaflet will explain it clearly.’
(How, I wondered, could she ever need her own name now?)

This child I had failed to gift with life
Here lifted to my hollow heart,
A scrawny, wasted scrap of sorrow,
Never known before we part.
(And where, I wondered, will this little body be abandoned?)

Embarrassment – ‘We’ll see she shares
A coffin prepared for Christian burial –
But we cannot recommend
That you attend a stranger’s funeral.’
(Why, I wondered, would they tell this tale of bland duplicity?)

For that’s the sterile way they spoke,
A still-born story spun for my sake.
I assume she went in a plume of smoke
With the rest of the clinical waste that day.
(And anyway, I wonder, what difference could it make?)

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My Cat Nugget, by Martin St Clere Smithe

This poem by Society member Martin St Clere Smithe appeared in our Folio # 74 in 2020.

My Cat Nugget

My cat Nugget
When he sees one
he just has to go for it.
That mug. It’s
Drained of tea
By me
I shout
‘No Nugget, no Nugget, no Nugget, no’
All pre-remptory.
It’s pavlovian
When Nugget sees mugs
He cannot abide
Not getting inside.

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John McCullough


John McCullough

Reckless Paper Birds won this year’s Hawthornden prize for literature, awarded for overall best UK book of the year.

On March 16, our Zoom guest is John McCullough. His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Poetry London and Best British Poetry. John’s first collection, The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011), won the Polari First Book Prize. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. His second collection, Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins, 2016), was named one of The Guardian’s Best Books for Summer 2016, and was shortlisted for the Ledbury-Forte prize. Reckless Paper Birds was published with Penned in the Margins in May 2019. It was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award.

When he is not writing, John teaches creative writing courses at the University of Brighton, the Arvon Foundation and New Writing South. He grew up in Watford but now lives in Hove with his partner Morgan Case and their cats.

The evening will begin with a short Open Mic, followed by John’s reading. What better way could you spend an evening? Join us for an 8 o’clock start for more poetry!

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Blind Surgeon, by Chris Renshaw

This poem by our member Chris Renshaw was published in the 2020 annual Folio, no. 74

Blind Surgeon

Don’t fret, I know my way around a body
after all this time. I’ll cut a straight line
from navel to collarbone, as smartly
as if I was using a ruler and red pen.

I remember the gleam of a sharp steel scalpel,
the tonal contrasts of the organs,
their bulk and form,
the pink and cream of healthy tissue and bone.

I’ll probe for the stone by feel, have it out in a blink
of my mind’s eye. You can keep it if you like.
The nurse will be ready with the dish, the swabs
and a needle.

We’ll stitch you back together,
seal it all back in.
You’ll find I make the neatest sutures.

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Free Range, by Sonia Lawrence

This poem by Sonia Lawrence was selected for and published in our Folio #74, in 2020

Free Range

Triumphant in success leaving a warm brown egg on the turn
of the stair clucking her joke and hopping six one-by-one
steps down with flapping wings squawking past the startled
woman and out through the back door into the farmyard still
noisily trumpeting her achievement until with a soft shoe
shuffle she scratches soil pecks a morsel as hens always do.
My mother twinkle in her eye cheeks everso slightly rosy
puts a box of eggs and the weighed apples and carrots into
the woman’s basket takes the money and thanks her warmly
but offers no other word.

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A Child in Spring, by Paul Hodges

This poem, by Society member Paul Hodges, appeared in Folio #74 in 2020.

A Child in Spring

A child in spring, radicalised
by the ferocity of flowers and driven
to something like God, by
a broken bird, folded and put away
in the long grass,
                                kept for later.
That same child, waking
among houses, discarded
like debris, shaping bombs like birds,
a detonation of starlings
                                     in a head
full of the memories of the ferocity
of flowers. That child wakes late
and lazy, turns over, itching,
cannot go back to sleep, balances
God like sunlight on his face, on his tongue,
Shapes words, rests hands
                                          like a gun
on his gut.
                         This morning, urgent with love
there is work to be done.

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Ruth Padel

On February 16th. 2021 we are fortunate to be hosting the extraordinary Ruth Padel, the award-winning British poet. She was at first a classicist, studying Ancient Greek and spending much of her life in Greece.

She now lives in London and has published twelve poetry collections, seven non-fiction works and a novel.

Ruth is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and Professor of Poetry at King’s College London where she hosts a popular series of Poetry And events, combining poetry with other areas of life and learning.

In 2020, Ruth published Beethoven Variations – Poems on a Lifeand also We are all from somewhere elsea paperback edition of her migration book The Mara Crossing, updated to 2020 to include the worsening migration crisis everywhere, and the effects on it of the climate crisis.

 In February 2021, Beethoven Variations comes out in America from Knopf. 

Our meetings begin on Zoom at 8.00pm and Ruth will be reading following an initial Open Mic opportunity. A fantastic reading is guaranteed.


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Eye to Eye, by Clive Eastwood

This poem by Society member Clive Eastwood was selected for our Folio #74 in 2020.

Eye to Eye

There have been many things for which
I didn’t weep, but latterly
all it takes is a stiff east breeze,
a few degrees of frost and tears flow
– down one cheek at least

for only the left eye cries: half is sad
or overjoyed whilst the rest mooches on.
Age perhaps, though is that anything
to cry about? As if, going for a paper,
I’m weeping for the pigeons, the grubby

redness of the pillar box
or the puddle I have to step over.
I dab at the eye with a glove
so the young woman in the shop
won’t feel obliged – though of course

she’ll smile the same perfunctory Hi!
whichever side I present. Walking back
the watery eye still waters whilst the right,
reminded of the woman’s untouchable
auburn hair, now too begins to grow moist.

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