Charlie Bell is a writer, poet and creative writing tutor. He has written several local history books, a distance learning course on Creative Writing for the Regent Academy, and authored or edited 25 books for Hodder & Stoughton in their Beginner’s Guide to Literature series. His poems have been widely published. He is also Chair of the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival (sadly now cancelled for this year due to COVID-19). Hastings Sojourn appeared in our Poetry Folio #73 in 2019.
I went to be alone, but you were everywhere.
In the very pebbles where we often walk,
in the fishing boats, and net shacks,
in Love Café and the Kino,
in the crying gulls and the whispering wash.
You were in the multi-coloured underground car park
and the smugglers' caves and castle.
I found you at the Jerwood and in George Street
and at the crazy golf.
The kids and grandkids were there too,
their memories threaded with ours.
Wherever I went you were imprinted there,
countless years of pleasure and escape
wrapped in chip paper, marked by endless cups of coffee.
I walked and walked, and the more solitary I became,
the more you kept me company and eased my pain.
Each year we hold an internal competition for Society members, in which an independent judge selects poems for our annual Folio magazine. This year’s judge was well-known poet Judy Brown, who chose Anna’s Party by our long-time member and ex-Chair, Clive Eastwood as the winning poem. Clive is thus the 2020 recipient of the lovely Keith Francis vase. Folio #74 will be printed in the autumn.
It goes wrong at the front door: the woman who answers isn’t the one who invited me. I explain who I am but she’s still unsure, watches me over the threshold then disappears.
I admire the brace of pictures plus the space between them, guess at the hallway’s considerable height then put my coat on the naked table and choose a door. On the other side,
amongst the beautiful people, a man with wine in both hands tells me he shoots, adding “films” with a practised laugh. He owns “a little place in Umbria” and a few
is that so‘s and really‘s keep him going through a double refill. Twice the door-opener walks past and I make as if the shooter and I go back a long way – but her nostrils
tremble like a suspicious dog’s. When il direttore takes a breath I excuse myself, scribble “To Anna, it was fun, shame I missed you.” and leave unseen so the welcomer can worry all night where I am.
So we can’t meet up at the Vittle & Swig, but some of us can get together with Mona Arshi on Zoom on 19th. May 2020 at 8.00 p.m., with an Open Mic session at the beginning. This meeting will only be open to members, unfortunately, and you will need to register your interest in reading a poem in the Open Mic with our Chairman, who will be running the meeting. He will be in touch soon.
Mona Arshi is a poet and human rights lawyer. She won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection with Small Hands (2015), and her second collection, Dear Big God, was published in 2019.
Mona was born in 1970 to Punjabi Sikh parents in West London and grew up in Hounslow. She worked for a decade as a lawyer for the human rights charity Liberty UK, acting on many high profile cases, including that of the ‘right-to-die’ campaigner, Diane Pretty, asylum destitution cases and death in custody cases. She began writing poetry in 2008 and then went on study creative writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia (MA Creative Writing, 2010). Whilst she was studying for her masters she won first prize in the inaugural Magma poetry competition for her poem ‘Hummingbird’. She then went on to become prize winner in the Troubadour International Competition in 2013 for her poem ‘Bad Day in the Office’. In 2014 she was joint winner in the Manchester creative writing competition with a portfolio of five poems. Her collections “Small Hands” (2015) and “Dear Big God” (2019) are published by Pavilion Poetry, a new poetry press from the Liverpool University Press under the editorship of Deryn Rees Jones.
Lydia is a member of the Society whose poem Turkeys was selected for the 2018 Folio, Number 72.
A flock of fussing aunts,
heads swivelling, they cross the yard,
The killing pen is draped with black
in the dark the turkeys are quiet;
one by one he takes them,
in his hands they do not flap.
Head first plunge into padded cone
peashooter shot, slash, thrashing,
his last service, to hold the upturned feet.
He hangs them on hooks
we pluck quickly, before they cool,
feathers every shade of bronze, gold
the breast beneath sensuous,
quill like wing feathers require pliers
pores ooze juice onto sore fingers
speck-of-pepper mites crawl.
Before we fetch the next batch
he takes down the plucked,
they must not see, he says.