Category Archives: Daily

SLQ Daily 06 September 2020

Read of the Day

One night I slept on land that isn’t there

One night I slept on land that isn’t there,
the cliff now tumbled to the beach below.
So much that once was firm has turned to air.

I was so cocksure then, so free from care,
I had no better place to sleep, and so
one night I slept on land that isn’t there.

The music carried on, sweet, wild and rare.
I heard it float up from the town’s bright glow.
So much that once was firm has turned to air.

The warm turf cushioned me, the stars were fair.
Why should it matter now that you should know
one night I slept on land that isn’t there?

And when the early sun caressed my hair,
I knew for certain which way I should go.
So much that once was firm has turned to air.

My maps are ashes now, so who knows where
the paths went? I’m impelled to tell you, though,
one night I slept on land that isn’t there,
so much that once was firm has turned to air.

‘One Night I Slept On Land That Isn’t There’ by Mark Totterdell was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.

Blast from the Past

That Old Mill

is alive in the light of day

harsh wind grabbing
your windpipe, breath of winter-chill

icicle eyes staring dimly
at the scene, leftover pussy
willows as
stiff fingers beside river’s bank.

Within view an ancient mill
by the passage of time.

Images of life return as a photo
album, deer
within shadows
cows flicking horse flies

kids painting the barn and
three dogs chasing.

Childhood is splashing in the
creek, pages from life
a long time ago.

‘That Old Mill’ by Richard l. Provencher was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, August 2003. Provencher is now retired, allowing him more time to write. He combines a love of nature with contemporary issues. His poems are in: Ottawa Arts Review, Paragon, Folly, The Dublin Quarterly, Parenting Express, Time of Singing, and Phatitude Literary Magazine. He and his wife, Esther, live in Truro, Nova Scotia. A poetry chapbook In the Light of Day is available through Mercutio Press.

SLQ Daily 05 September 2020

Clive Donovan has four poems due in the October – December 2020 issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly. In SLQ Daily 02 September 2020 one of those poems ‘Soul Vampire’ was our Read of the Day. He returns today with ‘Study of the Object’ – the second of those four poems. The Blast from the Past is ‘My e-Conversation with Alison Chisholm by Nnorom Azuonye, an interview first published in August 2003.

Study of the Object
[After Zbigniew Herbert]

The object that doesn’t exist is most beautiful.
It has no limits or volume or lines,
it does not decay like cheese or wine,
for time has no dominion here,
unlike furniture, whose damage is ordained
in a disappointing world of splits, cracks and entropy.

Silently, with impossible curse, its aura shrieks,
unperceived, odourless and stiller than a mouse,
willing itself far from predatory gazes,
its contiguous space has no chance to contrast
and emphasize the constraint of its beingness,
so not in the thrall of the daemon of existence,
now this naked gap commands even more interest
as we come to realize what is missing, astray,
which means, ergo, its anti-matter counterpart
is null also and that creates or uncreates
two major holes in the universe – or two minute ones,
it is of no matter – but, in the psyche of mankind,
a void is a nagging ache, one must enlist
in the contrapuntal spheres of love and hate,
subscribe to the scheme or attract attention,
not always benevolent or welcome.

And the takers, who cannot bear to miss out,
must possess at least an ounce of its essence;
even as dealers offer promissory notes
to the connoisseurs of ownership,
agencies of governments strive vainly to bomb
the unthinkable into the matrix.

At best it will be assigned a place, absente reo,
on an altar, plinth, or display case,
with a script surmising properties,
a plastic model of putative halo, perhaps.
That’s it. That’s the end story. That’s how it is. Or isn’t.

I am floating on a raft, struggling with belongings,
after a villainous war of philosophy
and it is circling me, this thing I almost made,
sliming up my punt pole, pretending to be water,
fresh, unsalted, the drink of my dreams.

Or I am a salmon, where plunges a dread waterfall
and this thing, nothing to speak of, is an invisible
spring: Unlocked, unhinged, inside the vortex, I rise,
engineered and shimmering with all the best colours.

Clive Donovan

Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including The Journal, Agenda, Acumen, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Stand. He lives in the creative atmosphere of Totnes in Devon, U.K. often walking along the River Dart for inspiration. He is hoping to entice a publisher to print a first collection.

My e-Conversation with Alison Chisholm

Nnorom Azuonye (NA): Do you recall your earliest contact with poetry? Did you have an immediate love for the art or did this love have to grow?

Alison Chisholm (AC): I can remember enjoying nursery rhymes as a very small child, and loving the completeness of a poem. When I was about five years old, my uncle gave me a copy of ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this book inspired me with the magic of a poem’s ability to open up a new world for the reader in just a few words. (My uncle died in his twenties shortly after giving me the book – a very special legacy.) When I was eleven I started studying elocution, and learned to love speaking poetry as much as I loved reading it to myself.

NA: In your poem “Fait Accompli” you mention Wordsworth as one of your influences. Are there other poets that influenced and or continue to influence your poetry today?

AC: I suppose I’m influenced by everyone I read. So many poets leave me gasping with admiration. I love Keats, Browning, Frost, Shakespeare, Byron, Donne… also Sylvia Plath, Kit Wright, Carol Ann Duffy, Tony Harrison, Brian Patten, Dannie Abse, U. A. Fanthorpe … but any poet can influence me with a stunning phrase or perfect image. My response ‘I wish I’d written that’ is all too common!

NA: If you were introduced to somebody as a poet and the person asked a rather ambiguous ‘What kind of poet are you?’ what would you say?

AC: A jobbing poet – something of a hack. Yes, of course, I love to write the words that flow from my heart directly into the pen, but I’ll produce whatever people want to a deadline – poems on particular themes or for particular occasions, rhymed poems, free verse poems, poems for children, articles about poems … anything.

NA: You have been known to be a great reader/performer of your poems. How do these performances form a part of your creative process? Specifically, do you return to tweak poems after your have given public readings of them? If you do, what informs the bits of changes you make – is it the reaction of your audience, or smoothness of the lines on your tongue?

AC: Thank you for such a lovely compliment. I love reading my poems, and try to do so with vocal expression and variety, but without a melodramatic, over-the-top performance. Yes, I do make occasional ‘tweaks’ after a reading. If a line or stanza does not flow easily I may well change it, and I also respond to audience reaction.

NA: Do you have a favourite reading/performance venue? Is there something about the physical space of that venue that adds more depth and or resonance to your poems?

AC: I don’t mind where I read – size of room, size of audience, etc. The physical space is not really important to me, although a cold venue is uncomfortable and a noisy one or the presence of uncontrolled hecklers is distracting. The warmth and responsiveness of the audience are essential, and fortunately most audiences are extremely generous.

NA: What is your favourite poetry magazine? What is special about it?

AC: This is a very difficult question to answer. I subscribe to about a dozen and enjoy them all, although time does not permit me to read every issue of every magazine from cover to cover. I particularly enjoy the poems selected for ‘Envoi’ and ‘Acumen,’ so perhaps I am on the same wavelength as their editors, Roger Elkin and Patricia Oxley respectively.

NA: You have published 7 collections of poems, with an 8th collection in the works. How do you find the inspiration to continue writing?

AC: With great difficulty. I have a poor imagination, and rely a lot on exercises to stimulate the creative flow. I feel there’s no problem about using an exercise as the genesis of a poem as long as the poem finds wings and manages to fly. I suppose that observation, reading as much poetry as I can, and keeping a writer’s notebook provide me with the majority of ideas. But for every poem I submit anywhere, there are probably twenty ‘flops’ in the waste paper basket.

NA: You are involved in several poetry tutoring programmes in the United Kingdom. When did you realise that you wanted to teach poetry writing? Do you really believe that somebody can be taught to be come a poet?

AC: I have always been drawn to the vocation of teaching, wanting to share skills with enthusiastic people. I have taught elocution all my working life, and started to teach creative writing in 1983. Two years later, when my local Arts Centre mounted a series of arts-based courses and was looking around for tutors, I applied to teach poetry, and worked for them for eleven years. I am learning the craft of writing poetry by trial and error – and it’s an on-going process. My first book on this subject was published in 1992, and I wrote it to try to distil all the advice and hints I wish I’d known when I started to write. As a result of this, I was invited to write a correspondence course for poets. I firmly believe that writing poetry can be taught, as long as there is the slightest spark of ability in the student, and patience and perseverence to fan it into a flame. If I didn’t believe that, I could not do my job with integrity.

NA: In “The Craft behind The Art” ( Vera Di Campli San Vito writes on The Craft of Writing Poetry, “Alison Chisholm says she wrote the book she wished she’d had when she was starting out. In the past, books which analysed poetry were mostly English literature text books which would show how to deconstruct a poem, rather than show how to construct one.” Tell me about this book, what are the key tips you present in it that every poet might find invaluable?

AC: The book takes its reader through the whole process of writing a poem. It starts by looking at the people who are writing and why they do it … then explains about getting ideas and developing them through the technical and artistic processes required to bring them to life in poetry. There is advice about what to do with the poems after you’ve written them, too.

NA: You have previously run a poetry course at Swanwick: The Writer’s Summer School. Is this an on-going course? What does it seek to accomplish for the poet? Is it open to all and how successful has this programme been in helping aspiring poets get closer to their dreams?

AC: A number of writers’ schools and conferences offer courses on poetry, as well as other aspects of creative writing. These give an opportunity for
studying the craft of poetry with an experienced tutor, or gaining ideas and refining your writing in workshop groups. Any networking with other poets and studying with tutors can be beneficial to the writer.

NA: You are a regular poetry competition adjudicator, and I have enjoyed some fantastic poems that have won including A.C. Clarke’s “Remaindered Poets” (Envoi 117). You have also (with Iain Pattison) written “Writing Competitions – The Way To Win.” This almost sounds as if it is not enough to write excellent poetry. Besides, there are a lot of people who hold the view that pay-to-enter competitions are in a way some kind of vanity and a way of funding the commercial press. How would you respond to these, especially to the suggestion that poets who do not crave validation of their work will never send them to one of these?

AC: The best advantage you can give yourself when entering a competition is to ensure that the work you submit is excellent, exciting and original. I do not know of any pay-to-enter competitions that yield vast profits. Given the expenses of running a competition, breaking even is the goal of most competition organisers, who are doing it to help and encourage poets rather than for commercial gain. Entering a competition will not massage a writer’s vanity – it is far more likely to give him/her an inferiority complex, as winning is extremely difficult. But there is a fascination in pitting your skills against those of your peers which many poets find irresistible. The book and the competitions themselves exist so you can give yourself the best chance to do this.

NA: Last year, you adjudicated the malapropism poetry competition in Honour of Richard Sheridan on the 250th anniversary of his birth. I read in Writing Magazine, the winning poem “Misguided Tour” by Phil Powley, and the runner up “To the Manager of Gruesome Grange Hotel” by Liz Summerson, and had amazing fun with them. What is the future of Malapropism Poetry?

AC: I’m glad you enjoyed these pieces.

To be honest, I don’t think that Malapropism poetry has ever been considered as a recognised form. Of course, many poets have included puns and misusages in their work, particularly for comic effect, and I know there is a lot of mileage in doing so. But this is just a device, rather than a set style. We thought it would be fun to play with malapropisms in the competition as a pleasant way of honouring Sheridan’s anniversary.

NA: In your estimation, who is the finest poet writing in English today? Kindly say why this writer gets the full marks from you?

AC: I couldn’t answer this – there are too many contenders, and it would be impossible to make a fair choice.

NA: Do you agree that we are now experiencing one of the most vibrant periods in the history of poetry? What would you say is the reason for the increased interest in poetry in our time and how can we make the art even more popular? Is this popularity even necessary and healthy for the art?

AC: I think we’re experiencing a wonderful period in poetry … but this probably has something to do with the fact that publishing is relatively inexpensive and easy these days, and that poetry on radio and TV makes it hugely accessible. I am in favour of anything that helps to promote poetry, and a love of reading and writing it. Encouraging children to enjoy poetry, and allowing poems to insinuate themselves into our lives via radio, newspapers etc. are likely to increase the level of public interest in the art. I believe that poetry is a way of making sense of the universe, and any increase in its popularity means that more people are drawing joy and understanding from it.

NA: Thank you, Alison for making the time to talk to me. I look forward to your new collection and more educating articles in Writing Magazine which I read regularly.

AC: Thank you for allowing me to take part in this interview. Best wishes.

My e-Conversation with Alison Chisholm by Nnorom Azuonye
was first published in Sentinel Poetry (online) in August 2003.

SLQ Daily 03 September 2020

Read of the Day

The old man in my bed

Taken by surprise
as I lay in bed, dozing,
I touch an old man’s head,
fingers falling through reeds
into a pond. I wipe away the sleep.

His cheek soft, wrinkles to my touch
a fruit past its prime,
slow deflating balloon.

How did this old man come to be
in my bed?
His failing crop
alien to my touch;
decimated rain forest.

I remember now
seeing the old man
in the living room mirror
caught him in a sideways glance.

He didn’t register as anyone I knew,
yet here he was
in my bed.
My fingers run lightly

over his parched brow tense,
line after line his forehead reveals
his furrowed history.

I rub gentle circles around his temples.
I feel relief,

he coughs, I choke,

he yawns, my ears pop,

he hooks his spectacles into place,
my world comes into focus,

then I realise,
my God!

‘The old man in my bed’ by Andy Eycott received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly, July – September 2020 – Buy or Subscribe now.

Blast from the Past

Walking (1)

I was a large thing walking,
I was a small thing walking,
I was walking a small thing
walking a large thing walking:

I was a large thing walking,
my son was a small thing running,
my daughter a series of hearts:

There was a green eyed woman,
I could hear her in the dark forest-
no moon thick trees-
down there
across the creek
flailing or holding back
waiting to perch
on the neck
to invite the man.

You could hear the music start
And know the man, small the stone rolling gathers,
The light industrial sound mounts
A clarinet without sides,
Or an inside
Delivered out.

To hear the music circle
Without finance or vision,
The division, my daughter screams,
My son chortles: What arm
Around the throat or waist? What victim?
The joy delivered backwards. What’s a
Young man to do?

What she dances,
Her hands plying her crotch,
“I’m squeezing my vagina. It’s good
Massage. What do you think of
the Pointer Sisters?” Four years
Old. “Look Dad,” a few minutes later
In the bathroom, “I’m pissing
standing up. None got on the floor.”

Walking & walking & walking.
You are not with me anymore. Happy.
Sad. You name it. I don’t care.
Walking. Walking. What’s a life?
Though I hear you walking.

Stephen Vincent served as Director of Bedford Arts — an art books house (1986–1991) and as Publisher, Momo’s press (1974–1985). A former Poetry Review Editor, San Francisco review of Books (1976–1982), Director of Poetry in the schools, California (1970–1972) and Lecturer in Creative Writing, San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University (1968–1970), Vincent has also worked as Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, the United States Peace Corps, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.