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By Steve Walter

This is one of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society members’ poems published in the 2019 Folio (#73)


They’re resurfacing the road at midnight –

a young worker cleans his blackened


torso, naked from belly to neck in August heat,

nothing more alien to flesh than tar –


oil, slippery as a lover’s skin.



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Maura Dooley

Maura Dooley

Our special guest for October 2019 is the much-admired Maura Dooley.  She will be reading to us at the Vittle and Swig on October 15th.  The meeting starts at 8.00 pm with an Open Mic.

Maura  is a poet and freelance writer.  She was born in Truro, England, and is published by Bloodaxe Books.  She is Reader in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and lives in London.

Her poetry collections include Explaining Magnetism (1991), Kissing A Bone (1996), both Poetry Book Society recommendations, and Life Under Water (2008). Life Under Water and Kissing a Bone were shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. She has also edited a number of poetry anthologies including The Honey Gatherers: An Anthology of Love Poems, published in 2003, and is editor of How Novelists Work (2000), a collection of essays by contemporary writers. Her poem ‘Cleaning Jim Dine’s Heart’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in 2015, and is included in her 2016 collection, The Silvering, also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Maura was a Centre Director at the Arvon Foundation and founded and directed the Literature programme at the Southbank Centre. She works in film and theatre and has recently helped develop educational films for Jim Henson Productions. Her work in the theatre includes running workshops for Performing Arts Labs, devising new plays for young people. In 2001 she was a judge for the T. S. Eliot Prize, the National Poetry Competition and the London Arts’ New London Writers Awards. She has also chaired the Poetry Book Society.


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Alison Brackenbury in September

Photo of Alison Brackenbury
Alison Brackenbury
Another year is starting for our Poetry Society this month with our next meeting on Tuesday 17th of September, when we have the wonderful Alison Brackenbury coming to read. There will be an open mic to start (usual system, one poem per person, not more than 40 lines), so do bring any poetry-loving friends who aren’t yet members – it’s only £3 per visit.  We are back in our pleasant venue, the upstairs room in the Vittle & Swig Restaurant on Camden Road, and the meeting starts at 8.00pm.  Join us for another cornucopia of poetry, to set our 2019-2020 season off to a great start.

Alison Brackenbury was born in Lincolnshire in 1953. She is descended from generations of skilled farm workers, including a dynasty of prize-winning shepherds. She won a scholarship to Oxford and left with a First in English. She then married and moved to a small town in Gloucestershire, where she combined writing with horse-keeping, parenthood, grassroots politics and a variety of non-academic jobs. For twenty-three years, until retirement, she worked as a manual worker and bookkeeper in her husband’s family metal finishing firm.

She has published nine collections of poetry. The first, Dreams of Power, (Carcanet, 1981) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The most recent, Skies, (Carcanet, 2016) was chosen by ‘The Observer’ as one of its Poetry Books of the Year. Her work has been awarded an Eric Gregory Award and a Cholmondeley Award by the Society of Authors. For over thirty years, her poems have appeared in Britain’s major poetry journals. She also reviews poetry for a wide range of publications. Her work has frequently been featured on Radios 3 and 4. She has written six full-length radio features, including Singing in the Dark, about the stubborn survival of traditional song, which was a Radio Times Choice. She contributes regularly to Radio 4’s arts programme, Front Row, and has recently read her work live on Radio 4’s Today programme. Alison is noted for her interest in promoting poetry on the internet. She is active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. New poems not included in her Selected Poems can be found on her website:

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Philip Gross and Lesley Saunders

Our June meeting at the Vittle and Swig celebrates the work of not just one, not just two, but three poets!

Philip Gross lives in Bristol, England and teaches creative writing part-time at Bath Spa University College. He won the National Poetry Competition in 1982 and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 1998. A number of his collections of poetry, including The Wasting Game (Bloodaxe),  have been recommended by the Poetry Book Society  .

Lesley Saunders is an experienced educational researcher, a published poet and translator of poetry, with seven published collections.

in addition, we are replacing our usual Open Mic section with a reading by our member John Arnold.  John is a frequent contributor  to to many prestigious poetry magazines.  He has been a member of the Society for over 40 years.  John and his wife are moving to Suffolk later this summer, and we felt it would be a fitting tribute to ask him to read for us.   For many years he has played a major role in running the Open Competition, taking care of the publicity (a mammoth task). He also designs, prints and distributes copies of our annual programmes, and is responsible for getting the Folio published every year. As if that were not enough, he also organised the monthly members’ workshop rota. All this represents a huge amount of work, and we owe him a huge debt.

Please join us on June 18th. at 8.00pm for a three-course banquet of poetry.

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Raymond Antrobus

May Meeting – Raymond Antrobus, winner of the Ted Hughes Prize 
Photography by Tenee Attoh
Photograph by Tenee Attoh

Our May meeting, Tuesday 21st May, again 8pm at the Vittle & Swig, will be privileged to have  Raymond Antrobus as our guest. He he has just won the Ted Hughes Prize for new poetry.
Raymond describes himself as a poet, educator, editor, curator and investigator of missing sounds. He was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father.  Raymond is the author of ‘Shapes & Disfigurements’, ‘To Sweeten Bitter’ and ‘The Perseverance’ (PBS Winter Choice, A Sunday Times & The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018). In 2018 he was awarded ‘The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize’, (Judged by Ocean Vuong), for his poem ‘Sound Machine’. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works 3 and Jerwood Compton. He is also one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University. Raymond is a founding member of ‘Chill Pill’ and ‘Keats House Poets Forum’ and is a board member at ‘The Poetry School’.

Raymond has read and performed his poetry at festivals (Glastonbury, Latitude, BOCAS etc) to universities (Oxford, Goldsmiths, Warwick etc). He has won numerous slams (Farrago International Slam Champion 2010, The Canterbury Slam 2013 and was joint winner at the Open Calabash Slam in 2016). His poems have been published in POETRY, Poetry Review, News Statesman, The Deaf Poets Society, as well as in anthologies from Bloodaxe, Peepal Tree Press and Nine Arches. His poetry has appeared on BBC 2, BBC Radio 4, The Big Issue, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Guardian and at TedxEastEnd. Sky Arts and Ideas Tap listed Raymond in the top 20 promising young artists in the UK. The Fadar listed Raymond as a Writer Of Colour to watch out for.

Raymond Antrobus’s poetry has charmed and chimed with readers and audiences around the world. His poems articulate and explore questions of existence and identity, often around his Jamaican-British heritage, masculinity and d/Deafness, which aligns with his careful construction of poems as sound-objects as well as his interest in stories and voices often unheard.

There will also be an opportunity to read one of your own poems in the open mic at the beginning of the meeting (one poem per person, no more than 40 lines)
We can look forward to an exciting evening!

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Fiona Moore and Results of Folio Competition at the Vittle & Swig

Head and shoulders colour photo of poet in profile, smiling and relaxed and looking to the right of the page. She is wearing a blue and white top, and behind her is a bank of wild flowers.

Our guest judge and reader for April is Fiona Moore.  Based in Greenwich, Fiona Moore has an MBA  in organisational culture and a degree in Classics. In 2004, she left her Foreign Office career to write, working part-time for Excellent Development, a sustainable development charity specialising in sand dams.

Fiona served as an assistant editor for The Rialto for several years and is currently on the editorial board for Magma. She reviews poetry (Saboteur Best Reviewer in 2014).  Her debut pamphlet, The Only Reason for Time, was a Guardian poetry book of the year and her second, Night Letter, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets.

Her first full collection, The Distal Point, was published by HappenStance in 2018.  It was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Autumn 2018, and shortlisted for the T.S.Eliot Prize.

We are moving back to our Vittle & Swig venue for the time being, after feedback from members.  We will begin our meeting at 8.00pm.  Fiona will announce the results of the Folio Competition, with readings of the selected poems from the members who contributed them.  In the second half of the evening, she will be reading from her own work.

See you then!


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Open Competition 2019: Prizewinning Poems

FIRST:            “August” by Alex Porter


History, of course, will fail to record
the drift of your breast to my hand
and the arc of your pale shoulder
through the sifting half-light of that last dawn.
Nor the cursive loops of our avid tongues
and the warm simoom of your breath;
not our giving and taking done –
nor your keening song to the rising sun.

Prudish to a fault, it will not set down
how you donned my Sam Browne and cap
to clown, naked, around the room –
teasing the sap in me until I spilled.
Or how you snatched back the shade and caught fire
then stopped, suddenly, as if stunned.
Stone-deaf, it cannot hear you say –
is not Sarajevo too far away?

SECOND:      “The Waiting Time” by Simon French

The Waiting Time

We apologise that an earthenware sky
floods meagre light into the booking hall.
That no luggage will burst

with anticipation. Grass of the runway
is currently unruffled by tyre.
You are not permitted to take a turn

around the time zone clocks, see your face
ticking in each city’s distant hubbubs.
Foreign languages

won’t be cluttering your ears, your mouth.
Should you decide to sit and wait
we’d like you to be aware

this is not an airport. This is something else.
No matter that you may wave
your passport or dream of sipping tea

from bone china of Boeing or de Havilland,
our customs and excise officers
have been unavoidably detained. Are unable

to explore you.
If you find yourself believing in arrivals
and departures, we would remind you

that the Ray Ellington Quartet
are providing musical enlightenment
in the control tower.

We do not sell Capstan or Pall Mall
should you contemplate inhalation
to steady your nerves.

May we take this opportunity
to disclose to you that starlings circle.
Our propellers are blooded.

We recommend
you leave by the nearest available daylight.
This is not an airport.

THIRD:           “Amy – Locked in” by Liz Eastwood

Amy – Locked in

Exminster lunatic asylum 1944       locked in


Blazing Trails Nursing Home 2018

locked in dementia

I stroke my dementia cat as the band

plays My Way I joke

with Elvis        he kisses my hand


I see tracers glide      bombs going off in


destroying my home in New Street

dog fights       ash snows down       I hide with

G.I. Joe


this home is hell                    I cry

take me to my bungalow

don’t make up those lies

I’m very well                           please let me go


Joe courts me                        dies on D Day

there’s this boy                      in the next town

Tom’s mother advises                try Amy

I have his kids                       I mix up then down


at the home                I try  and try

to recall                      the man’s name

he cries Oh Mum      cries and cries

who are you               I fall in to my scream


I discover that Tom’s first love

has his baby               I fall in to hell

I wish the child well              he moves

our whole family       to his nurse in Cornwall


in the home I know the worst

I was always a meek girl      not brave

I would never speak up or go first

so that is how he managed to have

his nurse woman                  all our life

I slash out with war trench knife


I am a child                around eight years old

I drive needles through my hands

see the scars?                        nurse falls cold

blood red

because father comes to my bed    his



give me my pills         the drug trolley rolls away

I must be ill                my mind is locked for

another day


FOURTH:      “Hiraeth”  by Jan Norton


Sometimes he dreams of that village by the sea
that clung to the cliffside, bruised by winter swell and wind,

rainbow doors, windows muffled  by lace curtains,
scoured doorsteps, the stony chapel on the hill

that frowned down on the yawning morning streets,
the suck of surf on sand, the harbour’s open mouth,

the hiss of waves, thunder clouds loud on the horizon,
his father’s fishing boat, shrinking out of sight.

FOURTH: “Why We Did What We Did When We Did” by Ian Royce  Chamberlain

Why We Did What We Did When We Did

because we could
swing through trees
sail against the breeze
take our chances in the dark
not having heard of consequences
broke down fences
started fires in silly places
like that party where the girl
got pregnant in the bathroom
tied the knots but cut the rope
came crawling back to say our sorries
and tomorrow
did what we did all over
strayed like tomcats
dead-end tracks to not-quite-glory
swallowed everything on offer tasted nothing
thank you Leonard for that line
your wisdom wasted on us
made our beds and lay on them
in silence but not listening
scratched our stories in the sand
accepted that the tide would wipe them but
never guessed how soon
and now the beach is emptying
while those of us who’re left
in charge of everything we’ve learned
are somehow caught unprepared
to find the sun going down


FOURTH:  “The Sea Children” by Madeleine Skipsey

the sea children

speak; hush child;
the waves will see you now.
an azure blanket offers
you more than just sleep.
it will whittle you down carefully,
lay you to rest
in a place we have yet to ruin

you, drowning
in a counterfeit suit
her, pushing your body
anywhere upwards
go, my love, go

the priest tells us that we will be forgiven
that it’s enough to be forgiven
he tells us the men in pressed shirts
talking on the television
mean well, are Christian at heart
if not on paper
and so amen to that

in the days before these
you could say there was peace

some days I am still waiting
for the funerals of people
who, in unison, danced
acrid smoke circles.
and now, konjo,
where are the bodies;
held hostage by sirens and seaweed.


FOURTH “A Lead Pellet”  by Harrison Collett

A lead pellet

A lead pellet
pierces the wing
of a starling on the power line
and the schoolboys cheer
from an A-frame window
of a hay barn

they play Vietcong
with their B.B. guns
where the birds are
black bombers
and bales of hay
the musty underbrush of Saigon

the bird tumbles
from its perch
to the asphalt below
to the schoolgirls
skipping with tight pigtails
their gazes skyward

another shot rings out
and pierces the other wing
the beast now
barely visible beneath
the dust and shadow
of its brothers taking flight

and the boys gallop
in tidy squares
to the beat of
a rope slapping
against the hard earth
and the feeble cries

of fallen zipperheads,
or rather bombers,
or rather simply
a bird into which
a little town
has poured its anxieties


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March 20, 2019 · 9:36 am