Burning Less Brightly

In Ulster, once ruled by sword and might,
the legacy of history burns less bright.
Here, where bigotry long held sway
and human hopes were mangled in the fray,
a tiny spark of reason has ignited
and kindled hope in those whose lives are blighted
by associations stretching back through time;
where living has become a hideous joke.
Time now to change, to cast aside the yoke
of hatred and grow stronger,
and let the legacy of history burn no longer.

Bill Fitzsimons

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A Perfect Storm

For days the ocean has unleashed its ire,
a frenzy born of elemental spite –
winds have raged that will not cease or tire
till all's consumed in endless, blackest night.
The waves break fiercely on the rocks, and spray
flings lacy droplets in the screaming air,
while boats at anchor feel the lash and flay
of water whips – a scene of grim despair.

But in the depths where silence still prevails,
the shark yet glides and seeks the silver ghosts
of fish and other prey, their weaving tails
now teasing. While Poseidon drinks his toasts
to calmness down below, chaos reigns on top,
where banshee winds still wail – and never stop.

Bill Fitzsimons 2012

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Tomorrow’s Here Right Now

Headingley Lit Fest invited the Alison Taft creative writing class I was part of, to write for the festival on the theme of surviving. I thought the ideas I had were going nowhere until I realised I had the song in my head. I recorded it on Garageband and made the video on iMovie – it was screened at the end of our performance at the festival.
Jackie Parsons

If you don’t want to listen, we’ll have to show you how
Can’t leave it till tomorrow, tomorrow’s here right now
And the world keeps turning, no matter how the cold winds blow
A hard rain’s falling, but you don’t want to know

Your streets have turned to rivers, while the deserts eat the land
We’re sending you a message, but you don’t understand
The world can keep on changing, but life is not that strong
You need to pay attention, or we won’t be here for long

And the world keeps turning, no matter how the cold wind blows
A hard rain’s falling, but you don’t want to know,
You don’t want to know, you don’t want to know.

Jackie Parsons 2014

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Imposter Syndrome


It greets you in the morning when you wake,
at night it kills your hopes and mutilates ideas.
You’re too afraid to make your mark so, sick at heart,
you face the empty page, then turn aside.

Doubt is a thunder crack, a mighty howl,
it butchers trust and self-belief, swamping
your unborn words beneath its cavernous wail –
whatever else you do, don’t let it in.

Seek hope – it’s smoke and mirrors, snake oil,
gossamer upon the wind. It whispers yes, you can
and, yes, you are, but only if you listen for it well.
So, clear your mind, don’t let that shrieking void of disapproval win,
there’s not a poet here who doesn’t feel
the seeping scourge of self-denial in their soul.

Liz McPherson

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An Irish Giant

in memoriam Seamus Heaney

I never met you, Seamus,
And now I never will, because
as another poet said,
“In the forest of poetry the great oak has fallen.”

Seamus, you lit the darkened corners
of my mind with your lamp of language;
left a legacy of truth and life behind you,
and stirred the broth of imagination
with your words. The world weeps today.

From the squelch of farmyard mud, the leather
creak of harness and iron feel of plough,
to the Olympian heights of Homer’s Greece
and the alliterative Anglo-Saxon of Beowulf,
you plumbed the depths of diverse life.

Nobel prize winner, maker of magic, Irish giant,
you gave the world so much, and I’m sure
that large heart of yours would have given
the waiting world much more. It was not to be –
too early, you found your destiny.

The quotation is from the poem “The fallen oak” by Tony Curtis.

Bill Fitzsimons

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1. Write for yourself, not others

2. Find your own truths

3. First drafts are just that (you should see mine!)

4. Work out your own best processes (morning pages/candles/notebook/tablet/glass of wine/cup of tea/ meditation/ fresh air/ log fire/long walk…). Whatever works for you

5. Have some tricks up your sleeve – read other poets for inspiration/use a random word
generator/model your poem on somebody else’s work/take some lines from other poets
and weave them into your own work/refer to Wikipedia/listen to Ted Talks/attend

6. Trust your subconscious to deliver

7. Don’t judge yourself harshly – be gentle with your artist’s child

8. Remember, nobody else in the world writes like you do

9. Seek out supportive, like-minded communities

10. Not every poem you write will be a masterpiece – and that doesn’t matter

11. Enjoy the process12. Share when you feel ready


Liz McPherson

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At the dawn of time you were born, a spark
flung from the cauldron of creation.
You journeyed onwards through cosmic dark,
child of chaos and imagination.
On your billion year swing around the sun
your orbit gradually decays as you surrender
to the cold equations of physics,
the inevitable laws of gravity,
and those laws bring you closer
and ever closer to a collision course
with our fertile world. Is this the end?
Are all our endeavours to come to this –
a half million tons of alien rock
crashing into the Earth at cataclysmic
speed. Can science save us? Can prayer?
Don’t hold your breath, you will have
no more use for it. The end is nigh.

Bill Fitzsimons

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Troubadour, but not the piping boy
Strolling mediaeval landscapes,
Or a vibrant dancer,
Seductive with scarves and flares,
At rustic fairs.

This minstrel stalks a different tradition,
Born not of romance but of aged necessity,
Her pitch cruelly reduced to scuffed doorways
On the pitted marble pavements of Mantua.

Straight backed, with grey hair flying,
Make-up cracked and lipstick smeared,
The troubadour stamps and plays –
Her cardboard accordion pummelled by wizened fingers,
While sprung puppets attached to her feet
Leer hand painted grins at the crowd
And dance their jesters’ conceit.

Children, briefly arrested by the scene,
Quickly shrink away,
Perturbed by her gap toothed smiles of encouragement
And the grotesque underbelly of city streets.

For a second, she snatches my poet’s gaze
With eyes as sharp as a rat,
Defying me to drop a coin into her rusting tin.
Hush money delivered, I gather my embarrassment
And shuffle on like the rest.

It should not be like this
But it is.

Barbara Lawton

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The Gathering Storm

An hour before dinner, grey churning clouds assembled
At the top of the lake and merged testily,
Like cavalry waiting to charge.
They filled the space, swallowed the strident rockface,
Blanked the waterside villages below.
Waiters hurried to strip their white starched tables
Of silver, linen and glass.
Guests abandoned the terrace,
Took huddled refuge in the vaulted bar,
But, exhilarated by anticipation,
We climbed to the top of the garden
To watch the unstoppable army
Swarming its thunderous boots towards us.

Barbara Lawton

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Was Worm

For this poem, I used the title of a poem by May Swenson (1913-1988), a US poet of
Swedish descent.

Single worm,
now multiplying daily
in a dense green plastic dome
of kitchen waste,,

devouring vegetation,
on the sweat of leaves,

ingesting their fibre,
offloading rich humus,
and transforming carbon.

Avarice is their secret,
These writhing pink clusters,
trapped beneath a humming lid,

where odour and heat
oscillate like steam in the dark.

All those welded knots of
wise worms,

towards death,
so organic waste

can reinvent
as garden mulch.

Barbara Lawton

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