A silent-screen ocean,
sand gritty as grave-yard gravel.
A bitter monochrome day to wait,
to watch aimless black-backed gulls
sweeping the upper air.
Moon dust dunes wax and wane,
shape-shifting the scoured landscape
where marram grass, colour-leached
and sharp as glass,
flows like beds of eels across the blown-out beach
reaching out to where the salt steel sea
closes in on treacherous sands.
I sight a riderless horse, still and pale,
below a white sky
as wide and empty as a sail.
This poem has undergone many edits, several title changes and indeed this is an edited version of the entry, after advice from the esteemed Bert Flitcroft. I was very surprised to win, as I felt there were several entries far superior to mine. - Ed.
Commendations were 'Dandelion' by Andy Wooton and 'Amy' by Heath Ackley.
City Voices Creative Writers will be announcing the winners of the second annual Poetry Competition, at the meeting 6th July. All welcome to come along and listen and meet our judge… who this year is Bert Flitcroft, Staffordshire Poet Laureate 2015-17. For a number of years, Bert ran week-long residential poetry-writing courses for sixth-formers in Staffordshire, working alongside guest poets in residence such as Carol Ann Duffy, Adrian Henry, Linda France and others. Over the years, Bert has been Poet in Residence at The Southwell Poetry Festival, The Wedgwood Museum, and The Brampton Museum. He has performed at a number of national Festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe (twice!) Bert is essentially at home in any place where people are interested in poetry. He has two published collections of poems ‘Thought Apples’ and ‘Singing Puccini at the Kitchen Sink’ available from Offas Press offaspress.co.uk/shop/ or the contacts page on Bert’s website. www.bert-flitcroft-poetry.com/contact.htm
What they say about Bert –
‘Bert is a joy to listen to. His sonnet to a bacon sandwich is a wry, insightful comment on the dynamics of a relationship. Like all Bert’s work, it’s delivered with a twinkle in his eye. A master of his craft’ Steve Pottinger : Writeoutloud
‘Bert Flitcroft is an honest, genuine writer - his poems are accessible without being simplistic, honed and well crafted without being clever, eschewing obscurity in favour of direct and clear human speech which has the ring of true poetry, much in the manner of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost.’ David Calcutt - poet and novelist
In 2017, working with Staffs County Council, Bert curated The Staffordshire Poetry Collection which is now available on-line at Poetry Collectionstaffordshirepoetlaureate.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/the-staffordshire-poetry-collection/
Needless to say City Voices are thrilled to have Bert as our competition judge and he will announce the winner and the two commended places. I cannot thank him enough for stepping in so graciously at the 11th hour and I felt very cheeky for asking him! After the read-around of poems Bert will lead an inter-active critique for those who wish to join in -
The meetings will be at the usual venue at City Central Library Hanley, in room 1 (J R R Tolkien suite) 11.40 - 13.40
Image courtesy of Dawn Jutton
City Voices Creative Writers welcome new member Roy Jones. We are delighted to have fiction writer Roy with us, and having heard an extract of Roy's book 'A New Me' it sounds like it's well worth a read, and has a very contemporary theme. Available in paperback www.amazon.co.uk/New-Me-Edwin-Roy-Jones/dp/1912457172
We hope that Roy is enjoying our friendly group!
City Voices are delighted to be involved on an open day and fundraiser for Bethesda Chapel and Community Centre. The Friends of Bethesda have been tireless in their efforts to raise funds for this historic building, and make it a hub for the community. www.bethesda-stoke.info/
On 8th June 2019 City Voices members will be reading their poetry and prose, with musical interludes from local musician and friend of City Voices, Richard Faulkner. Our programme (starting at 12.30pm) will in great part be a tribute to the late Lily Meigh, a long standing and much-loved member of the group. There will be a special performance of Lily’s poem about the roast potato machine which used to stand in Hanley Market Square. We hope to see not only our current members and performers, but maybe some old friends and Lily’s family too. The tribute will, we hope, encourage the passing public to donate to the Friends of Bethesda fund, of which Lily was also an active member. Bethesda Chapel was dear to Lily’s heart, as she was dear to ours at City Voices.
City Voices’ workshops are my great escape, journeys without a roadmap, setting my creativity free to make connections, never quite knowing where it will lead! … like the ‘colours’ workshop that resulted in an acrostic poem in memory of my Grandmother, ‘Beryl’, or an origami inspired cinquain, ‘Creation’ . Or having fun with what the ugly sisters did after the ‘Happy ever After’! And from a recent workshop a ‘found’ poem, ‘Moving On’, patched together from the opening page of a favourite novel. So if you are reading this and thinking of joining City Voices, I’d say come along and see where the journey takes you!
Author Bev Adams
All Poetry is the copyright of Beverley Adams
Every time I hear
Barcarole, it brings to mind
Overtures of your memory.
No longer here to play,
Your music still resonates in every chord.
bird of paper,
shaped well by gentle hand,
fly free from folded form to soar
If only I had dainty feet,
I’d meet a wealthy fella.
And live a life of luxury
Like my sister, Cinderella.
But wait a sec…Oh what the heck!
I have a cunning plan,
to make a stash of lovely cash -
Who needs a flippin’ man!
A trendy shop, with lots of stock
for girls with great BIG tootsies.
Sequined shoes and kitten heels,
and thigh-high kinky bootsies!
An idiot watches,
eyes wide with febrile excitement
the confetti of Carnival;
spinning, sparkling, fairy-tales.
Dragons heads lolling on narrow necks
ride the tide of greasy scents
and trailing ribbons
to where I stand
beside a brown-eyed dog.
For he and I the world
returns a new, unstoppable lustre.
This is Jason. He’s a performance poet, and works with vulnerable people in Stoke-on-Trent in his role in the probation service. Jason is also a member of City Voices and a former prisoner, and was described at a recent poetry slam as 'the busiest man in poetry' The image is of Jason at the BBC, recording for National Prison Radio, a radio show broadcast throughout prisons within the UK, which airs a show called, 'Outside In.' This is a radio show that brings together people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, to talk about leaving prison – and the highs and lows, opportunities and frustrations associated. It’s produced monthly by BBC volunteers, although it goes out exclusively to people currently in prison. It’s an informal roundtable discussion with 3 guests and 2 presenters. Thursday 16th May sees Jason N Smith share his experience and how poetry has helped. Recording for the show will take place at BBC Broadcasting House London.
Jason has published a book of poetry, and is involved in numerous events across the UK. City Voices will be blogging more about Jason N Smith soon, if we can keep up with him!
City Voices are delighted to announce that this year’s annual poetry competition has been judged by the former Poet Laureate of Staffordshire Bert Flitcroft, who will announce the winners at our meeting on 6th July 2019.
This year will be different, as nobody, including committee members have any idea who the winners are until the big day. We are thrilled that Bert has agreed to judge the competition, and announce the winners who will receive cash prizes. In addition he will be leading a Poetry Masterclass after ALL the poets who entered the competition have had the opportunity to read their entries to the rest of the group. (This is not compulsory) The Masterclass will consist, for those who wish to take part, in a critique and analysis of all the poems. Bert will lead this, but would like all poets to join in discussing the poems and their content with a view to highlighting the parts and structures that really work, and also what can be improved or edited. I know it will be a really positive experience for those who wish to improve their poetry.
City Voices always welcome newcomers to the group – we are friendly and inclusive – so if you are a poet or writer of any genre you may find it interesting to drop into the group on 6th July and meet the gang, or come along to any of our fortnightly meetings. We have spaces available for new members and lots of exciting plans for the year. Don’t forget to bring some of your work along if you wish. We can be found on Facebook ‘City Voices Creative Writers Group’, or our website WWW.CITYVOICESSTOKE.ORG.UK There is also information at City Central Library in Hanley.
So sorry the City Voices Creative Writers Group web-site has been unavailable for a few days. Normal service has now been resumed!
It is with very great sadness that I write about the death of long-standing City Voices stalwart Lily Meigh, who passed away on 12th December 2018, aged 84. On 8th December Lily and her daughter enjoyed the City Voices festive meal, so the shock of her demise for Lily’s family and close friends can hardly be imagined. Lily suffered from Parkinson’s disease and like everyone “senior” had some health problems, but this scarcely ever prevented Lily from attending City Voices meetings and events, and lots of other social activities with her great friend and fellow CV member Anita Oxford. It might sound like a cliché to describe someone as “a lovely lady” yet that is exactly how Lily was – lovely and a true lady (albeit with a wicked and rather naughty sense of fun!)
Lily was modest about her writing, but always read with great expression and often with humour. Her contribution to the CV anthology of short stories “Telling Tales” was a rather risqué tale of two old Stokie men discussing their past and present whilst being a bit the worse for wear. “Outside the Slug and Lettuce” made everyone laugh, as did her never-to-be-forgotten performance in “Under Milkwood” which we read at a meeting last year. For some of CV members, Lily will forever be Mrs. Cherry Owen.
In her own words, Lily says that as a child she I remembers her father reciting short nonsensical poems and stories which were made up as he went along. Lily was just 12 years old when her father passed away, and says that although she was never encouraged to talk about him she wrote down her thoughts and memories of the time spent together. This proved to be the start of Lily's interest in writing, and credits two English teachers for her love of the English language. ‘That Boy’ was the title of Lily's first attempt at story writing, at about the same time as a poem called ‘My Mother’.
After reading about City Voices in the local newspaper Lily went along to her first meeting, and says she was very nervous! Our founder Paul Williamson and other members "put me at ease and I was made to feel welcome. With guidance and encouragement from the group, I like to think my writing has improved, I know my confidence has!"
The thing that most people at CV have said about Lily was that she was the first to make them welcome when they, as new members, crossed the threshold into our (rather large) meeting room. Lily was universally popular, and I guess we were all a bit guilty of taking her presence for granted sometimes. However I have vivid memories of her enjoyment of meetings, of her always joining in, and in particular how much she relished meeting guest poets and writers. I think she was particularly charmed by a Welsh/Italian poet who shall remain nameless!
Lily always said she did not like to write “ad hoc” or on the spot; nevertheless she did. Eventually she was persuaded to put her writing together in a book entitled “Billy Big Feet”.
Below is an extract from Lily's story “Outside the Slug and Lettuce”
Five minutes later the pair were still standing in silence both of them unsure which way to go.
Suddenly Albert piped up “You know Harry, I’ve still got the hots for our Maud. Do you think she would say yes if I proposed to her?”
“You must be crackers if you think you can keep up with Maud, she‘s a fast mover” laughed his friend.
Albert glared at Harry and asked “Are you trying to tell me you’ve been dating her?
“Don’t be such a nunky head, I prefer a woman with a bit of style”
Lily will be missed by all at City Voices. She was a modest, fun, and truly beautiful person. She was a writer.
Rest in Peace, dear Lily.
Jason Nicholas Smith had a good day at the last City Voices meeting of 2018, on 24th November. His short story “Sankofa” won the group short story contest, with a cash prize of £50 and a certificate presented by our judge Jayne. After the meeting Jason dashed across to Shrewsbury Festival for the Poetry Slam, which he only went and won! Congratulations to Jason who has been called “the busiest man in poetry” - if he is not poeting, slamming or working, he can be found volunteering or giving inspirational talks to schools, prisons, church groups and even being a bit of a star in that London.
Now for the story, which Jason has kindly given me permission to post here. If you are wondering about the title, Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to "Go back and get it" and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth.
My ancestors stand amid the smoking embers of what was once home with their eyes
seemingly to silently sing sad songs. My wife is there among them too, all dressed in white.
Their lips are moving, but I cannot hear. Then they shake their heads and point to the tall
palm tree I once climbed, just like the royal high priest did as a boy. They point to a rock
from which I made carvings, and then they point to a golden Sankofa bird that speaks to me
without sound telling me it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.
The Sankofa bird moves to stand under a 'Kum' tree with its roots protruding into a tributary
of the River Nile. The Sankofa birds' feet are planted facing forward and when it turns its
head backwards to pluck an egg off its back, I begin to understand that along times passage
the knowledge of past must never be forgotten. We must reach back to gather the best of
what past teaches to go forward.
My wife reaches out then and with her touch, words spoken by my ancestors wash over me
like an eternity of waves. The weight of their stories causes me to fall to my knees, but I
continue falling downwards until the chains enslaving my consciousness release me to rise
up from sleep and back among my people in captivity on the slave trader ship.
Chains disengaging hatches drags loud cries from the mouths of those amid delirium of
disease and trauma. Slavers descend with clanging bells like farmers calling cattle to feed,
and those refusing to eat are force-fed, while the dead are unceremoniously thrown
overboard to meet with the Goddess of rivers and Justice.
Under heat's oppressive hand I begin to chant and give thanks that my wife has visited the
sacred lake in our land of Ashanti and sang goodbye to its God, before ascending up over
the hill and beyond.
A scurrying sound whispers over wood and I feel a sharp bite, but it cannot compare to
watching my son bludgeoned, my wife being led away with her screams echoing along the
deep gash in my psych, and the foreknowledge of the pain yet to come.
I am thrown about as giant waves toss the ship. My peoples screams almost causes me to
let loose tightly reigned rage, but I grip my tongue with my teeth, gain control, and begin to
sing ancestral songs about a strange land.
©Jason Nicholas Smith