The Girl in the Swimming Pool, by Phil Vernon

This poem, by our member Phil Vernon, was selected for Folio #73 in 2019

The girl in the swimming pool

It’s magical to watch a girl begin to drown,
suspended with her face towards the rain,
then lift and place her gently on the ground
and coax her lungs to believe and breathe again.

Your dad had raced the tide, and fought his way
through surf, on jagged granite, years before,
to reach and rescue you from panicked spray
and the pull of the sea, and swim you back to shore.

You fancy higher powers had bid him save
you, so you’d later rescue in her turn
this girl half-floating on her enchanting wave
who sank, and rose, and sank; a stricken bird –

but when you lean out from the parapet
above the shadowed gorge, where far below
those blue and sightless swollen dolls forget,
forget, forget, in time with the river, you know

one life saved means no more nor less – beside
whole families who cowered in stands of cane
and, hopeless, queued in quiet lines to die –
than one life saved: unlinked in any chain.

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December with Malika Booker

Malika Booker, by Adrian Pope
Photo credit Adrian Pope

On December 15th. we are delighted to have Malika coming to read to us. The meeting starts at 8.00 pm and will begin with Open Mic, as usual. It should prove an inviting chance to spend time together this midwinter, celebrating poetry, even if the screen divides us.

Malika Booker is is an international writer whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and is rooted in storytelling.  She co-founded Malika’s Poetry Kitchen in 2001 to create a nourishing and encouraging community of writers dedicated to the development of their writing craft. Now a firmly established writers’ collective based in London, it offers bi-weekly writers’ surgeries and has supported writers including Inua Ellams, Warsan Shire and Aoife Mannix, with guest tutors including Kwame Dawes, Fred D’Aguiar and Bernardine Evaristo.

Malika won the Forward prize this year for the best single Poem for  “The Little Miracles”, and last year received a Cholmondley Award for her outstanding contribution to poetry. Her first collection, Pepper Seed, was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. She is a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds.

It’ll be special, so don’t miss it!

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The Owl, by Marjory Caine

This poem by our member Marjory Caine was selected and published in Folio #73 in 2019.

The Owl

Bones hollow, lighten;
pinions pierce wrinkled skin
and you are startled
by this other you:

this older athene noctua
whose eyes are hooded.

In silence, you open up your wings,
catch air and lift;
glide along pathways, quartering;
track up the side of a ripe field.

You listen for location,
turn your head and observe, discount
what you know to be fur and bones.

You wait for the coming together
of sound and sight.

Aiming for your target
you accept that you might miss,
your victim
slip away in the undergrowth.

But also that sometimes
you’ll feast
on the flesh of the young.

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Looking Round The Wall, by Bob Spencer

Bob Spencer is a local farmer and a member of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society. This poem was selected for our Folio #72 in 2018.

 Looking Round The Wall
 not sure where   cairo perhaps
 a veil-faint moon
 eternal pyramids
 a blue window
 on a flat oiled slab
 arches  an open doorway
 spewing light
 from a dead man’s ritual
 rag baggery of shacks
 places in amagio
           night surrendering
           to a sky wrenched open
           hillside   light meets dark
           cattle grazing  leafless trees
           bony branches
           clawing the day
           miss muffet weeping
                               cocky Spaniard
                               impatience quivering
           table overhung
           with bordered cloth
           patches dipped in Timbuctoo
           sold in tunbridge wells
           eve’s fruit mouldering
           in a woven basket
           temptation fermenting
                               town mist  ugly windows
                           street seller harrowing cod
                           from yesterday’s trawler
                           women haggling
                           by an ominous doorway
                           to what is not nice
           a lake  a reflecting tower
           a naked woman
           gazing at glow worms
           the moon her life force
           an opening
           to the profound dull tunnel

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Peggy’s Oak, by Lydia Hill

This poem, by our member Lydia Hill, was selected by our external judge for inclusion in Folio #74 in 2020.

Peggy’s Oak

No horses graze today beneath Peggy’s oak. In full leaf it stands
on the slope of a mound, the sheltered side, a good spot.

The small field rises from the road beside the whitewashed village hall
where you once danced. A large cabbage white flutters under the eaves.

I hear the band playing In the Mood, smell cigarette smoke, hear shuffling feet;
you were clumsy, you trod on girls’ toes, laughed when they complained.

How many horses have sheltered beneath this oak? Scratched their rumps
on its rough bark? If I look, will I find a clump of Peggy’s brown hair?

You say she never used her field shelter, winter’s mornings
you’d find her, frost on her back, under the oak.

I lean on the gate, feel through your hands the cold steel catch,
listen as your booted feet crunch on frozen mud,

you call over her warm, steaming horsiness,
holding her harness, inhaling Neat’s Foot oil, waiting for the day to start.

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Birthday Blues, by David Hensley

David is the Chair of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society. This poem was selected by our external judge for publishing in our 2020 anthology, Folio #74

Birthday Blues

Not a moment, but an aeon of pain,
surging from beneath, lurching from within.

We cry in tandem as you burst forth,
surfing the tide of my blackened blood.

You are searching for your own first breath,
you are the beauty I will love to death.

This is our first and final parting,
the start of separation and end of cohesion.

Now you are gone from my bloated body,
no longer my bones and blood but your own.

Your naked fragility fuels my anxiety,
I weep for every future failure you will face.

After birth, there is only motherhood:
not a moment, but an aeon of pain.

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Charger, by John Arnold

John is a long-standing member of the Society, who now lives in East Anglia but still joins our events by Zoom. This poem came second in the Folio competition in 2019, and was published in Folio 73.

after a screen print by Zsophia Schweger
at the RA summer exhibition 2018

she's left her charger

I am alone in this bare pastel house
with nothing but her charger

its wire straggles on the floor
seeking an absent phone

but this is a comfort
it means she'll return

if only to retrieve her charger

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Sophie Herxheimer

laying out feast linen

Sophie Herxheimer is our November guest and will be reading to our Zoom audience on November 17th. The meeting starts at 8.00 pm as usual.

Sophie is an artist and a poet.
She has held residencies for LIFT, Museum of Liverpool, The Migration Museum and Transport for London. Exhibitions include The Whitworth, Tate Modern, The Poetry Library and The National Portrait Gallery.

She has illustrated five fairy tale collections, made several artists books, created a 300 metre tablecloth to run the length of Southwark Bridge, featuring hand printed food stories from a thousand Londoners; narrated an episode of The Food Programme from Margate, made a life size concrete poem in the shape of Mrs Beeton sited next to her grave, and a pie big enough for seven drama students to jump out of, singing, on the lawn of an old people’s home. An ongoing project is collecting stories live in ink from members of the public.

Recent publications include: Your Candle Accompanies the Sun,(Henningham Family Press, 2017) Velkom to Inklandt (Short Books, 2017) and (with Chris McCabe) The Practical Visionary published by Hercules Editions. Her latest collection is 60 Lovers to Make and Do, with Henningham Family Press.

Come along and enjoy a gourmet feast from Sophie this month!

Non-members are welcome and can use our Paypal link for the tiny fee of £3.

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Turdidae, by Clive Eastwood

Clive was for many years chairman of the Society. This poem was published in Folio #72 in 2018.


Blackbird chases Thrush
through the flowerbed;
they share a family name
but don't get on.

That's the thing
with taxonomy; it finds
two small bones that match
and you're linked forever.

Take a funeral:
the strangers who coagulate
after the event - aunts,
confused whose sons we are,

nephews who've grown a foot
or grey since Gran was eighty,
cousins claiming to be soul-mates
and with whom

we swear to stay in touch
as we did when - what's he called - 
their second-born was named.
We wrap a wing around each one,

insist they call
the minute there's a chance
and hone our beaks
in case they have the cheek.

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The Gebelein Man, by Clare Marsh

The Gebelein Man, by Kent and Sussex Poetry Society member Clare Marsh, a writer of children’s fiction, short stories, flash fiction and poetry, was selected in our 2020 Folio competition for publication in Folio #74. Clare graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Kent in 2018. She can be found on Facebook at claremarshwriter1

The Gebelein Man

In the Early Egypt Gallery,
preserved in sand, a young man
from south of Thebes, lies crouched
face-down in a glass cube. Surrounded
by prying eyes, he covers his face
with clasped hand in a staged burial pit - 
defenceless as any caged animal.
I want to cover his naked body
with a blanket of softest wool

Displayed over a hundred years,
dubbed Ginger for his poignant tufts
of red curls, clustered on his leathered scalp.
His given name belatedly dropped due to 
ethical concerns about the treatment of the dead.

The British Museum invites me instead 
to take part in a touch screen
interactive learning experience
to explore inside Gebelein Man
on a virtual autopsy table. Allows me,
and a crowd of giggling school children,
to slice through CT scan layers - skin, muscle, organs -
to reveal his skeleton and discover the fatal
stab wound in his back.

After the Human Tissue Act 2004, the British Museum 
developed a policy for the respectful handling and 
display of human remains. 

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