Tag Archives: oz hardwick

Kathleen Strafford – Feelin’ Alright with Joe Cocker

Feelin’ Alright with Joe Cocker

Singing the mad dog blues
Joe’s body flails and contorts
as if playing guitar     piano and drums
                                 all at once

Raspy vocals            pass through
Steel City                 slag and flume
wooing lovers          distorting the room
until the ceiling        gives way
becomes a crow flying
where no one can escape its sorrow
jazz and booze
knock out his teeth
ripping out his throat
don’t ask how many times
he’s wailed a tormented mating call
                    in Delta’s garden
                          the world is alive
                          hold on
                          I’m taking you with me

Feelin’ Alright with Joe Cocker by Kathleen Strafford received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.


Natalie Crick – Apple Da

Apple Da

Apple Da is pencil thin
in a black apron. His eyes
walk out in leaf along the branch,
then disappear into the tilt of sky.
Blank blue races overhead.

Da strides across the meadow
flashing in shadow hyacinth.
His orchard is idle with nausea,
his bottles empty of scrumpy,
his bruised apples hanging brown.

Da culls Mam with a stick,
a heavy bowed dance.
Soon he’ll be smashing her head
until she pools into darkened ferments,
seeds rolling in her mouth.

Perching down on his knees, Da might
roll Mam to the baskets if she is ripe
and rich and green, but not too soft for him.
Satisfaction might break in his face
like the definition of joy.

* * *

Asleep on Mam’s floor
Lee dreams this like a calf
lulled and loaded with pain.
When he wakes he is hot
and his breath tastes like fruit.

Mam’s face sitting on her chair
is an empty apple, skin pocked
with turn, the years moving
inside of her. Da harvests Mam and
puts her away in the kitchen.

Natalie Crick

Natalie Crick is a creative writing research student at Newcastle University and poetry editor for Fragmented Voices. Her poetry is published in The Poetry Review, Banshee, SAND, Agenda, Poetry Salzburg Review, New Welsh Review, The Moth and elsewhere. She won second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Competition 2020. Her poetry received an honourable mention in the Poetry London Prize 2020 and was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition 2020, amongst other awards. This year her poem ‘Sisters’ was shortlisted in the Wales Poetry Award (pending prize-giving) and she received a nomination for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

‘Apple Da’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Pratibha Castle – The Only One Who Loves You

The Only One Who Loves You

Spurning words that echoed
like a curse, I stuffed
a duffel bag with
blister packs
of pills, Mary Quant
minis, fantasies of girls
threading daisies in the muzzles
of guns; fled to the Big Smoke. In a bedsit

by Kensington Gardens, I massacred
steak with the mallet of hate,
a year on, turned vegan;
pioneer in ’68 of pity
for pool-eyed cows,
sheep, slate stare plaice.
Feigned compassion. Strove

to prove to myself that I was
worthy of love. Strutted
the nights away with
flautists, a harpist whose
healer’s hands strummed my
strings; drummer, his silk tipped
stroke nimble on the snare; callous
guitarists plucking tunes from out of smoke drifts. Chanted

mantras with Ram Dass in a basement
in Notting Hill, dossed in a Maida Vale
squat; candles, calor gas stove, the one tap
drip drip in the bog beside the back door. Made

out, off my head, with a sweetheart
leaf Philodendron, burnt joss sticks
to placate Kali’s horde
of swords, sweeten
the vibes, man, stench
of cat lit no-one from
the Highgate commune
I crashed in next, ever emptied;
spooned marmalade from a jar

half-full, recycled from a skip. Almost
believed myself deserving of love, till come
the morning, I forgot. My heart tenderised with
grief discovering the night my mother died, love
is an ether you can choke or float in.

Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle’s debut award-winning ‘sensual, sacramental’ pamphlet, A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Press) publishes in 2021. Her poems appear in literary journals and online including The Honest Ulsterman, The Blue Nib, One Hand Clapping, Impspired, Fragmented Voices, Sarasvati, Reach, Fly on the Wall, Words for the Wild. She has work forthcoming in Agenda, Dreich Magazine and Dreich Special ‘Summer Anywhere’, and Beyond Words. Shortlisted in poetry competitions, winner of 2009 NADFAS poetry competition, with work anthologised, Castle broadcasts regularly on West Wilts Radio, The Poetry Place. Irish born, relocated to England 1953, she now lives in West Sussex.

‘The Only One Who Loves You’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.