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Jocelyn Simms – Close to You


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain

Beckoning your sisters to enter the historic
gloom, so they could smell the difference
between Catholic incense and Protestant
beeswax, you wore a tobacco silk two-piece,
swish and seductive though you weighed
only six stone with your boots on.
Inside the sanctuary your knife-edged,
pleated skirt unravelled from your skinny hips,
shuddered into a heap on the unforgiving floor.
April is the cruellest month,

breeding laughter, unseemly in a sanctified space,
you left in a huddle. Next a garden centre –
show the siblings you’d made a wise choice
– leaving the valley, the terraces, the smoke,
the grimy backyard where you and Billy played trains.
Now you count the flowers, the petals
you’ve pressed, a way to preserve memories
or return from an impasse – irredeemable,
insisting you can’t breed lilacs
out of the dead land.

I order yellow flowers from the florist,
cheerful harbingers of Spring. It’s still April
you nearly made May and your eightieth.
Lilies of the valley are nudging right
and left. Soon these, your favourites,
will burst into a cacophony of bells.
One night I saw you staring at yourself
in the gilded mirror in the hallway.
As if searching to find a self you could live with,
mixing memory and desire.

You lay in the bath, wearing your swimsuit,
for nudity was a sin. Dad found you
drifting, thought you’d maybe banged
your head. He called you Pegasus –
not after the flying horse, I learned,
but the bridge: Normandy, 1944,
sweat and tears. Restless rhizomes, chaste
but poisonous, will soon quicken
under these April showers stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

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‘Close to You’ by Jocelyn Simms was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald

Jocelyn Simms

Jocelyn Simms is once again delighted to be published by Sentinel. Originally from the North of England she has lived in France since 2002. At the moment she is working on an ekphrastic collection of poems in both English and French inspired by local artist, Aristide Caillaud. Last year her debut collection, Tickling the Dragon, received the Poetry Book of the Year award. She organises Segora International Writing Competitions www.poetryproseandplays.com and offers workshops and feedback for authors.

Jocelyn Simms reviews Roger Elkin’s Sheer Poetry


Title: Sheer Poetry
Author: Roger Elkin
Publisher: Dempsey and Windle, 2020
Pages: 84
ISBN-13: 978-1913329167
Reviewer: Jocelyn Simms



A striking image on the cover of Sheer Poetry, Roger Elkin’s latest poetry collection, shows a climber clinging to a bleak rock face as he makes his way to the summit. This photograph evokes for me the tenacity and linguistic adroitness of Elkin’s writing. The title poem, Sheer Poetry: Considering the Egyptian Position reveals the desire and determination of the writer: ‘wanting to own it all  /  if only for the moment, not let go.’ – thus echoing the courage and commitment of the climber.

The first poem introduces us to Elkin’s love of precision in the use of language. Being Two-faced reflects on the ability to look, sometimes conveniently, in two directions at once: ianua the gateway signals January, named after Janus who looks both forwards and backwards. Elkin’s veneration of language immediately surfaces with a litany of names from different countries and cultures with nomenclature for this first month of the year: wulfmanoth, tammikuu. month of slicing wind.

In Pencil Drawing of a girl, circa 1912, partially erased we are offered a tender pause to catch the glimmer of a likeness. Somethings have been
rubbed out
to smudged Summer clouds . . .
Erased to disguise failures?
how we mythologize
in recreating the past . . .
How we draw to cover the tracks.

In Fishing the Khabur River, Syria we learn how this once sacred waterway is now fished for bodies. Understated language makes the discovery all the more gruesome and poignant: an unforgettable description of the waste and cruelty of war.

In another war we meet the Yanks be-bopped, jitterbugged and smooched and later discover the consequences of trading favours for fags, gums and stockings: as someone wryly japes, you Don’t get owt for nowt.

In The Longest Day our all-time great film stars trawl through the D-Day landings as men are strafed in the vastness of sand but years later exposed in slow-motion monochrome our hero meets that terrible lonely vigil waiting by a hospital bed, your moment’s longest day.

There is a richness throughout the collection, whether cameos of neighbours and relatives or gritty descriptions of political confrontation. In Ireland’s Blight we get a glimpse of the terrible vindictiveness of one nation against another. Oliver Cromwell justifies the massacre of children in 1649 at Drogheda whilst Delia Smith’s tips on cooking cabbages is used as a coruscating forensic analogy for the Great Irish Famine. Roger Elkin is never one to flinch or look away but stakes out the territory with scrupulous care.

Elkin’s gift is to call forth a fresh slant to our awareness, appreciation and understanding of the world and our place in it.

Sheer Poetry showcases all the abilities of this widely-published and deservedly multi-prize-winning poet, a superb collection – buy it for your bookcase and savour.

Jocelyn Simms, November 2020

SLQ Daily, 07 September 2020

Welcome to SLQ Daily on Monday, 7th September 2020. Our Read of the day is ‘Morse’ by Roddy Scott, commended in the SLQ Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones. The blast from the Past is ‘Entropy, Goddess of the Hunt’ by JB Mulligan. As it is Monday, we do have a new Monday Writer; Jocelyn Simms. Read her bio, The Monday Writer Interview and  poems here.


Lit houses strain at their moorings
in the midst of the maelstrom
some flotsam of a boy

alone in the multiplying winds
life and soul at a party of his exclusive ken
gatecrasher at a ball for the elements

drunk on adhesive and air, cheeks bunching
out with bullfrog rhythm, hands clenched
to the lips sucking hard at the white poly bag

he silhouettes under a tinny orange
from the tall street lamp and glancing up to this window,
with his own code

spells out one word,
and a whole society of meanings.

‘Morse’ by Roddy Scott was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.

Entropy, Goddess of the Hunt

A hammered silver bracelet, sliding down
the river’s arm: the early evening sun
precisely tracks the bus. The day is gone

down tunnels of obscure, repeated tasks
and sparkless contact, toward impending dusk,
down grooves worn smooth of feature, bump or risk.

Excreted days accumulate like sand
in hourglasses, to no measured end.
The hollow goddess of this circumstance

demands no sacrifice in flame or blood.
The empty altar bears sufficient deed
of homage: no more than we could.

Her boneless body, in our image caught,
sprawls beside the water, stretches out,
a sacrificial gesture before night.

‘Entropy, Goddess of the Hunt’ by JB Mulligan was first published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) magazine, August 2003.